It was in the summer of 2009 that I become Yudi’s follower.
I remember I bumped into him at a coffee house & generally got chatting. He told me his summer plans. He was going to this place in Pondicherry called Adishakti to do a ten-day theater course & post that he planned to take swimming lessons. I suddenly realized that I wanted to do both those things.
I am swayed easily.
Yudi told me it was the last day to apply so I rushed home & applied to Adishakti. I gave a one-line reason as to why I wanted to attend this course (and later got told that that was stupid. “How will anyone take you seriously if you give them a one-line reason?”)
I got in.
Two weeks later I found myself at Chennai airport. Yudi had reached a little before me & had waited up. Figured we’d take the same taxi to Auroville.
Slam. Doors shut.
Now, we weren’t the best of friends till this taxi ride. But Pondicherry changed all of that.
We reached post midnight and were met by Fizz & Arvind.
They helped us with our bags and showed us to our room. Told us class started at 6:30 the next morning (What?) and left.
So somehow we hauled ourselves to the dining area at 6 for some tea and headed to our first class which was 20 minutes of breathing exercises with Nimmi & then 2 hours of Kalaripayattu (WHAT?!?) (WHY?!?!)
That first class was brutal. It became easier by day 5. But that first day…. that first day….
I actually thought that I might have a congenital heart defect by the end of that first session of Kalari.
Everybody else in the course had come a day earlier & sort of knew each other. Yet again, I was the new kid in class. But this time around, it was fine because it was quite a merry lot. People from all over. Didn’t really have much time to talk during our ‘Let’s kill these unfit city people’ class but right after that was breakfast.
Man, food never tasted that good. Honest. Idli and Sambar. Best fuckin’ idli & sambar in the world.
So we met everyone, hung out a bit & then in half an hour were seated at our first class with Vinay.
Vinay was a force to reckon with. He knew everything. And he was ace at it. Also, there was tons to learn from him so everyone listened to every word that came out of his mouth. Now this is the part where I tell you about Yudi’s super-powers.
Yudi can do one thing and concentrate on another. And he can act like he’s not listening to someone (say, instructor) and talk to you, but he’s actually listening to someone (say, instructor) while talking to you. And I didn’t know about any of this till day 3.
On day 3, when everyone else was earnestly listening to Vinay talk (and Vinay is one hellava interesting man with a crazy sense of humour), Yudi decided it was time. And so he started to make me laugh. I don’t remember what he said and did but it had something to do with Rekha & Stardust Magazine. Remember that uncontrollable laughter in school when there was a really strict teacher around? Yeah. That’s what happened. So, of course, Vinay looked up, asked me whats up & threw some questions at me & I just garbled some rubbish, but Yudi… Yudi knew exactly what was going on and spat out some answers, which were on point. I don’t know how he did it, but he did. And it was always me getting caught.
This happened once, then it happened again, then it happened again… and by the 4th or 5th time, people didn’t really want to sit next to us all that much. There was an entire class of very serious people and then there were the two idiots who were always grinning. I remember this one class when I was actually paying attention, Yudi started to slither towards Vinay, shooting imaginary spider webs from his wrists. … and then slither back (Vinay was aware of all of this and never once kicked us out. He did make us sit separately once or twice)
We also had percussion class at 4 in the evening. Of course we were extremely enthused the first day. We were charged. First Kalari, then an awesome theory class, then a stellar lunch… and then Percussion class? How awesome is that?! So we beat the drums with all our might. Tiny little drummer boys & girls not knowing the wrath of leather on wood.
It was that night at around 3 am, when I woke up to some seriously loud sounds of angst/pain. It was Yudi, on the next bed, asleep and in anguish. Thank God for Brufen 500 mg. We popped those for 3 days straight. Day 4 we were made of steel.
And that’s when we decided that we were going to be called The Sexy Ninja’s. We were invincible, we felt no pain, we moved like Cheetahs. It was us against the world. We were – Yudhishter Urs, Juhi Pande, Ashavari Majumdar, Vivek S. Punjabi & Fizz (our Kalari instructor, who actually was all these things)
Now Fizz, who was the first to meet us, is a resident at Adishakti, had Yudi & me as his fans. I remember looking at him and saying “Oh my God, you look exactly like…” “Jean Reno” He completed.
Fizz liked his guitar and he didn’t like talking too much. But he took us around Auroville, made us buy awesome home-made jam and squash, took us to the beach, took us to Hotel Qualithe, we rented scooties, went for dinner. It was fun. And before we knew it ten days were up.
So, ok, maybe Yudi & I weren’t ideal students. Maybe we should have paid more attention. Maybe we shouldn’t have called our batch in Kalari class ‘The Sexy Ninja’s.’
But we did.
And it was the best fun I ever had in any class.
And Like all my trips, I’d do this over in a heartbeat.