The Day The State Split Asunder- 8
The Day The State Split Asunder- 814 mins 23.9K 14 mins 23.9K
Cruising at a speed of more than sixty-five miles per hour on the National Highway-44, the bus finally made it's way into the majestic megacity Bangalore, a home for ten million souls and fourth-most populous urban agglomeration in India.
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 going back to home plunged him into a depressive haze.
Slowly one after the other, the passengers began to disembark. For Karthik, it's still going to be another ninety minutes journey to reach his destination. He took out his mobile from the pocket to have a quick glance at the time. It showed 07:00.
As the bus crossed the busiest junction which witnesses around twenty-five thousand to forty thousand cars in a day, he observed a green signboard on the left side of the road through the dusty window with white letters engraved upon it in English and Kannada language, indicating the distance of different places from that point. The board clearly conveyed that his stopping place is just five kilometers away.
Sauntering through the dense impenetrable traffic formation, the bus, at last, entered the final point of the route map - Marthahalli. By the time it reached there, he is 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 is looking 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 the pyramids to take cognizance of the title. 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.
Strolling down the aisle he moved to the front row, dragging his trolley bag with his left hand while clutching the book in his right. One of the drivers is seated in the front row, stretching his arms lazily over his head.
"Excuse me," said Karthik.
The driver turned his face and looked at him with drowsy blood-red eyes which matched the color 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 the book." he showed the book to the driver. "Can you take it, in case if 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." said the driver glancing at the book, "Every passenger is responsible for their own belongings and we are not responsible for it. We will be asleep all throughout the day and we won't be able to pick any calls. Keep it for yourself, sir."
"But this is not mine." said Karthik.
"Sir, you are the only remaining passenger on this bus. Other passengers too have passed through the same walkway. They failed to pick. Maybe it's a divine-will that you have to pick this book or maybe the book has picked you."
He sounds crazy. But really did I pick this book or did this book pick me? Whatever it may be, I will take this book into possession. It's looking brand new, I can sell it to someone.
"Where do you want to get down sir?" asked the other driver seated on the driving seat.
"At the bus stop," replied Karthik.
Ten minutes passed. The driver pulled the bus towards the left in front of a big shopping mall, gently applied the brake and brought the bus to a halt.
"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 dressed in Khakhi shirt and pant approached him and inquired where he wanted to go. Karthik showed him the address on the mobile and negotiated the deal with the driver for a hundred rupees.
As he began his approach towards the auto, his phone started ringing. It was a call from his father.
"Dad! I have just now landed in Bangalore. I will call you back once I am settled." he spoke on the phone while placing his luggage inside the auto.
After he settled comfortably, the driver started the engine and in a minute the auto is running exactly in the middle-of-the-road.
Karthik was trying to soak in the city. He placed his head out of the auto, allowing the breeze to cuddle his face. The auto halted abruptly at a red light and the air became pungent with odoriferous vehicular emissions, breaking the spell of the cool breeze. Thereafter the driver drove the auto into the narrow dusty lane that branched out of the main road where most of the paying guest hostels are situated. Sliding down the lane for five minutes, the auto stopped at the gate of the hostel.
He put down his luggage from the auto, picked out the wallet from his back pocket, and paid him the negotiated fare of hundred rupees. The auto took a U-turn, raising the dust, smoke, and disappeared from his view. He looked at the billboard with name - 'ASR Andhra PG Hostel'. It is a five-storey building, neatly painted. He observed the area around, looking at the facades of the houses lining the street.
There's a park opposite to the hostel and an Udipi restaurant exactly beside the hostel with a tea and paan-stall outside of it. Young men and women all dressed in their jogging dress sat outside on plastic chairs, sipping tea, eating biscuits, and gossiping about the office affairs.
When he set his foot inside, he noticed that masonry works are still going on, giving him the impression that it is a new hostel. Cement bags are scattered all across the floor. He approached the warden's office on the ground floor, took out the online acknowledgment receipt from his backpack and handed it over to the warden.
The warden was sipping his tea and talking to a fair, tall-man with broad chest and shoulders, who is just four inches short of seven feet with a strong and handsome face. 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 like a stone placed in front of the mountain. His brawny appearance is powerful enough to get a bulky load of attention.
"Looks like our hostel has got a new person," said the tall man to the warden, looking at Karthik. "Where are you from brother?"
"I am from Hyderabad," said Karthik, glancing up at the tall man.
"Amazing!" said the tall man, adjusting his bright red cap, running his hand through his thick beard. "By the way I am Adarsh. 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 the tall man. "Your room is exactly beside mine. Give me your bag."
"No problem sir… I will take it-"
By the time Karthik was about to complete his statement, Adarsh snatched the twenty-kilogram trolley bag from him and started ascending the steps. Karthik tried racing with him but Adarsh always showed up ten steps ahead of him. As they approached the third floor, Adrash straightaway walked towards the room where Karthik is supposed to stay and placed the bag in his room.
"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 are two more persons present in the room along with Adarsh.
"The pleasure is on my part and by the way this is Venkatesh and this is Satish," said Adarsh placing his arms on both of their shoulders. "Venkatesh and Satish, meet Karthik, your new roommate and he is also from your state. I will catch you guys later."
After having said that Adarsh left the room.
"Do you know Adarsh before?" asked Venkatesh, looking at him curiously for an instant, then with a frown. "Where are you from?"
"I don't know Adarsh. I just met him down. He helped me with my luggage and I am from Hyderabad."
"Are you from Telangana?" asked Satish.
"He is speaking in Telangana slang, I think he is from my region," said Venkatesh. "Brother, are you from Telangana?"
I thought there will be peace in Bangalore. Looks like this Andhra and Telangana issue has become a hot potato in the entire country.
