‘For God’s sake, stop slapping him! You are not helping!’ shouted a concerned Karthik. ‘Try squeezing his balls instead.’
Once back on campus, none of us knew what to do next. So, we had decided we should wake up K2 from his alcohol-induced sleep. Straddling over K2’s body on the floor, I had naively thought it would just take some slaps on his face. Some time earlier, on our way back from the bar, we had realized why the Egyptians had decided to build the sphinx with individual blocks in situ, instead of getting the whole darned thing done at the factory first, and then carry it around, scouting for the perfect sand dune. The walk back had seemed way longer with us having to carry K2 with us. To make things worse, Usha had decided that it was his time to talk and continued doing so incessantly, pausing just once to giggle when he had mistakenly let go off K2’s head and it met the ground with a ‘faanny craacking’ sound. Thankfully, Karthik was at hand to point out the silver lining and boost my dipping morale.
‘We are so fucking screwed,’ he noted, holding on to K2’s left leg. ‘I mean, look at us. It takes a particular kind of talent to get thrown out of a place on the first day itself, doesn’t it? Can you even imagine how we are going to account for this in our CVs?’
Karthik had a point. It would be tricky to push this piece of information through without evoking further enquiries. ‘Say, Mr. Rishi. What exactly do you mean by ‘short stint in a premier B-School’’?
‘Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb…’ K2 had decided to momentarily join the conversation.
‘It is 9 PM. May be they were running late or something, and have extended the registration process,’ I said, gripping K2’s right leg tighter and speeding up my walk.
‘Or better yet, if we walk faster, maybe there will be some kind of temporal shift, and we walk into a wormhole and come out in the after-fucking-noon…!’
‘You guys carry on,’ said Usha from a few meters behind us. He was panting furiously, and had apparently decided a while back that he needed some rest. ‘I still think you should try and pick up his head somehow though. Sliding over all those rocks might hurt his head or something.’
Finally, a bucket of cold water from the hostel cooler did it. Gasping for breath, followed by a moment of confusion at finding me sitting on him, K2 uttered, ‘as white as snooow!’, and dozed off again.
Having an elder brother has unique benefits. On more than one occasion, my brother has exhibited how seldom anyone has ever crawled out of a sticky situation by wallowing in self pity; one needs to be extremely proactive in these situations. A highly effective line of action is to quickly get hold of someone to blame it all on. If you are clever with the choice of words, and time the assault well, the onus of fixing the situation instantly passes on to the other person, while leaving one free to mess up something else. I should know; I have spent a considerable part of my childhood worrying I used to go around sleep-walking at midnight, knocking off expensive flower vases, letting the dog out of the house at midnight, breaking curios and sometimes even stealing money from my dad’s wallet. Thankfully, I could always rely on my brother to recount exactly what it was that I had messed up last night that I needed to feel terribly guilty about and confess to.
‘I don’t understand. How is this my fault?’, protested Usha, holding an ice-pack over K2’s head.
‘Well, whose fucking idea was it to go drinking?’ asked Karthik, staring back at Usha.
‘Oh…err…but who said yes?!’
‘Oh come on, how was I to know that…’
‘…that unlike you, we were planning to drag our MBA education a little longer than a fucking day?!
This situation would play out many times in the future. Usha would initially put up a semblance of a fight, but would soon realize to his horror how he had messed up things all on his own. I’m yet to come across anyone else who was more prone to the power of suggestions. I did feel sorry for him, but the situation demanded that I be guarded in exhibiting my sympathy.
‘Well, technically he’s right. You were the one, who agreed to the drinking,’ I said, shrugging my shoulder sympathetically.
K2 tried shaking his head in agreement, but ended up grimacing instead. Usha stood still, as the gravity of the situation dawned on him.
‘Why is everyone looking at me like that for? It’s not as if I did it deliberately. Besides, I’m sure it’s not so bad.’
His reaction would have been pretty much the same had we been blaming him personally for the depleting ozone layer with all his farts or messing up the Chandrayaan mission. There wasn’t really a limit to what one could make him realize that he had done. Quite predictably, this prompted Karthik to explain to him how bad it was, for the next few minutes. By the end, Usha had started questioning if his entire life had been one huge mistake.
‘Reminds me of a poem – Ensanguining the skies how heavily it dies, into the west away…’, but K2’s voice petered off as soon as he spotted the paper knife in Karthik’s hand.
‘Shut the fuck up, or else I swear I will ensanguine your stupid guts out,’ said Karthik very convincingly and walked out of the room, slamming the door behind him. We sat there for some time, silently taking in all the visual stimulation that the mosaic flooring in my hostel room afforded us. Every time I would look up, and catch someone else looking at me, there was this fleeting moment of hope when each would think that the other had figured out a way out of the mess. And both of us would feel compelled to pout our lips and gently shake our heads.
‘You know guys, I’ve been thinking’ K2 finally said, his eyes sparkling with the brilliance of a major break-through moment. ‘None of this would have happened if we’d continued drinking.’
Both Usha and I stared at him for some time, as he nodded his head, and pursed his lips in appreciation of this novel thought. I curbed myself from trying to point out the flaw in his observation, lest he should feel encouraged to expand on his logic. For once in my life, I’d done something my parents would not have to grimace about or account for to my relatives. Coming to IIMB was like a rebirth for me, as if all the short-comings, hopelessness and false starts had been wiped off my records, and I had been offered a chance to reconstruct my entire life. Holding the acceptance letter in my hand, I’d vowed to myself that come what may, I’d not let this opportunity trickle by like the many others. Determination and Opportunity were, for the first time in my life, at my doorstep at the same time. The difficult part
was over. Of the half a million applicants, I was among the handful that’d been selected. Now all that was required of me was to stay put and out of trouble.
And this must have been pretty much what Karthik was thinking as well when, at midnight, he swung open the door to my room and walked in with a very purposeful look.
(To be continued)
Photograph Courtesy: © Pantonality