Tumbling off the bicycle togetherTwo or three times, the messenger and I both fell off the bicycle. Once it was absolutely the worst experience. The messenger took me to a place four or five miles away to get a particular kind of toothpick which is very bitter and very good for the teeth. He was pedalling quite fast, and small branches along the side of the road were striking me.
When we came to the Punjabi Sikh colony, something really serious happened. The Punjabi Sikhs are very tall and stout. They wear big turbans on their heads and they have beards and moustaches. As we approached, three of them started shouting and screaming. They were shouting at somebody else, but we thought that they were screaming at us. I became frightened and jumped up. Then Phani lost his balance and both of us fell down. The messenger fell on top of me. The poor fellow was bruised very badly and I was also bruised very badly. The three men saw that we were frightened and did not come near us.
I started crying and Phani became very worried about what would happen to him when my family came to learn of the accident. He knew that my father was very compassionate, but he thought that my aunt, my maternal uncle's wife, would not only scold him, but perhaps also fire him. My uncle, my mother's brother, was the assistant manager of a printing press, and quite often I used to stay at their house when I stayed in town. My uncle used to call me "rabbit" because one moment I would be very near him, and the next moment I would be somewhere else.
When the messenger and I returned that evening, the messenger recounted the whole story to my father and Chitta. They put all the blame on him. I said, "No, no, it is not his fault!" Then he was forbidden. My father said to him, "You must never take Madal again." Then my father took me to my aunt's house to spend the night.
When my aunt found out what had happened, she was so furious. She had something in her hands and she just threw it on the ground. The next day she came to the bank and mercilessly insulted and scolded Phani. My brother Chitta also scolded him. That day Phani took an oath that he would never take me on his bicycle again. But his oath only lasted three or four days!
This was the aunt who adopted my sister Ahana. She and her husband did not have any children, so they adopted my sister. My aunt was very, very dear to me. And among the cooks, even now I can say that she was the best cook in the whole world!