The Day The State Split Asunder-10
The Day The State Split Asunder-105 mins 160 5 mins 160
Cruising at a speed of sixty-five miles per hour on the National Highway-44, the APSRTC Volvo bus finally made its way into the majestic megacity Bengaluru.
The sky was flawless and slowly the daylight grew brighter. In a few moments, the mists lifted and the air cleared. Karthik was lying flatly on the pushback seat, observing the passing vehicles and buildings with confusion swirling in his mind like a swarm of angry bees. The thought of having left the home plunged him into a depressive haze.
The bus entered the final point of the route map Marthahalli. By the time it reached there, he was the only remaining passenger on the bus. He picked up the luggage and began walking down the aisle towards the exit door with a backpack slinging on his right shoulder.
As he neared the second row, he noticed a book on the walkway. He stopped and took the book into his hands. It looked brand new with a delicate transparent polythene cover wrapped around it. He wiped the dust on it with his palms and stared intently at the cover image of the book which has two pyramids with an aureate sun shining splendidly in the background, painting a flamboyant picture. His eyes scrolled a bit up above. As his vision zeroed in on the title, a smile instantly surfaced on his face.
The Alchemist! This is the same kind of book I saw at the office on that day. Looks like someone might have missed it in a hurry.
Dragging his trolley bag with his left hand while clutching the book in his right, he strolled down the aisle he moved to the front row. One of the drivers is seated in the front row, stretching his arms lazily over his head.
'Excuse me,' said Karthik to the driver.
The driver turned his face and looked at him with drowsy blood-red eyes which matched the colour of his paan-stained teeth. There was a scar on one cheek, and despite the rough appearance, he replied in a kind and polite tone, 'Yes sir.'
'It looks like someone forgot this book,' he showed the book to the driver. 'Can you take it, in case anyone contacts you for this, you can hand it over to them?'
'Sir, this is not any gold or diamond, it is just a book,' replied the driver, 'every passenger is responsible for their own belongings and we are not accountable for any loss. We will be resting all throughout the day and we won't be able to pick up any calls. Keep it for yourself, sir.'
'But this is not mine,' said Karthik.
'Sir, you are the only remaining passenger on this bus. Before you, fifty passengers have passed through the same walkway. They failed to pick it up. Maybe it's a divine will that you have to pick this book or maybe the book has picked you,' the driver said.
Interesting. Did I pick this book or did this book pick me? Whatever it may be, I will take this book into possession. It looks brand new.
'Where do you want to get down sir?' asked another driver who was seated in the driving seat.
'At the bus stop,' replied Karthik.
Ten minutes passed. The driver pulled the bus to the left and brought the bus to a halt near Marathahalli skyway bridge.
'Sir, this is the bus stop.' said the driver.
'Thank you,' said Karthik. He got down, advanced towards the bus stop along with his luggage, and sat on the iron bench. He placed the book inside his backpack.
An auto-rickshaw is parked exactly beside the bus stop. The driver of the auto approached him and inquired where he wanted to go. Karthik told him the address and negotiated the deal for hundred rupees. As he began his approach towards the auto, his phone started ringing. It was a call from his father.
'Dad! I just got off the bus. I will call you back once I am settled,' he spoke on the phone while placing his luggage inside the auto. The driver dropped him at 'ASR PG Hostel'.
It was a five-storeyed building and neatly painted. He observed the area around, looking at the facades of the houses lining the street. When he set his foot inside, he noticed that masonry works were still going on and Cement bags were scattered all across the floor. He approached the warden's office on the ground floor, took out the online acknowledgement receipt from his backpack, and handed it over to the warden.
The warden was sipping his tea and was talking to a fair, tall man with a broad chest and shoulders, who is just four inches short of seven feet. His sleeves rolled up past his elbows to reveal strong, sinewy arms. He wore a bracelet of braided leather on his right wrist. For Karthik, standing before him resembled a stone placed in front of the mountain. His brawny appearance is powerful enough to get a bulky load of attention.
'Where did you come from brother?' The tall man asked.
'I am from Hyderabad,' Karthik replied, glancing up at the tall man.
'Amazing!' said the tall man, adjusting his bright red cap. 'Looks like you came here to start your career. By the way, I am Adarsh Thakur. What's your good name?'
'I am Karthik.'
The warden allotted him room number-103 on the third floor. There's no lift and Karthik has to carry his luggage to the third floor.
'Karthik!' said Adarsh. 'Your room is exactly beside mine. Give me your bag.'
'No problem I will take it-'
By the time Karthik was about to complete his statement, Adarsh snatched the trolley bag from him and started ascending the steps. Karthik tried racing with him but Adarsh always showed up ten steps ahead of him.
