I have a rather tartly friend. I might as well admit it she is my best friend. She is a tartly, sarci, sharp tongued female called Natasha. She is variously called as Pudgy, Pudges, Nats, Mittu and bitch. I might as well admit it; she is mostly called a bitch. She is a self proclaimed bitch because she calls a spade a spade and an idiot an idiot.
She is called Pudgy because she was very chubby in Kindergarten and we pronounced chubby as 'pudgy' for a long time till corrected. But the name stuck.
Pudgy and me met in kindergarten. The first meeting was not so nice. Pudgy was clinging onto her Dad’s arms bawling her lungs out. She kept bawling the whole day and I was pretty fed of the irritating noise. Next day the bawling continued and I remember going to her and doing the decent thing. I pinched her hard. She stopped bawling for a second and then bawled harder till she was blue in the face. I raised my hands to pinch her again. This time she lowered her volume a bit and began whimpering. I was about 4 years old then and there were no hard feelings. I was just using a technique that worked very well in my limited experience. By mid morning of our second day at school she had stopped crying. She still had a sad and mopey look on her face and sulked most of the time but despite that she kept a wary eye on me.
On the third day of school Miss F my class teacher assigned us our seats and Pudges, surprise of surprise was sitting on my table. There were four of us at the small table with colorful chairs. We sat around the table so that we could face each other.
Pudgy's eyes filled with tears when she learned that she would be sitting at my table. However she dared not cry. She had learned her first lessons well. By the end of the second week we were friends. Once classes got underway Pudgy forgot her parents and got immersed in the hand painting, goo making and spitting and barfing orgy that is Kindergarten. And she topped in these classes too. She spat out anything she did not like and that was most of the stuff including her Tiffin. Ms F despaired till one day a sandwich from my Tiffin went down well with Pudgy. It was a Ham sandwich and Pudgy had never eaten non veg before. Throughout our 17 years or so of friendship Pudgy has broken every rule in the vegetarian book courtesy my Tiffin. By the time we were in first standard my mother packed enough food for the both of us.
Her Tiffin on the other hand was greatly relished by the Alsatian dogs at the convent. The ill tempered dogs were always happy to see us and Kempanna their keeper was not too pleased with the fact that five years of training to ensure a very bad tempered beast was undone by a humble Tiffin and six snot nosed girls! Guess he didn’t know much about dogs. For that matter he did not know much about gate keeping either because we sneaked out regularly to buy spiced Guavas from the man across the road till a flasher showed up and the Nuns decided to hire a proper guard. The 'ding-dong man' err flasher still hangs around the school gates though rarely now as he has grown old. Guess he has become too old for the job or perhaps the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
In second standard as is the practice in my school we were shuffled up and the whole lot of us ended up in different sections. This did not go down well with Pudges. She screamed blue murder and her harassed mom had to come and meet Princi and beg her to be put in my class. I will never forget the look on her face as Sr. A bought her to our class and told the class teacher that she had an additional student. While Sister was talking to the teacher, Pudgy grinned at the class triumphantly. I swear we saw a halo over her head and the devils pointy tail swishing behind her. A halo and the pointy tail describe Pudges best. In college she shocked the prudes by drawling “ I have a Nun and a Whore complex yaar!” I explained to her hyperventilating mom the next day outside the Deans office that a 'Nun and Whore complex' means a ‘little bit of bad and a little bit of good.’ She heaved a sigh of relief. She was one of the most gullible moms I have ever come across.
By middle school we had a reputation. Good girls but undisciplined. Lots of potential but least bothered of developing the same. Talented but prefer wasting their talents. Talkative. Opinionated, clannish, fiercely loyal and should be separated for their own good. We did get separated by the shuffling system, but there were three breaks and the ride home in the same van to huddle together again. By 6th standard the shuffling system was done away with and indulgent teachers ensured that the Band of Sisters sat together in one class.
By 7th standard the band of girls grew up. By now tummy ache tablets, pads and PMS were equally shared. There is a lot of comfort in sharing pain than pain medication at this stage of your life. When we not in pain and discomfort we jumped over the piles of leaf painstakingly collected from the 6 acre tree lined campus by the cleaners and heaped up to be burnt. We never got caught.
By 8th all that was behind us and we began to notice the existence of a species called boys. They looked horrible! Full Stop! We used Mills and Boons heavily to block out reality. We are still convinced that good guys exists only in novels.
By 9th we were more of less sure of ourselves. Surprisingly the gang that was voted most likely to get boyfriends first, turned out to be horribly conservative. The reason behind this we suspect was that all of us had brothers and we were not the gawking gals in awe of guys. We just knew how stupid they were by just looking at our brothers and their friends. The Nuns needs not take credit for our “conservativeness”. For that fact if they want to rear good girls I would suggest making their schools co-ed from KG.
10th standard was one blur of tuitions, shopping, tuitions, movies, tuitions, mall hopping, tuitions, window shopping, tuitions , wearing skimpy clothes behind locked doors, tuitions shaving legs, tuitions, pajama parties, tuitions and some more in that vein.
College was boring. No rules, no regulations to break, no teachers to run behind you, no protective Nuns to keep an eye on you. We who led a life of crime in school were suddenly clueless and jobless. Thankfully the various clubs and activities in college absorbed most of us and we began cleaning and polishing our talents buried under tons of dust and neglect.
College also put us through many virtual relationships as we saw the life cycle of many a classmates relationships from close quarters. By final year we knew everything that we needed to know about relationships except for being in one. We learned our lessons well.
So what’s the point of this saga which began with Pudgy but ended up with me sneaking in the wonder yeas of my life too? Because today is Pudgy’s birthday. And I cannot imagine any stage of my life without her…the North Indian girl with a South Indian heart who feels so lost when she goes to Delhi for vacations that she rushes back to namma Bengaluru and ‘sane people’. The girl who will gouge your eyeballs out if I were to only point in your direction. She will later apologize for not having heard me through or else she would have heard that I was merely pointing to you as an acquaintance. She spitfires first...asks questions and apologizes later. The girl who is sure she will marry a South Indian guy or a guy from her community who is born and bought here like her. Poor guy. My heart goes out to you. She might be my friend but she is a terrible female and you better be smart and well read and down to earth like her to get any. Else you adopt. Period.
Happy Birthday girl! May we live long enough to take our grand kids to the very Kindergarten from where we started off. I will be nice this time I promise. I will tell my grand kid to not to pinch your grand kid too hard.