Free lunch, Chapter 18 of Memory, a Novella
Written for Nanowrimo extended
Copyright (c) Soumya Mukherjee
Boy, having read Ten Days that Shook the World and seen the film Reds, where John Reed is played brilliantly by Warren Beatty, had become a fan. Emulating the hero, he put up a sign on his hostel room ‘Property is Theft! Walk in’ and left the door unlocked. His friends pointed out that as he had no property, and that visitors would probably take pity on his impoverished state and leave something behind. But it was the principle that mattered.
He however attracted uninvited guests, the jetsam of the last of the flower children, who, in the eighties were still around, and drifted in and out of Boy’s room, staying for a while. But their story will be told another day.
Boy also learnt to consider all property as communally owned and borrowed items of clothing, furniture and transportation from hapless co residents, in the principle of ‘everyone according to his needs’. Old Marx had a capital idea!
His permanent guest was Ron, Boy’s friend and life coach, who, unknown to the University authorities, shared Boy’s room throughout his stay. The loyal reader will remember him from the previous escapades, notably the stint in the Ranthambore forests.
Among Ron’s many accomplishments was his skill in being an uninvited guest at every wedding or function in the vicinity. He generously imparted this knowhow to his many admirers. The trick was to borrow blazers or suits from their sartorially natty brethren, and confidently walking into the party. For weddings the best time was just after the ‘baraat’ or grooms party went in.
They would survey the area, zero in on the most promising party, and invite themselves in. Ron even asked after the health of ‘Pappu’ a ubiquitous Punjabi name, and the host would often issue instructions for special care to be taken of them as Pappu’s friends. I understand that functions in that area budgeted for an extra five percent for such uninvited guests. Even when suspected, no one wanted to create a scene, and Boy and his friends survived on benefit of doubt, the innate decency of their unknowing hosts, and sheer chutzpah.
Ron’s height of cool was on display when they were politely escorted out of one party where they were unfortunately unmasked. He crashed another party the same night as he had not yet had his dessert in the first one before being discovered and ejected.
Their crowning glory was gate crashing an international convention in a five star venue, which went off successfully once Boy dissuaded Ron from making a speech.
The biggest disaster Boy faced was when on entering a gala event, he noticed an alarming number of his professors amongst those present. He beat a hasty retreat, congratulating himself on his narrow escape.
But fate decided otherwise. A couple of years later, when Boy was a respectable government official, going steady with a very decorous lady, and his scandalous history a deeply veiled secret, it decided to strike!
Delhi had been savaged by communal strife, and Boy was working with a relief team. Loyal readers have read of his experiences in this traumatic and shameful black spot in our history, in an earlier chapter.
Boy noticed that his team leader was a senior professor from the University. Boy introduced himself as his one time student, who unfortunately had not met him owing to not having attended any classes, being a misguided youth, when the renowned professor cut in.
‘Of course I know you! You were too busy to attend lectures. You were (in) famous. You are the guy who gate crashed our Dean’s daughter’s wedding! ‘
The super hit film Three Idiots not having glamourised this activity at that time, Boy shrank under the shocked gaze of his fellow relief workers.
A word of warning dear friends, our disreputable past has a nasty habit of catching up with us when least expected, no matter how deep you bury it.
It is best to have a blameless history.
But then again, who wants a boring past.