Short Story (The story isnt that short, but is worth a read..)
Diwali always reminds me of this incident..
The good thing bout 6th grade is that studies are free of any distractions..You are not yet into girls or if u are a geek like me, you are not much into sports either... You only have to concentrate all your energies towards scoring well.. And thankfully even the people around you are pretty much intrested in that.. Except a few ofcourse..
Narayan Gaikwad.. The most notorious of all 6th graders this part of the world has seen..
He was the most known face of the 6th grade.. Every teacher, every peon knew him..
The most disliked guy in all 4 divisions of 6th std.
He was mischievious, a true prankster. He was the big daddy of all naughty kids, he had earned the title from proving himself time and again - Like the time he burst crackers in the toilet.. No big deal actually a lotta mischievious kids do that, but in this case the teacher was in the toilet!! Heh heh.. ahem..
I hear he was suspended from the school for 2 weeks(Narayan, not the teacher).. And the teacher didnt enter the school toilet for 2 months..
Narayan was short, and had a hefty build.. He could easily pass off as a 15 yr old.. He never combed his hair, the last time he did was back in 1992. He had a dark complexion, not a natural one - but the one that comes from years of playing cricket in the afternoon Sun.
Narayan kinda held the record for the most punishments endured every season... Only once
during the 5th grade did Karan Mehta(the second most notorious kid this part of the world had seen) came close..
15 kneel-downs to 14 kneeldowns..
But by the end of the semester however, Narayan had a comfortable 27-22 lead..
So all in all, Narayan was the kid your parents warned bout..!
Our class teacher that year was Miss Daisy... she was just out of her B.Ed college, and was full of bright new ideas on how to make the system better for "weaker" students. One idea was to make them share the bench with a smarter,brighter, hard working student.
I dont know if I was smart, bright, hard working but I was among the decent scorers of the class. This decency made Narayan Gaikwad my bench-mate!
Guys like me dont gel well with Narayan types. Narayan was mischeivious, shabby and poor.. Karan Mehta atleast had the latest video games which he did let us play with..His dad was Harshad Mehta's distant cousin we heard. Narayan's dad on the other hand was into security business, an euphemism for the word - watchman..
During lectures, Narayan, now my benchmate, would crack jokes which would frustate me, I was here to learn, what did this dumbo know..Maybe he will end up like his father.. But I dont wanna spend the rest of my life saluting people as they entered the building..
I asked Miss Daisy to change my partner, but she was adamant.. She had, based on our report cards, classified us into two groups and made the weaker kids sit with the better ones and according to her, it was working!! Sadly for me, it wasnt!
It had been 4 months of being bench mates with Narayan and though we werent like the best friends, we had started to get along a bit.
My least favourite period in the 6th grade was the PT(Physical training) period
We used to play cricket in that period. Since there were more than 22 boys in the class, the two teams had to be picked.... I never got picked in the team. I used to hate PT.
Narayan used to love PT.. Infact, that was the only period he liked.. He was the cricket captain simply, coz, well, he was the best cricketer our school had known. .
The selection procedure was the worst part, Karan and Narayan were always the captains.(The best players got to be captains by default) They selected the team. A group of guys always surrounded them, just so as to get picked first. I stood outside the group coz I knew they wont pick me.
Narayan won the toss. "I take him."(pointing at me). Karan eyes grew as big as saucers and so did everyone elses! Was he nuts?! I suck at this game! He picked me!
I think that did it.. I started liking him after that, not wholly though. I still had my reservations.. He never brought any tiffin, he used to utilise those 20 mins of lunch break to play cricket! I offered him my lunch, he offered me to play with him, neither of us accepted others offer..
Narayan was the youngest of 4 siblings and lived in a chawl.. He told me that himself. Diwali was the only time he got gifts. Like last Diwali his dad had gifted him a Season ball.. But he never played with it, coz none of the guys in the chawl had a season bat. The year before that, his dad's friend got him new a digital watch from Dubai.. it wasnt exactly new, he had used it for 1 year before "gifting" it. I looked at that watch. The dial shone against his dark, sunburnt forearms.
The term was ending in a week, and diwali vacations were about to begin.
"Bought any firecrackers for Diwali?", I asked.
"Not yet, but I love bursting crackers, the big ones bey.. not the Taj Mahal kinds. I burst one in my chawl everyday of Diwali at 4 in the morning! Its so much fun.. he haw haw.."
"Heh heh.. Good."(This guys such a chatterbox, and such a pain to the neighbours I thought)
"Yeah.. I buy 5 sutli bombs, big ones.. cobra brand!""5? But they always came in boxes of 10.."
"Yeah.. they sell it loose"
"What other crackers do you buy?"
"Uh.. thats all.."
