Shimla, from the balcony of a hotel at a high terrace, is the sublime fantasy of a romantic. As I leaned on its rusty rails, whose paint had begun to fall off, my eyes swam through the bewitching landscape and stopped at a light brown monkey scratching his groin with one hand as he held a sinewy branch with the other. A few others enthusiastically jumped from roof to roof, perhaps training for a forthcoming athletic event. Tiny houses peeped from behind the trees. Sleek cars zoomed by jogging mules on the road below. Despite sharp curves and high speed, nobody honked. Sun was a pleasant yellow orb of joy, floating in an azure sky, while a gentle breeze hummed along, and all the pines broke into a song. Ah! How I wish it was my honeymoon and I could watch sunlight dripping from my wife’s eyelashes and serenade her corny poems from my immortal collection!
I was lost in my wife’s eyelashes when my mother gave me a buzz. It was a video call. I gave my room a Sherlocky glance. Neta was changing into his (girlfriend’s) favorite clothes and the Military Man had already slipped inside the bathroom. I turned to the other side, with Shimla in the background, and slid the green icon.
“Oh my God! “Said my mother. Her mouth fell open while she blinked and gazed like a child on her first visit to a zoo. Within that tiny 2.5″×4.5” screen, my entire family was bunched together, like grapes on a fruit stand, gaping at me (the background) with unparalleled awe. We are a poor family who spend vacations collecting daily coupons and buzzing our village relatives to ask if they have any surplus mangoes left in their bagaans.
“This is amaazziiinnnggg! “She gave a squeal. My father just smiled. That’s not the maximum attainable curve on his face, but you have to tell a really nice joke to draw out more emotions. My brother was staring fixatedly, as if trying to calculate the velocity of leaping monkeys behind me.
“Hello aunty!”Neta gave a cheerful shout from the back. Hiding my hand from the camera, I flipped him a birdie.
“Hello beta! You should come home!. “My mother said. I was sure she did not mean it because Neta is a hardcore non-vegetarian while my mother believes that all the problems in this world can be solved if people simply turn to vegetarianism. Hunger, terrorism, AIDS – everything can vanish just by changing the contents of your plate.
“Wow! You’re having the time of your life. I wonder what you’ll be bringing for your mother from Shimla. “She said after soaking in the view from the balcony.
What do you bring for your mother from Shimla? A pahadi daughter-in-law? Or something simpler she could flaunt to her neighbors? Like shawls and stuffs?
“Raveeeeeeeeshhh…..”came a girly voice, and through the corner of my eyes, I saw her dash like a tracer bullet.
It was Manika.
I gave her a glare that could make kids permanently scopophobic. Mummy – I performed an award-winning dumb charades to make her understand, and when she finally got it, her cheeks got rosy; she bit her tongue and scurried like a mouse.
“Is there a girl in the tour? ”
Around 25, I wanted to say. But you don’t disclose such stuffs to your mother.
“It was mam. She teaches us Mughal History. “I assured her.
“The one with a giant bindi? “My mother said, talking about our HOD. If they two ever had a conversation, it would end up with a blank cheque and an offer from Vince McMahon to join WWE divas.
“Yes. Listen, I’ve to go. Freshen up. See you later. “I made a leap towards the end of our conversation. She agreed and asked me to stay away from pahadi girls.
“They have pretty eyes but that is because they are witches. Bye. ”
I would tell you the truth – old and ugly witches, they scare the bejesus out of me; but give me horny and hot ones, like Melisandre, and I would not mind getting boiled in a pot the next day.
“So, you seem to like it! “Came HOD’s solid voice, and I turned to find her smiling at me, the large bindi on her forehead with black lines around them, as if it was the symbol of some secret satanic cult.
“Yes mam. “I said, not really pleased but neither too sad.
She entered the room without an invite and crashed in our sofa. She started talking to Neta who was euphoric as hell.
The door opened and Military Man came out, wearing a faded white underwear that already was in the process of natural decomposition. It was like that great scene from Hera Pheri where Baburao’s dhoti is absent from his hairy hindlimbs. HOD saw him and turned her head away in shock. Military Man stood gobsmacked, as if a part of a frozen video frame. There was an awkward silence, like the one right before the big bang.
The Military Man trotted back and HOD resumed the conversation like everything was hunky dory.
She left after Neta told her a few stories about chicken and revealed to her some of our personal secrets, in return for some of the funny stories from previous college trips. Neta is such a bitch!
I gave a sigh of relief and fell on the fluffy bed like a piece of wood.
“30 minutes to have lunch and get ready. “Screamed the leader.
How I wished I could break out of this body and float like a leaf, and slowly descend to the lonely cottage amid that inviting wild forest, where a fireplace will crackle and a pahadi girl with bewitching eyes would wait for me…
“Take a shit before the tank runs out of water. “Neta dropped wise words as he fiddled with the tv remote.
Alright! Alright! Next time I come to Shimla, it’ll be with a girl.