Animals ko dekho – Part two

After that year, not many animals came because we only became animals but that is another story. So I will tell you the next significant animal story which is the rat story that happened last month. So basically ever since this semester began, we have all been wondering why we are like this. Morning to evening everything is bish fish bish. In the skin of the evening, some relief begins to come in the form of chai and aloo bondas. Life was going on like this only. If one evening, we are swallowed by old videos, another evening by a new ajji who makes best vades.

Then came the rat.

Sometime in the beginning of October, Mini Ma’am said that a rat is eating all her food. Arul sah saw one big box behind her table and said there are rats. Etienne sir said that he hears them chewing things all day.

Then one day, there was proof. Someone gave Mini Ma’am 2 big bars of Amul chocolate. Next morning, one of them had been taken tabiyat se. Byavarsi rat had eaten the whole bar leaving only the cover for ma’am. The other bar had bite marks but looked like by the time it finished the first bar, the bootha of marx might have told the rat to saak maadu. It had no energy left to eat the second one so it gave up. Like this only, one one day, one one thing it was eating and going.

We wondered if the rat was coming in through the bathroom window so we began locking it up. Then for a few days, we forgot about the door and rat. 

One evening after polishing off whatever food and chai was there, Sah, Pranava, and I were sitting and wondering why Pranava couldn’t stop talking about Shweta Philip’s periods. At some point, Sah’s ears got signal that rat is chewing something in the big box so Pranava began to remove the books from the top of the box. Little by little, Mini Ma’am’s world was becoming smaller because rat had chewed through her badminton shoes, books, cards, and a packet of dates also.

Every time sah said it’s here it’s here, Pranava jumped one inch up in the air and came back. Every time Pranava removed one more thing from the box, he jumped two inches in the air and came back. Every time Pranava made noise, he got scared because of his own noise, jumped three inches in the air and came back. Like this he was doing and sah was just sitting and laughing and I was bravely standing by the box.

Sah was saying byavarsi rat would have drilled two holes in the box – one to enter and one to escape. So by the time we got to the box, it would’ve probably escaped and is now probably sitting somewhere and watching all of us. The minute he said this, Pranava’s heart began doing dab dab and little bit I also got scared because the image of a rat watching us go mad while we looked for it made it somewhat hitchcocky and bitchcocky also.

Pranava continued digging and after a long minute, he suddenly turned to sah and cried, “Why you had to say that sah? Now I can’t stop thinking about that rat watching us” – sah said “You worry about the rat’s feelings for you later.” Just after he said this, Pranava jumped fourteen inches up in the air because he sensed the rat scuttling between some books. I was bravely standing only but for safety reasons I stood on top of a chair. First of all, I was worried that Pranava was having a fit, second of all I was wearing an ankle-length dress so if the rat climbed up, I would be hacked to death by Pranava while sah would sit dreamily in the background stroking his beard saying hmmmm.

Pranava got tired of jumping so many times so we dragged the box towards the entrance. But because the box was almost empty, and we were so close to the mission, Pranava’s heart was doing full dub dub and I was bravely standing, so sah kept digging. We discovered more books, edges and all chewed properly by the rat. 

My copy of Ralph Waldo Ellison was found and just when I was giggling at the irony of looking for an eli and finding Eli’s son instead, Pranava screamed aieeeeeeee, launched himself outside the department, and ran around squealing it’s here it’s here. Apparently the rat had taken one look at him and gone back in.

Sah began digging aggressively, the rat jumped out and launched itself like pranava had only seconds ago. But because of Pranava’s incessant screaming, we couldn’t tell if it went inside the department or outside on the corridor. To be on the safer side, we dragged the box out. Sah hissed at Pranava to bring something to hit the rat with. He ran inside and I closed the door in case the rat wanted to follow its brother. 

Sah doubled down laughing maniacally when Pranava started screaming from inside saying don’t lock me in with the rat and started banging the door. Boy loses his shit before shit loses him. Sah opened the door and laughed in his face and then laughed more when he saw what Pranava had found to beat the rat – 2 copper water bottles. Sah took the plastic sword students had made for Upstage and said go man this is better.

In this manner, one mental boy with 2 bottles, one mad man with a sword, and one elegant, graceful, and brave lady carrying herself with profound dignity ran around the corridor chasing after the rat which, as we discovered had leapt behind the dustbin. From there, it scurried towards the labs where it disappeared behind the cupboard. Pranava ran to see if it had escaped from the window.