Thats all? 5 sutli bombs? I felt bad I had asked the last question... I think it didnt strike me that some kids celebrate Diwali only with so many crackers...
And all of a sudden it all seemed justified.. The pranks, bursting crackers in toilets and in the chawl at 4 am... The youngest in the family, always left wanting for attention. All he wanted is to have the maximum fun out of the limited resources he had...
Any 12 year old kid who gets only 5 crackers to burst in Diwali has every right to blow them up when he wants to.. 4 am, 5am, 6 am.. He has every right to blow them up in their face.. And no one should say anything bout it..
Narayan looked at my face.. I tried hard not to let the disappointment show.. but it did..
To get rid of the embarrasment(mine, not his) he said..
"Oh.. Oh.. But I am gonna buy sumthing else too.."
Saying this, he removed a piece of paper cutting from his bag. It was an advertisement for an Omega.
"You are buying an Omega watch?"
It costed Rs.3000, a lotta money in those days.
"Nahi baba.. The band.. watchband.. Duplicate.. But looks original. I ll show you, its available in the shop across the street."
Again, I felt silly I had asked the last question..
I looked at his watchband, the digital watch his uncle got from Dubai, the tin coating had chipped off in several places, rust showed where there was once glossy metal coat..
That evening he took me to that 4X4 shop. The shopkeeper reluctantly took out the watch band, implying that Narayan had been here many times to ask boutt he band.
"Rs. 30.. mangta hai kya? Baar baar idhar nahi aaneka"
We left sheepishly.. I meant I did.. To Narayan, the shopkeepers attitude didnt make any difference. He was too absorbed in thoughts of how the shiny metal wud look on his wrist..
It was the last day of school before the vacations began. The spirits were high.. Half of the teachers had taken the day off so that their vacations could begin early..
We had bout 5-6 periods free..
In the second last period, Karan and Narayan began to have a chalk fight. These guys collected chalk pieces from the staffroom so that they can have their very own World WarIII. Our bench was in the 3rd row from the door while Karan's bench was the 1st bench on the 1st row from the door. In other words it was right next to the door.
Karans "missile" hit me, and I got involved in this fiesta..
Narayan-Arshat v/s Karan Mehta..
Chalks flying everywhere. I got better with every throw. One hit Karan on his head, the second in his belly and the third,.. into Karta Miss' eye!
Karta Miss was our Vice-Principal, it seems our class was making a lotta noise and she had come just to check on us. And just as she was coming in, my chalk missile was into the trajectory and it had hit her in the right eye...
She was the most feared women in our school, or for that matter, in the world.. She was a cross between a bull and a wolf(or so the legend goes). She looked like a bull and wolf part, i ll tell you later... The chalk that I had hurled had hit her right eye. It gave the word - bullseye a whole new meaning.. Her eyes turned red, but then I couldnt make out if it was coz of the chalk-missile, coz they were always red!
The class stunned into silence.. Narayan still had a chalk in his hand, the last one in my hand had already found its target.
"YOU! COME HERE!", she screamed pointing towards Narayan with one hand and holding her right eye with the other...
Narayan got out of his seat and started to walk towards her..
Now the wolf part - She had claws like wolves do, with which she used to pinch the ears of her victims..
She grabbed him by his right ear and started dragging him out of the class..
"But Miss..", I said
"You stay OUT of THIS", she screamed..
She thought it must have been Narayan.. But Narayan knew it was my chalk that hit her. Karan knew that too and so did the whole class.. Narayan was a pro in chalk fight, its me whose aim could be this bad. But Narayan didnt say a word..
Narayan was made to wait in her office even after the school left. I waited for him outside the school gates.
That October night, I waited for him outside the school gates. It was only 6 o clock but winter had set in, and it seemed like it was 7 in the evening. I waited for him there for almost an hour after which he came out of the gates.
His right ear still had shades or red and a few weird shades of purple. He was made to kneeldown for 2 hours outside her cabin, his wobly walk testimony to that..He had been hit with a wooden scale on his shin.. But he didnt utter a word bout me..
Maybe he thought what would it do to my reputation among the teachers or what Miss Daisy would think bout me - a decent, bright, hard working boy.. hitting the vice-principal in the eye.. or maybe he just did it coz he saw me as his friend...
Thats what friends do, stand up for each other.. They are brothers in arms, so what if they belong to different backgrounds and have different grades on their report cards, each one of them, in their own way, completes the other..
That Diwali, I bought him that shiny watch band from the same shop across the street from the 30 rupees I had saved for myself...
I thought, a guy who would do that for a friend..., deserves.... a shiny watch....
Happy Diwali everyone.. The shiny watch
Editor in chief arshat chaudharyCurrent Issues: happy diwali, high school memories, life 9 letters to the editor Links to this post