one of those impossible girls in college was busy classifying us all. a good exercise for a lazy afternoon, and worth the effort since we were a surprisingly large number of girls, twenty in all (okay, it was some 5% of the total class strength nevertheless). so the categories were as follows:
(b) beauty conscious
it was an interesting exercise. there were many in category (a). mostly they live in bangalore now (for some strange reason), though there is one in new york as well (yes, i mean you). there were some in category (b), as declared by the girl-friend, herself leading the list. thanks to modeling herself after certain ladies of foreign climes, i suppose chox found herself categorised in (c), along with a few others.
i was totally curious to know where i would be. of course (b) was out of the question. but since i am fair (for a south indian that is, okay fine, wheatish complexion if you will; okay now, i am not that fair, but i am surely very very just), i was totally sure that i would be in (a). come on now. what else could be the criteria except complexion? my hair. well. my big fat nose. there is that.
so of course i fell off the chair and felt like hiding in a dark corner when she said i am
(d) none of the above.
in a separate category all by my own lonesome self...
i was so upset i hardly talked to her the rest of the day (who am i kidding? i felt so proud to have my own category!) . the next day i cornered her again and asked her to state her reasons. then the story came out.
see, a month or so prior to this exercise, one fine day, we were playing basketball. since a tournament was sort of round the corner, the coach had brought in these kids from a nearby school (all boys) for us to play against. yes, its true. these were kids in the VII and VIII standard mostly. height-wise, it was okay with me, but there were other girls on my team that were normal. so anyway i was being my usual aggressive self (so what if they are boys half my age? i have never let that stop me, even now, from going nuts). the boys were trying to play a game amidst all the pinching and so on (just kidding, my girls were cool, never pinched or bit).
suddenly from somewhere two of us, one slightly rotund boy of VII standard, and my own self, skinny and wheatish with scraggly hair, collided in mid-air, presumably after the same basketball. the ball went on its way and found itself in other hands. my face hit his upper arm or elbow or some such, but when i landed back on the ground, i went away from collision spot muttering a sorry. later when examined in the hostel, it panned out that i had a nice wonderful black eye. people that have experience with black eyes know that they are also blue and tinged occasionally with flecks of purple and green. all in all, it was a beaut.
i went to class, merrily, my war wound on proud display. "basketball injury" i would tell people if (i mean when) they asked me. "oh ah" they said and went on their way. the professors kept their cool and silence, knowing that i was eccentric and crazy.
the girl friend in question was watching all this with avid interest (and much horror). she tried to pull me aside and advise me. "stay back in your room, don't step out" she said. "oh why on earth not? already my attendance in that class is close to bad and anyway it hardly hurts, just some discomfort" i replied. "no its not that" said she. "its just that its so ugly your eye and if i was in your place i would take every measure to ensure that no one sees my face looking like that."
i laughed at her and assured her i care a damn what other people think. and really, i was extremely of my black eye. whats there to hide? i wanted to portray this rough and tough and tomboy image, belying my five foot forty five kilo body structure. at any rate i hate fussing over small injuries and so on and would rather do everything to get back to normal conditions soon.
but that incident, coupled with myriad others of similar nature, put me in category (d), back then, all those years ago, in a college with twenty other girls (okay nineteen others if you want to split hairs), amidst three hundred smelly boys (none of whom were even considered for classification so i was, in a sense, one up on them).
this sunday, in our friendly game of basketball meanwhile, the husband, love of my life and what not, hit the ball when it was in my hand. it landed on my face. i tried to cleverly claim a foul which he refused to grant. at any rate the ball was still in my hand after that and ignoring the twinge of pain i continued the game, cursing him and calling him a brute all the while. when i got home i had a nice black eye, not as big as the earlier one, but there, nevertheless.
i remembered the good old days. i remembered and rejoiced at being in category (d). i refused offers to ice it (i suppose he felt a bit regretful about it later, considering i am just a month out of typhoid and stuff), and proudly went to office with it. nothing has changed, in these twenty odd years...