You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.
- M. Scott Peck
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It all started in 4th grade. Mid of April- perhaps it was, with western gales and a ting of fading spring, and a scorching season peeping from the corner. We were young, novice players of this great stage; yet to be conscious to the play around. Flying upon the clouds and swaying in the winds, we were mute to the pasts and blind to the future. School periods were woes, school friendships were vows. We were driving in almost a dreamland. But just then, a fifth wheel sneaked into my four-wheeler, whom I have failed to drop off, until now…
So, it was 4th period. Our class teacher happened to take her time before arriving. And me and my best friend of the time were emphatic in our debate on the cricket match last night, when the teacher entered accompanied by a school uniform with something pale in it.
“He belongs to the mortal world, doesn’t he,” I asked my friend, who seemed equally perplexed at the sight.
The teacher announced the new admission- Pulkit Sharma. The student might have been new but the admission was not for we’d already welcomed half-a-dozen that year, and so me and my friend resumed our topic. Yet, just as the fair, shrunk, and dark-eyed boy took his seat, he cast a quick eye over to me and glanced intently, as if forewarning of the torture and torment that was to befall upon me very very soon.
We all have friends. They are never a bad thing to have, are they? Some are sincere, precious and rare as the gold studded in the black rocks. Like one in a million. While some are such that one carefully keeps a one-arm distance with. They do not irritate you, they torture and boil and burn you, yet ironically are your friends. Well, I don’t know if I am delighted or unfortunate to say that I have a combo of the two. It’s this boy, Pulkit, un-affectionately called by me as “Toolkit”, for he is just as tools in your kit, with no other use whatsoever.
The first few days we’d nearly infected our eyes, rubbing, for we could not imagine a boy so thin to be alive and so fair and white to be an Indian. He had a little company for a start as no one could help but pity on his figure. But one day, oh! That dreadful day, the ‘white’ approached me and my friend in the corridor. He nearly begged us to accept him in our group because for some strange, miserable reason, he was really impressed by me. Now was it my own thinness or equal height, or eyesight, God knows. And before he could stoop towards the feet in his emotions, my ever-so-noble friend said-
“Of course, you can keep us company, why not?”
And hence triggered a tsunami upon my calm and pleasant days. It is not that I am unfriendly or rude by disposition, but that I am a Virgo, and so I am really choosy with my friends. The great Pulkit Sharma’s nature was a cipher from the Sherlock Holmes or an equation from relativity- difficult enough to encode or solve. And finally, I got a trait- a copycat.
I still remember during 6th and 7th class, he skilfully used to copy my actions during the prayer. When I joined my hands, he joined his; my eyes closed, his closed; and interestingly even after the eyes part, my head bowed and then his. And this was done independent of distance or displacement- whether he is my partner or residing at the last bench of the last row. But due to some sudden weakness in his sixth sense recently, he usually has to twist his neck towards me to read my actions. This exercise is repeated periodically at fixed intervals, just as in a doctor’s prescription. We even set timers, once he has had a look. Surely, he never defies our trust in this case.
The further accounts are some incidents that might help to picturize him perfectly.
Toolkit also has the ailment of talking big and bold. The talking is done so confidently that one might get trapped firmly in his net, just to realise that there is a hole in it too. One humid and soaking August noon, we were discussing about badminton during the break, and Pulkit could not resist himself saying,
“Oh, no one can beat me in a game of badminton. I have defeated the whole lot of my colony.” And the next day, I beat him 11-1. 11-1! I mean that’s not a defeat, a Demolition!
The oozing confidence and boldness does not seal here. There is a debate among the friends whether or not this Saturday would be a holiday or a half day. And Pulkit drops in,
“Oh I bet, it would be. I have asked my aunt (a teacher in the school) and am pretty sure.”
And of course it never turns out to be a holiday, instead is a Full Working Day! And we all glare at Pulkit, and he stares right at the blackboard holding his pen.
So with the same event repeating once or twice, we began putting all our faith in Toolkit and his claims. Whenever we wanted to know about Saturdays or rare festivities, we simply asked him. And if he calls it a “holiday,” we got to know it was a working day and vice-versa.
And, of course, how can I forget his exceptional talent at delivering jokes. And I warn each and every soul out there before spending a few hours with this boy. Flip your thoughts a thousand times- it will be the death of you. We were playing cricket on a mild Sunday afternoon. A half tire lay imbedded in the ground near the pitch. And there comes Toolkit exclaiming,
“O look, Uday, look! A car coming out of the earth. See, how funny. Hahaha!”
And I put my whole strength on the line to find if there really was anything funny. I rescan each word to squeeze out a humorous explanation, but there never is. And there he stands, still laughing and giggling at his own joke.
