Saturday, January 19, 2008

Family Learnings for 2008 - II

And a brand new year is now almost a month old.

The first month of the year is almost done, and I'm exactly where I was five years back. Bored and dissatisfied. Somehow, I'd told myself this year would be my turning point. And I can't hear the truth in my own voice.

Even the advice that kept me entertained by the end of last year began to diffuse into prejudice. "Where will she listen to us?", as one said.
They finally figured I was probably not getting married in my one month here, since nothing seemed to be happening. I was still wandering about town without earrings and they got the clue. Yet, the visiting must go on.

My irritance seemed to surprise my father.
He didn't understand what the fuss was about my being angered at the way his family saw me.
He dressed in his best clothes all month and even bought new shoes since new relatives were being discovered. People we knew. People we hardly knew. People with new alliances with people we hardly knew.
Some, he explained, were people with our surname. Some had surnames with the same number of syllables.

Salivating, he looked up the directory to find numbers to new people he was going to inflict with his family's visit. More muruku-chai. More acquaintances. More return gifts of quarter a kilo of meat from the week faded Bakr-Id.
This was his true calling. Visiting people. Like Roshan Abbas who went cleaning strangers' toilets on TV at dinner time.

Angry, disheartened and feeling the irritance you can only feel for your parents, I rushed out of the house. Without my earrings.
That's when I met her.

Lesson #3
Courtesy: Animated Girl and her Frog Prince.

Telling myself to cool down, I walked down to a park near my house, which seemed reserved for only the young. I sat down as far as I could from the teething teenagers around and took a deeper breath than I could manage.
"F***, man! I swear.. like.. what the... S**t! What the f***!", I heard in part of a conversation in the background.

I heard her voice, and some some reason, it stuck in my head. My mind played games with me, trying to talk to me in her voice. I heard my mind say, "F**k, man. What happened to all the resolutions we made? And all the plans we had? Why aren't you going back? You'll never make it like this. The year's beginning is at the end of its month! I mean, like.. S**t, man!"

I sighed and waited a moment of blankness. I didn't know how to answer myself.
I kept to hearing her voice, outside. She was still exclaiming wildly. At the end of her minute long expletive song, she laughed.

Thats when I realised what about her voice hit me. I turned around to look at her and smiled to myself.

The Animated girl was no more than sixteen, with eyes so full of herself, it didn't matter who was watching her. She talked aloud and she talked on and on and on, descriptively and wildly with her hands, always listening to her own voice, watching herself speak, and loving every single moment of being her.

Her captivated audience was a young boy of her age or more, who escaped every word she threw at him and paid attention only to her. He smiled at appropriate moments and she carried on, and he followed her gaze whenever she broke. He adored her, that much he couldn't hide. She saw it and it pleased her, and she didn't hide it either. The Frog knew he was a Prince as long as She was with him. And she was determined to keep it that way.

For some reason, I was overwhelmed by just the sound of his forced laughs and her constant chatter. There was so much life in them. The world revolved only around them and no one else existed there. They were a different color from everyone else around. I wondered what it was that made them so different, what could I take, and my one month refused to let me 'youth'.

"I know. But I decided I would get over him by this year... and.. like.. I hate myself for..."
"Its still January."

She smiled at him and they were quiet for a bit. Before they resumed their rhetorical conversation, I wanted to leave.

I walked back home and found that Dad had changed into his chequered blue lungi.

"Aren't we going?"
He snorted angrily.

Mom told me later that the people my father planned to visit thought I was coming over to see their son. Like.. to marry him. Dad apparently explained to the embarrased hosts that that was not the case.
I laughed and laughed until I realised I sounded almost like the Animated Girl even outside my head. Dad snorted in anger again.

"What do they think! You're too young!"

Hope, I thought. That's what I can take. Minus a quarter kilo of mutton.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Family Learnings for 2008 - I

2007 has left, clumsily, with the death of the last hope to a troubled neighbour. Bhutto was what sweaters around the waist are to inexperienced mooning sixteen year olds.

Nearer home, actually, at home, things were similarly distasteful, if not as fatal. I was turning twenty four on the eve of the new year, and since, unfortunately, it is not a very easily forgettable date, many concerned relatives decided it was time I was given advice. Since advice must be laughed at collectively and then secretly taken, I thought it best to share.

For the first time in four years, I spent my birthday and the succeeding New Year's with my parents. The fact that I came down and stayed with them for close to twenty days meant only one thing for the rest of my relatives. I was getting married.
Since my father is an ardent relative's-house-hopper, I happened to meet many kins of blood I either never knew or had forgotten had existed. But every time I did meet someone, valuable knowledge was passed down to me to carry along with many quarter kilo packs of mutton from Bakr- Id.

Lesson #1
Courtesy: Pale Lady of Market Circle

There's a reason I call her that. She is pale, and she lives in a market circle. Her house was the first my father dragged my mother and me in ball and chain to. She sat, very palely, of course, and smiled at us. When the tea and coffee discussion shifted drearily to the rising price of LPG and sugar and to Modi, she decided to focus her attention on me.
"So, your birthday is coming soon!"
I smiled like a kitten in a blanket.
"How old will you be?"
Her smiled melted into her white skin, leaving no trace it was ever there.
"Are you getting married?"
I looked at my mom and tried hard to not look at Dad. Then I smiled foolishly again. "Someday!" I said.
"Its already late, no?"
I saw myself in her eyes. My skin was in folded wrinkles, grey hair falling over my cataract blue eyes. My knees had been replaced twice and gold teeth shone when I sipped my sugarless, decoctionless, caffeine free tea.

The discussion shifted from me to parental responsibilities to an old unmarried relative in another part of town which my father secretly took note of. My mother squirmed uncomfortably as I held onto my walker and spat out my dentures.

As we were leaving, she handed me a quarter kilo pack of meat and spoke into my ear.
"Youth doesn't remain. Don't rely on it."

Lesson #2
Courtesy: The Noisy Hypochondriac

This too, is a reasonable nickname.

After an hour of watching her scurry about the house in diffrent directions still talking to herself, the walls, sometimes us and occasionally me, the Noisy Hypochondriac sat down. She confided in us about how she was certain she suffered from some fatal disease because she sneezed last year in the summer. And her doctor-he has wasted a valuable MBBS seat in his time. He was always certain everytime she had cancer that it was bronchitis.
Then, she turned to me.
"You'll be twenty two, day after, no?"
"No. Twenty four."
"You're worrying me." She suddenly looked many hours older.
She continued, holding her heart, controlling an attack. "Did you meet anyone?"
"I mean, did you meet any boys?"
"Isn't that why you're here?"

Before she fainted, we decided to leave.

My mother shot murderous glances at my dad who was busy planning the next house visit. As she handed me my next quarter kilo of meat, she said to my mother and me.
"The older the girl is, even older the husband she will fetch."

There were many lessons more, but I will share them next time. For now, my old eyes water from the brightness of an old screen. Oh, woe! To be twenty four! But yet, I will wisen. I will learn, as I did this New Year and as I did from the Family. I learnt patience and tolerance and how to scratch your feet without seeming to do so.
And prominently, that it'll take you till twenty four to make half a kilo of mutton out of house visits.

Happy New Year!