" Erised stra ehru oyt ube cafru oyt on wohsi "
in continuation of – clover and asphalt
As we sat watching , one night , a mouse called Stuart driving a car on the screen of the television , the T.V. went phut suddenly , all blank – kaput!
The TV with the letters ‘L’ and ‘G’ written on it was given to the cane wielding tutor to salvage any possible repairs and finally replaced with another Television. As a precautionary measure, we never saw any more movies about the mouse called Stuart who drove a red car thereafter , considering it an ill omen.
The March Hare by now had taught me the art of getting a faulty remote controller to work py pressing the buttons harder.
10 : A Field of Poppies
We hadn’t had any neighbours till the day Mr Jena’s family arrived. They were just the two of them , except in vacations, when their two sons visited. In its own time , it became known to us that Mr Jena had had a wife earlier , and this Mrs Jena was the sister of the late Mrs Jena . The children were , of course borne by the deceased lady.
The mother , who had a penchant for handicrafts began sewing covers for every which thing she could deem worthy covering – tables, chairs , pillows, regulators, stabilizers, sewing machines, refrigerators, utensils , books , even photographs. “All things tangible ought to be covered” she said , ” let not the dust make its way into my house”.
One morning as the mother stood at the Jenas’ door with the March hare observing the name plate which said ‘J.B. Jena’ , she wondered aloud ,’ what could that mean?’ , and the March Hare, in an uncharacteristic surge of wisdom remarked- ‘Jorge Bush Jena’ .
A telephone set had been installed in our house and the March Hare would menacingly dial numbers and annoy the neighborhood with his weird questions . Soon , however, it was taken away on account of his mischiefs .
Mrs Jena turned out to be a very nice, charming and kind lady. She gave us nice things to eat and did our homework too . She drew for us and most of all , gave us jigsaw puzzles which when solved, showed pictures of a sailor called Popeye. The puzzles came along for free whenever you bought a packet of ‘Top Ramen’ noodles.
There was a field , sprawled behind the row of blocks, an immense clearing with grass , weeds and buttercups everywhere. It had a wavy contour which made it look less like an esplanade and more like an ocean in a storm overgrown with moss over the water and frozen still by a witch’s curse.
The wavy field had craters like the ones the moon has, peppered over its surface and cracks in the shape of a honeycomb sprinkled with lunar dust. Cows with storks sitting on their heads munched over the grass which extended to the horizon. That field was a spectacle to behold ; never have I felt such tranquility ever as in that field of poppies, not even in the lovely Nainital itself . That spread of untamed grass in the spittoon city at the edge of which the mother taught us the art of letter-writing while leaning our backs on the wall of the house, that little haven , like John Keats’ bower ( Endymion: a thing of beauty) , I can trade any heaven for a day in that field.
That summer, we stole and ate too many unripe mangoes from the trees in the school and around the house , as a consequence of which , we (both of us) contracted what people came to call ‘the Amitabh Bachchan malady’. The symptoms were – we grew something akin to scales , around our mouths and jaws , which looked like the beard worn by Mr Amitabh and hence the name. It became really hard to get outdoors for fear of public derision and lampooning and the temptation of peeling off the scales was insurmountable (and/but was painful too).
In time , the scales shed off and things got healed. I could now look She-who-must-not-be-named straight in the face. There was another girl , though, who lived on the other side of that vast field of poppies – a classmate named Anjali. We went one day to her house while passing the alleyways and streets , and I had to ask for a notebook when suddenly the mother blurted out – ” he’s (secretly) in love with your daughter” , and they had a hearty laugh. That was the day I realized grown ups don’t care a fig about the dignity of their children , much less about their lovey-dovey feelings.
The cane wielding tutor came everyday except holidays and apart from us there was one more , older than us , who took the classes with us . He wasn’t very important until the day I saw his sister. She was cute as a koala and had these short hair . It was her hair which cursed me with a lifelong love for shoulder-length-cropped hair. They left the city one day , alas ! and we were again on our own to bear the brunt of the tutor who was the Indian counterpart of Severus Snape. Without her , Ram-Nawami mornings weren’t nearly as lovely as before ( wherein I’d had the habit of specially inviting her to the house for the worship and delicacies) , the playground lost its charm . Krishna was gone too , and I had another new friend , whose name meant ‘the emperor of the universe’.
One of those days, a devastating flood hit Bihar. The loss was unprecedented , many died , and got lost in the waters , many were left without a roof. The school gave us all a form to raise as much charity-fund we could for those who were worst affected. I made a beeline for the house of the emperor which was on the top storey and knocked , upon which his grandparents opened the door and on enquiring about his whereabouts , I was told that the emperor of the universe was taking a shit in the toilet. Proudly ,they presented me with a one-rupee coin and that was all the fund I collected ( I decided to donate clothes, which the mother gave us hordes of ).
Everything seemed serene. The father’s mind too, was tranquil and all he seemed to long for , now, was- ”a banana tree of our own”.
Images : google and giphy
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