It was a beautiful day, bright and sunny. I just looked outside the window and saw people traipsing around in their morning delirium, conjuring up in their minds the deeds for the day. The newspaper lay all scattered, thanks to the misgivings of an irate and obnoxious boy who seems to be in a perpetual hurry. Damn that boy!. I need to talk some sense into him soon. Can't he do his job meticulously? I hate these imperfections! Just the other day my gardener messed up my entire lawn. He also did irreparable damage to the wonderfully crafted tress which used to glorify the facade of the house. Sometimes I think such deviant characters do not deserve to live. Why malign mankind, the most precious of god's creations, with such imperfections? Well, as I bend down to pick up the paper I noted in my mind to have a word with that kid tomorrow. I took a deep breath and tried to pacify my agitated mind. How nice it would be if the world is populated only by a superior race? Superior in intelligence and intellectual prowess. I just cogitated on this for some time. I then noticed a maimed dog being chased by a group of ferocious ones. Survival of the fittest! I thought. And for us, is it survival of the smartest? Ought to be. There is no other way we can bring balance to this chaotic world. No mercy!!
Today is kind of special for me. I will be meeting my school mate after a long long time. If there was an inseparable detestable pair in the whole of Bharthi Bhavan Public School in Bangalore at that time, it was us, Nandan and Guru. I do not know what Guru might look like now .He was a portly insipid character who had the uncanny knack to irritate any teacher with his insouciance. We clicked instantly the moment he walked into my class in the summer of 1980. Teachers had no respite with our antics. We shared a common place which was always outside the class room. Wayward and carefree, that's how we were during those wonderful years. Finally our inglorious escapades were put to an end when Guru had to follow his father's dictum and joined another school. I was heart wrenched by this dramatic twist of events. Anyway, life moved on and our paths never crossed again, until yesterday when I got a message in my Facebook which read somewhat like this ..."Hey! Is it really you? If it is, then please meet me at Cafe Coffee day near Hudson Circle tomorrow at 10.00 am". So I am going too meet my Guru, nearly after a gap of 20 years.
I had a quick bath, gobbled whatever my wife made for me, and started for my rendezvous with Guru. The traffic was just warming up as I meandered through crazy mazes of 2 and 3 wheeled monsters. The blaring horns and plumes of smoke added to the misery. Finally I reached Hudson Circle and spotted the Cafe Coffee day outlet. It was 10.00 am in the morning and the place was already bustling with regular morning "dwellers". As I stepped inside my eyes searched for my friend. I had a vague notion of how he might look like, after all these years. But to my surprise, I couldn't find anyone who even remotely fitted the description. As I was searching for him, I saw a lean tall man walking towards me.
He was wearing a red T Shirt and blue jeans. As he approached me , he smiled and extended his hand. "Boy! You have not changed much." he said . I was shocked. "Guru ? My god ! Is it really you ? I couldn't recognize you one bit. You have reduced considerably. And you have become taller than me !" I said. We just couldn't hold back our feelings and we laughed and hugged each other. He then ushered me to a vacant corner in the cafe which he had reserved for us. "What will you have Nandan?" he enquired. I smiled and said "anything which you have Guru" . We ordered 2 cappuccinos. For the next couple of hours we forayed into each other's lives , spitting out every bit of detail which we missed since we parted 20 years ago. Guru was working as a bank clerk in a public sector bank. He was married to his soul mate Shilpa and they have 2 kids, Nikhil and Nandita. He was looking happy but I could sense a streak of resentment in each statement that he made. When I told him about my success and the phenomenal rise which I had in my career during the last 5 years, I could see the discontent in his eyes. He was visibly upset and I had to change the topic to save him from embarrassment. After an hour or so, we were left without anything much to discuss. We just sipped our cappuccinos and the eerie silence started to engulf us. He was fidgeting with his car keys and eyeing at the door, when I asked him "Do you need to go somewhere"? No, he said. Then why don't you come to my house? You can meet my family and spend some time with us. Anyway Kavya (my wife) would be very happy to see you. I have told her all about you /us. He looked anxious when I said this. Finally he gave in and agreed to come on the condition that I will let him go after lunch. He was mostly silent during the drive back. By the time we reached home it was 12.00 P M. Kavya was waiting for us. I had called her on the way to say that he will be dropping in for lunch
After the exchange of pleasantries, we all settled down for a chat. Kavya made some pakoras for us and we resumed our conversation. But he was distracted and was eyeing the showpiece items and the furniture in my house. I then thought it was better to show him around.
