This article has been submitted by Soham Banerjee for the CLATGyan Blog Post Writing Competition. If you think this article is a good read, ‘Like’ this article on Facebook (the button is at the bottom of this piece) or post a comment using the ‘comments’ section below.
And as I walked through the brightly illuminated streets of Park Street , I remembered those days when we used to be the best of friends…
Summer of 2007…
It was my first day at college. An engineer I had wanted to become. Who knew then that I would eventually end up helping the police nab the most wanted criminal in our country? The first night into my new college and I knew instantly that this was definitely not my thing. I would have been drinking a mixture containing eggs, bananas, broccoli and bitter gourd had it not been for my ‘partner in torture’-Aashish Rego. Standard ragging procedure for an engineering college one would say, but Aashish was not the “chalo theek hain” types. “Nahin piyega matlab?” bellowed one of our seniors who was taken aback by his refusal to gulp down the drink. “Tera baap bhi piyega saale!!” screamed the senior, who we later knew was called ‘Shankar Bhaiya’ by his terrified juniors. Quite a legend he was when it came to the art of merciless torture. “Main nahin piyunga. Jo karna hain kar”. Such was the firmness in Aashish’s voice that Shankar Bhaiya kept staring at him, shocked and clearly surprised. “Dude” I whispered. “What the fuck are you doing?” “Relax” he replied with a calmness that could even bring Mahendra Singh Dhoni to shame. “I ain’t taking none of this bullshit” “Teri maa ki….” Screamed Shankar Bhaiya plunging at Aashish with the beer bottle he had in his hand. Aashish swiftly dodged to his right, caught Shankar Bhaiya by the scruff of his collar and threw him onto the ground. Before Shankar Bhaiya could get up on his feet, he was onto him in a flash, tightly locking his neck in his arms. After a moment of useless struggle, Shankar Bhaiya managed to croak, “Cho…d d…e”. There he was, the legend, the monster, the baap of ragging innocent and scared freshers like us, on the ground, begging for mercy from a person who not only would become my best friend over these 5 years in college, but also the most wanted criminal in India!
One year later…
“Time flies by doesn’t it?” asked aashish as we were sitting in our room, preparing for our vivas the day after. Well, technically, I was preparing while he was busy in his rhetorical questions. After that eventful night, we had become the best of buddies-me thanking him endlessly for his assistance and he inviting me to stay in his room which was previously occupied by Ramchandra, our batch topper. Judging by Ramachandra’s expression of horror and disbelief when apna ‘Aashish Bhaiya’ beat the shit out of Shankar(the shoe was on the other foot now), it wasn’t hard to convince ramachandra to change rooms. “Huh?” I replied, two minutes after Aashish had thrown one more rhetorical question at me. It was becoming a habit I tell you. “It’s funny how the power equation changes so quickly”, “All it takes is a moment to become great”, “Life is full of oppurtunities, all you need to do is reach out and grab them” are some of his common paraphrases. Ofcourse, all of these would be supplemented by a “Don’t you?” in the end to make it a rhetorical question. “I mean look”, he continued. “At this time last year, you were about to drink some crappy drink and act as if nothing happened before…” he paused to add the effect, “ I relieved our future generations of this embarrassment”. “ Yeah great work” I said rather uninterestingly, still mugging up as much as I could. “ Why don’t you prepare for tomorrow’s viva?” I said after I had finished solving some 10-15 practice questions. “ Bah!…as if I care” he replied. “ Then what are you doing in an engineering college?” I asked flustered. “ You won’t understand…” he replied… “ You won’t understand”. Seriously, sometimes I wonder how did he even get into an engineering college? His philosophies never ceased to amuse me!
2 hours earlier…
“He didn’t go to engineering college to become an engineer like the rest of you” said Inspector Khan now turning his gaze at me. “ His stint at the college served two purposes-
1) The things he learnt there would aid him in his destructive activities that he is carrying out now
2) Since your college is a prime institute of academic excellence and also located in a busy area, he always was going to make it his first target. Staying in the institute for 5 long years gave him enough time to plan out his attack.
He had planned all of this from a very long time. God knows what’s next” concluded Inspector Khan somberly.
One Rainy Evening in 2009.
