6

The LAST BENCH

The LAST BENCH…

It was the start of summer of 1997, and I had successfully completed sixth standard and got myself admitted in seventh. Usually the session began from April and all the new admission happened by then…but there were a few who would join the session a bit late sometimes in May and some even later than that after the summer vacations got over.

Our class had a rotation system, in which every row of student got to sit in the front row once in a week. By then most of the class knew my ways…I had the last row just to myself…with no one ever asking me to rotate.

The Place where it all began

The Place where it all began – Image Ref: Neha Uttam Kumar (www.craftoon.in)

It was a sunny morning and we had returned to our classes after the morning prayers. My south Indian Class Teacher who happened to be our English teacher was taking the roll calls. She had reached midway only…when a female voice interrupted her, ‘Ma’am!! May I come in’? She was another of those late admissions. Hardly had I known then that this girl would turn out to be one of closest friends I’ll have for two decades. (Yeah you heard it right…TWO DECADES).

‘Ma’am!! May I come in’, she asked for the permission again. The sound of a girl’s voice was more than enough for all the students to gaze towards the entrance especially the boys from all the rows…from first to last…and hence my vision was also scanning her. The first thing I noticed (which I remember) was her free flowing golden brown hair on an unusually tall girl for a seventh grade. Modern would be the wrong word to use here, as she looked more urbane than others. When the length of other girl’s skirts tip toed with their matching socks’ she stood out with just knee length ones. Her tall, waxed (I should not mention here but was uncommon in those days) legs added to the allure.

The teacher gave her permission to enter the class. She got her name registered in the attendance register and started looking for a place to sit. Unfortunately for her the girl’s row was full (Yeah we had a separate girls row  ) and Fortunately for me I was the only one sitting on my Last bench. She walked between the girls and the boys’ row and everyone from the first seat to the last followed her with their salivating stare till she reached my bench. I was no dud either but never…ever had any girl asked me, whether she can sit next to me…and hence with my unprepared nervous look…I nodded. That’s how my last bench friendship started…

The girl with the brown hair - Image ref - and-beautiful-blue-drawing-favim-com-1624755.jpg

The girl with the brown hair – Image ref – and-beautiful-blue-drawing-favim-com-1624755.jpg

She came across as a brat to me and would carry the fanciest of things you could imagine…from glitter pens to different type of colorful pencils…from unusual hairpins to…colored covers for the notebooks. There was a child in her who decided never to grow up even to this day. She was careless at times…was extremely pampered and amusingly clumsy with things and at times with herself too. The more I got to know her…the lesser that feeling got, ‘where it was a big thing to sit next to a girl’ and in no time we were like buddies and had our gang.
Giver her height, she took the utmost advantage of it…she was an athlete and played a lot of sports. When other girls were busy chitchatting and playing stupid games she would be around us on the field or on the basketball court. This made our bond stronger. Whether it was recess or sports period or just chatting in the canteen we were everywhere.

All this gave a tomboyish feel to her. There would be occasions when we would be standing in the canteen and she would have her arm around my shoulder and it was the onlookers which made me realize that it’s time to take that arm off from there. She hardly gave a damn about those kind of people and that was the most likable thing for me in her. She knew what was good to her and always followed that…though that can’t be said for the bad ones.

Slowly the standards n years passed…the gang got bigger…and we were something BIG back in those days. From academics to extra-curricular…from dance to sports…from good to bad…our group had a presence.

I was always worried for her as she was a bad judge of friends…she was very poor in knowing people’s intentions behind their smiling faces. And more often than not she ended up in tears…which infuriated me a lot.

At times she found scoring marks a little hard in the science subjects and hence opted for commerce stream as our sections changed. She found new friends…newer interests…and newer connections. Our time together lessened…some of the recesses went in just waiting for her…and soon the group began to decrease in size. Meeting her on rare occasions…seeing her happy…enjoying and having fun with her buddies…made me realize that it was in her best interest that we don’t force her to join us.

