Every Sunday I make it a point to wake up by 10 am and pay a visit to an old man, who hates it when I remind him of his old age. Our time is spent talking endlessly and walking through memory lanes, and our age gap of over 44 years has never gotten in the way. This has been our ritual for almost 3 years now. Memorable among these stories of his past was the one about the rise of a coward.
Before being sent off to Bishop Cotton, my old friend was being poochie pooed and raised in a convent in Mussourie, where the nuns took real good care of him. He loved the security the nuns provided. One of his eye was weak, so they paid special attention and made him practice eye exercises. When he turned 12, he was dumped in the cold, love ridden confines of BCS in Shimla. Sports was compulsory and the kids were not allowed to skip a single sport back then. He hadn’t even gotten used to the early morning physical exercises, when it was time to step into the boxing ring. When he saw his opponent standing in front of him in all his glory, he was petrified. Instead of putting up a brave front, he ran. Ran as far away as his feet could carry him. He kept hiding and running but he was caught and brought back. The headmaster’s office was where the ruffians were caned. The teacher felt his bums to check if he hadn’t stuffed it with newspapers – something which many of these kids did. When he was declared clear, the teacher said to him, know this that it hurts me more when I do this. He was caned nevertheless.
The story of the kid who ran away from the boxing ring became popular and during the assembly, the head of the school declared him the biggest coward that has walked through these corridors. He was beaten up in all the hidden corners by the big guys. All the goodies his loving mom had given him were snatched away by the bullies. He felt homesick and wanted his ordeal to end. When the bullying didn’t stop and he became known as the coward, he decided to do something about the situation. His primary interest was science and he was the best in science in his class. But now, he made up his mind to overcome his fear of the boxing ring. He punched the opponent without thinking about what’s going to become of him. It was a good performance. He soon got the hang of it and eventually won the medal for boxing.
He still was in no mood to tire himself by running too well. But when a big guy told him, “if you don’t run and reach before I do, I’ll get you,” he was on his feet. The boy gave him a head start as well. He ran. Ran for his life. He was a coward inside, afraid of bruises and blows. The threats pushed him into not only running, but winning marathons and cross country races.
During his school days, when the vacations came, he had to spend time with his uncle, a Senior official in the armed forces. He was fond of his uncle despite the man leaving no stone unturned to toughen up his nephew. He was forced to excel at horse riding, golf, badminton, and various other sports. He only took the name of the lord before getting up on a horse and kept waiting for the rough ride to get over. He was even taken on drug trails when there was an emergency and he couldn’t dispense of his nephew on the road. He disappointed his uncle a little by making him stop the car. He was feeling sick and had to relieve himself.
Eventually, he managed to join the club of big boys by winning at sports and the bullying stopped. He built his health to stay in good shape and ward off blows.
The same old man during his time in IIT Madras met with an accident and was admitted to hospital. There he fell in love with a nurse who was looking after him – or that’s what he thought under the influence of heavy medication. When he came to his senses and realized that he had already proposed and the woman making lovey, dovey eyes at him was keen on taking up the offer, he quickly came up with a plan to undo what he had done. He started proposing to every woman on sight in the hospital. No woman was spared and stories about his serial proposals reached the fair nurse who was the first victim of his amorous advances. He was labeled an insane guy, and that’s how he managed to get out of getting stuck in a sticky situation.
There’s something about stories of the past. I never get tired of listening.