We were done with our food and decided to go up to Moni's room to complete the conversation. Just as we were about to exit the place, a group of really cute Manipuri girls walked in, and Moni's face changed shape - his eyebrows went from straight to parabolic, curving to form two little question marks above his eyes, what began as a frown progressed into a look of complaint and dismay, and a whine escaped his mouth before he said, holding on to my arm, his fingers digging into my flesh and his face buried into his own arm, "It's the story of my life man!" he groaned, and kept groaning and whining all the way back up to his room, refusing to even look at the several cute girls who passed by, till one of them actually stopped and said hi. She was an old friend of his from school, a cute Assamese girl who lived two rows away. They had a brief conversation as I went to the grocery store to buy some Hajmola, and when I returned, there was another guy with them. The girl introduced him as her boyfriend and said that they were going out for a movie and left. Moni was even more heartbroken now; "Why can't I find a good girl like her, man? All the losers on this planet have girlfriends and the only girl I love doesn't even want to talk to me!" He hurried into his lane, opened the lock on the iron gate downstairs, and walked upstairs with heavy footsteps, still groaning and complaining and mumbling something that only he could hear. "It always happens with me man. Everyone gets the girl, except me! That's what happened in Bombay too!"
Andy stayed had studied in Welham boys. He was a good friend, was a lot of fun, was always partying away, running after women, and was a total faff. "He could lie till his pants fall off; he used to talk absolute crapshit, and he used to get all the girls, man!", Moni said, all of this in half a groan and half a whine. Andy was actually a Bengali guy whose actual name was Anand, but people called him Andy. Andy stayed in Moni's room for all three years of their graduation, and loved organising parties and was always the life of get-togethers. If anyone wanted to score some hash, or coke or anything else, he was the one to go and get it for them. He would organise everything and do a good job of it; all people had to do was give him the money. He used to be found stoned in someone or the other's car most of the time. He was a fun person to be around, except when Moni was broke and did not have enough money to buy some beer or score some hash, Andy would just not be around anywhere; plus he got all the women. So Moni was not particularly happy talking about him. "Crapshit!", he he exclaimed, clenching his fist at an imaginary collar in front of him, a look of anger and misery coupled with a smile on his face. Andy was known to be a smooth talker and could talk a whole lot of nonsense about anything under the sun. "He could talk about the Indian Army and their deepest secrets, about the CIA like someone from Langley had actually called him and told him about them!" That night he was hanging out with Jigme's girlfriend, Naina, who like we have mentioned earlier, was a beautiful girl, much like Aphrodite. She had curly hair that ran up to her shoulders and was an Indian version of Demi Moore, and like with Medusa, one look at her was enough to make most men hard as stone. Andy was hanging out with her and Moni, having heard stories about Naina, wanted to put an end to all speculation and figure out if she really was cheating on Jigme or not.
"Let's go for a walk", she had come and whispered in Moni's ear that night, but before Moni could respond to the request, Andy volunteered to pitch in, so all three of them went for a walk. They were drunk and it was 11 PM, and most places had shut by then. Naina was wearing white that night, a sleeveless dress that hugged her as the sea-breeze blew against her, defining her well-formed contours that Moni couldn't stop looking at. She knew the attention she was getting and would smile each time she caught Moni staring at her dress with that puppy dog look on his face, like a dog who just spotted the juiciest bone, only to see it being licked and taken away by a faster and smarter dog. Then it started raining. They got a little drenched as they stood under a tree for a while before they ran into the Oberoi and sat in the lounge area till the rain stopped. Naina was quite drenched by then, but since it was summer time, she just let it be, enjoying the effect she was having on the men, with her white dress drenched in the first shower of the monsoon. By the time the rain stopped, Andy and Naina were pretty cozy on a couch, looking at pictures of each other on their phones, while Moni sat on the couch opposite to them, and flicked through a copy of a travel magazine and a couple of other coffe table books kept over there. He didn't know whether he should hang around or if he should leave. Finally, he decided to tell the two of them that he was sleepy and wanted to go back to his hostel. Andy did not insist, but Naina did. She wanted him to hang around, but Moni was in no mood to stay; hurt as he was witnessing his close friend's girlfriend leaning over Andy's shoulder, scrolling on his touchscreen phone.
