“Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look, He thinks too much; such men are dangerous.” We were doing Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar as part of English curriculum during high school and the above line somehow captured my imagination. I have somehow had a kind of fatal attraction for characters with shades of darkness in their characters and Cassius just fascinated me. I would spend hours daily imagining myself as Cassius, hatching a master conspiracy to dispatch off a tyrant. But then how long can one be satisfied with merely enacting one’s fantasies within one’s mind? My fantasies yearned to manifest themselves in the real world.
A fortuitous circumstance presented itself in the form of a classmate Vinay who had been consistently annoying a lot of our fellow classmates, some to an extent even to wish an end to his mortal existence. I decided to channel these sentiments into a diabolical plot like my idol Cassius must have done centuries back. The foremost challenge in putting myself as the originator of this conspiracy and have men follow me was my image. In school usually, we have good boys and bad boys. Good boys tend to read a lot, do well in their academics, are well behaved and liked by teachers. Bad boys on the other hand, did not care about studies, not much into reading, got into all kinds of unacceptable behaviors and often found themselves in trouble with the teachers. While my wavelength would have matched with the former, they could hardly be relied upon to side with me on the unimaginable felonies I had in my mind. So I had to look to the latter. But I was considered to be one of the good boys. So how was I to make myself acceptable to the bad boys? It was probably the same problem Cassius must have toyed with ages back and the solution that presented itself was the same – Brutus!
While Cassius sought someone reputable, I sought someone of disrepute. Tony seemed to have all the qualifications I was looking for. He was well respected amongst the antisocial elements at school. He had been a close friend of Vinay and had lately had a serious tiff with him. I had a reasonably good rapport with him and he seemed the right person to put in front to rally the conspirators. His plans to leave school in a month presented an additional advantage. Once the forces were rallied, he would be gone and I would lead on his behalf with him as the symbolic leader of the gang. Not that I was power hungry but the men of the sort I had chosen to associate with, not being so well read, tended not to observe the right forms. They tended to jump too hastily into action. They needed an artistic leader who could understand and appreciate the finer nuances of an intricate conspiracy.
Things went as per plan and in a month’s time I found myself the de facto leader of a gang of 5. Assault and theft were key elements of our initial strategy to counter Vinay. We would take turns at provoking him daily and take the opportunity of the fight to inflict injuries on his person. We would sneak into the classrooms during games periods to deprive him of some of his property. In order to prove myself to my fellow conspirators, I launched myself enthusiastically into the field of action, securing a few scars of valor in the process. (My mother might have thought entire school was a skating rink given the number of times I claimed to have slipped and fallen and hurt myself) While the thefts could happen behind the scenes, the fights had to happen in the open and tended to lower my currency amongst the good boys. But then one could not have the cake and eat it too.
By and by, we were getting bored of doing the same old routine of fights and petty thefts. If anything, our punitive strikes only served to worsen Vinay’s behavior. He in fact seemed to enjoy the fights. We always fought him one on one: never as a group as it was against our code of honor. For we wanted to “carve him as a dish fit for the gods, not hew him as a carcass fit for hounds”. So it was time we took more drastic action. By then, the English class had moved on to the ides of March and the scene of Caesar’s assassination. Yes, that was the answer – assassination! We spent hours discussing how we could dispatch off Vinay for good. My fellow conspirators surprised me with their vivid imagination. I realized imagination was not the sole preserve of the well-read. Our plans ranged from procuring poisons from the biology lab to drowning him in the school well to explosions in the Chemistry lab.
Somehow though I loved conspiracy, murder was not really my cup of tea. It was nice to discuss but we had beaten the topic to death and now it was time to do the same to the victim and I did not feel up to it. I doubt if any of my fellows also really had the stomach for such a gory venture. I felt it was time I directed my team’s energies in a different direction. Cassius’ charm was slowly fading and Robin Hood emerged as a serious contender for my attention. I decided we were done with being Roman conspirators and in one sweep we decided to transform ourselves into English brigands. This change however did not change our modus operandi much: it only served to expand our market segment. Instead of focusing on Vinay alone, we turned our attention to some of our other classmates as well. I developed a code of ethics, mostly centered on right form of behavior with respect to our female classmates. Any of our male classmates found not to be confirming to the same made suitable targets for our strikes.
There was however one minor glitch in playing Robin Hood – while we stole from the rich, we had no poor to give it away to. My fellow merry men considered themselves to be suitable candidates to benefit from this ill begotten wealth. But Robin Hood would have none of it. All the stolen goods would either have to be destroyed or sold and proceeds donated to a charitable cause. We were crusaders for a cause and could not allow our noble cause to be tainted by acting like common thieves. Some of the merry men, who had been in this business right from kindergarten, thought I was crazy. But they were by now used to my leadership and decided to fall in line.
We continued like this till the end of the year. But then, the academic burden of the ICSE syllabus was already telling on my merry men as well as most of our victims. The next year, the entire crew deserted the ship leaving the captain to fend all by himself in the land of savages: the good boys. And so it came about another glorious or infamous chapter of my life, depending on how you see it, came to an end.
Picture Credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schurz_Conspirators.jpg