Wilted || Chapter One: Hot Pink Rubber Ties

Chapter One: Hot Pink Rubber Ties

 

‘I have life, I have love, I have faith and it’s enough.’ – Nepal Photo Project

To-do                                                                                                                            1st November, 2014

  1. Give away last week quiz grades in IV-B; Reminders about fountain pens;
  2. Start talking to III-A about doctors and nurses; Introduce Florence Nightingale;
  3. Pick-up Post-its and refills for red and black pens; Chocolates too!
  4. Talk to the administration;
  5. Work on essays and read up.

Making to-do lists and striking through them was a habit she had acquired in college. Now, as Roshni Sharma stared dejectedly at that day’s, she wondered if she could get through this one. Keeping her little black diary back inside her black faux leather satchel, she got up from the window seat and walked to the front of the city-bus. As she waited for the bus to stop, she pulled out her Moto G to check for texts or calls. There were none unless you counted group texts on the ‘Staff at Grahams’ group.  With a humourless chuckle, she carefully got off the bus.

The sky had already turned a dark hue of pink at five. With the slight chill in the air, it was obvious that winter was not far behind. Roshni adjusted her silk scarf over her mauve kurta and walked towards the noisy and loud market on the other side of the road.

As a primary school teacher, she learnt a lot everyday – mostly re-learnt lessons which needed to be taught whether about characters in history book or just tiny basic life lessons. Like every other day, there had been kids with birthdays that day as well. Tiny little girls with brand new hair ribbons and pretty dolls or boys with a new car, they had left behind at home. For them, it was about chocolates, new stationery and more hugs and kisses from everybody. When she shook hands with them and took the chocolates from the trays, she wanted to be them. A nice birthday lunch and loads of cuddling! As she walked into the general store, she spotted the candy aisle and with a gleam in her eyes walked towards it. Chocolates and Stationery! She smiled at that. After all, wasn’t the day the same for her as well? And who cared about birthdays, really?

Every age and every birthday is supposed to be a new beginning of sorts. A beginning where one refuses to allow themselves to be sucked into the spasm of the past, make merry in the present and look forward to the responsibilities, joys and senility of older age. Having said that, dear readers – what if the present is bleaker than the past? How do you live then? Well, growing up isn’t easy. It is difficult to make choices and take responsibilities for them. But then, life isn’t always pretty but it is always beautiful!

There was something about Cheesecakes that pulled her to the bakery. Ironically, it did not serve any cheesecake. The owner, Mrs. Wadhwa said that names were always overrated. It was a small establishment with rich wood floorboards and warm yellow lighting. It was probably one of those places in the town, which reminded Roshni of its old charm, one that only small towns on hill tops have. The place did not have a huge seating arrangement – just enough for one to feel cosy and cuddled in the cushioned chairs. That is exactly how she felt, once she was settled on her corner table waiting for her piece of cake, while sipping her warm peach tea. On any other day, she would spend a few hours there, reading a book, simply correcting papers or just preparing her next lesson. Today, however, her mind went off to the conversation she’d had with her parents before school.

When her phone had rung at seven, she had picked it up hesitantly almost whispering the customary Hello.

So, what is the plan today?’ Her mom had asked.

I have school.’ The answer had been obvious to her on a weekday.

Catch the afternoon bus and come home,’ Her father had interrupted her as if she had never spoken. ‘We can have a birthday dinner with everybody.’

‘Maa, I cannot miss school. We have the cultural programme coming up,’ She had chosen to address her mom and decline the invitation.

You did not even come home for Diwali, Roshu,’ Her mother had whined. ‘Do you also have a guy tucked in there like Rhea? In the name of this awful job, I don’t understand why you would waste such good education like this.’

‘Sunita!’ Her father’s reprimanding tone had followed.

Roshni had tuned out the rest of the conversation as it went downhill like so many others. Maa would talk about hope and useless jobs at the same time. And then, Roshni could no longer endure a longer conversation. It was not just her mother – it was everybody. That reflected in the number of wishes, she had received that day.

It was bizarre, how they had sworn not to lose touch and be there for each other. Nobody had stayed. Everybody had moved on and so, had she – away from the light of her dreams. Maybe, Mrs Wadhwa was correct. Names are overrated.

Then her piece of Death By Chocolate pastry arrived with a rainbow magic candle she had not ordered, a plastic knife and a roll of hot pink rubber-ties. She looked up from the tray into the warm brown eyes of the beholder.

‘Happy Birthday Roshni!

Wingman

Food, I have always believed is the cure of all grief. To strengthen it further, homemade snacks in a hostel far away from home had really helped me make friends. Bribe, though it might be called but dear reader, believe me when I helped. One evening, I took a Tupperware container full of crispy mathris around the hostel floor and without afterthought climbed down the stairs to go visit friends on lower floor. I remember as if it were just this evening – the sound of unending cries and howls echoing the corridor. Like someone was in immense pain and the grief would not go away with her squeaking sobs. I approached the door, eavesdropping – indecisive whether I wanted to enter the almost strangers room. I knew I shouldn’t but I could not leave. I could hear some softer interruption and consolation. A friend or perhaps the roommate, I didn’t know. Intruder that I was, I knocked, went in and made a complete fool of myself and embarrassed her.

Ironically, she ended up helping me instead of the other way round. I am sure I would never have talked to her again had she not texted me and apologized. I have never understood what she was apologising for. Since then however, she has remained until now. It hasn’t been a very long time – just a year and a half, but she has been always there. Like my knight in shining armour, she takes care of me. She listens to me rant about doing creepy things and tells me of creepier things, she’s done. She ends a long lecture with ‘it is nothing to worry about.’ Though she teases me about being short, she’s very fierce about protecting me when I have a bad day.

Today, I won’t have a nice month until I have sent her weird quotes and shared weird travel plans with her or she hasn’t given me her much-needed tips. Once upon a time, a very dear friend had sent me a dream catcher to ward away nightmares and make all my dreams come true. This one person is like that – making sure that she helps me carve my wishes true anyway that she can.

She is my wingman, as she defines it and I agree. She’ll shoo away anybody who gives me grief and I never want her to stop – wouldn’t want her to disappear like just anyone in life. With her drama, her dreams and our travel plans – she’s here to stay. Sometimes, when she is in one of her ranting stupors, I interrupt her to start one of mine – one on the social issues, the Marwari issues and issues in general. She, however, listens again in rapt attention. She comes up with simple solutions for the general ones, calling the Marwari incorrigible. In those moments, I cannot express how thankful I am that she was born and I met her.

She has dreams of her own, which will enchant you, dear reader. She is a paradox. Sometimes, she’ll talk about chugging bottles of beer and other times, she’ll talk about taking control of the administration. For all her five feet and flaws, she takes up responsibilities like a woman on a mission. She is unsure and panics as well. She is but human.
On this day, to that human, I wish her new jobs, better colleagues, no cold feet about getting old and dreams fulfilled. Happy Birthday!