Not On Assignment

A journo's jottings under no deadline pressure (since Jan 1, 2010)

By invitation: Arati & Bhai

with 2 comments

This piece was written by a good friend, a talented ‘very moody writer’ (her description) around the time of the recently-concluded Rakhi festival.

Arati & Bhai
BY Arati Datta

Arati asks Bhai – why do you guys call that friend of yours Bhai? Bhai says – because it suits him. You do know its VERY confusing? Other people have Bhais too, you know – with Arati calling you Bhai, you guys calling him Bhai, other people calling their Bhais Bhai, how will any Bhai know which Bhai is being called? Bhai looking at Arati as though she has said bye to her mind. Arati continues – just look at it – your friend Bhai has a younger Bhai who calls him Bhai and the big Bhai calls his younger Bhai Bhai back – how can anyone know kaun kiska Bhai hai – too many Bhais floating around, I tell you ! Bhai shocked – REALLY??!! Arati glares at him and thinks – you cheeky lil so and so. Bhai – it’s just a nickname he was given because he’s big and strong – like Big Brother. Arati cackles – like mafia don! Bhai looks speculatively at Arati – no, like he’s big and strong enough to beat you up real nicely. Arati stops cackling.
***************
“Arati, have you finished your milk ?” Arati sliding the milk glass across the table to Bhai. Bhai glaring at the milk glass. Arati glaring back, with a villainous curl to her lips. Bhai pointing to his glass and shaking his head – no, thank you. Arati kicking Bhai under the table to emphasize her ‘request’. Bhai rolling his eyes and SIGHING dramatically and taking Arati’s glass. Arati takes his empty glass and sits there alllll innocence. Ma comes and looks at Bhai, surprised he hasn’t finished his milk. Arati looking pretty smug.
***************
Bhai struggling to make French Toast in the kitchen. Ma looking doubtfully at the mess and saying she can do it. Bhai assuring her that he can manage and parents should go to the party. Parents telling Bhai “Don’t disturb Arati – she has an exam day after and NEEDS to study”. Bhai tells them that if he needs help, he’ll call Mani Amma. Locks up after parents and enters my room silently – looks around vaguely as though trying to find me. Then he looks at the chair I’m not sitting on – er… um… what are you doing? Studying… can you come to the kitchen – this will take just two seconds. Arati putting on an expression as though her research for the cure of cancer had been interrupted. Please??? Arati telling him, very virtuously, that she is getting ‘disturbed’. Bhai putting on his ‘nice’ smile and pulling her out of the chair, dragging her to the kitchen. Arati mumbling all the way about five precious seconds getting wasted and secretly glad that she wouldn’t be looking at the bilaaddy Periodic Table for some time. Arati inspecting the mess in the kitchen and guessing – you don’t know how to make FT? Bhai saying hurriedly – I DO know how to make FT – look – I have beaten the eggs… got the sugar and bread… and the pan… and then he puts the gas lighter in Arati’s hand – can you just light the gas? Arati hooting with laughter.
***************
Arati looking plaintively at Ma and Bhai – Pa has no sense of timing – going off to Madras just when I need help with stoopid Maths – what am I gonna do now? Ma suggesting I go the Uncle across the road – he’s nice and helpful. Arati thinking of her XXXS size and Uncle’s XXXXL size and booming voice – nooooooooo. Ma and Arati looking doubtfully at Bhai, who thinks he’s a nuclear physicist heading for a Nobel Prize. Yeah, I can help her – Maths is easy. Arati cringing and seriously thinking of galloping across the road to Uncle. Bhai looks at the Maths problem Arati is having a problem with – this is SO simple! Right, for Einstein… Bhai writes down the equation, scribbles a line and writes the solution – done! Arati peering at the two steps Bhai has written and counting the steps in the textbook – they did it in seven steps… nah, you don’t need those extra five. Arati looking at Bhai in horror and saying – I have a feeling Mrs. Kumaresan is going to insist on those missing five steps. Bhai insisting those five steps are useless – they put them in the textbook just for the heck of it. Arati looking at her notebook… then at the textbook… back at the notebook as though it had suddenly grown green ears. Arati shooting out of the chair and running to Ma and saying tearfully – your son doesn’t know Maths! Bhai trailing after Arati – as long as you solve the problem, it doesn’t matter how many steps you take to solve it. Knowing better, Arati yells – I hate you, you idiot!
