What James Hadley Chase and ambitious boys have in common, and other smart obervations.
By Krishna Shastri Devulapalli
“My ‘piece’ was a James Hadley Chase-ian romp involving hoods and a foiled kidnapping. By me. In Kakinada.”
THERE’S this school friend whom I can never think about without sighing and saying to myself ‘What a life he could have had!’ But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s go back to the ’80s. A time when the faulty vaastu of Saturn’s house in my jatakam found me in a school designed for maths- and science-loving perverts. Much as the school would have liked to eliminate it altogether, and bung in an extra class of Double Advanced Extreme Mathematics on Steroids in its place, thanks to government policy, we had to study English.
Our English teacher was a Mrs Sarvamangalam, and it was Day One of school. ‘Children,’ she said, in itself a stretch, considering the facial hair of the students, and that included some of the girls. ‘Your essay topic today is What I did in My Summer Holidays.’
We were in Class 11. This was an insult.
A couple of days later, it was time for the essays to be read out. I braced myself; in an attempt to impress everyone in my new school, I had pulled out all the stops. My ‘piece’ was a James Hadley Chase-ian romp involving pinstripe-suited hoods, slick police cars with sirens and a kidnapping foiled in the nick of time. By me. In Kakinada.
Mrs Sarvamangalam read out my essay. I didn’t get the standing ovation I’d become accustomed to in my old school. I realised Tam-Brahms didn’t stand and ovate except under extreme duress or something involving Krishnamachari Srikkanth. I got a murmur and a couple of laughs.
Then Mrs Sarvamangalam read out Ram Krishnagopal’s essay. Ram came from a family of engineers. He was the reason such a school had been built. He topped maths and science without trying. His essay involved his tremendous summer fling on the beaches of Miami with a mysterious beauty permanently clad in a red bikini. There were bouncing bosoms, male hardnesses, moans and a couple of climaxes. Then the final reveal, something even Chase would have thought twice about before attempting.
The mysterious beauty was none other than Mrs Sarvamangalam.
Needless to say, Ram got a standing ovation and an immediate suspension. But all I felt was searing jealousy. That should have been me.
After school, we lost touch. I thought about Ram quite often. Where was he? What was he doing? Then, just like that, I bumped into him one day.
He was the CEO of a software company, lived in a penthouse apartment, and owned a BMW. His cook had the same car as me. Ram played golf and ran the half-marathon. He had two kids in the US. His wife ran an NGO and, every other year, they holidayed in Tuscany.
Meanwhile, I had been a writer of greeting cards, police sketch artist, freelance soft porn magazine illustrator, screen printer of visiting cards, ghost copywriter of brochures for a massage parlour, art director in an ad agency called Kunjumon’s Kommunications, illustrator of the children’s books My Favourite Vegetables and My Favourite Fruit, non-bestselling novelist and unread columnist.
What a terrible waste. Talk of one wrong move changing your entire life. If only Ram hadn’t apologised to Mrs Sarvamangalam the next week at the assembly, if only his dad hadn’t been a trustee on the school board, all this could have been his.
Krishna Shastri Devulapalli’s new book How To Be A Literary Sensation: A Quick Guide to Exploiting Friends, Family & Facebook for Financial Gain will be out next month.