There was once a time when I was a labeled a bad kid in my neighborhood. And it was entirely related to my fondness for playing sports in constricted places.
When we were young, my neighbors and I played cricket almost every day. Sometimes twice. And because we played so frequently, we had no time to trudge to the neighboring park. We played in the gulley or on terraces. Eventually we destroyed so many windows and furniture in the surrounding houses that we switched to playing left-handed. To this day, I'm ambidextrous with the bat and have a killer leftie cover drive even if I say so myself.
In any case, back in the day when we were still playing the right way, we used to bully little Kanji into bowling endlessly to us. And poor Kanji - for the privilege of playing with the older boys and getting better - would oblige. But of late he had developed a bit of a mouth. So here he was - right in the middle of the 36th Chamber of Shaolin type schooling we were giving him - trash talking and telling me that I was rubbish outside the off stump. To prove him wrong, I waited for the right width from him and launched into a juicy square cut that resembled Hanuman swinging his gadaa.
Here is where the heavens conspired against me. What are the odds of all of the following happening at the same time? First, we had ripped all our rubber balls up and were playing with a cork ball. Cork balls are indestructible but also highly destructive. Instead of the gulley I was aiming for, the ball flew to K.K. Shah's house - roughly positioned at cover point.
In fact, it went straight to their window and somehow managed to squeeze itself between two horizontal bars. Turns out Ba was watching the game and her mouth just happened to be situated right where the ball decided to enter the Shah household. So all this bad fortune came together and Ba took a big one in the kisser. She keeled over - and disappeared from view.
I dropped the bat, paused to yell rather loudly "You shouldn't have done that Kanji!" and ran. It didn't help - much later I found out that Ba had lost two of her teeth and I had been identified and branded (turns out Ba's periscope size spectacles worked a little too well).
Then things got worse. Let's just put it this way: its bad enough to be playing football - a sport that already had the auntys clucking their tongues over its roughness. And then you really don't want to launch a kick that hits an 80 year old woman in the head. Especially when she is just leaving the pooja at Patelkaka's house. Its worse if she drops down, shudders, flutters her eyelids and says "Hey Ram!" Anyone who is familiar with the story of MKG can only imagine how much hatred might rain down on you if you end up putting any senior in that condition.
So it was that I was transformed into a hugely bad kid in the neighborhood. The auntys refused to make eye contact with me. Uncles glared at me and let out a "Hmmph!" right when they passed me by. I felt really small and ostracized.
But this story has a happy ending. Once Varukaka locked himself yet again out of his second floor flat. The neighbors groaned because it meant one of them would have to invite Varukaka in and listen to his incredibly boring stories until Neenamasi returned with the key.
In a flash - and in full view of the denizens of the society - using some new found skills whose origins shall remain a secret, I scaled the walls to the window and broke into Varukaka's flat. Then I opened the door from the inside and let him in. Varukaka smiled and shook my hand. The neighbors applauded exuberantly - one of them even hugged me awkwardly.
This act of blatant vandalism restored the society's faith in me. I was back to being an achha bachcha. Life was good again.
Previous 3 wheeler rides: Phone Fool, House pets, Boxing Day, Carefree Errands