College reopened a month ago, and to break free from the monotony of seeing the same faces every single day, we had to wait for at least a week for the juniors to arrive. Tired of being the uncles and aunties in college (being the senior most), the freshers promised to bring with them an aura of freshness and youthfulness. That the kids needed to grow up and carried tons of attitude was something we didn’t expect.
Day 1 for the freshers was surely an interesting experience for the old monks in college like me. I shall not delve into details of how two people who would never see each other eye-to-eye were seen bumping their chests, shaking hands, hugging and patting their backs… public display of universal brotherhood I say! That, this brotherhood was displayed every time they passed in front of the ‘ex-Carmelite’ sisterhood cracked me up.
The greatest opportunity for a senior-junior bonding is to organize a freshers party (now that any form of interaction is labeled ragging). However, the sad economists that we are, we finally decided to hold one
after all the other forms of impressing juniors failed and few seniors pressurized us when the juniors literally begged for it. It was a small affair, given the shortage of funds and the deadly R word hitting us real hard. We struck a deal for the food and beverages after a mallu-mallu bonding with the owner of a bakery and pestering him until he said yes to everything we said.
Next came up the issue of mementos for the juniors. 22 of them and only 15 of us to fund the entire party!!! Our deep-dark motives of delaying the freshers’ party also included high hopes that at least a few of them will quit and join better avenues. (The results for JNU, GIPE, MSE, DSE etc were yet to come). Therefore, we had to give them a little something, so that they would remember their beloved seniors. It was unanimously decided that we would give them small mugs, with their names and a welcome message on them. Yours truly, who is suffering from obsessive bunking disorder was ignorant to finer aspects like this, when the party was still in its planning stage.
It was on the day before the party that we decided to go memento hunting. The cheapest ceramic mugs were available somewhere near Hosur road where there were ceramic sellers on the roadside. After haggling with at least a dozen auto-wallahs we reached the place. One look at the place and everyone started “Who suggested this place?”. Since, yours truly rarely goes to that part of the city and never once opened her mouth regarding the availability of mugs there, the blame game never bounced off whenever people threw the ‘you are responsible for this’ look.
Now, it was time for me to spring into action. Four years ago, I had been to this ceramic/crockery shop in Ibrahim Street where mugs were available cheap. That is when someone remembered a roadside ceramic seller near Commercial Street. Thus, we headed to Commercial Street with hopes of finding something. As bad luck would have it, the ceramic sellers on roadside do not open on Fridays apparently. Dang… Now, we had to walk all the way to Ibrahim Street via main Commercial Street. Bad idea on a Friday. Especially, if you are really short of personal cash in hand and loads of money contributed by the entire class for the mementos. “Do not lead us to temptation, deliver us from evil” I guess, we repeated this numerous times when we saw the “50% off and end of season sale” boards all over the place.
On the way we were contemplating on alternative gifts if not the mugs. Preliminary enquiries showed that the given the budget constraint, the quantity of mugs available wouldn’t meet the demand. There was everything but ceramic/crockery shops. Tired by now, we began shooting our alternate choices depending on which shop we came across each time. A clock for their class, I suggested. But we’ve never had to throw out an over-enthusiastic lecturer coz he/she exceeded the given one hour and took away our ten minutes of freedom after each lecture. (The one who did, does not come anymore). So that idea would be a waste. Next we saw stress-balls. This was something essential for each one of them. Why? Imagine a classroom where you are yawning over the futility of the nth model suggested by some Economist and dissed by another 20 of them. The lecturer is trying to establish a relationship by drawing a graph. The variable on the y-axis does not correlate to what the lecturer is saying. You ask a doubt, what does that variable represent? The lecturer erases it saying, “I simply wrote it.” So we have a production function graph, with nothing on the Y-axis and the person who gave that theory would have turned in his grave. Mr. Kapil Sibal, are you hearing me? 100-day reform you say? The damage is already done. It would take ages to pull the system out of it. Sometimes, I wish our education ministers hadn’t taken their jobs so seriously by introducing n number of reforms and messing up the entire system. Ok I’m digressing… A dartboard would be a perfect substitute for a stress-ball.
