Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Freakish Faithful: Chapter 3 - RCPNE MUNA

People tell me that on my blog, I have the freedom to say what I want, how I want to. That may be so for general and random posts, but one becomes a little cautious and far less contemptuous of the perceived inadequacies of others when one is writing a story in the nature of the one in my recent posts. When I thought of this next part, my first impulse was to jump into the proceeding conversation and show the female character herein in the light that she appeared to me in my mind then, which, I say with some regret, was not very positive. But, given the background that she had won an award in my Council for a reason I am as yet to understand, and I had won no personal award myself in MUNA that year, my initial disdainful thoughts of her are neither warranted nor fair. The conversation that occurs in this post did indeed substantively happen, but I urge my readers not to pass judgement on the girl in the manner that I did. Do remember, that in the end, neither you nor I know her beyond the ambit of the following post…


I remember noticing Sadia on only two occasions throughout MUNA. The first was in my Council, when I had thwarted an attempt by her to speak by raising a motion to close the debate (I wanted to move on to the next part of the proceedings, which was favourable to me). The second was in the bus ride from AIT to the drop-point at Null Stop.

I had chosen a seat at the front of the bus for some reason. I guess on that evening I was, shall we say comfortably numb. An awesome euphoric lightness had enveloped me, and in the darkness of the bus ride the vision of the awards and closing ceremony of MUNA kept flashing in my head again and again. I could see it then, as vividly as I see it now; the impish grin on the announcer’s face, the swelling tension among the delegates, the calls for guesses as to the winners of the event, the gratifying suggestions of team North Korea by so many delegates, the sound of my heartbeat growing louder, the encouragingly expectant looks from Karan, the announcement, the standing ovation, Merin’s ecstatic congratulations, Sairakha’s dramatic declaration that if Nikhil, Ray and I hadn’t won, she would have cried, Kuldeep uncle’s hawk-like countenance breaking into a warm smile, Harsh’s cryptic suggestion that next year I would be on the ‘other side’. In between these dizzy scenes, I kept looking around at the delegates in the bus, pretending to take in their evident awe with dismissive carefreeness. It was truly a high, one that I’d heretofore never experienced. An in the midst of one of my sweeping glances, my eyes once again fell on Sadia.

In the Council she had worn a hijab as part of her costume, which, in the manner of most Islamic nations, had been decidedly unflattering. But tonight, with her hair let down, her restrained delegate-ish manner having dissolved back into the energetic animation of a student, the moon shining on her face and her natural smile restored, Sadiya Bahidi was beautiful. My evaluation was evidently echoed by Karan, who had decided to take a break from smoking at the back of the bus, where the Best Team Trophy was unceremoniously serving as an ashtray. He joined me at the front, and sometime in between our conversation, he overheard Sadia mention that she was from Welham. His interest was immediately piqued, and, as I was to understand and often be reminded of thereafter, there was a deep chemistry between Welham Girls and Doon School, Dehradun, where Karan had done his schooling.

The mention of Doon School had a curious effect on Sadia. The name had only to be uttered by Karan and all of a sudden, it was as if the world had disappeared for the both of them. Her friends looked towards me, and I looked towards them, and we both realized that we had been discarded by the hoity-toity Public School society. In the course of the preliminary chatter between them certain facts stood established: her name was Sadia Bahidi of Sahrangpur and she had graduated from Welham Girls about the same time as Karan had graduated from Doon. Whatever else was spoken initially was lost on me. And then came the faithless freak’s bullshitting streak.

After a good long discussion, Karan suddenly exclaimed, “Hey! Hold on! You’re Sadia?”
“Yeah?” she replied with a curious look.
“Sadia Bahidi form Sahrangpur?”
“Yeah, yeah,” she said with wide-eyed amazement, as if a gypsy had just told her a fundamental truth from a crystal ball.
“Oh my God!!!!” went Karan, “Oh my God!!! I can’t believe this!!! Sadiya Bahidi of Welham’s!!! Right here in this bus, talking to me??? This is unbelievable!!!”

