(Disclaimer: I wish I could say that this was a true story, but I cant in all conscience, so this is purely a work of fiction and all the characters and their dialogues are purely imaginary).
Karthick called me up after a long time and said he wanted to meet up to discuss a trip. “A trip?” I asked him “Where to? And what for?” he asked me excitedly “You do remember my cousin brother Nitin? Our senior at college? He is getting engaged at Pondicherry this Saturday and the girls side are planning a big bash north indian style, including a sangeet ceremony” I thought I hadn’t heard that right “A what ceremony?” I asked astonished for karthick’s family was ultra, ultra orthodox, or that was what he always told us whenever he monopolized the chicken drumsticks from KFC – bought on common collection funds as side-dish for all night study sessions in the hostel. “A San-Geet ceremony” Karthick explained emphasizing the syllables “supposedly all the women from the girls side get together and dance and sing for us men from the grooms side” and I had a sudden vivid mental picture “and end up stripping?” I asked hopefully “Hell no” karthick answered “no such luck, dude – they just dance and entertain us” I asked half-hopefully again “Are we at least allowed to throw money at them?” “I don’t think so” said Karthick “although you are welcome to try” and he went on “so are you in or not? Mama and Manmadhan are coming too and it’s been ages since I met you guys- we haven’t met up in person ever since I returned from Australia” I was suddenly very enthused “The old gang back together, once again uh? That would be fun. Ok, Pondy here we come, Road trip, Road trip….Count me in dude, I will be at your house early morning Saturday,” I said and cut the connection.
So, I am going to meet Karthick, after a lapse of almost two years, ever since he returned from Australia, though we had been in touch over the phone, and he had recently developed a distressing habit of mentioning after every few words “You know in Australia”…which really was uncalled for. The reason Karthick had gone to Australia was -to study -what his dad called “the newest advanced technique called Uro-gynecology or Uro-genital problems for women”; what he himself said was “Because his HOD madam here had promised that the only way he could ever pass the course was over her dead body and he didn’t want to kill her just yet” and what the grapevine said was because of “A sexy student counselor called Rebecca in the Australian Consulate in Chennai who had the skills to convince the hopefuls to become full-fee paying students of any obscure one-kangaroo/two-emu Australian institute”. Anyway I sincerely hoped that Karthick had at least finished this course without driving his profs to murderous rage (kola-veri, anyone?).
The other two characters should also be introduced here before proceeding further. Manmadhan as he was affectionately named by the students was our dear friend Pradeep. He wasn’t actually a romantic Romeo as the name suggests, but more of a hide behind the pillar and sneak some looks type. But unfortunately, word had got around college that whichever girl he tried to sneak a look at from behind a pillar, either got engaged or married as soon as his gaze fell on her- the Manmadha-Paarvai as the saying goes and ended up in his getting the sobriquet “Manmadhan”. This rumor made Pradeep very popular among all the unmarried girls, who purposefully kept walking up his way.
The other character we called by the nickname Mama is an important personage who needs a bit more of a back story. A little older than all the other students when he entered college he was already married and had a child – which fact he successfully concealed from the entire college and passed himself off as a a bachelor and was having quite the fun, when in the third year his wife and child suddenly turned up at the college to surprise him and which turned out to be a bigger surprise to all of us in the college – especially the girl he had been dating on the sly all this time. Anyway the reason he was called Mama was because he was considered an unofficial Purohithar for all the guys who were planning to propose to their dream girls, for Rajgopal, that being his original name, could accurately predict when a girl would most be susceptible to saying yes. He claimed he did this on a basis of scientific facts, study of body language and human psychology and so the whole college believed him to have a very high success rate in his predictions and hence the title “Mama” was awarded him by universal acclaim.