Sunday, November 23, 2008

Freakishly Faithful - Chapter 4 : From Dawn to Dusk

Part 5

Love me now, for I may wait no longer…”
Something I came up with

Karan’s calls became far less frequent after that glass of Coke in the Great Punjab. His responses to my calls were laconic and vaguely apologetic – “Sorry, dude. Can’t meet you today. Gotta take Akruti to a doctor,” – and the like. I couldn’t complain, after all I had an idea of what the guy was probably going through. Of course, the time away from Karan allowed me to try and concentrate on my books (although as my Semester 6 marksheet would suggest, it wasn’t nearly enough).

One of the unique features of Symbi Law (and there were quite a few) was it’s insistence on conducting semester examinations approximately a month prior to all other faculties. That way, we got to curse our luck when we’d be nose-diving into our books while others would be making party plans in the NCC Canteen, and conversely, we’d be playing up the fact that our exams were long over by the time the others got their respective GPLs (full form loosely translates to ‘kicks in the posterior’). Fortunately for me, I was what was derisively referred to as a ‘localite’, with a home and family in Pune, so the effect of having to study while others continued gallivanting was far less on me than for my unfortunate peers whose hostels presented no entertainment or seclusion. And so it went on till the last day of my exams.

After my final paper, I sat chatting in the NCC with one or two batchmates, amidst the throng of smoking law students getting set for the all-night ‘booze-n-more’ parties. The prospect of puking my guts out at 4 a.m. was never a cause of much excitement for me, and somehow the charm of having women around, dancing and moving as only women do, would quickly and drastically diminish at the thought of them puking their guts out at any hour. At that point I was really looking forward to shaving off a hideous goatee that had managed to grow onto my face, a product of a few weeks of no shaving, and a good night’s sleep after ages. I was suddenly reminded of Karan (whose shaving habits were highly irregular) and I gave him a call.

When he answered, his voice had some of the cheerfulness of old. That was a relief, as ever since his conversation with Mo so many days earlier, he had always sounded rather strained. We decided to meet at Scorpio Net near Akruti’s place.

When I saw him, his face looked somewhat weary, but he greeted me with his usual enthusiasm. After the obligatory general chit-chat, I asked him about Akruti and was relieved to know she was doing quite well of late. She’d stopped assaulting herself, and was hanging out with friends, doing routine things again. Karan was still spending a lot of time with her, but she was a lot more stable now.

I then asked him about MJ. He looked at me with a wistful smile and said that she was fine, although he hadn’t seen her in a while. He had told her about Akruti’s condition, and she’d asked him to do what he had to do. I felt bad for him, but I wasn’t sure of how deep his involvement with Akruti had become of late, so I didn’t say anything. She was, after all, an object of intense emotions for him. Perhaps, if they were to ever be together, this was the starting point.

One often spends large amounts of time with a person without ever getting to know his true feelings on something that might affect him. We spend years with our siblings, our friends, maybe even our spouses, thinking we know all there is to know, and all of a sudden, something happens that opens a whole new aspect of their minds to us, one that might catch us completely by surprise. Several years later, I was to find Karan’s battered old notebook in which he used to write poetry, prose and thoughts while still in college, lying buried somewhere amidst other nostalgic paraphernalia. On one page were written the following lines in his handwriting:

“Karan, I’m glad I never said ‘yes’ to you. You showed me that I still can’t trust men. But you also showed me that I can’t expect someone to wait too long for me to say ‘yes’ - MJ”

Below it were written the words “No failures, no regrets”.

But the two “No”s had been scratched out.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Freakishly Faithful - Chapter 4 : From Dawn to Dusk

This next part is only somewhat based on facts. It has been recreated from bits and pieces of stuff Karan told me years ago. Since I wasn’t there when the following stuff happened, I have had to give it a largely fictional touch.

