I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath, ‘Ten, nine, eight, seven…’
We weren’t going to launch a rocket into space, neither we had pulled the trigger of a nuclear bomb. Let me tell you a quick backstory behind this countdown. The story dates back to last winter. The person who did a dramatic exit was my friend, foe and neighbor Jignesh. His intake of social media was larger than the amount of Oxygen he inhaled. This time he just came to my place to remind me that he had challenged me for an ongoing ‘Ice Bucket Challenge.’ That too, in front of the whole world. Actually, Jignesh aka Jigla had just fulfilled this cold blooded challenge and his video became sort of viral (mostly because people had never seen a giant hippopotamus having a bath in a bathroom with his slipping towel at the end of the video).
So now the scene was, Jigla had just challenged me in Rajinikanth style, ‘Jayla’, as he used to address me, ‘you have only twenty-four hours to fulfill the challenge. Mind it.’ He knew, that bloody Jigla knew very well, that there had been ‘Thakur-Gabbar’ like long enmity between me and having a bath with cold water and that too in chilling winter. But now for me, it was izzat ka sawaal, a matter of pride to complete the challenge. I observed him carefully, rather hatefully, as he walked to the door. He had politician worthy thick skin and black hole worthy dark skin. These both specialties made him resistant for cold, I thought. Then I observed myself. I was skinny and under three thick layers of wooly clothes. Ironically I even had a shawl wrapped around me which made me look like ‘Thakur’ of ‘Sholay’. At this very thought, I threw away the shawl and went straight to our bathroom. If real life had background music, this was the perfect moment for a heroic adventurous tune.
Setting my foot in a bathroom in freezing winter was nothing less than the giant leap for mankind to me. But I stepped in the bathroom with a state of mind like a monk who has just sold his Ferrari. This gave me bit strength to stand barefoot in the bathroom which was giving me feel of a cold storage. A few moments in the bathroom, ‘chilled’ bathroom to be precise, brought me quick thoughts on futility to bath, such water wasting online challenges, global water crisis and herd mentality of social media. I was just about to run to write a long status update about it on Facebook, but then I saw a giant face of Jigla laughing demoniacally at me and saying in Dolby Digital surround sound, ‘jo dar gaya, samjho mar gaya…’ Suddenly water slowly started running from the tap which shook off all such cowardice thoughts.
I was just about to concentrate on ‘Mission Ice Bucket Challenge’. But then wife ordered in her lovely yet authoritative voice, ‘Thank God, water came. Our municipal corporation is as lazy as you. This is after three days water has shown up. We have a heap of clothes to wash. Quickly put all the clothes in washing machine before the water runs away.’
‘Yes, honey’, I replied with an assuring tone.
She seemed pleased. So, she sent a catch, ‘and don’t forget to wash two of my tops separately which leaves color.’
‘Jo hukoom, mallika-e-husn!’ I reassured her.
I transferred all the clothes (except two tops of my wife) to washing machine with political like vengeance. Why should I have all the pain of bathing in cold water? The machine started noise reminiscent of live telecast of Lok Sabha. There were six different types of buckets in the bathroom lying in a corner. I felt they were smiling sarcastically at me saying, ‘Ice bucket challenge is too far, first at least try to lift us, mister!’
I took this imaginary sarcasm rather positively. I thought it’s a good idea to do a little practice of lifting buckets to avoid horrible consequences of failing to lift the bucket or hitting the whole bucket with icy water on my head, that too, on camera. I started lifting buckets one by one. Now the problem was two buckets didn’t have handles. The other two were heavier than my own weight. One cute, innocent looking bucket was there, but it was exclusively reserved for certain kind of daily cleaning process. And you cannot mess with reservation in India. So, I was left with the situation of an Indian voter who always has only one option to choose.
I chanted, ‘Jay Ho, Khali Maharaj’ and lifted the bucket. At that same moment I got an enlightening thought, if I had done bucket lifting exercise every day, I, too, could give complex to Salman Khan in six pack abs. Well, I wasn’t single (or ‘virgin’) like Salman, so I brushed away this thought.
