Raman Prakash Banka is one name I can never forget in my life. We used to live in the same Ganga Bridge Colony, Patna, we used to play Gilli-Danda in the same Colony open field, and we used to lose ourselves in the game the afternoons after afternoons. We used to go to the Ganga to bathe or just to pass time. I used to visit his quarter often and his mother used to give us crispy Marwari papads. Mine was a lower middle-class existence, so papads were not always available to us at home so you can gauge a young boy’s tongue and the hope for those crispy papads made me visit his home more albeit a bit shyly from inside.
Anyway, his Nani-Ghar was in Nepal and he used to bring Sandalwood Sticks from there and we sometimes played Gilli-Danda with Humaad ka Danda (a fragrant wood). There are so many other side stories. His papa brought an Ambassador Car and that wheeled in more tiny tales. Anyway, childhood did end and we left Ganga Bridge Colony as our engineer fathers were transferred elsewhere.
But the incident which is firmly etched in my memory is the ‘drowning’ incident we both were involved in. I was bathing in the Ganges close to Raja Ghat, Babuaganj, and Patna while Raman was frolicking and swimming nearby. There were several other boys. Somebody must have pushed me playfully, and I was into deep waters. I was drowning. Raman immediately spotted his friend struggling and he braved his fear, if at all there was any, and dived to save me. In order to buoy me up, he went under the treacherous stream. It was too much for him as well. He slipped, lost his balance, and was drowning as well. He told me later I was riding on his back. All would have ended soon.
My own uncle happened to see me and Raman drowning and struggling for life. He was an elder person and a far better swimmer. Somehow he pulled us ashore. Thank God we both survived although we had consumed a bellyful of the river waters. Someone pumped it out.
The incident was told and retold many times by us. But he isn’t there any longer to tell this to anybody as he got killed in Gir Forest while on the line of duty. There are many versions of how a stray bullet hit him or one of his subordinates shot him purposely. Anyway, the then IPS Officer Raman Prakash Banka, my childhood friend, is no more with us. I did go to his home at Rajeev Nagar at Patna upon hearing the news but couldn’t gather to go near his mother, my auntie who gave us those crispy papads in our childhood.