Saturday, January 15, 2011

alpha calling beta

“ We’re moving to Hasimara.”

And in twenty days the house was boxed up. The carpets were rolled and wrapped in sack cloth and tied. Dad stencilled our name and destination over the large wooden crates, including the one that held our prized possession, the fridge.

I said bye to all my friends. And the trees in our backyard. Jamun, Guava, Ber, Imli, Mango, Lemon. Specially the guava tree with its white smooth limbs, and roomy perches between branches. I sat on it every day through my summer holidays, pretending it was a tree house.

I even went to the corner of the garden, the spot we always avoided. It contained a huge mound with a number of holes under the banyan tree. The cobra family lived there.

They were pretty peacefull, apart from having bitten and killed the poor tailor who had been cycling home at night. But then his cycle tyre ran over one of them. And after he got bitten, his relatives took him away to the village outside, where they made him lie in a mud pit and poured milk and ghee over him. Obviously not very effective in treating cobra bites.

Sometimes I would see a cobra slithering away towards the dense bougainvillea hedge we had around the house. Sometimes they would sun themselves on the steps behind our bathroom door. And since my mom insisted that after a bath, we must open the back door to dry out the bathroom, it was always a bit of an adventure. I usually unbolted the latch with a noise loud enough to wake up the dead, and then stamped around for a good five minutes, before flinging open the door and running in the opposite direction.

The cobras must have laughed their heads off.

My friends, three boys who lived in my lane, decided that they’ll give me a farewell gift. Four of us were the Mystery Solvers of Kalaikunda. Yeah, that’s what we called ourselves. And we wore raincoats as disguises, and constantly chewed on blades of grass while we discussed what new mystery we could solve. And we spent our time shadowing unsuspecting people on our cycles. Which was always a bit of a letdown because sooner or later they would realise four kids on cycles, wearing mismatched raincoats in peak summer, were trailing them. Also, the shadowing invariably ended on a rather sad note, at the puncture repair shop. I don’t know if it was the roads of Kalaikunda or our second hand cycles.

Anyway, so my goodbye gift was a grand old British bunker. Actually it was an abandoned old British bunker which had been discovered by one of the boys while cycling back from school. It was on one end of a huge parade ground. And covered with mud, stones and thorny bushes growing inside and outside it. And now that I think about it, probably many cobra families as well.

So on my last day, we cycled to the abandoned bunker and I was allowed to enter it first. We spent a happy hour fighting our way through the thorns and undergrowth to go into a dark, damp bunker that smelled strangely like the entrance to the kalaikunda sewage. After reassuring ourselves that nobody had stashed dead bodies in there, and there was no foul play, just a foul smell, we emerged, donned our raincoats and trailed a lady with a kid in the pram. We were sure it was a chopped body she was carrying in the pram.

When she turned around and waved to us, and asked if we’d like to see the baby, we fled in disgust. It was the best farewell I ever had.


Tamanna said...

Haila, no email ID anywhere! Please email me the pic at

And btw, loved loved loved the post.. It sounded so much like the Famous Five. I hope you have reconnected with those friends on FB :D

Aneela Z said...

are you sure you didnt live in harley street, rawalpindi? this gave me gooseflesh albeit we discovered that we had a bunker in our lawn when I was in my twenties. Imagine keeping that bit of info from me?

heh? ok said...

I dunno if you will take it as a compliment, but you made me google kalaikunda.

The Cloudcutter said...

I wish I was your friend back then. This reminded me of similar adventures I used to have but with abandoned carriages from goods trains on a private railway track.

agent green glass said...

@tamanna: mailing it tom. or will get over being so lazy, and mail it tonite. nope, not reconnected. i can't even remember their names. sad...and funny.

@aneela: really? i love the name - harley street in rawalpindi. ooh...your very own bunker eh? how posh.
btw my grandparents were from rawalpindi.

heh?ok: yep :) i will. its an amazing place. btw your comment made me google it. was thrilled to see it on wiki.

@cloudcutter: yeah :) but i'm happy you're my friend now :)
wow...private railway track...watta fun i say.

The Cloudcutter said...

Yes the track that belongs to the Bombay Port Trust, used for carrying goods from shipping yards within the city. I wonder if they are still in use now. It's actually not very far from where I live now. Would love to make a trip down memory lane someday soon.
Yeah, I'm so glad we're friends now. We probably behave the same way that we would have back then anyway ;-)

Grayquill said...

This was entertaining.... thank you! I hate snakes just a little less than rats. Those secrest service activites - there I relate.
Good work!

Suman said...

I enjoyed reading this, have you blogged about Kalaikunda before in a (very) old post?


Nitika said...

Hello again fellow Central school type :)

We fauji kids, arent we all the same? Belgaum brings back such memories... Werent those the best days ever!

Hashimara eh? We were in Binnaguri ages ago. I remember playing around the Tank TCP with friends and making our own wartime stories around it.

I went inside a real bunker in Fazilka (Abhor). Very close to the border and then my chacha pointed out a tower across the border saying there are people looking at you through binoculars right now.. Evening tak unki report ban jayegi that the Brigade commander was visiting the bunkers. Imagine the thrill that would have gone through a 9-10 year old :)

So many more such stories that make me want to be 9-10 again :)


agent green glass said...

@cloudcutter: BPT! i spent many summer holidays at the BPT colony, mazgaon, trying to learn TT. and being shunted by the big kids at the club house.

@grayquill: would it help if i told ya there were fat pythons too in that place. yeah, now i might not react with such wonder. just plain horror probably!

suman: thank you. have i? not sure..yes, actually i did. a summer holiday post called do you believe in magic (big fan of the loving spoonfuls!). i don't know if i mentioned KKD there. i'll have to that u mention it.

nikita: strange. probably we all have the same memories. just the places and the names are different.

binnaguri. bloody hell. that was close to hasimara. i remember passing binnaguri or maybe there were kids from binnaguri in our school. but yeah, the name rings many bells.

Aneela Z said...

Harley Street, as the earlier residents were all doctors and you know major angrez hangover!!the reference is totally lost on the families now living there and its referred to as the bit before Dehri and Baees Number (Octroi 22 )
Your grandparents were from Rawalpindi? if they are around (and its not too painful) do ask them where exactly. I have taken pics for families who wanted to know what their old homes look like, the area...who knows we could have live video streaming when I next go home.
You have my email.

Aneela Z said...

p.s. Am also an army kid. I say we should totally have our own club..central school-convent rivalry notwithstanding

This is that said...

God I just love the way you I want to read a book, a collection, a whole lot by you..sigh

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