My mother has this less than delightful habit of waking me up first thing in the morning with a piece of really terrible news. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the next room or halfway around the world – she’ll always find a way to tell me something truly horrible. In the past six months she’s told me about suicides, rapes, murder, child abandonment, incurable disease and famine in great detail, generally when I’m trying to make my brain function with the aid of some caffeine. Of course, once I’ve talked to her, caffeine’s quite useless: liquor is what I need. If you ever hear that I’ve entered rehab, believe me when I blame my problems on everybody else.
I suspect a more heartless or less imaginative child would have told her off by now but since she’s always perturbed when relaying the bad news and goes off in a much more cheery mood once she’s finished ruining my day (and sometimes my week), I don’t have the heart to tell her to stop it. I’m just glad she hasn’t yet started to discuss the daily obituaries with me. No, that cheerful job belongs to my dad, who enjoys it just as much as she does.
Digression: actually, I think obituary reading is kind of great – not the death part of it, so much, but the fact that you actually know so many people that that carefully posed photograph in the newspaper isn’t somebody else’s tragedy but one in which you too are involved. Birth, marriage and death, after all, are the three times in your life that you really feel a part of a community. It’s just too bad that when it comes to you personally, two of those times you’re insensible of it and when you’re getting married, you’re so stressed you wish you were insensible of it.
Getting back to my mother and her macabre obsessions, she’ll occasionally relate the gory gossip to my aunt before she weighs me down with it. I prefer this because my aunt always has a refreshingly acerbic reaction to these stories that make me feel better about them. And ever since she fought off a second bout of cancer, she’s only gotten more no-nonsense. The downside to this is that when she does get emotional, she gets really teary eyed so you have to really pick and choose what stories you’re going to share with her. You probably already know this but it bears repeating: cancer is a filthy disease and its cure is about as bad as it is.
So Ma’s latest effort to unburden herself involved a series of really silly teenagers who were killing themselves like lemmings all over our hometown. Gone to the beach lately? Look what washed up on the shore – it’s Romeo and Juliet! Is your kid’s bedroom door locked? Break it down coz Romeo and Juliet are lying dead on his bed.
Ma told Auntie about these young morons before she laid it on me, to which Auntie said: “Suicide? Suicide?! Suicide is too good for them! They should be flogged, the skin should be stripped from their flesh before they’re boiled in oil! Idiots! Fools! If only I could have put my hands on them!”
Rather violent, yes. But totally awesome.
However, what do I do when my auntie isn’t around to threaten torture to those who transgress and make me feel better? Well, a few golden oldies will do the trick. For example:
5. O jogi jab se tu aaya
4. Beqarar karke hamein – from one of my all time favorite movies, Bees Saal Baad. And if anybody so much as mentions that Mithun ghost flick, there will be blood. Also, how weird is it to watch Hemant Kumar’s voice emerge from Biswajeet’s face?
3. Arre yaar meri, tum bhi ho gazab – I used to be obsessed with this song. Mainly because I couldn’t figure out what he meant by “Ahamanokaha”. In my defense, I was a very little girl.
2. Main sitaron ka tarana
1. Pyar hua, ikraar hua – I can’t remember a time when I haven’t known or loved this song. I still catch my breath when they sing, “chand na chamkega kabhi“.