The school in which I studied was closed before the year completed, the Principal of that school using his influence pulled in a bigger school to start a new school and to take up all the students. Thus a new school was opened in Nanganallur by the name of Besant L.V.R. This period is very special, as the strength of this school was 63, and my class strength was 8. During this time I somehow picked up interest in Maths and Science, unlike my classmates I started understanding things when I read, I wanted to read more and learn more as I used to finish my books very soon.
My First Crime
I started having an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, which led me to do things that I should have never done. My first crime, I stole a convex lens from the school lab. I still regret doing it. To be honest there was an immense thrill in doing it. I then in the backyard would take some match sticks, place their heads together, and show the lens over it, so the sun’s rays when brought to a focus will burn the match sticks. I then started to place some papers below the match stick and did the same. I don’t know why, that act gave me immense pleasure. In fact that moment, during those days was the happiest feeling.
My neighbour (there were 5 small houses in the same compound) I don’t know their names, we call them as senthil appa and senthil amma (Senthil and Uma are their kids). They were quite poor, he used to have a merry go round and that was his only income. He used to get small things every day to his kid, I never felt jealous, but I always used wonder why my father was not getting anything for me. Couple of days after I stole the lens, I was playing the same game in evening, before my parents came home. Senthil’s mom, who came down to dry the clothes saw what I was doing, and she scolded me (don’t know why) and threatened me that she will inform my parents. I was really scared. After she went away, I collected all the ashes, crushed them and buried it in the soil, washed my hands thoroughly, put in every effort not to get caught. I hid the lens deep inside my bag and was trying to act normal, but my heart was beating fast and I was very anxious.
My parents came, and nothing bad happened. I safely went to school the next day and placed the lens back in the lab (it is not a lab actually, it is a small school and one set of shelves is called as the lab). I was cursing myself, and recollecting what my grand ma told me about stealing. Made a resolution that I would never steal anything (I later added some exceptions to this rule). For some reason I was intimidated when I saw Senthil Amma after that incident.
Again Science played a part in my sufferings:
There was a hospital by the name of Hariharan Hospital near my school. They used to throw away the disposable syringes outside. That day at school I learned about air pressure, and how a syringe and a barometer worked. I got fascinated when I saw the syringes, so I picked one. This time I was happy, because I did not steal it and just picked a waste on the road. I need not worry now, as Senthil Amma or any one will not say anything. So i was pulling the water, and forcing it out continuously trying to understand what is happening inside it. Not completely comprehending how that happened, I placed it near my bag. When my father came, I could sense danger. I was studying 6th, so by then I had tremendous experience and I exactly knew whether I would get thrashed or not. I was sure that I would be trashed that day, so started exploring all the possible reasons for that to happen. The first thing that I noticed was the side dish for food was not closed, I made up my mind and slowly went and closed that with a lid. Everything else seemed perfect, the house was clean, my books and bag were placed in the correct corner, the windows were shut (to prevent mosquitoes) so there was a slight ray of hope for me (These are the regular things for which I will be get beaten up). I thought that I might escape that day, but alas! I have always been a stupid, no matter what I do, on those bad days I will be trashed invariably and will be half dead. Science was his accomplice that day; he saw the syringe and asked me why it has come inside the house. Instead of understanding the scenario and the danger, I was telling him the entire story of how that came inside and what I learnt. I don’t know if I learned anything before narrating that story, but I learnt an important lesson after narrating. The lesson was “I was a big stupid”.
Getting beaten up, is a routine for me. That day though was a bit different, I have been beaten up severely before that day as well, also I have been beaten badly after that incident as well and till I was in the second year of college I got beaten up severely. That incident was not tolerable, I could not bear the pain, as he hit me and threw me (literally) out. I fell outside on a rough and broken cement floor, and my face landed on the floor, causing a lot of damage to areas in my cheek. My mom did not speak a word. Senthil Amma, who came running hearing the sound of my screams, lifted me and took me to her house. She then came out and scolded my father, my father went in to the house and did not reply a word.
She then put some medicine, I don’t know what. I was happy, I asked to myself “why did I not get a mom like Senthil Amma?”. I don’t know where they are and what they are doing, but that gesture meant a lot to me. Anyone would have done that, but she took care of me when I really needed help. I will not forget her; I just wish I meet them again in my life.
