Sandhu was 13 when she discovered the joys of exaggeration.
“Ma, did you know Sujit, who always scored the highest marks? He was crying in class today because he has no friends.”
“Really?” said the mother, I thought I saw him playing cricket this afternoon. “No ma, that was after he cried. To make him happy the class played with him.”
“Ma, when can I start to wear a bra? I know Reena is wearing one, and half the class, ma, all the girls. They said their mothers gift-wrapped it for them because it was their first one.”
“Concentrate on your homework Sandhu, you have three subjects to finish before you go to bed tonight.”
The next day she told her wide-eyed classmates about her cousin’s home. “Did you know they have four servants for each member of the family? One to cook, one to clean, and the other two to just make sure everything is in order around the room. My cousin told me secretly that one also does all the class homework for her!” Her father must be rich then, replied one of the girls. “Oh yes! He gets comics and all her clothes, even her new bra from Dubai!” she whispered. The girls giggled. “Take us to her home,” said one of them. Sandhu brought her hand to her mouth and shook her head. “No no, not me. and what will we do in that big house? With so many rooms and such a biiiig garden behind their home…did I tell you about the snake I saw in her garden the other day!? Thiiiis big,” she showed, stretching her arms wide as far as they could go. “The rich have really no peace of mind you know.”
Sandhu was thirteen when she discovered the joys of exaggeration. She was
amazed at how the days span past, time seemed slick and thin when she had
something to occupy her mind. She whiled away her least favourite classes
plotting out what she would say to her friends. Carefully, almost lovingly
she worded these half-truths. To her, they were not lies. To her they were
not even tales....but threads reeling off the loosely-spun sweater sleeve
that was her child's sparkling mind. If you had looked closely, things
glittered when she opened her mouth.But her eagerness to embellish did not impress her family or peers. They mistook it for a need to impress. They mistook it for dishonesty.
Sandhu was twenty-five when she discovered some things are better without
Sandhu was 13 when she discovered the joys of exaggeration. "12 and a half, actually", she would say, if you asked her. "It was in June, just after school had started, and my birthday is in December". The discovery had nothing to do with a worn-out copy of the 'Hitchhkers guide to the galaxy'. lying forlonly in the almirah in her bedroom- atleast definitely not with the intricate Vogon poetry contained in it- ,nor was it related in any possible way to her new-found love for Visu's movies. It happened one afternoon - "in June", she reminds - just like that, while she was sitting on the floor beside the bed with a cup of tea, still in her school uniform, and her mother had tossed away the latest 'Ananda vikatan' contentedly and turned to her with: "So what did they teach you in the English class today?".
"Adventures of rapunzel", blurted Sandhu.
"Rapunzel is a small girl ma, only the size of my thumb. Nobody can even see her."
"Yes ma. Today we read only one story. Rapunzel wanders into a forest one day. There is a big lion in that forest ma..."
The next day, Sandhu's mother received a note from the English teacher informing her that Sandhu, along with several other girls, had been absent from 'yesterdays class'.
"Ah, The joys of exaggeration! Who cares about the beating!"
Sandhu was 13 when she discovered the joys of exaggeration. Like when
she got her grandpa to escort her to and from school because "there
was a strange, bearded man trailing her". In truth, she just enjoyed
being chaperoned. Over time, she became bolder, and started lying
outrageously. Like the time when she made a lot of friends in college
talking about a week long vacation in Europe, when in reality she had
just gone to visit some distant relatives in rural Punjab. After
graduation, she inflated her academic achievements to get into a
top-notch consulting firm in California. Recently, she filed a false
sexual harassment lawsuit against a colleague. Wanting to avoid
unwanted publicity, her company paid her a half a million dollars and
let her go. Last I heard, she was back in India, telling people how
she won the California State Lottery. In a way, she did, I guess.
