Dedicated to my baby brother, whose childhood days were some of the best days of my life.
Should you ask him to introduce himself, he would start in his mother tongue, which is Kannada. But his mother, like most mothers these days, wanted him to learn English well and insisted on his answering in the same. Either ways, he would just say something for the heck of it, as he always has a busy schedule. Those who hear him might find it funny, but the boy is nothing less than serious:
Hi my name is Kiddo and I am six years old. Actually I am six years and one month old. I celebrated my happy birthday last month. I study in 1st Std ‘A’ section in Saint Charles English School. Kiddo is not my real name. It is my duplicate name. My original name is Kishan. My elder brother kept that name to me and now everybody calls me Kiddo. But now I am very very angry with my elder brother so I don’t talk to him now. My best friends names are Deepak and Abdul. And I like Maggi. OK, bye.
It was Friday, the 5th of November. Having woken up at seven in the morning, Kiddo was waiting for his mother to take him to bath. It was Deepavali, the festival of lights, and his mother was busy decorating the house. Kiddo knew that it was a festival of crackers. He also knew he would be ignored by every member of the family today, for his mother had assigned work to everyone. He would be the cynosure of all eyes only in the evening. For now, he was ignored, and he didn’t like it one bit.
Kiddo went and stood next to his brother, who was busy decorating the front door with a festoon of mango leaves. He cast a glance at Kiddo, who was standing with his head up and hands locked behind his back, like an invigilator minding the exam hall; his hair all rumpled and his night dress – Bermuda shorts and banyan – all cringed. He occasionally rubbed his face and yawned, but stood his ground until he got his elder brother’s attention: “Good morning, Kiddo.”
“Good morning. Call me if you need some help, OK?” Kiddo said, with his hands still locked behind his back. The very next moment he remembered that he was actually angry with his elder brother, and slapped his forehead for having talked to him and ran inside.
His brother smiled, shook his head, and continued with his work.
Kiddo’s next stop was the kitchen.
“Mummy,” he cried.
“Don’t come inside, you dirty boy. Go to the bathroom. I’ll be there in a moment,” his mother said, before he could even attempt to step inside the kitchen.
Kiddo made a sad face and walked towards the bathroom. Once inside, he removed his Bermuda shorts and banyan, and stood in front of the mirror in his underwear. Just like everyday, he could not see himself in the mirror, for it was hung a bit high.
‘I should grow taller,’ he made a resolution, not knowing how to do it, and stood on the stool. He could now look himself in the mirror properly. He rubbed his face once again with both hands and smoothed his hair. He then stretched his lips, baring his teeth. ‘They are so clean. Why do I need to brush them?’ he said to himself.
“They certainly look clean, but you should still brush them today,” his mother announced as she entered the bathroom.
He got off the stool and took his toothbrush, realizing that there was no way he could avoid brushing his teeth and taking bath. At least not until he grew up.
After finishing his ablutions, his mother readied him in his new pair of shorts and t-shirt. When she took the comb, he didn’t allow her to comb his hair and insisted on doing it on his own. His mother gave up and handed over the comb. He stood in front of the mirror and tried to copy his brother’s hairstyle. He tried for about ten minutes, but to no avail. He got angry, threw the comb away and ran towards the kitchen.
Kiddo’s mother heaved a sigh of relief when she succeeded in making him drink his regular glass of milk. Her next challenge was to make him eat his breakfast. Half an hour later she heaved a sigh of relief for the second time.
By the time he wore his shoes, his brother Kiran was waiting for him outside, with his bike. Kiddo went and sat behind him on the bike, without a word. His brother kick-started his bike and his mother waved him goodbye. They were headed to Deepak’s house, Kiddo’s classmate.
“So what’s your plan today?” Kiran asked his little brother.
The boy didn’t respond. Through out the journey Kiddo never responded. Should you ask him why, he would tell you:
Remember I told you I am angry with him. You know why? Because I saw him with a girl last week. I hate girls. You know why? Because last month in the class my bench-mate Sonia complained to miss about me. I don’t know why misses make girls sit next to boys. I don’t like it. Girls are always smelly. Their hair oil smell and powder smell are very very bad. Sonia smells nice but still she is a girl. So I hate her. It was my happy birthday that day and I was wearing colour dress. My 2nd best friend Abdul sat next to another girl Priya. He sat in 2nd bench and I sat in 4th bench. It was the drawing class and he didn’t have rubber. So he turned to me and asked rubber. I opened my geometry box which has Harry Potter picture on it and took the rubber and throwed it towards him and he catched it. Miss saw Abdul catching rubber and asked who throwed it. Abdul didn’t tell so miss shouted looking at me. I was very very scared. She didn’t have know but Sonia told it was me. Miss made me stand up on the bench for the whole period. From that day onwards Abdul, Deepak and me decided to hate girls. I tried to tell my elder brother Kiran that he should not make friends with girls but he just laughed. So only I am angry with him.