Part 4

Karan stood outside Akruti’s bedroom door, staring at the chipped off paint near the door knob. He was turning over in his mind everything Mo had said to him just a couple of hours earlier, and the look she had in her eyes when she let him into the apartment five minutes ago. Mo stood behind him, a few feet away. They said nothing. She just looked at him, and felt the pain of a lump in her throat. She liked Karan, she’d always thought he was a nice guy. And she was glad to see him now. It was all she could do to deal with the situation herself, and she didn’t know how much longer she could go on alone.

The silence was eerie, broken by the measured ticks of a wall clock hanging directly above the door where Karan stood. He was afraid to open the door, afraid of what he might see. He was suddenly aware of Mo’s presence just behind him. He could hear her breathing. He tried to concentrate on the faint whiff of the perfume she was wearing, as if his mind was shutting out the impending task by focussing on trifles. She put her hand on his shoulder and he shuddered. He looked back and saw tears in her eyes. “Please,” was all she could say.

Karan turned the knob and pushed the door back. As he stepped into the room, a wash of an acrid odour hit him like a pillow in the face. He froze, realising with horror that the stench was only too familiar. He hadn’t smoked hasish since he’d gone into rehab, but the memory takes its time to die out. The room was dimly lit, and was filled with the smoke of several joints. As his eyes focused in the gloom, he could discern a half eaten barbequed chicken pizza, several empty cigarette packs and a few photo albums littered all over the floor, and numerous empty bottles of alcohol. In the far corner of the room, next to a messy bed, sat a figure all huddled up. Her hands were wrapped around her knees which were drawn up to her body, and her head was on her knees, hiding her face from view. She was rocking restlessly, and her breathing was short and erratic.

Karan looked at Akruti, hardly able to believe that it was her. He knew her to be very tidy and hygienic, but the macabre atmosphere in the room suggested something very different. “So, what I’ve heard about her is true, then,” he thought, “She has gotten pretty fucked up.” He took a few steps towards her, and stopped at the sound of broken glass that crunched under his shoes. At the sound she looked up, and he saw her face for the first time in six months. Her eyeliner had streaked all over her cheeks with her tears, and her skin had taken on an anaemic whiteness, which made the contrast all the more gruesome. She gave him a chilling smile, and set her head on her knees once again.

“A… Akruti,” said Karan, hardly above a whisper. “What have you done to yourself? Why?”

For answer, she giggled like a school girl who’s noticed a boy’s trouser zipper open.

Karan found his voice. “What the fuck is wrong with you? Are you bloody crazy? People are worried sick about you. For God’s sake, look at yourself!” She stopped rocking, but kept her head down. Karan decided to take a more tender approach. “I can’t bear to see you like this Akruti. None of us can. We all care for you, ya. Come on, you’ve got to get a hold of yourself.”

“You care, huh?” she said without looking at him. “You seemed to care a lot more about her yesterday on that bench outside the canteen.” Karan remembered sitting on the katta outside the Symbi Food Court, laughing with MJ and holding her hand. He realised that Akruti must have seen him and MJ together. And it had been Valentine’s Day. Fuck!

“Does it feel good to hold her, Karan?” she went on. “Does she make you feel warm all over?”

“Don’t be like that, Akruti,” said Karan, “it’s not like that.”

“Oh, really? Then who is it, if it isn’t her,” her voice hardened. “Tell me, Karan. You can’t be alone, so who is it? Is it me?” He could hear her softly sobbing, but he felt powerless to stop it. His voice was dry, strained, “Nobody. There’s nobody, Akruti.”

“Why didn’t you call, Karan? For so many months, why didn’t you call?” she sobbed.

“What did you expect me to do, Akruti?” Karan cried out, “You treated me like shit! You knew how much you meant to me, yet you refused to be mine. In front of all my friends in the NCC canteen, you flung lemonade into my face. You embarrassed the fuck out of me that day. Did you expect me to come crawling back after that?”

