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Smiles About(III)

There was a small stream flowing just outside of the school boundary, running parallel to it. There was a small bridge over the stream but we hardly cared for it as the stream was too small. But a year ago, last time a year ago when I had to cross it there was no way to avoid the huge concrete bride over it. The stream has grown into a river...

It was a Friday and as usual there was excitement as there will be an hour long lunch break which we are going to invest in the game of cricket. That also mean's there are chances that the lunch will be sacrificed in the name of cricket.

It was ensured that the bats and wickets were in perfect conditions. The moment the bell announces the lunch break, Nupur will rush to the nearby market to buy a ball. And everything happened as per the plan.

The problem came when Ratul choose to hammer hard a full-toss ball with a full flung bat resulting into an 'over boundary'. The ground was not 'that big'. As per the rules of the game (amended to match the 'ground realities'), Latu (the umpire) awarded Ratul with an 'out' for his out-standing performance. As a momentary reaction the rest of us leaped with joy. The budding 'Kapil Dev', and the greatest challenge for us has to loose his wicket so early today! (Otherwise we used to spend 75 percent of our time either balling, wicket keeping or fielding against him)

But as William Wordsworth wrote, 'In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts bring sad thoughts to the mind'...
All our euphoria got over the next moment when we realized either we have lost the ball in the stream or in the bush on the other side. And even otherwise, we will have to spend quite a big amount of time in searching the ball. As we had spent all our pocket money in the ball we did not have the option of rushing for the market (something we did with a lot of pride only fifteen minutes back!).

So, with smile on the left and gloom other half of the fasces, the five of us, Ratul, Pankaj, Rupam, Latu and I crossed over the boundary to perform the search. After spending more than 20 minutes searching for the ball, we realized we were 'just westin our time'. So, disheartened we decided to wind up the search...we were to be back to school boundary when Pankaj noticed the auto-rikshwa parked on the bank of the stream a little away. The driver must have plans to clean the vehicle in the stream.

"Hey, it's Ram Lal's auto. Last week he took away the ball as it hit his vehicle and did not return even after we said sorry, " yelled Ratul. There was apparent anger on his face. I noticed his anger of getting out on an excellent over boundary getting converted into hatred against the past week's loss.

"Hey the ass is not anywhere near," Pankaj yelled, his voice was smelling revenge. "Let's push the vehicle into water. We need to show him that we are not that vulnerable."

"No, that will not be ok," I tried to resist the idea. "He will kill all of us if he comes to know." The horrible face of the Ram Lal flashed in my mind. The bunch of curled moustache under Ram Lal's nose was a great source of repulsion and terror for almost all of us.

"Shut-up you timid. It's time you think and act like a grown up. Every time you play the spoilsport," Ratul yelled as a matter of consent to Pankaj's idea. I felt he scored a hundred in front of Latu (the only girl among us) by proving me timid. "Chance like this will not come again. No one will know and we will be able to punish him for his mistakes also."

Next moment I saw the matured trio (Ratul, Pankaj, Rupam) approaching the vehicle. And they started pushing it towards the stream. In the first attempt, they succeeded creating only a slight movement in the vehicle. "Hey, you timid, what are you looking at." I heard Rupam's voice this time. I failed to resist me joining them when I saw Latu too joined hands with the heros.

That obviously was a too big a challenge for me. "If I do not take the call, I will have to repent and remain lowered head in front of these throughout my life," I heard some one inside saying me. And there we five were pushing the rikshwa. And in the next moment we crossed the resistance of the static vehicle so. We needed to push it just to the slope and the rest journey was done by the vehicle itself to reach the waters. "Yaahhoooo," the four cheered at their feat. "Now run away, before any one see us here."

Everything was going fine till now. But it seemed the almighty had different plans for us. As we were speeding towards the school boundary, we heard a harsh voice screaming, "Hey you rascals, why have you done this? I will spare none of you..."

After reaching the boundary, we looked back and saw Ram Lal was not after us. He must have got busy in pulling back the vehicle to the bank again.

"Its better we do not enter school now. He has seen us and definitely will be coming to school to report this." There was terror in Ratul's face. So was with the others. After a little thought, the innovator of the idea, Pankaj declared, "We are not going school. Let's run away and hide some where." Ratul's house was the furthest. So there was a unanimous decision to hide at his place. We managed to enter the back yard unnoticed and found a hide in the storeroom.

The store room being unused for a long time was full of rates and so we had to put a lot of effort to keep Latu silent, that rats will not harm us.

There was silence around except for the sounds of cooking utensils in the kitchen. After a while there was only sound of hearts pounding. Latu's eyes got moist.

After some time we heard Ratul's elder brother screaming, "Maa, is Ratul back home?"...He sounded breathless, must have been running all the way to home from school as we did. He explained what had happened in a single breath. "Now, Ram Lal is searching from all of them everywhere. He has a chopper in his hand. He has gone to Aklanta's house now. He will be coming here also if they are not there. I saw them running away. But no idea where they are now."

