The Hajmola – A sour friendship

My 2nd grade in Primary School was the least favorite year of my school life, or at least, this is what I thought back then. My mom took me to Tirupathi during the summer holidays of my 1st standard to have a barber shave my head. This was done to please God in return for a favor He had bestowed upon us. So I went to PS that year wearing a pink frock and a pale yellow hat. Little did I know that I was in for some serious bullying.

Now kids don’t generally think much. They say and do things without actually meaning much harm. So most girls always forgot my real name and began calling me Gundu (the Telugu word for a bald head), girls wanted to pull my pale yellow hat off my head, while some girls wanted to use my bald head to play tabla, some others wanted to run their hands across my head and feel its prickliness. It made me angry. I used to scream, fight, and complain to the teachers, but after a while I just let go and became very quite.

Our school followed the regular norm like any other school except you could throw in prayers five times a day. We were woken up class-wise, sent downstairs to brush in the kitchen pantry, came back upstairs to sit in a queue to where ammas would give us a quick bath, sent to have our hair checked for lice (which we fondly called butchi-checking, I have always wondered why), oiled and combed neatly and then sent downstairs for breakfast followed by assembly before we went to class.

It took me very little time to understand that since I could skip a big portion of the regime, that being the hair-service, I could be the first in class. Now don’t ask me what’s the big fuss in being first. I don’t know. In a class that had anywhere between 35 – 40 girls, being first was always a big deal. I just had to be the first one to wake up, and be first in the line to brush. The rest would follow. And that is exactly what I decided to do. Soon I came first in almost everything. The teachers began to like me and my class girls, not so much. They thought I was greedy and was taking advantage of the fact that I could skip butchi checking. I had competition and I always won. Eventually, calling me Gundu became incessant and I had no friends. Absolutely.

Until she came along!

We had the December and early January every year dedicated to Sports Practice. This meant that we participated in various dances or drills and performed on January 11th, the Sports Day. Sports time was always fun. We were baked under the sun for several hours and treated to Rasna, we had no classes for more than a month, could wake up late, and just hang around in the dorm playing Charlie Chaplin, Categories, will you please, The queen of the palace, and other odd games. But before we got into serious sports practice, we would have one last Parents Meeting at the beginning of December after which we could only see our parents on Sports Day. My mom had come to see me and I had persistently bothered her to get me a Hajmola bottle. I loved the Hajmola tablets, most kids did. You didn’t necessarily need to have digestion issues to take it, it served more like tasty candy, it was sweet and sour and tangy, all at the same time. They were 130 tablets of pure joy in a dark bottle. Since we were never allowed to take outside food into the school, I was worried as to how I could fool the teachers standing at the blue grill entrance and take it inside.

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Just as I was thinking of a plan, my parents bumped into hers. Apparently, they knew each other and were acquainted for a long time. They introduced us to each other and I realized that she was my senior. We didn’t really talk much since you never really could be friends with your juniors or seniors. Anyway, she figured out that I was planning to take the Hajmola bottle inside and decided to help me smuggle it inside. We both held the bottle in our tiny palms, and acted like we were holing hands, bid goodbye to our parents, and marched into the lobby with confidence. I must admit that there wasn’t much checking going on either as it was the last parents meeting for the year and there were just too many people.

As soon as we went upstairs to the dorm, we had a good laugh. I took a look at her and decided that I liked her instantly. She was nice. She suggested that we hide the bottle away in my shelf, between my clothes lest anyone finds out that I had it. I did so but before that I decided that we both deserve a treat. From then on we became the best of friends. We always hung out together. It was sports time and so not many people would notice that a junior and senior were hanging out that much. She yelled at people who called me Gundu, and always saved a seat for me next to her in the dining hall, and gave me her glass of Rasna as she didn’t like it. And I, shared one Hajmola candy with her after every meal.

