Crucial Craziness

The god of cruel things


I stood at the Coimbatore Airport, alone and helpless. I saw an elderly man staring at me. Immediately, I wiped the tears that had unknowingly fallen from my swollen eyes. Whom shall I ask for help? Everyone was a stranger. The man approached me. Must be in his early seventies.

“I have kept your tooth brush in a kit-in the side zip. Don’t forget”

“And there are pins in that blue bag.”

“Listen,don’t forget. There are  four thousand rupees in the inner zip of your black suitcase. Don’t  forget ,I’m repeating. And don’t open it in the train for any sake. All what you may need is in your handbag”

“Are you listening? It’s already late.I’m talking to you, Renu!”

“Mom…cool down .It’s only 6:30 now. The train is 9:10”

“Time will fly away, just like that. Switch the TV off and check if you’ve packed all your things”

“But,I’ve already checked it seven times”

The phone bell rang. My mother ran and picked it up.

“Yeah..she’s starting tonight. PSG, Coimbatore Merit.”

“Yeah, I’m fine now.Alright. No problem”

“Yes. Thank you. Bye”

That was the hundredth time my mother had repeated the same dialogue, with overwhelming joy and pride. She spoke with the same enthusiasm each time. I had got my admission to one of the top colleges, in Coimbatore.

My mother was always worried about me.I was like how the boys in Indian families were meant to be-happy-go-lucky, carefree and  playful and my brother was how girls were meant to be-sincere, dedicated and hardworking.

My brother had studied extremely well and is now doing his third year Mechanical Engineering in IIT,Kanpur. But I wasn’t like him. I’m very playful, hasty and a harum-scarum person who never took anything serious in life. I was contented with basket ball, my novels, Bharatanatyam, Music and Movies.

Never had I worked hard for studies. No aims, no goals.

At class one, I had said that I wanted to become a doctor . 9 out of 10 children say they want to become.Later, I wanted to become a van driver; because I loved my school van driver’s style of driving. When I was in class 8, I wanted to become a scientist like Abdul Kalam. This and that; that and this.

My brother topped his school in the board exams and I saw all praising him. I loved it and I finally decided that I would also become an engineer like him; so that people would celebrate me.

“You lazy bum !Don’t you want the calculator? How many times should I tell you take it?”

“Anna…If you’re so much concerned, why don’t you keep  it in your sweet sister’s bag yourself?”

“Renu, look…if you’re so carefree, you’ll lose all your things at the hostel. I’m saying out of my experience. You’ll come back home with nothing. In my hostel, a boy lost all his…..”

“You get lost brother! You and your stale lectures! I didn’t even want to go today. It was you who made me start so early. My friend is starting only tomorrow and there are 3 more days for the college to start”

“Don’t you want to  settle into your room, Renu?”, my mother interrupted.”

“He is right. Why do you bother about your friend? You need to start early. Now go, take bath and get ready”

“Amma…will you wear that red saree with green border to the station? I love to see you in it”

The elderly man in the airport walked towards me and asked, ”What’s bothering you dear? You look really pathetic. Want some help?”

I had got a phone call from my father, asking me to come home immediately. He never told me the reason. He asked me to reach the Coimbatore Airport in Peelamedu by an auto and take a flight back home,to Chennai. Thankfully ,I had the money for the tickets-the money my mother had kept in the inner zip of the black suitcase. I didn’t forget.

I knew something was wrong. I kept asking him about it. But, he said not a word.

I could feel my heart throbbing with anxiety that I didn’t want to express.

“Sir,I need to go to Chennai urgently. I don’t have the  tickets.”

“Do you have money?”

“Yes Sir”

“Why do you worry child? It’s not a problem at all.I’ll help you.”

He took me to the booking desk at the airport. He filled in few forms, asking my details, bought the tickets and handed them over to me.

“Your flight number is IT2902  Kingfisher Airlines-7:45 AM. The departure will be announced shortly. You be seated here until that. Is that ok dear?”

“Ok sir. Thanks”

“And, whatever is your problem ,try not to have a worried face like this. It is not safe to travel with a face like that, child”

“Ok sir”

“That’s good. Bye”

He pulled his suitcase and walked swiftly towards the exit. I kept staring at him until he disappeared into the crowd.

I sat there and listened to every announcement that was made. After ten minutes, it was about my flight.

That was the first time I had to travel by an airplane. I had come to airport only to wave goodbye to my US uncles and aunts who always bought us chocolates and perfume bottles.

