Friday, May 6, 2011

GROWING UP - II………….Watch Out !

I watch the real world outside the car window which is so near and only the glass separates me from it. I don’t really have to sweat to reach it……. just a click of the button is enough to bring the glass down and engulf me in reality.

But the prospect of seeing my childhood a little further down memory lane encourages me to ignore reality and I divert my attention to the imaginary digital screen with a smile.

As I do this I can feel the driver giving me strange looks thinking that I have lost it because I am laughing to myself apparently for no reason (that is what the driver feels). I decide that the driver needs no justification and allow the past to take over me with a silly smile on my face…….

My thoughts are still projecting the images and are in continuity (from where I left last week) as my journey continues to the long distance destination, so do my thoughts……….

I can see Raju’s mother reflecting on what his sister had just reported and she was relieved that it was not half as bad as what he and his friends had done the day before in the building. Deep in her heart she knew that she was consoling herself, actually she was deeply worried and shuddered at the thought of Raju’s future. She had tried to discipline this brat a number of times before but had been unsuccessful and all these attempts had ended in Raju getting a spanking of his life; however all her efforts had no effect on Raju or the way he behaved.

Whatever she did to come out of her thoughts she failed and instead was further pushed into the whirlpool of worry at the simple thought of what her son had done the day before. It had been the talk of the building ever since! But surprisingly none of the residents of the building seemed to detest this imp with an insatiable hunger for mischief. It was both surprising and irritating that these people talked about the misdeeds of Raju as if it were something very funny, how she wished that these people should have been at the taking end of Raju’s pranks. But Raju was very clever not to rub such people at the wrong end specially those who supported him.

Before I explain Raju’s misdeeds which were causing sleepless nights to his mother and also to some other members of the society, I would like to explain the brief background of the society in which Raju lived.

As I explained in “Part I” Raju lived in an old building in the heart of the city of Bombay (which has now been renamed as “Mumbai”). The building was cosmopolitan and home to twenty four families all hailing from different parts of India. Because of the regional differences some of the members did not agree with the point of view of the other members and this resulted in friction for small things such as parking or children playing in front of their houses.

Some members who were opposed to the other members of the society would pick up fight for silly things and it was quite obvious that the real intention behind such objections were for different reasons (reasons other than the actual problem on hand). Raju had a group of friends (both boys and girls) who were both junior and dedicated to him. They treated him like a leader. Raju’s words were treated like sacred words and his proposals more often than not would end up in real action true to the last word and spirit.

The action based on the so called “sacred words” of Raju left an indelible effect in the minds of the people at the taking end of his pranks. Raju was least bothered about the reason for the objections or intentions of the people. The only consideration for him to plan an assault (or prank which was no less than an assault) was that there had to be an reason to pull one off, irrespective of how flimsy or unconvincing the reasons may have been.

I am sure I have made it clear to my readers that it was lethal combination with one set of kids who took satanic pleasure in troubling and the other set of members who were always creating problems for the silliest reasons. In other words they were asking for it and because of this kind of setup it was a happy hunting ground for Raju and his team of dedicated pranksters.

Now having explained the dynamics of forces acting in the society where Raju lived I would like to proceed further to explain what actually transpired on that day. Now thinking back retrospectively such things were waiting to happen!

I hope everybody remembers that apart from being an accomplished trouble maker Raju also had hidden aspirations of being a cricketer. He worshipped Gundappa Vishwanath (the cricketer of yesteryears)for the way he executed his square cut and was his all time favorite batsman. Raju and his dedicated gang played cricket in the building compound inspite of objections of the residents on the ground floor.
Whatever precautions they took; they could not avoid breaking the glass window panes of the ground floor residents. In due course of time they were banned from playing cricket in the compound.

The only opportunity for them to play in the building compound was when the ground floor occupants were away from home or they were out of station. This time it was the former. As soon as one of the kids saw the ground floor aunty go out with her family, the news was immediately communicated to the whole group. For their age they were very well organized and had a wonderful communication channel by virtue of which they assembled in no time on the ground floor to play cricket. It was not often that they got such chance and for Raju he was itching to try his new passion “the square cut” Gundappa Vishwanath style.