As Moni walked back, he thought about the previous night, when he had had his first encounter with the Bombay cops. They had just left Aby's place, a guy who had messed up his life completely by getting addicted to Spasmoproxyvon and Nitrosun. "If you're on Spasmo and Nitro, your life is ruined. If you're hooked on to these, you're like the biggest loser on the planet", he said thinking about Aby. "He was so messed up that he was scared of leaving his room, man!!". They had gone to check on him - five of them. Andy, Wang, a couple of other guys from college and Moni. They tried to convince him to go see a psychiatrist, but he was adamant that he was okay, and wanted them to leave immediately. So they left him at his house and went back to their bikes. Those were the days when petrol used to be 20 rupees a litre (1998/99). Moni, Wang and Andy had come there on Dorji's Yamaha RXZ, which had a flat tyre when they got out of Aby's house. The other two friends (Riz a Maurtian guy and Alok from Bangalore) had their own bike, so they decided that they would ride back while the other three would walk back to the hostel, enjoying the evening breeze over some whiskey. They were carrying Wang's pocket music system and had a bottle of Royal Stag which they purchased from a theka nearby. they walked past the Tower of Silence near the Walkeshwar Hanging Gardens, and tresspassed intro the forested areas there, walking around the forbidden zone for nearly two hours with a bottle of whiskey. He kept telling Andy to not make much noise, but Andy was the carefree type except when actually in trouble. He behaved like he knew all the powerful people in the city and that no one would dare to even come close to him if he didn't want them to. Thus he sat there making a racket, singing songs, talking out loud, shouting and yelling. He even broke the bottle of whiskey on some rocks near the stream they were sitting next to, their feet dipped into its cool water and enjoying the joys of a forest in the heart of Bombay!
When they finally got out of the enclosure, they were too drunk to want to keep walking any more. Plus they were walking uphill for a while. They trudged on for a couple of kilometres when they saw two bikes parked on the roadside - a BSA Bantam Sports and another dirt bike, and both of them had their handlebars unlocked. Moni doesn't remember if it was Wang or Andy who had that idea, but they wanted to ride the bikes downhill, which was about another three kilometres, and then leave the bikes there and carry on. Moni kept dissuading them saying that one can't just take someone else's bikes downhill and leave them there, but they called him a chicken and asked him to build some courage and and take things on when life gave him chances. They told him that's why he never got Naina, because he was always worried about what was right and what was wrong and would never take the practical way out. That was it! Mention a pretty girl's name to a drunken man and any remnants of reason, caution and common sense fly out the nearest window available. Wang and Andy got on to the BSA and asked Moni to imagine that he had Naina with him on his bike and to just take her downhill because she was tired and her feet were hurting. Moni could not let that happen of course, the chivalrous knight that he was - the eternal Kshatriya. They got onto the bikes and started pretending they were racing, with their feet still on thee ground, making vroom-vrooom noises with their vocal chords and tilting the bike left and right. They still hadn't taken the bikes downhill, when two men came by,and asked them what they were doing on the bikes. Fearless Andy got off and asked them if the bikes were theirs. They replied in the negative, but told them they weren't supposed to just sit on someone else's bike. Moni, who didn't want the imaginary Naina to feel that he was chickenshit, got off and hurled a bunch of abuses on the guys and asked them to disappear before they made him angry. He also caught hold of one guy's collar and was about to push him when he produced his identity card - Jadhav Waghmare - Constable, Malabar Hills; and then the imaginary Naina flew away, and so did Andy's confidence. All three of them started apologising to them, but the cops asked them to come with the police station. "Police pe haat uthata hai? Bike Chori Karta Hai? Bhadve Saale!" Turning to Moni, he said, "Tu hai inka Ring Leader?". All the three of them could do was apologise and call him Mama throughout the journey to the police station. Moni had another friend whose local guardians stayed right opposite the police station at Malabar Hills, and he started thinking of how he could get in touch with him in case things went really out of hand. "He was calling me a ring leader, man! What Crapshit!"
