Before I became a Hindi challenged Madrasi in the national capital, I spent 6 years in Chennai mostly trying to get past the strange effects of adoloscence. In retrospect, I think that its only a matter cosmic vindication that my late 1980s obsession with dusky looking Keralite girls studying in Vidya Mandir Higher Secondary School finally culminated in the Great Nair-Iyer fusion wedding of November 2006. But that’s a long story and deserves a more detailed post. This post is about some of the more interesting things I did while trying to accommodate an army of testosterone molecules in my unwilling bloodstream.
So one is a nice, chamatthu (Bhola bhaala) boy who is going about his life trying to play hand cricket (a unique game involving rubber balls and hawaii chappals as bats) and collect stamps. Then suddenly, one’s peaceful existence is disrupted by a large scale invasion of masculine hormones. Strange things start to happen. Apart from the obvious physical effects that several better writers have pontificated on, one’s eyes start to behave funnily. The rest of the world starts to appear in dull black and white but girls appear in full 32-bit technicolor. The rest of the backdrop is hazy and unfocussed, while girls appear in full 10 megapixel resolution.
One is relieved to realize that it’s an epidemic.
But it’s Chennai. And Mylapore to boot. One does not go about chatting girls up and taking them out to eat ice cream or pepsi cola (which in 1990 was a 8 cm cylindrical piece of polyethylene filled with coloured ice of dubious antecedents). One does not send Valentine’s day love cards to one’s crushes. In fact, in the 1990, the closest phonetically similar word to “Valentine” was “Vetthalai” which is a (rather ironically) heart shaped leaf exchanged between families to formalize an arranged marriage contract. Ofcourse, the conservativeness of Chennai seemed to come from a benign ignorance of the world of Kevin Arnold’s “Wonder Years” as opposed to the wilful idiocy of today’s engineering colleges. But we digress. So what does one do?
Make Top-10 lists. Yes. Me and my closest friend in school (whose name starts with a T, ends with a K and has the letters I,L and A in between) maintained a detailed, up-to-date, top 10 list of the girls in our class. It was called the ATP ranking. Ashok-Tilak Pulchritude Ranking. Did I mention that we were also into using pointlessly complicated words for simple things? We rated them on face, intelligence (honestly. I am not lying), voice, smile and hair. Each was a 10 point parameter and for national security reasons, we used CIA quality code words such as FG8 (which stood for, “fair girl sitting on row 8”) and BHC (Blue Hawaii chappal) instead of actual names.
Oh yeah. Me and my friend had several heated debates about the positions of each of the girls on the list. What we had absolutely no argument about was the position numero uno. That was occupied by HT90 (which stood for, cough cough, “Heart Throb 90”. Yeah Yeah. Go ahead and laugh. I was 12 and there was no internet or cable TV). HT90 was the classic dusky Keralite beauty who spoke with a lilting Malayalam accent and was academically in the top 5 students in the class. In retrospect, the whole Top-10 exercise was nothing more than an excuse to put her on top of that list and sigh contentedly. We did some major jilpa theorizing in those days. It must be all that coconut oil, we thought. Or the fish, we pondered. Perhaps just speaking that sinusoidally charming language made them pretty.
Well, I moved to Delhi and lost touch. That girl, I am told, is happily married. I, the Hindi challenged Madrasi, had no further encounters with dusky Keralite beauties till the April of 2006.