Sunday, January 26, 2014

The growing up ~ part 2

This is a sequel to The growing up ~ part 1

At home - Eleventh Standard

It was evening time and with nothing to do, I was browsing through my cupboard. Looking at the cricket bat inside, I could not help but wonder, when was the last time it was used. It had been a long time. I pulled the bat out and something else fell with it. My eyes lit up at the sight of a pair of old canvas shoes. Seeing them, my thoughts went back to a hot summer day when school had not yet begun and I was at Kishore's house.

Flashback - School Summer Holidays

We were in the balcony and excitedly looking at the new telescope that he had just bought from Nehru Science Centre.
"It has 30x zoom and we can see mountains on the moon’s surface with it” He said proudly, as I peered into the eye-piece, adjusting the focus.
“Really ?” I asked.
“Yep, also rings of Saturn.”
“But only at night, right?” I said and pointed the telescope to the window of a nearby building.
”Wow” I exclaimed.
“What can you see?” he asked
“I will tell you later” I replied as his mother called out to us to come inside. We went in.
“Aunty, the telescope is very nice” I said sitting on the small bed-cum-sofa. 
“Yes the father and son keep bringing these, all sorts of objects. His father also bought special glasses from his company to look at the solar eclipse next week. Any ways, do you have canvas shoes for school next year?”
“No not yet. My shoes are a bit tight but I think will be using them next year”
“OK, try out these shoes, they no longer fit Kishore, so he will need to get new ones,” saying this she brought out a pair of shoes which almost looked brand new”. I tried them on and they fit better than the ones I had, but I did not know whether I should take them.  Sensing the hesitancy, “Take them” she said “Are you also not like my son”
I took the shoes and came home. If there is any failure in my life it is in not creating more moments like these. Having received such affection; not passing it on. 

Back at home

The phone rang and I was brought back to the present. I kept the shoes back in the cupboard and answered it.
“Hi this is Vishal here. What are you doing? Are you busy studying?”
“No way, this is 11th standard. Who Studies?”
“Great” he replied. “Then let’s play, we will come to Shastri nagar ground and we can play cricket. I have spoken to the others and will be bringing some of our school friends, including some from Patkar College. You might know some of them they were in Gonsalves classes.
”Ok” I said. ”I will be there at the ground in 30 minutes.”       
I reached the ground to find everyone sitting in a circle near the pitch waiting for someone to bring the stumps. I joined them. 
Vishal was speaking
“You won’t believe whom I met the other day.” No one replied and he continued excitedly “Sindhu! I was going to see a movie when she hailed out to me, from across the street, introducing me to her mother and sister, who were with her. Spoke very nicely. Though, I wish she was as friendly in school. Also she has lot of pimples now,” he ended on a somber note. The appearance of spots had led to disappearance of half of his interest.
I remembered the good looking classmate, who had never ending hair tied in loops, with whom; I had once bonded over an adventurous Enid Blyton book. Otherwise we were separated by marks, class many things. She was soft spoken and I was stupid.
“Which movie did you see”, Gaurav asked, trying to move the conversation away from pimples.
“Aankhen”, he replied, giving a detailed positive review of the movie ending with “…Shilpa  Shirodkar has also done a great job in it.” She does not have pimples, I thought.
“I think, she is a bit cheap.” Gaurav said.
“But, public only likes such things, these days.” Vishal replied, projecting again, others preferences onto his views. I thought he would be good film reviewer some day. 
“I don’t think, we should go by others opinion. Our liking might not be same as someone else’s. It’s possible that even our parents might not like what we like.” He continued in rebellious mood, “The other day I was speaking to girlfriend on phone, with my mother sleeping nearby. I was telling her you have such beautiful long hair, which look so good on you’. It turned out my mother was listening and later scolded me for talking like this. Parents can sometimes have such a limited view.” The conversation was broken by the news that stumps had arrived, so we went onto the field, finally to do something that we understood and enjoyed – play cricket.  
   I was in the fielding side and was parked onto the offside. If you have played cricket you would know it can be a long wait with most batsmen preferring to heave over the leg side. I observed as each bowler ran in - past Kishore who was the umpire - and bowled; each one, with a distinctive action of his own, each one a personality, unique. We were all, already unique but oblivious to the fact we were still trying to be different, to be unique to stand out at that time. With the ball hardly coming my way my thoughts drifted to the afternoon time when I went to college even though I had decided to go somewhere else.  

