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I used to be a big Kite Flier in those good old days of innocence. Imagine wearing shorts that were far too short for a tall eight year old like me. Imagine crushing and grinding ‘tube-lights’ and ‘bulbs’ into fine powder and mixing them with colour and maida and concocting a ‘maanja’. Imagine applying them religiously on a large thread roll as if your life depended on it. Imagine tying this ‘maanja’ thread to a really noisy ‘Kite’ and letting the big bird soar through the skies. Imagine cutting another ‘Kite’ and jumping with joy and almost falling off the terrace. And even when you are not flying Kites, imagine chasing and running and chasing and running after other Kites that seemingly took light years to fall into your hands after getting cut five hundred feet above you. And all this when I was wearing shorts that were far too short for a tall eight year old like me.

This quite frankly went on till I was thirteen-fourteen I guess. After which there were numerous other interests. Including the two legged ‘Kites’ with pink ribbons tied to two black tails popping out from the back of their heads. Ah! Those were the days.

But a few months ago, when I took my four year old daughter to the Marina beach in Chennai, she wanted to fly a Kite. So I bought her a colourful one with a tail ten times longer than her pony tail. Oh, you must have seen the joy on her face. It was worth over a million words. But then, just as she was flying the Kite, I heard her scream, “Dadaaaaaaa… Kite goneeee….” I looked up from tying my shoe laces. She had let go the thread that I had carefully tied around her soft and baby fingers. I saw the tears swelling in her eyes and before they turned into a torrent, I leapt and chased and ran and chased and ran, just like the eight year old many many summers ago. In no time I had the Kite with me.

Copyright © 2009 by Narayanan G. Vincent – All rights reserved.

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Santhome is a quiet residential neighbourhood in Chennai. Named after St. Thomas, I had spent almost half my formative years here. The very mention of `Santhome’ brings back fond memories; of a life that was beautiful; of a life buried in innocence; and of a life that was beginning to blossom. `Santhome’ had three churches, two mosques, a trillion temples – each jostling for space, half a dozen posh schools, half a dozen corporation schools, two slums and the second longest beach in the world, the Marina Beach. The streets were narrow, the roads were wide and life in those days of innocence was even wider.

The School I went to, sat on the shores of the Bay of Bengal and was a just a kilometer away from home. There wasn’t a day that went by where a visit to the beach was a must on my daily itinerary. I would most often head for the beach, once school closed in the evenings and sometimes during lunch break, if I wasn’t playing games or squabbling with my classmates.

Those were the days, when puberty made my telescopic eyes wander into doors and windows of homes in the neighborhood, hoping to catch sight of beautiful girls. After years of avoiding their presence, `age’ had finally caught up with me. The youthful members of the opposite sex were finally beginning to turn me on. I had now discovered that there indeed was life outside of school, outside of sport, outside of home. Oh, how beautiful they were. While some wore plaits, some let their hair fall short on their shoulders and for some it cascaded further down. And when they saw us boys walking on the other side of the road, they would immediately cross to our side, giggle with glee or give us a stare, sometimes a wink, shake their heads, let their hair do the talking and leave us with mounds of escalating heartbeats. Boy! Whoever said, only men made passes?

Back in school we would almost always talk about them. And each one of us had a story to tell. Everyday brought with it new vignettes of how somebody sighted a new girl in the neighborhood. What she wore, how she looked, how she talked, her gait, her weight… Sometimes it would leave me in a swirl. And with books to study, tests to be taken, cricket matches to be played, table tennis opponents to be hammered, this new distraction drove my mind into a nerve pounding traffic jam. My concentration withered. My heart quivered. My knees shuddered. It was getting a wee bit crazy.

