Friday, June 11, 2010

Eagle luck

A tea-time casual talk with my colleagues on Eagles took me back to those days in school which are etched forever in memory. One led to the other and particularly the events of 4th standard stood out. The exact happenings are hard to recall 14 years on, hence I have attempted to weave out a story based on whatever I could.


Mithun had finished 3rd standard in the primary school and was thrilled to be going to the main branch. Big grounds & more sections meant more fun. His family too shifted their sweet shop near the school for his convenience. The very first day was eventful. Mithun saw fellow boys running hither-thither clad in khaki shorts, half-sleeve white shirt, black belt, navy tie with 'JMHS' printed slantingly in bold yellow at the bottom, black shoes with navy socks & knees looking white-washed. Of-course the dress code varied from 6th standard onwards, lets stick to 4th standard throughout the story. Running here and there, playing, shouting, I now wonder how the teachers bore the noise of us all which amounted no less than 2-3 thousand students or perhaps more. Reaching the class was a herculean task. One had to trod through the big auditorium surrounded by classes 7-12, then through open cemented veranda surrounded by classes 5-8 along with some of the kindergarten classes. Then came the canteen & toilets. The open space ended with hostel in center and paths to classes on the left and the big play-ground on the right. Backside of the hostel was a smaller open space with few trees & surrounded by more classes. The 4th standard classes started left of the hostel. 'A' and 'B' sections were to the left of the pathway leading to other sections behind the hostel. The pathway being roofed, the two classes felt like dungeon.

Mithun was just about to enter the class, when he was joined by his friend Ramanujam Iyer. They joined two boys in a four-seater bench. Deepak and Vikraman had been shuffled from other sections to 'B'. In a matter of seconds, the four became friends and got engrossed in exchanging pleasantries. And within minutes they vowed to be always together, like a gang. Vikraman became the undisputed leader after he showed the biggest nails and most dirt than the others. But that afternoon, Ramanuja left the gang. The gang had gone to the big playground for lunch under one of the many trees. Vikraman had brought an egg for lunch and Ramanujam being a Brahmin found it intolerable. But Mithun would not leave the gang saying he couldn't imagine leaving such wonderful company. In a spur of moment, Vikraman teased Ramanujam as 'Rama, the Brahma'. From that day, Brahma stuck as Ramanujam's nickname and he hardly ever spoke to Vikraman again. In course of time, Vikraman assigned nicknames for others too, notably for the gang: Deepak was christened Dubukku (as Deepak frequently called others 'stupid fellow' whenever he got angry :D), Mithun as Lalakada Halwa (as he brought sweets from his father's shop). And chose Vicks (after the Vicks product) for himself.

All three living near the school, the gang used to assemble about an hour before classes started and almost always first to reach the class, even before the hostel students. Dubukku and Vicks considered themselves lucky to have been shuffled to 'B' section. The rule was that all hindi students (which is only around 10-12 students) were assigned the 'B' section. Mithun would be pestered with questions on the hindi girls. All three would write their 'favorite' girl's name on back page of textbooks. Am here not gonna describe what they further used to discuss apart from writing the names :P. Vicks re-instated his leadership when one fine day he impressed the class-leader and topper hindi girl Nikita. I forgot how the trick was done, but using fingers, some kinda scratching brought blood on tongue without pain!. The trick spread like fire throughout the 4th standard including Nikita. As ill-luck would have it, a teacher found out and the entire 4th 'B' bore punishment. But that only increased Vicks' image.

Being a christian school, there used to mass every Friday. As entire school couldn't assemble in the church, there would be turns standard wise. And the rest would be in their classes listening through speakers, head bent-down in almost a sleeping posture on the benches. Many a student would sleep soundly. The unfortunates who got caught would get beatings in stick/wooden-scale or have to kneel down the entire day on the floor (or sand for the other sections) outside the class. Vicks got intrigued by the church. There were different statues along the walls with candles burning. The sight of crucified Jesus gave him an idea that again won him reputation as the leader. The idea was to make a cross on the left palm using molten wax. He explained it as a means to get God's grace by experiencing pain. However, they kept the idea within the gang to prevent others from sharing God's grace!

A favorite and most dangerous past time of the gang was to play Raja-Rani game while the teacher took class. To much surprise of everyone, they had never been caught yet. They limited the characters to four - Raja, Rani, Police and Thief. The fourth player was a dummy which was always kept for Brahma. If the 'police' thought that thief was the chit kept for Brahma, he would point it out showing three fingers as sign for the Nammam. In teacher's absence, they would blurt it out - Braaaahmaaaaaa in chorus with Raaamaaaa. Nikita always found it hard keeping the class quiet. She would cite Brahma as the ideal student who would read or do some exercise questions. Not that Brahma was lonely now, but very afraid of getting sticks. The gang would mock saying something was between the two or sing the then very popular song 'mukkala muqabla'. The entire class would laugh, sometimes leading to punishment from the teacher taking class in the neighboring 'A' section.

