Destruction of a Dandy
Ziauddin M Choudhury
My last visit to Salimullah Hall was in October 2008, after a long gap of nearly ten years. In the visit earlier, which itself was after two decades, I had seen deterioration setting in both for the majestic building and its inmates. On this visit however, I saw to my delight that the whole building was going through renovation, starting with retrofitting the shining domes with ceramic tiles, rebuilding the corridors that connect both wings of the Hall, and painting the walls.
A visit to SM Hall (as it was known in my time) is always a trip down memory lane. It brings back memories of days spent in that architectural marvel of a building decorated with spacious lawns that separated the East and West wings. It always brought back fond memories of friends, and times spent with them in the dining halls and canteen in animated discussions over sports, politics, and girls. I found the inner lawns were all well tended and freshly mowed, displaying an abundant growth of roses and other flowers. To my great dismay, however, I found that the tennis greens that welcomed a visitor at the entrance from both sides were gone. The tennis lawns had given way to some structure in one section, and barren ground on the other. This was a great loss to the Hall, and to me personally, the loss of a significant part of history associated with the tennis lawns.
Like several of my friends and other more illustrious tennis players of our time, the tennis lawns of SM Hall were the nursery for budding players. There were two ways to have tennis lessons at that time. There was this professional coach who taught lessons for a fee, and there were these Good Samaritan seasoned players who gave free lessons. The majority of us who had no particular tennis ambitions turned to the seasoned players. Our only goals were to learn a sport and have a good time. But then not all of us were motivated by these only. Among us there was a fellow who had a completely different motivation to learn tennis. He thought this was a sport that he needed to impress girls in the University. This he thought was an essential supplement to his good looks (which he thought he had). Actually, he was rumored to spend enormous sums of money to pamper his looks.
I would have no problem with the vanity of this friend of ours had he been a good player. Unfortunately he was not, and yet he preempted us from entering the tennis courts in peak hours by cajoling the seniors to give him lessons. He would be in the courts well before they opened and remain there till closing time. Since there were no rules on how long one could remain in the courts, and since he had this cloying nature to draw sympathy of the seniors, he would remain glued to the courts. Another aspect of his despicable conduct (to me and my other sensible friends, at least) was the way he would dress up to play. He would outfit himself in starched white shorts and shirt, shining white tennis shoes, and a matching sweater with red borders. A look at him, and one would think he was headed to Wimbledon.
After several weeks of this torture, some of us decided that we had to do something to end this Dandy's tennis court hogging days. We had to somehow expose to the world his narcissist nature so that he did not have the face to come to the tennis courts any more. I was deputed to lay the trap for him.
It took me several days to discover what our Dandy friend used to prim himself with the help of an accomplice who happened to be his roommate. The roommate reported to me, after several sessions of spying, that the tennis Dandy had a collection of ayurvedic creams and lotions that he would apply on his face early every morning. He would take these lotions to the bathroom and apply these on the face quietly. Hearing this I immediately hit upon a plan, and confided in the roommate of the Dandy for its execution.
Next morning was a Sunday, and the University was closed. I ambled slowly to the Dandy's room holding a cup in my hand. My accomplice, the roommate of the Dandy, greeted me when I entered the room. The Dandy was also in the room reading a magazine. “What are you holding in that cup?” he asked me. “Oh, this is egg white” I replied. The roommate and I were actually having a conversation that we had planned before. “What is that for? Are you going to make an omelette of egg white?” my accomplice again asked. “Oh no, this is a for a special purpose,” I replied. The roommate again pressed me about the purpose. In a rather conspiratorial tone, but loud enough for the eager Dandy to hear also, I explained to my accomplice that I apply the egg white to my face to enhance my skin. I also told him that in order to get good results I apply the white on my face, and dry my face in the sun for two hours, after which I wash the solution. To my great satisfaction I observed that our Dandy was devouring every word that I said. I left the room pretending that I was running out of time to apply the egg solution to my face.
The evil plan worked in one week. My accomplice the roommate of the Dandy ran to my room gleefully to report that the Dandy had actually smeared his face with egg white and was standing outside his room in the corridor facing the sun. I gathered a few other friends and we all ran to the Dandy's room. He was actually standing there in the sun with white stuff on his face. “What are you doing?” a friend asked him. “Oh, nothing, just soaking in the sun,” the Dandy replied. “But what is that stuff on your face?” another person asked. “It is some ayurvedic stuff,” he replied. “I saw you break some eggs this morning, and this looks like egg white to me,” the roommate interjected. “Nonsense,” the Dandy replied. At this, the roommate entered the room and brought out some broken eggshells, and asked “Then what are these?” The Dandy was nonplussed. I could not help it any longer, and burst out laughing. “You actually believed in the nonsense of egg white solution to brighten your skin that I said last week,” I said to a visibly shaken Dandy. He vigorously shook his head to deny all this, but everybody around already told of this prank of mine burst out in a communal laughter. The Dandy ran to the bathroom to wash away his shame.
From that shameful morning the Dandy did not only stop his ayurvedic treatment, but also stopped coming to the tennis courts. To this day I have some pangs of conscience to have pulled that prank on a fellow Hall mate, but this was the only way to reclaim our tennis courts to ourselves, the more serious tennis players.
(Author's Note: The characters have been kept anonymous to protect their identity. The Dandy of the story joined the Diplomatic Service later. My accomplices in the story joined different professions including the elite Civil Service.)
Ziauddin Choudhury works for an International Organisation in USA.
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