A teary-eyed four year old stood in a queue just inside the school gate, watching Year 1-5 students heading back from the morning assembly into their classrooms. While marching past, the ‘senior’ boys smirked at the bunch of nursery and playgroup kids, who were waiting at the gate to be herded by their class teachers. The girl was annoyed at the smarty-pants, esp Mishall who often saluted the juniors. For some unknown reason, she thought he was making fun of her. “Is it because of my short hair which makes me look boyish, like a soldier?”, she wondered. Or did Mishall figure out she cried that morning too, which she couldn’t help because she had a school fobia! And Abbu wouldn’t let her study at home! The girl sighed and longed to grow up to be on the other side of the fence; attending assemblies, saluting at young kids, being a parent instead-doing all things grown ups do!
Mishall, the Year 1 goon is in my classroom. Sitting on Miss Rosie’s lap, he would either sob about being beaten up by other kids, or was being fed lunch. Miss Rosie, his aunt and my fearsome class teacher was a pretty lady, dolled up mostly in warm toned sarees and makeup. Mishall got his aunt’s looks. I felt sorry for him when he cried. I would imagine myself wiping down his tears, but then when my class teacher spoilt him I would get envious . It wasn’t the age to scale up my exact feelings for this young man, but I did stay back in class to gawk at him in between my lunch, while other kids played outdoors. He never noticed! I don’t remember if I cared for it, or ‘wishing invisiblity’ is in my genes.
I was twice the age by then- an eight year old starting at Year 3. To my surprise, Mishall was in my class, as handsome as ever. But the inkling that he may have failed a year lost him some respect in my eyes. The final damage happened during a tiffin break. I was happily swinging on the playground, while Mishall chatted with his mates, his back turned against me. This plump chick, N came up to me and offered to rock my swing. I couldn’t trust her and wanted to jump off, but before I could do so she pushed my swing hard. I went and crashed against Mishall! Had it been one of those ‘wood’ films-Dollywood, Bollywood, even Hollywood- we would have happily lived ever after! N would’ve been a bridesmaid!
Reality check: Mishall swore at me; I pursed my lips, my ears blushing and burning with resentment; at the same time had to make a quick decision that it won’t be wise to yell at N considering she was twice my size. So I gulped down the embarrassment, the pain and whatever emotional attachment I’ve had with this young man. I learnt to move on…