The boy goes against all odds in search of himself. The excursion takes him through the twists and turns of life; they call him the maniac, some say he is mad, others he is queer. Love fades quickly, joy drops easily, and jobs cut snappily, yet his brains are sharper than a double-edged sword. He blames everyone and everything. This drives him into his unknown epic of mental squabbles and only realises later how his thoughts have been in-fact his own worst enemy and saboteur of his success.
SAMPLE THE BOOK
He shuddered with so much expectation. Sometimes he was so impatient, sometimes so relaxed, other times so excited. But he knew it will happen, yet other times doubts would engulf his brains, but the fact that he knew it will happen, always made him make peace with himself, because as he always said to himself that, ‘since it has happened before, there is no way it cannot happen again’; only that he didn’t know when. All he knew was that it will happen, and this made him so much hopeful and so much expectant.
This he relied on and held it to his core chambers of his heart like one holding a delicate piece of jewelry. He knew it will happen again. The feeling was so intense that sometimes it made him quake.
That time he didn’t know what it meant to be who he was and what he was actually doing and capable of doing. He thought it was all sheer luck and good omen following his footsteps; or some special determination in him. He thought it was his personal efforts and reasoning that made it happen or sometimes when it all seemed to go to the dogs; he thought some fateful spirit was behind it all. He didn’t know, and ignorance to him was nonexistence in his world. All he did and said was gospel truth never to be challenged.
That was then. Today he stood to be cheered and jeered at by nature and its contents and all he did was to laugh or keep quiet if he chose so. A few years back, this wouldn’t have been the case. He would have laughed of course, but never kept quiet. Silence then was a virtue for fools and he knew deeply that those who kept quiet were only weak and cheerless. At least that’s what his brains told him. For him the defiant, the outspoken, the vigorous, the loudest, the all-weather kind of human beings were the creatures meant to ‘rule over all creation’. That was then; the time when time seemed to have been obeying him and never timed out his humanity. Then was the time he was a moving catalogue; a yellow book of all sorts or a classified section of popularity. What he had envisioned previously came running to him like a whirl wind. His fame on the other hand, blew out like flames of wild fire in a thick dry forest.
That was then. He didn’t know, yet it happened so precisely and accurately that he didn’t even realize what was happening to him. All he did was to go with the flow, and indeed the flow carried on with him like the current of a river that had no end.
Then, he was playful, very unpredictable, stupidly fun and most times childlike, yet more creative, fearfully innovative and highly free spirited.
His face was always bright with a broad smile. He liked noise because he too was so noisy. He cared less, and talked more, but his hand was so often stretched to others than it folded to him. But he didn’t know why he continued having more and more in his hands for him to give more and more to others. He didn’t know, yet it happened. His life would be on a roller coaster, but he easily and frequently managed to sail through to the shore like a banana boat surviving a hurricane in the middle of the Sea. He was always a terrifying surprise to nature, yet he didn’t know, but it used to happen right under his nose.
That was then.
That time, it came to him like a bolt from a blue; at least that was what he thought in the realm of his baby brains. As a child, all he did was to talk to himself like one mad man.
Sometimes he would pick pieces of paper and read to himself like one possessed with some naughty demon. From a distance he was indeed a village maniac. His mother feared he will never see him grow as a normal adult with a normal life like any other normal village human being of his age. Time was running fast on him but he never seemed to change for the better. He was the usual loudest, funniest, sometimes most foolish boy around. Yet if you peeped into his brains, and poked a bit of his thoughts, some gold were seen packed logically in the frames of his skull. He never seemed to grow as fast as his age mates, yet his reasoning was sharper than their heights. Most often he escaped class punishments by his aforethought statements, much to the amazement of those in ear shot.
A story is told of how one day in class, on a Monday, his class broke into a frenzy of disorganized group discussions about a previous day’s football match between their school and a visiting team in the absence of the class teacher. To the class’ shock, at the peak of the taunted palaver time, the most feared for teacher at school, sprang open the classroom door, his bloody shot eyes beaming like a drunken lizard, taking the whole class to bottoms down with paralyzing silence. Seconds later, his bellowing voice called the whole class to its feet and one by one like an army parade commander, he started asking each pupil to explain briefly with examples why they were talking. With fear in their groins, hips, fingers, even nostrils and some other restricted body parts, a chorus of answers went round from the pupils, “nothing sir”, “nothing sir”, “nothing sir”, “nothing sir”………till it was the boy’s turn. He didn’t know why he reacted like that alone.
