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Any story that’s worth our attention needs a colourful character. Your average Joes – people leading ordinary lives, so to speak – rarely qualify as exciting characters that make for an exciting story. After all, who wants to watch or read (or, as is the case here, even listen to) flavourless tales, which have no oomph or funk or maybe some jazz? Wouldn’t a story lacking these adjectives just mimic what Kat Stratford, played by Julia Stiles, in 10 Things I Hate About You said was “our meaningless, pathetic, consumer driven lives”? Don’t we consume entertainment (books, shows, movies, podcasts, whatever is your poison) to forget about the blandness of our lives, even if for but a fleeting moment?

We want to see our characters either living a life of grandeur or thrown into exhilarating events. We want them to jump off cliffs and airplanes, we want them to fall in love and resist anything or anyone who stands in their way (to a point where they become killers), we want them to dance on moving trains without worrying that the slightest of missteps can result in an unfortunate accident. We want them to live in mansions not even the cumulated wealth of seven generations can afford, and then be forced out of them because a business deal went south, and then work their way back up and reclaim their lost property.

We want all that, and maybe even more.

Isn’t that why they call storytelling the most supreme form of creativity? Imagination has no bounds, and that line between what seems imaginatively acceptable and what is downright ridiculous often blurs. Or, in some cases, even shifts.

The Four Boys Club wasn’t devoid of such a colourful character.


The boy who, if you remember the first season, inadvertently pushed a man into oncoming traffic; involving not just himself but also his family in a messy affair with the police in the aftermath. The same boy who brought an unconscious man to Mompy’s treehouse, thereby roping in Mompy and, to Bandem’s displeasure, Midhali.

Badem had many flaws; and if you were to ask Shanky, who he had been friends with since they were kids, Bandem was many flaws. The perpetually anxiety-ridden, never self-confident, forever uncertain boy. He had his quirks; including a phase where he stopped combing his lush mop of hair during his fourteenth to his sixteenth years for reasons only he knew; or when, on a dare, he took in eleven sticks of gum in his mouth at the same time, and was too ashamed to admit that the excessive minty-ness of it had caused his mouth to go numb for an entire hour; or even when he thought to have flowers delivered to Midhali in the hope (and the strength of that hope was undeniable) that the bouquet would have her end things with Mompy and she would flock to him.

Bandem had never told anyone these things, but of course Shanky knew.

Shanky knew everything about Bandem. About how Bandem as a kid, long before Mompy and Anpag became a part of their lives, had been bitten by a dog the mark of which he had carried for the rest of his life. About how The Tyrant had locked him inside the bathroom one evening because Bandem wouldn’t shut up raving about the video game he wanted to buy. About the secret crush he harboured for Midhali, even the little dream Bandem dreamed about.

And, most of all, about the lies.

Because a lot of the things Bandem had claimed had happened had, in fact, not.

Let’s go back a little; to the first episode of the previous season. Bandem, in his distracted state of mind, had caused an accident. And what had exactly happened? He had pushed a man walking on the same sidewalk, but going the other way, onto the road. A car, unable to punch the brakes on time, had run into this man; who, as he was being transported to the hospital, had died. Bandem, who was pushed away by someone in the crowd that had gotten together, managed to get out of the scene. Was he guilty? Of course. When the police arrived a couple of days later, Bandem admitted his presence at the scene of the accident; and on further probing, he confessed his involvement. Partly because of The Tyrant’s influence and partly because of the cop’s generosity, it was eventually adjudged as a genuine mistake.

But Shanky had seen the police. Had even spoken to the constable standing outside the house when the inspectors were inside interviewing the Arsa family. The constable was tight lipped about the matter, had been asked to not let his tongue loose to anyone.

Instead, the constable asked if “that boy” was a friend of Shanky’s. Shanky thought to say no, to keep himself as far away as possible from the trouble going on a few doors down.

But Bandem was his oldest friend. They had shared the same red slide in their kindergarten school; as trivial, as insignificant as that detail may be, it had to have some value in their decade long friendship. Even though they were but fourteen year olds (two months separating their birthdays), Shanky recognised the essentiality of Bandem in his life.


