Friday, April 08, 2005

Once upon a March…

I have grown. I was five years old in one posting and now I am seven. Summer holidays are what I remember most. The only thing worth remembering…!

Trivandrum. Daddy’s place. So many cousins to play with. And not just silly old games like dressing up and undressing a silly, sick doll. Hell, I hated changing my clothes…the last thing I was gonna do was help someone change theirs! It helped that I was the only girl among the innumerable boys! And they would never encourage a wail or a cry unless we were playing Red Indians or something.

Anand and Ashok. They were among my favorites. They lived in another country called America… It was supposed to be very far away, for they slept for a whole day after their journey. That tired they were... always!

They were my favorites coz they got me a lot of things from wherever. Pink chewing gum. Blue shoes. Flimsy and gauzy white dresses with sashes. I hated the dresses though. They were so stiff and I really could never move about comfortably in them. And then was the biggest pain of my life-I was not to get them dirty under any circumstances! Worse still- all my cousins seemed to be all queer with me when they saw me in a frock! I would still stick out my tongue at them but the response, if any was a poor one. Making faces too was no longer fun in a frock!!!

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Ashok and Anand-they knew a lot of games which were quite new. Red Indians were introduced to all of us. Seven stones or a game called that. Every vacation taught us something new.

One march, after they woke up from their sleep and their initial bashfulness wore off, we were sitting and eating water melons. This was a treat, coz I’d fallen off the car the last evening. Daddy was driving, and I was leaning out of the window with the wind blowing through my hair. I could hear Amma inside telling me repeatedly, “Put your head inside”. I pretended not to hear. Sometimes that worked…sometimes it didn’t and I was smacked a quick one on my bottom or whichever part of my body was in the nearest reach to Amma’s hand…

Nothing had happened except that my mother yelled, daddy looked awfully worried and my grandmother kept hugging me every two minutes after that. Talk about making a fuss!!

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And the water melon along with a lot of my favorite things was a special ‘treat’ for not crying. I didn’t cry, because I wasn’t given the time to!

We were each spitting the seeds out with the maximum force we could muster… the one that went the farthest was the best ‘spitter’!

After eating the moon shaped slices, staining my dress and spitting seeds everywhere, I smiled at them.

Ashok said, “Let’s play trust”

Anu, Manu, Hari, Tikki and whoever else was there nodded.

“Ok the game goes like this…” continued Ashok. “One person asks the other-do you trust me?” and if you say yes, then you have to do whatever the other person says. If you say no-you are chicken!”

I was convinced that this was a game he made up. And it was lousy.

I looked at him scornfully and said so, “Pooh. What a stupid game.” And put out my tongue at him.

We immediately launched on a wrestling match, with hair pulling, yelling and him sitting on top of me! We played the damn game!

There was this new house Vailachan was constructing, a few meters away from his old one. It was the place of the year.

“Shoo..”, the workers there used to flap their white cotton towels that found a place, wrapped on their heads. It had many purposes, apart from shooing all of us away- it acted as a sweat band for the head and it acted as a place where they could store their beedis ( poor man’s cigarettes- don’t seem to know the English word for it!)

“Shoo… shoo…”, and away we would run gleefully, only to appear a few moments later.

“Do you trust me?”, Ashok asked.

I did not even know what that word exactly meant. And I didn’t know if I would ‘trust whatever’ Ashok. So I said the safest of answers, “yes”, coz I knew a ‘No’ meant I was chicken!

“Ok, climb up to the first floor and jump down from there. I’ll catch you”, he said.

I stood there. I wasn’t sure I’d heard right. Jump down? First floor? And he’ll catch me? God- did he think I’m nuts?

He shoved me- kindness and gentleness didn’t exist in our life then.

I found myself walking up the steps. I reached the first floor all too soon. Walking up to the tip of the floor-after which was a sheer drop, I saw all of them standing down below. They waved to me. I waved back.

I heard Ashok yell, “When I count three, you jump into my hands, ok?”.

I looked at Ashok carefully. He was more than capable of lifting me. If I was 18 something kilos, he was 35 something. Well fed, was the word his mother used to describe him. We called him fat.

It was not all that far off, first floor and the ground floor I mean… it was longer than the guava tree beside it…long enough that you had to climb 12 stairs to reach on top…

I heard him yell, “One… Two… Three”

I jumped. Definitely not onto Ashok’s outstretched hands. Way off course…

I fell flat on my face. I was roughly pulled up and I could see after rubbing the mud from my eyes the shocked and admiring looks on all my cousins’ faces. I touched my nose and somewhere around that area… my hand felt something wet and sticky…that’s the last I remembered…

I woke up to anxious looks and tearful eyes watching me. My mother was an amazing one for crying. She could cry at anything and everything.

She called out to Daddy. Then Ammuma… Valiachan…. Valiamma…. A few neighbors.

My cousins also pushed they way through. They all stared down at my lying form.

After a lot of questions like-does it hurt, you want anything, who pushed you (when I sneaked a glance at the petrified Ashok)… I was tired of the fuss. And it hurt too.

Everyone left after sometime.

Ashok stayed back… he looked at me and said, “You look very ugly”. That was supposed to be a compliment.

I tried smiling, but couldn’t. So I slept…

The next few days were amongst the most boring I’ve ever lived through. Try being seven years old and lying down in a bed doing nothing but sleep, eat painfully and watch the whole world play and you will know.

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I’d done quite a lot of damage to myself. I’d bruised my knee. Scars still remain. I cut my upper lip. Scratches plentiful on my arms…

Ashok was a regular visitor. I soon got bored of him. All he would do was come and sit at the edge of the cot and stare at me. I knew he wanted to tell me something… and I knew he will soon…

I wanted to look at myself… I signed that to him-talking was still painful. And not talking was even more so!

He brought me a mirror. One glance a myself and I was shocked. Blue and pink were the two colors that best described my face. Seeing my expression, Ashok said admiringly, “You look uglier than two days back”.

I smiled at him. It was then that I saw- my tooth had broken too. I don’t know what it was, but seeing my small little tooth broken, I couldn’t stop the rush of hot tears that welled up. It was a tooth that had fallen off and grown again… the pain I had to go through before the new one came… Ouch!!!

Ashok’s face is something I remember to this day… priceless! If I was not so intent on crying and if I honestly hadn’t felt so bad, I would have laughed.

Totally helpless he said, “Please stop crying. Why are you crying…? Is it hurting all of a sudden?”

I pointed to my poor little broken tooth and sobbed my heart out…

Ashok then did the totally unthinkable. Hugging me fiercely he said, “Oh don’t you worry about your broken tooth… even if you look as ugly as this all the time and when you grow up, I’ll marry you. I promise. Cross my heart…”

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Ashok is getting married this July. A red invitation with a picture of Ganesh on it, sits in front of me, with a postmark that says he’s in Delhi now … Do you remember Ashok… what you promised me once upon a March…?

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

pure delight... swallowed each n every of your word...

10:32 AM  
Blogger Zealous Zygote said...

Scary Account... Beautifully written... And wonderfully presented...

12:53 AM  
Blogger Cheeru said...

Phew !! Wonderfully written and presented. The story seems to come direct from Dil-Se. Gal, seems you have gone thru the bad part and I am sure the wheel will turn.

Lot of things crossing my mind, do not know how to put them to words.

6:57 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Anonymous: Thank you...

Zy: Thanks again...

Amit: Insha Allah! :p

12:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Superb! I love it when you write. I still have to read the latest blogs though.

P.

10:44 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

A beautiful post!

11:42 PM  

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