- Category Archives A story
It’s been almost 20 years. I am back in the town as the district magistrate, where I spent a most of my childhood . I was yet to get the bungalow from the government so had to stay in the guesthouse for the time being. I was being driven in an open SUV to the guesthouse and I could feel the air with an essence of memories. The area looked familiar, a river flowing by, kids playing around. The road now had some potholes opposite to those days, when we could find some road in the potholes. The chauffeur was talkative, addressing me as ‘sahib-ji’ (a substitute for ‘sir’ in Hindi). He was almost 3-5 years elder as it looked from his appearance. Long dense mustache, slightly grown beard and short hairs, well wet with some excessively strong mustard oil and a well-built body. He was happy and tension free, whereas I was not. His (legitimate) income will be around one fifth of what I could earn legally, still he was more satisfied and relaxed. I was not very happy as I had to He was trying to explain me about the town especially temples and the banks of the river with religious importance. To be frank I was getting annoyed and was just trying to be polite by nodding my head in response to his words, some times with a sound “hmm!”Soon we reached the guesthouse, I paid some tip to the chauffeur saying “will fire you if you continue being talkative” within my heart, but the words that came out of my mouth were “you stay here I may go out in the evening”. The housekeepers took my luggage and lead me to my cottage. I gave him some money asked him to get some soft drinks as was the hot and humid month of July and I was not sure if I could get safe drinking water in there. I had more trust in the American cola companies than the motherlands ground water. Any way he went happily to fulfill my orders. I threw my self on the couch peeping out through the wooden window. The river, the temple and sound of bell in the temple, devotional songs being played there. When I was partially lost in nostalgia, I heard a knock on my door, it was the housekeeper with cola. I thanked the housekeeper. Planning to go the bed to have a nap. In order to make my nap go undisturbed, curbing the noise coming from outside was the priority. I moved to the window to shut it. I could get a bigger picture from here. Women entering the temple, with a corner of their saaree called aanchal, on their head after taking a holy dip in the river, some of them pouring the holy water over the Peepul (Sacred fig) tree and kids playing cricket in the ground beside the tree. Peepul tree and cricket! Some memories forced me to look at Peepul again. It is the same peepul tree, as green as it used to be, as thick as it used to be and as sacred as it used to be, it did not seem that it got older.I refuted the idea of closing the widow returned to the couch. Memories coming to my eyes like a Bollywood movie of 80’s. 20 years ago I lived in this town. As the son of district magistrate I had all the luxuries, respect and care. But respect stuff was limited to the grown ups. There is no such thing among the kids. They play together, fight and then play again. No one knows whom is what and neither they care. I use to play cricket with my folks here in the same ground. The shadow of the Peepul tree; use to be our strategy room, dressing room, dugout and celebration arena. I used to dominate the game every time. Not because I was a very good player, but because the playing kit belonged to me. Others had to bear my offenses if they wanted to play and I made full use of it. They have to bowl me out at least twice to really get me out of batting. They have to get out if I am bowling even if they are not. Every time I use to threaten them that I will take my game kit if they do not accept my rules unconditionally. I was the undeclared captain, umpire, referee and manager of the playing troop. Beside the cricket kit I always use to have a lot of tasty food and drinks with me that was another benefit for them. Another thing that made me rule the troop if not the game was that with my repute it was easier to get the ball back if someone hits it to one of the houses. But kids are kids every time they do not accept your illegal demands. That use to create kiddy fights and finally leaving me crying back to home with my kit. But there was one good thing, next day we again played as usual.