But it happened. When it was his turn, he took a shocking by-pass.
“Why were you talking young man? Explain briefly with examples”, the visibly annoyed teacher asked him. The class was witchingly quiet, expecting him to sing the same chorus of “nothing sir” as well. But showers of unpredictability poured from his mouth. He started narrating to the teacher, how his favorite player Benyve ‘The Dribbler’ Galaba, a pupil two grades ahead of him, managed to score three brilliant goals in just ten minutes of the first half.
“Who were you telling this story to?” the teacher interrogated him, and the boy told him that he was telling his best friend Floyd who was unable to watch the match due to an illness.
“But Flyod said he was not talking?” the teacher demanded for a logical answer and the boy confidently told him that indeed his friend was not talking for he was hypnotized by his story of the match. The teacher nodded his head and bellowed, “So all that noise I heard was coming from one person in this class?” But this was the worst time to answer. Everyone seemed to have known the boy’s foolishness and no one hence was ready to participate in his scoundrel dramas. The teacher called the boy in front and sent him outside to collect the headmaster’s whipping stick that used to be honorably kept at the flag parade arena.
Everyone’s eyes beamed with fear for the boy as they tried to persuade their hearts to refuse to imagine how painful it will be for him, small as he was to be whacked for telling the truth. But a rude shock blackened their faces when the teacher beat the lying hell out of all the pupils let alone the boy. He didn’t know why he went it alone and survived the whack for taking a by-pass of the lying chorus.
He didn’t know. But it happened.
That was then. He would know what to say and when to say it. Though his mother feared for him lest he doesn’t find a place in society for happiness, he never worried about it, because he was already happy. If you stalked him and listened to his self-talks for just a moment, you would have had second thoughts as to think that he was running mad.
He didn’t know just like anyone else why he self-talked, but thinking that he was running mad was a matter that never made him sad. His talks were calculated, mastered and systematic. He spoke of things known, things exciting, things real, things yet to be hoped for, things that never existed but came to so much life when he mentioned them to himself. At one point he was a broadcaster, reading a bulletin, swiftly he would revert to being a soccer commentator, then an interviewer, then a reporter from a distant land sending a report to the studio, later a disc jockey mimicking high profile personalities.
His madness seemed to have been at a professional level; a level unknown or unheard of by anyone in the village. His folks were getting seriously concerned, but his foes were extremely excited.
Yet he was so young and didn’t know, neither thought anything was wrong with himself. Yet he used to do it with passion, leaving him so much at peace. School was so slow for him, for it seemed to have been delaying him for something he anticipated for in his life. But his young age did so much to halt him and pump some waiting sense in him; and patiently though with ignorance on this aspect for he never knew what patience was then, he embraced his books, love for athletics, high jump, Long jump, football and night plays with his folks.
He never loved competition, but did all he did in the name of ‘for the love of the game’.
Several times the school sports master enticed him to join the school’s first-eleven football team; but he would rather take a pencil and paper and draw or brush and paint landscapes or portraits from textbooks.
Yet during weekends, his folks and him would hit a ball made of plastics in highly skilled and competitive matches of small boys; or if they are not on the football pitch, they would high jump or long jump or out to do each other in sprinting, but never in the school competitions. But his fifth grade senses could not outdo his spotlight on his prowess which himself did not realize having it, for all he thought, was that everyone was just like him let alone his physiology.
That time, his school hosted a very serious and important qualifying match against a highly skilled neighboring school. It was a Saturday. The football pitch was fully surrounded by a horde of spectators who included every hook and nook of the village. The cheer girls were excitedly singing out their lungs supporting their boys who needed to beat the visitors for them to qualify to the next round of the league matches. It was a tough time for the host, for they faced the biggest and most talented boys in the zone. But they had to beat them come rain, come sunshine.
If a miracle had to happen it would have been the most cherished moment of the school’s name. Despite having smaller players however, the host school had excellent and moderately skilled and talented players too. One such boy was Benyve the dribbler; the only boy who spoke the Queen’s language so fluently despite being in a typical rural school.
He was not only an excellent English language speaker to the village standards, but also very intelligent academically and so handsome. He was a very calculative player with his football passes and never underrated his opponents at every level of any competition. He was the team captain, and leading his charges to a win was going to blot out his popularity among the girls and female teachers. In short the boy was the back bone of his side, for he sometimes acted as coach-player.