What was unbelievable was her response – “But how did you know I’m from Sahrangpur??”

I have to hand it to Karan, he was certainly putting on quite a show.

“Arre, who doesn’t know you, ya??” he continued, “You were like the most sought after female in Doon!!”

Eureka!! The gates had fallen and the horse was through. Gameplay basics: Lesson 1 – if you want to get her attention, you tell her that she’s a centre of attention (women, correct me if I’m wrong here). And he didn’t stop there. He pulled me into the conversation.
”Dude, do you know who this is??” said he with an expression of total amazement, and I almost felt like clapping at his performance.
“Um… Sadiya Bahidi of Sahrangpur??” I said with a hint of sarcasm. But the sarcasm had quite the opposite effect. Her eyes grew even wider when I said her name and named her native place, and any doubts about her supposed popularity completely vanished at the mention of these details by another total stranger. Gameplay basics : Lesson 2 – after successfully attracting her attention, you rivet her attention and arouse her fascination by spreading the word on her supposed stardom and evoke favourable responses from unlikely quarters (women, don’t bother here).

And so it continued, with Karan saying that he would email the Doon School students newspaper and all online Doon school e-groups that Sadiya Bahidi had been found, and all kinds of other things. We got off the bus at Null Stop, and Sadiya said that her friends were heading off to F.C. Road for dinner. Karan and I decided to have dinner at Chaitanya’s, evidently to the joy of Sadiya, who celebrated by suggesting that we walk from the drop-point to our respective destinations. Outside Chaitanya, Sadiya turned to say goodbye to Karan, with overt indications that she would have loved to stay and continue their most fascinating conversation but for her friends. Numbers were exchanged, and as she walked away, she gave the clichéd glance back at Karan with the suggestion of lovely possibilities.

Karan turned to me and said, “Well, dude?” I said, “Dude, you sure as hell can bullshit!!” And then we burst out laughing…

Monday, October 20, 2008

Freakishly Faithful : CHAPTER 3 – RCPNE MUNA

From this point on, things have begun to get tricky. The original Chapter 3 went straight into another phase of Karan and my lives, but it bypassed a lot of events that happened in between. Karan messaged me today about how these little recollections of mine are catching on in terms of reader-base. I was even surprised to see a comment from one of the incidental characters in my post which was Part 2 of Chapter 2 (thanks Yudi!!). Karan wants me to go into a lot more detail about several more events than I had originally planned. That might be an interesting thought. Also, these writings might be incomplete without a somewhat greater tribute to MUNA. So, here goes nothing…


By February 2005, my life had taken a thorough turn-around. I was going to play the guitar on stage for the first time ever at Aarambh, and I was about to participate in what had to be the biggest debating event in Pune, the Rotary Club of Pune North East’s Model United Nations Assembly. What was interesting was that I now had trouble with adjusting my schedule. Hold on, now I actually had a schedule!

The concept of Aarambh, as it then was, was that it was to happen on two days. The whole programme would happen on one day for a portion of the Arts & Commerce Colleges, and would be repeated for the remaining students on another day. The Vishwabhavan auditorium wasn’t big enough to accommodate all faculties, which was just as well. I remember that Aarambh day 1 was to happen on 5th February, 2005, and Day 2 was on 7th February. Unfortunately, MUNA was happening on the weekend of 5-6th February. So the issue was that Karan and I would be missing day 1 of Aarambh. We weren’t too kicked about that, but I was pretty excited about MUNA.

On a moderately frigid Saturday morning on the 5th of February, KS Nikhil Kumar, Abhishek Ray and I, Team North Korea, reached the Pizza Hut opposite Balgandharva on J.M. Road for the 6.30 a.m. pickup. As the sun began to creep over the buildings and peep at us in between the leaves of the trees, the rays glistened off my well gelled spiked hair, the fruits of a then relatively expensive haircut at a fancy-ish men’s saloon (by 2005 generic Pune standards) on the previous evening. Karan had gotten a hair cut there too, and a shave that gave him an interesting upmarket Waziristan look. Dressed in his cream coloured pathani salwar jhabba suit this morning with his half-smoked Classic regular in hand, Karan, the delegate of Pakistan, was ready to go.

