Pearls of Wisdom: Pilgrimage to India-3: Trysts on the Stairs, the Irony of Destiny, and the First Kiss

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By Upendra Mishra

BOSTON—I had moved to a new town with my uncle and aunt. I was about 16 and had enrolled in the local Government Inter College for my 11th grade. Around the same time, the Bollywood teenage blockbuster movie Bobby was coming to town in a local theater. Everyone was talking about this movie. Some, especially younger kids, were going crazy. Their parents cursing the movie, saying it was polluting young minds of their children.

Upendra Mishra

My aunt, who had raised me and was like my mother, was extremely protective of me. In her eyes, I could do no wrong, and I was a perfect, pure and incredible child, endowed with almost all moral qualities. She would proudly tell her friends and everyone she knew that “my Babu (she used to call me Babu) would never go near the Bobby movie, forget about watching it.” Until she died a few years ago, she believed that I never saw Bobby.

But when it came to girls those days, some how she felt or knew intuitively that there was something inside me that was acting like a magnet for girls–the scattered pieces of love that now I am trying to weave together. I have heard now that hormones peak between the ages of 14 and 21 years; and I was right in the middle of my peaking hormonal age then. I respected my aunt and uncle dearly and would never do anything to hurt their feelings. I would not even dare to look at girls. My aunt was very strict about me and girls from the very beginning. The destiny, however, had some other plans.

I distinctly remember once my aunt kicking out two girls on two separate occasions who had started to visit me occasionally to share some school work and exchange books.

I remember the very first time. I was talking with a neighborhood girl about our common biology subject, sitting across each other in my room with doors and windows wide open. I was sitting on my cot and the girl was seated on a wooden-chair facing me. As we started to talk about our schools, she put her feet on the top my feet. First she pretended it was an accident. When I did not react, she began rubbing gently. This was my first experience when a girl had touched me. I had just started to absorb this breathtaking experience. Suddenly, I saw my aunt storming in the room where we were sitting. She screamed at the top of her voice, and chased the girl out of the house—despite she was the daughter of one of her close friends. I learned my lesson, and told myself no more girls. My aunt was pleased with my pledge and fully convinced.

A few months later, another neighborhood girl, who was one year junior to me, started to call on me and asked me to teach her some biology chapters. I was a good student, knew my subjects quite well and could explain complex problems in simple ways. She had a younger sister, who was very pretty. But I had no interest in any of them except teaching biology. It must have been her third or fourth visit, when my aunt smelled something and stormed in the room again, and chased that girl out, too. That was probably the last time I talked to that girl. Again, I swore to my aunt that no more girls, and that I had to focus on my own upcoming 12th grade board exam six month later. I felt terrible about the girl, especially the she was treated by my aunt.

In those days, there used be an exam at three and six-month intervals—basically as a training for the final or board exams. As I said earlier, I was a good student. During our six-month exam in my 12th grade, I was writing my answers in the classroom during the test, and the son of our principal was sitting behind me. He was copying my answers. The invigilator/teacher saw him replicating my answers and told him nicely in Hindi: “nigaho se utar jana bahut buri baat hoti hai.” (Rough translation: To fall from someone’s eyes is a very bad thing). I loved this sentence and wrote it on the back of that question paper so that I would not forget this powerful and meaningful sentence.

After my all papers were over, one day another neighborhood girl who was in my grade but in a different school asked me if I could share my question papers with her.

I went to my room and picked the stack of all question papers and gave them to her. My aunt, uncle and me lived on the half of the third floor of a house in the center of the town. The other half was rented by another family. They had a young son who needed some help with school work. They had hired this neighborhood girl who would come every day to teach the kid for an hour or so. I would often she her but as I had promised to my aunt no more girls, my interest in this girl –or for that matter any girl–was zero. Although, I must admit I would drool over her sometimes in my own mind. Unlike typical small town girls those days, she used to groom herself quite well, and looked absolutely stunning all the time. She often smiled at me and laughed all the time. (Honestly, I find a smiling and happy girl the sexiest and elegant. I still do.) But I had to keep my promise I had made to my aunt about the girls. I wanted to complete my final board exam, pass in the first division and then join Allahabad University for my bachelors. Simple one-point plan I had made for myself. Even in those peaking hormone days there was no place for girls. But again, destiny had some other plans. Retrospectively I now that think that my lack of interest in girls probably made them more curious or interested in me.

