“Aaj ka itna achcha nahi hai”, says Anand. “Us din toh mast kadak tha”,says me. It has become a sheer addiction now. As soon as it’s time to call it a day, we look forward to meet up! The gang gathers in the bus, reserving the seat for other members of the gang. The 2 lucky ones get the first row, just behind the driver. Needless to say, most of the times it is me and Anand. Sometimes Prakash manages to make it, if he is not very busy at work. The gang is of myself, Anand, Prakash, Uttam and sometimes Shishir.
We get off our work stations sharp @ 5:30 pm and into bus by 5:35 pm! Discussing what all went through the day! How the indices saw the red or green or both in a combination! One of them would share his sob as the sensex moves up and his portfolio still remains red. Sometimes discussing our fellow colleagues and the weird things that happen, while working with various regional offices.
5:45 pm – the engine starts and the bus is ready to hush out! Our bus always gets the best talented drivers! Amazing driving skills and those guerrilla tactics, always make us reach before expected times to destiny! Moving out of Hiranandani Gardens is a different pleasure. The driver gambles a lot of routes and we are finally near Pizza Hut. This signal turns green for us and we zoom out taking a turn towards IIT Powai. We keep a watch outside window for so-easily-available humor & share it with the gang as soon as there is any.
As soon as we pass IIT Powai, we have a big question – is the bus going over the flyover? Or under the flyover via Gandhi Nagar? Normally we are happy to see the bus going above the flyover and sometimes disappointed to see it go below the flyover, via Gandhi Nagar! As soon as it gets on the flyover, one of us would scan our pockets and pull out some 10 rupee notes.
A quick question to the gang – “tu lega kya? Jaldi bol, tu lega kya?” With every ones reply being noted, one of us would wave them! The one who reaches us fastest, gets the opportunity of feeding the hungry! “4 dena. Kadak hai na? Kal ka bakwaas tha.” “Saab, kadak hai. Ye lo.” One of us gets the 4 paper cones. It’s a paper cone, but ain’t a Cornetto! That’s our Peanuts! Missed the evening snack or tea at office cafeteria?? Peanuts are our best alternative. Even if we didn’t miss the tea or snacks, peanuts are still our best friends!
Everyone holding their cones with an anticipation that theirs would be the best than others. Sometimes everyone is disappointed while opening the cone. The fingers realize that the cone isn’t filled up to the top and the feeling comes to mind – “Aaj toh loot liya. Uparse thoda khaali rakha hai.” Anand would then cover up, “jitna hai utna bhi agar achcha nikla toh theek hai.” Prakash would act as a saint and say, “chhodo yaar! Unko bhi kamana hai!” Uttam, if present, would start – “c******, saale! Milta kya hai aisa chindi giri karke?” As if he would ever get an answer for it! On another day, one would declare today’s nuts, a benchmark in terms of quality! “Aaj ka sabse ultimate hai.”
It had all started some time back. Me n Anand were travelling back home. I had skipped the evening snacks, intentionally. Anand missed it due to workload. We even missed to get biscuits from cafeteria. On the way back home, we saw this boy holding lot of cones and we asked him what it was. “Shengdana. Paanch rupaye ka ek”, he said. Just hearing the word shengdana reminded us of good old school & college days when we used to loaf around with friends sharing these lovely munchies! No need to say that we had to try those again & boy, were we happy with what we got!
Though we found the pricing bit inappropriate, we thought it’s better to get something to eat instead of nothing. We gave a thought to all possible reasons for such high pricing. An equivalent quantity can be charged 3 bucks, max, at railway stations. Possibility is that they have to pay a hafta to the traffic cops. Also they might want to make more of this business, since there is no other food item sold there. It continued this way, almost every day. One such day, Prakash was with us. On that question, as the bus was entering the flyover, Prakash also gave a nod. We were just three. For almost a week Prakash was on time and we were the three peanuteers! On this day The Peanut Club was born. Another such day, Uttam joined as well. In some more days, Shishir was also a part of the Club. All the members had developed their ways of grading the peanuts. Prakash would rate by how well it was roasted. Anand would rate by size of the nut. Me by the quantity. Other 2 may be didn’t have the point in rating. While discussing further, realized that Anand liked the very-famous-peanuts of Bharuch.
Soon it was time for monsoon which left us wondering – how would they sell it in rains? Paper cones might get wet and plastic cones aren’t available. We were disappointe with the fact that we would have to rely on biscuits from the cafeteria instead of such heavenly snack. On one trafficked evening, it started to rain heavily and the monsoon was officially declared for Mumbai. The windows of bus were shut, to avoid rain water. The Club members were hungry souls dreaming of Cutting Chai n Kanda Bhaajji @ any Tapri. But we had nothing of such sort around. We had even lost hopes of getting our Peanuts. As the bus moved slowly, the driver was left with no option other than taking it over the flyover.