The word that I had the Hajmola candy was spreading fast. Soon my class girls began to approach me for them, and I gave two to people I liked, and one to people whom I didn’t. I always had to give the candy cause they could go and complain to a teacher that I had smuggled goods if I didn’t. Apart from the daily after meals dose, I began to give her one candy each time I had my class girls ask me for it, since she was almost always with me. She also suggested that I hide the bottle in different places in my shelf each day. That way nobody could steal the candy. This went on for at least about 10 days. I was on the verge of forgetting the fact I had been bullied and friend-less for a major part of that year, and was happy. Happy for having finally found a friend.

One afternoon, we were sitting in the dorm ready to go out for the drill practice when she came up to me and suggested that we both go to my shelf and pop the candy. I wasn’t in the mood but I couldn’t say no to her, so I told her she could go help herself since she knew the hiding spot for the day. That was probably the very first time she was going to have the candy on her own.

She came back a few minutes later, and whispered into my ear, “The candy is gone. Someone stole it. All of it, except two.” I was shocked. We both ran to my shelf and I turned it upside down and looked for it everywhere. “Where could they have gone? Who would steal them”, she asked. I couldn’t imagine. And why would someone leave just two of them and take away more than 70. Very sympathetic, eh!?! I took the remaining two in my hand and was about to pop them into my mouth but stopped myself. I took one of them and offered it to her and she thanked me profusely. And we marched out for drill practice.

That evening, she didn’t give me her glass of Rasna and later that night, she didn’t save me a seat next to her in the dining hall. I tired to go and talk to her a couple of times but she was always busy with her classmates and pretended like she didn’t hear me.

I didn’t have to be a genius to figure out that she was the only one who knew where I hid the bottle, and that it was the first time she went alone to my shelf to take the candy, and that she stole all of them.

Of course, it wasn’t just about the candy. As a 7 year old kid, I was heart broken at the treachery. She was in the same school for 10 years after this incident but I never spoke a word to her. I knew that in life I was going to be through friendships that maybe be more sour than this. But this one was my first, and it taught me what kind of a friend I should never be.

The Hangover

In one short line; my 73 day old Dell laptop cannot connect to the wireless internet. On a  very short note (you can contact me for the very long story); the last 20 days have been so frustrating because my laptop has been completely useless and astoundingly frustrating to a level that made me consider taking anger management classes. You see, a laptop that cannot access internet is worse than a T.V. that at least gives you 40 different channels.

This led me to realize that I haven’t gone without a computer for 10 years now. It took me back to the time when we had the Intel P3 desktop at home, the one that made a “kkksshh gggrrr pepepe” noise to connect to the internet via the BSNL land phone. And then, on to the time when I a had a very contented life with no e-mail, internet, computer, and/or a cell phone.

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I never slept well on May 31st nights. Every year, for 12 long years. About six of those nights were dreadfully teary as I did not want to leave ‘home sweet home’ and go back to school. The rest of them were spent in silent excitement to get back to the ‘real home’. Back then I was either too love struck or innocent to analyze the reason behind this feeling, all the way through 1991-2003.

Perhaps everyone who went to Primary School would agree with me on this. On being everything close to an ashram, this school was where I spent the 12 most valuable years of my life.

From the days when we all looked up at Sangeetha ma’am and were sure that she was the most beautiful teacher on earth to the days where Sashi ma’am caught us, big girls, for bunking darshan breakfast and milk, every monotonous day is worth reminiscing.

We had to write a letter to our parents every Saturday. Our class teacher would come into the class, distribute post cards, and write a letter on the board. We diligently copied away the letter, along with the drawing she made us reproduce on the back of the postcard. I moved from the yellow postcard to the blue inland letter, and from copying letters from the board to writing my own ones. It always bothered me that we couldn’t send or receive letters at our disposal, without them being invigilated by our class teacher. This obviously meant that we couldn’t write what we wanted to, all the time. Now I am not answerable to any teacher and can write what I want, when I want to. Nobody makes me sit down on a Saturday afternoon to write a letter.

Why is it that I wish that someone did so, and made me write that letter my dad has been asking me to write for over five years now?

