Friday, June 7, 2013

The Day Jumoo went Mad

Jumoo wasn’t his real name. Although he was from a migrant camp in Delhi, nobody at college called him Dilli. They called him Jumoo for the way he pronounced Jammu.

‘You can keep two. But I will keep one.’ That’s how he introduced himself to me when we first met. He was just behind me in queue for submission of admission forms to an engineering college. I turned around to see the face of the person who had whispered those cryptic lines into my ears. I found a sun burnt face with a long beak and two squinty eyes. I stepped back a little to look at the complete form. He was skinny, like a boy just out of teens, and short, like a man shortchanged by evolution. I couldn't understand what he meant by that “two-one” business. The boy read my face and pointed to the girls in the alternate queue. He meant the pandit girls. He let out a big laugh. The smell of his soul engulfed me. The boy had horse breath. His innards were eating him inside. But he looked like a cheerful person, a person full of cheers even though he probably didn’t have much to cheer in life. I knew he was trying to be friends with someone from his own kind. At that moment I knew I was going to avoid this person for rest of my coming years in college. But something told me it wasn’t going to be easy.

Next time I saw him, he was crouched in a ‘murga’ position on top on an almirah, his head only inches away from ceiling. These were the first day of ‘first year’ ragging. We both were getting ragged. A boy in the room had ordered me to fetch water for him. This boy was a super senior, which meant he had been in college for years and wasn't going to pass out anytime soon. He was really from Jammu. While I was fetching water for him, he had found better entertainment. As I entered the hostel room, the boy on the almirah greeted me by flapping his arms like a chicken and laughing. The tone of his relation with this world was set.

Although for a year we lived in the same hostel, our friend circle was different. I moved in with guys from Delhi. He moved in with guys from Bihar. So I only heard stories about him. Jumoo was  seen dancing on the road pretending to be Hritik Roshan. Jumoo was seen at a roadside stall pretending to be Sunny Deol, trying to lift a bicycle on his head. On Holi, a group of boys ganged up on Jumoo and torn off all his cloths and left him without a stitch on his body. Sometimes he would come to meet me, ask me to help him with studies, then would suddenly change topic tell me about some girl that he thought liked him but who he thought I might like, then he would suddenly try to sing English songs…mixing Metallica with Backstreet boys and lot of cuss words. He would stay till some of my roommates would ask me to show the door to my mad friend. I would tell them he isn't my friends. He is just another mad Kashmiri. A Jumoo. Jumoo would leave but not before making some more self deprecating jokes. The world avoiding him like something of him would rub off on them.

A year ended. Before the start of next session all the students went back to home towns. I didn't go home. I went to Jammu. Jumoo went to Delhi. Then one day in summer, he showed up at my place in Jammu. He had some relatives in Jammu and was staying with them. While in Jammu he thought of catching up with me.  During our conversations I had only given him brief details about the place where I lived and yet he managed to find my house. As cruel providence would have it, while trying to trace my address, in the bus he asked a woman about directions to a certain locality. This woman lived in the same locality so she asked him some more question. The woman he met was my aunt and she led him straight to our house thinking Jumoo was my college friend. I was angry. The rules of randomness that govern the universe, should not have let this happen. Even my real friends, my best of friends had not been to my house. The last time I had invited a friend home, I was in Kashmir, I was at home, at our real house. And now this mad boy knew my corner on this planet. My hiding place. Jumoo invited himself to lunch after an inspection of our house. I made an excuse about some urgent work in the city and told him I could accompany him the way back to town. We got in the bus together. I got down from the bus at a stop, waived him goodbye and returned home. It was all an inconvenience, something not even worth remembering.

Back at college, I passed to second year. Jumoo failed most of the papers. He somehow blamed me. We both moved out of the hostel. I was still with people from Delhi and he was with people from Bihar. Over the next couple of months I heard less and less about Jumoo and his performances. Meanwhile, I was having my own set of problems with the world. I was reading books. And what I read of the world and what I saw of the world, didn’t match. I read some more. Marquez, Nabokov, Coetzee, Dostoevsky, Kundera, Bellow, Burgess, Conrad, Camus, Faulkner, Eco, Heller, Huxley, Gandhi, Malamud, Koestler, Orwell…Puzo, Sheldon, Newspapers, Comics, Magazines… whatever I could find. Still nothing made sense. I was training to be an engineer, but the drabness of its technical text was making me mad. I knew I was being taught bull crap. My grades were dropping. It’s not that I didn’t understand the topics, I did. What I  didn’t understand was how any of this was relevant. They taught you Turing and Chomsky but told you nothing about their lives. Maybe I was at the wrong place. Over the next coming year, I was to know failure in its truest sense. I failed at everything. I knew I was going down into a dark pit that probably had no end.

During this time, one day a roommate told me some terrible news about Jummoo. ‘Your friend Jumoo has finally gone completely mad!’

That morning, Jumoo had been found lying unconscious on the steps leading to the rooftop of the college by some girl students who run away screaming on witnessing the scene. The people who arrived in response to the alarm found Jumoo conscious but in a state in which he was not able to comprehend anything he was seeing or hearing. His eyes were blank. It seemed he had spent the whole night on those stairs. An ambulance was called and he was sent to a hospital. At the hospital after some basic test they discharged him as they couldn’t find anything wrong with him. A few days later his parents came from Delhi and took his back with him. I thought they should have come for him earlier. He wasn't meant to be there.

