Author: Saadut
•6:28 PM

 Tumhare khatt mai nayaa salaam kiss ka thaa” plays on my phone.

The evening queue is gathered serpentine around the nonchalantly silent tables while Ghulam Ali is making himself heard over the old Ahuja speakers, tapes winding at a leisurely pace in the silvery steel coloured tape player. Paint worn-out tools look like tired instruments of a lost childhood melody, around which reluctant children gather in a ceremonious evening ritual. The only grace for today, the Friday ‘yakhni’, which has attained the status of a hope that every boredom filled week winds out into. We always looked towards the Friday evening being served in our dinner thaalis over love pangs of Ghulam Ali, notes that may have bounced off our levels of poetic decryption then, but still remained etched in our hearts and minds for a lifetime. “Lamsa lamsa” goes the shout at the dispersing counter of the bland white edge splintered marble ; herding the queue at its own uneven pace, while the clanking of mess cutlery plays along the sound of landing plates. The waistlines of mess staff had generated a rumour that they would thoroughly get to test the best of food before being served to us. Those were the original ISO certification guys earning their own Michelin star in a dingy Sainik School mess. 

While the evening outside in the desolate vastness of the grounds seem eerily lonely, inside the dining hall the hum of life is at its crescendo, in the nudging of the boys in the queue or the giggles of the ones who already got to sit and measure their catch. And till I get to sit on the table with my thaali, Ghulam Ali has already reached his ‘Chupke Chupke raat din’ milestone, bringing gloom to many a faces in the hall. This ghazal is exactly that peak of the evening when our emotions have been hung on a seesaw, fluctuating between a feeling of some unknown lost love (or a longing for home) or a wish to ignore his heartache melody and enjoy the ‘all week lookup to’ Friday meal. You would always wonder “Yaar teachers ko laaziman yehi cassette kyun chalani hoti hai, harr Friday ko?” But then maybe they were extracting their own revenge of longing from the evening, far away from their beloved’s, herding us in this Lilliputian island.  


Friday evenings also had another meaning, being the precursor of the weekend, that one-step between the ‘Azadi feel of Saturday evening’ and the finally semi-autonomous Sundays. 

Go ahead put on your headphones, Ghulam Ali walking you down the memory lane, lets then meet in that old hall, our giggles still echoing from those old window stills. 

Wafaa kare’n ge, nibaayenge, baat maan’enge

Tumhe bhi yaad hai kuch yeh kalaam kiss ka thaa”


~ 64 ~