In the 1960s Chennai, which is now a bustling metropolitan city was quite laid back. There were not so many houses and apartments sitting choc a block next to each other. Almost every house had a sprawling garden around it.
I studied in a school near the old Sayani theatre. I used to walk to my school and in the evening back to my house in Kellys at a leisurely pace, along with a group of my friends.
Everyday we passed this big house, which was close to an empty open ground. This is the place where the ESI Hospital was later built.
The house did not have any compound wall around it; just a tall wire fence. What took our fancy in that house was a huge mango tree, right in the centre of the garden. In season, it was bursting with fruits.
Every evening, we boys would stand near the fence, our faces pressed against the gaps in the iron wire, marveling at it.
We counted the fruits and knew if one went a missing the next day. We shoed away the errant squirrels which would dart up and down the trunks and branches. We almost began to believe that the tree was ours.
One day after school, two of my friends and I decided to scale the fence and pluck a few fruits.
Since we had not seen any activity in the house for a long time, we thought that the inmates were away on vacation.
We three smart kids aged just ten years and studying in the fourth standard, climbed the fence and jumped inside.
Suddenly my friend standing next to me shouted, “Run, run” and he took off like the wind. He quickly climbed up the fence and was on the outside and running down the road.
I stood gaping wondering what the matter was while the friend up the tree, slid down the trunk quickly. I felt a hand on my shoulder and before I could escape I was well with the grasp of the house owner. Another man, a servant probably had caught my friend.
They dragged us squirming and resisting to the tree and tied us side by side to the trunk.
We begged and pleaded with the two men. But they would not untie us. Every time we cried out loud, they said, “Close your mouths. Shut up. If you make one more sound, I will lock you up in the car shed.”
So we tried to not to cry and at the same time beg the men to release us.
By then it was almost 6 pm in the evening.After we had been sobbing for almost two hours the men untied us and let us go, after extracting a promise from us not to venture anywhere near their garden. They even added a threat that the next time they found us in their garden, they would hand us to the police.
We went back to our worried parents and we told them that we had gone to a friend’s house. We did not tell them of our mis-adventure as we knew that we would get a sound thrashing from their side.
Why add misery to woe?!!
There are not many incidences that I remember about my school days. But this is one happening that I would never forget.
As told by: Rajkumar. Chennai……….. Written by : Gulsum Basheer @ Talkalittledo.