By Neel Anil Panicker

I am the monster of every story.  In all my three score and counting years on Planet Earth,  in every story that has been spun around me, I have managed top draw status as Chief Villain, prime conspirator, damage par excellence, agent provocateur…the list just goes on and on.

Of the several such incidents that have lent colour and added ‘gravitas’ to my personality, I   shall hear narrate just one, one single incident, from way back in my childhood, one teeny weeny inconsequential event that kickstarted my world and stamped me as a bad  character.

I was barely twelve. The summer sun was at its merciless best, and I had slipped out of our village house, an apology of a thatched hut sans any door or window.

The jungle, a shrubby mass of tall, green trees was where I was headed towards. It was a favourite haunt of elders, especially drunkards and druggies who would come dawn, drag their weather beaten bodies into the wilderness.

For two whole years I had resisted the urge, and finally, at the very impressionable young age of thirteen, I found myself seated across legged on the ground, gulping down a pungent , yellow fluid from the innards of a plastic bottle that clearly looked as if it were an excavated marvel from some seventh century Mesopotamian dumpyard.

It was my very first substance abuse, and in less than the time it takes for one to spell dangerous, I was knocked down, my senses have bidden goodbye to the world.

God knows what happened thereafter, but whe  n I regained consciousness  I felt the warm touch of my mother’s hands on my chest, an angelic smile lighting up her face.
I raised my eyes; two feet away my father glared at me, his thick bushy eyebrows a hood  over blood shot eyes that bored into my inner soul.

“The police is here. They found you in the jungle, drunk, your head resting on a dead body. What is all this, you ignoramus fool?”

The words, his words, my stepfather’s, were a whiplash that singed my soul.

Shocked and beside myself, I turned towards my mother, and pressed my head into her bosom, and howled and cried, mumbling and screaming out my innocence.

‘Yes, I went to the jungle. True, I drank something that made my head turn around. Yes, I did feel dizzy, and was knocked out. But wait…I have no idea who lay dead, who killed this person, and how am I connected in any way to this murder.’

Between bursts of tears and howls abs shrieks, I protested my innocence.

It was to no wail; there are after all limits to a mother’s power and patience.

I found myself in police custody soon after, and thereafter was locked away in a juvenile facility for the next six years. I entered the adult world a changed man. I was all of eighteen, and had by now learnt my biggest lesson. It was that life was a contest, and some entered it with a winner’s advantage whereas there were others, who had their cards decked against them from the very start. It was a Darwinian  world out there, and the law of the jungle decried the strong and the ruthless and the vile ruled the world.
It would take me another decade to know how wrong I was: the meek do inherit the Earth, provided they play by the rules, and bide their time.

But try saying that to a stickly bare chestedi beggarly who had been flung to the ground  his body pressed against and violated by umpteen rough hands, and you realise that at times even the most pure of beings needs to forget that he is a human being if he wishes to live in a world people by beasts.

#neelanilpanicker #flash #fiction #shortstory

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