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Not technically a wall, but it was an equally insurmountable gate. Made of wrought iron of all things! You could see the trams outside and people walking past, and even the swimming club across the road lined with tall palm trees, but you couldn't climb it and go over to the cobble-stoned street. Moitreyee, of The Telegraph, is known to have climbed over this very gate nine years back, clad in a saree. If you happen to have the right contacts, someone might be able to procure a picture of that historic wall crossing, no less legendary than the mighty Chengiz Khan scaling the Great Wall of China. In fact if you to visit the Coffee House on College Street, Moitreyee and Chengiz are often uttered in the same breath.
Mr Guha was no Moitreyee, and he wasn't in a saree either, so the thought of climbing over to the other side didn't occur to him at all. He had come to King's College as part of the Chief Minister's entourage that morning to attend the centenary celebrations of the college, but things didn't go according to plan. He was thinking of the famous Pink Floyd album of the same name and wondering if these students of King's College really needed any education. There was absolute chaos everywhere, students were protesting, and one particular guy ("asshole" as Mr Guha observed under his breath), was dancing in a bra and a pair of panties as other students cheered him on. It all happened so suddenly, it could have been lifted right from a Dadaist painting for all one knew. Anti war in essence, but a veritable riot.
Wistfully he remembered how he climbed over an equally tall wall into the Girls' College along with 54 other boys a fateful day in 1995, in a bid to tear their answer sheets. Sigh! Students will never change. They will forever remain rebels without a cause. The boy clad in lingerie had by then drawn a lot of attention from the press, and was found happily posing for them.
For a fleeting moment Mr Guha thought of the thousands that climbed the Berlin Wall and tore it down, but at roughly 120 kg (240 pounds), Mr Guha was not feeling very adventurous. His security personnel could not be found anywhere in the melee. Not that he fancied himself as the Gaulish chief Vitalstatistix and expected to be carried away on a shield, but to have them shield him from possible attacks would have been rather welcome at this crucial juncture, he thought.
The Chief Minister, Mrs Malini Chatterjee, could be seen walking out amidst all this chaos rather unperturbed. She had come to hand over a cheque of quite a handsome amount to the college on this historic occasion, but the students were upset with their principal Dr Paudwal, who apparently kowtowed while accepting the cheque from the CM. As a north Indian, Dr Paudwal was merely being courteous, and instead of curtsying, expressed her gratitude with a bow. This infuriated everybody, and chaos ensued, making the Education Minister Mr Ranajit Guha, the hero of our story, a tad nervous. He proudly shared his name with a famous subaltern historian from Princeton, and was a History major himself. But diving into the annals of historical escapes wasn't yielding satisfactory results. Only conspiracy theories came to mind, as he tried to reconstruct Hitler's escape from a bunker to the sea shores of faraway Argentina in a U-Boat. Closer home, the real-life story of Subhas Bose escaping his Elgin Road residence and finding his way to Japan didn't come to Mr Guha's rescue.
In the distance he could see the Chief Minister whisked away by her bodyguards and the police, as the menagerie of students followed her towards the gate. Mr Guha was jostled around and got pushed to the wall of Annie Besant Hall, right next to which was a narrow outlet that leads to Bishu's bookshop. Except his girth, he went fairly unnoticed, which explains why he wasn't heckled by the students.
The narrow lane led him to an even narrower revolving gate, outside which lay freedom. Mr Guha was breathing normally again. You can say the relief almost allowed his lips to pucker into a warm smile. This was his familiar escape route as a student, right by Bishu's bookshop, out onto the road and the shiny tram tracks. But like in any familiar nightmare where you can't jump from your boat on to the jetty, and seem to miss your step, he couldn't cross either. He tugged with all his might, but was curiously rendered immobile.
The bags of cellulite all around his middle slid through the gate only from one side of his belly to roughly around his belly button and refused to budge thereafter. "The Communists are arriving, where is Eva, how many bullets in my Walther," were the last thoughts that went through his mind.
No, nothing unfortunate happened to Mr Guha that day. His security personnel finally located him and pulled him out of his misery. Bishu'da of Classic Bookstall can tell you the rest of the story if you buy him a Capstan cigarette. But I hear Mr Guha later met the legendary journalist pole-vaulter Moitreyee and has taken up the cause of the saree and its usage in tricky situations. He has also seemingly requested the CM for a change of portfolio from Education to Sports.
P.S. The cross-dressing student wasn't a cross dresser after all. He was found a couple of years later asking for financial assistance from the very Dr Paudwal in front of whom he had jubilantly danced. She was nice enough to help him out with money to further his education in the UK.