A day when I was perhaps only 5 years old.
I was ready to go to school, shining brightly in my white shirt and shorts with a tie having oblique, red and white parallel lines, and a belt of the same shade. I had put on the black formal shoes with the black sole: the kind of shoes only school kids are supposed to wear. It had only been a year since I was admitted to the new school couple of kilometers away from home. Though I used to fear the distance between school and home, I also loved it more than the old school in which there were not even benches to sit on in a regular class. We had to sit on red and black carpets which are only supposed to be laid down on the floor for marriages and other small homely functions.
There had never been a day – in between the day I joined the new school and the day it all happened – when my father had not dropped me to the school on his Bajaj Chetak scooter. I loved the ride and used to excitedly wait for him to drop me at the school every day in the morning. I remember the scene so profoundly that I can even feel a sense of love I used to bear for my father. He used to give me the sense of security and entertainment. But there was also a pinch of fear from unknown origins.
I have a nebulous vision of the ever sinking courtyard with a car parked right at its center and a huge guava tree – that I later clambered a lot – sprouting out of the wet clay beside the parked car. The floor didn’t use to be flat; there were squared uneven slabs of red stone defining the floor and an exuberant yet tiny garden on the extreme left.
I came to ask my father to drop me to the school. He was shaving his beard with one hand, and holding the small vertical mirror to look into, in another hand. White foam was covering his left cheek, the chin, and the mustache area. He was snipping off the existence of every single hair on his right cheek with the razor, and a towel was hanging over his right shoulder. I was getting late for school, and mother had already left home to go to the nearby government school where she used to teach primary kids during the initial days of her long career. Since I was getting late and there didn’t seem much choice of transportation for me to go to school, I had to keep hugging my father’s right leg, as I remember correctly. I was whining in front of him for I didn’t want my teacher to punish me again. I didn’t want to stand in the long queue of late comers in a rather small corridor aside the main assembly premises. These late comers had to parade the central premises after the morning assembly right under the hot and shining sun. I was once among the late comers and hated the hands-up parade with our heavy bags on your shoulders, more than anything else.
Someone knocked the front door, a man with the black helmet on his skull came inside and talked to my father. My father perhaps gave him some medicine for I can guess it today; he is a doctor. The mysterious man didn’t even take out his helmet and returned to drive away on his motorbike parked outside the main orange gate. He was about to kick start his motor bike when my father called him and he stopped to listen. My father asked him if he could drop me to my school that I suppose must had been on his way to whichever place he was going. He agreed instantly as if my father commanded him to do so. I was hesitant to go in the beginning but my father grabbed me in his arms and put down behind the man on the back seat of the motorbike. I didn’t whine. I didn’t shout. My congenital shyness in front of strangers made me sit silently behind the man. I was afraid of the motorbike for I had never seated myself on a motorbike before. I was afraid of the man I didn’t know. I was afraid of being kidnapped like all other kids in the newspaper my father used to read out loud. But I did nothing than stare angrily at my father for as long as I could.
The motorbike moved as did my heartbeat. I doubted if he would take me to my school. I missed my father. I wanted to go back. I wanted to be at home. I hated my father for letting a stranger take me to my school. I didn’t know the way to my school, so I only prayed to god; I used to believe in gods then. I never uttered a word but only talked to myself in my mind. I remember the woolen smell of his half sweater. I remember hugging him so tightly out of the fear of falling out of the moving bike. We reached school at light speed, and I climbed down his motorbike to run towards the entry gate to never look back at the man who saved me from the late comer’s parade, and to forever keep a grudge against my father.