Exhausted. Three strange back-to-college days full of bratty boys and prissy girls, and an annoyingly obsessive half-hour of Savage Garden on the radio as we drove back home through the rain, have brought back memories.
That was my first and last ever concert… way back in ‘98, when Savage Garden came to Bombay. D had a couple of passes to the show and she dragged me along. I promise… I really didn’t intend going. I had my exams and my uncle and aunt, who I was living with, were beginning to get tired of my ‘study’ excursions with friends. [Big clouds of reeky Anne French in the bathroom, and traces of make-up on my face didn’t help allay suspicion].
But D’s a persuasive little weasel. In half an hour I had squeezed myself into a tiny skimpy shirt and denims and we were off. It was packed. Unbreathable sweaty squashing packed and we found ourselves at the arse end of everything. I was ready to turn around and leave the moment we arrived. Just as I was whinging and cussing at D, she turned to me and said “H, just shut your face, not a peep out of you. Hold my hand and follow me”. And then D did something that I don’t think I’ve still recovered from.
In less than a second her face went from cold steely determination to pain and panic. She held my hand tightly and dragged me along [D’s bloody strong despite her wiry frame] as she pushed through people like a mad woman. Every face that turned to shout at her melted to concern and murmurs of “oh god no, please go on ahead”. I must give it to her. D asked everybody… every one of the forty thousand idiots who let us pass through, if they had “seen my little sister?” as she held her hand low down at her waist. “She’s just this high… have you seen her?”
Even I was aghast.
Within five minutes we were right up ahead, below the stage. And suddenly D was transformed. From a raving lunatic sister in distress, she was a raving lunatic.
D’s emotions are infectious. That was the first and last time ever that I screamed and swooned for an idiot up on stage, who wasn’t even making a real effort to sing.
But then again, when I think back to that day, I think what played a large part in making me agree to go at all was D’s cousin S. He’s the one who got us the passes.
I really did make an ass of myself over S.
It all started like this. One day, D announced that her cousins B and S were coming from London, and that it was our duty to show them a good time. And so, I took permission from my uncle and aunt for yet another night out to study.
I left home in my dowdiest shirt and got to the sharabghar in M’s sexy blue top and moonstone danglers. M and I were all geared up for some sharab, lots of dancing and girlie gossip.
And then I saw S.
To just call him a pretty boy would not be fair. I noticed other things about him. The cute ring in his left earlobe. His unbelievably sweet smile. His eyes.
I think I drank too much that night.
I definitely danced a lot.
I also thankfully don’t remember all the things I said to him as I clung to his neck.
The next day and the day after that I tagged along with D, B and S like a lost besotted puppy.
B and D were kind to me. Very kind.
Three days later, D & I boarded a train to come home to Delhi on our winter vacation. That night cousins B & S came to see us off. Just as they were getting off the train, S hugged D, and then he turned to me. For a moment I stood there wondering what to expect. Then he opened his arms, hugged me and planted a kiss on my cheek.
A kiss on the cheek that took me over the moon and back for many many days after.
A few weeks later, D pulled me aside one day, looked deep into my eyes and said, “I have something to say to you. It’s about S”.
My heart stopped.
D continued to look at me. I looked back at her -- frozen in an uncomfortable moment of wanting to scream my lungs out and ask her to continue, and not knowing how to arrange my face to look nonchalant. Eventually I think my face just did what it had to. I stared at her dumbly.
D spoke then. Finally. “H, S just came out to the family that he’s gay. He has a boyfriend in London”.
Even today, they point me out at family gatherings smiling indulgently, and say “there’s the girl who had a crush on our S”. I just smile back and lower my eyes shyly like a good Indian girl. What else can I do?