• Kuzhali Manickavel

Conversations- Letting the Air Force In

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

K- So I ran into an old lecturer from college-

S- Oh I love it when people meet their old lecturers! Did she hug you and cry? Did you both have slow-motion college flashback? Was it like the Raymond’s ads?

K- Now that you mention it, I think she did want to cry a little.

S- Because she remembered you and was overcome by golden memories from the evergreen pastures of her golden memories?

K- No, because I actually ran into her. As in I accidentally knocked her down some stairs and she may have concussion and stuff.

S- Oh.

K- She was really mad. I think she wants to sue me.

S- Chi, people only sue in America. Also, I don’t think you should take anything said in the heat of concussion personally.

K- Oh! But I totally remembered her! I was like ‘Ma’am, you remember me?’ and she was like ‘Why should I remember you? Who said I should remember your face?’

S- Maybe the concussion put her in a bad mood.

K- I remember her because every time she came into class, she would say ‘Come on girls, open the windows! Let the Air Force come in.’

S- No way. K- She totally did! And I would always think, wouldn’t that be the best thing ever? If you opened the windows and these fabulous Air Force men just started leaping gracefully into the room? Sometimes I would picture the Air Force men wearing little sailor outfits and jumping through the windows while that song Chandralekha from Thiruda Thiruda played in the background.

S- I can totally see that happening.

K- It was the best class ever. I can’t remember what class it was exactly but it was the best class ever.

S- I had a teacher who would tell us to stop oscillating in the hallways.

K- Oh suh-weet!

S- It was a bit creepy actually. Because we never saw her, we just heard her voice. We’d be standing there and suddenly this voice would say ‘Girls! Why you are oscillating in the hallways?’ I mean how do you even answer a question like that? ‘No ma’am, we’re not oscillating ma’am’? ‘Sorry ma’am, we’ll not oscillate again ma’am’?

K- Did I tell you about my teacher who would say ‘I say you get out!’ even when we were outside?

S- Wow. That must have been very weird for you. K- It really was. Because we wouldn’t know where to go, you know? How do you ‘get out’ when you’re already outside?

S- It’s a loaded philosophical metaphor.

K- I remember this one girl had a theory that maybe we were supposed to go back inside but we could never test this out.

S- Why not? K- Because this teacher didn’t actually want us to go anywhere, she just liked saying ‘I say you get out!’ So if we tried to move, she’d get even angrier and say ‘Where are you going? You are going for a walk? You think this is fish market?’ And I’d be like, why would anyone go for a walk in a fish market?

S- You didn’t actually say that, did you? K- Of course not! Maybe once I said. Or twice.

S- Ok I have to go. I just remembered I had something on the stove and then I came to talk to you and now I think my kitchen’s on fire.

K- Maybe if you started doing your cooking in some other room you wouldn’t set your kitchen on fire so often. S- I better go open some windows before I die of smoke inhalation.

K- Open those windows I say! Let the Air Force come in!

an edited version of this appeared in The New Indian Express Zeitgeist Supplement, Multiverse, Conversations, March 13, 2010