Our class teacher, Mr. Antony, asked two of the Class 12 students to go back towards the petrol pump and get some help. My kid brother and two of his friends, Soham and Vaibhav, expressed their desire to accompany us. Their class teacher, Mr. Banerjee, with some hesitation gave them permission to accompany us. Well, my kid brother, Soumya, had fooled the class teacher into believing that he was the epitome of good behaviour. But I knew better than that.
So off we went in search of a mechanic. Barely had we walked for a kilometre when we noticed a garage or repair shop. We went in and detailed our plight to the gentleman there. While I was conversing with him, Soumya and Soham had got busy with a football. I was oblivious of this till I heard the shriek of a lady and the angry growl of a gentleman. I feared the worst and rushed out to find three young men in their 30s collaring Soumya and showering him with unmentionables. My friend and I, rushed to interfere. My immediate reaction was that of anger but I realised the situation we were in.
We were at least 1.5 km away from proper human habitation. This shop was the only sign of human existence on this broad road which had much of a highway feel though it wasn’t. Patience is the one things I always lack but here I had to practise this value. Soumya’s kick had hit one of the men on his face and the three were taking advantage of the helplessness of a child.
I offered my apologies to the three men and the accompanying lady but they voiced their grievance in a manner which was not pleasant. The garage mechanic was least bothered and looked away from us. I kept requesting the person to calm down for at least ten minutes when an ice-cream candy seller passing by interfered on our behalf.
The men walked away. We thanked the stranger and he introduced himself as Mohammed Salim. He was a man in his fifties with a warm smile, flashing strong teeth stained with betel juice. While the warm smile of Salim helped me gather my wits, I became acutely aware of the embarrassment our parents go through when they have to apologise to others for our misdeeds.
Thankfully, we did not have to approach the mechanic again because we saw our bus approaching.
The bus driver and his mechanic had somehow managed to repair the defect. The rest of the day passed as one can expect a picnic day to be. Mr Banerjee kept throwing the kids into the swimming pool. He did not spare even Mr Antony. The students spent all their energy in the swimming pool and the post-lunch session was in the discotheque. To this day I remember the picnic and the lesson it taught me. My brother got into trouble and I would have had to digest all the bitterness had it not been for the timely intervention of Mohammed Salim.