Her sobs became uncontrollable now. Karan stopped; he realised that it wasn’t the best time for either of them to be reviving painful memories. He walked up to her and crouched. “Look,“ he said, “just forget all that. Right now you have to snap out of it. I…”

Suddenly Akruti lunged at Karan with a small pen-knife in her hand. The move took Karan completely by surprise, and before he could grab her hands, she had cut him on his chest. In a state of shock he held her hands tightly by the wrists for a few minutes. In the dimness, he saw a malevolence in her eyes, while she screamed, “You don’t love me, you love her!” When he came to his senses, he realised that she wasn’t putting up much of a fight, that she wasn’t trying to cut him with the knife anymore. He looked at her arms and saw all the places where she had cut herself. Her wrists were bandaged, and the wounds seemed to have reopened. “Drop it, “ he said, and the knife plinked onto the floor. The hate in her eyes was replaced by a look of utter remorse and she collapsed into his arms, weeping pitifully and continually saying, “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”

He held her to himself, and he felt like he was holding a complete stranger. This shivering, weeping maniac was not his Akruti, the one he had fallen so deeply in love with. But he knew she was in there somewhere, and that only he could get her out. He felt he knew what he had to do, even if he hated to bring himself to admit it. He had to be by her side, see her through this mess. There was no telling what she would do next.

He held her tighter and closed his eyes. “No,” he whispered, “I’m sorry.” But he realised he hadn’t spoken to her. In his heart, he knew that he had just apologised to MJ.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Freakishly Faithful - Chapter 4 : From Dawn to Dusk

Part 3
February 15, 2005. It was Ruksana’s birthday. Two days ago, on February 13, it had been Maya’s birthday. Two women whom I have loved tenderly, passionately, in whose memories I have revelled, in whose company I have lost and found myself, in whose essence I have felt the meaning of love. Perhaps it is ironic that a day of love finds itself between their birthdays, neither one seeming any less important than the other, the day before and the day after. Some might call it poetic, and some might say I’m just a sucker for romanticism, either way, Valentine’s Day was a day full of emotion for me. And this time, the Day brought cruel tidings for another.

Karan had asked me to be there next to him, while Mo told him about Akruti’s condition. I felt distinctly awkward, and I knew I had no business being there. I didn’t know Mo, and my idea of Akruti had been limited to Karan’s sporadic reminiscences. I, therefore, chose to shut out whatever was being said by Mo to Karan, and endeavoured to pass the time in happy thoughts of Maya, and to a lesser extent, Ruksana (my break up with Maya had only happened 2 months earlier). But the mood was sombre, and there was a suggestion of a crisis in Karan’s body language as he spoke to Mo. Time was beginning to drag itself, and my position was becoming a very difficult one. At last Karan stood up and said, “Please tell her to stop being… like that. Call me once you reach over there, okay?” His words were somewhat broken and he was quite visibly shaken up.

We said our goodbyes to Mo and headed for the Great Punjab restaurant down the street. Karan walked in a daze, his eyes fixed on the pavement as if the road would show him the meaning of it all. We sat down at a table in the restaurant, and I ordered a Coke for him, his favoured beverage. The waiter placed the bottle before him, but Karan made no move to pour himself a glass. I poured one for him, and as I pushed the glass to him, I said, “Dude…”

Karan looked up at me, and I saw in his eyes a torrent of heretofore alien emotions. There was fear, there was pain, there was doubt, but more than anything else, there seemed to be despair. “She called me yesterday, Da,” he mumbled, “on Valentine’s Day. She asked me why hadn’t I called. She asked me if I was with her, with MJ. She… she asked me if I still cared.”

I caught a drift of hysteria in his words. His whole aspect suggested something vaguely horrible. His charming, carefree demeanour was dissolving into a morass of confusion and terror before my very eyes. This was a Karan Singh few would ever get to see.

“She said she hates me, Da,” he continued, “hates me for having loved her. For having dreamed of her. For holding her hand, for the flowers last year. She hates me because Mo and Rose keep talking about me, and she hates me because she keeps talking about me to Mo and Rose. But why, Da? Why does she need me now? I asked so many times, she always turned me down. There were times I felt like I was a clown doing a juggling act on a unicycle just to make her smile, but she hardly seemed to care. And now, this? Why now, Da? After I’ve finally begun to leave her behind, after I’ve become so interested in MJ, why now?”

