MY FRIEND RON
The phone jangled at Midnight, shattering my sleep.” I’m at the airport. Give me your address” floated a familiar voice from the past.
Living not far from the airport, I drove down, rather than give detailed instructions to some cabbie. For this was Ron, the craziest guy from my colorful university days, and my closest friend. Last heard of, he was in Finland, part of his plan of backpacking round the world, from which I dropped out, a betrayal he kept reminding me of, when I chose a stable domesticated life of steady job, love and family.
When I met him first on campus, the quiet guy from the North East corner of our country, twinkling eyes and shy smile peeking out from a tangle of curly hair and beard, I liked the fact that he would get my jokes, and was equally lost in class, cared as little and had the perfect laid back attitude; Which I understood was the spirit of the NE, called Lahe lahe.
Unknown to the hostel authorities, he shared my room, having ‘borrowed’ some furniture from his previous landlord, and owing him a few months rent. It is still owed to that unfortunate gentleman. Ron was an adventurous experimental cook, and my culinary experiences underwent major expansions.
He was also a fellow experimenter in consciousness expanding pharmaceuticals, herbal and otherwise, a la Huxley, Kerouac Ginsberg and Casey, and having the ’chalta hai’ spirit of anything goes , we soon became buddies. He introduced me to the intricacies of Rock, Reggae, and Jazz, and I introduced him to the intoxicating world of Literature, Films and writing.
He would also listen seriously to my poetry and the draft of my Great Indian Novel, destined to change literature. He taught me the Great Art of Gate Crashing, by which we could get fabulous meals and entertainment at no cost. We hitchhiked across the Northern plains, atop trucks, ticketless on trains, and once, memorably, on a buffalo.
We had crazy adventures, being arrested more than once, giving false names every time and managing to get away, escaping death by sheer providence a number of times. Some of those stories have featured earlier on my blog; links will be there in the footnote. They involved, among other things, climbing a statue, living in a cave in a tiger reserve, impersonating delegates at an international conference, and gate crashing the dean’s daughter’s wedding.
When like all good things the University days were coming to a close, we planned to carry on our adventures. Ticketless to Bombay, working our passage as deckhands on a ship to Basra, then Europe and working in cafes and backpacking all over, working our passage to the States, then hitching our way down to South America.
But fate intervened. An appointment letter was waiting for me on our return from a wild trip, both literal and figurative, offering a cushy government job, but relocating to the south of our country.
I deserted Ron, found stability, sanity, love, matrimony, wonderful kids, a middle class family life with flat, car and accessories.
Ron lived his dream. He went back home and started a canteen. Having drunk up the profits, he had to leave town in a hurry just ahead of creditors and set up a contractors business in a neighboring state. History repeated itself. Now he became a tea taster. Knowing nothing about tea, having only drunk alcohol in the past, he however was quite successful and considered knowledgeable in the subject. He confessed that he passed random judgment confidently. Trouble was, good tasters had to be teetotalers to save their palates, and being found pissed one day by his boss, he had to pack his bags again.
He next became a bookmaker, having lost his shirt trying a fool proof method of his invention of beating the odds. But jumping the fence didn’t help either, as a punter hit a long shot, and having neglected to reinsure, he was found short, and had to make a speedy exit.
The Maximum city of Mumbai gave him shelter, where he lived on various friends couches and eked out a living as a software man.
Soon, his cooking and drinking talents found him a job in Finland, babysitting a bunch of homesick nerds and his European adventures began. He did the rounds of Europe, USA, Central and South America, switching various jobs, and finally settled in the Mecca of all freaks, California.
I would get a call from him occasionally, from diverse corners of the world, with offers for a one way ticket, and temptations to chuck the servitude of job and family, and join him in his wanderings.
He was back in India for a conference, which he did not attend, and we had a great time reliving old days and listening to his weird worldwide adventures.
He left, a pensive man, wooed over to the charms of domesticity. On return, he promptly married his current girlfriend, a stunning lady from Iran
But his ultra conservative in laws could not stomach such a free spirited son in law, and the dutiful daughter towed their line, leaving Ron a single parent, bringing up a beautiful, bright and free thinking daughter.
Filial love has at last tamed the wild man from the East, albeit temporarily. His philosophy continues to be the same, and he still lives his life by it, refusing a permanent job or unnecessary responsibility at work, he continues to freelance, living simply, keeping his daughter rooted to her varied cultures but free to choose her own destiny, he is waiting for her to find wings to set her free, and the old wanderer will move again.
Some links to earlier stories featuring Ron