I was watching Vasool Raja MBBS on TV today and I really enjoyed the scene where Kamal Hassan goes to join the medical college hostel and picks as his roommate the most innocent 1st year boy he happens to find there. It made me very nostalgic for a bit and I started thinking of my own roommates over the years. I am sure that everyone who has lived away from home would have their favorite roommate jokes and stories. Here is mine.
A friend of mine Prasad once returned back from vacation to his native place, on a late and much delayed train and very tired headed straight to the hostel room to rest a bit. When he got to the room (it was on the ground floor) he found it was locked and his roommate Divakar had gone out somewhere. So Prasad used his key to open up the room and went into sleep in his usual corner on the floor near the open window. Sometime later he heard a slight hiss and reasoned that the boys who were playing cricket outside the room’s windows had made the sound. Again and again the hiss grew in intensity. When he finally opened his eyes, he found to his horror a big (his description) anaconda-like snake coiled near his foot and looking angrily at him. He shrieked, threw the bed sheet on the snake and ran out screaming to the ground. The other boys pacified him and informed him that yes; the snake was a permanent resident (another roommate) for the past two weeks ever since Divakar had found it on the cricket ground near the fence. Now, Divakar, was from a small village in Tirutanni district, where these kinds of snakes are rampant and he wasn’t the least bit afraid of them- he fhad further assured the boys that it was just a harmless grass snake, he had gathered it up in a basket and had had kept it in his room as a pet, occasionally feeding it frogs. He had named it as Naga and had often allowed it to roam all over the room when he was there…this had accustomed the snake to act as a substitute guard dog and when it found an intruder in the house- it stood guard over him and hissed to warn Divakar..And this ended up having unfortunate consequences for the dutiful pet… When Divakar returned from college that noon, Prasad gave him an ultimatum- either the snake goes or I go straight to the principal and despite Divakars (and the other hostelites) protestations at equal rights of roommates to have pets.- Divakar was eventually forced to donate his pet Naga to the Guindy snake park. And every second Saturday, Divakaar solemnly used to visit his lost pet at Guindy to spend some quality time with it and feed it Vita-Marie biscuits-its favorite brand. And henceforth Prasad shifted his sleeping spot to near the door to escape easily when any sudden calamity arises- as he never trusted Divakar fully from then on…
My own favorite roommate experience was not quite as traumatic as Prasad’s, but it was infinitely more dramatic. When I was a very raw youngster, innocent and trusting my first roommate was the venerable senior (4 years my senior in college) dr.Vasu…this guy was the epitome of the responsible and wise senior when my dad left me in the room in his care, promising to take full care of me and guide me in everything. It was only later I learnt what kind of guidance I would get from him. Vasu was then in the aftermath of a disastrous love failure and every night he used to come and ring the room bell at around midnight, fully drunk and reeling against everything…Then sitting down beside poor, half-sleepy me…he used to blurt his love story again and again and end up cursing his girl (in the choicest of bad words possible) and all girls in general – winding up with homilies like “seerum pambai nambu sirikum pennai nambadey” or in English..Trust a hissing snake but not a laughing woman and all such kinds of anti-women slogans. He was constantly warning me against the treachery and perfidy of women- and making me promise to him (by all the gods) every night without fail- never to fall in love. He usually ended up these sessions by vomiting on the floor before he dropped off into unconsciousness and I would have to go bring a bucket of water and clean up the room and mop it all away by 2am or 2:30am in the early morning and I went to bed finally. And then at exactly 6am a loud sound would wake me- the two-in-one music player would be blaring Kanda Shashti Kavasam in a loud voice and Vasu, would be standing in front of me, all fresh and bright that early in the morning -with vermilion and vibhudi stripes all over him- looking as devout as a saint -would shake me awake and say “Thambi (little brother) you shouldn’t sleep when someone is doing pooja, wake up and ring the bell” and he would give me a bell to shake as he started praying loudly to all the gods….one pattai in the night, and a different one in the morning- that was my first introduction to roommates.
Of course, over the years I have had my share of eccentric roommates to my fill. The funniest moments sometimes were on tours when you are allotted rooms with people who are not your regular roommates and such nights have often been hilarious experiences. One of my friends Arif had a fight with another roomie Bobby once on a trip to Mumbai. The fight was over who would get to sleep on the bed nearest to the air-conditioner that night- we were all three of us bunking together in a single room and I had wisely chosen the middle bed at the earliest moment of entering the room (by throwing my bags on it and calling dibs) – leaving the other two to slug it over who gets to sleep where. Arif won the right to sleep closest to the A/C and went to bed happily. But bobby had made a precondition that the A/c should be on at full speed all through the night and as there were only two blankets in the room- bobby had taunted Arif that having fought for the A/C he should now sleep without a blanket. Sometime in the middle of the night, I woke up on hearing a big commotion going on and I found out that Arif, feeling the cold at last had tried to steal bobby’s blanket from him in the dark and Bobby waking up at the right time was insisting that Arif sleep without the blanket and Arif was begging him to at least switch off the A/C for some time- but Bobby wouldn’t allow it. So Arif pulling Bobby’s blanket from him , went and sat in one corner fully covered by the blanket- head to toe- and stayed there all night in that protest pose. Needless to say, he never asked for the right to sleep next to the A/C anymore.
But, the best roommate story, I was part of is this- when I was made a complete fool of by the guy we used to call Mama at college- Dr.Raj. Remember Dr.Raj? this was the guy I had talked about in my previous post on shopping. Whenever we went shopping on tours – he would pick up the sexiest garments on display and ask us, tell me guys, how would this look on my wife? Making us all wriggle with embarrassment. Anyway, we had gone to a conference at Bangalore and Pradeep and I were bunking together in one room. Mama, being married, had come to the trip with his wife and two year old son and was staying in the very next room to us two bachelor boys. Pradeep and I came back to the room around 4pm from the conference venue- to freshen up, change and hit the Brigade Street /Commercial street pubbing/clubbing circles as two single guys should rightfully spend their evenings. Suddenly there was a knock on the door and our friend Raj was standing there with wife and kid in tow- he told us he and his wife were going down to the next-door restaurant as they didn’t get to eat lunch that afternoon and the kid was feeling sleepy and would we take care of the kid for half an hour or at the most 45 mins till they would come back. We were caught in a cleft, couldn’t say no politely and agreed. So they placed the kid on our bed and left and that’s that. The hours passed and there was no sign of their returning. At 6 pm the kid woke up and lay there staring at us. Pradeep thought he might be hungry and wanted to give him some of the tea we had ordered for ourselves through room service. But I stopped him and had fresh milk brought for the kid- who typically refused to drink it that easily. Meanwhile, we kept calling and calling Raj but he didn’t pick up his phone. Finally, around 7:30 pm- when our entire plans for the evening had collapsed, raj turned up at our room alone and apologizing profusely, saying that they had run into a relation who had kept talking delaying their return- he picked up the kid and went and rang the doorbell next room. His wife came out then in a nighty and told us “thank you very much, for taking care of the boy, I kept warning him (pointing to Raj) that the child might wake up if he heard our voices loudly next door. Anyway, thanks for allowing us these three hours of privacy in our room – this was the best trip ever- almost like a second honeymoon for us”. And we two, Pradeep and I, like the goats that we were, grinned apologetically and came back to our room, promising to thrash Raj, the minute we got him alone with us.
So, tell me, did you enjoy my friends, roommates and their escapades?