THE HAWK NOSED BULLY
Mrs Roxie, the teacher had turned to the board. She was writing laboriously a complicated arithmetic problem on it. The class was getting restless. It was almost time for the bell to ring, and there she was, quite clearly ignoring the impending bell, and making the class, when they were sitting on the edge of their seats, ready to scramble out. They watched her back with the never ceasing amazement of ten and eleven year olds, as it wiggled in her tight fitting dress, whenever she wrote on the board.
There were twenty of them, boys and girls. The oldest of the boys was a big brawny one, with a square chest, heavy arms and a mean looking face. The only distinguishing thing about him was his nose, which dominated his face. It was so long in comparison to the rest of his features, that behind his back the other boys sniggeringly called him ‘hawk nose’
As for the girls, being of the age they were, where girls tend to avoid boys, make their own cliques and look upon boys with contempt and scorn, they ganged themselves up against the whole horde of the boys and would have nothing to do with their search for mischief. Which is precisely what Hawk nose was intending to do, as he whispered to the other boys across the rows. He had a peashooter, and was secretly taking out a whole fistful of peas out of his pocket. Very quickly as if he was used to this all his life, he aimed one at Mrs Roxie’s back.”Plip”, it went straight onto her wiggling rounded bottom. She gave an “Oh”, turned back, and slowly glared at the faces of the boys, one by one, resting of course on hatchet face. She turned back slowly saying nothing. Another “plip”, but this time she outsmarted hatchet face, whose real name was Demster, and caught him in the act of putting the peashooter away. “Aha” she said, in a gloating manner, for Mrs Roxie was as mean a teacher as could ever be, and while the class watched Hawk nose turn a tomato red, they quite enjoying the drama that was being unfolded. “Caught you”, said Mrs Roxie. “I have known all along that you are the mastermind behind all the pranks I have witnessed. If you, Demster, were as clever at your class work as in shooting peas, you with your oversize stuffed face, would not still be in prep school, you would be in junior high. But as your brain is as small as the pea you have dared to shoot at me, you will stay after class for your punishment, and believe me its going to be a sizeable one.” As the other boys guffawed, she turned to them and said in her grim fashion: “For the rest of you, let this be a lesson, that I, like a fly, have eyes in all places, and dare you attempt such coarse pranks as this, your punishment will be more severe, I promise you.” She turned to Demster, and said: “Get up, I want you to come up here, kneel on my desk facing the class, right through the next period. No break for you, young man.” As the bell rang, she said grimly, “class dismissed.”
Hawk nose was dumbstruck. Besides being a mischief maker in class, without any regard for his teachers, he was also a bully. During breaks at lunch or games, he was the misery of all the smaller boys, towering over them and commanding them to run hither and thither doing his bidding. If they were not fast enough, they would get a buffeting on their ears, with a lot of swear words thrown in.
The cowered down class filed past Demster, who like all bullies was as quiet as a church mouse when he found he had met his match. It was Mrs Roxie this time. As the girls walked past him, while he lurched onto the table and tried to balance himself on his knees facing the class, under the cold eyes of Mrs Roxie, they giggled and whispered mockingly. The girls hated hatchetface, because they knew he was a mean mouthed bully who had nothing but his weight to throw around. This made Demster madder than ever, to be mocked at by these silly giggling girls. He vowed to himself, that he would get even with Mrs Roxie someday…soon.,
The next hour was agony for Demster, as he knelt before the class with downcast eyes, for he was embarrassed to have to look at the gleeful faces, of the younger boys, and the girls, especially the girls, whom he thought admired him as to be the man of the class. Mrs Roxie calmly took the next period through a geography lesson, ignoring Demster as he knelt, with his back to her, on one side of the table. All the while there were supresssed whisperings and giggles from the silly lot of girls, which angered Demster no end, so much so that he had to contain himself from turning around and giving Mrs Roxie a sound blow, which would knock her unconscious. But he bidded this humiliation and his hate, for another time, another place, when he would carry out such a gruesome plan that no one, no one would know it was he.
