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In a kindergarten school, you will find varieties of kids: to one class will fall the notorious mischief makers, another will include the hyperactive extroverts who would always talk their opinions loud in the class and a third class which would accommodate a rather smaller crowd of kids who would look around and observe things in silence, who would shout their views  in their childlike brains and would actually be omnipresent without actually giving a slightest hint of their omnipresence; a rare class to which people like me would fall- the introverts.

As a kid, I was an introvert; and not the kind of introverts who would post “#iamanintrovert” on social media shouting out loud to the world of them being introverts, but the kind which by law fitted the definition of being “a shy, reticent person”, the kind which chose to sit alone watching the other children run around and play. Back then, I didn’t know if being that much of an outcast was much of an issue. Even now, I’m not sure if being an introvert is cool or a stigma; there would be one opinion less in the world and it, in no way would endanger the world of being turned upside down.

I had just this one friend who would, be it rain or shine, stay with me, as we walked around haunting the playgrounds like ghosts. She too was more or less like me: soft spoken, monosyllabled opinions. Introverts understood introverts, like two peas in a pod. We were inseparable. As the other kids played, we sat under the trees, sometimes talking, sometimes just chewing candies- two introverts made for each other.

Then, one fine day, she decided to play with her elder sister, two years senior to us. She invited me to join her too. I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea: two kindergarten students with a bunch of grade two hooligans. But needless to say, I had this one friend (one of the many side effects of being an introvert) so I reluctantly followed her.

The game was called “Catch the thief”, as simple game of one girl (the thief) being chased by a bunch of other girls (the police) – like a cat and mouse chase. With some kind of cross paper scissor done, my friend was chosen as the thief and I with the bunch of seniors was a police. The game began. I ran with the others, trying to match my steps with them. Imagine a cat running along with a crowd of lions. My dear introvert friend ran as hard as she could, with her little feet flapping along the floor. But can a cat outrun a pride of lions? One of the seniors caught hold of her pinafore. Another went after and blocked her front. I tried to run fast too and I did, I was close when I felt a sudden lateral drift and a bash from behind.

The next few seconds went in daze: I lay flat, pressed on the floor- as I felt a heavy weight get off my body, I struggled to get up- the first thing I saw was another senior tumbled sideways from my body, her mouth wide gaped- someone scream, cried- the nurse rushed toward me, pulled me up and pressed my nose with her thumb- every single student in the hallway gazed at me- she carried me to the sick room- still pressing my nose, she washed my face-and as she removed her thumb, there was blood, all over it- she bandaged the wounds on my knees. And only after she handed me a glass of water did I realize it was me screaming, crying. The water tasted metal, not just the glass of water that I drank but also the rivulets that dripped down my face, into my mouth. Something was bleeding. But what?

I missed the first class after break, lying on the sick bed. Later I was just an hour before school got over was I taken to my class. I was asked to sit back with my head titled behind, resting on my bag.

Dad was horrified to find me in a white shirt that was now vermillion from the collar.

Only at home did I come to know that I had broken my nose. That day was probably a turning point in my cosmetics. I had a nose with a deviation to the right. The nasal septum deviation, later blessed me with more problems of rhinitis and inferior turbinate hypertrophy.

I guess it was a part of growing up. A traumatic part, but still a part of my kid- life.

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Happy Holi 2019

Holi is the festival of colours, which despite having the mythological victory- of- good-over-evil connection, is now more reputed as the festival of fun, joy and rain-dancing.

As a kid, it was my favorite festivity which would begin with me waking up in the morning; carefully taking out the coloured powders which me and dad would have raided from the roadside markets the previous evening; getting dressed up in a white frock and walking about with my neighborhood buddy splashing colours on anyone who would catch our glimpse. Before frolicking around, I and my friend would both be served a special flavoured milk and ladoos. Then we were allowed to run about till noon.

Fifteen years later, I am reminded of an incident which was obliquely related to Holi and was a total fiasco on my part.

It was a Sunday morning. Back then, when I had just started schooling, I had no idea when my school was closed and when it was open. All that mattered to me was that somedays, I would be woken early in the morning and other days I would be allowed to sleep till late.

