How I had helped a neighborhood kid to run from home.
By Mahesh Nayak
Mangaluru, Feb 5, 2016: To everyone’s relief, the strange case of the missing college girls of Mangaluru has come to a happy ending. Let me share a similar drama in real life - about how, when in school, I had helped a neighbourhood kid to run from home.
Let me call him ‘Sri’. I was in 6th or 7th, he in 8th or 9th. One day, he said he was peeved with his parents for some reason. He also said that he was scheming on running away. I and two other chums stoked the fire. We thought he’d make a good pilot study. We were quite thick those days. Some months earlier, he had taught us all how to smoke Cool cigarettes. Not only were we deeply indebted to him for the favour, but also it drove our cozy club ‘we’ feeling to the next level, as we now had a dreadful common secret to hide. Moreover, we didn’t really think he’d go so far as we knew he was a bit of a liar. He could spin any yarn to gain attention.
Then one day, he showed us a fifty-rupee note and also a bus ticket to Bangalore. He said another kid - a local nitwit called Vitti - had agreed to be his accomplice.
Late evening, a couple of days later, his mom called out to me. She said her son had gone out to buy something and had not yet returned. Had I seen him? Instantly I knew what was up and I rounded up my two buddies in crime. We decided to launch a fake search to give Sri enough time to leave town for good. We thought his folks would treat it like a case of a runaway kitten and simply forget it the next day.
As night grew on us the situation grew worrisome. People of the entire locality had got together. Multiple search parties were formed and they dispersed in different directions of the city for a combing operation. This was not part of the plan.
When we realized we were gonna be in big time trouble we almost wetted our pants. Still we hung around innocently with our mouths tightly shut. It is not an easy task to keep mum when you know the whole bloody truth even as idiots are peeping into every gutter and gully for it. But we’d made up our minds to never ever give in. By now, we were technically fugitives, prepared to take anything. We even let his mom wail all night, rather than expose ourselves.
The search continued overnight and we fell asleep half way through. Next morning when we woke up still there was no news of the runaway kid. The elders first informed the police and then got cracking on his class mates one by one.
It seems nitwit Vitti had grown cold feet and hadn’t shown up at the bus stand. So Sri had braved it alone. Under intense interrogation by the headmaster, Vitti blurted everything like a vomiting pig. Fortunately he didn’t know about our role, so we were spared.
Still the horse had bolted. They had to track Sri in Bangalore. But how???
As one team rushed by car towards Bangalore, our man Sri had already alighted from the bus somewhere near Majestic. It was his first visit to Gotham - sorry the goddamn - city. He’d never seen a town so big. One look at the wide roads, the burgeoning crowds, the mad rush of traffic and a cold chill ran down his spine. He got back into the same bus and bought himself a return ticket with the fifty rupees he had on him.
When he got down near PVS at 6.00 or 7 pm, he fell right in to the eyes of the street conman, a guy called Jaggu. Not one to let an opportunity go by, Jaggu grabbed Sri by the scruff of his neck and dragged him before all like a hero.
Of course, we got away clean. When we saw that the game was up, we all three co-conspirators had convened an emergency meeting to address the crisis. Then we had come up with a suitable alibi to save our bottoms, should we ever be hauled up. That never happened and we remain in the shadows to this day.
Sri anyway was a professional liar. He didn’t know that everyone knew everything. When he got back, he told his parents and the little crowd that had gathered a story about how he was kidnapped by a gang near Ganesh Bakery and taken to Bangalore in a jeep. He even persistently insisted that it was one of those jeeps which had a white fibre glass shell. Such was the great clarity of his fibs.
Once they reached Bangalore, the kidnappers got down for breakfast leaving him alone in the jeep. He used this chance to escape and hide under the vehicle.
The crooks came back and upon realizing that their booty was missing, searched a bit. Then they shrugged and left the scene in frustration. I’m sure Sri had lifted this part from a movie scene as well.
After they were gone he had hung on to the street, weeping loudly. Some Good Samaritan had taken pity on him, bought him breakfast and also a return ticket home.
As he was scared, he had even bought a small Shiva Lingam to boost his confidence. So saying, he produced a little lingam from his pocket. Upon seeing the miniature object in his palm, everybody laughed out loud, as they knew that, though he was lying, the fear in his belly was real.
This incident earned him the nickname ’Runner Sri’.
A few years later his elder brother too ran away briefly while studying PU. So we began to collectively call them ’Runner Bros’ after the many Warner Bros movies we used to see at New Chitra Talkies.
(* All names have been changed to protect the real identities of the concerned actors. The narration is mildly exaggerated for enhancing reading pleasure.)