description, school

Grilled

NM©

The moment the prayer had finished, a voice shattered the speaker. The Giant – he suffers from a surplus of growth hormone among many other phenomena, and thus the name – was shouting at the mike.

“Regular Boys Batch, second bench, the second boy. No, the red t-shirt. Come down to the office.” He announced.

That was when I, or rather we, realised that the tiny cameras in our rooms actually do work – CCTV cameras. At least the ones that are not broken.

That Thursday evening, the air around me was like drinking water after eating amla. and perhaps for that same reason, my head too reciprocated that feeling. Or maybe it was also because it was a Thursday – when I had Zoology at the coaching class (CC). I wondered if I would ever write about that particular phase of my life, those two years ; and if I did, then how would it be?
I looked out the window, staring at all the dirt on the slant sheets of roof that had accumulated for the last so many years. So much that I could not decide if it was mud, or just dust. The window, at least that is what I call it, had no glass. You could not close that thing, it was made of tiny green squares, and spread across -as if it were a graph sheet- two walls of the room, in an L.
I liked when it rained heavily, there was no way anybody could stop it from racing into the class. The green cubes were irritating, it had a green house effect. All sorts of annoying creatures were let in, and they never left. On the other hand you were trapped – you could throw pencils, or even tiny stones out the net, but you could never throw yourself out of it. No matter how tiny you were, no matter how hard you wished. A decomposing rat was the perfect example of this ultimate truth.

I wish, I wish – but you simply couldn’t. You were not allowed to, to wish,  to think, to dream. They locked our brains away, and one by one would roast , fry and grill our brains. I am convinced the Giant does eat brains – after all he had told students staying at CC’s hostel that they should not be bothered by the food made available to them, or even the worm they had discovered in it. Only think of  studying, but then he had already kidnapped that ability of ours.
The weather, to me, was perfect for writing. Cold. Cloudy but not rainy. Such that you could take a walk without fearing the Sun, who had lost complete voltage. But I was not sure what I should write , nor did I imagine that I would end up writing all the time those two years later. Writing , was and maybe even is, perhaps the only way I had my revenge at everything that tortured me.  And the CC was no less than a concentration camp. A mental holocaust.
My best friend was in another class – she had Math while I had Biology. And therefore, I could not look at her across the room, exchange glances, or mean jokes on all noises the teachers made in class. There was one who always asked us to behave by narrating stories about himself – when he was our age – just to tell us how misbehaved he was. Just because he ended up in a good position, doesn’t mean we will – is what he intended to imply; but perhaps it got lost amidst the air molecules. My class only had girls, and it was supposed to be a warning for us. But for the all-boys class perhaps it was a sort of encouragement to remain directionless. But I always wondered, was he truly happy with what he was doing?
Then there was the botany sir, whom we called H2O, because he made us drink water in the middle of the class. His mechanical voice came out like the branches of a tree. He event went on to do Bharatanatyam on the platform, to explain the arrangement of leaves in plants. One day, half way into the first year of higher secondary, and the coaching class, I realised that one of our chemistry sirs whom we called Apoopan (grandfather) rarely said anything out of text; and that rare occasion would be an example equation. But in general, all of them hated our school, ignoring the fact that the species constituted 98% of the evening batch.

NM©
short story

The Unintended Curse

NM ©

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzuup.  Unwind into a line. And zzzzzzzzzzzuup back into my pouch.

Antara could not stop playing with her brand new magical pouch, which was in fact one long zip. It zipped all the way into a pouch, and almost looked like a zebra with alternate black and olive green. And this was where she kept all her precious stationery : her favourite pen, her special calligraphy pencils, stapler, and lots of other colour pens.

It was only it’s eighth day, and it had already grabbed surplus attention. Antara was not sure if she was happy about this, or fearsome. She dismissed her fears and decided to enjoy the limelight. School was almost over, fifteen minutes to the bell, when her class teacher glided into her classroom, with evaluated answer sheets.

