The train breathed noisily one last time and punctuated its intentions with a sonorous hoot. As always pandemonium arrived in a breathtaking rush. Porters buzzed about hovering near the doors and windows. Irate elbows flew about and verbal bullets were fired point blank. Luggage had come to life as they were launched into the air and bounded away down the platform. Some of them tired out quickly huddling in forgotten little heaps and others held themselves proudly all a glitter in their finery. The big city reached into the station enclosing the unwitting travelers in its warm but odorous embrace. Bipeds of all sizes and shapes made a beeline to the gates only to be stopped by their counterparts who clearly were making a dash in the opposite direction.
Into this milling tableau stepped forth three redoubtable characters. They surveyed the proceedings with a smirk born of youthfulness, smiled at each other and sallied forth into the hubbub without another thought. Their cricket kits slung over their shoulders were veritable weapons used without remorse on the unsuspecting hordes. They thrust their bats into tight openings, blew the wedge open with their bags and ran through the gates with the certainty of trained athletes. Of course it mattered not that they left a stumbling bumbling mass of humanity in their wake from which emanated babble of the foulest quality.
A stentorian voice shouted, “You fools, what are you doing? Stop those fools!”
This ambiguous command had the exact opposite effect that it desired for everyone fell on each other determined to stop whatever it was that needed stopping. The three laughed uproariously and fell about in mirth until it dawned on them that their shenanigans had been witnessed. In fact Mr. Stentorian Voice had organized a murderous looking brigade which was headed right for them. The young men realized that their fate would indeed be foreshortened by a few decades, if they lingered and they sailed into the nearest cab parked at the curb. The bags were thrust into the boot and the driver was promised loot. The car under the insistent tutelage of its owner hesitated no longer and pulled away from the station leaving the light brigade glowering in fury.
The entire episode was a heady cocktail and the three adventurers clutched at each other in merriment rolling around the back of the car. They were all of the same age but completely different in their appearance. Hedge Dog was thin, stringy, spiky haired and had a serious face. Laughing Seal was tall, strong limbed, jaunty and behaved boisterously. Boogie Bear had dumbbell muscles, sported an African hairdo and thick fuzz on his lips.
The memory of the event again set of peals of laughter which was rudely interrupted by the driver begging for their purported destination. The cab driver was a scrawny individual and his Adam’s apple bobbed nervously as he spoke. In the melee, they had forgotten their journey altogether. Boogie Bear who was clearly the leader consulted a slip of paper from his pocket and mentioned a name that seemed to satisfy the driver. It was either that or he never understood a word of what was spoken. In either case, the driver turned the car around and headed straight to the beach.
However the nuances of the driver’s moves were totally lost on the passengers who regaled themselves with fond memories of their cricketing years. Boogie Bear went off into one of his famous reminiscences which usually involved a cricketing act in which he would have played a stellar role. Hedge Dog was however the computer in the group and he took great pleasure in reminding Boogie Bear that no such thing had ever happened. Boogie Bear’s eyes grew big and he curled his biceps mutinously. Into this brewing battle jumped Laughing Seal who stroked Boogie Bear’s head all the while chuckling in glee. Storm gathered around Boogie Bear’s eyes and he pounced on both of them determined to prove his past virtues with fisticuffs.
It took quite a bit of time before the feuding trio realized that the car had stopped and their driver was no longer to be seen. Hedge Dog finally located the driver who was scurrying away from them at a ludicrous speed. This dumbfounded the trio and they looked at each other wondering about the next course of action. After a mutually satisfying conversation they decided that the call of nature could not be ignored and no doubt the driver would return. They pondered on this thought in silence until their musings were interrupted by a familiar smell.
The smell heated up into an aroma of burning oil and still they did not see anything amiss. Laughing Seal grinningly told them that he had once smelt something similar when a car had burnt next to his house. Boogie Bear ignored that remark and was busy looking outside of his window hoping to catch sight of the driver. Hedge Dog always the inquisitive one decided to open the glove compartment of the car and as soon as he did so, great gout of yellow orange flame came licking out. Smoke filled the car as they started coughing in real earnest. Panic had made its first appearance.
Boogie Bear tried to jump out of Laughing Seal’s door and to his great misfortune Laughing Seal reciprocated. Hedge Dog was stuck in between the two of them and had run out of options. Door knobs were pulled and the window levers trundled but in their hurry nothing seemed to work right. The doors were jammed and the windows refused to open completely. Hedge Dog finally had an idea and it was a brilliant one at that. He surmised that since the driver had gotten clean away his door should work! And work it did for they were able to open the door, jump out from the front door and run clear of the car.
The car was a pretty sight with flames licking up from the engine, tires were smoldering and it was distinctly turning red. All of a sudden Boogie Bear remembered that their cricket bags were still in the boot of the car! Laughing Seal was of the notion that bags were less important than lives. Boogie Bear considered that an affront to his cricketing abilities and a fevered discussion ensued. Eventually (and in very little time) Hedge Dog was chosen to go and unlock the boot, Boogie Bear would muscle the boot open and Laughing Seal would lug the bags.
