As a child, I grew up with my cousin sister Usha. About two years my senior in studies, I was not bright and she even less so. So, gradually she slipped back and soon was two years behind me. I, a lame duck in studies, somehow managed to keep my nose above water but she was failing miserably.
I was about fifteen or sixteen years old when she again failed her exams and out of shame, just confined herself to her house crying all the time.
By now, my reputation as a naughty mischievous lad had spread so my aunt summoned me to somehow make Usha smile again and take her out if possible. In return, she dangled before me the carrot of a freshly printed one rupee note. A carrot? In those days, one could buy a basketful of carrots for one rupee! So it was natural that this donkey fell for the bait.
Now the question was about forming and executing a plan. My brain did not have to work overtime for this. Just across the road lived Ila, also our age and a common friend, too. Ah, and by the way, equally bright (!) in studies! I took her into confidence and her face lit up when I told her about my plan to transform Yagnesh into Yogini – a woman – who would then stroll up and down the street in full view of everyone, including of course, Usha .
So Ila, the makeup artiste immediately started her job in earnest and in no time, I was wearing her petticoat, saree and blouse adequately stuffed up with falsies! Lipstick applied, bindi on forehead and lo, the coy and demure Yogini was ready for her stroll in the Garden of Eden!
But just then, a thought to my mind sent a shuddering chill down my spine. What if someone mistook me for a newly arrived call girl in the area? What if some lecherous old wolf came and held my hand? I can hold the local Romeos at bay but this would be too much to handle. No, I couldn’t go alone so I requested Ila to join me, but she flatly refused saying she did not want her reputation to be stained by being seen in the company of a “call girl”!
By now, I really had cold feet started perspiring profusely. We have a saying in Gujarati that in happier times you think of the goldsmith but when in distress you think of God! So, what else was left for me? And help me, He did! He sent one of his angels in the form of Bhisma to help me. Bhishma, our common cousin and also of our age, had come to Bombay to spend his vacation and was staying with Usha. Him being somewhat taller than me, my fertile brain prompted me to ask him to be my temporary companion. He smacked his lips and readily agreed.
So the two of us moved out of the gate and on to the street, his hand wrapped round my thin waist! I was very keen to show my acting talents and fluttered my eyelids and pouted my mouth, acting like a woman in love! This must have aroused the man in him! Or so I thought, because with a sheepish look on his face, he started tickling my falsies on the sly! Afraid that he would misbehave and demand his conjugal rights on the road in full public view, I pushed him away. Now it was his turn to be angry and he threatened to quit. I begged of him to continue but he was adamant it would be only on his terms. For the plan to work, for me to earn that rupee, and with no Ila round to help me, I had no choice but to agree.
In the meantime, quite a few persons from the neighbourhood had recognized me and burst out laughing, shaking their heads in disbelief! Yes, it was the naughty boy again at his mischievous best!
I am happy to say that this Charlie also succeeded in doing what the original (a certain Mr Chaplin) had done decades before – make people laugh! Mission successful, my aunt rewarded my by giving me two rupees, instead of the promised one. I hurriedly became my male self again and invited the now-smiling Usha, Ila and Bhishma for a cone of ice-cream from a nearby parlour!
Today, my childhood friend and makeup artiste,Ila is no longer there to corroborate this story. So also Bhishma, who did not live long enough to tell his grandchildren how he had tickled my falsies! That leaves only Usha and me, savouring our childhood memories! Naughty me!