I had successfully lifted water filled bucket and was one step closer to become ‘You Tube Sensation.’ Now immediate need was to arrange lots of ice cubes. I quickly rushed to the kitchen like a migratory bird and put my flamingo neck into the deep freezer. There were a huge variety of things in the freezer like fifteen days old paneer, frozen samosa, a bottle of isabgol and some undecipherable things but nowhere a single cube of ice was in sight. I got scared for a moment, has global warming reached to our refrigerator or what? I toned down my husky crow-like voice and asked my nightingale, ‘aaaa… dear, why don’t we have ice cubes in our freezer?’ Nightingale cooed, ‘Ladkewale is coming to see our neighbor Kokilaben’s eligible daughter Sangita. So they are making gallons of Roohafza. How can I refuse for a noble cause?’
I felt like the whole universe has conspired against me. But now I was more than determined to complete the Ice Bucket Challenge. I left home in my Sunday uniform of t-shirt-bermuda shorts and went straight to paanwala at the nook of our street. I demanded, ‘three dozen ice cubes please.’ Now this line had a double meaning. You cannot ask loudly for ice cubes in ‘dry’ Gujarat. This changes the whole meaning of the conversation. Asking for ice cubes in our state means you are having a secret booze party. Which is technically against the law. You are not supposed to have a good time, even in your home. For that, you have to go to Diu or Goa or somewhere else out of Gujarat.
But that paanwala Kishan was wiser than me, ‘Saheb, should I pack club soda and something for chakhna as well?’
Though it was Sunday, I wasn’t going to have a good time. So, I raised my eyebrow and said in a strict voice, ‘Kishan, you want me to parcel you to Kerala?’
‘Why Kerala? What’s there?’ He asked suspiciously.
‘They have just imposed prohibition. Now pack me ice cubes only. And for your information, I am having Ice Bucket Challenge.’ I left him puzzled and came back to ground zero, our bathroom.
But there was one more twist waiting for me in the bathroom. Except that one cute little bucket, all other buckets were empty. Even tap had turned dry and was already showing me, babaji ka thullu! I shouted like Arnab Goswami, ‘Who emptied all these buckets?’ A sharp voice bounced back, ‘I got a chance to clean kitchen and balcony after a long time. Buckets were dirty as well. I only told you to keep an eye on the washing machine, but you made U-turn like Kejriwal. You never help me…’
I thought I won’t be able to complete Ice Bucket Challenge without my wife’s help. At least there should be someone to hold the mobile camera! So, I convinced wife with the patience of telemarketers and she happily agreed with an innocence of a poor customer.
She took upon remaining task to complete my challenge on her beautiful shoulders. We didn’t have more water to spill. So, wifey started collecting water like liquid substances from our neighborhood. Wife had little water saved after washing her two color leaving tops. That water was reminding of Roohafza. Our kind neighbors also contributed very generously. Dull and a bit smelly water remained after washing daal-rice, wet nappies etc. One gentleman poured a whole bottle of water from his fridge (which actually was vinegar!).
Now the stage was set. The bucket was filled with VIBGYOR colored liquid. Three dozen ice cubes were swimming happily in them. Their sub-zero temperature was already started giving me shivers. I made a strong face like I was going on dharna at Jantar Mantar. Wifey was ready with mobile-camera focused on me in her hand. She was of course at the safe distance. I observed the bucket carefully. Took a deep breath and lifted it till my head. Remembered hot, dry summers of Ahmedabad and poured the whole bucket over my head.
The earth stood still. There was an ice age everywhere. I almost lost my senses.
The only thing I heard was a distant voice of my wife, ‘Honey, your mobile memory shows full. The video couldn’t be saved.’ My sigh came in form of a loud sneeze.
Two lines are enough to describe the aftermath of my fulfilled yet undocumented Ice Bucket Challenge, ‘ab main marizon ki qataaron me nazar aata hoon, you tube ko follow karne ki saza pata hoon…’
Jigla had the last laugh.
Copyright © Jayesh Adhyaru. Please do not copy, reproduce this article without my permission. However, you are free to share this URL or the article with due credits.