The Reminder of Memories

I have one very crooked tooth. I always knew this, but today, it dawned on me. As I felt its crookedness, I realized that it felt a lot more crooked than I have known and a lot more than it looks like. And this reminded me of Sister Judith. Because she is the Causer of My Crooked Tooth.

When I was really little, I used to carry my little ABC, 123 and coloring books in my little colorful bag. This, I used to carry, drag or both to the sisters' convent in the primary school of Cluny. Once I reached the convent, I used to tip toe, yes, even at the age of six, I was tip toeing and trying to escape her penetrating eyes and finding the piano farthest away from her room and closest to the exit.

Sister Judith. I think she is a Keralite, but I had no idea then. Because she was so light-skinned and spoke differently from the regular Pondicherry crowd, I assumed that she was a foreigner. She was and is the strictest (and one of the best) teachers I have ever been student to! Now, I'd have gone and searched and searched and finally have found the perfect grand piano that would save my rear side for the day, but she'd hunt me down. Oh boy! I used to shiver at her very voice! She would then, proceed to shoo me to the main room, which was her teaching room and office. Come to think of it, I think the room was an oxymoron of my state of mind and guts those evenings when Sister J took special interest in my piano skills.

The room had a ceiling so high, that my six year old eyes would roll behind the sockets trying to take in its enormity. It was painted white. Pristine, pure, peaceful white, with a just, ever so slight, imperceptible, diluted beyond recognition blue. And it emanated freshness. You'd just want to kick your slippers, slip into a sarong, play Norah Jones and sip lemonade! That fresh. Directly behind the piano was Sis J's work table with pens, paper clips, papers and sundries lying in lazy abandon (to my eyes). To the piano's right was a black bookshelf. It gleamed, it sparkled and when the evening sun shone through the enormous windows behind the work table, it would soak in all the warmth. I feel like hugging that bookshelf now. To the left, and just next to it, were two doors, each leading to other piano rooms, usually used by the senior players (my seniors, the seven and eight year olds!).

Sometimes, when she was busy, or traveling, Sis J would assign the senior children (the teenagerish ones!) to assist us in our practice. But most of the times, she was there, stick in hand, her white habit as white as the room and a cross hanging around her neck on a deep blue chain. Those days, I'd almost pass out at the sight of her, but now, when I think of it, I realize that her eyes were always twinkling! They were mischievous, naughty and screamed I-know-what-you're-upto-you-little-imp-and-I-also-know-you're-scared-stiff-of-me!!

If I was scared of Sis J, I was petrified of her sticks. They were as big as a drummer’s stick, maybe that’s exactly what they were. She had two of those, one was a deep brown, bordering on maroon shade and the other was a lighter brown. Both were my arch nemeses. Now, I was quite dramatic as a child. Ok, more dramatic than what I am right now! So, every time I’d open the piano, I felt like one of those old, 70s heroines with elaborate buns, more elaborate eyebrows and very pretty fingers. And I’d play the piano like them. Up and down, up and down my wrists would go, as I played “Old Mc Donald had a farm” to my imaginary 70s hero! Oh the pain of a broken fantasy. Wham, would come the stick! And I wonder how she knew exactly what I was thinking when Sis J told me to stop acting like those heroines and play the piano the way it’s to be played. Oh boy, after that, every time, she took classes for me, the stick hovered right above my knuckles and sometimes when I used to space off right in the middle of the lesson, they’d come crashing down.

But, she had a special interest in teeth I think, because, both my brother and I have experienced her Deliverer of Milk Teeth role. She had told my brother that if he let her pull his tooth out and planted it in her rose pot, the rose would turn out more beautiful than ever. So that’s what the dude did, and later plucked the rose as rightfully his and had to flee the premises in panic. The Obsessor of Roses wanted his blood!

And it was Sis J who had pulled out my tooth and warned me against fiddling with the gap (which I ignored, of course) and now I am the Bearer of the Crooked Tooth.

I miss Sis J. I don’t know where she is or what she’s doing now. The year after my classes, we had to move town. I knew her for just a year, but the impact she’s had on me...!! After me, I’m sure there were hundreds and hundreds of lucky, blessed, fortunate Cluny girls whom she took under her tutorage and made them play the piano like REAL musicians.

I hope wherever she is, she is holding on to the sticks and scaring the living life out of some other six year old!!


cm chap said...

Ah Nostalgic...

wow what a bigo big story behind the crooked teeth... worth a book :)

!! Oxymoron !! said...

lol! =D

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