Raju & Me

This a picture, of an old picture. I took it yesterday. Thats Raju, and Me. We're sitting on the steps, in front of the house. It's Holi and we've just finished playing. I use the present, bcz time is frozen in pictures, isnt it? We both looked so alive. Now we're neither of us that alive anymore, in our own ways. Raju, died a couple of years back.

Raju & Me
Originally uploaded by prerona.

Some people said it was an overdose, some people said he killed himself. Noone really knows why. He had both been happy, at times; We had had some very happy times. But all the same, he had been very unhappy, for a while.

I had been in Texas then. I remember, I had called home one Sunday, and been told about his death. He was my landlord's son. We lived in their flat, where Aparna Sen and Mukul Sharma had lived before us. In sin, so to speak.

When I was 1. Thats when we met. My mother got me over from Ma's place, in a pram. Raju was playing on the street and saw me. He loved me. The mom's got talking. They had a flat empty. Mom & Dad were looking for a place. Ofcourse, I didnt move there till I was 10, but thats another story too.

He used to have a lot of guns. They made noises and lit up. Neeraj, Juls brother, and me, we loved to play with the guns. We usually got the ones he had already broken. We hid behind opposite sofa's: Neeraj & Me on one side and Raju & Juls on the other side, and we shot at each other. He had rabbits. They ate holes in the carpet. He also had dogs. He was wonderful. Specially, with animals.

He played tennis. He went to DBPC. He played the piano, but he learnt at the
Royal Calcutta School of Music, unlike us, we learnt at school. He'd come down some afternoons in a white t-shirt with a big red stripe in front and grey shorts. He's tell us ghost stories, tune my piano, listen to Barbie's non stop chatter and look at her Barbie dolls. I'd think about what a sissy she was and wonder why he wasted time on her. She was just a kid. Those were the days before when we found our 'sisterly bond'. I hated her and chased her out of 'my room' whenever I could. She scribbled on my books and (secretly) hoped I'd sit on a pin and die. She wore Pink Frocks, with frills (and had a little cloth 'purse' she hung across one shoulder). She had springy curls and Barbie Dolls and probably listened to Madonna. I lived in shorts and scruffy sneakers, beat up people whenever I could, wore my hair military short, listened to metallica and read; everything; Alone in my room, locked up. Even when there was noone at home I'd lock the door. She was stranded in the sitting room most afternoons. At that time, it didnt strike me with remorse. Now remorse is more matter-of-factly easy to take, it doesnt bother me that much. Besides, I love her now. Back then, I sincerely despiced her. And she sincerely hated me. And we were still young & brave enough to be 'pretty cool' with it.

Sometimes, late at night, you could hear him playing on the Piano. I think both the Pianos were at the same places in our respective flats, roughly. Or, he would sit on his balcony and play the mouth-organ. I could hear it from my window, just below his. Both our rooms were in the far corner of the apartment. Mine was small, narrow, dark and very exciting. It even opened onto a haunted (he claimed), deserted police-barracks. He taught us to do the Planchett thing there. And throw up matchsticks (with the base dipped in toothpaste) so that they stuck to the the ceiling still burning. And he taught me how to climb over the Garage walls and up the old truck fender, and up to the roof, from outside. I taught Neeraj. Juls and Barbie werent interested, I think.

He used to call me Bonu - which is like little sister, in Bengali. We drifted apart as we grew and moved to different cities. We grew up, grew lives, personalities and ego's. When I was a kid, I used to go to every flat in the building and say, I am hungry, noone's fed me at home, pls give me something to eat. I was the most notorious hog in the neighborhood. I was nicked Motu by most people. And Fatts at school. Or Golu. Now I've lost my baby fat; and I worry about wrinkles. And Raju's dead.

I heard he recorded a cassette for Juls when she Faisal got married. Fallal ... but thats another story. He gave me a Queen album for my birthday once. Day at the Races, I think. Then he started listening to pop and rap and I think I was a little condescending about it. I was quiet a snob, musically, back then.

He used to tell us tales of how they went to the beach and got stoned in college. I used to listen fascinated. Waiting for my turn to come, for grown up magic. Dark, Strong, Intoxicating, Forbidden, Hidden.

They say that their are 2 types of people in the world: children with a healthy childhood, and the rest of the world. 'And the twain shall never meet'. Amongst them, I believe, there are 2 categories. Those who are bitter, and those who take it in their stride: raping fathers, promiscous mothers, sometimes abusive, sometimes wonderful, whimsical, capricious grown ups, who are their own people, and who have a life, and see no reason they should reign it in, just bcz they now have children. No, he wasnt bitter; He was probably just tired.

Originally Posted at Prerona.

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