Everybody asks me why I think so highly about Enrico. I mean, he was a general pest, and pissed off everyone around him with astounding frequency. So what exactly was likable about him?
Well, the thing was that he was a rebel in the truest sense. Someone who can give Ryan from 5.someone a run for his money. Though it was easy to brand him as a poltergeist, I can now see why he behaved the way he did.
Think about it this way, You are a 5 year old from Italy. All of a sudden you are put in a strange land, where you do not understand the language, the people, the customs and the prayers. You cannot eat the food that is served on a daily basis, and you are considered an outsider wherever you go. And in those days, being a foreigner had its own Damocles sword. You were expected to be a hooligan, and had this reputation to live up to. But like I always say, he was quite nice at heart.
It was difficult to be his friend. All the teachers marked you out, and since Enrico was genetically created in such a way that he could never be punished, you bore the brunt of his being Italian. The punishments were accompanied with threats of TC and there were hardly 5-6 guys in the class who spoke to him on a regular basis. For others, he was trouble with freckles, and they just avoided him.
Though most of his hatred was directed towards homo sapiens, he had love for animals, especially puppies and kittens. I remember in Class 8, we had found two puppies without their mother in the stadium. We brought them and built some sort of a house for them in the terrace. We used to steal breakfast for them in the morning. And in the afternoon, since Enrico never attended any classes anyway, he was given the responsibility of taking care of the puppies. And he never forgot to do his duty! He also got along famously with Narsimha, the official hostel pet.
And he had strange urges. While everyone else would be in the Kulwant hall attending a discourse, he would want to check out the Kalpavriksha hill. Now, sneaking out with him was always risky. Since he grew up in Parthi, every hawker and shop keeper knew him. While we would try to sneak out being as inconspicous as possible, my heart would jump when all of a sudden, a voice would call out, "Hey, Henry! How are you?". And like a true friend, he would always go and meet the shop keeper, leaving me standing outside, hoping I had brought an Invisibility Cloak with me. Once we reached the top, he liked to stand on top of the highest rock and look down upon the entire town. Its a different matter that once Janardhanan saw us from the hostel and we were duly butchered.
Another incident that comes to my mind was when we were really young. We must have been in Class four. I dint go home during Winter Holidays (in those days, they were for a full month) and so I stayed with a relative in Parthi. Inside the ashram, all the students who were in Parthi (foreigners, lecturers' children etc.) would gang up and play.
And what fun we had! There weren't as many buildings as there are now. And since Diwali was round the corner, we would buy crackers from outside and choose ideal locations and victims for them. Under the chair of a sevadal enjoying a siesta, lighting a bijli bomb and throwing it into the East Prashanti toilets. East Prashanti had a lot of grumpy old people and we thought it was cool to be chased by the Sevadals. And then, we would go to his home and his mother would cook the best Italian food I have ever eaten.
So anyway, it was one of those days when I was waiting for him to come out of his house in Round Building - 3, so we could go on another of his rounds of destruction. I was waiting in the garden behind the Round Building - the one that has the bronze statue of Ganesh with an umbrella and other structures.
When I was sitting there, a guy approached me. He must have been about 25 years old. He enquired about who I was, and asked me if I watched movies. I don't remember the exact conversation, but he asked me if I watched films. I said yes (Bhakta Prahalad is a film, mind you) and he then asked me if I knew what heroes and heroines do after getting married.
After a while, he asked me if I wanted some money to buy chocolates, which I happily accepted. He then asked me to accompany him to the East Prashanti toilets. It was only when we entered the toilets did I realise what he was upto. When I was trying to run out of the toilets, Enrico arrived and saw that guy trying to get hold of me. He came and asked me what was the matter.
The guy was all smiles, explaining to Enrico something about toilets and hero and heroine and love.... I still remember the kick.
We weren't very tall then. But I remember him taking his leg backwards, resembling Sehwag when he sees an over-pitched ball. He raised his leg backwards, and brought it down right in middle of the guy's legs, jeopardising his chances of starting a family in future.
The guy was on the floor, screaming his heart out. Sevadals rushed to the spot and we ran from there, straight into his house.
I don't remember if I thanked him. I mean, he wasn't exactly the kind of guy who laid a lot of emphasis on Thank You, Please, and Sorry. But I remember thinking that he wasn't that bad a guy after all. May be some sort of a misunderstood Robin Hood.