One morning I was woken up at six and was asked to rush to the grocery store nearby, to pick up a few things for the kitchen. As I neared the store, I saw this teen walking opposite me, carrying text books in one hand and a bowl full of flowers in the other. She was wearing a pink blouse and a maroon kancheevaram skirt. Her forehead was splattered with kumkum, a bindi and a dash of turmeric and it was obvious that she was returning from an early morning tuition coupled with a visit to a temple nearby. Her eyes were like `lollipops’ and when she danced past me; her smile took my breath away. She was the most beautiful young woman who ever walked this planet. She was probably fourteen, going on fifteen. I had seen her before, a year or so ago, with her parents in tow. She was younger and much smaller then. But what baffled me was how come I hadn’t noticed her more often? Maybe I was still enveloped in an age of innocence then. And maybe that age of innocence had just died in me, after seeing her now.

I had half a mind to follow her and find out where she stayed, but then I had a chore to do. Still, my heart got the better of my head and I turned around to see if she continued to linger. She had disappeared. A few hours later I told my classmates, of my tryst with Lollipop Eyes. And friendly advice poured in. I never knew my classmates had become masters in advising fellow high schoolers in the art of making friends with a girl. It was unsolicited. I never asked. And that night I never slept.

After that I made it a habit of waking up at six in the mornings just to catch a glimpse of her. She never walked. She almost always danced. At least that was how it looked to me. But the problem with her was that she gradually became irregular in her morning appearances. Sometimes she came. And when she didn’t, she stoked yards and yards of disappointment in me, that could be felt and seen at the gates of my school, by my classmates playing basketball a good mile away.

As time flew, my attention also flew around. It did not sit on one subject. There were many. The girl in the blue pinafore. The girl with the bushy brows. The Smita Patil look-alike. The girl with the mustard top. The big bird. Snow White. Cinderella. M Square – short for Marilyn Monroe and scores more. And I always used to wonder, what names the girls would keep for us. I was sure they had deciphered nicknames for us too. Because whenever we crossed each other’s path, they would bend their heads, whisper amongst themselves, cup their mouths and giggle, while we would swagger, stagger and stammer. What puzzled us was that we hardly ever spoke a word to them. We had no guts to talk to them. Each day we would expect them to break the ice. And we were sure that they expected us to break the ice too. What we ended up breaking, were a few bones in our toes. Because we would walk looking up at them without glancing at what lay on the earth below.

I would spend the nights dreaming about them and then carry to school huge black bags around my eyes, the next day. When the class teacher asked: “Looks like you’ve had a long night. What have you been up to?” I would unabashedly say: “Oh, I was studying for the History test, Miss.”

Once a few of my friends had come home. I think it was during the Board Exams. And we had just then returned after writing a paper. From the first floor bedroom of my flat, we could see the girl in the blue pinafore walking towards us. She seemed to be going to her school to take the afternoon exam. One of my friends had a smart idea. He asked me to get ready Madonna’s “Who’s that girl”

number, on my stereo. It was a very popular song those days. And as the girl in the blue pinafore passed below us, we would switch on the `play’ button. As Madonna sang “Who’s that Girl”, the girl in the blue pinafore would turn pink and when she looked at us, it seemed as if her eyes were ready to dig a bore well in our eyes. And instead of facing the precarious situation boldly, we would dart behind the window and laugh nervously. We were cowards. I guess that was an age and time. But as weeks sped by, the girl in the blue pinafore would make sure that she walked by my bedroom window everyday, made sure that we played the “Who’s that girl” song, and when the song came on air, she would turn, look up at us and smile. A few days later she would wave. Later on as we mustered up the courage to talk, life turned out to be sweeter than wine.

After my exams, I left Chennai, settled in another City, did my higher secondary, graduated and started working. A few years ago, I went back to Chennai on work. I caught up with a few of my old friends and had a whale of a time. Needless to say the topic meandered onto the girls. One of my friends was up-to-date with their Resumes.

