Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Raid on Cucumbers and Pumkins

My stomach cackled with hunger. I looked at 40-ngultrum watch on my wrist which read 9:30 pm with the help of auto-light on the watch. Light in the hostel was put off half an hour ago. Even our warden Mr. Serious Phuentsho went back to coziness of his wife’s warmth after rountine hostel check up. There were few murmurs and whispers here and there made by students who couldn’t fall asleep. Our school vice-captain Ego Pema who was always ready to use his new-found power commanded for silence at the top of his squeaky voice. This was scene in the ground floor of hostel at Pemagatshel Middle Secondary School. I was in class eight, the second most senoir class after newly instituted class nine.
I waited with abated breath for students to go to sleep. Meanwhile, the growl and groan of my stomach had increased. My friends and I missed the dinner at 7;00 pm as we were last in the line and food in the pot got exhausted before our turn came. It seemed like years to wait for another half an hour. Any way, by 10:00 pm, the murmurs and whispers turned into groans and moans of the sleep. I woke up as silent as cat from my bed and made bed in such way that unsuspecting warden would believe that I was sleeping. I put few ghos and my bags into mattress and made into shape of me sleeping in it, in case warden decided to come for second round check up. Then I groped towards my friend Damche and Minjur’s beds which were five and six beds away from me respectively.
“Minjur,’’ I whispered.
“Hang ya (what)” he said.
“Lets go,’’ I prompted.
“Is everybody asleep?’’ Damche asked in his boomy whispers.
“I think so,’’ I replied.
After five minutes, we were out of hostel and headed towards buzzar. We had planed to raid cucumbers at Aum Muthur’s place above buzzar. Few days ago, we had seen many pumkin and cucumber creepers freely crawling on the ground among maize. We walked as first as our legs could carry under street light. There were always risk of running into someone we know, who would report to school. As far as possible, we used alternative way, the footpath above road.
After twenty minutes, we came to field of our victim. None of us possessed torch or lighter as we couldn’t afford to buy. Ngultrum 10 was lot of money at that stage. We could buy two nepali soaps for ngultrum 10. Minjur and I slipped into field and kept Damche as our watchman. He was to signal us in voice of ox if owner or some other people come.
As we entered the field, the dog started barking ominiously. I groped slowly feeling creepers in my hand. I felt long and slender fruit in my hand. I plucked it and put into my bag. The dog’s howl became louder and louder and it ran towards field and back at house. Suddenly, we heard owners opening the door. Damche gave us big ‘Baa’. As we run, we heard a voice saying, “again that ox of Nim Dorji is in our field.”
Three of us gathered below BPC office under street light to devour our loot. “How much did you get,’’ Minjure asked me catching his breath
“Around five, you?’’
“I got four long and slender cucumbers,’’ he said. He took out his loot and showed us. Damche looked disbelievingly and muttered, “ what type of cucumber is this?’’ Minjure and I gave closer look and found out it wasn’t cucumber but long pumkin. All his loots were pumkins. I took out my loot and they were all pumkins except for one small crooked cucumber.
Disappointed, we came back. When we reached near gate, Damche whispered, “there is big cucumber at Sir Phuentsho’s kitchen garden. Lets steal it.’’ I looked at Minjure and he nodded agreement. Silently, we plucked that cucumber and devoured it once we reached near toilet. It was only our consolation prize.Next day, Mr. Serious Phuentsho announced during breakfast, “ I believe some of you didn’t get proper sleep last night. Do you have any idea who might it be?’’ “No sir,’’ students chorused. Three of us joined the practised chorus with smile of guilt on our faces.

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