I sat with my father watching the morning news headlines- I had the least idea what the reporter read on the television screen- but then I heard that lady in black utter “holi”day.

‘What did she say?’ I asked my dad.

‘Holiday’ he replied.  For some reasons, my mind decided to listen to only “holi” of “holiday”. I was aghast. Today was Holi and I was kept in the dark. We did not even go shopping for colours yesterday evening. It was already ten, only two hours till our curfew.   

‘Today is holi! Where are my colours?’ I hollered. In vain did my parents try to explain that it was just a Sunday for in the end, me and my determination of a four year old was unshakable.

And hence it was, my self-made off-season Holi in the scorching summer of May.

I ran out with bags full of the remnant colours of the last ‘actual’ holi. That obviously followed me being mad at mom and dad for not enlightening me with the upcoming holi owing to which I was devoid of any new colours. I was lucky enough to have watched the morning news which edified me with the “holi”day.

I waited in my garden, sprinkling some gulal on the bushes. An hour passed by. There was no sign of anyone, let alone my next door neighbor who could be seen gulping down a glass of milk in his front porch.

Milk- that special ‘Holi’ milk.

I waved at him. He waved back with a grin.

Come over, I gestured.

Why?, he maimed back.

I threw a handful of red powder in the air, hoping he would realize that it was already noon and we were missing out on a lot of pranks.

He looked at me quizzical.

Come over here with your water gun and bag of colours, I signaled.

He waved his palm at me, went in and came out, still wearing a black T-shirt, with no water gun.

I grimaced at him,

‘What’s up?’ he asked.

Holi Hai!!!’ I smeared his face with a multitude of colours and he yelled back,

‘What holi? Today is not holi?’

His words had no effect on me, just like my mom or dads. This time I attacked him with my water gun.

He tried his best to explain that it was just a Sunday and no ‘Holi’ but in vain. My mom happened to pass by. She knew I had gone too far. Therefore, she pulled me in, right in front of dad’s eyes, ran out and apologized to my dear neighbor then came inside to give me a good dressing down.

That was a really important day in my life for that was the day I realized that “holiday” and “Holi” are literally two different words and a mix-up could be fatal. Otherwise, every other holiday would have been my festival of colours.

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The Young Saviours

‘We have to save him’

‘Certainly, we must and I swear that if get hold of that goon I’ll give him a good dressing down’

‘but remember, he’s 22yrs elder to you’

‘And still pea brained…what a pity’ 11 yr old Ravi said with a grin.

‘Shh…there he is’ Jonna said pointing to a middle aged man who just sauntered in front of Ravi’s house. The children gazed at him in horror. The man glared back at them, squinted his nose and scowled at them-his over-weight physic depicting the epitome of an addicted drunkard-a rasistance to the society at night.

Jonna pretended a mock smile (as if she was really too happy to see her drunkard neighbor).

Probably this man who now tried to stable himself on his shoes too tried to smile back at them for he had transformed his grimace to an uncanny fashion of his face.

Ravi raised his hand to wave him goodbye then turned to enter his house. But instead, both of them ducked quietly behind a jamun tree to observe this chap’s actions.  And then they watched him smash a glass bottle right in front of the driveway and continued staggering from side to side along the boulevard.

‘Bruno’s in grave danger’ Jonna whispered

Ravi nodded as he resolved in his mind ways to sneak into his neighbor’s yard and rescue Bruno.

‘What now?’ Jonna asked

‘We’ll enter through the back gate which opens up right in front of Bruno’s kennel. We don’t have to open it. We’ll climb over it. Okay listen…’

As soon as Ravi had explained his plan, they heard

‘Let’s go before it’s too late’

They had executed the plan as it was decided.

Bruno lay writhing on the ground-his golden-brown coat smeared with vermillion and sand. His emaciated legs moved in disharmony. His black eyes starred up at the sky, as though it was his style of praying, a dog’s way of expressing his grief.

He yelped as Jonna took him on her lap. ‘Oh you poor thing’ she said brushing her fingers through his fleece, ‘Don’t worry we’re here to set you free’. He let another painful yelp.

And as they tried to trespass out of their

‘Who’s there?’ the drunkard stepped out of the darkness, flashing a torch at his pet and the two teens. ‘What are you two doing here?’ he asked infuriated.