A year passed. One hot afternoon, I found Jumoo at our door ringing the bell. He had a big smile on his face, his usual smile, a smile that seemed like a conscious attempt at hiding uneven teeth. Expecting that he be denied entry, he had brought along a gift: a girlie magazine and a Nagraaj comic. It seems his breakdown had made everyone sympathetic to him. None of my roommates raised an objection to his presence.
After the usual catching up, some casual ‘Hi and Hellos’, some ‘Haa-Hees’ and after savoring his gifts, everyone went back to whatever they were doing. Jumoo on his part went back to his usual mode, sitting silently in a corner, trying to stay out of everyone’s path, but still hanging around, like an apparition. It was just like old times.

I went back to computer, writing a program for ‘Snakes and Ladder’. An hour later he quietly sat next to me and asked if I would like to hear the story of the day he went mad. I kept typing on the keyboard while he told his story: 

“After migration my family moved to Delhi where Kashmiris were living in a camp near ... It wasn’t much of a camp…there was a hall where a lot of families put up… each camping in a particular corner, the households separated by pardhas… people fought all the time among themselves over things like right to window, right to turn on-off light switches, right to a better spot under the ceiling fan, right to use toilet first…one time a man abused my mother in front of me…I wanted to kill him…I fell in love with a girl…I put a hole in a pardha to peep at her secretly, sleeping, changing…you know…there there was no privacy…it drove me mad…I would beat-off in toilet and my mother would be outside knocking asking if my stomach is alright (laughs)...I am mad…no I am really mad. Why do you think I act like this? Why I look like this? Look at my face…my parents took me to Dr. Razdan in Jummoo. Are you related to him? He gave me some pills…I stopped taking them some years ago… we never had much money…your house was big… a few years ago we moved to a migrant apartment at Dwarka…My father had a private job in Kashmir, in Delhi he took job as a lab technician in a private school. …I studied in that school…I was never good at studies…then I came here…to the college…you didn’t help…I moved in with those Biharis…no one else would live with me…hostel fees was too much…But those guys turned out to be benchods…they would steal money from me…one of them would beat me up with a belt... sometimes just for fun…you know the guy…I hear you had a run in with him not long ago…still it was all good…then the results came...I failed…I didn’t send the news home…still my parents said they were coming to see me…that day I was really worried about the idea of them staying with me with these Biharis…that day Biharis were really giving me a headache…when they heard that my parents were coming they said they would throw me out…I thought they were kidding me…but then they really locked me out…so that day I just walked around the city all day…thinking what shall happen of me…I had no money in pocket…when evening came I didn’t know what to do…where to sleep…I was sure my roommates were not going to let me in…so I thought maybe I will sleep in the college…it was the best place…so I started walking to college… on way to the college I saw a truck on the road heading my way…a thought occurred to me:  This truck cannot harm me. If God exists, this truck will stop if I were to come in front of it, or it will just pass right through me, I am air, I don't exist…so I walked in front of the truck…the truck stopped…the truck did stop…but the driver started abusing me, I ran and ran (laughs aloud)…I ran towards college…it was night by the time I reached…there were no guards…nobody stopped me…all the rooms were locked so I headed for the roof…the roof was also locked…I was tired…so I slept on the stairs to the roof…in the morning some girls caught me sleeping on the stairs and started screaming…I was caught…when the people came…I didn’t know how to explain my situation, so I pretended I had gone mad. Imagine a mad man pretending to be mad. I pretended I couldn't see or hear them. I couldn’t understand them. You should have seen their face...they carried me down the stairs like I was some king…I was taken to a hospital in an ambulance…at the hospital, a lady doctor asked me question…I continued acting…responding with umm-umm-aa to her queries…kidar darad ho raha hai...I even sang to her in Kashmiri (laughs). She concluded I had lost my mind…I was only acting…it was a classic performance of a mad guy…like in movies...classic Sanjeev know...I should have won a medal for it...let's go out to have tandoori come you are always busy? Are you even listening?”

A year later, Jumoo waylaid me in college. At the same place where we had first met. From his back pocket he took out an album of photographs, it was a family album and all the photographs were of him posing with a car, a Santro that his father had recently purchased. He was carrying the album in his pocket and showing it to anyone and everyone walking that way. That was the last performance of Jumoo that I unwillingly witnessed.



  1. I was left speechless, both by the story and your amazing typing speed... It reminded me of Saadat Hasan Manto's short story Toba Tek Singh.....however there were a few typos...altogether an experience....for me Jumoo is a memorable character.... Thank Vinayak for sharing this....

    1. Thanks for reading! About the typos...if I revisit the text before publishing, I often end up deleting that whole post. So now I publish first and then do the fixing overtime.

  2. Vinny its very well written. I love reading your blogs. Please take my suggestion seriously and think about writing a book .... Take care :)

  3. During my college days ( if one can call it that) 1990-94 in Jammu's MAM college i came across a lot of such guys/girls. Even a girl whose entire household things along with her books were washed away in Kathua canal when the horse pulling the horse cart ( House change was a yearly ritual then for those living on rent) suddenly had a fit while crossing the bridge. She said her father just smiled and said " well atleast it can't get any more worse now".

    1. "Well, at least it can't get any more worse now!" I believe a lot of people survived praying on that thought.

  4. nice,short n crisp n reminded me of my college time me n my other 2 seniors were also called jumoo in our college days in udaipur ; )

  5. Good read! And this type of ragging was characteristic of the erstwhile REC, now NIT Srinagar.


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