Mr. Devang Khakar was a weird loner. There were theories justifying his eccentricity, but I felt this is what happens when you have to live with engineering student for more than 20 years. He was the professor at the finest engineering college. His hair had gone gray and he had a lot of wrinkles which made him look like a rotten zucchini.
“Every scar has a story, so wear them with proud.” As he always said. Albeit his weirdness he was an interesting person and I loved to talk to him. His talks were sensible and intellectual.
I couldn’t help seeing myself as the future Devang Khakar; lonely and sad. What did I even get after sacrificing my dreams to study religiously for years, what did I get after losing friends and moments to coaching classes, what did I get in the loop of python and java. Forlorn and glum life? Nah , I got to meet Mr. Devang Khakar and to meet him in a way I would never forget.
The dusk had fallen, and I was sitting at the temple, built on the brim of the pond. Smoking. And looking at the reflection of the faint, setting, red sun in the pond and wondering if there is life beyond C++. It was my safe haven, my place to chill out. Sometimes the pundit of the temple shared his bidis with me; I didn’t know it was alright to smoke in the temple.
I was alone that day, thinking about all the wrong choices I had made. Was I right in giving up my passion to pursue it some other day? I was so much involved that I didn’t notice someone was standing right behind me. Someone I had least expected at that place. Mr. Devang Khakar.
“Nice weather”. He said clearing his throat.
Mother of God!!! What is he doing here? I wondered
He had caught me smoking and I wasn’t very much happy about it.
“Sir, er, I, er just….” I stammered obviously couldn’t say a thing
How can one justify smoking?
“Relax” said Devang Khakar sitting on the temple floor.
There was a big pause, a big uncomfortable pause.
“Sit. Why are you standing?” he finally said, faintly glancing at me.
“Konsi pee rahe ho?”
“Umm, goldflake hai sir”
The expression on his face was of utter disgust.
He took out a packet of Dunhill from his coat.
“Here try this one”
“No sir! I am fine”
I took one from the packet.
“I didn’t know you come here sir” I asked in an attempt to break the ice.
“I usually come at dawn, I like seeing things ascend, I like them growing stronger, instead of seeing them descend” a lopsided forced smile ran over his face.
I simply awed at his response.
“How much did you get in the tests” he asked
“Not much, sir.” I said averting his eyes “I have been a bit careless this semester”
He didn’t say anything, just took out a photograph from his coat and showed it to me.
“Do you know them?”
It was an old picture of two guys of my age. One of them was holding a guitar, both of them looked happy. Genuinely happy;
“I am afraid, sir I don’t know them.” I said after thoroughly examining the photo
“The one holding the Guitar is called Milind Mishra, he was exceptionally well at music. He could play guitar, piano, violin, knew a bit of tabla and was more than a decent singer as well.”
Mr. Devang Khakar paused briefly to see the birds flying back home and then continued
“He wanted to create a band of his own” he chuckled, “Fool”
“Who’s the other one, sir” I asked curiously
“Ah, he is Khalil Gibran” he said with a mysterious smile on his face
“Umm, Khalil Gibran you say” I was naturally amazed
“Not that his real name was Khalil Gibran but he loved being called so”
Who’d like to be called Khalil Gibran, I was thinking, when Mr. Khakar spoke.
“He was a writer, the best I’d known, he wrote stories so good you’d want carry them in your heart forever, his poems would make you fall in love” he paused to look into my eyes to make me uncomfortable, I didn’t know if he was doing it on purpose “he wanted to tell those stories to the world”
“What happened next” I asked as I realized the pause is getting too long.
“Milind Mishra, the musician, went on to become the IAS officer” he chuckled “I don’t know how he survived there, politics, shit, he was good in talking, politics is all about talking after all. He was an expert negotiator. One who knew how to talk to anyone and get his things done through them; this was his secret I believe.”
“Did he give up on music? Didn’t he start his own band?” I asked
“Oh for a short time, he did give up his passion, but how that fire reignited is a beautiful story I must say!” he said and stopped and let me die in suspense, he was a Goddamn good storyteller, Mr. Khakar.
“What next, sir” the impatient me asked.
“He was good at services, really good. He got promoted, earned money and more than money.” He looked at me “we want to cover up everything with the money we’ve got, our dissatisfaction, our broken dreams, our extinguished passion, we want to hide them with expensive cigarettes, expensive wines, only to realize the truth comes before us one day to devour us all at once”
“Sounds relatable, sir” I admired his spectacular ability to deliver those dialogues. He’d have been a great actor.
“Milind came to the college reunion, he met people, who congratulated him on his achievement, he met people who told their children to be like him, he met people who told him, they always were his true friends when they actually weren’t and he met a person, his true old friend, who asked him, if he’d started the band of his own.”
“Was that friend, Khalil Gibran” I asked
“Yes, it was indeed him, a few days later; Khalil Gibran gets a letter inviting him to the first performance of the band called Aspirin” he looked at me smiling.
“The Aspirin, the old men band?” I had heard so much about this band
“Yes that one. Milind is the drummer there, though he isn’t called Milind anymore. I don’t exactly recall his new funny nickname.”
I was amazed!!! I simply was; I sat there admiring the setting sun and admiring the person sitting beside me and his ability to inspire people and tell tales.
He got up
“It’s dark already, perhaps we should leave”
“Sir, what about Khalil Gibran, what was his real name?”
“That story, some other day, son.”
Suddenly he came close to me and said with all the love he had in him
“Give up smoking; don’t hide anything under the smoke and cigarettes and wines.”
At that very moment I saw a fire in his eyes, some genuine happiness, the kind of sparkling eyes those boys in the photo had.
I got the faint idea of who Khalil Gibran was……