Summer lethargy and a heavy humid stagnation infested this little room that Muni stayed in as a paying guest since the past four months. The trigonometry was a sidekick. He taught the land lady’s fourteen year old monster mathematics. While in the mornings, he went about this coastal town, trying to find a reason why he had come to the place at all.
Ever since the pat on his back given by his principle at college, for being an outstanding student of his batch on graduation day, Muni had been disgusted at his whole smug self and decided that he would do anything in life except make use of his graduation degree.
Sweet water apples . They came in pink and white. With pecks from the sparrows . Like kisses implanted specially for Muni. When Muni first came to this sleepy town, merely out of a random one fine morning whim rather than any logically aimed destination, he went straight to the 22nd street off the temple complex where stood a pink bougainvillea bush arresting any passerby with its vanity. Behind this bush was the house where Muni was looking to be a paying guest. And behind the house was the pink water apple tree. Well, the pink was from the fruit which hung voluptuously from its high branches, virgin fruits kissed by the birds, and challenging Muni to come and consume them. Muni agreed to move in just for the tree, the room having gone completely out of his selection criteria. Luckily, his room on the first floor faced the backyard, and was in full uninterrupted view of his new beloved tree.
“Muni dada?”, the little landlady’s monster peered into the room with watery sparkling eyes. “Yesss , my lord!,” replied Muni, eyes still closed , not stirring from his bed. “Today, I fell in school while playing! And there was so much blood , that even my teacher was nice to me,” he was saying with victorious pride beaming in his voice. “ The teacher told me not to study today,” very quickly, and confidently, he uttered these last words, and waited to see the effect on Muni dada’s face.
Smiling on the sly, Muni half opened his eyes and peered down his bed at this little plaintiff. His nose had a little speck of soot on it, and he was standing on the threshold, his wounded thrust to the front so that there be no doubt about his claim. Here was Napoleon Bonaparte himself, asking Muni dada release from his trigonometry class, with the help of a hopeless claim. “Your teacher told you not to study?! Wow, I had never come across those kinds before!”, Muni said with mild pretence of amusement. “Okay, no class today”, so saying he gave the little Napoleon a wink and got up to look out of the window.
The smell of wet earth wafted up to his room as far somewhere, rain clouds shattered. Grey and pink was the palette of the landscape this evening. He peered back at his doorway and saw Napoleon still standing in the frame, looking unsure. He had been hit by the unseen circumstance that , though he was free from his torturous class, his other friends in the neighborhood were nevertheless slogging in their classes . So he was left with no one to play at the moment. Muni scanned this little figure, deep in his sudden crises, and at once understood.
“ Come inside. There’s no class, but we could play something , no? Want a water apple? ”
Napoleon's eyes widened into a grin. “Yes! Ok. I will climb the tree and throw them down. You pick them up!” So saying he ran downstairs . Muni hadn’t expected this. He was referring to the fruits in the bowl in his room. Nevertheless, a tree adventure seemed much more alluring.
An unequal duo, they seemed. Delicate little hands searching out the sweeter bird pecked fruits, little dusty feet dangling from fragile branches which had the complete trust of a boy. Standing below, stubby fingers and course nails picked up the fallen fruits from the fresh rain soaked soil. Slowly piling up in the vessel, each fruit, made its own little clink as it settled into a new found company of pink peers, hand -picked by their very trustworthy Napoleon.
Back in the room, happy in exhaustion and fruition, the team shook hands and sealed a silent bond in all its solemnity. The room glowed a tinge of pink twilight on that grey evening.
With a satisfied silence, Muni and Napoleon perched on top of the window sill , surrendering to sweet water apples, rain drops and that odd evening in the life of a man and a boy, where nothingness made them equal.