Congrats on your fab result. I am just going to my uncle’s home for dinner. Will be back by 10. If you want to, drop in then and we will celebrate.
So read the note stuck on to my flat’s door. It is my new mantra in life – pasting up small notes to keep people informed of my activities. And so off I went to my uncle’s place. It was a nice dinner and I never did furtively glance at my watch and fret. I came back on time before my friend turned up and we had a smashing time that evening.
Ever since it has proved to be a gem of an idea and I have a gained a lot by using it.For instance, last time round when I borrowed some notes from my friend, I stuck in a ‘Thank You’ note while returning it. And it was well appreciated. Actually most college boppers don’t dig the ‘Thank You – Mention Not’ routine and courtesy can often be regarded to be insulting. All the same, it worked this time because of its novel presentation I suppose.
My biggest gain has been with regard to our ‘kamwaali bai’ (a rough translation will be a ‘Charwoman’). She has been working for us for ages now and if there’s one thing that riles her it is being stood up and made to wait to complete her work. Two years ago there was a memorable episode that is often quoted at home. My mother was to return from her Madras trip and I went to the railway station to receive her. The train was late – ‘so what’s new’ – and the announcer kept mentioning that it was expected to arrive shortly. Well finally it ended being five hours late. In the meantime our ‘bai’ had made three visits and seeing the house locked was in a foul mood. She decided to skip work for the day. And the next day there was an awful row and we nearly lost her services. This upset my mother a lot and I have not heard the last of it yet. And yet, I can’t think how I could have helped in that situation.
Well again my parents have left for Vellore and I am all alone at home. So there have always been occasional slip ups with her. But the noted did a trick with her as well. Though she can’t read herself, she is able to find out about my movements through the same. A fluttering paper is the first sign that I am likely to be out till late and an obliging kid in the society will read the note and inform her about my exact schedule.
So you would think my life is a bed of Roses huh? Not quite. It took me a little while to understand that my life as a ‘teenager’ is an open book and under the scrutiny of the public eye. You may wonder as to what do I have to hide – any college kid staying alone must be leading a charmed life with the usual mix of parties and movies, gals and games. But therein lies the rub of it. My life is a dull and drab routine. My bulletins read, ‘Gone to college for pracs’ – will be back by seven’, ‘Off to British Library will be back by six’, ‘Going to attend my MBA prep exam – pray for me and I will be back by ten’ and so on. Guess you get the picture.
And now you may think and choose to offer me the simple solution, “Stop posting notes.” Ah! A rather neat solution but I cannot forget my fiasco with our ‘bai’. And when it becomes a matter of choice, I would prefer to nurse my bruised ego any day rather than face my irate ‘kaamwaali bai’ again!
This tribute to my ‘not happening’ college days appeared under the column, ‘The Middle’ in a local newspaper, Maharashtra Herald, in Pune, India on March 30 1998. It was butchered to meet the word limit and I have restored the narrative by referring my notes.
A ‘kaamwaali bai’ is well understood only in the Indian context – a ‘Charlady’ fails to convey the idiosyncrasies of our Indian lives. All the same this episode happened before ‘mobile’ phones came into our lives. The whole piece is an anachronism which makes no sense in today’s world.
And yet life was fun and happiness in so many little ways, notwithstanding the eternal paucity of resources and perennial plethora of everyday’s niggling issues. ‘Thoda hai thode ki zaroorat hai, Zindagi phir bhi yahaan khubsoorat hai’ – a lovely number penned by Gulzar Saab from the Hindi movie ‘Khatta Meetha’.