Childhood was marked by many scares one of which was that child kidnappers were many and they would mutilate the kidnapped to get them to work for them i.e., begging on the streets. Where we lived the colony was considered very safe so we didn’t think about this often. I and my brother would play cricket in the fields next to our elementary school till almost darkness. There would the routine get together after the practice talking about the great shots or the fantastic off spin bowling by some of the teammates. One of these days, after the talk me and brother headed back home. It was dark. Our home was just about a 2-3 minute walk. All we had to do was to walk across the field and right onto our street. Our street was well-lit with street lamps – that was one of the good things about growing up in Jayanagar in those days. As we started to walk we heard voices calling out to us. Looking back we saw two adults beckoning us. Something made us not to heed to the calling and we started running towards home. The two also started running towards us, but since the run was short, we made it home safely. The two stopped at the end our street and backed away. We will never know if this was a kidnapping attempt or something of a genuine need.
Our family knew the school and the staff pretty well. The headmaster of our school was classmate of my father. The staff got to know of the incident and they announced it during the morning prayer session to the entire school asking everyone to be careful and not to venture out after dark. This incident has been etched in my memory ever since.
The other scare during growing up was the ghost stories told by everyone. We had a tamarind tree or a few of them in the field next to the school grounds. Rumors abounded that the tree was infested with ghosts. In India, tamarind trees are folk-fare for being abode of dead spirits. We had no hesitation playing under these trees during the day along with so many other friends. But once it was dark, no one ventured near them. As we get across our street and its set of houses and headed east, the street lamps were few until we got to where we could see houses again. That darkness stretched across the field with the tamarind trees. On of my classmates was a master of spinning out ghost stories. He would watch all these Telugu movies with the then popular actor NTR (as he was known) and tell these stories to us. He had once mentioned that his uncle had been re-born after dying and that in that span of time he had seen women ghosts heating up the stove by sticking their legs underneath and setting them on fire. This story had made gotten me goosebumps and had even after I grew up. Anyway, during high school I would visit this friend of mine with whom I would exchange all my study notes and time in the evening. We would go over the questions at the end of the chapter and make sure we knew the answers. This would go on sometimes till it was dark. And as I headed back home, I was always nervous about crossing the stretch with the tamarind trees and the short span of darkness. I would walk fast stiff and not daring to glance at either side. Any sound I would hear would make me walk faster. Nari – the friend expert at the ghost stories – had mentioned that when the female ghosts walked, they would make a jingle sound with each steps. Knowing this, sometimes I guess my mind would play on me and thus I tried not to hear anything during those stretches. As I got past the fields and to close vicinity of our street, I could see the street lamps again and I felt safer.