I was three already and in kindergarten-- my first year at school. I felt pretty serious about going to school and meeting different folks unlike my younger brother who hadn't yet gotten the chance yet. I had it going well with my uncles and aunts taking turns to drop me off to school on their bicycles or scooters, or better still, getting a chance to go with my Dad on his parrot green Lambretta. You see, Dad's office at the local State Bank of India branch was just next door to school. At noon, school would get over and I would tramp out like the other kids and look for a familiar face in the crowd of parents and guardians come to fetch their wards.
As it went, my grandparents or my aunts usually came by to take me home. With my aunts, the trip always always led us through the busy Thangal Bazaar. As expected, they loved the opportunity to window-shop on the pretext of fetching the niece from school. My grandparents preferred the quieter route which took us past the MG Avenue and over the small bridge to Soram Leirak. We'd then reach the community pond 'Pukhri Achouba' and then after that, it was just a matter of crossing the erstwhile RMC Road (now RIIMS Road) to reach home. I loved it more when my grandparents fetched me as I loved the leisurely walk and the fact that they'd buy me snacks on the way home. With my aunts, it was a short trip home by cycle rickshaw--no fun, no snacks--all cut and dry.
Now, I had a friend named AS who was the most independent kid I had ever known. She couldn't have been much older than me, but she used to come to school on her own and go back home, again on her own. I retrospect, I guess it could be because both her parents were working and there was no one else to drop her to school. But the idea of going to school on your own kinda appealed to my 3 year old mind to the point of obsession. What added fuel to the fire was AS's jibe at my being such a kid and being so dependent on grown ups. That was the melting point. I decided that I too could go home alone and to prove that, I was on the lookout for the day when no-one would come to pick me up.
The awaited day arrived soon enough. A few days later, I was overjoyed to see that no one from my family had showed up to take me home. I quickly ran to where AS was standing and told her that I'd go with her unescorted by grownups. I remember saying, "AS, quick, let's go home. No one has showed up today to take me home." We then wasted no further time and quickly made our way home. We took the route that my grandparents favoured and soon enough, it was time for me to cross RMC Road. AS looked one way while I looked the other and between the two of us, we estimated the time that was safe for me to cross the road. "Run!" she shouted. And I ran, half scared, half excited-- scared as I was crossing the road alone for the first time, and excited that I was now on my turf, safe and sound. I waved her goodbye and went home straight. Happily I rushed to the kitchen, where my grandmother sat having her lunch. She was surprised to see me home without any sign of my aunts. Before she could ask me how I reached home alone, I announced to her that I was now quite capable of going to school and coming back alone. As she listened horrified, I narrated to her my adventure of coming home alone. She scolded me, as expected.
Back at school, my aunts were panicking as I was nowhere to be found. They waited till the last of the children were picked up and then went to Dad's office. They were terrified of getting a scolding as they had arrived five minutes late to pick me up (you see, their window-shopping had extended much beyond the usual time). They frantically searched for me and my Dad notified the police. Those days, the only telephone in the neighborhood was with a neighbor who stayed three houses away from us. My grandmother managed to go there and somehow managed to give my Dad the information that I was back home. Safe. After an adventure of coming back from school alone. I can only imagine the mixture of emotions that they must have experienced. The adventure ended for me with a scoldings from all my uncles and aunts, grandparents, and my Dad. Still, it was worth the adrenaline rush and the sense of independence.