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Tuesday, June 12, 2018

THE FLOATING DIARY (Short Story Journal – 13): A FORGOTTEN SCAR

Memory is such a bizarre phenomenon! Just when my amnesia is slowly erasing away my mind, a sudden gust of past images brought back a long lost memory! Such is life, when we begin to lose our most precious treasures, it brings back something that we had been searching for so long.

Ever since the time I can still recall, I could never remember the reason behind a four-inch long scar behind my left thigh. When I was in college, one day, Maa asked me, “Pravin, when did you get that scar on your thigh?”

I was naturally surprised on receiving this sudden question. It was a Sunday afternoon and I was roaming around in my trunks when Maa saw the scar behind my left thigh. Aunt Padma rushed in from the kitchen and scrutinized me thoroughly (as if I was still a child) and then retired on the sofa with the words, “Good heavens! I wonder when you received that. However, it seems quite old, though the traces of it are still visible!”

Aunt Padma’s deductions were correct. The scar did seem like a very old one and only the mark on my skin has remained. However, the weird part of the entire episode was that nobody remembered how I got it! The history and the mystery behind the forgotten scar of mine had somehow vanished from the minds of my entire family, including me!
****

Today, on a lazy Saturday morning, as I sat near my window and watched the showers come down from the clouds, I suddenly remembered everything! I was ten years old then, and had moved to Mumbai along with my family. My Baba enrolled me into “St. Joseph’s Missionary School” and my education commenced in this new city. I made quite a few friends shortly and settled down amid my new environment. Among the fresh acquaintances in school, there was a boy named Tony Macaulay. Tony and I didn’t become friends immediately, instead there was some sort of an antagonism that he developed towards me. I couldn’t understand the reason behind this dislike, but my young mind wanted to overcome it and befriend him. Tony had an innocent charisma that appealed to me, even at that tender age and I wished I were his friend.

Once during a holiday weekend, the school authorities arranged for an excursion for the students of the junior school. The plan was to take the students to the “Queen Mary’s Church” in Little Colaba. The parents were asked to drop the children in school early in the morning and the school bus was supposed to take all the kids on a daylong trip. The itinerary contained a morning trip to the church, followed by a lunch session and playtime within its campus. At five in the evening, the bus was again scheduled to bring back all the students to school for dispersal.

I was excited about the trip, more so because it was supposed to be a solo one without the presence of parents! It was a kind of thrill that every child experiences at that age. There were quite a few school busses and all of us headed for the trip with full enthusiasm. As we reached the destination, the appointed teachers queued us inside the church, to maintain decorum. There was a brief prayer session and then we were dispersed slowly. At noon we had a hearty lunch and then all the children were allowed to play in the playground within the boundary of the church campus.

Around late in the afternoon, as I was strolling around the bushes at a corner of the church’s northern boundary, I saw something! Tony was standing near a pit and peeping inside while trying to do something intently. I felt inquisitive and went near him. As I came close, I could see a small kitten sitting at the bottom of the pit and howling for help. The pit was deep enough, with protruding rock splinters along its perimeter, and was not possible for a young boy to get in and out of it easily. I asked, “Hey Tony, what happened? What are you trying to do?”

Tony didn’t notice my arrival and was astonished initially on hearing my voice. After the initial confusion, he replied, “I want to save that kitten, he is stuck inside that pit… But I cannot find a way to do so. This pit is too deep and dangerous!”

This was the first time I realized that Tony had a strange pitch in his voice and a body language that I had previously mistaken as his antagonism towards me. Since we were completely unfamiliar with each other, even he felt hesitant to ask me for help. I tried to make a good use of the situation and quickly said, “Tony, I will climb down into the pit and you hold me tightly. Once I grab the kitten, you pull me out! Anyways, my name is Pravin!”

Tony was a bit skeptical about the idea but agreed. Thus began our mini adventure and while we succeeded in rescuing the kitten, I ended up bruising the back of left thigh, as it brushed against the protruding rocks! I squalled in pain as Tony helped me out from the pit. The little kitten ran away ecstatically into a nearby bush while I sat on the ground. The bruise pained a lot but Tony tried his best to soothe me. However, we were both happy that we could succeed in our little act of heroism!

Tony saved me from any humiliation in front of the teachers. He told our class-teacher that I fell down while trying to save him from skidding on a slippery ground. Our class-teacher, Mrs. Sutherland, praised me for my valor and took me over to the church’s infirmary where I received first-aid. Luckily, Mrs. Sutherland forgot to inform anything about the incidence to my parents after we returned. Perhaps she thought it best not to raise an alarm among the parents! I was also cared to tell about it to Maa and Aunt Padma, so I decided to keep it as a little secret. For many days, I avoided to exposure my bruise in front of my parents. I was good at it and could escape any confrontation. The wound healed soon and my relationship with Tony became friendly. We were no more antagonists, but became buddies.

Years moved on, and with time, I forgot about the incidence completely. A few years later, Tony went away to South Africa along with his parents and I lost all touch with him. As the little Tony behind the forgotten scar faded away from my mind, so did the existence of the scar. Moreover, such was the stroke of luck that I could not even remember anything about it.


Finally, today, the fond memories of Tony and the forgotten scar have suddenly returned home, to my mind and I stand here with a smile on my face. I don’t know whether miracles happen or not, but I really wish that a miracle happens and I get to meet Tony again, just like a miraculous gust of lost time has reminded me about the FORGOTTEN SCAR!

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