Sunday, March 04, 2018

Cliff Richards Once Saved My Life

Gaurav Parab

The only time I have ever hit a woman was back in Solan that year when Harshad Mehta hit the stock market.

Over the years, I have made peace with the events of that day and worked at redeeming myself by repeatedly saying - Body shaming bad. Glass Ceiling Must Go. Girls, they wanna have fun. Even read a Femina cover to cover ten years ago. Total reformed feminist me goodself.
And I have practiced singing Bachelor Boy for who knows I might one day run into a Nun who likes Cliff Richards.
I digress. This is what happened. I have always been the smallest person in the pin code area - but I was really tiny in Class VI. Yes, so short that they used a Microscope to run an X ray on my left wrist when I first broke my hand. But that is another story.
We had just moved to Solan and it was my first day in school. 
I walked in when the class was having the Class Monitor Elections.

‘What’s your name?’
‘Gaurav Parab. I love Uncle Chips’
‘Gaurav Parab’
That was the extent of my stint in politics. That was my campaign promise. Gaurav Parab . New.
The teacher wrote my name on the blackboard with four or five veterans of the class – all tall boys and girls – which you should note down for it is very important to this story of intrigue and political machinations.
Voting started. And one by one the children named the person they wanted as class monitor.
Gaurav Parab. Gaurav Parab. Gaurav… get the idea. I won by a landslide. I looked around the classroom to my people and gave them all a thumbs up. I was invincible. I would have won even if Amit Shah was on the ballot that day.
I thanked them all. The teacher said this is the first time such a thing has happened. Now I had to make sure that no one made any noise till the next class ten minutes later.
‘Sure. But I dont know anyone's name’
'You will learn'
The teacher left, like they often do after saying something generic of no value.
The class exploded. I went near the blackboard and did my stuff. ‘Shut up. Don’t make noise you animals’
‘Shut up shorty’ a woman called Bhawna said. I remember her. Oh I remember her.
‘I am the class monitor. When I say shut up, you shut up’
‘You are the shortest person in the pin code area. That’s why we made you the class monitor. You cannot control us.’
And then we had an eloquent argument much beyond our years.
‘Shorty? You are ugly’ I said.
‘Do you know any other animals’ she rolled her eyes.
‘Ibex’ ( Thank God for Name /Place /Animal / Thing )
I had to put an end to this. That’s when I picked up the duster and threw it at Bhawna. I don’t know what gave it away, but as soon as the duster hit her head I knew it was a mistake. Maybe it was the blood, or the little bone peeking out of her forehead like Ramji peeking out of Hanuman Ji’s chest in Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana.
F***. I muttered. I was so scared that I said a word I did not even know then.
To cut a long story…. the poor girl went to the Mother Nun – who had a reputation of resticate first, rest later. I was called, and when I did not go – two Commandos from the Vatican dragged me to her office.
She looked at me, and then she looked at the Crucifix on the wall.
‘Nails’ she shouted.
‘Sorry. Let’s not do that. I can explain.’
‘Your nails. They are long’
I looked at my hand. She was right. ‘Oh that. I thought…’ I looked at the crucifix.
‘Son, why did you try to murder that poor child? Is there anything you are good at?’ she screamed. "Tell me before I ask your father to come and take you away'
‘Are you good for anything Son?’
‘I can sing Bachelor Boy’
Silence. I don’t know till this day why I said it.
And then it was the turn of the Nun to explode. But in a nice, old lady laughing her dentures out sort of way.
‘You can? How old are you’
‘Eight. I think. ’
‘Sing like your life depends on it.’
And then I sang the only song I knew. A one trick pony. Cliff Hucking Richards.
When I was done, she told me that anyone who can sing Cliff Richards like that deserves another chance.
‘He does?’
‘Don’t push it. Tomorrow you sing in front of the entire school. Dismissed’
‘As in dismissed from here…or dismissed from…’
‘Go. Just go son.’
I bolted out of the office, pausing only outside the door where that poor girl with the bleeding head and a scar for life sat with a smirk on her face. She waved me good bye.
‘Class monitor. Not anymore. Shorty. Good luck in your next school’
I whistled a bit of Cliff Richards, a bit of Kumar Sanu and said sorry to the girl. I promised her that this will never happen again with any woman and you know what? I have kept that promise for I cant risk leaving my life to the chance that I will run into a Nun who likes Cliff Richards again.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Boy I May Have Killed

At 9, I was a small kid with a big temper – an avoidable combination. We were living slightly outside Shimla, next to a forest full of real and made up dangers so I didn’t have many friends to play with. In fact, I only had the neighbor’s kid for company since I had shot my elder sister and stuffed her in the coal room.

Ok, I swear that I am not making up stuff. We did have a coal room in our house.

Anyways, this boy who used to stay nearby was taller and stronger. The only advantage I had was he was not particularly clever. So I was able to convince him to be a willing partner on all the scams I operated from our backyard including what I called ‘Throw the Big Rock at the Truck on The Highway Below’ which involved throwing the big rock at the truck on the highway below.

