The hands of the old wall clock in college library showed half past three, "Ousep must have reached by now. Damn him, the guy never picks up his cell phone when required", with a swear I redialed the number.
"I have ........ reached...can't here", the voice broke of in between and risking a scowl by the librarian, shouted into the small phone, "Where have you reached? I am in college". Maybe I was a bit too loud, am not sure because of the excitement, but then the Librarian was towering over me, with his fingers pointed towards the door. With not the slightest apology, I walked out trying to make sense of what was being heard from the phone. "Damn him, only if Ousep had used half as much as energy to talk of what I showed moments back inside the library," and I walked towards the college gates.
The glorious days of the erst while His Highness the Maharajas Government Law College, Cochin were believed to be over by people who passed out with us and before us. None of us are actually sure whether 'we' lived up to the expectations of cockiness in our protests. Personally, I believe, we never did, but to satisfy the ego, like all classes, passed out from an institution as old as ours, 'we believe, things will be different once we are no longer here and we will be the last class who could associate with a lot of traditions. All the classes to come, mere shadows of what it actually used to be'.
An auto stops right in front of me and jumps out Ousep. Embraces over, we head to 'Mallika' to soak down couple of beers and wait for the rest to come. "Chackochi and Sidharthan wouldn't be long, get some beers for them as well", Ousep shouted from inside the car, while we stopped near the Kerala Beverages Corporation near to the High Court. Things were prosperous, people were happy and I had all the more reasons to feel the happiest person on earth. Some news I wanted to share with my friends first, drinking good whiskey and swimming in the pool at the middle of meadows in Vagamon. "There shouldn't be shortage of wine," I shouted to Ousep walking with two cartons of beer, "come, help me". We didn't wait for it to reach home to open up the beers, a little foam spilled on to the seat, which I ignored and started taking big swings.
Chakochi and Sidharthan joined us in the Mallika and the beers went missing faster than anyone could ever imagine. The rain had settled into a rhythm and we waited for Thangal, abusing him not just once. "Thangal these days seems to be a synonym to the slang 'post' " Chackochi said and none were brave enough to disapprove. Because the person involved is Thangal, you can never be sure until he comes. There was this legendary incident where Thangal made Sidharthan to extend his stay in Mumbai for 2 days and got his tickets modified and then never turned up.
The second time Chackochi rings Thangal, everyone hears the sound of Thangal's car. Boy all of us can identify that sound in any sleep, in fact we have slept so many nights inside that car, up and down the hills of Munnar. There was one week, wherein we drove on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday to Munnar and all we did was smoke couple of cigarettes at Top Station and then drove back. Standing from the Mallika, with the cars arrayed below, I felt a sense of pride. My friends been doing good, we have been doing good or rather our families been doing good.
Everyone wanted to know, why this sudden urge to go to Vagamon. All they got was directions to drag their ass back to Cochin on a particular friday evening of June. Not everyone could make it, but four of them did and then the other two had real compelling reasons for having not come. This was the best about us, none really asked for reasons on journeys which seemed to be heading towards blissful times. I never told them the reason, but then they stopped bothering, rather started on the whiskey to buy and the grub to eat en route.
The rain had stopped for a moment and we started in Sidharthans car, first to get more wine and then to Vagamon. Thangal had this sudden want of making a visit to the Masonic Lodge near to Cochin University, the time we studied in Cochin, there were talks that this bungalow was the meeting place of some secret group worshiping the dark forces. People saw expensive cars coming together and a lot other suspicious activities, and the cops been bribed to keep it hushed, the same urban legend and this one a rather University legend. This was a well maintained bungalow in a huge estate close to the University campus. Some of us paid a visit there coule of years back to find out the secret and from all that they saw there, it had the looks of a Free Masons Lodge. Thangal, wanted to make the jump, tress pass into another man's property and check out again what it holds. With not much of talks, we just went ahead with the idea.
We jumped the walls at about eight and there were no signs of the dobermans said to be guarding the estate. "I have even heard, the guy has a double barrel gun as well", Sidhan said aloud, which did bring a chill in my spine, amidst all the warmth given by wine. But it looked abandoned, no signs of human activity for some years now. Maybe we have all been away from Cochin, none never heard that this place been abandoned. There was a wooden thing lying in the front porch, which seemed like a symbol, and Ousep picked it. With all the knowledge imparted from Da Vinci Code, trying to make sense of the wooden piece, we started back to the car. This time we opened the gates and walked out and Ousep carried the wooden thing with him. He had this habit of collecting weird things as memoirs of journeys made or things he did and the Skoda made very quick progress towards Pala amidst talks of how stupid it was to have gone there to the bungalow again.
A good dinner from Pala, rich in meat, poultry and pepper and then finally some freshly baked muffins from the Anns bakery, made sure our gastric juices been put to very good use. With the tummy full, energy levels boomed again inside the car and slowly we made the climb from Pala to Vagamon, from the heavy rain drops into a heavenly drizzle of mist. The sign board read Vagamon meadows, 6 KM and we stopped at a regular small waterfall that one gets to see during the monsoon in the Ghat roads of Kerala. Visibility had become almost nil now, it was getting impossible to drive up ahead and we did the safe thing, pulled up and started setting our party table, read the cars bonnet, with the parking lights and two indicators working as the lighting for the event.
Some good whiskey, couple of pack of smokes and then some bites, it was all that was there, but then for a moment felt it was everything I ever wanted in life. With the drinks poured and Thangal holding up his smoke to give us company, we had our first shots neat. For the second drink of that pit stop, the water flowing from earths bosom, served the purpose and whiskey had a taste I never knew before. Soon, the small waterfall started looking like the 3D animated waterfalls in the movie 'Avatar' and when all four of us sipping the divine mixture of earths tears and whiskey, shared the same feeling, I knew we were sloshed.
The scene was set and I told them, the reason for having made this trip. I have cleared the Indian Civil Service examinations and interviews and has been asked to report at Delhi to go for training. There was a moments silence and then a huge cry of happiness and drinks went flying in the air. This was the friends, that they failed to depict in the hindi movie "three idiots". The line from the movie, "when a friend fails, one feels sad. When a friend becomes first in class, you feel more sad" acclaimed by quite a few, never becomes true here. The Indian Civil Service, a dream which all five of us shared, but destiny made everyone take a different path and finally when I made it there, there was no envy in the heart, rather a sense of pride, for me having made it.
It was, as if through me, all four of them were living their dream. They shouted at the cars making the climb down, "our friend just cleared the civil service" and then I remember the dancing and the spinning and ________________ !