Saturday, May 19, 2012

Mr. Checkers

Mr. Checkers loved to bounce a lot. In fact that’s the only thing he did all day. The escalators at the South City Mall, the plush lawns of Lake Gardens, and even the long stairs of Rabindra Sarobar Metro station, Mr. Checkers, bounced on them all.  The interminable  “Bounce Bounce Bounce”  would add melody  to the melancholic daily sounds like the screeching of brakes on damp railway sleepers , the grumbling and mumbling of unhappy Bengali men who are probably still hung-over by the East Bengal and Mohunbagan football clash  the previous day. Echoes of innocent laughter of Korea would follow Mr. Checkers wherever he deemed suitable enough to bounce. Korea’s face would be red with utmost glee watching Mr. Checkers tumble each day down the stairs. They were inseparable. Korea was a seven year old boy. His parents, like most Bengalis were avid football fanatics and named the poor Kid Korea after the 2002 FIFA World Cup which was held in Korea-Japan. It was a trend among Bengalis to name their kids with weird Western names. So, don’t be surprised to find a lot of Gogols, Titos and Tintins running around clutching a cricket bat or more commonly immersed in a Tintin or a Phantom comic book. Korea was no different. He loved to read his favorite adventures of Tintin and Captain Haddock, and yearned to play football. That’s why him and his football, Mr. Checkers were inseparable.

Korea would wake up every day at 6 o’clock.  He brushed his teeth for 5 minutes, lest the evil master, Germia, and the warlord, Cavity-le-quish attacked his precious milky white teeth.  He put his batman limited edition toothbrush back to its rack and started changing into his school uniform. He had been taking care of himself for quite sometime now, after all, he thought he was a big boy. He made sure he did not give a chance to his mother to scold. So he dressed up on time, went to the kitchen, poured himself his favourite breakfast cereal, kellogs fruit loops. Korea was the king of the kingdom of breakfast cereals, and the fruit loops were his bad subjects. With a sideways glance at his prime minister, his ever faithful and witty, Mr. Checkers, Korea gave an evil grin. Crunch crunch ! There went two spoonful of bad subjects. Glug glug ! Two mouthful of freshly squeezed orange juice and the punished subjects would swim in the hot molten lava in his stomach. Finally, after providing justice to his bad subjects, he picked up his school bag and water bottle. He stowed Mr. Checkers in his favourite netted green bag. His mother was still watching the morning news. After shouting a hurried goodbye to her, he left for the schoolbus. 

Korea used to be scared of the big yellow school-bus. The big metallic feline contraption would creep up every morning and would gobble up the poor unknowing kids. The bus would screech to a halt right in front of the shivering kids, equipped with water-bottles and leaden school bags. The doors would slide open like a subtle wink from a hungry jaguar waiting to pounce on its prey. Today, like all days, was no different. Mr. Checkers also showed a gloom in his faded pentagonal eyes to show his apprehension towards entering into the metallic vehicle of doom. Korea sensed the fear in Mr. Checkers's eyes and stood firmly. He slung his water bottle like a lasso, and just like the fearless Paleontologist, Indiana Jones, he was ready for another adventure. As he climbed the steps, his path was blocked by the evil master of the vehicle. The evil master squinted, and as Korea was shuddering, he gave a wry look towards him and smiled, revealing his black, decaying teeth. Korea covered Mr. Checkers's eyes and ran past the evil master. As Korea was passing him, he could hear a significant jingling from his bag. It must be all the teeth he steals from poor unwary kids, he thought, and still he could not replace his own teeth, he thought. Korea took the last seat, and wondered, why everyone called that bad man, conductor, after all, he was the keeper of this vehicle of doom. 

As the vehicle moved, Korea glanced towards all the other children. Everyone seemed to be engrossed in a chatter of Playstations and x-boxes. Korea thought he was good boy. He never played video games. He did his homework daily and played outside. Maybe thats why no one talked to him on the bus. Maybe thats why Mr. Checkers was his only friend. 

