When the hour is late

by Ashish

There was a phase in my life, not too long ago, when the night held more meaning than day.

Now, of course, I go to work, and must seem respectable and presentable at reasonable hours – but as I was saying, in the not-too-distant past, Kulkani was a nocturnal ninja. A chubby ninja, I’ll grant you that, but a ninja nonetheless. When the day was done, and Pune’s honest toilers had retired from the public eye, Kulkarni and cronies would step into the dark night.

As would every other student worth his salt, of course. Because college life in Pune is incomplete without some late night escapades.

There is a particular charm to Pune at night. Even at the hieght of summer, the temperature drops appreciably. The roads are empty, the traffic is light. Almost every shop is closed, and for all appearances, the city is dead. Unless you know where to go, that is.

And in these nooks and crannies of this ancient city, life bustles along at three in the morning even. And when you are done with the guzzling or the swotting ot the discussing, or whatever it is that you were doing, at a suitably late hour in the night, you step out. Two or three bikes will whiz by on an empty road, five or six people huddled atop the contraptions.

They might be out for replenishments of intoxicants – and then they’ll be headed to Pyaasa, or to Khadki. Or they might be out to grab a smoke, and then they’ll head to either that little tapri on JM Road or to Shivajinagar. Or perhaps they are out for a bite, in which case they’ll head to Comesum, or to Nal Stop, or the many cafes outside Pune Station. Or perhaps they just want to sit and chat – and there’s no better place than the vicinity of Chandni Chowk.

But a good Puneri student hates sitting at home at night – the city beckons, and the Puneri roams. Long walks and passionate discussions. Many smokes and late games of pool, warm bottles of beer and occasional visits by the cops.

In which connection, a tale might be worth the telling. A certain group of friends -who shall all remain nameless – was sitting just behind MIT College, and guzzling beer. The hour was late, and a lot of beer had been drunk. As is often the case on such occasions, the beer eventually ran out. And again, as is often the case on such occasions, everybody earnestly felt that at least a couple more to each were called for.

Two road warriors agreed to temporarily head the Procurement Division, and set off on an old Kinetic, in decidedly wobbly fashion. They meandered down Karve Road, and landed in the LINS. To their credit, they emerged succesfully from LINS with a crate that tinkled deliciously on the floor of the Kinetic.

On Lakdi Pul, however, disaster struck. Two rather large specimens of the police department stood at the end of the Pul, waving their night sticks in ponderous fashion. It was clear to the sozzled twosome that the gentlemen in khaki wished to have a chat. And it is at this crucial point that the driver miscalculated.

His inebriated grey matter, steeped to the gills in ale, suggested that it might be better if some evasive maneouvering was resorted to. He listened, and just as they approached the cops, he swerved. He zigged, he zagged, and he evaded. Almost.

The Kinetic, unfortunately, was not designed to disco, and neither were out worthie’s reflexes. Before anybody knew it, the bike had crashed, and our friends were on the floor. The cops rushed over to the rider, to first check if he was all right, and secondly (no doubt) to give him right hell.

The rider groaned. He seemed all right at first glance, not too much damage. He looked up at the cops, a piteuous look on his face.

“Mama”, he said, with tears in his eyes.

“Mama… did the bottles break?”