With Aneesha and Anita cornering Shamiq, there was something to worry about here, thought Harry, as he watched the proceedings unfold.
Aneesha was close to Shamiq. She saw Anita approaching them, giving her a dirty look. Anita could never fathom Aneesha. Her emotions were of a shemale, and the male side of her surfaced to put Anita in her place. She pounced on Shamiq.
“Give me some of that, I need it,” demanded Anita.
“Shamiq, not in this house and certainly not with a novice like Anita. She’s capable of flying off the balcony,” intervened Harry.
“Sure, Harry. I don’t have anything left,” said Shamiq, winking as he crossed Harry.
Sanjib came forward to pass a joint to Harry and said, “I got into this stuff from my school days in Calcutta.”
“Which school did you go to?” asked Harry.
“South Point, the best school in my time.”
“I was there for six years, 20 years before you.”
“How was the school in those days?”
”It was comparatively new and the only co-ed school, and this stuff,” said Harry, pointing to the joint before passing it to Swapna. ”This was not around till I did some research and found out about pot or cannabis that American kids were so crazy about. I read about it in western books.”
Anu announced dinner and everyone made a beeline for the table. “We’re not planning any kids at our age. So we intend to extend the hall by demolishing the partition wall when we do up the house next.”
The dining table was placed at right angles to the balcony with a view of the sea link. Harry, Swapna and Anita sat on one side of the table, with Swapna in between. But Anita detested this as Shamiq was away from her, sitting beside Aneesha, who was giving her a lot of grief by defying her attitude. At the other end of the table, Khush, Sanjib and Harry were in deep conversation.
“Harry, what did you find in the library?” enquired Khush.
“About the herb called bhaang in Hindi. I made 20 joints and my friend and I smoked up everything without any effect; no high, just huff and puff. We went complaining to the vendor next to the temple, where we came across a sadhu. He made me smoke his chillum. I pulled on it hard and coughed. The vendor realised what we wanted, and he gave us ganja.”
“That’s great,” exclaimed Sanjib.
“Have you heard the word ‘bindaas’?” asked Khush.
“Yes, on TV, but I don’t know what it means.”
“Harry knows where and how it originated. Tell us, Harry.”
Anita butted in, to break free of Aneesha’s spell. “A woman who doesn’t care what people’s think about her skimpy attire is called bindaas.”
“You mean where Pizza Hut is today?” asked Khush.
“No! There was nothing there. Talk-of-the-Town came up in the late 1960s. Napoli’s was on the opposite side of the road, on the seafront.”
“Which is now a promenade?” asked Anita.
“There was no footpath or road at that time; it was more of a dead end.”
“What about Gaylord?” asked Swapna.
“Gaylord, Berry’s and Bombelli’s were all there with live bands, but Napoli’s was a tiny place with a jukebox and a collection of my favourites. I would insert a 25 paise coin and get to listen to three songs. ‘Take Five’ and ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’ were my regular choices. This was much before I set my eyes on you, Swapna.”
“So what happened, who did you meet there?” enquired Sanjib.
“Dr Kanitkar. He loved music and he was a poet, and 15 years older. We became buddies. We would smoke up while sipping coffee and listening to the songs. Our favourite was ‘I Wanna Hold Your Hand’ by the Beatles. The entire restaurant would go thumping and we never had to pay for it, someone or the other always did.”
“Why aren’t you people eating?” interjected Anu.
“Of course, we’re all enjoying your food,” replied Khush.
“Ami to dal bhaat aar chingree mach ta khabo. Khubi bhalo,” said Harry.
They all had a hearty laugh.
“Tell us about bindaas,” said Khush.
“Dr Alagamuthu Kanitkar; we called him Doc because his first name was difficult to pronounce. More than a doctor, he was a patient, a cancer patient from childhood who refused to undergo chemotherapy. He just wanted to live his life and after a few months, he started bringing his daughter Sonal along. Or perhaps, Sonal used to bring him to keep him amused. In any case, the ambience was for college kids and Sonal would bunk her first year Commerce classes at Sydenham College, which was a stone’s throw away.”
“Oh my God! Poor Doc,” said Swapna.
“Doc would often use the word bindaas when he was high. His lovely eyes would twinkle as he smiled. We all got into the habit of using that word in our conversations. One day Doc and Sonal stopped coming to Napoli’s. We were disheartened. None of us knew where they stayed. Sonal wasn’t attending her classes either. My visits to Napoli’s petered off. A year later I met Sonal at a friend’s party. She told me that her dad had died in her arms. It was a peaceful death. That’s when I came to know more about the man and how pure he was. Sonal told me that the Marathi word ‘bindhast’ meant ‘fearless’ or ‘carefree’.”
“What about his wife?” asked Swapna.
“We did not go into those details. He outlived her by ten years. Going by Sonal’s looks, her mother must have been beautiful. ‘Bindaas’, as it stands today, has no definite meaning; it is freedom from the controlled mind.”
“So when you smoke up, are you bindaas?” asked Sanjib.
“Not necessarily, you can also get paranoid. It is a state of mind that becomes more flexible, and therefore gives you the liberty to alter between the free mind and controlled one. You need a mastermind to get the best of both. Doc had that mastermind, he lived on the edge and balanced the two. He achieved the golden mean between the free mind and the controlled one. Sonal told me that his last smile said it all, as he uttered bindaas for the last time.”
To be continued…