The headline that greeted me on Wednesday morning was the report of two school boys in Gurgaon who shoot their classmate. The Times of India reports that the 14 year old boy had a fight with two of his classmates couple of days ago and the shooting was a result of that feud. One of the students detained had carried his fathers gun hidden in his socks and shoot his classmate. The detail that the two boys actually took turns to shoot freaked one out.
The news was shocking to put it mildly. It also brought back memories of school days where feuds are order of the day and where masculinity has a premium. William Golding has effectively portrayed the state of nature of children, in his terrific novel, Lord of the Flies. The schools I have been too also reflected that state, where might was right and barely proscribed by the rules and regulations. We have all passed through that phase of adolescence, where what matters most is how your peers view you. A number of us have probably been bullied in school. Many may have been able to get back at the bully through our strengths, others probably made friends with the bullies while others still continued being bullied till they grew up or graduated.
The rage and anger that infuses us all in those years are but natural but are the means by which vengeance is sought, natural? Children can be so cruel, was a truth that I understood only after I passed out of high school. It confused me at first, thinking maybe it was something about me which might have provoked such unkindly behavior. But over years one has come to understand the pristine arrogance of teenagers and it is a battle I would definitely stay clear of.
Last evening due to sheer coincidence, I watched a movie titled Mean Creek (2004). The movie is set in a small town in the US. The lead character Sammy (11-12 year old) is bullied by George, a fat boy in school. Sam's elder brother, Rocky, unwittingly mentions this to one of his friends Marty. Marty is a disturbing portrayal of what is wrong with those years. Marty himself is constantly bullied by his elder brother and his friends after his father commits suicide as we later find out. Marty is about 17 years old and while seeking highs of booze, drugs and practical jokes is also the leader of the gang, though not unrivaled. Marty plans to celebrate Sammy's birthday by inviting the fat boy to a boating trip to Mean Creek and play a practical joke on him. The others who are part of this gang involve Clyde, the gentle reasonable voice in the film and who gets accused of being a faggot because his father is homosexual. Millie, Sammy's girlfriend who together with Clyde, forms the moral voice of the film. So the gang of six set out for the outing. The movie is very well written and despite its simplicity manages to well etch the characters and lay the plot with ease. The mercurial Marty, Millie driving some sense into Sammy, a responsible Rocky and the sane Clyde. As the boating trip starts, Sammy gets cold feet and wants the gang to not go ahead with the practical joke which everybody agrees to except Marty.
However, the joker in the pack is fat boy, George, the bully. George's character is rather well delineated. A loner who has umpteen facts up in his head and who doesn't let his guard down in his effort to be as cool as the rest of them while seeking their companionship. George is always recording videos on his camera and does not know when he is being insensitive or disgustingly offensive. The original idea was to play truth and dare in the middle of the creek and get George to strip and jump into the river. The gang then planned to leave him and make him run home naked. But despite that idea being dropped by all of them, Marty is reluctant. And he starts the game, George's unbecomingness pushes even the rest of the gang into the game. While the game is in progress, all appears to be fine, till the casual name calling gets out of hand. Once again, George is at the center of the drama, wherein he abuses in turns each of the party. Push comes to shove, literally when George picks up Marty for abuse recounting the details of his father's suicide while repeatedly recounting the words his mother told him, that, he splattered his brains all over the wall when he shot himself. George falls into the water, struggles for a while, hits a rock and drowns. The rest of the story is about the resolution of this unintended murder by the rest.
One has recounted the story to communicate some complexity of the event at Mean Creek. It started out as a practical joke (motive?) but it was an accident that occurred due to circumstance and human flaws. It bridges that crucial gap between the telling of a story and the actual occurrence of an event and the many permutations and combinations that give rise to it, that unaccounted variable called human behavior.
The coincidence of the Gurgaon story and watching the movie on the same day was eerie. With the newspaper story at the back of my mind, I saw the movie unravel itself heading towards what the tagline of the movie promises that, Beneath the surface, everyone has a secret. I have no intentions, information nor any competence of commenting on the real incident, all I intended to do with this post was map the thoughts that were floating about in my head when I experienced these two events in a single thought continuum. Did the boys who shot their classmate also have a similar circumstance? Or perhaps something different but within the same context? Did they merely intend to threaten their classmate with the gun? These are all matters of circumstance and for us powerless readers more of conjecture. The truth is that life can be so ugly at times and at a shockingly young age.