Chapter 4: Life is tough, but it’s tougher when you’re stupid

Life is tough - Ajithkumar

The school in which I studied was closed before the end of that academic year. The Principal being an influential person started another school named Beasant L.V.R Hr. Sec School. The head count of that school was 63, and my class strength was 8. During that phase of my life, I picked up interest in Maths and Science. Unlike my classmates I understood how things worked and I also had a way with numbers.  I was very much interested in learning new things.

My First Crime

I had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, I read all my books within the first month of that academic year. With nothing to study I started doing other things of my interest. I committed my first crime, I stole a convex lens from the school lab. I still regret doing it. In the backyard I placed some match sticks, with their heads together, and brought the convex lens over it. The sun’s rays would then burn the match sticks. I then placed some papers below the match sticks and did the same. I dreamed about creating machines that could cook and press clothes using the head produced by giant lenses.

One of my neighbors, I don’t remember their names as we called them as senthil appa and senthil amma, talked to me regularly. They were quite poor, the father used to have a merry go round and that was his only source of income. He used to get small things every day for his children, I never felt jealous, but wondered why my father was not getting me anything. Couple of days later, Senthil’s mom saw me burning the match sticks using the lens, and scolded me (don’t know why) and threatened me that she would inform my parents. I was really scared. After she left, I collected the ashes and the match sticks and buried them in the soil. I washed my hands off, put in everything in order. I hid the lens deep inside my bag and was trying to act normal, but my heart was pounding.

Life is tough - AjithkumarMy parents came, and the night passed without any incidents. I went to the school the next day and placed the lens back in the lab (it was not actually a lab, but just a couple of racks with a few test tubes, lenses and magnets). I was cursing myself, and recollected the moral stories told by my grand mother. I then made a resolution not steal anything, ever. I was intimidated whenever I saw Senthil’s mother after that incident.

When Science Became My Enemy:

Hariharan Hospital, a popular hospital right next to our school was a major landmark back then.  The hospital authorities used to throw away the disposable syringes out in the open (not any more). That day at the school I learned about air pressure, and how syringes and barometers worked. I got fascinated when I saw some syringes in the garbage bin next to the hospital, so I picked one. This time I was happy, because I did not steal anything and just picked an useless item from a garbage bin. I took some water in a bowl and played with the syringe trying to understand how it worked. I understood how a syringe worked, but was not able to comprehend how a barometer could show the pressure.

By then, I was with my parents for a three full years,  and I developed a kind of intuition. I could sense my father’s mood, the moment he entered our house and would know right away if I would be beaten for some reason.  On that day I sensed the danger, and hence explored all the possible reasons for him to beat me. The first thing that I noticed was an uncovered deep fry pan with food, gathering some courage I tip-toed and closed the pan with a lid. Everything else was perfect, the house was clean, my bag and books were placed in order, and the windows were shut to prevent mosquitoes so there was a ray of hope that I would escape any horror. I covered all my bases, those were the things for which I got beaten up regularly. Alas! I had always been a stupid, I did not realize that no matter what I did, on those bad days I would be trashed. Science was his accomplice that day; he saw the syringe and asked me the reason for having a syringe. Instead of understanding the danger, I told him the entire story. In addition to learning a bit of science that day, I also learnt an important life lesson that I was a stupid.

Getting beaten up, was nothing new, I have been beaten by my parents until I turned 19. It used to be a routine activity, however that day was different.  I was not able to tolerate the pain, as he hit me and threw me (literally) out of the hose. I landed on my face over a course gravel floor, causing a lot of damage to areas in my cheek and ear. My mother did not speak a word, however my neighbor, Senthil’s mother, came running hearing the sounds of my screams. She lifted me and took me to her house. She then went out and scolded my father, my father just shut the door without replying her.

She then put some medicine, I don’t know what. I was happy, but could not understand why some women are good while the others are cruel.  I don’t know where they are now and what they are doing, but that gesture meant a lot to me. I will never forget her and her kindness; I just wish I meet them again someday.

