Monday, May 9, 2011

Arms of Clock

Come summer holidays and Sheebu, a bit to her displeasure, would watch her top ranking in the hierarchy of children go a notch down. In summer the cousins, or whoever we thought of as cousins, would arrive. Chotu, because of an eight month advantage, would be declared eldest and naturally would take upon herself to take of organizing activities. Chotu’s idea of fun activities was based around the game of ‘Teacher-Teacher’ which meant group reading of school text books and taxing mental exercises.

‘What’s the Time Now? Vinny, when will you learn to read the time? Badi sui kidhar hai? Choti sui kidhaar? Concentrate! When will you learn the difference between ponay gyarah and sawah gyarah?’
‘Chotu, I am confused. Ek hi sui dekh rahi hai!’
Gadhay, Barah baj gaye hai. Isliye.’

Even though silent Nidhi topped most of these activities, for obvious reasons, these games couldn’t hold our interest for long. Much to Sheebu’s delight, after a day or two, everyone would be back under her wing and back to games that involved chasing cats, going on adventures round the yard looking for kittens, puppies, roosters and ghosts, antagonizing our parents, chasing each other around the house for no reason, pulling each other’s legs, fueling our tiny egos, getting physically hurt, name calling, pukki-katti, in other words - raising hell. In summer, the old house, our one big heaven, would reverb with the sound of life, sound of children, our sound.

With summer arrived Goldie ‘The Biter’? Her arrival would make life easy for Megha ‘The Screamer’ as we now had someone better to pick on. Ironically, Megha was to become the victim of one of the best bites by Goldie, a memory of which she still carries on her shoulder.

With summer arrived Littu and her wild giggle that could be triggered easily even by silliest jokes. Tagging along would be her kid brother Nishu ‘The Sikh’, only five but already world renowned in Chattabal for his violent temper and a foul mouth, a side-effect, we kids believed, of spending too much time in Jammu. It was said that he once pulled the dangling Dejhoor of a teacher at M.DASS school so hard that the teacher’s ear got torn. But to us, hardly pint-sized, he seemed surprisingly harmless, except for the time when he broke my bat with two clean strokes on the cemented floor just because he felt like it, he amused us, and with his constant profane chant of ‘Mai’yava’, he was a source of some amusement even to the elders.

In summer would arrive little Rahul, who once gulped down a peg off a bottle of Selenium Sulfide Shampoo, probably because it smelled intoxicating and looked yummy too. Or was it Dettol? We realized little ones could be tricky to handle. It dawned on us quite early that little children, although occasionally fun, need constant attention, which inevitably means loss of fun for others. So often it happened that we kept the little ones outside the proverbial circle. They were just to watch from outside. Sometimes we even managed to push Megha outside the circle, convincing her she too was little. But in some games, like Ghar-Ghar, as no family is complete without babies, little ones would find themselves at the center of attention and these would be quibbling over who gets whom.

Besides Rahul, we had toddlers Neelu and Binnu. We all agreed, Neelu had all the potential to grab Megha’s title. Binnu was the quite one.

I write this after attending Binnu’s wedding at Jammu. This was the wedding of last and youngest of my ‘Born-in-Kashmir’ cousins.

Deepu (not to be called Chotu anymore) was there with her two year old girl who greets anyone she doesn’t like, which includes most people, with ‘Haat’ while lucky few people that she finds agreeable, get a ‘Bow-Bow’. Digging deep into the experience gained at handling kids as a kid, and applying the technique known as ‘Kid-you-are-now-an-Aeroplane-Now-Fly’, I got a ‘Bow-Bow Mamma’.

Sheebu came with her seven month old girl whose world right now revolves around only her mother. Though her baby in fascinated by colors (and I suspect her Mama’s wild hair), no technique stands a chance if she just wants her mother.

Nidhi is in US, her in-laws are on visit. She is saving up on holidays to be with Sheebu for her baby’s first birthday.

Goldie was there with her eight month old boy who appears quite calm most of the time even though his teething troubles should be about to start. May be he takes after his father, Honey, who as a kid didn’t think twice before giving away his best toy to me, a 'Leo Mattel' gun that threw discs.

Littu, married and settled in Bangalore, couldn’t attend as she was stuck with work, maybe saving up on holidays to be with her parents who she hasn’t seen for a year.

Nishu is saving on holidays to attend his best friend’s wedding. Around ponay gyarah or sawah gyarah at night, he rang-in on way back from work. He had had a long rough day, had his ear eaten by his boss for mistakes committed by someone else. We are in the same city but it has been a year since we met-up. Before the call died, we didn’t even promise each other to meet-up. We know how things are in the city. This knowing isn’t good I guess.

Rahul had all the plans made for attending the wedding. It all came to naught. He got Typhoid. I am yet to call him. Forgot.

Neelu was there. With Binnu marrying, now she is the only one amongst us who still lives in Jammu. She seemed happier this time around, back to old self, even occasionally cracking her nasty jokes.

As I write this, I realize there weren’t many summers like the one that I recall. I am not even sure if I recalled those kids correctly. In fact, there must have been only one summer -the last summer before the summer of our move, the summer we entered a strange black hole, no it can’t be a black hole, maybe we got gobbled by a strange space worm with no insipid point of singularity .

As space shrunk, somehow the distance between any given two points got larger and larger even as time itself moved faster and faster.

What else can explain this but a space worm? Are we still making our way inside its belly or have we been excreted? More importantly did ‘we’ get gobbled or did ‘I’ get gobbled? Are there multiple worms, one devouring another, like those easily explained in archetypal Sci-Fi movies? What if history is not a poetic river or a comforting ocean but an indifferent space worm?

No do not imagine an astronaut with a watch getting sucked inside this space worm. No do not dare imagine yourself inside this entity. Instead imagine Lalla, an experienced inside traveler, getting sucked into this space worm. Would she have written incredible ‘Vakhs’ about her journey outside? Could she have been devoured? Isn’t she traveling right now, being devoured? Would she mind it or would she see a beauty even in this journey? How bad were your days old lady? Do you know about nuclear fusion? It sure gave me sleepless nights as a kid. What is it that you said with a sigh, under hushed breath?

Keth chiy nendari-hatiy vudiy
Kencan vuden nesar peyi
Kenh chiy snan karith aputiy
Kenh chiy geh bazith ti akrayi

Some, though asleep, are yet awake,
While on some, apparently awake, slumber hath fallen.
Some, despite ablutions, are unclean,
While some, ‘mid household care, are actionless.*

-0-
Vakh of Lal Ded translated by J.L.. Kaul.
Image: Sunset at Jammu.

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