Amanda’s report card

Amanda’s report card

Amanda, who grew up teaching English to girls of her age, indulged into fun on the streets that lead to her home. She laughed at the lame linguistic impressions that the street artists had left on the walls of her city. She was left amused when she read advertisements as these– “Childrens Toys”, “Your the best”, “The Filanthropist” or “The Vagetarian restorant”. In Amanda’s mien could be found the erudition that a young woman with a major in English should bear. This was one of the reasons behind the freedom that she enjoyed while making fun of those who lacked the perfection of language.

One weekend, her mom spread old photographs, letters, books and memoirs across a bed; Amanda jumped onto a corner of the bed while her mom clung to the other as they enjoyed recalling long-lost memories. In one of the books Amanda fumbled upon a report card of her early schooling. The ecstasy in her flipped the card open and dropped eyes on the scores mentioned in the subjects of language. She frowned as read –

Grammer: 93/100

Amanda’s cakes

After three days of hunger spent in their tiny apartment, mom and Amanda sat at the table for dinner. Loss of mom’s job about six months ago had become more meaningful now when bills and charges were eating away her savings, leaving her with nothing to feed her kid. Today, however, she had earned a smile for Amanda’s face while falling from grace when she stole muffins and cakes from a friend’s housewarming party she had been invited to.

The table looked lively with a basket full of food. Amanda pushed her plate for mom to fill it.

As soon as mom moved her hand towards the food, two dirty rats sprung up from nowhere and dug into the basket. The bigger rat bit into the muffin while the smaller one fell flat on the cake dancing all over it. They both grabbed muffins into their mouths and scurried away.

Amanda’s breakfast

Photo: art.com

Photo: art.com

I will eat breakfast only when mommy’s around.  Amanda thought as she took the Sunday newspaper in her small hands.  Every week she waited for this day when she could maunder about all that she did in school.

She had finished reading all comic strips when she felt hunger pangs. She looked at the big clock on the wall while the food lay on the table.

10:50 am

She folded the newspaper and dropped it in mom’s chair. A tiny piece of paper slipped from the pages. It read,

Honey, I’m off to office, got an urgent call from my bald boss. Finish the breakfast, I’ll be late.

Love,

Mommy 

Brave to be you

Dorothy had a warm body. She felt cold even during the soothing months of monsoon and those that followed. Her mom would wrap her in layers of winter clothes if it started drizzling outside. However, she wouldn’t slip into those layers to school. This was as much out of a fear that school children would tease her for the ‘bunny-bear’ that look she carried as the teenage blues she was going through. She presumed it was easy to bear the coldness of weather than to bear the tantalisation that her garb would invite. On days when she felt it was difficult to sit in the class without shivering, she would wear a nylon shirt under her school uniform to fight the chill. On other cold days, she would rub her palms under the desk.

Winters would bring her joy, for she would be able to wear warm woolen fabric, thick coats, muffler and scarves without fearing any raised eyebrows.

On a Sunday morning Dorothy caught fever, or fever caught her, as she insisted to word it. Dorothy had to be injected so that she could write her examination the next morning. That night, Dorothy was wrapped in the blue blanket and spent the night wondering if she would have to wear sweaters to school. Throughout the night she would try to come out of the blanket to experience the magnitude of cold outside it and then crawl back into it, quick enough to escape the harsh air.

The next day, fever had subsided but she couldn’t drop the sweaters. She realised it was too foolish to appear for the exams without looking like a baggage of clothes.

At the school gate, she fumbled with her heavy legs, overburdened with fear and trepidation. Once in, she scurried groggily to vanish into her class room. She noticed that except for a few surly boys and girls, nobody appeared to give her look any serious thoughts.

The day passed without any fuss, leaving her astonished.

This experience imbibed in Dorothy the courage to wear sweaters. She tried her luck again in the same sweaters, and later made it a practice. She would don that ‘bunny-bear’ look whenever her skin felt cold. It became less of an effort for her to muster the courage to wear that garb. To her surprise, some other children of her school too started wearing sweaters during a cold day of monsoon or early winter, as if they were waiting for her to fuel them with bravery. Dorothy had never felt this proud to wear coats on a non-winter day.

She now wears what her body asks for, not what she thinks others would be pleased to see her in.

