Small Town-World View (My Cousin Series)

Some of the things that Private, MS and my cousin discussed were world issues. As this was 1970’s small town with no Internet or TV, everything was hearsay. The fact that they had never ventured more than 50 miles of our town, did not read newspapers or listened to someone who was even remotely informed resulted in very interesting observations:

There definitely would be a world war III. India and Russia would be on one side and Pakistan, America, China and England would be on other side (these were constantly changing alliances and there was no reasoning behind it). We will win because Lord Hanumanjee is on our side and Russians are 7 feet tall.

Never eat meat! If you do, you will immediately become a Muslim and becoming Hindu again will be very difficult. Once you become a Muslim, they will cut your penis (this was their understanding of circumcision). Do you want to be a penisless Muslim?

Japan is a great country to be a schoolboy. You don’t have to read any books. You just make radios in school and TV’s in high school.

Never marry a Luzkrakter (Loose character). Never fall in love with a Sikh or Muslim girl. Their families will kill you.

Never marry a very beautiful woman because all your friends then are not visiting “you”.

Never marry an ugly woman. Your own children will be scared of her and you will have ugly children.

Bengalis are brainy but weak. Gujaratis are good businessmen but cowards (Gandhi never beat one Firangi). All south Indians are Madrassis and all they eat is rice. Always respect a fat man because they generally represent good families and are wealthy. If stereotyping was an art form these were the greatest artists of times.

All white people were from America, England and Germany. I tried to tell them that I have heard about countries such as Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark etc. They would immediately dismiss me. “We are talking about countries and you are talking about cities.”

When a girl says no, she means yes. Because that’s how they are!

If you want to find out if a girl is in love with you, all you have to do is shoulder bump her. If she smiles at you, she is in love with you. The details after that were sketchy but it involved giving a love letter as soon as possible. Because if you delay that part, someone else might shoulder bump her and she might become someone else’s.

Never trust or follow a person with toes in the back and heel in front. They are ghosts.

My Cousin -Delivering a Love Letter (part 8)

Once the letter was completed, the planning shifted to delivering it to the person of interest. They considered following routine options:

* Fold the letter in shape of a plane and let it fly in the general vicinity of the girl.             *”Accidentally” run into girl, drop a book with the letter inside it and before she even has  time to think, give book to the girl.                                                                                         *Asking a friend’s younger sister to deliver.

They did consider innovative options:  wrapping the letter in a cloth, tying it around a dog’s neck and then training or persuading it to walk to the girl. There was just a small problem. They did not have a dog. They briefly thought about using one of the stray dogs but concern for Rabies and 14 massive injections overcame concern for love.

They considered tying it to a kite, flying and landing it to girl’s roof. Unfortunately kite season was months away.

Private offered to deliver the letter personally to the girl at his own risk. My cousin immediately smelled a rat. Private could not be trusted as there was a good chance that he would start his own “game” rather than working for my cousin.

They considered writing a letter on palm of the hand, walking to girl and just showing her the palm. However getting this close to a girl was difficult and you were sure to be “spotted” or even worse tackled.

MS advised to run the girl down with bicycle and delivering the letter during all the commotion of collision. A girl with concussion and fractured leg however was unlikely to take the letter.

At this time they got depressed and cursed this wretched small town, it’s silly girls, school teachers, chaperons and everyone who lived here. My cousin again went into a rant about how things would be so different if he was in Delhi. Private felt that even Luzkrakters in this town think too much of themselves.

MS showed his leadership at this movement. He called them cowards who were just scared of a beating. He had been beaten multiple times and did not have much respect for whiners who could not even handle one proper thrashing. He told them a beating is what makes “love” real. Any “city type” can go and talk to a girl in a big city. But it takes courage and acceptance that a beating was around the corner for the “true lover” to stand up.

Finally they asked MS how had he been doing it for all these years. MS took a deep breath. “I don’t deal with silly school girls”. He has moved to a higher level of playing field. He was into “married” women now. My cousin immediately called such women unpure and the situation equivalent of “eating leftover food”. But both of them still wanted to learn about “opportunities” in this particular field.

My Cousin-Supernatural (Part 4)

One of my cousin’s passions was supernatural. He had completely mastered this topic. He could talk for hours about types of ghosts, where they lived, how can they torture you, kill you or torture and kill you. Fortunately he also knew a great deal about how to defend against them and possibly even control them. He had armed himself to teeth to deal with these nasty cunning creatures.

He always wore Hanuman/Durga medallions around his neck. He won’t even take them off while bathing. Apparently someone took it off while bathing and an opportunistic ghost attacked that person right at that minute. He was not going to let a ghost catch him off guard in this type of vulnerable position. He always wore lots of holy threads on his wrist and had some ashes from temple wrapped in his pocket. He also kept some “powerful” stuff under the pillow in case a ghost attacked while sleeping.

