Wednesday, April 14, 2010
The curious case of Samresh Painter and one strange night before the final exams
A short story
There's something about the half-neurotics that amuses me but at the same time also gives birth to a strange aversion towards them. Now, what exactly is a half-neurotic? I dont have a dictionary definition for that, but its just that when you come into their contact, when one comes face to face with them, one tends to just know. It can also be a case of- since what is normal for a certain individual is not the same for other. Granted. But then opinions and choice is what makes us an individual different from other and thus the 'half-neurotics' according to me. Is it getting too "wannabe intellectual"? Cut the crap, lets jump to the story.
Now, I tend to have very mixed reactions to some kind of half-neurotics, sometimes its pure curiosity of what is going through that cracked nut's mind? and at times there is a feeling of jealousy that why cant I get into that kind of a realm where they don't give a fiddler's fart to the surroundings and carry on with their 'good life'. Yesterday night as I sat under a starlit sky at what one could label as the cleanest part of Juhu beach, my mind went back to one such half-neurotic I had met. Samresh. Reserved, almost to himself most of the times but was always a part of a group. You wont find him talking to all, but neither would you find him sulking alone and taking up his own corner in the hostel bed. The class knew that he had failed last year and was a year senior to us. But the circumstances under which he had failed were quite mysterious. There were rumors. Some say, he was suffering from malaria, some say, he didnt study at all and some say, he couldn't grasp the subjects. One fine day, he suddenly joined all of us in the class and a popular gossip went around saying: he was home practicing astrology and now when the semester began, he is back to the campus to repeat the year. Maybe he will leave engineering and join astrology. Samresh lived in a town that was some 70 odd kms from the campus in a different district altogether. Remember this piece of information.
Borrowing someone's bathing soap, detergent, hair oil, hair shampoo or other toiletries was one such passion for him. Not that he couldn't afford, maybe he couldn't. But in a boys hostel, going from room-to-room and checking out everyone's hair oil daily, is something that he purely indulged in. But what made me put him into one such 'cracked nut category' was that, unlike others who would go to borrow stuff from fellow hostel mate's room, he would just barge in with a towel wrapped around and go straight to the wooden cabinet and casually pick up the brand of hair oil or soap and then go to the next room and pick up the bucket after choosing from the two or three available options and then maybe to the next room to pick up his choice of tumbler and then rush towards the bathroom. Others who if wanted to borrow something from someone's room would casually come and strike up a conversation or two for some minutes and then gradually come to the topic of borrowing or if were in hurry would come straight to you and ask for the 'washing powder or detergent'. But for Samresh all rooms were alike. He didnt have to bother, if someone is snobbish, or selfish or doesn't-share types or a spoilt rich kid, he just had to casually come and before you know, he would be on his way with one of your toiletries. At times, I thought, he even didnt remember to which room did he go to, to take a particular hair shampoo, coz while returning from his bath, he would forget and thus someone's shampoo landed in someone else's cabinet. Now boys hostel is like that small town in Maharashtra where they do not have locks on their doors. Thus, Samresh would have a wild hunting ground if someone weren’t in his room. The best part, as the legend goes, he would never even look towards money or curiously look for other things lying around that could have got anyone's attention, his target was toiletries, almost always. At times, after bathing, he would go to the other side of the hostel or on a different floor for testing the deodorants or after-shave or if the room occupant is rich then hair gel. He sub-consciously knew almost everyone's brand preference, but interestingly would forget where did he pick Parachute from or where did the Gillette cream come from. Does this make him half-neurotic? There's more to come.
If one would find him walking on the campus road and ask him: "Samresh, where are you going?
He would reply pretty nonchalantly: "just ahead"
Like hello!! That we know that from wherever you are standing you would be going ahead. Even humanity is going ahead. But what response was that "just ahead". I thought maybe he himself at times didn’t know where he was walking to and thus the casual answer: "just ahead"
So many times had he told this to his fellow classmates that at times when I would confront him on the campus road, I would tease him: "Samresh, you must be going ahead, right? And he would start walking expressionless.
One personality trait of his that I appreciated was he had an amazing curiosity for new English words and during those times, a few of us in the class had started preparing for the GRE exams for a 'better' future ahead in the USA. Thus, any and every kind of new English word were welcome. Suddenly he would turn up and ask the synonyms, antonyms or meaning of words like: "loquacious", "taciturn", "hypochondriac". But the irony was, if he started speaking English, it would come out as a marriage of not-knowing pronunciations and not-knowing how to construct sentences. A professor could loose his/her patience if Samresh would stand up to give an answer. After a while, he would be asked to reply in 'hindi'. Not that he was such a pitiable character, but he would make things difficult for him, as if he had failed one year to test himself. Does this also make him half-neurotic? There's more to come.
One day, just a couple of hours before the internal 30-marks exam was about to start in the afternoon, some students spotted Samresh packing up his bag and heading out of the hostel. A curious classmate confronted him near the lobby, as Samresh continued walking from the lobby to the lawn and to the main gate.
Classmate: "Samresh!!, where are you going? Its 12 30, we have an exam at 2".
Samresh looked as if he was in a hurry.
Samresh: "ya I know, I will be back by then".
The classmate was not satisfied from the answer.
Classmate: "No, but why are you leaving now? Have you prepared for the exam? Have you studied the Boltzmann's constant?
Samresh: "No, I have not read that, but please allow me to go, I will be back by 2.
Curious classmate: "But where are you going with a bag and all?"
Samresh stunned the classmate with his answer.
Samresh: “I am going home, but will be back”.
Another classmate had by then joined in cajoling Samresh. Both of them were now trying to ask him that why does he need to go home, right now, just before the exam.
Second classmate: "Samresh, why home now? Do you need something? Is everyone okay back home?
Samresh: "I said, I will be back. I just need a 100-rupee note from my home and I will be back for the exam."
Both the classmates stopped on the gate and looked at each other. This guy who could borrow anything from anywhere as if the hostel was his ancestral property is now going home for a hundred bucks and that too before exam! They thought its better to return to Shri Boltzmann and his equation then bothering about this cracked nut. As the class was writing the exam, Samresh did return, albeit a good 20 mins late. Does this also make him half-neurotic? Well, it does in a small way. But there's more to come. That strange night of the final examination.
To be continued…
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