“Karthikkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk” , the voice called out from a distance.
I heard the feeble call. I quickly paused the things I was engaged with. On the way, I cried out loudly. The age of smart phones and the debate over carcinogenic EM waves was yet to see the light of day.
It’s always been a wonderful feeling to have your name called out. It shows that there is someone out there waiting for you. It shows that you are alive in the world of the living. It shows that you had better things to do. Against the best wishes and caring intentions of the world around me, I’d set out to brave the roasting rays of the sun. Time was pertinent. Time was yet to be squandered. Regrets were yet to be made. Life was yet to be lived to the full.
“How long maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan” , the voice reached out again.
“Cominggggggggggggggg”, I’d scream back.
Bailing out has always enforced a neat protocol to be followed. There was this mandatory round of questions shot from a few directions. I’d skilfully deflect them. It took a lot of practice. On good days, the jailbreak was smooth and easy. On the bad days, A palm would find comforts in my chubby cheeks and their guilt would set me free. I’d walk out a hero. A hero put to a challenge, a hero who’d survive a hurdle and walk out with head held high. A hero nonetheless.
The questions were usually the same. Where are you going? Whom are you going with? Did you finish your homework? When would you be back? What are you going to do?
It was all a routine to me back then. The questions never varied. Depending on when the exams were around, the order of the questions changed. Usual suspects would crop, usual activities would be outlined. Homework was always a no. Yeah, some things never changed.
“Fine,, you take your sweet time. We are leavningggggggggggggggggggggggggggg”, the voices now joined to a chorus and had issued their final warning.
“Dei… I’m cominggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg” , I’d reply agitatedly.
The warning served one and only purpose. It meant that the time was up for my parents, or the elders in the house to wrap up their twenty questions. They knew their time was up. I knew their time was up. We both always knew the answers would be extremely short and attention span even shorter.
Fine, get lost, my mom would issue her order. That was the first time I learnt the meaning of the phrase ” Music to my ears”.
I’d smile warm and wide. Thanks Ma, I’d leave her with a smile. My mom would nod her head defeated. It was not all that bad a deal after all. There would be the much needed peace and quiet in the house hold.
“I’m comingggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg”, I’d announce my arrival as I usually jumped down the stairs to speed up my descent.
The car behind me honked furiously.
I had taken a detour from my usual route last night. I happened to pass the playground which I used to haunt once upon a time. I took a good look at the deserted playground. That night, promises were not being made. Two best friends did not promise to grow up together and live a life of being best friends for ever.
There were no pacts made that night. That night was not about the petty filmy fights in the playground. That night was not about kids gathering around and sitting and chit chatting away after a tired evening of playing cricket. It was not kind of night were one would kick start the game of Hide and Seek. The playground remained deserted. There was no laughter in the air.
The young spirits had vanished. I felt the void of emptiness in my heart reflect on the emptiness of the playground.
I sat staring at the vanished faces. I sat staring deep into the horizon. Lost in time, lost in thoughts, lost to myself.
The car behind me honked furiously. I quickly apologized and put my car to the drive mode and hit the gas.
Now that I think about it, it was not a car that had honked. Time had honked. Time reminded me to move on. Time was reminding me that it had not robbed me of memories. It reminded me that I had grown, I had changed and I had to go on and find newer meanings to the deserted playgrounds.
A wistful smile on my face, I inched towards my home.
I waited by my gate. I opened the door of my car to walk out and get that gate open.
I saw a little boy in the neighbouring building.
“SHASHIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII”, his little voice screamed.
“Dei.. I’m comingggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggggg”, came a meek reply from a distance.
I don’t know about the gates that I managed to open. I sure did open my heart and my mind. Life always finds a way.