‘We, we came here to rescue your dog’ Ravi replied trying to be brave.

‘Rescue my dog at his own house eh?’ he mocked

‘He’s not happy here’

‘Oh really? He’s absolutely happy here. Now get out and go to sleep. It’s late’

‘We’re taking Bruno along with us’

‘My dog doesn’t have a name. and besides he’s a part of my property’

‘Now he does have a name and he isn’t just a part of your property. He was meant to be your friend and to be given that right. But you torture him and abuse him after your alcohol pangs’

‘You mean with this’ he said helding his belt high, ‘If I wish I can do the same with you’

‘Listen, we didn’t come here to fight with you’ Jonna intervened ‘All we want is Bruno to be given real love and care’

‘He gets so’ Bruno’s owner replied

‘You don’t feed him well. You don’t pay any heed to him. Then why don’t you let us adopt him?’ Ravi asked agitated.

‘You didn’t buy him right. I bought him. So I won’ let anyone else have him for free’

‘So it’s all about money then’ Ravi clarified ‘Well then, what’s his M.R.P.?’

‘I bought him for 10,000 bucks’

‘Look at his condition first. We won’t even pay you 8000. 5000 and be done with that’

The drunk gave a thoughtful look.

‘Agreed. But I need the money in cash’

‘Deal’

Rhea and Rahul each contributed 3000 bucks from their savings to buy Bruno back from his estranged owner.

Nowadays, Bruno is seen playing in Rahul’s courtyard or being fed biscuits in Rhea’s porch. According to them, that was the best spent 3000 bucks of their life.

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It was a Sunday morning; an as usual Sunday morning. I casually sat in the park, enjoying the sight of many young and old that came for evening walks or to work out their fats.  ‘My fats will never burn even if I do hundred push-ups a day’ I thought. My eyes scanned the entire area-greenery amongst concrete. That is when I spotted this girl- Niharika. I didn’t know her then though she was my neighbor  She came with her mother, clasping her mother’s hand like a tiny tot at my age. At first it seemed a bit amusing. Her mother led her to a nearby bench- made her sit and she left to join her friends circle. She sat there, her head turning from left to right. Her hanky slipped down. She didn’t notice that. I guess she was busy in her own world. So, I duly went and picked it up.  I think she ignored me too.

“Excuse me, you’re hanky” I said, as politely as etiquette demands. She held out her hand in response. I sat beside her. She had beautiful brown eyes that matched well with her fair complexion.

“Hello-”, I began, “I’m Tania. What’s your name?”

“I don’t talk with strangers” she retorted looking away from me

“We can be friends…”

She sat still. As if I was akin to any other abiotic component. My touchy nature would not let me forget and forgive this insult (not exactly one). ‘Do what you want! Sit alone in this park and I don’t care!’  My mind hauled over the coals.

Days flew by. And contrary to what I had stated earlier, that incident faded away gradually.

It was a social gathering held in one of our neighbor’s house. I had no interest in visiting such parties. But that day, the extent to which my sister pissed me was at its utmost limit and she was successful in removing the ‘unsocial’ tag from me.

The house was so cramped up. I wonder why ladies held such activities in their miniature bungalows in no other attempt but to showcase their affluence. And comically there was no trace of mosquitoes while it was a rainy day. How will they survive if they get in?

I sat in one of the corners alone for a few minutes until my chum came over.

“Hey, how’s on?”  , she asked

“Fine. School’s hectic although” I replied.

As we were in the middle of our conversation, that ‘I-don’t-talk-with-strangers’ girl entered. As usually, she was accompanied by her mother. She was donned in an oblong yellow dress. How weird.

“Poor girl” my chum sympathized

“Poor? Doesn’t seem so.”

“Not in that way but…she’s blind”

That was the shock of my life. She was blind. Whatever she did, the way she behaved, what she wore had only one reason behind them-the fact that she was blind. She had beautiful eyes which didn’t serve their actual purpose. She didn’t even know how she looked. She never saw and could not see this beautiful but cruel world. She was BLIND. I suppose that was the worst irregular conjugation I had and will ever make in my life. That day was a turning point, a vantage point to check my judgments.

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