A Long Look Back
R. G. Kaimal
© Copyright 2018 by R. G. Kaimal
Look Back’ is a reminiscence of my growing-up process. It deals
with the challenges & joys that confronted me in this process.
had a rather colorful childhood but a challenging boyhood. By the
time I was into manhood things had settled down as can be deduced
from the story.
I turned up in this world without much ado in the last century. However, I had quite an eventful childhood in the state of Bihar, India.
When I was about a year old, I nearly died of meningitis. It seems that the personal intervention of God had given me an extra lease of life.
All the doctors had given up on me. With much impatience, they had waited for curtains to enable them to return to their tennis, croquet or bridge.
However, one of the pious guys, who did not play tennis, croquet or bridge, was not ready to give in. He decided to go on a pilgrimage with me to one of the holiest shrines in the country.
After the ‘uncle’ returned, I, inexplicably, began to recover, much to the tearful joy of my parents and the annoyed bewilderment of the doctors.
As a child, I could give the most accomplished imp a healthy competition. My heroic exploits knew no bounds.
On one occasion, when I was about three years old, I dragged a stool to a chest-of-drawers in my parents’ bedroom. (The stool was much taller than I was.) Hoisting myself on top of it, I managed to pull open the top drawer.
My mother narrated the incident to a number of her friends. I am sure that some extra seasoning was added every time she went over it. When I heard it for the first time, it went something like this- “My God! When I set my eyes on him, he was on this stool and was holding the thermometer. I screamed out at him despite my heart suddenly popping into my mouth. That did not stop the brat from snapping it into two!”
It seems that I received a couple of hard thumps on my hindquarters and that I wept and wailed for about two minutes before I was distracted by a large ant on the wall that I was made to face.
Thus did I progress from one slippery stepping stone to another till S-Day dawned – first day at school.
Much tears were shed that morning at home. The streams down my chubby cheeks were in spate on the way to the school with my father. When he left to carry on to his office, my tortured screams were quite loud. I had a close competition from about twenty other distressed participants. Later in the day at home, I proudly informed my mother that I had been the loudest.
My early years in school and outside were quite wonderful.
My father was a senior officer in one of the leading companies of the country. Our bungalow was quite large and set in a very large compound. The portions, which were not requisitioned for gardening by my mother, were overgrown with wild plants and shrubs.
I would have a great time playing in this ‘forest’ with my best friend, Chunky. He was our neighbor. We would hunt for lions and tigers here. Despite our inability to locate any, the hunt would be vividly described to our parents. The roars and snarls that we would ‘hear’ there would be greatly highlighted.
Chunky would be ever comparing the sizes of the eggs laid by our respective hens. Some of my mother’s friends had warned her that he had this unenviable knack of drawing ill fortune to any hen whose output he praised. Some of my mother’s hens did die rather mysteriously after some such favorable words from him.
Anyway, we had some great times together.
Every once in a while we would decide to have an ‘afternoon party’. Some money would be extracted from our mothers, using the twin strategy of sweet and sour. One of the most effective sweet that I used was to tell my mother that she looked like a flower. When this did not work, the sour would be brought into play. The commonly used sour by us was to refuse food. The required amount would be forthcoming after a couple of missed meals (No doubt, this method was rather painful.)
Once the finances were arranged, we would be off to a nearby bakery. We would select the goodies after much deliberation and many changes of decisions. After the owner had ascertained with our mothers on the phone that the money so proudly displayed had not been stolen, the exchange would take place.
Back to the party site, the goodies would be arranged rather haphazardly. Chunky’s cat would be invited and we would have a gala time. Tibby, the cat would scoot off on being compelled to taste some soft drink. He would keep his distance for the next few days.
I had requisitioned a tree as my personal perch. On certain days, I would climb up to one of its branches and quietly survey the world from my heightened perspective.
And thus the days went by.
It was about then that I stepped over the indistinct dividing line between childhood and boyhood.
I began to notice the presence of another species in my world – girls! I was not too fond of them, mainly on account of their long hair, multi-colored ribbons and a tendency to shed tears at the drop of a pin. Sometimes, I would wonder loudly why they did not keep their hair short and neat like mine and my friends! Of course, I did note that my mother’s hair was long, too. But, I felt that she could be excused. After all, she was my mother!
It was not long before this species began to invade my home. They were my elder brother’s friends. One morning, I tried to drill some sense into him. For all my efforts, I was told to shut up and play in another room with my toy cars.
During summers, hordes of monkeys would descend on our colony. The fellows would line the roofs, waiting for the slightest opportunity to sneak in. The houses would be shut tight against such a possibility; shut so tight that an ant would have to squeeze its way in.
One year, my mother felt that they were looking rather famished. Feeling compassionate, she instructed the gardener to take some stale food out to a spot under the guava trees. The chap should have left it there and withdrawn quietly. However, he began to make inviting sounds and gestures to the fellows on our roof while holding out the plate to them. He dared to do this because he knew that the young maid was watching him. He had been courting her unsuccessfully for quite some time.
Eventually, one very hairy chap climbed down and approached him. Suspiciously, it smelt the food being held out by the reverent gardener. Something about it seemed to offend our friend. Raising its left front paw, it slapped him rather hard before leaping back to its place on the roof. The gardener went reeling like a top, scattering the food evenly all around.
For the next year or so, he walked with a distinct roll to his gait. The sight of him was a great mood-lifter for the maid.
School had begun to be rather acceptable. I happened to be in a class which was a sheer torture for the faculty. Our exploits knew no bounds; like the one which involved lining the fan blades with empty lunch boxes. Fortunately, or otherwise the mathematics teacher saw the arrangement just before he turned the fan on. The principal was escorted to the site. He looked thoughtfully at it before handing out a rather stiff punishment.
I did rather well academically till the fifth grade. Then, a fuse blew somewhere and mathematics began to be Greek and Latin to me. At the end of the academic year, I was given a conditional promotion. This meant that if I did not pick up in that subject, I would be demoted to the fifth grade.
And that is exactly what happened.
Well, sweeping a lot of unpleasantness under the carpet, I managed to do spectacularly well in my second innings. At the end of the year, I was double promoted and rejoined my original class.
The years rolled on and, soon, the school passing examinations loomed up. I studied rather hard, with the able guidance of a tutor who had been engaged by my nervous mother. She was not entirely sure of my ability to handle mathematics on my own. Mr. Ghosh a tutor dealt, for the most part with that subject. However, he did not neglect to check up on physics and chemistry as well. The other subjects could be independently handled by me.
I did rather well in the examination, being awarded a First Division.
I applied to and was admitted to one of the leading colleges of the country.
However, things began to go sour again. At the end of two years of unassigned course, I was informed that I could not be assigned the discipline of my choice. The option offered was totally unacceptable.
Subsequently, I applied and was admitted to an Arts course. The college was located in Bangalore, one of the principal cities of the South India. The two years thus lost was something else which had to be swept under the carpet. After graduating, I went on to complete a diploma course in Business Management.
It was about this time that I began to compose poems. My initial efforts were not much to write home about. After a year of lousier-than-average output, a gem resulted. This was pointed out to me by a very good friend. She went on to add that I should not bask in her admiration; that my better-than-average output needed to increase.
This did happen and some of my poems were published in one of the leading dailies.
My career did not seem to take off for a while. After stagnating for a year, I was recruited as a management trainee by one of the leading steel producers in the private sector.
I still feel that the year that I spent as a trainee at the company headquarters was the most rewarding and enjoyable of my life. It just happened that my colleagues had very similar ideas of work and play as I did. So we got on royally and there never was a dull moment.
I married a year later. The years ahead would see my wife and me becoming the proud parents of a boy and a girl.
I progressed rather well up the executive ladder. In fact, one year I had the distinction of being promoted twice. Somewhere along the way I was transferred to the company’s marketing division in Bangalore, the very familiar city from where I had graduated.
It was one of the best cities of the country from most points of view. All the same, I was not really happy here. I felt that I was a square peg in a round hole, as far as my job was concerned. This was echoed by my wife. I could not apply for another transfer since the company was tightening it belt by reducing the number of employees. Any such application could result in my being shown the door.
However, luck smiled on me briefly. About this time, the company introduced a voluntary retirement scheme. I grabbed it.
I managed to locate one MT firm which agreed to give me a chance. As luck would have it, this firm went bankrupt after four months.
I was in deep waters now.
Almost three years back, my wife’s family had begun seeing a Spiritual Teacher, since most of them were in some trouble or the other with no light visible at the end of the dark tunnel. Their interaction with the Spiritual Teacher had begun to work wonders.
I met him with my problems and he recruited in organization.
While working here, I completed certain basic and advanced courses in yogic stress management.
Gradually, my agitated mind began to stabilize. I began to look on the pleasant as well as the unpleasant with detachment. This detachment was the outcome of my daily yoga exercises which were a sequel to the basic and advanced courses.
Currently, our children are into their jobs. Both are rather independent and stubborn. This results in frequent skirmishes. My son’s difference of opinion is largely with my wife and daughter; my daughter’s is with my wife and son.
My wife often holds yelling matches with one of the offenders. The outcome is something akin to the audio output of a flock of disturbed crows.
I have disciplined myself to be a mere spectator in all these upheavals. This is because I had learnt rather early in my life with the offspring that any intervention on my part would result in a rapid redeployment of forces. The skirmish would then be transformed into three against one. It does not require a very high IQ to guess who the ‘one’ would be.
I have begun writing again. It had taken the back seat during the years of turmoil and instability. I have expanded my creative efforts to include short stories and flash fictions. Sometime back, I was awarded a prize for poetry in some competitions. Some of my writings have been published in anthologies in the USA.
So I live on; a lighter person. Despite trying days, I do marvel at wonderful things – from the simple beauty of dewdrops on blades of grass to the complex magnificence of a clear night sky.
G Kaimal’s first lines were triggered by his puppy-love for a
girl in school. It was quite a poor effort and the girl made it quite
clear. However, they got to be good friend for a long time.
His short stories have been published by Unisun Publication, Bangalore in their anthology.
Tor Publishing of USA has featured his poem in their Anthology ‘Graveyard’.
Recently his poem ‘Invitation Lost’ has been featured in an anthology of Scars Publication of the US in their ‘Down in the Dirt’ April 2018 issue. (v156)
He works for the Art of Living organization in Bangalore, India and stays on their picturesque campus.