It would be one of those dreary winter evenings of Kurukshetra. I would be ambling my way through the brick passages to the mess as slowly as possible. That's because I knew that the dreadful combo of oily sticky 'bature' and paltry 'chole' awaited me. Then I would catch a glimpse of Suman a.k.a Baba-ji emerge out of the darkness into the patch of light cast by the volleyball floodlights clutching a plate topped with masala from the mess. That'd bring an extraordinary spark of life in me. That'd mean "Chicken night".
You see, Baba, my pal and Mechanical batchmate from Nepal was our resident chicken expert. Indeed he was probably the only one in our college gang that could tell a knife from a frying pan. We were indebted to him for the infinite number of times that he had saved us from death by inconceivably bad mess food.
I'd follow him, a rat to his Pied Piper, right to his room and find the rest of the gang already salivating at the prospects of what was to come. I wouldn't even be pissed off at their not informing me, because there was an unwritten rule : "Where there is chicken, there is Roy" and so they'd know that there was no way I was going to miss any event that involved chicken. In all fairness, I was the only guy who'd actually lend a helping hand to Baba, unlike the others who used all the time in which the chicken was cooking to take pot-shots at Baba for his "inner woman" and stuff on those lines. There was a solid reason why he was called Baba. It was because like the weather of the Himalayan kingdom from where he had descended unto Kurukshetra, he was always ice cool and impervious to the multiple prongs that my gang tried to poke him with.
As the chicken slowly absorbed the taste of the masala and gained its fiery character stoking the furnaces of our hunger, we'd beg Baba to go easy on the spices. We even managed to swiftly deposit half of his estimated chicken masala outside in the bushes once or twice for the sake of our young lives. But Baba had to have his own way of getting back, so he'd always end up making something that would literally smoke our brains out. We took what we got and we loved it huffing and puffing though we might be.
The top competitors for the title of "Prize hog" would be me, the skinny rag from India and Rajeev, the chicken incinerating monster from the Pacific nation of Fiji, thoughtfully nicknamed "Fiji"! All possible damage done, the gang would sneak out onto to the two chairs and beds kept outside in the common verandah. There we'd sit passing a measly Navy Cut or two around and gaze at the stars in silence. Not that any of us was in a poetic mood at all, it was just that we were stuffed to the gills with chicken and rice and our thought processes were already stewed in Baba's masalas. Now that all of us are thrown out to the farthest corners of the world, we do fall back on the memories of these nights as the epitome of what college was to us. Back then we were just a bunch of guys stuck in the moment, stuck in it together, not exercising their minds at all and therefore intensely at peace with the world.