Although letters were the main medium of communicating with the outside world, we were allowed to talk on the biscuit color landline phone sometimes. Those were the days when calling from Parthi to Anantapur was considered local. Oftentimes, I sneaked into the office when nobody was watching and treated myself to calling my home. Girls who wanted to talk to their parents came up to me and asked me to call my mom and ask her to call their parents and inform them that their daughter wanted them to give her a ring. This was an adventure that required Manorathi ma’am’s absence. The sneaking, the fear, having a bodyguard wait outside the office room and watch out for predators from the staff room just to use the damn phone seemed ridiculous then.

Why is it that now I have unrestricted and unlimited access to my cell phone and yet cannot make decent time to talk with my family?

In grade 6, during sports time, we had a friend who had a 67 keys Casio keyboard. I remember all our class girls being gaga over the instrument like little eager birds ready to try and fly for the very first time. We “caught places” to play, begged the keyboardist of our class to teach us a tune, and fought with the each other to practice these tunes. The only tune we knew to play was “Tujhe dekha to yeh jaana sanam” and we felt like Mozart when we played it. We used to be scared chickens who played on very very low volume since film songs weren’t allowed in school. I had vowed back then, when I was 12 years old, that I would buy myself the very same 67 keys Casio keyboard with the latest sound system, and turn into the great keyboardist of my time. And I did, the buying a keyboard part, I mean.

Why is my keyboard lying at some remote corner in the house, begging me to at least wipe off the dust it has accumulated?

Chocolates were a rare thing, ice creams and cool drinks too. We got to eat chocolates every Sunday, at lunch. We prayed, every Saturday, that H.M was in the mood for some pizza and not the brown egg-less cake and that Rajni ma’am would make the delicious square shaped pizza with nothing but onions and tomatoes on it. We fought for the strawberry milky-way ice cream bar over the mango one. Choco bar was a distant dream and GoldSpot was the best thing that could happen to you at the end of a week and you sipped on it for two long hours like you wouldn’t live to drink another one. We promised ourselves that we would never drink a glass of milk after the 12th grade and wished Limca had all the calcium we needed to build strong bones. I kept my promise here. My fridge is always loaded with Lindt and Ferrero Rocher, more or less has a pizza and coke from Domino’s Pizza, and occasionally a crate of Smirnoff Ice Flavors.

Why is it that I have the deepest longing for the red, yellow, and green Fanola candy and my heart aches to have an orange tongue from constantly sipping GoldSpot.

Those were the days when we carried around slam books each summer, just before we left school, and took down addresses and phone numbers of our friends. There was no Facebook, Yahoo, or Gmail then. We practically knew the addresses of some of our friends by-heart although we had never visited their homes. P.O Ghoom, Shimpoli Road  Borivali West, Saidabad Colony, Jayanagar etc. We could chant the class attendance order along with each ones date of birth even if you woke us up at midnight.

Why is that I cannot find time for those friends on their birthdays, even with reminders on Facebook?

My definition of heaven was the library, and library aunty was the luckiest woman alive as she got to spend all her days with books. The smell of old books, the hunt for a particular book, the brown chairs with a book stand to your right hand side, the corner where you could forget the entire world while you bury your head into the sea of knowledge and are unaware when the tiffin bell rings, all this for just forty minutes a week wrenched my heart. I had promised myself a room full of books and told myself I could have 24/7 access to it.

Why is it that now a kindle with my favorite collection of books seems less luring than my laptop with a Netflix account?

The pine for sleep. I’m not sure what it was that made us so sleepy all the time. We dozed during suprabhatam, assembly, bhajans, and night prayers. I dreaded those first few minutes in the early morning when Sashi ma’am came into the dormitory, switched on the lights and went ‘oooooooooooooommmm’. Sometimes she tickled our feet to wake us up. I thought that this was the most annoying sound I would ever hear in my life. Alarm clocks went by and now cellphone alarms seem captivating with all their different tunes, and you are even allowed to wake up to your favorite film song.

