The disadvantages of living in a small town is that you cannot go pigeon hunting after the school.
My classmate Manzoor used to carry a catupult in his satchel. He was a very proficient catapulter and had a very accurate target. He could bring down two pigeons with one fling.
Our Urdu teacher was a very pious man. He would give us some passage or a poem to recite loudly and sit in his chair with eyes closed and ‘tasbih’ in his hand. He used to silently recite the Quran. Half of the class used to leave the class by the time he had finished the roll call.
Our Urdu class used to be at the close of the day. It used to be very hot in the sandy desert where we used to live in my childhood. Sometimes the temprature touched even 50 deg. C in the noon.
At this time the pigeons used to perch on the ledges of our school building which was very convenient for us to go on our hunting and catapulting spree. Sometimes we used to go to the sandy plain next to our football and hockey grounds of our school and look for wagtails and sandgrouses nesting in the ground. If we could not catch the bird we would go looking for their eggs. However if nothing else worked we were always assured of getting ’tilliars’ sitting in rows on the telephone wires.
After bringing down a pigeon or two ,we would gather a few twigs to roast and relish these before going home. It always delayed us in reaching home. We had to constantly invent new excuses to satisfy our mothers and pretend being very hungry.
However one day we got caught red handed.
One of our school teachers lived in a village across the ‘khala’ , or a branch canal. Once while we were roasting the birds on open flame, he happened to pass that way. We were busy roasting the bird and failed to notice him approaching us. We were startled to see him standing above us and shuddered with fear.
He gave us a smile with a meaningful nod and went away.
Next day our names were called in the morning prayer assembly. Our school Principal asked our explanation and we were caned severely and made ‘murga’ .