The story goes like this: I knew Neetu Scootywali and her happy-go-lucky family from the days when I was doing college. It was really pleasant to know them. Neetu was most likely at least three to four years younger to me. She appeared to be a Lone Ranger sort of person: self-restraint and happy in her own world of long auburn tresses of hair; cheeks dimpling a little when a rare smile spread nicely over her oblong face, very rarely though; locally-sourced nicely tailored frilly frocks or salwar outfits that she liked to wear; and later, much later, her ascension to her alter-ego, name-altering, personality-changing, her very own personal coupé – a two-wheeled Scooty. And mention must be made of the fact that she didn’t have a Scooty then!
Back in the halcyon days of the Trishule Park residential suburb of the early nineties, her way of life was, as far as I could tell, idyllic and ‘systematic’. The latter part was representative of strictness-personified life; a regimented, secluded, something like military-oriented, thinking of which makes you go just speechless in humble dread and it somehow makes me think how valiantly self-disciplined she must have been in her life; most of it was needless though. She never played even with other girls or boys, who I am sure, had been expectantly seeking company of hers, which they never got. She hardly ever hobnobbed with friends of hers; preferring instead the fantastic company of her own mom and her equally besotted familial-type sister.
Her evening walkathons around Trishule Park is a strict daily regime she shared with her mom and her enigmatic sister. Aspiring to be a grown-up woman than being happy as a teenager enjoying the time of her life was for many of us a riddle mighty hard to believe. One knows that everybody aspires to be a grown-up someday but hers was the fastest aspiration you’d know – the kind one could never get a hang of, least of all me. That was not to say that she was unpleasant and wily owing to her besotted-with-oneself nature and all those perfunctory accusations one would have reserved for such seemingly Plain-Janes but visibly beautiful people coming forth at you with a Cloak-and-Daggers knowingness, no, far from it. Such was never the case. She wasn’t ‘not nice’ for sure either, neither was she wily for that matter. I am not even suggesting it. But who knows she must be having a blast at her home every passing day sparsely populated with her sister, mother, and father; no wonder then a happy close-knit bunch of four inordinately disciplined souls of military kind that lived forever happily!
Of Love and the Catty Purrs
Neetu was a motivated girl, but the sorts who are decisively gritty, determinedly upbeat and come-hell-or-high-water-I-get-what-I-want kind of girl. This was quiet a thing to know of her. No matter how much ever I tried to get my head round that old archaic feeling that had, as I realize now, never really let go of me, I still begin to wobble at the thought of her alacrity, understated at its best, with which she carried forward in her personal life. I was merely a self-effacing observer of people and sometimes their unmistakably distinct halos around their personas often drove me to think about them as rationally as I, as a young adult, possibly could. And it just occurred to me the other day that how I knew quite a bit of her earlier life at Trishule Park residence, where I, Anirvan, and Strong resided at.
Neetu’s tall and lissome self can make your head turn a second time and that’d be enough to make you a distant admirer. She had looks that went far and wide. Of particular importance to me was her laundry list of talents: her kind of knack, power, flair, and even her kind of specialty which made her a little hypothetically ‘different’ compared to you and I. Life at the leafy Trishule Park enclave was cool and wonderful; in fact, it was nothing but a privilege to be living in one of the best communes of the Paliwall Estate area. Trishule Park was my life’s lucky memory-pack.
Grand expanse of copious spaces; vast open grounds laden with nebulous green grasses ideal for playing Cricket; sinewy cycle tracts; a couple of children’s playing fields; big Peepul, Neem, Gulmohar and Mango trees and hedges dotted the residential landscape; omnipresent park benches and what not.
Alas, I knew that one day I shall have to force myself to leave all this unforgettable treasure behind and my life shall take a different often unknowable direction, away, far away from my beloved Trishule Park residence.