Why do I wish I had Sashi ma’am barge into my room, wake me up with the annoying “oooooooommmm” chanting and push me into the bathroom to brush? 

Why do birthdays remind me of being the first in the line? Why does chewing gum at work remind me of HM imitating foreign kids who chew gum disrespectfully in front of elders? Why do I miss the things that I was sure I despised, like stone idlies and bullet proof dosas? Why do I feel that the most comfortable couch on earth is the light brown one with silver rods, in the office room? Why do I sometimes secretly wish that I could get a whiff of the stink that came from dhobi clothes? Why do I still wish “Happy donekys birthday” every Jan 10th? Why does the love for a pair of white canvas shoes never die? Why do I still look to buy the steel plate with 4 katoris? Why don’t I feel embarrassed to lift my plate up to drink rasam with the “sluurrrp” sound even though we have guests at home? Why does playing on the elephant slide give me more joy than a roller coaster ride?

You will know what I mean if your answer is a long contented smile (as long as River Nile)

Mango People… Mango Pickle…

Although you hear me rave about Pepper Mushroom from Punjabi Dhaba on Mount Road, Paneer Tikka from Angeethi on Banjara Hills, Palak soup from Athiti in Ameerpet, and Gobi Manchurian from a hundred and one odd places, in my opinion these appetizers are mere soldiers in the mighty army. This invincible army, in the kingdom of food is solely ruled by a supreme master – His Highness Mango Pickle. The very thought of a plate filled with hot rice, ghee, and this spicy superstar tingles and lures my senses to the “jagrathavastha” with a demand to satisfy the needs of both, my stomach and my senses. I hereby declare “Mamidikaya Ooragaayi” as the outstanding appetizer, main course and the dessert (the mango piece of course ;-)).

My dad owned a mango groove, and when I was about 4 years old, one pleasant morning my cousins dragged me into it against my will and I had my first bee sting. My pain turned into anger and hatred for the fruit. As a kid, every summer my mother took me mango shopping. I forcefully accompanied her to the “older part of the town”, where the ideal mangoes could be found. The entire pain of walking through dirty lanes where auto drivers honked annoyingly, and waiting to have your mangoes chopped to the desired size, and the rehearsed ritual of buying new spices for the occasion of pickle making always seemed mysterious to me. What kind of sadistic pleasure did my mom and grand mom find in mercilessly preserving tiny mango pieces in loads of spices and salt? Why weren’t they gracious enough to let the pour souls ripen in a month or two and let us have the beautiful yellow fruit? This kind of negligence to “torturous bliss” probably developed because as kids we were denied the pleasure of having too much pickle. And, like they did us a great favor, the elders would graciously say, “Eat your food, I’ll wash the pickle piece and give it to you”. The unnecessary drama put up by my school teachers was unforgivable. We were practically not allowed to have even little pickle gravy until we turned into 5th graders. It made me ponder if Grade 5 stimulated taste buds to withstand spice. Huh!

For the very first time, this “aam fruit” caught my sincere attention in Grade 3. “Tall Vijju Ma’am”, our English teacher was reading out to us “The Man and The Mangoes” from the Gulmohar Graded English Course. After listening to a sad story about a poor old man’s owes in an attempt to sell his basket of mangoes, she decided to go ahead with dictation. This particular teacher used a very innovative approach towards teaching us how to spell words. For example, in Grade 3, spelling the word “together” correctly was a big deal for us 8 year olds. She asked us to write “to”, “get”, “her” as three different words and then write them together. So, on this drowsy day, she asked us to write “man” in our notebooks followed by a “goes” and join them “to get her” and we got a “MANGOES”. And, so it stuck. The beauty of this word, in my perspective makes you immensely happy for two reasons. One being the mango pickle itself, and the other being the optimistic joy you get when you hear that a “MAN goes”.  😛

