Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Senselessly Constructed House

I .

I am missing Z.

And I’m sure Z misses me as much as I miss her.

Just two years junior to me, we could have easily passed off as twins to the observer. “Chip of the old block” some people called us when they saw us together. Even though some of them had never seen the old blokes..oops… blocks! It was just their way of saying how much we resembled each other. When they said that, I would often keep wondering for a long time as to ‘HOW’ they could utter such statement.

Perhaps, Z and I are mutually-contradictorily-similar in some mysterious sense…

Looks wise, at that time, I was a candlestick with matchsticks for arms and legs, had shoulder length hair which mother would comb each morning till I felt that the teeth of the comb must have left multi-lane freeways on my head and I imagined that if some lice were to ping pong from one of my classmate’s hair into mine, they would at least have a good infrastructure to roam around with ease . My mother would then, pull up as much of my hair as could assemble on the very top [ not the ‘back’ top, but the ‘center’ top] of my head, and tie it up with a tight hair band ; and there it stood falling on all sides like a fountain .

Z on the other hand was quite roly-poly, and wore a tomboyish haircut, with a few ‘ridges and furrows’ here and there: thanks to the old barber with shaky hands and and one-and-a –half moustache. Yes folks, he DID have one and a half mustache and he came home to give us haircuts, as we sat right in the middle of our courtyard- a mirror less victimization! We couldn’t even see what he had made of us, which was usually worse than cartoons, as we judged afterward as soon as we became free from his clutches. O how we hated him!

While Z was the extrovert roaring lioness, I was the timid bleating goat, & yet we were always partners in crime, catastrophe, calamity, cataclysm, comfort, curiosity and younameit in a cohesive companionship. It was some kind of unwritten contract between us.On one hand we would fight like cats tearing each other’s hair, while on the other, if anyone so much as raised a finger at one, he would have had to taste the tempestuous grapes of wrath from the other.

It was the time, when Z was in her nursery class and I was in my upper kindergarten at a St. Mary’s convent. It was a Day School and we went to school in a rickshaw. On some pretext or the other Z would cry everyday while we traveled to school, all the way,and her crying was as continuous as the stars that shine for full forty- five minutes that it took us to reach .Even when she got tired a squeaky wail would continue to emerge from her lips and we sometime had to look hard to see if it was ‘her wail’ as her face became as passive and straight as freshly botoxed .

Now this particular day was special. It was special because that day, when Z perched on her seat in the rickshaw, she was smiling! Whew! Her pre- school blues were finally over I thought, and the knowledge brought in such a tremendous relief!

“Z, you look happy today!”


“Hey Z look around, everyone is going to school and they are enjoying it. See? It is not so bad after all is it?

SMILE.[ without looking around]

“Z would you be able to eat from your tiffin without my help at lunch break? I want to play hopscotch with my friends during that time.”


“Z, I shall take you to your classroom and the Ayah will take care of you, Remember, no crying in the classroom.”


Having arrived at our destination, I picked up both of our school satchels and led her by her finger to her classroom. Sister Celestina was already there with most of the children. I left her at the door and turned to leave for my own class.

“ MONA” [ a shout from behind]

Alarmed, I turned back and the sight that I beheld there had me going dizzy for the first time in my life!

Z stood there, holding her skirt up, and she was not wearing her panties!!!

And she had done it all deliberately!

If you think Sharon Stone was the first one to go without her underwear to face a crowd , folks, update your knowledge!

No amount of making excuses for her and trying to make her coax into confessing that it was a mistake of some kind would make her budge from her insisting that she had done it on purpose! In fact, she was ADAMANT that she had done it on purpose and IN FRONT OF SISTER CELISTINA TOO!!!

Sister Celistina … the pincher… who would pinch you on the arm so hard that it drew blood!,,,, In fact she had grown and shaped her index finger and her thumb nails specially for that purpose!

So Z said, she had done it on purpose.

What ‘purpose’?

THAT still remains a mystery till today!


We lived in a huge mansion of a house which had more than twenty rooms , two servant houses and [ believe it or not ] a well! It was a huge house, and it was the most senselessly constructed house. If a thief ever got a chance to enter that house, he would have had an access to all the rooms by default .All he would have had to do was to do was to keep passing from one door to another till he emerged from the last. There were huge verandas though, which were quite a relief and large lawns and big courtyards that could accommodate any game we wished to play.

Yet, it was one of the servant quarters that held our interest. It drew us to it like iron to magnet, like bees to honey, like robbers to gold, like neighbour’s wife to a man, etc. etc. And it drew us, because Annu the Atrocious lived in it.

