Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A little memory -- I

A big thank you to Karthik, Archana, Vidya, Pavithra, Sandeep, Harish, Arvind and Nivedita for the book. THE book, in fact. The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide. I'd lost my copy and they presented a hardbound one to me. Aww(they wrote this too, inside.).

Also, to those of you who celebrate this kind of thing, happy Valentine's day. I will stay home to avoid the mushy stupidity. In fact, I'll tell you something totally unrelated.

I remembered this incident from 1994. It happened in Mysore. Nothing cataclysmic, nothing that is important, that should be learned from or will change one's life upon reading it. You need not 'take much from it' or 'pass the inherent wisdom on to everyone' because there isn't any. It's just a funny little memory from my childhood.

Arjun, Vikram and Nachiketh(who was also, for some reason, called Rahul by his parents), we were. My grandparents lived in Gokulam in Mysore and these people were among the many friends I had in those idyllic days. Some others were Chotu(actually called Deepak. He is now anything but small.), Prateek(now in II PU/12th, he bore a curious resemblance to Boris Becker when he was a kid, with extremely fair skin and, unbelievably, orange hair), Pancho(no, not named after misspelling the squire from 'Don Quixote.' He was called Panchapagesan; wouldn't you rather be called Pancho or Panchu or even Paanch?), Madhu, Seena, Viji, Cheta(these last four were sons or nephews of the milk-supplier-turned-corporator Venkatachala, who lived at the end of the road and whose family would adorn the outer walls of their house with slightly gelatinous dung every afternoon without fail.), Sujay(he was the rich kid with the cool Sega Sonic video game. We would all go to his house every afternoon and he would play the game from level 1 till level 8 or something. He would never let us play, but that never bothered us. We just watched the video game unfold on screen, awed by the levels and the secret passages and the extra lives and the things and the other things.), Sriram, Vignesh(brothers, these two. The latter, the younger one, had yelled, at the height of a fight with Sujay, 'You go fuck a widow!' He was ten.), Shiva, Prasada...there are some more, but they're all idiots and I don't like them and won't name them here. Besides, I don't remember their names.

A little background before we get to the incident. I'd go to Mysore every opportunity I got, so much did I like visiting my grandparents and meeting these guys. Admittedly, we were all slightly delinquent children. Opposite my grandparents' house, there was an empty site with a lot of parthenium grass and many tennis/rubber balls did we lose there, playing cricket on the street, due to an overzealous batsman. There were distinct 'pitches' in the street for playing cricket. One was in front of Vikram's and Sujay's house and it lay diagonally across the road. This pitch was more conducive to shotmaking because it was longer and we could use actual stumps(Vikram had them at home.). The second was in front of my grandparents' and Prateek's house and it was straight across the road and was, therefore, shorter. It placed severe restrictions on batsman and bowler alike and was very difficult to bat on except for people with a flair for the sweep shot(Harish will recognize this as the type of pitch we used to have in PTA school, in our 'boundary cricket' matches. An excellent chronicle of our days in that school was begun by him in earnest but has not seen completion, for some reason.); bowlers ruled this one. The third pitch was further down the road, in front of Chotu's and Pancho's house. This was a pitch friendly to both disciplines of the game but would sometimes offer unexpected help to spinners(due to cracks that would develop in the road. Some of the guys would deliberately dig little holes in the road and pitch the ball there so it would turn unexpectedly and induce a catch, much to the surprise of the batsman, or bowl his wickets over.).

Coming back to the empty site, the parthenium was cleared one day and we were much elated; only to be let down, a few days later, when we were informed a huge house would be built there. Sure enough, they laid the foundation in a few days and construction began in normal swing. We did not fail to see opportunity even in this adversity, however, and used the empty site to our benefit in hide-and-seek(or 'ice-pice.' Try getting kids to say 'I spy'). The place where the person who was 'out' would count was always Chotu's house, for some reason; and whoever the poor bastard was who got out, he'd have a hard time. It was as though the world was literally our playground. We'd use the entire locality as hiding place. Once the person started counting, we'd follow one of the following routes.

