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Chapter One

I was missing my blog. But am just too busy to update it. There’s too much pending office work and I have a stage show tomorrow for which I have zero practice. I’m getting ready for the rotten tomatoes 😦  Anyway, I just HAD to post something. So I rummaged through my computer and found this, one of the many ‘Chapter One’s’ I keep on writing. I’ve started books on and off and then well, didn’t get past the ominous Chapter One. There are so many of them, that once I thought of publishing a Book called ‘Chapter One compiling all the Chapter Ones I’ve written till date. Below, is one of these Chapter Ones, for a Book I had decided to call First Person. Happy Chapter Onening! 🙂

 

 

Chapter One: Birth Sentence

Jhumka’s birth was her first fear closet. Ever since she remembered, her family suppressed secret smiles and bad humour about the circumstances of her birth. Her father would often reveal a learned forehead under the vernacular newspaper and mock her saying that she was exchanged at birth. He claimed that she had been smuggled into the family in place of his biological son, who was handsome and showed promise in mathematics, a subject that both Jhumka and her elder sister Rumi were exceptionally poor at.

Jhumka’s mother would come quick to the rescue and provide a mellowed version – Jhumka was abandoned by her parents on the streets of Mirik, a beautiful hill station, where she lay naked, shivering and nearly dead. Her mother, a newly married bonny bride on her honeymoon, immediately took pity and in a way that was romantically convenient, picked her up. Just like that. Like the kanchi picks up chosen tea leaves from their pods.

Jhumka was born on 23rd May, 1986 at Dr. Nun’s nursing home. Wisps of description that she caught from her family revealed a rosy picture – a girl baby, chubby, curly haired, nauseatingly cherubic.

But.

She was born with 12 fingers. An extra mass of messy flesh bulged out from a particular point on both her pinkies. An aunt of her’s was the first to detect the anomaly.

Anomaly, Deformation, Abnormal, Alien.

 

The eyesore was uprooted at source. Giggle, giggle, giggle. How it sounds like Tax Deducted at Source. Jhumka, the 12 fingered baby was moved to an operation table that stretched out forever from head upwards and toe downwards. The staff at the hospital watched in awe as the doctor chipped off the extras, and restored Jhumka to Normalcy.

Normal, Adaptable, Earthly, Healthy.

 

She was born a girl. The nurse came out with a practiced smile and declared to the pensive family that a baby had seen the light of day. A baby did she say? Yes, most certainly, a baby.

Not a Boy. Spelt as B-O-Y. Pronounces bo-e. Therefore, it’s a girl. Or a non boy baby. Information enough for her dear old dadu to cancel a birth feast. Rumi and Jhumka, two non boys in the family.

Later, as a wily nily girl with uncouth pigtails lashing the air, Jhumka had walked past the nursing home spot. The nursing home wasn’t there. No Dr. Nun. No 12 fingered baby on a moonlit night. That day too, Jhumka’s good humoured uncles pointed to the empty swamp and stated the place where Jhumka had enforced herself on the family.

Rumi too had a special birth legend. According to Ma, Rumi was one of the many children that Goddess Shashthi had carried down in baskets from the heavens. By the time Ma managed to reach the spot to buy a suitable baby, there was only Rumi left. Looking up, Ma saw Goddess Shashthi and her attendant sitting bored and disgusted. Rumi had been rejected by prospective parents because she appeared horribly naïve. They had taken a look at her curled lips, her free smile and projected their minds to a stale and tactless future. Again, Ma took pity, both on Rumi and Goddess Shashthi who was getting late for the return trip to heaven and bought Rumi at dirt cheap rate.

Naïve, Tactless, Uninitiated, Useless.

 

As a child, Jhumka was nobody in particular. She traveled from lap to lap, munched on crude puffed rice to keep conversation flowing, toddled on the cheap mosaiced apartment floor and carried the famous all-knowing halo about her. Ma would often fondly remember her insipid knowing look and snigger. A baby with knowledge.

And then there was Rumi.