Here is the extent of embarrassment that I went through just for a slice of mango pickle. Like I said earlier, we were served pickle only from Grade 5, always. This particular episode, however took place when I was in Grade 4. All the lucky stars of the 35 girls in my class, got together and were in a happy disco dance mood perhaps, our H.M Aunty ordered that we could be served pickle for lunch that day. Red pickle was always served to us from a small yellow bucket, this bucket seemed to me like a path to liberation or loose motion (I don’t care ;-)). My joy knew no bounds and after a true heart /stomach filling meal, I carefully took my very own pickle piece and washed it cautiously in the dining hall pantry, held it like precious gold (very close to my heart) and made a dash to the girls dormitory. I began nibbling the piece little by little, with loads of relish. Even before I was done we were sent to bed to take a short nap. Selfish that I was, I decided to keep half of the piece for the next day. Now this whole thing had to be done slyly as bringing food outside the dining room was considered a punishable offense. Thinking of many possible ways to hide my treasure, I sought the refuge of my pillow cover at last. My shelf wouldn’t be raided and I could escape with ease. And that is what exactly I did. It WORKED. The next night, when everyone was asleep I put my hand into the pillow cover and removed the half-eaten piece of mango pickle. Trust me, it was one of the most gorgeous thing I had ever tasted. Probably because of the extreme dryness, or the stale factor (I do not know), this tasted like immortal nectar that all the Asuras fight for. I chewed on it like it was gum for a while, and loved every bit of it before the swallowing part.

I only wish this was the end! That tiny piece had woken up in me, the devil of desire for a dry mango piece. I decided that  it would be my protocol each time we were served mango pickle. Two months later, another festive occasion came by and our dear H.M bestowed upon us the boon so restricted to the “big sisters and brothers”. The same steps were followed. Everything went on smoothly until the party time. We had some sort of a quiz that night and I was one of the last ones to finish it before I headed upstairs to my bed. As I approached my bed, there were a group of people around staring at it. My classmate came running towards me and said, “It was weird, there were red ants all over your bed. I did not know what to do and began dusting it and there was a dried up pickle piece. Hey! And Geetha Ma’am wants to talk to you about this”. I went heart broken to meet my class teacher and the rest was history. The royal shouting and punishment was less painful that the pining over the lost piece.

As I grew up to be a “big sister”, we were legally served pickle at least once a week. Of course, we illegally had it about 2-3 times a week. The yellow bucket was always placed on a table at the teachers counter, and each time we were sent to sit on their side of the dining room we stole it, lots of it. Yes, I am a proud pickle steal-er. If mango people are not crazy about mango pickle, what else should they be crazy about. 😀

OLEV : ______??

I was about 6 years old, when I took my entrance exam at Sri Sathya Sai Higher Secondary School. I vividly remember being coached for an entire year for it. I excelled in Math then, yes I really did. Basically I was good at anything and everything. I believe that was due to the enthusiastic childish spirit that refused to take “NO” for an answer. My mom often narrates one particular episode to most of my friends. This happened when I was in my 1 st grade. I had secured the 2 nd rank in my class. I couldn’t bear defeat, God knows why, the “it’s all a part of life” was absent in my dictionary. I forced my mom to take me to the HM and ask her why I had stood second instead of first. After a little bit of illegal and unauthorized digging into the exam papers, my HM told me that I had lost the first place to another girl, by one mark. ONE single mark. Oh yes, and I remember my mistake too. I had gotten my “umbrella” spelling wrong. Mine had a ‘single L’. Perhaps this incident played a major role in impregnating into me, the fact, that the value of a small, minute element often has a large, inversely proportional consequence.