It was march and summer was already approaching. Mornings became a torture for the students. Most teachers would not allow fan during morning sessions and the morning interval was the sole solace. Especially the first period would be difficult as students would have been playing Masa-Masa (game where one having ball would hit the others) or cricket or just running. A new craze started among the students during lunch hour - to 'catch' the shadow of eagles. It was believed that eagles brought luck while the crows bad-luck. While most students tried it, our gang were adamant in not following others. They would say they have a more powerful source for luck and refused to follow the mob.

On the fateful March 14 - 1996, the gang were playing cricket and surprisingly, Brahma had joined the play. But not surprisingly, he was in the opponent team. It was last ball of the match with one to win and Vicks on strike. Brahma was fielding in the square leg region and saw Vicks eying the empty mid-wicket region. And so after Vicks had turned to face the bowler, Brahma moved to the short mid-wicket region and lo! the ball came straight to his hands. He spilled it, but picked the ball quickly and threw it at the non-strikers end. The ball bounced before going over the stone seeming to have hit it. Vicks was ruled run-out and match declared tie, but to this date, one cannot confirm if that ball hit the stone-stumps!

Brahma vented out his venom for Vicks, describing the run-out at every opportunity that morning. Vicks could bear no more during the interval and challenged that he knew better cricket than him. Brahma was in some flow that day, unusual to his quietness in the class. So he said, "Oh yeah, I bet that today WI will beat AUS in the semis of cricket WC" Vicks was also supporting WI but he had no choice than to accept the challenge and put money on AUS. They settled on betting all of 50p.

That afternoon, Vicks and his loyal followers went to the church and used the 'cross-with-molten-wax' for praying an AUS win. Brahma took to the eagles for his luck. He had a great time by 'catching' two eagle shadows and avoiding any of the many crows. Just when he started leaving for the classes, his eyes fell on a glittering object. He stooped down quickly to pick. When Brahma reached the class he looked too pleased. The gang though looked a bit uncomfortable, having applied more than usual wax for the cross. The cricket match was a day-night affair and the entire class were eager to know the result. Few others including the girls too started betting on the outcome using 'fake' currency notes.

As you might know, AUS prevailed in a low scoring encounter. The gang were ecstatic and were planning how to use it. They decided on 'thaen-mittaaye' (rose-colored honey-made sweet which then used to sell for 5p I think). Brahma came just at the stroke of first bell looking pleased as if he had conquered the world. The first hour was 'science' and it was a combined one for 'A' & 'B' held in the pathway outside the class. The gang, still savoring the win, played Raja-Rani. As usual, one chit was kept for Brahma. The teacher suddenly caught Dubukku looking down and not listening. She shouted and threw the wooden scale at him. Caught in a fear, Dubukku blurted out Brahma (Dubukku was the police and guessed that Brahma had the thief chit). She gave him a nice thrashing, asked him to kneel outside for the entire day and inquired who Brahma was. Ramanujam stood up and said that he did not do anything, shaking all over. The teacher scolded him nonetheless.

At he stroke of the morning interval, Brahma went straight to Vicks, gave him the 50p for the bet and congratulated him on his victory. The entire class were astounded. All the fun was lost anticipating a verbal duel. They got their answer that evening. While the gang were purchasing their 'thaen-mittaaye', our pleased kid Brahma took out the remaining Rs1.50 and got the envied eatery of them all - the 'coconut+groundnut' mixed ice-cream bar.


PS: I know about the 'cross-with-molten-wax' as I was part of the gang!
PPS: It is a fictional story as I mentioned at the start.


leo said...

oh sorry had t edit the last part n cldnt find the edit option..nywy..cracker of a story..enjoyed every bit of it..keep up the good work..but since the story happens b4 my time,do i get t know the members of the group??n am i wrong in thinkin there is some truth in parts of the story?? :D

Sundeep said...

thanks leo :)

reg. the gang, we can hav a disc. over chat ;)

srini said...

neenga dan Brahma va?? Anyways very good story na...think this is one of the longest write-ups u ve wirtten so far

Sundeep said...

Thanks srini..
I already mentioned that I was part of the gang ;) and it is a fictional story based on different incidents ;)

Karthik said...

Beautiful, Sundeep. It brought back so many memories. Raja, rani, police, thief, etc. :D Those days were awesome, man. And Nikita reminds me of a classmate of mine (who is now my bestest friend) who was a class leader. I used to taunt and irritate her a lot. :P
Excellently narrated. Thanks for writing this out. :)

Sundeep said...

thanks a ton Karthik :)

those days are ever so pleasant to recollect :)

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