I wince as the wind stings. I stand before the open door of the plane and look down at the white icy expanse below. I exhale out a cloud of white smoke which is my breath. It seems like my last breath on this safe refuge. I look around. All my favorite stuff is in the little space afforded to it. My teddy bear, my books, my embroidery patterns, my sketchbooks, my photo albums and my bed. I look back out the plane door, bracing myself against the wind which is like a body blow, rocking me back on my heels. I can sense something pushing me into it, though. And this force comes from behind me. I look back and find my mother there. Poised for the kill shot, about to hurl me off this plane. I whimper, “Not now.” She responds, “If you don’t go now, you never will.” With those famous last words, she pushes me off the plane and I freefall into space, without any clue if I have a parachute strapped on.
I woke up with the sensation of falling. My heart was pounding away in my chest and seemed to be trying to push outwards. My alarm clock went off and I was back to reality. A reality which circa 1994 seemed pretty bleak to me. The FIFA world cup was the one bright note, in an otherwise painful time. My mother had broken her arm for the second time, a habit she would continue with, as her brittle bones gave in to the first signs of menopause. I had a university final exam coming up, and my attempts at trying to grow a plant were failing for the umpteenth time. It was ironic considering the fact that I was a Botany student.
Oh, and last but certainly not the least, I had managed to get myself into the bad books of the plant pathology professor just because I refused to stop giving him sass. The rumor was, he would be internal examiner for the practicals and I was feeling screwed without any of the fringe benefits.
I got out of the bed, wanting to get back in almost at once. FIFA matches aired from 1:30 am to 3 am and getting up at 7 am, just seemed insane. But, I was going to do it. Mom was up and needed help getting out of bed. The dog had gone off on an all night jag, something we were getting used to. Since he came from pure indigenous stock and was an alpha, we didn’t worry too much. He would be back.
Breakfast chez nous was always the same. Fried eggs, buttered toast, sweet coffee by me and of course the latest financial updates by my mom. I don’t know whether she noticed my eyes were glazing over. She never noticed and I was never in the mood to tell her that all that info was about as useful to me as a white elephant. I just didn’t relate to money or the idea of it, that way. She on the other hand, loved it.
Although, this may seem like a play with just me and my mom, let me assure you, every person I mention is important to me, since they all shaped me into the person I am and the person I was growing into. This motley crew consisted of me, a final year degree collegian, my mother, a divorced banker, my grandfather on my mother’s side, my grandma and our family dog, Dennis. My mom had recently included a Maruti car as part of the family, too. Which she named Durgi. I had a cycle that I didn’t call anything and a cousin brother, S, who was my maternal uncle’s son. His dad was in the army and so he spent most of his growing years with our family, ostensibly because said dad or my uncle wanted him to settle in one place and have a more stable education. It seemed to me that he was fobbing off his duty to his son, but, that wasn’t my headache anyway. I had other things on my mind.
Mom: So Kulkarni said, we can’t get a tax refund for the pooja expenses, since Hanuman and Durga aren’t bonafide gods, they are supernatural forces personified. They don’t fit into the rules.
Me: What? Now the tax department is going after the gods! Oh, God!
Mom: It’s not them going after the gods! They’re not giving a refund, if your pooja involves them. Period.
Me: Why don’t you file an application in triplicate telling the IT department, that every pooja is about Ganesh first and foremost? Hence by virtue of his presence, the required divine quota has been provided, and so the refund for the expenses should be made to the humans concerned, forthwith. But, listen, I can’t guarantee that despite the triplicate copies, they will read even one. I am sure, they ask for triplicates since they know they are going to lose 2 of them anyway.
Mom: And there we go with the sass again. You know, your tendency to say what’s on your mind is going to cause you tremendous pain, if it hasn’t already. How are you doing with your studies? Don’t you have an exam coming up?
Me: Yep. I do.
Mom: Don’t take it lightly. You have to do well. I don’t know what you’re up to anyway. You get out of tenth and get into Wadia College by the skin of your teeth and let’s not even dwell on your twelfth grade performance! 35 in maths! Did you even pass?
Me: Yeah! 35 is pass. But, in my defence, I topped the junior college in French language. They put my name up on the board and all. I was actually mooning at it for a good ten minutes.
Mom: French! What good is that going to do you, anyway? Then, you continue with BSc and choose Botany! For which you have to change colleges and go to Fergusson college since Wadia doesn’t have a TY Botany department! God knows what you are going to amount to. At this rate, you’re going to have to get married and cook and clean for the rest of your life.
Me: Or else, merely cook and clean for the rest of my life as a domestic since I’m going to be good for nothing else! I know! You and Aaji have been reciting the same litany since, I think, 1980. Which was when I think I finally noticed that you both existed.
Mom: Oh, don’t even get me started on that. You’re the most unaware, uninformed person I know! You have to know what is going on around you, you must keep your ear to the ground, you must know what the world is doing, you must…
Me: I must go to the loo, now. So, excuse me and I’ll see you for physiotherapy in half an hour. How are the steroids doing?
Mom: I’m developing triceps. It’s totally unhealthy and horrible to look at. Please hurry up. Don’t put down roots in the washroom. It’s a bath, not a sojourn to another country.
Morning pleasantries done, I went next door to my grandparents’ place to borrow my grandpa’s shirt. As usual, I had run out of clean clothes, and since I had to wash clothes now as mom was out of commission I knew it wasn’t going to happen any day soon. In the meanwhile, I ransacked my grandpa’s cupboard and borrowed his shirts to wear over jeans. I also stole his Old Spice which he knew, but didn’t let on. He was the love of my life and although I would see that he had feet of clay, I knew he was a pretty amazing person.
My grandparents’ part of the house was neat, spare, clean, in stark contrast to our side. My grandma cleaned the house obsessively and had a rigid routine which she didn’t divert from. When she had to, she cribbed and made life miserable for everyone, most of all her poor, pussy whipped husband.
TO BE CONTINUED…