Monday, 20 January 2014

My Tryst With Bangla

I had written this in 2010 when the Bengali Committee in our colony had organized Rabindra Jayanti at Sarita Sadan. I had worn a red-and-white saree and recited Gurudev's poetry. It was quite an experience. As usual, I felt awkward, wearing wet red lipstick, wanting to wipe it off, scared of swallowing it and feeling the glare of lights on my face. But when we ended, I couldn't recognize myself. I felt like some artist flown in from Kolkata, such was the effect. 

Unnecessarily long sleep stretches had entered my life after the main bout of exams got over. Mum must have diagnosed it early as three days later, she sent me to Shibangi di’s place to meet up with the two enthusiasts behind the ‘Rabindra Jayanti’  on  16 May- Shibangi di and Neena aunty.
So,began another kind of coaching-a Bangla crash course or ‘Mastering Sruti Natok in a week’ programme. Anyway, coaching has been the buzzword in my life for two years now, though I expected this to be better than unbearable monologues by some middle-aged science freaks. And it lived upto my ideas-with visual aids,a comfortable and amiable environment and ample breaks.
The evening practices brought back those old times when I used to be a part of the plays, dances and songs. With Mili and Lipika aunties taking the lead; other kiddos had succeeded us (very well) in the dances. Catching up with friends was a bonus.
The result?

When D-Day arrived, the audience could vouch for me being a ‘pukka’ Bong! Success- that’s the word, I guess. 

The First Day

·         The story is about a girl who's excited to enter her dream engineering college. However, she finds that her aspirations clash with her desires and expectations of a trendy life when she encounters the simple unadorned environment of her new college. I had written this in my first year. And all the characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental :P

