The Invincible

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person, place or incident is purely coincidental.

Or

See it just as a story, won’t you?

My father’s bangle shop was in the heart of the Alwar market. Our house was just above the shop, immersed in the sounds, colours, smells and intelligence of a busy bazaar. Growing up there taught me the kind of ever-ready reflex you need in order to know just when to duck, and when to strike. I wouldn’t live in such a place now, no; I’ve taken what I could from there. But back then, it was the only world I wanted.

It is not strange for a person to reminisce about the old days, the childhood dreamlands. You might not be surprised, therefore, when I tell you I took out my old diary on this raving, snowy evening here in Halifax. The Rajasthani dust on its yellowed pages, the memories of an Indian sun, and more, warm my soul like no rum would. I was a keen cataloguer of my exploits back then — filled with a certainty that I would be the Don Corleone of the better part of the world someday, I wanted to chronicle the making of the legend.

Here’s a chapter for you, uncut. Raw. Of the time when we were 12 years old. I, an investment banker, did not become a don, but just look at the potential I had!

Taken in 1907. Nothing much has changed over the years.

12. 12. 84

It’s Dev’s turn next. I could keep it until the end of December, but after today we feel he should take over now only. It’s too risky. Rathod panicked like we expected him to. But it was a good experience for a good cause.

Murgi thinks too much of herself. Boys in class say she’s white and beautiful. The whole 7th class is full of her, in fact. I don’t understand anything about all this. All I care for is that her father keeps the best chickens in the whole of Alwar market. And she had no business shouting out bad things to Rathod like this. He had just gone to deliver a love letter to her for Chamku after all.

Dev and me would never be friends with Chamku. He can’t fight for a peanut, and thinks the gel in his hair is the best thing on this side of the Indian Ocean. Rathod and him live in the police lines, so they keep meeting each other after school too. So anyway. Chamku loves Murgi, he says. He’s even ready to forget they go to different kinds of God’s places. He got Rathod ready to give his love letter to Murgi when he came to visit us. Rathod is a fool, we all know. The weight of his brain must be as little as the weight of his charcoal body. He said he did it for Chamku. I say, “Why do anything where a girl is involved?” Girls stink anyway. They use all kinds of greasy creams and silly lip glosses that make them look like those shiny pigs with an apple in their mouths.

Rathod found her at Hope Circus, and gave her the letter.

Hope Circus. Courtesy panorimo.com


“Hey listen. This is from Chamku.”

And he stood there. Dev thinks he didn’t do what he should have done — run as soon as he got the letter off his hand — because he’d never been close enough to a girl to lose reason. Murgi snatched it from him and read it before he could run his famous sprint out.

“Get lost you black dog!” Murgi yelled to our friend black dog. He did what he knew best — he ran to us.

Rathod a black dog? No one calls him that. No one. It is an insult to our gang that needed to be avenged. All for one, one for all.

“Oi Hari. You’re right. Let’s get out the 315. And show it to her,” Dev punched the air.

I went inside. Slipped into my room and opened my small iron trunk that has all my balls and bats and catapults. Until today, under the plywood base, it also had a 315 bore desi tamancha. Our prized possession, handed over generations of bazaar-dwelling heroes. An heirloom with unknown origin and grand futures. It was my turn to keep it until the end of December. But Dev has it now. Will I miss it? Perhaps not.

Very close to the 315. Taken from pyramyd.com


We charged towards Hope Circus. She went to learn mehndi Rathod told us. The gali was further down, ahead of Hope Circus. We caught her when she was coming out of the mehndi class. Thankfully, there was no one there at the time.

I pointed the pistol at her. “You insulted our friend. Say sorry.” She screamed. I don’t understand the necessity of screaming. It makes the girl look and sound like a banshee (so that makes her a pig-faced banshee with an apple in her mouth), and it causes unnecessary strain to the ears.

“Stop screaming. Just say sorry and we’ll go.”

Dev spotted someone at the starting of the gali. And Murgi did so at the same time.

“Uncle! Uncle! These boys want to kill me with their pistol,” shouted the pig.