The Club members weren’t that excited to see the bus going above flyover. No one wanted to lead the process of procuring the Cones. No one had scanned pockets to have the 10 rupee notes ready. No one had asked the other members – tu lega kya? No one was expecting them on the bridge. It wasn’t a surprise that we didn’t find anyone selling the cones over flyover. The bus moved ahead. Next was the Signal at Kanjur Gaon junction. And there we saw one. In less than 10 seconds, one of us, pulled out two 10 Rupee notes and waved at him. He runs immediately in hope of business and gives 4 cones and takes the notes. We managed to get it. While we opened the cones we realized, they weren’t wet at all. A look at him revealed how skillfully he was holding a bundle of almost 100 cones in one hand > covered with a piece of transparent plastic. He used the other hand for transactional purpose (to give away the cone and take money back). There was a small opening at side, from where he slides his hand in and pulls out a cone for you. The nuts were good enough, roasted well like any other non-monsoon day. Though during the monsoons, these people were a rare sight. The club still went on even if someday the notes remained in our hand in high hopes. The notes were to be kept back in pockets if we didn’t find them even at Kanjur Gaon Signal.
Monsoon passed, Diwali passed and the calendar year ended as well. As we entered into the new calendar year, the Peanut Club still continued to exist. Now sometimes a big feast of peanuts – 2 cones for each member. We never stopped making new perceptions about the peanuts in our cone. Or we even worked on changing one’s perception. We learn the special way to use the best-possible-word to describe the Peanut’s quality.
One such day, it was just me and Prakash traveling back home. Anand was on leave probably. Uttam and Shishir still lodged at their workstations. We got the cones. We were enjoying them, even if they weren’t like those best ones we enjoyed in the previous year. The mobile-cum-music player was on playing our favourite bollywood songs. Me and Prakash shared the song as we had only 1 handsfree amongst us. One bud in my ear and other in his. While we were enjoying the peanuts and listening to songs, Prakash spoke out of nowhere. “Tereko pataa hai? Yeh zyaada nahi khaana chahiye. Allergy hoti hai iss se.” And I ignored it because of his reputation as a hypochondriac.
Prakash is very cautious in terms of personal health. He is more famous for being sick rather than working long hours in office. Whenever we don’t see him in the bus, Uttam would certainly say, “baba bimaar pad gaya lagta hai.!” Even if he sneezes once, he might foresee a fever or cold approaching him in a while. He claims he is a sinus patient, may be by birth. But a very knowledgeable one amongst all others of Peanut Club (me on the lowest side). He has more of a spiritual enlightenment with him and aware of almost every Indian Rituals and the reasons behind it. He has shared a lot of them with me during the bus journeys.
Due to his medical knowledge that he has shared with me in past, I had to trust him at least 50% when he mentioned the Peanut Allergy. As a routine Google addict, I pulled out my Blackberry > opened the Browser > press K (shortcut for bookmarks) > type GOO so that the results show up starting with GOO > press enter at the bookmark for GOOGLE.! Google opens and I type there “Peanut Allergy”. Amongst all the results shown there, I always look for an result with an icon of mobile, indicating that’s a site for mobile devices – it loads faster than others.
Clicked on one such result. The site had opened by the time we finished our cones. I went through the article which was by some Doctor. It was long enough covering every aspect of the topic – The Peanut Allergy. As a normal habit, I didn’t go through each word and kept hunting for highlights. Some things that I managed to capture-
Peanut Allergy is a fast growing disease. Existence of that in America where people are crazy for Peanut Butter. India would soon take the second position as Peanut is savored as a snack. Peanuts have some A, B, C stuffs (am not interested in those chemical names of substances. Had they been easy words, I would have kept them in my mind.) Regular consumption of Peanuts can lead to various diseases. All of them consolidated under the Peanut Allergy, like we all are under the Peanut Club. You can face Meningitis, Skin Allergy or itching throughout, Acidity issues, sleep issues, faint frequently, memory loss and some more enough to terrorize me.
I declared it then & there – “Aaj ka Peanuts Akhri tha. Kal se yeh nahi leneka.” And Prakash says, “Aisa nahi hai. Khaaneka. Kabhi kabhi zaroori bhi hota hai.” I even recollected by that time, momma warning me to not to make a a habit of daily peanuts, when the Club had completed almost a fortnight. I was taken aback by the list of diseases forming a part of Peanut Allergy Family. I was even wondering if I had developed some of them? Prakash then tried to clear my mind, that I haven’t yet attracted the Peanut Allergy with the symptoms I mentioned. Also the article didn’t mention what quantity was right quantity to enjoy peanuts.
However, this marked the end of the Peanut Club. We rarely have peanuts now. We only have them when we are really hungry or feeling a bit nostalgic. It was fun while it lasted though. Now time to be part of some other club