When I was studying in Nowrosjee Wadia College doing B.A. in Psychology I was more faithful in attending the Chai ki tapri (tea shop) nearby, debating endlessly about everything under the sun along with six friends of which I was the only one who was from Pune. One of my friends Sudip was a big fan of Rap music and he was so zealous that he made everyone of us love it. It became an obsession with us. But we could make no head nor tail of what the rappers rapped. We who hardly bothered to take notes about our syllabus, started taking printouts of this particular rap Hit em’ Up by Tupac and this was more like our clan anthem. This song ran for 3 pages but mind you no one dared not to memorize it. We were the homies from the hood. When college was about to end we played the song Changes by 2pac. Those were the days. We look back and laugh. GERMAN Bakery was our hang out. It feels sad as some maniac chose to bomb it on 13 february 2010. We used to sit at GB as we called it, for hours. We used to buy one special tea and six of us used to drink from it. And we spoke about army, politics, women, religion, education. We used to call it Group discussion which was certainly never a discussion but a commotion. Our egos were so inflated that we never gave in to any argument, so much so that the decibel levels reached so high that for the first time from GB any group was thrown out with a notice never to come there again.
I am not intending to write a memoir of my college days. Who the hell am I? As I mentioned before all these friends were from different parts of India. So was Biren. He was from Sikkim. One of my friend said he looked like Jacky Chan. The smile, the body language et al. his dressing was very trendy and at times carried the guitar along. His trademark wear was a bandana, a tight fit t-shirt and a track pant. Strangely he had an American accent and the reason he said was that the school he studied had many Americans. We said “rubbish.” He had a ‘killer’ sense of humor. I have heard him say the same joke ten times and every subsequent time my laughter was more earth shattering than the previous. For general knowledge I have been famous for my uncivilized laughter that I am proud of. I take it as a personal evangelism to tell people that one should laugh without inhibitions. Biren very innocently used to say “You Indians are very good at cricket.” We used to get very offended and ask “Who the hell are you?” As I reminded you at times Biren carried his guitar. But he was a very reluctant singer. But once he starts he is in a trance and so are we. I so clearly remember how spellbound we were when he sang November Rain from the band Guns n’ Roses. He was passion personified. Other than singing karate was his passion. Every day he practiced for three hours. One day I stumbled upon the heap of certificates he had. And there I was shocked to see “National Kickboxing Champion 2000”. I was like ‘What?’. He very modestly said, “I have been winning it for past two years”. I had won some intra college debating competition where 3 of us competed and the whole world knew that I had won this very ‘prestigious’ debate. At that time Manish, our friend and Biren’s flatmate said “These days he is practicing for 8 hours to defend his title. The tournament is to be held in August”. The period that I am talking about is July 2001 and the world had not changed yet. 9/11 was yet to happen. Biren became more and more of a rare sight even if he lived 10 minutes from my house. He was practicing. Then came the month of August. It was time for Biren to leave to defend his title. We had seen him very purposefully practice day in and day out. On the day before he was about to embark upon his journey we wished him luck, and in our rap style we banged our chest and said ‘Yo Homie, go conquer the world.’ (Man, we were juveniles). The entire tournament would take 10 days. We were planning as to take a treat from him when he comes back. We loved food for free. I guess we were more excited than him.
But two days after he left, he was back. We were shocked. We speculated that he had an early exit in the tourney. But that was unfathomable. We did not dare to ask him. Then one of us asked “Dude, what happened.” He said “I did not fight.” We all had a blank face. He explained. “Every year the tournament registration fee is Rs. 1500. But this year in Mumbai, they made it Rs 5000.” So I jumped the gun. “You dint have money?” he said “No, not like that. There was a boy who came all the way from Sikkim to participate. He had only Rs 2000. He knew nobody. Even I was seeing him for the first time. But we spoke. I know Sikkim. People go for such tournaments with a lot of expectations. The whole village expects a lot. I gave him the money and told him to win. So here I am.” I was the first to tell him what a loser he was. But was he? A national champion who had the detachment to forsake what was at stake for a complete stranger. This story will always remain with me. It’s a decade back it happened. But even today I have nowhere reached that point. It has become my personal yardstick in my journey to be a human.
P.S. Biren today is a commando with the Indian Army. He was the most focused of the six of us. A true inspiration.