It was the lunch break. Hawk nose shuffled out, he was in a grumpy mood, and his knees were sore. He sat all alone on a bench, unfolded the wrapper of a huge stack of sandwiches, eating them in a sloppy fashion, while his eyes roamed around to catch a victim, and pour out his anger on the unhappy one. It was unfortunate for poor little Mickey, sitting with some of the younger boys, that Hawk nose’s eyes came to rest on him. Mickey, the youngest, the littlest and the scrawniest of all was the most terrified among them, of the bully Hawk nose. He had more buffetings on his ears from him than he cared to remember. Mickey looked up and caught Hawk nose’s eyes and like a mesmerised rabbit, he could not take his eyes away from him. Hawk nose, rolled up his sandwich wrapper, threw it into the garbage bin, and strode up to Mickey with the look that said, “Here you are, you rat… another job for you to do… otherwise you know what..!” Mickey cowered, while the others scurried away, when they saw Hawk nose approach. “Hey you,” growled Hawk nose. Mickey looked around in desperation “Who me?” he asked trembling. “Yes you… you brat. Come here” and Hawk nose, grabbing him by the collar of his shirt and taking him aside to the corner of the playfield. “I want you to meet me at the gate, after school today” “But…but I.. have some chores to do at home …very important ones”. “They can wait. Meet me sharp… otherwise, you know what I shall do to you… I’ll put another whole heap of tadpoles down your shirt mind you”. Now if there was anything that terrified Mickey, it was creepy crawling things against his skins. It was done twice before, when he did not do something for Hawk nose successfully. The thought made him shiver, “OK OK … I’ll be there… but please don’t make me do anything for which I’ll be punished.” “Ha, the only one to punish you is me, you imbecile.”
Mickey was waiting for Hawk nose at the school gate. His other friends, James, Luke and John, all as small as he, had formed a tight knit group, and had watched the scene between Mickey and Hawk nose from far. “What did that bully have to say?” “I don’t know”, quivered Mickey “Why don’t you stand up to him?” “What and to be clobbered by him?”, queried Luke. “You know how he can beat us up, and if we squeal to anyone, least of all to our parents, it will be more of the same dose the next day. Our parents will protest, meet the school master, but you know Hawk nose, he’ll deny everything, and then we’ll have a taste of more when he meets us again. The trouble is he’s so cunning inspite of his being so stupid, he makes sure no one watches while he bullies us”.
“Look” said John, the oldest, and perhaps the wisest of them. “Its time we beat him at his own plan.” “You go ahead, find out what he wants you to do, and then lets see how we can spoil his fun for him”, added Luke. “He’s going just about too far and the other boys are cowards, they will just scoot away, when he’s near .They avoid him like the plague. They don’t want to get into scraps with him”.
Hawk nose came sauntering up to the school gate. Almost every one had gone home, except Luke, John and James. They hid behind the bushes and watched. They saw Hawk nose say something to terrrified Mickey. Mickey raised up his hand and protested, and Hawk nose tweaked him by the ear. Cowered, Mickey listened in silence, while Hawk nose gesticulated, flinging his arms around, as if describing a scene, while all the while Mickey downcast, was looking anywhere, but at the loathsome bully. Finally, after what seemed ages, the bully sauntered away whistling tunelessly. Mickey stood still for a while till he was out of sight, and then ran to his friends. They gathered around him, as if to console him, while they took him further into bushes, where they had a pow wow. Mickey told them all, all the gruesome things he had to do to carry out the horrid scheme that Hawk nose had planned for Mrs Roxie. It was so delivish, that no one would have had the slightest suspicion that it was all Hawk nose’s doing. It was to take place not in the school, not in Mrs Roxie’s classrom, nowhere near the school, but guess what! it was to happen in Mrs Roxie’s house, under Mrs Roxie’s roof, Imagine that!
What was this horrid scheme? First, Mickey was to steal a can of paint and some twinee from his father’s work room. He was to buy (out of his own pocket money), a packet of detergent and a laundry rope, from the hardware store. He was told he was to say it was for his mother. Then he was to find an old bucket, and finally the horror of it all, he was to help Hawk nose make a catapult! “The rest you can leave to me to prepare”, Hawk nose said swaggeringly. “So Mrs Roxie, the old hag, thinks I am a dummy, well she’d just have to wait and see who is the bigger one,” and he guffawed maliciously. “That’s what he said,” Mickey ended sadly. “He told me he would give me instructions tomorrow, when and where I should bring these things and that he would set a date”. “A date for what and where? I’m scared, I tell you I have a gut feeling he’s going to do something to Mrs Roxie. He’s such a revengeful bully.”
