my life: chapter 2

Expiry Period
My sister had warned me. She was already suffering from it and she said I was slowly getting the symptoms. It was a dangerous disease most children whose fathers are in the army suffer but none of them know about it, it hits them once every two or three years. Some lucky ones escape this dreaded disease but alas, I fell prey to it. The disease is called chicken pox, nah, just joking. Its actually called expiry period (I know the name is a bit cheesy but I just came up with it so you can’t blame me). It’s a state of my mind wherein after you have stayed in a place for 2 or 3 years, you then feel like moving out for no apparent reason. While my sister began to suffer severe bouts of EP and I was just catching it from her, we moved from Lucknow to Pune and this time, along came my Dad.
Pune was the first real, modern city we had gone to (no offence to Lucknow, your one rocking place, but c’mon, get real). We shifted into the army colony and I was the new kid. The ‘new kid’ in the army is always the cause of a lot of curiosity. Everyone are like ‘ok now what does this guy do different’.
The one thing common to all kids in the army is cricket. No, I must rephrase, the one thing common to all kids in India, is cricket. So you better be good at it or else your left out. I was quite the bowler, I was a lean, mean bowling machine. I used to bowl at the speed of 12 bowls an over (I used to give away too many extras, but that was my strategy, to confuse the batsmen, it didn’t work too well). Slowly I brought in a revolution. It was called Hide and Seek. Cricket was over, and so were my extra long overs. But I still had problems making proper friends. I thought I was over it but there were many days when everyone would finish their Hide and seek without bothering to look for me. But as I mentioned earlier I had my friend, I gave him a name, Neal. He was really good to me, he was there when I needed him and when I had people around me he would disappear. He was giving me a chance to make real friends I guess but I was happy with him.
In Pune, I joined another one of those ‘best schools in town’. Getting in was a bit of a problem, as this time I laughed at the principal when she asked me a math related question during the interview. My parents nearly cried, while I laughed. Neal laughed along with me. He always said I had a great sense of humour.
On the first day of school I had my second crush. Now I was in a boys school and was sitting and wondering what was wrong in that place, everybody looked the same. And then out from all the confusion and chaos, came Ms Gulati (turns out she was Mrs Gulati). I had never known love like this before, I was 8. She seated herself at the table and opened out the register and called out our names. I was so lost in her musical voice that 45 names later I realized she hadn’t called out my name.
‘Anybody whose name I didn’t call out’, I came back to my senses.
‘Mine, miss’
‘ Oh I knew your name, you just looked a bit dazed, so I didn’t call it out’, and then she smiled.
Neal was sitting next to me, as I was the only one in the class sitting alone. He winked at me when he saw Ms Gulati’s smile.
I skipped home that day. Neal followed me all the way, for the first time I was totally ignoring him but he didn’t mind.
‘You got to learn to tie your shoe laces, your 9 now’, this was my paranoid mom and she rightfully was, I still didn’t know how to tie my shoe laces.
‘No cricket till you learn to tie your laces’.
Who wants to go? I thought. After all I was hardly ever involved in the game. After the sad and untimely demise of hide and seek, I was left on the side again. But I was still the best fielder and nobody could disagree on that.
Ms Gulati slowly began liking me, after all I was a good student. My math was still mediocre, especially when my Dad tried to teach me because now when he asked me a question I didn’t laugh anymore, I blushed, because I was thinking of Ms. Gulati now.
‘How much is 2*2?’ and my face would become red and so would my Dad’s but for entirely different reasons.
I was in the 2nd standard now and was chosen for the school play, by guess who. Yes your right, Ms.Gulati. She wanted me to play the role of a prince and my mom told me that princes were brave and handsome men.
‘So that’s what Ms.Gulati thinks of me’. But unfortunately Ms. Gulati had different plans. I was to play the prince in Sleeping Beauty, remember the same story where this gal sleeps of and this dude on a horse comes and kisses her and she then wakes up from her hangover, ya the same one. Well so I was the ‘dude’ but the problem was that the ‘gal’ too, was a dude (boys school, remember)
‘You don’t have to really kiss him, just make it look as if you are’, was Ms. Gulati’s solution.
So easy for her to say. Neal was having a good time laughing at me, he knew I was caught in this evil trap laid out by my very own love who had deceived me with her web of deceit and betrayal leaving me wondering, ‘How the &^%$ am I going to get out of this?.
Neal had an idea. I loved it.
The Annual Day of our school arrived, there was excitement, parents, food and lipstick on my face!! For heavens sake, I was the prince, wasn’t I supposed to look like a man, but as Ms. Gulati did the make up I didn’t complain. But I was going to take my revenge and it was going to be sweet. Ms. Gulati, Beware!!!
So our play finally started and my part was coming as I got onto my wooden horse on which I had to come. I had to get of it, kneel down in as chivalrous a manner I could and kiss the fair lady on her cheek. I did everything according to the script, I came on my wooden horse, many said that I looked like a prince out of a fairytale (the scary ones I think). Parked my horse beside my fair lady, got of the horse and as the narrator came to the kiss, I picked up the wooden horse, bent it low and placed it on the cheek of the princess and as the narrator stared in horror, the princess woke up to the loudest applause and laughter that hall had ever heard. I put the horse down and took a bow and ran of the stage with the horse ala Mask of Zorro style.
Back stage I basked in my new found glory with Neal for only a few minutes and then in came Ms. Gulati, anger all over her face. I had taken my revenge.
The next few days turned out to be the best of my life, the princess of the play, Vishal, loathed my existence and Ms. Gulati hated me, but I had got over her. Otherwise I was a hero for pulling of one of the bravest stunts in the history of the school. Even the seniors congratulated me. Neal seemed to have disappeared for a few days but as my popularity faded away Neal came back and so did my normal life. I was happy but I did miss the appreciation, it seemed like for the first time I was accepted. My parents began to think I had got over my problem but I was falling deeper into it. Neal was becoming a bigger part of my life and even though people now wanted to be my friends, I still preferred Neal because he always listened to me and I always agreed with him. I was 10 and growing fast.
EP was showing its symptoms again, I wanted to get out. It didn’t take long for me to get my medicine. Dad came home one day, ‘We have been posted to Bengdubi’.
‘Who’s Dubi?’, my sister asked.
‘The place’s name is Bengdubi, it’s an army cantonment near Siliguri.’
‘Now what the hell is Siliguri’, said my mom.
‘ The place is near Calcutta, in West Bengal, got it’. Dad walked out of the room in a huff.
I was ecstatic. Mom had already prepared herself for this. I looked at my sister to see if she had come out of her EP as we were now finally going but I saw something different, I saw tears. I didn’t understand this, nor did Neal. We were happy, a new place, another chance for me to try harder at making some new friends.
Everything was packed, we were ready to move, again. It was a rainy day when we got into our train to Delhi. As the rain pounded the train, I saw the tears in my sister’s eyes and then I came to know the reason as a group of her friends came to say bye to her. I never understood why she cried so much that day, it would take me a long time to understand. But for the time being I decided that if this was how having friends was going to be than I didn’t want to have anything to do with them. The rain subsided and so did my sisters tears as we got of at Delhi station.