The most feared ghost was the one who lived right next to pond between railway station and our farm. This one attacked you from behind and went right for your skull. It dug holes in your skull and drank blood right from it till you died. He specifically instructed me not to walk there in afternoon after having something sweet to eat because  this ghost loved sweets. Off course you would have to be suicidal to even go there at night. He told me that even he wouldn’t be able to do much if this particular ghost ever attacked me.

He had many books that specifically dealt with this complex topic. They had titles and chapters like “Yes, Ghosts are real”, “How to make ghosts work for you”, “Why you should fear ghosts” and “Why there is no reason to fear ghosts”. I asked him if he was controlling any ghosts currently. He was waiting for a potion that he had ordered through one of these magazines. Once he would have it, it was a fairly straightforward thing. When challenged with what my science teacher had to say about ghosts, he felt science teacher was one of those science types who never want the “truth” to come out. He offered to take me to a graveyard at night where I could see “it all” with my own eyes. I was really spooked and scared. Thankfully he gave me a list of some simple instructions:

1) Don’t fear them but also fear them. If you fear them they will attack you. But if you were cocky they will also attack you.

2) Never disrespect them by denying their existence. In that situation an attack was certain.

3) Lord Hanuman and Goddess Durga are your no.1&2 defenses.

4) Memorize Hanuman Chalissa by heart.

5) They are always around us. Even right at this minute they are listening to what we are saying. Never for a second think that you will get away by saying bad things about them.

6) Muslim ghosts will not respond to Hanuman Chalisa. Apparently Muslim ghosts required a completely different set of skills. He had not cracked this one yet.

7) Never visit a house where someone had died in last 100 days. The “new” ghost was desperate, lonely and can get attached to you for life.

8) Don’t hang out with super old people, as they were almost half ghost already.

9) They can be controlled. Once you do, they will do anything for you including taking exams for you.

10) Don’t listen to your idiot science teacher.

My Cousin (part 3)

The movies had 3 or 4 themes. The most popular were action movies. The typical storyline involved hero’s dad getting murdered and mom raped. He grows up and takes revenge. But he did take his own sweet time achieving this. He found true love in the interim who also encourages him to avenge. Despite being under pressure to take revenge they would both sing and dance multiple times.

The next category had “social” movies. The poverty was shamelessly glorified. The poor people were always singing and dancing while rich were always unhappy despite all their wealth. The rich girl married a poor boy but did not respect in-laws initially. The hero slapped her a couple of times, she learns the lesson and touches mother in law’s feet.

The category my cousin hated most was “religious”. These movies had no fights, revenge or dancing. Though occasionally there could be some gems in this category such as Nagin (female snake) hooking up with a Naag (snake) after rebirth. Nagin typically danced a lot which compensated somewhat.

The dialogues could run like:

You killed my father, raped my mother, kidnapped my sister and now I kill you, you Bastard.

I am a kali (bud) but you can make me a flower. (It remained a mystery for many years for me)

We both love each other but I must sacrifice you for my best friend as he also loves you. You must also pretend that you love him so he never finds out.

I am pregnant with your child. (This obviously was an unwed mother. This caused a total scandal and MIL types opened their mouths and covered it with their hands in disgust).

I am dust beneath your feet. Please pick me up.

Do you just love my body and not the soul. I thought your love was pure.

The censor would not approve any kissing scenes. Heroine will pull her lips away at the last-minute and camera will cut to 2 roses swaying together or two frogs with their tongues out.  The word of mouth carried a lot of weight. If the word went around that “heroine” has done “bold stuff” (some cleavage), it will be filled with young men. If the daughter in law learned to respect mother in law after getting slapped, it will be filled with MIL types. My cousin advised me that if I ever saw a crowd of motherly types even in close proximity to a theater, I should avoid that movie like plague. As per him ” these old hags should be spending their last days at home and not in movie theaters where a woman’s mind can become polluted”.

My Cousin ( Part 2)

My cousin was addicted to movies and anything related to them. He had to watch every new movie on the day of release. Our town only had one small movie theater. This meant getting a movie ticket on the first day was a challenge. My cousin had built a nasty reputation and he always got his choice of seats. People either feared him or they realized that he is crazy for movies and will not stop at anything. Nothing could get between him and the movie on that first day. At times he simply walked in manager’s office, threw the money on his table and got what he wanted while everyone else had to be in a line. He was fully focussed while watching these movies. If anyone created disturbance during the movie he was always ready to pick up a fight. He was a possessed man during those 3 hours and won’t even blink. He will light up a cigarette (or a beedi depending on the finances) and at times will sit on haunches during specially tense scenes. He might not have had a good memory for science but he could narrate any movie in its entirety with all the dialogue.  After the movie we will go to a barn or remote area of the farm where he would  enact the entire movie frame by frame including dialogues, dances, stunts and fight sequences. It did not matter to him that I had watched the same movie with him hardly 10 minutes ago. In some sequences he would want me to play role of the villain. I did it once but found out that he really did get in the character and would start throwing me around. At times he would also want me to play heroine for some song and dance routines but I drew a line there.