The venue: AIT College of Engineering. The time: 9.30 a.m. The mission: Stay awake through the Chief Guest’s speech. The ammunition: Pretty women and a comparative analysis of Karan’s and my tastes thereof. In costumes no less! Fortunately, the sights were pleasing enough, and our Secretary General, the venerable (soon to be reverend) Merin Mathew Zacchariah (spell-check requested) gave an inspirational speech and opened the MUNA. The seating arrangement revealed that Pakistan was to be seated right behind North Korea, which was good since Karan and I were to be in the same Council. Felt good to have some backup of sorts.

The debating was fantastic and well worth the effort Nikhil, Ray and I had put in into our preparation for the event. But a lot of interesting things happened outside the Councils as well. The participants, or delegates, were all charged up in their roles as diplomats and would almost continually discuss issues, resolutions, operative clauses, treaties, and each other. A truly inspired Press Corps kept publishing some hilarious Bulletins which were as amusing as the deep discussions on foreign policy by delegates at the urinals. The tension levels were high, and every recess in between the sessions found several of the delegates at the designated pantry area negotiating with the coffee and chai machine. Unfortunately, the Nescafe dispenser seemed to have its own agenda and revolted against the representatives of the comity of nations by spewing cup after cup of coloured semi-heated water in the name of tea. Several of the delegates lost their role-playing composure and adopted the uniquely Indian solution of banging the machine into submission, to no avail, however. There wasn’t much left for it, and after watching his third cup of muddy water fill to the brim, Karan rendered the final verdict on the machinations of the infidel West by declaring Jihad on the coffee machine! May the vengeance of a thousand screeching PMS-ridden wenches rain down upon that bilious beverage brewer!!
Despite his usual garrulous nature, Karan had been rather silent throughout the event. His most vocal responses had been limited to his outburst at the coffee machine, and a fitting censure of the Chairpersons in our Council because they had dared to read a message chit sent by him to Lenold, the Chairperson of another Council. His frequent threats of Holy War had earned him the (till date lasting) nickname of ‘the Jihadi’, and his enthusiasm on the dance floor in the social evening on day 1 had in all probability attracted some female attention. But it was the bus journey from AIT to Null Stop which saw Karan in his true talkative element. And the catalyst of his renewed enthusiasm was a girl named Sadia Bahidi (name changed to a badly masqueraded alternative), of Welham Girls, Dehradun.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Freakishly Faithful - Chapter 2: Aarambh - The Beginning


I’d seen Rono around on campus before. He was completely nondescript at the time. I’d even confused him to be someone else the first time I spoke to him (Sorry Rono, but you and Ronnie John almost looked the same to me at one time). The only thing I’d noticed about the guy is that he was into drums. I’d seen him one day in the Symbi Cyber Café, glaring at high res pictures of elaborate drum-kits. If one thinks that might be an uncommon preoccupation, one might have found it even more out of place since Rono was sandwiched between two bloodthirsty Counterstrike enthusiasts at the time (No Rono, not even the hint of a pun intended). I’d never given him a second thought until he walked upto me one day and asked about all the drumming coming out of the Vishwabhavan parking lot in college. He knew that I was part of whatever was going on and, as I was to later find out, the sharp chatter of a snare, the subtle thunder of a bass drum, a lightening roll on the toms and a shimmering crash on the cymbals did wonders for his confidence (right Rono, didn’t mention the hi-hats); enough for him to walk up to me and speak to me practically for the first time.

By this time, practice and moved out of the AV Hall and had moved into the acoustically promising Vishwabhavan parking area. I told Rono about the band, actually the ‘orchestra’ performance that was to happen at ‘Aarambh’, the Symbi Arts and Commerce Annual gathering programme. He begged me for a shot at the drums, and so I asked him to hang around for practice and I’d see what I could do. By now I was no longer the ‘band consultant’, I was actually gonna play the guitar in Aarambh!