Oohhh… Finally! Thought a very nervous Antara, as she eagerly waited for her roll number. She did not dare to look at it till she’d sat down in her seat. Slowly, she opened her folded answer sheet, which was bleeding at the margins.

44 and half out of 50? Wow, this is one of my best performances this year! I don’t remember the last time I did so well in any exam, Antara mused.

Trrrrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiinnnnnnggggggggg.

She immediately dumped her books in her bag, and ran off to the hostel. She hated it there, but she really had no choice – she was stuck there. But nevertheless, that day she was in a very good mood. After dinner that night, she decided to use the ‘study hour’ to study. The study hour was compulsory, and was to be utilised for homework, and for studying – but she never did either. She did all that she wanted to, anything but studying, only to stare at a random book when the wardens are watching her.

But that night, for the first time in a long time, she was in a studious mood. She dug her hand into the bag to fetch her books and her pouch. The books landed with a thump on the metal table, but the pouch did not make it.

Where is it? I had kept it inside the bag today! It must be here somewhere. Antara ransacked her bag in vain. Oh no! Did I leave it behind in class? Antara realised that she had been in a hurry that day while packing her bag. She spent the rest of the study hour in memory of her special pouch.

NM ©

Next morning, she stood staring at the large white door. It was latched, but not locked. The class was empty, and she ran inside. Her desk had no trace of her pouch. It had simply vanished into olive green dust.

It’s not there in the hostel, not there here, not in the lost and found. Where could it possibly have disappeared to? Did somebody steal it? Haaw. What if  somebody has it and does not want to return it? After all it has all my precious stationery.

A tearful Antara was frustrated.

Well, whoever has it, I wish you’ll never have a chance to use my special pencils. They’ll also lose it the very next day. Then let them go around searching for it like I did.

Akshara sat in class, happily remembering the look on Antara’s face the day before when she couldn’t find her pouch. She could not bear Antara, and was tired of all the attention that had been so cruelly snatched away from her. And so, when she came across the pouch, while leaving class, she did not bother to return it. She couldn’t wait to lay her hands on those pencils everyone was talking about. She ran to the hostel as soon as the bell rang, but even after raiding her room twice, she could not find it.

Nisha had fallen in love with those calligraphy pencils ever since she’d laid eyes on them. She was not sure at first, but that pouch under Akshara’s bed was definitely the one that once belonged to Antara. Initially she did intend to return it, but then she wondered what harm would it do if she decided to keep it for a day? Just to give those pencils a try. She ran to her room after the study hour, and took out a beautiful royal blue pencil. But before she could even put a full stop on the page, Akshara entered the room – she immediately hid it.The next day, during the Library period, she realised that it was no longer in her possession.

Saara was the last to leave the library, and the only one to notice the olive green pouch all alone in a corner. She vaguely remembered it to belong to somebody in her class, but she was not sure whom it belonged to. Later, as she walked out of her class with her bag, she was not sure it belonged to one of her classmates anymore. So she dropped it at the lost and found counter.

The next day, Nita ran in search of Antara. She was bursting with excitement –  finally she had been able to locate her best friend’s most valued possession. Antara could not believe her eyes, she had lost all hope. She held it to herself, she didn’t want to lose it ever again. She was happy she had got her pouch back a day before her practicals. Now she could write her practicals with her favourite lucky pen.

NM ©

The following evening, Antara had had her coffee and was on her way back to her room.  She was in a good mood – her practicals had gone really well, and now that all her stationery was back, she could sketch again. She sat on her bed, took out her pouch and her book. But something was missing – there was no zip. It wasn’t her pouch, it was only stripes of olive green and black. 


description

A Sinister Set of Stories

Five years ago, while cutting triangles and circled for my math records, I tried using the scissors with my right hand since my left hand had fallen numb. But I ended up with hexagons, octagons and pentagons instead of circles, thanks to the sharp edged devil with a disproportionate handle. I also remember reading as a kid, that left-handers had a shorter life span and that it was due to having to use things designed for right handers.

