Saturday, July 02, 2011

A hurl into the past

As he rode his cycle out of the gates, he pulled himself up and gave a thrust at the pedal, pushing the cycle forward and gaining momentum. The December evening breeze caressed his face. After locking himself up in the house for five days, it felt good to be out. He slowed down as he approached the first X junction between Bharathi Park 7th cross road. He sent cautious glances on both sides. Coast clear. Another thrust and he was off.

He felt a chill run up his spine as he turned into the deserted 5th cross. He halted for a moment to decide if he wanted to go through with this. The easiest option was to turn back and flee. But, that he had come so far made him set course towards his school, without ceasing to wonder why his Hindi teacher would be there at this time. The creeps of riding down through a deserted lane had gotten to him, especially during dark times as these.

Without any attempt to hide his fear, he reached the school. The gates were shut and locked. The watchmen Rangasamy anna and Balu anna weren't anywhere around. Through the steel rods of the locked up gates, he glinted at the gents staff room and no sign of activity there. Both doors closed. He rode to the primary school gate and no trace of people there either. Disappointed, he came back to the first gate. He parked the cycle and stood there thinking. As it sunk upon him, his heart beats increased rapidly.

It was a con!

Fifteen minutes earlier...

It was five days since his school had shut down because of curfew that broke out in Coimbatore on the fifth anniversary of the controversial monument tear down. The usual 11-year old's fear about the images of people killing one another (thanks to Mani Ratnam's classy portrayal in Bombay) gave him sleepless nights and in turn for the family. But, their support was not well appreciated by him during the day, not with all his patience draining pranks.

Three days into the one week shut down, he had enacted a perfect "full-portion" coverage of the upcoming half-yearly exams syllabus. The Hindi composition note he had submitted for evaluation came to his rescue as the only true element of a perfect act. Not that his mom bought his "finished studying" story, he was anyways let free. It was still evening and bright. There were hours before he had to worry about the curfew-special nightmares.

All was well and fun that evening, until the phone rang. He picked up the call and was surprised to hear his Hindi teacher on the line. He passed on the phone to his mom as directed and went off to catch the close of the evening's episode of Centurions. In a matter of seconds, his mom hung up. He shot her a glance as to the purpose of the call and from the look of her face knew that he'd regret it. So much for the act of "If only I had the composition note, I'd have studied the Hindi essays as well", his Hindi teacher and the note were waiting for him at school.

He couldn't say which was pumping faster, his legs or heart. It was the typical flee. With no time to think about why or who or what, he sped back, past the deserted streets. To him, it was just the danger. Whether home lay a few yards or few miles away did not matter. But, somewhere down his weak and fearful heart lay a fighter. A fighter that came up to his rescue mostly when he had lied to someone's face and was taking his last shot before almost getting caught. He kept wiping the sweat off his face, prayed intensely, thanked God as every occasional passer-by didn't turn out to be a killer or mobster. He just kept going until he banged open the gates of his home with his cycle.

He parked his cycle and ran, kicking out his slippers and straight into the house. "Maaaaaaa", he shouted as he ran through the hall and turned into the kitchen. She was standing right in front of the gas stove, making coffee. He was panting so badly that he unusually seemed completely out of words. She turned towards him and handed him his evening coffee. He looked up at her.

There was that smile. The smile, fourteen years later, he still gives to anyone who fell for a prank he pulled off.

Can't believe that it has been this long already.
Nine years and counting.
July 2nd 2011

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