The man had come close enough to see us and the tamancha.

“Go away, boys. Don’t scare the girl like that,” he sounded casual as he walked on.

Much like the lane our heroes ran on.


Rathod giggled nervously. The man hadn’t noticed it was the real thing. Fool.

Murgi ran in the same direction and that’s when I remembered there was a police chowki there. It was time for emergency change of plans.

“Rathod, you run home,” I said.

“Why?”

Arrey, she’s gone to the chowki. She’ll tell the police. Before that, we’ll have to kill her. Dev and me will run faster, get the job done and get back. You’ll get stuck.”

Dev nodded like a true musketeer.

“No!” Rathod had begun to lose it. “They’ll come home. They’ll ask me about you. What will I do? I’ll stay here.”

“Go, you idiot. We’ll handle it from here. There’s no time. Hurry!” Dev pushed him towards the gali‘s exit and ran after me towards the chowki.

“She’ll definitely have to be killed now,” Dev panted.

“Yeah,” I panted back. My glasses were beginning to fog with the heat of the run. I wedged the 315 under my arm and took out the glasses to clean them. The chowki was just a few metres away. Was she already there? What time was it?

“Who’ll do it?”

“Do you want to?”

“Uh hunh.”

We ran on.

There was a gali just before the chowki, turning towards the right. I think I saw her frock turning into it. Perhaps she got scared and didn’t go to the police after all? Smart girl.

“Hey Hari. Look she’s turned into that gali.”

“Yeah. Maybe she went to someone’s house.”

“This’ll get messy. Do we want it messy?”

“Nope,” I leaned against the brick wall, arms akimbo. The tamancha in my right hand was fuming with anticipation.

Dev pushed the wall with his left hand, or tried to.

“Let’s keep it clean. We scared her anyway. We’ve avenged our friend,” said I. Everyone relies on me for wisdom. I never disappoint.

We walked back out of the gali, out into the main road, and then to Hope Circus. When we reached there, Dev said, “Maybe we should pass on the 315 now. It’s too risky. She knows.”

“Yeah. Maybe. Here,” I handed it over to him with a heavy heart.

It was an evening well spent. We taught the foolish girl a lesson she’d never forget. We stood up for our friend. I sacrificed my turn. Tomorrow’s going to be another day, another adventure for us — The Invincible.

———————————–

Hope Circus – Alwar city centre, houses a temple on top

desi tamancha – country-made pistol

mehndi – henna. Girls take lessons for applying the famous henna tattoos on hands and feet.

gali – narrow lane. Not to be confused with gaali (verbal abuse)

police chowki – local police station of a part of a town

Arrey – an exclamation that can mean anything from Oh? to Damn!

The names:

Murgi — literally, chicken. She was named thus for many reasons, the most prominent being she was a chick. It’s my very uneducated guess, though. Don’t count on it.

Chamku — a jibe meaning the one who shines. It must be Chamku’s gel-glistening hair that earned him the name. Or his pomp. Who knows?

Rathod — A common Rajasthani surname. No one knows his given name. Yet.

Dev — A very common Indian name, especially if you want to keep it simple.

Hari — Ditto

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39 thoughts on “The Invincible”

  1. Thank you for sharing your story. You must have many more. I look forward to reading them as you prepare them. These characters, places and actions are indelible. The characters and their emotions are universal. I can see this is just one of more stories to come.

    1. Happy to know you think that the characters and their emotions are universal, Georgette. I quite agree with that. Thank you for your time!

  2. Enjoyed the story, Priya! Chamku was my favourite…it’s probably because he “thinks the gel in his hair is the best thing on this side of the Indian Ocean.” Loved that description!
    Thank you πŸ™‚

  3. Here are just three of my many favorite things about this story:

    1. Your use of a place called Hope Circus as the main setting.

    2. The way you have a potential Mafia don growing up to be an investment banker.

    3. The expressions, such as “He can’t fight for a peanut, and thinks the gel in his hair is the best thing on this side of the Indian Ocean.”