Ours was one of the first Villa project to come up in Bangalore and we were the first ones to book it in 2003. We had our own garden and a courtyard and I also crafted a badminton court for my kids. Thanks to the aesthetics of Kavya all the interiors were immaculately designed and decorated. She even went to the minutiae and saw to it that everything matched the wall shades and added grandeur to whole ambiance. I knew that Guru was really impressed but he didn't express it. Finally he asked me , "Why did you have to spend so much for a house"? You could have saved that amount for something else. I then told him that I had enough savings and such a house was our long cherished dream. Guru was living in a rented flat somewhere on the outskirts of the city. Every day he had to commute close to 30 Kms to his office. He said he didn't have enough money to afford the city rental rates.
After the brief tour of the house, we sat down with a glass of whiskey and pondered about the where the future is leading us. He expressed his anguish over the fact that the disparity between the rich and the middle class is increasing day by day. Neither the government nor the filthy politicians are doing anything about it as they all feed on the rich. His sudden outburst caught me unawares and I was spellbound for some time. Did he detest me ? I thought. Is he envious of my success? If he has failed to succeed , how can he blame the rich for that? I sensed a growing bitterness in me , but kept curtailed the emotions. We had a few pegs and then sat down for lunch.
Kavya played the perfect host and she invited us to the dining room where the table was festooned with myriad dishes. We had a good cook and today she took real pains to prove that she is the best. Lunch was a silent affair and poor kavya's relentless effort to connect with Guru was reciprocated with monosyllabic answers. I really got annoyed with him and we (me and Kavya) kept eyeing each other as to when this misery will end. I just looked at his hands and noticed for the first time that it was really dirty. His nails were not manicured and it carried lot of dirt and filth in it. I started detesting this man who has given the least priority to personal hygiene. He was eating with his mouth open and was making all kinds of funny noises. Finally we finished lunch and went out to the lawn to have a smoke. Well, I smoke once in a while, as deemed fit by my wife who surreptitiously checks the number of cigarettes left in the pack. We smoked for some time, lost in contemplation. As soon as I finished my cigarette, he said that he needed to go and I obliged.
I told Guru that I will drop him at him home. But he vehemently objected quoting that the roads are pretty bad in that area and I would also have a tough time finding my way back. When I said that I wanted to see his family, he politely refused by saying that his kids were sick and he would definitely take me to his house someday soon. I decided to drop him near majestic so that he will be able to catch a bus to his place without any hitch.
Before parting we hugged each other and promised that we will soon have a get together involving our families. He then stepped out of my car and waited beside the footpath to cross the road. As I watched him standing there I thought to myself "What a waste of my time!!". The mental picture that I had about Guru crumpled. I thought he would grow up to become successful. But he turned out to be such a loser. In my life there is no place for losers. I cannot afford to waste my precious time with people who are insignificant, though one of them happened to be my best friend. I looked at him one last time and stepped on the pedal. As I drove past him I made decision not to contact him again in future. He doesn't deserve to be my friend. We are platonically poles apart and I am sure that he can never catch up with me. My thoughts were interrupted by the sound of screeching brakes and people shouting. When I looked at the rear view mirror I saw people running towards the spot where I left Guru. Then I saw a man lying sprawled on the road within what looked like a pool of blood. I stamped on the brake and brought the vehicle to a halt. I opened the door and stepped out. Yes, it was Guru. I could make out his red T-shirt. I took a step forward but then stood transfixed. What am I doing? Do I really need to go there and help him? I thought. Only moments ago I severed all ties with him. If he met with an accident, it's his fault. He should have been more careful. By the way he was lacking a bit of common sense. It was coming through over the conversations that we had today. In this short acquaintance, I conjectured that Guru was a guy with low intelligence, a twerp or a misfit to the intellectual rubric of the society. I turned back and got inside the car. Some people were trying to flag down passing cars. Some were frantically running helter-skelter to get some help. Then I saw a few people running towards my car. I soon started the engine and sped away.
As soon as I reached home Kavya asked me what happened on the way. I said that he wanted to buy some stuff for his kids so I dropped him near the food bazaar. She then asked when we are going to see his family. I just looked at her and said nothing. Then my phone started ringing. When I picked up a harried voice on the other side asked whether I was Mr Nandu. When I answered in the affirmative, he said that he is calling from Fortis Hospital and got my number from the cell phone of a man named Guru who met with an accident. He said my number was the last to be called from his (Guru's) mobile. I stood motionless, not knowing what to say. Finally I mustered all my courage and said that I do not know anyone by that name and kept the phone. My wife then enquired as to who it was. "No one. Wrong Number" , I said
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