Where is the Assignment, Dear Friend?
Posted August 31, 2010on:
Today, a part of me flickered and died out. When the news came through that Ayush had succumbed to a condition so rare that most people live their whole life without even coming within a mile’s distance from it, I went as blank as the dark sky. The only stars that appeared were aberrations due to tears welling up. Words were as forgotten as Ayush wouldn’t be. The only words I could read and comprehend were those of the innumerable chats we had over the internet. And through the haze cut this random chat we had over a year ago:
And it all came back. Words flowed, instead of tears. I had to write.
Of these five magnificent years that I have known and indeed, loved him. Ayush, or Aish as he was popularly (and notoriously) known, was a person whom, whether you knew him or not, you had to have a story with. Within a year at IITM, he made sure that anybody worth his salt knew him. A batsman par excellence, seniors lined up at the nets to bowl him out. They did. A couple of times. But not before their thighs were red and sore due to continual contact with the ball. While his bat did most of the jabbering, his oratory was something else. By the end of first year, he was giving inspirational speeches to all and sundry. His astute approach toward cricket and indeed, everything else in life was shown by how he drilled down to the minutiae of each player’s actions and how he could improve them. The “Vision” speeches, we called them. Instead of poking fun at the speech, I realize that had we taken an ounce of what he said to our heart, it would have made a difference to our lives.
Enter his room and the first thing that hit you was the stink from last semester’s unwashed clothes. After you get over the odor, you will find yourself reading a couple of inspirational quotes and a few sheets containing the number ‘9’ stuck to the walls. His desk would be littered with a multitude of books ranging from basic fluid mechanics to Nancy Friday. A time table would be stuck right above the desk, and a few more quotes and 9s lavishly thrown around. I don’t think any of us would forget that one semester, where he proved that God was living amidst us. In an academically challenging semester containing 26 credits and some of the toughest courses the mechanical department had to take, he hopped, skipped and jumped above all others to put the ball into the hoop. But that wasn’t all. In the same semester, he was also the institute cricket captain and took up one of the toughest jobs at Shaastra and Saarang. Notwithstanding that, he was a part of the hostel dramatics team which required long hours of practice well into the night. And all this while the institute polls hinged upon the movement of this puppeteer’s hands. He scored a thundering 9.4. Phoenixes, had they made an appearance, would have paled before his rise to the fore.
Ayush would have been pretty disappointed had I just extolled his virtues and subdued his vices. Vice, in fact. The only vice he had was a profound love for life and to live it in every damn way possible. And he made sure we were a part of all his antics too. Many a night, he used to come back to the hostel in an apparently drunk state, while all he would have had, if he did, was half a pint of beer. Then began this whole charade of pulling everyone out of their sleep and rooms and asking them to direct the way to his room. All the while whispering sweet nothings into our ear and asking us whether we loved him and if we did, why didn’t we show it by kissing him then and there? When we reached his door, he refused to go in and sat us down and expounded upon various theories he had in mind. Soon, the conversation moved to the comfort of one of our rooms and just as we had our back turned to close the door, a deep snore would escape his lips. It saddens me to no end that the face that would appear at my window, wake me up and ask, “Abey, SAC chalega? Chips lete hain chalo” would never be facing my ire again. That he would never again irritate me by sitting at my computer and watching ‘Hustle’ while I pleaded with him to leave so that I could sleep in peace. That we would never shower in adjacent bathrooms singing songs to the general discontentment of the whole wing. That he would never come and speak to me about how I had to thin down, all the while showing his treaded waist. That we would never share the stage together and laugh at the dramatics video later. The list is as endless as the smile on his face was.
A career oriented chap, he always was years ahead of what he wanted to be. I see half his mails to be about reviewing his resume and making it look better. I remember how we used to sit and bloat a few stories up to answer inane questions like “Give us an example of your leadership skills.” Pshaw! 5 minutes of talking to him and the interviewer would have gained a few pointers about leadership. Of those times when we used to sit and worry whether to include a particular coord-ship at Shaastra or not. Of how he would answer questions like “We see a huge spike in your CG and then a gradual, slow decrease, why, Mr. Joshi?” I write this not two meters from the ledge where we both sat a few months back and discussed IIM interviews and questions. To say that he was on his way to glory, if he had already not achieved it, is as obvious as the bright, red sun.
Aashu, Basu, Dhansu and Chutki. They were the kids he was supposed to have. Mishra and I teased him to no end with this. We will miss his elaborately verbose assignments in sick green ink. That he was attached to his family is as big an understatement as proclaiming the Big Bang as a mere show of crackers. In our first year, we had a competition to try and understand what he was speaking to his mother in a dialect that involved the usage of ka-da-ma between every word. Impulsive to the hilt, on hearing that it was my mother’s birthday, he asked me to call her up at 1 in the night while he sang the song “Ma” from Taare Zameen Par, with Arun on the guitar. That we won’t be jamming through the night with him any more pains me. That we won’t be an audience to his vast play-list of songs from B-Grade Bollywood flicks. An elder brother that he was, I would miss his pennies’ worth about women and how to go about enslaving them by pure charm.
All evening, I have had people telling me “RIP Ayush.” To associate Ayush with peace is as blasphemous as calling him violent. A prankster at heart, peace was one of the last things he would want in a room with him. I don’t want him to Rest in Peace. I want him to wake me up from my sleep and ask me if I wanted to go have tea with him at the Dhaba. I want him to call me up at 2 in the night and ask me if I could think of any changes to his resume. I want him to sit with me all night and argue whether Muslims should be sent out of the country or not. I want him to come tell me that I have been negligent of my duty as a player and that I should be kicked out of the team for that. I want him to ask me to vote for a friend of his. I want him to father those four children and call them Aashu, Basu, Dhansu and Chutki. I want him to disrupt everyone’s peace all the while with that innocent smile lighting up his face. I want him…
That fate should strike such a mighty blow and he succumb to it stuns me. At the core, he was a fighter. He never believed in a word called defeat and his entire demeanor after losing a match was that of a gladiator raving to go back into the Colosseum. That such a person should fall is a matter of concern to us lesser mortals. I am afraid. Very afraid.
I apologize to his parents and kin for not being there at his bedside when he breathed his last. It’s just that, after seeing him in full splendor, it would be a heart-wrenching and devastating blow to see him fade away.
The last thing he ever asked of me was to do an assignment for him. I only wish he’d sent it.