[ The topic that I had to write about, as you might guess, was “the greatest risk you ever took”]
I could never be described as someone who lives dangerously…I’ve done my share of jumping off almost-stationary buses and the like, but never anything that constituted a “conscious” risk. The biggest risks I’ve ever taken I’ve had my conscience go “temporarily dumb” and lied blatantly, but since those are still far too embarrassing to recount…
A little memory comes calling, from my pre-teen years, when I was not quite so thoroughly acquainted with the better part of valour…not that I am acquainted with it now, thank God for that and for whatever remains of my life that is spontaneous. I was around nine or ten, I think, and I had gone with my father- this took place sometime during the summer vacation before I entered sixth standard- to a rubber estate near Thiruvanathapuram in a place called Marthandam. It was my first visit to the place, and after nearly five-and-a-half hours in the car, I had already thrown up once and was just starting to feel better when we arrived.
My father took me on a walk around the estate to cheer me up, although we had not gone far before my little legs and big mouth started to complain- the former by slowing down and the former with a persistent grating wail. Therefore we stopped near what I think was the manager’s bungalow, and my father had him called and they began to discuss some accounts on the verandah.
Finally, we get to the good part. My tired legs not being quite so tired anymore, I set off to explore the house. I went around the corner of the house, and then I saw it: a huge black dog, neither lying down nor sitting up, but remaining crouched and yet ready to spring, its body tense, its eyes alert.
What passed, to repeat the oft-used cliché, was “like a dream”. Literally surreal. I, for whatever inexplicable reason, adopted the same “stalking” pose, my knees slightly bent, and then…I leapt.
Or rather, we leapt, because in my (possibly romanticized) memory, I met the dog in mid-air. It bit an extremely small part of my ear lobe, and I got what I thought even then to be a ridiculously small portion of its hair. I don’t know what greater damage may have resulted if the situation was allowed to develop, but just then 2 workers slipped out of their shock-induced paralysis and caught hold of the dog, and led it back barking.
No one seemed to know quite what to say to me…I myself, having once again become the possessor of a rational and functioning intelligence, was caught in a “what just happened” moment. They all made do with fussing over my ear, and giving me food, and directing me to the bed. I didn’t overhear anyone giving my father instructions on where the best rabies treatment places were, but I wouldn’t count that as proof that it didn’t happen.
On retrospect, the dog was not quite so large, nor its pose quite so threatening; the little space was not quite so dark, and the dog was almost certainly grounded when I sensed its unwelcoming mood and opted for “pre-emptive action”. However, I do know that I was not fully in control of myself for that one instant…and the sheer possibility of what could easily have resulted in the absence of the workers coupled with my fear over this “loss of control”, this temporary insanity, caused the incident to haunt me for days. This event is one of the most memorable of my childhood days, and I have often wondered just what had happened to make me take the greatest risk I had ever taken.