After a month of soft practice we hit the field for our first game, junior team against the senior team. The match had a fairly good attendance. Some girls from Welham Girl’s School were also cheering for us. My sister was leading the pack. The game was a cakewalk and we dominated the juniors completely in the first half. I personally believed that the fifteen minute break in-between two halves of a match could be put to better use than just lying down and listening to a winning coach. So Akshay and I visited the sweet smelling group of girls sitting gracefully besides the touchline. I could see that Akshay and my sister wanted to be alone but that was not going to happen anytime soon, at least not on my vigil. There was a girl in the group taking more than usual interest in the game. Of course that got her my attention.
At all times I felt a connection with her. In fact I was in search for someone who would have a connection with me. The lyrics that follow this chapter have been misplaced. They deserve to be in the beginning of this book. These lyrics were the first thing I wanted to write in the book. Unfortunately I never jotted them down. Nearly all my teenage I have been humming this one tune till it finally took the form of a tangible lyric on 25th of December. The Christmas parties, I tell you! They were a jolly big affair in convents. Almost all the students from various schools in Dehradoon used to come to the annual bash. There used to be a special presentation by one of the schools as well.
She was leading the pack, standing right in the centre. I couldn’t see her face because the stage was far from where I stood. All the guys around me were cheering for her school. The fat boy on my left was even dancing to one of her songs. I jumped and stood on my toes. I was not willing to miss that spectacle. The girls who were dancing in the background had partnered with boys from another school. I turned around to spot a friend of mine from the partnering school. With bespectacled eyes he sat in a corner jesting at every pelvic thrust on the stage. I wasted no time in finding my way next to him. We had met at last year’s inter school mathematics quiz. He had been kind enough to leak a few of his answers last time. I needed some answers again. Although I did not expect him to be of much help but in those circumstances even the name of the girl would have been a monumental charity.
Now I must confess a thing or two. I am not good at memory games. This is the reason that thenceforth I lost the track of how my life progressed. The next two chapters might not be in a chronological order. Please bear with me. This problem also arises because of the fact that I never maintained a diary for the purpose of converting it into a book one day.
On one hand the following year was full of new introductions while on the other some old friends deserted me. The first one to vanish was our Lady Penguin Patch-up. I heard that she had left Welham Girl’s school and had taken up a job in a production house in Delhi. She was also going to teach part-time at National School of Drama. So it was obvious that there would be no more musicals in Dehradoon. I was going to miss them a lot, wouldn’t you have?
How funny it is when someone comes in your life and you have to make way for them by letting someone else go. I have learnt, I think to let anyone go. In fact I have stopped crying. For a while now I have grown accustomed to being deserted, although that wasn’t the case when she entered my life… back in the spring of 2006.
Akshay: ahem…ahem… Do you mind if we enter miss? (He interrupted the emotional moment.)
Sis noticed that I was bothered but she also noticed that I did not object. I was getting accustomed to Akshay’s company in my sister’s presence. In the mean time footsteps stomping the staircase with the bulk of my uncle’s heavy built made an announcement.
Uncle: So how was your trip boy?
The Terminator: Tremendously refreshing. I think we can take on any curriculum now.
He shot the first words to steal the attention. I knew it wouldn’t be possible for me to hide my pain and resentment from my uncle. Though I never wanted to dishonour the S.B.X.P. but it was always a possibility under the towering presence of my uncle. So to minimize our father son interaction Akshay and I left for the hostel the very next day. We took our room-keys. We raced to get the top birth and guess what? I won, though reaching my room on the first floor was rather painful this time. I began panting. This had never happened before. The luggage was the same, the distance was the same, and even the racers were the same. However something felt different this time. I felt a serious jolt somewhere in my right abdomen, as if a very sharp flint shifted in my gut with every breath of mine. I presumed them to be aftershocks of the rollercoaster ride that I had been through. Soon we were joined by other batch-mates and the whole hostel was vivacious. The dinner was served and it was a delight to eat with all my associates after such a long time. The usual fighting, growling and teasing followed the welcome lecture by the principle. No dinner can be complete without the fight for one’s partner’s sweet dish. Everything was the same. Only I ate less than usual. Only I spoke less than usual. Only I fought less than usual. Only I was in pain.
Our journey mutated in to a misadventure and nurtured our friendship in to a lifelong bond. I understood whom I could trust and whom I should have not cared for.
I was all patched up but something was just not right. I could feel a lot of pain in my abdomen, a little to the right, the exact place where that bear had punctured. It was necessary to visit a doctor, a sense of discomfort lingered in my walk. Being a small town my uncle knew almost all the good doctors. A visit would have proved terminal for our covenant. So I decided to bear the pain and apply the ointment instead.
