It’s 4pm on a Sunday afternoon.
I’m in that halfway land where my body is asleep and my brain is going about switching the lights off.
I can hear the phone ringing. Far far away. First I think I’ll ignore it, and then because I can never resist a ringing phone, I take it.
L, she shouts into my ear. Remember me? From college. I got your number from P, and I’m now in London, and I saw you on facebook and......
And I’m seventeen. Away from home for the first time. I’ve never lived in a big city before. My father is in the Air Force, so I’ve been brought up in the safety net of a cantonment. All my friends, boys and girls are wholesome, my going out is restricted to rather wholesome jam sessions, my taste is music is pretty mainstream (Grammy and Top of the Pops), my clothes are what I think is cutting edge cool (Weekender!), my haircut is well, my mom’s talent at cutting hair was always restricted to what she called the Lady Diana cut.
And then, suddenly I’m seventeen. In college. In a hostel. In a big city.
R and P are my closest friends in the hostel. It’s a warm day in April. We’ve got ten days off, to study for our exams. P’s gone home to Nasik. That leaves me and R, in a state of
summer lethargy. We have our books open, sprawled across the bed, the fan slowly whirring. Drowsy and bored we’re trying hard to concentrate.
Suddenly R jumps up. We’re going out, enough is enough. I’m staring at her, trying hard to fight off sleep, wondering where we could go. Shiv Sagar, Linking Road, Hill Road.
We’re going for a makeover. She’s three years older to me, and considers it perfectly normal to bully me around. So in ten minutes flat we’re in an auto rickshaw speeding towards Nalini&Yasmeen. I’ve never been to a fancy parlour, let alone one where Dimple Kapadia is sitting next to me. I’m so awestruck I don’t say a word. My hair is snipped, till it’s really short. They tell me it’s called a blunt cut. The thing is I’m feeling like I got hit on the head with something blunt, because the haircut costs me hundred bucks. Hundred bucks to look like a million bucks.
Anyway R looks completely different too. Very glam. So now we’re like two infected mushrooms. We can’t stop grinning at how good we look. We head straight back to the hostel to change. I wear my shortest dress and Ruchika wears her tightest jeans. Now we’re ready. With nowhere to go.
So we step out. Decide to catch a train to Churchgate. Pretty woman is running in Eros. On a whim, we stop at a PCO. I want to call V. Aah V. Hot V. Strange V. Moody V. Dark V. Nothing like I’ve ever known V.
So I call V at his hostel. It’s my lucky day because V is manning the phone that day. I hear his voice, and as usual I turn into a little hormonal swimming pool of love and longing. Any way, it’s also my lucky day because V lazily laughs and says he’ll meet us outside Eros. By the way, V is Goan. And nothing like the guys I’ve ever known. He wears his hair long, listens to White Snake and is always languid.
And at seventeen I’m in love with V.
So we reach Eros. I can barely sit still in the train. I’m standing at the door, the wind ruffling my new hair do. R is screaming “ sau rupaiye ka naash!” But I’m counting stations, five to go before I see V.
We standing in front of Eros. As are a few hundred teenage girls. The show is running houseful. Even the black marketers are throwing up their hands in resignation. The only one who doesn’t care is me. Because I can see V making his way through the crowd. Walking towards me.
He grins, when R tells him no tickets. We walk to Sundance cafe, to grab a coffee and figure what to do. He smiles at me and says, “Nice hair!” I promptly resolve to call nalini and Yasmeen to our wedding.
I’m in la la land, while R and V make a plan. It’s an elaborate plan, and they are grinning like mad. I just hear select words like V, V and you, V and the train, V and his friend.
Anyway, we’re soon on the train back to the suburbs. It’s pretty empty. V and I are standing near the door. Opposite each other. Silence. The sound of the train. The wind whipping my hair.
Anyway, the night goes on. It involves buying beer. Picking up K, a friend of V’s who we meet for the first time. Trying to drive K’s car. Parking at the beach. Drinking beer at K’s lawn. And finally all four of us smuggling into K’s house at 3 am.
By now we’ve all giggling about anything and nothing. The mood is set. K and R are getting along like a house on fire. K’s room is huge. And has a balcony attached to it.
They disappear to the balcony.
And V and I are sitting in the room. Me on the bed, dangling my feet. V on the couch. Opposite each other. Silent. The only noise is all the thoughts in my head. Will he kiss me. Please kiss me. Maybe he’ll kiss me. Shit, what if he kisses me, and then we fall on the bed. SEX. No way. Okay...maybe. I don’t know. Shit, I should have worn better underwear. Ok, we’ll just stop at a kiss. Maybe ten kisses...
Then V smiles and says, “You take the bed, I’ll take the couch.”
I’m staring at him. He stretches out on the couch and says, “You’re a kid. Someday you’ll understand.” And he shuts his eyes.
Damn. So today, when R speaks to me, it all runs through my head in a flash. And suddenly I think I know what he’s talking about.
But then I think no, there’s a deeper, simpler meaning there.
Sometimes, however hard you want something, you will just not get it. That’s life dude.