I have always hated growing up. I think life is always in phases. First, you are an infant; you grow up, see new things, meet new people. It’s pretty awesome.
Then you grow even more and out of your teens. That’s it. By then you know your stuff. You know who’s good and who’s bad. You know what to do with your life, and where to get the cheapest Paav Bhaaji. Life becomes stagnant.
The only new thing left to experience is getting married and having kids.
This thought made me ponder. When was the last time something happened to me that made me go, “Hey, that has never happened to me before”? So, this month I am going to dedicate to “My first…”. It’s going to be an account of all the things that happened to me for the first time and how they happened. My first crush, my first book, my first embarrassing moment, my first kiss, my first movie, my first peg of alcohol, my first pizza, my first pair of jeans, my first cricket bat, my first speech, my first guilt…
MY FIRST EMBARRASSING MOMENT:
Let me start with my forte, embarrassing situations. Having embarrassing situations is a knack. It’s like Lycra – you either have it or you don’t. And Yours Truly? HAS IT!!
I have had countless embarrassing situations. Like accepting a prize from the Principal and my tongue cleaner falling from my trouser pocket with a loud clang. Or meeting a guy with a new crew cut and telling him, “Hey dude, nice hairstyle”, only to realise his dad had passed away a few weeks earlier. Right through my childhood, I can recall countless experiences when I have made a fool of myself in public.
But this one is my earliest memory and I thought I should share it with you….
I never went to school as a kid. My dad taught me all the basics at home. It was fun. He was a very cool dad. But then I was to join a school from Class 1 and they needed that I have gotten enrolled in some school earlier. So I was admitted in a school here for 6 months, for a course called “Prep”. I still don’t know what that means.
Now that I think of it, I shouldn’t have gone to the school even for the 6 months. The incidents there scarred me forever. The school was pretty decent. Classes till 11 ‘o’ clock, then they let you play what you wanted and then I could go home standing in the front of my dad’s scooter. I always heard his voice telling me from the back of my head, “Puppu, don’t fall asleep, keep your eyes open.” But there was something about a hot afternoon, the wind blowing my hair back, and the continuous drone of the Bajaj scooter. It put me to sleep in minutes. To add to the fun, my dad always rode the scooter very slowly. I am sure even bicycles overtook us on the way, but I was never awake to find out.
I used to go to a Christian woman for tuitions. She was the one who taught me how to speak in English. The woman was very kind. I remember her urging me to read Tinkle at her home. She always fed me sweets, biscuits, and pastries when I went to her house for tuitions. Either she loved kids, or she charged an exorbitant rate for the tuitions that included the snacks.
Anyway, turns out I had joined the school during the most exciting time of the year. There were a lot of games and competitions going on. One of them was the Fancy Dress competition.
Now, if you were a family, and you had a kid, and the kid had a fancy dress competition to go to, what would you make your kid go dressed as?
There were a lot of things I’d have loved to be. Police officer, train engine driver, cricketer, or Mithun Chakroborty. My cousins tell me that as a kid, I always wanted to be Mithun Chakroborty. He was my idol. I mean, for someone as bad looking as he was, he danced with pretty girls, bashed up the baddies, and sang songs. I would have loved to dress up as Mithun and go and shout out in front of everyone, “Ayee…Maa Kasam…”
All my suggestions were turned down. And my great parents, what did they finally decide that I should be dressed as? Believe it or not – a crow!! Yes, a crow!!
I agreed, because Dad always knew what he was doing. They convinced me that I was going to be the show-stealer, so I was pretty kicked about it. Preparations began 3 days before the actual event. I was taken to the tuition ma’am. As if one wasn’t enough, I was now the subject of 3 persons’ creatitivity. Mom, Dad, and the teacher.
The day arrived. I was first made to wear the basics. A black shirt and a black pant. (If they left it at that, I could probably go as ‘The Undertaker’). Then, they attached a very suspicious thing to my arm. It was black, thick and nothing like what I’d seen all my life. It was made of cardboard and paper. Another congruent piece was attached to my left arm too. Then, I got it. My lovely parents…They gave me wings!!!
As if that wasn’t enough, next came the feather in the cap, the jewel of the crown. The beak of the crow!! Made of cardboard, it was about half a foot long and had an elastic band at the back so it could be strapped on to my face. Once she was done, my teacher moved a few paces back, inspected me and said, “Hmmm…beautiful. (I was elated. Nobody had called me that before) You are going to win”. I was over the moon. I had never won anything. Quite simply because I had never participated in anything earlier.
“Flap your wings, go on”, she urged me. I did that.
“Okay, now for your dialogue. Repeat after me,” she said. “Kkraaa, kkraaa. I am the thirsty crow.”
“Kkraaa, kkraaa. I am the thirsty crow.” I repeated after her, with earnest. Oh! You should’ve seen me! I was like Shaimak Davar. Flapping my wings, cawing like a crow, mouthing my dialogues and frantically looking for the pot of water I would throw stones into. I was a man-made wonder.
Ready to kick everyone’s ass, I was rearing to go. The teacher stuffed a last sweet into my mouth and kissed me goodbye. I was already late for the show.
Now that I think of it, my dad hadn’t lost it completely. He had the sense not to take me on his scooter that day. Imagine what a sight it would have been. Man, Woman, and Crow -the other extreme of Family Planning! I was taken to school in a rickshaw that day.
I was excited and my heart was beating as fast as a crow’s. (Getting into character, see?) We finally reached the school compound. We were late. I rushed into the building. The competition had nearly begun.
Everybody had to go on to the stage in a few minutes. I looked at everybody else around me. One guy was a policeman, another a hero with a guitar, yet another was an army officer, another, a cricketer. The girls were all either princesses or fairies. They all looked smart and suave. Compared to them, I looked like a prop of a low budget play. I still remember thick, hot tears welling up in my eyes. As a child, you are more honest about your feelings. I cried because I was ashamed of my entire costume.
But Nana had accompanied me for the show. He was in the audience. He was the producer, creative supervisor, the make up artist, and the script and dialogue writer. More importantly, he was my father. I just didn’t know what to do if I backed out. So, when my turn came, I remember walking on to the stage. I don’t remember if the crowd cheered, booed, or were just plain dumbstruck by the absurdity of it all. My eyes were too filled with tears to notice anything. I looked at him, mouthed my dialogues, and left the stage in a hurry.
Now that I think of it, none of the other guys were innovative. I mean, what’s different about a policeman, or a cricketer? And I could bet my fake beak on the fact that none of the other guys’ dads had stayed up all night preparing their costume with their own hands. Maybe if I had performed properly, I would have even won the competition. But I will never know.
It was probably the first lesson that our parents know much more than we do, at any point of our life.
But on that day, I was glad the damn thing was finally over!!