Kiran and Kiddo reached Deepak’s house at about eleven o’clock. Deepak’s elder brother Darshan and Kiran were classmates in college. The moment the bike stopped in front of the house, Kiddo ran towards the house, yelling Deepak’s name.
Two gulab jamoons later Kiddo and Deepak headed towards the garage, which was behind the house. It was more of a Cricket and Football stadium than a garage. Sometimes it turned out to be a club when the boys decided to play WWE trump cards. At the present moment it was a Cricket stadium. An hour later it turned out to be a club.
Another hour later Deepak’s mother called the boys inside for lunch. It was a herculean task for Deepak’s mother to make the boys finish their lunch. But somehow she found it easier to make them sleep for about two hours. It was four o’clock when the boys woke up.
The garage had missed its owners for nearly three hours, and now that the boys were back, it looked alive again.
The plan was to play Harry Potter. Even the magic wands were ready. But Deepak’s elder brother Darshan had a little surprise for the little boys.
“Hello, boys,” he said as he entered the garage.
“Hi,” said the boys.
“I want to show you both something amazing. Want to see?”
The boys quickly nodded, as they knew from experience that Darshan always had surprises for them.
Darshan went to a table on which lay a computer covered with a plastic cover. He was just about to pull out the plastic cover when Kiddo said in a lordly manner, “I know what it is. It’s a computer.”
“Of course you know, Kiddo,” Darshan said, smiling at the boy. “But it’s not an ordinary computer. It’s something else.”
The boys looked at each other and then turned their attention towards Darshan.
“I am going to tell you a secret. But you shouldn’t tell it to anyone. Can you promise me that?” Darshan said in a hushed voice.
“God promise!” the boys said, imitating the hushed voice.
“But can we please tell about it to Abdul? He is our group member. It is against the rules to keep secrets from each other,” Kiddo almost begged.
“Yes, yes,” Deepak cried, nodding his head vigorously.
Darshan stroked his chin, posing as if he were giving a serious thought to it. Those five seconds he took to decide seemed like eternity to Kiddo and Deepak. “OK,” he said finally. The boys looked relieved.
“OK, tell us, tell us. What is it?” the boys cried, now standing next to the computer.
“All right,” said Darshan, and lifted the plastic cover. “Boys, this is a …,” he paused, much to the agitation of the boys, and said, “Time Machine.”
The boys stood there with their eyes wide open and jaws dropped. None of them said anything. Darshan switched on the computer and the screen came alive. He opened a simple C program that solves some basic mathematical problems like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Before he ran the program, he said, “OK, now to demonstrate how it works, we’ll go back only five minutes in time.” He showed them the time in his digital watch which said 5:07 pm. “All right. Now as soon as I press the button you should close your eyes. I shall tell the machine to take us back in time.”
The boys nodded hopefully. Darshan pressed ctrl+f9 and the screen turned black. The boys quickly shut their eyes. A few seconds later Darshan asked them to open their eyes. The boys did as they were told and looked around the garage for any changes. Nothing had changed.
“We have only moved back five minutes, boys. Don’t expect big changes. Now see the time on my watch,” said Darshan.
The little time-travelers stepped forward and saw the watch. It said 5:02 pm. “Whoa!” they exclaimed with joy, jumping up and down. “Have we really traveled back in time?”
“Of course,” said Darshan. “See there. When I came into the garage that big plastic cover was still there on the time machine, right?”
The boys noticed it for the first time. The machine was switched off and was covered with a plastic cover; just the way it was a minute before.
“Yayyyyy,” the boys cheered as they started gamboling.
Darshan reveled in the boys’ merriment.
A minute later Kiddo stopped frolicking and became silent. Before anyone could ask why, he ran out of the garage. He returned two minutes later and announced, “This is not a time-machine.”
“What makes you say that?” Darshan asked, smiling. He knew how the boy had found out.
“You are lying. I asked aunty what time it was. It is 5:10 pm now,” Kiddo said, making a sad face.
Darshan was just about to try and convince him that it was indeed a time-machine when his mother entered the garage.
“Sonia’s parents have gone out for a while. So she will stay here with you boys, OK?”
Kiddo and Deepak didn’t say anything. It was too conspicuous from their expressions that they didn’t want Sonia’s company. Darshan knew about the little boys’ deal about hating girls. He grinned and said, “Oh, yes, ma. No problem at all. I am going to my friend’s place now, but these two will keep her company.”
