Tuesday, May 31, 2011

FYI. Headed to the hills. BRB.

LOL@ da attack of cyber shortkts?

I'm going to Shimla. So you won't hear from me for a week or so. More a village-district-settlement or whatever the correct term is, 40kms north of Shimla than Shimla-Shimla, but as far as Airtel is concerned, it doesn't matter. They couldn't be bothered to grant me roaming-GPRS. I couldn't be bothered to call them. Net net: I will not be around to watch the dip in my post a week average. But some stats are more important. Like a grandmother's 90th birthday.

She was born near Shimla. Now her elder daughter lives there. That's where the party is. That's where we're all headed, woollies and all. Family reunion. I'm all set for irrelevant memories to flood back and take up more useless space in my head. I haven't been there since college first year. This from going every year, and living there for two.

Shimla-aah! Or like the Brits say, Simla. The 'h' is a problem. Shimla is where I first saw a guy shirtless. Reuben. That's where I was when Raveena Tandon and Akshay Kumar were grinding to tu cheez badi hai mast mast, if that step of theirs was the grind- was it? That's also where I was when the schools shut because (I want to say in bold) rats ran amok and the plague hit -- '93? (and pre-eyebrows-threaded Shilpa Shetty was wearing nikki nikki i.e teeny weeny animal print frocks and prancing in snow/white sand with Akshay Again --- a befitting sequitur to the plague, if you ask me).

Shimla is where I went to an all girls boarding school. And ticked off stupid toothy Utsah Sharma for arguing with me about the pronunciation of the little Swiss girl. Me: It's Hei-di. She: It's Head-I(!). [Me now: I wish I'd said something wicked and clever, the memory of which would make me swell, but I doubt I did anything more sparkling than a poor imitation.]

Shimla was where I 'learnt' about sex. (I feel the need to put that in quotes. Don't look at me like that!) Where the nuns counselled a red-hair-dyed girl called Swati for spending the night in a hotel with a boy. They didn't expel her because her mother had died and her father was an alcoholic and she was automatically a poor thing to be made exception of. We, in the 'shoe room dorm' must've whispered awe-struck inanites of how cool we thought Swati was. And gutsy! And grown up! We wanted to be Swati. Spend the night in a hotel with a boy seemed like something grown ups did. Grown ups didn't hatch plans to cheat for the Sanskrit exam the next day.

Shimla was where Renu Narula counselled me when I burst out crying after a Math paper thinking I'm going to fail the seventh standard and effectively be a loser for life. Renu was my Mother Teresa that day. She took my question paper, sat me down near the basketball court, cross checked my answers with her and assured me I'd get at least a 40. My report card came home a month later. I flunked Sanskrit. I passed Math. I loved Renu. Oh, the kindness of classmates who didn't go home in the holidays because the Phillipines were too far! That was Renu. Home away from home. What a long plait Renu had. Oh, Renu.

When I left that school -- I was pulled out -- and went back three years later to visit the girls, my old friends, who were still there, the shy one with a broken nose but most exquisite handwriting and now a mother of a 3-year-old said to me: you have boobs. I think I was always conscious of wearing that particular blue, collared stretch tee again. I never want to be 15 again. Not in Shimla. Not in a boarding. Not with numbskills who instructed you to on the light and off the light instead of PUT on the light or SWITCH off the light. This would bother me even back then. When we didn't have boobs.

I don't remember being particularly happy in Shimla. Not in the boarding. The nuns were nuns. My classmates were a stupid excitable bunch. Except for Woven Suri. And that was her real name. She was just Woven. She told me once if I pull my hair it'll grow faster. She even offered to pull it for me. Maybe I'm carrying myself away. But I forget how that ended. There was a broken bed, yes. I jumped on it repeatedly to check for springiness. I know this contradicts my Oliver Twist tone but all these rubbish conflicting fragments come back to me at a pace faster than what my fingers can endure. (So I'm not illustrating further lest I start spouting shit that didn't happen like this friend of a friend my friend was telling me about who makes up stories about sleeping with Ryan Gosling...)

Sometimes we had a deal, Woven and I. I would write her English essay. She would do the beading on my compulsory needlework. Then the deal got called off. Maybe it was the bed. Ultimately her parents were summoned because sweet Woven turned in a recipe for tea instead of an actual essay. The recipe involved adding ice cream to boiling tea water. She didn't come back the next year. But nor did I. True story. Possibly the one hysterical memory in that land of passive horror.

