Meeting Him

I had decided when I was pretty young

I knew what to ask Him for when I got my wishes

If ever.

I’d ask for a cupboard full of Apsara Extra Dark pencils

Pearl-white Faber Castell erasers and a thick coloring book and paints

I’d ask for a nice badminton racket for myself

That I wouldn’t share

And dirtier bruise-ier knees a testimony to my outdoor affair.

Multicolored hairbuns and satin ribbons

Straight long hair my parents couldn’t bob again,

And a new pair of white socks for school everyday.

Then I’d ask

Why he didn’t let some of His kids sleep sound at night.

Why I was young but never blind

Why only some ever woke up with swollen eyes –

So maybe a lesson or two on naivety complementary

For the not so lucky, never so naïve.

 

 

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School :D

(The kid(s) in the pic isn’t me – it’s Noyna, Jeriya or Miriam, I had bobbed hair until at least 5th standard)

“First line – ‘My-name-is-Parvathy Sarat (Roll No. 28),’” I read out from my English Composition note’s ‘Myself’ page laid out open under my desk. “You’ll have to write your name,” I added in a hushed tone.
“Be soft, Sunitha teacher is making her rounds,” Noyna (Roll No. 26) hissed, almost giggling.

Seated between the two of us, the ever-compliant and innocent Parvathy (Roll No. 27) was hunched on our request, almost lying on top of her answer sheet now, scribbling Myself away with formidable acumen. Noyna and I exchanged messages (literally) behind her back.

“How does she know Myself?”

“She studied for the Unit Test like we were supposed to,” we nervously giggled some more. “Ayyo Paru teacher!”

“Okay next line ‘I – am- 6 -years –old.’”
“Edo shhhhhh she’s looking.”

Being equally weak at English or being new to Class I-C at Holy Angels’ ISC, or more probably because we came by the same blue Ananthapuri travels, Noyna and I were best friends.
Hers was the first stop in the morning, mine the second. We took turns to sit by the window. Unless we’d had a fight – then the person in the mood to ‘Edo sorry’ first would sacrifice their seat as a token of reignited bestfriendship.

We ate Noyna’s jamcakes in the evenings that her Ammachi bought her, blush pink and white with a coating of snowy coconut sprinkles. We’d watch sunlight sifting through gaps in clouds and declare ‘God’ was peeking down at us (I was a staunch believer of God when I was with her). For no particular reason, another bestfriend duo like ourselves was our enemy– we decided we were smarter and cooler, and made fun of everything they did (and not very unloudly) between ourselves.

We were innocent and cruel, like kids are.

Life Crisis No. 1 (English Composition No. 2) :

“Copy down My Family from the blackboard.”

Teacher reads it out for us:

I – have – a – small – family. There – are – dash – members – in – my – family. Fill in the dash with number of members in your family – How many of you have a brother or a sister? Goooood, you write 4 okay?? How many of you are an only child? Goooood, you write 3.

I waited for the Goooood for the 5-member family specimen I represented – it never came. Was it still a small family if there were 5 members? Could I write 5? Mine had never struck me as particularly small anyway.

As the other kids proceeded to copy down the lines, I looked from left to right and front and behind to see if there was anyone clueless as me, making a mental note to confront my parents and my brothers. Jeriya had only one sister. So did Roshni, Parvathy, Meera pretty much everyone I knew.
Then I found Amina with two sisters 😀 We skipped to the teacher, she laughed and said Yes as we waited with abated breaths.
Phew.

Class  II : My Family haunted me again. This time I knew I had a small family.

Class III : Gowri’s adventures with the 10m long python on the road.“Really?” “Yes, you can ask my sister, she was there too!” Of course we believed her, that’s what we did – share our own stories and believe each others’. Kids don’t lie, kids are just creative.

She brought to class the whole kitchen machinery (toy set) – gas stove, cylinder, vessel, and the tiny Sachin/Sehwag figure you got with Horlicks. Under our desk, the whole story played out – as Noyna, Jeriya and I filled the steel vessel with water, Gowri delivered the narration – she was the best. (“It’s getting late for Sehwag’s bath. Let’s put water on the stove” – see, like I said it doesn’t sound as good when I say it :P). Laughter riot and a shouting riot from Deepa teacher ensued.

Class IV :

Group Song for School Day. A flock of frilled frocks. You girls look like angels! (I looked like shit). But surely Angels, with ungrimed and polished black Bata buckle shoes and new white socks pulled up right upto where the fat calves wouldn’t let them climb up.

Class V:

Caroline teacher taught us Little Women – in her crisply pressed sarees with stiff pleats. I knew her finger rings and earrings and what sarees she wore them with. On days she didn’t, I wondered if she’d misplaced them the last time and couldn’t find them in the morning rush as her own father called behind her Paalu kudichitt pooo, like mine did in the mornings.

You just had to sit and look into your books, while she read in her great reading voice. It was a story with Christmas presents and bedtime prayers and pudding and drawing pensuls. My life was He-Man on Doordarshan and cricket with neighbours and monsoon mangoes so the new world charm was way too much.

In the afternoon English-II class, we sat in our blue checked pinafores and ties and shirts as the sun threw light onto the open red corridor outside, bent over our tiny texts – some shared, others on their own. And Little Women by Louisa May Alcott would play out. It was about 4 girls whose father was away at some war and her mother kept reminding them over dinner and over prayer how they had to be good girls and how they were looking forward to playing out The Pilgrims’ Progress when their father returned. I thought of myself as Amy because of my stupid nose, though I knew I’d be Jo when I grew up – everyone adored Jo. Though I knew Jo was actually Caroline teacher, especially when Jo cut her beautiful long hair towards the end to save money for her family (I’m sorry for the spoiler) – Caroline teacher was brimming with pride, giving away her little secret. But Jo was the best, so I wasn’t going to out her.

