Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In fond memory of our beloved Tempo Dhar

[“..ad Hall. And the first prize goes to ..pause.. Patel Hall.” There we were. Bishnoi, Shobhit, Ankik, me and Bando. Jumping around in triumphant ecstasy. Everyone was rushing towards the stage, while me and Bando got stuck, one-leg-a-side in Netaji’s folding chairs. Then there was the tempo shout. And the high decibel victory madness. Ankik put his hand around my neck and said “ Teri kuch awaaz hai be.” And I replied “ Aur aap toh Tempo Da ho.” Then we did a chest bump before Bishnoi jumped down from the 6-foot pedestal onto a mob of joyous arms.]

That was exactly a year ago. February 13th 2009. Our choreo Ek Lau, based on the internal conflict between a bomb planting terrorist and his benign conscience won gold. And there we were. Ankik, Bish, me, Shobhit and Bando. Clad in black shirts, terrorist pants with black stripes smeared on our childishly euphoric faces.

Exactly a year later, on February 13th 2010. I was trying to cram my reluctant brain for that morning’s Gate exam, when Bose started shouting “Aggu! Come here. Aggu! Come fast.” Hoping to hear more of his random ramblings, I walked into his room casually. Mandal da was crying. Bose looked psychotic. Then came the news. “Tempo Dhar died in a bomb blast an hour ago.” I didn’t believe it. No one would. What do you mean Tempo da died? He is not some random inconsequential guy. It didn’t seem feasible or logical that Tempo Da could die. But slowly the enormous reality settled down pressing my brain till it went numb. And then it went lower to wrench my heart and gut it out. And the pain burnt my eyes. I ran hither-thither hoping that someone would contradict the news. But shattered hearts and echoing silence was all that was there to it.

And my numb brain was travelling at full blast on randomly connected paths.

But Tempo Da works in Bombay!

But it was only a few months ago that he was here knocking on Bose’s door in his trademark orange sleeveless!

But Tempo Da was in Goa with his wingies!

But this! But that!

I collided face-on to the irony: Did this terrorist have a conscience? Does it interfere with his malicious dealings? If it does, it should come back to haunt him for trying to take away a person of such rich personality away from us.

Then I went to bed. Sobbing. Dreaming virtual situations. Why did he have to kill Tempo Dhar, of all people? Could it have happened that they shared a cursory glance? Didn’t those eyes rich of full blooded tempo, that lop-sided gait, that guileless smile, seem too precious to be removed from the face of the earth? Could they have shared a casual conversation? Did he notice Tempo Da’s funny looking phone? The Bengali key pad? Then his phone started ringing.

Mikesh Udani…. Calling!

He picked up the phone. And started laughing. The Tempo-maniacal laugh. Of course, he is alive. He rubbished the news with his graceful fluency.

Suddenly, I woke up. To abandoned hope and silent realization. I thought that was the end. Then, I looked out of my door onto the footer field and the memory of Ankik’s farewell song (click here) and his inspiring speech started rolling down my cold cheeks with shuddering warmth.

And as I was signing off this mal-structured I-just-cannot-find-words-obituary, the memory of a particular incident dawned upon me. About two years ago, after our Bronze-winning English Dramatics performance, “Me against myself”, in which Ankik played the role of an impressionable young lad who kills the king after being misled by his evil mentor, and I played the role of a goon, we had a conversation. About how the judge found it unsettling that we ended the drama on a note of evil triumph. Ankik said “In short phases of time, evil always triumphs over good. We should look past these portals and hope that there will be eternal peace.” What a big heart he had.

No, Tempo Da you haven’t left us. You will not. Your zeal for life still spreads as infectiously as in those good ol’ days. “Forging eternal bonds within our community.” Just like our Hall preamble says.

"As is a tale, so is life: not how long it is, but how good it is, is what matters." — Lucius Annaeus Seneca! I haven't seen many live it better than Ankik.

Rest in Peace, Tempo Da. We will love you forever.