I was 15 and very irritating. Mother dragged us to an exhibition in palace grounds to check on some tiles. I was bored and hungry and before I could complain about either, I saw a book shop and smirked. I browsed for exactly 5 minutes and found nothing. I was just exiting because I smelled cotton candy in the air when I saw ‘Poppy day’ by Annie Murray. The woman on the book cover was pretty. She was white, had a lovely mouth and the brownest of eyes I’ve ever seen in a pair of a eyes. She looked lost and scared and I loved vulnerable women back then so naturally I developed feelings for her. Those were simpler times when I knew nothing about feminism and book covers.
Anyway, as is customary, I bought the book with much enthusiasm and then didn’t look at it for a month. I started reading it only when I was hauled to Himachal pradesh by mother after my board exams. I was thrilled immediately after page 2 because turns out, she was lost and scared.
Poppy day is set in the Birmingham of 1910’s. Jessica Hart tears her wedding dress and escapes her small country home to find her Auntie Olive in the city and after much persuasion, she is allowed to stay at her aunt’s. But it’s not long before she meets the man she will fall in love with and that’s what’s great about the book. I remember not having to struggle with the book. Because the love happened in chapter 3, the sex in chapter 4, the baby in chapter 7, the break up in chapter 8 and the eventual moving on and much else, immediately after. I was happy that I didn’t have to wait long to read the love making scenes. There were two and both gave me my first orgasms in some sense. I remember the scenes affectionately because I kept going back to them and much to my embarrassment, the book was physically able to tell which page was read the most because of the damned ugly mark that knew my touch and greed a little too well. No amount of straightening the damn thing or putting it under the sofa-cushion worked.
Beyond the obvious, the book managed to grab me by my tongue simply because its language was rather odd for a lame ass 15 year old. There were words I couldn’t really follow but got used to in no time. Words like ‘wench’, ‘ter’, ‘yer’, ‘summat’ are words that still shame me, not because I couldn’t understand them but because I used them unfailingly in my journals and in some rare occasions, in conversations with friends who rightly disowned me later.
The mystery of the rather dysfunctional family intrigued me to bits and I found that I enjoyed reading about women who worked in spaces outside the home. The only bits that I had very little patience for were the army scenes. I’m boring like that. The drama, romance, family secrets, unexpected pregnancies, old/painful and gut-wrenching methods of abortion, separation, eating bread and other ‘Tom & Jerry’ foods is what I fondly remember about ‘Poppy Day’.
Also when I was nearly done with the book, a somewhat first love kind of romance was brewing between me and the escort who guided us through Shimla- Kulu-Manali. Clearly, ‘P’ had to be about Poppy day.