The answer seemed obvious. “Because you’ve become so interested in MJ,” I replied.

He looked at me with that pained expression. “She’s cut herself, Da,” he cried, “she’s been pulling off pieces of flesh on her arm with nail clippers. She’s nearly slit her wrist!”
This was bad. The matter seemed on the verge of getting out of hand. For the first time in my life, I felt confronted with a problem whose solution gave away no hint at itself. All I could say was, “Holy shit!”

“What should I do, Da?” he said, “What the fuck should I do?”

But I could say nothing. The woman sounded crazy, but now wasn’t the time to venture a psychoanalysis. I said in a dry voice, “I don’t know man. Maybe you should tell someone in her family about this.”

But he wasn’t going to do that. I knew it, he knew it. It might have been the intelligent thing to do, but it might mean he would lose her forever. Even if he felt he might never have her, he still wanted to hang on to some sense of hope. He closed his eyes, and in a few minutes his face hardened, his lips setting into a thin line. When his eyes opened, there was a look of painful resolve. For the first time he noticed the glass of Coke in front of him. His fingers slowly curled around and gripped the glass, and as he took a swig of the drink, it appeared that his mind had found an instant of sanity. As he set the glass down, he looked at me and said, “I don’t know if this is the right thing to do, but she needs me…” And with that he stood up and walked away.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Freakishly Faithful - Chapter 4 : From Dawn to Dusk

Part 2

"With every silver lining comes a black cloud of despair"
Archie Andrews

Karan had often spoken of Akruti. From that very first day when we met after the MUNA training session, and throughout our continued association, if Akruti’s name wasn’t at the tip of his tongue, it would most certainly be at the back of his mind. He had often described his impression of her when he’d first seen her. On such occasions, he would sit back with a dreamy look in his eyes, and the suggestion of a beautiful memory or two would descend around his face like a luminescent mist. He would tell me, speaking more to himself than to me, perhaps, about how she had seemed to be a woman with just the right level of attitude, arrogance, solidity, stolidity, strength and femininity. Of how he had once told her that her red bandana made her look like a pretentious ‘wannabe’, and how she would be so much cooler if she’d just be herself. Of how they spent several months seeing each other without seeing each other, and how he could never really have time alone with her because either Rose (name changed) or Mo would be hanging around like some kind of chastity and propriety ensuring neo-Nazi chaperone.

But Karan was in pain. I could well empathise, for I knew how harrowing it could be to love fruitlessly. For more than half a decade I had often found myself in a melancholy reverie of my intense and largely unexpressed feelings for Ruksana, the unhappy circumstances that led to our fallout, the innumerable occasions when my heart was bursting to tell her so much! Perhaps that is why Karan and I felt so comfortable together. I’ll lay it down as an axiom right now – the leading cause of male bonding is women.

With the background of his stop-go deal with Akruti and the toll it used to take on him, I was quite happy to see Karan’s nascent interest in MJ beginning to grow into a full fledged ‘thing’. There was a new glow to his usual cheerfulness, and his brimming energy found excellent expression in his interactions with her. There was something indescribably cute about the two of them, and most everybody who knew either of them (and between the two of them that meant nearly everybody in the Arts and Commerce college) were abuzz with the gossip that Karan is totally hitting on MJ. For the most part, the news spread with smiles galore, and even one or two other admirers of MJ resigned to their fate and congratulated Karan for being the closest to the ‘chosen one’ in her life then. Frequent references to MJ’s hanging out in the RSI Club and Karan’s oft expressed desire to be her slow-dance-in-the-spotlight partner became a favoured topic of discussion. Many people eyed me curiously, wondering who exactly I was, sitting on the same table as Karan and MJ. In the process, my popularity as ‘the unknown quantity’ made its own small place in the scheme of things, and I was often prodded by complete strangers on the latest goings-on of the ‘couple’.

But with the crest there comes the trough. Isn’t it so typical? Just when we thought things could only get better from then on, Karan’s cell phone rang. His expression betrayed some little confusion as he looked at the flashing name on the screen and answered, “Hello?”

