10 DecemberPosted: October 14, 2010
In fact, I haven’t thought of myself as ‘of marriageable age’ until now. I suddenly realize that my love for So-On has kept me quite sealed off from the ordinary crushes, attachments and calculations of other girls. It’s been a long, long time that I have loved So-On and for the first time
I think: “It’s been too long, perhaps. What am I hoping for?”
And the answer is: “I don’t know. I have never known.”
For a few years, when I was a child, my love for So-On was simple, uncomplicated. It was enough for me to see him and talk to him. I don’t know why So-On had chosen to include me amongst his friends. I was so much younger, quiet, timid. But he never asked me to go away when I showed up at his door. I was one of many of his friends. Perhaps being an only child, he was very open to friendships.
In the years that I lived below his house, we hardly ever touched each other. Once when I was 13, So-On ran a finger over my bare leg
And said: “This looks ugly. You should wax, you know!”
I bent my leg under me, to hide it. But So-On was already talking about something else.
Later, I asked Ogre, “How do I wax this? What does it mean, waxing?”
Ogre looked at me with some amusement.
“You are only 13, child. What’s the hurry? It will hurt a lot.”
I lied, “No, all the girls in my class are doing it. They said this looks ugly.”
At the beauty parlour near Churchgate station that Ogre frequented, the Chinese lady looked at me distastefully, and said: “She’s too young, no?”
Ogre shrugged. “It seems all the girls in her class are doing it. And she’s 13. She looks younger.”
Though it hurt badly, I did not scream or whimper or make any noise while two Chinese girls waxed me silently. I was afraid that at the first sign, the Chinese lady would shoo me off, un-waxed to Ogre.
That evening, I dressed in a sleeveless blouse and my best denim skirt, but So-On did not notice my smooth arms and legs.
Later in bed, I ran a hand over my arm, and it felt so soft. I wanted so much for So-On to touch it that it made me cry. I think it was then that I realized that loving So-On was not going to be an easy task any more.
When Etcetra was 7, she wanted to tag along with me every time I went to So-On’s house. Ogre managed to keep her away most times, not least because she sensed that So-On’s mother would not exactly welcome a naughty 7-year old in her spick and span house.
Then, Etcetra took to playing on the stairway, at the time when So-On would be coming home from school. So-On would stop for a few minutes and chat with her, grinning widely at her remarks. The fact is she was precocious, and said things that amused older people, unlike me who was quiet most of the time. I would watch So-On and Etcetra jealously, and realized I did not want to share him at all. At least not with her.
But when So-On spoke to me of the girls in the school next to his, his crushes, and his dates, I never felt jealous. It never occurred to me that I could be one of his dates, ever. It’s only when we moved away from our old house below his, and I could no longer walk up to his door whenever I liked, that I felt tormented about:
1. Calling him up to fix a time to meet up.
2. Dreading the fact that he would have other things to do.
3. Knowing that I could not call him too often.
4. Wondering where and with whom he spent his time.
The girlie magazines I read voraciously hold out no hope for me. All the things that go against me are:
1. I am his childhood friend, his buddy.
2. I am not interesting enough. If I was talkative, witty like Etcetra, I had some hope of attracting him.
3. I am not mysterious enough. If I tried being mysterious with So-On, he would say: “Appi, are you ill? You seem strange today.”
4. He knows me in and out.
But then, perhaps he doesn’t. One day we were to meet outside the Jehangir Art Gallery. When I walked up to him,
He said: “Oh, it’s you. I was watching you from the back, earlier and thinking, ‘what a stunning woman’.”
What could I say? Was I to feel:
1. Sorry about the “Oh, it’s you”.
2. Apologetic about being stunning from the back, and maybe not so, from the front.
3. Or about being me at all, and not some interesting unknown possibility?
For the first time in my life, I wanted to shake So-On and scream, “Yes, it’s me.”