Though we were still in the same school but the last two years passed with the minimal of interaction between both of us. We knew we were still good friends…she knew I would be there for her every time she needs my help and the same was for me…but sadly the ‘fizz’ was gone from the bond.

As it happens in most of the cases the people who were best buddies in their school time…hardly are in touch after that. The same happened with us. We both were busy pursuing our own bachelors in different cities…we hardly spoke leave alone meeting, as the era of social media was yet to begin. Just an occasional visit to her house on festivals or public holidays and it was still not a guarantee whether I would see her.

Image ref: Google.com

Image ref: Google.com

Some two years later we were accidently in the same city and decided to meet up that evening in a mall…but on one condition that I will have to drop her home as it would get late by then. It was our chance to catch up on those lost years and to put a dressing wherever the cracks had begun to appear in our sweet special bond.

She shouted out a long ‘Hiiiieeeeee’ with her ever-sparkling smile the moment she saw me. She was wearing a white ‘Punjabi’ salwar ‘n’ kurti and was simply looking flawless. A small ‘bindi’ amplified her beauty many folds. In fact this was the first time I was noticing the feminine qualities hidden in her. She was more confident and surer of herself both in her looks and talks. For the first time I saw a beautiful girl in her and not the tomboyish brat who sat next to me.

I still remember, after about eight long years, each and every word she spoke…the conversation we had…where we sat…what we ordered. After the initial hi and hello…we began opening up about our lives…the harsh realities that she encountered during the last few years. I could see and sense the matureness, though it was not a lot, in her. She was not the same careless kid anymore. I personally believe, no matter how rich or happy you are…but the meaning to one’s life add only when they have had their share of the bitter truths.

Listening to her story…sharing my own…saw her eyes brim with tears…my heart went out to her and just wanted to hug my old buddy with whom I once shared that bench. But I refrained…don’t know why. We spoke for hours and then I dropped her home. She hugged me while I was still on the bike (such an idiot I am). My mind couldn’t detach itself and my thoughts kept on lingering with what all she told me.

We met a couple of more times after that, in fact on one occasion I met her with my girlfriend. But again the years passed…I left the country…she went back home…changed cities…changed professions. This time luckily the technology had taken the leap and we were in better interactive stage than last time.

Recently I got to see her again, this time on a promise of a Royal Enfield ride back home. We met at a café where she reached before me. Dressed casually in a jeans and top with a tinge of reddish color to her hair…she was looking cool. It being lunch time and the café not serving any intoxicating beverages…we opted for a pizza and ice teas. We chatted and chatted about…life…jobs…not getting married…parents…pressures…everything. Her eyes brimmed a couple of times and I refrained and restrained myself again.

It gave me goose bumps when I realized how time flew and it’s been like two decades when we first shared the bench together. For a moment I felt as if we were those kids back from the school days. She told me about how she enjoys her single status by learning all kinds and forms of dance and how it has made her a dance freak…that I actually love.

The sun was about to set and she had a dinner plan…so finally we got on my Royal Enfield and headed home. I did not make any efforts to prove that I am lesser of an idiot now and again hugged her while sitting on the bike. Gifted her some chocolates, which I got from my eurotrip for her. While hugging her, my cheeks accidently felt her cheeks, which were already being kissed by her hair. For the first time I felt like kissing her…felt as if that moment should remain forever. She crossed the road and went inside her home…I was still standing in that moment…wishing her to come back. Would have got down from my bike…removed the hair strands playing with her face…embraced her nicely…looked into her deep dark eyes…made a promise to them that no tear of sorrow will ever hug them…all your worries are mine now…and…would have asked, “Will you be my Dance Partner for Life”?