"O my God," it was Aunty's turn this time. "Let them come home. I will give them the worst punishment they'll never forget,"

Here we were now between the devil and the deep blue sea. In a while we heard Aunty locking the doors and there was silence again. "Ram Lal will be here in a while. Let's move out of this place," Ratul was extremely terrified this time. Latu failed to resist the temptation to cry.

There's a small hill nearby. The main road leads to the hill. "Let's go to the hill," I suggested. "I will not go, I am scared," Latu started crying even louder.

"Don't worry; we are with you, I have been to that road only last Saturday and it's completely safe. Over and above that we will be able to see what's happening here from up there. But no one will see us," I tried to encourage her, even though I was myself scared.

But my suggestions convinced all. So we headed towards the hill through the main road. We were half running at first and slowed down a little when there was a turn which made us out of vision...My feet muscles were aching. After some time we reached the road on the hill and the point from where we can see what's happening in the ground bellow. The height presented us a bird's eye view of the locality below. Unlike my proposition, the people on the lanes bellow looked like ants and it was not easy for us to track Ram Lal and his movements. But we were assured that no one will be able to guess our hide now.

We sat on a rock under the shadow of a tree. I can feel each and every muscle straining, heart bumping like the saw-mill. None of us were looking at each other. Perhaps a feeling of guilt had gripped us. Latu broke the silence, "We should have listened to Aklanta." I looked straight at Ratul and Pankaj. They lowered eyes. I was also feeling the guilt. "I am hungry, my feet and stomach are aching." Latu started crying lauder. No one tried to stop her crying. There was no one to hear us!

Perhaps we sat there for an hour. As time passed by the sounds of birds and creepers started getting louder. Latu become silent after crying for a while. The boys were trying their best to stop crying, "Boys do not cry." That too in front of a girl, no way! But all these failed to stop their eyes getting moist. And after some time Pankaj broke down, "I am the culprit. I should not have come up with such a shitty idea." Then Ratul played his part, followed by Rupam. I tried to read my feelings, there were definite guilt for not doing something to resist them and also that I too was involved.

"Let's go home and face the music"...

All the five families were gathered in Ratul's house . Ram Lal was also there.

But contrary to our expectations, every one there was calm. Even Ram Lal was calm too. They made all of us sit at stools placed in the centre and as if it was long planned, no one said anything to us. "Whey no one's cursing us? Why they are not punishing us for the mistake we have made?"

All these hospitalities were becoming unbearable for us. And in a while Ratul broke his silence pleading guilty for what we did and that we were sorry. Pankaj took a step forward saying sorry to Ram Lal and we joined saying we will not repeat this again ever. Ratul's mother got busy in pacifying Latu crying like anything (none of her parent's were there). And after some time Pankaj's father delivered the note of conclusion that since the kids has accepted the mistake they have been excused this time. Ram Lal too nodded and some how he looked sober than ever and his moustache was not that terrifying.

On our way back home we were silent.

In the evening, at tea table mamma reported the day's happenings to papa after which I was called for. "I was not expecting anything from you like this. However, I am happy that you people gathered courage to say sorry to Ram Lal for what you did. Take care that nothing like this happens again," papa was short, crisp and definite.

After talking to papa I was saying myself; I'll try my best to avoid such nuisance after this and if even after that some thing happens, I will not shy away from taking responsibility. I will face the music. There was peace from inside and I thought it was over.

But it did not as there were repercussions of this next day, on December 27th.

At school after the prayers, the class captain announced the five musketeers were invited by the Principal for a discussion...we looked at each other...just like me, they too were calm...there were no fear in their faces and I knew they were also decided to face the consequences of their deed.

He made us sit in chairs in front of him for a while and got engaged with some papers. But I have the gut feeling that he was not in midst of something but just observing our reactions. After a while he wrapped up the file and looked at us...

"So kids, I have come to know the incident that took place yesterday. And I also know what you did after that. The calm at your face says, you have had your share of repentance for your misdeeds. So I am not punishing you for what you did outside. I know you are not going to repeat again. But the school protocol says you have to be punished for breaking school discipline."

"Yes sir," we all sounded as if we were trained cadets.

Our punishment was proclaimed...we have to spank one another. That means one has to serve five spanks to each of the four others. Just after the announcement the boys turned to the Principal. "Please sir, exempt Latu from this. In stead you serve us more spanks to be served."

After thinking for a while, he said, "Ok, at your request I am exempting her from the drill." But she has to watch her friends being punished, that's her punishment.

Ratul exploited the opportunity, to take revenge of the full toss ball that I delivered tempting him to hit hard. He spanked me as hard as he can.

Tomorrow it's December 27th again. Tomorrow I will recall those spanks...tomorrow I will miss all four of you.

But even then I'll smile. In your company, I collected some of most valuable gems of my life...I will keep my words to face the music.


Anonymous said…
simply wonderful!!! u made me nostalgic man!!!!

and hey, happy birthday!!!
Anonymous said…
i ought to know abt ur b'day :(
Anonymous said…
anyways, happy b'day, belated though ;)

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