It was a come and see match. The one they used to call ‘a meet of the Giants’, even though the hosts were not in the league of this tag, but for their splendid display of their football prowess against their giant opponents. The host’s team featured all the dependable players for there was no time for taking chances. The only risk with this strategy was that, no one on the substitute bench was tough enough to take stalk of the game as a matching or even better replacement to any of those inside; therefore everyone’s prayer if at all it was answered, was that no one in the playing field from the host’s side was supposed to get injured. But what they didn’t know was that, ‘their wish was their command’. Just as Job of the Bible said that, ‘the thing I feared, so did it happen to me’. Benyve the dribbler got injured, just at the time the game was coming to the end of the first half. And to the shock of the coach who happened to be the teacher in charge of sports at the school, all the players at the substitute bench refused to take the dribbler’s place. The game scared the hell out of them all. They would have rather shared the joys of the win or the sorrows of the loss from the terraces; but the game could not be played with a less number of players for the hosts; so a replacement had to be found but no one came along; the team therefore played with ten players for the last part of the first half ending with a zero all draw; tougher than was expected.
The boy was in class, all alone sketching a landscape on a cardboard he was planning to paint when Benyve found him. Excited to see him, Benyve talked him into the match and the boy kept quiet for at least five minutes before he could think of not disappointing his best player in the school and more importantly the most talked about boy in school. He didn’t know why he had to keep silent before accepting the offer.
But he did and it was going to be his first time to play for his school at such a crucial time. Silence seemed to have been making him feel different.
He left his painting tools and rushed to the pitch without saying a word like a professional supper substitute football player, as Benyve followed behind limping. He was just a fifth grader and all the other teammates were two grades ahead of him. The competing teams were already getting back into the football pitch when the small short boy trotted with a broad smile on his face into the pitch to the cheering of his school mates and jeering of the visiting spectators.
He was confident from the way he ran; jovially and happily; then it was game on with the boy taking the dribbler’s position; manning the most important and precarious position of the game – the mid field.
He was swift like a Sparrow and slippery like a Cat. His height became a blessing for he could not technically commit an offence on taller opponents; meaning any foul presumed to have been committed was whistled in his favor. Tackles from the opponents were leaped over like an Antelope escaping a strategically setup trap.
He never held the ball longer than a second, making the opponent running zigzag from one player to another. Roars of cheers echoed from the spectators; what was supposed to be a comedy of errors appeared to be a display of excellence. As the opponents concentrated on the presumably dangerous players, the boy found loopholes, and in no time, he found the back of the net, taking the goalie diving to an opposite direction, bringing the crowd of spectators agog with roars of jubilation. The whole pitch was filled with excited people. The scorer was nowhere to be seen as he was hidden into the hocus-pocus of celebrations.
As the pitch subdued, there he was standing in a semi-circle waiting for the kick-on of the ball. It was then that the opponents realized how dangerous he was, but it was too late for the game plan changed all together. The hosts had no intention of another goal. It was just show time. They painted the pitch with their skills running easy battles from one end of the pitch to the other till the referee blew for the end of the game. In a blink of a second, the boy was carried shoulder high.
He was the hero of the day. But he didn’t know how he scored; neither was all this special to him. It was just one of those things in his life. Being on spectators’ shoulders as they sang, taking him to the school ground, he smiled and laughed; it was fun and fantastic.
That was him; spontaneous and very unpredictable but his mother was still scared for him. At his age he was doing so much amazing things out of the ordinary boy of his age. But he never saw himself like this. In his own ordinary opinion, he was just an ordinary boy in an ordinary world, doing ordinary things. He never saw anything strange about himself; neither did he run for anything his pals seemed to like so much. He took his time on himself, and acted at his own time. He loved books, and sometimes he would take time to write stories of his own making. During creative activities period at school, instead of participating in clay molding or wood carvings, he would shove himself in the abandoned senior teacher’s office and scribble whatever came into his mind. This became more proof to those worried for him that his lunacy was gradually filling up his skull. His class teacher once read his papers and asked him to concentrate on something beneficial, but the boy never said a word and never stopped scribbling. He became a boy with so many lunacies. His mental capacity was filled with degrees and degrees of unexplained behaviors; but the boy still never stopped shading a smile on his face; in people’s eyes, this was peculiar, yet it happened but he didn’t know why he was like that.
