Every kid has his fears, and as a kid, I had mine.
Back in 2nd standard, I had this mortal fear of magic-men. There was this astrologer bugger near home, whom all called ‘Tantrik’, and he was the scariest person I’d ever met.
As a budding cricketer, I had to my credit quite a few broken windows. Now this Tantrik bugger, whom we shall call, well, ‘Tantrik bugger’ had a nasty habit of scaring little children.
He lived in a tiny one room house at the back end of an alley where we played. The ball, guided by mysterious cosmic forces and a bat, always ended up right in front of the house. Being the youngest, and littlest, of those who played, I was always asked to fetch. And fetch I did.
And then, one day, it happened. The Tantrik bugger came out just as I was fetching the ball. I saw him for the first time. An extremely short man, he had a small pony tail, was bald otherwise, and stared at me with those piercing eyes. That’s still the scariest set of eyes I’ve ever set my eyes on.
His house door stood ajar, and I peeped in. His house smelt weird, had all kinds of idols in it and a good share of red light. Now, to a kid hardly 8, that was S-C-A-R-Y. As I was about to get the ball, the Tantrik bugger shouted out aloud from behind. In fluent kannada, and with a good deal of stammering, he warned me to not play around his house. He also said that he would eat me alive if he did. I was scared. Real scared. (I later on, in class 4, when I was reading Great Expectations, found out exactly how Pip must have felt.)
Petrified, I took the ball, threw it at my brother (who was incidentally batting) and ran crying to my house. I refused to come out of the house for a good ten days. I even stopped cycling out of fear of that Tantrik bugger. When my dad finally noticed my sudden obsession for dolls rather than my cycle, he asked me what was wrong.
I narrated what had happened. And next thing I know, I was being dragged to that Tantrik’s house by my dad. I thought, heck, I’m being sacrificed. My dad knocked. I peeped in, hoping he wouldn’t be at home. But unfortunately he was.
He opened the door and actually invited my dad, and me, inside. When my dad narrated what was plaguing me, that bugger actually burst out laughing, claiming he was only joking and even offered me chocolates. Heck. Like I believed him! (I took the chocolates though). I knew he would gobble me up the next time he would see me alone.
Soon we left; my dad told me that I shouldn’t be scared.
I won’t, I told him.
I would, I knew.
The next day, we played cricket, the ball went in again. I was asked to fetch. I showed them my tongue, made faces, and said you fetch. They did. And every time thereafter. I never saw the Tantrik bugger again.
And thank god I didn’t.
(For a change, every part of this story is real.)