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My Story so far

My Story so far

My story so far
Coming from a middle class south Indian family it was only natural that I would end up as a banker. For all my hallucinations on various careers I went my genital way it seemed. Like a conservative credit risk decision, gauging the risk versus pay off.

My oldest memory of myself is the trip I made to Mayyavaram ( a town in south India), when I was about 3 or 4 yrs old. I remember the old house of my forefathers. Not sure, can be called one. There were 2 rooms separated by a passage. The whole structure was constructed at about 1.5 meters off the ground. That is about it. The rest of it was open land. A gate, then this structure and after that a wall, is all that was there. Beyond the wall there were a couple of buffalos that seemed to guard a toilet and bathroom. Being a Mumbai bred I was apprehensive of the open toilet system. As if I was ashamed of the fact that people would know the fact that I excrete. Poshness lay in hiding one’s bowel cleansing schedule. We were to stay for about a week, so the toilet had to be used. I had avoided it for 3 days. But the incessant feeding needed an outlet, one way or the other. So when I vomited on the 3rd day my mom realized the problem. She ordered me to use the toilet. I did not, in the face of tremendous pressure, that is from her and from with in me. So she offered me an alternative commode, the gutter outside the house. I was flabbergasted at first, but later understanding the gravity of the situation (and the weight of the shit), I agreed, with her active supervision, that is. So she positioned me at the edge of the road, pulled my short pants down and forced me down. She offered to cover my shameless act by spreading her legs, so that her sari would act as a curtain. Though I would have ideally liked to get covered from all sides, two third cover did not seem a bad bargain, in trying circumstances. So I shat, with out looking at what came out, looking at my sides for onlookers. There was one to my discomfort. A stray dog kept gazing at me, surprised, more likely at the fuss of an urban shitty kid.

I remember my LKG, UKG classmates, Lalith, Omprakash and radhika, who was the pretty one. My addiction to beauty in the feminine was born with me and has remained with me till date, nudging, proding, disturbing and torturing me. I am the permanently inactive Taurean bull that can not be moved by the carrot or the stick. Carrot is for rabbits, sticks are for donkeys, I guess. Seems like I shall remain in this state forever, ignoring the materialistic and abstract pursuits of humanity.

My first day in school was memorable due to the riot that was caused due to howling children refusing to be separated from their parents. Many had to be physically dragged to the class like a first time fleeing criminal to a prison. The class door was bolted with the fierceness of a fortress gate, with the aggression you see in movies, highly animated. With that, the sound of children’s chorus hooting rose to fill the class room. Touchy parents remained outside, trying to catch a glimpse of their offsprings through the window or just hanging around for a potentially volatile situation. My mom just waved through the closing door and gestured to me to take care and be good. The beginning of school warrants this kind of repulsion from the entrant due to the drag it causes for the next 14 years. Like a life time sentence.

Even as a toddler I remember the smartest boy of the class impressing the prettiest of the opposite sex, right under my nose, pricking my ego, as if insulting my seductive abilities. Some things never change.

One of the few honours in life that have come my way, is a complementary remark, by the history teacher, Mrs Chellama, on a composition test on Mahatma Gandhi. She had scribbled “excellent” on the crumpled, low-prized note book paper that I had used to write the composition. “Excellent”, you see, is a better rating than any other rating like, “good”, “very good” etc. That was the highest honour accorded for the test, in the class. Eyes viewing the remark expanded and displayed an expression of respect and surprise. The truth ironically is that I was not responsible for those lines on Gandhi. It was my mother, who knows how to efficiently disguise her work as her children’s, who systematically and in a simple way had laid down all facts on Gandhi. Yet I treasure the memory of the episode, hoping that there would be other, gargantuan laurels in life that would eventually erase the memory of this measly award.

Another instance that my mind retains as a proof of its’ own potential or intelligence is
scoring “20/20” in Maths unit test, in 2nd standard. That is the only test in life where I have not erred while answering a single question. I remember walking that day with all the “20/20” scorers. Like as if the I deserved to move around with the intelligentsia. I was one among them. The future of the generation depended on us. The “19/20” and lesser ones seemed to respect me more.

A couple who lived in an adjacent flat were very friendly with my parents and have since become historical neighbours, even decades after they ceased to our neighbours. They were childless and showered love on others’. My vibrant younger sister with her humongous and unblinking eyes was their favourite. Hence my sister always walked in and out of both the houses freely as if there were no demarcation between the two and both were a part of her domain. She moved about like an empress wielding power where ever available. I on the other hand operated with clear understanding of my political boundaries.

