Monday, August 22, 2016

The Wedding Gift - Part 2

I met Rakesh at the end of the street, it seemed that he said that my dad would be dropping us at the venue. I thought to myself, 'he copied my idea'.

Without realizing we have spent an hour in the gift shop to look for a gift and nothing occurred to us. We have never attended a wedding all by ourselves, and let alone gift, someone. Rakesh was not helping he just kept on agreeing with me for every damn suggestion of mine, saying, "I think that would be nice."

Towards the end I decided the best gift is to buy a pen, we bought the most expensive pen in the shop, the add gel pen, the dream of every kid in the class. 

And at the wedding as we gave her our gifts, she was trying her hard not to laugh, at that time I couldn't understand why. 

After thanking us she asked, "So where is your mother or father? Who came with you," saying this she scanned behind us for my parents. She has seen them so many times. 

"Miss, we are alone. Our parents are not here," said Rakesh. 

"What? I'll talk with your mother tomorrow, Ravi. How could she leave you alone?"

And then and there my bubble of big man feeling got burst. I thought finally one teacher gave us the credit we deserved, we weren't kids anymore. After all, she gave me the compass box, she should know. But I had no time to feel sorry for myself, I had to do some damage repair. So, I said, "No miss, my dad dropped us here, he'd pick us up in an hour." 

"Oh, ok, now you too go and eat food, whatever you like and don't be shy. But be careful okay? Don't go jumping here and there like you guys go during the recess."

Unknowingly she was crushing my feeling of awesomeness minute by minute, word by word. 

Back when I entered home mother was sitting along with two of neighbor aunts, who were happy for the vacation for other times mother never had time for their chitchat. As I entered, my mother was telling them how her little Pandu acted like a big man that day. She told them with pride, "He wanted to buy a gift for her teacher, how thoughtful. He acted really mature, my little boy." 

As soon as my neighbor aunts saw they asked, unable to contain their curiosity, what gift I had given to my teacher, the bride. 

Finally one saving grace, I thought, beaming with pride, "The add gel pen," I announced, and immediately the aunts started laughing as if I told them the biggest joke of the planet. I was almost tempted to tell on their sons, who always used to birch about how strict and devil like their moms were, during the evening games  in the street. 

mother came to my rescue saying, "How thoughtful, a teacher can never really have enough red pens, with all the grading she had to do. 

I should have stopped and let mother talk but somehow I couldn't, she was saying nonsensical things, "But mother, it was a black gel pen, everyone knows that nothing beats the black add gel pen. I wanted to give her the best, so I gave her the black add gel pen." 

At first, my mother gave a dry laugh as if she was embarrassed, but, later she joined the aunts. I think she was trying her best, from the beginning, not to laugh and she couldn't anymore. 

For many years later I felt embarrassed about that day. My mother brings that up in family gatherings now, to point at adult me and say, "who gifts a pen to a bride?" and everyone at the family gathering would laugh. 

A few years later, while I was in my twelfth grade, in a movie theater I saw Geetha miss, along with her husband, and two kids, who I assume are her kids. I was about to go and talk to her but I was reminded of my gift. I constructed a scene in my head, where she was telling her kids, "Here is my favorite student, he gave me a pen as a gift for my wedding,"  and her husband and children would laugh. 

So I abstained from talking to her, but all through the film, I could never enjoy it. I was afraid she might turn back and recognize me, which was silly since it was so dark in there. Thankfully my parents did not notice her, otherwise, they would have initiated the talk. Throughout the movie, I was sitting right behind her, waiting for the movie to end, having had to consciously swallow my saliva, for a part of mind was thinking out all the combinations in which she would spot me, like when I go out during intermission or because her kids randomly, for no reason turn back and start talking with me and thus bringing me to her notice...

Thinking about that incident I now feel silly for not talking with her then. Adult-me feels how it was more silly of me not talking with her when I was in twelfth grade than the action of gifting her a pen. And as I give a real thought now, there is more chance that she would have enjoyed my gift more than some good for nothing scenery someone gifted that she gifted to someone else or was in the attic of her house. I've long since understood the beauty of minimalism and functionality. The best gift is the most useful gift. Or, for a book lover, the best gift is always a book or kindle. 

You can never give a better gift than the gift of Maggi (noodles) to an engineering student. Trust me you might have saved some lives and helped them on some long nights by gifting them those noodle packs. Maybe along with a small electric kettle if you can.

But, after all is said and done, I still think the whole process of gifting is rather a tiresome ritual. To this day neither my fifth-grade classmate sruthi nor my mother know, that I ate 90% of money my mother gave me to buy her a gift and gave her a knick-knack with whatever was left, well, nothing much left though. 

The Wedding Gift

I have no choice but agreeing with Sheldon Cooper of 'the big bang theory' when he said that 'the entire institution of gift giving makes no sense'.

It was almost a decade ago. She was one of my favorite teachers, Geetha miss. I don't exactly remember why I liked her so much, but it might be because she gave small rewards to toppers of every exam. Not the prizes which were given by the school, some small gifts with her own money. Which meant I got regular prizes from her. I can safely say I was one of her favorite students if not the absolute favorite, who am I kidding, of course, I was her absolute favorite student. 