The first day of college. She was mad with excitement-the kind of childish fervor she had not felt since say, she was 13. Things had become so mundane. Preparation for the entrances had sucked up most of her time and life in XI and XII. Now finally, the fruits had appeared-sweet, lovely and so very dreamlike. Though not IIT, she’d got into one of the most prestigious colleges of the country. Sweets, treats, parties-all followed. The two years of rigorous hard work had paid off and beautifully so. XI and XII students-engineering aspirants all congratulated her and came to her for advice- the same advice she’d run after,  when she had landed fresh in XI. Now arrived the big day- the first day of college. Tales of ragging and romance had already frequented her. She was all for fun. College life is every teen’s dream. She had passed a major part of her teenage with Mills and Boon and the Twilight Series. To fantasize had almost become her right now. Putting chains on the mind while her exams ploughed on wasn’t easy. Even Lord Krishna in Mahabharata says to Arjun that nothing can match the speed of the mind and its nearly impossible to stem the flow of thoughts that would go on and on. But she did try her best and the results satiated her. Now she was free to fantasize. The first day was hardly a few days away. And she hadn’t renewed her wardrobe yet.
“Man, how could I be so forgetful? So immersed in merriment that I’d forget this important day?” Even as she said this, instead of tension, only a wave of pure excitement washed over her. She was gladdened by the fact that she ‘had’ to go shopping. This haste and strain was of a nature a lot different from the one before the exams. So, a list was prepared. Timings settled. She was to go shopping! The universal female pastime!
The wardrobe got stacked with new t-shirts (with funky quotes), low-waist jeans, capris, spagetti tops and dresses and beads and danglers for accessories. She returned home, covered with polybags. It took two trips for her and her mom to get all the stuff up. After all, there was this stylish bag too with metal chains, lending it a trendy look.
“So, what kind of ragging will happen, do you think?” she asked her friend on the phone. That friend’s college would begin two days after her own.
“If its normal, it’ll be a song and dance or some DARE probably!” and they chatted on, discussing about Imtiaz Ali’s outrageous ragging (going full Monty) that landed him up with the police.
The night came and she went out to the balcony. She hung against the balustrade. It was her favorite way of relaxing- staring up at the stars and letting the idleness wash over her completely. It was a new moon…she now had a chance to start again, afresh. She felt herself swell with happiness. It felt unbelievable that the best things in life are available to everyone- the vast black sky was for her as well as for the lizard that sat still on the balcony sill…what would the stars mean to the lizard, she wondered, probably it would never be able to admire their beauty or their count…but it meant something to her…little bits of happiness awaiting her in life…she liked to link things that way…it felt sweet and surreal. But the lizard would probably never experience that…nor would it have the sophistication ever to be in her shoes…think all that she can. Her world was far superior and with a big bubble of happiness inside her, she decided to call it a day. A new phase was awaiting her. It was a triumphant feeling.
The next day looked the same but she was dressing carefully for the special day. She put on kohl too (which she seldom did) and with a hint of gloss on her lips, started out with her dad for college. It was decided her dad would take her on the first day; she would travel by herself, preferably auto, on the following days, once she got the idea of the route.
The campus was large, green and…well…deserted. She waved her dad off and felt her first pang of apprehension. Was she dressed okay? Would she behave smartly? Her questions were tempered by the eerie silence…her mind’s rational wheels had started churning. What if today was not the first day? If the holidays were still on? She quickly glanced at her cell, made some quick calculations but couldn’t find any mistake. The normal procedure better be followed, she thought. So, she went on to the office. A bored woman took her admission slip and typed her details on the computer. She couldn’t help but notice the stark contrast between her ensemble and the lady’s clothes. The receptionist at her school’s desk dressed as if she had to attend a cocktail party after work; she often suffered pangs of envy looking at that woman who also had a certain ‘attitude’ and enjoyed a certain attention.
She went on to check up her first class on the big board, covering a major portion of the wall behind the woman. It was Electrical, room C9, 3rd floor. She leapt up the stairs, looking around tentatively. Soon she grew tired and had to lessen her pace. It made her pay attention to the corridors which were almost empty save for a few students, huddled in corners, whispering, not even looking at her. There was one board per floor, with notices sticking out of them and a dull blue-grey paint filled the walls. This didn’t have that chirpy feeling of a college, but she didn’t want to conclude anything before reaching her own floor, which she finally did. The ninth room on the third floor opened onto a verandah (“atleast that feels good”, she thought). She made her way to the room; the bubble of happiness that had taken home inside her last night, struggled with its existence. She checked the time- it was 8:40am. It had taken her 10 minutes to find her class and the class had begun. No sound except the authoritative tone of her new professor. She debated whether to ask for permission to enter but judging by what she had been told by her pals about college, she didn’t and took a secluded seat by the window. The class continued but she hardly listened. That bubble of joy had succumbed to the disease of dissatisfaction and shattered dreams. She replayed the morning till that point and felt cheated, though that was a kiddish feeling, she decided.
The rest of the day was long and full of disapproving stares from people whose eyes she met. She restrained from asking if there would be some welcoming ceremony for the freshers. She felt like the receptionist from her school whom she used to consider ‘overdressed and hammed’. She made no friend, simply because she didn’t think they would talk. She couldn’t imagine college without clusters of people hanging out and poking fun at each other. Her school had had better scenes. Although she knew about anti-ragging rules, she didn’t expect such tough enforcement in this place.
She stood against the railing of the verandah during recess, looking up at the sky, trying to spot some stars. But the sun was too bright. Nothing else could be seen.
That night when her mom asked her what had she decided to wear the next day, she replied, “ Anything.” 

The Phobia

I was in school then, class 10th probably. I am terribly afraid of reptiles, especially lizards. Once, very recently, I waited for an hour or so for dad to come and unlock the door for me because there was a lizard on the ceiling above the locked door of my house. Sometimes, I marvel at my imbecility.  

She adjusted her spaghetti top as her mother kept ordering her around. All the stuff from her room was being shifted to her mum and dad’s. Their residence was an inferno of things pell-mell about the house. She was trying to be as careful & quick as possible in obeying her mother. Although she was damn exhausted, she knew that her mother’s agony was greater.

There had been no power supply since two hours. Their guests had just left. Her brother had been stationed at the bed near the computer table to keep a lookout for the reptile. It was this hell of a thing which was the key reason for their world turned upside down. The entire family was frantic,that is, if you count her sense of obedience, his younger brother’s know-it-all attitude and her dad’s desperate efforts to humour his wife and most importantly, her mother’s lizard phobia which had turned out to be a menace.

There was a huge bang but it had missed its target. The cold-blooded beast darted inside. It seemed to be quite an experienced one, knew where to hide itself from the prying eyes of the family. Niti’s mother was probably the only person who was always keen to avoid lizards. She detested pariplanetas, ants, crickets, moths-yes- but she more than loathed lizards. She shuddered at the thought of the little animal. Soft, brown and skinny with two little black slits for sight and a life-saving tail (which it has probably shed thousands of times), this cousin of gecko was, for her, Satan himself, in all his appalling crudity.

Niti’s father dived but could muster just a few roaches from under the bed. Her brother, however, had four araneas to his credit, which he handed over to her and dashed off to fetch their special “life” bottles which housed all kinds of grotesque “treasures”, some of them including ants, caterpillars and so on.

