Chapter – 12
I was very cautious when I went to school the next day. My eyes were watchful of Hamsa. Even while I treaded though the alleyway leading to the school, my ears were keen on every slight sound that approached me. Hamsa’s footsteps approaching? But, nothing happened until I reached the school.
I entered the classroom and sat on my bench, my eyes still watchful of Hamsa. He was not to be seen. There was not the least shadow of Hamsa till the noon interval. In the noon, as I was sauntering through the schoolyard, I felt a heavy hand on my shoulder. I shuddered. It was Hamsa. He was smiling at me. It was for the first time I was seeing him smile so friendly. And I never thought such a smile could ever appear on his ever-ferocious face. Suspectfully, I pushed his hand away and queried:
“What do you want?”
Hamsa kept his calm. Maintaining his smile, he said:
“Don’t get upset lad. I have come to make friends with you…”
I stared at him dubiously. I was not convinced. Why should he become friends with me?
Suddenly, Vishwam also turned up. He too had the same beaming smile on his face. White teeth flashed on his dark face. He offered me a handshake. When I hesitated, Hamsa urged me:
“Give it man. We have come to become your friends…”
Have they really? I was puzzled. I found no reason for them to become my friends.
“Come on Chandi, give your hand…” Vishwam offered his hand again. Half-heartedly, I took his hand. Hamsa put his hand around my shoulders.
“We have some business to do in the evening. Wait for us…okay?” Hamsa whispered in my ears, and both of them ran away.
I stood there, mystified. What business do they want to do with me?
The metallic bell rang in the evening, announcing the end of the school time. Children rushed out of the classroom with great sighs of relief. Taking my books and slate, I walked out pensively. What was Hamsa’s business?
Dust hovered in the air over the frontyard of the school, after the rushing footsteps of the students. Hamsa and Vishwam stood there, grinning. They came close to me. Hamsa put his hands on my shoulder, and said: “We have a game today. You should play for us…after all you are a great player, a hero!” He winked at Vishwam, who nodded with an ugly grin.
“Where are you going to play? There is no one in the playground…?” I queried.
“Game is not here. It is in a different ground. You come with us…” Vishwam pulled my hand. I did not like it. Yet, since it was a game which I loved, I did not show any displeasure. At last they have admitted my caliber as a player, I thought as I followed them.
We went past the fish-smelling marketplace. Heaps of fish were seen on the way. Different varieties. Had mother been with me, she would tell me the names of every kind. Sardine, mackerel, pearl fish, carp, prawns and many more. Mani knew the names of every kind of fish. He should have been with me, I thought.
We were going aloof from the residential places. We went through a forsaken alleyway. There was no sign of anyone. Thickets grew wild at the sideways. No play ground was to be seen anywhere. Drops of fear began slowly dripping into my mind. Mani should have been with me. It was not wise that I followed these cunning fellows.
by A. Fraizer