Then for no reason that day in ‘92 when Shimla had the most snowfall in the past fifty years - my friend had an awakening of the sort that I have not experienced till this day and said we should stop it before we caused an accident or killed someone.
But that is the point, I said. But he was slow and uninspired.
Remember that thing about me having a temper? So I pushed the slave to show my displeasure and a strange type of light appeared in my friend’s eyes. My THEN friend’s eyes.
He realized that if he wanted, he could beat the sh*t out of me instead of talking with me.
Trust me, you don’t want big guys to ever have that sort of light in their eyes.
One thing led to another, and soon we were – well – soon he was thrashing me around while I was pinned to the ground. But I was into Self Defense tricks before it became a youtube channel so I lay back pretending to be out cold. Concerned, he got up and I whipped my right foot out and caught him in the shin sending him to the soft snow on the ground. I was up in a flash and over him and hitting him with my small fists going off like wet firecrackers and realizing that this was one big mistake.
Note to readers: Never ever hit a big guy. On the shin or anywhere else. It only pisses them off more, and after the initial victory they are back and now they want to finish you off.
So the boy threw me aside, and the gloves were off. I mean literally. He threw his gloves away into the snow. I don’t know why. It was cold and I think it was a dumb move.
He started pounding me and I knew there was no point in pretending to be out again. As I lay on the ground, head tilted to the right - I saw the most beautiful sight I have ever seen to this day nearly 30 years later. And I have seen a lot of pretty sights.
I have seen Jessica Alba in the flesh. I have seen Denzel Washington too, who is a beautiful man - but that day, the sight of our dog monster Stefan sitting patiently ten feet away and looking at us brawl still brings tears of joy.
Stefan was waiting for instructions from me. He did not have to wait long.
‘Kill’ I shouted. ‘Stefan kill him’.
He did not move.
‘Shoo Stefan’ I whispered.
And then my my dog - my beautiful dog, as large as Muhammed Ali and as crazy as Chemical Ali, the son of Lucifer , one with dreams of being a man-eating tiger - went vertical like a Sea Harrier Jet and landed on top of the boy who had assaulted me without provocation.
He growled, he bit, he went at him like an electric chainsaw that a small boy with a big temper has lost control of.
That day onwards, I lost a dog and gained a brother. So what if my THEN friend’s brother lost a brother and gained well….he must have learned something from the whole experience.
Perhaps a lesson about never to take on small kids with big tempers with an attack dog.
I have only shared this memory because it always comes back to me every time I see these two pictures of me with Stefan Edberg and Stefan our dog from another life, or someone shares a picture of dead bodies on snow.
I miss my childhood. It is so much better to be a small child than be a small man.
My sister is fine, by the way. And truth be told, that friend is also doing ok inspite of that annoying limp.

Gaurav Parab is the author of Rustom and the Last Storyteller of Almora [Hachette] listed by the Times of India and Business Standard as one of 5 weekend reads , The Hindu calls it a 'Genre bender', The Statesman ‘An Almost Perfect Debut, Scoopwhoop lists it as a book that should be made into a movie. His second book on the shape of our childhood memories will be published late 2018 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Old Monk and a Clueless Son

Old Monk & A Clueless Son

We can beat em all one said
A line from a book on the only bed
Three of us lay, one sat on his bum
Two packs of Peanuts, a bottle of Rum

Friend number one cleared his throat
That girl I spoke about, wrote her a note
F**k! Only three glasses? There. There’s a cup
And then someone brought out the Thumsup

I was saying, listen to what I have to say
Told her we’ll fly through blue skies or grey
Shut the f**k up you talking poet
If you write to a girl, never ever show it

Two of us picked up our guitars
And someone sang Chasing Cars
The sober one quoted freaking Artistotle
Me? I just got wise from that odd looking Bottle

Always wondered, I asked one friend
Do we keep the tongue straight or does it bend
Is it Tonk, or said like a ship sunk
Old Freaking Monk, or Old Freaking Munk?

If I lived this bloody life my way
The speaker got up and swayed
Sit down you worthless drunk
And leave that bottle of Old munk

So it is munk, I raised my weary head
The O is clearly unsaid
Not for us, the Bengali raised a hand
The O for us can never be banned

The Punjabi didn’t care much for pronunciation
This is not Rum, this is national integration
He looked around, all of us sprawled drunk
The Bengali repeated Monk, not Munk

The poet did not give in and gave us a stare
After a glass, she will be standing there
So we all sadly looked his way
Why do writers show up and never pay?

My father was a fauji, I quickly said
Drank like a fish, yet never went to his head
Still have the unfinished bottle I softly cried
From the evening that my wise father died

Three glasses and a cup was raised
Hands steady, eyes slightly glazed
To women, to music, to a selfless father & his clueless son
A toast to our younger days and old Mr. Mohan