Hedge Dog never had a great relationship with courage but the look in Boogie Bear’s eyes promised sinful retribution. He ran up to the driver’s side, reached in and with precision unlocked the boot. Boogie Bear’s biceps rippled upwards until the lid of the boot snapped right off. Laughing Seal slung the bags out and ran for safety. Such a well executed operation made them all feel heroic and they stood at a respectful distance watching the car melt down as entropy made its presence felt. It was remarkable that not even a single person had approached the scene. It was even more amazing that the trio had not thought of calling for help to save the car at point of time. This point was later on debated hotly and blame was apportioned in fairly equal amounts. Vicariously however all of them enjoyed the wasteful demolition right until the point when a glorious explosion ripped through the car administering the last rites to the infernal contraption.
Somehow the explosion left their bellies sated and their minds enjoyably refreshed.
The day was getting a long in the tooth and they realized that they had to join their teammates in the hotel. Boogie Bear’s frantic search notwithstanding, the note was lost in the car burnt to a funereal crisp. They had no idea where they were or where they were headed. But here Hedge Dog’s eye for detail made all the difference. He remembered seeing the list of tournament fixtures and the place where the match was going to be played on the morrow. They trudged onwards with renewed enthusiasm as Laughing Seal and the bags brought up the rear. Soon they came upon an intersection crisscrossed with vehicles and Boogie Bear miraculously culled an auto from the motley collection.
The address changed hands and the auto took off in valiant pursuit of their destination. In inimical style the auto twisted, turned and corkscrewed its way through the evening maze eventually pirouetting to a stop in front of a large stadium. The very instant the fare was yielded, the auto disgorged its passengers along with their luggage and eloped to parts unknown. Hedge Dog’s disquiet increased as he took in the grey outlines of their abode for the night.
Laughing Seal strutted in as if he owned the stadium while the other trailed along with apprehension writ large on their faces. Boogie Bear who by now was visibly upset with himself for losing the address of the hotel, unleashed a vicious left footer on a stone that took off like a rocket dismembering a large window in the process. The noise was so loud that it echoed around the stadium but not a blade of grass stirred.
They were truly alone.
But there was a silver lining to Boogie Bear’s soccer skills for when Hedge Dog went to examine the damage caused to the window, he found that it belonged to a spacious room filled with jute mats that usually cover the cricket strip. They all trooped in, made themselves comfortable and even complemented Boogie Bear’s goal scoring prowess. Alas, life is not what it always seems. Billions of blood thirsty mosquitoes could not believe their luck. Fate had delivered to them three tasty morsels who could be slowly bled to death.
The battle was unequal, short but definitely not sweet. Hundreds of stings to extremely sensitive places drove the trio out of the room and onto the cricket strip in the middle of the night. Laughing Seal threw in the towel after an unseen marksman punctured his bum. They found a large rectangular piece of tarpaulin covering the strip which was hastily converted into a mattress. Exhaustion weighed heavily on their shoulders and in a matter of minutes they were fast asleep. The events of the day left them in such a stupor that they never felt the gentle rain that fell throughout the night.
Loud voices and an aggressive shove woke up Hedge Dog. He found himself face to face with the groundskeeper who seemed to be threatening him with a rake. That seemed sufficient incentive to wake up the other two who exhibited the very same dim wittedness. They suddenly realized that the day had broken and the stadium was in the process of getting itself ready to host the game. Fever clung like a wraith to all of them because of their tiff with the cold rain. They somehow tottered across the field and fell in a heap at the far corner of the stadium. They were found by the rest of their team sleeping like the dead a couple of hours later. The coach took one look at them and grounded them from playing the match.
This happened before the break in was discovered and they were warned off for life from the stadium.
Boogie Bear snarled at everyone threatening to break their noses if the word ever got out. Laughing Seal’s accidental remark on muscle brained gorillas landed him in the proverbial soup. Hedge Dog was later heard saying that if it were not for him, none of them would have made it this far. This was too much for the other two who fell on him and belabored him until he begged for mercy. Their adventures had become more important than the game itself which ended up slipping away from them.
The trip back to the station was made in far more mundane fashion. Quietly the trio dragged themselves onto the train ignoring the bustle inside. Their crestfallen faces reflected the reality that their lives had become part of cricketing folklore. Their tale would grace every camp and the number of people who would laugh at their antics would be uncountable. The big city had immortalized the trio by playing a cruel trick on them. It bade them farewell and the train revved itself up for another trip to the wilderness.
The big city waited with fiendish glee for the next foray of unsuspecting visitors.
Life stories are always about real life experiences which are collected from real people. Sometimes I do it myself and at other times I get it second hand. Names/places are generally fictitious so that the subject’s identity is not compromised.
In case you are interested in my collection of life stories, they can be found here: