Childhood Lesson : Childhood was special


The other day i was lying on my bed reading the book “Steve Jobs” – Walter Isaacson, the biography of the so-called greatest inventor of this millennium. I received a phone call from an unknown number. There was a guy on the other end and i was asked to guess the voice. Of course i knew it was familiar, i just couldn’t place it right away. Like i always do, i tried conversing ahead and asked him to give me time to discover who he was. He mentioned he was from Kolkatta, the first name that came to me was Arnab Sircar, my old friend from Bokaro, but i was not really sure it was him, i still wanted to converse further to get a confirmation and race through the other hopeful options. But then he suddenly broke it with a “Akshaiiiii” And THERE it was!!!
It was Arnab Sircar, the guy whom i’d spent my childhood with. My partner in crime and in a lot of instances, inspiration for my crime!!! :)I remember we spent every afternoon of our school lives playing cricket behind the house, breaking windows of the neighbors and denting the garage doors. Climbing walls and garages to get the balls we’d hit. Just the 2 of us. The building wall had a wicket sketched on it using a pebble lying around and that was the wicket. There were 2 garages on either side of the pitch. The bowler’s end was open. If you hit the ball on the garages on either side, you’d get 2 runs, and you could run for one, and that’d be counted if you succeeded in completing it. Hitting the ball straight down the pitch passing the bowler and further down to the building behind earned you 4 runs. Hitting a 6 was out. This was to discourage players from hitting areal shots. And hitting the ball into any of the gardens adjoining the garages was OUT. We’ve had bitter fights over whether the other was out or not, whether the ball touched the boundary or not, whether hitting the ball somewhere was allowed or not. And yet we couldn’t resist the temptation to call the other up the next afternoon to play.
Our mothers would come out and yell at us for playing in the afternoon heat, and we’d not relent and argue back. There’s one statement i remember my mother always made ” What time of the day is this for playing?? Can see anyone else playing except you 2??”. And i’d reply back with a grin “Now mom, see we’re setting example for the other guys around, so their moms don’t say the same to them. Someone’s gotta be the first in line right??” 🙂 She’d give up and go inside mumbling to herself and we’d continue playing. And there was this typical shout from the house at about 3-4 in the evening when our moms would’ve run out of patience with our incorrigibility and call out our names in their regional accents. My mom would shout “Akshaiiii:”, which is what Arnab gave as a clue to me when calling me up. And his mom would come out and shout “Aaaaanuuuuu”. So we both would mock each other’s mother’s accents often and laugh about it.

These were the usual days, and then there were those festivals when we’d gather and start the festival for our block. Come diwali, we’d start bursting crackers from 2 weeks before the festival. And in the evenings we’d spend experimenting pyrotechnics. Big term for small crackers but what i mean is we’d experiment with keeping the crackers inside containers and see it fly up in the air, and then place bigger crackers and see how much higher the cans went. There was this one time when we pulled out an empty tin can from teh garbage dump and kept it on a cracker upside down and lit it up. The cracker was on the road and we’d put the can on top of it. The cracker burst and the can went high up in the air straight as a rocket. And we had a grin on our faces till we heard the sound of a scooter. We saw a guy in a scooter driving down the road. And we looked up, the can had reached it’s highest point. We were like “Holy shit!!! This is going to come crashing on the scooterist.” And we didn’t know how to react. We definitely didn’t signal the scooterist and he was unaware of the can in the air. We just stood there wiating for the outcome. The scooterist sped past and right after him the can landed on the ground. Missed him by a whisker !!! The scooterist in fact turned around and looked back to see what the noise was. I’m happy he didn’t break and turn around to beat the shit out of us. But that was close and fun and thrilling. It just encouraged us to do more of it. Although not one motorist turned post that. Lucky in a way i’d say.
We did a lot of arson experiments. Tried burning every damn thing we found lying around. Plastics, rubber, wood, dried leaves, containers, any and every damn thing we found was disposed in the vicinity. There was this old car which used to be parked between 2 garages in the open. It looked very similar to the one in the movie Cars, the old racer who has the trophy in his garage. It had nothing left in it. It was lying there for more than a decade unattended. the windows had gone off, the seats were battered and stuff. We had in fact discussed a lot of times about trying to do something with it. I’m happy we spared it, coz we later came to know that it belonged to one of the tenants in Arnab’s building.
Then there was Holi. We’d all collect a lot of junk and garbage and erect a structure to be burnt at night. This was the Holika that Indians burn the night before Holi. All we children of the block gathered together and collected heaps of dried leaves, branches and sometimes tree trunks that someone had cut and left around to pile it up together. And then we’d first make a structure like a hollow pyramid out of the trunks and branches. Then put the rest of the dried leaves, papers etc inside the structure to give it more substance. We’d venture to other blocks to collect such stuff and get them and dump it here. And this was a whole group of about 10-15 children from the whole block of buildings.
And in the evening we’d invite all the uncles and aunties for the Holika ceremony and the smallest kid in the group (unless there were dominating ones) would be given the light to set fire to the heap and it’d burn big. We’d throw raw and small tomatoes at it and they’d burst. 🙂
This should go on endlessly.. and will…
Thanks Arnab for the call. It meant a world to me to be taken back to those moments of joy we shared and thanks for your company. Much appreciated and liked.

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