Friday, August 21, 2009

A crazy night

I have reveries at times. They are mostly snap shots or collage of some incidents from the past and sometimes unknown scenes which I soon discover happening to me later. Recently glimpses of one of such craziest moments of my life hit me. A crazy eventful trip to Delhi, something I had brushed under the carpet and locked up somewhere in the cellars of my unconscious arose to my conscious mind. To the uninitiated mind the incident might not raise an eyebrow, but to me, when I look back at it with shades of prevalent moral and cultural values, common Indian sensibility and finally, for those who know me, copious feminist ideologies, it surprises me to no end as to how I ended up doing what I did.

This is how it went. Five of us in our MSW batch (three boys- Sam, Ikka and Mann and two girls- T and me) were recruited by CAPART (Council for Advancement of People’s Action and Rural Technology) in 2006. We were excited because we were going to work for Ministry of Rural Development and get our first shot into the inside life of top government offices (well it was very exciting then)

Before we go any further a note on all five of us might help you understand the incident better.
Sam was the most senior among us. His age was an unsolved puzzle. A calm and matured guy who took all the responsibilities.
Mann and I knew each other for five years coz we did our grads and post grads from the same colleges.

Ikka was the typical Wayanad guy - a charming little fellow. He was good at extempores and debates.

T (identity withheld on request or should I say - threat) was a mystic to me. A great Osho fan, took things at her pace. You could also call her a tortoise in this race called life.

And Me. Let’s not get there. Maybe I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you.

My family hated the whole idea of their daughter travelling to odd places especially to those stinking rural villages. So the more I had to wait at home for the training sessions to begin, the more restless I became. We had no clues about the training period so when we got the dates, out of the blue, we had no tickets to Delhi. We finally managed one seat in 3 A/C through EQ (Emergency Quota) when we could have managed few seats in Sleeper if we really tried. The guys wanted to travel in A/C and even if that meant on the foot board. Though mom said we could carry food from home, the guys opposed it saying we will manage. I carried some snacks and mom like a typical Kerala mom gave me a bunch of banana (like six kgs and that was small to her). The crazy guys decided to survive on bananas to save money (we had daily allowance so if you ate bananas you got lot of money to save which you would later spend on shopping). Well, we were young and foolish and wanted to save money even if it meant starving (we means the menfolk).

We girls shared the berth at night and guys slept in the morning, taking turns. I was already crazy when I reached Delhi. Everything was fine until the last day of the training. The guys booked for a return train two days later hoping we would do some shopping before leaving for home. But we were free after five pm every day and did most of our shopping anyways. And after two weeks we were fed up and badly wanted to go home. A bigger mistake we did was assuming we would be permitted to stay for two more days. We thought we could bargain saying since we were informed late; we could not get any tickets. But the international hostel had many training programmes so they requested us to leave.

We managed to leave our luggage for the day and helped all other friends we met during the training to pack and leave for the station. There was no enthusiasm for shopping but we somehow wanted to kill time. Unlike today we had no contacts in Delhi then. We were baffled and found ourselves on the street. It was not a joke to find a place to stay for a day. Dorms at the station were full and we did not know where to go. Safety was a factor and so was money. We had to manage this crisis without letting our parents panic and even more, maintaining our own sanity.

Luckily Sam had the business card of a police officer who travelled with us on train from Kerala. He spoke about a lodge he ran near Hazrath Nizammudin. When we contacted him he said they had one room and could rent it out if we were willing to share. One room was a relief. But three boys and two girls in a room? “Would that be a problem feminists”, asked the guys? I visualised all those movies where the police raided shady looking rooms and if some things did go wrong what would I tell my mother? My mind was already listing down endless troubles. I trusted the guys but sharing a room with three of them in a room was not a pleasant thought. But this place was run by a policeman so we assumed it was safe.

When they handed over the key to us, they had a straight face. Inside the room, I began to feel suffocated. We all decided that this would be a secret and we would never tell this to anyone back home. To make it easy for us the guys got freshened up and left the room. That gave space for us girls to relax. We were asked to open the door only for them.

I was hoping to have a decent dinner but the guys came back with bread, jam and eggs. Bread and jam made sense but eggs made me confused. That’s when Ikka told me we could boil eggs in the vaporiser. T had one because she had wheezing . And we waited to see how long it took to boil eggs one by one. Naturally in such dire circumstances we had to resort to such stale pleasures. When it was bed time the guys were feeling awkward to sleep with their shirts on in the Delhi heat. We girls were irritated in our modest clothes but this had to be done. After the lights were off the guys did remove their shirts. When I woke up in the middle of the night I saw the guys huddled up as if they wanted to maintain a border on the bed. I don’t remember sleeping very well.

We tried spending the next day in all possible shopping avenues sleepy and tired. I remember crashing into slumber as soon as we boarded the train. We never spoke how we felt staying together. Knowing the guys and their background, I doubt they would ever do this and what courage they mustered for this crisis management.

As for me spending a night with these guys came as naturally then as awkward it feels now when I look back. This challenged the feminist in me. What was I scared of? Why had this memory faded away unlike others? What was I doing in the whole frame? Not even for a second did I think- we are friends and this is natural nor could I feel they were like brothers. Was I really narrow minded? Did the society reflect through me or vice-versa? Was I more feminist then or am I more now? And that’s why I still find it crazy.


KParthasarathi said...

A good write up and you write very well.An awkward situation no doubt however nice the guys are.

deeps said...

heyy buji ...
you are at your best when it comes to maska ha? :-p

niway ..
well, exactly 2 months back i was in some godforsaken villages in orissa, chattisgarh ... ummm

such places will surly test the power of our nerve ...

i hope u enjoy all such trips ...

Vishwanath Seshadri said...

Very interesting and impressive writing style..

I had a similar situation in UK when we were five guys and one girl and due to budget constraints had to share rooms. In London, we five gu

We decided that the juniourmost 2 guys would share the room with the lady and the three senys crammed into a room and the lady stayed in a separate room.

In another city, we ended up deciding that the three senior guys (incl. me) shared a room and the two junior guys shared the room with the lady.... Quite an experience..

The quirk said...

KP the content is mine . My writing style wasn't gr8. The editor always puts the magical strokes.

Deeps , I hate maska.

Viswanath, thanks for the comments. Keep reading

Sajit M Mathews said...

excellent narration.
clear Philosophy.
wonderful expression.
vivid, attractive and matter of fact presentation.