Maxi fair was tiring. Wouldn’t complain though. It was a whole lot of fun too. I have never laughed so much in public....actually....never have had to try so hard to stop laughing either. The blank faces on the respondents, trying to grasp my version of Hindi, had simply opened the floodgates. “Hanuman” next door wasn’t doing much to help either. Reminded me of my initial bouts with the language… tuition classes with Thomas Master.
Ashwin, Sebin, and I if I remember right… were weak.... The subject….Hindi. Thomas Master used to come to our parish where he was known for two things: his military discipline and tuitions. I don’t know how, but somehow our mothers got to know of our desperate struggle with the language that they decided to call on Mr. Hindi himself.
Now Thomas Master was an army veteran...the ones who had worked on tanks and all that. He constantly harped on them glory days during our tuition classes. The army had left quite a mark on him in addition to the knowledge of the national language.
Our tuition classes were fun. I by some grace of God had this faint knowledge of the language. (Which now on hindsight, I’d have to deny). Hindi was not a very interesting subject. Our Hindi book consisted of several chapters, collection of short stories actually. Essays on each of these short stories were part of the curriculum. The general convention was to learn these essays verbatim..... Which we were quite bad at.
Not to worry....We walked our own paths. If the words didn’t come to us, we made them. We were kind of “good” at it. We could churn out Hindi words like the popcorn machine at annapoorna. A lexicographer of the language would feel scandalized at the rate at which we generated new words. Ashwin especially was king of the ring. A typical creation would be something like “Tenzin Norgay nay Mt.Everest climb kiya aur uthar ek green flag dala.” It required some skill to keep the attention of the reader on the subject at hand. Our masterpieces were often "appreciated" I thought....so much so that it soon rose to means of entertainment.
Now...Thomas Master himself sometimes provided us means of entertainment. He had an ailment….Ulcer or something similar. This often forced him to burp frequently, really long ones too. He would ask us to read the essay. We would be so “deeply” engrossed in the essay when it would break out. The silence torn apart by the deafening roar of his burp……. BUUUUURRRRRRRRPPPPPPP!!! (Just realised that a burp is one of the hardest things to spell!)
The response …immediate. All our faces would dive into the books, peering out to take a glance at the protagonist. The only thing visible would be our shoulders and they would be shaking violently. Let me inform you at this juncture, that laughing to oneself is not very easy. Talk about self-control!!!
The silence would continue to reign till Ashwin’s vocal chords decided to break free.....the silence ………before the storm....torn apart...kind of like the reaction for the action. The rest of us would faithfully follow with wild laughter. Thomas master would only raise his head, snicker and then continue doing whatever he was doing. From all his experience, he usually chose to ignore us. Probably it was because he understood us. “In autumn, the young leaves always laugh when the old ones wither away.” I remember him advise me, “Son, Don’t ever let your senses control you.”
Thomas master passed away in the year 2002, when I was in my 2nd yr of college. It was a cardiac arrest that took him to his heavenly abode. I owe him a lot for what he’s taught me. I know Hindi now….at least enough to survive, enough to last a day in Maxi fair. But more than all the Hindi…..I owe him a lot for what he’s taught me about life.
I am in hanuman chambers ….. The cast sitting right next to me. His tail is lying broken on the floor next to me. I am squatting in the corner, my sides splitting with laughter. I am desperately looking for someone to take over my stall. A simple advice… but yet…
Guess I’m only human...