Shounak was pretty worried about the drums department. The only college drummer he knew of seemed to have mastered the loud and unflattering beat one may hear in a marriage band, and in the process the latter had possibly sacrificed any desire to actually play the drums with any versatility. At one point a guy from BBA had come into the scene and had given a rather powerful demonstration of his skill with the sticks. He was admittedly impressive, and leagues ahead of the earlier guy. Shaunak was about to as the BBA guy to play for Aarambh, when Rono came upto me and asked if he could have a whack at those drums. Shaunak was cool with it, as he generally was with everything else. Rono took his place behind the drums, picked up the sticks, and brought the goddamned place down in the next 5 minutes!! Holy Mother of Christ, this kid was good!! No one in the vicinity had even the slightest doubt of the obvious fact – Ronojoy Basu had arrived.

And somewhere at the back of my mind, while jamming to Maeri, me on the electric guitar, Karan, Sam and Jeetu on vocals, Rono on the drums, and yes, Ruksana on the keyboard, an idea began to tear away the cobwebs from the deepest recesses of my memory and dimly began to take shape. It was idealistic, somewhat seemingly impractical, yet beautiful nonetheless. And it seemed that I wasn’t the lone dreamer. After a successful show at ‘Aarambh’, Shaunak proposed that we form a proper band. He could’ve been reading my mind!

As Karan was to later put it, one man’s dream became everyone’s obsession.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Freakshly Faithful - Chapter 2: Aarambh - The Beginning


Karan jumped off just as I parked my bike in the parking lot of a building behind Kamla Nehru Park. He told me that we were going to the apartment of this guy named Shaunak who stayed in the building, and that the band would be practicing in the apartment. Shaunak answered the doorbell. He was a tall-ish, bespectacled guy with a long face and a pleasant smile, and a curious tendency to drag his words somewhat. He welcomed us both in and saw no problem in my watching practice.

Shaunak’s bedroom wasn’t exactly cramped, but it sure was packed. There were a bunch people sitting on the two beds that were set adjacent to one another, and another three or four more on a mattress on the ground. As we entered, I noticed three guitars reclining in a corner, one big black matka and a small study table cluttered with tapes, a player and random stationary. The ‘band’ seemed more interested in idle gossip, and practice didn’t seem to be on the agenda. I could tell that Karan found the setting and the people almost as new as I did, and that was a comfort for me. I was quite the introvert back then, and I’d already run the gauntlet of meeting Karan that day. It wasn’t easy for me to take in my surroundings so suddenly, but Karan’s presence and the sight of a guitar at arm’s length was reassuring.

It wasn’t long before I realised that there wasn’t going to be any practice happening after all. Shaunak was trying to prepare a song-list, and people were suggesting a bunch of Hindi songs. Karan quipped in with one or two; a song called ‘Creep’ by an artist I can’t remember. My ears perked up when someone mentioned ‘Maeri’ by Euphoria. I wasn’t much of a guitarist back then, but I’d shredded a few picks before then trying to play Maeri. I turned to a guy named Jeetendra, or Jeetu for short, and asked him if anyone knew the chords of Maeri. Jeetu turned to Shaunak, who said no. Here was a chance as good as any to be of some use, so I said, with more confidence than I felt, “I can play Maeri on the guitar.” “Really,” asked Shaunak, “can you show it to us?”

He handed a guitar to me with a pick while everyone turned expectantly towards this new development. There’s something to be said about being the centre of attention. One may not be too proficient at something, but once in the limelight, one often begins to speak like the thing’s second nature for him. “I usually play this song with a capo on the 7th,” I said, “otherwise the scale’s too high for me.” The look on Shaunak’s face indicated with sublime clarity that he didn’t have a goddamned clue as to what I was talking about. Having achieved the desired effect, I went ahead and sang the song.