Sandhu was 13 when she discovered the joys of exaggeration. She got more friends in school, her parents gave her more attention and for once she got more listeners than her sister did. She was thrilled to be popular. Her trip to her native village during the summer holidays became a trip to Kerala when she told about it in school. Her consolation prize in essay competition at school became first prize with an Eagle diary (stolen from Dads cup board!) at home. She got a new cousin who sent her chocolates from America and a pen (boy) friend from Australia. Strange but true, she started believing what she said and the imaginary world she was creating to gain attention was very soon becoming her real world. It was hard to keep up with the lies and she spent lot of time thinking about new ones and not to get caught with the old ones. Sometimes she wondered if people knew what she was doing and were just playing along to keep her happy. The thought made her sad. But there was no stopping her. Nothing yet!
Sandhu was 13 when she discovered the joys of exaggeration. So after a whole 60 years of it, on an extremely ordinary day, which began like just any other day, with that cup of hot coffee in the morning with newspaper on her lap, bang, she decided to be bored of exaggeration and also decided to play it soft for the rest of her life. And so, an hour after dinner that evening, when she had this acute shooting pain all along her arms, she gently mentioned it to her daughter-in-law. Her daughter-in-law having given to her pains and illnesses, more than half her time, bang, decided at that very moment to not take it upon her anymore and proceeded with ignoring her acute shooting pain in the arm and what's more, she made a limerick of it all and sang it sweetly to her little baby son and put him to sleep.
It's always paining and hurting and killing and drilling
A scratch is always a mountain of a molehill
It's never a nothing or even a trifle thing
Now it's an acute pain all along her arm,
But a little itch, I bet, is all that it is!
So when they awoke the next morning, it was no ordinary day, Sandhu was dead of a massive heart attack and her grandson had had a very sound sleep and the daughter in law, she took upon herself to be blamed for ignoring it all and wailed aloud and we heard Sandhu's son telling her.... 'Oh stop exaggeratting, will you?'
Sindhu was 13 when she discovered the joys of exaggeration. She had fallen down from her cycle, her ego more bruised than body. She came home, told her Mom, and walked in to search for a BandAid just as her Mom was screaming into the phone " Come home now! The kid's HURT! There has been an accident!"
Mom smiled at her. It would their little secret. And it worked very well too : father came home early, and they went out for an early dinner followed by a movie. ("Just to get her mind off the hurt").
That started it all. "I have to have this cycle or I'll die…" . " Oh, my teacher loves me So, I am the most brilliant student!" One inflated line after the other, over the years. Till one day "It's either him or I walk out".
"Oh, we had the most brilliant day! We went out for dinner and I wore the dress he bought me and we had the bestest time ever!" , she enthused over the phone. The parents suitably pleased, she placed the phone back. On the other side of the bed, he lay snoring in a drunken stupor. They had gone a meal in the nearby restaurant, where each had tried to fill the yawning emptiness inside : she with too much food, he with too much drink.
She had learnt the joys of exaggeration at 13. And lived to regret it
She came back and started cleaning and tidying. She did the dishes and began scrubbing the tiny kitchen clean. The harsh bite of the brush as it abraded the already clean sink soothed her soul. She felt the accumulated debris of the day wash away with the waves of tiredness that came in increasing magnitude. Till it was time to go and crash into a dreamless sleep.
Sindhu was 13 when she discovered the joys of exaggertion. It had been a old dusty volume of some magazine her father subscribed to, where she had read the line " Work is the anodyne to pain". And realized that it was meant for her. Through the pain of losing parents, through the pain of fending for herself in assorted relatives' houses as unwanted maidservant. Through the years of struggle to study, find a job.
She had relaxed when she had married. Just long enough for the luxury of being able to think, to dream, sink in and become an addiction. Till it all tumbled down in one fell swoop : his flight; the discovery of the missing funds, the affair with the woman he had run away with.
Never again, she vowed. Pain continually knocked at her mind. Occupy it every instant. The body was the only sacrifice that could protect her. And it was cheap at the price. Exaggertion. A term she had coined for exaggerated exertion. Prozac for the soul.
Sandhu was 13 when she discovered the joys of exaggeration.
PS: Actually she was only 10.
Sandhu was 13 when she discovered the joys of exaggeration. The rest, as she would say, is world history.