I was nervous,but more worried.What was wrong? Why did my father want to hide something from me?

My father was fine,he spoke to me.My mother?She had fever last week,but completely in high spirits and in the pink of her health now. Had my brother met with an accident? But he’s a very sensible driver who doesn’t drive at speeds more than 40 Km/hr, even if the road is deserted. But…..brother…..

It was time for me to board the flight. I went in a bus to board the flight. Everything was strange things I’d never seen. I had only dreamt of the a joyful air travel. But my first one-with a heavy and stressed heart, never made me realize the joy.

The smiling air-hostess helped me find my seat and put my belt.. Her smile was too artificial.I wondered if she’ll remain smiling even if someone stamps her foot. I was offered weird-looking things to eat. I refused them. I moved back, rested on the seat and closed my eyes tight.

“Take care of your baggage. Don’t reveal your identity to strangers. Don’t buy water from the train. I’ve kept the water bottle in your handbag”-my mother’s last minute lectures at the railway station.

“Ok maa…I can manage. I am a big girl. Don’t worry.”,I spoke proudly as a grown up seventeen year old.

My father placed all my bags near my seat and ensured that they were locked .Meanwhile, my mother was glancing at the passenger chart put up outside the train’s compartment.

Mine –S6 seat number 5. She wasn’t worried about that. Others…others…she wanted a good family.

I wanted to say, I’m not getting married. I’m only going to be with them for few hours.

The chart  read.. N.Ramanujam –40- #1, N.Jaishree-38-#2,  R.Sriram-15 -#3, R.Sridhar-12-#4

“Brahmins!Nambalavaa! [our people] ,she exclaimed with delight. Seems to be a good family!”

It was surprising to find how she could brand people to be good just with their names.

I had seriously wished that the chart would have been Rahul-20 or Shiva-23.My bad luck!

She went in, spoke with Jaishree, the Brahmin aunty ,I assumed and asked her to take care of me.

“Don’t worry,we’ll take of her, the lady assured. I felt shameful. My mom  never did  this whenever my brother left.

The signal changed green, the whistle was blown and the train was about to start.

I got a little emotional. I had not been without my family for more than a week. But now,I may see them only after two months. Tears filled my eyes, though I tried to control it.I didn’t want y mother to see me crying because she would also start. I tried to hide, but I wasn’t successful. My mother was smart.

“Renu…what’s this crying habit. You aren’t going to moon. Wipe your face. We want to see you cheerful”

I  smiled.

The train started moving. My parents got down. Brother was still inside.

“Hey ..Don’t keep studying always and spoil your college life. Make as much as friends you can.Ok…

Enjoy a lot! Do all crazy things;whatever you want….You won’t do rubbish, I know…I have faith in you…

Take this”,he handed a thousand rupee note to me.He hugged me and said,”Bye Renu!”.

I was surprised to see him speaking that way; I felt like the love I had towards my brother grew in an exponential rate like a chemical reaction, right that moment.( No,it’s not just because of the thousand rupee note).

He got down  and all waved good-bye to me.

Tears in my eyes again. My mother shouted from outside…

”Renu…You should never cry, whatever happens.Love you dear….”

My parents and my brother kept jogging with the train until it picked up speed.

I was looking out of the window waving my hand. The train left the station.The platform ended and the yellow board read- Chennai Central.

The flight had reached Chennai, the air hostess announced. I got up and fell down immediately. I hadn’t removed my seat belts .I removed it quickly and got up again.

People walked towards the door in such a hurry..

I moved in the direction the crowd moved. After few minutes, I found myself standing at the Chennai Airport. I saw them collecting their baggage.I waited there and collected mine too.

I came out and stood hopelessly. No one had come to pick me up.

I walked out planning to take an auto back home and fixed the rate to be Rs.150 ,not a rupee more,I reassured myself.

I opened my purse .I just had the thousand rupee note my brother had given me a day back.I was reminded of the words he spoke.

Anna…..what happened to you?

“Renuuuuu…..!”

I turned back hearing my name being shouted. My brother stood there .He was wearing  the same dress that he wore yesterday.

I ran towards him.I asked him what had happened. He didn’t speak.

“Come with me…walk fast”, he took my bags and walked out of the station.

To cope up with his speed, I had to run.

An auto was already waiting. He signaled me to get inside .He got into it after me.

“Anna…tell me.What is wrong?”

“Anna!Why did father ask me to return back?”