The protracted journey of the jeep had come to an end. I knew my best friend Akshay had fought a bear to rescue me. Surviving the night with all the bleeding and unattended wounds on the contours of my rib cage was a subject of petite discussion. More confident than ever on my decision I opened my eyes. Akshay, who was sitting next to me, looked back at me. He was tired by the night’s misadventures. He pressed my hand against his and winked his eyes reassuringly.
Kalsh: Akshay I must tell you. Probably you are the only man I can trust my sister with. (These were my last words before they asked me to go back to sleep.)
He must have been very happy. That day in the forest we laid together the foundation of a very special bond. The bear was as much responsible for my decision as Akshay’s courage. However, not to my surprise though, Akshay never used my indebted life as an excuse to date my sister. His was a much purer form of love. He is still dating my sister. The couple is happy and soon they will tie the holy knot.
Though it seemed to be a simple cast iron rod but it had the strength of true friendship. Both of its ends were fixed. The one nearer to my face was thrusting into the bear’s jaw, while the other was held into place by a knight. A knight with his broad shoulders and tensed brows stood upright between me and my decease. Akshay hadn’t given up on me. He looked me in the eyes and then again at the bear. With all the force that he could summon he pushed towards the bear and jumped out of the jeep. As the bear moved back, its claws withdrew from my abdomen
.“Aaahh…!” I bled like a slaughtered bore. The exit of those paws was even more painful than their entry. If you ask me whether it was bear’s right hand that came out first or the left, I would not be able to recall. But I do remember that a pound of flesh from below my right lung was in its grip. Not only did he move away with an iron rod in his mouth but also a part of me. A muscle that I think ended up as a fertilizer for the forest or food for the ants or a memento for the bear. Akshay’s face was red and then it turned maroon and then an even darker shade of… till it finally became a black spot. My senses could make out a metal piece a handle perhaps. And I gripped my hand around it, although my arms were too eager to break off from the rest of the body. This was my last conscious decision before I fainted.
My heart wanted to write about the immense beauty of the greens, but my hands were trembling with anxiety at the sight of the equally daunting woods. The jeep was covered from the top, but open in the back. We were comfortable with our luggage under the seat. A smile was noticeable on Sahib’s face. He was signalling something to Keshav, with the his squinting eyes. I had never seen him give such a smile since the fifth grade. I was clueless as to what would be coming my way. I turned towards Akshay who appeared very restless. It appeared as if he was framing sentences, probably to disclose something to me. Presumably he would soon make the announcement.
I ran to the room where I had left my clothes. I wore the blazer over that despicable costume. The sheer fabric of the costume stuck to my body like a leach. I was full of regret and loathed the day I had chosen to step on the stage. Why had I been nominated for the play by Robot? Why had the girls not locked the green room? Why had i forgotten my long coat? Why had the practice room been so dark? Why had the mirror been strategically placed in the room? Why had that girl chosen the most important day of my acting career to walk into my life? That day that place, that fateful moment when everyone barged into the practice room, only to find me denuded by an illusionary woman? All this appeared to be the devil’s clockwork. I was still lost in my thoughts when Lady Penguin walked in. She took a seat beside me. I knew there were words in her mouth, sentences being framed by her mind, whispers being blown from her lips, but much before they could take the shape of a voice I decided to walk away.
Kalsh: I have never been happier in my whole life,
Now there are two ladies that I can call mine,
Helen my soul mate bound to be my wife,
And Angela born from that love which is rife,
Angela, oh Angela my daughter Angela!
So this was the big moment. I was a dad; actually Edward my character fathered a baby girl. Beautiful like Helen, charming like Edward but at the end of the day inanimate like the toy wrapped in purple rags borne by Akanksha. While pretending that doll to be our child I encountered for the first time a curiosity to know how Helen and Edward became parents. Akanksha knew the answer but she was not too keen on disclosing it. The following week we were scheduled to practice the climax scene and Akanksha showed great faith in me just like Helen had in Edward. Her confidence gave me the strength to walk up to Lady Penguin and request a second hearing.
Kalsh: Excuse me Madam. I had a request.
Lady Penguin Patch-up: What is it? You want another holiday for your upcoming matches. Granted now go.
Kalsh: Madam I have been exercising my vocal chords and practicing on my lines.
Lady Penguin Patch-up: I told you. We have someone else reciting them for you. You just concentrate on your dance. You are doing a marvellous job my dear.
Kalsh: I know, but please just listen to me one more time. I want to portray Edward, but not with someone else speaking my lines. It feels very unnatural. I can do it, just one more chance.
Lady Penguin Patch-up: See my child somethings are best left to… (She looked into my eyes and restrained her words) I think I will have to give you another chance. Today I can see in your eyes that you are no more a forced labourer but a vigorous performer. Don’t disappoint me.
(She agreed and handed me the dialogues for next week. the climax scene.)