The passage of time had no patience for him, neither for his mother who was so much worried lest the boy ended up being what she thought he would be. Cracking the inside of the boy however, revealed something else that seemed to have been inserted so queerly like layers of unknown mineral in him. Just as one writer once wrote that “we study what we can see, but what we see is not always what exists”; the boy too was stranger than fiction. He rose in the mental capillary of his life like some slippery snake that shades its scales when the laws of nature dictate it to do so.
One evening, just as his custom, the boy took a stroll. It was a dull late afternoon. He lazily walked down the path leading into lifeless bushes of shrubs, his lean hands crossed behind his back just above the upper part of his butts. The birds were singing out-of-tune choruses from the skeletons of bare shrubs as insects nonchalantly cricked from what were once blades of grass. Grass hopers were busy leaping from one mole to the other ahead of him, as if celebrating his presence. Had they known what actually ran through his mind, their seemingly joyous fly-dances would have been all in vain. Thanks to their thoughtless natural habitat, for they couldn’t reason with human nature.
Carefully matching through this lone path, he went through a maze of incognizance hallucinations. His lips were quavering, and he would then smile and instantly bleat like a he-goat. Suddenly he started to laugh to himself, and just immediately stopped and looked over his shoulder. Something seemed to have scratched his sleeve. Gradually he stepped forward again and increasing the pace by each step till he was almost like jogging. What the grasshoppers didn’t know was that, the boy had smelt a rat behind him. And indeed just then a colorfully beautiful young girl in her late teens, approached stalking, tip-toeing behind him. Having lost him at the curve, she wobbly walked like one disappointed loser. But as she was just passing by a slightly huge tree standing majestically ominously close to the path, the boy jumped from behind the tree right in front of the beautiful stalker. She was hypnotized with shock. She stood there looking at him, her eyes wide with unexplained embarrassment. But he stood there looking at her with a broad nondescript smile, his hands akimbo with confidence and ecstasy.
“You scared the hell out of me!” she defensively shouted at him. But he was as reluctant as a drunken donkey. “How dare you do that!” she continued.
“Well; I thought I should be the one to be mad at you?” he answered trying to remind her of her situation.
“You can still go ahead and do that”
“What are you doing here all alone in this bush?”, he interrogated her.
“When did you become my keeper?”
“I have never been your keeper”
“And what were you doing behind that tree? To scare me?”
“Why are you following me Tinta?”
“Come on girl, it takes only one clever grasshopper to add one and one”. She suppressed a smile and he could see it as it faded in her creatively holed dimples on both sides of her cheeks. She relaxed and peered him in the eyes. He was feeling the strength of her pupils and something told him that she was an angel of specie.
“Come lets go”, he invited her as he started walking forward.
“Where you wanted to see”
“Who told you I wanted to see something somewhere”, she said as she followed eagerly behind trying to catch up with his quickened pace.
“I thought you wanted to see something somewhere, the reason you were stalking me”.
“I wasn’t stal…..”
“Will you for once….”
“Alright what difference does it make any way?” She gave up and caught up with him and they walked side by side like a pair of brand new shoes, till they came to a dam in the middle of the shrinking shrub bush. He stood staring at the shimmering water, as she gazed at the distant horizon.
“Why do you like coming to this place?” she asked.
“So it’s true you have been stalking me all this time?”
“Don’t follow what Adam did?” she snappily replied.
“What do you mean?” he inquired expectantly.
“Adam was the first man to fail an exam. That’s why men are poor at oral examinations”. The boy burst in feats of laughter. She stood there enjoying staring at him as he freely let out his amused self.
“I have never seen you laugh like this”, she said, placing her butt on the ground.
“Where did you get that joke about Adam?”, he asked.
“Sit”, she instructed and he too sat centimeters aside her. “It wasn’t a joke. It’s a bare pure truth”, she explained.
“Truth?” he asked.
“Yes truth. When God came into the Garden of Eden after Eve and Adam ate the fruit, God called out Adam asking where he was and instead of Adam stating his position, he rather gave an excuse for his actions to blaming God for giving him a woman. He failed to answer a simple question”
“And you believe that?”
“Of course I do. I just asked you a simple question on why you like coming to this place and you gave me a totally an equivocal answer.”
“I just wonder how much you know what truth is if that is the case”, the boy replied.
