Thank you Jhantu, for everything.
It was in Gapa’s room that I had first met Jhantu. Chanani the previous night had told me of these seniors who were absolutely amazing in Dumb-Charades. He said that I had to see them play to believe it. So next day in the evening we tagged along to Gapa, our lit-sec’s room. It was full of fourth years. Gapa, Bhave, Bacchi, Banner, Tg with Jhantu sitting in the corner. After the preliminary introductions by me, they got down to business. For the next half an hour I saw one of the finest Dumb-C performances ever. Jhantu was the main actor while all the rest guessed. He performed with a raw intensity which we notice in professional sportsmen. I was really impressed. For the next one week, Chanani, Nai and I underwent a grueling practice schedule. Under Jhantu of course. He taught us all the nuances and we lapped every bit of it. He chided us for any mistake committed and smiled when we cracked tough ones. From then on, I always considered him a friend rather than a senior.
Jhantu was the de-facto lit-sec of Mandak. I doubt whether anyone in the years to come can ever match his passion and dedication. When he came to know that I wasn’t partnering with a certain guy in quizzes because of personal differences, he scolded me telling that petty quarrels shouldn’t affect important matters. His fundaes sessions will always be legendary. Invariably all his sentences began with “Basically…….” Treasure Hunt, Fete, Choreo Night. These were the times when Jhantu was at his best. His disappointed face when none would turn up for those late-night planning sessions, would be so compelling that we freshies scampered all round the hostel pulling people out of their beds.
He was a talented guy. No doubt. Acting was his forte. His mind-blowing renditions in elocution and mono acting are still etched clear on my mind. Organizational skill was something I have learnt from him. Whatever people may believe about Mandak being litsoc fanatics, it always needed people like Jhantu to get things done in a proper and neat manner. His way of requesting was such that people seldom could refuse him anything. Winning the treasure hunt was one of the highpoints of freshie year. I will never forget the military precision manner in which the entire game plan was thought of and executed. Needless to say Jhantu had a huge contribution in this regard.
His sense of humor was marvelous. I would like to write of one such incident in particular. The mono acting prelims was in progress and Jhantu was performing a piece. It was about a boy who was asking whether god would fulfill his wishes. He said,
“God, will u answer my prayers? Will you? O.k. lets see. I have a request. Do you see that girl sitting at the back? In the pink dress. Second last row. Fourth from the right.”
(the whole auditorium turns back and stares at the girl who was beginning to feel very self-conscious now). Jhantu continues,
“god, can you make that girl kiss me? Can you?”
A deathly silence prevailed for a moment before every one present burst out into uncontrollable peals of laughter. The girl went deep pink in embarrassment. Jhantu had just presented the show of the year. Another episode occurred when the ragging session was in progress. One of my wing mates 4kg was warned that about a hairy giant of a senior in the first floor who incidentally also happened to be gay. With this cheeky lie, he was told that this senior (Jhantu) wanted to meet him. So very apprehensive of what was about to happen to him, 4kg went to room no 207. Jhantu opened it asked him to come in and sit down on the floor. After that he is supposed to have pulled off some stunning act. He put off the lights and took his shirt off and asked 4kg to sit with him on his bed. His mannerisms and speech was so well presented that 4kg got totally petrified with fear and burst out crying. Only then did Jhantu put on the lights consoled him and convinced him that it was all in good humor.
Always ready to lend a hand, Jhantu was perhaps after Loki, the senior to whom I most close. I had spent numerous hours in his room on his computer surfing the net, checking mails. He had this collection of old Hindi flicks. I recollect watching “Ek Ruka Hua Faisla” while he happily slept oblivious to the fact that he had an exam the next day and had a very meager knowledge about what it was. An avid foodie like me, he gave me full details of eating-joints worth checking out in Chennai. He loved chatting and chatted long hours on various topics. Always smiling, he would never forget to wave whenever we met in the corridors or outside the hostel. He always asked me about how I was doing academically and when I habitually replied on how I was not doing so well, he replied with a mischievous wink. I recall how once we came across him in the Dhaba. He cribbed about how lazy he was and warned us that academics was very important. These statements were of course followed by his customary smile and wink.
After passing out he went to Mumbai. One day we came across online and he asked how life was treating us? As expected he was unhappy about Mandak’s litsoc status and cautioned me to do better or else….. That day he also gave a long sermon on how I should be more optimistic about things and prepare for the future. He was happy with his job but complained about the long commuting hours. Then last month, one week before Saarang, as I was returning from class, I met him. He had got this French beard and was as imposing as ever. He promised to come and meet us that night. I had forgotten all about it by evening and was taken by surprise when he turned up at twelve. Inspite of the busy schedule, he had kept his promise to meet his junior. He chatted for around thirty minutes when he again cribbed about his torturous local train routine. I jokingly asked him not to be so miserly and get a car. He then left saying that he had a flight to catch early next morning.
Yesterday, on 21st February 2006, at 9 pm Akshay Barman alias Jhantu fell from a local train in Mumbai. He suffered from serious head injuries and passed away that night itself. His parents had expired while his stay in IIT. He had no siblings.
He is survived by no one. Wrong. He is survived by a legion of his friends, well-wishers and people who he had affected in some way or the other. Jhantu, we love you. We respect you. We will always miss you. Forgetting people like you is a difficult task indeed.I had but known you for just one year. What about the people who grew up with you, who spent the most crucial years of their lives in your company? God has been more cruel to them than he has been to you. For they will have to live with this fact forever that you are no longer there
But this is all so sudden that I am yet to actually believe that I am writing this. A small voice urges me to click on the messenger icon and see if you are online or not. Just like that you have gone from our lives. You have left me wishing a lot of things.
I wish I had known you for more time..
I wish I had spent a few more time in your room, chatting.
I wish there were many more litsoc events for you to guide me in.
I wish we had sung a few more songs on Holi.
I wish we could have spoken for some more time last month.
It was an honor knowing you.
Thank you Jhantu, for everything.