I again start with that old quote about greatness “Some people are born great, some people become great, some people have greatness thrust upon them” Similarly some people are born hunch backs like the Quasimodo of ‘Hunchback of Notre dame’. Others through their exertions, taking greater and greater loads on their back, instead of achieving greatness, end up with broken backs. Still others get this backs broken for no fault of theirs. The hunchback in my story belongs to the third kind.
Before we get to the hunchback, let’s go to where it all begins. I mean my story. Not the life the universe and everything. For that read the Old Testament book of genesis that describes how God went about creating the world for 6 days and then took the day off on Sunday. Or if you are more scientifically inclined, maybe Stephen Hawking’s brief history of time may have the answer you’re looking for. On the other hand if you’re somebody who likes to think out of the box, you might like to try the explanations of Terry Pratchett who believes the entire world is in the shape of a disc supported on the backs of 4 elephants that are standing on the back of a giant turtle swimming in the huge ocean that is the universe. There could be many more explanations. But the point here is that I am not getting into that. I am only concerned about where my story began. And that was when we landed in God’s own country, ‘Kerala’.
I have always loved the Enid Blyton farm stories where city children land up at the home of their countryside relatives and on the fist morning woken up by sounds of cows, hens, sheep and other farm animals. I had a similar experience on my first morning for the owner of the house had managed to squeeze in a little animal farm in his house. We were rented the quarters on the first floor while the owner occupied the ground floor where he maintained 6 cows, 8-9 hens, a rooster, 10-12 ducks and a dog. Just next to the house was a pond. The balcony of our house looked right into the pond. The owner himself was a very simple man having come up in life from a humble background as a construction worker. His only weakness was his affinity for arrack. Some nights he used to return home drunk and make himself a nuisance to his wife and 3 daughters. But luckily he had a strong and steady son to handle him on such occasions. The youngest daughter Bindu was around my age and soon became my playmate. In case the term playmate brings certain dubious associations in people’s minds, let me remind you I was still only 8 years at that time.
At that time Rajiv Gandhi, the prime minister of the time was coming to address a rally. In ancient times in countries like Japan and China, people used to believe that kings and queens are the representatives of God on earth. I seemed to have held a similar opinion about prime ministers at that time. So I was really excited about the prospect of seeing him in flesh and blood. Luckily for me, Bindu and her family were going to the rally and were willing to take me along. But I had forgotten an important factor – my mother. She ofcourse had other ideas. She believed my time would be better spent at home studying for my exams coming up the following week. I tried my skills of persuasion on her. But persuasion skills have never been my forte then or now. No wonder I could not get into the marketing field. But then marketing is not the only field. If you can’t get into marketing, ‘operations’ is always there. So I decided to put my ‘operations’ skills to use.
I got my operation together the moment my mother went in to clean the dishes. But then mothers have noses as keen as that of dogs in catching scent of any mischief on the part of their wards. And before my hand got to the bolt of the front door, there she was. She immediately seized me and dragged me to the balcony of the house, put me there with my books and shut the door on me. That was definitely a tough situation. The less stout of heart may sense some finality in the course of events. But then it is in such situations that the true fighter spirit is put to test.
I stopped to consider my situation. Here I was on the balcony. The door behind me was shut, but I needed to move on. That left just one direction: right on ahead. Right below the balcony was the sunshade. Climbing down to the sunshade was not a Herculean feat even for an eight year old. From the sunshine, it was going to be a difficult task to ease myself down and swing off on to the compound wall. Here I would need to adjust my swinging speed for if I swung too fast I would land in the pond. On the other hand if I swung too slow I would land on the washing stone just below the compound wall. Once I got to the compound wall, then the washing stone would act as the next stepping stone and then freedom at last. But then I never got to test my speed regulation skills for my feet slipped from the sunshade and I found myself dropping rapidly towards the washing stone. It was only moments before my head would hit the washing stone. At that speed, chances of survival were remote and even if I survived, how would I remain sane after such a blow on my head. That the former did not happen the reader can be sure for dead men tell not tales. But of the later I guess opinions would be divided. At least I for one chose to believe I am perfectly sane. If someone believes otherwise, we can have a healthy debate on this sometime.
I never got to see what happened for I lost by consciousness before my head hit the stone. I do not know how much time had passed. But I sensed my head resting on something soft and could hear some people talking. Initially I did not make any sense of the conversation. But slowly I could make out my name being mentioned. I wondered what had happened. I at last took courage and opened my eyes. I found myself on the ground floor on my mother’s lap. It seemed like I had survived the fall except for a painful sensation in my arm, which later turned out to be a minor fracture. How had this miracle occurred? Well, there can only be one possible answer, isn’t it? Have we been missing someone important? Yes, of course the hunchback. Doesn’t she after all play the titular role? So who was this and when did she intervene?
At the time of my fall, Bindu’s elder sister Gracy had been washing clothes. She had suddenly felt something heavy drop on her back from the skies above. At first she had thought it was a coconut. But then it had been too heavy to be a coconut. You can guess what had fallen on her back and rolled off unhurt. Thus it came about that she ended up a hunch back and I ended up alive. I left the place within next few months. I really hope her back eventually recovered and she is no longer a hunchback.