A jubilant scream erupted from the depths of the cupboard, followed almost immediately by a terrifying yell. The two siblings rushed to the scene as their dad picked up the irritating animal from their mum’s shoulders and chucked it away in the bin. Finally, after all that scramble, they had caught hold of the culprit.

As the residents of no. XX returned to normal activity, Niti suddenly caught sight of two slits behind her study table. Her eyebrows disappeared into her forehead as she detected a peculiar, weird as it was, twinkle in the little reptile’s eyes.

My Stardom and I

There was a book meet in IHC (India Habitat Centre). I was in class 9th perhaps. My English teacher had accompanied me and we were discussing R K Narayan's works. Towards the end, we all were asked to come up with some funny anecdote. So this was mine. I have a habit of storing everything, however trivial. This is one of those. 

“Autograph! Please, oh, please!” and I pitied on the little being craving to possess it. Thronged by students and people from all sides, I was actually sandwiched between my bodyguards. Out of the blue, came a reporter with the respect and elation one feels on encountering someone great and lord-like. “This book, please, sign it ma’am,” and as my hand moved over the soft cover of my own book, people cheered enthusiastically. Just then, I felt a nagging pain at my nape, I was about to warn my bodyguards to take care that the crowd doesn’t get the better of them, when there was a huge thud and reproaches. My eyelids heavy, somehow I managed to open my eyes and instantly my hand rose to shield my face from the fierce sun. Suddenly I recognized the all-too-familiar voice of Mum and when my hips began to ache, I found I had fallen out of my bed. Damn! It was wretched Monday! Hateful Monday! Maddening Monday! Why did this fateful day have to arrive? But not a single scream of my inner self reached mum who never spared a single opportunity to reprimand me of my worthlessness and hopelessness. Sweet Saturday and Sunday had flown off, as if. All my homework and learning work remained pending. Head heavy with Mum’s scoldings and pending work and what-nots and cursing everybody in sight, I reluctantly stood up wavering, reached the washroom and started applying Dad’s shaving cream on my toothbrush.

The Autograph

This is a tribute to my sweet buddy Aparna. She is an avid cricket fan and when Sehwag and Pathan came to Jamia, I felt like writing this for her. All we managed to see was Sehwag's head among the sea of our fellow JMIItes.   

It was the fourth class in a row this week I was missing!
But for my friend, it was different. I knew how passionate she was about cricket. Although we played badminton in our free time, she always talked about cricket. While we listened to songs, she had her ears glued to cricket commentary on her phone. She often said that had she been a guy, she would have gone for cricket as a profession.
However I was only humouring her by bunking classes to meet Sehwag and Pathan who were supposed to arrive at the Jamia Sports Complex for the Delhi Daredevils’ practice for the IPL. We squatted in the court, watching the eagerly waiting crowd. There were some with pens, slam books and cameras and there were us, with nothing but hope and desire to see the cricket heroes.
My phone beeped. I opened the message, glancing at the screen- 12:10. 
The SMS read- sir has left. 
I looked at her- “We need to go- only this class…then we will return in the break…pakka!” 
She didn’t seem to hear. 
I tried again- “Maximum backlogs in this subject…28 last year, remember?” 
I had touched a nerve. 
As soon as the “backlog” class got over, we ran to the sports complex, food forgotten. The scene had transformed, the road was adorned with Mercedes and Volvos now. Security guards surrounded the place.
“Have they arrived?!” I asked an acquaintance. 
“They just left! See!” he brandished his autograph at my face. 
Crap! My heart sank- not for me, but for my friend who was willing to miss any amount of classes just to see the cricketers. Her face had such a forlorn look that I couldn’t just leave the matter at that.
We kept roaming the grounds. I ignored the SMSes on my phone that some friends faithfully sent, notifying us about the entry and exit of teachers.
“What are you people doing here?” 
We looked up. 
It was the “backlog” sir. What luck to have attended his class!
“We missed meeting Sehwag and Pathan. They left an hour ago”, I replied.
“But I just took Pathan’s autograph in the auditorium. Go right in and hurry up,” Sir said.

It seemed as if my friend had topped the semester and the “backlog” sir had awarded her the highest marks, so happy she was. We dashed to the auditorium and joined the crowd thronging the celebrity.
As we walked to our bus-stop in the evening, comparing Pathan’s autographs, I wondered- an entire day bunk was not much compared to this sense of accomplishment and jubilation on our faces…