Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Taste of Triumph!

After a lot of kicks, here I am. Although couldn't think of a story, but yes, there is something which I always thought I'd write someday. It is an incident, from my childhood. No moral at the end, no message to give. But somehow, its stuck in the head! This one has to go under the bedtime story stack, but go ahead and be a kid this time!

I have grown up with this bunch of 3 guys. My brother (6), who was the tiniest of the lot, the baby we all had to take care of; Sanju (7), who was a year younger to me, but another privileged younger one; and Anna (9), who was the eldest of the lot, and like me (8), he was the elder sibling who got whacked for his mistakes as well as the younger brats. His woes were a little more than me, because unfortunately he was the eldest among all four of us too!

The dynamics of the group are very important for army kids, because most of the times, they have to manage things without their parents. Dads are away which everyone knows, but Moms have all these responsibilities of welfare of the families of the jawans in the regiment, and other functions, which to a non-army person would be beyond comprehension. So when Moms were away, Anna led us. Which wouldn't have been so bad, had we been good kids.

Time and again me and Sanju would break into fights, where my hair came out of my plaits and Sanju's nose would start bleeding. So we had to clean up the floor and go the aunty next door and get my hair in place before our Moms came back. All four of us, could be hungry at erratic times, and the only thing Anna could make was tea. Once we finished off the whole jar of tea-leaves, a big jar of Andhra pickle, every packet of cookies and munchies in the house when Moms were away for 2 days. I don't want to get into the details of what our Moms did to us when they got back. Well they had made veggies and chapatis and rice for 2 days, but we gave Anna a hard time eating any of it.

Once we even beat cows at grazing! There are these deliciously sour leaves and a purple flower of a weed that grows just about everywhere. One Sunday afternoon we saw, there is so much supply in our own garden. So all 3 of us looked at each and smiled. ATTACK!!! We started from one end of the garden and by the time we reached half way, we had grazed to our hearts fill! Washed our hands, dusted off our clothes, everythings cool before Moms came back after 2 hours. Next day, Sanju's mom calls home almost in tears, "Sandhya, I am scared, I don't know whats wrong, Sanju has loose-motions since morning, and its all green. He is completely dehydrated." And my mom on this end, "I was just going to call you, Deepa and Dushyant are vomiting since morning, and its all green." Sanju's Mom turned to Anna. Next day is another black day in our childhood history.

Those days were just something else. We used to take turns and stay up at night just to see the Jackal that howled under our window everynight. We would walk down in the jungle full of crazy tribes, wild elephants, ULFA militants who kidnapped people in broad daylight every second day, and threw their bodies in the Dihang river for police to find them. We would walk with excitement and fear into those jungles, just to see how far we could go. Scared at the same time of losing our way, getting caught by the tribals, and sometimes just the eeriness of the jungle. All in all life was adventurous and everyday was more exciting than the last.

Then next year Anna turned 10. Which was alright, but suddenly he had new friends now. The big boys. He exchanged comics with them and read all big-boys stuff like Phantom and Super Comando Dhruv. Now he would get bored playing with us. I really had to pull up my badminton game, just so that I could play with him and the big boys. Dush was a kid so it hardly hit him. But me and Sanju knew Anna was not interested in us anymore.

One night he told us a ghost story! All three of us were frozen with fear in our bed. This was it, something had to be done. Me and Sanju decided, we have to so something to be recognized. Something to prove ourselves. We simply can't be passed off for small fries anymore.

One afternoon, after lunch, both of us came out to play as usual and set out for the jungle. Just the two of us, that too from a different side. And by the way, dropping pebbles on your way only works in fables, so we decided walk straight ahead not turning anywhere. We walked on. Every now and then, we looked back to see where we came from, and kept going ahead. We were looking for an Elephant.

It must have been around 3 pm that we left, and it was starting to get dark. After an hour, moms would start looking for us. But we still had not found the elephant. The day ends early in Assam, so you could hear the birds flying back to their homes. At times, we would stop just to make sure that the rustle of the leaves was only because of our steps and not someone else following us. When you live close to a jungle, you would understand how critical it is, not to step on any wierd looking creature's tail, however small it may appear. Carefully and watchfully we kept walking. Suddenly we came to this small opening in the forest with 3-4 round huts! We froze right there. Right infront of us, were the tribals. The clothes, the looks, completely fitted the description. One angry man said something we didn't understand. All the scenes from the movies where the jungle tribes capture people and tie them up, started dancing infront of our eyes. Both of us held our hands just ready to run, when Sanju mustered his courage and said to him in Hindi, "we are looking for an Elephant". The man said something pointing further towards the jungle and then told us to go back, in Assamese.

