Sunday, 18 November 2007

Shilpa's day out

I was working for a multimedia training centre as coordinator. My friend Chaitra was also working there as a counsellor. She was friends with a girl next door who like her, was also a Kannadiga. Her name was Shilpa. The 1 time I spoke with her, she was really rude, so I never made an effort after that.

When Chaitra was leaving EDIT she told me a few details about Shilpa & asked me to be a little friendly with her. After that I spoke cordially with her & she also made an effort. It took us some time and we became maybe not the best but good friends. My other friends wondered what I saw in her. How do I explain to them that she was …….was a good friend. She valued my friendship.

Shilpa’s family owned the building in which our institute was running. They had pots of money, but not very educated. Shilpa herself discontinued her studies after school. Her father was an alcoholic & had another family tucked away. Her mother was more interested in the welfare of her sons & didn’t have her daughters interests at heart. Yes, Shilpa had money but she also had this neglected look about her.

Once we decided we were going to be friends, we had a lot of fun together. I worked from 7am-3pm. So if we planned a movie together I would act like there was some major emergency in my life & take permission to get away an hour early so that we could catch the 2.30 show. She would leave her house 10 minutes earlier than me & wait for me at the corner of the road. I would leave at 2pm, rush to where she was waiting & we would race to the theatre on my bike (a hero puch). All this would be done in such stealth & secrecy coz if we got caught, both of us would be in trouble. Oh those days…..what idiots’ we were, but what fun we had.

Many a time I would find her very depressed about what was happening within her family. Sometimes she would pour out all her woes. Most of what she said never happened with me, I mean I couldn't relate with it at all. Inside, I would be so horrified but I couldn't show it out & make her feel even worse. I would just divert her mind with some mad plan or the other.

One day in December….it was the day before her birthday. She was very sad & just wanted to go somewhere far away, alone. At her house nobody would even remember her birthday. I felt very bad for her & wanted to cheer her up. So I told her we’d go together. After a much delibration we decided to go to Mysore & spend the day there. We planned to leave by train early morning & be back by 6 in the evening. I then called up my boss & fed him some story which he didn’t swallow but short of calling me a liar he couldnt do anything else.

The next morning we reached Cantonment Railway Station by 7am, got tickets for the 8’o’clock train to Mysore. We kept grinning at each other nervously. The train arrived & we found the compartment full. I mean our seats were vacant but it was crowded whereas the next bogey looked invitingly vacant. We got into the next bogey & there was not a soul in there. There were comfortable seats & good facilities. We had our breakfast & lazily watched the scenery flying past. Even after 3-4 stops, nobody got in. Gradually we realized that this was a 1st class compartment & we could be in trouble if we were caught.

Just then the ticket collector arrived. He took 1 look at our guilty expressions & knew. He took a cursory glance at our tickets & asked us to pay Rs.400 as fine. We appealed to his better nature & told him that the other compartment was full of men & so….blah, blah. He told us to get 1st class tickets if we were so particular about not mingling with the riffraff. Looking at our worried expressions, he then relented & told us he won't fine us but we have to get off at the next station & get into the compartment the ticket mentioned. We nodded our heads vigorously, relieved that he was letting us go lightly.

The train reached Mysore at 10.30am. We took an auto straight to Mysore Palace. The Maharaja's Palace is a beautiful three storied stone building of fine gray granite and rich pink marble domes. We spent 2 hrs engrossed & enthralled in the grandeur of yesteryears. The palace was awe-inspiring; the paintings were sheer poetry. We emerged into the bright sunshine & shook our heads in wonder. I had seen it all before but each time it takes my breath away. At least the government was taking care to conserve the pages of the past.

Outside the palace, several hawkers approached us with mementoes to take home. We picked up a few after bargaining with them. Throwing 1 last glance at the imposing Palace we moved forward. Hunger pangs were assuaged at a nearby restaurant before proceeding towards our next destination……the famous Mysore Zoo.

The Zoo, over a century old, was a very well-maintained sprawling 45 acres of land with an excellent collection of animals & birds. It has a picturesque setting with the Chamundi hills as its backdrop and an artificial lake on its premises. All the animals & birds had a well-maintained & healthy look about them. No wonder, it is considered as the best zoo in the country. We couldn’t cover all areas but managed quite a bit before calling it quits as time was running out on us.

We then took an auto & went to the famous Philomena’s church. St. Philomena's Church in Mysore was built by the Wodeyar Maharajas of Mysore. A grand old church, over 200 years old, built in the Gothic style is one of the largest Cathedrals in South Asia, with stained glass windows from France & other architectural relevance. The Church is famous for its 175 feet high spires and also has a catacomb. Soaking in the serenity of the church, we lingered for a while.

We could not put it off any longer. It was time to go. We had plans to go to the market but that was not possible now. Hurrying to the station we clambered into the train just as it was leaving the station. Ideally we should have reached Bangalore by 6-6.30pm. The stupid, stupid train developed some problem & stopped in the middle of nowhere. My heart started a slow rhythm which developed into a heavy thudding as time flew past. And before u ask... mobile phones became popular a good 2 yrs later. We reached Bangalore at 8.45pm. I rushed to a telephone booth & called home. My sister picked up the phone & gave me an earful. After dropping Shilpa off on the way I sped home. All the way my mind was fumbling as to what explanation I would give. Finally I decided to stick to the truth…….well atleast base my story on the truth.

I reached home at 10pm. My father was at the gate waiting for me. My mother gave me such a shelling that my hair still stands on end whenever I think about the incident. I felt so guilty. Hesitantly I told my story…."When I reached the office that morning, boss told me there was a one-day training in Mysore & I had 2 leave immediately. He told me that I would be back before 6 but it got delayed."
I held forward my purchases placatingly. My sister opened it & took out a beautiful wooden painting of Jesus Christ amongst other knick-knacks. All 3 of them loved it & spent the next ½ hr trying to find the best place to hang it. I slunk out of the room, muttering a litany of thanks to God for saving me thru & thru. I mean anything could have happened & they wouldn't have known.

The next morning Shilpa & I compared notes of the reception we received in our respective homes. The poor girl, she had it even worse than me.
She said “Nancy, it was one of my best birthdays ever”.
I grinned in pleasure.

Then she said “We simply have to do it again”.
The grin vanished.


  1. Thanks for stopping by--and thanks for your kind words.
    Glad that your friend shilpa had a great birthday because of you--despite everything both of you had to face at home.
    Coudnt help noticing the date of this post--18th Nov is my dad's birthday.

  2. Hey babes, Keep the good work going. I for one thouroughly njoy ur blogs.
    Once again.... don't let e good moment pass u by...

  3. thanks ps for stopping by(ooops, just saw tht i used the same words as u :-)).
    and bindu, thank u for always encouraging me.

  4. NO WAY.......ummm actually I left the job around 4 months later coz I was studying for my MA exams & never got another chance to attempt it:-P


Thank U for visiting and taking the time to leave a comment:-))!!!