[Editor’s Note : ‘My First Love’ written by Priya was initially published in the Gaysi Zine Vol. 2]
“We used to sit on the chabutara and study when the teacher came. Public schools weren’t easily accessible to people like us back then. The teacher saheb was actually a Maulvi. I guess that was seen as a good solution to the problem of teaching girl children. I used to watch Aadiyah, the girl who helped Aapa with the chores, hum songs of Kishore Kumar while we loudly recited the math tables. And by the time, we started with Quran, she would be seen playing Pithoo in the street with other boys and girls. My condition was pitiable.
It used to be such a relief when the class was over! I used to run back to my room with the slate in my chalky dusty hands. At noon, we were made to do the Namaaz before the meal which was always rotten. There was never enough meat nor eggs and the previous night’s stale chapatis would be soaked in white butter with some stale sabzi. And if I ever asked Aapa for some meat, she would say, “Why don’t you eat me? I still have some meat left on me.”
After the meal, bhaijaan could go and play in the gali, but being a girl, I was asked to stay indoors and play with dolls. I had created my whole world with those dolls. Some girls from the colony would sometimes come over and we would play in the verandah. The marriage of the doll and the gudda was the only game we could think of. I had a gudda too but he was bald, and fat and nobody liked the thought of marrying off their pretty dolls to him.
I remember asking Aapa for a new gudda once. I don’t remember what she said but I never got one. And none of the other girls had any guddas. We used to think the elders had schemed against buying us a gudda! I still believe, we were given dolls as a way to help us learn to be prim and proper in the future.
It was Nasreen’s idea to play a marriage between two dolls. We would make a pandal, decorate the brides, and exchange little gifts. The gifts were often made with dry cow dung. The other girls stopped playing with us because they found it all ridiculous and too far from reality. But Nasreen and I did not see anything wrong with it.
In between those games, Nasreen and I became very close.
Once we were watching the colony boys doing kabootarbazi. It’s quite an interesting game, young boys blow whistles and motion their group of kabootar to fly around in packs. The trick is to make others kabootar part of yours and have them on your chatth. After one point it was difficult to distinguish between the various packs. They were of all sorts of colors and sizes. I was enjoying the color tinted sky when she told me that her mother was a courtesan. She would secretly watch her mother wearing shimmery clothes and cheap perfume in the nights, and entertaining the men who visited her until the wee hours of the morning.
She had learned to dance and walk lasciviously from watching all this. I turned red and looked around to see if Aapa was near for that would have caused a big drama. It did not take me long to realize that no one else knew or Aapa and Abbajaan would not have let Nasreen come to our house. She was sharing a secret. That afternoon, it became our secret. No matter what everyone thought, in my eyes she was pious even if her mother was a whore.
Every day, teacher saheb would come to teach us in the morning, and my afternoons were spent with Nasreen. During the afternoons when Aapa used to take a nap, Nasreen and I used to play in the small room next to the gussal-khana. She would show me her mother’s suggestive and sultry moves, acts of dropping the pallu or smoking. She did not have a teacher saheb that came to her house. I used to teach her what I had learned that day and show the blue bruises I got from every time I made a mistake. Out of love, she would caress those bruises, and kiss me gently.
In some strange way, I started looking forward to such mistakes. Teacher saheb often cursed me and called me a sinner every time he pinched me. I think somewhere he knew I was culpable.
She was tender and beautiful. We weaved dreams and fantasies of a bright, curfew-free future. A future where we could eat all we wanted and have tea in bed! We made up stories of freedom and drifted to love, puppies and other things that mattered easily.
One unfortunate afternoon Aapa caught us kissing and that was the end of us. Soon, Abbajaan was transferred and I never saw her again.
That was the beginning!”
The clock struck twelve. Cuckoo. There was some problem with the cuckoo. No matter what hour of the day, she always cuckooed just once.
“You should sleep now.”
“Haan meri jaan?”
“Amee named me after you. Did she want to be as bold as you?”
“I think she wanted you to be you Sameerah”
“Sameerah…What does my name means ?”
“It means a girl who narrates stories in the night.”