***************
Arati walks into the room she shares with Bhai and looks in annoyance at the nine boys sprawled all over the room – how on earth is she going to take a change of clothes out of the cupboard without the boys ragging her into a Ninja frenzy? Arati pushes limbs and boys out of the way to get to the cupboard. Somebody wraps an arm round her neck and pulls her away. Arati kicks him backwards and notices that someone has her books on the bed and is flipping through them. How dare they??? Books are supposed to be on the TABLE. Arati tries to snatch the book and fails. Hmmmm… a kick to the tummy is called for. Back to the cupboard after the needful. Arati peers into the cupboard with three boys towering over her and peering into HER cupboard with even more interest. I have never seen the inside of a girl’s cupboard… me too. Third voice – but she’s not a girl! Something is pulled out of a neat stack – what the hell is this ? I have never seen you wear this! Arati assuring him that if he keeps on annihilating her cupboard, he won’t get to see the inside of his own cupboard again. Arati’s T-shirts land on the floor. Free-for-all pummeling ensues. Arati races out of the room, into the garden hollering – SUNDEEEEERRR!!! Gardener comes running, thinking Arati has found a snake. Arati tells him to go inside and take Bhai’s bed and throw it on the lawn. Pa helpfully suggests that the spare room would be a better place for Bhai’s bed. Arati walks off in a ‘I-dont-care’ huff.
***************
Really, when will you stop reading girly books? Arati stares in bafflement at Sidney Sheldon. Bhai snatches the book Arati is reading out of her hand, picks up the other two books she had got from the library and cycles off to the Mess library… with Arati cycling furiously after him. Bhai thumps the books down in front of the librarian. Librarian: But she signed them out just an hour back!
Bhai informs him that WE want to change the books. Arati implies with her expression and body language that she actually wants to murder her only Bhai for taking away HER books. The librarian ticks us off for doing this 3-4 times every day – fine, it’s his job but he has better things to do than to keep changing our books all day long. Bhai informs him that the Mess library doesn’t stay open all day – just till lunch time. Arati knows that was a dumb thing to say to the librarian. Arati and Bhai get banned from the library. Pa had to help out and sweet-talk the librarian into letting his crazy kids back into the library fold.
***************
Arati is lounging by the poolside, sipping her Roona. G walks up to her – you don’t know how to dive. Arati points towards the edge of the pool with her bottle – can dive from there. G points towards the diving boards – but not from there. Arati looks around uneasily for an escape route and decides she HAS to know right then who manufactures Roona – she has seen Bhai and company do their infamous Hi-Lo-Lo dive – its damn scary. G hauls her out of the chair and drags her to the diving boards, where M is waiting. Arati protests – she’s just had a Roona – shouldn’t dive immediately after drinking or eating. Arati is ignored. G gets on the low spring board and says it’s very easy and starts bouncing on it. Arati makes it a point to stand as far away from it as possible and is still looking skywards when he calls out from the pool – See? So simple, na… now you do it. Arati stands there like a statue till M nudges her on the board. Arati dives tentatively and does a belly landing on water with a mighty splash. G swims over and hauls her to the side where M takes over. After 12 belly landings, M shakes his head with exasperation – you are doing something wrong. Really, Einstein??? M – Let’s try it one more time. Arati turns around and glares at him with red, watery eyes and her tummy threatening to throw up day before yesterday’s lunch.
M, hastily: Or, maybe, another day…?
Arati walks shakily to the changing rooms, thinking she’ll NEVER stop feeling queasy.
***************
Arati is bawling – your son’s friends have given Arati a stoopid nickname and then Arati HAS to chase them, throw chalks and dusters at them and take flying tackles at them and punch them. Pa looking at me Atticus like, with half a smile – what do they call you now, implying Arati is called names all the time? Arati tells him. Pa thinks that’s actually a nice one as far as nicknames go. Arati’s wailing goes up in volume. Then Pa explains that people will call you names all the time. But you know better – you know you are none of those names. They give you nicknames to get a reaction out of you. You stop reacting and they’ll either stop calling you names or you’ll become indifferent to it. Arati looks at him doubtfully. Pa asks Arati to try it for a couple of days. Worked just fine.
Bhai’s friends continued calling Arati by that nickname but it was OK.

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Written by Raju Bist

August 28, 2010 at 10:14 am

Posted in By Invitation

Tagged with ,

2 Responses

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  1. Liked it! Very nice. Makes you smile.

    Neera

    August 29, 2010 at 2:57 am


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