Strong Selvejar dropped by pretty often and he and I’d take long leisurely walks around the Trishule Park campus and talk endlessly. Often we’d cross Neetu and her ever-so-jovial mom out enjoying leisurely strolls too. Sunel Goan-Kalay, a John Grisham fanatic residing at Paliwall Estate couldn’t ever seem to have enough time off of Mr. Grisham’s excellent thrillers ‘The Firm’ and ‘A Time to Kill’, and Sateesh Eloor, also from Paliwall Estate, used to drop by on most evenings and we’d proceed to ‘take over’ our favourite park bench to sit and gossip to our heart’s content. All four of us often used to have a jolly good time making merry sitting on the park bench. Once a typically-chunky gentlemanly guy going by the name of Dopeynath Pundy who, as it was later known, resided at Old Paliwall Estate route located opposite to our enclave Trishule Park came to visit our friend Strong when Neetu was out cycling. Then slowly things began to change.
A guy going by an altruistic-sounding narcotics-laced name as Dopeynath Pundy deciding to ‘represent’ a locally-abhorred and enough derided about pigeonholing: ‘Twisted Bunch of People – T.B.P.’ could start off on a wrong footing with a girl like Neetu is terribly surprising indeed. He didn’t even realize the clear import of this local branding exercise that was so prevalent during that time, and apparently this was one of the reasons that straightaway plunged him into the Shark Jaws of howling heartache! This guy threw our “ill-advised” caution to the winds and met with a disaster of his own making! Not that we were better advised ourselves, one can never be enough; but in this Catty Purrs case we certainly were. Dopey was at his perilous best, risking even his self-worth, to go hankering after this ‘different’ girl. Now that’s gonna hurt!
If that was being brave then what was being ‘not brave’; I’ll tell you: PURE BLISS and happiness intact! But still I feared for Mr. Pundy.
As if in tow, Strong Selvejar and Sunel Goan-Kalay (aliases: Saadu, Tom Hanks) admonished Dopey not to go any further with his ‘idiotic idea of his’ but he never listened. Sateesh, our mutual best friend, who just happened to be visiting me that evening just looked on amusingly at Dopey’s touchy-feely conflagrations of thoughts twisting up his face a tad-bit laconically. In the blind hope of ‘getting his love Neetu’, Dopeynath was committing a surefire blunder, and considering Neetu’s hapless not-for-love pedigreed, queenly individualism any T.B.P.-branded guy will falter at the altar! That evening Sateesh sagely refrained from saying anything useful to him.
As a matter of fact, Sunel GK too, with a face akin to a sizeable copy of the Hollywood super-actorTom Hanks and an able-bodied young man, couldn’t make a dent in Neetu’s stubborn shield of self-imposed refrain and ‘systematic’ lifestyle, which by now was known to all. Far from any suggestion of such blind love-at-first-sight love or its sultry prick of Goosebumps that entraps your mind, body and soul with frightful love-sickness that never fetches anything of human value, he secretively developed cupidity for a girl from a medical shop. A fitting case of a Medical Rep falling for a medical shop girl! Oh no not again! We already had Dopey and here comes another one: Johnny-come-lately SUNEL going bonkers.
You are not far from digging up your own grave, while you are still alive! Love makes you a genuine fool of a kind that never recovers from its chronic stupidity! Sunel appreciates these facts but still, he insists, Love is a sweet mistake everybody should make at least once in a life time!
Love, a No-Go Territory
Dopeynath, poor lad, a Walnut-wooden Flintstone-faced lumpy fellow, believed in his “terrific ways”that he’d get instantly friendly with Neetu and sweep off her feet and “settle down” with her. I had hoped he was being just jocular about his open declaration, but guess what he wasn’t joking. He began sounding as olden-days comedian Rajendranath, the person who was always shown as afflicted with sheer over-confidence and vulnerable tomfoolery that goes nowhere to fetch anything of value. I couldn’t help but feel that his (Dopeynath’s) words “terrific ways” sounded like yesteryear’s screen-villain Shakti Kapoor drooling in wretched Awooos and Uwaas over female prospects, never managing to follow communal convention but utter indifference to it that always spelled doom for him, at the end – his self-styled magic charm never worked in his favour ever.
