Story 2. My First Kiss.

Last week, the LBC had this topic and I wriggled out of that ticklish situation by promising to write about it in my Stories series.

This story had to feature here because it starts at a particularly critical point of time in my life and continues with a couple of twists that are straight out of the realms of synchronicity and ends with nostalgia. It is a longish story and that is why it had to feature here and not in the LBC post.

Before the story starts, my readers need to understand that it happened in Madras, now known as Chennai in South India, a bastion for orthodox Indian life where the two sexes simply did not mingle outside the confines of the family. Lots of hanky panky went on but strictly clandestine. Unfortunately for me, there was no hanky panky, clandestine or otherwise whatsoever. Not because I was not up to it or interested, but there simply was no opportunity in the circles that I was confined to.

All of us youngsters however were exposed to comics and books and would read about American youngsters of our age dating and getting into all kinds of adventures and we would long for that kind of freedom. Some of us were also able to secretly read novels like Peyton Place by Grace Metalious, and I for one would not have minded some ‘from the wrong side of the tracks’ adventures. We were also exposed to Indian films which had heroes and heroines meeting in the most unlikely places including bus stops and falling in love with each other at first sight. They would inevitably sing love songs and chase each other in parks around bushes. While Hindi and Tamil movies did not have kissing on the screen, most of them still do not, we did get to see many English movies with them and would wonder what it would be like to kiss girls. I don’t know about girls, but boys most certainly talked about what it would be like to kiss.

That is the background to this story.

I was all of 15 and had failed to pass my School Leaving Certificate examinations and had to take them all over again. Since that was an important milestone, I joined a tutorial institution that specialised in taking young losers like me to teach how to write examinations and pass. I was staying at a place that was about ten kms from the institute and had to take a bus every week day for ten weeks.

There was another student like me determined to pass at the second attempt. Just about my age and quite cute. For the purpose of this story, let me call her Sharada. She too rode the same bus that I did but would get on and off half way. We were about twenty students in that class from different schools, but I cannot remember even one other than Sharada.

On the return journey, both of us had to wait in a bus stand outside the institute and one thing led to another and we became friends. Nothing more, nothing less as neither of us had the gumption to try anything remotely romantic at a bus stand on a public foot path.

My parents were living at Hyderabad at that time and I was living with my uncle to finish the process of getting my school leaving certificate before I could join my parents. Sharada’s father was also in a transferable Central Government job and she too wondered how long it would be before she moved out of Madras. We had shared this information as part of our daily conversations at the bus stand. Before our ten weeks were over however, I did gather enough courage to ask her if there was any way that we could meet in privacy at her place and to my total disbelief she said that she would think about it and let me know. And she did. Her parents had gone to Bangalore for a wedding and she coyly invited me to her place on a steamy September afternoon after our classes. I accepted with alacrity and chastely followed her a safe ten feet behind after she alighted and entered her home with much anticipation and excitement.

You don’t really want to know all that happened there that afternoon. Suffice it to say that both of us had our first kissing experience. It was not all that it was cranked up to be, but with a couple of tries, both of us got the hang of it and it did become enjoyable.

There was always the danger of some nosey neighbour (note that I do not use the word parker) and after a short time, Sharada suggested that I scoot and being the ever understanding and gallant young fellow that I was, I did.

The bus stand trysts carried on for a few more days and we parted to go our separate ways when the institute sent us off to write the examinations with best wishes. I wrote the examinations and went off to Hyderabad to join my parents. On a sbusequent visit to Madras I went to the house where I had my glorious first experience to find that Sharada’s family had moved out of Madras.

Fast forward to 1980 when I was 37, a much married man with a 9 year old son and a Regional Manager for a great company. The action takes place in Mall Road, Kanpur, a city in the North of India, where I was visiting a customer accompanied by our local Manager and Sales Representative. You have to picture the shop. My team and I were actually standing on the footpath while the customer was behind a counter that fronted the shop. Customers of the shop would frequently interrupt our discussions to purchase something or the other while standing next to us on the foot path. On occasion, the shopkeeper would introduce the customer to us if he happened to buy our products. A typical daily scene those days in almost all shopping areas with visiting brass keeping in touch with market realities.

