It was a new place. A new city. Everything had changed so quickly. I didn’t even know the language. Life was so much better when you have all your friends around, sharing and caring for each other.
I had heard only stories about the magnificence that is Mumbai City. It was a welcoming change from the peaceful and quiet of Pune.
My first day in Mumbai city
I was eight years old and had just moved into Kandivali (E), Mumbai.
I got out of the rickshaw and ran towards the lift, fascinated by it and wondering how just at the press of a button a whole room comes down just for transportation to the upper floor. I had my colouring book, my G.I Joe, my HotWheels cars, and my crayons in my small Mickey Mouse backpack.
The lift attender smiled at me flashing his broken tooth (or at least what was left of his tooth) and asked me “kaunse maale pe jaana hai bhaiyya?”(“Which floor do you want to go to?”).
Partly scared and partly overwhelmed at such a grown man calling me bhaiyya, I answered “Seventh floor…” (I didn’t know what to call him, now that he called me “bhaiyya”) “... Uncleji ” I completed.
We reached our floor and I pushed the metal doors open as if I had been just rescued from a cave. And then I looked up at the four doors staring into my face. I looked up, to my dad who was standing beside me. He gave a smile, the smile which usually meant “think before you leap so that you may not have to weep”. I again looked at the doors as if it was a game show where you had to guess the right door to win the prize, otherwise you lose. Still flustered, I looked around for any clue as to which might be our apartment. Who knew living in a rented bungalow right from birth would have such consequences? I had never seen an eight storied building let alone an apartment. As I looked up I saw the label on top of the doors that had numbers written on them.
I grinned. I looked up, again, to my father and smiled sheepishly. I got the keys to the apartment, which said “701” in bold letters, and opened the door. Light filled the dusty, inhabited room. I went in, chose “my” bedroom, and jumped on the bed.
This is when you understand the disadvantages of being an elder brother. You had to share everything with your sibling. “My” room was shared by me and my brother.
“I love my brother now but back then he was this annoying guy who got half of all of my stuff. ”
The next two days were spent cleaning and setting up of the rooms. Oh! What fun that was! The very smell of new furniture and ripping out the packing, the bursting of the bubbles of the bubble wrap, making forts out of used boxes, the thermocol bits torn and flying about, using thermocol as swords and fighting with Nandu (That’s what we call my brother at home ). Those were the days. Magical times.
During all this fun-time, there was one thing that I dreaded the most. School. That’s right. I dreaded going to a new school. Meeting new people, adjusting to the surroundings, etc. etc.
There were unanswered questions such as “Would I be able to fit in?”, “Will my new ‘friends’ like me?”, “Will I be able to bear the new teacher?” These were the questions that had answers that I didn’t want to know.
The very next day, my worst nightmare was realised when I overheard my dad say to mom, “I called the school today. They’ll have to sit for an interview before they get admission. Anoop has his interview tomorrow.”
“And Nandu?” asked my mom.
“He doesn’t have any interview. Just a formal introduction to the teacher of the K.G department” dad replied.
WHAT?!? I had to sit for an interview while he gets “formal introduction”!! It was as if the universe had plotted against me and in favor of my brother.
I was so neatly dressed that I looked as if I was in the welcoming party of Queen Elizabeth to India. All this made me (if possible) more nervous. Yesterday evening was spent memorising facts ranging from the current chief minister of Maharashtra to the capital of South Africa.
Me and my dad went to school for the big interview. I don’t think a bomb diffusing squad would be half as nervous as I was. The whole journey I was so sure of making a right fool out of myself that I already imagined a huge guy sitting behind a desk and telling me that I’m too stupid to join the fourth grade and that I should rather be playing with my 3 year old brother.
That was my interpretation of the principal.
I wasn’t even listening to my father who was telling me something about being confident and answering smartly.
We reached the school. The arch on top of the school main gate read “St. Lawrence High School”. This is it. This is where I’m going to be humiliated. The beautiful receptionist at the counter told us to have a seat and wait until the principal’s free. It was like waiting to get humiliated.
After about 5-10 minutes we were ushered in. I went and sat on the high chair in front of the desk. He gave me a smile. I tried smiling back but all that tension and restlessness gave me a weird expression (now that I think about it, it kind of looks like Chandler’s photo smile ).
The funny part is he didn’t ask me a single G.K question. All he asked me was from where I was and whether I liked Mumbai so far. I had half a mind to tell him that the new CM of Maharashtra is Mr.Vilasrao Deshmukh and the capital of South Africa is Pretoria* and storm out of his office.But I managed to keep my calm. He told me that I can join class from next Monday and that my class teacher would be Tehsin Miss.
“I can join class from next Monday”- That meant only one thing new bag, new books and a hell lot of new friends.
*Pretoria is the executive/administrative capital of South Africa. Cape Town is the legislative one. I'll bet only few of you knew that. :)
(And I did find many friends. Great friends. Awesome friends. Friends I’ll never forget in my entire life. This is my first post as a blogger and I sincerely hope to trouble you guys more with some more of my posts. I’d like to thank Vish Sarang for inspiring me. Even though I do not know him personally, I know him through his blogs. The very blogs that inspired me to write this one. Then I’d like to thank Manasa Rao, for the brief chat/discussion that we had due to which this blog is created. And finally I thank you my readers for bearing with me for this whole time. Your suggestions are always welcome and please do comment-irrespective of whether you liked it or not.)