My fifth grade exams were just days away and, I was doing everything to ignore them. I was out in the small town near my school. It was 10 AM of a Saturday morning, some boys were flying kites and the others waiting for an opportunity. The opportunity when they can run for a kite. Kite running is very common in Indian small towns and villages among the school boys. The irony is that there are more kite runners than those flying them. Suddenly, we saw a kite dancing down the earth. It was a tragedy for the boy who was flying but a hope for a flock like ours. A bunch of boys started running in the direction of the kite, no need to say I was one among them. During schooldays, a walk to the school tires you easily, even if it is at few meters from your house. But, when running for a kite, even a kilometers or two seems easy. We were all running behind the kite across narrow streets, stumbling over people; who in turn were rewarding us with some cursing words. Hmm ! but who cares. Suddenly, I stubbed against a person that kept me away from the kite.It was my elder brother “BigB”. We studied in the same school. He was three classes senior to me. I was in class fifth and he studied in class eighth. Gerontologically he was 6 years ahead of me. I was ten he was sixteen, so he was the lawmaker as well as the law enforcer for me. He was supposed to take care of me and I respected and obeyed (or at least tried to obey) whatever he instructed, like a civilized citizen of his small kingdom. He was a very studious, always busy with books or writing, although some of the shapes he use to draw on his notebook were strange and meaningless to me. Some unique nonsense words were often found there. I use to assume them as some kind of encryption that can be deciphered only by someone studying in those higher classes, or as a type of entertainment for my brother; when he is finally bored with the studies. Obviously not as entertaining as kite running or playing street cricket. Anyway, I could never dare to ask him about his personal script. The irony was that his studious nature never paid for him rather making a strong foundation for him in every class.I was altogether a different boy, who always tried to abstain from studies looking for excuses to execute my will to maintain a safe distance from books. Kites, cricket, football and roaming around were more magnetic for me than history, science, maths and literature. I could not understand, how a multiplication table of 19 be more interesting than a cricket match with the boys in another school. My studies were limited to my homework, that too to save myself from the insulting punishments of the teachers.Well, after losing the kite that evening we came to our hostel. He started-
“what do you think you are doing? You have few weeks left for exams and if you continue with your ways you will be in 5th class forever. You have an example in me. See how much I study, how hard I work still I had to be in the same class for 2 or sometimes 3 years. Don’t I feel like going to play cricket, hover around with friends, going to movie? I prefer to study than being involved in these stuffs. If you continue to behave in this fashion you will never go further. Whats the use of spending money on studies if you are not interested in studies. Why do you waste dad’s hard earned money for nothing.”The piercing words were exasperating my guilt. I really felt of having committed a sin. I started loosing my confidence and thought I am really not good for studies. Tears rolled down my face. Then he came to me and hugged. But the preaching continued.“Whatever I say is just for your good. Dad has sent us here to study, do something in life but this is not the way to achieve it and so on.”These reprimands are like fall of pebbles in stagnant water. Creating ripples for the moment and then back to stagnancy. The night I decided to study and made plans. Possibly, the most difficult time table was drawn, morning 8-9 history, 9-10 science, 10am to 5 pm school, 5-7 Maths and so on . A strict time table has no time to play and relax and so was it. No time slot was provided for cricket or roaming around. Well, its easier to draw plan on paper but hard to follow them. The breaching started the next morning with a long sleep. The time table soon found a more apt place in the waste-bin.Finally the exams came and went and the result day arrived. He failed and I passed and even was ranked first in my class. Somewhere in the back of my mind a question popped up for BigB. Where is the hard work? Look at me played a lot and passed with such a good grades, but I managed to suppress this ugly thought. The clutch was a bit released on me now; for sometime. The devil of pride tried to make its home somewhere in my mind but I could manage to shake him out. Our results had led to a less strained grip of my brother on me. I was less often obstructed in my daily life and hence was more confident at my mischiefs. He perhaps found I am getting overconfident with all this (I think he was excellent in understanding the behavior and could read the mind).Once I came back after a cricket match, and he was waiting. The lecture started-“It seems you are swimming in a sea of overconfidence and pride. I know you have passed and that too with good grades. But that does not men you have all the knowledge. Don’t feel proud of this. No one has ever won his life with pride. HItler was also proud and this destroyed his thinking power, do you know where did he reach finally. Think about Raavan he was also proud of his power and kingdom and messed up with himself. He was a great king, if his pride could not stand the test of time, what do you think you are? You have just passed class five and flying on cloud nine.”