A combination of serendipity, sage like advice and my own urge to move out of Chennai landed me in Karaikudi. My first step on the soil of Karaikudi would have given any Bharathiraja movie opening a run for its money. The railway station with its huge banyan tree seemed to welcome me with open arms as did my father’s cousin (who lived there). The roads had a dusty and dry look to it. There was a slight doubt in my mind: ‘Have I made the right choice?’ This was my first experience outside of Chennai and despite the general friendliness all around; there was a queasy feeling in my stomach. In a way my initial inhibitions were good – as in whatever nice was to happen to me in the following days was doubly sweet and any deviations from the niceties were expected – so to say.
Murugappa Hall was the place where we all assembled for our admission. The place was teeming with multitudes of boys and girls just out of their schools. If ever there was one commonality amongst us, it was he wide eyed anxiety that was seen across all our faces. Almost all of us had come with our parents. In the glut of activities that took place, we befriended some. But mostly it was a case of testing the waters. Spontaneity lost out to calculated and practised curtsey as the number of strangers far outnumbered the acquaintances and the sole constant was the we had to live together………in SCH.
SCH – the semi circular hostel was where we 1st yr boys had to stay. It was one expansive hostle with neem and peepul trees all around. There were about 60 rooms in all, across 3 floors with 4 guys made to share a room.
I was allotted room 212 and had roomies from Chennai, Trichy and Chengalpet. It was a really diverse group with even more diverse tolerance levels; the consequence of which was that in the span of 2 months it was divorce by mutual consent. This marked the beginning of an eventful stay in Karaikudi. I moved over to R211 as a non resident citizen to make it 5 in a room. This room was no less diverse. But more importantly each of us complimented each other wonderfully.
There was Nattamai, the venerable wise guy of our group whose wisdom increased in direct proportion to the no. of days he remained without a bath. A connoisseur of good food, good music, good gossip…..you name it, he likes it. A practical and a principled guy – what we dreaded most in him was his mace like left hand and his paranoiac affinity to illaiyaraja.
The we had TC. One of the most sincere sigamani you would ever come across. Owner of an acerbic tongue which he wielded sparingly, TC famously lived by the clock. I have never seen a person whose bio clock is as synchronized with our time clock as is TC. A very hard working person who tends to get anxious a bit too much – he went on to become the pride of the Pulsar family.
Following these two was THE man. Quarter – the mirasdar of Managorai; where his fellow Managorians used to send a herd of goats across the road to stop a route bus. He was one guy who never got tired of nakkals, naiyyandi and all other wise cracks which used to be under perennial production courtesy quarter. He was liked by one and all; so much so that any and every passing person used to inflict a mortal wound on him. He was and is my conscience keeper; someone I can always bank on to get the true picture of anything without any frills. He is one of the few guys who is almost always in the quest of self improvement. Also he is probably the only guy who is a teetotaler and yet seems like a congenital drunkard. Quarter needling nattamai was a sight fit for the gods. We used to split our guts out trying to control our laughter.
The other legal member of the room was mottai – from the forests…..err …tea estates. So much has been said of this guy and I shall contribute my two pence to it. He is someone who comes closest to my definition of a soul mate. He was all that a person would ever want to be…and more. Where I faltered, he stood firm; giving me the courage to fight once again. This apart……he was famous for turning a quack of a dentist in Madurai into a rich man in the course of our 4 years.
Then comes yours truly. I was similar to nattamai in maters involving bath. I was one of the lazier guys here, preferred novels over academics, took pleasure in facing off with lecturers, and slept like an oaf. Along with Scientist, we formed the sleeping beauties of our room.
Which brings us to the 6th member….yes…one more non resident…..Scientist is his name. for him bath and sleep are inverse functions and he doesn’t leave us to doubt as to what he prefers more. He was a sedate guy with a keen mind. Very helpful by nature…and as much a mech.engg as he was a compsci one.