The Lion Tamer- A Short Story

Gulal flew in the air and people smiled with madness in their eyes. The colour was everywhere- in their hair, in their eyes, in their mouth. The street had madness written all over it as children ran around. They would take turns pinning each other down and forcing red, blue, yellow and silver on their faces.

Raju was the most notorious face in the crowd. He was hardly fifteen years old but it was hard to tell. He had the size advantage over other kids and it was hard to escape his vice like grip. He would drag people to a water tank which had colour in it and toss them in. Flailing limbs and gasping mouths made him smile. It was a party and he was leading it.

A cyclist dressed in all whites tried to cross the street. And just like everyone else who thought about crossing the street untouched, he was taken. Raju led the gang as the kids threw colour on the middle-aged man. The man did not seem to enjoy it very much but had no option but to concede. The mad mob then proceeded to hold him over their heads and toss him in the tank. After being fully drenched in colour, the man took his cycle and left the street meekly. As a peace offering, Raju offered him some sweets. The cyclist peddled away munching on the gujhiya.

Next came a lady dressed in orange saree. The gang ran after and she turned around and ran back.The gang caught up with her and threw her in water. It was a pitiable face that she wore after the onslaught was over. The party danced to loud music and bhaang contributed to their remorselessness.

An old lady in her 40s entered the street. At the sight of her, the mob assembled again. She did not flinch or turn around. She kept walking toward the crowd. Raju squinted to make out the figure. The bhaang had completely soaked his nervous system. He saw the figure approach with steady steps and with the ululating crowd, it seemed to render a very ominous picture. He shushed the other children and walked toward the old lady with colour in his fists. The lady wore a green saree and had a slight smile on her face. As she drew closer, Raju’s headiness began easing.

‘You did not come to class yesterday,’ the woman said in a stern voice.

‘I am sorry, ma’am,’ he said. His head was hung low. The crowd had dispersed.

‘If you don’t show up with the assignment tomorrow…’

Raju touched his ears and some of the children began running to their houses. The lady kept walking and Raju waited with his chin lowered and gaze down till she disappeared at the end of the street.

As she went away, the party hats were brought back and the loud music began blaring again. A couple of people took Raju and threw him in the pool. He was guffawing as water splashed all over the place.




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