The town was my home. And it will always remain home. In the sense that it will always the same for me. In the sense that it will always remain the same for everyone. In the sense that nothing will ever change there. It’s a town frozen in time.
It’s been 8 years since I left home. And whenever I go back, I never face any of the troubles that one usually has while driving on unfamiliar roads. The pattern of the potholes on the roads has been the same, ever since I’ve been seeing them. I could drive blindfolded on this road. The maneuvers, the twists and turns come naturally to me. They’re a part of me now.
It was all in the air. The classrooms where boys adjusted walks and strides and fidgeted with desks to get an optimum ‘view’ of the correct Geography (or Biology, whatever). Where ‘mast’ History (imagined and otherwise) of others’ lives was drooled and smacked over enough to make Akbar turn in his grave with jealousy. Where Life Processes – II was the most interesting chapter ever.
The temple atop a hill in the middle of the town, on the stairs of which every to-be couple could be found in the infancy of their relationships. The more ‘advanced’ couples could be found behind the curtains of the cubicles of the sleazy cyber cafes. The college where boys went (they still go, I’m told) to see and imagine. And where girls went to display their wares within permissible add-on limits and with ‘allowed’ decorations and other visual effects.
The gaolish girls’ hostels which restricted its girls to step out of for only six out of every hundred sixty hours. Out of the fear that they might have sex, if allowed out for longer hours. Ostensibly.
The mobile SIM card shop owners who sold girls’ cellphone numbers at face value of 1o bucks per number. The market rates depended on another kind of face value, though.
Every Nikita stepping out of her house was protected and seen over by 5-6 unpaid guards on a voluntary, area-divided basis. From her home to Gandhinagar – Bunty, from Gandhinagar to Gulab Bari – Veeru, from Gulab Bari to Mayo College – Yasin, and so on and so forth. There was perfect understanding of healthy competition between the Buntys and Veerus and Yasins. Any chikna who went to the same ‘tuition’ as Nikita and tried to ‘do’ ‘phrendsip’ was beaten black and blue and thus, effectively eliminated from causing any harm to Nikita’s ‘character’, thus saving her from being ‘set’, in the eyes of the unpaid guards and from being ‘corrupted’ in the eyes of the aunties of the colony.
And yeah, of course, Bunty, Veeru and Yasin, all could claim Nikita as ‘meri wali’. If anyone else was heard making such a claim, well, his claim was settled in a manner described previously. Blood eventually spilled in the lane where Nikita’s scooty turned.
All this could go on for years without Nikita getting a clue about it.
In my sixteenth year, I fell for her. Like Ali bhai in ‘Dhoom’ falls over Rimi Sen. I remained in this ‘fallen’ state for a year, after which I talked to her. Her tone and accent were such a turn-off that my crush evaporated. She called me up to ‘clear’ things at which point I told her that she wasn’t worth my attention. She got so pissed that she got her ‘brothers’ to beat me up.
A few years later, I see her at the ice cream shop. Pretend to ignore, but in reality examining her wares. To try to gauge how much is she worth in the market, on the few obvious parameters. She being a girl is of course one step ahead of me. I know she’s trying to gauge my market value. How, though? Maybe by gauging the subtlety of my gauge.
We both buy our ice cream bricks and go our separate ways. She has grown really, really sexy.
There’s a caterer, who has on display some 4 types of ‘sabjis’, 3 types of ‘poodi’ and ‘non’, salad, dahi bade, 2 types of rice, 3 types of ‘sveet’ etc etc. Then there’s the Tawa, which has another 4 types of bharwa-type sabjis. Then there’s the Kadahi, which has dal-fry, one with onion-garlic and one without.
Then there are the ‘stalls’. A Rajasthani with huge moustaches pouring milk in earthen kullads from a huge kadahi. There’re chow-mien, dosa, cheela, ice cream, coffee, paan and what not.
Someone would be excused for thinking that India was a powerhouse nation. Well, it is actually. In the field of digestion.
Under the milk-white lighting across the huge marriage-lawn, there are girls. Girls trying to impress potential suitors and their parents, and girls going red and green with jealousy of other, better endowed girls. There are uncles, the ‘modern’ ones, who prefer to greet such girls by hugging them. There are aunties cocking a snook at such uncles.
Introductions are done, and even relations built. Among the mature people. Like uncles, aunties and girls. Boys are too sloshed in the bevvy of lehengas and zari and sari and skin-hugging jeans and the occasional short skirt competing for their attention. They have attained Nirvana. They desire nothing more.
In a remote corner, the bride and bride groom are sitting on thrones. One of the gatecrashers from the nearby Medical College is slipping a gift-wrapped packet of condoms to the groom. ‘Happy marriage boss…’
The Town that was – II http://wp.me/p1jJo-ee
The Town that was – III: http://wp.me/p1jJo-eR