Thursday, August 21

Banga-lore II: The Destroyer Cometh

With MIB having finally disclosed the location where we were supposed to be ‘interred’, we were ready to advance to the next level- last but not the least of the Roti, Kapda aur Makaan trio. The prudent and those endowed with common sense would’ve simply asked around and discovered Ad-Mag, and scoured it for phone numbers of unsuspecting landladies and smooth talking scalawags alike. Considering we came from the purported crème de la crème of the Indian intelligentsia, you can guess we took the road not taken. And that really did make all the difference. Taking phone numbers off electric towers, calling up random people and inspecting PGs became a routine. Like the unsuspecting kid coming to R, I had huge standards at first but it didn’t take too long for them to hit the oft quoted Rock Bottom. Me, SF and Ladki would travel to all sorts of places, usually lead by Ladki who was hell-bent on proving her, um, manhood. I’d heard of the South as the land of the matriarch, and it didn’t take long for us to realize it had caught up in our pack.

Like the good old Bob Dylan in search of the good old Dignity, we searched high and searched low. And searched everywhere we did go. With the stated Rock Bottom skirting our expectations, a vacant flat in a place whose name I long forgot brought a glint to the eye. Tacitly ignoring the dust covered furniture, a dog of the Hound of Baskervilles ilk and proximity to breeding grounds for mosquitoes of about the same size, the males of the pack threw caution to the Hound and did everything except urinate to mark the territory our own. The females took their own sweet time but declared a general assent by advancing to how the hall could be decorated, pink and all. Of course, we never returned to this place. Reel, as you would, innocent reader, the decision turned out to be for the better. How it took place is another matter. Well I’ll just say it took Foodie’s Father to eject us from that place, kicking and screaming.

The general male consensus by this time was that Foodie’s Father had no business fussing about. We were perfectly fine being led by Ladki. This was when the weekly tabloid Ad-Mag made its appearance and it was right at this point that a kind senior’s voice reverberated into the old bean, complete with May the force be with you. Mentally smacking our heads, we did a What Ho and set out for one last time to look for the elusive four walls and a ceiling. Find we did our PG in a Punjabi home, only too relieved to be away from having to hear what reminds one of syllables running for their lives from a tongue possessed by demons. Here too, adventures of the worst kind awaited us. But that’s another story. For now I’ll say what the great visionary Bertram W. Wooster once said- “Aunts aren’t gentlemen”.

The time to enter the hallowed MIB Block C and have our first rendezvous in a long series of rendezvouses with our mentor was nigh. Like I said, MIB is a highly secretive organization and provides badges to make entry and exit, arguably, secure. Only, we didn’t have any. To get one, we needed our manager to sign a form. And of course the manager was inside the building. Avoiding the imminent Catch-22 situation by the sheer brilliance of calling her outside, I adorned my otherwise casual attire with a yellow “CONTRACTOR” badge and swapped the card with all the nonchalance in the world. And yes, it took me three of those swipes to get through. The thing with nonchalance is that it’s very much like the star power in video games – you can only use it once for a long time. So, defeated and sobered by a card reader, we followed my manager to the secret Five and Two Halves Floor. Following her through a maze of cubicles we reached a somewhat gloomy area where we were probably unwelcome. There was no fanfare, welcoming smiles or overenthusiastic handshakes. Hushed up into ergonomic chairs in front of ergonomic keyboards, I was once again left to surfing the internet, something I would’ve preferred to do at home. After ascertaining my comrades-to-be were as clueless as me, I got back to feigning interest in the Fedora installation. It wasn’t too long when a man with an unusually happy countenance disturbed the pitter-patter of keys. As is customary in any society where all are busy feigning interest, say a library or a workplace, we all turned towards the intruder like Meerkats standing on their tiny rear feet examining a new female enter the colony. Those already familiar with him quickly recognized and acknowledged his presence while we lingered on to check if he too would go on to serve the old shoulder right out of deep freeze. To our combined gasps and Eh-whats he turned to us and spoke thus- “Hi, I’m Shiva, your mentor.