The blue pinafore went on to do home science and was settled in New York married to who else, but a software engineer. The girl with the bushy brows had married an industrialist’s son, was settled in a remote industrial town and when last heard was touring the African bush land with her husband, scouting for new businesses. The Smita Patil look-alike had entered the flashy world of modeling, and was apparently trying to make it big in Bollywood. The girl with the mustard `top’ had eloped with somebody with a mustard sized `brain’, only because his wallet was as big as a melon. The big bird had become an Air Hostess and grapevine had it that she was quite `close’ to some petrol-rich Sheikh in the gulf and was last seen dancing with him on a specially erected dance floor in the middle of an `oil’ field. Snow White married, had four kids and when last heard, her hair had prematurely turned white. Cinderella got into fashion designing, married a struggling advertising photographer and then dumped him for a French fashion designer. M Square – short for Marilyn Monroe had become a teacher and was the only one unmarried but had adopted nine children – three German Shepherds, two Dobermans, one Pomeranian, one Boxer and two country dogs. And my favorite of all, Lollipop Eyes had become a famous Bharatanatyam dancer performing all over the world, was married to her `guru’ and was bringing up two children both blessed with Lollipop Eyes.

Copyright © 2003 by Narayanan G. Vincent – All rights reserved.

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Many summers ago, I had a maths teacher. Somebody I loved to hate. If my love for the subject was as narrow as the zip that held the fly of a jean together, it was because of my maths teacher. He was a crazy man. He had a huge belly that resembled a rock, standing precariously on a hill and about to fall. There was no way we could see his belt. And he was a meagre 35 years of age. He carried a grumpy face most of the time. And when he laughed, which was as rare as the dodo, he could be heard on the noisy beach on whose shores our school rested.

He was a task master. He would walk in everyday and the first thing that he would do was make the student he hated the most, stand up and tell him what A+B the whole square was. And if he did not know, the teacher’s hand would fly off the handle and smash the daylights of the poor fellow. This kept happening day after day after day. If the answer to the stupid problem in question wasn’t recited or blabbered or blurted out correctly, somebody was getting hit all the time. If it was A+B the whole square today, it would be A+B the whole cube tomorrow, or A+B the whole rectangle the day after, or A+B the whole circle the following day. It was getting really crazy.

And I was going berserk sitting quietly on one of those run down last benches watching the swollen faces and blood swelling cheeks and eyes. I knew my turn would come someday. And I wasn’t going to keep my mouth, hands or legs shut in the face of any attack. He was going to have it, if he just came near me. My blood boiled at more than a 100 degrees centigrade, every time I saw somebody getting slapped. Or should I say smashed?

But the shocking part was, he would somehow avoid asking these A+B problems to the front benchers or the so-called ‘Mug Pots’ as we used to call them those days. And you should have seen those “Mug Pots” at the interval. They used to hang around him, pestering him, ‘oiling’ him, ‘soaping’ him, ‘pattaoing’ him, ‘muskafying’ him, making sure they got on the right side of him.

“Sir! I have done this problem exactly the way you wanted. Take a look sir”, said one.
“Sir! I loved the way you explained the sum in class. Only you can do it, this way Sir” said another bright spark with soda bottle eyes. “Sir! My mother made some Jamoons this morning. I thought I should share some with you, because you like it so much” said a third who had a long way to go, to grow out his shorts.

Boy, how I used to hate those front benchers, those book worms, those “Mug Pots”, who were by now making it a habit of forming a coterie around him, doubly ensuring that they escaped the most treacherous of blows that emanated from the arms of this “calculating” rascal.

One day it was my turn to answer yet another of his A+B problems.
“What is A minus B the whole square?” he bellowed.
I stood up apprehensively. I was already six feet on my shoes by then. So when the Maths teacher stood next to me hoping that I wouldn’t answer, I wondered how on earth he was going to reach me with that iron like palm of his, for he was a good one foot below me. And the temperature was soaring down there.

