1 DecemberPosted: September 29, 2010
Every time I had a fight with Etcetra, which was every day, I would bang the door to our house, and run up the stairs to So-On’s. I’d stand at the door for a moment, feeling:
1. Excited at the thought of meeting So-On.
2. Worried that he may not be at home.
3. Scared that his mother would be at home.
So-On’s mother was never rude to me, but she never smiled at me either. If she happened to open the door to me, she’d wave me in, turn and walk away. She always looked cool, smelt nice and that brief glance she gave me, made me rub my face nervously. Perhaps there was a bit of lunch still stuck to my face.
Their house was 3 times bigger than ours; they had an entire floor to themselves. Sheer blue curtains, a white sofa I would never dare to sit on, a huge balcony that opened out on the Oval Maidan, a floor that seemed to stretch forever. The house too smelt cool and fresh and lemony like So-On’s mother.
I would almost tiptoe up to So-On’s room. Sometimes, he would be playing his guitar, and all I’d be able to see in that first moment, was his shiny, floppy brown hair and his sharp, ever-so-slightly hooked nose. He’d look up and smile at me, but would not stop playing. I would sit down quietly near the window, and look out at the flame of forest tree that grew outside, and bits of the Maidan through its branches.
Sometimes, one of his many friends would be around. They would be doing their homework together, or playing a game of Scrabble. They would grin at me, and continue their chattering about music, films, video games, books, studies, teachers, girls, feeling no need either to shoo me away or talk to me. I would sit down quietly near the window and listen to them.
The best times were when So-On looked at me and put away whatever he was doing. Ayah would bring us cheese toasties, or kheema samosas, or home made chocolate brownies with orange or mulberry squash and lots of ice. We would both sit by the window, and talk about music, films, video games, books, studies, teachers, girls.
As I ring the doorbell today, I feel the familiar trepidation.
1. The anticipation of meeting So-On after so many days.
2. The fear that his mother will be at home.
She is home.
I summon up all my courage and ask her: “Aunty, is it OK for me to change here? I’ve come straight from work.”
She screws up her nose.
So-On’s mother: “Oh sure. It must be so awful in the local train.”
Me, hoping to impress her: “Oh no, I took a taxi.
But it is no good.
So-On’s mother: “That must be terribly expensive. All that way from the suburbs! But you young people love to squander your money.”
It seems she will never forgive our family for that ultimate social blunder in her eyes, moving to the SUBURBS. Oh well! Off she goes into the guest room, busying around it, checking to see everything is just perfect for me, clean and orderly.
So-On grins at me. Both of us have had lots of laughs over his mother’s snobbishness. So, I don’t feel hurt by her behavior. I know So-On will have something to say about it once we are alone.
And sure enough, once we are down the lift, striding towards Nariman Point, So-On says, “Isn’t she just too much?”
I nod but don’t really want to talk about his mother just then. There are so many days to catch up on. I am happy enough walking beside him. It’s a pity that the auditorium is so close to his house.
The violin concert is not what I expected at all. It is a recital by a family of 8 musicians; the lead violinist is the grandmother. Three generations of family playing together. Wow!
I have a good time just looking at their faces, their expressions, the way they smile and laugh at each other, as if they are chattering with each other through their violins, sharing private jokes at a dinner party.
As for the music, I like very little of it.
As he walks me to Churchgate station, So-On says, “You have to learn to understand it first.”
I suppose so, and I promise him that I will listen to the CDs he recommends.