Sunday, March 17, 2013

Two Pony Tails and One Tale with a Happy Ending…

Those were the days filled with fun, studies and games. Time just flew past me from morning till evening, without internet or TV. Hmmm .....pick up that jaw which you have dropped down, because life without TV and Internet can be fun too, or at least it was in my childhood.
I loved school and books. My mom used to have our hair cut short and trimmed often, so that it would be easy for her to manage time in the morning more than as a fashion statement. Without the shampoos to turn our hairs silky, it was a great ordeal in the morning to comb and tie up our hair neatly. In addition, when left alone, the hair would turn coarse with lots of split ends because we did not have the ‘Dove Split End Rescue System’ back then. 

Once I was in first standard, I decided I was grown up enough to have plaits of my own. Somehow, I was cajoled, given a chocolate and taken to the barber for trimming my hair. Half way through the hair cut I decided I did not want short hair and started to wail at the top of my voice. The barber snipped his hands, mumbled at first and then loudly growled at my aunt. 
My aunt who had accompanied me as my sister refused, tried to console me, and said in a soft voice somehow she could manage, “Beti, people will make fun of you if you don’t cut your hair now. Have you seen anyone with half trimmed hair?”  I replied between sobs, “I do not want short hair. Stick back the hair you have cut from my head and make it look nice once again”. I started to wail louder now. Two people who were waiting to get their hair cut left, another started pulling out his hair vehemently. The barber looked around for some solution, and then started peering at the knife he kept on the table.

My aunt promised me 5 big chocolates if I went ahead and had my hair cut to which I succumbed once again. With mouth shut, but tears still dripping I was given a hair cut which looked quite weird. When questioned by my aunt, the barber gave her such a nasty look that she paid him and walked out quietly.
Back home, they decided that they will allow me to grow hair, horn or whatever I wanted on my head to avoid those loud screeching wails in public places. 
The drama I created in the barber shop had given me two thick pony tails by the end of the second standard and memories to be treasured forever due to an incident which happened later, which was directly connected to my ponytails. My hair was so thick that it could not be plaited when it was short. Two white ribbons adorned my head, and I loved them. 
When I stood first in my second standard final exams, my father presented me a wrist watch which was beautiful. After a few months of watching over the watch at home I decided to wear it to school. I wasn't very sure because I was still in third standard (Indian way of grading) and no one sported watches that early. Some students in 6th or 7th std wore them but not lower class students. Any way I went ahead and wore the watch as it was a gift for my achievement and it made me proud.
What I did not know back then was that wrist watches were worn on left hand, therefore I strapped it on my right hand and marched to school, as two pony tails bounced happily on my head. The response was good. All congratulated me and they said it was very pretty. No one could make out I was wearing it on the wrong hand. Most of my classmates asked me for time and I proudly told them what time it was. Life couldn't be better than this.

  At break, I finished my lunch quickly and then sat    at my favorite spot reading a comic which I had brought along with me.  After all the attention I got in the morning, I wanted to be alone and quite for some time. It was when I was totally immersed in the comic book pictures that this boy arrived haughtily on his bicycle and asked me what the time was. I hesitated a while, why should I answer him, but then replied “one seven”, at which point he burst out laughing. I felt embarrassed that may be I did not read the time properly and looked again at my watch. I knew I was right.

Then he said, “Silly girl, no one says one seven one eight etc. they say one, one five, one ten and so on. And you are wearing your watch on the wrong hand. Why don’t you learn to wear it properly and also to read the time before showing it off?”

He had provoked the terrible anger in me and now we both were in trouble for sure, because, whenever I was angry I landed in trouble and he had to be trouble because he was the source of it. I felt the heat burning my cheeks. I felt an urge to say something mean to him but couldn't find words to express my anger.
 At last I blurted “If you are that smart then make one of those many mothers you have to present you a watch and stop asking me the time”. 
I didn't knew what happened next because there was sudden change in his expression … It was as though I had taken a knife and put it through his heart. Before that, if someone told me people can physically change colors I would not have believed them but he changed few hues and then looked so dark all of sudden that I was scared.  I put up the bravest face I could manage and looked him straight avoiding only his eyes. 
He slowly came over to me, caught hold of my precious pony tail and pulled it so hard that I had shooting pain not only in my head but also in my neck. I thought I must have lost the pony tail for which I had fought  so hard two years ago.
Image Courtesy The Animator

I could not believe that someone could dare to pull my precious hair. My teachers did not punish me nor did my parents for silly things. No one ever had touched my hair since the barber incident; other than my mother who combed it every morning. And here, someone just walked up asking about  time, making fun of me and now was walking away after hurting me so bad. I wanted to pluck every single strand of hair from his scalp, but I did not dare to touch him because he had appeared very wild for a while. Even before this happened I was a bit afraid of him, as he came to our school occasionally from nowhere. Our Physical Trainer who was in charge of discipline during the lunch period was absent for that day and I did know whom to approach.