I did not go to school for the next full week. I was just sitting at home thinking about ways to make my life better. I went to temples and prayed for my liberation (not the ultimate liberation, but liberation from my parents). I had my exams, I don’t remember how well I did those exams.  I went to my native for the vacation, we used to go in a passenger train and would take 10 hours to cover a mere 283 km.  The compartment used to be too crowded and there was no way one could lie down and sleep. However I used to squeeze myself under the lower berth trying to get some sleep by counting numbers. Those 10 hours used to be the most anxious time of my life. I would not be able to sleep, I used to dream about playing kitti pul (gilli danda) with Kannan Anna, and my gang of Ramesh, Venkatesh and Muttai.

I get goosebumps whenever I think about that adrenaline rush. It might sound silly, I was not jumping off from a mountain or running for my life, but just the thought of seeing my grandmother and  friends after a torturous four months gave me that adrenaline rush. I had to walk a few kilo meters to reach home and as I got closer to my home, people would start acknowledging me and by the time I reached home my friends and neighbors would mob me.

Again I experienced a 180 degree shift in my life. I had absolute freedom and happiness. The only blot being, the fear of going back to Chennai. I was stupid, instead of enjoying those few days, I spent most of the time ruining  my happiness by counting the number of days left. Like I said in my previous post that feeling was synonymous to the mental agony of a convicted felon waiting for his electric chair. Some might enjoy the the last few days, however most would suffer every moment of their remaining life. I belonged to the latter category, as the fear of going back to Chennai was so overwhelming that I could hardly sleep at night. Time is relative, and those 10 days passed of like a jiffy. On the penultimate day I went to our temple and cried for over two hours. I tried to convince my grand mother to keep me with her, but she had no say.

My First Act of Bravery:

On the final day, my father came to take me back. When he went to my aunt’s house, I decided to make a move against my father. I decided to run away, but I was handicapped by the fact that I was quite famous in my locality, and someone or the other would take me  home. I took one step at a time, the first move was to get away from my father, so I went to the temple. Our temple is really huge; I went around the temple several times plotting my next move. When I passed the small Ganapathy Sannidhi within the temple, I got an idea. People would not look for me there as that particular sannidhi was often neglected by the temple authorities. I went in and hid behind the Ganapathy statue. I was hungry and lost track of time. I left the temple assuming that my father would have left.

I came out of the temple and aimlessly wandered the streets. All my neighbors become bounty hunters, hunting for my head. My friend Ramesh spotted me and took me home. I was relieved; on the way home I narrated the events to my friends and told them about hiding behind the Ganapathy statute. Ramesh said that he searched me even at that place , and probably failed to notice me because I was as dark and fat as the statue was. People still joke about that incident.

My grandmother scolded me a lot as she was scared. The information was conveyed to my father, and he told them that he would come in a couple of days to get me. I begged my grandmother and aunt not to send me back. In a strange irony, the time that usually flies off in jiffy whenever I stayed in my native was moving like a snail. I was looking for a way out, when there was none. I was sure of being beaten to a pulp and I was prepared for that, but I just wanted that to happen immediately. My father came, and took me to Chennai. Not a word was spoken, he completely stopped talking to me. I enjoyed that week thoroughly, as I was not beaten even once, probably the first full week in Chennai without getting hit. I was happy that we had no interaction that week.

I was stupid to assume that he would never talk to me, and would never hit me again. I was patting myself for my act of bravery, but everything changed when he came back that day. I could smell the danger in the air, he grabbed my hair lifted me and slapped me several times. I was beaten to a pulp, and he stopped probably after becoming tired of hitting me. He shouted at me for not being apologetic and being happy. That day reinforced my belief that I could never be happy if I stayed with my parents.

All these events made my sister a better person, in other words made her a fitter person to survive in our jungle (home). She learnt the art of crying and pleading instantly, she had that uncanny ability to evoke sympathy. She would apologize over a hundred times before my father could beat hear. Moreover my father had a soft corner for her because she was sick for most part of the year. She could always act her way out of trouble, but I lacked that ability. Darwin may be wrong about a few things, but not about “Survival of the fittest”. I was stupid and was not fit enough to survive in that environment.

Meet you in the next chapter.