Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Three Friends, One Fiery Adventure!!!

Date - 13th October

Year - 2003

Place - D-34

Day - About 12 days before Diwali

Well, D-34 was the hideout (read hostel room) that I shared with 2 room-mates of mine, RS and PT. One night, after having the pretty insipid food served in the mess we returned to our room, discussing how we will be spending the upcoming Diwali (25th October) holidays...

RS started the conversation, "Damn, just 3 days off on Diwali! Come on, we need a real break, man!"

PT added, "Yeah, we used to get around 20 days off in school!!"

I (DS) further added, "And add to this the home sickness, I am so missing home"

Hearing this both RS and PT said in unison, "What do you think, aren't we missing home? Especially the home made food and the television and spending time with friends and family!!"

This was the conversation between a bunch of fresher’s who had just been admitted to an engineering college about 400 kilometers from Mumbai. 

Our college campus was situated at an isolated and peaceful location just off the state highway. The nearest village was 8 kilometers away. The campus perimeter was marked by barbed wires. Beyond these wires were thick forests, barren lands, fields... very little human population inhibited these areas except in remote villages...

Away from home and away from all the warmth of a family, these simple folks were missing the festive atmosphere back home and all the love and affection, not to forget all the feisty gourmet that came along with it which was conspicuous by its absence in the hostel and the college campus in general and all they wanted just wanted was a way to run out of it.

"Can't we leave early so that we can enjoy the festivities back home in Mumbai?" inquired PT.

RS responded almost immediately, as if he had been expecting this question to crop up sooner or later, "May be you are forgetting that we are in college! It’s been barely 15 days since the lectures have started... This is engineering... Not your school, it’s a hard grind here."

"You are absolutely right RS, this is not school. We can just leave... Who need’s permission eh?" I winked.

"Obviously we don't need permission, but there is only one gate in the campus from which everyone has to enter or exit. And the rector is such a prick that he has instructed the guards that no one leaves the gate with any sort of luggage/ bags without his permission!!" RS retorted!

"This is just so miserable, this is hell, well may be… even that is better" PT stammered to which RS and myself agreed resigning ourselves to our wretched fate before finally going off to sleep.


All of that night and most of the next day, and that included the lectures too, I thought on ways that would enable us to leave a bit early. Some were downright ridiculous like bribing the rector while some others sounded absolutely impossible like leaving the campus empty handed (since we had most of our clothes and basic stuff here with us). But by evening, I was happy that all my efforts had not gone down the drain and I was ready to unveil a reasonable plan to my room-mates after dinner.

That night, soon after returning from the mess.

"Hey RS and PT! I have a neat little plan that will enable us to leave for home early..." I bubbled enthusiastically with a sly smile beaming on my face!

"You are still having flights of fantasy man! Are you not satisfied by our wasteful conversation of yesterday night! Let's discuss something new and more interesting." PT pleaded, reminding us how we had wasted the whole of yesterday night.

But thankfully, for me, RS was a little more positive, "What is the harm in listening it out? He has been pretty smart with this sort of weird ideas right from our school days!"

I started without even waiting for the nod of approval from PT as I was too eager to share my plan with the two of them, "We will leave in the middle of the night by escaping through the barbed wires situated behind the hostel. We will traverse through the thick forest and make our way out at a place 3 kilometers from the nearest village. From there we will take the state highway up to that village. After resting for a couple of hours, we will take a bus to the next town from where the trains going to Mumbai make a halt. We will buy our tickets and voila! Free birds we shall be!!!" I completed with a big wide grin across my face, expecting applause from my two dear friends!

But what I got were a couple of stunned faces and some obnoxious glares staring at me which made me wonder as if they had seen some ghosts!

"But what if we get caught? You very well know that it's allowed to leave the campus only through the front gate. The punishment is straight suspension! It might also affect our grades and term work later on..." PT finally broke the haunting silence.

"How will we find our way through that thick cover of trees and dense bushes? We will get lost for sure! Its 5 kilometers that we have to be on track... That's a lot!" RS asked, concern writ large on his face but still, voice wavering with enthusiasm.

"Who will catch us at close to midnight? It will be lonely and deserted at that time!" I pointed out with confidence.

"But what about RS's doubt? He has a valid point" PT countered, apparently satisfied with my answer to his own question.

"That's one difficulty I had thought of too." I said before adding, "We will go through the route once during the afternoon in the next few days so that we get used to it... Everyone will be attending lectures at that time... We will slip out quietly after lunch..."

"It's too... too risky!!" PT said again looking glum.

"What do you think RS?" I asked RS who had been quiet for some time now...

"I think it's doable. There is risk involved, certainly, but then without taking risks in life one cannot achieve much anyway. It's a risk worth taking... Let's go through the plan again to weigh the pros and cons.", he finished, as we both looked at PT simultaneously looking for his nod of approval.

