"I am from Madras. And you?" I asked, looking at him askance in the eye, with a tinge of irritation, as he had diverted me from my paper work.
I broke a few cardinal rules right there.
First, I looked a Senior God into his eyes. The divinity of his eyes ought to have burned me to ashes - I must have narrowly escaped, and live to tell the tale.
Second, I referred to my city without mentioning the state first, almost causing a constitutional crisis.
Third, I asked a senior a question! I mean, how dare I?
"Hi, I am RK Ramesh (name changed)" he introduced himself magnanimously, extending his hand out for a handshake.
"Just arrived? Lots for you to learn on how you talk to seniors" he said, somewhat vaguely.
He glanced around furtively and whispered, "Look, if someone comes and asks you what I am doing, you should tell him I am helping you fill the application, OK?" I nodded.
"Can you guess my state?" Ramesh asked.
"No" I said with a polite smile, thinking he would take it as a compliment that his state was unguessable.
"No??" he asked puzzled. He looked around, once again, and asked me "Tamizh aa?" My face blossomed like a lotus flower, hearing a word of Tamil, after nearly forty-eight hours.
"Tamilnadu?" I asked him, answering the earlier question. Ramesh laughed. Just then a guy came over and Ramesh spoke to him, at length, in Telugu. After he left, he turned around to me and said, "Now, you will I say, I am from Andhra!"
Just who was this guy?
He reminded me of the protagonist from an old Tamil movie "Naan Avan Illai" ("I am Not Him"). Gemini Ganesan (father of Bollywood actress Rekha) plays a conman that speaks a dozen languages.
When he refuses to divulge information about himself, despite third-degree torture, the police device a brilliant plan (to the extent that was possible in the 1960's). They wake up Gemini in the middle of the night, and rough him up. The element of surprise will definitely make him speak his mother tongue, the chief police officer theorizes. Those were the days, when Tamilnadu police were next only to Scotland Yard (a dialog from another movie. I know, we take our movies way too seriously).
Anyway, Gemini Ganesan, ever the enigma even in real life, when woken up, blurts out something in Chinese!
What language would Ramesh speak when woken up from sleep? I was dying to find out.
"Today is fine. But I want to meet you, once you are more oriented to the ways of our college, OK?" he said, before he left. I nodded my head, unaware that within the next hour I would receive a crash-course on the "ways of our college" from the senior gods at the hostel, liberally sprinkled with tight slaps on my meek cheeks.
So, who was the first senior that you met? And what was that first encounter like?