04 July, 2010

Of slugs and snails and puppy dogs' tails

Ok so you're a pig-tailed little girl who's doing great in her class, are in a healthy relationship of enmity with the girl who comes first (oh Kanika Ballani how will I forget you?) and enjoy your Sunday morning dose of Daanasur (chhipkali ka nana of course!!!) and Jungle Book as much as the next 90's kid. You are secure in your top position at the Bag the Bus Seat pecking order, you relish your orange bars like no one's business and of course, you play vish amrit like a pro. Life is a riot of rainbows, a non-stop re-run of Pink Panther cartoons, oh a perfect kaleidoscope of bubblegummy fun. Basically, you're me. A microscopic version.

And then whoosh, the bubble goes burst. The rainbows go monochromatic. Ice lollies in summer vacations melt away. Bus rides and window seats? Discarded with the earlier life. Mowgli? Hell we don't even have a TV now. And to make matters incorrigibly, inescapably worse, I found myself, at the ohsocrazyage of 9, sitting in a classful of boys. Those despicable fellows who cheated at every game and troubled anything with a pigtail. I went through teenage stress even before I got to being a teenager! As the only girl in a classful of boys, I became the proverbial sore thumb, the only one with hair longer than her head, the one who had to use the teacher's loo because I couldn't pee like the boys. Oh the miseries of being that Person With Plaits.

That first day ushered in my topsyturvy life for the next three years. The Mother came in to check on me at break and I was found crouching under my desk (I lacked the balls of course). My first friend was to be Tinku, the guy who told me the warts on his face were because he caught, tortured and ate flies (I later learnt that was a lie, it was an allergy to rain or something. Baah perhaps he was the precursor to my love for gore). On the class picnic, I was looked at curiously, blatant disgust would be what I would call those expressions now that I look back. And that was just the first day.

I quickly realized that naughty boy shoes gave me painful blisters that lasted forever, that wearing pants was way more convenient than any skirt ever invented, that if I was to ever be respected, I had to climb the rope in gym, that no matter which gender you belonged to, crying was the sport of the sissies. I watched the boys make their ties in fascination and a few kind ones would help me with mine. I marvelled at how they could eat practically anything with a generous helping of ketchup (seeing them eat mountains of rice with tomato sauce gave me my I Abhor Ketchup badge). 

But when you're a kid time flies by like a floundering bird, it goes so fast, whooping and flailing, a funny fumble and soulful sweep in one jumbled arc. Before I knew it, I was in the groove. I was cheering wildly at the Jackie Tournament (you don't know the JACKIE TOURNAMENT?). I was reciting Robert Frost and swapping WWF cards (it was not WWE then). I was learning what chungi was and making my first paper aeroplane. Chits sprung up between pages of notebooks, paper balls were thrown at me during break, I knew everyone's nicknames, dirty and otherwise, Biology classes started to invite sniggers. 

And almost as quickly as it began, it ended. From an all-boys roller coaster, I was plunging into an all-girls school. "Yikes", they said. As a girl who had systematically forgotten how to be one, the change would be drastic. Day scholar to boarder? What would I do amongst girls? And from being the outsider, I was suddenly receiving farewell cards, swapping addresses to keep in touch. Ah I love the faith we have in goodness when we're young. Suddenly I was to miss tying all the rakhis the boys got from their sisters. To march proudly in a vest and blazer just like the others on Sport's Day. To scratch one's knees by crawling on gravel as punishment for marching badly. To discover and discard crushes. To dress up as a witch as the boys became the ghosts. To feel out of place when the boys would be hit, no one ever touched a girl. 

My memories have a way of falling into extreme categories. Only the painfully poor ones and the ecstatically absurd ones stick. The mediocre in-betweens, the monotonous blahs just smudge each other into anonymity. Manor House and its roller coaster three years always hit the higher happier notes.  

14 comments:

  1. Anonymous7:48 pm

    Chungi!!

    Rest of the post none withstanding!

    Chungi!!

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  2. you left george's after completing std 6? or std 5?

    in other words, what class did you enter into at gwalior?

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  3. Anon: Your days of anonymity are over now!
    Marvin: I joined SKV in 7th. St. Georges' was 4th-6th.

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  4. one of your best posts in a while.. and quite engrossing at that :D seems like you'd fun[ in retrospect] growing up

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  5. O wow.. are comments moderated now :O

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  6. i see now where you got 'your balls' from....

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  7. Haru: Yup, tragically, they are.
    Ankit ji :O This is a blog for 'home audiences'. Sharm karo yaar.

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  8. Nice post.
    I always wanted to be the only guy in a class full of girls, but for other reasons.

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  9. I say the girls school was quite fun too. :)

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  10. Nive: Oh yes! Those adventures would make a book :)

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  11. enjoyed reading this one. you know, i used to be secretly jealous that you got to go to an all-boys school ;) i used to crave the mussoorie hols ;) teeheehee

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  12. Jealous??!!!? I'd have never imagined! And here I was harping about skv all the time :) The grass. Always greener...

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  13. Anonymous9:30 pm

    Found this by chance and was pleasantly surprised to read someone else's reminisces about SGC. O and by the way, Tinku still tortures flies.

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    Replies
    1. Ha ha he does?! I love that some things never change :D

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