Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Losing little Sam

Coming from a defense background imbibed into my brother and me the joy of relocating every second year. It came with the excitement of packing, sad adios to fellow mates and most enthusiastically being invited to share a meal with a fellow fauji and his family. I looked forward to the meal always. Relocating every second year meant a lot of train journeys, in dangerous train stations.  With Dad being into the fighting front, we always got posted to hard living area like Kashmir or, Assam. Trust me when I say, that those stations are far unsafe than the normally unsafe railway stations of Bangalore or, Chennai. And at every such journey that we took, the minute we stepped on to the railway station, mom/dad would recite to us, "If you ever got lost, stay where you are. Papa or, Mummy would come find you no matter what or, how long it takes." And they would ask my 5 year old brother and the 3 year old me repeat, "If we got lost, no matter what, we would stay at the same place till papa or, mummy came found us." Thinking back of it now, as a parent myself, I understand how important this recital for them was.
Enough of  me already. This post comes from one such childhood incident when Sam found himself lost. His parents never felt they or, Sam would ever be presented an opportunity to be lost. But fate, it needs no opportunity now. Does it? I hope I capture Sam's emotions as vividly as he told it to me.

Loosing little Sam

May 1993, I remember the joy of the last day of the term break came with. Grade III was behind me and tomorrow, I would be a IV Grader -- Big boy! Writing with an ink pen rather than, the eternally lead breaking pencil. Dressed to compliment cuteness, my sister and, I were all set, waiting for our Dad to take us shopping. My sister took the front place while, I mounted the rear seat and waited for our Dad to occupy the driver’s seat of the scooter. With responsibility written across his face, Dad, joyously drove to Bada Bazar to the enthusiastic sound of his children and their petty demands. 
Entering the majestic Bada Bazar gave me the chills. So elated was I to get my new ink pen.

I was bought a transparent ink pen. The most beautiful one the shop had. To compliment it was a bottle filled with the most spectacular blue liquid, two extra nibs, just in case the original nib of my beautiful ink pen gave away. Apart from it were ink filler and, an eraser that could wipe away the mistakes this ink pen of mine could unintentionally make. My dad let me select a nice blue color box to carry my stationary. Seeing the shop keeper bill my demands, felt like being bathed in a tide of joy. I did not scream with joy, neither did I bounce about in happiness but, I feel the shine in my delighted 8 year old eye must have given it away. No wonder my Dad let me hold my shopping goodies instead, of mixing them up with all the other things. I held on tight to the blue box that comfortably accommodated my new pen and all things that escorted it. My left hand held by Dad, and my right held by the blue box! A little boy's left hand and, a big boy's right hand. My right hand had all the power. It had the power to sign important documents, power to impress everyone at school. It gave me the authority a decision maker walks with. I kept starring at this blue box which held within itself such important things of my innocent life. You may accuse me of not being a 100% faithful. I agree that I cheated on it. During my continuous stares and loving smiles I gave this box, I did occasionally glimpse at the mad crowd around me. I did flirt with the surroundings of Bada Bazar but, the box my right hand held, was my true love. I would defend myself saying it was curiosity that made me look at my surroundings, but the box would not believe me. Crying for attention, it jumped out of my hands. But my responsible hands would not let it go just yet. Would they? I knelt down to it, took the box in my hands again and looked her in the eyes and smiled. I got on to my feet encouraging the box to smile back at me and, all of a sudden, I realize, my left hand has been left. Left lonely out there a midst the mad crowd. It was a crowd eagerly waiting for an opportunity to grab a little boy's shirt by its collar. Rip the shirt apart to find a tiny body with perfect, angelic hands and legs. I recalled my Ma telling me, "Sam, never venture out alone. There are people out there who if caught by, would chop your leg off and make you beg the streets near the signal." All kinds of horrors crossed my mind. Every smiling face felt criminal like. Every other eye was on me, amusing on the ocean that flew out of my eyes. Every mobile or, immobile creature felt like a vulture waiting to prey on me. Criminals from across the bazar were running towards me. The fastest one to reach me could have my legs which he could chop off my body and prepare me to beg the streets. The face of fear, and the taste of it, made the ghost of my body jump out of me. Just while I was witnessing my ghost leave me, did I hear a whistle I was so comforted by. By the sound of it, I knew my father had found me. I turned around and saw a familiar hand wave in my direction. It must have been a distance of 200 meters but, that 200 meters felt as long as it felt short. I jumped over the tiny shops lined at the footpath, shoved and pushed people to cover those 200 meters in the shortest possible time. A part of me knew there were people hurling abuses over me, cursing me for destroying their lives. A part of me knew my Dad was giving me directions on how to come, the civilized way. But all I could do was take the shortest possible distance and reach my dad within the quickest possible time. Thinking back of the day, if I continued running the way I did on this fateful day, I sure would have made India proud. It was bliss when I got to my dad and sister.I hugged my father. Kissed him profusely and swore I would never stop hugging him. I held on to him tight. I held Dad tight enough for him to smile and be frustrated at the same time. That day, I did not bother how young my sister was or, how older than her I was. I wanted to be carried by my father the way Deepa was.

I was lost for only a couple of minutes. I was lost for just 200 meters. But on that day, even those couple of minutes felt like eternity. Those 200 meters felt like a road to Rome from India. Till date, I remember the incident like it just happened to me. It does sound silly to my 28 year old mind now. But the helplessness and fear that the 8 year old me experienced on that day, still leaves behind chills to crack my bone and yet, leaves behind it a nostalgic smile.

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