"You will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have truly lived are the moments when you have done things in the spirit of love."
- Henry Drummond
24 August 2004
Tanveer waits patiently at the bus terminal like relatively desolate airport in Nagpur where his flight back to Bombay is delayed by two hours. There appears to be a lot of construction happening with the old airport now getting a face lift and is being expanded to an international terminal. Tired after a hot day having travelled from one meeting to another he sits back with a pack of chilled apple juice he has picked up at the stall in the departure area and remembers the first time he met Vikram and Tania over four years back during their first week of college. It has been over a year since he finished college and began working with Oceania Bank
. His thoughts drift down the memory lane when he first met people who today are his closest friends.
24 June 2001...
Outside Sherwood College, near Marine Drive, Bombay
Tanveer had recently come to Bombay for his further studies after persuading
his parents a great deal. It's his first week in college and he misses his
home and simple life back in Sholapur. The city is not exactly as it was depicted
in the Bollywood films he grew up on. The past week at college and living
in Bombay had been an overwhelming experience and he finds himself awkward
in his interactions with peers in his classroom and outside.
He strolls out of college at four after a long and boring day packed with
lectures and walks towards a sugarcane juice vendor at the corner of the street.
He is to take a jam packed train on a hot and humid day in a short while,
from Churchgate back to Andheri where he stays as a paying guest with his
father's childhood friend and his family.
While he is at the stall, sipping his sugar cane juice a couple of his classmates walk towards the stall and exchange introductions. The nattily dressed guy dragging his feet behind the slim pretty girl is Vikram who is in a white t - shirt, blue jeans and dark glares looking dapper and cool. Tanveer remembers him from class as the guy who more or less slept all day in the last row. He is accompanied by Tania a petite fair girl with beautiful eyes who is almost as tall as him who greets Tanveer with a warm 'hey' and asks him where he's from, does he like Bombay, the college, lectures etc.
Tanveer stands shifting his feet and swaying his hands nervously while replying to her questions and appears very restless and conscious of what he is wearing and saying. He musters courage to ask Tania, "So are both of you dating? Are you a couple?" with anticipated interest.
Tania giggles at this very direct and inappropriate question, "No dude, I am not that lucky Tani likes good boys and I'm far from one. I have dated every cute girl Tani hung out with back in school and made her do my homework while I was at it," Vikram replies animatedly.
Tania whacks his arm with her book, "yes well sometimes he dated two or three of them at the same time and Mr. Khanna how could you forget how you made me come up with alibis to prevent you from getting in trouble with them," she says looking at Vicky.
Vikram pats her head and says, "Well yes, but I did take you out for dinner to make up for it Tani."
"Nice t - shirt man, must be two hundred to two hundred and fifty rupees right?" Tanveer asks him. His intention is to make conversation and try to fit in.
"I'm not sure dude. My Mum picked it up from London. It costs a lot more than two hundred bucks though," Vikram replies sheepishly embarrassed on hearing such a deflated value of what he is wearing. Tania laughs both at the question as well as Vikram's diplomatic response and they start trading friendly barbs.
Tanveer interrupts what appears to be their frequent banter and asks Vikram, "Are you related to Tarun Khanna the MD of Khanna Industries? You look so much like him yaar! I read a profile of him in 'Business Times' a few months ago."
"Well that's his famous Dad, and you're looking at the black sheep," Tania says with a knowing grin.
"Yes whatever, black is cool by the way," Vikram says with air of nonchalance and makes a face at Tania.
"Yaar you should do a MBA after BMS and join your Dad's business," Tanveer preaches to Vikram.
Tania taking Vikram's arm tells him, "You should become a career advisor. Show the light to people such as us, what do you think Vicky?" both Tania and Vicky laugh at this, while Tanveer appears a bit awkward and embarrassed. Given where he comes from open and direct comments like what he had just made would lead to more serious conversations about life and career.
Vikram finishes his sugarcane juice in quick gulps and turns to Tanveer, "So you seem to read a lot dude, that's nice. I will take you home to meet my Dad sometime if you would like that. He travels a lot though, one day Delhi another day Dusseldorf. Anyway we got to be going my driver is here, can we drop you someplace? I stay nearby and Tania too lives close by in Colaba."
"Thanks but I just need to walk for fifteen minutes to the station and take a train to Andheri," Tanveer responds with some hesitance.
Vikram gets in to the front seat of his black sedan while Tania opens the rear door to get in. Tania taking Tanveer's arm, "Why walk in this humid weather, we'll drop you there. The station isn't really out of the way."
"Yes, hop in quickly dude, we'll get you to the station in a jiffy," Vikram says.
Tanveer gets in quickly and shuts the door. He realizes it is so roomy in the back seat compared to his father's Maruti 800 where he and his sisters would need to cramp in together in the back seat. He thinks about the family's monthly trips to the single screen cinema which was a family ritual for which they all dressed up and looked forward to. Vikram asks Tania teasingly, "Acha who was that dude, who was sitting next to you in class today?"
Tania blushes, "Shut up Vicky, why does it matter to you? You've been busy flirting shamelessly all week. You must've collected a dozen phone numbers by now," she says and continues; "besides you do know him. I saw you talking to him on the first day of college."
Tanveer glances at Tania sitting next to him, smitten by her charm, her innocent face and eyes and the way she spoke.
Vikram checks his phone and says, "Na just around eight, a few dates lined up, nothing out of the ordinary. Also I don't know him as well as you probably do. Come on don't be so defensive it's only me and good old Tanveer here," and turns around with a grin on his face.
Turning to Tanveer he says, "A lot of guys in school had a crush on Tania but didn't make any moves as they believed that she and I were going out. They were too intimidated by yours truly."
"Anyone would be yaar!" Tanveer adds with a wry smile in awe of Vicky's personality. He is like Aamir Khan from 'Jo Jeeta Hai Wahi Sikandar' he thinks.
Tania looks at Tanveer with innocence, "Well for three days this guy just kept looking at me from a distance, two days ago he complemented on my phone, yesterday he walked up and said, "hi, I am Sam, I mean Sameer, where are you from etc," and this morning he saved a place for me to sit with him. He's asked me to have coffee with him tomorrow."
"Vicky you better behave and don't go mess with his head or scare him away. He's a nice guy," she says poking Vicky from the rear seat. Tanveer sees his dreams evaporate and braces a smile.
Tanveer's thoughts are interrupted by another passenger who asks him to please pass on a copy of today's newspaper lying next to him.