top of page



How many times, in the face of a tragedy you in all probability caused, have you tried to extricate yourself from the accountability?

It isn’t my fault. Ever found yourself saying that, repeatedly so, to escape from the guilt that now clogs your thoughts?

Let us back up. Give you a little context, because that will clear the mist a little.

The boy thinking these thoughts is the 15-year-old Bandem Asra. Constantly disgruntled, as most teenagers his age are. Overenthusiastic, maybe, as he finds himself on the cusp of the wonderful life that awaits beyond the edge of turning 18.

Adulthood. And the glorious things that it brings.

He couldn’t understand why his elder sister, who turned 20 this September and went off to college a couple of years ago, kept repeating how “adulthood is a trap.”

“You go into it with your guns blazing, Bandem,” she told him over an out-of-state call last year. “But all you’re doing is walking into a minefield. You haven’t the faintest idea how dreadful it is. Career, bills… and don’t even get me started with laundry…,” following which she spoke for fifteen minutes about how ridiculous the laundry system at her dorm was.

He would be honest about one thing, though. There is a part of him that, in the last year, has started feeling a strange fear. A fear of what lies beyond the horizon. He has always been up for leaving the steering of this vehicle we call life and just enjoying the ride; that is exactly how he has lived all his childhood. To be fair, you don’t really have a lot of planning to do as a kid, do you? He would love to remain a child, like the six-year-old Calvin who never grew up.

But people around you keep… talking. About all forms and shapes of horribleness that accompany growing up; maybe “horribleness” is a word which he realises sounds drastic, but he can’t come up with a better way of describing how adults talk about their lives. About how the independence that adulthood tempts you with is actually a demon in disguise. About, most importantly, the harsh realities of life.

“You’re young, Bandem,” his teacher at school had once remarked. It was at his school’s annual winter fete. She had set up a stall where she was selling what she proudly called her “works of art” – coasters, fridge magnets, bookmarks. He made the mistake (because it wasn’t anything but) of saying how the celebrations and merriment in the fete were pathetic, a poor excuse for people to hide their genuine feelings behind all the glitz.

The thing is, he had a fight with his parents that morning. He had returned home late the previous evening. Mompy, one of his three neighbourhood friends and he were smoking in the little tree house Mompy’s dad, who the rest of them call The Cool Dad, had built. Bandem’s parents didn’t say anything when he returned, perhaps saving the scolding for the next day. He thought they had smelled the reek on him, for he forgot to chew gum after the two cigarettes he had, but the scolding was principally about not returning home on time. They accused him of being “careless” and “immature” and a whole lot of other things he wants to choose to forget.

The teacher continued: “And too smart for your age. But you have a lot to learn. Cynicism will only take you so far in life.”

No one had ever accused him of being cynical. He is much more optimistic than the adults in his life; they who become “depressed” at the drop of a hat.

Had a tough day at work? They’re depressed. The shirt they so dearly wanted to buy got sold out? They’re depressed. Their favourite team crashed out of the world cup?

Yes, they’re depressed.

The last one was actually pretty recent. One of his neighbours, a 25-year-old “man,” wouldn’t leave his room because he was upset Brazil was ousted by Croatia in the quarter finals. Bandem learned about him through the grapevine, sure, but he was positive it wasn’t untrue. Grownups may believe they are mature, but it doesn’t take much for them to start behaving like juveniles.

Whoever said adulthood was tough couldn’t be farther from the truth. Being a 15-year-old… that is the definition of adversity.

Which brings Bandem back to the present. He maintains that it wasn’t his fault. One can argue here that, had he not been distracted by the overwhelming pressure he has found himself experiencing the last few days, he would have noticed the man walking towards him by the side of the road.

The pavement Bandem should have been walking on was getting some tile work done. So, maybe you can put the accountability for what happened on the crew. Or perhaps the man himself was to blame. He was speaking into his phone (Bandem had heard a snatch of something about taxes and inflation, all adult stuff), not mindful of the traffic the man was walking dangerously close to.

Of course, it won’t take much to prove either of these in a court of law. Bandem had seen plenty of courtroom dramas to know this.

And, yet, if he was ever asked to present his defense, he would put the blame on the people – the mature, wise grownups – who have been making his life incredibly difficult.

“Move!” someone shouts close to Bandem. He feels a hand push him aside. Brought back from his frenzy, Bandem has a moment to see the person the hand belongs to rush towards the man who was walking in the opposite direction from Bandem, now sprawled on the floor. His face was turned to the side, his eyes closed. The car he had run into (or, more accurately, the one that had run into him), from the push Bandem accidentally gave him has apparently fled.

“It’s not my fault,” Bandem keeps muttering, but no one listens.

Next episode: The Day The Chill Dad Died

bottom of page