An eraser-head pencil with a broken lead
Rested between a checkered math notebook;
And Puttu sat at his Mom’s old wooden desk,
Which he inherited, along with a broken hinge.
The sharpener looked wasted inside the pencil box’s corner.
He thoroughly enjoyed the break as he gawked out of the window.
The sky shone like a blackboard with vivid chalk dandelions
As rockets exploded and turned the stars little and obscure.
He winced, once in a while, when there was a loud explosion.
A tiny grin sparked on his face as he remembered something.
Just last year he graduated from sparklers, snake tabs and cape guns.
And at Chethi’s backyard waited a mighty celebration the next morning.
A novice he still was with bijili, atom and nitrogen bombs.
He took to his feet after lighting them with an incense stick, extra long.
He stopped only after crossing a milestone or hearing the loud explosion.
But he ran back into the cloud of smoke to break the circle in ascension.
He learnt a few tricks from his Uncles at Ammamma’s place
And of course, the pyrotechnic experts, Chethi and Santosh.
Gradually, he became an expert by the end of that season.
The mile-length distance shrunk, yet he plugged his ears with fingers.
This year, sky high, rocketed his expectations
As Dad had gifted him a jumbo box full of ammo.
The next day he packed his bag and left on his mission.
Escorted by Ammamma to Chethi’s house in a black and yellow auto.
They reached the house at Ranoji Rao Road
And Off went Ramani Aunty and Ammamma on their jabber express.
With sweat on the brows and silver dust on their palms,
Chethi and Puttu emerged at the backyard and off went war’s clarion.
A few bugs and pests (may God bless their souls) involuntarily became martyrs.
And used Torino and Goldspot bottles doubled as rocket launchers.
The red ant and termite hills turned into volcanoes.
Old paint tins flew skywards like oil barrels.
A bed of sand became a minefield
After they planted some bombs here and there.
Some got launched into midair as Puttu lit the fire
And Chethi swept them with a broom, off the terrace.
The backyard lay masked in paper shreds and smoke.
And their hands almost reached the bag’s bottom.
Washing their hands they sat down to take stock
Now all that remained were a box of nitrogen bombs.
Chethi offered him some orange cream biscuits.
They called for ceasefire and took a short break.
Puttu only licked the cream on either sides
And put the biscuits back in the pack, intact.
Finally, they got to bursting the crackers again.
Together, the geniuses came up with an idea for a mega finish.
They wanted to end the battle just the way it began.
They lit an incense stick and tied it to the last bomb’s wick.
They hid the time bomb under an old paint tin
And kept it before their house on the opposite side walk.
They waited for almost an hour behind the green gate, hiding,
To see which scapegoat will have his heart between the teeth.
But alas, it was lunchtime now. Quarter past two.
“Quickly wash your hands” said Aunt, “Eat before the food gets cold.”
Now Ramani Aunty and Ammamma stood right behind them
As their express had stopped midway for some fuel and food.
Halfheartedly the boys sat and food was served.
Hastily they ate to know the time bomb’s fate.
But apparently, till they finished the dessert;
The meal wasn’t complete and they just couldn’t scoot.
Enter Akki Payasa from the kitchen, two bowls full.
Hot, sweet-smelling and sure to leave one asking for more.
A spoonful they both scooped together and blew.
Cooling it down to grab a quick bite and run for the door.
Little did they know, in its taste they'll be lost.
Now with an indulgent smile at each other they looked.
They took the hot bowl in their hand and went for another scoop.
Their shirts relished the rest as the bomb outside went “Boom!”