Recess begins, I open my tiffin, and usually have cooked cheese there with some milk oozing out. And of course, then, Toolkit comes by and mockingly cries out,
“O look everyone, Uday has brought Dhudh-vala-paneer (milked cheese) again. O look! Hahaha.”
Such words, that plunged some helpless boys, force them to spit a laugh. And so I sit thinking, doesn’t he know that all cheese is made up of milk. Or even if it is, it surely couldn’t be that funny.
It was only a faint allergy- our volunteering fake smiles on his remarks (which also became quite an involuntary and spontaneous action later)- while there were serious ailments that we caught up due to this pale-white parasite. One of them is what I call the “Telephobia”. One day after school, as I got off from the van, and was just about to lay my first step on the homely marble, when I heard- “Tring tring”. It was my cell phone with the name ‘Pulkit’ flashing over it. I knew he would ask me for the day’s homework as he did the previous day, and the day before it and has been doing it for months. It was a routine. I mean we are in the same class, attend the same periods and for the same hours, yet could I know something extra? I put the cell on silent, when again- “Tring Tring”, it was now the landline. I went and pulled out the telephone wire, wondering when actually did I give him my landline number. With that done, I could now undress, and under my half-removed sweater over my face, I heard….-“Ring ring”! That couldn’t possibly happen, No! Yet now it was…. my mother’s cell phone! Wait…..What!?
After that mysterious incident, I hardly picked up any call from Toolkit. And when I did, after atleast 10-12 continuous missed calls (10-12! make no mistake), I made sure that I fill him up with the day’s homework, and the next day’s and perhaps even some tests from the next week. “So much today, Uday,” he would exclaim. And I would say, “Call me again in the evening if you want to know more.”
I started fearing from my phone, seeing all his missed calls at the end of the day; which is, as I say- “Telephobia”.
But you see, even after all this, it wasn’t that I started ignoring this bloke, the virtual reality was that I would turn around at the swiftest of rates possible as soon as I caught sight of, even any limb of Pulkit Sharma. He is loyal and good-natured, of course but he is awfully funny, vexing and boring. One cursed day, he came to school and the first thing he did was to announce that he will take a half-day and go home in the 5th period. Me and my other friend sat waiting impatiently for the 5th period, glancing at our watches every 10 minutes. Centuries elapsed for both of us till finally the fifth period arrived.
The 5th period goes, the recess bell rings and there he sat in the 9th period, pouring in one of his ‘humorous’ remarks, “Oh! How forgetful can the parents get. Forgot their own child here…. Hahaha!” And me and my friend sat looking at him peculiarly as if he were a creature of another world. I crawled home and I swear, I slept heavily for 3.5 hours, from 4.30 to 8 pm that day. Rest I leave it to your intellect.
Finally, the tenth class- T-points of our lives have emerged. Toolkit has thankfully confirmed for Medical while I am up for Non-Medical. Yes, that’s right, he did not copy me here. But I must mention that his elder sister had also opted for Medical. Anyways, when asked about his admission plans in class 11th, he said,
“Oh! I would definitely not stay in this school, next year. I’ll try some other, of course!”
Our buried hopes were dug up and blown out faith lit up. The next day he says he is going to Chandigarh for preparation. And the next day, he makes up his mind for Delhi. And yes, the following day, he said he would apply for Boston! And so, we had put on heavy bets that the next day he would surely come up with Mars or Jupiter. Instead, he sneaks out a deep reply that he would stay in this school only. A mixture of utter shock, anger, distress, disgust crossed over my face just in that moment.
And I soon got to know from a senior student that Medical and Non-Medical sections were in the same building, on the same floor, were adjacent, separated by just a thin fragile wall. Well, the wall may be thin or weak for them, but it will be the strongest of walls in my life- the wall between me and my Toolkit.
So, I see my journey with Toolkit has moulded him as one you would think hard before getting acquainted with. But let me be honest, he is a gem of a person. No! I am not being diplomatic, not at all. It may be difficult to digest after the whole description, but I didn’t say he replied harshly anywhere or betray my trust, did I? In fact, Pulkit has been the most sincere and loyal friend, I could have ever got. You can meet him, talk to him, spill out your secrets and they are as safe with him as with yourself. Dig beneath some masks of weariness, you will find a heart, so subtle, so immature, that its childish laughs are unacceptable to the world. And yet beating steadily to serve; to become a tool in everyone’s kit. The time is such that the heart need not deliver, and so the immature masks dominate. However, when the time comes, which will surely do, I shall be most privileged to have a friend as Pulkit by my side.
The smiles which used to be forced upon his jokes, now tend to volunteer by themselves on cherishing these memories. I have many more-impressed upon the mind and they shall live with me to be chuckled upon for a long, long time. For my Toolkit, I wish him luck and also want him to review his career decision…. because I’ve still got my bet on Mars!