Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Romantic Legend

Denzil, Noel and Philip were brothers. When I first saw them in junior school, Denzil and Noel had already been teaching at my school for over 25 years, and were both in their early 50s. The youngest brother Philip had been teaching for close to 15 years, and he was in his mid 30s.
They had lived together all their lives, three confirmed bachelors whose only love was an eclectic and huge collection of music records. They were hugely popular as far as private tuitions went, not only among our schoolmates, but also among other school students. Not only because they were all very good teachers, but also because all the kids loved to study with all those wonderful old English numbers playing softly in the background.

All three were very heavy smokers. Each of them would always stop in the open corridors in between classes, and drag deep into the wonderfully blue smoke. The heavy smoking went very well with their image. Especially with tall, rangy Denzil, who reminded every student of Clint Eastwood and his ever-present cheroot.

Denzil was the teacher who was in charge of the school library, and he was always willing to bend the rule that a student could borrow only one book at a time. He always encouraged voracious readers like me to borrow a library card from a fellow student who was not that interested in reading, and use those extra cards to pick up two and sometimes three books at a time.

Noel was short and bald, and had a small neat moustache. He was a dapper little gentleman, and extremely fast on his feet. Little wonder then, that he was the teacher who was in charge of the dramatic and performing arts clubs of the school. Philip’s extra responsibility was as the school photographer. He was always so good with the lens that our school never needed to pay any studio to cover any school function. Or to click the class photographs every year.

A decade passed, and I reached class 10. Denzil was to retire in another six months when he suddenly took ill. Lung cancer, the doctor said, which did not really surprise any one. He took 3 months leave from the school, but died within two weeks. The whole school turned up for the funeral, and as a tear escaped Noel’s eyes, we all joined him in remembering the handsome man we all loved. Philip, not quite unexpectedly, went about clicking the whole function, as if he would collapse the moment he stopped indulging in his favourite hobby.

A little before the board exams started, we heard that Noel went to the same doctor and heard the same diagnosis. He had never really recovered from his brother’s death – they were only a year apart in age. The day he heard the diagnosis, he just took to bed, and never got up again. With a month, the lovable little man too was dead.

That day, Philip had a heart attack. Two brothers gone within a year was just too much for anybody to handle, I guess. Thankfully he recovered slowly, and wisely decided to kick the bad habit before it kicked him too. Suddenly all alone in the world, Philip got a little too close to the domestic help who had cared for him through his illness. She was a young Christian girl, and was apparently too overawed by the Anglo-Indian gentleman’s attentions to resist.

Tongues started wagging when the young girl started gaining too much weight much too fast. He was a bad, immoral man, you would have all concluded by now, but you would be wrong. When he observed the afore-mentioned weight gain, he took the girl to the gynaecologist. When she confirmed their suspicions, he was overjoyed. He asked her to marry him, and she readily agreed.

Not at all ashamed of his liaison with someone socially inferior, he threw a huge party to celebrate his wedding. He not only invited the whole school, but also went and invited each and every one of the ex-students who had ever taken tuitions from him or his elder brothers. I was in Delhi at that time, but my friends who attended, told me that it seemed the whole of the city had descended on the function. The official figures by the caterers put the count at “only” 4250 dinner guests, but it seemed that nearly 10 thousand people turned up. Of course, many may not have eaten, so both figures may well be compatible with each other.

For once, Philip was too busy to click photographs, so the school authorities happily obliged and hired a studio photographer.

Seven months later, they had twin sons. Young Denzil and Noel are now 13 years old. Philip retires next year, and his lungs are fine: his wife never let him smoke again. His other two vices remain intact – he still clicks photos, and he still listens to Western oldies while teaching his sons and assorted other people’s sons and daughters. He was hugely popular before, but now he’s a romantic legend among the youngsters. His crusty older brothers must be a bit envious, but very proud.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I Will Buy a New Ear

Another year has passed. I'm a little bit older, a little bit wiser, a little bit rounder, but still none the wiser.
All optimists stay up until midnight to see the new year in. All pessimists stay up to make sure the old year leaves. But both categories insist on making new year resolutions, and what is worse, insist on telling you what their resolutions are. They forget that good resolutions are simply checks that you draw on a bank where you don’t have any account.

So here’s my New Year's Resolution - to tolerate fools and fishes more gladly, provided this does not encourage them to take up more of my time! Entirely for your perverse pleasure, here is the list of my ten alternative New Year Resolutions. I considered each of them carefully before settling on the one finally selected:
  1. I will answer my snail mail with the same enthusiasm with which I answer my e-mail.
  2. When I hear a funny joke I will not reply: "LOL... LOL!"
  3. I will balance my chequebook properly. How about balancing it on my nose?
  4. I will not look at pretty girls. It’s depressing to find out exactly how many people there are who will never notice you.
  5. I will not look at pretty boys either. I am neither a deviant nor a paedophile.
  6. So many women, so little time. I will make more time. Only to be disappointed again.
  7. I will not tell the same story at every get together. I will think of new ways to torture my few listeners.
  8. I will not encourage the kids in my society to pee down from the top floor at the people passing below.
  9. I will remember it isn't worthwhile wrestling with bulls - you get all muddy and the bulls just love it!
  10. I will take neither myself nor any of the above seriously.