THE ABANDONED BUNGALOW
(‘Gone are the days when the children ventured and explored, the surroundings aroused curiosity, the environs exhilarated the spirits. Children no more live their childhood.’)
Large green fields, finely trimmed playground grass, wide smooth roads, what more could children ask for! Plenty of space to play. But something was pestering their little minds.
A meeting was held. The designated members were- Shamita, Sheena, Deepti, Riti and Komal. Presiding over the meeting, Sheena took charge of the mission at hand. She, being the boldest and the most confident among the delegates, could be relied upon. All points jotted down well- no paper nor pen- just memorized. Those were the times when no memory issues occurred. For there were neither mobile phones nor gadgets to remind. The brain did its job quite fine.
The date, the time, the venue of the mission were decided promptly. The preparations began full throttle.
The mission? Oh, yes! The members were briefed with the minutes of the meeting every evening- “Saturday. Five in the evening. We all meet near the Gulmohar Tree behind my house,” reminded Riti.
The mission- A monument! A curious structure! A tall castle shaped bungalow! A strange fascination!
An old bungalow belonging to the British era right behind D-35, Riti’s house. The compound of the National Dairy Research Institute housed many such British era dilapidated buildings.
Enid Blyton’s ‘The Famous Five’ had a wondrous influence on the children in the vicinity. Back down in the 1980s, Enid Blyton was a household name among the children of all age groups. Each one felt a resemblance to either Anne or Dick or George or Julian. Of course, the lovely dog, Timmy, was spared for there wasn’t a pet in any of the houses.
No secrets to be revealed. Promises made. Hearts crossed. Responsibilities distributed diligently. No scope for ambiguities. No one exactly knew what they were heading for. They could be greeted by ghosts inside the bungalow! Or some fierce unknown animal hiding itself behind the doors or near the fireplace. Fireplace! They had never seen one.
Secret agents- each one enjoyed the feeling- raising their stature to that of a detective. Instructions included bringing along torches, knives, sticks or whatever weapons one could catch hold of, for self-defense if need be. All was to be done without raising an eyebrow. The tiniest fault could compromise the mission.
“Some snacks would be a good idea,” Shamita’s suggestion wasn’t much welcomed.”
“We might have to run for life. Who knows what’s waiting in there?” Deepti’s statement was frightening. But the elated spirits could not be snubbed. Nothing could stop them. “And…don’t forget the fleet shoes. They are a must for everyone,” Sheena issued a warning.
The countdown began! Hearts throbbing! Preparations on!
Finally the day arrived! The bravehearts, scared yet adventurously motivated- they gathered at the predetermined spot. The bright red Gulmohar flowers gave them a red carpet welcome. The exhilaration, the excitement drove them crazy, ready to barge in. Here they go! The Famous Five!
A torch in one hand, a knife or a stick in another, they walked behind their leader, Sheena.
Well guarded by the tall thorny wild grass, not expecting many visitors in the past forty years, the Bungalow seemed lonely and ignored. No locks to keep it safe from intruders! It was probably once occupied by a British officer, supposedly fond of horses for there stood a long forlorn stable.
The creaking sound of the door widened their eyes poping out ready to drop on the dusty wooden floor. “Just one big hall on the ground floor! What sort of house is this?” exclaimed Komal turning her head left and right, the feeling of someone gazing creeped in. “Look! A fireplace!” Deepti pointed. The cold fireplace unused for years perhaps awaited the masters of the bungalow to bring back some warmth to heat up and blacken its dusty walls again.
Hosting parties, flooded with guests, the staircase would have been a lively feature of the house. Waiting for some guests again, it probably squeaked with joy as they set foot on it.
Sheena took the lead and the rest followed as the ants in a trail. Awestruck at the amazing woodwork on the termite eaten windows and the ramshackle doors, the children stood there admiring the beauty of the architectural designs. “What lies behind those closed doors?”
Shamita gained pace to reach out to the other end of the sizeable lobby. The wooden floor screeched aloud.
Shamita was taken aback. Others speechless! Danger! “What if the floor goes down?” Deepti spoke her fears aloud. “Enough adventure for the day,” suggested the meek namby-pamby Riti.
With the sun going down, hearts throbbing loud, each step frightening their souls out, there was still much left to explore. Another step forward could bring them all down taking the aerial route. Holding hands, they formed a human chain, as if comforting each other. Sometimes it’s fine to be afraid.
“Run!” they screamed more than the brown scary cat which came out of nowhere. Who scared whom? Hard to tell.
“Abandon the mission! And run!” they shouted together on the top of their voice.
The simple white fleet shoes, as anticipated, proved to be their saviour on that wondrous adventurous memorable day of their lives!