“Karan? It’s me, Mo. Listen… I don’t know how to say this… It’s Akruti… She’s… You’d better see me right away.”

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Freakishly Faithful - Chapter 4 : From Dawn to Dusk

“The way you make me feel,
The way you turn me on,
You knock me off my feet,
My lonely days are gone...”
Michael Jackson

Part 1

Another semester of law school was drawing inevitably to its close. The crowd in the college campus had begun to diminish, and within a few days, the law faculty declared a study leave. But impending exams were never a dampener to Karan’s spirits, especially if it were someone else’s exams that were looming near. By then, Karan and I were regularly hanging out together, and every morning at about 9 a.m., a call to or from him had become a staple. I was a little too carefree about the vast portions of my subjects to be covered for the exams, and somewhat too liberal with my fibs to my folks about getting notes from classmates when what I really wanted to do was share some puffs and laughs with Karan. Life was easy, reduced to a series of walks from the Symbi campus to the NCC and back, with intermittent smoking pit-stops that left my wallet lighter and my conscience heavier (I was, after all, supposed to be studying, and smoking is a bad habit). Then, when there were no longer any women on campus for Karan to talk with, we’d push off to his apartment, where he lived with his roommate Dilawar, and the incredibly sweet couple of Tandon bhai and Pede. In the evening, when I’d decide to push off home, Karan would walk me to the nearest tapri for yet another smoke, and (without fail) would ‘borrow’ one Rupee for a phone call. And so, our days continued.

Karan’s love-life was somewhat seasonal. A new crush would materialize sometime in the months of spring, lazy afternoons would be spent dreaming of cosy days with the said crush in the summer, arm-in-arm walks under a quaint old-fashioned curved-handled umbrella during the monsoons would follow, by autumn there would be signs of something of a rift, and by new years eve Karan would have had either a glass of lemonade flung in his face, or his girlfriend would go for another guy because she couldn’t take Karan seriously, or, if he was lucky, she’d break up with him without any unnecessary drama or intrigue. I guess he was just unlucky, or maybe he cared a little too much for his women. Whatever be the case, and however unfortunate the heartbreak, Karan always managed to scrape his heart off the floor and give it away again. This spring, his ephemeral heartbreak healer was a young 'army-chick' called MJ (Clarification: At least one of her parents were serving in the armed forces).

MJ had been one of the ‘models’ in a college fashion show in Aarambh. She was pretty cute, and was probably fun to talk to (Karan did most of the talking, as always). My role, or rather the role I took for myself at such times, would be that of an observer. However, small-talk between the sexes usually bored me, and I’d often find myself fighting off humongous yawns so as not to embarrass the cooing couple. That is not to say my silent vigils went unrewarded. It was always amusing to watch Karan trying to impress MJ, and her playfully stoic resistance to his efforts were admirable. In the presence of MJ, Karan would often become rather magnanimous, and a nice chicken sandwich, or at the very least, a cup of coffee would often find place on the table before me. A pleasant trade-off for the daily ‘one rupee’ offerings! My favourite moment remains the time we were sitting at a table in the Symbi Food Court, and Karan, while expressing genuine admiration for the entire feminine sex, declared, “I really love women; they have so much grit!” while clenching both his fists at chest-height at the precise point of saying “grit”! Despite my temptation to view the incident as a glorious illustration of a Freudian slip, I am inclined to believe that the hand-gesture was in fact an innocent faux pas (or am I?). But, although I laughed till Karan was red in the face and MJ was beginning to have an inkling that something embarrassing had just happened, I could not deny that Karan was genuinely interested in MJ, and his intentions, like most everything about him, were honourable.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Freakishly Faithful : Chapter 2 (contd.) - Aarambh - the Beginning

Part 4

“O maajhi, aeka kaeno kothai jaash, nodir aar saagorer tane-tane (O boatman, where do you go with the waves of the rivers and the seas? And why do you go there alone?)”
A song called “Nauka Chole” (the Boat sails) that Karan and I performed in the show

