Opinion

Campus capers: just for laughs and thrills

Student about to throw a paper aeroplane

Student about to throw a paper aeroplane  

When funny pranks and youthful derring-do set a campus alive

Timid in school, I had my mischief buds awakened only after joining college in Delhi. My partners in crime were Arvind, Philip and Shamsher, pranksters par excellence.

Our first victim was a fellow who sold fruits at exorbitant prices on the campus. We struck at midnight.

With a wicked-looking hook ingeniously attached to a long pole, Shamsher lifted basket-loads of luscious fruits through the ventilation of the hostel into our waiting hands and mouths. The next day, the man was found frantically examining the waste bins on the campus. But we had outsmarted him by evenly spreading the banana skins, orange peels and other incriminating evidence across the residential blocks. Eventually, after a series of such raids, he got frustrated and sealed the ventilation much to our dismay.

Arvind once boasted that he would sleep all alone at night on the Ridge, a wooded, spooky area near the college. He placed a bet with us, and we deposited him around midnight near the grave of a British Captain who died in action during the 1857 War of Independence. Nonchalantly lighting up a cigarette, Arvind looked dangerously close to winning the bet, as he cheerfully slid into his sleeping bag. As usual, Shamsher saved the situation. He rushed to a nearby postgraduate hostel where he had friends, and mustered three vicious-looking characters who pretended looking for buried loot near Arvind’s sleeping place. We watched in glee from the nearby bushes, as a shaken Arvind was rudely chased away. He escaped leaving behind his spectacles and sleeping bag, and it was only several months later that we told him the truth.

Honking mad

Philip had an old-fashioned horn pilfered from an ancient city bus abandoned on the Ridge. He and Arvind would go around on a scooter, get close to the ears of unsuspecting cyclists or tonga wallahs and scare the living daylights out of them, by squeezing the rubber bulb which would then emit an unearthly shriek. Occasionally, a water pistol replaced the horn, with much the same results.

Sometimes, the cyclist would even fall off in fright, while the two triumphantly fled the scene. I once tried replacing Arvind on the pillion seat, but was hopelessly clumsy. Our target, an old tonga wallah, reacted with lightning speed. As I squirted water onto his face, he let out an expletive and lashed out at me with his horse whip, resulting in painful red welts all over my back and chest. For a long time after that, I declined to go with Philip on his marauding spree.

One day, a famous cartoonist was invited to the college. The hall was full, partly because of his reputation but also because of the exquisite chocolate éclairs served during tea. Shamsher and I, who came mainly for the goodies, had to stand outside and watch the proceedings. As tea was being served, we noticed that SJ, a batch mate, was sitting on the window sill in front of us. He was leaning forward, teacup in hand, anxious to take in every word of the cartoonist.

Scalding hot

As he did so, his shirt went up and trousers slid down exposing his back. Shamsher winked at me; I winked back and in a trice, poured hot tea from my cup into the cleavage. SJ yelped and shot out of his seat, sloshing himself and others with tea. Livid with rage, he turned around and spotting me, ran out of the hall and chased me down the corridor. He would have beaten me to pulp had Shamsher not intervened.

Many years later, Shamsher bumped into SJ at an alumni meeting. A senior IAS officer then, SJ mercifully laughed it off, even as Shamsher helpfully pointed out that he was probably the only man in the world who had tasted tea from both ends!

thommen1512@gmail.com

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Printable version | May 26, 2020 11:07:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/campus-capers-just-for-laughs-and-thrills/article31192830.ece

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