The Indian Suitcase

*This is a short story I wrote for some competition in school when I was in my 11th standard. I found the file when I was checking through ...

*This is a short story I wrote for some competition in school when I was in my 11th standard. I found the file when I was checking through some very old emails and I thought I'd spread the joy.
Do tell me if you liked it/didn't like it/think it could be better though. And by the way, I did not win.*

*All characters in this story have originated from my head and resemblance to anyone living or dead is purely co-incidental.*



"Haven't you heard?" My brother came running to me, breathless.
"Billoo anna" he wheezed, "is going to America! He's got a job there!"
This was a reason for excitement. No one had EVER gone abroad in
the entire colony, even for a holiday. Even people who went to cities
in nearby states were sent off with much ado.
Coming to Billoo. Many people don't even know his real name - Kumar.
It's an Indian tradition to confer a nickname, which is nowhere near
the real name. My friend Shreyas got stuck with an embarrassing 'Jikki' and his sister Sapna (not far behind) is joyously called 'Duggu'. Whether it is an unfortunate sense of humour or a warped way of parents showering their love and affection, nobody knows.
My brother tugged my skirt and pulled me back to reality. "So you going?" he enquired.
"Where?"

"To help Billoo pack for the trip! He's leaving tonight!"
"Is amma there?"
"Obviously" he said, rolling his eyes. "So you're going?" he enquired again.
"I don't really know…" I began. It was not everyday you got to watch
TV in my house without interruptions every two seconds. It was quite an event by itself.
"If you're not, amma told me to tell you that the keys are with Sushi aunty!" he announced, with his eyes shining, quite a contrast to my own blank face.
"Yeah, Ok"

My brother flashed yet another of his famous toothless smiles and ran across the colony 'playground': A piece of land which was constantly in a legal tussle between two brothers who refused to own up as the proprietor because of the colossal amount wealth tax associated with that property.
As usual, the Indian system of "If its not private, then its mine" had taken over and the area had been converted into a thriving business area ('china market') where you can get everything, from the DVD of the latest 'Tam Cruize' film to 'Sonya' CD players to 'Raybon'
sunglasses.
The area not occupied by these superior entrepreneurs was transformed into a playground.

