A childhood without fantasies is like a desolate wasteland and that is a great pity indeed. I was in my time a Mongol warrior, a super hero (we had only Superman then), Tarzan, a spaceman and an inventor. It was during the invention phase that I teamed up with a school pal of mine, who lived a short distance from my home. Our passion suffered a setback when we thought that we had perfected the first rocket ship and almost set the neighbour’s car on fire. My accomplice in this ‘misdemeanos’ was privileged to have a pater that smoked cigars. These ‘things’ came in aluminium tube like containers ideal for use as a space vehicle. Chemistry being one of our favourite subjects, we managed to create a propellant made from Sulphur and Manganese and successfully got our prototype off the ground in a short lived zig zag course that ended at our cook’s bicycle. This should have been taken as an omen for bigger disasters, but we saw it as a signal for greater achievements and so embarked on the clandestine procurement of a larger fire proof tube and the unwilling cooperation of our cook, who undertook to get it welded into a shape that would have sent a real rocket scientist into fits.

We filled the foot and a half long missile with propellant and propped it in a perpendicular position using bricks, discreetly taken from the edging of a flower bed. With our ‘help’ watching from a safe distance, we laid a trail of propellant and lit it, watching apprehensively as the spaceship quivered, tilted crazily and took off adopting a course out of the gate, into the opposite house, ending its flight against the rear door of our neighbour’s car. There was a shower of sparks, a cloud of smoke accompanied by a muted bang, lent ‘spice’ by the sight of a driver legging it to the house in panic. Needless to say that having confessed to the crime in the spirit of ‘good upbringing’ we suffered the painful consequences coupled with a ‘side order’ of grounding for a whole week.

My stint as Tarzan was frustrating and ‘accursed’ from the very start. It all began, when my mother spotted me standing with only a towel round my waist, howling like a ‘banshee’ in a bid to replicate the jungle man’s call. I then did my ‘damnedest’ to lay hands on a ‘leopard skin’ so that I could make a genuine ‘thingy’ that Edgar Rice Burroughs’s famous hero used as his only dress article. Failing miserably, I reconciled myself with the notion that we were a backward race wearing shirts and trousers and I would have to make do with swinging from one tree branch to another emitting a wailing sound. Little did I know that the Tarzan fantasy would end – thanks to a rotten branch that sent me hurtling to the ground.

The fall laid me up for some time and I got out of bed only to discover that I had been born on a far off planet called Krypton. My undoing as the man of steel was not a chunk of ‘green kryptonite’, but the discovery by my mother that her new red ‘dupatta’ (purchased for an oncoming social event) had been in use as a cape and had consequently become unusable.

My Mongol impersonation had an interesting end. Since I could not lay my hands on a Mongolian pony, I made do with my brand new bicycle. I had, by this time begun to notice that the house next door was full of girls. It was one winter morning as I pedaled my way to school that I saw a ‘tonga’ carrying these females, trotting ahead of me. In a split second, I became Genghis Khan riding low on his war steed, leading a cavalry charge. When I came to, I found myself on the road with my two wheeler on top of my bruised body – Genghis Khan had come to a sorry end in a bid to impress the occupants of the ‘tonga’. The happy ending to this incident lies in the fact that ‘causes’ of my fall became our best friends. They are now grandmothers and our meetings are laced with laughter as we remember the day when a childhood fantasy gone wrong, laid the foundation of a beautiful and everlasting friendship.