As soon as the kids started playing their game thinking that it would be unhindered. Raju started the process of briefing his gang about precautions to avoid breaking any glass panes and also explained what their damage control plan would be in case they broke one; …..he suddenly heard a familiar voice in a typical accent from the first floor balcony and he noticed it was Mr Radhakrishnan! Calling his name Raju!...Raaju. But Raju knew that Mr Radhakrishnan was a trouble maker himself and knew that some hindrance was on its way. He thought the best way to deal with this unexpected irritant is not to pay attention and continue with his lecture on damage control exercise. He also advised his gang not to look up at the first floor balcony and they all knew what Raju meant…….and agreed in unison.

The game started….. ignoring the persistent periodic shouts which were coming from the first floor balcony of Radhakrishnan increasing in intensity with every passing ball……Raju!....Raaj..u……..RAA…..AJJJ…UUU!!!!

Raju who was now batting started putting on a show as if Radhakrishnan was cheering him for his square cuts which he was now trying to execute of every ball bowled at him… even on the leg stump. As the over proceeded Raju’s confidence increased and he even started looking up at the first floor balcony and waved to Radhakrishnan but was instead surprised and shocked at the blood shot killer look in his eyes and from Radhakrishnan’s side he too shared the same sentiment; “surprise and shock” at this boy’s cheekiness which had made him flushed red with anger and was now shouting something….which was incomprehensible because of the high decibel levels he was trying to reach!

But Raju ignored his shouting; he was instead concentrating on Radhakrishnan’s lip movement trying to understand what this man was desperately trying to say. He could not understand anything as there was no lip movement but only jaw movement……Radhakrishnan had opened his mouth so wide open it looked as if he was trying to snap Raju’s head off right from the first floor balcony…..for a moment Raju got a little scared but regained his composure after his friends started cheering him for waving to Radhakrishnan…..encouraged he pointed his fingers to Radhakrishnan’s open mouth and told his friends now he knew why his mother insisted on brushing teeth twice a day……otherwise we will have some teeth missing like this uncle ……. And they all started laughing……without paying heed to why this man who was on the verge of jumping down from the first floor balcony to catch hold of this bunch of brats….. who were not even ready to listen…..and understand that the following day his son had an unit test and would be disturbed because of the noise these kids were making.

Actually the situation had reached such a state that not only was Radhakrishnan’s son disturbed but the whole neighbourhood had come alive. Even people standing on the bus stop outside the building compound were giving curious looks at the man who looked madly possessed and on the other hand he had contrastingly become an alternative source of enjoyment for Raju and gang. They wanted more of this but suddenly the intensity of shouting started to wane for a brief moment and Raju thought that Radhakrishnan had given up…….he lifted his head to check the first floor balcony but to his dismay Radhakrishnan was not there…….then how was it that he was now hearing the shouting much louder and clearer than before. He turned around with interrogative look in his eyes only to find his loyal friends had vanished. Instead he saw Radhakrishnan brandishing the ball in his hand wearing a white lungi and was coming in his direction; he was shouting …….in a manner which Raju could now understand even through the regional accent that his son would get disturbed if they played there.

Raju could not understand that why this uncle was creating such a fuss……..he told him in a loud and clear voice that “I too have my exams tomorrow but I am going to study at night” and also advised a shocked Radhakrishnan to ask his son to do the same……Raju’s argument was that as they do not get to play cricket in compound everyday so Radhakrishnan should understand that this was more important than anything else….. even the exams.

Radhakrishnan lost his temper again and started shouting incomprehensibly while folding his lungi and converting it into a mini skirt, he darted towards little Raju; who was now scared! and did not realize that while Radhakrishnan had folded his lungi and darted he had also snatched Raju’s beloved bat in a flash; Raju in the meanwhile kept wondering why he had to expose his legs if he had to snatch his bat! He failed to understand the logic. Radhakrishnan was already walking triumphantly back with the bat resting on his right shoulder looking like the character Bhima from Mahabharat to his first floor flat which some time back was a good entertainment gallery for these kids.

Raju was very upset and summoned his army of friends to teach this Radhakrishnan uncle a lesson of his life. He wanted his beloved bat back with which he could execute those lovely exquisite square cuts.

After brief meeting they all came up with a plan……..the gang moved in with a precision of trained guerrilla commandos and converged outside the first floor flat of Radhakrishnan. They went about their task as was advised by little Raju and after safely accomplishing what they had to do they rang the bell of Radhakrishnan’s flat who was expecting these little idiots to come and beg for their bat and ball. He looked through the peep hole and triumphantly told them not to come for the bat and ball because he would not open the door for them. All the kids shouted in unison “Uncle don’t open the door ” saying this they pressed the bell and put a medical plaster adhesive tape on it so that it rang continuously. They all waited in anticipation…… a safe distance away from the door.

There was silence for a brief moment but the sound of the bell ringing continuously got on the nerves of Radhakrishnan and he was forced to open the door. He wanted to simply open the door, catch that little idiot Raju by the neck and shake him up a little bit so that if he had some sense somewhere in his being it could go in the right place and better sense would prevail.

He opened the latch from inside with a wicked look on his face and aggressively tried opening the door but it would not budge he tried again with no success. It dawned upon him that his wish of shaking up some sense in Raju will have to wait a while but notwithstanding anything the bell was still ringing relentlessly in the background totally oblivious to its master’s predicament.

The little idiots had latched the door from outside and were adding to the commotion by calling him nick names and a bat thief …..who stole from kids in the local Hindi language. In addition to the bell Radhakrishnan and his two daughters also started shouting at the top of their voices calling the watchman to come and open the door immediately. On hearing them helplessly calling the watchman Raju and his friends started clapping their hands in glee and again started calling him nick names which were beyond imagination but of-course not vulgar.

It appeared as if there was a shouting match going on in the old buildings corridor and the decibel levels were unbelievable! And to add some music in the background was the door bell which was doing its job with unmatched efficiency and seemed totally oblivious to what was going on. Raju and his friends even went to the extent of preventing the watchman from unlocking the door from outside, the old watchman knew it was better not to rub these rogues at the wrong end but he had a duty to do and that is why he was there.

Finally Raju and his friends relented after the secretary and elders in the building called Raju’s mother who intervened in a rather classic manner with a rolling pin (used for making chapatti) in her hand. On seeing his mother properly equipped Raju knew nobody could stop his mother and her weapon so he and all his friends vanished…………on checking up with Radhakrishnan what the matter was? He had dramatically again lifted his lungi converted it into a mini skirt and with vivid gestures he had given his facial muscles a good exercise, pushed back his opaque glasses on his nose bridge and explained that he had objected to Raju and his friends playing cricket in the building compound because of the ongoing exams of his son.

Radhakrishnan had explained the whole episode to Raju’s mother who apologized to him and also assured that such things will not happen in future. But many in the building who were opposed to Radhakrishnan derived pleasure because of this incident.

Later his mother had forced Raju to apologize to Radhakrishnan but he had bargained in presence of Radhakrishnan that his bat should be given back to him first only then he would apologize…..Raju’s mother had not accepted this proposal but Radhakrishnan wanted peace at any cost ……he agreed and Raju got back his bat against an apology……

I can see Raju’s mother feeling helpless but she is happy because this morning Raju had countered her worries today by buying her a cheap loud perfume as a present for her birthday but she realized that this is what he could have brought with his small pocket money. But she knows that he loved her just as she loved him unconditionally……for the way he was.

As I lift my head to see outside the car window it is already dawn and the destination has almost been reached. I come back to the present with a smile and gratitude even towards Radhakrishnan for making the memories of Raju’s (who is Raju???) childhood so colorful.

I just wish I get another chance to travel long distance so that I can explore many more incidents in Raju’s life, which ofcourse will be very soon!


  1. This Raju looks familiar to me, I think I know him Jaggu :). Your reaction to that senior (forgot his name), who had objection on your racing cycle and later resulted in fight with them is still in my memory. I think you are over inspired by Raju, he he he he.

  2. my god, i seriously don't recall all this actually happening. but i sure know Mr Radhakrishnan and the 2 daughters

  3. bro:) superb!! i am loving ur writings, have learnt so many words...
    keep writing . . . .

    with LOVE:)

  4. SSShhhhhhhhhh.............. Rita

  5. Subhash the senior's name was the dreaded "Singhal" ha ha he he ho ho.......

  6. Very nice i cant imagine you can be so naughty when u r small. This story gives us pictue effect and remind me R K Laxman's Swami.
    Such sweet writeup. keep writing. We are waiting for your new writeup.

  7. Jagdish,
    My advise - pl send your articles to Times of india. I will mail u the id.