For all those who were back bencher,

For all those who were first bencher,

For all those who still can’t convince her,

For all those who had a brat as their best friend,

For all those who never had any,

For all those who love her smile,

and

For all those who want her as their dancing partner for life

It’s not a GoodBye,

But it’s a GOOD BYE…aur han Happy Women’s Day to her and all the women out there as everyone is special and beautiful in their own way. Cheers!!!

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

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13

The 28 ‘Something’ Bachelor

This Post is among the 12 Best Blog Posts of 2015 in India.

Best Blogposts of 2015


The 28 ‘Something’ Bachelor…

Are you 28 years old or above??
Are you single??
Do you get nervous these days before you login into social media with the fear of somebody posting a status or a pic of their engagement…marriage or even the birth of their child??
Are you avoiding paying a visit to your relatives??
Or are you simply fed up ducking the question of WHEN ARE YOU GETTING MARRIED?? Then this one is truly for you.

Remember the famous dialogue from the Rani Mukherji starrer movie ‘Hum Tum’ where she ends up confronting, ‘Jab tak ek ladki ki shadi nahi ho jati…logon ko chain kyu nahi padta’ (why doesn’t anyone finds peace till the time a girl gets married) but I personally believe it holds true for everyone. I think life isn’t as easy as everyone thinks for boys even.

The Settle down logic

The moment you are in that age bracket everyone from your mausi (aunt) to your chachi (Another aunt)…from your milkman to even your maid ask or I should say poke you with the same question or to put it nicely with a caring suggestion, “Beta why don’t you get married now?” why don’t you settle down, as if I am a dust particle and the only motto of life is to settle down at a place. Unknown…Unseen…Unheard people appear from all corners of the world with their logic of why one should get married and they try to convince you with all their might. I think if you ask a person who has been married for let’s say about 50 years…I am sure he/she won’t be able to answer the question how can marriage be related to the concept whether a guy is settled or not?

Image ref: suburbanbachelor.wordpress.com

Image ref: suburbanbachelor.wordpress.com

‘Budhape ka sahara’  (Old age policy) 

If you try really…and I mean really hard to explain your side of the logic of why you are not getting married…some of them actually end up agreeing with you but then come up with their own philosophy of, ‘Beta!! We understand that these days marriages are not lasting as long as they used to but don’t think about the present…think a little ahead…think about the future when you will be 45-50 years old.’ ‘Then at that age you will surely need someone to share your morning walks and evening talks.’ But then how can one make these people understand that if anybody wants someone at that age then he/she can find someone of that age…at that age…rather than screwing up your life some twenty odd years before.

‘Responsibility se bhag rahe ho’ (You don’t want to shoulder your responsibilities)

The third most common ‘stirrer’ used by the world against you…or in other words for you to get married is that you are running away from your responsibilities and you don’t want to shoulder them. At times it angers me but most of the time it muses me when someone says this to my face…because the same people forget…what the hell a guy is doing when he tries to fulfill his parent’s dreams of becoming a successful person…how is he running away when he is the one who is already taking care of his parents and closed ones or will be taking care of you in your old age. According to these people the only logic which survives is that ‘if a guy is married…he is responsible otherwise he is just a loafer who is busy dodging bullets of responsibilities.’

‘Shadi ki ek age hoti hai’ (The right age for marriage factor)

Everybody has plans…and he might also have some plans…and marriage might not be on the cards on an immediate basis. Having said that, I know, there is a right age for marriage and if the plunge is not taken at the right time, it will surely have an effect on the ‘Quality’ of offspring but given the current lifestyle and the expenses of settling in a metro requires some planning…some savings and a lot of mental toughness. What if the guy is simply not mentally ready??? In any case these days’ people are deciding to get married at a later age when they feel that they have at least tried to cover all the corners.

