Thursday, April 6, 2017

To buy, or not to buy

(pic courtsey:

I sit in front of my laptop, in dilemma about an intractable decision. I have, on the screen, a very macho looking pair of boots recommended to me by a friend, and I’m facing the predicament of giving my verdict to my heart, ‘To buy, or not to buy’.

As a kid, I used to hate shoes because shoes always meant more and unnecessary work. I never saw anything good about shoes, except for the procedure of going out and buying them, a ritual I liked the most. As vacation ended and as we, I and my brother, got promoted to higher classes, almost invariably we had to be bought new shoes either because we outgrew the old ones or because the old ones needed a replacement, along with other sundry items needed to start the new term. Sitting there in the shoe shop, which was owned by some uncle whom my dad knew very well, and trying out different varieties before settling down to the one to be taken. As we came back home, I and my brother would try shoes again to show to amma while my dad was busy wrapping our new books with covers. And here ended whatever good feeling I had about shoes and my woes with shoes would start.

As I get ready in the morning I would wait for amma/dad to come and tie my shoe lace as it was an arcane skill that I haven't mastered even today. My amma being a teacher, while most mothers in my locality were homemakers, was herself busy in the morning preparing food for us while getting ready to leave to her school. She would come and tie my shoes while muttering I should learn to tie them myself and I'd give a sheepish grin. And once the laces are tied for the day they would remain such until my amma has undone them again, which might be that evening or sometimes many evenings later. I usually am not bothered to remove my shoe laces as I come back home in the evening but my dad, amma, and brother chided me saying that that was not the correct way to remove my shoes and telling that it was the reason I have my shoes worn out by the end of the term every year. I might have heavily played football (more like heavy kicking than game and strategy) towards the end of my school year that seemed to help the process.

Shoes always felt a little loose or little tight, but never the fit I wanted. And they are very impish creatures, shoes.  They start irritating when it is least expected. As the morning assembly progressed and we were all required to stay silent and still they would begin to chafe. And I'd awkwardly try to rub that foot with my other one and my class teacher would give me a stern look for moving while the assembly is in progress. And as soon as the assembly comes to an end the irritation would be gone, just as magically as it started. They just wanted to get me into the bad books of my teacher.

I like the feeling of the wind on my toes and hate the smell of socks. So as soon as I settled in my seat I would yank out my feet from my shoes, lace still intact because I know not how to tie them if they were undone, unless some kind soul in the school took pity on me and helped me. This removing shoes always put me in a disadvantage for when a teacher called me out, which would often happen as I was the class monitor, I couldn't just burst out barefooted, and thus have to force my feet into shoes, lace still intact. And if I was in a hurry it meant not wearing them completely and just trodding like that with the back of my shoes flattened under soles of my feet and I flopping down like that awkwardly, making flapping sounds. Just imagine that embarrassment.

With shoes almost regularly something weird would happen. Some grit would get into my shoes and I never understood why or how it happened. The weird part comes now, I'd remove my shoes and dust them and put them back on and interestingly this time I'd feel even more sand than there was, to begin with. I don't hate sand unless it's in my socks and shoes. In fact, I like the feeling of sand and pebbles under my feet as long as they are harmless enough and not attempting to murder me by piercing my feet. Also, I observed that dusting my shoes off at home always got rid of the grit. So I guess shoes and school are a wicked witch combo.

I did my primary schooling in a missionary school and we had two types of dresses and corresponding shoes to match the attire. Regular weekdays was regular uniform with black shoes with blue socks, which were easy to clean, all one needed was a wet cloth and voila, the shoes would look almost as good as new. And then Saturdays were half days, with the civil dress, which meant no uniform and one can wear whatever their heart desired for and this was the sweetest day where mothers would pack tiffins instead of meals, as we would return home by the noon. And then there was this ‘Oh no Wednesday!'. It was a nightmare for kids and their parents, for Wednesday meant full white attire. White, white and more white. White shirt, white pant, white socks and you guessed it, white shoes. these are not just normal synthetic/foam white shoes, these were the foulest, most vile, most cunning and most cruel white canvas shoes. (right now I'm doing that gesture to ward off evil spirits and I 'd recommend you doing it as well) .

I think all the wicked teachers and headmasters of the world assembled for a grand conference to discuss 'the best way of torturing kids' and I that conference, I guess, was a huge success with the outcome being the introduction of the rule for kids to wear white canvas shoes. All monsters and wild witches put together could never come up with something so pure evil. I'm inclined to believe in such meeting because almost all schools had at least one day where kids were to wear the white canvas shoes. I think those white canvas shoes always aspired to be red shoes, and we, to them, are the forces hindering them in achieving their goal.

In some schools, like the one where I completed my high school, might be filled with even more malice for they had made it an all week shoe, which meant wearing those white shoes all the weekdays.
As if this wrong done to kids was not enough we had to deal with Physical education teachers whose main job seemed to be checking if all kids are wearing shoes and have those shoes been washed. We used every trick known to mankind and otherwise to get them back to the sparkling white color they once were but it was always a futile attempt. And that's what made us kids, best friends with the white board chalk for we used to rub it onto the shoes to give an impression of clean shoes when we felt PET sir was checking, to avoid exchanging pleasantries with the cane in his hand.

It was almost a regular scene in the evening where I'd be walking back home barefoot while skillfully balancing my shoes on the fingers of my left hand. I'd put in my index and middle finger into the back of my shoes and let gravity help me balance them while my right hand would be tugging at the strap of my bag. More people would mimic me if it was raining as no one wanted to take chances with their shoes in the middle of the academic year, and one can see blobs of groups of people walking with their shoes hanging from their left hands.

I’ve moved on to laceless shoes, which reduced half my struggles but when it comes to sports and stuff the lace is still the way to go. Right now am looking at this set of boots and wondering if I should buy them, for they have lace. Buying them would match them with the winter wear of my lady love and thus may help in initiating another hug and kiss (wink), but then again buying shoes means having to put up with all these things mentioned above.

Psst! Having said all this I have a confession to make, I always liked the way my feet looked after a day of being enveloped in shoes, tender and soft (although a little smelly) like they are not really my feet. So maybe I don’t hate my shoes as much I think I hate them. Ohk, I just added them to my shopping cart, may Dumbledore save me.

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. 

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