PARAMITA DEY - CHAMPION
I am called by the name, Ulric. The prospect of party and jest has always piqued my ecstasy. My exhilaration knows no bounds when someone asks me to tag them along in a party. Another party is awaiting me today.
I am extremely excited and over the moon to attend a party with my college buddies. My group of friends has remained constant for a long time now. We have not lost touch even after a considerable amount of time has passed since we graduated from Jorhat Engineering College. Twenty years sure is a very long time and the fact that we have managed to preserve and protect our bond from the vicissitudes of life is no mean feat. The seven of us used to be always together. However, I am not aware of what exactly they are doing these days. Other boys in college would call us “ The 7 Musketeers” and mostly, they would call us an “ Unlucky Group”. What is still fresh in my mind is that I topped the list of the most unlucky students amongst the seven of us as I was star crossed. Our group was popular because we were all-rounders. We actively and successfully discharged all our duties like participating in annual games, inter hostel competitions, always ready to help friends in need etc. Other than that, we were also famous or rather, infamous, for drinking the whole night during good and bad occasions and not completing project assignments on time. Thus, my group excelled wherever it set its foot but we majorly lagged in studies. It was impossible for us to excel in engineering as we did in other fields. Nevertheless, I was better than the most as I never failed a semester. I do not want to come across a braggart but I passed all semesters with minimum cut off marks and sometimes with grace marks. I would burn the midnight oil a day before the exam with my other 6 buddies who too were sailing on the same boat as mine. In my group, I would get the least marks because the papers did not cover what I had studied. Instead, questions were asked from the portions that I chose to leave. The story of my bad luck does not end here. None of my romantic interests reciprocated me with the same fervour. All of them turned down my proposal. I was indeed unlucky. Amongst us, Nilesh, Uilliam and the twin brothers Christop and Kanti had girlfriends. My jealousy shot up especially during Valentine’s day although I made sure to not put my envious side on display. On the contrary, I used to wrap the gifts meant for their respective girlfriends with golden papers. I am unsure of why I used to choose the color gold, maybe I was fond of the colour then. That was not all, I also wrote romantic poems on their behalf.
Nilesh was born in an affluent family. Both his parents were established entrepreneurs and we all knew he would join the family business after college. But he was divested of emotional and psychological support. Since his childhood, he used to see his parents only once a year during his birthdays. His parents were so engrossed in their work that it was impossible for them to take some time out of their busy schedule to be with their son. A group of au pairs and maids have brought him up since his childhood.
Uilliam was the most handsome amongst us and undeniably, the most popular with girls. He was always conscious of his physical appearance and left no stone unturned to enhance his looks. His obsession with fitness had him hooked to the gym. Emilly, the blue eyed beauty with long silky hair made a great match with him. Even though he hardly studied before exams, he was still able to pass semester.
Christop and Kanti were identical twins. However on an acute observation, it was easy to point out that Christop had bluish green eyes while Kanti had greenish blue eyes. I wonder how Pooja and Susane identified them. Susane argued a lot with Christop. While hearing their argument, we would wonder what would happen if he gets cardiac arrest? The twins were plagued with heart disorders right from their birth and hence, the doctors advised them to steer clear of heavyweight and stressful activities.
Luna was the apple of his parent’s eyes. He belonged to a lower middle class family. His father was a truck driver who never got a chance to receive education. His father worked hard to eke out a living and would work assiduously day in and day out to earn sufficient funds to pay Luna’s college fees. We all loved sharing our books with him since it was difficult for him to buy his own.
Yaron was the last entrant to our syndicate whose luck seldom favours them. He was another reason for our group being hailed as ‘unlucky’. His parents parted ways when he was as young as 2 years old and they had moved on in their respective lives. His custody was with his maternal grandmother who was an angel-figure for him. She passed away when he was in his last semester, leaving him devastated and miserable. He could have superseded me as the unluckiest person in the group but then came the news of my father’s demise, and my position was intact. The fact that I was supposed to spend the rest of my life without the guidance and blessings of my father shook me completely from within. His death brought about a change in me.
I don’t remember how I used to feel when people addressed us as an “unlucky group”. What I remember and cherish the most is that myself, Nilesh, Luna, Uilliam, Christop, Kanti and Yaron were best buddies and we had time of our lives in college. I vividly remember the drinks and the conversations we had at the farewell party. The day was special because we laid bare our ambitions and dreams in front of each other. My sole aim was to attain a good job, marry and settle down. None could shake my resolve to make my son the luckiest kid ever, unlike me. Luna expressed his desire to get a job at the earliest so that his father could rest and be finally free from the struggle of toiling hard. Uilliam was worried because Emilly’s parents were looking for a wealthy groom for her. He let it out at times that he desperately needed a job. The twin brothers wished to complete masters before taking up a job. They were also bothered by the medical protocol in the companies wherein fitness of the employees was a prerequisite. Yaron drank like a fish. He rested on the hostel bed, with stretched legs and closed eyes and whispered in delirium, “ I will have lots of children so that I never again be lonely in life”. And yes, loneliness haunted him the most.
