Tuesday, July 22, 2008
There are moments of great luxury in a Mech 71ers life – from the moment I land at JFK I am treated like royalty!
The time: 8 am
The date: Saturday June 28, 2008
The event: Mech ’71 North American Reunion No 9
Air India’s Flt 101 Delhi-JFK non-stop drops me into Rajive Johri’s cruising Lexus where he and Rajarshi Ganguly (Gang, trust I have the spellings correct!) receive me with bugles and handmaidens and we move to Greenwich, Connecticut - about 30 miles away – and which, as you all know, is the location of Johri Mansions. A quick shower and I explore the premises – there’s swimming pools and woodlands and trimmed hedges and an occasional deer – and some familiar noises from the adjacent bedroom as Bill Julka stirs awake – ensues a great deal of leaping about and fraternizing and then we move to the lawn for tea, breakfast and more tea – Indrani plays the perfect hostess (and that takes something, she’s got Gang, and me, and the Julkas as house-guests!). The sun moves higher, Indrani and Neeraj (that’s Mrs. Julka) leave for some shopping – Rajive gets busy on the barbeque and does us burgers and corn and beer, and jolly delicious it all is – and KC calls in from Toronto wishing us happiness, peace and complete intoxication at the reunion.
Time for a nap to remove some of the jet lag – I awake to the sound of El Gill & Livleen in the drawing room – more noises anon and in troop the Nirmal Singhs and the Thakurs. Most of you would recall Thakur was Ravindra in them days gone by – well he’s changed it now to the briefer – and probably saintlier – Ravi.
There’s a certain listlessness about host Johri – he paces around muttering “he cometh not” – I confront him and he reveals all – Sunil Petkof Gupta was to have been the surprise package of the evening and had just called canceling his participation – I sympathized – after all, Petkof would have delivered – extempore and uncensored - a long, anecdote-filled vote of thanks on behalf of all Mech ’71.
Pimp is the last to arrive and promptly starts seeking Merani – the latter’s absence comes as a bit of a jar – for how does one take the conversation to an altogether higher plane in the absence of the enlightened Swami Dada?
Was it not he who the previous year had pronounced – to the cheers of the homeless and the downtrodden - “Breathlessness is Deathlessness”? Pimp decides to go it alone and starts with – what else – the Iraq Occupation – Leave or Stay? A harangue and then a belligerent glare at his audience inviting comment – Gill comes up with a point, which Pimp promptly dismisses as a red herring. Then Julka takes up the political scenario – but then is he Democrat or Republican? So that’s another red herring. Before I know it, red herrings are flying fast and furious – it’s an Aquatic Maoist Convention! Nirmal Singh, pointing at Ravi, finally brokers peace with his intelligent and timely “yeh haath mujhko dede Thakur – nahin to kum se kum ek beer toh dede!”
Dinner is served and we troop in to a fabulous Indian repast – there are 20 dishes on the table – the prawn curry and dahi-bhallas are out of this world. Discreetly I break my record of helpings and then we retire to Rajive’s study and call some of the buddies in India. Prof King Mal is the first. A long conversation, peppered with much wit and wisdom.
And then Shorty, again with plenty wit, perhaps a mite short on wisdom. Pimp – inspired by Guvrus’s recent Himalayan pilgrimage to the Chaar Dhaams - wants to undertake this exact adventure. Extract of conversation:
“Hoi Shorty! That you? Listen, I wanna do chaa-dum!”
Sleepy mumble at other end. You can hear Shorty’s brain creaking. “You wish to do what?”
“Chaa-dum! Y’know, cha-cha-cha and dum-di-dum. There’s 6 of us here who wanna be in on it! Man do we hire a truck or what?”
Aggrieved noises without, and Shorty hangs up. We retire to the library for nightcaps and some more intellectual conversation.
Rajive and Indrani host us at the farewell brunch the next day at an Indian restaurant. Thakur and Pimp cannot make it but we do have a surprise, sprightly guest in our erstwhile Sociology Professor P P Singh, now 77. He gives me his views on the UPA crisis. And his phone no. Golguppas and chaat, beer and more beer, and then the main meal – kabas, biryaanis, you name it. Too much, man! And then the fond farewells as the Reunion comes to an official end – Nirmal and Prof Peepa drive off into the lazy afternoon, as do Mr. and Mrs. Gill. The Julkas, Gang and self get back to Johri Mansions. Its time for the Euro 2008 soccer Final, and you can’t have Gang missing that! Spain wins. And then it’s on to our respective destinations. Mine being Manhattan and work.
Indrani and Rajive, a million thanks for your hospitality. I had a lovely time. And it was great meeting up with Gang and Thakur after 1971!
PS: While on young Ravi Thakur, in a moment of weakness he invited me to his Princeton home for dinner on July 2nd – what an absolutely sensational cook Sonu is! Thanks folks! It was a fantastic evening! Just waiting for you both to get into India!