Spring, 2004. Vipin and I had been moaning on habitually, just outside the gate of a curiously quiet DSOI club at the centre of the bustling Dhaula Kuan, at how we had landed up in the mess we had landed up in. Our pre-board results had been declared the previous day, and with the kind of performance we had put up, securing our admit-cards for the board exams from the school authorities, we were sure, wasn't going to be a very pleasant experience. My Dad had been called to meet the Principal in person, and I feared the exchange in the Principal's office was bound to be topped by another exchange, back at home in the evening. We were supposed to be bright students once, weren't we, I mused. What had happened?
'I wouldn't know. If I did, I wouldn't be here.' Vipin quipped and jumped to his feet dusting off his backsides soiled by the footpath, and returned briefly with another burger from the roadside dweller.
'What at all do you ever know?' I finally spoke, only after I had taken a big buttery bite off his burger.
'Really, if you hadn't woken me up from my slumber, I was flunking for sure! I think I should be rather satisfied now, you know…' he said in a manner filled with gratitude, his involuntary wriggling with his plate away from me belying it all at once.
We had gathered here en route to DCE; we knew we weren't going to get through the entrance exam, and since there's nothing to be ashamed of after all these years, let me admit that we had even thought of repaying our many little movie-ticket debts with this money we had got from our respective Dads for the admission forms. Soon enough, a third, balanced classmate who was in complete control of his senses, or whose Dad exercised complete control over his senses, arrived, and like the jeannie of his Dad's lamp, held us by our collars into the DTC bus to Peeragarhi.
More than an hour had passed, and from the looks of it more than an hour remained. The two of us had been relentlessly passing lavatorial jokes all victimising this third classmate of ours, and by now he was no longer on talking terms with us, really. Under an unwritten contract Vipin and I never cracked these ruthless jokes on each other, and a lull had come over the journey.
'Make sure we don't get through this entrance test' Vipin whispered as if we were otherwise surely going to. 'Our lives will be hell, take that from me.'
'Goes without saying.' I replied matter-of-factly, or pretending to be so.
Shortly, Vipin sprang on me with the suggestion of chucking the rest of the journey and that of asking this classmate to get the forms for all of us. I didn't protest; it seemed quite a practical suggestion. We both asked him if he could do the needful, and as if already waiting to get rid of us, he took the money from us in a fit of petulance and immediately started peering out of the window as if into some rare spectacular sight, though from what I recall I could only catch a glimpse of a much-in-demand public toilet, before the urgent elbowing of the passengers pushed us out on the road at the nearest bus-stand.
Broke I sat for an hour with Vipin dreaming up the latest flick in my head, and nodding absent-mindedly to plans for attending an upcoming concert he thought would rock; provided of course that we're granted the money - a bleak possibility after our recent accomplishments. Then I returned home hesitatingly, to, a locked door. My parents were at the Principal's office still, I guessed. 'Long, long meeting it's been. Shit!'
Thus died prematurely what could have been my first brush with DCE.
* * *
Six months had passed since that day, with a lot of exams sandwiched in between. We, and this still refers to Vipin and I, made it to none of them. Alright, let’s be fair, we did get a little. But what we wanted, we didn’t get; what we got, nobody wanted.
I missed both IITJEE and DCE by a whisker, and this spurred crazy hopes in my heart that some discipline for a year and I’ll be decorated with a geekish pose on every newspaper, my name printed with a golden font amid glorifying praises. More importantly, I was somehow dead sure that seeing this, at least one of my Dad’s many friends who, I always held a suspicion, took birth only so that they could one day cast their offer to marry their beautiful daughters off to me, would surely have the good sense of bringing alive their bollywood-lessons learnt by suggesting to my Dad ‘kyun na iss dosti ko rishtedari mein badal dein’. But the initial motivation soon whittled out as we, Vipin and I, okay, I and Vipin, turned neurotic film buffs, the kind most people only hear about in folklore. We saw every goddamn movie that released, a lot of them twice over, so much so that by the time we had once gone to see Veer-Zaara and were almost returning disheartened by the Full-House noticeboard, the ticket clerk was gracious enough to voluntarily insinuate us into the balcony with folding-chairs in our hands! I did not know then that later one coveted temptress was to find all these tickets out and guess that they must have been dates, and I would have to smudge mystery around the whole thing with a sentence as cleverly cheesy as ‘Well, I wouldn’t say that they were dates.’ No untruth in that statement, no truth either, if you look at it. I may expand this part indefinitely, I may do this, I may do that, I won’t. The whole thing, anyway, is supposed to be about DCE.
may be continued