A Nonsense Novelette
A Tottering Pilgrimage
It was not long before Chandu mastered his survival technique among the prowling predators in the college enclosure.
As solitary wanderers were easy preys, he needed to be herded, and like a limpet, he attached himself as unobtrusively as possible to a group which looked benign enough. It was a large self-absorbing volatile group with a few revolving satellites like Chandu, who were hardly noticed.
Chandu’s selection of the group proved to be wholesome and educative. The bunch skipped classes and had endless discussions in the college canteen over innumerable cups of tea and cigarettes, on topics far above petty mundane everyday affairs. The subject that created the greatest animosity and involvement revolved around the literary and linguistic revolution long overdue in Bengal. Strong opinions were voiced, never less than three or four simultaneously, and nobody listened. Chandu soon became a persona grata as the silent auditor.
The college campus, however, was becoming more restrictive as days went by, as larger groups with bulging biceps dominated the landscape and Chandu’s flock decided to change their base camp.
In the great tradition of the Bengali literary world, they chose Baroduari, but not for long. Theirs was a budding group still in its infancy with normal hearing. Baroduari, what with its deafening acoustic, impregnable smoke screen and thick aroma of country liquor, was too much for them and they drifted.
But it was at Baroduari that Chandu was initiated to his first lesson in drinking which was destined not to be love at first sight.
Chandu disliked everything—the drink, the taste, the smell—but put up a brave front. What he disliked most was the advice he received from his mates—”Go slow”, ”Go outside if you feel like throwing up”, etc.
After his third round Chandu became bold enough to stammer, “Do you think I am chicken hearted? I will certainly not throw up!” He then promptly staggered out holding on to the chairs for balance and threw up.
He had no memory of the rest of the night and woke up next morning with a splitting headache and vowed never to drink again.
He broke his vow two days later.
With agricultural tenacity he pursued his drinking lessons and in no time became a hard drinker, something his friends were proud of, particularly because Chandu was the sponsor in most of these sessions.
We may skip the next part of their voyage, wherein they sailed from port to port, namely from Baroduari to Khalasitola to Shaw* to AAEI to Amber and so on till they dropped anchor at Chung Wah, after navigating through its back alley.
Here they settled down to long soul fulfilling hours, whetting their appetites with poetry, non-concluded deebates, whisky and Chinese delicacies. Chandu, with his ready flow of cash, footing the bills more often than the others, was yet unaware that his future glory and stardom was already seeded in this cozy little nook.
*Historical pubs which flourished greatly during the seventies and eighties with the patronage of elite literary circles of Bengal.
To be continued…