As I struggled with the answer, out whizzed his right hand from his right trouser pocket at 80 km/hour. But suddenly something happened that left a loud HUSH in the class. My left hand dashed out from behind my trousers at 100 km/hour to stop the teacher’s speeding right hand. We stood there for a few seconds, hands locked in Karate style and feet rooted firmly to the concrete floor. His cheeks went red and he started sweating profusely. And then as I loosened my hold, he lowered his gears, dropped his hand and strode back to the front of the class. He would never look me in the eye again. He would never ask me questions. But he would fail me in all the tests and all the exams.

After that incident, I became the darling of the class. And what puzzled everybody, but none dared to ask me was, how could a beanpole like me stop a scarecrow like him?

I think that’s what it was. My maths teacher was a tough nut. He had a massive ego and was a complete MCP. His English was bad, but he would make sure that he cursed us in carefully chosen words, whether we made a mistake or not. And most of the ‘curses’ used to be in chaste Tamil, spoken only by fishermen and slum folk who lined the big city in hordes.

Among his choicest vocabulary was, “Erumamadu” (Buffalo in English) or “Pisasu” (Satan). If anybody failed to answer a problem, he would release a train of curses. “YOU BLOODY ERUMAMADU” or “YOU STUPID SATAN”. Not realising the fact that he very crudely epitomised “Erumamadu” and “Satan” in more ways than one. Some times when his cheeks turned cherry red with fire blazing out of his ears and smoke chimneying out of his nostrils, he would scream at the guy who stumbled for an answer, calling him BLOODY BASKET, instead of Bloody Bas****. And we would hold onto our stomachs till the period was over and till the Maths teacher disappeared from the vicinity of our class and then burst out laughing, uncontrollably. Such was his grip on the English language or Tinglish (Tamilised English) as we all used to call it.

Somebody nicknamed him Stupid Ed (his first name was Edward), but I called him StupED. The seeds of writing and the seeds of creativity were thus germinated in me for the first time that very year. And I went onto brand all my other teachers similarly. In no time, I started growing popular in school on account of that. Any letter to be written, I would be sought out. Any complaint to be made to the school authorities, with carefully chosen words, I would be the chosen one. But what refused to grow in me was my love for Maths and my Maths teacher. He was simply StupED.

Probably why my interest in sport burgeoned to gargantuan proportions. If I wasn’t in class, then I would be on the cricket field or across a TT Table or on the Badminton Court, or playing “7 stones” and “Back Puncture” with other back benchers like me. Studies simply took a back seat. And if I wasn’t playing, I would be burying my nose in a Charles Dickens, or a PG Wodehouse or a Robin Cook. And if I wasn’t doing that then you could almost always catch me writing something, from a letter or a poem to a short story or a song. I was very busy man you know.

When exams loomed ahead, I showed no nerves. But when the dreaded Maths paper appeared, I would either ask the guy before me to cooperate and allow me to copy from his paper by asking him to position himself to the right of me, so that I could copy letter to letter, word to word, numeral to numeral or scribble some nonsense and be the first one to exit out of the exam hall. Needless to say I would fail time and again, but appear in the top three in English, History and Geography, time and again. A success that would make my principal and other teachers scratch their heads in agony. Except my Maths teacher, who would go laughing all the way to the staff room, every time that happened.

But I knew where and when I would score over him. So I waited for the 10 standard public exams, to appear, knowing fully well that StupED would have no say in correcting my paper. And on the day the 10th standard public exam results broke out all over the state, I came to see whether my name was on the list put up by the school on the notice board. That’s when I saw him standing in a corner, near the Principal’s room, watching me. I recognised my hall ticket number and let out a little yelp, in delight. I had scraped through by a hair’s length. I glanced to my left to see whether StupED was still looking at me. He wasn’t there. As I slowly walked to mingle with my fellow classmates, I could see him watching me from one of the windows of the staff room. I turned my back on him and walked away. In two weeks I would leave school, do my 11th and 12th in another City, graduate from yet another City, journey into a world of the unknown and become a moderately successful advertising writer. But I would never forget my Maths teacher.

