The sun is scalding the dusty streets outside as I walk towards the administration building. I curse my luck on getting some of the lousiest beats in Lucknow as a rookie reporter. Can’t be helped, since I am the juniormost.
I am covering Lucknow University and it’s not a pretty beat. Posters of 35 year old student leaders stare hostilely at you from every wall. These neta’s do samaj seva and use bombs, guns and knives to persuade the recalcitrant. I met Vinod tripathy and had an almost meeting with Ranjeet Singh Baghel, two worthies of LU. The gentlemen are members of the Student’s Union and hate each other’s guts. Their supporters regularly shoot and hurl bombs at each other in every imaginable place; outside the VC’s office, inside the hostels, under the bike sheds, in the ladies toilets and occasionally in jail as well.
I walk into the Pro-VCs room without knocking. I need some quotes from him. He sits in a run down room with red paan stains on the wall. I sit opposite him. He is talking into the phone and to two people at the same time. Once he finishes he stares at me from behind his half-moon glasses. Next, the pan stained mouth opens and he asks me what I want? I reply I am from the ‘meediyah’. He is instantly ingratiating. I begin asking him routine questions for my story and he parries wonderfully. He talks without revealing anything.
The room has a stale smell about it and the overhead fan whirrs disconsolately. His chaprasi is hovering behind him like a cork bobbing in the sea. He has a worried look on his mousy little face and a spitton ready for when his boss will put two fingers to his mouth and spit out a red stream of pulverized pan and beetel nuts. The air conditioner in the room is on the verge of break down.
The door opens and a woman walks in. She is pretty and petit, in a vernacular kind of way. A typical UP behenji. Slim and lithe. Her small boobs peek out from the black chunni. her face is sharp and carries an uncanny sense of awareness and guile. She sits down and crosses her legs slowly, delibrately, but not fully. Five men walk in with her. They look menacing and ready to kill, her bodyguards. The hooligan outriders sit around her. They have the Pro-VC completely surrounded.
There is something exciting brewing in the room. I stare at the girl. I am presuming that they are all students. The girl is the centre of attention in the dull room. She is sexually stimulating; She knows this and makes full use of it. Her demenour is mildly menacing, this is what makes her alluring.
She addresses the Pro-VC, poor chap, with barely concealed contempt. Her tone is not too loud, but ‘dont mess with me’ at the same time. I wonder which of the guys is having a tumble with her between the sheets and feel mildly jealous. Her voice has me in rapt attention. She wants the Pro-VC to give her ‘group’ some university contracts. When she finishes her rant the room is silent, except for the echo of her voice in my mind. I look at the Pro-VC, he’s sweating. the light beads of perspiration on his brow reflect the white light from the tubelight. But he brazens it out well. He tries bluster, she’s not amused. He hums and haws about rules and regulations. She gives him a final look of scathing proportions, gets up and walks out of the room, her hips swinging to the beat of her goons footsteps.
It is moments like these that I love; the hidden dynamics in the air; the unexplained, but perfectly understood vibes; the raw sexuality that pierces the mundane moments of life like molten metal.
post script: The lady is apparantly a junior librarian. She’s called ‘juli’. The name comes from combining the first syllables of the two words, junior and librarian, written in hindi.