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Apr 23, 2019

Hanging Corpses, Flying Buns

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By Newton D'souza, USA [ Published Date: May 22, 2007 ]

It was yet another boring social-studies exam.

In the sole mission of regurgitating all the 'by-hearted' dates and kings, a curious event erased my lessons, leaving the brain dead and perhaps many other infantile brains around me.

'Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople in 1642,' I wrote. (It was only in the morning that I had read it as 1442, but the scene of that hanging corpse delayed my memory by two centuries).

That morning as we hopped down from our school-bus, on the far side of the court road, and atop that hill, was a hanging corpse of an otherwise well dressed youth. Police were investigating a disassembled suitcase and its contents that were strewn around the road.

Being an apt diversion from the forthcoming exam, students hovered around the wrought iron school gate ogling at the twisted neck and protruded eyeballs which portrayed a momentary self-conflict before it settled for peace. Bits and pieces of gossip flew through the thick crowd. Some clever guy had even concocted this stranger's ad-hoc biography: that he hailed from a neighboring city, had come down in an overnight train, and wanted to die in his own dignity. There was of course a suicide note, nearby, but incidentally it blamed nobody.  This was not the last suicide in the area. The Aloysian jungle then provided a thick cover for people ruminating a quiet, private end.

This scene affected us much more because it was the very place we had visited on several occasions for our favorite treasure hunting. When the last bell rang at the biology period, it was as if the dogs were let out. We would screech and rattle our way from our middle school ground, past the high school Chemistry lab and that old Museum. Then it was time to tiptoe around Fr. Victor's office and boogie down the jungle, tugging each other, somersaulting and dragging others on the way. It all culminated in a common ritual: hurtling large granite boulders into a half-broken well, which perhaps could have easily killed any of us.

In fact, I can think of at least three ways in which we could have met our 'silent' end - either crushed by a boulder, bitten by a snake or buried under the avalanche of granite boulders that we had cascaded. We then regaled in the childhood freedom by ransacking the pepper climbers, violently shaking the tamarind trees and throwing stones at the raw mangoes only to hear the frail voice of Ms. Concesso: 'Ö.Kain thaun aili ba ye paddey chedey!' (From where did these mischievous boys appear).

After this ritual, it was one final stretch towards the courthouse road --almost close to where the body was currently hanging - from where we would speed up to board the school bus. But, being tried and thirsty was an excuse to top the day with a pepsy candy. Avoiding the prying eyes of the conductor, the pepsy would make its way, trouser to trouser, across the length of the bus, leaving evidence of wet patches on our dirty uniforms and agitating the conductor further.

Then of course, when a bunch of confined kids are packed like sardines inside a school bus, all hell breaks loose. The mind indeed becomes a devils workshop. And on one such workshop hours, I challenged one of my good friends to stamp the bus gear at a traffic stop. After much hesitation, he agreed, stamped the gear and almost collided the bus against a car parked near Hampankatta. Our bus driver fumed and fretted, and owing to the fact that one of his hawai slippers was dangling on the gear box, my friend was caught and punished. I later told him that he should have disowned the other slipper still on his foot! The advice was great but the execution was too late.

On another occasion I had pinned down a friend of mine in a game of 'to catch a thief' and his repeated yells, made me squish him further. When I released my grip, I saw a large lump on his dislocated wrist - and as the swelling grew in size, I knew that my student days were counted. Owing to my own guilt, a few days later, while he was recovering at the Vinaya clinic, I made a suspicious visit. Fortunately for me, he had not betrayed my trust and fortunately for him he was given a promotion to high school without having to write the seventh standard exams! Now, tell me, wasn't that a favor?

Perhaps the most amusing incident was when, during one of our middle school fancy dress competition, we took the word 'competition' too much to heart  in that the lead actor sliced down a live hen as a sacrifice in an enactment of the famed 'bootada kola.' Not to mention, our class was disqualified for this macabre scene, but the actor, without any inhibitions, packed the hen home for a sumptuous dinner. 

At another sendoff party event, an excess of three baskets of buns, was enough to conceive a game of 'high-throw bana' and within minutes of me taking the lead, a flurry of buns flew across the playground, and pretty soon there were hundred muddied hot cross buns.  An inquiry into the incident only produced the usual suspects. I should admit I was not in any of them!

And how could we ever forget our school election experiences. As if by default the school pupil leader was chosen based on his height, because no one was willing to carry a tall guy on their shoulders. The usual promise of ice creams from the winners (which we then thought was an exercise in the great Indian democracy), was carried on over into the college years, when the winners and losers came together in a strange bond of brotherly unity (in a procession to a sisterly college!). Indeed, it was called sisterly college for no official reason!

Today, buildings have masked the events of time, and walking here may not be as eventful as it once was. No more hanging corpses and flying buns. No more Chandrans standing trial at the court house. No more hippy styles and long side burns. No more cucumber and mango slices making way to the last benches. No lecturers flashing torches to check our red-eyes during the 'musical evenings.'  No more chain gangs and sand-pit wars. Most of all no more devils in the 10th D.

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Shaly Pereira, Oman:
Hey Newton....Iím glad I took the time out to read your write-up. Itís always an experience riding on the roller coaster of that incredibly quicksilver mind (and I think I've said that before).

