Rain, Raincoat & a Rifle : Rain has a distinct utility. It has a calming effect and power to cultivate your memory. Especially if it is a weekend and mug full of fine Lankan tea in hand. Clouds having a game all day and how I enjoy that. Could get very tricky for the mind. And so it has happened to me.
Trudging my memory back to the 80’s. According to newspapers – Maradona has a Hand of God, Afghan warlords were then called Mujahideens and Dhakaites tolerating the autocratic regime. And I, a little boy from Paltan enjoying my first years in school.
I enrolled in February 1986. A school set up in 1950’s and a short walk from my then ancestral house in Purana Paltan. I still remember the very first day. My mother walked me to the school, holding her hands. As we got in, and waited a while a teacher to receive us and walk me inside. It was a beautiful school. There was a decent size field, with huge bougainvillea and krishnachura trees. I hear the krishnachura still stands. The teachers I remember them all, and names of many of them.
I remember a mischief in particular. I was given Bombay toast as tiffin. Somehow, I dropped a handful of them. Those dropped were soiled from all the dirt but I still picked those up. Didn’t want them to go to waste, so shared it among my mates! I had the ones those were still in the tiffin box. I got home to tell this story and was told, my parents need not worry about me, I will always find my way! Another story goes, and not too proud of that either. I carried this sharp tool from home to school, secretly. This was an aluminum rest of mosquito coils. This girl who used to sit beside me, was ignoring my calls and had her ears for someone else. I was agitated and decided to cut her hands with it. No, it wasn’t anything bloody or dangerous, but she decided to scream and complain. At the end of school, my mother was called up and she was handed out a complain. I did my worst things in my very first year in school.
I had few more such interesting stories and not all for one day.
Rainy days in school are pretty special. One being, at times we were given a holiday, and we would know of the holiday if the rain came down too heavy once we reached school. Or, we would be stuck inside the classroom for long periods and create havoc for the teacher. It was a good time to play ‘hangman’ and ‘tick’tack’. We also played names of places and flowers, or talk about favourite sports.
I remember one particular day vividly. And it was in my first year of school. It was a rainy day. Clock ticking its way to noon, time to go home. The school I went to was attended too by few of my immediate ancestors. A small school, now I realize quite large compared to ones these days. On rainy days, we would sit back in the class. The sky was gloomy and it kept on drizzling.
As other mates, I was too gazing at the first of the 3-door big classroom – the place where I got my first education, waiting to find my loving mother. I saw a man, standing outside. Looking for someone among us. We were more than 100 and it was not easy for him to locate anyone in particular. I kept on looking at him. He, was not short and had a nicely trimmed thin mustache. Aged somewhat around the 30’s i would assume. Unsurprisingly wrapped in an olive coloured raincoat. The raincoat has already made him an interesting subject to me. You don’t see many of them walking around in that, umbrellas are more common.
He had a gun in his hand, a rifle! Held firmly at the barrel and studded down. My eyes got stuck and mind a bit chaotic. I could slowly watch him in one frame now. A man with a gun in hand. I do not remember exactly if it was for the first time I saw a killing machine. May be it was. I was in awe. He set himself apart from the surroundings. Standing right there in front of the door.
It happened all too quickly. He stood, looked for someone and walked on to the next door. Possibly for less than a minute or so I saw him. The man has forever rooted himself in my memory. One of my earliest memories, cause of the earliest fear and of surprise. Not that he created a lasting fear. But he blew me away.
I wonder what connects him to me till this day. Perhaps a rainy day.
Author: Shadhu Mishael