Alas, Neetu, she wasn’t tagged Scootywali yet, rather turned up her nose at him and looked away already bored as an upscale, expensive, chic girl would when things don’t match up to expectations or, yes, this is important, anything of value to her. Sensing that nothing but her utter insinuation is reserved for him, Dopeynath became seriously mortified and was seen quiet distressed about his, what he slowly began to confess, failure to get to talk to her. Neetu clearly wasn’t interested in him. Hard done by love was far more hurting than hard done by some failure in competitive exams, it seems! That was expected: to say the least, given Neetu’s classic high-nosed reputation. He never showed up ever again near the cool leafy environs of Trishule Park suburb where we lived our secured, carefree lives. His”terrific” proposal for her had pulled a fast one on himself! In cricketing parlance it is called as HIT WICKET!
Dopeynath Pundy, reduced to a poor gadfly, never came hither ever again. Not even to try another time another age. May be, he kept thinking, Neetu would relent someday, understand his feelings, and unbolt her iron-grilled heart slowly and surely to our lover-guy. No, that was wishful thinking; it’s never going to happen, come what may. The steely reserve with which Neetu carried herself was solidly unbreakable and Dopey, poor guy, should have known that beforehand before venturing into the snake pit of puppy-love. As any good unrequited love-smitten boy Dopey crashed, and burned for a long time in awful misery that had never let go of him; it struck him to the core where it hurts the most, even as he nursed his brought-on-himself wounds that boiled over in his heart through and through. That was the end of the love story of Dopeynath Pundy.
But still, I used to feel… I don’t know… it kind of switches off something in you and you could never get around switching it back on! How does that help you? It doesn’t. Neetu was that kind of girl. In fact, the most difficult part of her nature had invariably given rise to a lot of mixed-feelings about her in me too; with Dopeynath’s case in sharp focus here it seems to have confirmed it.
Love Spells Doom, Again
Dopeynath, I distinctly remember, wanted to make amends with Neetu; probably aiming at a fresh start or something was in performance somewhere in his mind, but she adamantly never let him come closer, not even to hear him out once for goodness sake, than was necessary for a person to talk to another person in full public gaze. Again, that hurt him as a bullet shot from a house gun; no not house gun, amilitary Howitzer! Last heard he never recovered from the blow he received for the second time in full shove from his Evita’s, Neetu’s that is, negative response. He took it to heart. Vowing never to bother again with ‘this thing called love’ he moved on, perhaps in the hope to help atone himself from any such trace elements of love left in him that in a way still deeply yearned for her. That was really bizarre to have happened with poor Dopey. But one cannot possibly blame Neetu even for what she did to Dopey. Maybe that was not the way to rebuff anyone who is in love or something like love with you. There’s always a way to say ‘No’ to someone who you just don’t happen to like or love. Dopey knew how to fall in love, but he never knew how to handle rejection in love. Who knows that anyway? Are girls better off in this matter? Of course, one doesn’t fall in love by telling oneself (or knowing full well) beforehand that one might have to handle rejection as a consequence when the person you profess your love to may not really have the hots for you! Dealing with rejection is always hard, more so when you have an unchangeable, unyielding, and unrequited ‘NO’ to live with the rest of your life.
I had always found Neetu an intriguing combination of both a typical teenybopper and a girl already grown-up while still in her teens! By all means, she was a rugged combination that never really worked for the Flintstones look-alike Dopeynath Pundy’s worth. Today when we: Sunel, Strong, Sateesh and me look back in introspection at those younger days when there was a Dopey-Neetu Love Affair, frosty as it ever was, doing the rounds at the Trishule Park in the suburban town of Paliwall Estate, we feel vindicated; not because Dopey couldn’t get his girl but because there’s an odd comfort in the fact that both Dopey and Neetu had ended their not-really a love story and moved on.
I had heard that ‘a girl is a half-formed thing’, but I still remain skeptical and unconvinced by the seemingly escapist almost self-serving adage that label the female species with these days.