Btw I hope ur having a great time in M'lore. Hoping to bump into you.....enroute to Rajniís perhaps? Life is full of surprises so be prepared for that tap on ur shoulder;)
mel tau, Oman:
Interesting tit bits from your school days Newton and now that you are in Mílore Iím sure you can/will revisit some of those places and relive those sweet memories.

Enjoy maadi your hols... :)
Dots Rego, USA :
Hi Newton,

Sorry to post my comments so late. Better late than never.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this piece from you. Very energizing and nostalgic too!!

Good job Newton, may we get to read many more from you.
Add One Out, USA :
Hi Kirann,
Thanks for the comments. I hope I didn't make you go to the dictionary too often. Childhood indeed is a great leveller.

My sweat glands have opened up again. Right now I'm praying for rains. When its starts pouring I'm sure I will be complaining otherwise.

Newton
d p, India :
Thats a great piece of nostalgic writing. You have an impressive style of writing and your excellent command over the language always makes a dictionary my close companion as most of the words are new to me. You are too good.
Childhood is the most most stage in man's life but the sad part is it comes and goes like a flash of lightening never to come back again. But the memories remain fresh.
Add One Out, USA :
Hi Rajanikant,
It was so gracious of you to invite me over. I will be running errands between Mangalore, Bangalore and Madras for the next 15 days. After that I will have some time to spend and I'll try meeting you or atleast calling you up. As they say life begins at fifty Mr. Shenoy and you are certainly young at heart. I cannot believe anyone at even my age with your energy!

Hey Judith,
'Lucky is the lady'....thanks for that comment....I think its more complimentary that I deserve.....coming from an acomplished chef, traveller, and food artist is always humbling...

The temperature soars 37 today folks and I still have to go to that mutton stall...

Greetings again from Mangalore,

Newton
Judith Serrao, UAE:
Happy holidays Newton. Have a gr8 time in Mangalore; and go easy on all fishy things ;). What about some paintings for us Newton; the previous ones had all of us completely bowled-over.

A wonderful writer, budding poet, awesome artist; lucky is the lady in your life. Have a nice day Newton.
Rajanikanth Shenoy, India :
"As of now I have not stopped eating sardines and shells."

Hey Newton! That gesture certainly speaks volumes!

Welcome home! If you'd like to meet people above fifty who'd settle for not less than a few 'sixty', you could meet me one of these evenings by calling my number - 98450 38658.

Please allow me to rest between 2.00A.M. and 10.00A.M., sometimes also between 3.30P.M. and 5.30P.M.!

Rest of the times, I speak and stay normal.
Add One Out, USA :
Hi Amar, Chris and Rajanikant,
Treasure all your thoughts. I think its always good to exchange all the wisdom to make each other better.

Today for the first time in two years I am writing from Mangalore. Its a drastic change when you go from 0 degree to 32 degree in a matter of 24 hours.

Contrary to popular opinion I thought Mangalore has not changed much though. Indeed the traffic has gone worse and there is road construction all over. Apartments and buildings have mushroomed but nothing so drastic from my last visit 5 years ago.

As of now I have not stopped eating sardines and shells.

Thats all for now folks,
Have a great day!

Newton
Amarnath Bantwal, Kuwait:
Thanks Newton for your perspective....Hope I haven't sounded offensive with my remark. That wasn't my intention in the least.

Needless to mention, I have always loved what you dished out; The call of the quarry and your last one on friends and strangers are among my favorites.
Chris Rego, UAE:
Hey Newton,

Good one that! Reminded me of a whole lot of stuff from days gone by.

Cheers n all the best. Hope to see you in here more often.
Rajanikanth Shenoy, India :
Newton,

I liked your style of writing. I have read your earlier articles too, and you certainly have a command over the language.

I also liked the way you bring in humor with real life experience/fiction.

However, if I am permitted to comment at this point around, I'd say, the caption chosen by you gives an impression to readers that this is a horror story!

'Hanging Corpses, Flying Buns'!

I have a few good Mangalorean friends telling me this. Believe me, I too got little worried about it at the first instance!

I refrained from commenting earlier, but when I saw your reply to Amar, I felt like intervening a bit!;)

"I think humor and humorous experiences are two different things because it is so subjective." - Your reaction to Amar's

Hope, you will accept my comments with all the sportiveness.

All the best, Newton. Do keep writing candid thoughts from your mind like you always do!
Add One Out, USA :
Hi Amar,
One thing I can count on you is to comment on my article however brief it is. Thanks again!

You are partly right to say that this may not belong to a humor blog. However, I leave it to the webmasters' discretion to make that judgment and I think we should respect his call because, it is such a difficult article to categorize.

You are also partly write when you say something is amiss. I also felt so. However I did not want to force any extra information as I try to write honestly what I feel. If it does not have a perfect structure of start, middle and end, so be it.

Finally, I think humor and humorous experiences are two different things because it is so subjective. Humor can be subtle. Humor can be flamboyant. Humor can be ironic and in this case sadly it is. Atleast I felt it that way and its upto the readers, as you have done, to make their own judgments.
I think that is the beauty of writing.
Even Mangalorean voices has morphed into a fiction section when it started as a place for debate on prevailing issues.

Sorry for making this reply so long (hopefully not as big as the article itself) and I appreciate your comments once again.

Cheers,
Newton
Amarnath Bantwal, Kuwait:
Newton,

While the events might have been humorous in experience, there is something amiss in this article.

More a life-experience blog than a humor blog! Well written all the same.
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