"O... Ohk..." is all that PT could manage probably because he did not want to be left alone while we made our way out of here!!

We discussed the plan in detail that night, talking and gesturing amongst ourselves animatedly like little kids who had landed themselves key roles in a Hollywood thriller!! At 2.30 in the morning, we had re-visited the entire plan thoroughly and it was decided that we will conduct a test run of the jungle route the next afternoon. We swore that this would be our secret and would not be disclosed to anyone under any circumstances, including our family members.


The next 3 days were spent sweating over the plan again and again at least twice a day! We would talk in hushed tones and the gate of our room would invariably be bolted from the inside at most times. The test run had been completed successfully on the 14th October thus boosting our morale and confidence.


October 17th, 2003

After what seemed like an eternity, the day to put words into action had finally arrived. The lectures had always seemed boring and endless but today, they seemed to be taking even longer than usual to come to an end. We all tried to keep as low a profile as we could that day, returning to our room immediately as soon as the day at the college came to an end, not loitering around and hanging about aimlessly after the college hours like was a norm on the other days. Food at the mess was consumed relatively quickly and quietly.

10 PM

Approximately 2 hours to go before we attempted our dare devilry!!

Nothing much was spoken between us in those two hours, if there was, I do not remember... The bags were packed, as the clock ticked away slowly, enjoying our predicament! At 11.50, I rose up from my bedding, and taking the cue, RS and PT followed suit. I opened the door and peeped out, all was silent in the hostel corridor. I motioned to my friends that it was time to move. With thumping hearts we made our way down the stairs as quietly as possible and slipped away, into the darkness behind the hostel.

Getting through the wires was easy and before we knew, we were into the wilderness of trees and bushes and shrubs. There was a chill in the air and the cold October wind smacked us in our face. We stood motionless for a few moments as our eyes adjusted to the darkness. None of us had a mobile whose dim light could have proven handy; we relied solely on our eyes to make our way through. Soon, we realized that it was one thing to go through the jungle in the afternoon without any luggage and quite another to try and make our way through it in almost pitch black darkness with an added 8-10 kilograms weight on our backs. We moved slowly, with calculated steps, talking intermittently only to make sure that we are on the right track.

The lack of any clear pathway and the thick cover of trees were proving to be a handful as we stuttered and stumbled and felt lost on many occasions but we kept pressing forward making slow progress. The landmarks that we had noted on our test run were proving quite fruitful and one by one the large Mango tree, the huge cluster of cacti, the spread out colonies of ant-hill, the barren tamarind tree were all ticked off as we  continued our quest for freedom in haunting silence. It took us a good part of 3 hours to navigate through the maze of the dense vegetation to cover 5 odd kilometers but we eventually found ourselves staring at the state highway at some distance at 2.40 am. We decided to relax for 10-15 minutes under a huge Jambun tree to catch our breath back and also to give out tired and battered limbs a much needed rest before we commenced the rest of our journey. We laughed and hi-fived each other while stretching out our tired muscles for a few minutes!!

The rest of the 3 kilometers to the village was covered without any major incidents except when a couple of cars passed us and we ducked for cover as we feared that  it could be someone from the college and that we may be recognized and caught. By 3.30 we reached the village and headed straight for the bus depot. We were all extremely tired from the 8 km arduous journey but the happiness that came from our newly acquired freedom was far far more! There were still 2 hours left for bus which would take us to the railway station from where we would catch our train.

"We have done it! Did I not tell you it will be easy" I boasted.

"Yes... Yes, you are an Einstein!!" RS muttered, probably in the hope that I would shut up and he would catch up on some sleep!!

"It was fun too, navigating through the jungle!! What an adventure we have had!!" I continued.

"Now that it is over, it seems like an adventure. What if we would have been apprehended? Our careers would have been in jeopardy." PT said letting out a huge yawn.

"Yeah!" I said "Whatever..." and we all caught a small nap getting up just in time to catch the bus.

We reached the railway station at 8 am, booked our train tickets scheduled for 8.45 am.

"Seat number 16, it's mine." I heard a voice behind me. RS and PT looked like they had spotted UFO's about to land behind me. I turned around to find the head of department (HOD) of E&TC branch, tugging at my shirt.

He then, looking at me with piercing eyes, asked "You all are students of VJIIT, if I am not mistaken"

I almost fainted but regained my composure soon enough "Yes Sir, First Year"

"Should you all not be in the college attending lectures at this moment?" he asked looking suspiciously at us.

"Sir, actually we came here to see off PT's uncle who is leaving for Mumbai" I said, pointing to the man who was seated on the seat number 12. My sharp mind and fiery tongue were working furiously!!

"Yes Sir, we will attend lectures after lunch today as uncle insisted that I come to the station as he was alone," PT added "And since I was alone, I asked my friends DS and RS to accompany me" giving us a rare and probably the first glimpse that he too had a fiery tongue with an extremely sharp mind!!

