Beauty and the Beast

“Here” she thrust the folded piece of paper hastily torn from a notebook into my hands. Her perfectly manicured nails, though the school didn’t allow us to wear polish, scratched my wrist and drew blood.

“Give it to him”. I watched her run away. Her lithe figure and grace made even the grey tunic of the school uniform look elegant. I remembered holding the skirt straight while she cut the extra inches of cloth away till it was high enough to ride dangerously above her thigh when she sat. Silver earrings dangled from her ears, hair tied in a messy ponytail and just a hint of eyeliner that was too subtle to break the ‘no make-up’ rule of our campus.

Plump, graceless and clumsy I was the antithesis of my best friend. Our friendship was the biggest mystery of our school. All I knew was that Parul had been my friend ever since I could remember. We had entered kindergarten holding hands and grown up together, sharing everything from toys to homework.

We lived next door, played together every evening, swore a blood oath to be best friends forever at eight, lost our first tooth on the same day, bled together for the first time and even received the same marks in all exams. Yet puberty decided to bestow on her a gift while all I got were pimples.

Suddenly she was the most popular girl in class and I was the fat nerd. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ our classmates called us. Parul would drag me along to birthday parties I hadn’t been invited to; shopping at stores where nothing ever fitted me and to lunches with the other girls….till I complained and refused to go along. Yet every night she comes over to my house, and over homework tell me stories of her life, as far from mine as possible.

Boys fell all over her but she would politely kept her distance from all of them…till Abhimanyu arrived. His family shifted from Dehradun and he was wonderful! Tall, smart and a wonderful sense of humour. Sparks flew from the moment Parul and Abhimanyu met. Abhimanyu wrote a poem for her and put it in a Nicholas Sparks novel that he lent to Parul.

I never expected to see my friend act like a lovestruck heroine from the movies, but she did. She would suddenly drift off into day dreams that would make her smile and blush, and behind her notebook she doodled hearts with ‘A+P ‘ written in them.

She penned down a reply to his poem but her courage wore off when it actually came to giving it to him.

He was sitting with a gang of friends in the garden. I walked over. The other boys sniggered at my audacity to approach them, but Abhimanyu smiled and shifted to make room for me to sit. He was always kind to me, and sometimes when Parul had other plans we would walk to the bus stop together. When we were alone like this he would tell me stories about his childhood in Dehradun, and cracked jokes that had me doubling over with laughter. I loved those afternoons.

“I have a message for you from Parul”.

He looked at me expectantly. The note fluttered in my pocket.

The words came out in a rush, “She doesn’t like what you wrote. She asked me to ask you to stay away from her”.

I ran as far from his disappointed face as I could. And once I was out of sight, I took out the folded note, tore it into as many pieces as I could and threw it in the nearest dustbin.

If this was a divine test of my loyalty I failed.

Cupid in Hell smirked.

 

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8 Things I Wished They Taught Me In School

1. Flirting 101 or How To Read a Guy’s Mind – This would definitely have been more useful to me in life than algebra. However when I told this to my friends they were dismissive. They told me “there is only one thing on a guy’s mind”.

2. How to Get On or Off a Crowded Local During Rush Hour – Life skills if there are ever any.

3. Making Brownies – Why you ask? Why not! Brownies are tasty.

4. Bargaining – Getting a good bargain, I firmly believe, requires talent. A LOT OF talent!!

5. Untangling Your Earphones – The number of times I wanted to listen to music, and found my earphones in such a hopeless tangle, that I stuff them back in my bag, and tell myself, “You didn’t really want to listen to music anyway. Plus it affects hearing, remember? ”

6. Matching Your Clothes And Accessories – I am hopeless at this! You see, colour co-ordination isn’t enough anymore. I wore a green necklace with my green kurti last week, and was informed by those who know that it was a statement piece and would look better with a white dress….

7. Break Dance Without Breaking Your Leg

8. How To Get More People To Read My Blog

Talking about the Future on the School Bus

10320348_757120340986332_8630196627970622781_nHave you ever wondered why we only remember snippets of our memories? Like one precious moment in time we managed to catch just before it slipped away, and stored it in the treasure chest of our minds. It might be a little dusty with time, but the essence remains pure.

