“Mine is a long and a sad tale!”, said the Mouse, turning to Alice, and sighed.
“It is a long tail, certainly,” said Alice.
in continuation of a field of poppies
I saw them, fiddling with a slippery brown thing with their knives. The thing, which the March Hare told me was a goat’s heart, kept skidding from under their fingers until they stabbed it silent (this reminded me of the day I accidentally had my finger pierced while trying to get acquainted with a stapler). It actually was a goat’s liver.
He had by now, taught me the uber-important art of making paper aeroplanes and boats.
11: Turkish Delight
The mother, who had become a prodigy at knitting and weaving, went into a frenzy of knitting sweaters for all of us, our cousins too, and neighbours too. She could reproduce any design with her needles just upon having a fleeting glance of it. The obsession with the colour orange, though, tended to irk us. The walls were covered with her avant-garde sort of paintings and handicrafts.
As we grew up, we began noticing the strange occurrence of her hair at places. A strand sometimes in the cooked rice, a stray mahogany strand in the sacred tulsi plant, inside books, inside electrical equipment, somehow. Soon, she concocted her own recipe to curb hair-fall and turned the kitchen into a laboratory.
The night Mr and Mrs Jena invited us to a dinner, they had expected us to be pleased with the food. We sat for the meal and as soon as the pots were uncovered, we were taken aback. They, unaware of our being staunch brahmins (which barred us from consuming non-vegetarian food), had prepared Nargisi kofta.
For a few seconds, we sat frozen until the baron, not wishing to humiliate the hosts, took a chapati and dipped it into the syrupy dish and savoured a mouthful of the grilled egg without a flinch. The syrup was yummy and that was the first and last Nargisi kofta of our lives.
Thus far, I had never known what lay beyond the colony, to that side where the school bus never went, and from where the lady with the basket of vegetables arrived at mornings. I got to know all of it the day I hitched a cycle ride with one of the older boys.
He let me sit at the back and off we went, away from the quarters. On looking around, I found hillocks on all sides and the path too, was a trail on a raised and long mound of earth, like a mini mountain range.
The path wasn’t very wide and was unending. There were bumps wherever the path wavered and I had to bear it upon my bums. However, the spectacle I saw was unprecedented. There was a far-sprawled empty, desert-like terrain, peppered here and there with bushes, in the middle of which, the raised path appeared like the Andes (of a smaller size). At a distance, there was a school building, however.
Suddenly he swerved the cycle to the left and went downhill, full-tilt! This was where the ride became unpleasant, for the hillock-road was higher than I thought, and coming down, my posterior suffered too many crashes with the iron-meshed seat. Soon we picked up his cap (which had flown off) and went back to the colony and I craved for that ride again. Longed for it, forever.
The tutor, one evening, invited our family for a dinner at his place, on the evening of ‘Eid’. Having told him beforehand about our eating habits, all we got to eat that evening his place was a bowl of ‘sewaiyan ki kheer’ (which none of us liked at all). Perhaps that was the only vegetarian meal at their place. We bided our time with a video game about cars until we left.
Meanwhile, I had become a prodigy at jalebi races and TUK was the new holy grail. But there was this one thing which had now become the newest colour in my kaleidoscope: my own guinea pigs!
The goat-liver-eater family had reared them, and they gave us a pair one day hoping we would like them, and we did love them! They were white with patches of black. They were oh-lovely! They were tail-less, though.
The wise baron, who saw it fit not to let them scurry around the house, came home with a few wooden boards, a saw and a wire mesh the very next day and embarked on building a home for them. Hammering nails into the wood, he seemed to be Bob the Builder come alive. By evening, a home was ready, with a mesh for the roof and a shutter for the door. He filled it with grass-padding so they’d be cosy. What things he did to make us happy, in hindsight I wonder if I would ever be able to do such.
Tommy didn’t seem to be adversarial towards them which was a relief. Soon, word got out and children began visiting our house to have a look at them. I became increasingly proud and bossy and would sometimes disallow the kids I was upset with from casting a look at them. They came to be known, in the local parlance, as ‘vilayati choohe‘, mice from overseas (for they had no tail).
A herd of goats it was, that had gotten into the habit of invading and sabotaging our garden during afternoon siestas. This tended to irk the mother, who went through pains in setting the meadow up. Riled up one fine afternoon, she sat in wait and ambushed a goat when it was looking the other side. Taking her into the house by the rope, she tied her to a chair in a room and latched it.
Afterwards, when the herder came looking, she gave her a sound tirade on ‘how to keep your goat within limits and make her behave herself’, upon which the cowherd lady apologized. When finally the door was opened, the room was peppered all over with goat-shit pellets. Finally, we realized it was a losing proposition, after all, to hold the mischievous goat captive.
images: giphy and google
read further – of cardamoms and luminescent bums
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