It was almost two years since I parted from Sameer, my classmate at Amrit Science College in Nepal. One fine morning he arrived at our college in Jaipur unannounced. His eyes gleamed with hope and excitement. The usually reticent and calm guy in the college had turned into a talkative parakeet!
“Man, I have enrolled in the Aeronautical Engineering course, here in Jaipur,” was the first thing he uttered. “We will be together for the next three years, at least – and yes, we should enjoy life to the fullest.”
I took him for a round through the lanes of my college – the hostels, playground, gymnasium, canteen, dispensary, lecture halls, central lawn, library, and the administrative block housing a bank’s branch. The grandeur of the place blew off steam to his expectations and airy dreams.
As we reached the mentioned college, his dreams shattered like a castle of cards. The college was just a coaching centre. In fact, it was a mere facility for the students to prepare for the engineering examinations. Although the airport was nearby and the practical sessions were held there, the whole arrangement looked dubious to us. All the time we were comparing the place with the dining hall of our hostel.
The engineering bug was at once out of Sameer’s mind. He was disheartened and I knew I had to cheer him up. We returned back to our college with heavy hearts. To lighten him up, I took him around Malviya Nagar, the nearby town and said nice words to soothe him.
Then I proposed to watch a movie together in Raj Mandir, the famous cinema hall in the city before he left Jaipur. It was showing Dil to Pagal Hain, the Shahrukh Khan starrer super hit for the last six months. We immediately set out for the city which was almost seven kilometres from our college.
The movie hall is a beauty to behold at. As the name suggests, it has the “royal” aura around it. The experience is incomparable – from the lifting of the screen to surround sound system – all are beyond imagination.
We happily watched the movie and empathised with the actors and actresses. It seemed the three hours passed by within minutes and it was almost midnight when the film ended. As we walked through the lanes to the bus stop, streets dogs barked at us and few cars with blaring music whizzed past by us.
Reaching the bus stop, we met few people waiting for the night auto-rikshaws. They too had returned from the night show of the movie. The stop wore a deserted look and there were no buses, no taxis, and of course no auto-rikshaws. After waiting for almost an hour it was 1 am in the morning with no sign of vehicles. We then decided to walk the seven kilometres to reach the college. Rather than waiting at the stop we could have reached the college, had we started walking just after the show.
We were walking down the road with heavy hearts in silence of the night. Unfortunately it was a dark night and we had no torch light. Occasional barking of dogs used to break the silence in between and the sporadic sighting of street lights used to light the hope of finding a vehicle.
Suddenly out of nowhere, a beam of light appeared behind us forming two tall shadows in front of us. The growling of the engine pierced through the silence. We took to the left side of the road to give way to the approaching vehicle. But the vehicle which was a scooter screeched to a halt by our side.
The man in his late fifties took off the helmet and said, “Hey boys, where are you headed to?”
“Uncle ji, we are going to the engineering college,” was my terse reply.
“So you were in the town for the late night movie show?” he quizzed. “Don’t you have any respect for your parents?”
The man was inebriated. His mouth was stinking and the stench used to cover our face as and when he used to speak. He then became softer and said, “See, you two are like my sons, I feel so bad for your parents to see you walking in the middle of the night.”
“What to do uncle ji, we didn’t find an auto-rikshaw,” I replied.
“Don’t worry, can you drive a scooter?”
I didn’t know how to drive a bike and nodded in a “no”. Sameer said, “We don’t know how to ride a scooter.”
“Just sit behind me and hold tight,” he instructed us. “I am drunk but will drop you guys at the college.”
“No problem uncle ji, we will walk to the college,” I said.
“Now don’t act smart, think that your dad is offering you a lift,” he told with a big grin.
I clung behind him and Sameer jumped behind me holding me tight. The man started the scooter and we were dilly-dallying on the way to the college. I was praying to the Lord to keep us safe.
The scooter roared through the empty road. The man was all the time advising us not to go for late night movie shows, study hard, be a good student, and fulfil our parents’ dream. Within few minutes we were near Birla temple. Then we heard the sound of an auto-rikshaw behind us. We asked him to stop the scooter and waved our hands to the auto. As the auto stopped, we thanked the man and hung behind the auto.
The man smiled at us, started the scooter and drove in the reverse direction. I could just see the red backlight of his scooter blinking in the horizon. I was feeling bad to part with him though we had met only few minutes ago.
I was murmuring to myself, “May our paths cross again.”