Rumi, who was named after the famous Sufi saint was born autistic. They were five years apart. Jhumka remembers countless days when Rumi’s autism disturbed and encroached spaces. Spaces within and witout. Spaces too stark. Spaces of blind vision. Rumi was about 15 (and Jhumka 10 years) when a young handsome cousin of their’s suggested that Ma and Baba consult a specialist.

Rumi was a lovely child. She was the first born of the family. The apple of all eyes. Only she wasn’t normal. She didn’t play with dolls. She messed up her potty training. She didn’t copy her mother and smear lipstick all over her lips. She merely sat and stared and sometimes banged her head again and again against the wall until a thin red trickle dripped down as unkempt sympathy from her forehead. She hardly talked. She laughed immoderately and spit coiled up and foamed around her mouth.

At five, Rumi had started showing the unmistakable signs of autism. The worse of them was obsession with thought and action. Jhumka remembers how Rumi would go flying off from her mother’s clutches on the streets to climb up a flight of stairs that had caught her attention. Up she went. And down she came. Up and Down. Up and Down. Ma and Jhumka would try to grab her, beat her up but Rumi was possessed by unknown strength, something Jhumka could only compare to Nishi Daka, or the Night Voice that often called possessed people from their beds at night into the welcome darkness.

Ma and Baba took the matter up seriously when Rumi was around 16. She had chosen a perfectly clear Sunday morning to strip bare and stand at the verandah, in open view to the road and Jhumka’s para. The regular eve-teasers at Nagen Da’s tea joint were the first to notice her. Rumi stood, valiant in her nativity, a primal smile gurgling up her throat, a secret flush shooting up her face. She was Happy.

So were Nagen Da’s customers. A triple X show for free on a lazy Sunday morning. They gave Rumi a good stare and realized that autism hadn’t claimed her assets. She was a woman. And available too. Just because her nervous system did not bother to send her appropriate signals on a bright Sunday morning. However, Ma and Baba were quickly assailed by Arati Mashi, the maid who worked in the neighbourhood. Her diligent hypocrisy showed through her carefully chosen words, “Go, see what your little baby is up to in the verandah! It’s a circus out there!”

Many years later, when Jhumka had embraced the Dusty Dream City of Mumbai, and barely months after she had come back after Rumi’s last rites, these were the words that kept coming back to Jhumka.

It’s a circus out there.

 

Jhumka braced herself against the window rails and watched the bald headed mad girl and her destitute mother on the opposite seats. The girl was a regular in the VT-Bandra route. As soon as she got up, her mother, who was ghoulish and shrunken with suffering requested, pleaded the lady at the window to let her daughter sit by the window. Jhumka always relented. And fed her ego every time she saw the girl carnally laughing to the wind carrying the fragrance of Mumbai sewers at the window.

Poor Poor Pleasures.

 

That day however, Jhumka thought of Rumi and the World of the Insane. She tried to turn her rigid mind inside out, tried to lubricate the squeaking doorways into a vision of The Other World.

What was it like to be insane?

Who had the right to classify sanity?

What is the truth – a perception or a norm?

Was the Clear Sunday Morning Smile less relevant than The First Job Salary Cheque Jubilance?

Yours Joblessly, The Jobless Ideator

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Categories: Uncategorized
  1. anupam seth
    February 6, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    the last line is not very appropriate to the rest of the chapter….Life is not always assioated with jobs …even though its shows in your name…the jobless ideator…
    a very thought provoking start…eagerly waiting for chapter 2….and many more…
    anupam

    • February 6, 2012 at 5:29 pm

      Interesting observation. Thing is, I’ve tried to voice the exact question you have ‘not everything in life is associated with jobs’, even insanity has it’s own virgin joys! Chapter 2? I really hope I write it! Thanks for dropping by 🙂

      Yours Joblessly,
      The Jobless Ideator

  2. Mydhili
    February 7, 2012 at 3:18 am

    With a chapter 1 like this, I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a compilations of chapter ones. Non-boys and boys would equally love to read this. Go, J!

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