The cowboy dream

Kakai Singsit *

On Sunday morning devotion service the chaplain of the school asked each and every hosteller what our ambition in life was. The answer was monotonous and identical with IAS and IPS occupying the uno numero slot, whereas the rest wanted to be doctors, pilots, air hostess, pilot, nurse, etc., or any other profession that just popped out of their mind.

When it was my turn I stammered and announced that I wanted to become a cowboy. Chorus of jeers reverberated the hall. My chaplain who was caught off-guard for a moment stared at me menacingly and gave me the scowl of his life. I shuddered.

I am not sure what exactly prompted me to give such a ludicrous answer but I guess it was a ‘Freudian slip’ done in the reflex but with no obnoxious intent. I failed to fathom what was in the mind of the chaplain at that moment but I surmised his hackles were raised as that was the last answer he had expected. He would have surely whacked me had it not been a devotion service.

In a trice I had demonstrated myself as one of the black sheep of the hostel who needed proper homily. The sermon that he delivered was implicitly directed towards me as he blabbed for hours about the consequences that a sinner was to reap in the after-life. It was scary and the thought of spending eternity in hell gave me goose bumps.

To be honest, this country bumpkin had a small but eccentric dream. I have always fancied myself as a hotel boy or a bus conductor. The thought clinging at the door-step of the bus and collecting fares always fascinated me. Crazy as I am, I also yearned to be a hotel boy and savouring the sumptuous cuisines during meal and earning some extra money.

Since childhood I was an aficionado of Hollywood Cowboy films with their bombastic and chilling titles viz. Trade your life for a bullet, Trinity is my name, A bullet for the general, Trade your pistol for a coffin, Killed or be killed, The good the bad and the ugly, A coffin for Sartana, etc- the name itself whetting your enthusiasm as well as sending shivers down the spine even before the curtain is raised. Clint Eastwood and the combo of Bud Spencer and Terence Hill were my favourites.

As a kid I used to fancy myself riding on a horse with a Cole Smith’s pistol in the holster, smoking an elongated Cuban cigar, scaring away the bad people with only one squint and making the world free from desperados. But I have no horse and don’t know how to ride one. The nearest I got to riding a horse was sitting on buffalos during June holidays and there was this toy pistols during Christmas festivals.

Cowboy movie invariably starts with a cliff-hanger keeping you glued to your seats till the very end. The heroes lightning reflexes, lethal punches, precision shooting, audacious bank heist, drunken brawl in the bar and baddies being thrashed, the convoluted plots to circumvent the villain’s plans keeps us on the edge of our seats right from the word go. These are reasons why cowboy movies are so endearing to me.

They are bold and have no qualms in killing crooks even on the slightest pretext. They are stoical every time they commit a crime and walking away sedately as if they had committed only petty offenses. Their gruff voice and blunt dialogues are both enough to unnerve even the bravest man. They are every kid’s dream character.

Despite of being put in one of the premier schools of the State I had no lofty desire neither grandiose dream like my colleagues. My answer was purely driven by an honest desire unlike the hypocritical, pompous and wishful dreams of my peers.

My chaplain would have been on cloud nine had I given fanciful answers like, “I want to become the President or Prime Minister of India.”

Being one of the premier schools the administrators were of the view that each and every student should have a decent future dream, how lofty and unpractical it might be. My answer shocked them out of their sanity.

My fault was that the administrators were present at the gathering and my proclamation was diametrically the negation of their view.

There is nothing wrong in having an aim in life or future dream however lofty it might be. I have come across thousands of students during my schooling days who gave compatible answers like doctors, IAS, pilot or whatever that will please the listeners, but getting nowhere now.

The sad fact is that none of my previous school mates have ever cracked civil service examination. Let alone civil service in other avenues success rate is abysmally low.

We live in a make- believe world where every one of us is either sycophant or the rest pretenders. Every day we fed ourselves with false and fanciful dreams till we reached the point of insanity. And we are complacent with it.

One can dream of becoming the Prime Minister of India. And it’s okay. But, I very much doubt for a tribal of North East India. So every utterance should be well thought and practical when it comes to future dreams.

People are oblivious of the amount of energy and struggle involved in order to succeed. It is a relentless struggle and tenacious, a long haul which involves maximum sacrifice. Most of my civil service success friends testify that they barely sleep for six hours a day and that too for years.

From the hind sight appraisal I have personally witnessed that those wannabe thousands of IAS, doctors or pilots relegated to menial jobs like quacks, bus drivers, menial wage earners. But this wannabe cowboy is smug at the accomplishment of his cowboy dream.

This nondescript in-the-making had this morbid hobby of yanking girl’s hair from the back and drawing moustache whenever somebody is asleep in the class. Every day he was whacked for not wearing uniform so much so that my class teacher reprimanded my father for not purchasing uniforms for me. But the truth was I had four pairs of all uniform sets but I enjoyed being whacked in the school assembly.

Writing love letters to a girl you don’t even like in Pseudonym and delivering it to her in such a manner that a snitch will take notice it and got her reprimanded by the teachers. I have lost count of how many times I was flogged for not sitting in the front bench that was supposedly reserved for the precocious minds. I rebelled and they flogged me again. But I love classes and never bunked one.

There was a drunken brawl in the university hostel the other evening. I was summoned by the Vice Chancellor. Bemused, I told the VC, “Sir, why are you ascribing the blame to me even when I was not in the hostel that evening ?” Even the trouble makers testified my absence to which he retorted, “Whether you’re present or not is irrelevant but you’ll always be on our list whenever any trouble broke out.” He had a hearty laugh.

In the hindsight, all the good grades I got was no fluke but the outcome of hard work though it never occurred to me that all those knowledge stashed up in my mind should be used for obtaining a decent Government job, much to the chagrin of my dad.

Wayward and head strong the last bench was his permanent spot till his masters’ degree. He excelled both in agitation and academics. He never shied away from creating trouble and like a magnet trouble just flies to him. His dreams are small and insipid yet he transcends it all.

A friend of my dad asked him why your son despite having impeccable academic records never sits for Central service examinations. “Oh my son, you must be talking about that schmuck. He will write only when the Prime Minister post is up for grabs” was his sardonic reply.

* Kakai Singsit wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on October 05 2021.

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