The Moonstruck Columns

Portugal To Panchpota!

Back in 2009, when I was new in my first year of college, one of my closest mates, Arka (pronounced Awrko as in ‘Awkward’) and I used to have wonderful adventures on campus. Though they might not seem that special, but sometimes, they were crazy enough to risk our reputation as good fellows among the professors.

One day, when triple physics and triple math in our respective departments drove us nuts, Arka and I decided to take the first chance we got to run out of our classes. Now we were stranded unemployed. We needed to do something of the time before recess. He suggested we should attend the seminar that was going on in the auditorium. When I started giving him a horrified look, he quickly said that he isn’t saying to actually pay attention to what was going on. In fact, he didn’t even know what seminar was it about, nor was he interested. But what he did know was that they were giving free attendance to whoever attended it.

Since I was out of any ideas at all, I thought it couldn’t be that bad. We could occupy a seat in the back and chat and get free attendance as well. Moreover, it was air conditioned as well. Seemed like quite a plan only that fate had an entirely different plan devised for the two of us.

Arka poked his head through the auditorium door and signaled me inside. I followed him. The auditorium was dimly lit, but the stage was brightly decorated with a long table equipped with microphones.

The entrance and the exit to the auditorium were on the back, so we didn’t have to walk too much and I settled myself near the back, a seat at the mouth of a row. I kept my eyes fixed to the front and whispered to Arka from the corner of my mouth.

“So, how long are we supposed to stay here actually?”

“It will be over around 2” he replied.

“Okay! So it’s your responsibility to keep me away from boredom. Those guys seem awful to listen to for three hours.”

“They are very well known people. The one in the left is from Portugal and he has come to tell us about…” (I still have no idea what he said or meant or even what language he was speaking.)

At this point, I was very much taken aback and almost felt like I was cheated and tricked into this situation and moreover I was surprised to discover that Arka actually knew what seminar was about.

“Oh! You actually know what’s going on? You are destined to touch the sky my boy!” I joked.

“Yes of course! In fact I think everyone should have attended this seminar!”

“People wouldn’t have stared at them even for 50 bucks!” I chuckled.

Now he seemed to take offence and said, “Good things don’t happen in our college because people are not interested in occasions like these.”

“What the hell is wrong with you, weren’t we supposed to come here for free attendance?” I said crossly. At that point of time, suddenly I got a text. It was from Arka!

I stared at the screen.

How on earth could that be possible! I jerked my head to see it was some nerd from the Electronics or Electrical Engineering department, sitting where Arka was supposed to be.

I sat there completely frozen. My face was vacant as my brain was doing all the weird thinking. My mobile phone still clenched in one hand and the other hand was apparently scratching my head.

The guy there wore a strange look, but I was busy with my own. I jerked back to the text and read, “Where the hell did you sit?”

“Oh man! You won’t believe I was talking to a nerd thinking it was you!” I replied back. “And he is actually interested in this crap!”

It looked impossible to hunt each other in that big crowd of intellectual people. He could have been anywhere. Now the quest began to find each other. Among one of the attempts, we decided to sneeze at the receipt of a text. But that failed, as five different sneezes came from five different places and I couldn’t spot anyone remotely as Arka.

I sat there thinking of ways of spotting him when he texted – “Look Sam, the guy up front, it is actually a figurine.”

“The guy beside me says he’s from Portugal!” I replied back. It was funny, because after I received this text, I stared at him for quite long and he didn’t even twitch which made me quite sure that it was indeed a figurine. Could be a figurine that is supposed to look like a guy from Portugal.

“That’s funny. If anyone wrote about his travels, it would be titled ‘Portugal to Panchpota’!” he texted. (Panchpota was the name of the area where our college was situated, but we are often ashamed to tell people that so we used Techno City instead.)

I almost fell down to the floor laughing. The guy beside me gave me a what-a-moron look.

After a few texts, I became quite certain that I couldn’t stand two more hours only texting. So I started getting desperate to spot Arka. And when my desperation crossed its limits, I finally did what I had to do.

I stood up, with all due respect to the Normal Engineering students’ code of conduct, I cleared my throat and – “Ma’am, I have a doubt!”

There was rubble. Many weird things happened at the same time.

The supposedly figurine from Portugal moved its head towards me, several heads turned and started talking and one of the lady professors sitting on the front desk brought the microphone closer to her mouth and said with utter surprise – “Young man, we haven’t started yet!”

The moment was perfect to be embarrassed.

But my mission was accomplished. I had spotted Arka, who nodded in reply starting to get up. There was not a way I could stay there for another moment and save my repute at the same time.

“Oh right! Sorry ma’am!” I said in a hurry, turning back and moving towards the exit, half-running, before anyone could catch my name.

I didn’t stop for Arka at the exit of the auditorium, but ran straight outside of the campus gates. Arka came a while later laughing and panting at the same time.

“Dude! That guy stirred! He was not a figurine!” I said breathlessly.

He started laughing even harder and said, “You actually think I was serious?”…


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