The Ringside View

My attempts at writing have always been stacked up in old diaries and scraps of yellowing paper.Time,neglect and phylum insecta however, always ensured that the gibberish i scrawled, never would see the prying gaze of an alien eye.Years later, i still scribble once in a while - this time in word documents stored in some obscure folder somewhere in the innards of my C drive.I am unearthing some of them and opening them up for the interested.To get what i call - The Ringside view.

My Photo
Name:
Location: Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Death of the Gandhi's

I remember being whisked out of class with a sense of confused urgency. I was done and dusted. Two months of summer vacation stretched before me like a never ending oasis of joy. But I wonder what the hurry was all about. Agreed it’s always nice to be walking out of the school gate with no turning glance. But I dearly wanted to savour this moment; especially when I didn’t have to come back for well over two months. I fondly waved at my friends who shared my second blue bench in kindergarten section B. What a good day it had been today.

In fact it always was, when we had the drawing class. We would sit around Ranju and wait for him to start off on his piece de resistance. The one that I was pretty sure would put our hands at the end of the drawing master’s cane one day. He would start off with an unsmiling concentration unbecoming of a 5 year old artist. One hangman walking. And then another. Pretty soon there was a mob on his slate canvas, some with cycles others with banners. What was little Ranju drawing, we often wondered. It seemed like a strike, a revolution. But what the heck, at 5; it was probably nothing more than a few harmless strokes of artistic expression. And as the canvas became more crowded, his artistic fervor would pick up tempo. Lines would descend down in callous strokes and pretty soon the chalk would stream over the slate like the vipers of an Ambassador on a rainy day. And when it eventually became an indistinguishable veil of white chalk powder, he would lift the slate up and smear it all in his face amidst muffled laughter from the rest of us. We would plead him for another time and he unlike a rock star would seldom refuse. We had three rounds today and as I walked, my stomach ached of incessantly trying to control my laughter.

There were times when Ranju’s dad, a strict ex-serviceman would come to pick him up and see specks of white powder on his face. ‘Why doesn’t mummy spread the powder around’, he would bellow, spreading it evenly into his fat round face. I would look at my shoe laces in a vain attempt not to laugh. But I seldom succeeded.

****************************

We walked past the peddler selling multi colored toffees and He-man stickers. I knew I wouldn’t get one. We walked past the melon seller, his exhibits glistening red in the sun, shrouded with flies. No chance in hell I am getting one of those. The ice cream cart was surrounded as usual by the bigger boys. Orange. Milk. Mango - it read. Wishful thinking again I must admit, but considering we have two months of vacation, I harbored over the rationale of ‘so what if I fall sick for a couple of days’. But today just didn’t seem like the day for negotiations. We were in a hurry to head home and I could feel a sense of nervousness about it.

******************************

‘We’re going to our native place, you know’, my cousin would gleefully tell me. ‘N number of days left’, he would calculatedly add; the number decreasing with each passing day. ‘And when it reaches zero’, he would continue, ‘we would sit in a long train and go to this sunny sea side place where loads of people will pamper us; where mangoes can be plucked off trees and eaten; where men with huge whiskers will climb up trees and drop nectar sweet coconuts for us to drink; where we can run around trees and build sand castles and not worry about going to school ever again.’ I would listen open eared, building these pictures of a sunny dreamland (unlike pictures which Ranju drew), well spaced and happy; waiting for us to enter into.

When I woke up that morning, I remembered him coming to my bedside and whispering – ‘It’s zero days left’.

******************************

We stopped at the Mallu shop selling magazines, rubber balls, peanut candies and a hundred other things.

‘They shot her today, didn’t they?’, my aunt enquired nervously.

“Yes, her own guards.’ the shop keeper replied. ‘There is bound to be trouble. Aren’t you’ll traveling today. The trains might just get cancelled. Please do take care, especially since you’re traveling with the little ones and all’.

‘I wonder what will happen’, my aunt nervously continued. ‘Wonder what is happening to this country. How could they do it to a Prime Minister? And to make it worse….today’.

‘I am planning to close the shop in the afternoon. Why take a risk’, he continued disbursing change and the regular bunch of magazines.

*******************************
We were never great travelers, our family. A fair share of paranoia with ample measures of ‘Have we got the tickets’, ‘Did you lock the door right’, ‘Will we get the bus to the railway station on time’, always ensured that a steady climate of discomfort existed until the train hooted its way out of Bangalore Central. Add social unrest, political turmoil and the impending fear of violent uprisings, and I am sure the tempers were pretty much on tenterhooks. But I was a boy of 5 and oblivious of the gravity of all that was happening around me. I only knew that we might not get Pazham Pori when the train stopped at Trichur and I was not to whine and cringe, for the likelihood of getting spanked was fairly high.

I do not remember much of that journey I must admit. But I do faintly remember my father pulling down the shutters of our window. And I feel I saw fleeting images of one hangman and then another, with cycles and banners, like in Ranju’s images, throwing stones at our long train heading to dreamland. They were throwing stones, because a few guards with huge whiskers and machine guns had shot the Prime Minister. Not that it made sense to me but I had loose bowels and gave my folks a tough time.

*****************************

I remember that summer was fairly hot and the mango trees had failed to bloom on time. So we got mangoes from the neighbor’s yard where a couple of trees had bloomed on time and it sure did taste like nectar.

******************************
[Seven years later]

I woke up dreamily to the unusually loud early morning commotion. We were all lying on the floor like in a refugee camp. The bed sheet under me had been pulled away by my cousin of a year older. Glowing embers of the mosquito coil glistened in the far corner of the floor. We were heading back home the next day. The fun and frolic was over. A brand new year of school hood awaited in distant Bangalore and I tried not to think of it. I strained my eyes and looked at the clock. It was barely even seven. What was the ruckus all about, I thought again.

‘What is it?’, I asked one of my elder cousins.

‘Rajiv Gandhi is dead’, he replied. ‘LTTE suicide bombers’, he continued in a know-all tone of adulthood.

I walked down the flight of stairs to where the elders sat. They sat there dejected, discussing the happenings of the night. I realized then that my family was strongly ‘Congressian’ with only the odd rebel cousin or two showing Communist allegiance. Someone had dropped in late into the night to inform my grand uncle, who was a senior party worker of the tragedy. And now my cousins were recounting the tale of how they had run to the press office in the night to confirm the news. I stood there sleepy; listening to real world stories. When the conversation died down, I walked up to my dad and rested on his lap. I enquired slowly ‘Dad, are we going back home tomorrow?’

‘Not tomorrow’, dad replied. “I have asked the tickets to be postponed. It’s too risky to be traveling at such times. We’ve done that once in the past. Not again.’

In my heart of hearts, I felt happy. We could continue our game of cricket. Our simulated game with real world cricketers was precariously placed. Gus Logie and Jeff Dujon had pulled West Indies out of a hole against the Indians. A couple more days of gay abandon. The West Indians might win. And another Prime minister to-be had been killed.

Labels: , ,

5 Comments:

Blogger as good as it gets said...

Aaaah! If only I could write like you. Thanks for the lovely treat :)))

May 07, 2007 6:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont have words to describe ur writing skills mate - fantastic, fabulous, awesome !! sheer joy to read. - GD

May 12, 2007 12:54 AM  
Blogger Linesh said...

Macha Great....--Pillai

June 02, 2007 10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is life in your stories. Brilliant.

February 15, 2008 4:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For want of better words - Brilliant!

I remember Rajiv Gandhi's assassination news. Was too young at that time! And even I was at maternal granparents place! Reading this made me go all nostalgic!:)

May 30, 2008 2:25 AM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home