Ankit stood in the center of the room.
Principal ma’am took a step towards him and hissed: where do you
learn such evil things from?
moist eyes- and kept wriggling his toes in his cheap canvas shoes. He
wanted to say many things, many words: No, Wait, But, How..
his tongue- like little children trying to squeeze out of the narrow
side gate of Malgudi Primary School at the last bell.
edge of a low wooden bench. Yes, the bench meant for children
awaiting punishment in Principal’s office. She raised her hand to
say- But Ma’am, I was no where near.. But Ma’am raised her
hand to silence her…
the 1989 in this sleepy little town. Funny, saucy and sad…
related to me during a bus journey. The person sitting next to me,
who had difficulty buying his ticket, opened up when I mentioned that
I too some time get stuck on words- especially destination. While
everyone dozed off as the bus moved through verdant valleys, we kept
on reminiscing about our childhood.
mysterious boy in class 5. Mysterious- because he could tell you the
square of 45 or 65 without pen and paper- but had difficulty telling
which city was the capital of India! Quick witted in the play ground
but pretty dumb inside the class room. He had problems speaking
sometime and Jayant was his only friend. Jayant was the only child
who intuitively knew when to be silent so that Ankit could finish
whatever he was saying laboriously- and also, when not to look at
Ankit’s face! In fact, they were famous as friends in the school. If
you were looking for Jayant- just find Ankit- and he will be close by
and vice versa.
was around, no matter what. In fact they both sat in the front row
together. If Jayant was asked a question, Ankit was always able to
give him a hint – using his eyes and gestures. Roll calls in the
morning assembly was another situation where the two friends helped
each other- sometime by giving the proxy or by just giving a push.
Saying “Yes Ma’am” was difficult for Ankit without a helpful
shove from his friend- especially when he was distracted in some
during assembly. Ankit was looking for him anxiously. Roll call was
about to begin. He was not worried so much about himself – but
about Jayant missing his roll call. Girls’ line stood next to the
boys’. He turned around to look back at the line- looking for Jayant.
No sign. Principal arrived. Everyone stood at attention. Ankit again
turned nervously to look back for Jayant – and to sign him, to come
ahead in the line, next to him. His head brushed the girl standing
next to him. He heard a snicker. He looked back- no sign of Jayant- but
he saw the wide grinning face of the class bully.
girl! Did you see?
whispers too- gathering like monsoon clouds.. Ankit could hear it still. Back of his head and neck
tingled. He could feel all eyes on him- as if piercing him right
through to his bones.
kept his eyes closed and tried not to sway too much.
the contents changed. In first period, it was: Ankit kissed the
girl. By third period, it was: Ankit kissed Sanjana!
Sanjana was that cute girl in the class, whom everyone was very fond
of. By lunch time, some teachers were looking at Ankit with a strange
expression. Jayant – his tower of strength- was sick and absent
that day. Ankit kept on wondering what to do. He swallowed his
spittle and kept on looking at his book harder, as the science
teacher hovered at the periphery of his vision. Fortunately, he did
not ask any questions to Ankit.
a safe distance from Ankit. No one wanted to get into trouble.
Finally, it was the last period. Ankit gave a sigh of relief. Now he
could go home and play with the calf. Their cow had calved recently.
He had brought the special thick milk for the class teacher, just a
few days back. Will all that help today? He wondered.
teacher, signed Ankit to stay back. Other children ran out noisily.
He was marched to the Principal’s office. He was surprised to see
Sanjana sitting in a corner: her eyes wide with fear. She did not
need to fear though. Her great grand-father had donated the land on
which, the school stood today.
out from behind her huge desk. Looking at him- as if he were an
exotic beetle. She repeated her question thrice. The boy just kept
staring down. His silence was incriminating. Ma’am did not know what
to do with such a child. If it was stealing- five canes would have
settled it. But this obnoxious behaviour from a little tyke?
father- this is a serious matter, The principal thought and
turned around to go back to her writing table. Suddenly she heard a
noise behind her. By the time she was able to swing her heavy frame
around, Ankit was out of the office in one bound and running helter-skelter
towards the gate. Fortunately there was no gate keeper in sight. As
he cleared the gate and turned left to his village- he took a quick
glance back: Principal ma’am and Sanjana, were standing at the door,
to help me in the fields for next ten days?? What about your school?”
Ankit’s father handed him the tether of the calf, as he finished
milking the cow.
weeks because the principal has died; dont worry- I will go later;
let me help you in the meantime..”
she could fill her stomach with her mother’s milk. His father always
left enough for the calf. He felt happy watching the calf jerking her
head and feeding noisily. He felt a little bad about the little lie –
was sure God will understand and forgive.
that? I could not help asking him.
a salesman, I met her once. I was showing her this washing machine,
that I was selling those days… she remembered that event and said –
I learned only that day that you stammered and that what a ‘big
deal’ it was- Till then, I thought that your blinking of eyes when
you talked was quite cute..”
ran off?– the child within me could not be silenced.
away, strangely, she suddenly felt very brave and told the principal
that she was nowhere near me in the line and the whole thing was just
a bogus story.. and the ma’am kept repeating like a robot: why
didn’t he say so? why didn’t he say so?..”
and moved on – like our lives.
That was my first break!”
pure facts! No offence meant to anyone. I wish to thank Ankit from Malgudi! sachin)