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