Captain Haddock’s curses are epic. However, it is not often that we find someone spouting them with the fervour and force of the famed sailor of Tin Tin comics. And that too for a runaway blue umbrella!
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A parakeet and a crow sat on a telephone wire, lost in their worlds. On a bench under the telephone wire sat a bearded and capped fellow, also lost in his world, frantically messaging and frowning.
I noticed that all the joggers were wearing branded shoes, but he was the only one in bathroom slippers. I don’t know why, he reminded me of the bumbling Captain Haddock of Tin Tin fame (BTW, I still have a dog-eared collection of Tin Tin comics lying somewhere in the attic. Would never part with them)
But what was amusing was that by his side lay an umbrella — a blue one. The most innocent-looking one. There was no sun, no rain; what was the umbrella meant for? For a rainy day? But where was the rain? Where was his pipe?
On another bench a little distance away, three men sat talking animatedly, clad in expensive jogging shoes. There was no one to clear my doubts, as to why they were wearing jogging shoes when they had no intention of jogging.
A sudden gust of wind tried to snatch the mobile from the hands of the bathroom-slippered one. He clung to the mobile desperately, but, alas, his comatose umbrella grew wings and took flight.
He sprang up from the bench, morphing into a lunging fencer, trying to grab hold of the umbrella handle, but the umbrella had become absurdly hyperactive. It yanked itself free from the restraining pull of the owner, and the owner unleashed a string of clenched-teeth invectives, making me realize that he did not merely look like Captain Haddock, but he was his very doppelganger!
“You! Blue blistering barnacles!” He bellowed at the top of his voice. His bellow had such propelling power that the umbrella flew off only to land straight onto the back of a huge ox.
Unfazed by this landing of a UFO on its back, the ox maintained its equilibrium and plodded forth, the umbrella, blue in the face, somehow stuck behind his ear and perched on its back in a royal style. This scene sent the trio into a string of giggles, and thigh-thumping titters. What was strange was that they were thumping each others’ thighs and not their own. Probably that made them laugh more and shake all over.
With the agility of a marathon runner, the Capt Haddock incarnate dashed after the ox, but in the helter-skelter dashing, the strap of his slipper broke, and he fell face down on the pot-holed road. This was enough to trigger a barrage of curses — curses which, probably he himself was not aware that he knew. He crawled up on all four, then unfolded himself, straightening up slowly. His two hands started brushing his clothes with a ferocity you find only when the lady of the house beats the last speck of dust on the sofa in a furious mood.
The curses fizzed out like a soda bottle; this time directed towards the ‘municipality walley log’. “Mercenaries! Miserable earthworms! They can’t even repair the roads. When the elections are round the corner, they will suddenly throw in some shabby patchwork. In a week, its gone. So that we can all dive into our chosen potholes all over again! Numbskulls!”
Enthused by the scene unfolding down below, the parakeet took a descending flight from the telephone wire, onto a neem tree, breaking into a paroxysm of high-pitched screeches.
“Blabber-mouthed parakeet! Rapscallion!” The man yelled and I almost jumped out of my sneakers, recently bought at a sale. The parakeet looked flabbergasted and burst into another string of high-powered squawks.
“Look at the way these blokes are tittering as if they are being paid for these silly giggles! Blistering barnacles! Blackguards! Dolts! What do they think of themselves? Hoodlums and hooligans! Jackanapes!” With every Haddock curse, he seemed to remember a few more and would curse with greater gusto.
Absolutely amused, I retraced my steps, having witnessed enough drama for the day. But couldn’t restrain the temptation of craning my neck in his direction to find him, thumping an angry fist in the air and bending down to fix his slipper strap.
“Loathsome brute!” He mumbled, frothing at the mouth, and darting angry glares at the broken slipper.
Deftly navigating the potholes, I reached home, and the first thing that I did was to go to the attic, pick up the bundle of Tin Tin comics, and gingerly climb down the ladder, clinging on to the dust-laden treasure.
As I was climbing down, the window of my bedroom fell in my line of vision. And the scene that met my eyes, made me guffaw loudly. The ox was plodding on, with exemplary equanimity, the blue umbrella still perched merrily on its back! How come the bathroom-slippered one had forgotten about its existence? Ah, the amnesia was the result of the euphoria of the rediscovery of Haddock curses!
“You, squawking Popinjay!” He had hurled another curse, this time at the crow who had alighted on the potholed road and was cawing triumphantly, at having caught a worm!
I sat down on the sofa, quickly flipping the dust-laden pages of the comics. After all, I needed to brush up my rusted Haddockian vocabulary if I planned to stay on in the neighbourhood.
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