Wednesday, 5 February 2014

When it rains...

I was editing my 'Couchsurfing' profile a few days ago, and in the section 'Teach, Learn & Share'section describing what I could offer couchsurfers as part of the experience of chilling with me, I had written "culture, egg curry the Indian way (that's all i can cook!!) and how to enjoy life even when it's hellbent on giving you a hard time!". 'Contemplating' this statement (Deepu-style), I find Mom's exasperated expression in mind. The one she gets whenever I give her one of my languid, 'Chill Ma's. It's usually said as I'm sprawled across whatever available surface while gently bullying one of the dogs and in response to Mom rushing up to me with the next urgent thing she needs done N-O-W.  And yes, I'm very conveniently disregarding the fact that I've claimed I can cook. And yes, I very obviously forgot to continue editing the profile after my contemplation began. 

When life gives you a hard time, just chill. It's true. Papa said so. Like when he gave me a card which read "When life gives you a thunderstorm... Find a puddle to play in". Inside was a little handmade picture of a little boy jumping in a huge puddle. & the words 'nari bhuri pach pach' (intestines squash squash). Mildly worrisome words when your dad's a doctor. The catharsis that comes with being caked with mud can only be truly revelled in when you're a child or a dog. The fact that it was actively encouraged is liberating.
All the screwed up stories we hear all the time about messed up families is jarring against the sepia toned simplicity of our childhood. Birthdays meant homemade chocolate cake elegantly peppered with hundreds and thousands, with a giant Crackle chocolate propped up against it. The window opened onto meadows and yellow-green grass. Snoopy & Gang would be lined up on the table to join our celebrations. The kitchen knife with a red ribbon on the handle. Streamers. And few of us huffing & puffing away at the balloons. The secret surprise guest who came to dinner. They made me dress in a pretty frock, all scrubbed & clean. They rang the doorbell & asked me to go see who the surprise guest was. I opened the door, and confused to see no one, I turned back to see huge grins, *SURPRISE*. Christmas meant hours poring over carefully boxed-up strings of Christmas baubles. I learnt to cherish scattered baubles gathered from friends and family over the years. A box-load of them. From Calcutta to Pune to Mumbai to Delhi to Goa. Still under my bed. Socks would be strung up against the window. The four cousins would subject their parents to garish face paint & ghastly concerts with a tinny Casio & a cheap mela-mike accompanied by felt-pens banging on a box or chair for the drums. Then there'd be elaborate plays, with more ghastly facial contortions to depict 'acting', (yes, we were fairly influenced by the little Bollywood we had access to) and our mothers' dupattas twined around our heads for turbans or long hair, depending on whether we were male or female characters. The simplicity of not knowing sexism.  Our days began with clambering over a wall followed by a romp under the red-seed trees.  And ended with long walks under the stars, with us swinging from their wrists, listening to stories of Orion's belt.

I get a move, I got to get myself to clean my shoes
And take the cynic route
However far, I'm following the star
Home is anywhere you are

Doing the best we could merited full parental support. We brandished badminton rackets to guard pigeon nests from predators. Making car tracks in the sand pit got us hand painted mat with a village square and a hill to go round & round & round with cars handmade with plaster of paris & plastic moulds. Earning money meant doing chores - anything, everything. We learnt inflation by polishing Papa's shoes. 10 p when I was about 7 years old...upto 5 INR by the time I was a teenager. Appreciation of hard work was a must. I have vague memories of Papa secretly bullying my friends over food being wasted. The fact that someone would want to shove carelessly food that had been lovingly cooked while standing for hours in a hot, airless kitchen was preposterous. My mouse-pudding had eyes. And a tail. And I still look up at the sky on disoriented nights searching for the solace of spotting Orion's belt. Steady in his stalking. But right there, when I need the comfort of clinging to steady hands to throw me high up towards the sky, and catch me when I fall.

And everything is falling into place
And then we move again
So take the curve and move along
Until we're gone, we're moving on

We moved from scratching on yellow paper with pastels to using inks in college hostels. The Christmas performances led on to leading schools and addressing large audiences. Compassion taught over many rescues peppering our already exhilarating lives led to active campaigning for animal welfare. Even Facebook counts these days. From staring at a tiny PP all night long to nervously watching Mus hiccup and burp his way through his dreams we've moved far ahead as a family. Puppies. Poo poo. PP. Been there. Done that. It gives us massive strength that we can talk about our passions and weaknesses with far more honesty than we often can with our peers. And we love the tenacity with which you disagree and sneak your differences of opinion with much enthusiasm. 

I feel alive, I am aware of the colors in the sky...

We’re always looking for role models. Like you. The great rescuer of all hurt souls. The kinda guy who carried that emaciated dog that couldn’t walk so it could poop in its ‘spot’. And never gave up looking for the lost, friendless, starving puppy. The one who waded through a filthy pond to rescue a half eaten kite, and spent money on 3 cylinders of oxygen attempting to give it a chance to live. The one who dug through piles of half-burnt rubbish in the poshest residential area of Calcutta (much to the shock & horror of local residents) to gently pull out a terrified baby barbet. And then nursed it back to health. The kinda mom who never complained about the endless stream of animals we brought home, not even the mouse which we dug out of one of the dogs’ mouth. She gave us a small shoe-box to bury it in. The mum who didn’t freak when I accidently released a box full of caterpillars into her prized garden. Who found the chrysalis & we could then all watch it become a butterfly. It sunned its wings before it flew off forever. I love that she knew I ate up my science project of sprouts, and helped me grow another cotton filled box of it in time for submissions. She saved strips of shiny paper & taught me to cut out 5 pointed stars. I had the best science project that summer. Because I learnt every single thing I drew or wrote about. She let us dance in the rain, eat up hail stones, and kept my “Salman Khan Scrapbook” that I’d adoringly compiled in my teenage years.

And if the night is coming pretty soon
I'm walking through the dark with you

So here’s to all the awesome people and bizarre decisions I met and made in life. Without you, life wouldn’t be as good as it has been. Thank you for the coolest math teacher I could ever dream of, and the most hardworking Bengali tutor willing to work with me. All the treks up Mama Bhagne, all the melas. All the big balloon games and pink burir chool.  I would have never climbed a hill in the monsoon, or thought the stars could look so damned pretty. Piles of comics, and lofts full of paperbacks. Next-to-zilch-knowledge of Bollywood. Thank you for a well-read childhood. I'm the queen of subtitle checks today. There have been long evening walks and endless silly questions and red seeds and birds going to school. Random animals (and people) we've brought home, and all the times we've known you've got our back. Thank you for having given us the time to languidly say 'Chill'.  

And I could feel, the ground beneath my wheels,
Putting me back in my place

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