Blissfully unaware in probably the tiniest part of the world, my friends and I rattled off our own assumption of English.
“Sister, she’s not get-upping only”.
“We’re put-upping the charts on the wall.”
“I’m not going to eat your lactober.”
But that changed slowly as I started reading the great works of Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, Nancy Drew & Hardy Boys, Dr. Seuss and Wodehouse.
Get-upping: Getting up
Put-upping: Putting up
Lactober: (Wait for it… cause it’s legendary…) Leftover
I went to a boarding school, nestled in the lap of the mighty Himalayas with flowers of different scents, texture, taste, design sprouting around me. And so much quiet I could hear the ants snore! Exactly the kind of utopia writers escape to nowadays for inspiration and time away to write, from the horrible, horrible city.
So I wrote terribly short stories. Like this one –
The clouds realigned to look like different animals, like a jungle in the sky. Rehan came out dressed as Mowgli again; ready for a new adventure.
There was so much of the sky and clouds one could see, and (real) grass to lie on for daydreaming. Today, sitting in an apartment in Bombay, I try hard to remember the last time I wrote about nature. But there’s a different kind of story I find inside me. So, I write this dialogue between two lovers–
“Can I carve something on your body to remember me by?”, she asked him. Naively, he handed her a pen to draw on his hand. She took out a needle and some ink instead, and said, “permanent”, with a somber look in her eyes. “We are permanent”, he said, disturbed not even slightly by her eccentricity. “I’ll surprise you tomorrow”, she said before she started drilling the Kanji for “tiny” on his left arm."
My dad is a doctor. So as a little girl I would wake up early on holidays, get dressed with him, drop him to his cabin and run around different rooms, curiously examining the anatomy of the hospital. What struck me most were the wires in the wards that were entangled and looked like they would kill people; totally opposite of what they were supposed to do. So I wrote –
“I opened the door and quietly sneaked in. The life support he was on didn't move to the rhythm of his breath that had lulled me to sleep every night. His crinkled nose was under a carefully drafted plastic cover that was opaque. The wires that helped him live looked like they'd strangle him anytime. The artistic fingers now looked like tools with many, many pins and needles poked on it.
Could I call him Edward Pinhands? Bad joke.
I wish I could use his pinhands to drill holes on my body, so even I could be wrapped under the wires and life support, and the many, many pins. Cause I think that's where I'd find him. And we can be happy again.”
When I went for my first trip to Europe I was amazed at how many gardens they could afford to have. And grownups had time free to lie on the fresh grass for hours! It amazed me. Heavily intoxicated by Yash Chopra’s movies I imagined the beginning of a love story in one of those parks. So I wrote this scene –
“It was a balmy Sunday morning, just like today. He was walking his dog and she was lying on the grass with her headphones on, between rows of cool cypress trees. The sunbeam hit her hair and set them ablaze. She looked as riveting as a lit matchstick. Suddenly she sat up and looked around. She spotted him at a distance and shouted, "Do you like parathas?"”
And on and on I go to different places and I collect scenes and write them in my notebook. Every place warrants a different mood, a distinctive story. One day I’ll string them together into a book of short stories – my favourite format. Until then –
“"I'm leaving", she said as she dragged her suitcase to the near end of the hall.
"Can we make love, one last time, please?", he looked expectedly.