I’ve never watched There’s something about Mary, but I presume it’s one of those corny romantic comedies about this girl who manages to turn pretty much every single person on. If you’re one of those hard-headed men of business who do not believe in the existence of such women, you are likely to scoff.
And I would have, too. If it weren’t for the fact that I am one of those poor prunes who would make a loss selling ice cream in Riyadh. And more importantly, if I had never met Nisha.
Nisha walked into our classroom in the seventh standard, a time when men were men and hated all women without exception. And therefore, nobody in particular took much notice of Nisha, except to perfunctorily note that she had spent the last three years of her life rotting in that armpit we once called Kashmir.
The only conversation I had with her that year amounted to:
‘Hi, you’re from Kashmir, aren’t you?’
‘No, I’m originally from the French territory of the Afars and the Isas. But I lived in a bunker in Kargil with Barkha Dutt for the last three years.’
‘Ah!! That explains your stupidity, and why you scream ‘I’m calling from a bunkkkker’ in the middle of classes. But that aside, have you ever met a militant?’
‘Oh yes, I have. They are all dressed in black, look like Hrithik Roshan, and walk down high street, a couple of tones of RDX strapped to their vitals.’
‘Ah that’s nice. Your father (a Colonel in the Indian Army) must not have liked them much.’
‘No, not at all. The militants refused to partake of whisky in his company, and did not attend any of the dinner parties he threw.’
After agreeing that militants were the most infernally rude people either of us had ever met, we parted ways. Not exactly the kind of stuff an Indian culture hawk would have frowned at, in any case.
Amit had also joined our class when I was in the seventh grade. Amit was not from Kashmir or Chechnya. He had spent all his life in my school. But he got through the years at a very leisurely pace. He believed that he had to spend two years for every year that less-academically-inclined students spent in a particular grade. This resulted in him being 14 when the rest of us were still eleven.
Cut to: The next year
It was sometime the next year that it happened. It was as I waddled along to school that I noticed a bit of a hullabaloo. Never one to avoid any incident that could potentially turn violent, I rushed forth. It was then that I saw it.
Nisha had begun to wear spectacles!
When some people wear spectacles, they look like Stephen Hawking. Which is all very well if all one wants to do is to be considered an intellectual giant who writes unreadable books that everyone buys anyway. But when some others wear spectacles, they get adolescent hearts to go all a-quiver. Nisha squarely fell into the latter category.
I opened my mouth, goggled, and shut it again. Nisha noticed my imitation of a halibut, and flashed a smile at me. I goggled even more. If I had a goggled a little more, I would have borne an uncanny resemblance to my principal.
I tried to speak to her about the militants in Kashmir, regarding whose social graces we had shared such similar opinions till then. But I could not get myself to speak a single word. I merely uttered a wordless goodbye and tottered away, my double chin quivering rather like Amar Singh’s*.
Though I did not know it at that time, she was, in fact, my first real crush.
If I were the kind of chap who could walk up to a lady and turn her head around with a few well-chosen words, and a cuppa at some expensive coffee pub, it would have been the work of an instant for me to profess my undying love. If, on the other hand, I were the kind of chap who could with consummate ease begin singing ‘Vennilave Vennilave, vinnai thaandi varuvaaya…’ to the object of my affection while standing slouched in a corner, it would have been the work of an instant for me to end up in the principal’s office facing charges of eve teasing.
But I was a gormless wreck who did neither, but instead tried to impress her by scoring high marks in the forthcoming Unit Tests – an endeavour which did not in any way bear fruit. She cared but little for the plump nerd who thought the way to a woman’s heart was through his Unit Test marks.
However, if the status quo had been maintained, I would have been able to resume speaking to Nisha about militants with RDX wrapped around their genitals in a few months. From there to actually getting to know her would not have taken too long.
But it was not to be. For dark clouds had begun to gather over the horizon. Dark clouds that looked suspiciously like Amit…
*Until I discovered what a gymnasium could do to one, I was rather on the corpulent side. If I hadn’t discovered a gymnasium, people would have probably noticed a distinct resemblance to Adnan Sami.