A battle of wills

Looking back
Last Updated 11 January 2014, 12:12 IST

“Appu, you sit quietly at one place, okay?” But Appu did not want to — it is true that he had fever. But it does not prevent one from playing with one’s toys, does it?

“Ma, where’s my ivory elephant?” Now that was his favourite toy. As far as he could remember, in all of his eight years on this earth, if there was one thing that had fascinated him, it was the elephant. How majestic these animals were! You could go on looking at them for hours together. People said that Appu took after his Venkiti thatha in this respect. In fact, they said Appu was indeed a miniature Venkiti, another Venkiti in the making — whether it was his stubborn nature or his love for elephants.

The grand old man in question here was his grandfather’s eldest brother, the patriarch, a man with a booming voice and an unsmiling face. Everyone was virtually afraid of the old man.

But not Appu. Of course, his periya thatha’s eyes terrified him, but somehow or the other, he had always tried to stand up to him, to defy and to challenge him. May be that was why they said he was more like Venkiti thatha — he was just as stubborn.Appu took out the ivory elephant. Now, for the next two hours, it would be his empire. He would be the emperor, sitting atop his elephant and going round and round. Looking down from his perch on the world below... it did give him a heady feeling.

“Appu.” That booming voice!His reverie was broken. He looked up with irritation into the eyes of Venkiti thatha. “Didn’t go to school today?”

What a question! Can’t he see? Appu shook his head. “I have fever.”“Hmm... then you should be in bed.”

It did not merit an answer, as far as Appu could see. He continued his game, the elephant moving to and fro along the verandah, him surveying the subjects. And then a large, hairy hand blocked the elephant’s path.

“Give me that.” Appu gripped the elephant hard and stood still — I won’t give, won’t let go. Let me see what you can do about it. His little fingers were prised open, the elephant was freed and the large hand took over.“You go and lie down. I am taking the elephant home.”

Appu looked up. How can you fight a giant like periya thatha? But no, I want my elephant, I will not allow you to keep it. He watched silently as the old man crossed the yard towards the big house.

Half an hour later, Appu was at the big house. His elephant was there, in a corner of the verandah. There was no one around.Appu’s eyes opened wide. With pursed lips, soft steps and a little smile, he reclaimed the elephant. And ran back with triumph. When he reached the wicket gate, he paused and looked back. And stared.

Periya thatha! Appu could see his face peeping through the window. The old man was watching him with a smile on his face. Appu clutched the elephant more fervently to his heart and ran.

Appu, my mother’s youngest brother, says that the old man became his friend from that moment onwards. It was a clash of wills, the senior trying out the junior. No one lost, for, the old man was amused with his little replica, while the little boy learned that you have to be bold to get what you want. It was a discovery for both.

(Published 11 January 2014, 12:12 IST)

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