We were prepared to give up at this point but then he started laughing. Pranava, not the rat. Apparently the rat had heaved itself onto the skirting of the wall and was now standing there, one leg on each side of the wall, one paw on each side of the wall – like that lady from Tom & Jerry who climbs random things when she sees Jerry (this irony fest is a marvel film, I say)

At this point Sah hissed at Pranava to go bring the stick next to my table to thwack it on the rat. Sah was giving fotherly smile to byavarsi rat. Stick came, pranava fought bravely against the darkness, rat showed its bum and escaped towards the dustbin. Sah ran like Milkha Singh, somewhat dignified only but like jogging on a treadmill so it looked like he was standing in the same place running.

Pranava saw sah running and went dancing behind him like coyote from that road runner show. His chappals were getting in the way so he threw them and ran. He caught up with the rat and landed one tappak then threw the stick in one corner, screamed like tweety and ran away.

Sah took the stick and landed many tappaks. Rat there only spottu. In the middle of all this, tweety pranava suddenly turns up from nowhere and tries to cover my eyes saying madam I am here to protect you. Many bad words came to mouth but because I am a dignified, graceful, elegant, and brave lady – I kept them to myself.

Then Calvin came and we told him everything that had happened. Running after the byavarsi rat, killing it, and achieving all of this with tweety screaming every now then had made us hungry so we discarded the rat some 3 kms away and went to Khazana to belt biryani, veal kebabs, and phal.

Three people will tell you three versions of the story but please remember gentle reader that the most sincere, honest, truthful, and accurate account is the one you read here from Lady Whistledown herself.

On some winter evenings, I wonder what it would be like to see an audio-less CCTV footage of this whole thing.

Bhayankara.

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Animals ko dekho – Part one

First of all, animals are not new to the department. Second of all, one afternoon in 2014, during one of those nice June days when college had just reopened, I was paapa sitting at my table and minding my own business. There was a GE meeting going on in the little corner that was CA, ER, MMB, and AM’s tables. Everybody except one other colleague and I, was in the meeting. 

I was paapa listening to Amelie and typing so I couldn’t hear what was happening but then I saw a hand waving in the distance. It was waving at me and kept moving rapidly and then it waved at several other things. That hand was my colleague’s hand and I removed my earphones to ask her why she was handing me. She pointed to 2 squirrels – one on my shoulder, the other on my lap. I didn’t know where to look first but I screamed and those creatures whisked themselves away before I could show them how violated they made me feel. It was humiliating because first of all squirrels are scared of everything in life, second of all despite this fear, they treated me like furniture and decided to climb on top of me. No maryadhe only.

When the colleague and I jumped up and down screaming squirrel squirrel, the meeting was interrupted but no one looked interrupted. Arul sah snorted and Cheriyan sir brushed his hand casually, didn’t even uncross his legs and declared, “squirrels don’t do anything.” Then like that only, he went back to discuss PSA General English. Colleague and I grimly walked out and began jumping up and down in the corridor.

****

Then many weeks later, one monkey came. In life there are many monkeys but the monkey that came was a real monkey – it was big and its tail was oranger than the rest of its body. First of all it walked into the department aaram se as if it was coming to get feedback for writing. Second of all, it stood and growled at all of us. Mini Ma’am said “Arool Arool, there is a monkey here Arool”. Arool Sah started giggling as if the monkey was proposing to him. Etienne sir looked puzzled and came to investigate. Then he put both his hands in both his pockets, leaned against the bookshelf and looked at it. I have seen him do this when he is getting ready to talk about postcolonialism. Cheriyan sir, legs crossed, declared, “monkeys don’t do anything” and went back to drinking tea. 

I clutched my heart and went to class. When I came back, I saw that a line of colleagues was standing a little away from my table, smiling at it as if Shah Rukh Khan was sitting there. I looked and it was the bastard monkey sitting on my chair, drinking my leftover tea from my tea mug. After everything in life, it also had the bloody gall to spit out my tea and walk away, as if it didn’t approve. Cheriyan sir told us that he once saw on Discovery Channel that monkeys are afraid of male aggression so Mini Ma’am, and him ran after the monkey, stomping their feet. Monkey walked aaram se to the fourth floor.

Arul sah was sitting at his table seeing all of this and enjoying like anything. When I went to him with my mouth open, he said “don’t feel bad vj, it’s probably because your tea didn’t have sugar”. I closed my mouth and went back to my table.