Finally, after a long and terrifying journey, the bus screeched to a halt, for the Castle of school-ator was in view. It was in here, where all the children received their formal education. And reluctantly Korea, got down from his seat, and walked towards the school, making sure not to make any eye contact with the conductor. The class started. Korea would drift away to his world. He took the last corner bench, which was ideal, because of the high windows it had adjacent to it. A pigeon’s nest, lay idly on the window. The mother pigeon brought some yummy wiggly worms for her children. Poor children, Korea thought. They also have to endure such boring classes all day. At Least he could go back home after six hours. But for those pigeon hatchlings, they have to hear Miss Rosie ramble daily on english grammar, and still those pigeons cannot utter a single english syllable. 

Korea remembered the day, when Miss Rosie scolded him for not finishing his homework on time. So from now on, he completed his homework everyday. But when his homework was complete, Miss Rosie would never ask for it. Korea again groaned that day, for Miss Rosie ignored his finished homework once again.

The echo of the bell resonated in the silent hallways of the castle, and the gleeful shrills of its young inhabitants that followed was ear splitting. It was lunch time, and everyone would empty their tiffin boxes to their rumbling stomachs. The waft of pav bhajis, Sandwiches, noodles and many delicious delicacies filled the classrooms. Korea checked his lunch box, and it had cucumber sandwiches again. He got bored of eating cucumber sandwiches everyday. He saw Ram Lal drooling outside, eying ravenously at the gourmet spread before him. Korea went outside and gave one of his sandwiches to the hungry Ram Lal, who wagged his tail in appreciation. But alas, he also seemed to have lost interest in the cucumber sandwiches and stared inside the classroom gloomily, ignoring Korea's generosity. Mr. Checkers seemed to have chuckled at Korea, for even he did not like those cucumber sandwiches. Enough of lunch thought Korea, time to make Mr. Checkers sweat. He ran to the playground and kicked Mr. Checkers hard. Mr. Checkers soared in the air, higher than the birds, nearing the clouds. His pentagonal eyes squirmed and if only he had a mouth, then he would’ve squealed in delight. Bounce, bounce, bounce, and Mr. Checkers fell to the ground. Bounce, bounce, bounce, and it made Korea pounce. It was their favourite time of the day. Mr. Checkers was free and so was Korea.  Mr. Checkers would then whirl past the swings and and see-saws, inviting people to try to catch him. But no one bothered to chase the poor canonical fireball, whizzing past them. So Korea picked up Mr.Checkers and dragged himself to attend the rest of the school. 

The feline vehicle of doom made sure Korea reached home in the afternoon. As he got off, the doors shut, winking, that the monster would be back again tomorrow. Korea, ran. Ran like Indiana Jones, dodging metal arrows and nails, jumping over poisonous snakes and with that surge of sudden adventure, the young paleontologist reached his home. He was just about to ring the doorbell, when the delightful sound of the ice cream walah caught his attention. He imagined the soft, sugary, creamy dollops of heaven he could indulge himself into. He followed the excited chatter of animated kids, all lined up to buy their share of ice cream. Korea checked his pockets. He did not have any money. His parents did not give him any pocket money. He asked Mr. Checkers if he had any. But Mr. Checkers was drooling over the sumptuous looking ice cream spread, so Korea knew better than to trust his spherical, rotund friend. The ice cream walah never gave free treats. He had the same moustache as the conductor from the bus. That same evil look. Tricking hapless kids into eating his treats, so that the milky white teeth of those poor kids would go dark and ugly black, and his twin brother, the evil bus conductor would collect those falling, rotting teeth and jingle them provocatively, to scare the terrified children, in his vehicle of doom. So, Korea, like a good boy, stayed away from ice cream and went back home. 

Korea washed himself, gave Mr. Checkers a good scrubbing too, because he was very naughty and was always bouncing away to the muddy end of the playground today. He finished his homework. There was one difficult essay which he could not write. Maybe his mother could help. But his mother ignored him completely. His mother always ignored him, since the day Korea was very bad. It was the same day him and Mr. Checkers became best friends. He sometimes remembered that day. His mother had always warned him not to touch unknown objects. But how could he had resisted not playing with beautiful, beautiful Mr. Checkers that day, who was lying invitingly, in the Metro station. He remembered it getting hot, and Mr. Checkers going all red, orange, yellow and then black. Nobody would talk to Korea after that. Nobody, except Mr. Checkers.

"Goodnight Checkers", muttered Korea


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