I am going to put the disclaimer on top. I have obfuscated names to provide some privacy for the parties involved. However, some readers may yet recognize or feel they recognize the others in this story. If you are one of these readers, please help me maintain the illusion of privacy. Remember, deniability is 9/10ths of privacy.
Now that I have suitably whetted your appetite and sharpened your interest by stropping my keyboard on the whetstone of your curiosity, let me tell you that the one person who really is the butt of this story, The Story of the Coconut Oil, the Skating Rink and the Bladder, is me.
First let me introduce the participants. The main couple consisted of what we shall call The Boyfriend (BF) and The Girlfriend (GF), for truly without them and their recent history, the dynamics that dragged me into this story would not have existed and I would not have, well, been dragged into this story. In this little tale, too, is the Other Girl or OG and, of course, as you may have already gathered, I.
So let me start by stating that it was a hot summer’s day in Calcutta, as it was then and is now in many a mind that refuses to Bongophy or unAnglicize the name of the great city. I was in the last year of high school, just at the point where hormonal balances were reaching tipping point, indeed, were boiling over.
BF was a neighborhood friend. BF and GF went to the same school and had met there. Sparks had flown and the happy couple had gained some notoriety and the notice of the authorities in the shape of the school administration and parents. With access to each other thus limited at school and access without restricted, the need to meet increased in sync with the rising heat of that summer in the city.
My mother and I shared a birthday, but had very little else in common. Within the litter of Sharma children, I was probably supposed to be a full stop, but turned out to be just a semicolon. Consequently, my mother and I had a working relationship, where we let a healthy mutual respect guide us into a laissez faire communication model.
On such a day as this, hot and a holiday, however, in a rare display of mother / child bonding I would sometimes allow her to oil my hair in preparation for a good shampoo. I would sit there with a bottle of Tata Coconut Oil at hand and she would soak my scalp thoroughly, stinting not a jot in the application of that great conditioning oil. I would then wait for an hour so, letting the healing oil, open or close the pores of my scalp, feeling it strengthening the roots and follicles before a thorough shampooing. A few slow motion flicks of the hair and I was generally ready for business.
However, on this hot Sunday, my mother had barely finished when the front doorbell rang and the BF rushed in.
“Let’s go”, he said. “Now! Hurry! Pull on a pair of jeans and move it!”, he cried.
“Wait, I have to shampoo this off! Give me 10-15 minutes”, I tried to reason with him.
“No, We have to meet the GF in an hour or so”. His voice was full of the urgency of repressed sexuality and hormonal anticipation.
“But why do I have to come?”, I asked.
“She’s bringing a friend and I need you to take care of her for the duration”, his reasoning was faultless.
Sad to say folks, I buckled under pressure and gave in. On that hot summer’s day, I walked forth with the BF. I was dressed in a see-through ochre shirt, shaped like a bell, untucked into a pair of blue bell-bottom jeans, my hair looking like the Valdez disaster area. On my feet I wore two-tone suede shoes, in cream and chocolate brown.
The rendezvous was to be the automated perfume machine in the middle aisle of the AC Market on Theatre Road, the one that whistled annoyingly every few minutes. The 5 minute walk to the bus stop and the 30 odd minutes in a hot bus did nothing other than add sweat to the oil now slowly beginning to trickle down my neck. Mercifully, the AC Market was cool and I had just taken out my hanky and wiped the worst of the oily sweat off my forehead and neck, when we turned the corner and there they were – GF and OG. I do not recall introductions or much more of our desultory walk around the stores in AC Market.
The next suggestion came from GF – we were heading to the Ice Skating Rink, the wonder of Calcutta, next to the girls school. The advantages were many, it would be cool, offer respite from the heat of that summer’s day, we’d be out of the public eye, we could sit around for as long as we liked or until the curfew tolled. And thither we went. Another advantage became apparent once we got there and settled down. The viscosity of the oil increased and the streams became merely glaciers. However, disadvantages began to surface. Closer proximity to the OG meant that the aroma from my hair became more apparent.
As the hours passed, my see-through ochre shirt was no match for the temperatures inside and a cup or two of coffee did but little to keep me warm. I was yet to learn that coffee is a fine diuretic. My lack of experience with women at that point did not help matters much, but the chattering of my teeth, combined with a growing sense of unease in the bladder region made conversation with the OG really difficult. Mercifully for me and sadly for you, I cannot recall the details of that period of my life.
Then at last the deadline for curfew approached and we had to leave. Coming out into the hot sun was a momentary pleasure, doused immediately by the realization that I was expected to travel all the way to Burrabazar in north Calcutta to see the two girls home. An L9 bus happening to come by at that opportune moment, we were off, giving me no chance to visit the washroom and relieve my bladder which was now definitely showing signs of distress.
Anyone who has taken an L9 from Ballygunge to Burrabazar will understand my increasing agony as we made the almost hour long journey north through the streets of Calcutta. Once at our destination, we jumped off and fond goodbyes were exchanged between GF and BF. The OG maintained a stony silence and I was speechless by now, petrified about the possibility of an urinary accident. However, at last we were on an L9 back the way we had come.
I remember hanging out the back of that trailer, double-decker bus, feeling the wheels hit the concrete blocks in an unsteady rhythm of double-notes. Each pass over the seams in the surface of Central Avenue served only to remind me of the blessed relief soon to be felt. When at last we arrived at Esplanade, the BF and I shared not a word between us as we headed to the nearest private wall, which is essentially what the public urinals in Esplanade were. And then at last, the fumbling fingers managed to undo the fly and I had the longest most satisfying experience of my young life.
I was to see them again a couple of years later. I was sitting with others on the steps outside the canteen when I spotted the GF and the OG walking up the long walkway from the back gate of the college towards me. I edged away behind the pillar as they came up. Did they see me sidle off?