3rd March, 2008 a day that would live in infamy. Because that is the day when one of the biggest flirts I know was finally shot down by a simple yet firm girl. The person in question is none other than my “chuddy buddy” Ajay Punjabi aka Aj, Punj or The Bear. This amiable and helpful person was bagged by Neelam who happens to be a MBA student and hails from Gandhidham. Many a hearts cried when they heard of this wedding. While many girls were heart broken, all the boys were concerned about Neelam’s plight. Just kidding. These two make a nice pair and complement each other. While Ajay is a chatter box and wild, Neelam is silent and calm (at least it appears so right now). I wish them the best for their future and hope they have a turbulent honey moon in Kathmandu. I am just worried about innocent Maoists who might make the mistake of crossing Aj’s path.
It all started when one evening Aj called me to inform that he was hooked. I took it as a prank because I have pulled hundreds of such pranks on him. But then my worst fears (not for Aj but for Neelam) were confirmed 2 days after Diwali when they got engaged. Engagement was great fun as our “chandal chowkdi” Aj, Anand Bhut, Vithu and self were in Rajkot. To add some more fun his college buddies Anand Pendse and Jassi were also present. We had a nice time even if events didn’t take place as per the time table.
Ok enough ranting about the history of this great event. Let’s fast forward to 2nd March, 2008. 0930 hours. I made a covert entry to the place where all guests and Aj’s family members were deployed. But my chance of freaking some unsuspecting guests was spoiled by Anand Pendse (now onwards referred to as Andy) who was already at the main gate terrorizing guests and people passing by. We affectionately call Andy as ‘Aj’s first wife’ because he’s so possessive about Aj. He had arrived a day earlier while rest of the gang was supposed to arrive on 2nd March. Jassi, Darshan, Girish, Mahesh, Baba (that’s not his real name), Reshma and Rupali arrived from Bombay at 1030 hours after fighting their way through the traffic and Andy. While all the guys started playing cards, girls went to Virpur to pray for Ajay and Neelam’s bright future. How quaint. I prayed to protect both of them from each other. :))) While they went around with their stuff, Anand Bhut (aka Bhoot) and self were flying (or driving) rescue missions for all the guests coming from other cities. There was this particular guest who didn’t want to come with us as he thought we were rogues of some kind. To prove him wrong, Bhoot with his brute power packed him in the car while I toned him down with my saturation fire of expletives. This suspecting guest was Ankit Shah who had come down from city of crooks – Gurgaon – so no wonder he is suspicious about everyone who has bicep size of 18 inches (Bhoot not me) and is 6 feet tall (me not Bhoot). Ok so once all friends were in their barracks, fun started. After most of them were tired of playing cards, they went out for a game of cricket. But Andy and me outsmarted them and concealed ourselves in barracks. At the right moment we came out of hiding and invited Reshma and Rupali over for tea. Not only did we have tea and biscuits with them but we also savoured Pani Puri. Sounds romantic doesn’t it. Trust me it wasn’t and pani puri was the worst I have ever had. Post pani puri panic, we scrambled for Sangeet.
Genius that Aj is, he had informed Bhoot and self that Sangeet was supposed to be a ladies only event. Eventually we were told that even we had to hit the floor. We just weren’t dressed for the occasion. While Bhoot was dressed in his cool casuals, I ended up looking like an aircraft mechanic in my field dress of cargo, T-shirt and combat boots. The worst part was that the T-shirt I was wearing was a relic from my last job with a gaming company. And no wonder it had crazy colours on it. But that didn’t stop me or any of the guests from dancing. We danced as if no one was watching. Dances ranged from quasi-Western to Gujarati folk dance. Everybody had their personal favourite and did their own thing. Bhoot and self preferred to imitate some of the old bollywood stars with their peculiar dancing styles. Once Sangeet was over, we relaxed for a while and then got ready for another ritual. It includes tearing groom’s clothes symbolizing end of his bachelorhood. Everybody (except two girls) had a gala time tearing his clothes off. This ritual got over very late, I guess at around 0030 hours. After that we reported back to our barracks and Bombay Brigade (Aj’s friends from Bombay sans girls) went back to their cards. Since I was feeling bored (I don’t play cards), took Andy to the watering hole or rather a tea hole that stays open 24 hours. We brought tea and Thepla for the hungry souls busy playing cards. Night was kept alive by Jassi as he didn’t allow anybody to sleep before 0330 hours. Thankfully I was supposed to receive bride’s entourage at 0600 hours so I slept earlier. By grace of GOD, Manish (Aj’s bro-in-law) who was supposed to come with me to receive bride’s side decided to have mercy on me and went alone. I had a nice sleep till 0645. By that time Jassi was ready to rock n roll. He woke up everyone by pulling their bed sheets and throwing water on those who didn’t get up. Everybody started a slow march towards the bath when all of sudden Jassi listened to this voice inside him and decided to let everyone sleep till 0815. Joy in our barracks was lot more than what we experienced during recent series with Australia.
