June 25, 2012

I was visiting my Aunt’s home. She introduced me to all of her six children except her second son. I later came to know that he was a certified outcast. So much so, that nobody in the house cared for his daily routine, what he did in school, where he spent his time, had he eaten well or had he visited the loo in the morning. This was very different from our household. Agreed that my poor Aunt had no time to look after each and every child since they were in abundance; at least she could check whether they took bath every day. When I told her that, she was a bit surprised, but said, “Why do you not spend a few days with the Number 2? Then you may understand.” So, I was posted with Number 2 as an understudy. He was not happy. He did not understand why I was encroaching on his privacy and tried to shunt me off several times. But Aunt was persistent. So he let me tag with him after a couple of days of ragging. I just went where ever he went.

He used to get up late; I was at his feet when he got up. What he never missed before starting from the home was a handful of peanuts in his pocket and his Slingshot. Peanuts I could understand, but slingshot?

He filled his pockets with peanuts today also.

“Why Slingshot?”

To answer, he caressed it lovingly to the extent it looked weird.

They had a shed outside the house for storing firewood, like all other houses used to have those days. He took me there and took out a Passing Show cigarette canister. Instead of a lid it had holes pierced around the periphery at the top, through the holes wooden sticks crisscrossed. Inside the can, was a small bird, with a straw bedding. Be fed a few pea nuts and it ate them.

“Thank god it is vegetarian. Some would just not eat peanuts. Then I have to go look for a larva or two. That I do not like.”

I was taken aback when he retrieved a few more of similar cans.

“See, this is special. I had run out of cans. So this one is two tiered.”

Indeed it had two birds, fist sized, one above other.

“The one at the bottom must be cursing you. It is covered in shit.”

He laughed. “It is ready to fly anyway” he said, then carefully released both. They faltered, but soared in sky anyway. They must have thanked their fate. Others were still locked up. Painstakingly, not allowing them to fly away, he took them out, cleaned the cans and replaced the birds one by one, with clinical precision. I was petrified and surprised at the same time – because; there was this parrot and a bat which were not very kind to him.

“Their time will come. Some may die.” He said with a solemn face, “Before I’m through with them”.

“Where did you get them?”

“Injured the mother with the slingshot and came away with the little ones. Some came my way themselves….You climb a tree and there are nests everywhere. You can pick them in any numbers. Try some time… Afraid?”

This was all unbelievably cruel. I shuddered, but made up a brave-face.

We went to meet his friend. He had a monster slingshot. I could not even hold the wood crafted Y in my hand. My hands appeared like baby-hands in the company of that slingshot. The rubber sling was a good foot and a half long.

I actually got a demonstration. We stood below a tree, Number Two spread some peanuts, waited for the birds. Parrots they were. Then he aimed, pulled the sling up to his year and shot a small marble at breakneck speed. Although he did not put one down, he put a sure chaos in the flock. The flock flew away with an ear shattering cacophony as if the parrots had seen a snake.

Number Two and his friend were calm. No exhibition of joy, or sorrow.

“Just a pastime, you know” Number Two said.

I could not sleep well that night. The canisters, bats, parrots and their noise filled my dreams throughout the night. However in the morning, I was at Number Two’s feet before dawn. I had to learn to make a slingshot. I could have used it for other purpose.

Not much raw material was required – a ‘Y’ fork, cut pieces of bicycle rubber-tubes and a leather holder for the marble.

Having learnt the method, I told the aunt that I was going back to my place. She said it was very early and she expected me to stay on.

Number two said, “Are you going away because of me?”

I said yes with gesture and no in words.

“Pity. I was starting to grow fond of you. Even thought of cutting my hair and taking a bath every day, like you do….I have other pastimes and other friends too…You have not explored our village and surroundings…”

“Nothing to do with you, really,” I said looking down. Now I was not very sure if I wanted to leave in earnest. But Aunt released the tension, saying in an understanding tone,

“I shall tell somebody to book your ticket for tomorrow, and cook a sweet for you today”

That settled we went out. Number two showed me the famous temple, the pond, the river and the fishery. He was carrying the slingshot, but did not take it out.

“I do not visit these places these days. I find them boring. Actually, everything is boring. The school, the family, the town….”


“I can release the birds, if you want”

“That would be good.”

“Stay. And I shall release them…If you want the sling shot, you can take it. A little practice and you could master it.”

I said I did not want it, although I would have loved to have it.

“I can kill rats with pointed twigs. There are so many, you can barely sleep during night. Or during Day…Stay, and I can show how….”

I left their place the next day.


Back home early, Grandma asked me how was I going to spend the entire vacation. She had hoped that I shall be gone for a month and was planning for her own vacation. I said I shall lie low and not be a menace.

Instead, I scouted for a ‘Y’ branch and found a crooked one. Instead of bicycle tube, I went for a truck rubber-tube. It was difficult to find and shape, but it turned out better, as expected. With Grandpa’s old Chappals, the leather holder was crafted.

With all the friends out-of-town on vacation, and grandma already angry at me, I could not show the creation to anybody. I started practice. It was indeed very good, except that the crooked ‘Y’ slung the marble to hurt your holding fingers ones too often than the target. I could not find a way to overcome this. It was vocational risk.

The D-Day came when I saw a giant chameleon perched in our verandah. Too engrossed in changing colours for no obvious reasons, it was unaware of me or my slingshot.

This was a test. I aimed, pulled the sling full. Then released the tension and put the slingshot down. Can’t do it….Second try….Can’t do it. Then I started to ward off the chameleon. It was not interested in moving away. May be there was his girl-friend hidden somewhere I could not see. Finally it turned to me and started moving its neck up and down. One step closer…Two steps closer…What was it doing? Am I your prey, foolish?…One more step closer.

I aimed, pulled the sling full, then thought over and readjusted the tension to half and released the marble. It hit the chameleon face on, but only so that it fell over and ran away.

“Did you kill it?”

“No grandma”

“Good. I did not know you had sling shot. This is what you learnt at the Aunt’s place? Good you came back…..Go practice it on the lemon tree and kill some lemons instead of lizards….If you want sherbet.”

That was a damn good suggestion. It had not crossed my mind until then. Lemons and Amla’s were better targets than birds, bats and chameleons. They did not dare threatening you.

I hung the slingshot on a peg after a few days. It remained there, as a crude sign of creativity than a failed weapon of mass destruction. I went to Aunt’s place the next summer. Number Two had given up his bird collection, but had started disappearing from home for days together. His family did not seem to worry much about this, except for a mention or two with moist eyes. He did not pay heed to my arrival or departure neither he cast a look at me during my whole stay.


Image Credit : Google Images


One Response to “SlingShot”

  1. PeACEMAKER Says:

    Reblogged this on PeACEMAKER and commented:

    I got a very few hits on this post. Normally that is not the case. let us see if re-blogging makes any difference…

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