The feeling was electric indeed. The curtains were closed, and the auditorium was abuzz with the audience relishing the prospect of trading boring lectures with hopefully less boring stage acts. On stage, the performers of the day were milling about with the confusion so typical of nervous first timers; I know, I was one of them. The Orchestra performance (with 20 or so people about to sing and play, calling it a ‘Band performance’ would be overdoing it) was to kick things off. Wires from microphones and guitars snaked all over the stage and disappeared under the curtains. Shaunak met me in the wings, all charged up. He had practically left the guitar department entirely to me. He was going to play of course, but on a plugged in acoustic guitar. He pointed towards an electric guitar lying on the stage, and informed me that it was to be my instrument for the show. Now this was unexpected!

As I picked up the electric, I once again marvelled at how such a relatively small looking guitar could feel so damn heavy. I took out my pick, closed my eyes, tilted my head back, and did a single slow strum of the six strings, trying to get a total ‘I’m feelin’ that shit’ look. Unfortunately, any cool rockstar effect that my posturing with the guitar might have produced was quite likely obliterated by the very uncool ‘duh…’ look of confusion that now appeared on my face. The guitar had made no sound! Not on any amplifier, and not even otherwise. I spent a few moments picking at the strings while re-evaluating the basics - Let’s see now; hold guitar pick/plectrum like so, bring pick/plectrum to string, pluck string with plectrum and listen to sound. It seemed simple enough. But Step 4 (listen to sound) kept eluding me. I tried a variety of methods; picking the strings with increased pressure, holding the guitar in different angles, checking if the plug-in chord was securely plugged-in, and finally praying that the damn thing is not broken. Fortunately for me, JD noticed my fervent efforts and, with a classic look of disgust on his face, flipped a switch on the guitar, turned a knob marked ‘volume’ and said, “You have to turn it on first!” Ah, of course. I quickly played the chords of Summer of ’69 to ward of any excessive embarrassment, while quietly adding a 5th step to my mental “How to evoke sound from a Guitar” manual. No wonder JD wanted to throw me off the stage! To all and sundry, the next time you’re trying to play an electric guitar, do switch it on.


We’d gotten off to a somewhat shaky start. One of the girls who was to sing solo on a Shubha Mudgal number had started off on a very wrong scale, and the laughter of the audience wasn’t too encouraging. She did end up singing the song well enough though. Our first success was on the song ‘Khamaj’ by Fuzon, where Sam and a girl named Shruti did a little duet. But it was the next song that was to ultimately alter the course of some of our lives.

We all knew it; this was definitely going to be our best song of the day. At least we hoped it would be that way, if we didn’t mess it up. And for this song, I had quite the bit of responsibility. Rono had a single monitor speaker near him, which apparently wasn’t loud enough for him to judge the tempo of my guitar. So he’d asked me to be near him as much as I could while playing the song. Ruksana on the synthesizer had an important ‘flute’ solo to play in the middle of the song, for which she insisted that I be next to her to help her with the tempo. Sam and Jeetu wanted me to be in between them to keep them on the right scale. Thankfully, the guy playing the tabla made no similar demands. Nevertheless, the requests of the others required me to be pretty much on the move for most of the song.

The success of the previous song had shifted the momentum in our favour. Getting the song right was crucial. There was some initial confusion in starting the song as, apparently Ritesh Deshmukh who was the Chief Guest of the day had made his entrance, and was taking his seat near the stage. But if the crowd were interested in getting a glance at the actor, who at the time was more the Chief Minister’s son than a Bollywood star, they certainly forgot about it when the sound of Sam’s silken smooth voice burst out of the speakers, singing the intro verse of one of the most popular Indian songs in the last decade. The roar of the crowd was brief but incredibly intense, and the sound coursed through me in an electric spasm. It was followed up by rhythmic clapping as I took off on the intro lead guitar portion. And when Rono kicked in with his drums midway into the song with a mind-numbing crash of the cymbals and his lightning fast drum-rolls, the crowd were absolutely blown away by this completely unexpected development. They’d never heard of the drums being played on this song, since the original was filled with percussion like on dholaks, but no perceptible drumming.