My family shifted to Ghatkopar, a suburb, for better-to-dos, than Mulund, where we previously used to stay, when I moved to 6th standard. I attained admission in a convent, well known for the quality of schooling and its’ sports facilities. We (my mother and me) joined a long queue, to attend an interview that a lot of people forbade us from attempting (on the grounds that our failure was inevitable). On hindsight I realize my mother’s zeal and optimism had clinched the deal, especially as we did not pay any donation. One of our neighbours studying in the school instructed me on few “convent” manners. I was educated on the importance of wishing, smiling and body language. I enacted as taught, largely due to the fact that my mind was inactive and indifferent. It worked positively as answers came out right and I seemed unstressed. The principal took it as a sign of confidence. Again beaming and surprised faces countered us at the news of the admission.

The next few years have left important impressions in my mind. After a forgettable 6th std, I moved to the 7th, the standard which I would remember for having opened my heart and mind to a new world, a world of attraction, craving and beauty.

It was the first week of school. The air was new, so was the class and its’ pupil. I remember to have been seated on the third last bench. I was always a 3rd last bencher. At least I remember it that way, despite the fact that there was a moving row system that ensured correct share of all seats by compulsion. Our new class teacher (rather sir), a young one at that, was enthusiastic about his new students, showed interest in getting to know may of them. He made a girl from the 3rd bench the monitor. I could not even register the name, some Gujarati one it seemed. The girl had been answering a lot of questions. The first class had itself revealed the smartest student, or so I thought. Later when the class was over and she went over to the teacher’s platform to “monitor” the class and turned to face the class, my heart went dead, missing beats at whim. The face-turn is fresh in my mind, like some of the scenes people remember from movies, which are repeated thrice for impact and as due respect to the scene.
She stood there facing us, quite tall, dark, well built and developed. Her face was adorned by a short, boyish hair cut till her shoulder, a cute proportionate nose, dazzling, orderly teeth and lips slightly protruding. The upper lip a little thin and stiff, the lower one thick and falling outwardly, together like a beautiful couple inviting you for their marriage. An invitation you would not decline in the worst of your senses, the worst of your senses, a result of the invitation.

For the next 3 years she seemed to follow me in every section I went, reminding me of her beauty and asking me what I was going to do about it. Her dusky, shining skin was always treated to a lakhme winter care lotion, as much as that can be smelled at a distance of 10metres. Like a warning to the prey before the hunter arrived. I can differentiate this lotion from any other lotion in the world. The smell of the lotion stirs me till date, the stir becoming weaker due the passage of time. The fragrance has become for me a symbol of health and beauty. I have had many other crushes, but the first one naturally being memorable.

I chose football amongst the three sports offered. Basketball and Hockey were the other two. I always kept analyzing the school management’s intention for not having provided cricket as an option, despite having a lovely, big ground. They seemed to give me the impression of promoting these three sports like as if these were their core competencies and as if they had foreseen the popular game of the future. I was quite pissed with that.

Anyway I chose football, like as if I would become rugged like the players in English premier league. I kept playing in the sub-junior level and eventually quit it on the insistence of my mother, so that I could spend more time to clear my exams that I was flunking with the frequency of Mumbai trains. My tuition teacher had collected information of my progress in sports and had counselled my mother on the advantages of me quitting sports and spending the same getting tutored by her. She had promised better marks in maths as a bargain. Maths, being the asset of the Brahmin class, according to my mother caused the end of my sporting career. I must admit though that my marks in maths improved drastically and moved in to the respectable category. My mind retains the memory as a proof of it’s abilities.

Eventful occasions do not slip my mind easily. They remain there for years because of active revision of those scenes from time to time. However a lot of them have vacated due to some recent eventless years.

During these mentally desolated years, my parents were going through some serious financial crisis or rather catastrophe. My dynamic father was conducting his business with the earnestness and impracticality of a dreamer. Naturally loss and insolvency were lurking in his presence. Practicality is boring and sombre, nevertheless definite and expectable. Yet I refuse to approach life that way, my mind simultaneously abusing itself for the stupidity, promoting delusion as if it could conjure greatness. In retrospect, I guess my father might have had the same problem. The only difference being my acceptance of practicality to an extent that suppresses any disaster.

The climax of the catastrophe began with the ceasing of wedding celebrations of my cousin, like as if nature were kind enough to let the happiness die a natural death with out abruptly killing it with shocking sorrow. We were assembled at my uncle’s residence at a posh suburb in Mumbai. In the midst of all clamour my father dropped to the floor with out any notice of discomfort. He lay there for 10 minutes with out any movement amidst panicky relatives whose minds were formulating the best possible solutions in the tense situation. He breathed his last somewhere in between, leaving the doctor to pronounce the same. Heart attack, the doctor said, but in our minds we knew that he had quit the world like a chess player resigning three moves before his inevitable checkmate.

