Two men I admire and one man I admire most
And in the streets the children screamed
The lovers cried and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died
- Don McLean in American Pie.
Three cities. Three quizzers. All leaving their towns.
I met the last amongst them in Pune for a quiz that he organised. I had obviously heard of him earlier. Agreed with some of what he had to say. Disagreed on some. Read a particularly poignant piece on
Anyway, we won the quiz. It was fun. Then, we went to eat steaks. Then, we started having occasional conversations. On wrestling. Great Khali. On other monsters. On fallacies. On quizzing. Borrowing from My Best Friend's Wedding, "There might not be Greek myth, there might not be art, by God there'll be quizzing."
Now, he's leaving. I knew him for too short a time to really know.
The second man I met in Madras. I used to have long hair then. We were in the middle of a purple reign, having not lost a single college quiz in a six months. As you can see, my life does revolve around that sport. We had gone down to IIT-Madras to reign over that part of town. I was met by this quizard who seemed to know more than I. How was that possible*?
Grudging resentment (the man knew about the lifestyles of the Rich and Famous in 16th century Iran) soon turned to grudging respect (the man knew his cricket) to admiration (the man can write about movies). However, all that was in the future. Back then in the sleepy hamlet of Madras, it was against him that we had our greatest moment. It was the IIT Madras/ Chennai AV Quiz Finals. We had four questions to go and were tied for second place with another team, eight marks behind the other team. We asked the joint second team for a friendly tie so that we can split the prize money*. They refused.
We decided to win. The last four questions were swatted out with aplomb and adrenalin (including identifying John Wilkes Booth as an actor, connecting a old black and white picture of a man to a photo of city lights taken from a high place (Mullholand Drive!) and two more). There were high-fives, there was inspired guesswork. There was of course a tie for the first prize. Which we won (courtesy Peggy Guggenheim, who was identified from the sneak peak of the canals behind her. I had been to Venice three months back!). He came up and congratulated us.
Since then, I have congratulated him many times since he has made winning a certainty. Now, he's leaving.
The third man is a close friend. Wish I could have spent more time with him now that he's going. Actually, that would have probably driven us to boredom or conflict. We are quite different. However, when I get into a deep introspective mood, he understands.
I had seen him first on a U-special to DU, where he used to write lyrics and poetry in his notebook and read it out to IP Girls. This habit used to make him quite popular. Then, we started landing up in the same quizzes in South Campus. Sometimes, we used to share the bus ride. Sometimes, we would start talking about Marcus Aurelius (actually, only he did) and writing a novel (again actually, only he really did). We would also discuss women, like other 18-year olds.
Since then, we have done treks, long road journeys, late night parties and early morning breakfasts at Madras Hotel. We have been the first to touch the Iron Pillar (next to Qutub) in the new millenium. We have collected hundred and twenty-seven grey stones in Alang (they did look colourful then). We have drunk the night away in Cafe Mondegar and left the bebinca in the taxi on the way back. We have met Bebinca at Baroda at 4 am. We have thought about our thirtieth birthdays and how we will meet in New York (or was it Amsterdam). On one famous birthday, we have scarred a waitress at Pizza Hut (again, only he did). We have said Happy New Year to each other first. We have never made resolutions. We have eaten vegetable sheek kababs in CP before going to watch 'Ek aur ek gyaraah'. We have taken on the prince of Walkaner in one famous assault when all we wanted was tea. We have sung American Pie in front of Toto's along with complete strangers for all eight and a half minutes. We have basked in the applause of autowallahs after that. We have loved, lost, kept secrets, confided. "LSR mein to tera hamesha hi katta hai" is the motto. (In LSR, yours always gets cut)
Sunday, we will see each other at the farewell party. There will be others. So, I don't know how much we'll talk. Then, he'll leave but in many ways (especially those narrow ones in Nizamuddin and Jangpura), he will stay with me.
* We're silly, competitive and broke then. While we continue to feel the same way (except for the broke part), we have gone through such a huge number of losses since then that it doesn't hurt any more. We have become Colin Montgomerie.