I made a tactical retreat to my home base to wash and change. When I came back to barracks I found this two beautiful ladies smiling at me. I couldn’t trust my luck. It was tough to make out their faces as I had broken my glasses couple of days back and was not able to see properly. Only when I went closer did I notice that Reshma and Rupali had been smiling at me all this while. But that wasn’t a come-hither smile that I would prefer, but it was a smile that you give before you shoot someone in the head. Holding me at smile-point (to coin a term) they asked me to suggest some shops to buy sarees and dupattas. Naïve person that I am, I told them everything I knew about saree & dupatta shops. It was only then that they informed me about their cruel intentions. Instead of dancing and sweating it out in Aj’s baraat, they wanted to go shopping. I mean how rude is that. You travel across half the country to attend a friend’s wedding and then you go shopping instead of participating. While they were searching the dungeons that saree shops are, we joined for a ritual where people wrap a shawl around groom’s shoulders. It was then that I was introduced to a beautiful pint-sized Iyer gal – Ms Fire Iyer (name changed to protect readers). She happens to be HR executive in Aj’s loss making company. Bells and whistles went on in my heart. I don’t know but I always fall for Iyer/Iyengar gals and it always turns out to be a disaster. Long back I was interested in this Iyer/Iyengar gal, but it turned out that I was 6 months late. She was already married. But this gal was very sweet and calm. So I thought it just might work out. Anyways we’ll keep coming back to her till the end of this article. Baraat procession started off from our barracks at 1100 hours, just one hour behind schedule (considered normal – rather early – in Aj’s caste). We danced for some time with crackers bursting in front of our procession. My eyes were searching for that Iyer girl I mentioned but she had run to meet the bride. After a short while, we boarded our transports and were dropped at designated LZ (Landing Zone) near the Gurudwara. We danced again for a short while. While dancing I could see her coming towards the procession. I immediately broke away from the procession and joined her for small talk. We had talked for a while when Bhoot pulled me back into the procession. Finally we reached Gurudwara. When we reached there I was shocked to see Runaway Reshma and Runaway Rupali standing at the gate. They had managed to change, get ready and reach the venue in record time. I should give you girls that you didn’t make me come all the way to barracks and pick you up. Ok, so now we are inside the Gurudwara. Granthi saheb was reading Gurubani and was highlighting the importance of marriage and loving each other. Once that ritual was over, it was time for pictures. Everybody was busy taking pictures of gride and broom. Most irritating were those who were clicking away with their tiny cell phone cameras. I mean cell phone cameras have come a long way, but they are no match for full blown digital cameras. Soon after that we were busy downing ice cream as it was already 1430 hours and quiet hot outside. As soon as we finished ice cream, our transports scrambled to take us to barracks for lunch. It gets interesting from here. During lunch, I started chatting with Iyer gal. She was really surprised when I guessed her ethnicity at first shot. But she failed miserably at guessing my origins. She thought I was a South Indian stud while in reality I am a Gujju gunda. I let her guess for some time and then let the cat out. She told me that she would leave early as she had come by company car. I asked her to stay back for some more time to enjoy the reception. She told me that she would think about it. After lunch we retired to our dorm.
Andy, Bhoot, Jassi and self were supposed to decorate Aj’s honeymoon suite. But Jassi backed out as he was tired and R2D2 (Reshma and Rupali) won’t let him sleep avenging previous night. Finally 3 of the remaining musketeers decided to have a quick nap and then decorate the suite. As it usually happens, we overslept. When we got up, I panicked. We were very late and it would take long to decorate Aj’s suite. I was afraid that Iyer would leave before I came back. We ran to the flower shop to get flowers for decoration. Dude over there informed that flowers were already delivered in the morning. Panic. We called Aj’s dad and he told us that he had the flowers in his custody. We picked up flowers from him and went to Motel The Village (MTV) where Aj was booked. Andy and Bhoot had their usual tea-pangs. Had tea and went to work. We had only two varieties of flowers to play with. White flowers and red rose petals. But designers inside us went into overdrive and we did a fantastic job of decorating hall, bathroom, bedroom, swing and the swimming pool. Hell we did a fabulous job with bathroom sink and dining table as well. In the middle of all this I had Iyer gal playing garba in my brain. I called up Aj to inform him about this situation and to stop her till I was back. But she had already left immediately after we left the barracks. How sad. But the optimist that I am, I thought I can still talk to her on cell phone. We finished our work and went back to barracks. Changed in to something more presentable and went to the party plot for reception. Reception was usual affair with relatives and friends congratulating newlyweds. Back from the reception, Bhoot bade farewell to us as he had to catch early morning bus along with Ankit, who still thought that Bhoot and me were gangsters and were posing as engineers.
After Bhoot’s exit, it was time to drop R2D2 to the railway station for their midnight express (sounds seedy, doesn’t it). That was when the saga of deception, survival and human endurance began. We reached the railway station at 0030 hours and found out that train was delayed till 0130 hours. By mutual consent this delay was attributed to Girish. He is supposed to be the unlucky charm. It was in this hour of deception that my survival instincts kicked in. I suggested that we go to Senso – a 24 hour café – and try out their famous sizzling hot brownie. It was accepted unanimously. While we ordered brownies, R2D2 were already cribbing about how long it takes for our order to arrive. They kept on whining till I had to leave half of my brownie and drive them back to the station. Finally we arrived at the station at 0120 hours only to find that train would arrive at 0230 hours. There was no point in rushing back to the café to finish off my brownie; they would have already served it to an unsuspecting customer. Andy wanted to show Aj’s home to R2D2. So we went to see his place and from there to my place and our school. We returned back to the station at 0210 hours. Auto drivers at the station were now so familiar with four of us carrying luggage and running around that they just ignored us. We waited at the station sitting on the floor looking like flood victims waiting for food packets. Finally it happened, no not the food packets but the midnight express appeared on the horizon, and took eternity to reach the platform. We packed R2D2 in their bogie and waved till they could see us. When the train had gone, Andy shed a tear or two and wet my shoulder. I planted a combat kick on his rear for being so sissy. Went to drop him at barracks, but gate was locked. After couple of frantic phone calls gate opened and angle like figure of Girish emerged from the fog wearing a halo. One thing is for sure, Girish is lucky for Andy. After a long day and longer night, I finally reached home and hit the sack, planning about next day’s work in my sleep.
BTW I got a Moto Q recently. It is better than HTC S710, or so I think.