Mischief making outside home or adventuring were not my cup of tea in my childhood days, except harassing a little brother for trivials, not for fun though! My timidity and stubbornness went hand in hand. Yet, I was so uncomfortable with my grandmother’s over-possessiveness towards her grandchildren. But then she had her own reasons. She would anxiously sit AT the gate, looking on both sides of the street, waiting if we, anybody for that matter, were even a trifle late. She would not allow me to go outside the boundary of our street for playing with other boys, for my cycle rides, or even when she sent me for emergency-shopping errands at a shop in the neighbourhood. Beyond the boundary meant asking permission from her. But there have been a few instances when I ventured out with little care for her anxiety. A few most memorable ‘outings’ come to mind.
One evening I did not return home from my primary school. I used to daily walk up together with two friends [Raju and Pratibha] who lived opposite us with their grandmother. But their parents lived close to the school. They went to their parents and I too accompanied them with the hope that they would return home soon. They gave me ‘Kobri mithai’ [a sweet dish] and spent time playing with them completely forgetting about returning! It was such an age! By the time we playfully and most leisurely returned home, there was my grandmother who had sent my mother and aunt to look for me, waiting at the gate in her usual style. I got what I deserved.
We had Hari, Prem, Narendra, Ganapati, and Raju, all of them but Prem were seniors in the Devaparthiva Road neighbourhood. The late-sixties were no-TV, no-traffic days and so all the kids were on the streets playing a great assortment of games. We had all the time in the world. When nothing else was there, our ‘group’ sometimes loitered to the nearby playgrounds or wherever they felt like going, throwing stones at trees, telephone poles [it made a nice hollow sound!], etc, not much mischief though. I being the junior most, I accompanied them as I was curious to be with them to see what they do.
One summer afternoon, they went to the ‘pavilion’ [a cricket ground with a vast area]. From there, we just walked on and on through the Kukkarahalli tank bund and came out from its far side. There was hardly any human activity there at that time, being as secluded as it was lonely. The farthest spot was that huge feeder drain that was meant to bring rainwater to that tank. When Hari and Raju were discussing here some ghost stories my timid mind asked me to take to heels but nay, we were almost two miles away from dear home! We returned to the neighbourhood long later only to see my grandmother waiting to bang me at the gate!
Another incident was when we loitered down to ‘far off’ Cosmopolitan Club’s vicinity, hardly a mile near. It was a lonely place too and there was a very old dilapidated building in ruins, half buried and neglected [in fact, the Urban Development Authority exists now t this very place!]. It was called the ‘dungeons’. According to popular rumour there was a link from inside it through to the Palace a mile to its east. When the boys peeped in to the darkness of the dungeons I too had my turn and saw what and how a haunted dark place would appear in reality – we used to hear so many ghost stories! Somehow, my longish absence went unnoticed my grandmother.