My heart was beating fast as I handed my car keys to the reception for parking. I headed towards the restaurant in spite of the raging nervousness. However, a mere sight of my friends wiped every vestige of nervousness. With an explosion of laughter and a plethora of hugs, we all greeted each other to our heart’s content.
Ulric : You all look so different, Uilliam you look the same …
The same old Uilliam with grey hair touching his eyebrows, added to his matured look.
Nilesh (smiling) : Ulric, I last heard about your marriage. Do you have sons?
Ulric: I married my colleague who was also my good friend. Aasmi, my daughter will soon turn 12. After several years of legal process, we finally adopted her. When we first saw her, we felt a divine connection with the 6 month old. Whenever we see her grow, it gives us immense satisfaction, I mean fulfilment….I mean completeness.. Aaah!! it's an inexplicable feeling.
Ulric (leaning towards Nilesh): Nilesh, you must be a billionaire by now?
Nilesh: Of Course, a billionaire in terms of love and happiness, but not so much in terms of money. After college, my wife, Julia, and I started an NGO with an aim to dedicate our lives in service of poor and needy children. We decided not to have our own kids but honestly, the amount of happiness we get in the company of these adorable kids is immeasurable to say the least.
Luna: You are a billionaire in the true sense of the word.
All applaud for him
Nilesh: What about our handsome boy?
Ulliam: Aah! You guys are the same, still pulling my leg. My wife passed away 5 years ago, leaving behind our son. After college, my relentless attempts to get a job proved futile. Then, Emilly suddenly caught me off guard with her wedding invitation. I got into the gymnasium business and today, I own a chain of gyms in all the major cities. I hope you must have heard about “Ronny Fitness Studio”, it’s after my son Ronny. Ronny too is a fitness freak, you see. Ha Ha !
All nod and laugh
Nilesh (in a whispering tone): Yaron, do you have lots of kids?
Yaron: Ha ! Ha ! I married thrice and have a son with my first wife. I am trying to find my luck in the prospect of my 4th wedding, which will be finalized soon.
All (nodded together): That’s the spirit….Excellent!!
Yaron: The custody of my son is with my ex wife but he would come down every weekend and we would have a gala time together. These moments with my son are priceless because they let me forget all my worries and troubles.
Ulric: Whom are we missing here? Where are the twins?
Yaron (with a heavy heart): I really wish that they are fine. Some years back, I heard that they were not keeping well.
Yaron: Luna, tell about yourself.
Luna: I got a decent job after college. I am still serving my parents and choose to be single.
Nilesh: But why single? Do not wish to destroy a woman’s life?
A sudden outburst of laughter followed
Luna: No specific reason, it just didn’t happen. I have come to realize that a life of adventure is my calling; my heart cannot rest until it has been spurred to experience thrill and excitement of highest order. Last month, I tried trekking to the base camp of Mount Everest, located at an altitude of 17500 feet high. I almost reached the camp but alas! What’s life without a horde of surprises being thrown our way? I got an emergency call from the office. If it weren’t for that call, I would have made all of you proud.
All nodded in appreciation and acknowledgment
Ulric: We all are happy in our respective lives. It’s so good to see that the “unlucky” group finally turned out to be lucky.
Luna: Were we not lucky then in college?
Nilesh: To be honest, I have fond memories of those days. I think of those days in times of distress and despondency and trust me, reminiscing them brings a smile on my face.
Yaron: True, I still cherish and bask in the memories of my youthful and mischievous days.
Luna: Those were the glorious days of my life. Did any of you know that we were called an unlucky group because of the initials of our names?
Ulric: It’s hilarious that I was always the topper of the group – a jinx.
All (laughing in unison): Ha ha ha….
Yaron: Actually, if we take notice of the last letters of our names and join them, we become champions!
All: Really? Oh yes! We never tried looking at it the other way.
All spelling the last letters of their names
Ulric (with a serious look): I wished Christop and Kanti were here!
A very feeble voice from behind
“Sorry for being late”
A sudden outburst of laughter followed
Kanti: I remain mostly ill these days. I stay with Christop and his family.
Christop: Yes, Kanti is an indispensable part of our family. My sons love him a lot and he too showers them with uninhibited affection.
Ulric: Is it the same girl?
Christop (chuckles): Yes, it’s her, Susane. You see, we have decided to torment each other till eternity so we are still together ha ha ha !
All roaring with laughter
Ulric: I am glad my golden-wrapped and decorated gifts and the romantic poems which I wrote for all your girlfriends got one of your girlfriends to stick with you for a lifetime.
All laughing in unison
Christop: A small correction, poems which you wrote “on our behalf” ha ha ha
Ulric : Needless to say, each of those poems were on your respective behalfs.
All (standing together and raising a toast: Cheers to all the champions!
As I drive towards home, my mind is occupied with the thoughts of my family. I cannot stop thinking about how long the day has been and that I have been away from my family for far too long. I cannot make them wait for dinner. The sense of contentment in me has reached its acme today. Never in my dreams could I have thought that someone dubbed as “unlucky” would one day walk with his head held high as a champion.