A chance counter encounter

Amidst lamenting over the loss of my prized pen, I had to be content of reconnecting with a good old classmate in bargain, after so many decades, courtesy the encounter at the post office counter, writes Suresh Panje

post office

It was at the post office that I chanced to meet my childhood friend Jayant after decades. Over 65 summers ago, he was nicknamed ‘Giant’, being the weakest and meekest among us and meeting him the other day belied the logic of that nom de plume.

In fact, this unpredictable stumbling upon each other happened while I was jotting my name on an envelope and affixing the postage stamp when a curious skinny figure next to me literally breathed down my neck, just short of chewing my earlobes. Poor soul, he was in need of a pen to write the address on an inland letter. Exhibiting his dental structure for a flattering smile he uttered, “sir pen sir…”

His grin was similar to that of a pathetic railway passenger, tailing the TTE for a berth all along the platform and also in the aisle of a sleeper coach, praising him to the skies. And I had to oblige since I didn’t wish to displease a needy stranger. After a minute or two, I reminded him, “pen please.”

“Sorry sir, what’s the pin code of this place?” he asked. Grudgingly, I retorted, “Secunderabad 500003.”

Aare five lakh digits are for Hyderabad, as per my diary, am I right,” he intended to clarify.

While I remained silent, he continued, “Is Secunderabad in Hyderabad or Hyderabad in Secunderabad, similar to Cochin in Ernakulam or Ernakulam being a part of Cochin.”

His queer doubts were similar to those perplexing observations voiced by a certain clan of eager-beavers at a seminar and even some journos with the sole aim of being heard or recorded in the report on the proceedings of the particular event. Irked by his doubts, I had to bluntly tell him that Hyderabad may be in Secunderabad or Cochin may not be part of Ernakulam or vice versa, but surely my pen is wrongly in the pocket of his shirt.

It was the third ‘sorry sir’ from him and he questioningly ogled at my envelope with my name scribbled as the sender. “Sir are you the same Suresh who studied at Malleswaram Shishu Vihar followed by Arya Vidya Shala, Seshadripuram in Bangalore during early ‘50s?” he asked me.

At this I had to curtly reply, “Of course, I did and not at your cost.” Yet, he persisted. “You Suresh, supposedly a bright student to be a front bencher but usually standing up on the last row bench, in most of the periods… Wasn’t it so?” he quipped.

Losing my patience, on a stern note, I uttered, “Look, you may be a fortune-teller or a crystal gazer but don’t become a post-mortem specialist of bygone era, pilfering pens of others.”

“No sir, just to know if you’re your father’s son since he resembles you,” was his stock reply that prompted me to correct him that I look like my father and not the other way.

Still he was bent on probing further when I had to become almost ruthless to say, “If you’re that keen to be a biographer, better hunt for some other bloke starving for prominence and also one who can dispense with his or her pen for you to write such a story.” “Aare waat sir why insult me? Suresh, so much changed and has your memory too changed for you to forget me, your classmate Jayant, eh?” he prattled that surprised me.

“Oh, you rat, old fox,” I cried out and hugged him till the clerk from across the counter tapped me to move aside. Rejoicing I exclaimed, “Never mind, Giant. Well, I am still slim in physique without being a neta to stage hunger strikes every week. On the contrary, you’ve deceived yourself. So, come along with me now.”

Thus that afternoon, I dragged him to my pad and for more than three hours we revisited our nearly six decades of memories over a couple of cups of coffee. Once the nostalgic talks were over, Jayant insisted I spend a day with him during my next visit to Bengaluru. “Okay buddy, what’s your present address?” I asked him and instantly, he sought my pen to note it down. 

Of course, he jotted down his contact details on my notepad and departed with moistened eyes, for me to realise a few minutes later that my Sheffers pen had vanished going along with Jayant.

Amidst lamenting over the loss of my prized pen, I had to be content of reconnecting with a good old classmate in bargain, after so many decades, courtesy the encounter at the post office counter.

 

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