The little misogynists looked up and glared at Darshan, who was still grinning. Their expressions clearly said, ‘How could you do this to us?’
“Good,” said Deepak’s mother, “And no fighting, all right?”
Sonia’s house was right in front of Deepak’s house. Though they were all classmates, Deepak and Kiddo never talked to her because of a pact they had made, following an unpleasant incident in the class.
Darshan said to the girl when his mother had gone back inside, “You look like an angel, darling.”
Kiddo and Deepak studied her person carefully. Though they found her lovely, they didn’t express it. It would take them some years to know the art of flattering girls. They were simply too young for that. But if you had secretly asked Kiddo as to how she looked, he would have told you:
Sonia was wearing white frock and white shoes. Her hair was silky silky and without oil. She has two small small horns, made up of hair and rubber band, on her head. She was looking cute. But I did not tell Deepak. It is against the rules of our gang to call a girl cute.
“Thank you,” she said, smiling, swaying her tiny body left and right, which looked like a little dance. She continued, “This is my new frock, you know.”
“Really?” Darshan asked, “How wonderful is that! What about your shoes? Are they new too?”
“No,” she said, and stopped smiling.
“It’s OK. They still look new though,” said Darshan.
Sonia smiled again. It was the most beautiful smile the three boys had ever seen in their lives.
“All right,” Darshan said, clapping his hands, “The team is perfect now: Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Tell me, who is Harry?”
Since Kiddo didn’t want to fight with Deepak in front of Sonia, he said that he would be Ron Weasley. Deepak, who was a bit surprised that Kiddo should give up the lead role without putting up a fight, smiled generously.
Darshan was enjoying every bit of this. He said, “Oh, great. You know, Kiddo, Ron marries Hermione when they grow up.”
“No,” Kiddo almost screamed that made the girl shiver and take a step back.
“Haven’t you read the seventh part? The Deathly Hallows? Oh, oh, Kiddo, you should start reading now. Books are far better than the movies, you know.”
Kiddo turned his attention to Deepak and started fighting over the lead role. Darshan gesticulated to Sonia and whispered, “They are mad.” She covered her mouth with both hands, hunching her shoulders up and giggled, happily.
“I will be Harry,” Kiddo was saying.
“No, I will be Harry,” said Deepak.
“I have a scar, so I will be Harry,” Kiddo argued.
“Liar. You don’t have it. See,” said Deepak, touching Kiddo’s forehead.
“I don’t have it on my forehead. I have it on my neck, see,” said Kiddo, tugging his collar.
Deepak broke into a peal of laughter. “Harry Potter with a scar on the neck!”
“At least I have a scar. What do you have?” Kiddo said, seething.
“I have –,” Deepak was cut in by his elder brother.
“Deepu, let Kiddo be Harry today.”
Deepak started crying. It took about five minutes for Darshan to convince him as to how Harry Potter couldn’t survive without Ron Weasley. Deepak finally stopped crying and agreed to become Ron.
With that Darshan decided to take their leave. He kissed Sonia on the cheek and wended his way out. J K Rowling’s characters were left for themselves.
No one knew how to begin. Kiddo and Deepak took their wands and stood silently. They kept looking away from Sonia, but occasionally stole glances at her. Sonia, on the other hand, stood there, tapping her toes.
“We have to test you before we can accept you as a team member. So we are going to ask you some questions, OK?” Kiddo managed to say at last.
“OK,” said Sonia, meekly.
“What is the spell that makes things fly in the air?”
“Wingardium Leviosa,” she was quick to answer.
“Good. Tell us the spell Hermione uses against Professor Snape while Harry is playing Quiddich.”
“What is the spell that kills Harry Potter’s parents?”
The interview went on for another few minutes, and Sonia answered them all with certitude.
Kiddo and Deepak looked at each other and raised their eyebrows. A new member had joined the gang.
Deepak gave Sonia a wand – one of the five his parents had bought from a children’s gift shop for his birthday.
Sonia took the wand and eyed it as if she were building a rapport with it. She looked around the garage and settled her gaze on the computer, which was previously known as time-machine. She waved her wand and cast a spell, “Wingardium Leviosa.”
As co-incidence would have it, a gust of wind lifted the plastic cover from the computer, making it float for a few seconds in the air before touching ground.
The boys were surprised beyond means. “Wow! Your spells actually work,” Deepak cried out.
“I know,” she said, haughtily, and tucked her wand in her frock’s faux belt.
They started playing, waving their wands and casting spells at each other. They played for an hour and the boys loved Sonia’s company. They found her adorable and fun to be with.
Several minutes later a small rat fell on Kiddo’s shoulder and he started screaming. Deepak just stood there, not knowing what to do. Sonia took out her wand, waved it and said in a shrill voice, “Expelliarmus.”
