This is an incomplete work- extract from the book I am writing. I am not sure when it will be a complete book. If you feel that it is not worth reading, I may not complete it ever.
The School Days
I was little more than a boy of eight when I started to love Indu. I still remember her in the white and white school uniform we had to wear on Mondays. Her hair was in pony-tail, tied with a red ribbon. If I remember right, the belt that was part of the Monday uniform too was red in color. Unlike other girls in the class, she was clean and tidy. I remember no time she had a blemish on her uniform even after the extravagantly festive physical education sessions. While washing my white and white outfits mom used to tell:
"Be like Indu. She is not a piglet like you. Are you coming back from school or from the fields?".
Though such remarks were annoying, I never protested. Even after using a great amount of fabric whitener the clothes still had a nasty tint. It was like a wall whitewashed using a mixture of lime and mud. Indu's clothes, they were as good as new till the end of the school year. For, she never climbed guavas or mango trees on our way to school. According to her, climbing a tree was something masculine a girl should not do. Whenever I pointed out that there were female-climbers who did the job better than me, tears fell down her eyes. That was something my little heart could not bear. Fruits like gooseberry that cause stain never went to her pockets. She had great faith in me and allowed me to keep her share as well as mine in my pockets. Since I was given a better status among the men folk, I cared little for those stains. None among the boys were better climbers than me and the female-climbers who were able to outwit me never cared a fig for her. They used to call her Maharani (the Great Queen).
Indu considered all other girls snotty and used to sneak on them whenever she had a chance. It was she who passed the news to Lekshmi's parents that Santhosh kissed Lekshmi. It was just a peck. But according to Indu's version the crime happened thrice and I had to testify that. I was afraid to be an informer. Santhosh was supposed to be the greatest fighter in the school, who was not lenient even during the playful fist-fights. But I had to risk my safety for the love of the prettiest girl in the school. She had fair complexion and was clean and tidy. Lekshmi too, had a fair complexion but she was not clean and tidy. The way she had her hairdo was not fashionable at all.
Lekshmi's mother, peevish by nature, beat her daughter like anything and spat nearly on Santhosh's mother's face when they chanced to meet on the road. For a week I had a fear that Santhosh would fix me. But nothing happened. He did not speak to me for a week. Later I bribed him with sweets and he declared that he had nothing against me. That was a great relief. I had the worst fear that he would kick me down right in font of Indu.
I used not to save my pocket money and I had to take five rupees out of my mother's handbag to bribe Santhosh. The money was part of the family kitty and I never thought I would be caught. But mom was keeping count and I was caught after a few days. She caned me severely. Cane marks were visible all over my legs and the knickerbockers could not cover them fully. I had no pants then. I hired a pair from my cousin who lived in the neighbourhood. They did not fit me and had a foolish, playful appearance.
The very idea of borrowing was against my mother’s disciplinary policies, that too, from my cousin who had nasty childhood diseases like eczema. She reminded me the famous proverb.
‘Borrowed garments never fit well’.
My then age was not ripe enough to digest any perplexingly detailed proverbs like that. But her fears of eczema seemed meaningful to me. If caught, Indu would not care for me. She had flawless skin and had a hatred towards chums with ignoble diseases like eczema. Mother tried her best to dissuade me.
‘See you brat, the discharge from the inflammation must be there. My dog will care you if it is communicated.’
She squeezed my ears several times before allowing me to take the clown-like trousers my cousin lent me. The cousin was so fat that he had the fattest haunches for the age. I was slim like Indu. Though we had almost the same height the trousers were too long for me. My mother was of the opinion that it was because of the emaciated haunches I had. Somehow I fastened them to my waist using the strongest belt I had. Mother had washed away my fears of eczema with strong detergent and hot water. When I told her of the importance of hiding the cane marks from others, she had that motherly smile and announced her decision to wash them using strong detergent and hot water. I was relieved. The trousers would hide the cane marks and the clown-like look was of no account when compared to this advantage.
I must admit that I am a bad story-teller. You must be wondering why I have not given any geographical details yet. I know that geographical details are important in any kind of narration and I will account for it in the due course. When I was studying literature at college, my professor used to give long soporific lectures on factors like geographical details. But at that time it seemed of little or no importance to me and I used to dream of Indu who was studying medicine abroad then. At this point, the only geographical factor in point is the positioning of our houses, facing each other, separated by a narrow village road that was never tarred. She used to come to my house and whenever I had a chance to visit her I never missed it.
When I was caught for the theft she was not home. She had been to the neighbouring town where her uncle was a police inspector. We had no association with the police clan and had to rely on her to clear our doubts on the police force. Once she told us:
“My uncle has a gun with him all the time. Whenever he gets angry with people he shoots them down. Since he is in the force there is no need to worry about getting arrested”.
That seemed logical. We had seen a few films in which the men in uniform were gunning down several people. None of them were nabbed. Since all those films were in other languages there was little room for reasoning. But the policemen who came to our village when butcher Kunjappu committed suicide, had no guns. They were carrying feeble bamboo sticks even we could make easily. Indu declared that only higher ranked officers are given guns and that those who appeared in the village were inferiors.
Since most of her relatives were in the city she could boast of a lot of things we had not seen even in our dreams. I too had a lot of relatives. But majority of them had their dwellings in the immediate vicinity and the rest were living in distant lands reachable only by air or sea.
Indu always had an eye for the minute details. My mother used to tell that she knew more than what was needed at her age. I was lucky that she was on tour when I was caught for the theft. I never wanted her to know that. But my younger sister betrayed me. She disclosed the secret. That might have been for a few chocolates Indu brought from town. The issue was presented before my mother. Her verdict was that my sister must not mention the incident again in the future. That was enough. Though my sister was a tomboy she never had the courage to neglect mother’s orders. She knew that disobedience would be treated with cane. I was not sure whether Indu was going to spread it or not.
The same afternoon while we were playing in the vast yard that was used to dry pepper and coffee bean, she asked me to show her the cane marks. I was hesitant.
‘So you don’t count me as a friend?’ She asked.
“You are my best friend. I never climb trees for other girls and never share the fruits and sweets with anyone else”. I replied.
But she was stubborn like a monkey and I had to show her the cane marks. She promised not to say a dickey bird about it to anyone. However, the other day everybody at school knew why there had been a change in my outfits. That was shocking.