Malabar Hills was one of the areas where Mumbai's elite stayed, and Moni was confident that the policemen stationed over there would at least know how to deal with educated folk. He was hopeful that he wouldn't find someone who was an encounter specialist or a totally uneducated rascal just out there to vent his frustration on criminals.He hoped he would run into a kind and loving soul. When they walked into the police station, the officer in charge there "looked like Kumbhakaran, with curly and oily hair; a saand of a character, like a character from Durga Pooja!!", in Moni's words, as he lay there on his bed in his 1 BHK flat in Humayunpur, wrapped in a towl, wearing a VIP baniyaan, trying to decide if he wanted to have a bath first or complete the story first. He decided to go on with the story. They frisked all of them, confiscated their phones, and asked them to produce their wallets. The other guys' wallets were clear, but Moni's wallet produced certain questionable substances, and the following scene took place, which can only best be described as a one-act play. Moni, throughout this conversation had a look on his face akin to that of a dog that has just been caught tearing apart his master's favourite shoe, and is being questioned about it - droopy eyes, wrinkled forehead, plaintive tone, etc.
Officer in Charge (OiC): (Pulling out a pouch with some powder inside) Yeh kya hai?
Moni: Yeh Kumkum powder hai
OIC: Kumkum powder? Kahan se aaya?
Moni: Woh Tirupati gaya tha darshan ke liye, wahan se leke aaya, Meenaxi Temple se
OIC: Tu Brahmin Hai?
Moni: Nahin, Kshatriya
OIC: To Tirupati kyon gaya tha?
Moni: Darshan ke liye gaya tha
The OIC gave him a bemused look, still stern and angry though, and pulled out the next item.
OIC: Yeh kya hai? (Pulling out a dried stem of marijuana that Moni had kept with him just for a rainy day, when they couldn't find any hash or weed to smoke.
Moni: YEh Shivji ka prasad hai
OIC: Bahut prasad khaat hai tu haan? tirupati jaata hai, Shivji ke paas bhi jaata hai! Hawalaat mein jaega kya?
Moni: Nahin sir, sahi mein prasad hai
The OIC continues diggin into Moni's wallet, and this time pulls out a condom
OIC: Yeh Nirodh kay ke waaste?
OIC: Randi ke paas jaata hai?
Moni: Nahin randi ke paas nahin jaata hun
OIC: Phir yeh kay ke liye hai?
Moni: Woh mere gaon mein meri mageytar rehti hai
OIC: Toh? Yeh kay ke liye rakhta hai tu?
Moni: Woh men kabhi gaon jaata hun to usse milta hun
OIC: Kay ke waaste milta hai re Nirodh leke?
Moni: Nahin sir, waisi baat nahin hai
OIC: Bhadwa saale! Chutya banaata hai? Bol, Randi ke paas jaat ahia ki nai?
Moni: Nahin sir, Randi ke paas nahin jaat hun
OIC (Slaps him on the head): Bol. 'Jaata Hun!'
Moni (his hands on his cheek, speaking in a really low volume now): Haan sir, jaata hun
OIC: Gullfreynd hai teri?
Moni: Nahin hai, sir
OIC: (Another slap on his head) Bol, 'Hai!'
Moni: Hai sir
OIC: Jinz pehenti hai teri gullfreynd?
Moni: Haan sir, Jeans pehenti hai
OIC: Tu park mein jaake taple dabaata hai uske?
Moni: Nahin sir, nahin dabaat hun, (As the OIC raised his hand again) Haan sir, dabaata hun.
OIC: Syaana hai re tu! Kahaan ka rehne waala hai tu?
Moni: Sir Assam ka
OIC: Baap kya karta hai tera?
Moni: Tamil Nadu mein chai ke bageeche mein kaam karta hai
OIC: Tu abhi toh bola mereko to Assam ka hai? Tu Taamil Nadu ka hai?
Moni: Nahin sir, mere pitaji wahan kaam karte hain
OIC: (looking at Andy) Tera baap kya karta hai?
Andy: Mera baap bhi iske baap jaisa hi hai
OIC: Iske baap jaisa matlab?
Andy: Chai kle bagaan mein kaam karta hai
OIC: Taamil Nadu mein?
Andy: Nahin sir, Assam Mein
OIC: Tu Assam ka hai?
