Friends for Life
To what extremes can one possibly tread to stop the person he or she loves from going away? In films, heroes fight till their last breath to get their lovers. In the stories, the prince overcomes all the hurdles and slays the beast to save the princess in the end. In epics and history, we read about kings who fought for their queens and made incredible sacrifices.
And now here is a story of two little kids; Abhay, eight years old, and Ajay, his cousin-brother, seven years old.
Last year when Ajay came to Kolkata from Jamshedpur during his winter holidays, to stay in his uncle’s house for two weeks with his uncle’s son Abhay, all hell had broken loose! There was a marriage taking place in their house and all the relatives had come. Ajay’s uncle and Abhay’s father, Prakash was a rich man and he had made gorgeous arrangements for his sister’s marriage. His sister Isha was a doctor and was getting married finally after many years of assiduous persuasion, coaxing, and cajoling by her family. Everyone was so happy. On the day of her marriage, Prakash held an ostentatious and flamboyant celebration at his mansion. Ajay and Abhay looked extremely charming in their ‘Sherwanis’ that evening! It was their aunt’s marriage after all. They had waited so long for this day. The two buddies decided to make it memorable. And so, when everyone was having a blast and raising a toast to bless the lovely couple, inside the grand dining hall, the cousin brothers came out stealthily and closed the door from outside, and locked it as per their plan. Then they threw away the keys out of the boundary wall of the mansion and went upstairs to enjoy some video games. They had no idea about how the following sequence of events unfolded after this in the hall below, but all they remembered was that they were jolted out of their deep slumber by the siren blaring from a fire brigade van that appeared outside the mansion in the midnight. Also, they vividly remembered the fear-stricken faces of the newlywed and all the other people who were coming out one by one from the hall below after the firefighters rescued them, breaking open the lock. They giggled from the balcony and wondered why it was the firefighters and not the police or any local people who could have come easily to save the poor victims!
Next, it was their turn. Both the boys got almost third-degree from their respective parents. The parents looked merciless. Prakash behaved like a monster; an embarrassed and insulted ‘King Kong’! His eyes glared like a cruel giant and he shook his head like a mad elephant, grunted like a wild pig, and roared like a wounded tiger until he was stopped by others before he could pounce on his tiny culprits! But others, especially the elders had already forgiven the little boys. After their nerves have settled down they rather felt amused by the mischief and laughed out their hearts. They all placated Prakash and comforted him. “They are just kids, Prakash!” Nanaji said. Just an hour ago the old man was claustrophobic and had almost collapsed. But now his ‘Nanaji-heart’ was crying for the tortured kids! He eventually saved the boys from the inevitable thrashing that night, dismissing their misdeed as innocent and simply childish!
Abhay and Ajay, the two kids were very shy and polite type, individually. They stayed in different cities, studied in different schools, and were well-behaved and good-natured. But whenever they met each other, situations used to change rapidly. Their combined frequency & wavelength always threatened to trigger a potential apocalypse. It began when they were three and four years of age respectively and since then it had happened every time they got together, in some way or the other! All the family members used to feel unsafe whenever the two friends were together and anticipated some probable disaster at any moment.
But the brothers loved each other. They were the best of friends and those winter vacations were something they looked forward to all through the year. Though everything turned pale and the trees dried up with the onset of winter every year the huge mansion used to come to life with the presence of Ajay & Abhay at that time. What a duo the little brothers made!
Like Ram-Lakhan, Karan-Arjun, Abhay & Ajay also made a place in everyone’s hearts. The kids were naughty as a pair but extremely sweet and adorable and everyone in their family loved them!
One year has passed since Isha’s marriage. She has settled abroad happily with her loving husband, Anurag. Both of them decided to come to Kolkata to celebrate their first anniversary with all their close family members and friends. And soon the mansion of Prakash once again decked up and welcomed all, with the promise of a wonderful time ahead. Ajay & Abhay were once again together like every year. But their parents had cautioned them strictly this time. Any more mischief and this would be the last visit for the brothers; was the caveat for the boys!
Everything happened smoothly. They all came and spent a few wonderful days together filled with fun and frolic and lots of cherishable happy moments. But what surprised everyone most, were the kids; the brothers, Ajay & Abhay. They had become completely changed boys; immensely transformed! They did a bit of running stuff and a little hide & seek but otherwise they were unusually quieter than before. Mostly they remained confined indoors and read story books and also finished their homework! Everyone was so pleased with the boys and the way they behaved. Everybody kept on telling each other that finally the boys were growing up and their restlessness was gradually going away. The two weeks of holiday passed like this. It was now time for Isha and Anurag to go back and also for Ajay to return to school at Jamshedpur. It was a Saturday evening when Ajay and Abhay were sitting together in the swing on the lawn of their mansion. Ajay would leave the next day, on Sunday afternoon. The boys only exchanged some glances and nodded heads but could hardly speak. They were so upset that they only managed to whisper. The elders could easily see how sad the brothers were. The poor kids would again have to wait for one more year!
