Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My first crush

Brij Bhushan Bhandari !

Where are you Brij?

Yes. Him!

Brij Bhushan Bhandari was my first official crush.

I was a ninth grader, studying in a girls’ convent at Jhansi and looking back now, that big head harboured some pretty exotic notions. I believed that only girls fell for boys and never the other way around. Ritu Nanda and Catherine Kingham, two of my precocious class mates, were paragons of feminine beauty in my eyes. I did not consider myself attractive. In fact I was conscious of my ample fundament and faintly pimpled skin.

We had a brother institution close by. Local lore had it that a crypt under our Blessed Virgin Mary’s statue in the garden, led to a tunnel, that came out right into the courtyard of Christ the King School.

It was as giddy a time as it could have been in the life of a charming little cantonment, the year being 1977. There were the usual stories of the May Queen Ball, weekly movie day at the Sarvatra, the Taalbhet and Babina school bus recaps by virtue of having Ritu Nanda as one of the passengers. And there were the four of us: Sadhana Atri, Hutokshi Nadirshaw, Catherine Kingham and yours truly a la Amar, Akbar, Anthony and Arjan!! We carried egg patties in our Tiffin, ate chocolate fudge at Jimmy’s and whispered nonsense about Sister Denise being pretty and Brother Dominic being handsome. We also made time to throw the javelin, attend music lessons in a huge, wooden floored hall with sister on the piano and march playfully during recess to the refrain, “We must, we must, we must increase our bust!”

Jhansi, the seat of the legendary firebrand queen Laxmibai, India’s enduring symbol of resistance to the British rule. It was in this major, rail and road junction on the banks of river Betwa that our 3 Ton Military School Bus, complete with the Danda Man, traced a daily rattle route, carrying a miscellaneous pack of Army kids to and from school. If you struck lucky, you would get to squeeze onto the wooden, makeshift benches. The rest of us hung on to the sides, we clutched someone’s shirt or looped low from the handles dangling down the tarpaulin roof.

It was noisy and sweaty and uneven, the school trip. And I would have missed him completely but for the orange bell bottoms. Those bells blared across the rushing tar as he rode his lady's cycle in hot pursuit of the 3 Tonner. I can’t recall the exact point he made his appearance but BBB was a regular both ways. I haven’t the faintest idea if he attended school or college. In fact, for the longest time, I puzzled over where this energetic fellow giving chase was going. He did not overtake.He did not fall behind. He managed to shadow the bus just right.

An epiphanic episode occurred near the school water tank one day when this familiar looking junior came up and explained, “Bhaiya did not come today because he has fever.” I stood there tongue tied. Oh, o....he was this girl’s brother which also meant his mother was one of the senior teachers in school! Identity and intent having been established, the perspective did a U-turn and it was a new me that afternoon. I was looking out for him as we drew up at the boys’ school gate. Bingo! The fever had vanished. There he was under the tree, foot on the pedal....

What do you know? There was no cell phone, no facebook, and no twitter. Back in those days, if you fancied someone you just picked up the bicycle and ran !

This daily sequence lasted over a month. I felt nervous and embarrassed and confused and excited, all at the same time. Without having come within 150 m of a person, I was discovering what it felt like to be liked. Yes, I wrote his name in a notebook and applied the “Love, Like, Hate, Adore” formula.

If you are reading this BBB, thank you for lesson one: the boy girl thing is a two way street!

PS: I see you Sadhana, falling off your chair sitting in California. Hold that stomach and cover the mouth, for heaven’s sake.

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