“I am SRK”
The transformation wasn’t easy. It never is and never will be.
What brought about the transformation in SRK were the forces created by the chaos of unkind worldly perceptions. Perceptions that were either expressed directly through words or indirectly through gestures, expressions or accidentally overhearing conversations. It was a dosage with a double whammy.
The neighborhood nosy Sheela aunty’s son was also of SRK’s age and both used to go to the same school. The boy – young Vinod was the one with whom SRK would spend time playing cricket in the nearby streets during the summer vacation or “choi” (a game played typically in coastal areas and rural, semi-rural parts of the country using small conch shells found in the shores of the sea. Its similar to playing a game of ludo/ snakes and ladders – only difference being there are no defined boundaries available commercially where the conch shells of players can take their place) when the weather outside was not good. They used to take turns in playing the games at either of their houses. “Choi” over the years made way to watching Television– the latest of the “English” and “Hindi” channels shown on Television which was in way metamorphosing the genesis of their middle class upbringing. Vinod always had been a likeable guy. He was not only good in studies, but also slightly better than SRK in sports and other extra-curricular. When SRK used to go to Vinod’s house to play the games / watch TV, Sheela aunty always discriminated in the way she treated Vinod over SRK. Vinod used to always be asked for refreshments or got the fully loaded cream biscuits, while SRK would at times not be given things of the same quality and quantity that Vinod got. As if these wounds were not enough, Sheela aunty had a nack of rubbing salt further onto the wounds by saying “Look at our Vinod. He is so tired of doing well in school, extra curriculars and now playing with you. After all he needs more energy to be better than you, doesn’t he?” SRK used to meekly nod, trying to control himself from an outburst of tears in public, which Vinod could sense, but never do anything about that would annoy his mother. Once back home, SRK used to get onto the small corner of the house where the idol’s of various gods were placed to secretly cry over the happenings of the day and then cover himself up before being seen by anyone.
But more important than that – Vinod did not have the fear of public speaking and had the confidence to communicate with the opposite sex, which is where SRK envied him the most. Vinod could not only converse easily with all the girls in the class, but also be liked for the way he used to maintain the interest in these conversations. No wonder Vinod was never a hit amongst the girls during times of “Raksha Bandhan” – the times when girls innocuously look for making brothers with boys whom they either had no special romantic liking for or for whom they would never develop such liking in the future by tying a Rakhi (a colorful thread signifying the bond of trust, respect and love)around the boy’s wrist.
Contrast this to SRK, he used to always be the person who could never muster enough courage to talk to any girl in the class – except for asking for their marks in various subjects and overall ranking once the results of the examinations were out. And that too he used to ask only the top 3-4 ranking girls to understand what was his competitive positioning. SRK’s usual ranking was amongst the top 6 in the class, with Vinod always edging him out by a higher rank miraculously during all those schooling years. During times of “Raksha Bandhan” SRK’s wrist was filled with so many “Rakhi’s” that at times he used to wonder how will he ever have a romantic liason with a girl or get married? He felt it was only upon himself that the responsibility of executing the Pledge recited in the morning school prayers was bestowed. The Pledge where he and his schoolmates recited “ India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters. I am proud of its rich and varied heritage….” SRK suspected if Vinod and all the girls just lip synched like in the Charlie Chaplin movies while saying “All Indians are my brothers and sisters” and did not say it from their heart like he did. The problem with “Raksha Bandhan” was that it was a big dampener on his already marginalized pocket money as the newly made brothers had to gift something to their new found sisters. While Siva used to save money in the Summer, getting money for good will from his relatives and family and by selling the old newspapers to the nearby old newspaper mart, he used to spend it almost instantly in the rainy season of Aug – September when Rakhi used to appear in the Hindu Calendar. The worst was – in the last year in school, even Mallika, the neighborhood Marwari girl had tied him a Rakhi.
Sheela aunty left no stone unturned to show off her son’s superiority over SRK – either in her conversations with SRK’s mom when they used to shop together or exchange delicacies during festivals or even while talking about the kids growing up so quick during the weekly informal meetings of the ladies of Satyam Apartments in T Nagar. Her urge to bring in comparisons and feel superior and better in comparison to Ms. Krishnan propelled her to steer conversations from totally unrelated topics to the topic of how great her son Vinod was. SRK’s mom used to be a mute spectator in most of these conversations. At times when enraged she would still be calm and hold her ground saying “Kids are different in the way they think, behave and interact. They take their own time to blossom and spread their wings in this world. I am sure our Siva would one day blossom and ape Vinod in all the right aspects”. Sheela aunty, never to give away her line of thought used to grunt and say in Tamil “Pakalam yepudee pogardu na”. (Lets see how it goes)
To be continued...