5 minutes and some vocal chord – wrenching later, the spotlight was completely on me. Shaunak made me dictate the lyrics of Maeri to Jeetu and I wrote down the chords for him. The guitar stayed in my hands now as everyone started turning to me, asking me what other songs from the playlist I knew. Unfortunately, at the time my knowledge of songs on the guitar was only slightly better than my French, which isn’t saying much. Before long, everyone more or less returned to their chatter, and I continued my dictation to Jeetu.

After a while, a guy named Sameer, or Sam for short, picked up the matka and began slapping it with some serious enthusiasm and good rhythm. Something about that rhythm registered in my head, and I looked towards the matka for the first time with a tingling sense of possibility. A little concentration on the rhythm, and I had it. Yes… it could be done!

I asked Sam to maintain the rhythm, held a G major chord on the guitar and without preamble began strumming the intro chord rhythm patter of the song Wonderwall by Oasis. The strumming merged beautifully with the sharp taps on the matka, and Karan joined me in an enthusiastic rendition of the song. Therafter, Karan took off into one hell of a classical aalaap, and I was stunned at his voice. It was one of the best I’d ever heard, and for the first time in my life, I appreciated an aalaap. The near magical strains of his voice had everyone mesmerised, and when it was over I realised that Karan, Sam and I had just created a fusion version of Wonderwall, and it had sounded fantastic! Shaunak, who was in the other room when we’d started the song, and who’d walked in midway, added the song to the list as soon as we’d ended. He also called it a day as far as practice was concerned, and invited me as a special ‘consultant’ to all future practices of the band. They were to begin the next day in the AV hall of the Arts college. The practice timings clashed with my lectures in law college, but who gave a flying fuck about classes anyway? A band was asking for my help, I couldn’t possibly say no. Karan, who was obviously pleased to have found me, put his arm on my shoulder and said the words that I have heard so often ever since, “Let’s have a smoke.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Freakishly Faithful - Chapter 1

For new readers, there is a prologue that comes before this chapter. for continuity's sake, please read that first and then read this post. also, i'd like to start an interactive exchange with my readers. if you feel that any particular part of these posts can be better expressed otherwise, please give me your suggestions in your comments. the suggestions have to fit into the subject matter seamlessly. if i don't accept your suggestion, it's only cuz i feel that it may not be appropriate or not in tune with my way of writing. but if i like it, i'll put it in and credit you. i'd love it if you can be a part of his endeavour, by giving me your comments, and recording them on this blog instead of giving me your feedback over a chat or email...

“I smoke to kill time; and because I’ve met a lot of interesting people over a cigarette.”
- An oft repeated line of mine

Fest ‘O Comm 2004 was over. I’d had a decent run in it. I’d won ‘Best Speaker – Against’ in the purely moronic excuse for a parliamentary debate that was one of the events in the fest. I daresay I made a fan or two in that competition. Specifically, there was Neha, from Symbi Arts & Commerce. She informed me about the Model United Nations Assembly, or MUNA for short. Training sessions for MUNA were on from December. I went for my first session on a Saturday in January. It was fun, and totally different from what I’d grown used to in terms of debates. I even met Ruksana (name changed to protect identity) there. It was the most I’d seen of her in four years. She’ll figure in the scheme of things later in these writings. But for now, I’d like to talk about what happened in my second training session.

On a cold Sunday morning, I once again rode to the BMCC College, the venue of the training sessions, for another round of frenetic debating, wada pav and chai. Any thought of the seasonal chill thoroughly dissipated in the heat of the arguments, and finally, four hours later, we were done. While the place was clearing out, I overheard a guy speaking to Neha. He was talking about getting a smoke. I was eager to make some new friends in MUNA, so I worked up my courage and did something completely uncharacteristic of me – I spoke to someone I did not know, without being spoken to first.

“Hey man,” I said, “you smoke?” “Yeah,” he replied. “Great, I could use one myself.” “Arre great! There’s a tapir outside campus. Bye Neha!”

