“Oyeeeeee, Gattu…come, oyeee’

It was Sonu and Pepsi. I peered over the terrace boundary- Sonu with a cricket bat over his shoulder, looking for all the world like Hanuman, the monkey god, and Pepsi, waving enthusiastically with his hair falling over his face.

“O, come….don’t you want to play cricket?’, he gestured with his arm.

I wanted to and I didn’t want to at the same time. The reason was Tipsy, our playground bully who had been picking on me lately.

I shook my head. “No, yaar….grandma is sick. I have to be at home today.”

“Abbe, don’t tell lies…”

“Arre, are you being afraid of Tipsy? We have already talked to him.”

“Grandma is ill…”, I said, shaking my head

For sure you have talked to him, I thought. You are wearing your new Adibas T-shirt. For sure you have talked to him, huh! (You see, when Pepsi had first turned up in our park, he used to always wear a T-shirt on which was boldly written ‘Pepsi’. It was football season when he had first turned up, so the result was that whenever the ball went to him everyone would shout “PEPSIII, pass, pass….” and the name stuck. But lately, ever since Tipsy had teased him mercilessly for wearing only that one T-shirt, it had disappeared, now replaced by one that said ‘Adibas’)

“Look they are going to start the match”

“No, grandma is ill….oh, she’s calling”, I said and quickly withdrew inside.

I was deeply, deeply unhappy and lonely. Perhaps I was the most unfortunate, saddest 11-year-old in the whole universe. I was also completely alone, for everyone else had joined the cult of Tipsy. Everyone was happy, OK with his bullying and his bossing, and no one cared about me. I went back to the terrace and peered towards the park. They had started playing! Everyone was enjoying themself, they had forgotten about me. No one cared.


The next day I came back from school, in high spirits. I was always happy and excited to be back home- especially in the summers. It would be white hot outside, 40 plus degrees, with heat almost bouncing off the walls of the houses and all the stray dogs in the shade, with their tongues hanging out. And waiting for me at home would be a glass of chilled, sweet watermelon juice, or papaya or even a Mango shake if I was lucky. Coming home and stepping through the chik and khus curtains of our veranda, felt like stepping through a portal into some fairy land. Outside, the sun would be blazing down, and inside would be all cool and dark, the air filled with the fragrance of khus (vetiver roots).  Then, I’d rush inside, throw off my bag and run to the fridge to see what treat grandma had kept for me.

That day, after lunch when my grandmother had gone to sleep, I snuck out, ran across Priya Park towards Priya complex. I needed to be alone, and I needed to think. I couldn’t keep on not going to the park everyday otherwise my friends might just forget about me. On the other hand, if I did, I would have to face Tipsy and be bossed around by him and see the revolting sycophancy of all his ‘tails’ and followers. How could I, a rebel at heart, accept his bossing?

It was a complex problem that seemed to have no solution. And so, with a heavy heart, I hung around outside Modern Bazaar and stared at the man turning out French fries for 30 rupees a cone, as I pondered on my problem. Finally, after about fifteen minutes of staring, I scowled ferociously at him and went off to get myself a lemon soda.

I was sitting in the shade next to the DDA complex and finishing the last of my banta, when I saw Rono walking towards me, with the packet of French fries in his hand. His face was red from the heat, his hair all tousled up but he looked happy, completely absorbed in his French fries.

“Rono”, I shouted out.

He looked up “Oye, what are you doing?”

I was by his side in an instant.

“Me? I’m thinking” I replied with an air of gravity.

“Thinking? Why?” He automatically offered me the fries, I grabbed a fistful and we started walking together.

I started explaining the whole Tipsy situation to him. You see, Rono was one of the oddballs of our park. A real individualist, he would play with us for months and then disappear from the park following his own interests, again, for months. Lately, he had joined Karate classes in the evenings and had not been coming to the park since almost two months and so did not know much about Tipsy who had only recently moved into our neighbourhood. I filled him in- how Tipsy was always the captain these days, how he decided the batting order, how he used to abuse and threaten everyone, and how, most of all, all of our friends- Anshuman, Shalabh, Pompy, Adi, Goldie, Chinese and Veeru had turned into his ‘tails’. Only the Bagga brothers- Sonu and Deepu and Pepsi and I were outside the charmed circle and we were teased and harassed every single day for it.

Rono, understandably was outraged. His red face looked even redder, as he waved a half-eaten French fry about in the air.

“You need to beat him, teach him a lesson.”

“But, how?”

It was obvious, for Tipsy even though he was our age, was almost a head taller than most of us. He also came from a rich family, and had a natural arrogance that seemed hard to challenge.

“It’s simple- Khaa-rate!”


Rono filled me in. Apparently, Karate was a reservoir of such techniques that even a smaller guy could beat up a bigger guy with it. Indeed, since it was all about using the opponent’s strength against him, it was almost guaranteed that the smaller guy would always beat the bigger guy. Rono could teach me the Karate as he was going to Karate classes now, and then I could take on Tipsy on my own using the secret techniques he taught me.