They both went silent. The sun was by now lowering down its dull rays towards the western dome. A few reddish emissions of it were slowly painting the waves of the dam with its reflected color. The boy was steadily getting into a trance. His eyes momentarily closed, as his legs stretched on the ground. The atmosphere was quiet and still, but for the distant moos of the cows and bleating goats. The girl seemed to enjoy the silence just as much. All she could hear was her heart beat as it radiated gulps of oxygen from the production chambers. What she thought was a game of silence, suddenly emitted a sense of worry when the boy seemed to have gone stiffly silent. She looked at him, but he seemed to have been far away. His face was bright with calmness. She tried to stretch her hand but her nerves were far away from her mortal self. She tried to move closer to him so as to touch him, all she could feel was her hot blood producing droplets of sweat on her nose and arm pits. She was shivering with a mixture of fear and worry. She tried to stand up and leave him, but her legs would not support her gorgeously dressed body. Just then he whispered, “Why are you scared?” And as if someone let her loose from a spell, she loudly blurted, “Who is scared?” Her voice sent a chilling echo across the dam making the boy laugh queerly.
“What’s fun?” Tinta asked.
“Your thoughts” the boy replied.
“When you love someone, the best you can do is to tell them. Don’t fear to risk rejection because it’s part of growing up”, he replied as he stood up stretching himself with so much satisfaction.
“Are you a fortune teller or what?”
“Haven’t you heard of the saying, ‘silence is golden’? All the issues of the world are found in the silence of the mind. When you are quiet, you let the mind connect with its own kind”, he happily said.
“How possible is that?” she inquired.
“How possible is it to feel your heart circulate the air in your body?”
“How do you know what I was thinking about?”
“Your mom will soon realize you aren’t home. You better step up”.
They walked back, the girl feeling guilt and uncomfortable to be close to him. But he unceasingly stole stares at her which she ignored despite having seen them. That was how he was; strange and queer. Free and courageous, yet her mom never stopped worrying for him. She was a good mother. Always caring and loving. She never pressured him into anything he didn’t want to do willingly; neither did she pamper him with her care. She let loose the natural laws take their unbeatable course on him. She didn’t know whether to call him a blessing in disguise or a curse she could not do away with. However, despite the case, the boy was as complacent as his natural self. Nothing brought him so much happiness than accepting who he was.
That night, the hours seemed to have been given extra seconds to extend the day. Tinta lay on her jealously loved bed staring at her bedroom roof above. She was only thirteen, yet the complications of life were already taking a toll on her. A mixture of anxiety and worry were racing in her mind.
“Who is this boy”, she thought to herself as she turned facing the wall. When she arrived at home after the indescribable time with him, her mother accosted the hell out of her when she innocently told her that she was with him at the dam.
“Out of all the decent boys in this village you blinded your curiosity so much that you ended up having time with that mad boy?”, her mother scalded unhappily. She wanted to defend him, but she had no evidence to back up her support. She wondered why everyone called him the mad boy. She turned and faced the table where the candle was placed shooting its orange light illuminating the room. Something must have been wrong with him. She couldn’t decipher what it was, but on the other hand, one voice was laughing at her.
“Maybe I am just being paranoid”, she thought.
But the incident at the dam meant something seriously wrong with him. Is he a magician or a wizard? Could he be a small devil himself? She shuddered to think of it; what about his intelligence? He speaks so unusually wise at his age. He is only one year older than her, yet everyone seems to be scared of him. She checked the time on her disco watch. It was one hour before midnight. She cursed wishing for a miraculous doze. But the more she wished for sleep, the distant sleep stayed.
Across the village, the boy was up too. However, instead of staring at the roof, building castles in the air, he was rather staring in the book he just picked at school that morning. The cover looked so dull and unattractive, but the title captured his attention; “Veronica Decides to Die”. He didn’t pay much attention to it and picked it just to pass on time on it later in the day. And there he was reading the first lines of the first paragraph of the book:
“She picked up the four packs of sleeping pills from her bedside table. Instead of crushing them and mixing them with water, she decided to take them one by one, because there is always a gap between intention and action, and she wanted to feel free to turn back half way. However, with each pill she swallowed, she felt more convinced: after five minutes the packs were empty.”
The boy smiled to himself and realized he hadn’t even looked at the name of the author. “Goshi...” he exclaimed. He dug his nose back into the contents of Veronica’s story. As he read his thoughts bit by bit started scattering flash lights of Tinta in his mind. Veronika of the book began to sound like Tinta. Was he just hallucinating or something naturally inborn was creeping into him? Just then in the book he meets the character Mari a lawyer who is pissed with God. Mari’s lines spooked him. He closed the book for a while and thought of what Tinta told him that evening about Adam being the first man to have failed an examination. And there in the book the boy found Mari the lawyer who vows that she would have taken God to court for negligence by leaving the forbidden tree in the middle of the garden instead of planting it outside the garden so that Eve and Adam wouldn’t have gotten tempted.
