In my early teens, I was once ensnared by a cane wielding cranky old man. He summed up my pedigree in an extremely unpleasant manner: “Here at last I get to see the illustrious son of an illustrious father who himself was the illustrious son of his illustrious father.”
After over half an hour of one sided wordy attrition I gathered that my father was a thief at my age, and that my grand father even thought that his son amply exhibited cannibalistic tendencies after he and his group of friends had eaten up all the dogs and cats in the neighborhood. I made a feeble attempt to defend my father and suffered cane-nudges on the knees.
At last I resorted to my last line of defense: “Why don't you take it up with my father instead of me?”
“Simply because I don't want to get eaten up by a cannibal,” said Crank seriously, “and you have been stealthily looking at my grand daughter the whole of last week; that's almost stealing. I know you can't help it; runs amuck in the family.”
My father was not at home; he along with the rest of his old body building chums from his teens – Group of Six - were having a get together. I ran to the place, and insisted on an emergency meeting. I related the whole episode, and placed my thieving-cannibal-father right between the devil and the deep sea.
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To my utter amazement, instead of bowing their heads in shame, all of them burst out laughing simultaneously. Still he owed me a cogent explanation. I was determined not to pass up this opportunity, a rare one at that, to pay him back with his own coins for the trouble he took in disciplining me.
My father agreed to make a clean breast of everything, but bound me down to a promise of not misbehaving with Crank. Here is what had happened:
Crank in those days was known as a crackpot. He had inherited the heavy cane along with an unmatched gullibility, and his favorite past time was chasing boys and cane-nudging them for no reason. Thoroughly irked, the Group of Six decided to retaliate.
They entered the kitchen through the back door opening out to the backyard, and decamped with the entire family's dinner. They also left an anonymous note saying, “Stop caning and avoid starvation.” Crank spotted my father who was the last to clamber up.
As a pre-emptive move my father confessed everything to my grand father, and escaped with a severe tongue lashing. Crank came to complain with the piece of evidence in the form of the warning letter. My grand father told him, “It is because of my strict discipline that you still have hands to carry your cane. He has strong teeth. Don't go anywhere near him; he is dangerous.” He mused for a while, and then added, “I wonder what has happened to all the missing pets.” Crank was suddenly in a hurry to get back home.
Grand father also informed my father, “Don't go anywhere near him (Crank). He is uncontrollable when he is really angry. And he is now vow-bound to murder you and your nefarious group.” They avoided each other for decades, and Crank unburdened all his resentment against my father on me.
The next day when he got me within his cane-range I stood my ground, raised my half clenched fists paw-like, pulled the facial muscles as far back as was possible and bared all my teeth. I could almost read his mind, “.... runs amuck in the family.”
BY TAPAS MUKHERJEE