I felt a tap on my shoulder and a timid female voice asking “Ramana?” I turn around and found Sharada with a tentative look on her face and when I confirmed that it indeed was me, the tentative look changed to a big grin and right there on Mall Road, in Kanpur, we scandalised the public by hugging each other. We recovered quickly and exchanged pleasantries and made arrangements to meet at the coffee shop in the hotel that I was staying in later that evening.

Enough for today. I will continue the story to its end early next week.

Ursula, I bet that your imagination is working over time now.

Original in Hindustani by Anand Bakshi

In the journey of life.
the destinations that pass us by.
they never come back.
they never come again.

Flowers bloom,
people meet,
but the flowers that wilt & wither in the Autumn,
do not bloom with the coming of spring.
The people who we lose in this journey,
and though a thousand others come, are never found.

You may spend all your years calling their names,
they never come back.
they never come again.

Your eyes lie, there is no trusting it
listen, suspicion is the enemy of friendship
don’t let it make space in your heart.
If tomorrow you will agonise over their memory
stop them now, placate, dont let them leave in a sulk.

Though later you send a thousand salutations of love,
they never come back.
they never come again.

The morning comes, night goes,
and just like that time keeps passing, never stops.
In a moment it gets ahead,
one is never able to see this clearly,
and the scene on the screen changes forever.

Once they are gone in time-day-night, morning and evening,
they never come back.
they never come again.

My First Kiss.

I hope that you enjoy reading this post on the weekly Friday Loose Bloggers Consortium where eleven of us write on the same topic. Today’s topic has been chosen by Delirious. The ten other bloggers who write regularly are, in alphabetical order, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, Padmum, Paul, Rohit,Shackman, The Old Fossil and Will. Do drop in on their blogs and see what their take is on this week’s topic. Since some of them may post late, do give some allowance for that too!

Who would have ever thought that Delirious can come up with this topic. Coming from her, this is a Doosra. My response to Delirious – “Wouldn’t you like to know?” More importantly, I am all agog to read her post on this very intriguing topic.
kiss-your-kids

No, that is not me nor my mother. But you get the drift? That was my first kiss that I remember.
Rhett-and-Scarlett-scarlett-ohara-and-rhett-butler-10940428-992-720

If however Delirious has other ideas, I shall oblige. I will be less than truthful if I did not confess to that very first kiss that made me feel like Rhett Butler in Gone With The Wind.

But for that to happen, my readers, AND Delirious will have to wait for a couple of weeks. That story will appear in my stories series soon.

Now let us go over to Delirious and the others to read what they have to say about that experience.

Parenting II.

shower

It really freaks me out as to how I keep getting synchronicity in my life.

I had just finished answering two emails from friends commenting on my earlier post on parenting when I was led to this masterpiece of writing on parenting.

Please pay close attention to the extract. It simply blew me away.

Despite its high price I am seriously considering buying the book though my parenting days of young children are long over and Ramani, the prospect of grand parenting seems very remote.

Parenting

Story 1. Life Outwardly Perfect.

Tej

I met Tej as an adult for the first time at his wedding reception in 1977. He was all of 24 and his lovely bride Usha was all of 22. Both the parents were good friends of mine and I had a small role to play in arranging the match. Both are single children for their respective parents.

Tej’s father ran a one man business trading with just one Munim to assist him. A munim in India is the equivalent of an accountant. Tej inherited the business and since his father’s death twenty years ago, been running it again as a one man show with just one secretary and a peon to help him. His mother too passed away two years after the death of his father.

Usha inherited five small businesses from her father who was into manufacturing rather than trading. He was supplying various components to various big industries in and around Bombay. He his wife tragically passed away ten years ago in an automobile accident.

Tej is now 60 and Usha 58. They are both what in India we call high net worth individuals with large fortunes. They have a son and a daughter, both highly qualified doctors practicing in the West, both married to doctors and have two children each.

You would think that Tej and Usha would be the happiest people on earth. They are but, not in the way you would imagine.

They live in a huge six bed room flat in an upmarket locality of Bombay. This flat is actually two flats on one floor converted into one by knocking off the separating wall. Tej’s father had bought them as residences for himself and Tej and after the death of both the parents, Tej knocked the wall off. The drawing room is huge and the dining area, smack dab in the middle where the separating wall should have been.