“Your grades are not the outcome of your hard work but just some favor of the goddess of luck. She will not come to rescue you every time. It was just fifth class when you come to my class you will see what is study. Your struggle with algebra and geometry will prove my point. Write BCA for a triangle in place of ABC and lose all the point. Whats the difference? whether I eat bread and egg or egg and bread. But, no you are supposed to know everything in the words of the book. Cram everything and call it education. You are supposed to write an essay on importance of time and waste hrs to write this simple thing in 500 words. We all know time is important and we should manage it in proper way but why the hell should I waste my time in writing this in 500 words which can be written in less than 50 words. And to add to it they call it write in brief in 500 words, otherwise it would go to the size of a book. Read the history of England and you will find the most complicated families. Poor kings were so deprived of names that they had to use “alphanumeric names”. Just used to add numeric suffixes with common names, tens of James, dozen of Charles and every other king was Williams it seems. The only difference was their suffix. If you just misplace their suffix in the exam you get a completely round figure. Is it my fault if they did not get proper names. If they would have asked I could have suggested sufficient number of names for all their generations. When you go through this hell you will regret what you are doing. My failure in exams is another issue, I have more experience than you. Remember whatever I say. These activities will never fetch you anything.”The lecture has shaken me entirely(at least for the evening). The image of studies that was drawn before me scared the hell out of me. In fact for the moment I thought I should not continue with studies, its not my cup of tea. But, I stayed , as usual spending more time with open sky than closed library. The fear created by BigB was gone, and I was busy in kites, cricket and fun. The exams came and went. The results were announced. I again passed with good grades and BigB had failed. He cried and so did I. His failure halved my joy of passing the exams. He studied day and night. Mugged up every lesson but the results were disastrous. Perhaps BigB would not have cried so much, If I would have failed.A disgusting thought came to my mind; if BigB fails again and I pass, we will come to the same class, and then I will see how could he boss me. I just shook my head to put such nasty thinking out of my mind. With my promotion in school, I promoted myself even in sports. I was no more a kite runner but, a kite flier. All the time after school was now dedicated to kite flying. People who blasts kite fliers telling that you do nothing just flying kites. Let me tell them its a difficult and demanding job. Tying the kite at the right points, sharpening the string for the kites, its al not as easy as it appears. Collecting glass pieces (sometimes even stealing the working electric bulbs and lamp glasses from houses), crushing to fine dust and making a paste with glue. Above all I had to do all this hiding from BigB as I respected him and did not want him to have any kind of suspicion on my ways. That day was lucky for me, I had almost cleared the sky of the kites. My kite runners were hoping around with me enjoying our day. Eyes stuck to someone coming, it was bigB, and he was approaching meI tried to hide my kite equipment but he stepped towards me and blasted.“Does it suit you to play with these boys? You are much better than these boys, show some self respect. Tomorrow you will be at a very good position, you are the one who deserves that. You are talented and intelligent but someone who does not have self respect is not intelligent in real sense of the term. You must be thinking that you are just one year behind me academically, therefore, I have no rights to say you all this. Next year you will come to my class and if the teachers continue with their ways you may turn out to be senior to me in studies. But do you know my little brother, I am 6 year senior to you in terms of life. Even the God cannot eliminate this seniority of 6 years. Tomorrow you will be graduate, post graduate even doctorate but I will always be your elder brother. Knowledge does not come only from book, rather from experience. This is the way in which you learn to handle real world things, and I will always have more of it. Our principal holds so many degrees, but when it comes to managing the real world problems, he asks for advice from his mother and father who are not so educated. Look at our home before taking some important step we seek guidance from our mom and dad and they seek from grandpa and grandma who are much less educated, but my dear brother they are more experienced with the real world. So just throw this idea out of your mind that since you have reached a higher class, I cannot check you for your misdeeds. If I feel that something you are doing is not good for you I can always scold you and if required I can even use a slap to awake you. “This was an argument I could not counteract even in my dreams. How true was he? It kept me standstill for the moment and the silence broke with my confession.“You are right BigB” I said and hugged him with my wet eyes.He said- “don’t I feel like flying kite, playing cricket and all. But how I can I show you a path with myself deviating from it. I am supposed to take care of you; it’s my responsibility and I would love to fulfill this responsibility, because I am your BigB and will always be.” With this he took the control of my kite and cleared the sky of kites completely. Now there was only one kite in the sky that belonged to us. BigB flying it and I was cheering for him.