This week I cut the tag off a pair of jeans. The look and feel, the quality, the whiteness, even the metal rim around the hole – made me fall in love with the tag! And I had an idea. I wanted to use it – for something. This evening, I thought I’d take a picture of it before I actually did something with it. And then I just took pictures of it – trying to focus on the quality of the paper.
I was about four years old, and it was the festival of holi. Standing in the balcony of an apartment on the ninth floor, I watched my brother drop water balloons on passers by… While we hadn’t technically collaborated on it, by virtue of standing there, and watching with delight, I considered myself partner in crime!
But as far as collaborative work was concerned, there was virtually only the one time – when I messed up the surprise for our parents’ anniversary.
After the ‘bucket fiasco‘, we didn’t plan anything together. Whatever special we did end up doing, was independent of each other.
Once my brother bought a couple of beautiful key-chains for our parents’ anniversary. It was supposed to be on behalf of both of us, but I had no knowledge of it whatsoever. Another time, I made a greeting card on behalf of the two of us, without involving him.
Eventually, when we grew up*, we became too busy with our own lives. We fought lesser with each other. We became more civil and our conversations attained more intellectual tones.**
Every year was more or less the same. A day, or a week before our parents’ anniversary, we’d discuss for a brief moment what it was that we were doing. And then we’d agree to a bucket of flowers. While our mother baked a cake, we were generally quite lazy and our patience lasted only as long as the time it took for the cake to come out of the oven.
And so it happened that on the twenty fifth wedding anniversary of our parents, we spent the day at home, and devoured freshly baked chocolate cake. Our laziness, and refusal to collaborate with each other meant that we contributed absolutely nothing towards the celebration of a milestone.
I had just finished my high-school. And my brother had just completed his post graduation. We were both at home, relaxing after our exams.
The conversation began, as it had the past several years. “Amma and Appa’s anniversary is coming.”
And for once, in our lives, we read each other’s mind. We had messed up a golden opportunity of making their silver jubilee a special day. We had to do something. Something which was truly memorable.
And so we came up with a plan. Our plan was so grand, it needed quite a bit of ground work.
* whether we grew up or not is debatable
** add salt to taste!
Anna* and I used to fight like cats and dogs as little kids. Our fights would often get physical, and we’d hurt each other pretty badly. Our mother would patch us up more frequently than she would have liked, and grudgingly we would apologise to each other.
To the outside world, though, the story was entirely different. We were extremely well behaved around guests, and even stood up for each other. In family photographs, we looked like the sweetest sibling combination.
Maybe there was something there that the photographs captured, that we couldn’t comprehend. It was perhaps due to our silly childish stubbornness, that we chose to ignore the obvious. Despite all the petty fights and bashing up, we made one heck of a team – if we wanted to.
It was a week before our parents’ anniversary. I was very small – maybe eight or nine years old. My brother had saved up a little money. I have no idea how, but that was not of any concern to me. Anna and I went to a local florist, and we chose a beautiful bouquet for them.
On our way back, anna kept the bouquet a little further away from the staircase leading up to our apartment on the first floor. He asked me to go in first.
Our house was seldom locked at the time, and we went in and out of the house without having to disturb anyone to close the door.
My job was to enter first and distract my mother, while anna would come in later and hide the flowers somewhere inside the house. And then we had to wait – till one of them found the hidden gift. It was a perfect plan!
I did my part of the job, and anna did his. So good was the execution of the plan, that even I didn’t know when and how my brother hid the flowers. The hardest part was waiting for the bouquet to be discovered.
And we waited for a long time. I grew fidgety and restless. After what seemed like aeons, when I could no longer control my impatience, I pulled my brother into the kitchen, and asked where exactly he had hidden the gift. In my excitement, I blabbered ‘Where is the bucket?’. He gave me a bewildered look.
‘Where is it – where did you hide the bucket? They haven’t seen it yet!’ I continued, ignoring the strange looks.
He looked past me, and refused to answer. ‘What are you looking at?’
I turned around, and found our mother standing right behind me. She looked down at me, and unable to control herself any more, burst out laughing.
That day went down in our family’s history as the ‘bucket fiasco’ and the source of laughter for years to come.
* Anna is a Tamil word meaning elder brother.
She was a gem. And to capture her beauty was not something that was easy for me. She could hardly stand still. She kept running and tripping over herself just to avoid me. And in the end I gave up trying to take her picture. And instead just admired her.
One Bouquet – Three Views (Two were simply not enough!)