Lynda, my cousin was in the 1st grade like my brother Leander, Rihanna, a friend and neighbour was in the 2nd and I, in the 4th. He was in the boy’s school and we were in the girl’s. Our house was on the main road and half a kilometer to the junction where we were to split in opposite directions for a 2 minute walk to either school. That day was the day the riots would take place all around Bombay! Yet all stores were open, so, bravely, we decided to attend school no matter what! We thought that as the elders were going about their daily routines, we should too! It was walking distance, anyway!
About to start getting dressed and it started to pour. Determined, we did not change our minds! It was the monsoon season! We added raincoats, rain shoes and umbrellas to our attire! We met below the three-storied building and skipped various water-puddles along the way! We walked for about two minutes when we saw the angry men break the open stalls with their two meter long fat sticks. Shop-keepers immediately closed their shutters! All of a sudden, the street was filled with mayhem! Standing frozen in the midst of it all, we watched them callously break the tables and almost injure the hawkers and coming closer. They had to be really pissed off to go about hitting people and breaking things as they were! Abruptly, I managed to come to my senses and shove the other three aside. After all, I was the oldest one; the protector! And time and again, I’ve always had dreams of me protecting people from different kinds of catastrophes, may it be falling fire planes, gun shots or wild animals!
My cousin decided to run further to the side and suddenly slip and float! Rihanna ran away, leaving us stranded! My brother and I watched with wonderment as we saw Lynda moving on her stomach and wondered why she did not stand up right! Over the commotion, we called out to her and asked her to stand. We were only five feet away! She yelled back in tears saying there wasn’t any ground. Then we noticed her umbrella afloat behind her! Confused, I held my brother’s hand with my right and slowly treaded forward with baby steps. He followed, still wondering why she couldn’t stand like we were. I realized the moment my left leg slipped in, that there was danger there. There was some kind of hole which was over filled with rain water. We had no clue whatsoever about its width or depth!
My brother, still able to stand, reached out to me and, with my right leg, managed to get onto the ground. Then, we tried getting hold of Lynda and pulling her on ground too! She drank enough of puddle water to last her a lifetime! We pulled her away from the supposed hole and consoled her as she was in tears, frightened to the core! So was I. Just then a scooter almost rammed into us. Imagining I was around 20 years of age, I glared at the rider for almost hurting us.
We three were drenched from top to toe but still walked towards the boy’s school even though we were right behind our building. We dropped my brother at the gate, which was the maximum we could go as girls, and headed back to our school. The teachers were shocked to see us all soaked and my cousin in tears. I tried not to cry as I hated, and still hate, public sympathy! Later that day, everyone yelled at me for taking the other three to school.
Today, at Lynda’s wedding, as she is walking down the aisle, and Leander, my brother is the best man, I wondered why no one stopped us from going to school or, for that matter, getting dressed for school. Was everyone thinking the way our tiny minds were? Weren’t riots and rain enough for our elders to keep their young from getting out? Maybe not or maybe we were too stubborn! Laughing at the flashback, I watched the bride and groom kiss while my brother happily acknowledges the union of his best friend and precious cousin. A new beginning!
Incidentally, the day after the scary episode, it didn’t rain, so on the way to school we went to have a look at the ‘hole’. We found that it was a long drain almost like a trench, which stretched from one end of the barely new construction site to the other. It was around thirty feet long, two feet wide and two feet deep!