We would go around to the back of Chotu's house and climb up over the back wall to the house behind, go out their front gate and on to the street to the right of ours and then walk all the way back to ours, carefully escaping the eyes of the unfortunate wretch who was searching for us and hit the wall against which he had been leaning and counting up to a 100(150, if there were more than fifteen people.) and yell out his name and say 'ice-pice!!' For example, if Sujay were out, we'd say 'Sujay ice-pice!!', whatever that meant, and Sujay would have to count and search for us again. (With fifteen people, he would almost always have to count again, since he could never seek out all fifteen. In this case, we fixed an upper limit for the number of times a person could be out.).

Alternatively, we would go through the empty site, jump into the huge drain beside it, clamber up the stones the government had placed to prevent people from falling into the drains during the course of their normal walking, walk up the street to the left of ours and back down ours and repeat the same procedure as described above to make Sujay(or whoever was 'out') count again.

Confused? Here's a badly drawn map to make it all clearer:-

I just wanted to say we played hide-and-seek on a gargantuan scale, encompassing entire streets and drains.

Having played this one fine afternoon, following a strenuous morning cricket session, Vikram, Nachiketh and I decided a movie was in order. And what movie was playing at that time? James Cameron's 'True lies.' Our hero, Arnold, was in it. We didn't care, back then, that we couldn't understand half of what he was saying(and neither, probably, could he.); we just watched him beat up random people, say weird and cool-sounding things like 'Astalaveesta, baby!'(that's what we heard then.) and blow up things. He was always blowing things up, setting them on fire, doing bad things to intricately crafted machinery. It never bothered our tiny little consciences and we were thrilled. 'Brilliant movie!' we'd say, coming out of the theatre(balcony tickets cost Rs 12/-), 'what action, man! Superb stunts! And that chase! Great, man! Arnold is the best!' To which somebody would always, always, respond with 'But Sylvester Stallone is also great...' Upon which a furious debate would ensue, with the Arnold side usually winning, mainly because Chotu was on their side and he was of Arnoldic proportions himself.

Anyway, 'True lies' was playing in the nearby Gokul theatre and Vikram, Nachiketh and I decided to go watch it. The rest of the fellows were not ready to come to the movie, for some reason or the other. So the three of us collected the necessary rations -- a packet of the then popular Rola Cola(consisting of ten pieces of cola-flavoured candy and costing Rs 5/-. I liked it very much.), a packet of Parle-G(containing twelve biscuits and costing Rs 4/-) and a bottle of water(from home)-- and went to Gokul theatre. We bought the tickets and went in and sat ourselves down.We found ourselves surrounded by diminished-looking grown-ups. And their number was increasing steadily. We wondered why this was so.

'True lies' was an adult movie.


Sneha Divakar said...

sakkat map hakidira... olle ice-pice kathe...kunte-bille kathe next-a?

Harish said...

Nice. Map oLLe chennaagide.

Nowadays, our childhood days appear more wonderful than they actually were. Ella ee satfware-inda ansatte. Alva? ಎಲ್ಲ ವಿಧಿಯ ಆಟ!

And that chronicle, I will complete shortly(oLLe coming soon-u!). Somaritana, ashte, reason for not yet completing it.

tangled said...

You missed one house!!!

>:( I don't know Kannada.

archana said...

Ha Ha.. mori na Great Indian Drain anta maadbitidiya.

Arjun Sharma said...

[Sneha]Illa, adella aadlilla naavu. Enankondidiya nammanna??

[Harish]Bega mugsu, mundede.

[tangled]I didn't miss it. I just don't remember who lives there now. In days of old, there lived, in that house, one Kishan, whose father owned a gun and at the sight of which we were duly amazed.

[Archana]It was really big. Atleast, to our nine/ten year old eyes and underdeveloped brains.