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Aneesh Lohani


The Gang’s Good Friday

“Yes! That’s blues pentatonic with melodic minor undertones – bluesy-jazz workout as usual. I was hoping Prang to be more adventurous in their third release.” Bikash shrugged in resignation, squinting at the beer glass in despair. It was quite obvious that he was dissatisfied with the band. Rohan, on the other hand, was diplomatically content with the release, just as he was with anything hovering on the other side of tolerance. He tried hard not to entertain Bikash’s proliferation of complaints. A conversation that usually ended in a pointless debate furthered by gleefully accepted replenishments of alcohol throughout the course of the night. “Come on, Man! It’s Friday Night. Forget about the album”, pleaded Rohan. He and Bikash were school chumps and musical companions. They went to school together and went about their music together – Rohan playing the chord changes and Bikash exploring the fretboard. Both of them were professional guitarists. “Ok man, screw Prang”, agreed Bikash. “About time”, puffed the bartender in relief. “But, where is the gang? We’re the only ones in early every time”, complained Bikash.

Babal Bachhan was stranded in a traffic jam, as usual. As joked within his circle of friends, BB was the one to blame for the ebb in traffic flow in the city. And, he was to be avoided in case of a complete cessation in traffic; for he surely had a showdown with his boss recently. BB killed the ignition and reached for the phone. “I should be there in about half an hour. Keep the ‘muh-ye-fil’ propitious with sharab and shabab”. “Sure BB. And, you keep the roads propitious for vehicular movement”, put in Rohan. A roaring laughter echoed throughout the bar – both the buyers and pushers were its source. A vitriolic retort spurted from BB’s end and he hung-up. He was the unparalleled master of articulate swearing – an unintended by-product of his journalism. “BB imbroglio?” inquired Bikash. “Yes, mate”, replied Rohan. BB, namely Kishor, was nicknamed Babal Bachhan. He had a penchant for Amitabh Bachhan’s dialogues ‘under the influence’. The gang enjoyed his inebriation for its humorous efficacy and BB enjoyed the attention; especially from the girls.

“That leaves His Excellency and Shushma. I wonder when the duo are going to show up”, wondered Bikash. “I see the emissaries of melody have begun their recreational pilgrimage over the bottle. Or, shall I call you drunks minus the euphemism.” His Excellency had managed once again to accost the musical duo from the rear, announcing his arrival; which also meant that Shushma wasn’t far behind. Shushma and His Excellency were neighbors, and friends to BB and the musical duo. Ten years had passed since their final day in school, but their kinship hadn’t. They had all pursued various careers after school, but had managed to stay in touch. And, Fridays served to make that experience more tangible. Rajeev, His Excellency, had a successful law practice. He also had a good practice of reading, reading more, and then reading even more. Books lead to more books and he turned into a nerd with faiths in philosophy, physics and psychology – tenets of his developing religion. Or, perhaps, prognosis of his inevitable insanity! Rajeev had much in common with the Victorian English gentleman than he had with his friends. The gang had no choice but to recognize his posh demeanor and salute him in kind.

“It’s so benign of Your Excellency to have graced us nonentities with your presence. We couldn’t afford a red carpet with flowers, but I’m sure Your Excellency will forgive our menial shortcomings. Please accept our humble welcome, instead”, pleaded Rohan with a bantering nod from Bikash. A semblance of a chuckle escaped Shushma’s lips. “By all means gentleman. I am, of course, honored”, replied Rajeev with a grin. Shushma was the exact opposite of Rajeev in all respects. While he was a realist, Shushma was a bona fide romantic. An English professor well regarded for her leadership and aura. She was a woman of probity and moral high ground. The gang had known all along that certain ambiguous and unexplored chemistry existed between the two. Shushma appreciated Rajeev’s intelligence and his respect for women. Rajeev unwittingly relied on Shushma’s frequent company to ballast himself on the warranted end of ingenuity versus insanity.

As soon as Babal Bachhan entered the bar, he saw promising signs of ‘shabab’ at 3 o’ clock and ‘sharab’ at 12 o’ clock. The only reason he was an hour late was either because of his driving mastery or his bar hopping habit. He was usually a bit ‘hammered’ before the big gatherings. BB immediately turned right towards 3 o’clock. “Ladies, please allow me to pour my heart in respect of you all. In relation, I’m father of most – name is Kishor. May I buy you ladies refreshments to assuage the intensity of this rather warm evening”, asked BB accentuating the ‘warm’ part. Giggles instantly poured from 3 o’ clock where the girls were ensconced. They nodded in agreement. “BB, get over here!” commanded Shushma. A slight twitch of the cheeks overcame BB’s countenance in irritation. “I’ll be back, ladies. Enjoy the evening”, wished BB. “Take your time”, said one of the ladies. “I see buffoons are overwhelmed with the challenges of focusing on priorities. Or, make that another drunk minus the diplomacy”, blurted His Excellency at BB with one palm held askew complementing his speech. “Good Friday to you all”, announced BB and brandished a fist at Rajeev with a grin and jerked Shushma’s hair. “Ouch!”

After quick exchanges of handshakes and nods, the gang spent some time recalling days long gone in nostalgia. They talked about how BB had once hurled a chalk at his teacher. When the teacher had complained about the ‘dhunga muda’ in the classroom, he had asked the teacher to wear a helmet from the following day. They also talked about the alley dog that had chased Shushma, and Bikash’s guitar that had succumbed to mimicry of Hendrix’ stage gimmicks. The gang laughed and complimented each other for their part in each others’ lives. And, as the night grew older, they disbanded into groups. Rajeev and Shushma talked about philosophy. The musical duo went back to musicology, and BB went back to the girls. Good Fridays for the gang served in bringing Shushma and Rajeev closer together. It also served in letting BB’s wit loose and the musical duo’s passion for music afloat. Good Fridays for the gang were about friendship, individuality and character; about recreation and escape from the ironic realities of life.

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