Sunday, October 21, 2007

Baby Boo Has a Fight

Baby Boo was quite simply the sunniest girl around, full of giggles and smiles. Anyone who looked at her felt lightened by the experience, and went away a happier person. Baby Boo did not know this of course, but then, as her Mamma always said, what's the use being or doing good if you are always aware of it? Baby Boo did not know, and did not care to know.

When Daddy woke her up with a warm snuggle and hug, she'd give him one sleepy smile, blink a few times, realize it was day, and would jump up to kick start things. After all, days were hers, and she quite simply had to take charge of things. "Mammaaaa ..." she'd call out and dig her out from somewhere under the dishes that needed cleaning, or the clothes that needed ironing, and muzzle her nose into her tummy. Mmmmmammaaaa! Mamma would ruffle her hair and kiss her good morning, and Baby Boo knew there was no better way to get the day started.

But that's not what this is about, so let us leave Baby Boo and her family for a moment and look at the trouble brewing elsewhere ... in school, to be precise.

Now Baby Boo's school had just bought a new merry-go-round for the kids a few days ago, and every one was excited. The mechanic who was supposed to install it, however, had fallen ill, and hadn't installed it yet. But setbacks like these hardly made any difference to a child's enthusiasm! During break time, every single one of them would file into the garden and look admiringly at the freshly-painted plaything. They'd exchange excited looks and point out delightful details to each other. "Look look, there's Mickey painted on one seat ... and that one has Daffy Duck!" said one. But not everyone was all that impressed by Daffy and Mickey. "Humph," said a boy, "No transformers. Ridiculous!" "What is a transformer?" asked one of the smallest children, and was promptly rewarded by so many incredulous stares that he quietly subsided in the background. This was swell, and no doubt about that! But there were only six seats in the merry-go-round. Who'd go first?

But Baby Boo didn't have that problem. She was a good girl, and her Mamma had told her that good girls are patient and await their turn. So she contented herself by admiring the new darling of the school, and waited patiently for the day when it would be installed. And today, when she got off the bus, and saw the commotion in the garden, she knew that that day was today. Like a sparrow she took off, satchel and water bottle jiggling along, and was soon there. But so was everyone else!

What a to-do there was! Everyone wanted a ride, and no one could take more than six turns on the merry-go-round; there were too many in queue. But right now, Baby Boo was too preoccupied to bother about that. She was too busy admiring the beautiful merry-go-round. Red and yellow and green and orange, it was the most beautiful this she'd ever seen.

Gracefully, without a sound,
The merry-go-round flew round and round
The children yelled their glee aloud
This thing was great, without a doubt!

Finger in her mouth she stared, watching the kids spinning around, and she suddenly saw that one of them was Sparkle, her best friend.

"Yaaayayyayyyayyy, she yelled. Sparkle saw her and waved wildly. It was evident she was having the time of her life. She was clinging to the rod near her seat and was leaning out, her head lolling back, so. Her long hair flew about like it had a life of its own, and if her closed eyes were anything to go by, the merry-go-round was a godsend. She could hardly wait for Sparkle to get off, and squealed and ran to hug her. And they hugged and jumped together like little children do when they are happiest.

"Howwuzit howwuzit?" Baby Boo asked when their screams subsided.

"Ooooooh," Sparkle held her tightly. "It is the bestestEST thing I have ever seen. It goes so fast, Boo, and you feel dizzy and you feel the wind in your ears and you loll your head back and your head feels heavy and ... oh it is so much fun. You must give it a try."

And the merry-go-round
Went round and round
Shining and spinning
With the kids all a-screaming
And wasn't it fun
When the joyride was done!

"Sure I will," promised Baby Boo, and was about to join the queue of waiting, milling children, when the bell rang, and it was time for school.

On an average day, Baby Boo was always attentive in class, and listened carefully to what her teacher said. But today, she was elsewhere. Through the window, she could see the merry-go-round, all bright and colorful. And it was empty. What fun it would be if she could run out to it and go round and round without anyone disturbing her. But she knew that her teacher would have none of that. She let out a sigh, tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, and got on with the task assigned.

