Auld Lang Syne'

We need to go back in time for this tale ' to the times when we were young; we were free; and above all we were happy. I mean we were bachelors. We were free with no nagging wives, no wailing babies and no midnight nappies to change! And we lived together in a dingy hole in a state of perpetual penury ' the three of us ' Suresh, John and myself. And yet it was such fun; the world under our feet ' a playground so to say ' and life a merry dream. It was all so much of fun but for'

But'! Often I wonder what life would have been without all its 'ifs and buts', its uncertainties and the many travesties of fate. The visions of the oracle, the songs of the soothsayers, the tarot cards and horoscopes all put together ' the entire gamut unable to fathom the intense profundity of all the ifs and buts of life! Ah! Gentle reader! Pause momentarily and reflect ' wouldn't it be listless to see life moving unhindered, monotonously in an unswerving straight line rather than meandering uncertainly, tumbling down 'ere over its hidden curves and bumps, soaring high now in the skies, higher and higher, taking us with it to newer unknown heights, no one really aware how high we may reach before that fickle friend we've come to call fate pulls us down once more, and there we fumble and come down tumbling yet again. But of course all that's beside the point. We were talking of something else.

It was John's snoring but for which as I was saying life would have been on such a roll! We said he snored like a hog; John disagreed. On the contrary he maintained he never snored.

'Oh! I know you guys will make up your stories and tell me I snore. I never heard myself snore!' he would tell us.

'and we would swear quietly at him. Night after night Suresh and I kept awake watching helplessly as John snored louder and louder. The cats kept away from our home, the dogs whined with fear in the distance as John thundered away unashamedly in the nights. And to really rub it in the next morning, John would look at us with an expression of absolute incredulity and say, 'Snore! Who me? You guys got to be outta your heads!'

We recorded his nocturnal exploits on our cassette player to prove our point but John wouldn't have that either. 'No human snores like that!' he said. 'I ain't believing none of your stories.' We tried telling him he didn't snore like any human we knew of either; but it was pointless.

And then one day when we were having our breakfast, John let us know about his poor cousin Tom.

'Poor guy Tom! Couldn't land a job after his college. Guy's struggling day and night! Needs help friends, poor guy Tom, he needs help friends!'

John was close to tears and we sympathized with him. He told us of what dire straits Tom was in; how he had lost his only father in a car accident; and how his only mother would die of a broken heart if he didn't find a job; and how much the death of his only mother would affect his poor cousin Tom!

'Man! He's already lost his father. If he loses his mother now, he's gonna go insane! He loves her so much'

We couldn't take any more of that tragedy unfolding in front of our very eyes.

'We'll help him John!' That was Suresh ' always the brave-heart within the group. 'Any cousin of John belongs to our brotherhood!' he proclaimed boldly.

I wasn't quite comfortable with that bravado. Actually I am never comfortable when Suresh talks like that and for now opted to remain silent. I could see a red light of danger blinking away in the backgrounds.

'Oh! I knew I could count on you guys!' John burst out. 'Of course I could count on you. I was thinking why we couldn't just let him share our room till the time he finds a decent job.'

'Of course he could stay with us you stupid oaf! As if you need to ask us for that'Ouch!'

I had kicked Suresh under the table. The red lights were blazing madly and the sirens were screaming for attention ' only a thoroughbred cuckoo like Suresh could have missed that.

But John was already getting up finishing the last few crumbs of his breakfast. He was bouncing buoyantly all across the room. 'Gee! What friends! I knew I could count on this bunch. I will call Tom today itself. And by the way, did I tell you guys, Tom snores occasionally' and in the same breath he finished off hurriedly, 'Getting late for office, friends! Ciao!'

And was gone leaving our aghast expressions behind. Gone! Before we could even say Tom Robinson! I looked at Suresh; he was trying to put up a brave face.

'You fat-headed, dimwitted, jelly-brained retard!' I snarled out. 'What did you have to do that for?'

But the damage had already been done and we resigned ourselves to our fates.

Evening when I returned from the office, John had already brought Tom in. By looks he didn't seem anything like a person who could possibly snore in the nights. But then neither did John. In fact John was such a charming character, so civil, so genteel ' you could hardly think a cultured person like John was capable of such crude boorishness.

As the evening progressed we stretched ourselves out lazily on our mattresses, all four of us, our conversations drifting from the mundane to the somber, discovering precious pleasures in the glowing warmth of our camaraderie. The room we lived in was a miniature of sorts, a bonsai structure just about okay for three, a trifle crowded for four, but at the moment it didn't matter. Of course, as we were to soon realize, matter it would and in terms not by any yardstick insignificant. Finally it would be past midnight when we would switch off the lights and John would call out cheerfully 'Goodnight Guys!' almost immediately followed by a snore from his dear cousin Tom. And in the cover of darkness I would kick Suresh for that.

Sometimes it is the intensity of the shock, the trauma and deep distress of tragedies out of the ordinary that have found expression in metaphors of extraordinary merit. Ah! Permit me once more O! Fair Ladies and Gentlemen to digress yet again and rummage through the images of the night, albeit in terms more philosophical than those of pure subjective analysis. For it isn't the biology of olfactory functions that I attempt to explain ' rather it is the alternating duets of monstrous cacophony, the sordid saga of a sonorous sacrilege, the horrors of hideous howls, the anguish of sleepless nights that I wish to give vent to. I know life offers a few choices and what cannot be cured must be endured; but this just didn't seem fair! By morning both Suresh and I were close to weeping. By the end of the week we were both of the opinion we could have slept better with a pack of wolves howling in our rooms.

And then one night John stared at us suspiciously as we lay our mattresses diagonally opposite to theirs. It wasn't the unusual position that we had taken that took his attention; rather it was the pile of junk that we had gathered at our end of the mattress, which made him, comment uneasily.

'What are you guys up to?'

Tom hadn't noticed much as he buried himself in his bed preparing himself for yet another night of gargantuan snoring. We avoided answering John and continued diligently on our job, which made him feel madder, till the clock struck eleven and all of us switched off the lights and settled into our beds.

It was Tom who let out his customary snore first, a polite kind of a knock as if coaxing us beseechingly 'May I?' when Suresh let his hand wander to the pile of junk at our bedside and picked up an old rusted lock. I watched tensely as Suresh took a quick aim and our priced weaponry bounced off the tummy of Tom.

The effect was instantaneous.

'Wasssamar?' blurted out Tom, woken up rudely from his sonorous slumber.

I reciprocated and let out a loud deliberate snore; Suresh giggled from under his bed-sheets ' and both of us burst out laughing. Tom didn't find it amusing, and neither did John when his turn came next ' both are quite dense at seeing jokes ' but both Suresh and I laughed like we hadn't in years. We didn't sleep any better though, but surely this was a much more enjoyable way of keeping awake!

Last week I met John again after five long years. He had just returned from the Americas for a short vacation in good ol' India, and we decided to meet once more for old time's sake. As we walked towards what used to be our regular bachelor night haunt, we exchanged news of important events ' both of us had got married since and though I had already entered fatherhood John was still contemplating what he called his next big step in life.

The conversation veered around a variety of topics and as we came to discussing our marriages, I couldn't help asking John, 'Doesn't she object to your snoring John?'

I saw a faraway look appear for an instant in John's eyes, as he smiled sheepishly and replied, 'She made me see a doctor. He's given me a mask to wear at nights '

'Sensible woman!' I muttered. John smiled back. The moon emerged once more from the cloudy night skies, the glasses clicked again, and the toast? ' raised to the memorable times gone auld lang syne' 


More by :  Yogesh Pathak

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