The Art of Running Away
I had an unusual start today. I find a large pool of restless people at my rich neighbor’s door, around 50 or 60 seemingly worried sweaty folks and 2 tired-looking cops, both battered by the sweltering tropical heat. The raison d'être – my neighbor’s 14 year old grandson had run away. Not kidnapped as I had wanted to believe but had simply run off, not able to tolerate his grandfather’s ostensibly unreasonable social and academic demands.
This got me thinking. Running Away, I guess is an adolescent rite of passage, an expression of adolescent angst directed at a careless society, an anguish that I myself had experienced in my teen days. I remember my 18th birthday. ‘You are a major today’, my mother had told me with a flourish. “You can run away from home and I’ll have no legal grip over you.” She had paused and added in a different tone, “if you are going out with your friends tonight, be sure you are back by eleven not midnight’.
No doubt, ‘Running away’ has always been a universally contested topic. It is discussed openly, getaway plans are exchanged and best suggestions sought. Certainly this goes against the secrecy which every potential ‘Runaway’ should maintain! The truth is that while each of us is adventurous by nature, things are usually a trifle too comfortable at home. So merely discussing it is adequate to satisfy our sense of escapist adventure!
The only serious case of Running Away which did occur in my life was on a bright Sunday morning when I was around 11 or 13. Feeling shamed, livid and deeply insulted because my mother wouldn’t reprimand my Maths teacher who I assumed had failed me intentionally, I declared to my mother that I would be leaving home, never to return again. Oblivious to this, Training the new servant maid, was at that moment a greater crisis for my mother than my juvenile rants so she ignored me totally. Annoyed even more, I walked out with poise clutching my newly made pledge. No more than 20 steps and the intoxicating sight of my neighbour polishing his brand new 500 CC Yamaha motorbike slowly dissolved my 10 minute old but apparently iron-clad resolution. The rest of that sunny morning, I spent my time, sitting near the gate along with my dog gazing with a hypnotic admiration at the monstrous beauty on two wheels.
When I was even younger, some very trifling though matter-of-fact problems would also come in the way if was to try and leave home secretly. I knew only five main roads in town, so I would have to come back and ask my elder sister for detailed directions and a diagram of the place I have to run away to. Since my sister would only keep a secret for a maximum of five-and-a-half minutes, she would end up telling my mother about it besides publicizing it to at least five other people including my grand dad, my grand ma, my car driver, my aunt and also our milk man. Knowing very well the time of my planned flight to perpetual freedom, my mother would give me two letters to post, a toaster to be repaired and also ask me to have the old fangled pass book updated at the road corner bank, ruining my perfectly designed AWOL plans and forcing me to abandon my disappearing act.
Moreover, as someone who likes to do things in style (I still do), I wanted my ‘Running Away” to be a schmaltzy blockbuster. So, I hoped to see expensive, full size ‘Come Back, All Is Forgiven’ adverts in the morning paper but since I had a sneaky notion that my stingy folks wouldn’t consider me worth wasting an ad over, I would mostly end up canceling my ‘Runaway’ campaigns than make a floppy messy dud of it. And instead, I would cuddle in my bed, my Sanyo walkman and a second hand copy of a Mad comic for company, enjoying the cool breeze from the open window and searching for UFOs in the night sky. After all, in the end, you realize - east or west, home is still the very best.
"Call you up in the middle of the night
Like a firefly without a light
You were there like a slow torch burning
I was a key that could use a little turning
So tired that I couldn't even sleep
So many secrets I couldn't keep
Promised myself I wouldn't weep
One more promise I couldn't keep"
From ‘Runaway Train’ by Soul Asylum.