Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What a Bittergourd Kismur -- on Independence Day

Tomorrow is India's Independence Day and all I can think of is I am in 3rd grade dressed in bottle green or khaki or some patriotic color safari suit kind of uniform, apparently like Subhas Bose, and standing on a stage with few more freedom fighters and not been given a single word to speak as per the script. I look almost like Jeetendra in a safari suit except that I also had to wear circular steel rimmed glasses like Bose and my hair was tucked under a cap.

And then came the calamity. Nope, nothing to do with Netjaji's politics. It was all to do with our Dhobiji actually.

That shirt had 5 medals pinned on it by my teacher, decorations like the INA military uniform. I thought they were gold. The Dhobiji cared neither for Netaji nor for his uniform.

Don't think his lot had improved in any significant way after independence. This was the early eighties.

Everyone in our neighborhood considered him as several caste lower and though they wore the clothes washed and pressed by him, they were acutely conscious of not indulging in any other touchy-feely relation with him. So much so, that my very staunch grandmother would instruct him to air drop the stack of freshly washed, ironed and folded clothes on the sofa, in fear that he did not touch any animate or in-animate object in our home.
Sigh!If I had someone delivering washed and folded clothes to my doorstep I would hug, kiss and even marry him right away.

So anyway, when that Jetetendra, oops sorry Subhas Bose uniform was sent to him to be washed and pressed so that I could return it in its pristine condition to the teacher, he did not pay as much attention to the medals and such. He was clever enough to know they weren't gold. The result of his nonchalance was that of those five medals one went missing. And my heart stopped in tracks right there. My heart was gripped with a cold, dismal fear just thinking what my very Catholic teacher in my very catholic convent school would have to say on this. The British were long gone but I was terribly afraid of my crisp English speaking teachers, with names like Mary and Bridgette, and who I was sure came from some foreign country.

I don't remember what exactly happened thereafter except that my father had to go and meet the teacher and blame the Dhobiji, who thankfully knew no English and so wasn't summoned to school. For the next few months my position as the teacher's favorite was upended by my other classmates and I moped and lived in fear and never looked forward to Independence day celebrations ever. I rather stayed in and watched the flag hoisting on TV.

And then many years later, I went and got married on Independence day as it was the last wedding day with the last wedding muhurta for the season as per the Hindu wedding calendar!!!

I am sure that no-caste Dhobiji had something to do with this. Or my Anglican teacher. 😜

The only word to describe this whole situation is KISMUR. Yep, "what a Kismur", sums it all up.