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.

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