Gillu aka Gulvinder knew he was a Superhero.
His grandmother had once told him that children born with deformed limbs were actually grievously injured superheroes in the previous birth. He believed her.
God bless Grandma; wherever she is.
Rinku, his best friend agreed.
“Indeed it must be so. Grandmothers don’t lie.” remarked Rinku.
“You are seven years old, good at studies and even better at plucking mangoes. Your crutches are like a weapon or a magic wand; one swish and wave and the ferocious street dog runs away whimpering.” he said.
But Duggu’s gang in school made fun of this theory. They laughed at Gillu.
“What kind of a Superhero are you? You can’t even dance.” Duggu said before everyone.
Rinku unsuccessfully wrestled with Duggu for Gillu but could not even last a minute before the bulky boy.
Gillu felt Duggu was right in a way.
Gillu has been thinking since then. Rinku was upset. He had never seen Gillu so serious.
“Are you sad Gillu?” asked Rinku.
“No Rinku, superheroes are never sad. They just think.” replied Gillu.
Rinku nodded in agreement. This time he was thinking too.
“There must be some way to teach Duggu a lesson.” Rinku thought aloud. He was walking along the boundary of Captain Suraj Singh’s cottage. Lost in his thoughts Rinku did not notice the cycle coming from the opposite direction.
Raju Bhaiya the milkman scowled. He had hurt his bottom in trying to avoid colliding with the boy.
Rinku was unscratched but shaken. He took a moment and then helped Raju Bhaiya get up.
“Sorry Raju Bhaiya, I did not see you coming.” Rinku apologized.
Raju Bhaiya had regained his compsure. His milk cans were empty so nothing much was lost.
“Watch where you go boy”
“Where is your friend?” Raju Bhaiya asked about Gillu.
“He is at home … thinking.”
“Thinking about what?”
“Dancing … how can he dance? He walks on crutches.”
“Yes, but he cannot be a super hero if he can’t dance.” replied Rinku.
Captain Suraj Singh who was busy gardening on the other side of the wall overheard Rinku. He stood up and glanced over the wall.
“Good Afternoon, young man.” he called out to Rinku simultaneously greeting Raju Bhaiya with a nod.
“G… good afternoon Captain Uncle” replied Rinku.
Captain Suraj Singh was a giant funny army man. The children in the locality loved him. Unlike other adults, he was always jovial and loved to play pranks along with the children.
“It seems like you have a problem. Where is your friend?” asked Captain Suraj Singh.
“Gillu is at home … thinking.” replied Rinku.
“Since when do seven year olds think?” remarked the Captain.
Raju Bhaiya jumped in to explain, “Gillu can’t be a superhero if he doesn’t dance.”
“Says who?” asked the Captain.
“Duggu and all the other children at school.” replied Rinku.
“Well, then they know nothing about being a superhero.” said Captain Uncle.
Rinku and Raju Bhaiya nodded in agreement.
“Are you absolutely sure that your friend is a superhero?” asked Captain Uncle.
“Yes Uncle, Gillu’s Granny told him once that children who are born with deformed limbs were superheroes in their previous birth. The deformed limb is a result of some serious injury they had while fighting the villains.” explained Rinku.
“Hmm, Gillu’s Granny was an intelligent lady.” remarked Captain Uncle. “Boy, tomorrow afternoon come over to my house for lunch with your friend, Gillu. Let us all think together.”
The Captain went back to his gardening.
Rinku and Raju Bhaiya looked at each other and then continued in opposite directions.
Next afternoon Gillu and Rinku went to Captain Uncle’s house.
Lunch was served. The food was delicious.
Without wasting any time, the boys grabbed their bites.
Captain Uncle couldn’t hide his surprise at how much two seven year olds can eat. The boys hardly spoke as their mouths were full.
When lunch was over, Rinku felt his stomach would burst out. The last gulab jamun was still trying to find a place in his stomach. Gillu seemed comfortable.
Captain Uncle straightaway came to the topic.
“So Gillu, you think you can’t dance.”
Gillu shook his head and replied, “Duggu says I am not a Super Hero because I can’t dance. I have been reading a lot of Super Hero books and none of them have a Super Heroes who can’t dance.”
“Do they have a Superhero who can dance?” the Captain asked.
Rinku and Gillu looked at each other. The Captain was right. While none of the books mentioned superheroes who can’t dance, they did not even mention superheroes who can dance.
“So Gillu is a Superhero after all.” said Rinku.
Gillu stared at Captain Uncle with his mouth wide open. The little boy in his red turban popped straight for a minute and then slouched back into the chair shaking his head.
“What happened?” asked Rinku and Captain Uncle in chorus.
“How do I know what you are saying is right? Grandmother is now in heaven. She knew a lot about Superheroes, she told me about Guru Nanak.” Gillu answered.
“May be Grandma forgot to tell you about it. She was a human being after all.” said the Captain.
‘What if you are wrong? You too are a human being, after all.” remarked Gillu.
The Captain smiled. He called out Chaman Kaka, his house help.
“Chaman Kaka, please bring my crutches.”
The Captain raised the hem of his trouser and unbuckled the artificial leg.
Gillu and Rinku stared. They could not believe their eyes. Captain Uncle was a Super Hero too!
Gillu laughed. He was sure about his Super Hero status now.
Rinku felt a little out of place between the two Superheroes. Yet he was happy. Gillu was his old self again.
“How do we teach Duggu a lesson about Superheroes?” Rinku asked in his squeaky voice.
The Captain turned towards him and said, “Rinku is right. Duggu needs a lesson about Superheroes.”
“But how, Captain Uncle?” asked Gillu.
