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‘The Nuts’ was what we called ourselves, the ‘we’ here referring not to some teen under graduates or school students, which erroneous conclusion you might have been tempted to jump to, but post graduates, studying in the prestigious Kariavattom University, which lay about 16 kilometers outside the capital city of Trivandrum. The ‘we’ consisted of Nalanda, Darsana, Susan, Padmaja and last but not the least, yours truly.

Getting into Kariavattom University was considered an achievement in itself. The college offered post graduate course in many subjects. There were also those working for their M.Phil degree or for their Doctorates. Predictably, the whole bunch of them, teaching staff to the students (even the non-teaching staff), were the most intellectual, serious and studious looking swarm. Well you don’t have to stop yourself from asking that question that is begging to be asked. ‘What the heck were you doing there?? Who had let you in??’ To tell you the truth, I have wondered a lot about that myself. Anyways…

Out of our batch of ten girls and fifteen boys working for their post graduation in Economics, that particular year, five of us girls were day-scholars and commuted to college via the college buses that plied from Palayam University Office to Kariavattom. It was a journey of about 45 minutes. We filled in the time jabbering as girls are wont to do. We laughed and joked quite unlike the rest of the ‘intellectual’ crowd in the bus. It would surprise none if I say that I was the one who laughed and smiled the most and also the one who looked least as if she were a student of that esteemed institution.

My friends at least knew how to hide their smiles in the nick of time or to even tell a joke with a straight face. Sadly, I was not so good at this and was left with a grinning face for all to see. Many times have I caught disbelieving and censorious looks directed at us (or to be more precise, moi), on the faces of some of the professors or senior students. They must have felt we did not care for the sanctity of the revered institution. But seriously, is the resemblance to a stuffed frog such an indispensable part of the ‘intellectual’ look?? How and when has a little laughter and smile hurt anyone in the world?? Not that I know of, not so far anyway.

One fine day, though belatedly, the ridiculousness of our behavior hit us. That is when we decided we were totally nuts. We laughed a good deal over this, when a brainwave hit us to name ourselves after the different nuts. Thus were born The Nuts; Nalanda, the coconut, Susan the areca nut, Padmaja the walnut or had it been Darsana?? Hmm… You must forgive me people; I am getting old you know. Sometimes the memory slips. Ahh.. now I remember, Padmaja was the walnut and Darsana the cashew nut. I became,  errr… ummm… the peanut. Sigh, did I have a choice?? Being the smallest has its drawbacks.

The Nuts spent a lot of time together. We shared our lunch. Nalanda’s lunch box was raided for the fried fish piece and Darsana’s for the prawn/fish pickle. Susan’s mom made us lovely cutlets. Padmaja entertained us with news from the radio station where she sometimes lent voice to the plays. We went to the library together. We shared our notes. We visited each other, had lunch at each others places.

One fine day, we discovered Linda Goodman and her book ‘The Sun Signs’. The book became a sort of gospel for us. We went around asking each of our classmates what their Zodiac sign was and then dived into the book to check if what we knew of the person and what Linda Goodman said tallied. Darsana went one step ahead and asked the HOD  directly what his zodiac sign was while submitting her assignment. When she related this to us the next day, our eyes were fit to pop out.

Once while we, The Nuts, were returning home from college, and as usual chattering nineteen to the dozen, some turn of the conversation made us hit upon a new idea. We wanted to name ourselves after toothpastes. The discussion was in full swing, in slightly raised voices due to the roar of the moving bus, as to who would be which toothpaste. I was eager to stake my claim for the desired brand of toothpaste before someone else did and so without unnecessary procrastination stated my preference in my crystal clear voice.

“I am Close Up!! I am Close up!!” I said, leaving no room for doubt.

As luck would have it, the engine of the bus died just then and instead of the bell like clarity I had intended, my voice came out like a holler.

“I AM CLOSE UP!! I AM CLOSE-UP!!”

All eyes turned as one in my direction as curiosity got the better of even the most pompous among the intellectuals to know who this mysterious Close-up was. I have never been so embarrassed in my life. The Nuts spent the rest of the journey trying not to look at each other as we were bursting to laugh out, which we did as soon as our stop arrived and we alighted.

After our final exams we went to the photo studio to have a picture taken of the five of us. We had also planned on a movie and the only one we were able to manage tickets for was a Tamil one, a family drama. The rest of the womenfolk in the movie hall were seen soaking up their kerchiefs wiping away tears of sympathy for the suffering heroine, while we soaked our kerchiefs too, but with tears of helpless mirth. The absurd theatrical dialogues were enough to start us off on our laughing spree. Though we cursed our misfortune at ending up watching a stupid movie, we were quick to admit that we had never had so much fun as we had that day.

Nalanda now works in a bank. Susan is HOD of the Economics Department of a college in the city. Padmaja is HOD of her department in a college in Calicut. Darsana, who had been the first rank holder of our batch and the first to take up employment after studies as lecturer in the S.N. College at Kollam, does not teach now and is a stay-at-home mom. Who is left?? Oh yeah, moi. But, you know about me. I work too… at boring people to death writing blogs. I am proud to say my success rate is very high. I take my work seriously you know!!

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