Andy: Nahin sir, Tamil Nadu ka
OIC: Saala, khopdi phirata hai! (then looks at Wang) Ai, tu kahaan ka hai be, Assam ki Taamil Nadu ki Nepal ki Nagaland ki kahan se hai?
Wang: Sir, mein Bhutan ka hun
OIC: Woh kahaan pe hai?
Wang: Nepal ke baaju mein
OIC: Baap kya karta hai tera?
Wang: Woh aapke jaisa hai?
OIC: Mere jaisa? Kya matlab?
Wang: Sir, woh police officer hai
OIC: (In a harsh and sarcastic tone) Kahaan pe? Taamil Nadu mein?
Wang: Nahin sir, Bhutan mein
Then the OIC went to the barrack room inside, a room that looked straight out of the 18th century, with canes and batons kept in a rack along one wall, a wooden chair with straps on it, reminding Moni of torture scenes from several movies, a bench, a light bulb dangling over a solitary table, and a drunk constable lying on the bench with just a shawl for a mattress. The OIC and woke up a constable who was sleeping there. The constable was drunk and reeking of alcohol, and came outside, extremely pissed about the fact that he had been woken up. He came out, folded his shawl and threw it on a vacant chair, scratched his hairy chest through his unbuttoned shirt first, then his armpits, and then ran his hands down his pants, scratched his balls, sniffed his fingers and then pulled out a pen from his pocket. They made them write a confession stating that they were walking around drinking alcohol in public and that they were a ring of thieves and that Moni was their ring leader. they slapped them on their heads a couple of times, as they laughed and joked amongst themselves. They made them re-write their confessions six or seven times, a they did not like the way it was worded. Wang was also behaving like it was all a joke, laughing and talking to them even when they were slapping him around, but the situation got a little tenser when Moni refused to write a confession stating that he was the ring leader. "Saale day time student, night time ring leader! Encounter kar dun kya tera yahin pech?" They made him confess a whole bunch of crimes orally as they laughed about, slapping him on the head every now and then to ensure that he didn't forget that this was still an interrogation, and this went on till Wang distracted one of them, who saw him standing and staring at the photographs of wanted criminals in a board near the entrance of the police station. The OIC walked up to him:
OIC: Kya dekh raha hai be?
Wang: Yeh photo dekh raha hun
OIC: Inmein se dekha hai kya kisi ko tu?
Wang: Haan, isko dekha hai shaayad (pointing at a guy who it turned out had an amount of 1 lakh rupees on his head)
OIC: (getting a wee bit excited) Kahaan pe dekha tu isko?
Wang: Chowpatty mein dekha
OIC: Chowpatty mein? Kya kar raha tha yeh chowpatty mein?
Wang: Pani Puri khaa raha tha
OIC: (Turning around when he thought he heard a stifled laugh emanate from Moni, and then back to Wang) Kaise pehchaana tu isko (Now looking closely at the guy's picture, considering the possibility of Wang actually having seen him)
Wang: Iska Moonch hai na, usse pehchaana
OIC: (Looking carefully at all the pictures on the board, slapping Wang on the head) Abbe, Moonch toh saare photo mein hain sabke!
Wang: Haan, woh toh meine dekha hi nahin, shaayad galti ho gayi
That was it! Kumbhakaran's hand came down with all its force on little Wang's cheek, and it brought tears to Wang's eyes, and when the first tear drop flowed out of his eyes, almost magically, as the last falling leaf of Autumn beckons the song of the cuckoo, the teardrop brought a loud guffaw out of the officer's mouth. The cops spent the next 3-4 hours lecturing them about morals and cultures, joking and finally let them go at 6 in the morning. All this flashed by in front of Moni's eyes as he walked back towards his hostel by himself, while Andy and Naina were headed towards Marine Drive. "It can't be. Naina is not that kind of girl, man. I can see love in her eyes!", he exclaimed to himself as he decided that he had had enough. He did not want to be in love with a girl without finding out who she actually was. Were all those rumours about her true? He decided that he must find out right then, as he turned around and walked back in the direction Andy and Naina had taken, as a cocktail of fear and hope enveloped him, running through his veins and making his heart race and his blood boil (To be continued...)