    I wish I could explain how wonderful it feels to watch you become the storyteller you’ve always imagined yourself to be.

    1. 1. When I first went to Alwar almost 14 years back, Hope Circus won the fight over the Aravali hills in attracting my interest. It might have to do with its unusual name, but I think it’s more because its radial streets house the most mind-boggling bazaars ever.
      2. Wasn’t that clever, though? Heh heh.
      3. Goodie.

      I wish I could tell you what your words mean to me. And how far I still need to go. (The latter’s shameful.)

  4. So, Priya, a good old, cold Halifax winter drew out the memory. Brrrr! There certainly would be the contrast of the warm sun!

    You did a great job showing the budding potential of a Don personality.

    One of the parts that gave me a jolt was having the Uncle just brush off the incident and telling the boys not to scare a girl. If I’d been that girl, I’d have made sure he knew that was a real gun! However, there may have been a cultural reason for her not calling him back.

    I love learning about cultures through stories. Many thanks for this, Priya.

    1. I am not sure Murgi thought about stopping the gentleman and making him see it was a real pistol. It might have been because she was scared. Or because she herself wasn’t sure it was a real one. Whatever the case, if the good man had stopped them, our invincible heroes would’ve found it difficult to learn the lesson on their own (though I suspect they’d deny they learnt anything that day!)

      Good you found this a good way to spend your time, Amy. That makes me happy.

  5. It’s a wonderful story Priya. I hope you are not planning to write stories for bollywood movies
    If so, then all the best. I also stay in this side of Indian Ocean. So i can easily connect to this one. πŸ™‚ Feels great when someone uses these tapori languages in a blog , which we use in our conversation, when we are with friends. πŸ™‚

    1. Tapori language is incomparable in its spice and life, isn’t it, Arindam? I enjoyed writing it. But I am not sure I have the special something to write stories for Bollywood. Too much masala’s not good for my constitution!

      Happy to know you liked this adventure.

        1. Thank you for considering me, Arindam. I am not sure what I’ll do with this honour, but do know that I feel absolutely delighted that you thought I was worth it! And congratulations for being nominated, too!

  6. Bravo, another wonderful tale, told with vigor and sincerity.I loved the action in this. It really carried me along, quite breathlessly I might add. I also loved the old images you included to illustrate the setting. Among many wonderful lines, this may have been my favorite: The tamancha in my right hand was fuming with anticipation.

    Thanks. That was a wonderful way to begin my day. πŸ™‚

    1. We used to enjoy our visits to Sariska when we lived there. Thankfully, the tigers were all alive back then, and even more luckily, they gave us a chance to see them every time we were there, too! There’s no better rush than to see a wild cat in the wild. Good to know you’ve visited the sanctuary when it was doing all right. Did you spot some tigers?

      1. oh..i went years back…15 odd years i think and no…no cat obliged:((but i was lucky to spot one at corbett…so you are lucky…well its time for me to head back to the north in search of the tiger:)

        1. Corbett’s been doing well with tigers in the last two years. Impressive increase in the numbers. The downside of tiger sighting there, however, is that the flora is such that a sighting is extremely difficult. The tiger could be sitting next to your vehicle and you wouldn’t know! Kanha’s my favourite place because it’s relatively easier to see them there, and I adore the deeper orange of these cats there!
          Have fun in your trip, wherever you go. And post pictures!

    1. I haven’t been to Halifax. But every time I hear it, the name reminds me of helipads, helix, and square windows on white walls. Don’t ask me why!

      Technicolour and edgy is good. Very good! Keep it coming, Dave. You do me good.

  7. “the memories of an Indian sun, and more, warm my soul like no rum would…”
    I love that line.

    This is a good story, Priya. I can see these boys flexing their adolescent muscles and might … full of testosterone and confident their way is … invincible. The visualization of the pig with an apple in its’ mouth was strong. Typical boys. (smile) Really enjoyed this story.

    1. You picked two of my favourite parts of the story, Lenore. The pig and the testosterone. I am on cloud nine! There’s nothing like knowing that your words tolled a bell just the way you wanted them to! Thank you.