At the year end, Roshni, Akhila and I were class toppers, and we were asked to pick ‘any book’ we liked from the school library. We returned to class, they had Class VI texts with them (headstart or whatever makes sense to 10 year olds). My logic was parents would buy us those anyway, so I picked what looked like a puzzle/games book for kids. As our class teacher skimmed through it and closed it with a grin, I noticed it said Class Zero.

Yes, I think that confirms I had a disturbing childhood.

Sorry for the abrupt ending though, this should’ve been posted long ago. And a Happy New Year!

Back when we were kids

Before college and high school, before crushes and heartbreaks, before Science got split into three different subjects and Social Studies into two, even before we were taught integers and fractions.  Back when we wanted to grow up. Back when we were kids.

If you ever followed the road opposite to the Ganapathi temple in Medical College back then, you’d reach the Medical College quarters. It’s where more than half my childhood lies, it’s also where I decided I didn’t want to marry Kunjacko Boban after all.

I was the annoying little sister who cried on cue and made sure my elder brothers were scolded and punished by my parents for mischief that I’d worked up – that’s what my brothers would tell you anyway. Served them right too, they called me fat all the time. But either way I was still the little sister, with a tiny potbelly I’ll admit, and could always be seen seated on Achu Annans shoulders or carried by Kannenan on his back 😀

Biju chetan and Aju chetan were the neighbours Kannan and I spent most of our time with. (yes they’re brothers). We were undeclared best buddies, with a share of harmless details of our exploits to be kept secret from both our parents. We were always present at each other’s birthdays. In those days it meant Birthday cake with icing from Jayaram bakery, the quintessential puffs and cutlets and samosas, homemade chicken curry/parotta, juice and icecream etc.

We usually waited for our parents to leave before kicking off with cricket in their compound. We bowled with the 8rs pink/white rubber balls or the more expensive optic yellow tennis ball for 30 rupees that was handled with more care. I was always the underdog, Kannan never took me on his team. Achu annan occasionally joined us, he was nicer and always picked me. I’m sure the rejection scarred me for life. Though it made more sense when we played football, cos I always ran away with the ball, err, in my hands, that is. Football was too boring for me anyway.

I owned like one doll or two whose faces I had disfigured in an attempt to beautify, you don’t sit inside playing with those when everyone else is outdoors. At times when I got bored I’d sell fish on the back steps of our house. Different shaped and sized leaves painstakingly stacked and arranged neatly, I’d diligently make sure no flies sat on them and that my customers got the best and the freshest picks. No none of the boys ever visited, even my parents never visited though I always invited them very nicely. I don’t think they were all that impressed.

When corporation people unloaded sand in front of Biju chetan’s garage, the others would jump from the low sunshade onto it while I would nonchalantly prepare mudcakes using cherattas (coconut shells) and coax anybody who’d care to taste them. Yeah nobody ever did.

When it got too hot to play outside, we played Video games (cartridges and joysticks, people?) at their place. The four of us would huddle in front of the tv. Countless runs of Mario and duck hunt and I don’t even remember the names of the rest of the games we played. Afternoons meant more cricket/video games followed by cycling/badminton at our place in the evening. We usually went back home only for lunch and in the evening when it got too dark and the games were over. Sometimes we’d fall asleep on their beds, nobody was ever home in the day, even otherwise it was okay I think. Anita aunty was always so sweet (still is), she gave us the best birthday gifts and even had me cutting her son’s birthday cake once.

During vacations when everyone else left for holidays, we’d be in empty quarters abandoned by their residents, plundering the guava and mango trees there, checking intermittently and listening intently for any sign of intruders, other than us, of course. At times we’d bring back home the fruits of our labour the parents never noticed. We made tons of envelopes using newspapers and cooked rice –it was our mini project-, wondered what to do with it and eventually sold it to the lady fishmonger who routinely visited our homes (she gave us 2rupee coins each)  😀 Any spare change we ever got was spent in buying and stocking pink rubber balls, once we started playing they got lost so often, and eating the round pedas at the Milma shop in the main road.

When we weren’t playing or searching for the umpteen lost cricket balls on the other side of the road, Kannan and I were busy fighting, physical mental material psychological every kind of possible damage included. Following which I obligingly cried to let my parents know. They knew, I think.

All our plots had mango trees and during summer seasons we’d eat fat and ripe orange and yellow mangoes raw and pulpy in the morning, noon, evening and at night.

We were forever sweaty and covered in dirt, always running around and shouting to each other loudly, sometimes across goalposts (always a distinguishable rock), or from opposite sides of the wicket (3 aluminium rods each) or the court net (that we had a proper one though), or even across compounds. We always got home after dusk, exhausted and happy. We’d shower, eat, watch Doordarshan and fall asleep somewhere in between. Unless we decided to fight, which was twice a day, followed by my drama.

Those were the days when happiness meant wearing your favorite dress on your birthday, and the prettiest and nicest strangers were the ones that smiled at you. When soiling your clothes was the way to be and nobody minded except the elders. When summer didn’t mean heat as much as it meant cricket and cousins and mangoes. And spending all the time under the sun were 4 (and at times 5) tiny people forever playing and fighting and laughing.

And I’m mighty glad we were loud enough for a lifetime 🙂