Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The Heist

Time: Sometime in 1988-1989
Place: Thirunelveli, Tamil Nadu, India
Age: 7th Grade.

It was around 9:00 PM in the night. I was with 3 other people. We were a gang (had been so for about 4 months). We were stealthily crouching up a compound wall/fence and peeping inside. We were planning to raid a "thoppu" ( A grove where many fruit bearing trees are grown). The house was going to sleep, the lights were getting switched off and we thought the time was ripe to loot. There was no one but an aaachi ( An old grand ma who wears white dress) guarding the trees. In those days especially in villages, old ladies slept outside. They were frail creatures with nothing but a single piece of white cloth on (like manisha koirala in kuchi kuchi rakkamma, except much older) but they were as fierce as tigers.

Guava is fruit that is popular in India. I don't think its popular in the US. It is available in some Indian stores though. I don't know if it has an American or English name (like Lady's finger Vs Okra) so that people can say "oh! Ya ! I get it". Even in India many people don't understand what a guava is. I guess Paeru is the rough equalant for it in Hindi. So...coming back, we were going to raid a guava grove. This grove formed the backyard of a large house. Its not like we were robbers or something who were going to steal for money or even worse hunger. Our parents would have bought it for us if we had asked them. Moreover one of my gang members(who became one of my closest friends and is so until now...lets call him oz dude) had the biggest guava grove in the town and we could've plucked fruits from his backyard and eaten for an eternity. No! that was not it! hunger or money was not the reason (they are just too dull). We simply had nothing worthwhile to do and we thought "hey why not steal some fruits". Plus there is an old proverb which says stolen fruits taste sweeter.

So I jumped in with my friend into the grove ( no special feeling when I jumped over the fence) and sneaked near the tree and we also took care not to make even the slightest of noises. My blood was racing like anything. I had never done anything like this before. I was actually praying this would be broadcast live in TV so that the world will appreciate my heroics. But unfortnately even the half-dying aachi was not aware of my heroics. Me and the Oz dude were chosen to climb the tree and pluck the guavas. I am not much of a tree climber and By god ! I was afraid of heights. I live in the fifth floor and I wouldn't let anybody lean too much over my patio. But still we both climb like monkeys to the strongest branch. The other two gang members had a blanket like cloth with them and they stood below us with the cloth spread out so that we could drop the fruits on it.

I am a crazy fellow! ( you are smiling a knowing smile ...aren't you?). I hate ripe Guavas. I like them to be as far away from ripe as possible. Semi-ripe is okay. But completely unripe is a wow! for me. So I moved towards a branch that has the smallest fruits that were crying out " i am unripe and sour!!! pluck me please!!!". I oblidgingly plucked them and started throwing them down. My friends below started noticing this and said " are you crazy? who will eat this? we will get stomach ache! Pluck the ripe ones you idiot!!". But I was not listening. I was in the zone. I kept plucking the small unripe ones and throwing it down thinking "they won't eat it..its all mine". Oz dude gets very angry on seeing my bandwidth being wasted on stupid unripe fruits and he crawled angriliy towards me and I moved to the farthest end of the branch.

Unable to bear my weight (surprising because I was pretty puny then), I could see the branch sort of go down a litttle and then suddenly SNAP! it breaks! and I fall down with a CRASH!. Next thing I know I hear the aachi, the old lady asking " yaar da angaa" ( who is there) the lights go on in a flash and I can see the 2 friends who were standing down were now already jumping across the compound. The screaming voice of aaachi might have confused me slightly but only so slightly. I pulled myself together, got up and ran as fast as I could. I still don't know how I jumped the wall and ran across the thorny bushes clinging on to my very life. After 3-4 minutes I realized Oz dude was up in the tree. "Oh! my god!" I thought and turned behind.

Two grown up adults were chasing us and I saw oz dude running fast towards me with a bicycle. ( ya! I forgotten. He had bought his bicycle with him and had parked it by the side of the wall). The funny part was, the two chasers were gaining on him and if he had to mount the bike and start pedalling it, he would have to slow down considerably and in the process get caught. So he was sort of towing his bike on his right hand side. He was running fast and had both hands on the handle bars and was dragging his bike along.

This cracked me up. I can still remember that scene vividly. I don't think I can ever forget it. I ran fast joined my other two friends pointed them to the sight of Oz dude running with the bike (he was now running in a different direction with both the chasers folowing him), he was still unable to get on the bike. (We laughed so loud that i still laugh when I think about. We made sure we told everybody we knew about this incident and embarassed oz dude until he turned red.) Finally Oz dude got on the bike and pedalled his way to freedom. What was more cool was that 90% of our loot was unripe fruits. It was all mine. My friends couldn't believe that they had been through the entire ordeal (well to tell you the truth! if we had been caught, our biggest punsihment would have been no-dinner-for-you-tonight) for nothing.