At last I went to the office room of the school and sat crying as I couldn't find anyone in there either. I involuntarily changed the watch and strapped on my left hand.  In a short while the mother superior of the convent, Mother Claudia walked in.Oh No! My heart skipped few beats. Everyone was afraid of her. She was the most stern of all the staff. Short, a bit stout with white hair peeking out from the head scarf, she sent a shiver down my spine and all of a sudden I wanted to forget everything and go back. 
Somehow there was no escape as she would ask me why I was in office room, moreover, I just couldn't let the matter end like that. So I became bold enough to talk to her, though it was the first time I was going to talk to her. She approached me and looked at me and asked me what the matter was that I was in the office room crying. Her voice was kind and soft which encouraged me to talk. In between sobs I narrated the incident, making a slight change that I had only asked him to buy a watch of his own when he suddenly attacked me.
She had me seated near her and sent for him. Meanwhile she told me that was a beautiful watch I was wearing. I told her it was a gift from my dad for standing first. At this point she smiled and said she was very happy with the way I had written my exams. I was surprised to know that she had seen my papers and moreover remembered them. She said my papers were so good that my teacher Mary had shown it to her and she was very amazed by the fact that there were no mistakes at all.
 Getting praised by mother superior had made me happy, thus, by the time he walked in my sobs had vanished. She asked him why he had pulled my hair. I was afraid that he would accuse me with something I had said and also what I had not said. But he did not say anything other than “sorry mother, I lost my temper. I will not do it again.” Mother scolded him for being rude and then said “I want you to apologize”. He turned to me and said “sorry”.
 Mother superior started to open the ledger in front of her thinking it was the end of the matter. I was aghast. I expected something more from her as she was known for harsh punishment to erring students. I had already become bold and so went on “mother he pulled my hair”. She looked up at me quizzically. I fumbled for words but said something which sounded like  “I want you to pull his hair too, because he has hurt me and if by saying sorry he can get away with it then he will do it again”. Mother was surprised and amused to hear me talk like that. She said calmly, “I can’t pull his hair. He has realized that he has made a mistake and he has sincerely apologized. You can now go back to your class”.
“No I won’t go back to my class until he is punished. Even before he pulled my hair I hated him, and now I want him punished”.

“Why? ” asked Mother Claudia, but even before the word was out of her mouth I had started off,“Because God has given him everything. It is not fair for someone to be perfect when others are not. He can play well, he is not afraid, and he is very beautiful. I hate his perfect face and feel like scratching it to make it look normal. I hate him. You all shower so much of love on him. He should be punished more………..” I just blurted everything out very fast and suddenly stopped fearing the outcome of this outburst and stood staring at the floor. To my astonishment I heard nothing. I looked up to find the mother smiling broadly at me and also the boy was smiling now. I got confused as to why it was so. Mother said slowly “if I pull your hair will you say something nice to me?” and she laughed openly now. The first time I had seen her laugh. She slowly pulled my hair and said “you sure have a way of praising people”. It was then that he walked to me bent his head and said “ OK. Here. Pull my hair as hard as you want”. I don’t know why I did not feel like pulling his hair. For one, he was a big boy and it appeared silly of me to pull his hair right then.  I said “ OK, I will accept the sorry. I will go back to my class now. Thank you mother”. I was feeling uncomfortable and uneasy and wanted to bolt out of there as soon as possible, though I did not know what had happened.
So that is how it began. From then on whenever mother superior was near me she would slightly tug my pony tail and give me a questioning look, which said "What do you have to say about me?" 
The boy later approached me when I was walking towards my class and said in a sincere voice,“I am so sorry I made fun of you. You are really very bold girl directly complaining to mother superior. But I want to thank you for what you said. I never thought someone could be jealous of me. I am an orphan and I live in Abhayadhama. There are people who pity me a lot but you are the first person who got jealous of me. It made me feel good”. 
I did not say anything much that day, because I was confused with so many different things happening within the short span of 23 minutes – yeah I had checked the time on my new watch. By realizing that he was from an orphanage connected to our school, took out my negative feelings for him and I could now really appreciate his good qualities.
 From then on we became good friends and would talk sometimes when we met. Even to this day I don’t see someone who has been a better friend to me than him. When his term was finished and he had to go away, he said that he would never wear a watch, because asking time could win him another good friend. When I surprisingly met him 15 years later when I was travelling, I knew he was serious about what he said back then. 
So that is how the tragic tale of my ponytails ended in a happy ending…

This post is a part of a contest organized by Dove on Indiblogger. 


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