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.