But the classes simply wouldn't end. Usually, classes were short, and were very quickly over. But today, each class was longer than the next, and it was all so boring and quiet that Baby Boo could actually hear the bee buzzing around outside somewhere near the window. Wouldn't break time come?

It took ages, but finally the bell rang, and Baby Boo ran out to the playground. Quickly, feet hardly touching the ground, she fled to the garden, her cute little pigtails swinging to and fro with every stride. She so wanted to get there before anyone else, so she'd be able to have the first go.

You know the thing with life? You want something, and almost always, there are thousands of other people who want it too, and there is nothing you can do about it. By the time baby Boo got to the garden, three boys were already clambering onto the merry-go-round, and a zillion other children were rushing in to grab the remaining three seats. Baby Boo pursed her lips. Her brows furrowed themselves into thin little lines of concentration, and she pressed harder, jumping over the shrubs that lay in her path. Two more seats were gone ohmygawd! Screams rang out all around as everybody rushed to get there first.

But she made it! Hers was definitely the first hand on the empty seat. And everybody knew it was hers and pushed back grudgingly to let her have the ride. Baby Boo pushed back a few strands of hair that had come off from their default position under her clip and began to get onto the merry-go-round when suddenly, a boy lunged over the seat and got in. Baby Boo didn't quite get it at first. "Wh-what are you doing?" she faltered; then "It's my seat. I got here first," she screamed. "Give it to me!"

The boy gave her one nasty push. "I got in first, didn't I?" he sneered. Get lost!

He was clearly a senior student, may be someone even as high up as a third-grader, and Baby Boo typically never disturbed third-graders, but this was simply not done. And he'd pushed her.

"Hell hath no fury ..." someone wrote somewhere, and you should have seen Baby Boo when she got up from her fall and violently shook the boy's arm and tried dragging him off the merry-go-round.

The boy had never expected a pre-KG student to go as far as touch him, let alone fight back. But this girl here was actually shaking him and pulling him off! And everyone was watching. He was stuck. If he hit the girl or pushed her again, she would definitely tell the teachers, and he knew that boys were not supposed to hit girls. The last time a boy had hit a girl, his parents were called, and the principal had scolded the boy right before his parents. Later it turned out that there was a nice dose administered to the boy back home too. So hitting her or pushing her again was out. But what to do? How would it look if he, a third-grader, were to allow a pre-KG baby to drag him off a brand-new merry-go-round? He would never ever hear the end of it. They would all laugh at him.

Baby Boo, in the meantime, was tugging and dragging away with all her strength. Very soon, the other children on the merry-go-round joined in. Some sided with Baby Boo; others with the boy. But one thing that they were all united in was the view that this fight should be taken elsewhere, so that the fun could begin. "Push her! Push her!" said one; "Go away Boo," said another. "No shame?" from somewhere in the crowd. "Come ON ... you're wasting time," said a little girl already in the merry-go-round, swinging her feet to and fro, hitting the merry-go-round bar with her fist. "Come OOOOOONN!"

"Let go, Baby Boo," said one from the crowd, "You can go the next time." "Yes, it's okay," said another. "We promise we will let you have a seat." "Enough is enough okay?" "Just a few minutes left for the bell!" And so on.

Gradually, Baby Boo began to feel that this was all getting too tedious, not to mention pointless. She was about to let go when she remembered what her mother always said. "Baby Boo," she said, "It is always better to let others play before you do. This is how good girls need to behave." But then, Baby Boo reasoned, she meant it to be followed only when the other asks decently. Rude boys shoving little girls around quite simply didn't qualify for exemption. "Nothing doing," she screamed to everyone around; "I got there first, and I won't let go."

The boy was now getting genuinely fluxommed, doubtless due to the fact that all his friends (read cohorts) were huddled quietly at the edge of the crowd, pointing quite politely at him, and sniggering. For a split second, all his pent-up pride and fury appeared to make a complete villain out of him, but then again, the presence of the crowd scared his villain away.

He made one valiant last-ditch attempt at salvaging some pride, however. "Aw come ON, it is only a few rounds okay?" But Baby Boo would have none of it. She simply shook her head, ponytails swinging from side to side, and held on grimly, pulling at the poor boy's shirt.