Needless to say, I dutifully fulfilled my role of being next to Rono, Ruksana, Sam and Jeetu at the desired points in the song. At the end of the song, one which held such an emotional significance in my heart as it did (and does) for millions of others, I could not help remembering how many times I had in the past thought of Ruksana when I’d heard the song. Towards the end of song, as Rono played a haunting shimmering sound on his symbals, I stole a glance at her, while Sam and Jeetu sang the words right out of my heart - “Ab kya karoon, kaase kahoon, he Maeri…”

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Freakishly Faithful : Chapter 2 (contd.) - Aarambh : The Beginning

These writings are, as far as possible, chronological. I am not planning to go for a day-by-day account, of course, but I do intend to capture as many incidents, events, happenings and the like as possible which occur to me in my recollections while writing these posts. This next post is a continuation of Chapter 2, and I’ve indulged my imagination in this one, because Rono had requested something earlier. Let’s see how this turns out.
By the way, I haven’t posted anything here in sometime because I’m on vacation. Did you miss me?? ;)

Part 3

“Dude… Rono… don’t play the drums for this song. It doesn’t have any drumming man,” I say to Rono, while we are getting set to practice what I hope will be our best number in the show. “Ok Da,” he says, drumsticks in hand, but I suspect he’s planning on giving it a go anyway. I have to dissuade him; he’s much too excited now that Shaunak’s asked him to play for us. Obviously he hasn’t had a chance to play a drumkit for a bit too long; his hands are itching to whack it for a while. I notice the matka lying around, and it hits me that a matka in addition to the tablas might produce an interesting percussive effect. I put it by him; after all, he knows percussion a lot better than me. He goes for it, and I’m relieved to see the drumsticks leave his hand. The kid’s great, but if he keeps playing those drums that loud, the singers will scream themselves hoarse trying to hear themselves singing. Can’t have the singers losing their voices before the show.
I strum the first chord on JD’s purple Ibanez electric guitar, and Sam takes off with the intro verse. Midway, I suddenly hear the crash of cymbals, and Rono starts off a rocking beat, something I’d never imagined we can do to the song. It sounds amazing, and we’ve all begun to lose ourselves into it. We reach a crescendo point in the song, and it happens. A loud and hardly melodic “twwooiing” sound reverberates in the amplifier to which my guitar is connected, and everybody stops singing / playing. I can feel everybody looking at me as I look down at the guitar and see my fear confirmed. The G-string, broken, again!!
Goddamit, why? Why, every bloody time? Why does it have to happen in front of everyone? We were all sounding so great, and now it’s all wasted, because of me!!
JD’s pissed of course. He comes to me, looking at his beautiful Ibanez missing a string and he asks, “Why do you have to play it so hard?!” I try to sound nonchalant about it in my reply, “Sorry man. This song gets me all josh-ed up. I feel I can’t play nearly as good if I don’t give it my all”
“Guitar ki to maa chud jaati hai na, mamu!” he says.
God, what if it happens on stage! What if, when I’m up there for the first time ever, my string breaks??!! God, we’ll have just one electric... no replacements!! I can’t let the show be wasted because I play uncontrollably hard!! I can’t let it be ruined!! I.. I…

I woke up with a gasp. It had all seemed too real, but then, it had happened. I remembered that day in the Vishwabhavan garage. I remembered Shaunak’s firefighting, telling JD he’d get him another string. I remembered feeling like crap.
I sat up on my bed, stunned for a few minutes, feeling a cold sweat envelope me. In about 5 minutes, the alarm on my cell phone went off. It was 6:30 a.m., already. I’d had a late night, having had dinner with Karan at Chaitanya’s. MUNA had ended the previous evening, but in my early morning fuzziness, it already seemed like some distant dreamy recollection. Today was a new challenge: Aarambh. I had to pull myself together if I was gonna play in a few hours. I slid off the bed and headed off to the bathroom. As I looked at myself in the mirror, with the brush building up a furious froth of toothpaste in my mouth, one line kept ringing in my ears – “Guitar ki to maa chud jaati hai na, mamu…”