I was naturally hungry. The bottle was thrust into my waiting, wailing mouth. I was at an age where sucking was the only bodily activity that really mattered. So, I sucked at it. Like my life depended on it. My mouth latched on.
But wait, this ain’t no nipple! This neither tastes nor feels like one! There’s no warmth, the texture’s off and the taste, well, it was not natural.
In infant confusion, I pulled my mouth away and bawled in confusion at my mother. I could not comprehend how she, my mother of all people, would wrest the only supply of food I needed, away from me.
She looked at me impassively. No unbuttoning of a blouse, no arrangement of breasts for my nutritional benefit. Bawling was no help, I realized. So, I promptly threw up on my myself. I gurgled out the unnatural bottled milk in disdain, pain and yes, confusion. Nah, it didn’t work. Cheated, betrayed and most importantly confused at her lack of compassion, I sucked at the bottle for sustenance.
It was hard to get the girl’s attention for even a minute. There’s always a girl like this in school, isn’t there? Her suitors kept invading our private space(in the school corridor) every now and then blowing out the shallow “Hi”s, giving her unnecessary bodily hugs, some even playing that increasingly annoying “Guess Who” game, with their hormonal sweaty palms over my damsel’s eyelids.
Guess Who? I know who, you rotten scoundrel! You proud narcissistic Alpha-male! Get your filthy hands off her, you perv!
It was understandably difficult therefore to indulge in intelligent conversation. Harder still to elicit laughter. That is what I was getting at, you see. Make the girl laugh and you’re halfway in her…! Uff!! Another rowdy Romeo! Why is he holding onto her like a Christmas prop? She’s a prize, a trophy! My trophy!
My flight of fantasy was interrupted by her, “So, this evening? Noodles Point”?
“Yes, yes”, I sputtered out, breathless and expectant.
And with a swirl of her hardly Convent skirt, she was now walking away from me. Ah, that skirt, damn that skirt! I peered in and out, around the crowd of students walking in and out of my line of vision. Graceful as a swan! Beauty, ethereal! It was way way above the limit the virgin nuns prescribed at the school. My mind sashayed in tune with her retreating figure. Inadvertently my rowdy hand went over to, No No, not there. It clutched at my stuttering heart, sensed it beating like a love-struck drum that knew no rhythmic end. Thump! Thump! Man, this girl, I tell you!
I clicked ‘Rewind’ on the Philips tape recorder. The two-in-one, my faithful and only friend in unrequited love, sang out the track.
Michael Learns to Rock. Michael also knows exactly how I feel.
Someday, somewhere, together we would be Baby…
I turned over for the thousandth time in my bed, put on my glasses. How could she not see it? We were perfect for each other. It stumped me, her utter lack of love or feeling for me.
I’m not an actor, I’m not a star,
I don’t even have my own car,
But I’m hoping so much you’ll stay,
That you will love me anyway…
I hope so too Mike, I hope so too. Can she not see that the world and everything in it are vain? Love me for what I am, I wailed.
That day, at the Noodles Point, when I professed my love over two half plates of double egg noodles, had she not smiled back in mock shock? I say mock cos she knew, didn’t she? Why then, did she stop talking to me? And who does this now anyway, anymore? Stop talking? This is the ”90’s. We are on the brink of a new millennium. Stop talking! She didn’t even finish her double egg noodles, I had to finish off both plates!
There is no excuse my friend,
for breaking my heart,
for breaking my heart again,
this is where our journey ends, my friend.
I turned off my faithful friend, my tape recorder. No amount of wishing, wondering, wailing would end this. A matrix of confusion, where the indices have no end. I leaped from the bed. I might as well go eat noodles!
The steaming hot cup of tea was placed in front of me. The wife placed herself next to me.
The mild fumes from the cup wafted up and away from me, into the vast skyline. Great white lights flickered on and off. The city looked like a beast up here. Or was I the beast?
“Where did we go wrong Janaki”, I said aloud.
The tea stayed untouched, resigned to the cool of the late evening.
She stayed silent too for a few moments. And then I felt her hand on my shoulder. A hand not completely sure of itself, but still trying to reassure.
“It’s a different time, children these days…”, she started.
I didn’t let her finish.
“Everywhere! Everywhere we’ve searched! She, no, they, they are nowhere. Can’t find them anywhere! Why? Why!!!”, I shouted at her.
A memory, bittersweet, careened into my mind.
I scoffed at it and laughed out loud. A mirthless laugh.
“Do you remember? Janaki, how I could never catch her when we played hide and seek? All those years? It was her favorite, wasn’t it? She, always hiding, me always the seeker? Ha!”
My own voice sounded hollow to me. Tears came rushing into my eyes but I stalled them, for later. Even after twenty years of marriage, I could not bring myself to cry in front of the wife.
“Drink your tea now. You must be tired”, she said without emotion. Does she blame me too?
“One word. One word was all your daughter had to say. What does she think of me, a tyrant? I raised her with these hands, these hands Janaki. What am I to do now? What?!”
My hands trembled as I finally let go of the twenty-year drought and wept with my wife, lamenting the runaway child.
Write Club Hyderabad – Writing Confusion – January 2018