“Mickey”, said James excitedly, “I think I know what that skulking idiot is going to do. He’s probably going to get into Mrs Roxie’s house and make up some mischief to get Mrs Roxie into trouble. Find out as cleverly as you can what he intends to do, and then we’ll make up something where he will stew in his own pie.” “Do you think so?” asked Mickey timidly, “Do you think he’ll tell me?” “Of course if you cotton up to him and flatter him somewhat, that bully is sure to boast. Yes, why don’t you try”, said John. “After all if we get to know his plan, we’ll manage to get him into trouble himself, and he’ll be caught red handed by Mrs Roxie herself” “Do you think we should warn Mrs Roxie?” asked Luke. “No, no”, said James, “if we do, the cat will be out of the bag. All she can say is… Demster, I know what you are up to… but then she’ll have nothing to go on… and will only look foolish… as it is, what with the pranks he’s being playing on her, and not being caught, except for the last time, she’ll have nothing to pinpoint. We must let her catch him in the act… and then think he’ll be expelled from school, and we shall be rid of his nuiscance”. “I think you’re right,” said Mickey slowly, “The problem is how to get him to tell me what he’s intending to do.” “Why don’t we all pool our money together and you buy him an icecream cone at lunch time… that will soften him up, look at him with admiration. say something like ‘gee whizz Demester I’ve always admired you’, or some such thing.” “How disgusting,” remarked John. “Still have you any better idea how we can get it out of him what he’s intending to do?” argued Luke. The others shook their heads at him dolefully. “There, what did I tell you… to get that creep to boast, you must butter him up at first,” continued Luke.
Butter him up, did Mickey. The next lunch break, he volunteered to approach the bully, and said timidly, “Say Demster… how would you like an icecream cone?” Hawk nose’s eyes gleamed. “What one icecream cone” No, No, I’d like three, one vanilla one strawberry and one chocolate. If you are going to work with me, you’d better be more generous. What say you”, he chuckled delightedly at the thought of the treat this scumbag would get for him. Dutifully, Mickey brought him the cones, and while he was slurriping them, Mickey asked timidly, “When do you want me to get the paint and the other things”. “Tomorrow,” said Hawk nose, “See that you bring it to the wood shed behind the old barn” “You are such a wonderful person”, said Mickey. Swallowing his hypocrisy bravely, he continued, “What will you do?” Hawk nose looked at him suspiciously, thought a while and said, “So you think I’m great, do you?” “Yes I do”, said Mickey again with that funny constriction in his throat when he was not telling the truth. “You are so brave and so daring” “Aw well…I’d best have a willing slave to help me… but mind you,” he stared threateningly at Mickey who sat looking at him with innocent eyes. “Dare you breathe a word, otherwise,” he made a slithering gesture across his throat, “that’s what will happen to you”, and I’ll throw you into the river, and no one willl know you ever existed, you scrap of humanity.” Mickey gulped back his tears, and said, “I won’t, cross my heart and promise to die, after all I will be in class every day, and I know what will happen to me if I tell tales”. “You bet your life,” said Hawk nose licking his fingers, having gulped down the cones in a few shakes. And that was that, for that day.
That evening sitting in the tree house in John’s home Mickey told them what Hawk nose said: “I think John was right. He’s planning to do something in Mrs Roxie’s house, and he’s going to tell me that tomorrow”, surmised Mickey. “Tell us everything he said,” reminded Luke.
What Mickey heard, when he took the paint and other things to Hawk nose in the wood shed behind the barn, made his hair stand on end. Hawk nose had planned to break into Mrs Roxie’s cottage the night she regularly went to her bible classes, and to plant all kind of ruses which he explained to Mickey in detail.
The foursome mulled over what they had heard, and then they planned their own counter attack.
Now Mrs Roxie lived alone, having been widowed several years ago. She lived in an old gabled house, which belonged to her great grandmother, and all she had as her companion was a great big tom cat, whom she loved as the son she never had. She was a very god-fearing person, always regular at church services, and as an elder of the church, was into all sorts of charity events. Therefore, most of her free time she spent doing things in the church, or for the church. She had a group of friends, all old cronies like her, who got together every Wednesday evening to read the bible at the church group, and meditate on the sins of the world around them.
