Besides the sheer rush of participating (and winning let me add) two of my favourite events after quite some time, what made it doubly fun was the drive back home when memories of fests and culturals from days gone by came flooding back like the tunes of a long-forgotten song.
I have always been a quiz man though not really out of choice.
What I really wanted to be was the Western choreography man— that tall, lanky guy in shades, white shirt, loose tie (looking suspiciously like a happy Eureka Forbes salesman) who stands with his back to the audience, waits for the flourish of the music to begin, turns around, makes a sexy face and then does a jig that inevitably sends the assembled girls into swooning fits. But alas. My father frowned upon “cultured” boys going to dance classes administered by the John Travolta of Calcutta—–Tito Dey for which this dream remained firmly in the pipes.
Failing this, I wanted to be the band-man—the guy who plays the lead guitar or the synthesizer. This is where my mother stepped in—no no none of that. She wanted me to sing Rabindrasangeet. Now tell me dear readers, how many ladies would want to be the “band-aid” of a guy who plays the harmonium?
And so I became the quiz man—and not a great one at that too. You know the type that comes in third when there are only two prizes and fourth when there are three and on the rare occasion that he wins, finds that the Western choreography is going on concurrently in the next hall (which means that that only God witnessed his moment of glory and as we all know, He never tells) with the first prize for the quiz being a T-shirt a size too small.
Yes that kind.
Did I say choreography? Oh yes. The highlight of any fest—at least for me.
Will I ever be able to forget those two girls from South City who while doing “Yeh Pyar Kya Hain” from Gupt, in perfect Swiss precision grinded against the lucky Eureka Forbes salesman like two well-oiled gears, one moving down to up and the other up to down before pushing away the guy from between them and doing it to each other (the up-down body grinding that is)? Will I ever be able to forget the ensuing whistles and catcalls, the hushed “chi chis” (shame shame) from some of the non-males in the audience (whom I called “friends”) and the 880V of pure desire surging through my veins?
Will I ever be able to forget that beautiful girl who in a red ghagra danced to “Athra Baras Ki” from “Anjaam”, working the crazed crowd with her intermittent winks, her jhatkas and her rather non-irritating habit of showing her ghungru by hiking her ghagra when she did a difficult step—-an act that made people like me want to do jorajori chane ke kheth main.
No I don’t think so.
Now that I think of it, school fests, by and large, were very class-conscious affairs. There were these rich, hep schools like La Marts (the original La Martinere that is—not the fakes like La Martindale) where the guys wore gold watches, had wallets with 50 rupee notes stuffed in ’em and the girls wore their skirts three inches above their knees. Snotty patricians all of them—-they would mock the less fortunate for their rather quotidian appearances and Bengali-accented English (the ones who pronounced “sir” as “saar”).
And then there was us, the derisively named “Shirtpanters” — the boys sporting fake cellphone pencil boxes and loaded with bus change and the girls Mullah Umar approved skirts in direct contravention of our school motto (namely “Courage to know”), with the skirts starting from where their socks ended. (The bold ones even showed some ankle)
[Present day South Pointers who may feel a bit confused at this characterization of their alma mater, please do remember: this was in the ancient age when SPHS was a place where middle-class traditional Bengali families sent their kids: not the Hindi High-wannabe that it has become now—a more detailed post on this may happen in the future].
Each competition thus became like a battle between civilizations with one side basing their power on arrogance and the other on their desire to possess 0.72 virgins each.
No prisoners were taken. No quarter spared. Great fun was had.
However I never really enjoyed college fests so much—-and that may be because I was mostly associated with Sanskriti (the Engineering fest of Jadavpur University) which I felt was just a venting area for frustrated, horny men and junkies trying to smoke some Manipuri stuff.
Okay maybe I am exaggerating but somehow doing the train dance round and round the Open Air Theatre, extensive gancing (guy-on-guy dancing), passed-out men having water splashed on their face, the smell of puke and sweat as a Bangladeshi band with fake wigs belted out loud loud music was never my idea of fun. And added to it was this group of so-called quizzers (which had the great Parnab in its ranks) that had made quizzing like our school-leaving exams i.e. leaked questions, questionable facts and irregularities of the worst kind [Psst: real reason I was pissed off was that I was not part of that group of colluding quizzers].
To top it off, the inhospitable, martinet sitting at the reception with a T-square swung across her shoulder like Gadadhari Bheema’s instrument of violence with her matching salwar kameez and white sneakers, all the time getting enormous bhau from the guys at the counter (” please stay for a bit longer”) compounded my sense of unhappiness at the matters of the world.
Yes of course I have been to good college fests: the medical schools put up a good show and I had a whacking time at a quiz in Loreto College. I never went to Xavotsav where it was traditional for cops to break up the action and “rubber balloons” are reportedly found strewn all around the morning after. However, I guess one is supposed to have the most fun at his/her home fest. Which was certainly not the case with me.
But then again, why crib ? Especially in this age when all the memories come together forming a synaesthetic pattern in the magic loom of my mind —the butterflies in the stomach as the quizmaster says “Your direct”, the enchanting perfume of that Pratt Memorial girl, the smugness of ace-debater Bunty (the one who had that hot girlfriend named Ankita), and the last strains of a Baul song washing over the fields of JU as the sun vanishes behind the Chemical Building and the jumbo-sized mutant mosquitoes come out for a 8 course meal.
Sparsh 2007—here I come.