Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gossip Girl

Eve-teasing is not anything new in India. I was eighteen and propped up on the back of my uncle's scooter in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh, on a quiet street after sunset when some guys on two bicycles started hovering around us. They all looked like they were in their late teens and early twenties. They were hooting at me. I couldn't believe the nerve. My six feet tall uncle was right there, I was covered from head to toe in unattractive bag-like clothing, and it didn't even matter to them. My uncle tried to yell at them but one of the bicycles veered too close to us, and my uncle lost control of the scooter. Nothing major but the scooter teetered off to the side of the road and fell to the ground. My uncle and I got a couple of scratches but that's it. We didn't actually even fall because the bicyclists had really slowed us down.

That summer I was in India after finishing 12th standard in Oman. When an old classmate called me from way down in South India, I happened to tell her the scandalous story. Then I forgot about it.

A month later I was back in Oman making salad with my father when the phone rang. It was a friend of my mother's. She sounded a bit confused when she asked me how I was doing. I told her I was fine and was just about to have lunch. Then she told me that her daughter, who was a year behind me at my old school, had told her that I had been terribly injured in a car accident in India. She said her daughter had heard the news at school.

I laughed and told her that I was fine. I thanked her for a hilarious story I could tell my grandchildren (or blog about, but this was 1999 and there were no blogs then), and hung up. I told my dad who wasn't thrilled about the nature of the gossip.

But I knew what must've happened. Have you ever played Chinese Whisper? My friend must've told her mother who was a teacher in Oman. She must've told some friends of hers, most probably teachers, and the word must've spread in the Keralite Christian community (there was only one church in Muscat then) about the terrible fate of the impish student from Indian School Muscat who had just graduated from childhood. Most of my teachers were South Indian, and my Biology teacher for four years was a Keralite Christian. It must've been pandemonium when the news hit my school. I was a well-known student.

The imp in me chuckled naughtily. I decided to pay a surprise visit to my alma mater. This was too good an opportunity to pass. That day I landed straight into the senior science supervisors' room. As I burst into the office with a smile on my evil face, the three teachers who wielded the fate of the senior Physics, Chemistry, and Biology departments leapt to their feet, shouting and waving their hands about all at once. Pandemonium further ensued as I happily walked about the campus and ran into students who had heard that the accident had left me bed-ridden for life. Someone even said that they had heard that I had died. The whole school was buzzing about the girl who had come back from the dead...sort of. I felt popular in a sick way.

It's kinda cool to know how the world will react when I die for real. It's like I saw the future or something.

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