Sunnu a novel by Suman Kumar

Chapter 2

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It is easy to spot a Little Flower kid. They wore maroon trousers, cream coloured shirts and maroon ties and you can bet your wealth that their shoes were always waxed and shining. We were well aware of our reputation and sometimes we stretched it too far. For instance, we would speak in English whenever we bumped into a bunch of municipal school kids. They used to hate us from the bottom of their hearts. We were called the 'English medium kids'. I was blissfully ignorant about all this at first and on my first day on foot to school, I had the misfortune of running into four municipal school kids.

"Hey! Look who we have here!" one of them hooted.

He was short, dark and looked absolutely sadistic. I was not scared. I was confused. I felt someone thump me on my head and found myself staring into the eyes of three guys. They looked like a pack of wolves that had captured an unsuspecting gazelle. They took my school bag and threw it down on the ground. Then they started roughing me up. I felt outraged. I was ashamed. I cried. They left me alone after some time and I picked up my bag and started ambling on towards school.

I told Trishanker about the incident. "Next time stand up to them. Don't come back like a coward," he said. Come back like a coward? Hello! I am not the type who picks up street fights and above all else, how the hell do you expect me to fight three goons? Well, Babu, my neighbour and my pal answered my question. My dad hated my getting along with Babu because he studied in the municipal school and his father was a peon in some government office. My dad, on the other hand, was an official in the veterinary department. Despite all these hurdles we got along well and were thickest of friends. Now, coming back to my troubles with those goons. I had a talk with Babu that evening. He was horrified.

"Why the hell didn't you come to my school and tell me?"

What? Come to your school? My school guys would have disowned me right away if I had done that. But then, I decided to do it Babu's way. So I went along with him that evening to Gaja's house.

I have to tell you about Gaja here. He was the uncrowned king of the municipal high school. No one messed with him. Simply put, there is God and there is Gaja. He lived in a stuffy house opposite the post office. He looked at me the way a lion would look at mongrel.

"What?" he barked. "Some of our guys are troubling Sunnu, He studies in Little Flower", Babu told him and looked at me sympathetically, as if studying in Little Flower was the biggest sin in the world.

That brought a huge grin on Gaja's face. "English medium kid, huh?" he asked me, sounding very interested, like the devil is in the sinner. I nodded. Gaja paused and pondered over for sometime before he decided.

"Don't worry, I'll take care of it," he said. Babu's face lit up with a big smile. I was relieved, but somehow I was not entirely comfortable about the whole thing. I sensed that my troubles were far from over.

"But that will cost you a little," Gaja dropped his nuke on me. I raised my eyebrows and looked at Babu and he just shrugged. "Ten bucks," Gaja quipped with a sarcastic smile.

Ten bucks! That was a fortune for me and there was no way I could arrange for such a large amount of money.

"OK," said Babu. OK? I was mad! Even before I could open my mouth, Babu lifted his hand, asking me to shut up.

"Fine, get lost now." Gaja said, and we scooted.

On our way back home, I was all over Babu.

"Somehow get the dough, or else these guys will have you for breakfast." Fantastic! This is what I needed now.

"But how?" I cried in despair.

"I donít know,† steal maybe?"

Babu answered and he even winked after saying that. I didn't quite get it at first, but then when it dawned on me what exactly he wanted me to do, I was dumb struck. He wanted me to steal the money from dad! No way was I going to steal from my dad. It was not a question of ethics, but it was of the certain doom once my dad finds out that his pet son is a thief.

"I would rather get mobbed by those guys, but I am not going to steal," I said.

Babu looked at me. "Hey! I am not asking you to rob a bank. Just pick up ten bucks from your dad's wallet. Besides you are doing it to save your life. Well, I would kill to save mine," he said. The logic was sound, but I was not ready to incur my dad's wrath.

"No!" I growled.

"Ok then, suit yourself," Babu said and he ran home.

That night I was seriously weighing my options. One thing was very clear. I was in a bad fix and I needed to wriggle out of it. Somehow, I was not convinced about stealing from dad, but at the same time, the very thought of those guys using me as a punch bag sent shivers down my spine. I drifted into a disturbed sleep. That night, I dreamt of the goons chasing me down a dark alley. Gaja was standing in a corner laughing at me. Dad was there with his favourite weapon, his belt, dangling from his hand.

The next morning I stepped out of my home, hoping that I won't get mobbed again on my way to school. But all my prayers were in vain. This time there were five of them. This time the level of violence was markedly higher. One of them threw a punch on my face and I ducked, just in time. Then someone from behind kicked me on my back and I was sent reeling to the ground on all fours. I stood up, incensed by the barbarism and frustrated by my own meekness. I held one of the kids by his shirt and dragged him to the ground, but then I was outnumbered. I was one against five. This time defeat didn't leave a sour taste in my mouth. I knew I went down fighting. I socked the daylights off to guys. When I stood up, they were watching me. Something told me that they respected me now.

"What??" I was fuming like a bull. I shook my head and continued. "How about one-to-one from tomorrow?" I glanced around. Those guys were embarrassed about god knows what. They walked away. I discovered something that day. Courage is not only about bravery; it's also about 'pretending' that you are brave.

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sunnu 2001©Suman Kumar.R.