Friday, July 12, 2013

Chapter I: The Boy Who Endured (2)

Part 2 of 4: The boy still endures. After Part 1, that is. Read on, folks. And do share if you like what you read. Hope you enjoy the beginning of "The Steadfast Tin Soldier?", which will be out in the online market soon. Cheers!

A summer coming to an end leaves you with a lot of unpleasant feelings, even if it will be remembered for all the wrong reasons. That inevitable dread and those all-but-continuous Monday-morning blues… But however boring the holidays may have been, the new term is always unwelcome; this time all the more so. Albeit the recent happenings (or must I say mis-happenings) would suggest the contrary, let me assure you that the new term was as unwelcome as ever. A broken right forearm, for a right-hander, is quite unasked for and I definitely didn't summon the chickenpox home; but when both arrive with such unsolicited punctuality just a week after your 10th standard boards, it’s definitely not your day! A dangerous beginning? – Wait till you hear the rest.

I’ve been fortunate enough to experience most of the maladies known to mankind at present, as well as a couple the docs are not yet familiar with. Malaria, dengue, jaundice, flu, measles… the list goes on. I will not burden you here by completing the list as that will take a few pages at least – which the publisher is unwilling to give me. But the point remains that – even though I’m a veteran, an old war-horse when it comes to facing these minor setbacks to the immune system, this was definitely something else. A potent combo.

With one arm jabbed with a Butterfly needle and the other still suffering the after-effects of a previous jab (I had, by now, named them ‘Batterfly needles’), all I could do is pray and hope that things get better… and soon. You see needles and nurses have a way. Your vein is apparently good for only that much time and then it begins to swell up and do funny things of that sort. It no longer takes in the IV fluid and you are in great trouble. That’s when the nurse apparates to the spot looking like one of those creatures with a halo on their heads… It’s definitely not that they look terrific; just that their white overalls and your dreary state combine to make you think along such lines – such is the phantasmagoria. Definitely, they don’t look great. I might have enjoyed my time in the hospital a lot more had they made nurses the way they appear in movies. So these people appear and then begins the story of ‘Clamp down his hand and search for the vein’ – the more attempts, the more your agony. Such things happen when you are at the docs’.

Ten days into my misery, the docs relieved me and I was free to go home. Too bad mom didn't as she grounded me for another fortnight; ergo I lay there in my bedroom, staring at the bare ceiling, studying the various patterns in the new cracks that were developing in the plaster. This went on day after day (or was that a month) occasionally with friends coming over trying to look as sympathetic as they could, and those ‘not-so-good-pals’ not trying too hard to suppress their glee. Why they went through all the trouble to visit someone they didn't want to see, I will probably never understand but they all did come. And they all looked smug. A few, I must mention however, did look pretty sad – but this was because they thought I was recovering too fast. But all this didn't really hurt. It was those questions which inflicted the greatest pain…

Monday, 15th May – 1500 hrs: Ramesh entered the scene. Attached to his behind was this gargantuan creature, reminding me very much of the Cyclops of the Hellenic Republic, much less due to his size than his stupid looks. In fact, had someone stuck a club into one of his hands, I’d have believed that the one-eyed monster was right there! I’ll just refer to him here as the unknown stupid looking guy (USLG); I know I mustn't be prejudiced, but if that protruding lower lip and dazed smile weren't enough, with the ‘My name is… du..uh…,’ he was taking the meaning of the word ‘stupid’ to a whole new dimension.

I continued to study the strange species in my bedroom and it was Ramesh who broke the silence; “So dude, how are you? It has been over two weeks now… And by the way, this – my cuz,” he pointed. I assumed ‘cuz’ stood for ‘cousin.’

So that’s what it is!

“So you broke your hand…” the USLG observed. He seemed compelled to make a statement – that statement – at that point.
No I just fancy having my hand in a cast and getting people to sign it.
“Yeah! How did you know about that?” I asked, not really trying to hide the sarcasm.
“I noticed your hand, you know… And the cast told me everything,” he said looking smug. Elementary, my dear Watson.
“Oh, I never really thought it would be so obvious!”

Ramesh cut in, perhaps sensing that his cousin’s deducing capabilities didn’t really appeal to me. “So how did that happen?” he asked pointing at the bandaged forearm.

“Oh you don’t know!” Now came the hard part – the well thought up lie.
“It was in that football match we played in the beach,” I said, “It ended in a two each impasse. And we had the penalty shootout. I, as usual, was their shot-stopper…” I gloated.
I had a gulp of the tender-coconut water kept beside me. The mouth always goes dry when I try to pass off lies, making me the most unconvincing liar in the history of the art.

“That first shot curling into the top right… I didn't let it past… though I did land on my hand a bit later. And the rest is history.”
“Just as I thought it would be: Football. You know Arvind,” said Ramesh, turning to face the thing which now had a name. “He’s the school’s goalkeeper… And a bloody good one too!”

I smiled back sheepishly. Normally, it would have been a well accepted complement but not when I was trying to conceal the truth. Who would believe that I would slip over a stationary football and end up like this?! Stumble over an innocuous football and fracture an arm! I’d be the laughing stock of the society. “Our regular goalkeeper, Ashwin Ramachandran, succumbs to the stationary football” – Never.

The story of the chickenpox was a more interesting one.

Two days into my gloom, Anuj, a close bud, came home to pay homage to the felled veteran. The conversation went on for an hour, give or take a half, with me doing most of the talking (as I realized that bed-ridden people are more the ‘talkers’ than the ‘talkees’). It ended pretty abruptly when Anuj, with whom my conversations usually never cease, said that he felt a bit sick and wanted to go home and hit the sack. He left and I resumed watching TV and on it, the story of the Tamil hero who fired 30 rounds from a six-shooter pistol while he stopped a few super-fast trains with his other hand.

Later that evening, the phone buzzed and Anuj’s voice emanated from it.
“Dude, I’m sick… The doctors have diagnosed me with chickenpox…”

Yes. It was too late.

Many visitors-who-kept-their-distances later, the arm did heal. So did the pox. But the experience had left behind some deeply etched scars though, not as much on the face as on the mind. Nevertheless, I had managed to rid myself of all the ailments which had plagued me! Here I must mention that it wasn't long before the local elderly diagnosed that I was finally at large, free from house-arrest, especially when my fluid cover drive – off Anuj’s left-arm fast-medium crashed into Mr Shaanthram’s window. Not very surprisingly, ‘A NO BALL GAMES PLEASE’ was found on the compound walls of my apartment complex the very next morning, inked in brilliant red.

Chennai’s never really short of playgrounds, or maybe the boys are incredibly innovative. Soon, our next Chepauk Stadium was the neighbouring block car park with the pacers running in from the side lane. And the game went on. Even Brother was back, but only for a week! He had some sort of working experience to go to – it was called an ‘intern’ or something like that. Abhinav studies in the Indian Institute of Technology – only crème-de-la-crème get into IITs, people say. But bro says that IITs have their share of dullards too. Wonder how they get in? Anyway, bro’s a decent leg–spinner, so that added to the excitement. Brother-versus-brother is always a nice sight and it was an even better sight when I hit his googly clean and straight for a six when it was 5 to win off one ball! Who would realize that the mirth would die so young?

The next chapter, called 'Normandy', will be up on this blog in a week's time. Stay tuned, by subscribing to this blog or by following me on Facebook here.

Do visit Leadstart Publishing's website, where you should soon be able to find my book listed. The book will be available on major online portals such as Flipkart & Amazon in 7-10 days, and in bookstores, a little while after that.