The rat didn’t move and Kiddo continued screaming, closing his eyes.
Sonia cast her spell again, “Expelliarmus.”
The rat still didn’t move. She thought for a moment, took a brave step towards Kiddo, waved her wand at the rat and said, “Stupefy.”
This time the rat jumped from Kiddo’s shoulder and ran away. Kiddo was still screaming. “It’s OK,” said Deepak, “He’s gone. Sonia made him go away.”
Kiddo slowly opened his eyes and looked at his shoulder, and then at Sonia. She smiled. He thanked her. For Kiddo, for the next few years, Sonia would always be the girl who saved his life.
Deepak’s brother came running into the garage. “What happened? Who screamed?”
When he was told about the rat attack and Sonia’s presence of mind, he laughed wholeheartedly. None of the gang members understood why.
Ten minutes later Kiddo’s brother arrived in a car to pick him up. Kiddo saw Sonia standing next to Deepak and thought of becoming Ron Weasley next time. He called Deepak aside and said, “Now that Sonia has joined our group, can we not hate girls anymore?”
Deepak thought for a while and asked, “But do you think Abdul will agree to this?”
“We shall explain it to him in detail. Especially about the rat incident.”
“OK. I too like her,” said Deepak.
He then took cautious steps towards Sonia and asked her, hesitantly, “May I touch your hair?”
“OK,” she said, blushing and smiling, divinely.
He touched her hair and exclaimed, “Whoa, it is so soft.” He suddenly let go and said, “OK, bye.”
Having said ‘bye’ to all and Sonia, who smiled and waved at him, Kiddo started walking towards the car. A few seconds later Darshan caught up to him and gave him a black cap.
“But I already have one at home,” said Kiddo.
“This is not an ordinary cap. It’s a magic cap. Anyone who wears it becomes invisible. Just like Harry Potter’s cloak,” said Darshan.
“You are bluffing,” said Kiddo, shaking his head.
“All right, I will prove it to you. Wear it in front of your brother. You’ll know what I mean.”
Kiddo’s brother smiled as they approached him. “Hey Kiddo, how was the day?”
Darshan whispered, “Wear it.”
Kiddo wore the cap and stood with his arms folded. Kiran knitted his brows and looked around. “Where is he?” he cried.
Kiddo circled his elder brother, tugging at his shirt and punching him in the stomach, laughing as he did so.
Kiran continued his act. A minute later Kiddo stood in front of him and took off his cap.
“There you are. How did you do it?” Kiran asked with an astonished look on his face.
Kiddo looked at Darshan, who gestured not to say.
“I won’t say,” Kiddo said and walked towards the front seat of the car.
Kiddo always sat in the front, next to the driver. But now there was a girl sitting in his seat. Kiran’s friend. He angrily muttered something under his breath, shut the front door hard and went and sat in the back seat. The girl turned to him and asked, “You must be Kiddo. I’m Priyanka.” She didn’t get a response.
Kiran took the wheel and drove off. Just when they were passing a big, empty field, Kiddo yelled, “Kiran, Kiran, Kiran, Kiran…”
Kiran brought the car to a screeching halt and asked, anxiously, “What happened?”
“See that big stone over there? We peed on that stone last week when we were returning from Deepak’s house. Remember? Shall we pee again there?” Kiddo asked, with his hands on the doorknob, ready to jump out of the car.
To Kiddo’s annoyance, the girl burst into laughter. Kiran turned to Kiddo. “Just keep quiet till we reach home, all right?”
Kiddo made an angry face and wore his magic cap again.
“Oh, no, not again. I’m sorry. Please come back,” Kiran begged.
But the boy was in no mood to forgive. He pulled the cap down, its brim covering his eyes, and sat with his legs crossed and arms folded.
Kiran sighed, feigning disappointment, turned and shifted the gear and drove on. On the way he made one more stop to drop his friend home.
Kiddo didn’t remove his cap until he reached home. He showed his magic tricks to everyone by becoming invisible. Everyone looked befuddled.
It was six-thirty in the evening. His mother dragged him to the bathroom and washed his hands and legs. Twenty minutes later when he emerged out of his room, everyone complimented on his new dress – a pair of jeans shorts and a white t-shirt, with a picture of Mickey Mouse on it.
His mother then took him to the Pooja room, applied a tiny dot of vermilion on his forehead as he joined hands and said a small prayer. He lighted an incense stick and ran outside to burst some crackers. His parents and his brother followed suit. The celebration had begun.
There was one primary difference between Kiddo and his elders: he didn’t need a reason, a festival to celebrate.
Copyright © Karthik 2010