Baba was more interested in having fun and impressing girls during his college days. He never focused on studies that much and there came a time when he decided to drop Honours course in Physics as it seriously interfered with his lifestyle! However, as fate would have it, he did pretty well in his exams and so was allowed entry into the hallowed halls of City College. This place was a grave place. An air of intellectual melancholy hung over the campus and permeated the very walls of the university. No one laughed that much. No one laughed, period. Professors hurried along hallways with intellectual purpose while students spoke efficiently and crisply about matters far-related from everyday life. The steely grey ambiance of the place would have been quite suffocating for Baba had he let it.
He didn’t of course.
Once every year a few students put together a play and entertained the very solemn student body. Very solemn professors occupied the front seats, their grim countenance a reminder that laughter was at best, an inconvenience. Bored, Baba offered to be part of the next play. On one condition. He did not want to come for rehearsals. “Something to do with the joy of spontaneity”, he vaguely mutters, sipping his black, Java coffee. Baba was to be the dance instructor in a play called Mess No. 49 by Birendra Krishna Bhadra. But the problem was he knew nothing about dance. So for the very first time in his life, he buys a movie ticket. A Bollywood movie where pretty woman danced for the better half of the movie. He had three things on his list ( You can’t really get the science out of science students, can you?):
- The sideways, rhythmic head nod
- Hand movements
With these three things in mind, Baba sat through one Hindi movie after the other until he felt he was ready.
The day arrives. Curtains rise. The play begins. Silence. Then, Baba walks in. A titter of laughter followed by loud guffaws across the auditorium as he does the head nods and flicks his hands, imitating the Bollywood bevies. Later, long after the laughter had died down, a friend of Baba’s came to tell him how he watched (in sheer disbelief) the professors sitting in the front row. Dignity forgotten, they cackled with uncontrollable mirth.
The next day, Baba comes to college. Another ordinary day. Not so ordinary people were walking around with the same air of purposefulness. As he walks down the corridor, one of the grim looking professor struts by…and stops. “Hey Balai, is that you? I really enjoyed the play. Well done, Man!” he laughs. Shaking his head he continues to walk down the hallway.