Mrs Roxie had a daily help, who left every afternoon after cleaning the house and preparing her meagre supper. The help was a one Mrs Purdy, who never ceased to tell her friends, that she did not know how Mrs Roxie could keep living in that ancient house with its creeking stairs, the windows of which swung on their unoiled hinges whenever the wind blew, and those strange noises from the basement, as if the ghosts of all Mr and Mrs Roxie’s relatives, long since dead and gone, were ghouling about. She refused to stay longer than midday, and hurried away after her skimpy household chores. As for the tomcat, she and the cat were sworn enemies. It looked at her gloweringly from the soft pillowed bed that Mrs Roxie made for him. His gleaming eyes followed her about, or so Mrs Purdy thought, as if she were a bird of prey and he were the vampire of the night. As such, they studiously avoided each other. What with the noises and creaks and the glowering eyes, and Mrs Purdy being convinced that the whisperings (which were really the wind in the trees) were the groans of ghosts from the basement, Mrs Purdy fled the house as soon as her tasks were done. She made it be known to everybody that she worked for Mrs Roxie only because she was a kind and respected woman of the pasturage. Otherwise she said to her friends” “I wouldn’t live there for all money in the world, the house gives me the creeps.”
Came the Wednesday for breaking into Mrs Roxie’s house. Hawk nose with the shivering Mickey, sidled along the shadow of the cottages along the road on which Mrs Roxie lived. It was a still evening, almost dusk, and the wind was high, whistling in the leaves of the huge oak trees which lined the sidewalk. Already there were dark shadows that strung themselves along the roof tops of the houses where chimneys were smoking. It was a cold autumn evening, and folks were inside getting ready for their supper. Mickey gave a cock and bull story to his mother, saying he had to go to the gym for indoor basket ball practice. Since his mother was convinced that he was small and fragile and, therefore, need exercise to grow muscles, she did not demur, and was in fact pleased that he was so interested in exercising.
Outside Mrs Roxie’s house all was quiet, for Mrs Roxie was cosily sitting in the church parlour earnestly reading the bible aloud. “The back door,” hissed Hawk nose to Mickey. They made their way, hugging the wall like two furtive thieves, till they came to the back door. Since it was a very ancient house, and the doors were sagging and could hardly be latched properly, it was an easy task for Hawk nose to pry open the door. Hawk nose had already come prepared with his tools and his devilish plot in his mind. So absorbed was he in his task that he did not notice, although Mickey did, that three ghostly figures had shadowed them to the house and were now peering around the corner to see what he was doing. Yes, these three were James, John and Luke who, by the way, had said the same story to their parents about gym practice as had Mickey. They also assured their parents that other boys (and they gave each other’s names) were also going to the gym.
Hawk nose crept in through the kitchen, the pantry and into the living room followed by the quivering Mickey. Hawk nose felt along the walls for the switch to the parlour light, pressed it on, and ran quickly to the curtains to draw them, in case someone who knew Mrs Roxie passed by, and wondered why Mrs Roxie was at home, when everyone knew it was her bible night. The lazy tomcat sitting on his pillow, opened his eyes curiously, and before he could say meow, Hawk nose had quickly slipped the twine about his neck, and although the tom cat snarled and spitted, he was quickly tied to the leg of the seat.
Then Hawk nose, placing a torch into Mickey’s hand, urged Mickey to follow him quietly. They went quickly up the staircase to Mrs Roxie’s bedroom, which was the only one open, since all others not being in use, were shut. Hawk nose slipped back the bedcovers, brought out a struggling large frog from his blazert pocket and stuffed it into the bedcovers, tightening the bedcovers on all sides so that the frog was safely caught inside. Much as if he was a well-versed burglar, Hawk nose went to the chest of drawers and sprinkled pig mush, which he had brought in a plastic bag, quickly closing it, before the foul odour spread all over. To fake a burglary he stuffed some of Mrs Roxie’s meagre trinkets from the jewellery box into his pocket. He was followed meekly by Mickey who looked aghast at the expertise with which Hawk nose displayed his cunning skills. “Hold this”, whispered Hawk nose and thrust a can of prepared detergent liquid into Mickey’s hands while he opened the bathroom door. He stood up on the bathroom stool and hung the plastic bag with a string to the outer door knob. He then splashed huge gobs of white paint at the bottom of the bathtub. “Clever,” thought Mickey as he watched him. The paint could not be distinguished from the white of the bathtub. While leaving her bedroom, he fished out her night slip ons from under the bed, and stashed in some worms into the toe of her slippers “Poor Mrs Roxie. She will be in for a night of horrors”, he gasped, “You bet,’ grunted Hawk nose maliciously. Hawk nose looked around with a satisfactory gleam, and followed by Mickey, he tiptoed down the stairs, gingerly smearing with a brush, the staircase rail, with chicken dung, he had carefully collected in another plastic bag, the day before.
