Manipal and Pizza Porn – The celestial connection II

The response to the previous article was overwhelming. I was deluged with requests to narrate some more anecdotes. Surprisingly many of them were from non- Manipalites. So I guess I am not the only one afflicted with that disease called Manipalitis.

A character that is rarely advertised when talking about Manipal is the sensitive side of our students. While Manipalites can be very laid back, when the situation demands, they can all rise as one and fight for a just cause. The latest episode in my memory is the unfortunate death of young Ishaan. It was a watershed moment in the history of that small town when over 4000 students united to demand the resignation of the insensitive Director. They did not cower and finally won.

I remember that one Sunday ride to Mangalore. The Bus was filled with young and bubbling students. When it reached the temple town of Udupi, there was hardly any seat left. But another load of passengers boarded, most of them weather beaten elders. I felt sorry for them. Imagine my surprise then, when suddenly as if on cue, all the youngsters stood up and yielded their seats to the elders. I felt very proud then. These kids were a real credit to their parents.Pizza Porn by Sudhir Kekre

Another time, I went for a morning jog till the KMC food court. I was in two minds whether to stop at the court and eat something or to starve and burn some more calories. Suddenly I twisted my ankle and fell down in a heap. A group of students were hurrying out, probably late to attend their classes. Yet they quickly came to my rescue. Someone sprayed a painkiller on my now swelling knee. Another offered me water to drink. I was bundled into an auto. One student even offered to go with me to my apartment. This when I knew they were getting late for their class.

It is no exaggeration that the most polite and caring youngsters that I have seen lived in Manipal. I can hardly remember any rudeness. In fact, one busy night the crowd was overflowing. Seeing that they were unable to manage, my manager called me to help. One boy, obviously worried about his ‘ Perm Time’ screamed at me to hurry. Later he came and apologised saying that he had no right to do so. The most abiding memory that I carry is this young boy and his girlfriend standing near the counter and apologising. I do not remember his rudeness. All I see is the repentance. It takes a large heart to say sorry.

I did not exaggerate when I said that there is a story under every rock. I met some very delightful people there. In my novel Pizza Porn many of the characters are either real or based on someone real!  Shabnam Mausi has been drawn from a real Hijra, Suneeta , I met while going to Goa. The alcoholic Gorrkha Bahadur was our security guard in Green View. The police Inspector I met when I rescued some boys from the police station is a figment of my imagination. The real inspector was quite polite. The owner of the hotel who called Manipal as Money pal is also real, though not the owner of a hotel. I have translated many of his funny comments into readable English.

One student enquired if I would still be writing stories with Manipal as the backdrop. Well I am not yet done. There are still a lot of funny characters who must be immortalised. They are too funny to be lost in amnesia. There was a harried husband whose pregnant wife everyday demanded chicken salad from Pizza Corner. He would come shyly as the shutters opened for his wife’s order. Then there was another customer who ordered daily chicken pasta for lunch. We thought he was weird until he once visited our store. I found him to be one of the most decent man. But his young son wouldn’t eat anything else and the doting father was too affectionate to say no.

The air in Manipal breeds craziness. When Pizza Corner was closed, the owner informed me that he felt sorry for the staff. There is no doubt that they were the most loyal and affectionate human beings one could ever find. Its not just Manipal, the state is such.

So for one whole week, the staff were treated to food and drinks in the day and night while they were working. He then generously offered anyone who wanted to relocate to AP. Four of them agreed.

I asked him what made him offer the drinks. The owner just grinned. “We were closing the store anyway. These boys were helping in packing. They were working hard. A thought crossed my mind. Even if they get sozzled and shout, there were no customers or outsiders to worry. We could always ask the sober men to make more noise while packing. I wanted to remember us as generous bosses.”

Clearly there is something special about Manipal. It makes even staid people loosen.

About Sudhir 58 Articles

Author of a two novels, Pizza Porn and Rambler Inn and Other Stories , nothing about Sudhir has been cool and smooth. Trained to be an engineer, he realised that he wasn’t cut out for that role. So he left engineering and worked abroad for a decade. He saw three ghastly terrorist attacks from close quarters. Whether it was Mumbai or New York or London, the response has been the same – of fear, outrage and sheer bravery.