Childhood saw me as a crazy kid (well I still am crazy) and I still look at those days as the best part of my life. It was always fun and masti and naughty pranks, all of which have been etched in my mind and heart for life. I’ve had quite a ride and adventure as a kid, including being lost and found in heavy Mumbai rains – the day I got a second chance to live.
Mumbai has had a huge impact on my life although I was there for just the initial 9 years of my life. As every other kid, life went on with silly games with my sister, with our dolls speaking in weird noises and using talcum powder mixed in water as milk or making a paste of leaves and flowers as food for them. Sometimes when we were bored of dolls, I was the target and my sister made me her baby and pretend-fed me some “supposedly nutritious” food for babies and named it “Bobsy” (don’t even ask why it was named so). Our doll house was a huge blanket pulled over chairs and we sat huddled in it till someone yelled.
The forest wallpaper in our bedroom, the one we shone our torch on as if we were going through a dense dangerous forest, tearing up bits of paper and letting them fly in the corner of the room like they were little butterflies – all fresh in my mind. I remember tying a knot at the end of a string, a huge big round knot, and pretending it’s my little pet insect Boo-Boo.
My toy monkey Mangu Desai (Yup, everything had to have a name!) and me were inseparable ever since I got it on my 1st birthday. I carried it everywhere I went, even on the train to Kerala, making it wave out to people.
Evening time meant crazy games with the other kids in our apartment, langdi and waiting for the bhel-puri bhaiyya to arrive. Fights and falls, complaints and fun – there was everything a kid could ask for.
At school I was naughty again, jumped out of the window on the first day. But being a good student aided my escape from teachers’ wrath. My 1st grade teacher and I still speak over phone, Ms. Carmeline. One of the best teachers and human beings I’ve ever known. I received my first love letter in 1st grade, the biggest mistake of his life. I’m certain he would have never dared to propose anyone again even after he reached adulthood. I was always ready for music contests and my dad would help me and my sister by recording what we sang and making us hear it. He had the hugest collection of audio cassettes I’ve ever seen.
Saturdays meant dad coming to pick me up from school with “mandatory” chocolates in hand for my sister, “her friends” and me. Mom was my all time angel and I loved the days she took me to her office and got me yum food from her canteen. The tiny little thing that I was I got pampered crazy by her colleagues. Vacation was stay-over time with cousins or a trip to Kerala, amazing days filled with nothing but enjoyment. Yeah and Mangu Desai tagged along too. For some reason I even remember the boiled vegetables and rice, specially made by mom on the days I was sick and I would wait for her to rush back from work with a toy or some little gift in hand to make me feel better.
By my 4th grade, dad got transferred to Kerala and we all moved with mixed feelings. We stayed at an aunt’s place because dad had still some paper work to finish before relieving from Mumbai office. I grew up with my sister and 2 cousins whom I adored, and still do. The elder one, Anu and I made a deadly combo much to everyone’s dismay. I’d finally found my partner in crime, and a more notorious one at that! There was frequent yelling from elders while we were together, we fought like brats and united when someone scolded us.
At my new school I took a hell lot of time to adjust and fit in. It took me until 8th grade to finally make a friend. I have always been the few-friends type with whom I bond for life. Life was different and soon I mixed in rather well. My sister and I still continued our crazy games and fights. Mom had left her job for us and she was at home all the time. She adjusted painfully yet silently with that for her job was her passion.
I had some games I played on my own. I’ve dug around a lot to find “antlions” (kuzhiyana) and was fascinated by the little pits they dug up in mud. I’ve made little houses with wet sand pressed into coconut shells. A friend and I once buried a little dead worm and put up a tiny cross made up of twigs. I’ve poked, pressed and stomped on touch-me-not to see them fold. I’ve collected zillions of “manjadikuru” from near my dad’s ancestral home. Everything was fascinating, everything had life.
I nearly burned the house down celebrating my Barbie’s birthday by lighting up a candle on a plastic toy cake. I’ve sat guard for my sister as she dozed off while sleeping lest dad punishes her. And on some days when the devil in me was stronger I’ve replaced her study book with a comic and dad saw her dozing off with a comic in hand. She got yelled at and I giggled. I remember him scaring her saying he would put a red chilly in her eye if she dozed (not that he would actually do it) but then it scared the hell out of me and I sat guard again.
Math was and is my nightmare and I count my fingers and toes or else use a calculator to survive. The last thing my tuition Sir told my mom was, “Please don’t get her admission for anything with numbers and figures in it”. That sounded like music to my ears and I joined for BA English Copy-Editor.
The day my sister got married and left for her husband’s home I rolled on the floor and cried, a huge part of my life was gone and I was alone for the first time. Life took a different turn. But the fantasy world around me still existed. I was always in my own “make-believe world”. Nothing could cut through and hurt me unless I let it. I hardly cared about anything or anyone except friends and family and the notorious ways continued in college too.
I’ve bunked class just once and hopelessly got caught. Never studied until exam time, when my friend and I did a combined study. We were always the first to come out of the exam hall, still beaming, smiling and playful. Thankfully the combined study worked and grades were good - Which meant, more licence to kill! Our principal has chased us all around the college and we won! We were never caught. We were named the smiling girls because all we thought of and did was fun, fun and more fun.
Somewhere along the path after that, things happened, things changed, and so did I. I started changing into a sensitive person, emotional and easily angered. A million little reasons, piling up one after the other, challenges, loss, relationships, every little tension the goddamn world would give. My closest of friends tried in vain to pull me back. But I was changed and nothing helped. Some were even prepared to walk out of my life if I didn’t change but that didn’t work either and they still stayed with me. Much as things and people pulled me down, my loved ones kept supporting and lifting me up.
Years passed and now the light is back. My perspective, my priorities, and I in whole have changed. Along this journey I have learnt valuable lessons that will never leave my mind. Now that I’ve changed and my thoughts have changed, life is much simpler and easier to deal with.
If you are “too available” for someone, you will lose your value in their life. But even then help them in need.
People who genuinely care are always the ones to be hurt the most and avoided.
Money just can’t buy the best things in life; it’s like asking for the moon.
Never explain yourself to anyone. Those who know you will stay by you.
If you know your heart is clear and your intention is good, move on. People who misunderstand will eventually realize.
When people realize how much you have been there for them and come back, accept them, but never forget how they made you feel.
Trust once broken can be mended but the cracks always remain.
Always pursue your dreams first, do not keep them aside just because someone tried to hurt you or give you a bad day.
Never chase people and things, they will slip away. Let them free and if meant for you, they will return stronger than ever.
No two characters can ever be the same so do not compare your thoughts with others’. You will always be disappointed.
You cannot please everyone and survive.
Peace of mind is everything, even if it means letting go of people and things.
You come alone into this world and leave alone. You are your own best friend so love yourself first.
Never change your character just because you fear someone you cherish would leave you. If they cherish you they will accept you as you are.
Listen more than you speak, there’s always a lesson to learn.