But more was yet to come. From another pocket he carefully took out a catapult and fixed it to the door opening into the parlour from the kitchen, with a marble ball strategically placed in it, so that when the rubber stretched. it would fling the marble out of the socket. He tool a kitchen ladder from the corner and carefully strung the twine along the sides of the wall, affixing the end to the kitchen door leading to the outside. Since it was a spring door , when opened it would trigger off the catapult. To give his handiwork a finishing touch, he took the can of paint and tethered it over the front door, so that anyone opening it would be greeted with a splash of gooey white paint.
But there was still one problem Hawk nose had to face. And that was the tom cat. While Hawk nose, followed by his servile assistant, was going along placing his evil tricks around the bedroom , the parlour and the kitchen, the tom cat kept snarling and meowing and struggling to get his claws on these intruders. Outraged, the tom cat’s eyes glimmered and shimmered in the dark, while he howled dreadfully. Hawk nose went up to him, and surveyed him struggling against the twine at the tom cat’s neck. He paused and a wicked gleam came into his eyes. This was the finishing touch, he thought as he bent down, avoiding the tomcat/’s claws and spitting, and pulled the twine by its end so tight, that the poor cat gasped and died with gaggling eyes and a dying snarl. His gasps were echoed by poor Mickey, who had not even dreamt that this would ever happen” Oh my ghosh” he thought” this is too much. The tomcat was the apple of Mrs Rocie’s eyes and heart and soul. She would be so grieved and saddened if she found he was strangled.”Mickey tried to protest, but he was shoved away rudely by Hawk nose” Stop your snivelling you twit.. do you want the whole neighbourhood to hear him . We have to quieten him, otherwise the ghost will be up”. “You did not have to do this.. really you shouldn’t have” “Be quiet , otherwise I’ll have to do the same to you, you brat. Just you do as I say”. Mickey had no option, he knew that the other pranks were not so dreadful, when one came to think about it, but strangling the cat! Neither he nor the others had thought about this . This was really devilish!. He did not think Hawk nose would go to that extent! The plans of the gang did not include this… this was terrible indeed.!
“Come on” come on” said Hawk nose impatiently, while he held the window pane for Mickey to slide out. As they did so with Mickey coming out the last, Mickey quickly turned the window knob , so that when it slid down it was tightly shut from the inside. The two made their way around the corner.
Suddenly Mickey stopped short. Hawk nose pulled up too “What’s up?” he asked in a snarling whisper, much like the snarl of the poor tomcat he had just strangled. “Listen” said Mickey shakily ,” Do you hear voices?! “What voices.. where?” Look” said Mickey again. They had turned around the corner, and were looking out onto the road. There in the middle in the nurky dusk they could just about make out the figures of three boys talking loudly. “I did see some figures prowling about,” said one. “No, how could you know that Mrs Roxie’s not at home?” “Still, there was a wavering light going up and down,” insisted the first. “And what happened to ,Mrs Roxie’s cat,” said a third voice. “We would hear it snarling and howling if there was an intruder. Wouldn’t we?” “I guess you are right”, said the second voice, “There’s something queer going on there”. “Hey” said the first voice, “lets me run to the police, and I say why don’t you speed away to Mrs Roxie, she should surely be here, now, at once.” “I’ll get Mr Butler next door,” said the third voice. Mr Butler was a big burly six foot six inch giant of a man who lived a few cottages away. “Mr Butler will surely able to handle the thieves right away.” And so saying, the three figures vanished into the darkness.
Panic gripped Hawk nose. Suddenly his bravado collapsed. “Now what do we do?” he asked poor Mickey, who stood looking as dumstruck as he. Mickey took out the torch and shone it on Hawk nose’s face which was looking back with anxious eyes at him. “Hey,” said Mickey, where is your school cap? You haven’t got it on . Where did you lose it? Did you leave it in Mrs Roxie’s house?”