But the school was pretty. My mother put me there because of those wild pink rose creepers on the wooden facade. I'm pretty sure. Can't blame her. Now when I think of it, maybe all that place gave me was a love of hydrangeas. And pine trees. Oh, and those wooden roses! And, well, boys who called me Ma'am.

In spite of which, I'm glad I got the hell out of there. My parents didn't think I was studying hard enough to warrant the fee. So, of course, they uprooted me. I would uproot me! I was made to study harder when I was with them, under their noses, uh-huh, absolutely. My brother was in the same boat. I don't remember what he was flunking. I imagine we were the shameless duffer siblings giggling over whose single digit result was more brazen. Yes, I know how that sounds. But even though being pulled out was, some might argue, a hindrance to our growth as human beings or whatever -- they say continuity is good for a child -- but if it got me (can't say 'us') out of an unhappy environment, I think flunking Sanskrit might have been the biggest bloody blessing of my academic years.

So now, all these years later, and with all this time on my hands to replay flashes that I sent to the back of class, I'm curious about returning to the place where so much happened that I remember but so little for which I feel anything. Other than a detached vividness and I'm not sure 'detached vividness' is an entry in any dictionary of feeling.

But I'm all grown up now. Like Swati. I could do hotels and boys. I could switch those two words, replace a preposition and make that a spiffier line. All because I'm older. With longer hair. With grayer hair! With opinions worth a year's cross stitch syllabus that Woven Suri could have taught very well. And here I am, with my pen and paper, looking for clues thanks to my Nancy Drew mentality. Nancy wants to dip her toes in the water, a pool of the dumped and the recollected. I want to allow myself as a grown up, to trace the memory of how cold it was back when I was The Case of a Fat, Shivering, Bespectacled Kid with a Mushroom-cut, and see how that coldness shaped my true colours.

Next post can be about the 90th bash. I'm sure it'll be a goldmine of stuff worth reporting. Right now I have a bag to pack and a song to hum. You know the one.


Nitika said...

I remember reading an older post of yours about studying in a boarding in/near Shimla. I thought you went to APS Dagshai :p

My parents almost put me and my sister in boarding school twice. Once in Welhams and the second time when I cried and cried on being sent to Lawrence, Lovedale coz my best friend was going there :)

But I ended up having the typical fauji upbringing of APS and Central School with a few Convents thrown in here and there :)

Enjoy your trip.. Driving or taking the Shatabdi?

Nimpipi said...

Ha! They tried to put me in Welham too. But my brother didn't get through Doon. Next stop Sanawar. Again, I got through, he didn't. Finally he went to BCS, I went to Chelsea. No Dagshai. Despite the Army-army, we have all these chips embedded on shoulders :P Oh and lovedale, he went to later. I put my foot down.

No tickets for shatabadi. No one wants to drive. Volvo it is. Overnight. Reaches 5.30 a.m. Full majja for my bound-to-cramp knees, I tell you. :)

thebaniyaspeaks said...

Have a fun trip pip!

Ellie said...

I love this post. I love that you are from a far away land with a far away culture, yet you write the universal. You write what I feel.

This is spot on: "I'm curious about returning to the place where so much happened that I remember but so little for which I feel anything."

The.Mystic said...

Happy Birthday to your Granny, what do you give a 90 year old on hr birthday? You going to Dharamapur (only place I've been which is 40km from Shimla). I was never from an army background, but my school was in the heart of Parade Ground, Delhi Cantt by far the most beautiful place in Delhi, it reminded me of a beautiful poem by Wordsworth. Funny thing I heard the AK and RT song in for the first in a hill station too, I was 5 and I really liked the song then.
Reading your post reminds me of school, funny thing I just remember the building and the gardens and a few teachers but never my "friends".
Have a great vacation, you're a doing the proper Delhiwalla thing, spending summer in Simla. Happy Holidays Lass!

Anonymous said...

the text for "90th bash" looks like "goth bash". ho ho ho.

Sanchari said...

Also nearly ended up at Welham's! What's with parents and Welham's?

Nimpipi said...

b: odd fellow, you, putting me in a strange, unfamiliar spot. No more comments, TEXT!

Ellie: Aww-quotient really warmed my innards:)thank you.

Myst: Isn't Dharampur lower than Shimla?

Anon: indignation for you, sentimental ho ho ho-er.

Sanchari: I know! Also with the alumunus who always, always (rightfully, i guess) correct you, "er, it's welhAM..?"

(I just saved you a moment of cocktail party embarrasment:)