At the end of my fourth grade, she, following her usual custom gave us prizes and that year she gave me a compass box, a box that contained many scales, protractor, a circular and many other assorted stationary items and mathematical instruments, to the topper since from fifth grade onwards students are supposed to bring the compass box. And I was almost jumping with excitement as she handed me over that box in front of the entire class.  I could see everyone burning with envy. I could feel the heat of their jealous stare at 'my'  compass box as I received it. Second and third prizes were some lame ruler set and pencil, pen set, lol right? 

I came back to my place and after letting a few of my friends see it, with utmost care. And towards the end of the class I was trying to fit the compass box in my shirt pocket, almost tearing a part of it in the process, so that it'd be visible as I walk past everyone after the school,  when she, out of nowhere, dropped the bomb, "So, dear students, I won't be coming to school next year." 

"Why, miss?"

"I'm getting married and so I'm moving."

It was almost as bad a news as listening that India lost a cricket match or like knowing that we can't visit grandpa's house immediately during the vacation because they were somewhere else. It was a devastating news. But after the class, Geetha miss called me, My friend who always used to accompany me accompanied me that time too. She invited me to her marriage. 

This was huge. I couldn't believe she invited me since in most the marriages kids were totally ignored. Kids are seen as just entertainment, but nothing else. Whenever I was at a wedding all I got to do was play with the elevator and drink coffee which is usually denied to me at home. Weddings and those ritual proceedings were confusing, with throngs of aunties, with their bright in-your-face sarees always blocking your path. Whenever I asked some doubt all the female folks sitting in a circle, my aunts along with their aunts and cousins just laughed as if I told them a joke and no one ever actually clarified my doubts, and bluntly snubbed us. All they cared about was if I along with other kiddos had eaten, and that we would be not playing on roads. 

So getting invited to a marriage felt like suddenly being awarded a mustache. To me, mustache meant a person of significance. A big man who can't be ignored. I'll be officially received and all my doubts will be clarified with great care since I'm a big man now. And when a big man asks questions people respond, not laugh. I was sweating out of excitement as I stood there when she invited me to her wedding, thinking all this. 

She also invited my friend to her wedding, but I'm almost sure that's because he was standing right there and it'd be rude if she didn't invite him, besides she knew that, that friend of mine is my tag. 

I was making a fuss out of it as they day approached, it was during the summer vacation. And as the day came I saw the dress my mother (mother) selected as I came out from my bath. Like most of the kids' dresses in those days, my wardrobe consisted mostly of knickers and shorts, with only a few pants reserved for special occasions. It was very difficult to get pants that fit us. So most of the times we should get it stitched by a tailor. Being in villagish-suburban towns it was much easier to get shorts and knickers rather than going through the process of buying cloth, soaking it and drying it and going to a tailor, giving him measurements and haunting him till he gave the stitched pants. 

As I came from bath I saw that mother picked for me a short, can you believe it a short. She, it seemed, didn't realize the gravity of the situation and the onus on me to be a big man, attending a wedding all by myself (my tag along friend doesn't count, he's like a banana in a game). I argued with her and made her iron my pants and I was ready to go and asked her ideas for the gift. She laughed and told me, "she wouldn't be expecting a gift from you, Pandu, she will be happy just to see you there." 

"And why is that?"

"Because you're just a little kid."

"No, I'm not. Should I remind you that after this vacation I'll be using a compass box every day? Or did you forget that from fifth grade onwards we are supposed to wear pants to school, no more knickers? mother, I'm not a small kid anymore."

mother laughed again, but replied, "okay big man, what to you want to gift?" 

"I've not decided yet, mother, just give me some money I'll buy on the way."

She gave a little more than what I asked for and I asked her to open the gate for me, as the clamp on it was on the top of it, and I was only half as tall as our huge blue gate. She made a face of incomprehension and asked in a voice that was a couple of notes higher than usual, "What do you mean open the gate? Your dad hasn't come home yet. You think that you could go alone? You're mistaken young man, dad will drop you there and will pick you after an hour." 

My mother herself is a teacher and thus was in her summer vacation along with me. But my dad's office has no such 'summer vacation'. I didn't think through it, about going to the wedding venue. I'm a big man now, I don't want to be embarrassed by taking help of my dad. I had my own bicycle. But if course mother won't let me. To save my grace I lied, "mother, of course, I won't be going alone, I will go to Rakesh's house and his dad will drop us and later pick us up." 

In those days we didn't have a phone yet, thankfully and she had no way of confirming it except my word. 

"You could have asked him to come to our house and pick you up and leave. Your dress will crease if you bicycle. Besides, why do you always hang out with Rakesh? Can't you pick some nicer friends?"

As usual, she has a very valid point, "mother you know Rakesh, he won't get ready without me prodding him like a cowherd. Although he might be a bit slow, he is a nice person." 

She opened the gate, after looking inside squinting to make out what the time was from the clock in the hall, "You should be back within two hours. Understand?" 

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