And then there was that tearing sound, and even in the midst of all that screaming and shouting, everyone heard it. You could almost see the sudden hush run through the crowd, and the sound of tearing cloth and ripping seams filled every nook and cranny of the school. Baby Boo stopped shaking and tugging, the boy stopped shouting and swearing, the little girl stopped swinging her feet, and they all stared at the boy's sleeve. It had almost come quite off the rest of the shirt, and hung limply, dangling and fluttering gently in the breeze blowing by.

But the best thing of all was his face. I wish I were a painter of something, so I could draw it out for you, for the expression on it was priceless. There was shock, of course; and anger, understandable, again; and there was shame, for he knew he'd lost; and there was acute embarrassment, for here he was, a third-grader boy, having his shirt sleeves ripped off by pre-KG girl, and that too for something he had no business doing.

The boy stared at the dangling piece of cloth that once belonged to his shirt; Baby Boo looked defiantly into the boy's eyes -- she was really really scared, of course, but she dared not show it -- as if daring him to try some more panga with her; and the crowd switched gazes: from the boy's picture of a face, to baby Boo's do-you-dare expression, to the little girl who had resumed swinging her legs as she sit on the merry-go-round, and then finally, to the white ragged piece of uniform dangling from the boy's shoulder. Initial silence, followed by gasps and ohs and ahs led to shocked silence, and the boy just stood there, wondering which reaction was the best suited for the occasion.

Finally, he could take it no more, and quickly got off the merry-go-round and rushed unceremoniously from the place.

Baby Boo stood there, astonished. She'd actually won, and only after the boy'd left did the magnitude of what she'd done hit her. She'd beaten a boy four years her elder and senior, and the boy'd run away, and the entire school was watching. But now she was confused. What to do now? What do winners do after a fight? Should she raise her arms in victory, or should she quietly get into the merry-go-round, or what. Her mind debated in dire earnest.

"Poor boy; his shirt got torn," said someone. "Yeah, that sleeve is gone." "Did you see the look on his face?" asked someone else. "I think he is worried his mother will beat him," said another. And silence, as the crowd visualized the sight of the third grader getting systematically thrashed by his mother, hopefully, with a nice broom.

And then, from somewhere at the back of the crowd came the sound of a little girl giggling. And that broke the dams of control. The little girl on the merry-go-round laughed, the children around howled in laughter, and the boy's friends laughed out as loudly as they possibly could. Baby Boo looked around uncertainly at the growing jollity, and slowly joined in. She had won fair and square, and she knew it. She was so happy that she actually let Sparkle ride the merry-go-round in her stead, and walked off to her classroom while the children around her laughed and clapped and patted her and let her pass. Even as Baby Boo walked off, wave on wave of laughter swept the garden as child after child described one juicy scene after another to each other.

It has been two months now, and no less, but even today, during break hours, you can hear the garden ring once more with laughter, as someone who was there related the story of Baby Boo's fight to another who wasn't.

As for Baby Boo, she doesn't think about it any more, of course, but last night she was heard praying before she went to bed, "Please God, please please PLEASE ask Mamma and Daddy to buy me my own little merry-go-round!"

I am sure God will answer her prayers. What do you think?


red insect said...

Baby boo zindabad! Looking forward to resolving the suspense.
I think you are a natural story teller, and you should stick to story telling. Angerzi mein kavita likhna chod do baap, chod diya agar to phir pakad na mat jaldi mein! Anyways, yeh blogon ke audience bhi kya bewakoof bante hain.

Hindi mein likho, hyderabadi hindi main likho, toh sahi. As for pining and salt, pine-te raho! Jaagte raho! insomniacs zindabad!

Usha said...

So, are you buying the merry-go-round?
Good reading but if for kids tone down the language a bit. Also, Sriram thinks that you are talking "at a much higher level of comprehension".

Rakesh said...

Mmmmyeah, point taken. I am as of yet uncertain (as against unsure) of my precise target audience. But basically, what I am trying to do is to create stories that adults can read and retell -- if not read out -- to their children.

But methinks it is always better to read out than to retell. Else, what's the point.

'Have another coming soon ... like they say ... watch this space.