Dad was the only person I feared.
It was a half-day at school. On my way back home, I saw my best friend Venky playing with a stray puppy in front of his house. Venky was of my age, dark, infact darker than me, and was really good at heart. He never said a "No" to me whenever I asked him anything. That’s one of the reasons I always ask him something or the other. Venky lives right across the street, few meters away from our house. When he saw me coming toward him, he stood up holding the puppy in his hands and started grinning widely at me. I reciprocated with an even wider grin. It’s a pleasant feeling looking at the face of a person who has a good heart. It’s a strange feeling of warmth, which, only poets can describe.
Venky and I chatted for a while standing in front of his house before I suggested him an interesting afternoon plan. He agreed, as usual. I rushed home and threw my bag and waterbottle away. Mom was too busy in the backyard pounding a wet double-cot bedsheet hard against the granite rock. We lived in an independent railway quarters which had a decent 400-sqft backyard. A six-feet wall separated our backyard from the neighbour’s. Our neighbour Mr Arunachalam, was about 51 years old, and lived with his wife and grown-up children. Our quarters were quite identical.
I went upto my mom and stood a few feet away from her, holding my school tie in hand and playfully swinging it in the air, in circles. I showed up before her and tried to grab her attention only to let her know that I was back from school already. She paused. She turned around and looked at me top to bottom, twice, then continued pounding the bedsheet. This is her way of saying that it’s high time I took off my uniform and shoes. She doesn’t like me hanging around in the house with uniform or shoes on. I took them off and changed into civilian clothes.
Dad wasn’t at home. He wouldn’t be, as he would normally come home only after 6-00 pm everyday. I went into the kitchen and quickly served myself some rice, sambaar and potato thoran
“Edaa...Don’t eat away the entire thoran..!” she screamed from the backyard, her voice reaching my ears through the kitchen window. Now this doesn’t mean she didn’t love me at all. She has her own ways of expressing love, and has her own personal moments of showing affection towards me. Like any other indian mom.
I served potato thoran onto my plate, scooping out almost half of what she had prepared in the steel dish. It was still warm. Using the tablespoon, I spread out the remaining half of thoran in the dish, strategically, so as not to leave traces of my monster scoop. I generally do this and it proved effective all the time.
I went for a second round of rice. With rasam this time. According to me, rasam is poor man’s soup. I like pouring a tablespoon or two of rasam into my cupped palm and swooshing it up. I learnt this from my dad, who inturn learnt it from grandpa. It’s a genetic thing, I feel. My mom says it’s also a very good cure for upset stomach. “Da. Have a glass of rasam and it should be alright” she says, when I frequent the bathroom too many times. Honestly, I feel rasam didn’t receive the fame and popularity it truly deserves in the culinary world.
When I contemplated a third round, with moru curry, it just struck me that Venky might be waiting for me outside, as agreed during our discussion short while ago.
I came out of the house, and Venky was already waiting for me on his dad’s vintage bicycle - a model that belonged to the Mesozoic era and seemed as if it was built entirely out of rust. Its tires and mud-guards seemed as if someone had spent a real good time to diligently adorn it with cow dung and bubblegum. I used the reverse side of my T-shirt to wipe off dust from the pillion bar; it revealed a Karishma Kapoor’s sticker on it.
Venky began pedaling after I jump sat on the bar. The pillion bar, that connects the rider’s seat from under and the handle bar, is an important feature that distinguishes a ladies’ cycle from a gents’ cycle. Ofcourse, besides the unbelievable speed difference on roads between these two. I sat with both my legs on one side, resting on my rumps. For guys, in general, sitting this way is the most comfortable of all. Sitting on the bar with legs on either side is anatomically unimaginable, and generally considered anti-social.
After a few mins, we reached Ramachandra 35mm, Malkajgiri. Right in time for Hum aapke hain kaun.
“Hey, I didn’t inform my mom” I told Venky nervously, holding the tickets in hand.
“Even I didn’t inform anybody re, so nothing to worry” he said.
That was sort of a consolation for me.
We got lost into the movie and didn’t realize the unusually long duration of it. Our original plan was to watch the movie and reach home by the time my dad returns from office. However by the time we reached closer to our homes, it was already 6-30 pm. I was sure my dad might have already turned home. Venky dropped me right in front of our quarter's entrance.
"Don't tell anybody" Venky said and disappeared into the darkness on his bicycle.
I stepped inside and dad was sitting on the brown sofa, resting his legs on the tea-poi. He was watching TV with utmost focus, and his mouth partially open. When he is watching TV, a mosquito can confidently fly into his mouth and come out of his nostrils, and yet he wouldn’t know about it.
Read Part-2 Here