Annu was the son of a poor relative.Annu & co. had landed with us quite by accident.It was a huge showdown between the mother in law and daughter in law [ Annu’s mom] and of course, as usually is the case, Annu & co. were driven out of their house by the MIL, on a dark and a stormy night, with just the clothes they had on their back . Thus, penniless and hungry, they came to my father. My father, the benevolent soul, immediately took them under his guardianship, tutelage and aegis .

Annu had arrived!

Annu was Z’s batch mate in the birthclass, her diaper buddy [ ‘langotiya yaar’ as we call it] and our bosom friend. He had the largest eyes I ever saw in a head, buckteeth and a perpetual grin .He of course was born with that grin, but we were too young to realize what being born with ‘things’ was all about.

It was Annu who taught us the beauty of being wild: to “ run through the jungle with wind in our hair and the sand at our feet” kind of wild! It was with Annu that we learned to fly kites. Annu taught us how to climb a ten feet wall with just a bamboo pole in order to pick plums from the very top of the plum tree [ and those were ace plums for they had grown and ripened well, in peace, without facing the reverse rain of our torrential catapulting from below]. Annu taught us how to roll an old cycle tyre down the road with a stick, Annu taught us to play ‘ gilli danda’, an essentially Indian urchin game,played with a long and a short stick; the short one sharpened like a pencil from both sides. This stick was tossed on the ground, then hit at any chosen end in such a way, that it flew up in the air. This flying short stick was then to be struck with all our might to make it go as far as possible. Whoever could fling it farthest , was declared a winner and got piggy back rides from the rest; irrespective of the fact whether he was fat and pigged out by overeating and whether the poor beast of burden resembled a victim from some concentration camp. Also, this game has created more one eyed people on earth than all the pirates at sea put together.

Heck, Annu even taught us, the girls, how to pee, standing up!

Annu was clever at EVERYTHING…except studies [ that is normally how it usually is]; and Annu wore only shorts and grin . No matter how much his mother would beat him or begged him to wear a shirt, he never wore it. And even if he did, by some chance, he always came back without it .We loved Annu in ALL respects, except for one thing…the Grin!

For whenever we were caught performing some monstrosity and were being scolded, Annu stood at a distance GRINNING.! O how that infuriated us!! It piqued us to vexation of highest degree, which we, at that moment, buried in our bosom, swearing in our heart to give vent to later.

And this is how Annu- chasing began .

Annu was the fastest runner I’ve ever seen till date. And Annu running faster than us… [ of course there was this one-upmanship snobbery that went along with us as in some racist kind of a manner ; no matter how much we loved him, we never forgot that Annu was a poor relation ; {Of course now I am totally ashamed of that!}] ;… so Annu running faster than us WITH the GRIN was a maddening fury to contend with!

Sometimes we would catch him using some strategic ambushes and beat all the sobs out of him . We also tried to pull his cheeks down using our knuckles to wipe that grin off.[ Later his mother learned the trick to oil his naked upper torso, so that even if he got caught by our devious scheming, he might be able to give us the slip.]

During our summer vacations we got one set of some particular game, which we could learn. That year we got a cricket game set! Boy! We were so excited, we couldn’t wait to try it out . So everything was set in place as they show it on the TV.

But then we had a problem. None of us knew the Rules of the game. Suddenly our eyes fell at a grinning Annu standing at a distance. Inquisition revealed that he was a champion at it! Yay!!!!!

But wait a minute! Annu started to turn his back and leave. What was the matter? We asked him to teach us, he refused. We demanded- refused, warned and threatened- refused again. Our threats took a U turn to coaxing, pleading and finally bribing!

Ah!! His eyes had lit up, and we saw some hope.

Then Annu started demanding ‘ransom’ . He wanted the booty immediately! My Mother’s Sandalwood face powder, My Mother’s favourite candelabrum, My mother’s hair bun net…..and we complied at first without a thought…but wait!

Something was wrong here. Why the hell was Annu demanding My MOTHER’s personal items???? It took us awhile to realize.

Annu was taking Revenge!

Annu wanted us in trouble for all the spanking we had given him in the past, he wanted us to be spanked by the worst spanker around [ My mother ].

That Annu failed miserably in his machinations is another matter. For all the needles of suspicions pointed towards the maid , considering the ‘species’ and the ‘essence’ of the goods that were lost and the poor woman had to bear the brunt.

Still, Annu had managed to scare the shit out of us.

Annu had , in some manner ‘ grown’, we realized . We never beat up Annu after that.

A month later, Annu started wearing his shirt too.