London, summer of 1979
BBC spoke of a children’s funfare being organised at Hyde Park. The events would go on for a few days. The enormity of the events would be unthinkable. What does enormity mean when it comes to games for kids? I didn’t know.
We went to school the next morning. Summer was coming. The daffodils, bluebells, roses were in full bloom. Blue tits, finches, starlings and sparrows made the walk to school even more enjoyable.
Our class teacher announced that the school will be taking the kids to the Hyde park children’s fun fare. It would be a full day visit and kids need to get their parents permission if they wanted to go.
That day in school took too long to pass. I had to reach home to get permission. Would my parents allow me to go? I was very anxious to know.
I asked my mother, who said she would ask Papaji. My brother was also asked to get parent’s permission to go for the adventure. His class was to be taken a day after our class’s visit to The Park.
My mother said that I could go if I went along with my brother. That meant I was not to go with my classmates but with my bhaiya and his classmates. This Didn’t feel very right. But at least I could go.
The next day in school, I was permitted to join my brother and his class for the Park visit.
My bhaiya had already told me sternly that I better not act or do anything stupid. I’ve had it if I did. Whatever that meant. I was so excited to go.
Finally the day had come for bhaiya and myself to go to school and join the other kids for the trip. Bhaiya’s class teacher, a very kind hearted, French bearded, tall man saw me and smiled at me. He told me to have a great time at the Park. He introduced me to some of the girls in the group and told them to look after me at the park.
We were taken to the park on a big bus. Hyde park was huge. It was full of kids. There was a huge Kermit the frog 🐸. There was a crane next to it for kids to climb into and touch Kermit.
There were tents for various activities. Kids could participate in any event. There were helicopters in the sky leaving trails of colour as they flew by. Big balloons were everywhere, on the ground and in the sky.
I was totally bewildered. This is what ‘enormity’ of the event meant.
I was with the senior girl students group. I followed them wherever they went. We talked as we looked around deciding what activities to join in. We went on the big merry go round and on the slides. There were some tents nearby. We all went towards the tents. In one tent you could get keychains made with your name embossed on it. In another tent you could get badges made with your name or picture of a cartoon character. I wanted a badge. Most of our group girls were in these two tents. I started thinking as to which cartoon character I wanted on my badge. The tent was getting crowded. I saw an opening in the tent and walked out for some fresh air. I would like Jerry mouse on my batch. Tom the cat is not so clever. How about Daffy Duck! Micky mouse, Minnie Mouse- Nooo. Road Runner is good and so is Bugs Bunny.
My mind was made up now. I wanted Bugs Bunny with the words’Whats up Doc’. I turned around to enter the tent. There were some girls standing nearby, not my group girls. I asked them about the entrance to the tent, where badges were being made. They looked at me and said that there was no tent.
I was just next to the tent a little while ago, and I never even moved away from the spot!! How could the tent and all the girls just vanish! It was not possible.
I stood there stunned. I heard a male voice ‘ Are you looking for something or someone ‘. I turned and saw a Mr. Plod – just like the Police Man Plod in ‘Noddy’. Mr. Plod is a very nice and helpful policeman.
Mr. Plod asked me if I was alone or was I lost. ‘Lost’ ! How could I be lost! I was with all the school girls. But no one was there and the tents had vanished. I told Mr. Policeman as to what had happened.
Mr. Policeman gave out his hand and I held his finger. He said that he would help me find my school friends and brother.
We walked a long stretch. I had my eyes open in search for familiar faces. I could not find any. I was getting scared now. We reached a huge tent and entered it. This huge tent was full of children. Some kids were holding hands and walking in circles. There were some more Mr. Plod type policemen. One of them asked my name, noted it in a register and then told me to sit on an empty chair. He said he would find the school teacher and my bhaiya.
I was given a glass of orange juice. It didn’t taste nice. All of a sudden nothing seemed nice. Who were all these kids. One kid next to me said that we were in the ‘Lost and Found Tent’
My God! I was Lost! Some kids were crying. I could not cry. I had to find my Bhaiya fast, otherwise he is going to get angry that I spoilt his outing with his friends. His Class teacher will get so worried if I am not at the meeting place to board the bus for the return journey. I had to reach the meeting point place. Which way was that? Was I actually lost?
I don’t know how long I sat on that chair. Now it was my turn to hold hands with other kids and walk in circles. Many kids were found and taken out of the tent. When will I be found? Walking in circles with all kids having a sad face or tear stained cheeks was very boring.
Then I heard my name being announced. I saw my Bhaiya’s class Teacher waving at me. My Bhaiya was standing next to him. I was finally Found.
Mr. Policeman held my hand and walked me up to the teacher. I was all smiles, even though I was scared of my Bhaiya for having spoilt his day of adventure.
It was a tense ride home on the bus. My bhaiya was already angry with me. My mother would get angry when she gets to know how I had spoilt everyone’s day. I was feeling very sad.
We reached home. Bhaiya narrated the whole getting lost and making everyone worried and spoiling the fun incident. I kept quiet. My mother didn’t say much.
She asked me how I had got lost. Well I didn’t get lost. I was right there, next to the tent. Then the next moment the tent and my school girls had vanished. Yes, they all had vanished. I couldn’t even get my badge made. Then one Mr. Plod took me to the Lost and Found Tent.
How could I get lost. It was not possible. But I ended up in the Lost and Found tent to be eventually found. That is how I was home now.
I told myself that night that I would never go on an outing without my own friends. It is not that much fun plus things vanish and you may end up in the Lost and Found Tent. A very boring place.
It is still a mystery. My mind has still not settled with the so called fact that I was Lost!