Coming back to the entrance exam, it was a beautiful day in May 1991, and we were seated in the AB dormitory. I was given a set of Math and English questions to solve. I set to work immediately, with a practiced Om symbol on the top of my exam sheet. There I was ready to give my best, to make a dream my mom and me shared for one whole year, come true. I went through, solving and answering, almost everything with genuine ease. Finally, there it stood in front of me, a question I haven’t been able to answer till date. It was in the category of  ‘set the jumbled words right’. OLEV. I stared at it for a moment, blinked at it for two, sent memory soldiers on a tour in my head, nothing worked. Of course, I wouldn’t give up. I had already tasted the bitter fruits of a single mark. Time flew, refreshments came and went, interviews were done with, and almost when the time was up, my vain despair turned into hot tears. I couldn’t let go. And, so much like god sent, Vasanthi aunty came by, saw me crying and looked into my paper, wiped my tears and whispered into my ears, “It’s LOVE”. My joy knew no bounds, I quickly scribbled it on the paper, and marched out with a proud smile on my face. Also, completely clueless about the magnanimity of this word, I wondered in my head, why would a spiritual institution been so interested in asking a question about some crap they show in the films between a hero and a heroine. Yes, at the age of six, love perceptually meant that to me. And I did a shhhhh!! to my head and went to meet my mom outside the silver sarvadharma gate. The sshhhh came because my mom had strictly told me that talking or thinking about movies there was a huge crime.

I’ve grown to understand that love is something more than the feeling between two people running behind trees in a song sequence. I’ve come across different levels, and types of it. I’ve been with people who do insanely crazy things with the excuse of being madly in love and also with people who think love is a mere enormous commercial “word” which in its true sense doesn’t exist or have a meaning. I have experienced love in practically all its forms, right from its Divine aspect to being in immense love with a baby boy who isn’t my own. I have blushed about it, laughed in it, mourned over it and mocked at it.  After everything said, felt, and done, why does LOVE still appear to me, jumbled?? Why?

I Luv (my) Hate Storys…

Girlfriends! :-* A constant factor in every girl’s life, whether rich or poor, good or bad, single or committed, heartbroken or in a complicated relation, is a girlfriend. Referring to an anonymous point of view, most love stories begin with hatred. Weirdly, most of my girl ‘love stories’ either begin with hatred or seem to have in them a period of  extreme hatred. I often tend to owe the hatred portion to my extremely passionate mood swings, outbursts of anger (often unnecessary),  in addition to the inevitable external forces of circumstance. One of MY favorite love/hate story is the one with Navya, The Jajimi in it (you would understand why I address her so, if you knew her mastery over the English language) ;-). She also forced me to blog about her.

I went to school with this hot chick for 12 years (or 12 eras as she would prefer calling it), and I always despised her (or at least I thought I did so) to a level that defines hatred with irritation. Now, think of prankster who makes rib tickling jokes that literally make you roll on the floor laughing. One of the funniest episode Navya narrated (in grade 5) was the one where she convinced her grandmom that plots on the moon were out for auction, and she better hurry if she wanted to buy some land (on the moon) at a reasonable price. Sometimes she just had to open her mouth, the way she conveyed her point, even about trivial matters, was hilarious. Are you wondering where the hatred in the story arises. Well dude, she din’t spare her grandmother, why would she spare you? 😡 So basically Navya, to me, was this creature who irritated, teased and mocked you so hard that given a chance, you would want to beat her to pulp. My wavering hatred came back every now and then, but it would reach its ultimatum when she pissed me off real hard and then imitated the way my lips move when I am yelling at her. (Oh! my lips do twist a lot when I talk).  This girl used to play with the strings of my patience, like they were those of an electric guitar. I definitely need to narrate one particular incident here. My good friend Seshupriya, had a torn bag and was desperately in search of a new one to put her books into. She made an announcement asking who could lend her a bag. Navya raises her hand and says “Hey Seshu, I have a purple bag and you can borrow it for a while”. Hmmm, a relieved Seshu asks Navya for the bag and this is what my lovely girlfriend does; draws on paper, a bag, with a purple sketch pen and proudly gives it to Seshu, saying here it is! Trust me, you don’t want to get into what followed. 😛