it just got scarier

A democracy guarantees you certain privelleges and i believe one of its greatest components is secularism. the very reason that we can break away from religious dogmas makes living in India such a blessing.

i hope i could really mean what i said above..i wish that someday in the future somebody can say that. i know what i say is nothing new but when what you hear and believe stares you hard in the face, you shudder and realise that somethings will never change.
today i went to drop a friend of mine to the bus stop and on the way we stopped over to meet another friend. it was half past ten and the roads were empty. our friend who was waiting near his house walked up to us and told us to hurry things up. extremely surprised at his demeanour we asked him what was wrong and he reminded us that tomorrow was the 6th of december and when we didn't realise the significance of it. he enlightened us.
not wanting to push our luck, we moved away and i made my way back home. it was a short walk back home but the dark has never scared me like that before. i was ashamed at my fear because i knew it was unwarranted yet there was no escaping it. suddenly the same streets i walked everyday looked haunted and it felt like that there was something simmering at the bottom of it. the i realised that as an Indian i'm trained to prepare myself like this. a car passed me at breakneck speed and the orange flag flying atop it made me a greater believer in my fear. i know that i should think beyond everyday prejudices that we all go through but i'm no extraordinary mortal and i can't pretend to be one. few men passed by me but i felt the stench of hate. maybe they weren't even on the same wavelength but when you think of what is possible, it scares you to think that it can happen anytime.
as i reached my house, i swallowed a dose of relief and walked into my house aware of the fact that some years ago on this day many people could not feel as safe as me. its not just what happened on this day that scares me, its what all that has continued to happen since that day that really makes me wonder what the word 'secularism' really means to the everyday Indian. because i know that for a few moments in that walk i had lost my secularism. my fear proved it.

many of you will find out what the 6th of december signifies, many will know and many more will read it in the papers in the morning. but if you do none of the above and just ignore this day as just another day, then you will just make this country a little more secular.

a photograph

the only problem i have had in my otherwise picture perfect life is 'the photograph' (slightly complicated pun intended). i have never really been able to pull off a decent picture. whenever somebody tells me to smile before a photo, the only thought in my mind is, why should i smile for this guy? i mean give me a reason!! make me laugh, crack a joke, make the moment worthwhile and i'll flash my 32 carat smile.
then i look around and see how easy everyone else find it to pull off a photograph in just one effortless motion. a little soul searching later i realised that there was a fundamental problem. then i go back to the days where as a young boy in play school i was extremely shy and vacant expressions were my forte. i could pull out one of those 'the rest of the world is invisible' looks from my repertoire any given moment. not being very expressive and lacking the will to enjoy the moment was my USP. guess when you piece all that together you find clear symptoms of the dreaded 'reluctant smile' virus which infects every one in a million people in the photogenic world every year. i'm yet to find a twin to my condition and the search is on.
but that once in a while i manage to pull of that one illusion which eludes me till the next. there is no pattern to the photographs i end up smiling in and sometimes little logic. but the beauty of the virus is that even if it allows me to pull off a smile, it refuses to keep my eyes fully open. as i write this blog i'm trying to smile and the muscles hurt. do not mistake me for a story gone wrong, its all just the makeup we all wear. the one photograph i can never ever pull off is the passport one. i mean when he tells me to smile i really don't see any reason to do so. specially with those studios with all their fake backgrounds and make up kits and big lights. i actually find it very intimidating, like i have to put up a performance and i know i'm going to be booed off the stage.
i try to conjure up funny thoughts in my head, think of my earlier photos (that usually works) or just listen to the photographer who generally tends to have a very obviously accented and toned up voice (politically correct way of saying 'Gay'). i hope i don't go to grave with this blemish on me, hope i learn to smile when it really matters.

P.S. i got my photo for my voting card clicked today....its my worst ever....HELP!!

my life:chapter 1

Life’s Beginnings
A bright day was what greeted me that morning, my first morning. I was born a whole week before anyone wanted me. My mother went through hell having me, she’s still wondering if it was worth it. The doctor had gone for a swim and had to rush to the hospital in his trunks to deliver me (don’t worry he got into his scrubs to deliver me).
The doctor will still tell you that I winked at the nurse when I came out, everyone else will tell you that he swallowed a bit too much water in the swimming pool.
My father is in the Army and was fighting the villains of the nations. Funnily the bad guys decided to call a ceasefire the day I was born, I guess they realized life couldn’t get any worse now. My dad came back home to see his son, his first son, the pride of every father. My father is a very brave man but very reliable sources tell me he was scared out of his skin when he saw me. Time and a little weight changed his vision and everybody else’s. I was the kid of the family. Fellow colleagues of my father always wanted to cuddle me. I didn’t mind their wives but these were grown men, in the army, c’mon.
Life went on, we moved from Jabalpur (sorry I didn’t mention the place before) to Bangalore while my Dad went to protect the nation from those lousy guys across the border. I learned to walk, still don’t understand what the big deal was. It made more headlines than India beating Pakistan in cricket that year. I got my first shot at stardom back then as I walked from my room (actually my sister’s) to the dining room (a whole 2 yards!!!). felt like I was doing one of the Paris or Milan fashion ramps, it was nothing less than that. I mean if your born with legs you are bound to walk sometime or the other, right. Anyway I knew I was a star from then. Slowly I spoke for the first time, this too was quite the occasion though slowly everyone realized I was never going to stop (actually they have gagged me right now, that’s why I am typing this). Then Dad came back and was aghast when he saw how much I spoke. Dad then got posted to Ladakh and this is precisely the time I realized I was alive, as I was aware now of everything around me, I felt in control, I, was 4.
A very difficult age, many don’t understand. The temptations, studies, girlfriend problems, maturity problems, peer pressure; actually you have none of this and that is what makes it so difficult. If you didn’t realize, you did nothing when you were four except for eating and sleeping, I went a step further, I ate a little more. The advantages are unbelievable and as my life unfolds you will see them. Families don’t exactly go to Ladakh, its just like a pretty painting, that’s all. So my mother, sis and me stayed in Lucknow. Here I began the process of education. I wish I had heard Pink Floyd’s ‘Brick in the Wall’ back then, I would’ve realized that ‘we need no education’. But as this endless commentary may get published some godforsaken day by some whacked publisher I must reiterate that ‘ Education is very important and I support the government’s 100% education policy’ because its better that the whole country screws up together instead of just a minority. Anyway I went to one of the best schools in town, it had a park inside with real swings and slides and small huts (I actually locked myself in one of them accidentally) and even had a horse on which we could ride (when I think back carefully now I realize it wasn’t exactly, real, Shucks)
‘ How much is 2+2, son?’ asked my teacher one day.
I looked at her and burst out laughing. I still don’t get mathematics. I understand why now.
She tried very hard, but I just couldn’t stop laughing. The problem wasn’t in my ability, I actually associated mathematics with this teacher who had a very funny voice and funnier face, so when I even do calculus now (okay can somebody tell me where the *#$& are we going to use this demented form of maths), I remember her face till today and Maths is therefore still, a problem. School got more interesting as a new girl joined the class. I was having my first crush, she was sent from the heavens above (when I think I wonder if I was blind), she smelt of the gardens of Babylon and powders of Johnson & Johnson. She had this very colourful blue handkerchief, I think I actually fell in love with that more than with her.
The days went by and I reached the phase where I started hating all girls excluding my mom. The blue hanky girl looked like she was delivered by parcel from hell, her hanky looked repulsive now (always was) and I did some male bonding (back then male bonding didn’t sound as gay as it does now). I realized the guys were real fun, our toys were the stones and mud of school. Our targets, the principal’s car, a golden Contessa. The girls believed it was 24C gold. Obviously we guys didn’t care, we were the guys, our job was to destroy!!!
The plan was made, not much of a plan really, we just filled up all the sand from the sandpit of the park below the car. Me and the guys knew that Einstein and Curie were our grandparents and decided that the car won’t move and our beloved principal will be stuck in the school forever and she will be eaten up by the school dogs who became man-eating monsters at night. To the good luck of the principal, the car just drove over the sand without too much of a problem and drove away. It was a big setback in our ‘school property destroying’ careers but we all contented ourselves when the nerd of our class said ‘I think we made a mathematical mistake’. I burst out laughing.
For our summer holidays we used to go to Ladakh to meet my Dad and my dad was really worried when he came to know I burst out laughing when I heard anything to do with Maths. Ladakh as I said before is one huge, life size painting. Everything is picture perfect except the weather, you know why, because it’s cold, much colder then where you are sitting and reading this. We went to high altitude deserts (imagine wearing sweaters and I mean sweaters in the desert). They were always great holidays. My parents used to have long discussions into the night, I remember sleeping of halfway in my sister’s lap and waking up on the floor near my bed. Now I don’t know if I used to fall of the bed at night or I was put there by my sister when my parents weren’t looking. Hmmm…Anyway my parents used to discuss a certain problem I was supposedly facing. My teachers at school had told them I was having problems making friends. But I already had a friend, didn’t know his name but he was always with me, from the day I winked at that nurse when I was born, he was there right by my side, so then why did I need a friend. Why?