“….It was a shame that Allah, Jehovah, God – it doesn’t matter what name you gave him – did not live in the world today, because if He did, we would still be in Paradise, while He would be marred in appeals, requests, demands, injunctions, preliminary verdicts, and would have to justify to innumerable tribunals His decision to expel Adam and Eve from Paradise for breaking an arbitrary rule with no foundation in law: Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat. If he had not wanted that to happen, why did he put the tree in the midst of the garden and not outside the walls of Paradise? If she were called upon to defend the couple, Mari would undoubtedly accuse God of administrative negligence, because, as well as planting the tree in the wrong place, he had failed to surround it with warnings and barriers, had failed to adopt even minimal security arrangements, and had thus exposed everyone to danger….”
“Is this a mere coincidence or what?” the boy thought. He kept quiet for some time, and realized that this world had no coincidences only occurrences that were meant to happen for a reason; and that what a person can only do is to search for the message out of that occurrence. It downed on the boy. He wanted to stop reading but the paragraph was too tempting to blush off his mind. He continued reading:
“Mari could also accuse him of inducement to criminal activity, for he had pointed out to Adam and Eve the exact place where the tree was to be found. If he had said nothing, generation upon generation would have passed on this earth without anyone taking the slightest interest in the forbidden fruit, since the tree was presumably in a forest full of similar trees, and therefore of no particular value…”
The boy was so overwhelmed with stunning shock. The arguments were so pricking that he sighed deeply and rested the open book on his chest. How on earth can someone write so vividly and freely on such a matter that some people would regard as insulting God? But come think of it, the boy thought, this sounded so interestingly convincing even to the fanatically religious person. He took the book, gazed at it and proceeded:
“But God had proceeded quite differently. He had devised a rule and then found a way of persuading someone to break it, merely in order to invent punishment. He knew that Adam and Eve would become bored with perfection and would, sooner or later, test His patience. He set a trap, perhaps because He, Almighty God, was also bored with everything going so smoothly: if Eve had not eaten the apple, nothing of any interest would have happened in the last few billion years…”
The boy burst out in uncontrollable feats of laughter. And immediately the door to his bedroom sprang open.
“What’s the matter!!” his mother shouted standing at the edge of his bed looking at him worriedly. But neither the presence of his mother could stop him laugh freely and amusedly. His mother relaxed and walked towards him. Her thoughts were confused as she thought the boy’s disease was getting into higher degrees by the day.
“What’s wrong with you my son?” she asked looking at him worried. The boy removed the book off his face and his eyes met with those of his mother who was waiting for a convincing answer. He felt a piercing pain of sympathy towards her. He realized how much she was worried for him. But he too on the other hand could not understand why he connected so much with such thoughts he was reading.
“I am fine mom. It’s just an interesting piece of a classic I am reading. I am sorry I couldn’t hold back my amusement”, he assuredly told his mother who saw the truth in what he was saying as she convincingly turned and walked back closing the door behind her. Immediately the boy raised his book to his face and continued reading:
“When the law was broken, God – the Omnipotent Judge – even pretended to peruse them, as if he did not already know every possible hiding place. With the angels looking on, amused by the game (life must have been very dreary for them since Lucifer left Heaven), he began to walk about the garden. Mari thought what a wonderful scene in a suspense movie that episode from the Bible would make: God’s footsteps, the couple exchanging frightened glances, the feet suddenly stopping by their hiding place. ‘Where art thou?’ Asked God. ‘I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself’ Adam replied, without knowing that by making this statement, he had confessed himself guilty of the crime…..”
The boy paused and went through his thoughts. He racked his mind trying to figure out the relevance of the author’s thoughts. He had never before come across such a thought provoking book written in a simple but moving style. He didn’t quite understand most of the things, but this biblical narration was so familiar to him than anything else he had heard about creation. He tried to make sense out of it, but his catechism lessons never made out on this kind of teaching. This was what Father Sebastian would rightly call blaspheme. Yet come think of it, he thought somehow it made very mind blowing arguments. It was worthy reading for him to see how the story ended:
“So, by means of a simple trick, pretending not to know where Adam was nor why he had run away, God got what he wanted. Even so, in order to leave no doubts amongst the audience of angels who were intently watching the episode, he decided to go further. ‘Who told thee that thou naked?’ said God, knowing that this question could have only one possible response; because I ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. With that question, God demonstrated to his angels that he was a just God, and that his condemnation of the couple was based on solid evidence. From then on, it wasn’t a matter of whether it was the woman’s fault or of their asking for forgiveness: God needed an example, so that no other being, earthly or heavenly, would ever again dare to go against his decisions.”
