Friday, July 3, 2009


I lay spread-eagled like a corpse under a merciless sun as the birds in flight ejected their droppings on my face and the ants went on an exploratory expedition all over my body. A stray dog that approached me sniffed at my head assessing its suitability for a quick spray from underneath the hind leg, changed its mind and left.
It was a tall order for a hyperactive ten-year-old to play dead which, nevertheless, I did lest I incur Samy's wrath. My ordeal ended with Samy's final whistle that signalled curtains for the game of "cops and robbers".I was the only 'robber' to be 'shot down' that day by Samy (the supercop) with his toy-pistol, a retribution for failing to pay him my weekly tribute in the form of a choco-bar. For, Samy (short for Guruswamy), the oldest and burliest among a bunch of boys numbering about 20, ruled the roost as the sole superpower in our neighbourhood during my school years.

On cricket playing days Samy clung to the bat as though he were born with it and acted as a de facto umpire while the boys slogged in the field. If someone had the audacity to get Samy clean bowled, he would be promptly banished to the square-leg boundary close to a swamp infested with vermin. The boys invariably dropped Samy's catches fearing an identical fate. In case any 'third man' argued on some 'silly point', he would sustain either a 'leg-break' or a 'hit wicket'. Or he may end up losing his quota of custard apple come harvest time.

For, Samy was the self-appointed lessee of a custard apple tree located near our common pathway. Periodically he would pick ripe fruit, keeping large fleshy ones for himself, leaving the rest to his underlings (provided they were not blacklisted). The handouts came with a couple of strings attached: (a) the fruit had to be eaten in Samy's presence (a comprehensive ban on tasting them behind his back) because (b) the boys had to surrender the seeds to Samy (a non-proliferation measure devised to perpetuate Samy's custard apple 'hegemony'). A couple of Samy's most favoured cronies kept up vigil to enforce the moratorium on the forbidden fruit cultivation.

But beyond the reach of Samy's surveillance, a custard apple sapling had grown on its own into a tree in the inner courtyard of our house, laden with the fruit. And when I flaunted my new acquisition, Samy was so furious he was almost frothing at the mouth. Predictably, a string of Samy's embargoes cascaded down on me like ton of bricks.

Then something that Samy feared all along happened. A couple of boys switched allegiance to me ( lured by a few plum 'trade proposals' I dangled before them) and the trickle soon turned to a deluge. Suddenly, I was heading my own cozy set of allies.

The unipolar world had given way to a bipolar world!!

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