Monday, September 19, 2005

Saturday, September 17, 2005

junglee jukebox: chapters 1–3

To my parents for giving me life; to Xavier's, Nash and Veena for changing it.

Chapter 1
She slapped me. No, this wasn't the first time anyone did. When i was five, my mother threw an apple at me, which broke my two buck teeth. I threw it right back at her. She slapped me. In school, a boy, who we shall call Abhinav, who wore his socks till his knees, called me a bitch. I slapped him. He slapped me back. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of slapping in my lifetime. I’ve seen my parents slap each other. Even I have done some slapping: my brother, my sister, the girl who just slapped me. It’s a fun game Isay. That seething, fiery pain. Those red imprints. Traces of skin. Some say slapping harms you for life. I say a pat here or a pat there does no harm.

My neighbour Shai and I spent our forming years in South Bombay—in a thirty floor building called home. She, on the seventeenth floor; me, twelve floors above. We communicated through tin cans and a wire. We threw bread out of the window to watch crows dive. We sat in the Bombay Port Trust (BPT) garden and wrote our first love poems. I still remember the name of mine. Often, we'd sneak into BPT late at night; mostly when it was raining hard so that our leaf-crunching footsteps wouldn't be audible. We were almost caught only once. One brave watchman came around with his not so strong torch; he probably heard our giggles. I remember being real still; there, under a bush, in the shadow of Shai. We even had a secret club. We’d sit up late at night and watch small dinghies carry out what we believed were guns. Smuggling seemed like such an enticing option back then. Everyone secretly wants to be a vamp.

Chapter 2
My childhood began in Africa. It was the happiest childhood I’ve ever known anyone to have had, but something was always amiss. I knew that because I knew I dreamt of a dead family; a farmhouse with horses and pigs; a me tumbling down sand dunes, never stopping. It was a childhood that lacked great friendships. Bonds that I forged with Shai and many others for years to come.

So, is this a story of friendship, of love, of taking the wrong bus on the wrong route? What is my story?

I was eight when I moved to Bombay, and I loved her instantly. Yes, life was richer back there—the ac’s, cars, Nintendos—but I didn’t mind not having all that. However, what I must admit to missing are our Sunday outings to kaka beach and Virginia farm. Some images never leave you. Like sitting on the see-saw, catching glimpses of the grasslands when you were up and watching your sister’s hair fly when you were down. Another thing is I had never seen my parents fight in Africa; I don’t think they ever did. But here, that’s all they seem to do. I hated and hated moving here for this very reason. It’s a nasty trade-off, friends and lovers for family.

My parents are an odd couple. I don’t talk to or about them much. But I do love them. I feel it important to say that. If I were to compare their lives, the change is all the more drastic. They had more friends there—community living—Diwali balls—Holi—burning Ravanas—Sunday nights at KD uncle’s—kitty parties—Bingo nights. But here, nothing. I still can’t quite understand that. We used to come to India every year, sometimes even twice a year. Then, it was all about the holiday: family reunions and relative, monument and beach hopping.

Chapter 3
It’s not true that love fades with time; it only gets stronger. It’s easier to love more. Once, I came back from school soaked. It was PT day, so an all-white uniform. Bad, badder and baddest day. All white with a red blotch. I was still crying when I got off the school bus. I had never felt such humiliation before. As I walked towards my building, I spotted Shai playing in the woods. Her uniform was brown, muddy brown. I screamed out to her and she came running. My intuitive little friend saw me crying and wrapped, not folded, her arms around me. Home sweet home, I thought. We went to her house, ate some curd rice, changed into her nighties and fell asleep. I only woke up at six, to my panic-stricken mother’s voice. My mother had called everyone: my class teacher, my principal, the school bus depot, my best friends from school, everyone but Shai. It was my watchman who finally told her where I was after he came back from his rather extended lunch with Vimla, the nanny he was so ambitiously courting. I was twelve then, and I loved Shai.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

"star light, star bright"

Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.