Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Paper Airplane

here were four comments when I logged into Facebook. All of them were from schoolmates, about the Alumni reunion at school on Jan 26th. The last one caught my eye:

‘Have fun guys. I am going to miss it. Do convey my regards to all the teachers who are still there and especially the lab attendants.’

 ‘Will do!’ I posted my reply and picked my cell phone to call other local friends who will be attending the reunion.

* * *
The year was 1979. Subbu was waiting for the school bell to ring so that he could run out. He had already made his paper airplane from a page that he had torn from his class notebook.

“I bet you this plane will fly higher and farther than any that you have made!” he challenged Zubair who sat next to him in class.

“Lets see!” replied Zubair, clearly unimpressed.

The bell rang. All the kids let out a squeal and rushed out of the classroom. Subbu picked his backpack and ran out holding the paper airplane in his hand. Zubair was close on his heels. Subbu stopped at the corridor and looked down three floors below. He kissed his airplane for good luck and pulled back his arm to fling it into the air when his hand bumped someone.

Subbu gulped. It was Ram Charan, the mathematics teacher, standing there. Subbu had his hand right near his tummy. Ram Charan clearly wasn’t amused!

 “Come with me!” He dragged Subbu, holding him by the ear. Subbu leaned his head to one side as he walked alongside Ram Charan to the staff room and he could see Zubair thumbing his nose at him as he left to board the school bus.

“Sir, I am going to miss my school bus!” Subbu was almost in tears.

A few minutes later the school bus left the campus, without Subbu.

* * *
The reunion was coming to a close. I walked out of the auditorium and noticed Joseph, an office attendant. I was surprised to see him after almost twenty years. I walked up to him and shook his hand.

“How are you doing?”

“Very well, thank you! I am very happy to see you.”

“Do you remember Subbu?”

Joseph tried hard. He was finding it difficult to recollect the face from the name.

* * *
It was 6:30 PM and Subbu’s father was getting very anxious. He was a prominent man in the city, prominent enough that he had enemies. His son did not return in the school bus that evening. He had already dialed the police to report a missing person.

* * *
The principal was tense and so was Ram Charan. They had never encountered a case like this before. Both of them were sweating as they waited. A police jeep pulled into the driveway of the school and Subbu’s father got down along with a police inspector. They both walked into the principal’s room.

“Where is my son?”

“Sir, please calm down. Mr. Ram Charan here was the last person to see him. He might have committed a mistake.”

“A mistake! What do you mean?”

 “He held him a few minutes after the school as a punishment… meanwhile, the bus left without your son!”

“I am very sorry sir. I did not mean for this to happen…”

In a fit of rage, Subbu’s father pulled the revolver from the police inspector’s holster.

* * *
Joseph could still not recollect Subbu. He shook his head.

I held out my hand and made a gesture like a revolver. Shaking the imaginary revolver in the air, I said, “Who is the driver?”

Joseph’s face immediately lit up. How could he forget that? That’s exactly what Subbu’s father was saying when Joseph ran into the office to announce the news that Subbu was at his cousin’s place.

“Subbu conveys his regards to you!”, I said.

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