Scared to death, we were turning back, when we saw the Elephant with a mahout, coming from the side that man had pointed. We were delirious with triumph. But in the next moment we realized it was running towards us. We ran for our lives from where we had come. But wait, we can't go back after finding the Elephant. Nobody would believe our story. So we went back, this one last time. It was already twilight, we knew we were going to have a tough time back home, but this was our chance to fame. The guy sitting on the Elephant spoke Hindi. We told him to come with us to our colony. He said his Elephant was tired and it was already getting dark. He promised to come the next day in the morning and give the kids an Elephant ride for 10 bucks per kid.

We signed the deal and walked back home, with our chests full of pride. Thankfully, the kids were still playing in the ground. Anna and everyone else were looking for us, and we told them about the Elephant.

Next day morning was a bright Sunday, and all kids came out looking for the Elephant. There was none to be seen. At 10 am, me and Sanju were already outside our houses waiting for our friend. An hour went, no sign of the Elephant. By 11.30, our adventure was turning out to be our embarassment. But both of us were quite convinced, that he would come. The other kids had just started to nudge us. "So you two met the tribals and an elephant in the jungle huhh", said the meanest big boy, who was also one of Anna's new found friends. Crestfallen and dejected, both of us knew we had found an Elephant and we had been brave enough to venture that deep in the woods, and here we were being ridiculed by a guy who was just a stupid bully. What if that Elephant never came?

Then at 12 in the noon, we see our Majestic Elephant walking into the colony with the mahout. We ran to him. And infront of all the children he said, "I was looking for you two. So all your friends are ready?" That afternoon, everyone got to sit on the Elephant, and me and Sanju were proud as hell. In the evening when he left, we had forgotten all about why we did it, but the only thing that remained with us was, we set out in that dark jungle and found what we went looking for.

In the evening, all that was left was accomplishment in our hearts, and elephant-dung all over the place.

Fast-forward! 15 years later, on a cramped street in Pune City. I saw something on the road and said to my friend, "Looks like an Elephant passed from here!"

"This is Laxmi road you fool. Even humans don't find a place to walk here and you are talking of an Elephant? Are you going crazy?"

And there down the road was an Elephant walking in gay abandon, towards a Ganesh temple at the end of the street! Elephant dung you see, I'd recognize it anywhere!


Bhagya$hree said...

hey.. that reminded me my childhood.. and kerala elephant ride too :)
As usual, I love ur writing.. :)

Ramesh said...

Hey; this is a lovely lovely piece. Yoyu've had a swell childhood - great stories and lovely story telling.

Whereabouts in Assam was all this ??

Deepa said...

@Bhagya- thanks sweetie! Yes the legendary Elephant rides! :)

@Ramesh- U bet, I have the most adventurous one a kid could ever wish. In fact, its such a regret that my kids won't get to see something like that. Maybe thats why my childhood memories are so vivid.

This is a place called Lekhapani! Right on the border of Assam and Tripura! Untouched, unventoured jungles. The entire Army-settlement was surrounded by a dense forest. And we kids didn't have the luxury of a children's park, but who wanted them anyways!

Sumanth said...

wow... that's too good! So now u are after RK Laxman's turf too.
My oh my, down the ages I guess I would read a story book by the very imaginative Deepa rather than some Rowling who writes unimaginable stuff. Good going lady.

Deepa said...

Thanks Sumanth! Good to see you around!

Ansh said...

You were a mischievous kid... luv ur stories!!!

Sandeep said... i just went back in time after reading this!.......those were the days and nothing can buy the great time we all had together....

By the way for all the guys who dont know me...I am the ANNA in the story...;)..the one who made Deepa and my bro go for the elephant kill...!!

Deepa said...

I so wanted you to read this one Anna! :) Yes those days are invaluable possessions!

BTW you are a testimony to the fact that this story is cooked up; although the settings are as real as they could get!

gils said...

woowww....felt as if i was reading something right out of tinkle !!! i can even visualise some illustrations :) semma writeup...and ur handwriting is pretty neat i shd say :D :D

Deepa said...

Hey Gils, so good to see you! How do I say 'Thank you' in Tamil? And thanks for complimenting my handwriting too! My mother will be so proud! :D:D

gils said...

yo deep :) ur translation of my tkt's blog comment was bang on target :) wats ur mother tongue btw? mallu?

gils said...

kaisa hais...kai mantos..javeyala javeyaka(??) and yeda :D my marathi vocabulary of 10 months is exhausted now :D

gils said...

before the real cobwebs set in..start posting stories again :)

Sophia said...

LOVED it!! Change your profession woman! :)
[I have some lovely memories of Assam & Nagaland too...I miss the fauji life :(]

Deepa said...

@sophie- thanks for leaving a comment here! :) and yeah tell me about missing that life! :)