Friday, June 13, 2008.
Midway through my newspaper ritual, I happened to notice the date. Friday the thirteenth. It was the first time I was around to witness the union of the pretty much innocuous day(it’s actually supposed to be auspicious, isn’t it?) and tainted number, to present the ‘sinister’ date. The earlier occasions (if any) don’t count – I didn’t appreciate the significance then. I was wondering idly if the day would bring any sort of misadventures. It didn’t,. Possibly because I didn’t have occasion to venture out of the house for most part of the day. That is, until 7pm.
My brother, struck by a sudden inspiration, looks at the clock and with a violent start demands to know if I’ve collected his spectacles from Turakhia. Ensconced in the island at the centre of washed clothes waiting to be folded, I nonchalantly reply in the negative and continue folding his shirt, tut-tutting at its collar. Rather than express derision at the Surf Excel lady on the small screen at that very moment, he gives me what he imagines is a threatening glare, and bursts out ‘But they were due an hour back, you fool! Go get them right now!’ My aunt, reaching for a towel from the pile, is about to say something when he bellows ‘GO! NOW!’ Wincing from the assault on her tympanums, she gives me a beseeching look that clearly says ‘Spare my eardrums any more damage and just go get the darned glasses.’ With a sigh, I hand over my dad’s half-folded shirt – collar unworthy of any remark – and straighten up and ask my brother to get off the sofa already. ‘But why?’, he has the nerve to ask, ‘I’m not coming with you.’ Hands on hips, I inform him, if he doesn’t care about his precious spectacles, I most certainly don’t so would he please stop expecting people to run his errands for him and also change the damn channel before we all scream bloody murder? Watching the likes of Jackie Chan saying 'Aaku paaku vethala paaku' is only tolerable for so long. Obligingly, he channel surfs and, with a look of incredulous delight, settles to watch two early-men specimens trying to knock each other’s teeth out. Momentarily forgetting that he hasn’t acknowledged the specs part of my tirade, I ask him how on earth we’re getting Ten Sports without a Set Top Box. He simply shrugs happily and continues to stare at the screen rather gormlessly. One of the barbarians is lying prostrate and the other is holding up this one’s hand, with a horrible menacing smirk on his grubby face. Excuse me while I puke. Before I can launch into another tirade, my brother tears away from the tv long enough to give me a puppy face and explain his homework schedule in minute detail and plead with me to go by myself.
Statutory warning – My knowledge of spectacles and frames and lenses and whatnots is abysmal, mostly because I have never had anything to do with them. I daresay that isn’t much of an excuse, but there it is. I’m not even sure what my bro’s specs look like, and what the guy in the shop told me they would do to repair the broken black part.
I walk to the shop, hand over the bill, gaze around at the objects on display with mild curiosity while the assistant tries to locate the right brown-paper cover. There are lines of them, brown-paper covers with their fragile contents, neatly stacked in drawer after drawer near the counter. The assistant hurries forward now, triumphantly clutching one such cover in one hand and my bill in the other, apologises for the delay and makes quite a show of carefully opening the cover, extracting its contents, and brandishing the pair of glasses inside. A drumroll would not be inappropriate now, for all the drama he made of it. I accept the proffered item and examine it rather ineptly. Like I said, I’m not really familiar with my bro’s spectacles, except that they are much sleeker than either of my parents’ and makes him look intellectual as opposed to geeky. I remember the first time we went to the eye doctor, both non-specs-donners then. After getting half the letters on the last line wrong, my brother told the doctor he just wants a cool pair of spectacles. Stylish, he said. Cheeky little jackanapes. Anyway, back to the present. The specimen in my hand seemed a good likeness to me, except for the, whatsitcalled, frame? The long thin line, its end rests behind the ear? Yeah, that. My bro’s, I knew, was quite slender, almost like a wire, pretty much 1-D. This one, though, was kinda fat, definitely 2-D, and forcibly reminded me of my grandpa’s spectacles. Hesitatingly, I ask the assistant for the bill, not that I expect it to be of much help. Was inconsequential anyway, cos he announces it’s company policy to keep the receipt. Now whoever heard of that? Whatever. The assistant, finally realising I’m lingering in his shop with a look that does not convey satisfaction, deigns to consult the bill and assures me they did what they could to repair it, and it’s fully usable now. He even flexes the frame(that line, whatever it’s called), as if to prove it’s fully functional now. Semi-convinced, I thank him and let him usher me out of the shop.
I congratulate myself for my near-perfect timing in sync-ing with the traffic lights, manage to cross the road walking, only breaking into a small run 5 feet from the platform. A boochandi (that right? Bogeyman?) muttering on the pavement at passers-by, grins suddenly and for one mad moment I wonder if it’s at me. Bah, you flatter yourself, my mind tells me, he’s mad, isn’t he? Of course he isn’t really looking at you, even if it seemed that way. He’s laughing at the world, hon. Reassured, I walk on, mostly averting my eyes from people.
By the time I reach home, any doubts I may have had about the specs, have disappeared and replaced by an evil anticipation to see the look on my brother’s face when he sees the thatha-frames. Kicking off my floaters, I give him a thoroughly nasty smile and nudge him to open it, barely containing my excitement. Yes, I know. I’m evil. Muhahahaha. With a great deal of apprehension, he tears open the cover and seizes at the glasses inside. One moment’s silence. And then - ‘Enna di idhu?? what the hell have they done to my frame?’ My cousins can barely contain their laughter, and my aunt wrinkles her nose at it in open distaste. None of it helps my brother’s mood. With his usual disregard for other people’s aural apparatus, he asks me, with no hint of politeness, what on earth I asked the shop guys to do, and why, why they had to use such a hideous frame. Without waiting for an answer (not that I had much of one – I simply told them the thing was broken, so could they please fix it, and when could I collect it?), he gives a fresh moan and now starts cursing the lenses. ‘Did you ask them to change the lens as well?’ He tries it on as I honestly answer no, and in a new tone of surprise, declares the specs aren’t his. Oh boy, that sure wiped the grin off my face. I stutter at him stupidly. ‘Huh? Not yours?’ ‘No, you idiot’, he replies scornfully, all the tension evaporated now, and my cousins’ amusement is now at my expense.
Chagrined, I retrace my steps in silence, my weak ‘I told you to come with me! This is why you should listen to me’ falling on deaf ears. Shaking his head merrily, my brother feigns reproach and repeats the same phrase over and over again. Any annoyance at having to walk to the shop after all is forgotten as he gleefully makes unflattering comments about my competency in such simple things. To my mortification, as we turn the corner, he is seized by an abominable idea - to loudly say ‘Second time to same place!’ and give a pained sigh, at intervals, intended for passers-by. Pooh-poohing my suggestion that some of them might think him cranky, he tells me the others will definitely know I’m the clown here, and that’s good enough for him. Sigh. So much for an uneventful Fri the 13th. I don’t venture any more opinions, and concentrate all my energies into tuning out the litany of his one-word summing up of my abilities. Not that I succeeded. The phrase continues resound in my head whenever my mind takes a break. Doesn’t miss a chance to leap front from where I’ve shoved it, the back of my mind.
‘Dubuku di, dubuku’
This post is a helluva long one, I know. To make up for the prolonged sabbatical,perhaps. Mostly, it comes as a result of my decision to take a leaf out of naren’s book and convert everyday nothings to humorous anecdotes. How bad was it? And be honest!