  8. Hey Priya
    Oh boy I enjoyed travelling to Hope Circus and meeting your interesting band of kids. I love the words you taught us like gali, chowki, tamancha, and your descriptions of what your characters names mean i.e

    “Murgi β€” literally, chicken. She was named thus for many reasons, the most prominent being she was a chick. It’s my very uneducated guess, though. Don’t count on it.”

    I love so much of your language: “He can’t fight for a peanut, and thinks the gel in his hair is the best thing on this side of the Indian Ocean.”
    and, “My glasses were beginning to fog with the heat of the run.”
    and, “the memories of an Indian sun, and more, warm my soul like no rum would.”

    I saw the clue you gave us in the glossary at the end:
    Rathod β€” A common Rajasthani surname. No one knows his given name. YET.

    I’m eagerly looking forward to learning his given name.

    1. You saw that! Yes, I was intending to write another of their adventures when this story was still in my story-mill. Now I am not so sure… I change my mind pretty quickly for no reason at all, you see.

      Good you liked the adventure, Rosie. I enjoyed relating it!

  9. I was breathless throughout the story as well!

    The description “They use all kinds of greasy creams and silly lip glosses that make them look like those shiny pigs with an apple in their mouths.” and then: “It makes the girl look and sound like a banshee (so that makes her a pig-faced banshee with an apple in her mouth), and it causes unnecessary strain to the ears.” You’ve completely immersed me into his frame of mind.

    Priya, all I can say to you now is, “And…? What next?” I’m dying to know what “tomorrow’s adventure” brings!

    1. WooHoo! Two won!

      I’d be interested in writing down more of their adventures, Darla. But I am not sure anymore whether I’ll do so. The fickle mind of an nail-biting, nervous me keeps a-changing!

  10. Great story Priya…a delightful aspect of your writings for me is being able to relate to so much on so many levels…be it sights…sounds…references…descriptions…nuances of behavior and the vernacular…a most enjoyable experience…notwithstanding your wonderful storytelling style!

    1. Isn’t it? Something you can relate to is something you find the most attractive. Mostly! Thank you for your kind words, Shama.

  11. Priya, one of the most essential elements a writer needs to compose fiction is imagination. And you have it in spades. I am so glad you are sharing your stories here on your blog, they are a treasured escape. I hope your belief in yourself grows just as eloquently as your characters are.

    1. Ah, my belief in myself. Now that’s something mercurial and extremely flighty. I do enjoy it when it stays. When it’s gone, it eggs me on to try, try, try, *sighs*

  12. your words transform into magical images, as they jump from the page into my eyes – thank you for sharing your creativity!

    keep writing, the readers will belief in you…

  13. This was a gripping story… (Though I really would have wanted to teach those boys a good lesson or two for being such bullies… but that’s just a personal thing πŸ˜€ )

    1. Hey! They didn’t mean to be bullies, I am sure. They just had a tremendous faith in their ability to avenge the insult of their friend, I guess. But do teach them a lesson or two — they’re way too cocksure for their own good.

      Thanks for the visit, Kasturika! Any new videos?

      1. There is one… It’s a 2d animated short film… It was completed in a rush since it had to be submitted for a competition… So it’s back to the editing table. It’s been waiting for my attention for 3 months… I hope to finish it off soon and upload it… Thanks for asking πŸ™‚

  14. Priya, I found your blog through one of your comments on Arindam’s blog, and I just wanted to let you know that I loved reading this story. You did a great job of carrying us along – I was on the edge of my seat, worried about what would happen to the boys, and how much trouble their adolescent feelings would get them into, and I also loved learning new words and seeing the pictures to really help bring the place to life. The photos, in fact, are especially helpful because I’ve never been to India (so picturing it, without some help, is difficult). Thank you for sharing this story and I look forward to reading more of your blog!

    1. Thank you ever so much, Christal. This story means a lot to me and I am happy to know that you’ve reacted to it the way you have. I wanted to show the adolescent rush of adrenaline, the feel of the local marketplace. And when I see that these very things caught your attention, I feel sated.

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