and also the good one
“And then you know at the end, the guys in the white hats were the bad guys! And the black hats bam-bam knocked them over, there were twenty-one guys, I counted, and you know, machine-gun kid was the best, and I forgot to tell you, when we thought the white hats were the good guys, then the girl went with machine-gun kid on the horse and they just rode over the rocks, phaa-daa-dak, like that, and machine-gun kid’s horse was the best horse. But another thing I forgot to tell you was there was this big hotel and they were all eating there and this police guy came in and shouted and he was actually that girl’s father, I forgot to tell you.”
Here, Sudhir paused for breath and his father gazed fondly at the not-little-any-more boy, just back from a birthday treat with his mother and three oldest brothers. The Indian release of the Western ‘Michigan Kid’ coincided with Sudhir’s seventh birthday and for a just-turned-seven aspiring cowboy, there could be no better outing.
“Come for lunch, you two. Sudhir, you need to serve the sweet today.”
This was an honour, indeed. Proudly, the birthday lad took the ladle and bowl, and went to each family member in turn. He served his parents, his aunt, his oldest sister-in-law, his brothers and himself the white dumplings made of milk and coconut. Family members blessed him with long life and happiness. The beaming boy then sat at his place at the table, and picked up his spoon.
“Now, Sudhir, now.” His sister-in-law, knowing his ways, had been watching. “You know the sweet is to be eaten last.”
“But it’s my birthday,” the child protested. "I served it out myself."
“Be good on your birthday,” his mother advised.
“What’s the use of having a birthday if I can’t do as I like?”
His brother grinned suddenly. “Tell you what, Sudhir. You can be like the hat guys in the movie. Be good now, and you can be bad later.”
“Pratap, I don’t like the sound of this,” their mother said. “What are you planning to let Sudhir do?”
“Don’t worry, Ma, don’t worry. Sudhir, eat your curds, your vegetables and your rice. Then the sweet.”
Pratap had never let him down. If Pratap said there was something exciting coming, there was. The child ate his meal without a fuss, finishing up with the sweet.
“Now,” Pratap said. “You know how you wanted a bam-bam battle?”
“With twenty-one fellows, like the Michigan Kid had?”
“What if you could have one?”
“NOT in his birthday clothes,” came two voices. “He’s wearing silk, for goodness’ sake, brand new.”
The mother and sister-in-law materialized at the child’s side, and for a while he stood in his underwear, till they brought his old clothes from the closet.
“Now go bam-bam all you like. Pratap, he’s in your charge.”
“Yup. I’ve invited some of the neighbours to the park. They haven’t seen Michigan Kid yet, but I told them all about the fight scene. They’re willing to act it out with Sudhir.”
The child could hardly contain his excitement. “Let’s go, let’s go now, can we borrow the milkman’s horse so I can go phaa-da-daak?”
Then his face fell. “But …” he stammered.
“What’s the matter?” Pratap asked.
“I don’t want a silly girl with me. If I go on a horse phaaa-da-daaak, I’ll go alone. Machine-gun kid can keep the girl.”