Wednesday, January 11, 2006

From a dog-eared page

It’s hard to point out my first memory of Kaushik, but I remember as kids in middle school, we were in a gang of inseparable buddies. We played a lot of hockey in our garden and while buDDha, dead-racket and the others would jump over the compound and run home as soon as they spotted my dad, Kaushik would stay and talk to him.

By the time we were in high school, though, we had chosen different friend circles. I fit in somewhere midway between the bullies and the nerds in the hierarchy. I had my own bunnies- Peshi (short for Patient) for instance, I had a patented process to darken one eye of his photo-sensitive glasses by keeping it in the sun while covering the other, so that he looked completely silly during the first period after lunch. But for the most part I was a semi-nerd who managed decent grades. Kaushik on the other hand had graduated into a porn-peddling, cigarette-smoking alpha male who could look an angry PT master in the eye. Yet in defiance of the rules of the peck order we still hung out a lot together, especially outside school hours, although I had to pretend that his old nick name ‘cow-shit’ never existed. We had a weird sort of equation. If I fouled him in a football match, he would make sure I fell atleast twice in that game and then would not talk to me for a couple of days, but things always returned to normal.

He just about scraped through high school, but in PU he underwent a metamorphosis that has us friends still discussing it with disbelief. While in school he had parasited on my help just before each of the exams, here he started outscoring me. He started fitting into my world better. I still remember that Charit, Kaushik and I won a maths quiz in PU, and with the 60Rs we won, we watched Timecop from the balcony and ate what was my first ever Hot Chocolate Fudge. That was a far cry from school, where he would have killed himself before being spotted anywhere close to the quiz club. The three of us took great pleasure in aggravating our tuition teacher who hated us simply because we were from St.Joseph’s. Yet, the one really common thing between us was our craze for cycling.

In the long break after CET and before our engineering classes started, we went on long cycling trips. I remember one particular 100 km trip that had me and the rest of the gang swearing we'd never touch our cycles again. Yet after the fatigue wore off, we were left with some strange sense of accomplishment that we both identified with; like we had just proved something really important to someone really consequential, and we were already planning the next one.

In engineering he seemed to regress to the bad kid that he was in school. He came down from Mysore once every month or so, and the conversations we had were all about his macho lifestyle dominated by his two favourite topics, booze and his bike. By the end of the fourth year we had drifted apart.

I have no doubt in my mind that he was stone drunk when he crashed his Yezdi into a pillar that July night. The accident killed him instantly.

He would have turned 27 today.
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