“Through the door” – A day that couldn’t be

DPChallenge

I was in my grandfather’s house that day. His was a house with a worshipping area, four bedrooms, an open space followed by kitchen and a washroom. All this on the ground floor lined up like a train. If my memory is to be believed, we got no milk and no newspaper that day as the city shops, including the groceries, were all closed for some nasty reasons. It’s always nasty when they close down the nation in order to protest against something a handful of people didn’t enjoy.

When I opened the door of the first bedroom in the house, I was flummoxed by what I saw.

A lady with short hair sat on her haunches placed carefully on the bed. She was wearing a white frock and smoking a cigarette.

I was as scared as angry. “Excuse me? Miss Marilyn Monroe, who the hell are you? And why on earth are you here?”

 The lady turned to me. Her blonde hair, her red lipstick, and that mole right below her pink cheek reminded me of someone.

She spoke with confidence “You guessed it right!”

MARILYN MONROE in my home? Be it the nose or the ears or the eyes. I couldn’t trust my anatomical presence in the same room as that of the woman standing right in front of me.

I realized her dress was indeed ivory and not just white. And pleated. She was good in shape, neither skinny nor plump. And damn. She smelled so good. Do all actresses smell like that?

Before I could clear my throat, she turned to the window, as if snubbing me.

I snaffled the opportunity to close my eyes and pinch my arm hoping that I wasn’t dreaming.

“Can you bring us a lighter sweetie?” She flaunted her pearly whites.

Us? Does she mean grandfather?

“We are celebrating our success. I am the Talk of Hollywood while he gave us another hit…Oh come on, get us a lighter while Charlie explains me how Limelight tells a story that’s close to his childhood.”

I scanned the room. My heart skipped not one, but many beats when I found the legendary Charlie Chaplin sitting near the window.
My shout could have torn my throat but it couldn’t release any sound.

Limelight. Talk of Hollywood. 1950s.

A strange feeling gripped me. I started thinking of my dress, my grooming, my hair, my posture. I was nervous standing in front of a glamour queen and a genius who makes even a corpse burst into laughter. I held my breath and pulled my bulging stomach in.

I scurried towards the door to get a lighter for my guests, if not coffee.

I maneuvered my way into the third bedroom, took a deep breath and smiled.

Wow! Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe. A dream of millions. Let’s prepare a questionnaire and get ready for a snap.

As I found the lighter resting on a table, a thought flew through my head.

How about a quick face wash?

The nimble-footed me hurriedly opened the door of the washroom connected to the room.

I could hear a hum. A lady laid in the bath tub filled with something that looked like milk.

“Who are you?”

“The city is sipping black coffee and you are bathing in milk!” I roared at her.

The milk I could have made coffee with.

She grumbled some words in a language I couldn’t understand. Her voice, however, was music. Her outlandish clothes and stone jewellery almost blanketed the modest bathroom floor.

The wash basin…There was something odd about it.

It had a crown in it. A huge crown embellished with gold, silver and colourful stones.

Is this woman in that filthy tub a queen?

I fixed my eyes on her as she dabbled herself in the milk. The radiance of her body paralleled that of milk.

She can’t be that…Though she has the traits of a queen. Her clothes tell a different story. Aah…She must be one of those actresses from the Mummy movies. No wonder!

But these gems and stones? They look so real. And who bathes in milk?

Cleopatra.

She threw her hand out of the tub and groped the floor.

“Eureka.” She whispered on finding a large emerald ring.

Her nose is not a millimeter fatter than I had seen in the google images of the famous marble bust. If this is not a dream…If that woman in frock is Marilyn Monroe and that man with wrinkles and moustache is Chaplin himself, then this is Cleopatra, the woman of incomparable beauty.

I wish I could speak in any of the nine languages she knew. I could have asked her about the Egyptian history that always intrigued me.

I realised how big leaps of time I had taken as I switched from one room to another.

Amazements and exploits overwhelmed me. I thought of the lighter in my hand and headed towards the room I found Marilyn and Chaplin in.

They were nowhere there in the room.

Bewilderment and stupefaction filled my mind.

I climbed up the staircase to talk to grandfather.

In the room, stood a man who looked like an Indian king of the past. I had enough experience not to ignore him as an actor of a drama institute.

I was exhausted. “Not again!”

“Relax. You are safe in Akbar’s kingdom.”

 “Now, who are you? Akbar’s gem?”

“Your grandfather.”

“Fantastic! I’m not a kid to be wheedled.”

“Exactly.” And he vanished leaving bubbles of laughter behind.

 He must have been Birbal. I thought.