I did not go to school for the next full week. I was just sitting at home, think about ways to make my life better. The only thing that I could do is to go to a temple and prayed for my liberation (not ultimate liberation, but liberation from my parents). In another couple of weeks the exams came, I don’t remember how I did the exams. I then went to my native, we used to go in a passenger train (unreserved compartment), it will be too crowded and a distance of 283 kms will be covered over 9 hours. There is no way one could lie down and sleep. But I squeeze myself under the lower berth and lie down counting numbers. Those 9 hours used to be the most anxious time in my life then. I can never sleep, I keep dreaming about playing kitti pul (gilli danda) with Kannan Anna, and my gang of Ramesh, Venkatesh and Muttai. Sleep then will take control and I will be in Mayiladuthurai Junction. I can feel the goose bumps while I write about that event. I should walk a few kilo meters to reach home. The moment, I start crossing the bus stand, people will start acknowledging me and by the time I reach my home I will be mobbed.
All of a sudden things changed from the worst to the best. I had complete freedom and complete happiness. Strangely I was not completely happy. I always feared going back to Chennai and that fear surpassed the happiness that I had. I was stupid, instead of enjoying the days completely, I spent most of the time ruining the fact that my happiness was only temporary and the days are counted. It is hard to explain, just imagine the mental agony of a person going to a doctor for an ailment and when the doctor says “You will die at 7 pm after 10 days”. Some may be smart enough to enjoy those 10 days, but the majority suffer every moment of it. My case was quite similar, the fear of going back to Chennai was so over powering that I could not enjoy my stay at my native thoroughly. What made the matters worse was the speed at which the time flew. All of a sudden only a day more was left, I went to temple and was weeping the whole evening. I tried convincing my grand ma to keep me with her, but she was handicapped in this issue. What can she do?
First real act of bravery:
On the final day, my father came to take me back to Chennai. He went to my aunt’s place. Something told me to be brave, to take a decision against my father. So I decided to run away from home. The problem is I was quite famous in my locality, and some one or the other would get me and take me to my home. The first hurdle though was to escape my father, like always I went to the temple. The temple is really huge; I went around and around several times, thinking about my action and the possible consequences. When I passed the small Ganapathy Sannidhi within the temple, I got an idea. This sannidhi will not be taken care like other Sannidhis. I went in and hid myself next to Ganapathy. I was sweating a lot. Somehow I managed to kill time. It was quite dark, but I was not aware of the time, but I was sure that my father would have left without me.
I came out of the temple and wandered around roads aimlessly. My friend Ramesh spotted me, and told me that there was a lot of trouble as the whole street went out in search of me and also said that my father left to Chennai. I was relieved; he then asked me where I was hiding all the time. I told him that I was hiding beside the Ganapathy, and for that he said “I came there as well, but I did not find you because you (and ganapathy) both look alike”. That later became a famous way of addressing me. Whenever my friends tease me, the first thing they will start with is this incident.
I came home and my Grand ma scolded me, they were all scared. Now the information was conveyed to my father, and he told them that he would come in a couple of days to get me. I kept pleading my Grand ma and my aunt not to send me back. It was really ironical, after realising that there is no reprieve, the time which moves in a flash when I stay in my native became very slow, I just wanted to get over this whole issue. I was sure that I would be beaten to death, I was prepared for that, but I just wanted that thing to happen soon, so that I can become normal. My father came, I was taken to Chennai. Not a word spoken, he stopped talking to me. I enjoyed that week thoroughly not even hit once for the whole week but what made that period happier was he did not talk to me at all.
I was stupid to assume that he would never talk to me again, and would never hit me again. I was patting myself for my act of bravery. He came back that evening; I could sense danger in the air. He grabbed my hair lifted me with that and hit the hell out of me. He stopped after becoming a bit tired, and then started shouting, that I never asked sorry and was happy during that one week. I then made up my mind, that there is no way I can be happy.
But all this events made my sister a better person, better as in by the law of Darwin, “Survival of the fittest”. She somehow learnt the art of escaping from my father, she always put up a show of being sick and weak and the moment my father shouts she will ask 100s of sorrys before he could do something. It looked more like a cinema to me, I could not do that, I don’t know why I never tried doing that. Darwin may be wrong about a few things, but not with this statement “Survival of the fittest”. I was stupid and was not fit to survive in that environment.
Let us see how I managed to survive there in the next chapter.