being brown

The Curious Case of Cousin R and I

Cousin R and I were born a month apart to a pair of sisters under the vigilant supervision of my grandmother. So Cousin R was my first peer ever and perhaps, the first person I felt older and therefore, indulgent, towards. All this meant that Cousin R and I have a very special relationship. The most outward manifestation of this ‘specialness’ is the seemingly unprovoked mirth that the two of us burst into when we meet. Lasting for minutes (sometimes hours on end), just a suggestive nudge would send us into peels of laughter that we cannot recover from for days. Infact, we have discovered that there are only two ways to check such outbursts; putting large distances between us and the absence of the other from our memory. Both solutions are rather tricky because the more we tried either, the more intense the memory of the other became.

A couple of weeks ago, Cousin R and I decided to make a hurried visit to Amritsar since I was in the neighbourhood. As we had booked Tatkal tickets from Delhi, our berths were in different corners of the compartment on the Golden Temple Mail. This train had already spent 24 hours enroute from Mumbai and much of the other births were occupied. We sat on one of the seats and waited for the TC to come and give us a birth near each other if possible. A large, curious lady sat opposite us, so evidently spoiling for a chat.

Aunty ( using the term of respect for any older woman in India, we called her Aunty): Yes yes! Sit here . sit here. Can you imagine otherwise???? What if a sardar comes and sits here!!!!

There was something so comical about this comment and the way she said it, both R and I smiled. This should be fun!

Aunty: Where are you from?
Me: Mumbai
Aunty: Oh ! Where in Mumbai? I am from Meera Road
Me: Kanjur Marg. Its near Powai.
Aunty: Acha. Good good. Where do you work>
Me: I work for an NGO
Aunty: Good good. Where is your office?
Me: Bandra
Aunty: Oh Bandra East?
Me ( a little confused that she should know where my office was): Yes.
Aunty: oh there’s a big ONGC headquarters there.
Me: Yes! I work very near that.
Aunty: How is the work atmosphere there?
Me (confused): In ONGC?
Aunty: yes
Me: how should I know?
Aunty: Arey you just said you work there!
Me ( through the corner of my eye I see that Cousin R’s body is convulsed with silent laughter): No no! I work in an NGO!

Cousin R couldn’t quite keep it inside. So she excused herself, saying she thought she spotted the TC somewhere and ran through the rest of the compartment hollering like she was the first Mrs Rochester from Jane Eyre! I regained my composure ( distance between us, atlast!).

Aunty, unfazed, continued to talk.

On seeing a child near the door she said in Hindi, “ arey Sardar ka bacha dekho, sardar ka bacha’ ( Oh look, it’s a Sardar’s child, a sardar’s child) and proceeded to laugh helplessly. Cousin R, having returned from ‘seeing the TC’ couldn’t help herself once again. And this time she didn’t even try! She burst forth and I couldn’t help myself either. We both held our stomachs and laughed. Aunty, a little confused at our outburst, decided the best course of action was to join us and good naturedly, she giggled along. I apologized, lest she should take offence, “ aunty, we both are known for giggling. So please don’t take offence, we just find these situations funny and then once we start, we cant stop!’

As the night advanced, she kept up a constant flow of funny comments and we continued to laugh. She asked Cousin R what she did and when Cousin R said she was doing her PhD, Aunty smiled vaguely and said, ‘ these days girls are also studying a lot’. Cousin R and i were convulsed once again. Suddenly, she grew serious and shushed us saying, ‘ I am going to call my aunt in the US, so you be quiet.’ After a long conversation with her aunt in the US in which she reassured her about the latter’s son’/daughter’s marriage etc, she cut the call and we could resume our raucous laughter.

As I tucked myself to sleep that night, the giggles gradually fading as sleep took over, I racked my memory for a similar situation in the past, where Cousin R and I had been afflicted in public. What had we done then? How did we control our laughter even as people provided an abundance of provocation around us? In short, how do we travel together, normally, without making people feel that we were two run-aways from a mental hospital? I found no such memory. Cousin R and I have never travelled together, ever. Note to self: need to do more journeys with Cousin R.

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5 responses

  1. Achintya Rao

    Oh, man, I’ve done this with quite a few of my cousins! We’ve spent a few car/bus/train journeys constantly laughing about jokes most of the passengers wouldn’t understand. 🙂 Your trip sounds like fun.

    October 31, 2012 at 5:19 pm

  2. 🙂 hee hee Chintoo, cousins are so much fun innit! perhaps what sets Cousin R and I apart is the fact that we really don’t need any joke ( private or otherwise) to laugh….it just starts off!. Infact, earlier that day, we started laughing in the Metro as Delhis made-up women watched our display

    November 1, 2012 at 9:39 am

  3. Anupamaa Joshi

    What a delightful piece! I wish I had a cousin sister who was my age…. all my cousins are much older and we rarely meet and have never had a giggly connection 😦 That aunty you met was too funny!

    November 2, 2012 at 8:54 am

  4. 🙂 thanks, Anupamaa! that aunty was hilarious man….infact, you wouldn’t have needed a crazy cousin to laugh at her….she was funny on her own!

    November 2, 2012 at 10:19 am

  5. vishalbheeroo

    Such a funny and hilarious situation that one can encounter during our journeys. Well written and romantic in appeal:)
    vishal
    http://www.vishalbheeroo.wordpress.com

    March 6, 2013 at 2:59 am

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