A small boy who had no worries in his life, a small boy who kept on playing around with his old half broken cricket bat that Sanju bhaiyya had given him when he bought a new one. Anyway, this was already broken and Sanjay would never have found any use out of it. It cannot even be used as a runner’s stick as it’s size was too small and at the instant when he was about to throw it away after an evening’s game while going to his home, when pandu, thats what the small boy was called, I recall it now. When pandu saw this, he had to beg for it. Sanjay was like any other young playful adolscent who after having his share of fun with pandu, he left his broken bat with him. Anyways he didn’t care about it anymore.
Pandu would also almost always store the broken rubber balls that the other kids found no use for. They would let pandu play with them only at times when they had to make up numbers or when they needed a ball-boy. They were just young kids and pandu was even too younger to even play properly, but he always happily obliged with beaming smile that could have lit the broken down floodlights during the deccan chargers versus kolkata knightriders encounters during the first IPL! Even on the days when the boys wouldn’t have pandu to play with them, he would either watch them play getting their balls or would start playing with one of the younger children who come down to go strut around with proudly, innocently and happily with their tricycles. Pandu becomes the coach in these sessions and would bat to his hearts content, even these tiny tots loved playing with pandu. Pandu is 7 years old.
But during the days when the kids went to school pandu would get bored. Sometimes, he would go the iyengar’s home on the first floor because the grandpa and granny there would watch T.V serials all during the afternoons and they would let him sit down near the verandah gate and watch them, even asking him to help out with small chores for the granny. They would give him some tidbits from the afternoon tiffins they used to have. Though grandpa was mostly grumpy, pandu used to like them very much, especially the special vada-pav that granny makes, he is very confident that he has understood and has learnt by rote, what granny calls as her secret recipe for the dish! I used to have a feeling that the Iyengar’s used to like him, though they never showed it on the outside. He used to provide them with some human contact when their son and daughter-in-law always used to return very late in the evening even though they used to be among the earliest one’s to leave for their jobs.
This did not mean that Pandu did not go to school. He used to go the government elementary school which was 2 kilometres away. I used to see him go hopping and scampering to this school with that ragged bag of his and his mother shouting behind him to complete some last minute chores. Most of the days he would have to return to complete these chores and reach the school a bit late, I supposed! His father was our apartment’s watchman, janitor, gardener, handyman an all-in-one man! Everyone used to call him out for any work of theirs.
“Apparao we need a packet of salt!”
“Apparao please get some samosas, we are expecting some guestes shortly”
“Apparao, have you watered the plants today?”
“Apparao, get us some more mil packets, we are making payasam today!”
“Apparao our food has been left-over, do you want it?”
Pandu used to return in time for lunch and never went back to the school during the afternoons, instead preferring to watch the television at the Iyengar’s place. Upon questioning him about the teacher’s wrath that might befall upon him due to his constant skipping of his classes, he used to say that most of the periods, they never had any teachers, even the teachers who would come wouldn’t care much about teaching, rather starting to chat between themselves in the corridors, they did used to take classes itseems, whenever they had a hint that a checking squad might be on its way!
But Pandu was a bright kid, which I used to notice everytime whenever I chatted him up. A kid he was, but a very bright one, though he would like to fly around like a bird in the sky without a worry in the world, he used to love his text books and would also come to my house as also go to almost all other kids houses to collect any of the old books that we would give to him. He used to like to store them and even try to read up some of them. Mostly during the night times beside the small oil-wicker lamp that he used to put up beside his rope-cot. He used to sleep beside his fast asleep mother after reading the books. Whenever I watched this spectacle from the fourth floor balcony of my house I used to get amazed at this young boy’s thirst for books. He never seemed tired! Though he did not attend school properly, I believed he did this because he never found anything worthwhile coming out of it.
But then all this is just hogwash!
Pandu was not a happy boy, he was a spirited boy! He always fought against fate to remain happy. Though what all I told about him was true, there was something else I happened to remember about him that probably the 13 year-old me always somehow blocked out.
Pandu just did not fade away from our life, he was a victim of domestic violence. His father used to always drink during the night and used to harass him and his mother during the nights. He had a unquenchable thirst for knowledge, but his father had an unquenchable thirst for tippy, for which he used to nearly use up all his monthly salary for. His wife Gangamma used to be helped by some of the flat-residents who used to give her some measly amounts to let her get through with her life and for her son’s upbringing.
I relived a scene recently in which Apparao found pandu in charge of a 50-er and he immediately slapped him hard and took it. Pandu, with tears swelling up in his eyes started asking his father, telling him that he needs to pay his fees for his examination. Apparao just gruntled back to Pandu asking him make himself invisible immediately.
What happened to them?
The flat residents have asked Apparao to go away as he and his tussles every night with his wife had become too much to bear for us. And so in an appartment meeting, it had been decided to get a new handyman(watchman) for the apartment.
I wonder what Pandu is doing now? Is the spirited soul still flickering? Has he started to fulfill the promise he was showing even as a small kid? Many questions!
If only, people can be more sensitive to what is happening in the society around them, how many more pandu’s are suffering now!
Why is domestic violence as rampant in India as it is now……?
Is it just because of the illiteracy and the lack of money and a good life for all these Apparao’s?
I don’t want to be vain and blame it on his drinking habits, I would rather blame his person and his self for what he is turning out to his family, A Monster!
Fictious, None of the characters are real. But based upon the different experiences, events that I noticed as a kid in the 90’s in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. I just tried to wind them all up into one story