The boy smiled and gazed at the iron roof above as if expecting to see God’s eyes peering down on him. The passage was becoming more sensible to him by now. He reluctantly looked at the book, turned it to look at the back cover and found himself reading the titles of the other book by the same author. He gave out a deep breath. This author was not a small one. The titles were so captivating. But that one was a hell of a book to read:
“God expelled the couple, and their children paid for the crime too (as still happens with the children of criminals) and thus the judiciary system was invented: the law, the transgression of the law (no matter how illogical or absurd), judgment (in which the more experienced triumphs over the ingenuous) and punishment…..So much so that, when God had change of heart and sent His Son to save the world, what happened? He fell into the hands of the very justice He invented. The tangle of laws created such confusion that the Son ended up nailed to a cross..,”
The boy put aside the book and lay on his back, his hands laid across his chest. What he had read was so convincingly real. It was like hammering the last nail on the coffin. He relaxed all the muscles of his body and closed his eyes, breathing slowly in and out feeling every movement of his breath. In that position, he went deeply asleep.
That was then. The time when he never knew who he was let alone being called a mad boy. Surprisingly at school his performance was strangely superb but no one talked about it. Those who courageously mentioned it, it was hushed up in bad faith. “It’s the madness that makes him perform so well. He was bewitched by a man who died a long time ago, so the spell cannot be reversed”, his foes would say to justify their poor performances. His lone times with Tinta became weekend habits, and this brought fierce antagonism with the boy’s mother. Tinta’s mother never wanted the boy ever near her daughter. But who was the boy’s mother to interfere with her son’s rendezvous? She would just advise Tinta’s mother to talk to her daughter about it and leave her son in peace. But it never happened. The whole school eventually came to know about the intimacy. ‘How can the most beautiful girl in the school decide to lower herself as low as to seek the company of a mad boy’? That was the common school question. But nothing dissuaded the companionship. This time around it became even more focused than ever before. They painted together, studied together, wrote stories together and went for walks together. It was so incomprehensible to take.
As was the primary school ritual at the time, as a seventh grader later, the boy too had to sit for the compulsory mock examinations just like any other seventh grader in the country. It was a test of the mental giants. It was always said that, that exam was actually tougher than the final one. Rural legend said that, anyone who managed to pass the mock exam was surely going to walk over the final exam that ushered the successful ones into the eighth grade. And it was a prettily believed fact beyond any reasonable doubt that some mad boy would flop, especially that of late he spent more time nurturing his newly found intimacy than befriending his books. He heard the loud mouths out; but none of them shook his spirit. He believed in happiness. He always told Tinta that ‘happiness my dear pal is an inside job. If you expect someone to lend it to you, you will die waiting for that loan. So create it within yourself, and you will eventually see it galloping towards you’. She never used to understand him, neither did she cared to want to understand what he meant; all she cared for, was to always be by his side; immature love; the love of the soul of the earth; innocently pure and true.
Then the D-day arrived. For the next four days the senior most pupils at school busied themselves with multiple choice exam papers. The boy had a fun theory; that no one is a failure unless they fail to remember the things they have studied, to which case one would call them ‘forgetful’ and not dull. He would argue that, if everyone would be asked to submit the topics they had studied on, and then the teachers prepared the exams according to what each pupil had studied on, everyone would be passing. But this wasn’t the case with these examinations. A pupil had to study all the topics of all the seven subjects for questions were expected to come from any one of those topics. It was a tedious experience, but that wasn’t a worry to the boy in any way. Every after writing each subject, he would take a walk to his usual place for a lone quietness. He had told his friend Tinta that this time of exams he needed time alone. Tinta wasn’t happy, but she knew there was nothing she could do once he made up his mind. Sometimes she thought he was very insensitive to the needs of others, but then she would remember what he had told her that happiness is an inside job; so she had pretended to have had no problem with it. After all it was for four days. But this didn’t mean she stopped stalking him. He too knew that she used to stalk him, but he had more serious matters to attend to than being bothered by a confused heart.