“Anna!Tell me!!”

“Will you shut your mouth and come? he shouted”

His eyes were dark red, swollen. I could find that he had cried. His cheeks were wet.

I shut my mouth and started crying. I knew it was something bad.

Mother…..

We reached home in half an hour. People had gathered around home. I’ve never seen them so many of them before.I couldn’t walk.My brother pulled me inside.

I saw my father squatting on floor with his hand on his head.

I moved in. There was an unusual silence that’s always dangerous.

I found my mother, lying on floor-her face pale,lifeless.She wore the beautiful red saree I had asked her to wear. A lamp was flickering near her head.

I was trembling  and my brother supported and helped me stand me. I turned to him and slapped him several times.

“It was you who asked me to leave”

Slap!

“It was you who made me leave Amma”

Slap!

“I could have started a day later”

Slap!Slap!

He stood calmly.He pulled me close and hugged me.

“I’m sorry Renu”,he burst out crying.

I cried madly,frantically. My dress was wet.

I looked at my mother.I felt like she moved. I started crying even loudly.

”Renu…You should never cry, whatever happens. Love you dear….”

I wiped my tears , sat next to my mother and looked at her beautiful face that I’d never seen crying.

She smiled. None could see it, but I could.

“Love you dear…”

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The Fifteen Minutes’ Journey


This is my first short story I wrote about a year back

It was exactly 12:00 noon. As the bell rung, I was looking out of from the window of my classroom at the third floor.The half yearly exams had ended. Howling and screaming children ran out of the school, trying to beat each other, suppressing all other noises.

Human ears exposed to this sonic boom for a short span of time would become a total failure as it sound would tear the inner,middle and outer layers.You tell them Roosevelt,they would ask where’s the loose bolt.

Lucky people,I sighed at them who were let loose.We,the unfortunate lot,the board going class ten had to stay back to collect the holiday assignment.How sick!The more unfortunate class twelve students had to stay back too,which was the only solace.

I wanted to run away right that moment.I would surely get lost in the crowd and escape off from school.Watchmen wouldn’t doubt;he would think I belonged to class 8 or 9 because I was short by average.Thanks to my height,I could deceive people,but I didn’t have the guts.

I hated staying back after exams, mainly because I didn’t want anyone to discuss about the exam. I hated even a word about it. Every time after the examination, I would be the first to run out of the school. Once a new watch man never allowed me to get out, thinking I had tried to escape.He had to be strict because,once a girl,my classmate ran all the way till benagalooru,to her granny’s house because the teachers had scolded her. Poor girl,when she

returned back,she was scolded even more.I had a bitter squabble with the watchman, and when my PT teacher signaled him to leave, he let me go.Gone were those days. It wasn’t possible now. I really wonder

if teachers had no joy about the last working day. How would it be- teachers running out when the bell goes?oh..oh…bad imagination. Most of them were fat and cannot run.

My math ma’am entered with a frightening pile of papers. They were the assignment questions we had to complete during the holidays. Holidays-the word which had once brought happiness now irritated me. School was better; we needn’t complete loads of homeworks.Casually,she announced that there were just 350 sums. More than the number of sums, what annoyed me most was the adjective she used-‘just’. If someone pickpockets 350 from her purse, would she tell then too?-just 350?three hundred and fifty by ten….so thirty five sums each day, she brought math into that too.We had no other go,but to complete it.We were asked to take photocopies from the shop opposite to our school. A total of thirty five pages that would cost 35 rupees exactly.

I checked my purse if I had money. Yes,I did have twenty. Though I was 15 years old, my parents always saw to that I had no excess money.I would always have a limited amount of 30-40 bucks.I never complained about it as I had no important needs.I never hanged out with friends, eating ice-creams, puffs and samosas.So no problem with the limited resource I always had.

I grabbed the papers clumsily from my teacher, tearing a bit from a corner of one of the papers.I just acted as if nothing had

happened,though I knew she saw it.I colud now get it Xeroxed first and run home.We had to raise to wish Namaste and Thank You.Thank you for what?Those just 350 sums?Before she stepped outside the class,I ran out.When she stared at me,I had to smile sheepishly.I always wanted to be the first…I had absolutely no patience and was obviously the first in everything.First to finish off the exams,first to run from school,first to go to the washroom(else it would get crowded),first to get hurt,first to get scoldings and the list continues.But,one main thing…I had never been the first in class.That was okay for me..I had my own exceptions.

I walked hastily through the corridor giving a proud look at the twelfth standard students just to add more fuel into their burning stomachs.

I took some five-six minutes to reach the gate.Out,there were some eleventh standard akkas standing with some annas.Ours was a girls’ school and it was only after the school timings that girls could speak with boys who were at the boys’ wing some two hundred metres away.People called this kind of chit chat as ‘kadalai’,which means groundnut in Tamil.I still don’t know whyit is called so.If any scholar does research on it and finds out why,please let me know.

I had no boys waiting outside.In fact,I knew not a single fellow.I had not even spoken to any.Hmmm…What to do?Think it was because my mom was a teacher in the boys’ school.

I headed towards the Xerox shop.No one actually knew the name of the shop.We just say,Xerox shop or opposite shop.It was simple and fine. It was started a few days back and from day one,our school students had become loyal customers.He charged Re 1 per

side.It was 50 paise or even lesser else where.But all we wanted was immediate Xerox.So we never complained about the extra 50 paise.I bet,in another five years,he would become a multi millionaire taking photocopies just to our school.I won’t surprise at all.

I gave the originals and asked for a single copy.I peeped into the computer nearby to read what was being typed.I was inquisitive and always did that while waiting for my copy.That day,the shop’s ‘akka’ was typing something related to a land case that didn’t interest me.I seriously don’t know why all young elder girls and boys became akkas and annas!Was that because we pledged everyday,’All Indians are my brothers and sisters?’I would’ve been fine if Swami Vivekananda had reworded it like ‘All Indians are my brothers and sisters except one’!

Within a minute my hot Xerox copies arrived.I gave two twenty rupee notes and got a five rupee coin back.My classmates had come by the time and I handed over the originals to them.It was the headache of the last girl to return the paper back to the teacher;it wasn’t mine.I didn’t care.

I crossed the road to reach the bus stop-to take a share auto.I never took a bus,because share autos were convenient as I could stop it to get down where I wanted…I always said this to others,but the truth was that I never knew which bus would go where.Most of the bus numbers are really mystifying. Heard numbers like 2A2AE, PP119, 45BM8 , 61BE, 159AE?No..they aren’t ASCII or alphanumeric codes.These are some weird bus routes.Come to Chennai and you’ll get mad!Really grateful to the person responsible for assigning these bus routes.I took some bus one day and ended up walking 20 minutes back home..So never ever took the risk again!

Within two minutes,one auto came.It was already half full;but had a stereo which most of the autos lacked.So,I somehow manged to find a seat for me.

My place was Thirumangalam at Anna Nagar which is about fifteen minutes from my school at Mogappair.A fifteen minute ride would mean I can listen to one full song with ads,two if lucky.

I love music,but hated music classes.Visit a Tamil Brahmin family here,I bet the the girl children would either be trained to sing or to dance and would later give it up to concentrate in studies.Its more or less the same story everywhere.Like most of parents with daughters,my mom admitted me to music class mainly because my grandfather had once said I would sing well from the way I cried.Wow! I still remember excellent excuses I would give to escape from the class. Head ache ,stomach ache, leg pain, hand pain, eye irritation..all possible common pains found in the medical books.Probably hair and nails were the only parts I pardoned from false pains.

Yes!!Yes!!The next song to be played in FM was my favourite.I would jump,but people were around me.The song started and I sharpened my ears to listen to it with utmost interest.

‘Hi!’I heard a voice.That was from a lady sitting next.She was a lady.So no problem.This was a misconception I had,and most girls have, I hope.With a little hesitation,I replied a “Hi” to the total stranger.She was Big,Fat (occuping one half of the four seater) and wore a gaudy pink saree with sleeveless blouse.Such kind of a dress will never suit such stout people.I had my own prejudices on how people should dress,and she was violating it.She looked like a hindi

serial actor who eats and sleeps with full make-up and huge jewels.She was a north Indian too…her bad English accent revealed it.

I’m sorry,but I have to tell.Most of the North Indian ladies I’d seen dress a bit too much for any occasion.In my Punjabi school dominated my North Indians , the parents would come for a parents – teachers meeting with too much dressing that would scare away small kindergarten children.I wonder if it’s a meeting or a dating.Once an eighth standard girl came to school with a very horrible dress (hope you understand the meaning of horrible) for her birthday.The shocked principal made her stay at her room and called her mom.She got more shocked seeing the mother with an even horrible dress. Choti and badi diwali celebrations together that day at her room.

