Note: I wrote the first adventure of Hari and his friends in 2011. This is the second.
Things aren’t so well in here. My fledgeling business is in doldrums. I thought I could leave my job and start a martial arts training outfit and make a fortune out of it. But I was wrong, wasn’t I? My confidence is waning and rum doesn’t help in these times either, especially since it is bloody difficult to say these days in Halifax when to expect rain and when shower.
It was one such day that comes and goes in my mind lately. The sun played hide and seek with greyish clouds acting the dutiful secret-keepers. — I have nothing more to do when the day is done than to think of those glorious times when I was but a boy. Sameera has gone again with Ram to her parents in the groovy Van. I miss Ram and his little tricks. He has already turned four while I have kept myself busy trying to earn us a decent living by training meat loaves. What a shame. Shame not that they pack worthless meat over their bones, but that I, the Doer of Great Things, am brought down to babying them. I have thought of leaving them all and going back to the old shine at home in India, but I couldn’t, could I? I’ve never run away. And then, there’s Ram. Loving him comes so easy. Being a father is not at all difficult. He looks so much like me, everyone says. He even does things like me. When Ma had come over, she would narrate endless tales of when I was his age and had the same habits and expressions. I like it a lot that I have passed on some of me to him, but secretly wish all of it is good.
Secrets. They were secret-keepers, the greyish clouds that hid the sun that day. We must have been thirteen or fourteen then, our toady voices had long since transformed into autonomous roars. It is funny that I do not have any mention in my diaries of that day. Maybe I thought it wasn’t worthwhile enough to mention how I made Toto run for it and how I stood there, watching him.
Those years were when I had accumulated all of the information I needed to be the wild one in my actions and in my boyish fantasies — fables and tales from the medieval Europe, mainly the Scottish Highlands, and the lives, losses and achievements of Bruce Lee and van Damme. Perhaps that’s why my ability to concentrate on the written word was fast depleting. It was action all the way.
It was a fine morning, the sun was playing hide and seek. We were out swaggering in the gali next to the huge 19th century church in the city centre, when the church bell called to me. Not call in the sense of that once-in-a-lifetime invitation for a ride to paradise, but a toll of a reminder.
- “In the market-place of Bruges stands the belfry old and brown;
- Thrice consumed and thrice rebuilded, still it watches o’er the town.”
Church bells were interesting tools with fascinating mechanisms. Since it wasn’t Sunday, the church would be empty, and we could go in and explore the bell tower and I could probably show Toto and Dev a thing or two I knew.
It was easy to get inside — no one was around. We ran up the stairs and reached the place where the real stuff was — the gears and the pulley. They were such massive things!
“I bet it took at least two people to move them,” said Dev.
“No, silly. You don’t move them, you just pull at this rope here,” I caressed the thick rope, while my eyes got glued to the biggest brass bell. “Toto, come here, I’ll show you what real weight lifting looks like.”
“You’re going to lift that?” Toto said with not a little trepidation.
“Well, move it.” I knew church bells were used to summon churchlings for significant church events. I just had to hold the clapper with one hand and move the bell the size of a large bath-tub with the other. Simple. Or not.
My mighty right arm had such a formidable force, that the bell not just moved, it moved the others with it. And they pealed.
Dev was the first to first to get out, he always was. Though Toto couldn’t stop shaking in his baggy pants, he was next. I took one step at a time, easy. On the way down, I stopped at the louvres and saw people congregating. They would soon know that there was no event, really; it was just the mighty arm of the stoic champ that could take down four at once. But there was no telling how they would take the news. I had to think fast. And since I never ran from a situation, the alternative had to be something that aided my respectful stay.
“Run!” I said to my companions, and they ran.
When they were a safe distance away, Dev leading the escape, I stepped out of the tower.
“Who rang the bell?” an irate old man asked.
“He, sir!” I said, pointing at Toto. And slowly walked away.
The belfry watches over people and watches them, too. It keeps secrets, guilty ones and guileless ones. Perhaps when it tolls, it releases those tiny specs and lets them settle around in the town dust so that when people walk over it, the specs spread around like minute beacons of life’s lessons learned through the test of time. Pity, the bell tolls but rarely nowadays.