I started walking alongside my new companion, feeling pretty good about myself at the fruitful negotiation of interests, so to speak. Turning around to wave goodbye, I almost didn’t notice the slight look of disapproval in Neha’s eyes. I barely knew her, but a woman’s instinct is a powerful thing. It was impossible to tell whether it was the thought of smoking that she disapproved of, or my companion. With not a few misgivings over my hasty attempt at being affable, I sighed inwardly, looked to my new companion and said, “By the way, I’m Bikram.” “Karan Singh,” came the reply. We shook hands, and there it began.

Within the next two hours, I knew all about Karan’s past drug problems, rehab, Akruti (name changed to protect my hide), the works. He in turn came to know of my recent break-up with Maya (name changed to what I wish it would have been), and the old chestnut about Ruksana back in school. We found ourselves in quite a comfort zone, two strangers confiding in each other, finding unity in the sorrows of our miserable pasts. A connection, often loosely termed as male-bonding, was formed, and I could sense that this conversation was a prelude to much more. So when he got a call at around 3:30 p.m., asking him to go for band practice, I didn’t hesitate to ask if I could watch. “Yeah, sure dude,” came the reply, and off we rode into a new phase of my life.

Freakishly Faithful - Prologue

Who is a friend? What is a friend? Take a step further, what is a good friend? One may have come across posters or forwarded e-mails or even refrigerator magnets saying a friend is this and a friend is that. But does one keep such criteria in mind when making new friends? Do the words on some laminated piece of cardboard hanging in Archies spring to mind when a friend does something for you, or a supposed friend stabs you in the back?

I can’t think for others, it’s hard enough to think for myself. But for me, friendship is a feeling. All those sweet quotations about who or what is a friend are better left in the Hallmark one might give his pal on the latter’s birthday because he’s too lazy or too late to think of something original. And I suppose we’ve all been there, at the giving and receiving end.

So, who is a good friend? Heck, I don’t know, somebody who makes a difference in your life, perhaps? Or maybe it’s someone you’re hitting on, but you want to show her that you’re ‘good friend’ material, that you can be trusted, that you want to take things slow, keep her comfortable. Dammit, loving someone often involves such a load of pretentious horseshit!

But not with friends, really. Why pretend with a friend? What’s the point? Keep the bullshit to a minimum, make allowances for the occasional eccentricity that he might throw at you, and chill with one another. Straight and easy; no games, no hassles. That’s one way to tell a good friendship.

There are certain people who come into your life, people who suddenly take up a position of significance, if not downright prominence. It could arise out of necessity or sheer chance; whatever be the reason, all of a sudden one friend stands out from the rest. The one guy you want to hang out with, regardless of whether it’s to the exclusion of all others. Someone who opens new avenues for you, shows you a world you never knew existed, or were too afraid to be a part of. Someone who sticks by you, however temporarily, and changes your life. It is hard to come across someone like that very often, damn near impossible to find more than a few like that around in a lifetime, I’d say.

Karan Singh is one such guy.

Freakishly Faithful

Dear all, 

I revisited this page after quite a while, and although my page at is somewhat stylised with all kinds of neats gadgets, I could not escape the charm of the simplicity of the good old blogger standard black page. I have decided to start a new strain of posts on this blog. Once upon a time, I had started writing a little book about one of my best friends who has effectively changed my life in several ways. I didn't get very far, stopped midway in chapter 3 I believe, and never got back to it. I did, however, receive a very flattering response when I read what I'd written to my friends, including the guy for whom it was being written, along with earnest requests to complete it (I'm prepared to believe that although I read it out to them in Apache while we were having beer, and there was a lot of loud music playing, they all heard it right). The requests, of course, were not echoed for very long, yet my desire to continue the book lingered on. I do not hold any illusions of the book being published in any manner on a commercial scale. It is simply a record of my recollections of various incidents involving my friend, various others and me. Hence, with the wonderful opportunities presented by the internet, those recollections may find themselves expressed in my humble blog. I will be surprised if I can write as much as I want to of the book, but it is my hope that the attempt will be worth it. It is my earnest hope that when I begin this ambitious (and hopefully not abortive)  project, I will have your support and feedback, and primarily your interest in my journey.