A couple of days later, Bandem told the rest of the three boys the reason for the police’s visit. They were in Mompy’s treehouse, enjoying a lazy summer afternoon with glasses of lemonade The Cool Dad had made them. Mompy and Anpag were engaged in a game of chess. Three more moves, regardless of how Mompy played, and he would run himself into a checkmate. Bandem was sitting beside the window, immersed in a comic book. Shanky was browsing through a few tape cassettes The Cool Dad had given Mompy; disco and rock and roll stuff from the 80s, Pink Floyd, U2, Bonney M.  

Shanky had brought up the topic about the police, which neither Mompy nor Anpag had any knowledge of. It took a bit of coercion, but Bandem eventually submitted. He told them about the accident he had caused, how he had nudged a fellow pedestrian onto the road, and a car had slammed into him. When asked if the man had died, Bandem only nodded. Mompy looked scared, but it was underpinned with evident concern. Anpag, however, was horrified; disgusted even.

Only Shanky, who knew the truth, had a faint smile on his face. A smile that told Bandem that he, Shanky, had seen through the flimsy, thin façade. Bandem may have been able to persuade the other two, but nothing went past Shanky.

After all, there was no accident.

Just like there was no dead man – or the almost dead man – that Bandem had brought to Mompy’s; the man who had woken up as the two boys, and then joined by Midhali, were wondering how to deal with the lump of a body that was lying on the floor of the treehouse. Bandem had protested, even begged to Mompy and Midhali to lie. The story of the almost dead man was outrageous to say the least; but, as he was leaving the treehouse that day, he had somehow convinced the bemused couple to follow through with it. Midhali did warn Bandem people would see through it, that the truth was far more believable.

Fortunately, neither Bandem nor the couple did have to lie ever about this. We can say luck was on their side; and as bewildering as it may sound, not one person in the entire colony saw the man who the three kids had thought was dead exiting the treehouse after he woke up. On that afternoon, everyone was sitting in their homes; perhaps cooling off in their air conditioned rooms while the heat outside was sultry.

Anpag was never told what happened in the treehouse that day.

But Shanky, the ever knowing Shanky, of course knew. He didn’t see the man leaving the treehouse, but when your decade long friendship was actually your offshoot, you of course knew.

As much as Shanky didn’t want Bandem to lie – and neither the accident nor the case of the almost dead man were the only instances where Bandem did – Bandem’s hands were tied.

But the question begs to be asked. Why was Bandem lying? Why do you make up a colourful story, as artfully as he had dressed them up, about pushing a man on the road or bringing a supposedly dead man to the treehouse? Was the truth that underlaid these lies so despicable, so detestable, that he preferred relying on the admission of a felony?

The answer was perhaps much simpler than you, dear listeners, would like.

Sarah, his sister, had run away from home the day before Bandem supposedly committed the accident (of pushing a fellow pedestrian on the road); which was why the police had come over to their house. It was a case of typical teenage rebellion. Her request to go to a friend for a sleepover was denied; and, when she pleaded, The Tyrant had threatened to raise a hand at her. He didn’t, but it did leave Sarah scared. And that scare overnight became anger; which then led to her running away for one day, including the entirety of the night.

And as far as the case of the almost dead man was concerned, that was trickier. Bandem’s mother was rushed to the hospital after The Tyrant had slapped her across the face, and she had fainted from the impact. The Tyrant was immediately remorseful, the anger that had come over him in the moment dissipated as he saw his wife lying on the floor, motionless. He had instructed Bandem to go out to the treehouse where he hung out all day with his friends and make up a story that not just put him, Bandem, there but did so in a precarious situation. Sarah wasn’t home, and The Tyrant felt Bandem’s involvement in a problem somewhere else was empirical to craft a compelling story regarding his wife’s accident.

And, so, on both these occasions, Bandem had lied.

But, of course, Shanky knew.

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