Sunday, June 04, 2006

Old Times

I am not one for taking long nostalgic walks down memory lane. Or not frequently at any rate. I never think of my school days with tearful eyes. During our final graduation ceremony at the BIS in fact Nazneen and I were the only two dry eyed individuals and as soon as it was over, and before other people’s tears had dried, she and I almost collapsed in each other’s arms with joy at never having to come to school again and be subjected to horrible subjects like maths and Hindi. (Hated Hindi back then though now I am looking for a teacher who can help me bone up on the language so that I can communicate fluently with my non English speaking clients!)

Now and then however, it feels good to catch up with old classmates so it was fun to see Yesha again after a gap of at least six years. (We seem to meet every five or six years or so). She is flying again after having served on the ground for a few years and it being her day off yesterday she phoned and asked if I were at home because she was coming into town.

Yesha was one of those kids who used to wander around school in pickle stained uniforms and had the reputation of being somewhat eccentric because whenever she got bored during class she would wander out, run around the courtyard a couple of times and come back and quietly sit at her desk. The teachers normally didn’t say anything to her because on the one occasion when they came down heavily on her she ran back home (she lived close to school) and returned quite defiantly with her father who yelled at the principal for allowing his daughter to be tortured by ignorant teachers.

Anyway after school Yesha transformed herself into this very svelte and fashionable young woman whom you would never dream of associating with pickle stained skirts and landed a job with an airline – where she still works.

So now she sashays into the flat some time around noon. I am just done with a client and wander into the living room and no sooner have I parked my butt on the sofa than she tells me in astounded tones how very stout I have become and how she just cant get over it. (Not that Yesha herself has gotten any thinner I smirk inwardly). Well I tell myself, things haven’t changed much since kindergarten when we would inflict the cruel truth on each other several times a day ("You're stupid! No you are a FOOL!!! Your dress looks so silly" etc. etc.) and then turn our backs on each other (Katti) for a few minutes or hours.

We went to the club for lunch, where the grilled fish and lemon butter sauce was approved of, though the vegetarian speciality “Thalipeet and pitla” got the thumbs down from her. During lunch we traded reminiscences and Yesha spoke of some tips I had given her when we met in Europe in ’74 or ’75. I had apparently told her that blue jeans didn’t need to be washed more than once in six months because the dirt never showed on the outside and inside anyway your pants came into contact only with your skin and if you were reasonably regular about baths (once in five or six days?) then you were safe from being smelly.

The other bit of advice I apparently gave her (and yes come to think of it I do remember this one) was that you should never pay for your coffee when you go to one of those street side cafes. If you sit for a while someone is bound to offer you a cup. It worked for me, I know. There were any number of lonely Algerians and other expats at a loose end waiting to be entertained for the price of a cup of coffee. So one accepted the invitation gladly, one exchanged pleasantries for a while over an ice cream or an espresso and at the point when the bloke asked you out or asked you home you told him you were so sorry you couldn’t because your aged mother was waiting for you to return and fix her supper.

That was a good tip, said Yesha, except it doesn’t work so well any more. I guess you gotta be young for anyone to want to pay for your coffee. She sighed. I sighed. Then we both got up with reasonably full bellies and I dropped her off at Mahalaxmi station before returning home for a snooze.

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