Now I Can Sleep

Puspankar’s house was down a lane in the Ruksin market vicinity. We had to tiptoe in past the gate because the way in was being freshly macadamized, and besides, it was night time. We had to use the back entrance. Once inside the back door I stood in front of people I had never met before. On my left beside the kitchen and sink was a girl in her teens, peeling potatoes, and standing close to the gas burner was a short woman whom I took to be Puspankar’s mom, I would have wanted to study her face and get to know her—the resemblance between her and Puspankar if there were any but for now it was I who was the object of study. I had taken them by surprise appearing like that with Puspankar. In front of me were two girls seated on a sofa, they had that distinct thing that all schoolgirls have: an unwritten blank boundless future. These schoolgirls had been watching Bollywood songs on the T.V which was on my left.
“Puspankar Da, why don’t you introduce him to us?” One of the girls, the taller and slimmer one said. She had large piercing eyes.
“Hi,” I said instantly, smiling, “I am Puspankar’s friend.”
They did not look at me. I could not even tell if they heard me or not.
“Puspankar Da, you always bringing home friends who are working. You alone have not yet got a job.”
So she had heard me. Should I tell that I had no job?
“Son, what clan do you belong to? Puspankar’s mom asked.
Doley,” I replied.
“Then they are your sisters.”
I turned to the girls—
“What is your name?” to the slim, bold girl with the sharp eyes. “Oikoneng,” she replied. Oh what a name. And yours I turned to the younger one.
“Kangkan,” she said.
I smiled at them.
“Mom, we have to go now,” Puspankar said.
“Won’t you be eating dinner at home?” she asked.
“No,” he said, “We will be eating outside.”
“Don’t drink, don’t be too late returning,” she said.
“Ok,” he said, “C’mon let’s go”—to me.
I followed him out of the gate, careful not to step on the fresh macadamize.
*
Back in Diram’s room, in my favourite position. Up on the bed, propped against the wall that was beginning to crumble down, with the dusty blanket over my knees. There was the whole gang in the room. Diram had Jio internet and an earphone with one-plug working, I made excellent use of them, the others were drinking beer (Just 50 Rs., from Ruksin market), they let me be and I felt lucky to have friends like them and enjoy the latest Wes Anderson movie trailer: Isle of Dogs. Set in the Japanese Archipelago, a tribute to the films of Akira Kurosawa and it was the fourth time I was seeing it. I looked up feeling euphoric about the Japanese drum piece and the twelve-year old protagonist on a mission to save his pet-dog. Pappu Thakur was smiling beside me, Pranjal Kumbang was all smiles too, Puspankar led the discussion, K.K and Ribang giving testimonials. The subject was the incredible transformation of Diram from the shy, women-free person to Diram the playboy. Two sisters, two best friends, separately and clandestinely in love with one person: Diram Lala Bori. ‘Any romantic feelings for a twelve year old are like entering into a fantasy world,’ I mentally affirmed a Wes Anderson quote. Right there I felt nice feeling like a twelve year old boy. In front of me was the gang together again in one piece. Something cracked—I had moved my back up the wall to lean straighter. What was it? I reached behind my back and caught a small piece of the cement layer dislodged from the wall, and before anyone saw it I placed it gently beneath the bed. Pappu Thakur passed me a lighted cigarette, I took a puff or three and extended it towards K.K—K.K does not smoke—so I passed it to P.K.
*
Next day:
I was on my favorite spot on the bed (again). Earlier in the day we had rode into Arunachal Pradesh on a scooty. Across paddy stubble and thick tropical wilderness we had sprinted up a hillock. I noticed a tiny hole in my Quechua sweater, just beneath the chest area. It did not require much thought to realize that it was a fresh cigarette ash that had done it. Now I had three shirts with similar holes, they remind me of good times in the past, good times like now. Diram was smoking Janata Bidi. It was true that Diram had turned into a playboy. His heart had been broken by true love, and now he was a playboy. It is easy to find the love of women once you have gone through the ecstasy, grief and pain of that one singular and unrequited great love of your life. The whole thing is such a cliché, that it is almost laughable. But it takes guts: going out at night and fucking your girl at her home. More guts than what Diram still considers next level: Me sincerely patting a girl on her ass, in public, years ago back in Delhi.
“Diram, What I liked about you was you were not affected by the glitter and dazzle of Delhi. You did not bother much about money or about how you dressed or looked. Amidst all those hot girls of Vijay Nagar you had no problem walking in and out of your room in an ordinary half-pant and t-shirt. A humble, kind, down-to-earth person, someone very rare—
—You guys were a blessing to me those days. It feels like a nightmare remembering those days—all that energy, youth and arrogance with no clue which disaster I was heading towards—
—I still have the energy, more so, but I know where to direct them,” I finished my little speech.
“What I liked about you was your honesty. I have never met a more honest person than you. In fact brutally so! With yourself and with everyone. I admired that in you. One good thing that I did in Delhi was making the decision to come back home. I could not sleep at night. I could not fall asleep thinking about my back papers. It took me two years to gather the guts to call up my parents and tell them that I was failing in DU. And I might sound proud—probably every son feels that way about their parents—but I have the best parents in the world. They understood my decision and supported me.”
“Yeah, you did the right thing man! And I know your parents are amazing. I met them only once but I know they are amazing. Your dad and mom. My parents are not so understanding, they still have a lot of materialistic greed.”
“Now I can sleep. That’s one of the biggest achievements of my life,” Diram said. He slept like a log last night.
“Yeah, being able to sleep is a big achievement.” I said, “It is proof of a happy consciousness.”
“So, what do you want to eat tonight?”
“I love anything you cook—something boiled and plain.”
“Ok,” he said, “Tonight we will have typical Diram-style dinner.”
“Hey, tomorrow morning I am gonna just get up at five and leave. You need not walk me out,” I said.
“OK,” Diram said smiling, "You do what you do."

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