"Excuse me, you can't stand there. You'll have to move." The girl was wearing a dark blue malhar t-shirt, with ASSISTANCE written on it in bold letters.
"Why can't I stand here?" X asked.
"This is a judges' stand. You'll have to move."
X looked around, in a way that made the interrogatress look around too.
"Well, I don't see anyone around here. ?"
"You can't stand here. I'll have to ask you to move." The girl replied.
"You already have. But you didn't answer me."
Meanwhile, a boy wearing a similar t-shirt as the interrogatress came about and said, "Listen, please go. This is the judges stand. You aren't allowed here."
"Yeah, she has already said that." X replied. "All I am saying is that there is no one around right now, and so it shouldn't be a problem to you for me to be here."
"Look, friend"- there was some impatience in the interrogator's voice, and it seemed to X that 'friend' was used to hide that impatience- "you can't be here. Please be so kind as to leave."
"You give me a good enough reason and I'll leave."
"Look, even the volunteers aren't allowed to stay here, okay?" he said.
"But this girl was standing here since I have arrived." X pointed out.
The interrogatress sprang to life again and retorted "No, I was moving around. I wasn't standing." Her tone was very fast, spitting out word after word.
"Okay, so I'll just keep moving around." The reaction of the interrogators was amusing X. He was having his laugh.
"Look dude, you can't stick around here, okay? You want to talk to my OG? I'll just call him."
At this, X gave his most heartily acerbic laugh. "So ASSISTANCE means a bunch of unreasonable hooligans, right?" he said. He thought he should leave: there was no point in listening to the same stuff from the OG, and he had had his fun.
S was moving along a passage with her friend T, just holding hands, loud music having benumbed their senses. This quiet in the loudness of the festival was comforting. It was as if one could find privacy even among a crowd; this simultaneously gave the two ability to stay in their space, like two idols in the same, limited niche, and it also let them show they were together.
Suddenly, a hand caught S and pulled her. T followed. A girl with a black t-shirt with SECURITY written over it told her "You'll have to leave."
"What? I can't hear." S shouted, and lent her ear, almost flung it, to the security girl.
"You'll have to leave, This is compulsory exit."
"What do you mean leave? Where to?" T asked.
"Out. You'll have to leave college. This is compulsory exit."
"What do you mean? We already got frisked. You can check our bags." S said.
"No, this is compulsory exit (note: the usage repeats itself as if it went unheard before). You can get your hand stamped, and come back again."
"So why send us out in the first place?"
"This is compulsory exit." She starts to mildly pull S out.
T has broken into an argument by now. He seemingly loses his temper. S is watching all this, vexed at the intrusion of their good time. T is eventually pulled away with a little force. He loses his temper, shouts at the security girl, and leaves. Meanwhile, S has evaded the SECURITY, slipping through the divider-poles, and reached out safe. Once out, she first calls the security girl to the divider, sticks out her tongue, and then shows her middle finger.
She calls up T, and tells him she would be coming out in a minute. She takes the 'compulsory exit' passage again, finds the girl who pulled her earlier, asks her "Way out?", smiling while at it, and leaves the college.
10.30 am - A and B come to college gates. "Some festival, I tell you. Just you listen to the music inside, I tell you. You know, they spend like some giant amount on all this, I tell you. Fuhttttay, all this." A is happy. He had been here last year. They see there is a line they have to stand in. It is long, and takes them to the gates of the quiet college behind, which seems to be living in an autumn, especially on this day when the only visible college is Xavier's, throbbing with a throbbing crowd.
11.00 am - "They will take us in any minute, I tell you." The line had been growing since they came. The gates had been thrown open some time ago, but they couldn't alleviate too many aching legs. Perhaps, B wondered, the line must have reached the gates of some other college by now?
12.00 noon - "When the hell are they planning to take us in, dude?" B was getting impatient. This was his first year at this fest. The praises by A started seeming absurd to him. "Anytime soon, I tell you."
12.05 pm - "Do you want a raga, our official malhar magazine? It's for free." A cute girl came up to B and asked. "I want to go in." She didn't know what to say. She recollected herself and replied assuredly and assuringly "I am sure they will take you in. Do you want a raga?" "No thanks." "But it's for free." "I am leaving." He leaves the line, and heads for the railway station.
The Great Hall wasn't called 'The Great Hall' for nothing. It was massive. It took some effort to get from one side to another. Even if it didn't, what is the point of going to the opposite side to get in, when one can very well go in from this side per se?
The 'SECURITY' arrangement made this absurdity possible. Even when there was no 'crowd situation', the security wouldn't allow entry from one door of the hall, while they wouldn't allow exit from another. Of course, if you sported a malhar t-shirt, things were different.