Adarsh entered the room where Karthik is supposed to stay and placed the bag inside.
'Thank you so much Adarsh!' said Karthik looking around the room which consisted of three iron beds of which only two have mattresses and pillows. There were two more persons present in the room apart from Adarsh.
'The pleasure is on my part and in case you need anything just come to my room. By the way, this is Venkatesh and this is Satish,' said Adarsh, placing his arms on the shoulders of Satish and Venkatesh. 'These two people are also from your state. Go and fresh up. We can catch up later,' Adarsh left the room.
'Where are you from?' Satish asked Karthik.
'I am from Hyderabad,' Karthik replied.
'Are you from Telangana?' asked Venkatesh.
Looks like this Andhra and Telangana issue has become a hot potato in the entire country.
'I am a Hyderabadi by birth, but an Andhrite by blood. Where's the restroom?' Karthik swiftly changed the topic.
'It's over there,' said Venkatesh pointing at the door of the restroom.
Karthik opened his bag, picked up a yellow towel, track pants, a grey t-shirt, and soap. Ten minutes later, he came out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist, adjusting the sacred thread circling from his left shoulder to the right hip.
'We are going out for a movie. In case you are planning to go out, don't forget to lock the door,' Satish gave him the lock and keys and walked out of the room along with Venkatesh. After sorting all his clothes in the closet, Karthik thought of going and meeting Adarsh. He locked his room and knocked on Adarsh's door.
Adarsh opened the door and said, 'Welcome to my room Karthik!'
Karthik gazed around the room and was amazed to see the way Adarsh kept his room neat and tidy. There is one single bed and there is a desk at the corner on which he placed his laptop and other stationary stuff. There are a couple of motivational posters on the wall and at one face of the wall, there is a large poster of one of the famous Hollywood actors with perfect bicep curls.
Karthik neared the photo and stared keenly at it for a few moments. 'I watched him in many movies but I still find difficulty in pronouncing his name. His name is Arnold… Schwarza… No…'
'His name is Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Hollywood megastar. It's Schwa… arz… and negger… Schwarzenegger. My inspiration and role model,' Adarsh said.
'I see… Now I understand the secret behind the muscular olympian body of yours.'
'His life is a true rag to riches tale of a penniless immigrant making it in the land of opportunity, the United States of America. With an almost unpronounceable surname and a thick Austrian accent, who would have ever believed that one day he will become one of the biggest stars of Hollywood.'
'I didn't know his story. Thank you so much for sharing, Mr.Arnold.'
'No…I was referring to you. From today I will call you Arnold in case you don't feel bad.'
'So sweet of you!' said Adarsh.
Karthik's eyes then fell upon the books on the shelf. 'It looks like you read a lot of books?'
'Yes! These are not just books. They are my best friends.'
'Just give me a minute…I will be back soon,' Karthik stormed out, slamming the door tightly and returned holding 'The Alchemist' book in his hands.
'There's one more book to add to your treasure. Somebody lost it on the bus,' Karthik put forward the book. 'There's no use in keeping this book with me as I don't have the habit of reading.'
'Wow!' Adarsh was elated. 'I was planning to purchase this book' Adarsh tore the delicate polythene wrap and began leafing through every page. 'You made my day. From today, you are my best friend.'
'Adarsh, It's hardly been an hour since we met each other. In an hour how can you accept a stranger like me into your life as a best friend?'
'A stranger can become the best friend as quickly as a best friend can become a stranger. The beginning point of any relationship is trust. Trusting you is my decision, proving me right is your choice.'
'Adarsh, you know, yesterday and even before stepping into this hostel, I have been thinking about how to pull my life lonely in this great wilderness of Bangalore. And today, God has blessed me with a best friend. Thank you for placing your trust in me and tomorrow I need to report to my office. This is my first job. Can you tell me how far is ZenWings office from our hostel? I am completely new to this place.'
'Just like the magic of first love, the first job creates an indelible impression in our mind which cannot be erased ever. No matter how many jobs follow after that, the thrill is never quite the same again. Don't worry about the distance, I will drop you on my bike tomorrow.'
'No need Adarsh, I will take an auto or bus. It's unnecessary trouble for you.'
'Karthik, you are my best friend and there will be no troubles between best friends.'
'Thank you so much, Arnold.'
'From now on there should be no Thank you between us. If either one of us says it, they have to throw a party.'
'Oops… Please excuse me for this time.'
'Since this is your first mistake, I am excusing you.'
'What! You have to give me a party. There will be no excuse this time.'
'Once I get my first salary, I will definitely give you a party.'