I needed hundred bucks and I got it from Amma’s almirah. Hundred bucks was a lot of money. A lot. That was the single biggest amount of money. The Gandhi on the note was blue- like someone had poured out all the blue ink in the world on a ten rupee note (after adding an extra zero, of course) and rubbed their fingertips on it to spread the colour. I learnt that in school. Gave a cool look to all my pencil drawings. Jeez! Hundred is a huge number. Learning to count till hundred is such a big deal. I write a letter to Dad- from “The Teachers of the School. To Father and Mother. There was a format to a letter; they teach you all this in school. Formal letter format- for official purposes. ‘Official’ was a fancy word for serious. Or grown up. Or moustache. Or sari wearing. Giving hundred rupees to me for being a good student in school, would come under official purposes. They wrote letters for ridiculous reasons anyway. Last week we wrote a letter to the Principal – all of us – thanking him for the summer holidays! Pshaw! As if he had a choice. So yeah, official letter it will be. I got out my composition book and copied the format with precision.
Complete with the subject, date, and my sign. You ought to sign near the bottom right corner under your name- I always keep forgetting that. Last term paper that was the only mistake I made. I wrote it in my neat exam handwriting, tore the paper from the notebook with a 30cm Camlin scale, and folded it right across the middle. Got an envelope from an unlocked drawer (Amma was a very trusting person), wrote the addresses (“From- The Teachers of the School”), kept the letter inside and dropped it inside the letter box before I went to sleep.
Next morning Amma took the letter from the box and smiled, and showed it to Amma. She thrashed me. Amma keeps telling her everything, even when he isn’t supposed to. Amma was a bad bully. No idea why they got married. If she had kept her almirah unlocked like Amma did, I would have taken all her Gandhi notes and given it to the neighbor’s goat or something. Lucky for her, that they have no goats. But how on earth did Amma know? Should have copied the informal letter format- knew I’d forget these things.
Damn English composition.
Akansha. My Akshi. She was short, gorgeous and curly-haired. I love butter chicken. She gobbles up paneer tikka masala. I read Dawkins, Forsyth, and Roy. She buys glossy magazines with girls on the cover- name immaterial. I was lucky if I knew which class I was supposed to go to, and she never missed topping a subject. I am not much of a talker and she happily takes my share in a conversation. We fight, I disagree- she stops talking and wins any argument. She dances, and… well, I can tap my foot in rhythm – almost always. I met her on the first day of college, and every day hence. I adore her.
I call my parents every day. At least one of them. Even if I just talk for a minute, I summarise a day’s events. On the last day of college, a week after I got my first job, I call up my Dad, having made up my mind to tell him that I adored someone. After the initial complaints about how late his only son went to sleep, he asked me about my job and how I was planning to get myself to Bangalore and how big I have become. I decided to take the leap.
“Nothing, how is Amma?”
“She is fine. The neck pain is still troubling her a bit.”
“Hmm. Ask her not to read too much, and sleep early.”
“Yeah. Maybe you should do that too, once in a while. Anything else?”
“Nah. Ought to go get my dues certificate cleared, is all”
“Hmm. What’s her name?”
Cackling laughter from the other end (Amma sounds hilarious when he laughs). He laughs for a minute and asks me where she’s from, how I met her … I give him as little detail as possible, feeling as guilty as a schoolboy caught with hands inside his knickers. He, on the other end, is thoroughly enjoying himself. I hang up the phone and can’t help but smile sheepishly. But how on earth did Amma know? I texted him saying- ‘Don’t tell Amma’ and dozed off to Syd Barrett’s soothing voice.
Next morning, I wake up to 16 missed-calls from my Mom’s cell.
Should have added ‘Please’ in the text.
Damn English Composition.
Photography By: Ayan Battacharjee