Coming back to this new girl, a few days later, she threw a big piece of paper at me, and picked it up and rushed to my room to read it.  It was a long two-sided hand-written love letter and full with her guilt feelings. She assumed that I had written that “nigaho se utar jana bahut buri baat hoti hai” sentence for her. She was feeling bad that I had felt like that for her and that she had ignored me despite her intense liking for me—although we hardly spoke with each other. I had no idea what to do now. I could not talk to her, and I had promised my aunt that no more girls. There was no way I could let my aunt see me talking to her. Now, I was getting stressed out because that poor girl was also hurting. I was going crazy. I could not talk to anyone about this—even my school friends because no one talked about such things.

One day I decided that when she finishes her tutoring the kid and walks down the stairs, I would meet her on the steps where no one could see us, and then I would clarify the situation and tell her the truth that I did not write that sentence in that question paper for her. I would tell exactly what had happened during the exam, and I wrote that sentence because I liked what the teacher had said.

That day, I waited on the stairs. I was nervous wreck. It was so difficult to stand still. My body was shaking and I was scared if I would even be able to talk to her. As all these thoughts were going on in my head at thousands of miles speed, I heard her footsteps near the entrance to the steps.  At that time, I am sure, my heart must have matched the sound of her foot-steps. As she came a few steps down, she saw me and smiled. Her gentle smile removed all my fears and calmed me down. The joy in her eyes gladdened my heart and made me comfortable. But still I could not whisper a word to her. Both my lips and tongue froze. She finally reached the big corner steps where I was standing and stood and stayed next to me. No words, but our minds and bodies were talking with each other. She held my hand and I hugged her tightly. The hug lasted for about five minutes (like an eternity) until we heard steps of someone coming up on the stairs.

In those few minutes, I felt the Heaven had descended on earth. That fragrance seeping from her hair and her body, her tightly fit white chudiadar salwar and blueish kameez and white dupatta and tightly made hair still feel like yesterday. The next day, I waited again on the same spot on the stair. I heard her footsteps and my heart on that day was beating louder than her footsteps. As she came near me, we both held each other tight and I could hear throbbing heart beats of both of us, and then in instant (as if Goddess of Love asked me to kiss0, and I kissed her on her lips. It was my first kiss ever—and O’ My God, it made my body, mind and heart explode in joy, peace, happiness and ecstasy—all at the same time. I could not imagine that any human being can ever feel and experience anything like this. Our tryst on the stairs continued until I left the town and joined Allahabad University. I never saw her again. Never heard anything from her. Many times I did think about her but there was no way to reach her. This time when I visited the town, I could not find any information about her. But I did meet the two sisters—as if nothing had changed. With one, I went through all those sakari galis of the neighborhood and that beautiful house where all these trysts had happened. I could not go inside the house, but snapped a picture and every detail of my rendezvous flashed in my head.

On the movie Bobby, the very first day when the movie played in the local theater, I had sneaked out with the son of my landlord and had watched the movie. But each time my aunt mentioned that I would never see Bobby, I felt bad, sad, kept quiet and quietly laughed at the irony.

I also met the other sister. In fact, when I was leaving India for Mexico, I had received a letter in mail from one of the sisters I had taught biology, thanking me for teaching her and letting me know that she had been selected in Pre-Medical Test (PMT) exam soon after I had left town and was about to become a medical doctor. Meeting with them after more than 40 years was magical, just like yesterday as if nothing had changed. Same bachpana, innocence, childishness and those memories. How lucky we have to be to re-live the past one more time in our life time. I thanked God for this opportunity and connecting me to my wonderful past so beautifully and deepening my friendship with them all.

The next piece of love in Part-4.

(Mr. Mishra is managing partner of the Waltham, MA-based integrated inbound marketing and PR firm The Mishra Group. He writes about his three passions: marketing, scriptures and gardening.)


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