To All the Girls We’ve Loved Before – #1

It’s February. The horizon in the morning is hidden in fog, dust-white.

This time in the fields of Purulia, the palash are blooming. They call them the flame of the forest, because their branches light up the woodland with clusters of fluorescent orange flowers, stretching for acres over the yellowed plains.

Every year when winter waned and the wind rose from the west, blowing through the eucalyptuses and pines, blowing the dry leaves over the unmown ground all day, the spring skies began to arrive, tufts of bright-white clouds flowing across the blue. There was a magic in that blue, a spell that said holiday, as if it was fairy-dust that shone down through the high, swaying branches of the trees.

In the triangle garden, the roses budded and bloomed.

February has not changed all these years after. There are new buds on the rose, and new tunes float in the air, and yesterday’s flowers are all gone away. But the forest does not change, even if the trees do. When I go on my walks on the familiar trail, I still see the birds and the bees at work, and hear the squirrels chitter high somewhere in the trees.

It was a song that made me think of this, and a question someone asked me one recent day. I decided to take a stroll down the streets of Oldtown, looking for old emotions, and, if possible, dusting them a little bit, putting them a bit on display. It’d be like a little toy museum. Why not?

I called up Udayan and asked him to join in the experiment. The idea was to write an account of all the girls that I – and my generation, in an unsystematic, non-comprehensive sort of way – had had crushes on as we were growing up in our school years. It was to be a semi-memoir, semi-confessional kind of a piece, – and knowing how unforgivingly lighthearted we can be to ourselves, the most important challenge would be to accord as much kindness to the past-us, as we would have accorded anyone else.

We grew up in a boys’ hostel for nine straight years, so there weren’t a lot of neighbourhood Amys and Beckys to grow sweet on. Our schoolboy-crushes, therefore, consisted of characters in stories, celebrities in magazines, and people on television shows and cinema. More from movies than from books, if we are talking about everyone, because few of us would have crushes on characters in the pages of books. Few, but we did exist.

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My first crush must have been Daphne from Scooby-Doo Where Are You, my favourite show on Cartoon Network back then. I say ‘back then’ because there were phases; the Scooby-Doo phase, the Power Zone phase, the Toonami phase, and so on. I was in class four when I decided that Daphne was the most beautiful person to ever have been conceived. I had been low-key fawning over her for quite some time – the big break came with a packet of chips and the free-gift Tazo.

Now I have to explain what’s a Tazo, it seems like, but I’ll pass on that. If you are my age or older, you remember it very well. If you’re younger, – take a short educational trip. The Tazo that I found in this packet was a part of a Scooby-Doo set, each one having a picture of one of the ‘meddling kids.’ This one had Daphne Blake.

Daphne

Daphne Blake

Back then I didn’t even know she was called Daphne Blake. No one cared. We were kids who did not get the lyrics to cool-sounding intros and piped them however we wanted. We used to think the Undertaker and Kane were actual brothers and that Michael Jackson beat Prabhu Deva in an epic dance-off that broke Prabhu Deva’s thumb. Who cared about last names.

But my infatuation with Daphne did not last very long. I don’t very well recall how it ended, but I do remember growing a serious crush on another person soon afterwards…if I remember correctly, about the very next year. It was 2002, and Spider-man had hit the theatres.

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Kirsten Dunst as MJW

Okay, we admit it, the rain-kiss scene was a thing we talked about for months – and the TV didn’t forget to include the shot in the commercial promos either. This was, for almost all of us, the first flesh-and-blood iteration of Peter and Mary Jane. I don’t remember how exactly the wheels in my head had turned (it wasn’t the rain-scene, I found it rather ordinary, as grow-a-crush incentives go), but like many others, I did develop a brief little fancy for Kirsten Dunst. As you might notice, my patient audience, we are developing a pattern here. P. G. Wodehouse had called it. “Red hair, sir, in my opinion, is dangerous.”

Rogue 1

Anna Paquin as Rogue

Speaking of girls from Marvel comics and movies (MCU wasn’t a thing then), I also used to like Rogue. Rogue, played by Anna Paquin, in X-Men (2000). We grew up watching X-Men: Evolution on TV, and most of my friends used to ooh and aah about Jean Grey, arguably the most attractive of the bunch, whereas to me Kitty was cuter. But I can’t say I had heart-eyes for her. That I did, at least for a few days, for Rogue – from the films.

Liking Rogue was also an early marker of another identification I’d grow over the years. Just like in the comics, in the film, Logan had the hots for Jean, but it was the seventeen-year-old Rogue who had a crush on him, and Logan – being Logan – always kept a spot for her in his heart.

(hopefully to be contd.)

2 thoughts on “To All the Girls We’ve Loved Before – #1

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