Usha lives on the Northern side of the flat and Tej in the Southern. They have not spoken to each other for the past fifteen years. They have breakfast together every morning prepared by Tej’s family retainer who weeps at this situation every time he meets me. After that, they go their separate ways and see each other only the next morning. Their lawyers and accountants are sorting out the cross holdings of the various investments, and both are in the process of winding down their businesses. Their children and grand children do not want to have anything to with either of them unless they become normally married people.

Tej is an introvert with very few friends and tends to be spiritual. Usha is vivacious and extrovert with many friends and interests.

Once all the accounting and legal complications are sorted out, which is expected to take place before the end of this year, they intend divorcing each other by mutual consent.

Tej spends at least one week end every alternate month with me at his farm house where we discuss and debate earth shaking matters and come up with ideas to set the world right. Both of us would like to do this more often, but my own preoccupation with other matters prevent such more frequent male bonding. Hopefully that too should change before too long. Among the adventures that Tej has had, a ship with some merchandise that he had shipped overseas, was hijacked by Somali pirates and for a while there was a lot of tension about that. It is all resolved now, but I can lay claim to the dubious fame of knowing someone who was a victim of piracy.

Tej and Usha use me as a conduit to communicate with each other on personal matters. I have not had much to do with their children and to that extent my involvement with the children and grand children has been minimal. I tried my level best to get the two of them to resolve their differences and failed and since the past seven years have stopped trying.

Yes, Tej is the same friend who I sounded out before I set out on this story writing. He not only agreed to my writing his story, he also encouraged me to start the series.

At the time of writing this post, none of the three of us can imagine what the future holds for them. Since neither of them is bothered unduly about it, I have stopped bothering about it too.

I enjoy my friendship with Tej as does he and as long as that lasts, some updates may be in store in the future.

The Telegram.

An important decision has been taken by the Indian Posts & Telegraphs Department. Telegrams will no longer be sent / received as there is just not enough traffic in these days of mobile telephony and the internet.
sh_postman

That is a still from a Hindi film where the Postman delivering a telegram reads the contents to an illiterate lady. They would read letters and write replies to be taken back to the post office for onward despatch. This one service alone earned the postmen in India a high status in rural India. They would do the same in the cities too where necessary. I have blogged earlier about the great relationship that I have with the two postmen who deliver letters and other posted items to me and they are always welcome in my home. Sadly, at least as far the telegram is concerned, they will no longer be necessary. Now they are more important for the money orders that they deliver which too will pass once the plans to make available mini banks in rural India come to fruition.

As a Sales Manager, I once received the following telegram from one of our Travelers. “Gave birth to old lady and missed train. Will come to office day after tomorrow.” You can imagine the mirth that created.

That same Traveler, was sent to find and book a hall to hold an exhibition for us in a town in Gujarat. He sent this. “Found Vyapari Mandal ready to give hole to us. Vyapari Mandal is Merchant’s Chamber and “hole” is how Gujartis pronounce hall.

This Traveler was a resident of Bombay and would go on tours to upcountry markets and would return to Bombay to settle accounts, replenish stock of stationery etc, and take rest before proceeding on the next tour. He was an ace salesman but a timid fellow. We had to organise a conference of Travelers at short notice once, and the only way we could contact him was to send him a telegram. We came to know later that the telegram was not delivered to him because he would not open the door to the Postman. He simply could not believe that anyone would send him a telegram when he was at home. We had to send a person to his home to get him the next morning.

I had a particularly finicky boss who would keep my telegrams till I returned to base and would show me edited telegrams to impress on me as to how I could have saved a few rupees by using lesser number of words to convey the same message. I soon learnt how to be good at sending telegrams.

In India, we had a parallel system called the Phonogram. Those days, the Posts and Telephones were under one department and this worked quite well. One could call up the Telephones and they would call you back to ensure that the number was genuine before accepting the phonogram the cost of which would be added on the telephone bill at the end of each month. Since the clerks taking down dictated phonograms were not exactly masters of the English language, we often had hilarious spelling mistakes in the telegrams received. Phonograms used to be first read out to the recipient if he had a telephone and often what was read out did not make any sense. One had to wait for the confirmation copy to come to understand. Just four years ago, my father wanted to send a phonogram to one of his friends and was devastated to find that the phonogram does not exist any more.