X landed up at the point of The Great Hall through which he couldn't enter. A big security guy stopped him. "You'll have to enter from the other side." X realized the nonsensical aura around this proposition. He said "C'mon man, what's the point? My going from this door would cause no trouble to you, to malhar, or to the world in general. It would save me a pointless detour. Please let me pass."
The guy thought for three seconds. "Okay, get in."
The author deviates specially and wittingly from mere narration, appreciates the action of that security guy, and wishes to congratulate him for having retained his reason.
It is difficult to reproduce this situation. Let me just try to describe it. Mr. and Mrs. malhar...er.. sorry, Mr. and Ms. malhar is going on.. but wait, shouldn't it be Mst. and Ms. malhar? Shut up, and just use the convention, okay? Mr. and Ms. Malhar is going on, and the contestants come up on stage one by one. They are supposed to joke, be humourous. They try- c'mon, they can only try, who knows what is humourous? They joke. Mostly, the jokes involve double meaning related to genitalia and actions pertaining to genitalia. X remembers hearing these very jokes when he was in school. Exactly these. Tailor-cut. He sees around. People are cheering. He thinks- "they are cheering, not laughing. We must keep that in mind. They are cheering for these jokes, not laughing at them." He decides to take a walk till the next performance begins.
He thinks he would like a bird's eye view of malhar. He remembers last year, when he spent an hour on the terrace, watching what went on below. He somehow found that mesmeric, almost mystic- the silence of altitude had insulated the terrace from noise, and he found himself immersed in the hush below from this point. And this gave him a sort of puzzle: he, who had been detached from anything he found 'spiritual', meaning unexplainable, mystic, who was hostile to such experiences and actually refuted them, found pleasure in this inexplicable pleasure. He thinks he must find what this is again.
But he sees that there are black t-shirted fellows at the stairs who refuse entry to anyone. He thinks he would take the other staircase. He reaches it, only to be informed that he can't use it, it is only for volunteers. He knows there is a third, but realizes that the last time he had gone that way, he was asked to 'compulsorily exit'. Though it was fun to crawl through the divider to the safer side, he didn't want to go through that again; he had his eyes set on the terrace.
"Are they forcing us to exit still?" he asked the security chap.
"No, they aren't for now. You can try those stairs." How did he know why X had asked that question? Perhaps it was the guilt of not having allowed him entry? Perhaps he thought he ought to give him some way to go up? Perhaps he wanted redemption? Perhaps.
X was now in confusion- the third staircase was closed. That meant, it was impossible for someone below to go somewhere above. X inquired with a security volunteer "How do I get upstairs?"
"Through the stairs."
"There are so many stairs in college."
"Could you tell me one staircase that is open to me?"
"Yeah, go there, that one."
"I am not allowed. Your rule."
"The one after that?"
"They aren't taking us in from there."
"Dude, I am busy, could you come afterwards?"
"Yeah, but this is so crazy. I mean, you people are here so that there isn't any crowd situation. These grounds are packed with people, packed crazy, so that time to time, you keep evacuating them forcibly. But upstairs, upstairs it is all empty. Why don't you let us go up."
"Dude, help me by co-operating, okay?"
"Dude, it is as evident as two plus two is four. If you want to de-congest the ground, let the people go up. I am helping you by really helping you, okay?"
"Stop blaming us, there is a crowd for us to handle. Do it yourself if you want."
"Who the hell is blaming you? I am just telling what can be done. This is like shit for me- I can't go up- and almost shit for you too- you can't handle the crowd without manhandling them."
No use. X's doubts- as to if this was really a festival- were becoming strong. What could he do about it? He didn't know. He stood there for two minutes. Suddenly an idea came to him.
"Okay, listen. Can I climb up the pipe to go up?" he asked most naturally, hoping this act would work.
"Yeah, please do. Best of luck."
"Can I get an assurance from you, that you will be responsible if something happens? You are the security after all."
"Yes, I assure you."
"No wait. This won't do. I need it in writing." He took out a piece of paper, and wrote 'IF SOMETHING HARMFUL HAPPENS TO X IN HIS ATTEMPT TO CLIMB UP BY THE PIPE, ' "what's your name?"
'P TAKES OATH TO TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY, BY REASON OF BEING IN-CHARGE OF SECURITY.'
"C'mon man, lay it off. We have work to do."
"But you agreed?"
"Dude, we are in no mood to play smart-alec games." 'We'? Where had the 'we' come from?
X discovered a new mode of fun. He thought he would really have a festival, an unusually shining day. He started questioning the annals of malhar's workings. He would go to security holders, and ask fundamental questions. Here are some of those:
"Can I buy your t-shirt? How much?"
"Dude, give me your walkie-talkie for a sec, would ya? I need to make a call home."
"Listen, before entering here, is there any kind of permission I need to take from you?"
"You would not beat me up, right?"
"Could you make a map of restricted areas in college?"
Malhar had found a new meaning for X.