"I am a Hyderabadi by birth, but Andhrite by blood," said Karthik. "I don't support either Andhra or Telangana. I am an Indian first. I respect the sentiments of both regions."
"We have listened to many theories like this," said Satish in a tone of sarcasm. "You have to-"
"Brother, where's the restroom?" said Karthik interrupting him as he doesn't want to escalate the altercation. "I need to brush and take a shower."
"It's over there," said Venkatesh pointing at the door of the restroom. "Hot Water will be available only before seven."
"No issues, I can manage with cold water."
"The breakfast will be served below on the ground floor. If you want we will get one plate for you," said Venkatesh. "Else, better you complete your shower fast. We three can go together."
"Thank you so much, but don't worry I will take it myself."
He opened his trolley bag, picked up a yellow towel, track pants, a grey t-shirt, and a 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 till the right hip.
"So let's go," he said adjusting the collar of his t-shirt, "Shall we invite Adarsh?"
"Wear your pants first then we can go," said Satish. "I am just joking. I am sorry in case if it has hurt you."
"No Satish, not at all. We are from the same state. We should support each other."
"Karthik, What magic spell did you cast on Adarsh? He even brought your luggage," asked Satish. "He doesn't interact too much with any of us. He lives alone in a two sharing room beside ours. The funniest part is he pays rent for the two members to reserve the entire room for himself."
"Does anyone stay along with him? Why he pays for two people?" asked Karthik.
"No one stays with him." Venkatesh and Satish pronounced in unison.
"Heaven knows why he pays for two people. He once told me that he is a team lead at so-and-so company, I don't even remember the name of that company," said Satish. "His behavior is weird and eccentric."
"He gets up at four and does workout for around ninety minutes. After that, he takes his shower and meditates for the next sixty minutes. We have been staying here for two years. Adarsh has been staying in this hostel for around five years. He is one of the most outlandish person I've ever seen." said Venkatesh.
"Had he annoyed you anytime?" Karthik's face registered a blank incomprehension. "Is his temper more menacing or what?"
"It's an arduous task to decipher the indecipherable," said Satish. "He doesn't socialize with anyone much easily."
"But he seems to be so amiable. Maybe there could be a specific reason for his taciturnity," said Karthik. "I think you guys wanted to go down for breakfast. I am sorry to make you wait for this much time, I am not feeling hungry, I need to sort a few things. You both go down and have it, I will join in a couple of minutes."
I remember once my professor said - 'The smarter you get, the less you speak and the more your intelligence, the less will be your number of friends.' I think these people are jealous of him. I don't find anything genuine in their words. Better, I will talk and frame an opinion myself.
"It's okay." said Venkatesh."In case if you want to come down, don't forget to lock the door."
Satish gave him the lock and keys and walked out of the room.
It is a wise thing to evaluate before making the judgment. It's better I go and talk to Adarsh personally. He looks interesting and I don't think he is a man with off-the-wall kind of personality.
Karthik locked the door and reached the doorstep of Adarsh's room.
Adarsh opened the door in just a single knock, and with his arms wide open he hugged Karthik and dragged him in by pulling his arm.
"Mr. Karthik, I am delighted for having you over here," said Adarsh.
Karthik looked around the room and was amazed to see the way how Adarsh kept his room neat and tidy. There is one single bed, besides it, there is a desk 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 actor and bodybuilder.
Karthik approached the photo and stared keenly at it for a few moments - "I watched him in many movies, but I still find it difficult in pronouncing his name. His name is Arnold… Scavenger…No…Avenger…"
"Buddy! His name is Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Hollywood megastar. It's Schwa… arz… and negger… Schwarzenegger. Even I faced difficulty many times in pronouncing his name. He is my inspiration and role model. "
"I see… Now I understood the secret behind the muscular olympian body of yours. Do you like him only because he has a good body and shape?"
"No!" Adarsh exclaimed, keeping his eyes fixed on Arnold's portrait. "His life is a true 'rags 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."
"Honestly I didn't know his story. Thank you so much for sharing, Mr.Arnold."
"Mr. Arnold? Are you talking with this photograph?" asked Adarsh.
"No…I was referring to you. From today I will call you Arnold."
"That's so sweet of you," said Adarsh pulling Karthik's cheeks. "Your cheeks are so good, I feel like squeezing them."
"Arnold leave me…" Karthik released his cheeks from his hands and looking to the books on the shelf, he said. "It looks like you read a lot of books."
"Yes! These are not just books, my best friends."
"Just give me a minute…I will be back soon."
Karthik stormed out, slamming the door tightly. He opened the door of his room and desperately reached out to his backpack. He searched for the book in a sea of inner garments and fished it out. He locked the door and once again traced his steps back to Adarsh's room.
"There's one more book to add in your treasure. Take this." Karthik put forward the book. "I am not an avid reader like you. There's no use of keeping this book with me."
"This is amazing… I have been longing to purchase this book for a long time, but someway or other I couldn't make it and today you have fulfilled it." Adarsh snatched the book from him, tore the delicate polythene wrap, and began leafing through every page. "You made my day. From now on you are my best friend."
"Adarsh, It's hardly only 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 I have been thinking about how to pull my life lonely in this great wilderness of Bangalore. Today, God has blessed me with a best friend. Thank you for placing your trust in me."
"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. Can you please assist me?"
"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. And moreover, this is your first job. If you reach late on your first day, it will create a negative impression upon you."
"Thank you so much," said Karthik.
"From now on there should be no Thank you between us. If either one of us says it, they have to give a party."
"Oops… Please excuse me for this time."
"You are excused," said Adarsh. "Since this is your first mistake, I am excusing you."
"What! you have to give me a party. There's no excuse this time."
"Sure, once after I get my first salary, I will definitely give you a party."
To be continued…