Nitesh Kumar was a second year acting student while I was at the film institute. He has an identical twin brother Nilesh Kumar about whom quite a lot of them, on campus, knew. But some dint.
But this note is not exactly about these two lovely people. Its about another lovely friend, mostly lost in his own world, who did not know about Nilesh’s existence.
It must have been 4:00 am when this friend was walking back to the new hostel from the boy’s hostel after some good amount of alcohol and smoke. As he was nearing the Wisdom Tree, on his way back, he saw two people crossing the main theater, walking in from the main gate and assumed it must be some fellow students coming back from Nal Stop.* As he was nearing them and they nearing him he saw two similar looking faces! “Did I overshoot my limits while drinking and smoking?” were his immediate questions to himself as soon as he saw Nitesh and Nilesh, unable to come to terms with what he saw! He rubbed his eyes, shook his head and looked at the two again. His eye balls popped out of his eyes. As he was looking with utter disbelief Nitesh and Nilesh wished him with a warm smile. Their smile, to his frightened mind, looked frightful and a bit vicious too. He did not smile back. He couldn’t. He put his head down and continued to walk thinking the intake of intoxicants must have caused an illusion. But the ever curious mind wanted to look back and clarify if what he saw was actually true. By then Nitesh and Nilesh were wondering why this chap had not returned the smile. They were curious to see if our man was in his senses. So coincidentally when our man turned to look at Nitesh and Nilesh, the two also turned back to see our man. The two identical faces turning back at once and looking back at him scared the shit out of him. RUN, he told himself and his legs acted on the command of his mind. He ran towards the main gate and got back to his room, sweating and panting.
Next morning while we were having breakfast in the canteen Nitesh and Nilesh entered the canteen and our hero looked at them and asked me, “Sam, yeh dono sahi mein hai kya?” I did not understand what he meant. I asked him, “What?” and he rephrased his question, “Woh dono twins hai kya?” When I said, “Haan woh uska bhai hai Nilesh,” our man explained what had happened the previous night and said, “Meri toh gaand phat gayi thi. Mujhey ek pal ke liye laga mainey gaanja zyaada pee liya hai. Baad mein laga bhoot woot hoga.” I was literally rolling on the floor and laughing. “Aap hanso. Socho yaar aadhi raat mein khaali campus mein do chehra ek jaisa ek saath dikhe toh haalat kya hogi?”
(*There is a canteen at Nal Stop which opens at 3:00 am and serves good poha and upma. It used to be our savior when we would be a witness to the night handing over the baton to day in the relay of time.)
L.K. Advani in his blog wrote, recently, about RSS giving meaning to his life. His writing has come a day after Rahul Gandhi said in his speech that RSS ideology killing Mahatma Gandhi.
In his blog Mr. Advani has said that he joined RSS after his matriculation. As I read it suddenly I remembered my joining of RSS for I too had joined RSS after my matriculation. I must correct myself. I did not join RSS but my association, for a short span, with RSS began in the days I had completed my 10th exams. I must explain this. Hence this blog.
The first time I remember having heard of RSS was from my dad. He was, once upon a time, an active participant of the shaakha. From years now he hasn’t participated in any of RSS function but RSS at some deep level has made a slight impact on him. I can’t remember what exactly he had said but he had spoken about it with such admiration that to my mind it looked like some spectacular thing like the seven wonders of the world. Because in my mind RSS was something spectacular I thought it must be existing in some big places like Delhi, Bombay or some historical places like Ajanta, Agra, Sanchi, Konark etc. With all its spectacle it was some distant thing.
Then when we were in High School couple of my classmates who were a part of RSS used to discuss about theshaakha and how “fun” it is. That is when I heard it again in my life and realized that RSS has a local unit too! Though the idea of joining RSS, because it is supposedly “fun”, crossed my mind I was too obsessed with cricket to sacrifice evening for some other “fun.” In one of those days a friend of my Dad, who later I learnt as a sangh prachaarak, had come home. He knew of my oratory skill and speaking of that he told my dad, “Your son should be enrolled with the Sangh. He will become disciplined and he can become a good asset to the Sangh.” I did not like him saying, “He will become disciplined.” It hurt my ego. Hence I started avoiding any talks that was remotely close to RSS.
Those days we around 15 friends used to hang out together and be a part of evening sports and all other mischief. All of us stayed in the Manipal Institute of Technology quarters as all our parents were working in MIT. At the time I was about to complete matriculation we had started spending our evenings at the Faculty Club of MIT. There we used play carom. When the board was already occupied and we did not get to play we would just sit and talk dismissing everything under the sun and making fun of everything in our teen arrogance.
Such was life and one day during vacation that followed matriculation exam (2000) we were all sitting and “wasting time.” A colleague of my Dad, from the department of Architecture, came and sat with us. We all felt slightly uncomfortable when he arrived. But couldn’t avoid him because he worked with our parents!