****

In the Staff Seminar Hall later that same year, there was a meeting happening. I was sitting in the last row because it is closest to the exit. The squirrel-colleague was sitting next to me and Cheriyan sir was sitting in the first row. We were discussing some HRD syllabus and right when someone said this is the only way to do it, a pigeon flew into the staff seminar hall, startling me and my squirrel-colleague. It flew over our heads, bloody wings flapping near our ears. We screamed. The speaker said damn these pigeons and Cheriyan sir, without even turning back, without even uncrossing his legs, looked sideways and declared, “pigeons don’t do anything”

My heart was clutched once again.

****

Six years later, a couple of girls and I went to investigate the newly renovated department. The girls were excited to see the new department. I was seeing old wine in new bottle so I was in some different mood only. We were sitting in the Dean’s chambers and I wanted to demonstrate my full appreciation of the chambers. Nice vyoo was there outside Dean sir’s window also – sky and skyline, garden and clothesline and all.

See outside means one pigeon is hanging there. It was a dead pigeon hanging by a kite thread and oscillating to and fro in its life-like stillness. I said aa aa aa, and pointed at the window. Akanksha leapt across the aisle, ran away from all of us and started weeping for the dead pigeon. Naziti couldn’t stop laughing and called it Lalit from House of Secrets. I had just watched that documentary so although I could appreciate her mad wit and charming presence of mind, the pigeon looked more and more life-like the more we looked at it – freaking all of us out. Shireen made some dead baby type jokes, Chrisitini wanted to slap everybody. I said Karma and sent them all home.

Next morning, Dean sir is calling snakes, the manager to inform him of this most urgent matter. Snakes comes in, sees it, nods at all of us, says “100% suicide case”, and walks off like CID.

Exactly a year after that, I came here to tell you that all this happened.

Keliri Makkale

I cleaned out my table for the 18th time this week. I am purged.

In other news, I was on two podcast shows run by two interesting men. One is with the very excellent Anurag Minus Verma. The other is with the also very excellent Aditya Sondhi.

Keli heli. okthanxbye.

This week, I ate one persimmon and many tangerines. I’m loving this fruit love I have developed. It is not sudden. It was always there. I am only noticing it more and more now.

Words to live and work by, brought to you by a friend – don’t tell anybody what you are thinking fully. Drop truth bombs every now and then.

Dreaming

My phone was dying at invigilation yesterday and this is dangerous for more practical reasons than I care to admit. If there is a question paper shortage and there is no one outside that you can plead to, then the student and I are both somewhat little screwed.

Yesterday however, there was no question paper shortage and no emergency except the thin voice in my head that wondered where that lovely blog I used to stalk all those years ago was? I typed in all the combinations of the two words I remembered with a 5% battery. Phone died, I felt weak, so I stared into space.

Today I sat at my table after invigilation and googled the link without any hassle, and the blog just came on, like magic, and I was returned to all those evenings and afternoons I spent years ago reading this blog, imagining independence and cities and independent women in cities. I felt more fondness for this writer than I have felt for anybody in months and wanted to run to her and tell her all about my life over a tall bottle of wine. That she may not be in town or be entirely uninterested in what I have to say is a fear I don’t have to deal with at all because reading her is a pleasure that will remain even if we don’t talk for months and years.

I read her and then I was moved into the kind of sleep that is yellow in its dreams. I must have napped for 10-15 minutes. I have no memory of what I dreamt about. But she was there and I was there and we were both chasing each other in a city that I was trying to reach in my sleep. I slept urgently and when I woke, I was grateful for having known her and to continue to know her. The dream was written in her language, with long and winding sentences that make me giggle and sigh and think of how much I love eating oranges.

For now, I am going to return to my dream and think of cities and how much they’ve given me and how much I love them.

What would Thomas Cromwell do during Invigilation? — and other wonderments

That time of the month. In more ways than one.

I think I know why Hilary Mantel is called Hilary Mantel. Woman is mad funny. I am reading a scene where Thomas Cromwell and Mary Boleyn meet for the first time. Full seduction pro max – green stockings, heaving chest, heaving Adam’s and other apples, index finger tracing and all is happening. Our hero is leaning against the wall and she is standing close to him. (I have watched couples do this in Sophia College, Mumbai which is Spencer College in Ishq Vishq)

In Wolf hall, this scene is harmless flirtation but it is also 1530s. I don’t want to be pompous by assuming I know what is harmless what isn’t. Mary indirectly proposes to him and he is taken aback but says nothing.

