“You broke my pen!” ten year old Moan complained.
“No, I didn't. It accidentally fell on the floor,” Dave replied in defense. “I insist you broke it purposely,” Moan retorted.
“It was an accident, I said I'm sorry,” the other snapped. “Sorry isn't medicine!”” Then go to hospital!”
In the absence of their teacher and during the lunch break, their argument was becoming heated almost to the point of violence and some classmates delighted in taking sides till the last school bell rang at 14.30. The children ran for some meters from VDP School. Running, like culture, gave them their identity among their peers. Unable to swallow his repeated insults, Dave reacted glaringly but when they came face to face near the vacant land locked between the cane fields on either side, a serious affront arose.
“ You little mosquito!” Moan said, “what do you think of yourself, you, rotten egg?”
“You swine, I”ll show you,”came the challenge, “Here , Take it.” It was his first punch A slap followed from the other. Their friends quickly surrounded them, cheering and procrastinating all set to make an evening out of it. The two boys continued to hurl ritual-like abuses to each other.
“I'll show you. If you are a man, come on,” Dave challenged beckoning him.
“ Do you think you're a man, you, little prawn? Come we'll see,” the other boy retorted pointing his forefinger at him. The two “enemies” doing the buttons down. removed their shirts hastily Under the stare and encouragement of their friends, they began to box and kick each other in turn. Dave fell to the ground, but quickly avoided a dangerous punch and rose like the prehistoric monster in Grandmother's bedtime stories. Their wriggling, hitting and panting like true warriors in real battlefield gave the other children a rare excitement which they didn't have for weeks. Worse was to happen. However, when they heard someone saying smoothly, “Mr. Khan's coming this way,” immediately they retreated Then, in a gallant show of love, they put their arms on the shoulders of each other and, smilingly, with handkerchief, they hid the slight bruises on their faces .
“What's wrong with you boys? Why aren't you going home?” the teacher inquired ignoring their vain attempt. He was so used to such scenes on his way home from school. He knew they would disperse after him.
“Nothing wrong, sir, we're having some fun,” came the reply almost in chorus. Then, all quietly departed leaving their 'friends' to their own fate.
“They've gone away,” Dave said in surprise.
“Cowards!” Exclaimed his friend, “yes, this is what they're. Why, they should stay. They should.” Quite reluctantly, they too took their way home.
Mohan's parents were seen walking into the office of the Headmaster the next morning. They complained about the unruly and violent behaviour of Dave and that he had fought with their 'innocent' son and 'inflicted' him injuries. Meanwhile, both boys who had been playing hide and seek game with other children were informed by Edlay, a friend from their neighbourhood. They rushed to hide behind a notice board on a tripod and were waiting to be summoned. They giggled seeing Mohan's parenst departing after a few minutes. The afternoon bell rang. When the headmaster appeared, the students quickly lined up eager to hear him . The two boys felt some shivers down their spine. They were both called up to him. They were introduced as wrestling heroes of the school and expected to become the country;s champions in international competitions.
“I've told many times that fighting is forbidden even on your way home. You defied me. Tell me, what happened yesterday.”
“Sir, we're only playing..,” Dave began.
“Playing, you call it playing,” the headmaster was showing the injury marks on their faces.
Meanwhile, the clerk brought him a rattan stick, with which the headmaster began brandishing, and threatening them of dire consequences if ever they dared to fight again . He beat them on their buttocks while they uttered “ooh” and “aah” common occurrences on such occasions. They were also made to shake each other hands and promise to be friends for ever. Turning to the other children, he warned them that they would have the same fate if they fought within the school premises or even on the streets..
However, fighting would resume about a week later, perhaps among other boys,too. More reports of such incidents and injuries came to annoy the staff of VDP school. One week later, while Mohan's parents were on their way to the only village shop, they, being at dagger's drawn with Dave's parents, became surprised seeing the two boys walking their hands on each other shoulders and in deep fond conversation. They remembered Mohan promising them he would not even talk with him. By the time his mother tried to call him, they had walked away with other boys. How would they face Dave's parents with whom they were in deep row since the fight? They never showed themselves up at the school; they didn't begin the quarrel.. Why did they promise that they would never pardon their boy's act? All these thoughts haunted them. They walked away quite confused.