It was one of those fine mornings right after the summer break. I was getting ready for my school wondering what good would this new academic year offer me. I almost always had negative opinion about school and that strengthened after I was punished by my class teacher exactly a year before when I was in my class One. Then, I was not sure why she had to punish me for what I did. I later learned that’s what one would call difference of opinion, she considered what I did mischief and I felt it’s absolutely normal to make the little Aina, my bench mate, sit on my slate every time I wanted to clean it. As a matter of fact, Sonia Miss was a cute lady, and I used to like her teaching style. And the other reason being, I was not sure in what way all this learning would help me with my life, wondering if this schooling is important, wondering if my mom and dad also went through all these phases and wondering why school had to be so early in the morning at 9.00AM.
With all the heaviness in my heart, I dressed myself in the school uniform - maroon shorts, white shirt and a matching maroon belt and tie with all of them, save my shorts, having my school name embroidered. But why should a school have uniform? I was this kid with lots of questions, and with all those I could have easily made my parents mad. But the questions were all unanswered as they were never questioned. I was this silent kid who rarely speaks a word to people around. I once overheard my parents asking my elder brother Vikki if something was worrying me, and if he knew the reason for me being so silent. Vikki simply shrugged and left home for a cricket match when his friends started shouting 'Vikas, Vikas…' standing at the door step. All that left me wondering again if being silent is abnormal!
I was done with my breakfast after my struggle with those two hardest pieces of deadly idly for around half an hour. I collected my bag full of books which rarely made sense to me. And went to the living room which had a curved wall full of cabinets decorated with flashy toys and decorative ware on which I never laid my hands. Beside that was the framed picture of Lord Ganesha. I made a practice to wish him good day before I go to school every day. As always I felt a strong need for repaint of the curved wall as I could never escape seeing the color after wishing Ganesha bye and I developed this belief that looking at the dull green color of the wall makes my day dull. Then I would go find my shoes in the corner near the entrance to living hall, and head to one of the most difficult work tying the shoelaces. My mom made sure to untie my shoelaces every evening I return back from school, so that I would tie them every morning. She believed that tying shoelaces would serve as an exercise to my little brain and would make it sharper. It did may be, maybe not.
I would wait for my rickshaw to come and pick me up to school. On seeing the rickshaw at the far end of the street, I would utter a word for the first time in the day 'Ma, bye'. A quick response came back in the familiar shrill voice 'Akki, take care', from the kitchen as she would be arranging breakfast for Vikky bhayya. Until dad bought him a new bicycle when he turned 10 last year, Vikky bhayya used to come along with me in the rickshaw. That same day dad promised me that he would buy me one when I turn 10 as well. Still, two long years to go! Ashwit, the one with fat thighs, Munna, the round faced and Rajni, the little ill looking girl with running nose were my rickshaw mates. All I would do in response to their 'Hello Akhil', 'Good morning', 'Hi Akki' was to return a sheepish shy smile without a word.
But something was not good. May be I was ill. There was a deserted muddy road which should be crossed on the way to school, and something made me feel things weren’t good every time I reached that part of my rickshaw ride to school. There was something following us, I would look around to see the faces of others around but none seem to be bothered. This same feeling used to come to me again and again.
My pulse started increasing, and I was sweating profusely. I was afraid, afraid as hell gathering all my courage to see who’s following us; following us with the hissing sound, scaring the hell out of me. I was gathering all my courage to make my boldest move, to turn around and look who or what’s following us. I was shocked to see what’s following us; it was around 15 foot long and looked real big with lower half of its body on the ground and the other half as vertical as a man could stand. With its hoods facing us!
Hell no! The more I told my mind not to believe in what I saw, the more realistic I felt of everything around. It was a golden brown colored multi hooded snake, the scariest thing I ever saw moving real fast towards us. I felt as if my heart was beating faster than it could, making me afraid it would break down. My shirt was totally wet, my mind taking me places, my heart pounding and my whole body aching. The last thing I could remember seeing was the monster real close.
Everything went dark, ‘Is it the end?’ was all I said to myself and woke up from my bed to see Vikki lying beside me. And said to myself ‘the same one again! It’s the same dream since past 4 years’. Today, Vikki is going to residential school 200 miles away from my hometown. I remember crying to sleep last night, I felt stupid to cry even though I grew 12, ride bicycle, and watch horror movies. But thinking of how alone I will be after Vikky bhayya leaves, I couldn’t control myself. Vikky, my bro, I will miss you.
(to be continued...)