Happy New Year!

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The shrill tunes of the phone bell drilled it’s way into the layers of my cozy, warmth induced sleep. It was like someone was throwing cold water on me, only more irritating. I tried putting a pillow over my head but my sleep had been infected by the curiosity bug.

Who is this imbecile who has the cheek to wake me up so early in this cold, bleary morning?

I snatched up the phone and boomed “Hello” in my most no-nonsense, aggressive tone. “Good Morning Guru, Soye ho kya? You forgot your New Year resolve? Get up for the morning walk. I am waiting with a hot cup of tea.” It was Sharmaji, my friend and neighbor, at his cheery best. I cursed myself for having made the commitment the previous day in a moment of conscience stricken weakness fueled by loads of oily food I had consumed to welcome 2011. I dragged myself out of bed alternately cursing Sharma and myself.

I had trouble parking my car in front of Sharma’s mansion. The mansion was under renovation and all the construction material like sand and stone chips were piled on the road outside. I cursed Sharma again. The man had ample space inside his campus to store such material but he would rather dump it on the road causing inconvenience to one and all. With some difficulty I found a place to park.

Rejuvenated by cups of tea we set off in Sharma’s car for the Zoo where we intended to walk. Sharmaji was at his animated best, discussing 2G scam, land scam, housing scam, CWG scam etc and cursing Indians for being what they are. I sat there smiling politely, nodding in agreement and ruing the fact that I had to start the day with negative vibes.

Some distance down the road, Sharmaji produced a paan-batta from the folds of his kurta. Taking both hands of the steering wheel he opened the tiny box to reveal pre-prepared paans. He offered them to me. I politely declined his offer. Sharmaji took out the paans from the box and stuffed it in his mouth. I was happy that atleast the paans would keep him quiet for awhile. However, Sharmaji was an expert. After some chewing, he maneuvered the paans into his cheeks. By tilting his head backwards and raising his lower lip he created a dam of sorts which held the red liquid back. He started his tirade on politicians again. The dam was brimming and I watched in horror expecting the liquid to splash out on his milk white kurta.

Just when I though the lava was about to erupt, Sharma stuck his head out and released a long red comet which narrowly missed a cyclist. The poor fellow nearly fell off his cycle. Sharmaji did not even notice the near accident he had caused. He happily blabbered away.

We reached a narrow stretch of road where some kind soul had dumped truck loads of gravel encroaching upon half the width of the road. A string of abuses erupted from Sharmaji’s paan stained mouth. “#$@%&, iske baap ka road hai kya?” I hid my smile with a gentle cough.

We reached the main road and Sharmaji gathered speed. The cold morning air had a knife like edge to it. I raised the glass on my side. Sharmaji’s window was fully open. I wondered what the man was made of.

As we cruised along a bus appeared in front of us. It was headed in the same direction but was traveling much slower than us. Sharma honked his horn. No response. He honked again. No response again. Sharmaji vented some choicest abuses. He pressed the horn and held it there. Still the bus continued on it’s slow lumbering journey. With a final blast of abuses Sharmaji maneuvered his car to overtake the bus from the left. We traveled half the length of the bus when it happened!!!

There was a loud smacking sound and a huge red smudge appeared on the windscreen. I cringed. The smudge resembled one of those abstract paintings displayed in art galleries. Had we hit a bird? Sharmaji moaned. The car swerved to the left and stopped by the road side. I looked at him. He looked stricken. His was grimacing and his kurta was bloody. Had he been shot???!!!

I was relieved when he started abusing again. At least he was conscious and could still speak. “*#$% paan thook diya”.

The sudden deflation of tension had a curious effect on me. I started to laugh. The recollection of the poor cyclist and now the perpetrator had become the victim!!! This sent me into peels of laughter. Sharmaji was shocked. He looked at me with eyes the size of sauce pans. It took all the strength I had to control myself. Somehow I caught the bridles of my laughter and looked up. Sharmaji’s balding head, sharp nose, saucepan eyes and stricken look looked so familiar. I had seen that face before. Oh! Yes. The Ostrich in the zoo!!! I burst out into peels of laughter again.

With his newly printed shirt, Sharmaji lost all his appetite for walking and we headed back. I would sober up and again burst with mirth, much to Sharmaji’s displeasure.

A few days have passed and Sharmaji is sulking. However, as they say, every dark cloud has a silver lining. Sharma does not call me in the mornings now. I get up when I gather enough solar energy through my window. Sharmaji please keep sulking. Happy New Year!!!

Rajesh Chaubey, Guest Contributor, PatnaDaily.Com

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