The school norm dictated that, on the day of announcing the results, usually a Friday; all the pupils at school would class by class heap themselves under a shade of a selected tree. And the class teacher would call out names of those who have passed starting with the one who came out number one. As the pupil is called, she or he would walk proudly and majestically to a place the school staff sat and shook hands with them. Those from position one to three would be awarded with congratulatory presents in form of pens and note books. And those who were regarded as failures, would be jeered at as they ran away in shame and embarrassment; a very queer system indeed.
Grade ones were told to heap themselves there first; and one by one the tiny shabby toddlers trotted from the shade to the high table with broad smiles of excitement and innocence. Whoever devised this system was quite clever with this grade. No one failed. It was an unchallengeable rule that no one fails grade one. And all the pupils received presents. When it was a time for the sixth graders, a thunderous applause echoed through the area as the beauty queen walked from the group to the high table like an angel matching to deliver a heavenly message. Tinta emerged number one in her class. The boy’s heart thumped hard against his chest. He was so happy for her. As she walked to sit, her eyes met his, and she smiled. Everyone saw it and a mixture of jeers, mocking laughter and approving claps swirled around. The boy didn’t hear anything of that. His eyes were just responding to the smile. He winked and gave a suppressed smile. He read somewhere that, it was not naturally good to let your admirer see your heart through the face.
The headmaster’s major job on this day was to honorably call out the school’s best brains to the high table for blessings. This was so just as to make the whole exercise look fair and without favor. He informed the gathering that, the grade seven answer sheets were marked by teachers from a neighboring school to make sure the results represented the true picture of the pupils’ real academic performance. What he didn’t know was that he actually was saying that his teachers were not trusted in such matters for they could have favored even pupils who didn’t make it at the expense of the big brains. The invited village headmen and civic leaders clapped in agreement, impressed with the system. But some teachers were seen whispering to each other, presumably realizing the impact of this system on their reputation.
Anxious faces could be seen from the crowd of pupils and parents in the gathering. From the seventh grader themselves, one would not doubt seeing the fear and worry on most pupils’ faces and movements as they walked to the shade of shame like innocent sheep being led to slaughter. The headmaster reminded the gathering that, this would be the last time the school would see some of the pupils sitting under that shade, for the following year, they would be at secondary school. He retorted that, that year the school had seen a high level of competition amongst the pupils, adding that on average the performance had improved three fold.
“The total mark for the grade sevens is 700. They sat for seven subjects, each subject totaling 100 marks. And I am lost with words to describe the performance of the number one pupil, ladies and gentlemen. Out of 700 marks this pupil managed to get 690 marks; the first in the history of this noble school”. There were murmurs of shock as pupils stood on their knees raising their heads in anticipation of seeing who this person was.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it’s my honor and privilege to announce the number one pupil for this year’s grade seven mock exam:…” and half the gathering stood up to see who it was but the teacher on duty shouted down the pupils who immediately retreated their heads from the air.
As the boy’s name was mentioned, the whole gathering went deadly silent, let alone a group of village headmen and a few teachers and lower primary school pupils who clapped and cheered. The boy stood from the shade of shame and shyly walked to the high table his head whizzing and buzzing inside. His mother wasn’t in attendance for she knew with bare facts that her son couldn’t pass even over number thirty. Lower primary school pupils who sat in the front roll of the gathering due to their heights, looked at him so admiringly. He shook hands with the headmaster and continued shaking the hands of the other teachers too. A grade one pupil impulsively stood up and walked to him and extended her hand. The boy smiled and offered his and clasped it gently. He received his present from the headmaster and walked to take his place in the gathering avoiding eye contact with anyone familiar. Two pupils a boy and a girl were called out as number two and three respectively. Their marks were 467 and 460 respectively.
“That’s a huge margin from number one”, one teacher murmured to a friend.
“What kind of a boy is he anyway?” the friend responded.
“There should be something unknown about his madness”
“Is he even mad?” by then the headmaster had called for a national anthem signifying the closure of the stunning event. Many could not believe what they saw, others still thought it was a dream and that at one point, reality would befell them. What they didn’t know was that, things are not always what they seem to be. Inside every person lay the hidden secrets that only the one who brought that person on earth knew better. The school closed for the third term and they all dispersed, but for the boy who sat on an abandoned stool near the grade seven class-room block deep in unknown thoughts.