He asked us our names and went on telling us the meaning of our names and impressed the naïve minds. He, I remember, asked us what games we play and when we said “cricket” he said how it is not an Indian game and how hockey is the Indian game. As this discussion was going on the birds were flying back to their nests. He started naming the birds and started speaking about them in detail and that is when he had won our hearts.
The next evening when he met all of us at the Faculty club he asked us if we spent our evenings “just like that,” and when we said something in the positive he said, “I will teach you all Surya Namaskaar then. Let us make good use of time for making the best of ourselves.” We too did not have any alternate plans for our evenings so we agreed. Our classes began. That evening we were just taught to just breathe deep. We decided to meet early the next evening and have our classes.
Excited about the Surya Namaskaar classes we all arrived at the Faculty Club early the next evening. Our senior friend arrived on time and suggested we go to the banks of Manipal lake to do Surya Namaskaara. That excited us even the more. We all walked from the Faculty Club, which was located near the Manipal lake, to the banks of the Lake which dries up in summer. We were all made to stand in a line and were taught Surya Namaskaara. After the Surya Namaskara we all sat in a circle and did some deep breathing. While getting up we were told to get up without putting our hand on the ground and pushing ourselves up. “It shows how fit and strong you are,” we were told. We tried. While some could get up without the support of their hand the others struggled. “Slowly you will learn this and more,” we were told. We enjoyed this “new” experience and were all the more excited about “and more,” for which we were looking forward.
The next day after the Surya Namaskaar we all sat in a circle and there was no deep breathing. We were taught some patriotic song. We enjoyed it. On the following day following the song we were asked who our favourite national leaders. During that session we were should refer to our country as “Hindustaan” or “Bharath” and not “India,” because it was a name given by the British.
After a few days when we had learnt the songs and discussed about some national leaders we were asked if we wanted to play some games. By then the teacher had won our hearts so much that we agreed to whatever he said. “Lets play Kabbadi,” he said and we ended up playing Kabbadi.
After a few days of Kabbadi we were asked if we wanted to play “Cow and the Tiger.” We were game for it. After a couple of games the name of the cow became a Hindu name (Raam, if I not wrong) and the Tiger’s name became a Muslim name- Babur. Back then it did not strike to us that a larger discourse was out there. We were naïve and saw it as just a game. After that day’s game we all sat down for a while to relax and that is when we were asked if we knew who Ram is and what is greatness is. Following that we were told of Babur and all the damages that he did.
In one of the following days we were taught an anthem of the group. “Namaste Sada Vatsale…” something something. On that day we were asked to suggest some name for “Our shaakha.” Not all understood what a “Shaakha” meant. We were told about RSS “of which we are all a part” and that our unit should have a name something like, “Shivaji.” We were asked to “think at home” and tell the name on the next day.
Though we were not interested in any sort of politics, politics was interested in us. We did not understand all of that. We were too naive and it was our naivety which was being exploited and encashed by an RSS prachaarak.
That day after our classes, I remember, we friends had a meeting. We were enjoying all of these evening sessions but this “Shaakha” bit made us angry because “We were not told earlier that it was RSS and Shaakha.” Not that we had some ideological opposition to it but in our those days vocabulary it was “cheating,” because we were made a part of something by tricking us to games and fun. Our egos were super high and we disliked the fact that truth was hidden from us.
We boycotted the “shaakha” from the next day.
After a few days one of us met the ‘teacher’ who asked what was wrong. “Nobody is in town,” the teacher was told then after a few days when someone else happened to meet him, “College has begun and there is a lot to study,” was given as an excuse.
Though we boycotted the “Shaakha” at some level those talks on patriotism etc etc did make an impact on us. At some level we all had started believing that Babur was an enemy and that Mughals damaged the rich heritage and culture of our country and they were followed by the British.
But to my luck, during those days, another friend had joined the 15 of us making our friends circle count 16. He was the only Muslim in our circle. He became quite a good friend to me because both of us were movie buffs.
When the 2002 carnage of Gujarat happened on one evening these very friends called this Muslim friend “a terrorist” and he ran with tears in his eyes. I followed him because he was a friend and not because of any other reason. When I was consoling him he had said, “RSS is a terrorist organization.” I did not take that seriously and thought that was just a reaction. But that incident troubled me much because there was a fight within friends because of “some violence in Gujarat.” In the days following I was very much disturbed by what had happened right in front of my eyes and when I went on linking it to the larger politics I was convinced about what my friend had said.
That incident brought me out of the RSS influence too and made me look at history politics and society in a different way and in a different light. My politics my beliefs and my ideology started getting shaped in those days. Like we can learn silence from the talkative, patience from the impatient I was almost pushed to secularism because of RSS and its hate politics. Else I was an apolitical, influenced by some RSS though-lines. Again, in life, it got proven that politics is interested in you even if you are not interested in politics.
So in a way RSS gave meaning to my life too- if I can say in a lighter tone and as a backhanded statement 😀