It sounded wonderful and after polishing off the French Fries, we headed straight back to his home to put our plan into action. We took over the sitting room, and soon the floor was littered with all the cushions we could find, with his parents mattress lying in the middle of it. This was our Karate mat, on which class soon commenced.

It was all quite complicated and wonderful. You apparently had to breathe out forcibly when punching, mentally concentrate all your strength (I think he called it chi) on the outside of your fists and let out a ‘Hiii-yaaa’ with every punch. We went through a sequence of punching and Karate chopping the air and after yelling out “Hiii-yaaa” a few times, I was beginning to feel a bit like Bruce Lee myself.

“OK, I didn’t want to teach you this deadly technique so quickly….but it’s our only chance.” And Rono told me about the vulnerable points in the human body. According to him, these techniques were illegal as even one punch or chop to these parts could incapacitate or even kill a human being. One of these parts was called the solar plexus, punching which could completely incapacitate a person for up to 10 minutes.

Solar Plexus- it sounded awesome and very technical and Rono proceeded to show me how it worked. This consisted of him punching me squarely in the space below my ribs with a loud ‘Hii-yaa’ and me crumpling over onto the mattress with the wind knocked out of me. After 3 rounds of this, I assured him that I had learned the technique and did not need any more demonstration. When I said it was now my turn to practice, he didn’t seem too enthusiastic.

“I don’t think this technique is the one for you, what if you punch him but miss the solar plexus? He would then wipe you out with the next punch. We need something that cannot fail”

We then went through a number of other alternatives, before deciding that I must karate chop Tipsy right on his nose. After all, his nose was very visible and there could be no mistake in identifying where it was. All I had to do was take a deep breath, mentally will my chi to the outside of my palm, jump up, yell ‘Hiii-yaaa’ and karate chop his nose. That would be enough to knock him out, Rono assured me.

This technique was so simple, that we did not need to practice. And so, with all the encouragement and training from Rono, our plan was set into motion. I was to confront Tipsy that very evening.


I diligently practised the karate chops at home, mentally willing my ‘chi’ to the outside of my palm and breathing out forcibly with every swing of my arm. After some time, when I was feeling quite good and pumped, I went to the park.

It was a bit early but I didn’t have to wait too long before I saw Tipsy along with his ‘tails’. They were walking down the pavement which cut across the middle of our park. I ran straight towards them, and stood in front of him, blocking his way. It was time for him to get what was coming.

‘Oye Tipsy’, I snarled

Tipsy stepped up to me real close, towering over me as he did so.

“What?”, he said with a smirk.

I had seen that smirk many, many times before, but now it was enough. All my pent-up anger and resentment now boiled over, and before I knew what I was doing, before anyone realised what was happening and before even a leaf had stirred- “Hi-yaaa” I yelled as I leapt up and landed a karate chop smash-bang right on the middle of his nose and Tipsy staggered back and fell.

It was over in an instant and he was down on the ground, looking up at me incredulously and touching his nose again and again. Shalabh and Anshuman and Chinese stared at me, wild-eyed with shock, none of them moving a muscle. And I stared right back, equally if not more shocked than them. That moment stands frozen in my memory, as all of us stood rooted to our spots, as if we were made of stone. Time seemed to stand perfectly still, until suddenly – it didn’t anymore!

Out of the corner of my eyes, I sensed some movement from the ground. It was Tipsy and he was beginning to get up. In an instant, the spell was broken and time seemed to speed up. My mind started racing, and I realised that I had not planned anything beyond the first Karate chop. And now Tipsy was getting up, which meant one and only one thing- that I was about to get thrashed.

Everyone suddenly seemed to have come back to life and I knew I didn’t have much time. They say fear gives you wings, and boy, did I fly that day. In an instant, I had hurdled over the bushes to the side of the pavement, and was running as fast as my little legs would carry me. Behind me, I could hear other pairs of legs as I made my way straight towards the entrance at the other end of the park and I almost, almost, aaaalmost made it.

It was right in front of the park entrance that they caught up with me, and by god, did they give me a beating! All I remember now is that I was lying in the dust, getting kicked like a football, while my mind was far, far away- reflecting bitterly about what a fraud this whole Kha-raate business was.

But that incident also taught me some valuable lessons about bullies and about human nature. You see, in the days that followed,  Tipsy slowly changed his behaviour towards me. He was suddenly very friendly, picking me in his team, giving me first batting and letting me field wherever I wanted. He asked me for suggestions about bowling and field placement, invited me home after the games, and in general made me feel like a valued and important member of our park’s sporting fraternity.

I regret to say, dear readers, that I lapped it all up and soon even I, the original rebel, had happily turned into Tipsy’s chief ‘tail’.




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