Suddenly, the voice from the sky booms out my number. The mass opens up in front of me, and I see the world outside. There are others like me, hoping that this be their final attempt. It almost feels like a stage of Contra, where all fights are boss fights. After this fight, I come back and rejoin the mass. Sometime later, my name is called out. The boss fight is over: I have won. The mass gets smaller. I look around and see a tall fellow. He seems to be surveying everyone present with stony eyes. I try to read his mind, but my short stature prevents any form of mental contact. I stand up, and try again...
Summers were late. Usually they end by June, followed by heavy rain till September, but here they started on 20.10.2010. Suit-boot pehen ke sab mess mein. The tension of Day Siphar writ large on their face. Little did they know the type of mess would soon change.
At 8 a.m., The Placecom Toughie (lol) called up some numbers. Those lucky people were told that for the rest of the day, their favourite word would be tanki. And then the procession began. Numbers called. Numbers logging out. Numbers logging in. Numbers signing out. Ramanujan and Aryabhatta would have been proud.
A projection showed the ones who could loosen their ties, at least till the next Sintex-related opportunity arose. The rest of the procession marched on, unendingly, from The Horizon to The Family of Teachers, from The Athenian Temple to Bihar, and from The Target to Taxila. And yet, apart from the rest, sat another group among them, slowly but surely confident that they were in more than one kind of mess.
By the afternoon, everybody was in tune with Surf Excel’s theme. Daag acche hain (Spots are good). Warm applause for the latest dhabba. Even cleanliness freaks and pimple-repelling (I don’t have a suitable word here, so I’ll go for) people were desperate for that one elusive dhabba.
One spot to rule them all
One spot to find them.
One spot to bring them all
And in the joy and sadness, bind them
By the time the Sipher had passed, there was, at best, muted celebration. Though 2 more days remained, self-doubt had started creeping in. Somewhere, creases of the brow reigned. Somewhere else, salt water ki nadiyan. And among them, and yet separate from them; exhausted but relieved, ready for the challenge next day; stood a band of soldiers with a mission. What had started well must be brought to its rightful conclusion.