"OK" was all that the HOD said, now looking at the man to whom I had pointed out earlier.

O God, please let this man doze off suddenly or be deaf/mute for a few moments or anything that would prevent him from hearing and answering to what was going on! I thought to myself. We were all scared to death and feared for our future!

But the man replied confidently "PT is my nephew. These are his friends who have all come to help me board the train. Actually I was feeling a bit sick and with all this luggage, I needed a helping hand. Where are you getting down?"

"I will alight at Panvel" HOD Sir replied, a faint smile escaping his lips for the first time!

"I have good company till then. I will get down at Dadar" the man said as the train let out a long and shrill whistle. The man had used his sharp mind and fiery tongue, as he had let us known where our HOD would be alighting while at the same time changing the topic.

“Phew!” I almost let that out loud only to be elbowed by RS!

"Good Bye, all of you. Study well! See you soon" the man said bidding us adieu with a wink.

"Bye uncle. Have a nice trip Sir" we all replied, arranging even our luggage under the seat, as we darted out of the compartment.

We then ran and jumped into the next coach. Once there, it was decided that we would complete the rest of our trip in the general compartment as it was too risky and impractical to travel in the adjacent compartment. We then made our way into the general compartment just before the train started. We discussed how lucky we had got that day. We alighted at Dadar and thanked the man for understanding the matter and helping us out. He assured us that the HOD was convinced that we would be returning to the college.


30 Minutes Ago

We were sitting on a bench at the platform, chatting and laughing, chatting about the past few days of our lives. Not many passengers were seen on the platform as this was a small station and not the starting point of any long distance train. We saw a man with heavy suitcases and bags struggling to make his way onto the platform. He seemed sick and was all alone. He came and sat right next to us. We soon got talking with him too! His seat was in an adjacent coach to ours and was going to Mumbai to meet his engineer son, who was settled there. We told him that we too were engineering students and were going to Mumbai to be with our family to celebrate Diwali a few days before the official holidays began (obviously we did not tell him the way we had left!!!). He was quite friendly who seemed quite warm with us. We continued conversing till we heard the whistle of the approaching train and got up. We first got into his coach to help him carry his luggage. We were about to leave the compartment... when... "Seat number 16, it's mine." I heard a voice behind me.


8 Years Later...

This was something that had happened in the fledgling days of our engineering careers... But all thanks to our sharp minds and fiery tongues, we escaped a severe punishment or even a suspension, had a gala time enjoying the Diwali festival with our loved ones back home, our troika became the HOD’s favorite in the terms that followed (since we were in the first year, the HOD never really bothered to check if we did attend the lectures during the days leading up to the Diwali vacations), and to top it all, we three became friends for life!

PS - This post is inspired from a true story which happened with me during my first year of engineering.

PPS - This was my entry to the contest on Indiblogger - Sets You On Fire

If You Like it then please Promote it Here - Three Friends, One Fiery Adventure!!!


Deepak Karthik said...

LOL :)
nice one :)
you have decided to win a coupon who can stop you :P

seema said...

all the best for the contest

Chapters From My Life said...

You can write well about yourself as you do about cricket. I read through your blog post with a heavy heart because it reminded me so much of my son who is Bangalore at the moment, doing his animation engineering. I miss him a lot. Very good and detailed narration, could almost watch the whole episode in my minds eye.

Anonymous said...

Excellent narration indeed.Cricket is close to our heart in just more than so many obvious ways.

N.S.Kirti said...

brilliant narration @DS already have given my feedback personally :)
keep going. Best of luck for the contest.
and oh yeah, my post is up :)

Pooja Abhay said...

wow DS...kya baat hain :)

Very nice read..maybe you should start another blog and give us a peek into your talent in writing non-cricket posts too :)

I hope you win.
All the very best:)

bemoneyaware said...

Wow what a narrow escape.. Wondering if the man would not have been there we would have missed reading such an interesting post.
College days are fun and we all had similar experiences.
Best of Luck for contest

ra said...

lol...that was cool...

i remember when i was in college, my room on first floor was right opposite to the point from where batsman has to bat in our hostel verandah/garden and they declared my room as 8 runs if you hit its door :P


Unknown said...

very vivid!!!!

Santosh Bs said...

Good one DS, college days are all fun right and only these special moments live etched in our memories :)

Anonymous said...

NICE one!!! Really enjoyed this one. Fun college life it seems ;)
all the best for the contest!

Princess Poo said...

Hehehe.! This is awesome ;).
You should do that now :|. No holidays in office na.
Totaly fiesty adventure if you ask me ;) :D.
A great read :D.
All the best for the competition :)

Unknown said...

Wow. I can't seem to come to the terms that you were this mischievous during your college days :) Great narration and details. Makes you feel like a fly on the wall.