Raise your hands, elder siblings out there, if you have felt on more than one occasion the intense urge to throttle your younger siblings. Both my hands are raised here. I think that the main purpose of a younger sibling’s life is to teach meditation and instill values like patience in their elder sibling. Like when your siblings irritate you and instead of retaliating, (when you are in presence of relatives/strangers) you close your eyes, grit your teeth and imagine a thousand ways to wring their necks, that’s how you attain the patience of a saint. Today, I would like to share with you all one such incident that happened during our summer holidays in Madikeri that should have garnered me ‘sainthood’.
One summer, as soon as thatha’s jeep (thatha used to come to the bus stand to pick us up and he always came bearing chocolates!) entered the side lane that led towards Dodammi’s* house from the main road, we noticed that a new house was getting constructed across the road and thatha told us that a family of 3 had already moved in. Dodammi’s house was on the outskirts of Madikeri with very few houses around. There was a rice mill about a mile from her place, whose owner was our thatha’s friend. During our summer holidays there, we would go for long evening walks till the rice mill and back, enjoying the summer breeze (I know that walks and summers do not go hand in hand, but back then, Madikeri was so cool year-round that we would use rugs even on summer nights). And it was on one such walk that we met Gunda.
So, when Hithu and I, along with our respective younger siblings Sharu and Drushya, went for our usual evening walk that day, we came across a boy around our age, sitting on top of the newly constructed house’s gate pillar and eating orange ice candy (certain things are imprinted in our minds forever, like that orange ice candy in mine!). As soon as he saw us, he increased the volume of his slurping sound. Other than the curious glances, nothing much was exchanged that first day. When we came across him with his ice candy at his usual spot on every evening walk, our disgruntlement stemming from the fact that we were only allowed to have ice candies once every 15 days, led to us getting more and more irritated at the sight of him with each passing day. Fueled by the anger at this injustice, Hithu and I had nicknamed him as ‘Gunda’ (as he was a bit overweight). Yes, like all children that age, we were pretty mean! That nickname was used only in the privacy of our home, but remember those creatures whose sole job is to embarrass their elder siblings? Yes, well, on the very next day, Drushya and Sharu not only told him about the nickname that we had bestowed upon him, but even went on to explain the reasoning behind it. Though we told him (awkwardly laughing) that the little devils were just joking, it didn’t look like he bought our excuse, for from the very next day he would greet us with Upendra’s then popular Kannada song ‘MTV subbalakshmige bari oolu bari oolu, zee tv maade gowdrige bari oolu bari oolu..’. And of course, he replaced ‘subbalakshmi’ and ‘maade gowdru’ with Navya and Hithyshi respectively, probably to give it a more personal touch. Don’t know how he found out our names, but my money’s on the little monsters!
Anyway, on one such evening walk, having just passed by Gunda and his obnoxious song, we came to a sudden stop. For at a short distance from us, there was a huge commotion with dust raised everywhere. As the dust settled down, what we saw stopped our hearts (not literally or I wouldn’t be writing this now). There was a huge gooli (a bull, but gooli sounds more menacing) that was running rampant and was trying to gore down as many people as it could. A live ‘Running of the bulls‘ Madikeri edition was taking place right in front of our eyes except for the fact that no one had signed up for it. And suddenly, the gooli stopped throwing tantrums like a spoiled child when it spotted us. Standing still at the centre of the road, we must have stood out as starkly as a scarecrow in a paddy field. Panicking that we would be the next candidates for a rendezvous with the gooli’s horns, we turned around and started running. Now, if it was just me and Hithu, I am sure that our 9 year old legs would have outrun that gooli, but since we were also saddled with 2 and 3 year olds, our speed was limited to a few paces faster than a sloth. Hithu, unable to tolerate the slow pace anymore, picked up Sharu and started running. When I attempted doing the same, my sister flatly refused. Furthermore she stopped running, just like that, saying that she was tired and would go no further. Neither would she run nor would she let me carry her. Looking at her, all of about 2 1/2 feet in height, standing at the centre of the road with her chubby arms placed defiantly on her hips, red blotches on the cheeks brought on by exertion and lips pouted in stubbornness, I was sorely tempted to leave her there. Only the fear of facing Amma’s wrath, rather than my love for my sister, made me bend down, scoop her up and to start running again. With my sister struggling in my arms and trying to scratch the hell out of my face, I ran like never before. If there was an Olympic record for the fastest 100m by a 9 year old, then I am sure that I broke it that day.
With the gooli almost upon us, suddenly we heard an ear-splitting crash. The sound scared the gooli into the back garden of the Field Marshal Cariappa college that stood on the right side of the road. As we stopped and looked back breathing heavily, for a few seconds we couldn’t make out as to what had caused that loud crashing sound as there was dust everywhere. Once the dust settled down, it became clear to us that the gate pillar on which Gunda had sat had tumbled down taking Gunda also with it. Thankfully, the boy had escaped unharmed. Gunda used to sit on the pillar even though it wasn’t yet fully built, which was evident from the wooden framework supporting it. But his impatience had literally saved our lives that day, for if he hadn’t sat on the pillar causing it to crash, we would have ended up as kebabs on the gooli’s horns.
That night, as my sister, freshly bathed and wearing her teddy bear night suit, sitting on top of the dining table was cutely recounting the gooli incident with Amma feeding her, I thought back to how that innocent monster had almost had both of us turned into mincemeat earlier that day. Over the years, there have been many instances where we have fought like grizzly bears, but she’s also the sister who has protected me fiercely like a little warrior when I would get scoldings from Amma. The image of her 3 feet self, standing protectively in front of me, ready to fight the world on my behalf is forever etched in my mind. Yes, siblings irritate each other to death, but there’s also no one we would rather have as our commanders-in-chief in this war called life than our siblings. And if you tell my sister that I said so, I am gonna deny it till my last breath!
* Dodammi- maternal grandmother
Other short stories in the series ‘Summers in the 90s’
- Summers in Madikeri
- Battle for the Lotus pond
- How we spent time during power cuts
- Just a day in our summer holidays
- Sarees, Chapatis and Nandini the cow