July 20, 2008

The Swim

I was born in Bangalore and exported to Bombay :) and came to Tirunelveli to begin Standard I.

One of the simplest, down to earth and the loveliest places I have ever stayed in - Tirunelveli. The people were very very helpful and kind. It is a small town in Tamil Nadu. The local language was Tamil. My sister and I would only speak in English and never learnt Tamil(incidentally our mother tongue) till a year later. Everyone thought my parents were North Indians as they were fair skinned until they started to speak Tamil.

We stayed in Maharajanagar, a small locality. There were two rows of houses separated by a road between. During rains, my front yard would get flooded and we would float paper boats. Those were fun times - muddy water, the smell of wet earth just before the rains, school holidays and the skies.

I have never seen the skies having so many shades of blue and gray. It was like looking through a smoky glass. I spent 4 years here - I Std to IV Std.

There were lots of kids to play and we were a boisterous bunch. Boys would join us in the cooking game and we would join them in the exploring. There was a railway track which I could see from my backyard which had wild plants growing but none harmful. We could enter my house from the front door also and the back door too.

The normal day began with the train whistling past and it was a sign that all was well.

Beyond our two row of houses were vacant plots. The area was not developed and it gave us kids ample space to roll in the muddy brown plots and come back. There were no Surf and Aerial ads then. I am sure our clothes would have given them a run for their money.

It had been raining incessantly for a week now and we were all restless having been cooped inside. When the rains ceased, we were out before you could say the word "Abracadabra". We found a pond that had formed in the "Restricted Area" and we decided to there at 5pm. I still remember what I wore. Funny how some things stick in our memory and others don't.

It was a white satin frock with short sleeves and pink and lavender flowers all over. It was made from the "Garden" material which never looks worn out. One can wear it for years and it still would like reasonably new. It also had a white belt with lavender tips.

The pond was big. It looked like the sea to my eyes. I didn't know swimming and neither did my sister. All of us held hands and started wading inside from one end of the assembly line . White frock could go to hell ha ha ha ha. We were about 9 of us. Five boys and 4 girls. I was the third from one end and my sister was in the other end holding the hand of a bigger guy.

It was scary. My heart was beating but there was an adrenaline rush and excitement at doing something taboo. The first guy and girl entered and then I did. In a minute all of us were in the pond. The water came up below my knee. The water was not very muddy and we could see little fish swimming around.

My end of the line decided to move one step inside. But they did not communicate correctly or I did not decipher correctly and I moved in too fast and slipped on something slimy. I went under water and thought I was going to die when I realized all I had done was wet myself head to toe as the water was not that deep.

All of us got scared then. The evening sun had gone out and it was getting cool. I started shivering. All of us receded back. The other end which included my sister had escaped without getting wet. Being a plotter, I told my sister and friends how I could avoid getting beatings from mom.

I told my relatively dry friends and sister to go via the front door and keep my mom busy by talking to her. I then asked my sister to get me a fresh frock and come to the back door. The bathroom was outside the house. I thought I will change up and come from the front door.

If mom asked where I was, my sis was to tell that I was at the neighbor's place. The plan seemed fool proof to my 9 year old brain. Since mom had not seen me leaving the house, she would not realize which frock I had worn.

The plan would have been foolproof had the villain not arrived--- My father. Dad usually came in by 7. That day he came in by 6. When fates conspire, what could I, an ordinary little girl do?

So when my friends and sister went up the front door, my dad opened the door. I can't imagine what their expressions would have been... Flabbergasted??? I wish I had been there :) Now it seems funny... Then it was terrifying......

Their jaws must have dropped. Dad was surprised to see the entire army save one soldier at his front door it seems. While they kept my dad distracted, my ever smart mom(Like daughter- So mom :) ) was watchful. My little sister tried slipping inside the bedroom and picking a frock. She almost made it to the back door and opened the latch after ensuring the curtain that hid the back door was in place.

My mom must have followed her because, when my sister opened the door for me, my eyes popped out and my jaw dropped. Because, standing a distance behind my sister was my mom. And there I was wet from head to foot, frock soaking wet. My sister unaware of mom behind her little frame, said "Akka(Big Sister) put this on and handed the frock to me".

After my friends bade a hasty exit, All hell broke loose and I got the first whack of my life, on my bum. And the first long lecture that just went on and on and on. I promised I would never do something so foolish and never try to cover it up with my hair brained brainwaves.

I promised solemnly. And under my breath added never to get caught.... :)

But I was a good kid... A normal kid who played pranks.... But always the safe pranks thereafter, because I quite did not like the experience of swallowing all that weed filled slightly dirty water. And my mom kept scaring me that weeds were going to sprout out of my mouth and I was going to become a hairy monster.

Parents... I tell you.... They know how to scare the shit out of their kids. I used to wash my mouth several times a day for a week after until I chanced upon my parents laughing about it. I was relieved and joined in the laughter.