This is one such memory carefully preserved in my memory box – the details are a little dusty, but it is still cherished.

What do you want to be when you grow up? – the favourite question of every adult whom you met. Today we had just written a paragraph in class on what we wanted to be when we grew up, and the topic was still fresh in our minds. By we, I mean me and my two best friends – who for the sake of anonymity, I am calling S and M. 

“So” I asked, looking out of the school bus window, at the receding building, “what do you want to be when you grow up?” 

“You tell, first”, M demands, testing the waters, testing if it is a trick question.  We were only 4 years old. 

“I wanna be a doctor” I replied proudly. “Like my uncle. He stays in London”. I never knew which held more fascination for me – the profession or the distant land, synonymous with all the magical places I read about in books (maybe that is why when I finally visited the city, a few years ago I was vaguely a little disappointed). Whatever the case, that was the only career path I knew of and deemed fitting back then. 

Now, S followed, a little tentatively, “I wanna be a teacher”. We turn up our noses. Being a teacher is the worst thing you could want to be at that age. A teacher was a wooden ruler wielding monster back then, who mercilessly gave homework to students. “Not any teacher”, she is quick to defend. “A good one, like Rina Miss. I will help students. I will be kind and never shout at them”. This was, still understandable. Rina Miss was all of our favourite teacher. She was kind, and always took extra interest in the underdogs – those who were bullied in the playground, those who didn’t seem to have friends, those who had problems at home. She would call them and talk to them at length. Sometimes she would give us chocolates and small gifts like pencils or ball-point pens (a rare privilege allowed to kids). She would take interest in what books we read and what films we saw, and when another teacher scolded us, it was to she who wiped our tears. 

Now it was M’s turn. She proudly puffed up her chest – “I want to be a wife!” We broke into peals of laughter. Marriage only had two meanings for us – 

  1. A game to play with when we were playing with our dolls.
  2. An occasion where we had to go dressed up and would be served tasty food, and would have our cheeks pulled by a dozen people we never remembered meeting. 

Once we managed to resume seriousness, we gave some serious thought to the question. “You will have to leave your parents”, I said gravely. As a girl, that was the biggest obstacle to marriage, in my opinion.

“I won’t”, M said, confidently. “I will make my husband leave his house, and come to live with my parents. My mother said that long ago that is how it happened. Men left their houses after marriage to come, stay with their wives”. (I have thought of this strange piece of knowledge for long. I guess my friend had misunderstood, or maybe her mother was talking about matriarchal societies)

“That is such a nice tradition!” I said. “Why did they change it? Why did our mothers shift residence after marriage?” 

For a moment we ponder this incomprehensible question. This ridiculousness of our mothers. “My father has a nice house” S said, almost defensively. We all were quiet. We couldn’t really debate this topic, without debasing either one of our parents, so we left it.

“When we get married, we won’t be like our mothers” I decide. “We will bring our husbands to our home. I will never leave my family!” images (1)

More than fifteen years has passed since this conversation took place. None of us are married….yet. I am pursuing a journalism career. M is pursuing English majors, and S just cleared high school. Very little remains of that ignorance and confidence now. Back then, all insurmountable problems had a simple solution. Sometimes I wish I could view life as simplistically now too.

(This post is in response to today’s Daily Prompt: Futures Past)

 

 

 

Everything I have ever been

Today’s Daily Prompt: If you were one part human, two parts something else — another animal, a plant, an inanimate object — what would the other two parts be?

A lot of images run through my mind when I read this prompt:

  1. I am 10-years old, and standing on the boundary wall of the playground. The earth seems so far away. I shake my head, and tell my friends, I can’t jump. One of them shouts, Chicken! You are Chicken!
  2. I am 12 years old, and my mother is telling me: A Woman should be like Water. She should fit in whatever bowl or situation she is poured into, perfectly moulding herself to the requirement. I remember her words vividly till day. It is some of the best advice I have ever received.
  3. I am 13 years old, and my mother is screaming at me – You are a Locked Chest. You never tell me anything anymore. This was the age when I first started keeping secrets from my parents.
  4. I am in ninth-grade. I am 14-years old. This was the time when my biology teacher devised a nickname for me: Dictionary. I was a voracious reader, and thus had built up a vocabulary better than the average 14-year old student. I don’t remember which word it was whose meaning I was able to correctly tell her, but soon she affectionately started to call me Her Dictionary. Whenever while reading out a chapter in class any student would ask her the meaning of a word, she would turn to me. When I couldn’t answer, she would be so disappointed, that I soon started making it a point to read up lessons before class, and learn all the difficult words I didn’t know the meaning of. In a way, I guess, I did become the class dictionary then.
  5. I am 16 years old. I have recently joined high school. The teacher asks something and I know the answer. I raise my hand, recite the answer, and become my friend’s Encyclopedia. That was my nickname in high-school, sometimes inter-changed with ‘Wiki’ (from Wikipedia).
  6. I am 17 years, and my article has been published in a magazine. My friends look at me with awe. One of them say, You write so well. You are like a Pen. Words flow easily from your mind.
  7. I am 19, and taking an online test What Animal Are You? The answer comes – Beaver (Really, I have never even seen one in my life! But apparently, I am like one). 

If you ask my opinion, I am one part human, one part chameleon and one part of a budding flower. 

I am a chameleon. You will never be able to categorize me in one pigeon-hole. I am made up of many colours: red for assertiveness, blue for desire for peace, black for recklessness, yellow for cheerfulness, dark blue for sadness, gold for joy, green for imagination and pink for femininity…..and white to absorb all these colours into one. 

I am a budding flower. I blossom a little more everyday. Everyday as I learn something new, I open my petals a little further, and look at the world with a new perspective – see something that I never knew existed before.

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7 Reasons as to why I am Hermione

All those who have been to High School that it is impossible to pass through high school without acquiring a collection of nicknames. One such nickname which I was often teased by was ‘Hermione’ (from the Harry Potter books), and my last birthday gift from one of my friends was a Hermione figurine-key chain. I didn’t mind this particular nickname as much as I minded some others. Hermione is the favourite character of 90% of all Harry Potter fans, and definitely falls on the list of Top 5 favourite characters of all others. This might also be due to Emma Watson’s good looks though – detailed research is needed.

Here is a list of my 7 quintessential behaviour (there are lots more, but my readers’ patience is limited and seven is THE MAGICAL NUMBER according to Harry Potter) that earned me the sobriquet:

1. I always had a tonne of books with me wherever I went. Throughout my school life, I have spent a majority of my recesses in the library, poring over literary volumes. My poor friends had to track me down there, if and when they wanted to talk to me, and converse with me under the pointed glares of the librarian and her constant shush-ing; and in all probability I would be so lost in the book that I wouldn’t be listening either. I have spent most of my P.T. periods leaning against the pillars in the balcony and reading books too. Even on those rare occasions when I could be dragged out into the playground, I would be found on the swing, reading a book. Inducing me to play, like inducing Hermione to fly on a broom, is an activity fraught with peril. I remember one fateful Games period when our coach forced me onto the pitch with a bat in hand and a runner in tow. All I had to do was hit the ball with the bat. The runner would get my team runs. The first ball was a wide. On the second, I swung the ball hard and hit — my runner hard on the forehead. My classmates left me in my books in peace from then on. 

2. My Hand was constantly up in class. I am not even kidding. Sometimes I would raise my hand even before the teacher had framed the question. It grew to a point where teachers started completing their questions with anyone else besides….yours truly…

3. My Marks were usually over the average. You know how there are some students whom you seek out after exams to ask their scores so that you can know exactly how well you have done? Yeah, I am one of those. 

4. I have lectured teachers. If there is one thing I can’t stand it is incompetent teachers and bad teaching. The next generation depends on teachers. They can’t afford to be lazy. The number of fights I have had over teachers who made mistakes in class would fill a volume. Some common topics were — Kolkata is on the sea side – it isn’t!; Ammonia cannot be liquid and other such errors. 

5. I do not care how I look. Why? It is simply time consuming. I may wear make-up and make an effort to brush my hair on special occasions say the Yule Ball but otherwise it is just too much effort. I would rather study or read books.

6. I have asked teachers for extra homework. I like studying. Seriously I do. It is fun to learn stuff, like exploring dimensions you never knew about. To me it is an adventure. So, yes, after finishing my class work and home assignments, I have spent time asking teachers for extra work. I have taken more subjects than anyone else too. While we were required to take only five papers for graduation, I insisted and took six.