He would buy gossip movie magazines and read them front to back multiple times. The magazines had screaming headlines about who is sleeping with whom, who got dumped and who is the number 1 star currently. . The last third of the magazine was filled with ads for perfumes which could make women go crazy over you, the books about writing a perfect love letter, Urdu poetry books which could win heart of the girl you desire and rare precious stones with which you could control anyone you wanted. He did order these from time to time with some real disastrous results. He did pay attention to “facts” such as which movie star was hooking up with who and at times will be heartbroken if his dream heroine had hooked up with some other star.

At one time our family was so concerned about his addiction that they took him to a doctor. The good old town doctor diagnosed him with vitamin and iron deficiency and gave him a bunch of bottles filled with syrupy liquids. My cousin diagnosed the Doctor with being old and completely crazy most likely due to reading too many text books.

My Cousin (part 1)

The earliest memories of vacations are from my 4th or 5th grade days. This was 70’s India with no TV, one station radio and floral print shirts.  We had our vacations in May and June. At this time I was in Jaipur which was considered a big city. But I always had to spend this vacation time in my home town. This was a two train a day town where pretty much nothing happened. My parents felt that it would allow me to spend time with my grandparents and extended family. Apparently it would enrich me with values that I couldn’t get in a city.  We were also somewhere on the lower ladders of middle class which simply meant staying home for holidays. In our town most of the people did not even know what a vacation was. You only left your town if you were too sick to be cared for by the local hospital or you died.

The days in summer were long and hot. The heat could be oppressive and the boredom suffocating. During this time my company was one of my cousins who was 4-5 years older than me. He had already failed twice in 10th grade yet somehow it never seemed to bother him. He wore it as a badge of honor. At some point my father had encouraged him to be a doctor and as a token of respect to him he took this advice to heart. He would not quit science until his last breath. He clearly was not cut out for science and frankly education itself if you believed his teachers. They would drop non subtle hints such as “farming can be very good for certain people”. I don’t think he ever realized that they meant him. He would wholeheartedly agree with his teachers that indeed education was not for everyone. Multiple family members from our extended family advised him to change to subjects such as art that were considered easy. However he looked down upon art types and as per him he would rather become a Bengali than an arts graduate.

In his opinion his results were not a lack of hard work but simply bad luck. He felt that he failed first time because he got a “bad” exam center where cheating was not allowed.”What can you do? It is all in god’s hand”. He failed the second time because apparently someone put a curse on him, which even his favorite god Hanuman could not reverse. He was hoping to be lucky the 3rd time and did not want anything to be left to chance. He had a foolproof plan this time. He was worshipping everyday. He also filled in his application for board exams on a particularly auspicious day. In fact he wanted to take his application personally to the state board in Ajmer. But  the school begged him not to do any such thing.

He also did not believe in text books and instead preferred a very brief summary of probable questions called kunji (key). The key was simply a series of questions and answers. There was no context, no references or even the name of a publisher.  It was based on such assumptions that since a particular question was asked last year, it was not going to be asked this year and other such theories. This was Casino Royale for the educationally challenged. He also believed that too much studying could make one go mad and crazy. He always spoke of students who had gone crazy because they studied from text books. In fact anything that required any mental exertion was likely to cause incurable “craziness”.  Chess caused so much craziness in some guy in some village that he had to be tied with iron chains 24/7. He had found perfect solace in the fact that though he was going to fail at least he was not going to go crazy.

He bought the key from a local bookstore. The bookseller was son of the owner and had himself failed multiple times. My cousin demonstrated the stupidity of those studying from a text-book by comparing it and the key side by side. The key was 1/10th the size of text-book. He would point that key was not only thinner but cheaper as well. This particular key though was not thin enough. He asked the bookseller to show him an even thinner key. The bookseller told him that he did have a thinner one but he couldn’t guarantee that my cousin would pass the exam. This one was so thin that it barely had any content. My cousin got very angry and asked him what kind of bookseller did not guarantee a pass. He wanted a full refund in case he failed after studying from this key. My cousin apparently had been robbed by this dude before. When he took exam the first time, he thought he would pass and sold his books even before the results. He tried to buy same books for the same price but the shopkeeper wouldn’t sell. This escalated real fast. My cousin called him a cheating baniya and bookseller called him dumb. What self-respecting science student would take this insult! So he started to beat him up. The shopkeepers gathered to support the bookseller and beat my cousin. But the town was full of these “failed and cheated by baniya” types who pretty much  loitered around in the bazaar. They came to help their failed comrade. This turned into a full-blown caste war. The students accused the baniya of being a cheater baniya and shopkeepers accused them of being jat (which automatically meant not being bright). There were cops around drinking tea but they would not break the fight because “no one has filed a complaint”. In the end good sense prevailed. The students needed the bookseller and he needed them for his business. A deal was reached. The bookseller would buy back books for 50% of the price. A success was claimed by both parties as these worthy scholars felt that they were only losing 50% of their money (losing a whole year apparently was not much of a concern) and the baniya felt he could always keep on selling returned books to next group of failures.

..to be continued