Friday, January 13, 2006

Nukkad !!

It was sometime in early 2001, that I decided to shift base from Raipur to Durg.. My engineering college was situated in Durg, and the 2 hour commuting time between the 2 cities was taking too much out of me, for me to start on my MBA preparations.. I had hooked up with Prayas, and decided to move into a rented apartment along with 2 seniors of ours, who belonged to the same branch (Comp. Sci.) as us.. The locality was innocuously called “Sindhiya Nagar”.. Little did I know that this sleepy place was filled with truckloads of colorful characters.. who would make my 2 years there, a most amusingly memorable experience..

Let’s start with our elderly landlord..whom we lovingly called “Uncle Ji” (who, incidentally shared his name with the most psyched out Maths Prof. in college).. He used to live with his family on the ground floor, whereas we lived on the 1st floor.. He was a well built man.. and had retired from a very senior post in Bhilai Steel Plant.. But age was clearly taking it’s toll on him.. This was evident in more ways than one.. specially by his fleeting memory.. For almost a year since I moved in, every time we met, he greeted me with the same set of 3 questions.. “Kahan se aa rahe ho??”, “Raipur mein kahan rahte the??”, “Tumhare Mamaji kya karte hain??”..
Within a couple of months, I was making small bets with my friends, on what Uncle Ji would say when we met each day.. Needless to say, I won every time..
Our beloved Uncle Ji was rather infamous for another obnoxious habit of his.. that of releasing the loudest and most fetid of farts.. that too in the midst of the most public of occasions.. Although we did understand Uncle Ji’s apparent inability to control is bowel functions on account of his old age, we were afraid that one day we might just get completely knocked out by one of his belch bombs..

Now for the other members in the landlord household.. They looked like a family straight out of “Hum Log”.. The eldest son was a drunkard, forcing his wife to earn for him and his children.. 2nd son ran a small typing shop.. and he ill treated his wife too.. The youngest brother was the most decent of the lot, but he had his own share of problems.. He was torn between the girl he loved and his family members, who wanted to marry him off to someone else..
Now for the daughters.. The elder daughter was happily married, but had a most annoying brat of a son (who constantly reminded me of Abdullah from Tintin comics).. The bugger used to visit us every now and then.. and harass us to our wit’s end.. To make matters worse, his name was the same as mine.. grrrr......
The younger daughter was a firebrand lawyer, divorced, and staying with her young daughter at her father’s place.. She was the one who had the final say in all family matters..

Inspite of all his mental and physical inadequacies, Uncle Ji was a most likable person.. In fact, for all their internal family wrangling, our landlord family was a joy to be with.. Never once did they pester us for rent.. or object to the loud music played by my room-mates.. or make any fuss about anything we did, or did not do..

Our apartment was situated right in the heart of “Sindhiya Nagar” (Surprisingly, there were not many Sindhis in Sindhi-ya Nagar.. Sorry.. PJ).. Just opposite to our apartment, was situated the biggest Temple in the locality.. It was called the Hanuman Temple, and had been constructed by the two underworld Dons of the area, Maan Singh and Suchcha Singh (What apt names they had.. Their parents must have foreseen their future careers..) The temple was manned by a single person.. an ageing Pundit whose favorite past-time was to mouth the foulest profanities at other members of the locality.. All you had to do was to visit the temple in the evenings, and sit for sometime in front of the idols.. Soon, you would have you ears full of foul-mouthed gossip from all over the area.. courtesy the Pandit of the temple.. We often thought it was a disgrace to have such a foul-mouthed Pundit in a temple.. But then, who would we complain to?? The Don who have him the job??

Now for the next character.. He was the owner of the local mess where we had our food.. He too was inflicted with the same disease as most other residents of Sindhiya Nagar.. Chronic Verbal-Diarrhea.. Rumor had it that he used to work in a govt. office few years back.. Then one fine day, he decided to put his career in a mess.. er.. I mean.. he quit his job to open a mess..
He could always be seen gossiping with his customers and other residents over the counter.. Astrology, Homeopathy, Politics, Economy.. He had loads to say on any topic under the sun.. even if no one was listening..

Almost every house in the locality had student tenants.. It were these students who brought life to this otherwise aloof neighborhood.. Friendly banter, birthday parties, local crushes and the odd skirmish here and there, maintained some level of excitement in the otherwise mundane surroundings.. I still remember one such incident, which almost snowballed into a major farce.. There was this playboy batch mate of mine, who used to live in an apartment near by.. One day, out of the blue, we heard that Maan Singh’s goons were after him.. It did not take us long to figure out the reason behind this.. Our friend had got involved with Maan Singh’s daughter.. We found out later that the good old temple, built with the Don’s money, was their favorite dating location.. Luckily for our friend, we somehow managed to cool tempers and persuade Maan Singh to bury the hatchet.. Otherwise, Sindhiya Nagar might soon have had it’s own desi version of Romeo & Juliet..

Now for some other residents, who formed the supporting cast of the show..
The Jaswani Uncle, who used to visit the Hanuman Temple, at exactly 8 in the morning, wearing all white clothes, in a white Maruti, every day of the year..
That very pretty Muslim lady, and her rather grotesque looking Hindu husband, who owned what we called “Sexy Aunty PCO”.. The couple had married after a torrid affair.. and had 2 children.. one having a Hindu name and another a Muslim one..
The Jain brothers, who ran a tiffin business.. and who were famous for 2 things.. tiffin delivery on a Rajdoot, and swindling away tiffin boxes of unsuspecting students..

Now for a short anecdote to end the long story..
Sindhiya Nagar had it’s own labyrinth of by-lanes and gullies.. which confused me no end.. One night, I was wandering in those gullies trying to locate the flat of a class mate.. After moving around in circles for more than an hour, I saw a guy come out of a nearby flat.. I walked up to him and asked, “Boss, do you know where Danish from Comp. Sci. 3rd year lives around here?”
After giving me an apologetic glance, the guy muttered out, “Sorry, donno. But have you seen Hanuman Mandir?”
Surprised by his question, I asked “Yeah, why??”
“Do one thing.. Four Comp.Sci. students live opposite to the Temple.. Go and ask them.. They will know for sure.. Good Night!”
As the guy walked away into the darkness, I stood there bemused.......

Even today, whenever me and Prayas get a chance to visit Durg, we make it a point to go back to Sindhiya Nagar, to meet some of those unforgettably eccentric characters, who by virtue of their idiosyncrasies, will always maintain a special place in our memories......

“Reality is the best fiction there is” - Anonymous


Nikhil Kulkarni said...

You forgot to add the 'Deewar' custom that you and Prayas used to get into during examination days ...

How about another post to describe that; you could try out the 50 word story contest during that post:))

Ganesh Iyer said...

Amazing rendering!!

No kidding, me thinks this has enuff meat to form a niice novel. Something on the lines of "Main Kampf at Durg" ;)

Shubham said...

Hmmm.. "Main Kampf at Durg".. Can give that a thought.. Another friend of mine had suggested another equally enticing title "Sindhiya nagar Days", something ont he lines of "Malgudi Days".. :)
BTW, it was great to have a comment from you on my blog.. after a loooong loooong time..