The next day, the owner of the house visited my house. I almost pissed in my pants at the sight of him. I thought by some sophisticated finger printing gadgetry he had nailed me down. Thankfully he had come to see my dad for some other purpose (hey it was nellai.. the only gadget was aachi's hearing aid). I was releived. apparently he had not seen me well in the dark ( or he had seen me and chose to be silent about it).

Yesterday..I was watching some old movie and some scene sparked a flashback in my mind ( you know with the spiralling white circles and all that stuff). This happened way back in 1988-1989, I was in 7th grade. The incident took place in Thirunelveli. Oh God! bless the country side for providing such amazing adventures. Thirunelveli (or Nellai) is a small town in the southern tip of India just an hour away from Kanyakumari ( which is the southernmost tip). Its known for its Halwa, Thool Bajji ( pakoda) and the veecharuva folks ( They sorted misunderstandings by chopping off people). But otherwise ( :-) ), it a friendly town and even a 80 year old would stand up before addressing me.

Many times when I flash my stupid I.D card at my work place to the security dude, I think about the many incidents from Thirunelveli. I think "Whose gonna steal anything from this boring concrete building? Why would anyone want to steal some bytes. Have you got guavas inside? You keep guava in their dude and I'll make you earn your money. Even aachi was a better guard than these fancy uniformed people ". Unknowingly a smile runs across my face. That was life! Carefree! and reckless. Sometimes these modern corporate scanario appear just too dull and dead.

Edit1: I changed the name to Heist. This was the name I was actually searching for but did not get it yesterday. Poaching is more animal specific and since we weren't bagging the aaachi but just the guavas, I thought Heist was a better name.

Edit2: Another interesting this was that oz dude's cycle was a Ladies cycle. You know the one with no bar in front. This made it all the more funny as he all he had to do was get on the bike like he would sit on the chair.

Song Playing while I wrote this Blog: Rock Me Armedeus by Falco


Atta Girl said...

Hilarious!! This post sounds so 'Malgudi' like. Completely agree, that was life!!! Damn! I am feeling so nostalgic. I have had my share in TN...those love-filled days that no longer exist now :(

Guava is called Amrood in Hindi.

Suresh Ramani said...

Which year of 7th grade? ;-)

Arvind said...

Haha, had a heartly laugh. I knew the story already but still fun to read it after all these years. So how is Oz Dude doing, he's a good buddy but I've lost touch with him after all these years.
Btw, our taste in music still overlaps a lot - I like Rock Me Amadeus too.

Anonymous said...

Well I dont quite remember the story this way :-), wasn't it you running with that push bike ;-) JK
but those were good old days daa, thats another reason why i liked the movie "Autograph", everybody could relate to such similar events in life and Bharath did you tell Priya about Aprana yet!
btw Arvind I'm doing good, ta mate
(Oz Dude reporting from DownUnder)

Hawkeye said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hawkeye said...

yo! Oz dude,

at last you visited my site. You become too busy nowadays dude! anyway ask your wife to read this blog. I wont pull out a lot of ol' dirt. :-)

Aparna ...hmm... should one tell such things to ones spouse.. tell me babs.. :-) ?

Anonymous said...

yeah thats right finally i read your blogs, man i always enjoy them so much....
whacks that huge smile in my face,
as i gaze and clear my mind of haze,
thro the pages in a humble pace,
this is exactly wat i need as i see my life race.......

guess wat i have made up my mind you are my script writer for my next movie, well first sorry! :-D

I have asked my wife (Vidya) to chk these blogs, and i'm sure she's gonna love'it like i did.

i sincerely believe you shd as ones relationship matures sharing their childhood crushes, but have to warn you though, never accidently meet them on street and introduce them "Hey this is the Aparna i was talking about" :-)

Cheers may our GF's and Wife never meet,

tilotamma said...

You should be able to get that horrible juice in a can in any mexican taqeria.the fruit is called Guayaba there...

Anonymous said...

Hey J(ust)FYI,

Go to an American store and ask for "Gva va". They'll reciprocate.

Anonymous said...

I was looking for something on net and got pointed to this blog. This post is so Hilaroius. I was reading it in my office and couldnt control my laugh!

Well said about the experience in India and comparision with environment we have here in US.