‘Kab tak akele rahoge – khana kaun banayega’ (Till when you will stay alone…and for God sake who will cook for you)

I guess the day my mom realized that my dad can’t even put on a gas stove she decided that her son will be able to suffice all his cooking needs. Still the so called caring relatives…the ones whose life is already hell…try to make sure…yours is surely one too. ‘Now that you are already have a good job…a four-wheeler…and you have already booked a flat…why don’t you get married?’ ‘At least when you return from work someone will be there to share your day and more importantly till when will you cook by yourself.’ My logic, if I have to stay…’happily married’…in a big city…both the partners need to work to meet out the expenses and the expectations and in that case a maid needs to prepare the meals for both of us…so if I have to eat maid cooked food after marriage too…why not let me cook my meal…and stay… ‘Happily unmarried’ 😉 .

‘Duniya kya kahegi…jarur ussi me kuch kami hogi…baal bhi kam ho rahe hai’ (The world will think that there is surely something wrong with him only…and more importantly you are losing hair day by day)

If you take too much time to decide on your marriage…the world will think that there is certainly something wrong with you. Some may come up with wild medical guesses others will somehow link this to your old heartbreaks and believe me this definitely happens. Even your friends begin to taunt you, ‘bhai sab kuch thik hai na…kabhi field me cricket ball to nahi lag gayi’ (is everything totally fine with you medically). My simple reply to this is a silent…stern…smile.
Then there are the ones who really treat you as their son. The moment you reach their place they will have a newspaper cutting saved for you with new Ayurvedic hair oil, which can increase obviously your hair growth. And you slowly fold that paper…into your pocket…with a genuinely ‘fake’ smile…’Ji aunty main kal hi ye tel kharid leta hu’ (I’ll definitely buy this one tomorrow). But I don’t blame them only…it’s the ‘awesome’ mindset of our society that the moment a guy starts losing his hair…he is considered old…an uncle. I really pitied my cousin who had to get a hair transplant just to get married…sad.

The ones who have taken the plunge also begin to push

Even the ones with whom you have shared your childhood…your bruises…your secrets and your memories begin to push you to get married. Sometimes for the simple reason because they themselves don’t want to be the one who have to swallow the pill alone. ‘Yaar tu kab tak akela rahega…bhai!! Ab tu shadi kar le’. You call them in the middle of the night with some of your issues and the only resolve they will come up with is, ‘Bhai!! Ab tu shadi kar le’. You will say…these days I don’t find interest in office with the profile that I am handling…and their reply, ‘Bhai!! Ab tu shadi kar le’ (Dude!! Get married).

Infact these days…some of the long-lost friends ping me only, either to share their CVs so that I can refer them or to check on me…when I am actually getting married. My ‘bhabhis’ (Sister-in-laws) have found even a newer way to harass…every time I wish them…their only blessing is ‘Jaldi shadi ho bhaiya’ instead of ‘Jeete rahiye bhaiya’. I remember recently attending a school friend’s marriage and out of all the friends who turned up…I was the one who was single…but I guess that should not be the reason to get married…Right!!!

Image ref: prokod.com.tr

Image ref: prokod.com.tr

The Emotional Attyachar

The list will never end for the singles out there…but the last one…the big one…which I believe the parents use to get daughters as well as their sons married is ‘the emotional attyachar’ (the emotional blackmail). ‘Beta!! Hum marne se pehle pote-poti ka muh dekhna chahte hai’. It’s so pathetic that they use their death to blackmail their kid for marriage…leave alone their choice for the marriage. It’s so convenient for them…they decide all your childhood…they decide more or less what career you choose. I believe the decision with whom you want to spend your life with…whether you want to spend it with someone or not should be yours.

For all those who are going to ask me after reading this whether I am actually going to get married is, my reply would be, ‘Arrange marriage main karunga nhi…aur pyar humse koi karta nahi’

For all those who are 28 years old or more,

For all those who face similar issues,

For all those who are married,

For all those who are bachelors,

And

For all those who believe Singlehood is awesome

It’s not a GOODBYE,
But its a GOOD BYE…Aur han…Believe me I still believe in the institution of Marriage…

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul