This post is dedicated to Sangeeta Sharma, aka Baby, who used to be our neighbor in Moti Bagh in 1970's. We lost touch some 25 years ago. I wish I could find her again. Maybe FB will do it's magic.
When I was a young girl growing up in Moti Bagh in New Delhi, we had a neighbor called Sangeeta. She was a year or two older than me. Her pet name was Baby. Her brother Raju was a good pal of my brother and sister. Our parents were quite chummy too.
Baby was my mentor, or more aptly, I was her follower. I did what she did. And she did plenty. She was into wearing shiny lehngas and pinning chunnies to her head. I followed suit. She was into putting on whatever makeup we could lay our hands on (which was not much), including bindis around our forehead like Indian brides. I followed suit. She was into making up dances using dance steps we saw on Chitrahar, which the two of us then practiced under the Sheesham tree in our garden, wearing mommy's satin's petticoats. She was into biting things too- she once chewed big holes into my mother's chunni which she had borrowed for one such a dance practice/show out in our garden. I tried chewing a chunni too and liked the way it melted in my mouth, but stopped when I saw how upset it made mom. (I took to chewing my hair instead.) Baby once made me wish a neighbor "happy kanjakain" just so that we would get invited to her house and get goodies. I got laughed at by Baby's dad for doing that, but I didn't understand then why it was so funny.
Like a true leader, Baby walked her talk. And I, a true follower, walked her talk.
But try as I might, I could never get myself to be as bold and defiant as she was. Once when dared by a neighbor (perhaps one of my siblings), she went around our entire garden eating one leaf out of every plant there. Point to note is that my mom was majorly into gardening and there were a LOT of plants in our garden. Baby started in the front, taking a leaf out of each of 50 or so flower pots and after 20-30 minutes of chewing various leaves, reached the side kitchen garden. There she went through all types of veggie plants until she reached bhindi (okra) and had a bite of its rather fleshy leaf. It was at that point that her body said it had enough, and she vomited copious amounts of green stuff right there. That single deed, especially the vomiting at the end, won her the respect of all the sporty guys and girls in the neighborhood, who until then had labeled us as super sissies. I never managed to accomplish the same feat (of gaining their respect) in the 14 years I lived in that neighborhood.
When she was about nine or so, Baby and family went away for a few years to Mussoorie (I think). There, she studied at a fancy school. I met her again a few years later, but by then she was all posh, which meant she could speak fluently in English, while my English vocab was still limited to yes and no. We gradually drifted apart, briefly getting together when I was invited to her New Year party in 1983 in Vasant Vihar, when I was crazily 17 and posh enough to be popular in the dance party circles (rolling my eyes). After that, I lost complete track of her.
Baby, if you read this ever, get back in touch. My little girl is into dressing up and putting on makeup and heaven help me, chewing leaves!