Thursday, September 20, 2012

58. Marking the Territory.

I saw Umesh’s dad as a strange, detached person. He wasn’t home much, except on weekends. Maybe, because he was a lawyer who worked in another district. He didn’t talk much and I was careful to steer clear of him. And, I had this nagging feeling that he didn’t like my being there. Well, that was the impression I got.

One day, I asked Suresh, “Dude, is your dad mad at me or something?”

“Oh, no Henry Aiya,” Suresh said, “That’s his nature. Don’t worry about that. Actually some days he asks Mommy about you, like if you had your meals!”

Maybe because he was a man of law, even the dinner was a silent affair when he was home.  Silence reigned. Even Umesh used short, formal answers like “Yes sir!”, “No sir” when talking to his own dad, which looked a bit weird to me. It reminded me of the movie “The Sound Of Music”
And, dad was unpredictable and would yell at anybody, anywhere. And, he voiced his opinion aloud, to the embarrassment of his anyone who had to accompany him, no matter what.

“Henry Aiya, I don’t want to go anywhere with him if I can avoid it in the first place," Suresh said one day. “You never know what he’d do."

"Sometimes Mommy sends me with him by force. And, on top of that, I have to carry his awful fabric satchel, too. You know what happened one day?"

"Mommy asked me to go with him to where he works. I had no choice. So both of us went there and we stayed the night in his boarding place. So early next morning, both of us were at the bus stop to come back to Kandy. First thing he did was handing that dreadful, old fashioned, snake charmer's satchel to me. Dude, I hate to carry that, but again, I had no choice.

Now both of us were standing there at the bus stop. Dad opened a newspaper. More and more people started arriving.  I slowly slipped the bag off my shoulder and left it on the ground because I saw some school girls join the waiting crowd. They were giggling and wriggling from the time they came and I was also becoming very interested in them by the minute.  And, actually one pretty chick was giving me the eye. Yeah. And I took one more step away from the incriminating bag.

And my heart was picking up speed in excitement when things started to go wrong.  Actually that morning, bad luck arrived on four legs, in the form of a stray dog. He first sniffed the metal pole of the bus stop, lifted his paw and watered it.

The bored dudes at the bus stop who had nothing better to do, watched this with amusement. The giggle-ready  girls giggled.

But I didn’t. My sixth sense switched to over drive and recognized the impending doom. The world stood still. I sensed it that day in every hair of my body, I felt cold sweat break out on my forehead and back. And, my throat felt dry like sandpaper. I distinctly felt my heart pounding a double beat in my head.

This goddamn dog marked his territory on the metal pole and made a U turn to go. Then he saw the damned satchel on the ground and paused. He trotted over to it with a twinkle in his eye and sniffed it. I froze. No way! How could  I claim the satchel now?

The rest happened in slow motion. The dog lifted the paw over Dad’s satchel and sprinkled it. I felt dizzy. Girls giggled louder. One dude, blurted out, “Shit, whose bag is that?”

Dad who had buried his nose in the newspaper all this time must have heard that remark. He lowered the paper and peered over his glasses. I watched in dismay as his eyes  bulged out.   His face distorted, He gritted his teeth and screamed, “Are you blind, you idiot? Didn’t you see that damned dog pissing on the damned bag?”
I felt naked. I felt my cheeks burning. I wished I simply disappeared from the face of this earth. Girls giggled louder and I saw them covering their mouths to the corner of my eyes while I bent over to pick up the satchel. And as I hugged the bag, that now dripped dog pee, the girls roared with laughter.

Just then, the bus arrived. Everybody jostled  and shoved to board it. Daddy seemed to have suddenly lost interest to get home early. “Let’s catch the next bus, this seems to be crowded,” dad said, surely out of the empathy he felt towards me."

Friday, September 14, 2012


“Then  I was a kid,” Umesh said opening his archives ‘down the memory lane’.

“When I go to our bathroom, I see a lot of beauty culture stuff that belonged to my sisters. I used to experiment with them in secret.”

“Once, a bottle with a picture of a beautiful gloss head of hair on the label attracted my attention. I managed to read the word H-A-I-R with some difficulty and my mind was set to experiment with it. After a shower and drying my hair, I poured some of the stuff onto my palm and rubbed into my hair. Mmm  the smell was awesome, too. When I combed my hair, to my greatest delight, it was in total control! Wow! Just the stuff I ‘ve been looking for!”

“And after that day, I used to help myself to the magic stuff before going to school.”

“Everything was quite fine until one fateful day, a cricket ball with a bad notion, homed in on my head and drew blood. The first aid dudes of School ‘Saukyadana’ Unit carried me to the First Aid Room. They held my head over the basin and started washing my head as it was still bleeding.”

“And to everybody’s amazement foam suds appeared from my hair. And the more they washed the more  it foamed. Finally one dude asked, “What on earth did you rub into  your hair, bro? Shampoo?” Then it magically dawned on my whiz brain, that my future and reputation was riding on my answer.   So I let it ride and groaned louder to show them that my head injury was more serious than they thought, which diverted attention away from the suds and bubbles.”

“As soon as I returned home I made a beeline to the bathroom and checked the label under better perspective.”

“Yeah! The word SHAMPOO was staring at me in the eye! How could I’ve known, dude!” said Umesh.


“No one knows about this, so I don’t want you make it public , okay?”
“Whew, dude, What makes you think I’d do that?”