Monsoons in Kolkata had never been so nasty. We generally associate monsoons with ‘Cutting Chai’, Football, Romantic walks and hot heroines gyrating in transparent saris in movies. (Everything in India has some sort of connection with the movies). But going by the continuous clattering of the raindrops on our glass panes for the past few days, the footballs were stuffed back into the cupboards, the chaiwala encountered enormous losses, couples hardly came out of their houses for their daily dose of love in the public eye and the heroines no longer wore transparent saris and were shown stuck in knee length water, waiting for the hero to come and rescue her. I kind of missed our bike rides. Aashish had a classic sholay-type bike, tailor made for best buddies like us. Be it notes ka copies or CCD mein coffee, Aashish’s ‘Jaan’ had served us unconditionally. But on the flipside, a hell lot of our classes were being cancelled, we actually started to have fun (that too in an engineering college) and Aashish’s “this is life” phrase never seemed truer. It was on one of our ‘fun’ evenings that I took the liberty of asking Aashish about his family. As usual, he was like “Tu nahin samjhega yaar…bohot bada jhol hain” types. But two glasses of beer had instilled resolve within me. Behind every successful man, there is alcohol I wanted to say but concentrated on Aashish bhaiya’s family first. After a lot of “ Bol na yaar” and two more glasses of beer, Aashish finally got talking. “ Mera baap ek great person tha” he began. “ Entire life…desh ki seva” Normally, Indian men started speaking in English after getting high, for Aashish it was the opposite. “ The moron didn’t care if he had a family or not. Bas police ki naukri karni thi. He wanted to bring a change”. I listened intently as he got serious. “ Jalte the sab saale. Couldn’t see my dad doing such great stuff. Couldn’t see an NRI serve the country better than them. All they needed was a reason. Ek mission…bas ek mission fail kya ho gaya, puri zindagi ki service ko they just ignored. Suspend kar diya. They said this country doesn’t need officers like him. That this police force can become more efficient without the services of people like him.” He paused for a while. I was expecting him to weep, if not cry but his eyes, they were red with fury. “The next day” he continued “I was about to recite a poem at school for Father’s Day. He had accepted for the first time to come. Early morning, phone baja toh pata chala ki dead body mili hain near the bridge. He had committed suicide.” We both kept silent. Aashish got up and walked towards the window, his fists tightly clenched.
I had nearly reached home when this thought crossed my mind. What if…
I called up Inspector khan and told him about Aashish’s father. There was a brief silence and then inspector khan told me to wait as he would be sending a car to pick me up. Trust people to work double when there ass is on fire…within minutes a police jeep had arrived at my place which was approximately 8 kilometres from the nearest police station. Had this been a normal citizen with an emergency, the police would perhaps wouldn’t have even arrived, leave aside quickly. Mr. Rego would be smirking from up there, I thought. The last week had been hectic. I had just graduated from college. I had desperately tried to get in touch with Rego who just went missing from college 2 years prior to our graduation, Maa kept showing me pictures of weird skinny girls who, according to her were ideal bride material and yes… my college was busted..like literally. There was a bomb explosion. Thousands of aspiring engineers ran around here and there with joy chanting “We’re saved”! as the college was shut down, or whatever remained of the college and after two days of inquiry and another threat from Aashish bhaiya, I came into the scene. Frankly, I couldn’t be happier than this. The college which had torture me for 5 years was semi-destroyed and the police force was getting its due. “Search the records for all the people who have been suspended. Get me all the ones titled rego” said khan dismissively. “ I’m gonna nail the bastard!” said Khan…the look reminding me of Aashish’s when he narrated his father’s tale to me.
Two became three and three a week. Yet, I hadn’t been summoned once to the station. Did they find Aashish? What would they do to him? He had so far caused a loss amounting to 744 million. And yet, the effective police force which could do without the services of officers like Mr. Rego had not been able to nab the 3rd year engineer dropout. That night, I heard a motorcycle near my house. Normally at this hour of the night, you don’t really get to hear noises and that too of a motorcycle in my locality. But I was too exhausted to get up and check. The constant running to and from the police station had drained me out. The next morning, as I collected the newspaper and milk, I saw the bike-the sholay bike. Shining and new, it rego’s name spray painted on it in a fiery red hue. I was happy to see the bike, more happy to know that rego was alive but then I hadn’t seen the note that was sticking out from the wind pipe of the bike. Trust rego to do weird stuff alright! This was what was written on the note:
“These bastards finally realize their folly. My dad was great. Without him kuch nahin hain yeh log. 744 million!! Woohoo!! Aashish bhaiya does it again. Will miss you. Mera time samapt. Achi bhabhi laana for me. Remember-everything happens for a reason. B.R.B.
Love and hugs,
P.S.-Bike tere liye hain…monsoons are never going to be the same…enjoyJ”
I ran upstairs, tears in my eyes and turned on NDTV. Breaking news , it read: India’s most wanted, wanted no more. Dies battling 200 policemen alone. 85 police men wounded. 744 million recorded as national loss. The police dept. issues official apology for the suspension of Inspector Arjun Rego, deceased father of India’s most wanted. Stones pelted at various police stations around the country. Candle light march for Aashish rego and his father this evening at India Gate.
As I stood weeping, I remembered the last thing rego had told me before he disappeared-“Whenever you sign off…sign off in style”.
And he did.