A Prank Remembered
My family decided to spend the night of the 17th of November (1998) on our farm. Someone had seen a forecast of a meteor-shower on that specific date, and we wanted to observe it. My parents, my sister, Kanika and I occupied one car. About six other friends, joined us in their own vehicle. While we waited for the celestial display to begin, we built a bonfire and roasted potatoes. Everyone sat around the fire and enjoyed a cold dinner.
Close to we caught sight of two or three meteors flying across the sky. But there were too few and far between to really make an impression. Disappointed, we lay down, chatting desultorily. Abruptly, the surrounding silence was broken by the sound of splashing oars. Just then, I remembered that Ram, was going to bring along a group of young men & women in his boat. Being a family friend, he had asked my father’s permission to spend the night on our farm.
Impulsively, we decided to give them a scare. We presumed that, apart from Ram, no one else knew of our presence. Luckily a large clump of trees hid our camp from the lake front. Chetan (the son of the other family who had joined us), Kanika, my father and I silently walked towards the edge of the lake. Hiding behind some trees, we searched for a glimpse of the boat in the faint moonlight. Hearing better than seeing, my father threw a broken brick into the water, close to where he judged the boat to be.
“A big fish just leaped!” called out Parmeet, one of the men on the boat. We choked, trying hard not to laugh! As other bricks fell into the water (we were all participating by then), closer than the previous ones, exclamations of wonder grew to fright. Girls shrieked, someone even suggested that they turn back. At this point, we stopped our assault and tip-toed back to the camp.
Within a few minutes we saw a torchlight moving on the ground. Ram appeared, grinning. “They are all very frightened and they sent me to look around. I knew it had to be you.”
“So they don’t know that we are here?” I asked.
“No. I am going back now to get them. They are waiting in the boat,” replied Ram.
“Wait! Let’s have some more fun,” stated my father. “Don’t tell them anything as yet. Follow me, or take the longer route back.”
“I’ll accompany you,” offered Chetan.
They took the shorter route to the boat. I followed them.
As soon as Chetan was within hearing distance of the boat, he shouted in the local Tamil dialect, “Who’s there? Who are you?”
My father took his cue and barked out, “Why are you trespassing? Who are you? Hit them! Hit them!!!”
Chetan ordered, as if to a crowd behind him, “Get the long knife! Get the knife!!!!”
“We are coming! We are coming!!!” roared Ram from afar, making his voice sound deeper and hoarser.
Menon, who had got out of the boat, was terrified. He muttered, “From town, from town…”
My father, continued in perfect Tamil, “Who are you? Why are you here? You are not allowed here. Go back or we’ll hit you!!!”
Sita, who had got out with Menon, was virtually lifted and thrown in – a distance of three or four meters! Later Menon could never explain how he had managed that feat, nor could Sita believe she had jumped so far.
Parmeet, the guy who was frightened by the mere sound of splashing water, grabbed an oar, ready to jump out, in case of a scuffle. At the back of the boat, someone yelled in fright, “We know Bijoy! Friends of Bijoy… The owner…” Bijoy was my father’s name.
Meanwhile Chetan continued to rant, “Get the knife!!! Hit them!!! Hit them!!!”
Ram screamed, “Here we are! Where are they? Who are they?”
Utter chaos prevailed. The girls hurdled together in the boat, trembling with fright, completely helpless. The men stood in front of them, trying to explain their situation as best as they could in their broken Tamil. I believe everyone was recalling the dreadful stories they had heard of past attacks on friends by drunken villagers.
Chetan was by now a few feet away from the boat. My father (Bijoy), Ram and I stood behind him. However, no one recognized us or our voices. Finally, unable to control his amusement, Chetan burst out laughing. We joined him instantly.
“Fools! How could you do this? Idiots…Shameless!” cried Menon, recognizing us.
“Ram, you should have warned us!!! You are a traitor!” accused Parmeet.
“We will never come back!!!” vowed some of the girls.
However, after we had asked for forgiveness, between spurts of laughter, the girls agreed to stay the night. We returned to our camp with aching stomachs and tears rolling down our faces.
Our impromptu prank was an extraordinary success!!! I believe that neither our group nor those who came with Ram, have forgotten this exceptionally memorable experience.