Sunday, March 18, 2007

Thou shall not steal !!!

I’d like to write something from the past (again) .
I remember the day I stole something…(hey
I’m not a kleptomaniac ok...I was just a kid back then)...
I was in 8th standard, dad and I used to stay together, mom lived away. Dad was (is) an exxxtremely logic based person (by the way such people make good analysts but have generally poor imagination. I’m definitely not his alter-ego, rather I’m just the opposite …reasonably imaginative and highly illogical most of the time). That digression was necessary to explain what follows. I asked him to buy me a cap. After much explanation about the need for one, I was given one…an ugly one…I hated it…it was white with a coconut tree and beach painted and across it was written “Sands”…GRRR GRRR!!! But to dad any cap was cap. Technically it solved the purpose but aesthetically it sucked. I wasn’t planning to have a discussion about a contentious issue like “beauty” with my dad. As a school kid, I was never in a mood to abnegate my wishes, but that was something that “inadvertently” I always had to do… (Renounce yet another wish!! C’mon man! The only thing left to do was to wish that I would stop wishing. C’mon dad, either get me a good cap or put me in some other school…see, that might sound illogical to you…I understand!).

I used to go for basketball coaching (5 hours everyday after school…basically that’s where I lived my life) in those days. All the anger and frustration used to be vented out on the basketball. So one holiday evening I was fooling around in the court, I saw a cap hanging on a hook. The stadium was rather empty and there was no one in and around the basketball court. After getting tired of all the exertion I looked at the cap and then looked away. I looked at the cap again, it seemed to be saying to me, “hey boy!! Look at me, am I not pretty? Look at me…feel my soft fabric…put me one and now take me away, I’m all yours!!” I knew it belonged to one of the people inthe stadium and a strong voice inside me told me not to look at the cap at all...but there was another voice that said to the cap “YOU’RE MINE HONEY!! GET READY TO BE KIDNAPPED” And in a rush of adrenalin, I picked it up and and walked away. I was excited to finally possess a smart cap, though I felt guilty ecerytime I looked at it. I was very well aware about the fact that I had labelled myself as a thief in my own conscience. Slowly, the guilt overpowered me but I had no idea about how to undo it. The next day one of my classmates saw the cap and wanted to have it. He sat and explained to me for a long time that the cap didn’t suit me and looked great on him and that if I gave it to him, I’d be doing a favor to the cap. Actually I didn’t believe him completely and thought that he looked like a freaking “skinned fowl with a nicely beaten boxer's eyes” wearing that cap…it accentuated his eyes and his eyes were a shame to the optic aesthetics of humans…PHEW! Anyway, it didn’t suit me either, I was wafer thin in those days (I weighed 50kgs back I weigh 82Kgs and people still call me skinny so you can imagine...of course I was a wee bit shorter than I am now) and when I put the cap on, it gobbled most of my face…it looked more of a face mask than a cap on me besides I was feeling bad enough about having stolen it, so I gave the cap to him.

Cap-less and content without one, I was going up the stairs late one evening when I saw a stranger come out of my house and leave with a big smile on his face. OUCH!! That was the owner of the cap…somehow he had tracked my address (someone who knew me as well as him had seen me with his cap and guided him to my place). Later I learnt that dad paid him Rs200/- that he asked for in return for the cap that I stole. When I entered, dad was standing in a corner in a state of shock and disbelief. He saw me and the emotions turned to something I was more familiar with (bloodshot eyes!! High blood pressure!! Veins popping out of his forehead…Run baby run baby run!!), “you bastard, now you’ve started stealing people’s stuff! Is that what I’ve taught you about life” he roared almost blowing my eardrums out. “No time to get emotional” I thought to myself and retraced my steps out the door and down the stairs with full speed as my dad reached for his leather belt that he so generously used with the full force of a grown man to “teach” me about life ever since the time I was 6 years old.

As I raced up to the market place, I had a practical thought in my mind, “Where am I going to spend the night? There’s no way I’ll go back home, the old man will skin me alive and sell my skin to the tanners”. Lost in thoughts of regret and survival I walked on and on. After much thinking I realized that I wasn’t familiar to any place except the stadium. So I reached the stadium, jumped the wall and entered, it was pitch-dark inside. I crossed the basketball court the jogging-track and reached the seating area that was made of bricks. I sat there in quiet darkness thinking what I was going to do next; I was hoping that dad wouldn’t track me down to the stadium. I wasn’t crying, I was just terrified…terrified of my dad, terrified of the cap owner, terrified at the thoughts of my class mates, terrified at the thoughts of my school, terrified at the thoughts of my team mates, terrified of the people on the street outside…terrified of the notorious pack stray dogs living in that area around the stadium. In fact so terrified was I that night that the cold, rough, hard earthen surface I was sitting on, the pitch black surroundings and the black cloudy sky (I remember I couldn’t see any stars) actually felt very comforting. There were millions of thoughts going on in my head, then after sitting and thinking about random stuff for a long time I felt sleepy. I stretched my limbs on the sitting area and dozed off.

Droplets of water and thunder woke me up (I did not have a watch with me so I had no idea what time it was); it started to rain. I thought “why don’t I go back home, I’ll sleep near the stairs and dad will probably let me in, in the morning. Better to be running fever and found outside home than be running fever and walk all the distance back home in the morning…where else would I go?” The sound of the thunder was unpleasant enough and lightening flashes illuminated the wildly swaying trees that were now looking like giant monsters with ominous intentions. I ran up to the wall and jumped out of that eerie place. I ran as fast as I could (thankfully I was wearing shoes not slippers). Home was around 1.5 kms away from the stadium; I covered the distance pretty quickly. Running in all that rain wasn’t a very nice experience but fortunately the rain kept the stray dogs at bay (they would’ve never forgiven me for trespassing…they got quite aggressive as the night approached).

My “maturity” told me that dad would probably be sleeping soundly in his bed. When I neared the park in front of the house, I saw a silhouette some distance away from me. It was my dad calling out my name, thinking I was hiding in some corner somewhere nearby (my home range was much larger than he thought). His cries were subdued by the loud sound of thunder and rainfall.
“He’s not asleep? I thought he’d be happy to have finally gotten rid of me!” I thought; I was genuinely surprised.

I went near him and as the lightening flashed, I saw his expressions change from that of helplessness to relief on seeing me. In a calm voice said “ghar chalo” (come home). I followed quietly, we walked homeward in the rain; there were neither hugs of joy (though I could see that he was relieved on seeing me) nor the dreaded beatings (there was always a possibility of that happening). He walked ahead of me, I was expecting to be roughed up on reaching home but that didn’t happen. He opened the door for me, gave me a towel and told me to dry up and change clothes. He was poker-faced all this time and I couldn’t really decipher what was going on in his mind. I changed and went to bed; it was 2:00am in the morning.

I went to school the next day on time and it passed like any normal day, I didn't talk much to anyone, another evening at the basketball training (that was the only place where I experienced it is, I was claustrophobic) and another few minutes spent with dad at the dinner table…all in an uneasy silence...but I was inside my house...I was thankful for that!

The clocked ticked and I dozed off in my bed listening to it.

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