Teenage Redux @the Time of Secret Santa
A Prologue to Teenage Redux
My life as a teenager flavored like Kombucha. Sour and bitter with a light sprinkling of fine caster sugar. As an adult, I’ve been obsessed with the thought of traveling back in time and rebrewing the Kombucha mix. To make it refreshingly fizzy, slightly fermented with scoby. Sparkling and healthier.
The Universe granted my wish years after, to an extent, even if it’s not by swapping for a popular school girl, with a magical fortune cookie. At the dusk of the 30s, I ‘ve been given the opportunities to say what I had no courage to say back then and do the things that I ignored. Writing this article itself is a piece of clear evidence that my Kombucha indeed turned healthier.
On a lovely cold December morning, on my way to the gorgeous San Francisco, it dawned upon me that Secret Santa would be the ideal time machine to teleport me back to the bygone winters — taking my Plus Two classmates along — to relive teen years in its fullest (almost). Luckily my plea hit the right chord with the Plus Two Whatsapp Group members. Who doesn’t like to unwrap Santa’s gifts and rekindle the pyre of School Santa fun! Little did we know this would set a new standard for online fun!
It didn’t take too long to draw secret friends through an online Secret Santa tool. Amid dropping and deciphering nimble clues and identifying the secret friend each one of us got, we stumbled upon unspoken tales. What followed for a month was fun, suspense, thrill, outburst, action, evoking a pensive aura and evincing the relics of a departed era. Well, the fun didn’t end with exchanging gifts and it might never end— who knows!
That’s a sort of the right mix of scoby and the right stretch of fermentation.
I couldn’t stop myself from grabbing a few amusing hints emerged — thanks to my creative friends — and narrating our stories, through them, of love, friendship, conflict, deception, pain, and everything a 16-year old can feel and dwell upon — correction, we conjured up all these in our late 30s.
Take it with a pinch of salt.
“Who’ve not gotten a Secret friend, yet?”
“Joy. The incipient bliss elevated into a frenzy. Jaw dropped. Dumbstruck. No. What if someone discovers what’s going on inside and how will they judge me! I might get into a real mess! Forget it… Let. It. Be! OMG. I can’t get hold of myself. I am on Cloud Nine. Euphoric. Oh. My. Beloved.”
Had it not been for the online Secret Santa tool, she might never have gotten an opportunity to gift her school crush. A perfect Christmas, eons after. An ideal occasion to wave the magic wand.
“Am I your Mermaid?”
“Maybe. Maybe not. Keep guessing.”
“How I wish…! The erstwhile popular boy calling the then Ugly Betty of the school — a Mermaid — How romantic! ”
“You totally screwed up adjectives, Pretty Betty.”
“Nope. Listen. I am gonna get a tattoo of a Mermaid — on my hips — if I get lucky!”
“Insane. You are as reckless as you were two decades ago..!” 🙄
“Insane? That I am.” 🤪
Something like a Crocodile
“Crocodile, a monster? Is that you mean? Oh my gosh.”
“What great feat did I accomplish to qualify for the title of Evil Personified!”
“Not really. You work at the Navy. Ever since you’ve gone you’ve been a sailor, on the water. Drifting from land to water, and back. Like a Crocodile.”
“Wow! Thanks. And you, miss Mean Girl of the class. Do you still remember the gazillion times you’d shunned me & my request to turn on the fan?”
“I … I apologize.. but..”
“What sorry! The classroom was deep-fried under that concrete pile. On top of that dreary long-winding equations. Totally roasted in those scorching Summer afternoons!... And you mam, you never cared to stretch your arm out a bit to the switchboard!”
“As if you wanted us to toxify with an in-house UV Sauna treatment!” 🙄
Cooling fan. Open the windows to the garden, and point the fan out the window. It might seem counter-intuitive, but the fan draws the wind from the acacia trees bordering the field into the class. Trust me on this, I enjoyed the Physics lectures.
“Apologies. I ignored it, because….to be honest, I was told that you were nothing short of a monster!”
Simple & Powerful
“The only thing I can think of is a Malayalam rom-com. Premam. A newbie Lecturer teaching Java — Java is simple, powerful, and robust! Who is Java in this group, after all!”
“Ah, as in Mar in Hindi?” 🙄
“Kill. The one who tried to kill herself.”
Lack of self-love. The trail between low self-esteem and suicide is windy but short.
“Oh, another Crocodile-type clue. Banal. Come up with something original!”
“There’s more to this than meets the eye — A flying Hippopotamus — Go figure out, losers!”
“Someone who’s always cool and in the water. Bloated and stoned. Did you mean an alcoholic?”
Alcoholism. Tobacco. Drugs. Grueling life in Iraq turned him to an addict. He did smoke as a teen, but his drug of choice has always been alcohol. He traded one addiction for another. A wise man once said any time someone asks if you have a cigarette, they are immediately cured of alcoholism. But he went from one vice to another — who’s to say all vices are bad! At this stage, he’s trying to drink himself to death. We’ve tried to broach the subject before, but he has just brushed us off.
“Has everyone figured out your Secret Santa, yet! ..I felt really sorry after reading about what she’d had to go through at school! I wasn’t among those bullies who called her a DUFF. I mean I myself was a kind of on the fence. Nonexistent. Neither a nerd nor popular. Who’d talk to me!”
“ — Enough enough! We sat next to each other on the same bench for the whole two years. And shared cheat sheets. Come on, you’d never uttered a single word about “feelings”! I thought you said your dad would be furious if he got to hear about any link-ups…”
“Na, Na. Mistake. My dad said not to disappoint him — by NOT finding a date..! Sad, I disappointed him. I’d had no success with girls. Instead I played video games every day and night, sometimes until past midnight. It sucks.”
“Don’t worry. You still have time. Like George and Martha; Like Dory and Marlin; Like Harry and Hermione…like Nargis and Raj Kapoor! Wait for a second, who was your secret lover?”
“None. I didn’t get to. So I am not going to…”
“Time out folks…Being the coordinator of the group, let me intervene…If anyone had loved him — hush-hush, raise your hand.”
“Say self-appointed. If the plan is to investigate my secret lover, let me tell you, this isn’t gonna get anywhere! So madam, better continue with the Santa game… unless..”
L’appel du Vide. The call of the void to confess. As Stephen Chbosky writes in Perks of Being a Wallflower, this moment will just be another story someday.