The next day they finished lunch early and Ajay was ready to leave with his parents. He touched the feet of Prakash and all the other elders in the house. Isha and Anurag hugged him and kissed him. Nanaji blessed him. Everybody assembled to bid him goodbye. Ajay had asked his parents to take a tram ride up to the nearest railway station. He enjoyed Kolkata trams very much. Though the tram services in Kolkata have shrunk considerably and in some routes, it was dissolved altogether, the little boy somehow still found the journey by Kolkata’s ‘Fairy Tales’ Trams exciting and grand. They were about to leave but Abhay couldn’t be seen anywhere near. Everyone thought Abhay was upstairs and didn’t wish to come down to see his beloved brother, his dearest friend departing. He must have been weeping and hiding in his room, they thought. That is what Abhay used to do every year during Ajay’s departure. He missed his brother and buddy so much. With a heavy heart, Ajay left with his parents and boarded a tram from the tram depot. The royal carriage started moving and made its way exuding its kingly elegance and characteristic insouciance, unperturbed by the busy humdrum of the usual boring cars, buses, and two-wheelers crowding on the road. It travelled majestically for a short distance before coming to an abrupt halt. It must have been derailed, everyone thought. But the driver jumped out from his cabin and ran forward. Ajay’s parents were in a hurry to reach the station as they had a train to catch. So they quickly alighted from the tram to check what has happened. There was a commotion up front. They dodged the crowd and went to the front. And then what they saw; Oh God! They couldn’t believe their eyes! Ajay’s mother almost fell down, light-headed and dizzy! Ajay’s father let go of his hand from Ajay’s arms. He was frozen! Ajay smiled and rushed to hug his brother. Abhay was standing in the middle of the track surrounded by people. He had stopped the tram as per their master plan! In the evening, a day before the boys decided to do it. Yes, there was some risk involved but they knew that fortune always favoured the brave ones. Abhay being the elder brother would jump into the fire. Ajay only had to lure his parents to take the tram ride. He did just as he was told by his brother. And within a few hundred meters Abhay was right there on the track, lying down to stop the tram from going any further. He was determined to stop his friend this time, no matter what it would take! And only trams could be stopped like this! He had heard of several such instances in the news when someone slept on the track during a strike or demonstration, just to put everything to a halt.
Back in the mansion, it was some scene!
The police were summoned this time and not any fire brigade. Some locals, too have finally appeared to add to the helpless lot.
Nanaji was shivering. Dr. Isha and Anurag were trying to keep him stable. Abhay’s mother was weeping inconsolably for his missing child. One could feel what was going through her mind. Prakash was completely devastated. He was running frantically everywhere and making endless calls. The police were questioning all the maids and servants. It was total chaos!
Suddenly Prakash got a call from Ajay’s father. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on him and all gazed at him with hope. But all they could see was Prakash turning still. He didn’t move, couldn’t say a word, and stood motionless for some time. Then he darted out of the gates and went straight to the officer in charge of the police, discussed something hastily, and left in his van with the men in uniform as a company. Before leaving he shouted at his wife. “Save some tears, you will need to shed those when I will peel your son’s skin after some time. That rascal is alive and I am going to bring him back.” He despaired in sheer frustration and left.
All things were sorted out in the next one hour. Abhay was back. The master plan of the brothers was now revealed to all. The boys stood in the middle of the lawn holding their hands together. The entire family was surrounding them. The scene looked like a village panchayat or better to say like a kangaroo court.
Ajay and Abhay looked up. They knew that they had crossed the limits but somehow, they were still feeling happy to be together. They felt like Jai & Veeru. Like them, they were also brothers and friends for life. And it was a test of their friendship, they knew! Anger was fomenting within Prakash and that dreaded look of a monster was back in his eyes. All the family members were staring at the kids like the gang of Gabbar Singh. But the two friends were ready to face the consequences. They didn’t care much. They felt sorry for all the trouble they had given to the elders. But they also showed them all, that day, what it takes to be a real friend and brother. And truly they were prepared to go to any extent for the sake of each other!