As always, my luggage was the last to arrive in the baggage claim area. After collecting it, I made my way out of the Dabolim airport and got into a waiting taxi. I immediately got into flashback mode as to how after six months of planning, we were finally going to have another reunion. I had been pressing for The Andamans as the venue, but it didn’t manage enough nods. The ill-effects of democracy are everywhere! But then, when it is Goa, the electorate doesn’t complain. The tough part was keeping the wives out of the plan. Some people had actually even wanted their wives to come. In the end, common sense had prevailed.
My reverie was broken as the mobile rang. The name flashing on the screen automatically put a smile on my face. Before I had the chance to say Hello, a voice said in an unmistakable tone, “Kahan hai tu?”. 57 seconds and 6 questions later, I hung up only to realize the smile had only grown. Boy, this was going to be fun! The taxi sped past a ground where half-naked children were playing cricket. After three successive World Cup wins, cricket had surpassed football in terms of popularity in Goa.
I reached the resort and was greeted by a familiar figure at the lobby reading the hotel pamphlet in a bid to increase his knowledge base. We hugged even as he motioned to someone to quicken up with his check-in formalities. I scanned the hall and finally saw him. Age hadn’t slowed him down - it would have been a rather difficult task indeed. He slowly advanced towards us as I asked, to no one in particular, what the nurse must have said when he was born. “Good slower delivery” came the reply. Age definitely hadn’t slowed him down.
Together, the three of us went to the room where everyone else reportedly were; expecting them to greet us with abuses. Instead they were locked in an intense debate and didn’t even bother noticing us. It was evident it was one against the rest. Just when it appeared that the rest had almost driven the final nail in the coffin, something happened - something we have come to dread all these years. He nonchalantly said, “Toh?”. That was check and mate for the others.
Someone finally sensed the presence of new people in the room. Profanities flew and everything was normal again as we hugged each other. I mustered up some courage to enquire about the person who was instrumental in helping organize this event. I was pointed to a small bed in the corner where he was sleeping peacefully.
The evening cruised along; we were doing quite well on the ‘Bhasad’ meter. Two people shifted uneasily as the topic steered to some ‘jugalbandi’ which they had indulged in during one hell of a night, before one of our plays in college. But much to their relief, the door swung open just then, and there stood the last of the persons expected – a mere eight hours after his scheduled arrival. A gentle enquiry on the reason revealed that he had opted to self-drive a car he had hired and had lost his way.
It was time for dinner. For the next 15 minutes, everyone’s eyes were glued to one man as he calmly washed his face, then wiped his hands, then put on his contact lenses and washed his hands. Then he wiped them and put on his socks following which he washed and dried his hands again. Then he put on his shoes and – surprise, surprise – he washed and wiped his hands dry. After he was done with his drill, he smiled at us wondering what we were waiting for.
“Kitne lagenge?” asked someone as we were just leaving. Unperturbed by the reply, he allowed his hands to leave the comforts of his hair as he gestured with his hands in ACP Pradyuman style, and said “Chal”.
The night had just begun.
Post Script: Was reminded of a text forward which Poonam had sent a while back, "Fikr-e-rozgar ne thode faasle badha diye.. Warna sab yaar saath hi the, abhi kal hi toh baat hai"