Anyways, we reached the ceramic shop I had suggested and in four years, the prices have skyrocketed. What I saw then worth 10 bucks, now cost 25 bucks. We literally had to ask, “Bhaiya what is the cheapest stuff you can give us here, worth maximum 10 bucks.” The shopkeeper’s face showed a mixture of emotions. It started with a shock, then that of sympathy and finally ‘Just get out of here, will you’ look. We scooted from the place and entered the ceramic shop just opposite to this one. Now, these people seriously need a lesson on ‘arrangement of products’. My friends were close to disowning me when I banged against a couple of mugs and they fell down. Thank my lucky stars, that the mugs turned out to be made of plastic. Here, all white mugs, which were available close to our budget range were either damaged or out of stock. Yes, we believe them! Half an hour of fishing, digging, searching and scanning through the mugs yielded no productive results except the discovery that the variety they call ‘bone-china’ has several duplicates and consumers are royally cheated.
By now, we were seriously pissed off and started cursing the moment, we decided to volunteer for mementos. My other two companions had left their bags in college. We were hopeful of finishing the errand during the lunch break and now the time was almost 3 p.m. Starved, we headed back to college in an auto. This auto-ride was a lifetime experience. The auto didn’t have a sidebar and once again I got lucky, seated in the middle. Vroom, he set off, gripping the handle, flexing his body at all turns and the auto in the process. My friend said , “ Bhaiya, ahistha chalayie, aap James Bond ke thara mat jayie” He gave a wide grin, showing all of his yellow teeth and started his non-stop chatter. When it came to negotiating the umpteen crosses and mains on the way, he would swivel the vehicle in a James Bond mode and the two ladies on my left and right , held onto their lives. That he was a very considerate driver was evident when one of them pointed left and he said,” Madamji, haath aisa mat daaliye, koi gaadi takraeyga.” Half the time, his head would be turned towards us giving us gyan like this. “Bhaiyaaa” I screamed when he lost sense of all direction and entered the wrong side of the road almost knocking down a girl on a two-wheeler. I’ve never heard a girl swear like this all my life. We once again requested him to get-rid of the James Bond ka bhoot and drop us back to college safely. Trust, me that roller coaster of a ride in an auto cannot be described in words. I recited all the prayers I knew for our safety. Finally, we reached college and the two self-important virus afflicted people were leaving. “oye, take this auto,” I told them. The next day the two of them refused to acknowledge that they knew me or that I was their classmate.
The next stop for memento hunt was the Brigade-M.G stretch. The idea- buy those posters they sell on the roadside. Even that turned out to be an expensive affair for us impoverished economists. At some point of time, I blurted out, “What if we buy curtains for their class.” My partners in misery, now literally asked me to SHUT UP and stop giving suggestions. Just that they didn’t scream at me. On the way some godsend person told us Shivaji Nagar would be the ideal place for our memento hunt.
So Shivaji nagar it was. After walking round in circles for sometime we discovered, what could be called the crockery haven of Bangalore. There were only crockery and ceramic shops to be seen in that area. But, again we had to be the shameless customer and beg for the cheapest item in each shop. Getting plain white mugs was out of question now. Weary and tired we were ready to settle down on any mug. We discovered that the price margin decreased in each successive shop and went on searching where the prices would match our budget. Leading the way, yours truly walked into the shop where there only white mugs and plates on display. Our hopes rekindled, yours truly was super-excited on this discovery. I literally went Yippee… realization struck few seconds later, embarrassment struck a few more moments later. It was a caterer’s shop and he had hung his supply of cups and plates for drying. That was the memento moment of the day!
Exhausted by now, we entered what seemed to be our last hope. We saw a decent collection of mugs and after bargaining, the shopkeeper relented to bring down the price to Rs.15 per piece. Just when I thanked heavens for that, the cunning shopkeeper backtracked saying he doesn’t have enough stock. The ones for which he had enough stock were expensive ones. We begged him to search for more and we ourselves unearthed a few more pieces from the deep dark corners of his shop yet we were short of six more mugs. By now the shopkeeper was frustrated with us. He had to leave in a few minutes and handed over the charge to another person. God bless this ‘other person’. He dug out an entire set and finally it was mission accomplished. Mementos in hand, starved and exhausted we dropped dead by the time we reached our homes. By now, we decided on our project topic too. A study on ceramic/crockery sellers in Bangalore
and the types of ‘cunning shop-keepers’. I’d be better off writing a thesis on ‘How NOT to be an over-enthu senior and volunteer to go memento hunting’.
PS: *Only 50% freshers turned up for the abovementioned party.
* I strongly believe I should continue with Gandhi’s ideals of non-cooperation and civil disobedience.