She is on his mind long after the conversation, and they are both on ours but he is our hero for a reason – he believes it would be best to put some distance between him and all the Boleyns even if he and we are pretty turned on by all the wall-leaning. He tells Rafe (an adopted son-type boy who works for him), and Rafe says, ‘I think you imagined it. She must have meant something else.’

Weeks later a rumor is heard that Mary is pregnant. And Rafe asks Cromwell – Bro, are you sure you only leaned against the wall? it seems.

I guffawed. Am having mad fun reading this book.

In other news, I had invigilation duty in the Electronics lab yesterday. I’ve never been in there before. It’s part of the old campus and one way of knowing this is how cool the body becomes because of all the stone walls. There were two refrigerators inside, and 2 godrej cupboards which were kept ulta. I wonder why.

Took me back to my short-lived stint as a science student and how petrified I was of the Physics labs. The teacher apparently thanked god after I quit and called me a dud. Lol.

I wonder what she’s doing these days.

In other other news, we kickstarted the department quiz sessions yesterday. I teamed with Nodzi because she’s a rockstar and would win. I only knew 3 answers and was too afraid to be sure of 2 other answers which turned out to be correct. Somewhere in between, I began pouting and became inwardly bitter because there was some quiz boi energy I was getting irritated with. But watching Franny giggling, smiling, and basically having the time of her life while playing made me want to do the same.

When in doubt, always look at a girl having fun.

FFF

There is a young girl who lives inside me. She is hungry for something that I don’t want to give her anymore. Bitch wants female friends. Where will I go looking for them at this age? She wants it when she sees it in others, in films, in books, in songs. She isn’t happy just seeing them, she wants them for herself and then eats my head all day all night asking me why I can’t give her that. It’s not that I haven’t tried. But there’s this whole caste thing. I can’t say for sure that it’s why all of my female friendships have flopped in the past but I do know it’s why they leave, it’s why I leave.

She doesn’t believe me. She gets the caste bit but doesn’t think it’s a reason – she thinks I do something wrong, that I mess things up somehow.

I am going to be a year older soon and am already tired. I don’t have the energy to sit and wonder whether things happen to me because of who I am or whether I let them happen to me because of who I am not. Also, no energy for so much self-pity. All the worst things in the world don’t happen to me because I am Dalit. They might have happened to my father, my mother, their parents. But not to me. Especially because they didn’t work their butts off to give me this life only for me to sit here and cry about not having female friendships. Fuck Female Friendships.

Having said that, because of how much they’ve had to lose to give me this, because I wan’t born into the life that they left behind, I am often stupid and ungrateful. I have a very warped understanding of what untouchability is and am sometimes too spoilt, too blind to admit that it is happening when it is happening. Kindness returned with a stamp that screams no thanks, behaviour that automatically corrects its posture to stand and bow down to savarna/male presence, gifts that are returned without explanation, intimacies that are withdrawn and rejected again, again, again.

Sample this – it’s also a kind of caste chutyagiri at display when people make it a point to perform their loyalties to specific people in front of other people. A memory comes biting from years ago – a student, of all people, stood tall at my table one evening and thought it necessary to tell me that his loyalty is to his friends and that he would be very upset if his friends were troubled in any way. This was after they had all been called out for being casteist gobi manchurians along with a few older gobis. I now giggle at his hulk moment. But over the years, various people have demonstrated similar ways of loyalty performance through speech-giving and other pointlessly, painfully cute gestures.

In school, I tried desperately to become a part of a girl group. I invited five of them home for lunch one weekend, they all agreed. The next morning, one of them disinvited herself saying periods. By evening, two other girls said they couldn’t come because that girl was not coming. Eventually they all pulled out saying she’s not coming so I also won’t come.

My mother was relieved. I couldn’t understand why.

It took me a while to figure out that it wasn’t their menstrual cycle which was in sync. It was their untouchability radar. When I encounter versions of this today, I am merely amused. I applaud their massive self-worth and move on with my life.

Everything I should have said to them continues to die inside me in volcanic sighs. I am now writing with borrowed rage, and in echoes that are comical to say the least.

Maybe it’s a good thing to not have friends at this age- you don’t have to worry about performing loyalty to anybody.

As I write this I am wondering why this girl who lives inside me is hungry for FFs. But then isn’t that the story I’ve always told? The one about Kottuncheri Devi, that little imp who tricks people into becoming friends with her so they will play with her? She hides their valuables and returns them only after they play with her. Can’t believe I am having this revelation now, when I am bloody 35 – that I have been kottuncheri devi all this while.