WHO WAS I KIDDING? I wouldn't miss Billoo's send off for the world! It was the one 'event' where he would have to face every kind of uncomfortable question possible, not to mention his mother's unbelievable samosas and jalebis which would do the rounds. Packing 'ceremonies' (that's what I've decided to call them) are dreadfully hilarious and if you can survive them, you can survive anything.
I ran to Billoo's apartment, only to tumble upon the entire colony squashed into the 1500 odd square feet, which was his apartment. Aunties swapping recipes, Uncles giving advice to Billoo, and of course, the 'things you can't get in America' (Mango pickles and Garam Masala and what not) getting packed in four-inch thick bubble wrap ("So that those vicious customs officials don't try to steal it.") and Billoo's grandmother doing puja for his passport.
After about fifteen minutes of small talk, the real fun began.
First, it was pickle politics. Both Billoo's mum's sister and his dad's sister had sent in their 'love' by giving the same kind of lemon pickle to take to America – the kind which burns your tongue and ruins your appetite because of its grisly taste.
"Billoo!" his mother bellowed. Billoo turned, unfortunately interrupting his uncle's discourse on avoiding stomach disorders. "You have two jars of lemon pickle. Which one do you want? The one which dear Sunni aunty sent or that Sashi's?" The word 'Sashi' was enunciated with a look of pure revulsion. Billoo's father put the newspaper down on the table with a thud that generated more noise than it normally would. The hall turned deathly silent. Billoo was in a REAL pickle now. He had to choose between two warring tribes (read families) who would do anything to deny the other family their pride.
"Umm…" began Billoo. Nearly fifty pairs of eyes looked at him eagerly. "I'm sure both the pickles equally delicious," he said, carefully choosing his words.
"And? Whose are you taking?" asked his mother impatiently.
"I think five jars of pickle are enough, thanks." He concluded breathlessly.
The entire room exhaled and the clockwork of the room buzzed back into life. Almost at the same time the entire room broke out into effervescent chatter.
By the time the five jars of pickle (Mango, lemon, coriander, chilly, garlic and onion 'pickled to perfection') were bubble wrapped ('customs officer free'), by the time all the masalas were
'zip-locked' and by the time I polished 3 plates of jalebis and samosas, Billoo was ready.
Ready to pack in his clothes, that is.
"Ma! There are only five hours left for me to get to the airport!" howled Billoo.
"Billoo my son, don't worry," comforted one uncle with a mustache, which bore a striking resemblance to a certain Indian brigand.
"When I was posted to Kashmir…"began he, resulting in a tumultuous groan from the rest of us. This uncle had only one story, but managed to add more and more characters and stunts to it each time he delivered it.
What he had done was nothing out of the ordinary. He left his suitcase in the taxi and had twenty minutes for his train. All he had to do was run back and get it. Somehow, in the passing months, mysteriously, the story had details about him battling fifteen policemen who thought he
was smuggling cocaine single-handedly and a damsel in distress whom he saved from her jealous lover AND a baby whom he saved from the railway track by doing a triple somersault. All of them, absolutely out of the blue.
You can see now, why we groaned.
"This is an emergency! People! EMERGENCY" hollered Billoo again.
"Don'sh shoush dear, plenshy of shime lefsh," said Billoo's Grandmother, mouth full of Jalebi.
"Leave ish shoo us. We'll have you in the airporsh in no shime. Everyone! Pleash fick an ishem of closhing of Billoo's and help with the packing! Pleash!"
Would you believe it, we actually managed to pack, no, stuff his clothes inside the gaps left by the pickle jars and masala packets.
HONK! Was the sound we heard after the final zip had been zipped.
Everyone was breathless, even me.
I mean, WATCHING all this packing was so exhausting.
I walked to the door only after I received looks from these aunties who had been packing when I was munching chips on the sofa. I'm not really good in reading faces, but I figured out that this one spelled something close to infuriation.
The taxi had come to pick Billoo up and take him to the airport.
The taxi was a rickety old Ambassador. The Ambassador was the perfect example of Indian industrialism: Big, fuel guzzling, out-of-date, slow and yet powerful.
It was like a scene right from a magic show. Fifteen aunties fitted inside the car with no difficulty, one after another, along with Billoo's parents and suitcases. I managed to grab a space between Billoo and the driver and a bulky set of gears.
The entire trip to the airport was silent, which totally surprised me.
Only on climbing out, did I realize that the aunties didn't chat because of the deficiency of air in the backseat. Many of the aunties were, in fact, blue.
Well, this was it. Billoo seemed to have realized it too. "Well, this is it." he shrugged with an aura of macho-ism, and suddenly, out of the blue, he started bawling. "I'll miss you so much appa!" he
hollered. "I don't what I'm going to do without you, amma!"
Billoo's parents and the aunties accompanying them also burst into tears.
I didn't know whether I had to giggle or join them in their sob-a-thon.
I just tried really, really hard to keep a straight face (which was not simple considering the amount of attention we were getting).
I awkwardly broke the sobs. "Its time for Billoo's flight, aunty. I think he has to go now."
"Oh yes" she sniffed.
"Billoo, you be a good boy ok? In the blue suitcase I have packed a mug in case you don't know how to use that…what's that called again?" she asked
"Toilet paper, aunty" I offered.
"Yes, whatever that is and call as soon as you reach there ok?"
Billoo nodded his head vigorously, unaware of the people who were listening and having furious fits of giggling.
After all the sappy bits were over, Billoo pushed his trolley towards the terminal.
Beyond, the "Visitors Not Allowed" sign.
He turned. He gave a big wave. All the aunties opened their tear faucets again and flapped their arms in reply with such strength that it was amazing that they didn't just pop off the ground and fly.
We returned home in the taxi, and this time, everyone was able to breathe normally.
Billoo may have gone to the USA, but he was the talk of the colony ever since he left.
Billoo had become the "standard" by which everyone compared kids with, sometimes, even their own.
He had become the epitome of perfection and the very mention of his name brought tears
to all the aunties' eyes as they wove dramatic stories of how they were the first ones to recognize greatness in him.
This was how it was, or at least until he came home with that annoying accent and his white wife.
But that, is another story.

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6 comments

  1. Actually this reminded me of a bit in Tom Sawyer. The one about his uncle hanging a picture.

    ReplyDelete
  2. haha! nice one. xtremely descriptive and totally indian. that is xactly what happens in most families each time sum1 is going to the US. haha.

    you've got a nice sense f humour :-) subtle and nice :-)

    "packed a mug incase.."--hilarious!! :D
    abt the whole tradition f stupid nicknames... so true! :o
    thrs this girl in my neighbourhood called ritika n her nick's inni :o

    p.s-the entires must have been really really good if u didnt win!
    btw, blogrolled u! :)
    thanks for visitin my blog :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. mmmm...very big story...I dont know whether I read this fast or the story is fast....But its a nice story and finishing it crisply without explaining his return story is much appreciated...

    keep rocking.. :D

    ReplyDelete
  4. mm....made me feel like I was reading R.K. Narayan. 're you sure you didnt win or are you just being modest? ;)
    Yea...I'm sure how different the story ought to have been with the entry of the white bahoo.
    It generally 'stops' there. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Boring.Stopped it half way, idhu oosipona chutney madiri irukku.. not at all like what u otherwise write..

    ReplyDelete

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