The good thing about this incident was - An enclosure was put around the pond for safety and to keep curious, inquisitive kids like us out.

July 19, 2008

Dreams....... Part I

Do people remember their dreams?? Do they have just hazy recollections of what they see or do they simply experience the emotions of the dreams - happiness, sadness, anger, disappointments but not the actual event?

I wonder......

I remember every detail about my dreams. I wish I could not.....

Since my dad works for the bank, a transfer every 3 years is a part and parcel of our lives. There was this time we were stationed in Delhi.

It was a cold freezing night and the heater was on in the room that I shared with my sister. We were under the "rajai" - local term for a thick blanket that was essential to keep oneself warm in the harsh winters of Delhi. We had picked up four. Maroon for my sister, Blue for mom, Green for dad and Orange was mine.

I have always been able to sleep instantly. All I need is a pillow and blanket. In mild summers, I would keep my big toe outside for some cooling and in winters my feet had to be warm for me to fall asleep. I was a sight in my long pink T shirt having a big Teddy, pj's, socks, cotton in my ears and gloves - Cold discomforted me.

That night, I slept at around 10pm. I am with my family in my school bus.... This is how my dream began, innocuously.

I am sitting with my sis, mom and dad are together and children alighting the bus at their respective stops. I remember all of us laughing at something driver uncle (I used to call him that) remarked.

Suddenly dad got off at a stop and I look in surprise to see that none of us are alighting with him. My sis and I move to the seat behind my mother, lest she feels alone.

After two stops, she also gets off and my sis and I remain behind. We are upset but putting a brave front.

The driver uncle stops after a while and we are the only two passengers left. He says the bus would go no further, that it was the last stop.

My sister and I get off and there is this long brightly lit tunnel. My sister and I start walking towards it, holding hands. After covering a few meters, the lights go off in the tunnel and I feel the grip on my sister's hand slackening. I try holding harder and the faster her hands slip out. When the lights came back after a few minutes, I stood all alone in the middle of the tunnel.

I woke up crying inconsolably. I was trembling and my sister could not hold me. My parents came rushing inside and it was only when I saw that I still had them, my crying stopped but the sobs continued. My mom applied "Vibhuti" ( holy ash meant to ward of negative energy) on my forehead. I could not sleep for a long time that night. I held my sisters' hand and finally in exhaustion dozed off. We all slept together that night.

I told my parents and my sister about the dream in the morning as my mom had once told me that if dreams were spoken out aloud they never came true.

They dismissed it as just a dream and I was asked to pray to God :) which I did :)

Exactly a year later, I finished XIIth and my sister finished Xth. There were talks about dad getting a transfer to Bangalore(All of our relations are here, so this was really good news) and we all came down to Bangalore to spend a week, find colleges for the both of us. After finalizing it all, came the shocker. Dad did not get the transfer.

When we had first gotten a transfer from Chennai to Delhi, it had been decided that Dad would stay in Delhi and the three of us- me, my mom and my sis would remain in Chennai as studies were crucial. I had put up a big fight. I said I would not leave my dad alone and that I would go to Delhi and stay with him and even cook for him. I refused to go to the new school in Chennai. Childish adamancy some might say....

How would anybody know what it means for a child to be separated from either of the parents? Unless one has gone through it, words mean nothing.

I remember when my dad left to Delhi, how much we all cried. Bringing those memories to surface today also make my eyes moisten. I had to be dragged at the airport. Thats when mom decided we would all go to Delhi. She could not see my and my sister crying all day long and breaking sown on phone whenever dad used to call from Delhi.

So when a repeat of that happened, with the three of us here and dad having to complete a year in Delhi, mom put her foot down and said we had to stay put in Bangalore while dad finished his tenure and joined us.

There was no repeat and we lived in our own house in Tippasandra, Bangalore. My college was reopening a month or so later as the thespian "Dr. Rajkumar" had been kidnapped and all normal activity ceased in Bangalore.

So we all went back to Delhi to spend time with dad for a month. When we landed, we were shocked to see dad unwell. Being an asthamatic and having to fend for himself without mom had left him really weak and taken a toll on his health . Mom decided her husband needed her and told us she would stay back.

This came as a shock as we would now return as two. The day we had to leave we told our parents not to come to the airport, but they did not listen. I remember getting inside the airport for the check and a sheet of glass separated my parents and us. We just kept palm on palm on either side of the glass and crying. My sister and I had only one another now.

We returned to our house and my periamma(mom's elder sister) came to look after us. It was never the same. But that separation taught us lessons of life. We had to fend for ourselves.

The first two portions of my dream had come true. Dad left first and then mom and followed.

A year later.... My dad got transferred to Mangalore. My sister got admission to XIIth and then "BANG". My course was unavailable in Mangalore.

Everyone left me and went to Mangalore and I was left alone. It took 5 years for them to rejoin me. Many incidents happened in these years to shape me as a human being and I am proud of who I am today. Though there are times I wish my parents had been with me, for me.......

...... to be contd