The woman smelt roses…no a rose flower shop.I think she would’ve jumped into a perfume bottle.But, to my knowledge no perfume company makes such mega size perfume bottles.The smell emanating from her was no normal to a normal human nose.

She reminded me of a Hindi teacher in my school who would smell almost the same.One of my friends said she took bath only once a week and to make up the bad smell she’d spray perfume all over her body everyday.None of us ever dared to stand near her for more than a minute.Even for getting the books corrected, submitting at her place in the staff room was the best choice as a personal meeting with her would emphatically choke us to death.

Sometimes,you start hating people right from the first sight.I hated her.

She asked me if I was in class ten.How colud she guess?I nodded.I wanted the song.

“Exams Over?”

“Yes”

The song…

What exam today?

“Science”..

But the song…

How did you do?

I’ve never answered such questions after exams.My parents never ask me.But now,I had to answer to this bossy lady. I just said fine.I thought my monosyllable answers would make her stop nagging me.I wanted the song! She spoke more.She asked me how the question paper was.I just said OK.Again ,she spoke.She wasn’t ready to leave me.So I had to forget about the song.I just wanted give her piece of my mind.

I regretted about my inability to do such things and remained silent though I was fuming inside. She asked me if I would show her my question paper.She was really getting on my nerves.I could do nothing but give her the paper. She read the first question aloud-1 mark.

“Name the place in India where the magnetic dip is zero.”

“What’s the answer?”,she asked.

Who was she to ask me?She’s not my teacher nor she is my mom who would never pester me talking about finished exams. The horrible part was that I didn’t know the answer.I honestly said,”I don’t know, Aunty”,though I hated addressing the witch aunty.She burst out laughing and said,Its Thumba in Kerala.Why did she laugh?Me not knowing the answer was so hilarious for her?

She asked me what I had written.I just said nothing.I was ashamed of telling the answer I had written.I had written ‘Mogappair’ just to fill up the place;my teachers had told not to leave out any question unanswered,and me the very obedient girl followed it blindly.

“Next Question.Name two alloys used for making permanent magnets.Come on tell the answer,”she urged me.I felt I could snatch the paper from her hands and throw it out.Why just the paper?Throw her too through the window,but she’d definitely get stuck.

I knew the answer this time.So I boldly said,Nipermag and Duralumin.She burst out laughing again.”No dear…Nipermag is right,but not Duralumin.So,you are losing one and a half marks in two questions”.

I really got sick.She was a pain in my neck.I had run out of the school early just because I didn’t want to discuss answers with my friends.And now, the beast has caught me to punish for the greatest mistake I’d done.I had first though her to be a teacher,but later discovered she wasn’t.

She said she worked in the Canara Bank. Next to my school.I pity this bank that would have lost worthy customers.This big fat aunty would have driven them mad.She informed me that her daughter was in class ten in another school.

Oh..Oh..now I understood.That poor girl would have done great sins in her previous birth.When she was screwing me up so badly,what would be the plight of her daughter.But one thing I had noticed is that all these ‘doing too much’ moms had ‘doing too much’ daughters who come crying from the exam hall because they would loose half a mark.There were quite a few such girls in my school.The super mom asked me if she could take copies of all my

question papers for her super daughter to practice. By the time,my place was nearing. I had some relief. I said her that I had to get down. We were waiting at the signal.I asked the driver to stop after crossing the signal and taking a right turn. I put my hand into my pocket to take the only five rupee coin I had had.My god!It asn’t there.I checked again.It was missing.I searched desperately but in vain.I recollected if I had taken it from the shop.Yes,I did.Did I drop it anywhere?No,I didn’t.But where’s the coin?

I had no time to investigate where it had gone.I had to get down.I could do nothing.I had no money.No friends around. I asked the lady if she could give me five rupees. That was nothing more than a ‘decent begging’. I felt like banging my head somewhere. How could I do that? I never like borrowing money even from my friends. Even if I had to borrow, I would return it the very next day, be it a rupee or two. But this case was no worse than begging.

The woman smiled, took out a five rupee coin and gave me.The person whom I hated helped me.So it doesn’t mean I should start liking her.I still hated her.I just said thanks.

I paid for my trip and got down from the share auto.I felt terribly bad, embarrassed and ashamed. I started walking towards home, taking an oath that I shall not tell it to anyone, even accidentally. As I put my hand into the pocket, to my shock, I found the five rupee coin I had!

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