Flashback – That day at college

I had got up in the morning and reluctantly gone to my college in Andheri. It was friendship day, and during the break as I climbed down the stairs of the college building, I saw some familiar faces. They were all lining up to have a friendship band tied by a boy. I asked why this boy is so much in demand.
“His name is Snehal,” my friend said “it sounds like a girl’s name hence we want to have his name on our wrist to show off.”  I felt the already low bar of under-performance in my small college friend circle sink even lower. Something needed to be done. A real victory was required in these despondent times. Studying in a co-ed had at least taught me that girls were not from a different planet. I slipped past my group of friends and saw Abid Ali my school friend, walking in from the gate.
“You are late and where were you all these days” I asked.
“I had gone to Nepal, let’s talk over lunch”, he said. We went outside the college to CafĂ© Alfa near Andheri station. We ordered Chicken Afghani for him and Palak Paneer for me. Over lunch he mentioned about how he was involved in some business and had to travel.
“You went there alone by flight?”  I asked unbelievably, having never sat in an airplane myself.
“Yes and have done such business trips many times before. Listen, I will give you a tip; when on a flight you can ask for multiple cans of coke and take them with you, in your handbag and have it later. Saves money”
“That’s great and you seem to have got a handle over doing business pretty fast,” I said.
“Yeah, I have multiple interests, you know about the stock market?”
“Not much, you buy shares?”
“No, I just take the big pile of free application forms lying around and sell it to the junk dealer. “
By this time we had finished lunch. We came out of the restaurant and I said good bye to Abid. I was very impressed by my high flying friend who seemed to have figured out how to travel, do business e.t.c. while I was stuck with a question mark over everything. Starting with, “Where should I go now?”
I got onto the local train and when it reached Goregaon station, decided to get out from Goregaon East side instead of west, where I lived. Reaching a buffalo stable, near a railway crossing. I asked the man sitting there where abc’s building was. He pointed to an unpainted, single floor old structure right in front. Dreams had met reality and it was not pretty. I had imagined her staying in some swanky place. Why is the building near railway tracks, don’t they get disturbed? Why is she staying near a Buffalo stable? She has a buffalo stable view instead of a garden view? Questions buzzed in my head, my mind conjuring up excuses to back out.
But still I gathered courage, Took out my notepad and pen to act like surveyor, and reached to the bottom of the building. I asked a boy standing there, where abc stayed, taking her last name. He led me to the back of the building where there were many guys, some washing utensils, maybe working for a restaurant. Are they in restaurant business? I thought. There was a lot of commotion. Or maybe the commotion was in my head. My head had started to reel by now.
"Here," he said pointing to a door and before I could have said anything, he knocked. My mind was making plans to turn and run. But before I could do that, the door opened and there stood a guy, who looked older than me, having the same cat eyes as abc. I guessed he was her brother.
“He was looking for you” The boy who had brought me here said pointing to me. I stood there utterly speechless. My school elocution attempt on stage flashed before my eyes, when I had not been able to utter a single word.
“Yes, tell me” he said. All of my fairy tale plans had gone for a toss. Here I was in a house which was shaken up by passing trains, every few minutes, with a buffalo stable in front, confronted with her brother, with no words coming out of my mouth.
“I... Well  ...” “I think I  ... got the wrong house, this is not the right person” I finally blurted out while simultaneously turning around “What  ...Wait” I heard “Sorry got the wrong address” I replied without turning back, my walk, turning into a jog, to a run.

Back at the ground

“Catch it!!” I heard a loud voice.
The batsman had hit the ball very high in my direction. I was jolted back to the present. When a ball is hit in the air and coming towards you, all the thoughts in the mind vanishes.There is only one thing in the world the ball, nothing else. It is like a moment of Zen, the elusive, being in the moment experience. No questions, no exams, no troubles. I got into position to catch the lofted ball, The rubber ball came down in an arc, making it even more difficult. I lost balance and lay flat on the ground. I had spilled the catch. A straightforward chance; I had made it look difficult, with my ridiculous attempt. There were shouts of disapproval. Actually, my sense of balance was never quite right, ever. 

Life situations keep telling us so many things, but we ignore it. Here it was telling me my eyesight is not up to the mark, nor my sense of balance. This should have been a good indicator for what I should be doing in life. But I never learned and this led to some ridiculous desire to join the military later. Basically, I should have realized sooner what i was good for - sitting and doing nothing.

The batsman was living dangerously and the next ball he again tried to hit for four, but missed and the ball hist his leg. Then it happened! Kishore, very clear about, where the ball was headed, lifted his finger and gave the batsman out leg before. The team batting, erupted into a spontaneous protest, the fielding side was bit puzzled too. Never before in our history of rubber ball cricket, had anyone been given out leg before wicket - LBW. LBW decisions were too complicated.

Fig 1: It was not as plumb as this
The controversial decision stayed but resulted in the change of the decision maker; the umpire was replaced. The game went on well past bad light and we had to stop when there was almost no light. The sun set and we called it a day. Everyone left, just me and Kishore remained on the ground. We lay on the grass looking at the stars which filled the sky.

“You are too much” I said, referring to the LBW decision.
“He was out. I can show what the LBW rule says in the encyclopaedia Britannica.” Still convinced he had done the right thing.
 “Look” he said pointing to the sky. “That’s a satellite.”
“You can see satellites, with the naked eye?” I asked, straining to catch anything moving, in the maze of stars. But gave up, and wondered what else was out there, hidden.
“What is at the end of the world?” I asked, half expecting a reply
“Quasars,” He answered. He seemed to have an answer to everything
I remembered the afternoon time and suddenly looking up that night, my questions 
disappeared, science disappeared, objectivity disappeared only subjectivity was there, the night sky looked alive and the moon luminous. People say love is blind. But isn't it true that only love has eyes, everything else is blind?
Our pondering's were interrupted by a familiar voice, calling out from a distance, 
"Kishore.. ” It was Kishore father approaching, who had come searching for him.
"What are you doing here so late?"
"Nothing," he replied. We got up dusted ourselves and walked a weary walk back home. It was a long eventful day, cut short by mundane needs; having dinner and going to sleep. But there would always be another day - to play, to love and go deeper into the mysteries of the universe.