I've known a few interesting people in my time and some of them have been friends for ages. Not surprisingly, they are the most interesting. I am of course looking way back in time, when was in engineering college. That was... let me see... back in the Mesozoic era. Not all the details are fresh in my mind. Plus, back then, beer was real inexpensive. Well, here goes....
Jack D Daniels (not his real name), with whom I did my stretch at Manipal-on-the-hill, that producer of fine engineering minds, is a prince amongst men. He was the only guy who was worse at mech engineering workshop class than I was, which did wonders for my self esteem because otherwise, I should surely have taken to drink (Sheela read this over my shoulder and said "What? You mean you haven't already?". Wise girl.)
The workshop there was run by a dictatorial gent named K.V.K. Karantha whose acid tongue was dreaded by all. Self important prigs strutting around thinking no end of their craftsmanship would be speedily deflated by a few well orated barbs from this latter day Stalin. He was particularly worshiped by a mouse-like supervisor named Hebbar, who endeared himself to us by grabbing the hot end of a poker in smithy class one day and doing a good impression of a Sioux war dance complete with yips and howls.
What I was leading to, actually is that Jack's work left even Karantha speechless. He, Karantha, would just open and close his mouth like a goldfish, making a sound like steam escaping from a kettle and retire clutching the left side of his chest. Miraculously, both Jack and I passed that exam. Legend has it that the celebrations went on all night in the workshop when it was declared that they would have to see no more of Messrs. Daniels and Shenoy.
Another area where I have to be indebted to him is being late for the first lecture. No lark myself, I would forever be creeping into class late. The professor would start clearing his throat in order to hurl some choice abuse at me when Jack would saunter in, breaking all records for tardiness and deflect the fire from yours truly. Luckily, we kept passing all the tests and exams thrown at us periodically. How this feat was accomplished will forever remain a mystery to me, but we scraped through.
Normally a docile and inoffensive kind of bloke, the said Daniels once became the target of an assassination squad. How this happened is a story by itself.
One day I was pleasantly surprised to find a little note from Jack inviting me to a booze party at a bohemian outfit called "Bacchus Inn". Upon landing up at the appointed place, I found about a 100 other guys gathered and waiting expectantly to be offered copious quantities of the wines and spirits. The chatter was light hearted and we spent the next half hour scanning the horizon for our host. The resident waiters, alarmed at the sight of such a large crowd, started instituting inquiries. One of them finally mustered up the courage to ask us what the hell was going on and if we didn't want to order anything, to get the hell out of there because we were bothering the paying customers. Eyebrows were raised and very soon, one or two of the sharper minds divined that hey, it was the first of April, and maybe that might have something to do with it. Word spread and eventually it entered the dense minds of a 100 engineering students that they were not getting free booze, that it was an April Fool prank and that this was the doing of Jack D Daniels. It took 4 days and intense diplomacy to get the contract off his head.
Jack was, in those days, a nocturnal creature. You could find him all over the campus in the wee hours of the morning doing perfectly natural things like looking for a cup of coffee, frequently accompanied by yours truly, who, never strong minded even at the best of times, could be suckered into anything at 3 am. The corollary was that he would sleep through the day, in the unlikeliest of poses and places. It is on record, and I can produce chaps who will swear on the graves of their grandmothers, that he once fell asleep in the middle of lunch, while actually having a bite. Another documented instance is when he fell asleep at the wheel while waiting at a traffic light, causing an honest constable to burst a blood vessel
Jack's main problem, and mine too, was the food in the mess. It was awful. Being a vegetarian, he wouldn't eat meat of any kind. I could have, if I wanted to, but the stuff in the non vegetarian messes really put me off.
So we became life members of the North Indian Vegetarian (NIV) Mess whose chapati recipe, it was rumoured, had been sold to MRF for use in their tyre manufacturing process. Unless you had a chainsaw and a sledge hammer, you didnt have a hope of eating their aloo paratha. Diamonds were still the hardest substance known to man but the NIV Mess's mutter in the mutter pulao came a close second.
But the cook, may the heavens smile upon him, cooked a lovely rice and daal. Jack and I would get ghee from home and basically that was lunch and dinner for the rest of our stretch in Manipal. Daal, rice and ghee. We could - and did - eat copious quantities of it.
Had it been any place else, we would surely have grown impressive bellies of the large or police inspector size, but Manipal was a spacious place. It stretched out for miles in every direction and we didn't have any transport other than our feet, which was a good thing because with all the money we were spending on cigarettes, there wouldn't have been any left for gas.
We would walk to class, walk back, walk to a place called Tiger Circle where the medical college chicks would hang out, to ogle at them surreptitiously.
The chicks treated us with the haughtiness of duchesses dealing with lower footmen, but we ogled at them anyway because heart of hearts, we knew that med school guys were mega weenies unlike the real studs, namely us. Plus there were only 40 girls in our college, against 1300 boys.
The med school girls looked like Beyonce, compared to ours. Our girls were, how shall I put it, about as sexy as an ayatollah. And were even more conservatively dressed than your average ayatollah. Some of them even had as much facial hair as the average ayatollah, so you can understand how our preferences for dates were influenced. ANYTHING WITH TWO X CHROMOSOMES.
For the record, we failed miserably in our amorous ambitions, probably because we were spending so much time studying engineering and if you've guessed that this line is inserted in case my wife is reading this blog, you can claim your cigar or coconut.
Eventually, against all odds, Jack and I completed our engineering and got our degrees. We went our separate ways and despite all our best efforts, end up meeting every now and then. The past is hushed up, and should the conversation take an academic turn, we mention the times we spent under the streetlights. We usually omit mentioning that such time spent was usually in a horizontal condition, after half a dozen beers but hey, we said "truth and nothing but the truth", no one said anything about "the whole truth".