Where indeed did Hawk nose leave his school cap? Now little Miceky was not as dumb as he made out to be in front of Hawk nose. The foursome’s plan had started working. Hawk nose snatched the torch from Mickey’s hand and began looking about the ground to find out if he had dropped it while returning. Quickly he ran along the path they had just left, with the torch shining on the ground up to the kitchen door. It was nowhere. “Cripes,” said Hawk nose, in despair, “I’ve left it somewhere in the house.” Mickey knew exactly where. It was he who had quietly slippped it from Hawk nose’s head, while he was bending over tying up the struggling tomcat. In all that confusion, noise and struggle, Hawk nose did not feel it being slipped off. If at all he thought about it, he must have thought it fell out, when he was strangling the tomcat. Mickey had debated anxiously when to slip it off, without Hawk nose feeling it. The chance was too good when he had bent over the tomcat trying to tie it up. Hawk nose’s cap lay there, at the feet of the poor tomcat now completely dead.
Events quickly took over the distraught Hawk nose. He tried to get into the house through the window, but Mickey had made sure it was tightly shut from the inside. Time was running out fast. One of the three, Mrs Roxie, the policeman, or what was more, the fearsome Mr Butler would be there any minute! He dashed about trying the other windows. They would not budge. In desperation he tried the front door, without realising how he himself had it all wired up.The door would not open without the key, naturally. In greater desperation he went to the unlatched kitchen door and flung it open. “plung” the catapult true to its maker, struck him with the ball, in the middle of his forehead. He dashed through the kitchen door to the parlour, and up the stairs. Chicken dung stuck to his hands. He rummaged among the clothes in the drawer, more pig dung stuck to his clothes, his hair and his blazer. He dashed into the bathroom to look into the bathtub. “Splash, splutter” the liquid detergent danced all over him, drenching him, and smarting his eyes. He slipped and almost fell into the bathroom tub, and only managed to stop himself in time, but not without getting his hand all gooey with sticky white paint. Now, in wild panic he dashed out down the steps and out of the front door, but again not without being spluttered with white paint. He looked a comic sight, all white and sticky, with two holes for eyes and white hair sticking out on end, woth painted arms and hands, dangling limply. Surely, if one of the gory ghosts had come out of the basement and seen him, they would have recognised him as one of them! He stood on the front porch, a sorry sight. As soon as he could make out the figures of adults fast approaching him, he dashed into the house up the stairs. Straight into Mrs Roxie’s bed he went, to hide himself under the bedcovers, or so he thought, without the prying eyes of human beings. But then he had a sticky frog to keep him company, who slithering on him under the bedclothes got stuck to him and his paint and croaked complainingly.
The rest of the story was the talk of the town for many a day to come. Mrs Roxie could not ever be consoled by the loss of her tom cat. She sobbed and she sighed, till one day her bible class friends brought her a soft cuddly little cat as a gift. At first she didn’t want it. She felt guilty about having some other cat replace her dear tomcat. But soon she got used to it, and now she carries the little one whereever she goes, when she’s not at school. Not that she goes out much; its usually shopping with the little one sitting in the basket, which she carries over her arm, or crouched under her feet when she reads the bible or meditates at her bible class. As for Mickey, Luke John and James, they never let out what they knew. Otherwise, they would all be called accomplices. So they kept their mouths shut.
With Hawk nose, that’s a sad story. He was tried in the juvenile court, and since his only living parent, his father, did not want to take care of him after that, he was put into a reformatory school. You wouldn’t recognise him if you had the sympathy to see him during visiting hours. He is much chastised and obedient. Do you know why? Because he is in a dormitory of older and bigger boys than he, who treat him the way he did Mickey. Often, he would sit alone on the yard bench and think. “It’s my bad luck. I know now how Mickey must have felt, when I was a bully. Now I am like Mickey, surronded by a whole gang of bullies! Woe is me”
The Garrulous Grandmother
Nandu stood behind his mother as close as possible hiding behind her back. He took a timid peep around her svelt trousers and got a glimpse of his grandmother which made him quack in his shoes. She looked aweful, she wore a saree that was riding high up around her ankles, a big red spot on her forehead, a hanging diamong nose ring, a wide loose mouth and little beady eyes that screwed its piercing glance into him when his eye met hers. Her face was a sagging parchment skin and when she smiled she showed a mouth of huge artificial teeth or so it looked to him. Her teeth curiously enough reminded him of the horse that took him trotting all around with grinning white teeth when he went camping.
