In the thick of a very Tamil fight, Lal had said those three words that could shake the bedrock of any friendship. I had merely asked Lal why he must smear half a kilo of talcum powder on his face morning and evening — and look like a buffoon. To which he had demanded, “What bothers you?” He had asked that to me, one who had been friends with him for eight years out of the 10 years we had been alive!
What’s more, instead of the usual unakenna pochu? (What loss to you?) He had the temerity to ask “what bothers you?” in English, a language that was still alien in our street.
Adding insult to injury was his immediate exit for lunch and afternoon nap before I could formulate a clever repartee.
On second thoughts, his disappearance boded well as it gave me a two-hour window to craft a suitable reply to reply (badillukku-badil).
Albeit not enough for English retort, it would have to do.
I knew no English then (some would argue I still don’t). I urgently needed a three-worded retort that would put Lal in his place and reflect my English knowledge too, of which I had none.
Woe! Could fate be crueler? I cursed and ranted thus the entire first hour.
The only English words that came to my mind were “I love you” from the movies.
It had three words alright, but it was not apropos to the situation. Even at that age, I knew I didn’t want to say that to Lal. He used too much Gokul Santol Powder.
I could say “goodbye” to him but that was only one word (or was it two?) and too volatile a word to use. According to Tamil films, if one said “goodbye” along with salute gesture it meant, ‘it-is-over-between-us’. Hmmm, I was not sure about saying “goodbye” to Lal. But for his powder habit, he was a cool guy who did not mind climbing trees or stealing mangoes with me.
What about “bleddy fool”? I thought and practised saying “bleddy fool” a couple of times, before I changed it to “blahdy fooh” which is how my matinee idol Kamal Haasan said it. I felt empowered by these two great words that Kamal Haasan himself deemed fit to mouth.
I hid behind a bush and waited for Lal to emerge from his beauty sleep and appear he did, powder-faced and heavier by half a kilo.
I sprang out suddenly. Encouraged by the shock on his face, I said aloud, “April fool” to which he collapsed with laughter. I fled, hair flying.
From behind our gate I could see him dancing with glee. My brain worked feverishly.
What did angry professors tell raucous college students in movies? Yes! Got it. I ran back with gusto and said, “Shaddup and gedout”, to which he laughed harder.
“Do you realise that you are standing inside my compound and asking me to get out? Now I tell you, you “shut up and get out”, he commanded. “Oho,” I replied and pondered on it briefly. Ah! Got it!
“Lal, can you please step into my house for a moment?” I asked brightly. “Ha! So that you can say ‘shut up and get out’ to me when I enter your gate, is it not?” He asked shrewdly and I lost my cool.
“You-you-you-you-you-you-you-you,” I began…in English (!!) and kept at it endlessly like an indignant heroine of my time.
Twenty minutes of ‘you-you-you’ later, Lal was at my feet, begging for mercy and declaring me the Queen of English, England and all its colonies. Ha! I became world famous in my street for constructing the loooooooooooooooongest sentence in English with just one word.