7. I have fought hard for what I believe in, and always stood by my friends. Arts students should be allowed to study science subjects, and vice-versa. I fought so many battles over that with my principal, and finally became the only student to opt for subjects from both streams. And the extra effort I spent in studying for them were amply rewarded in my marks that only proved my point. You might be now wondering how such a nerdy, geeky person like me ever have friends – simple, I am also very loyal. You tell me a secret, no one else will ever hear of it. You need my help, you just need to ask. My friends mean a lot to me, and are perhaps the only people for whom I would keep the book aside.

My First Love: 1st May 2014

“Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds” – William Shakespeare, Sonnet 116

Today afternoon I happened to be watching the movie ‘Little Manhattan’, a romantic comedy about the pleasure and pain associated with first love, and this got me thinking about my own first love. I was in Fourth Grade when I first fell in love, or had my first crush. He was the son of my teacher, and also my classmate. He was a very quiet boy, and I don’t think I would have ever really noticed him, if it wasn’t for one fateful music class. Our music teacher was teaching us the song ‘Edelweiss’. I recognized the song to be from the movie ‘The Sound of Music’, which was then and still continues to be one of my favourite movies. I said so, aloud in class – and was presented with a whole bunch of bemused stares. No one in my class had seen the movie….except Him. He backed up my claim, and the smile we exchanged then laid the foundation of our friendship. That day during recess, we spent a long time talking about our favourite movies, especially from among Hollywood classics – ‘Roman Holiday’, ‘My Fair Lady’, and especially ‘The Sound of Music’. This is the day I remember most vividly; and every time I think of him, an image rises unbidden in my mind. The image of a ten-year old boy and a nine-year old girl in pigtails talking and laughing under an ancient banyan tree in a school yard.

After ten years, I only remember bits and fragments of our relationship, but I suppose I remember all the good parts. I remember sitting next to him, cross-legged on the floor, while our seniors performed during the Teacher’s Day celebrations, and I remember him saying he found Bollywood item numbers trashy. I hail from a strictly conservative family, and item numbers were a strict no-no in our house. I had to listen them on the sly, and memorize them, to avoid being teased by my peers. I wasn’t particularly fond of them, but I could never muster up the courage to say so, because they were so popular. I thus greatly admired him for having the courage to make such a statement. We slipped out of the venue, and sat chatting outside.
Once our school declared a half-day on account of some reason that fails me now. I purposefully did not tell my mother about it, since I knew he would be waiting back in school for his mother, and I wanted to spend some time with him. My plan unfortunately backfired a little. What I hadn’t counted on was another of our classmates accidentally failing to tell his mother about the half-day, and thus instead of the two of us, there were three of us stuck together, but it still was a pleasant day. I remember the day our teacher asked us what we wanted to be in future, and he was the only boy in the class who said he wanted to be an Air Force Pilot, and we all had clapped for him – and I remember feeling so proud. I remember the two of us being chosen to act in the Christmas skit, and remember being immensely delighted about it, since now I could spend even more time with him after-school hours. I remember the day in the last week of the term, when the rest of our classmates had filed out to the playground for ‘Physical Education’ lecture, I remember him swiftly and clumsily kissing me on the cheek in the dark and empty classroom. He then gave me a sheepish grin, and ran out. I remember standing there paralyzed by shock for quite some time.

Soon after that term ended and vacations began. That summer my father was transferred to another city. I never saw that boy again. I don’t even remember his last name! When I joined Facebook, a few years back, I tried finding him in the hopeless labyrinth of a social networking site – in vain. I scanned the school page and the friend lists’ of those few classmates I had managed to find, but I never even saw his name mentioned anywhere.

I have had many crushes since then, but every time I watch ‘The Sound of Music’ or listen to ‘Edelweiss’, I briefly wonder about the first boy who gave me butterflies in my stomach. I wonder if he remembers me too, a girl he had clumsily kissed in primary school. Sometimes in a crowd I wonder whether he is actually quite near me, and whether someday we will both pass by each other on the streets, and never be able to recognize the other. Maybe we will pause for half-a-second, struck by a sense of deja-vu, and wonder where we have seen those eyes before.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. This post later won a WOW badge from BlogAdda.

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