He quickly hid behind his mother, feeling safety against her familiar back. He felt a tug at his hand as his mother Mohini kept pulling him forward. “Nandu” she said excitedly, “come and meet your grandmother. She has been longing to see you ever since you were born and only had to look at your pictures to contend herself. Now here she is in person. Isn’t that wonderful!”, and still the tugging went on and still he would not budge. His father, Shankar, came around his mother and swooped him up in his arms, carrying him right into the grandmother’s grinning face, and when she quackled in a loud laugh, the breath was the most odious that he would remember forever in his life.
Nandu was all of four years. He was a very cute child with bright black eyes, curly lashes and a sweet rose bud mouth. He is the darling of every one who got to know him, and he shuddered to think how he would manage to be when his grandmother felt the same. He was not wrong. She reached out and took him from Shankar’s arms and hugged him against her big bulging belly with arms that were hanging in jowls and a double chin that wagged when she shook her head saying, “Nandu, Nandu, how I had longed to see you. You are even sweeter than your pictures, Huh, Huh,” and the whiff from her moth made him almost throw up. He turned his face aside quickly so that he would not have to be kissed by that wide mouth or feel her parchment skin.
From then on, Nandu was in continuous awe of this huge creature that was his grandmother. His mother Mohini squealed with delight when she saw her son in her mother’s arms and said, “wait, wait, let me take some pictures”, and so for some agonising minutes Nandu was held by this big bulk while his mother with great agility took pictures from all sides and kept showing them to her mother with great delight, and all this while Nandu was held in a tight vice by his grandmother.
Several years later, Nandu’s mind would always go back to the first time that he met his grandmother whose name was Saraswati. She lived in a huge old house with a huge retinue of servants and kept ordering them about continuously and in a flustered manner, most times changing her mind in the mid sentence of an order so that the servants were running around like chickens with their heads cut off. These scenes never changed every time Nandu was brought to visit his grandmother. His parents lived in Mumbai in a cute little flat which they had rented whenever they visited India, for they lived in Santiago where his father Shankar was a construction Engineer. Nandu never ever took to this curious grandmother. She had the most oddities of character that he had ever seen, and whenever they had to leave for India the first thing he would ask querulously of his mother , “Mama, do we really have to go and visit Grandmother.” “Most definitely,” expostulated his mother. “How can you ever think of not visiting her. Poor old woman, you are her only grandson. I think the next time we should so make it that your cousin sisters should also be there to keep you company. Now if there was anything that the growing Nandu disliked was girls. They were all the time snivelling, screeching and scolding each other. At least that is what the girls in his school did.
Now that he was twenty-five years older, he had never forgotten the oddities of his grandmother, now long passed for the last 15 years. So for nine years, he had to tolerate this yearly visit to his grandmother whom he believed then was a witch. Everytime she saw him around the corners, peering at him, she would quackle, “come, come here, my little Nandu, come and sit on your grandmother’s lap.” He had to do so till he was about six years’ old, sulking and puking under his mother’s watchful eyes. He had told her many times that he did not like his grandmother, that she scared him. But, his mother would not listen. She insisted that he be nice to her as he was the only grandson. So every time he was with her, he put on a tortured smile and always said meekly “yes, grandma,.. no grandma,… alright grandma…” only in order to cut short the time he had to spend near her.
Now in retrospect, he felt somewhat ashamed of himself, for poor old thing, she was only trying to show him her love, and now he could deduce why he disliked her so much, although she was really a nice old lady. It was that she talked incessantly. There was no pause in anything she said. She would talk about something and then continue talking about something else so that he never knew which was the subject and which was the object. He remembered clearly how she would say, “Oh, what a beautiful little child you are, bring that stinking vase”; this she said looking at a servant, and then going back to him, “but then you are always so good.” “He is not wanted here (again looking at another servant)”, so that the terrified little Nandu did not know how to get into a conversation edgewise, for there was no break in her speech. And now, at 25, he knew why he disliked women who talked and talked and talked and said nothing.