12 years of togetherness din’t do much, and neither of us made any effort to stay in touch. But love happened immediately when I met her 3 years later. She had become a woman, my ideal girlfriend material. 😀 Her sense of maturity, her constant concern, the ‘you can wake up me at midnight and cry, I’ll be there for you’ attitude, and almost everything along with her silly, irritating mockery, I love it all. When I am with her I realize that almost everyone laughs at others, but it takes a great deal to make jokes and laugh at yourself. Yes, my girlfriend can do that. And like all my other friends agree, she is indeed ‘the ghee’ of the meal, meaning, her presence DOES make a difference. With her we are one crazy fish market . She is a person who can constantly call me ‘Taataki’ and still be one of my best friend (I will never forget that she din’t make it for my graduation though). Navya and me, we have walked similar paths, crossed similar horizons and drowned into similar oceans, all hand in hand. 🙂 I’m as glad as glad can be, this hate story turned into love. 😉 Baby, this one is for you, you ask and it shall be granted. In my prayers, I constantly tell God, “You have given me relatives, thank you for letting me choose my friends”.

An Invention of the Rubber!

Although rubber in almost all its forms 😛 was invented before the year 1992, there was an attempt to invent a really huge, flavored and colored rubber (yes, I know we are technically supposed to call it ‘eraser’) by 7 year old researchers in one of the world’s most sanest laboratories. The scientists involved in this episode were all in grade II, and they had in them a keen urge to liberate school going kids from carrying boring, odorless white Nataraj/Non-dust/Camilin rubbers. Whether their attempt was successful or not, shouldn’t be given importance, trust me you will know why towards the end.

The first scene in this episode goes back to my grade II dormitory (the precised lab setting) when we all decided to ‘make’ a rubber that we could be proud of, to use. Well, the recipe isn’t patented but I would still like it if you didn’t copy our experimental procedure. As far as my clearest memory can go, this method was suggested by my friend Gaya (coincidentally, today is her birthday). To make a rubber, here are the ingredients you will need along with how you should use them.

The ‘top part’ of a soap case (criteria: it should not have any water outlet holes), a ‘few’ ml of your favorite shampoo, and a ‘few’ grams of your favorite talcum powder. The ‘few’ here is directly proportional to the size of the rubber you want you make and the longevity of its odor. And so, you mix all the ingredients in your soap case and (this is the most innocent part of the story) put the soap case by the window sill in your dorm to dry for a few days. Of course, if we were allowed to keep perfume with us then, I’m sure we would have been asked to add a ‘few’ drops of them too. For some nice reason, the only cosmetics we were allowed to keep in our shelves were the soap, shampoo and talcum powder, not even the toothpaste. Yes, I repeat, not even the toothpaste. Wondering how we brushed? Every morning and night, we formed a line with our tooth brush to get paste. Our Warden aunty would be seated on a silver color trunk (the ancient form of a suitcase), patiently holding each brush and ‘putting’ paste. We walked up to her each day, and said “Sairam Aunty” before and “Thank you Aunty” after. I have grown from inventing rubbers to writing board exams, passed grades and changed dormitories, but each morning she sat there, without fail, taking care of little children. Aunty is a woman of substance and everybody’s favorite. I definitely cannot confine the possibility of describing her into a single paragraph or blog. Such is her impact on me. My learning and deliberate usage of the word “picchi-vada” is a sheer attempt to be at least a little like her. I should also mention here that I have a dear friend, (name undisclosed) who had a great affinity towards eating talcum powder, Cuticura to be specific.

Hmmm, coming back to what our little scientists were working on, the mixture actually never dried up, despite lying by the window for days and days. Our plans to launch the rubber that would smell like your favorite fruit and have the shape of your favorite cartoon character (we had wonderful artists who had offered to the shaping part) had to be given up. What else can researchers do when they run out of materials and grants? Anyways, I am just glad and thankful that ‘senior scientists’ addressed this child issue with a solution, because in the future if my 7 year old kid asks me for an eraser that looks like Popeye and smells like strawberry, all I have to do is go to a nearby store (rather than sit by a soap case at the window :-D).