“There is a lot more to being a Superhero than just dancing or playing football. Superheroes are meant to save people. They should not be afraid even in the scariest situation.”
The trio put their thinking hats on. It was time to make a super heroic plan.
Many brain crunching ideas were thought of and rejected. Late afternoon, Chaman Kaka came into the room with tea for the Captain and milk shake for the boys.
There was a moment of silence. The wind outside made a whirling sound almost like an owl hooting in the night.
Before returning to the kitchen Chaman Kaka said, “Sometimes I think this old badaam tree in the garden is haunted. There might be a ghost living in it making all those sounds.”
The tree, Chaman Kaka mentioned was an old fruitless almond tree standing tall by the cottage’s boundary wall. A part of it bent towards the road just at the corner where Rinku collided with Raju Bhaiya, a day before.
Captain Uncle asked, “Gillu, Do you think there is a ghost living in the badaam tree?”
Gillu shook his head and said, “How can a ghost live in a badaam tree? Wouldn’t he fall off, when asleep?”
Rinku looked at his friend with pride.
Captain Uncle added, “Do you know, boys who bully other children are actually themselves very scared of things?”
Gillu & Rinku smiled. As if all three has the same idea; and the Grand Super Hero Plan was finally made in the living room of Captain Uncle’s cottage.
The boys had to wait till Saturday to carry out the plan. The next five days, Duggu continued teasing Gillu.
“Here comes a Super hero who can’t play football.”
“Look friends, the Superhero who can’t fly. Ha ha he can’t even walk.”
Rinku too had his share of teasing.
“Do you want to wrestle with me, assistant Superhero?” Duggu taunted Rinku. The children around laughed.
But as Captain Uncle had advised, Gillu and Rinku remained calm. Every day after school, they finished their homework and headed to the Captain’s cottage to work on the Grand Super Hero Plan.The Grand Super Hero Plan was to scare Duggu.
Every Saturday, Duggu passed by Captain Uncle’s cottage on his bicycle while returning from his dance class. He often stopped and mischievously threw pebbles over the wall. One day a pebble landed up in Captain Uncle’s tea. Another day Chaman Kaka got a knock on his head with a pebble.
Captain Uncle, Gillu and Rinku planned that they would pour some water and make a puddle near the wall. This would slow Duggu and would give them enough time to scare him. Rinku would climb up the badaam tree and tie himself with a rope so that he doesn’t fall. He will then cover himself with a white bed sheet and on Chaman Kaka’s cue; Captain Uncle will make a hooting sound. Rinku would make some sound and sway the bed sheet, Duggu will be scared and Gillu who will pretend that he is passing by will act surprised at Duggu’s fear and act as if he is scaring away the ghost with his crutches. Thus Duggu will know that Gillu is a Super Hero and he is not even afraid of Ghosts.
This Saturday Duggu was in for a shock.
The team was ready.
Chaman Kaka and Raju Bhaiya poured water on the muddy pavement and made a puddle. The idea was to slow Duggu long enough to scare him.
Rinku climbed on the Badam tree with Captains’s help, covered himself with a white bed sheet. Chaman Kaka had tied a thick rope to the tree. Rinku tied the rope around his waist for safety.
Gillu wore a blue cape. Blue was his favourite colour. Captain Uncle hid by the wall in his garden.
The sun was setting. The sky turned grey from orange. They waited.
Duggu was late from class. None of them knew he had to wait for extra practice.
They waited patiently.
An hour later they heard Duggu’s cycle bell. It was nearly dark.
Duggu was singing. He was scared of darkness.
As he passed Captain Uncle’s cottage, Duggu thought of a prank. He paused for a moment and then moved ahead to gather some stones. On Chaman Kaka’s cue, Captain Uncle made the sound of an owl hooting.
Duggu was shocked; and so was someone else.
Rinku who had dozed off on the branch, woke with a startle and lost his balance. He fell of the branch but because he was tied to the rope, Rinku kept hanging instead of hitting the ground. He was still covered with the white bed sheet..
Duggu was standing right beneath the tree looked up and saw a white object flying down.
“Ghh .. gh .. ghhoooost!!!” shouted Duggu
In a hurry he fell off his cycle. SPLASH …
Duggu landed into the puddle.
Rinku started howling.
Duggu couldn’t understand what was happening; he started crying. All he saw was a white bed sheet floating in air making odd sounds.
Gillu reached the spot. He felt bad on seeing Duggu in the puddle crying in fear. This was not a part of the plan. No one was supposed to get hurt or cry.
Gillu held out one of his crutch for Duggu to hold. Duggu stood up. Gillu was wearing his blue cape. Duggu opened his mouth to say something but then remained quiet. He was afraid of the ghost hanging from the tree. If Gillu leaves, he would be all alone.
Gillu helped him with the cycle. Captain Uncle and Chaman Kaka walked out of the gate. By the time they reached the spot to help Rinku, Duggu had walked away with Gillu.
Meanwhile Captain Uncle and Chaman Kaka took Rinku to the hospital. Rinku had sprained his ankle. The doctor advised him to rest.
On Monday both Gillu and Rinku went to school. Duggu was not around.
“Rinku,” Gillu said. “Do you think Duggu is scared to come to school also? Or maybe he is seriously injured?”
Rinku shook his head and gestured Gillu towards the classroom. Duggu was standing by the door.
As the two friends entered the class, they were surprised that Duggu and all the other children who had teased Gillu came and shook hands with him. Everyone wanted to be friends with the Super Hero.
After a while Gillu came and sat besides Rinku.
“You have hurt your leg badly.” said Gillu.
“Yes” replied Rinku.
“May be you will also become a Super Hero.” remarked Gillu.
“May be” said Rinku. The two friends grinned.