Oh, those La Martiniere socials


Among the many rich and colorful escapades that your writer has found himself fortunate to have been involved in, the ones that stand out are the ‘socials’ that we used to have at my high school, La Martiniere, Lucknow.

First, let me put you in the right perspective. We were a boys’ school. La Martiniere for Boys. Which means? Well? You got it, there was a girls school, La Martiniere for Girls. I regret that we were not a co-ed school and that I missed the early enlightenment in anatomical sciences that one gets ta have in a co-ed school. After all, there’s only so much one can do under a shower at that age, with ten thousand other boys and no privasee.

Regretfully, I had to wait till I was in university where of course, it was an MSe (Master’s in Enlightenment) all the way. I had friends like Oui, Playboy, Hustler and Penthouse who were visiting professors there.

It was in fact a gross travesty of individual rights that our two schools were situated at opposite ends of town. If you wanted ta scale their dorm walls, you needed a bloody bus ticket and an exeat pass and at least four hours to spare. We were so horny, we eyed even their mother superior.

Let’s first go back to take a look at the layout of our school. It was huge, almost an entire section of Lucknow, covering a golf course, soccer and hockey grounds, basketball, volleyball and tennis courts and two Olympic-sized pools. I’m lying, there was only one Olympic sized pool. The other was a kiddies’ pool.

The front of our school looked like the Acropolis and the Parthenon put tagether. Large pillars, a grand stone staircase that you needed a clear half hour, to get to the top. Lying again. Just exaggerating it a bit. Good for readership y’know. Go ahead, smirk if you like. I don’t mind it, as long as you giggle when you smirk.

I swear I love it when you folks giggle. You look so beautiful. Even the ugly ones out there. And you know who I’m referrin’ ta. What? Are you nuts? I can’t reveal who they are. All I can tell you is that they’re the best fb friends I could ever hope ta have. Ugly is good. When I get to heav’n, I’m going to pick myself the ugliest virgin. She’ll stutter, she’ll lisp, have heavily crossed eyes and baobabs that you’d need an electron microscope ta discern any change in elevashun. All she’ll need ta have to make me happy is a sense of humor.

It’s the same thing with grubby guys. Like the two from Hydro Quebec who came to chop off branches that were dangerously close to overhead electric lines just behind our backyard.

Brawny fellows, when they broke for lunch, Phillipe ordered souvlaki take-out from the Mama Bravo nearby, while Hugo opened his lunch box. Although the garden hose was centimetres away, they didn’t bother to wash their hands. After he was done, Hugo brought out desert, a banana. He peeled it completely and threw the skin into our backyard trash can. He held the bare banana between his first two fingers and thumb, frowned as he inspected it for a long while, removing some pesky fibres with grimy fingers as thick as my wrist and devoid of nails.

Hugo then broke the banana in half, inspected the two pieces closely, sighed and popped them in his mouth, one after the other in quick succession. He broke his mastication a couple of times to let out large belches and even tilted his gorilla torso a bit, once to starboard and once to port, though I must confess I didn’t actually hear any fart.

Circumstantial evidence that he did fart was however overwhelming. We had ta shut all the windows facing the backyard. I mean, ok, hygiene-wise Hugo may be disgusting but I’ll bet he has a heart of gold. He saved us from being electrocuted by the branches drooping over the overhead wires. And that’s what matters ta me.

Hey, wasn’t I telling you about La Marts? Now can we get back to it please? Christ almighty! My wandering brilliance.

Well, the first girl I touched who wasn’t related to me, was Shobhna Mishra. It was at the 1968 Christmas social where we’d met, rather were forced into dancing together, me being threatened with dire consequences if I didn’t go up to her right that minute, by our gym teacher, Mr Carver.

The venue where this game changing event happened was our huge assembly hall which had been festooned for the occasion. I said game-changing because that was the night when I realized that there were other equally gratifying things that I could do with my own two hands.

In the beginning, Shobhna and I just stood facing each other, wooden, both of us painfully shy and red in the face. We were not really dancing, just uncomfortably shifting our weight around like you do when you desperately want ta go take a leak but can’t.

After a while, both of us, as if in unison, began talking and laughing. I was 13, she 12. I was from Gorakhpur, she from Saharanpur. I had two elder Waffen-SS brothers who’d done their doctorates at Saddam’s Mukhabarat, she had two younger sisters who were back home and she missed them very much. And we had one mother and father each.

Our conversation ran out of steam soon and we just stood there fidgeting around in step with the Beatles’ ‘I wanna hold your hand’, belting out from the speakers. At least a foot separated us, though passing pairs bumped us closer to each other once in a while.

And then the game changed. Mr and Mrs Carver were waltzing by and suddenly screeched to a halt.

“What the hell do you two think you’re doing?” He boomed. He took my arms firmly while Mrs Carver pushed Shobhna into them. Mrs.C put her right hand in my left and Mr.C placed my right round her waist while Mrs.C lifted Shobhna’s left hand and placed it on my left shoulder.

“There!” they cried in unison, “Now get a move on, will you!” And they were off, whirling away into the crowd.

Suddenly all motion slowed and time stood still. Shobhna’s breath on my chest where the shirt buttons were undone and the way she rubbed her nose against me, saying she was ticklish since I wouldn’t let go of her soft hands to allow her to scratch, the feel of her tiny waist, the tickle of the lovely curled hair on top of her head against my nose…Ah.

The Beatles, Tom Jones, CCR, Herman’s Hermits and Elvis on the stereo, rounded off the whole evening so perfectly. Don’t know how you feel but nothing can match the very first time you hold a girl. It’s paradise. And judging by the way Shobhna held on to me, I’m certain she felt exactly the same way.

The evening whizzed past so fast after that. There was biryani for dinner and slices of Kwality vanilla ice cream on paper plates. We left each other for a micro-second so we could get freshened up for the slow numbers, Lara’s Theme, waltzes, that kind of stuff. This time she had her head on my chest and both arms round my waist. We both felt like we were Siamese twins.

I would like to tell you we kissed and we lived happily ever after but I didn’t ever see her again after that night. If any of you know a Shobhna Mishra, around 57 and went to La Marts for Girls in Lucknow, do me a favour, don’t tell her I said all this.

She might have a slightly differing version of the social that I’d rather you didn’t know about.

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