The last I heard of him was that his wife had filed for divorce, for wife battering. I felt a little pain, a little vacuum in my heart. He had not only destroyed many a student’s interest in mathematics, but had inadvertently destroyed his own life.

Copyright © 2003 by Narayanan G. Vincent – All rights reserved.

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Much before our marriage, my wife and I decided to go in for adoption. It was something that touched our hearts and made us look forward to that glorious day, when we would bring home a `baby’. In fact `adopting a baby’ was among many interests, common between us. And that was something that bound us together like never before.

But we didn’t straight away go in for a baby. We waited for the right time. We wanted to be financially comfortable and have a large enough home for the baby to grow up in. The other reason why we delayed going in for adoption immediately after marriage was the restlessness of my job. I wasn’t in one place. And the fact that my wife and I were still getting to know each other, also gave us some time to defer the decision to another day. But then after four years of marriage, I guess our patience dissipated. And cute
little baby pictures started making their appearances on the walls of our home. The preparation or the welcoming ceremony had begun. And my wife made sure that the baby was not just going to be received well, but was also going to be brought up in good family tradition. And as far as that was concerned, she was the boss.

After making tones of enquiries, and walking in and out of many adoption homes, we finally zeroed in on a beautiful baby, being brought up in a `home’ on the outskirts of Bangalore. The day we saw him, we fell in love. He was not just a bundle of joy but a bundle of high-octane energy as well. Kicking about, flaying his arms around and giving us those smart `looks’ any parent would be proud of. This baby was God’s joyous answer to our quest for adopting a baby. And so on the anointed day, we brought him home. And promptly within a few seconds he announced his arrival by `watering’ the `Divan’, that sat by the window next to a coffee tree. In one second our lives had changed forever. My wife looked at me and I looked at my wife. When I tried to clean the mess, he
charged at me refusing to let me carry out the cleaning. So I carried him and my wife did the honours. This was just the beginning.

Soon he began to crawl… run around… and turn our lives and our home upside down. He became very mischievous. He was not the kind who would wait for opportunities to spring into oodles of prankishness, for it came naturally to him. Not a second would pass, without an act of roguery. We had no other choice but to put up with him in the best possible way. For with every act of impishness, he would bring on the smiles in our lives. And these smiles usually measured not in millimeters or centimeters but miles.

But the most intrinsic thing that attracted us to him was his parentage. His father was a German and his mother, a Canadian. And so were their parents and their parents’ parents. Their parents’ parents had descended onto Indian shores many summers ago. And thus all his immediate ancestors were born in India. By some quirk of fate, his parents gave him up for adoption, as they found it
difficult to bring him up. That’s when we saw him and grabbed the opportunity as if our very lives depended on him.

He looked like his father, especially his face and the expressions he created. Those cold and steely eyes, they were all so very German. But in colour and mannerisms he had taken after his mother. Fair and unmistakably Canadian. At least that’s what the adoption home told us. But whether he was a German or Canadian, he was our little baby. Our little bundle of joy. Our very own.

Is there a rule that stops Indians from adopting foreign babies? When they – foreigners – can adopt Indian children, why can’t we? That was the how we argued when friends and relatives questioned us on our choice of a baby.

In fact as I punch in the keys of my computer to write this little story, my cute little son is gnawing away at my Jean… And as I write these last few lines he is… jumping onto me, sniffing at the Keyboard… wanting to know what I am doing sitting before the computer… and eager to know where the punching noise is coming from.

Poor little Goofy! That’s what we named him. For one so intelligent, street smart and handsome, I wish he was a human being. But God had other plans. So he gave him a tail and made him a Dog. And I must say this German Shepherd and Labrador cross is one helluva faithful Dog. He is our little cutie-pie. Our little bundle of joy. Our little mischievous son. We are indeed proud to be his parents.

Copyright © 2003 by Narayanan G. Vincent – All rights reserved.

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