Bed Of Thorns
(remembering 2nd Oct, every year, 1988-1996)
2nd Oct, was a much awaited day, by everyone. Not just because it was a holiday. It was a day to celebrate many things, in a matter of few hours. The event would start around 09:30 hrs and get over just before lunch, by 13:00 hrs. But it’s effects lasted for days. In many cases, years (else, why would I write about it after 22 years of celebrating it last). It was Mohanlal Karamchand Gandhi’s birthday. It was Lal Bahadur Shastri’s birthday (not many realised or still remember it even now). There would be distribution of sweets of mediocre quality but handed over in high fashion. And two most important events – The Mile Race & the cheer leaders for the race. With Founders’ Day program getting over, any interaction of chromosome XX with XY was highly unlikely. Unless, boys were really lucky to reach the finals of a football match. Girls school would be invited, and if the Principal was in a good mood, he would allow them to come & cheer for boys. (Those match evenings are topics for a new short story series). Else, after June, 2nd October was the only day when XY would be able to see XX.
October is probably the best month of the year in Jharipani. The August monsoon is tired of falling & retreats almost fully. The sun has soaked in all the humidity & starts sprinkling rays that are full like a warm hot water bag. A cold breeze engulfs you every morning, receding by the day to allow sweat to trickle down your back inside the maroon pullover. It comes by early evening to nudge your nose & toes, to remind you, as made popular by Game of Thrones, “winter is coming”. The entire day, it is bright & easy, sky is blue as spotless glass of blue sparkling wine in a fine goblet, with few grey clouds like bubbles in the glass. I can go on and on. But romance not the point of this write up. It is, well, painful romance.
Early evening, winners, preparing to win the mile race or at least some hearts hanging over the pushta, would mentally shortlist the losers. Not for anything, but clothes. A fitting & clean white shirt, or a well ironed white trouser, preferably baggy and with 2 pleats. For the runners, it would be a good house colour shorts & perhaps a white t-shirt with a small design at an odd corner, to ensure you are seen as a rebel but go unnoticed. Ironical, I know. Once shortlisted, losers are approached, begged, borrowed or snatched away off their possessions & life is set for winners. If these clothes are clean, good. If not, no sweat at all, literally. There were juniors who would wash & rinse & half dry them till late night & then before you wake up, will rush to the Dhobi, get it ironed & present them to you, just like you deserved it. The losers ones, would sleep early, wake up early, do their chores, get ready & watch the winners go about their start of the day with a special bounce in their feet. And they would think, why do I don’t look as good as them in my own clothes? And then add a smirk, thinking, I don’t have the looks. They don’t have the clothes. Score is, love all.
After breakfast, every class would make a queue & walk towards the valley. After boring speeches, bhajan & group song rituals, came the announcement, to take your fixed places on the pushta as The Mile Race was to begin, shortly. The losers would slowly walk up the stairs & wait for the race to start & finish. The winners would warm-up & get ready for the race to start. There was a small but a third lot. The hopefuls.
Valley is a living character in our life. October was the time when valley would come to full life. Lush green, white tracks for athletics, sitting shed painted maroon & pillars painted in silver. The most inviting sight. And on this bright youthful October morning, a few hopeful boys would lie on the voluptuous green grass, cheering for no one. This set of XY had not contributed at all. They were neither running the race & hence were not expecting to win anything. Nor were they asked for their clothes to impress XX. So, they knew, they hadn’t managed to impress XY. They were of the view, if they actually ran for the race, winning it was perhaps easier than impressing XX.
But they were hopeful, still. Of what, you may ask. Well, they were hopeful that there is one XX who is not cheering the winner or sympathising with the loser. There is that one XX, who is a non-conformist, like them & who will notice them. Lying on the soft green grass, plucking tender wild shoots off the ground, half biting them between their teeth, watching with eager eyes, they were hopeful. That on this bed of thorns, one day a flower will fall. A flower, in white shirt, navy blue tunic & maroon muffler will walk towards them, point at that design at the odd corner & slowly whisper, “I really like that heart on your t-shirt”.
– Kanishka Mallick (1996)
This piece was shared by Kanishka Mallick on Oct 02, 2018 over email.