They burst into the room palpitating.

Their faces were pale, lips dry and relief writ large in 48 pt Arial Black Bold Underline.  There was an overpowering aura of nervous energy about them. Their hands were trembling.

“Here!” Thundered Siva, proving once and for all that he was the King of Jugaad. He thrust a bag into TPs hands. I could tell it had taken him huge effort to thunder out the “Here.”

TP took the bag silently. The delight of getting a bag of Green Label was lost in the graveness of the situation.

We sat in silence. Four of us around the three guys who had just returned. They were gradually getting their breath back and the colour was slowly coming back to their faces.

And all of a sudden Bhai lashed out at Siva.

“Mediclaim Id Card!!! What where you thinking!!”
“Do you know what they could’ve done to you?” said Joy.
“To us!”barked Bhai angrily at Joy.
“Yeah! To US!” barked Joy at Siva.
“Heh heh heh” grinned shiva sheepishly.”it’s cool, machaan!”
“Cool, my foot!” said Bhai.

I broke in and cross talked. “Do you guys mind very much telling us what happened or are you going to yell at each other the rest of the night?”

“See”, started Joy. “We found a small dark lane that had a wine shop that sold booze through the night.  So we parked our bikes, Bhai and I went to the shop and Siva went to buy smokes from somewhere.”

When we were walking back, Machaan!! COPS!!” Said Joy. “they were waiting for us near our bikes!”

I was getting a little unsettled. These guys had done or almost done something really stupid. In fact I had a sneaking suspicion they would go and get themselves into trouble.

Bhai interjected. “We were doing perfectly fine dealing with them and we were about to send them off. That’s when this ass decided to show up and pull his trick”

And then came a rather unusual story that has haunted us ever since.

Let me give you the background.

It all started about an hour earlier. At KH51.

Around 12.45 am 7 guys put their empty glasses on the KH51 floor in unison with a resounding clunk after doing a bottoms up. For it was the last drink.

The night was young. The mood was high. And 7 minds on the brink of intoxication felt strong, inviolable, infallible, even bombproof. Minds, teetering on the brink of intoxication, teased for more. A few more swigs would be good wonderful great divine. Of course. Spiritual even.

But the bottles were dry. Supplies had exhausted.

For all its positioning as a booze haven, replenishing supply of liquor that particular night in Pondicherry at that particular time was not merely mushkil, it was damn near naamumkin.

Maybe numkeen for the booze, but booze, namumkin (hehe couldn’t resist that one).

But have more, we must, and get more, we shall. Of course, we were in ‘college’. Someone had to. And that someone had to be a jugaad king, who could negotiate and manoeuvre around  any impossibility that life throws out. Or any law the constitution spews out.

And, more significantly, it meant someone going out, all the way 15 km to buy maal.

And return. In one piece.            

That was not something everyone wanted to risk.

In moments like these TP was always the one to take charge, to rise to the occasion and volunteer like a real salt of the earth.

“Siva will go!” he said.

As for Siva, he  was from a different league altogether. It was a big mystery to everyone why he did some of the things he did. And why he didn’t do some of the things he didn’t do. For he led an existence on campus never knowing that he could say no. Indeed, he never came to realize he had an option not to say yes.

Joy and Bhai jumped into the frey for the sheer adventure that it all seemed to promise.

Sure there was adventure. Consider – they had to sneak out of campus from under the nose of the campus security and the patrol police, drive safely in the darkest 15km stretch of ECR all the way to Pondicherry town, not get stopped and arrested by cops for drunk-biking, ask around and find a corrupt man who could sell booze at that time of night, turn around, drive out of the town without getting mugged, and drive all the way back on ECR, sneak past security at gate, and police patrol, have enough gas left to drive in 2km and bring the bottle(s) without breaking them. Oh there was going to be adventure, alright!

We watched the two bikes sputter off At 1.10 am.

We sent them off and immediately began worrying ourselves silly and praying for the trio’s safety over a glass each of the triplex TP had pulled out the moment after the three left. He had hidden it under sheer selfishness and some books for some ’emergency’.

So as the emergency was fast disappearing our prayers became more intense and as time ticked by, we were getting more anxious.

And so imagine our chargin as the bursting-through-the-door happened and they took to abusing each other – they did return in one piece but now we had to know what had happened.

“Trauma Card kudukrey!! Passport illiya” Bhai had this propensity to Tamil when he got excited. The two guys were laying it thick on Siva.

“Chumma they won’t just arrest” Joy happily added ghee to the fire.

“Forgery, spying, and anti-terrorism le book pandradu, ariyo!” it was Bhai Mulling in Tamil. 

TP broke in this time.”Pass the glasses” he said.

Silence took over for a brief moment as all hands greedily reached for a glass.

“What happened?” asked Srini who was quiet all this time.

As it happened, the cops were questioning Bhai and Joy.

“What are you doing at this time of night?” asked the cops.

“Nothing sar”

“Nothinga!?”

“Where are you coming from?”

“Err..Sar, pissing saar”

“Dai, you should feel ashamed. Padicha pasanga, educated and

all, on roadle pissinga! Tsk.Tsk. Go back home! Your parents

spend so much on you to get you educated and you are

pissing on road…”

“Whats going on here!”

All of them turn. A silhouette of a 6 feet tall man sporting a smart crew cut is walking up to them.

Joy and Bhai look at each other.

“This is P.V.Krishnasamy” and the silhouette pulls out the ID card from the pocket, holds it up in the air and grandly announces, “from CBI”

The CBI officer unfortunately made one small error of judgement. He had inadvertently held out his Accident Trauma Mediclaim Card against the street light in full view of the cops and the two college kids.

We hardly slept that night. The officer never got a chance to tell us how they managed to wriggle out of that one.

The booze ran out quickly and it might have as well been water. I suspect it was the booze that gave us a bad stomach cramp that lasted a whole week after that night.

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