We were blessed to have very dutiful relatives who rescued us from the situation. A situation of deprivation, devastation and strife. This has taken 12 years, but the rescue has been successful.

I spent a year in my aunt’s house in Mumbai to complete my 12th std, though my mother and sister shifted to Hyderabad. The cost of living in the latter was lesser and would be ideal for our survival, my uncle said. Mumbai, our city had suddenly become inhospitable, as if estranging itself from economically unfit people. It was in my Aunt’s house that I was taught the habit of eating good food. I consumed all, the food, the whispers, the slander, the congenial offerings, the empathies, with the wisdom of a sage and ignorance of a lunatic.

Some other kind people ensured my employment despite my ignorable academic performance. A MNC foreign exchange company offered me the position of “cashier cum clerk”. In a world of the blind the one-eyed is the king, they say. I felt like the one-eyed, the one with a sight, the one with a job. The designation though generally deplorable, felt like the beginning of a new phase of life at that time.

The first week in office recorded the CEO walking in to the office, approaching and greeting me with a handshake as if he had known me for years. I was standing there ready to take his hand, attempting smartness with a brown baggie trouser, loose beige shirt entangled on my thin body and a bright red tie that I had worn long enough to reach my groin as if giving company to my penis.

My boss was a shrewd bastard who got a lot of work done from all of us. He was about 5-7 ft in height, completely dark and quite paunchy. I eventually realized that his mental framework matched his physical. Nevertheless he displayed a composure and confidence in his body language that unsettled the smartest of people. The usual bossy smartness working for him ensured that he was sailing through. And then one day I saw a beautiful woman waiting to be interviewed, who looked at me like with a future-visioning wisdom, and a gentle smirk that revealed her intention of wresting my promotion, my future. The boss turned out to be lechered. Not that he was a pig. He ensured manners and chivalry in his body language but only as a façade to hide his real savageness. Like groomed children hiding their ecstasy when taken to an ice-cream parlour. No matter how much he tormented me to balance the sweetness with the new recruit, I kept smiling inwardly with the knowledge that he would not be able to lay his hand on her. A knowledge borne out of analyzing the lady’s veiled smile (a la Mona Liza) that I interpreted as her cunning.

I darted around the entire city to complete business calls that were fixed by my boss or his favourite employee, the Hyderabadi heat burning me all the way. I lost weight and basically consisted of bones. My skin was tanned at places with the other parts retaining the original colour, like multi coloured animals. The colour contrast would be stark enough to cause one to think that the two colours belonged to different bodies.

All this changed when we upgraded our outstation stay to a 4 star hotel. My trips to Vizag would begin with refreshment at Green park Hotel. My intestines upgraded their storage capacity. The breakfast was a buffet and was complementary. Food was eaten without any consideration to maintain the taste of any particular cuisine. Everything was consumed, with an inexhaustible desire of a demon.

In peaceful times when the mind is free from pangs of desire or worry and lives with an air of composure, an acute wave of excitement storms the scene and disturbs the calm. This happens all the time, even when you expect the storm, as if you underestimated the intensity. You suffer the storm helplessly. The presence of an incomprehensibly beautiful new joinee in the office is the forecast of the storm.

I have yet to see a woman more beautiful. Every mirror on every wall was quiet, stunned to silence and did not utter any rhyming lines on who was the prettiest of them all.
She had the mixed looks of Courtney Cox and Juhi Chawla, the features of cox and the body of Chawla. Her skin had a rare colour, shine and smoothness, mostly found in Gods it seemed and her personality was full and rich, literally and otherwise. A man in possession of her would have been blessed, by the Gods and their Gods. She had no hang-ups and treated all strata of people equally. Again a quality of the Gods it seemed.
As a precaution I reiterated to myself the further course my mind normally takes in such circumstances and counselled myself on better reactions. Only in vain, as my mind gave away like a weak dam opposing a mighty river in tide. In fact I had let my mind avail of a free fall, completely gauging the depth of the injury. A pleasure for a brief time traded cheaply for a long period of nagging sickness.

Obviously I was not the only one washed away. Another reasonable business management graduate who generally spoke with the wisdom attained out of his personal experiences, it seemed, suddenly found his demeanour changing without his permission. Men folk in office had been gripped with a stranglehold that they were unable to deal with. They remained in a state of restlessness and anxiety like the hungry, outside a temple, about to be served food by a rich business man with a sensitive conscience.

Published: 2006-10-25
Author: vinod shankaran

About the author or the publisher
I work for a MNC bank in Hyderabad. Although my academic and work background has been finance, I have realised that I have a keen interest in good prose. I am inspired by R K Narayan and have read all his work and would like to emulate him completely. I also think highly of Mario Puzo. The latest book I have read is "The God of Small things" by Arundhati Roy. I think of it as a literary enlightment.

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