​​

Read the rest : http://www.opendosa.in/left-handsa/


description

Lost and Found

As a kid, I used to be so lost in another world, that there were moments where I could not figure out where (and how) I’d lost my stuff back here on Earth. There were a few things I kept losing, but otherwise I was a pretty careful child.

One of them was the back of my tiny gold earrings – the tiny screws. I do have the habit of playing with my earring when I talk or think. Now that I think of it, I could have’unscrewed’ them unknowingly. I used to lose one almost every week. I’m not sure how this tradition stopped – probably my mom stopped making me wear gold at all. It saved her a lot of energy.

Then there were handkerchiefs. When I was really small, it used to be pinned to my uniform. But as I grew older, I started carrying it in my hand. Many a times, in spite of having a pocket, I misplace it. I often forget that I’m carrying something, and drop it – a hanky in my hand restricts my hand movements. I often find it lying on the ground, after a sudden realisation that my hands no longer carry the handkerchief .

Another one would be bindis. As a kid, I would wipe my forehead, forgetting that fact that I’ve worn a bindi – completely displacing the bindi. And for this reason, I avoided bindis for a long time until a few years ago. And now, I wear it everytime I wear Indian. A red bindi for a red Kurti, a blue one for a blue churidar.

poem

Knowledge Behind Bars

image

This room is a cube, imagine.
Thinking beyond that cube is a sin,
I wonder why they do what they do
Like they say for those who
Want knowledge sincerely,
Or those who make them wealthier regularly?
What is shared here, wisdom or just shortcuts;
Deals that destroy your very guts?

The dusty corridors the ghosts abandoned,
In the midst of chaos, they leave you stranded –
Against their promises and assurances.
They’ll only widen your differences.
The deities of the orthodox world they built,
The course of the river never in the hands of the silt.
Your life defined by their rules, and terms.
Your thoughts, and food infected by their worms.
The seed of fear they will have sown,
And since then you shall never own,
That life you thought was yours,
Those choices you thought were yours.
Your true self , never again will you find.
For once in, you’ll be trapped in your own mind.

They’ll feed you sciences from behind the stars,
But what use of such knowledge behind bars?

image

description, school

Uniform Default Detectors

image

A black frock with red, grey, sky blue and even thin green checks on it. That was my uniform for kindergarten, along with a white uniform I wore with tiny white shoes. Wednesday was when you got to wear colour dress of your choice. Colour dress was always such a special occasion, bigger than the actual occasion at times, when it doesn’t matter why you get to wear it, but just that you get to wear it. Normal colour dress can make so much of a difference in school.
But something one cannot escape is that irritating uniform checking. As a kid, they were like monsters to me, trying to decide whom to punish – but I used to be extremely careful. I remember how betrayed I felt when my classmate ‘chose me’ for I had miraculously forgotten to cut a nail on just one of my finger. Extremely betrayed.

image

During my tenth, I had not yet got my belt. So nobody could actually catch me, since it was the school’s fault. The detector was usually our library teacher with ‘mercy’ somewhere in her name, but nowhere near how she was at school. There were other checks in class itself too, occasionally. The uniform was a brown sack that they called pinafore, light brown shirt with dark brown vertical stripes, and a dark brown tie with light brown stripes, and a belt with the school emblem. But I had joined a little late, and by then they had run out of belts. And I went there every Friday, and the guy always asked me to come check next Friday – they only had stock for the primary school kids, and I was never really skinny. This happened for around one or two months, until one day, I finally got it. I went to tuition after school, and boarded a bus home after that – my home being just two stops away. That was also, unfortunately the day the school decided they had to get rid of their new batch of record books. If you think you have been in asphyxiating-ly filled public transport, then this was my experience in the category. It was not a KSRTC, but a private bus – nothing uncommon in Kochi. I got into it, thinking it was only two stops away. But what I didn’t think was that so many women would climb in after I had – I was already near the door. I struggled with my extremely heavy school bag, and made faces at unpleasant aunties who frowned at me and my bag. I cursed that their kids will suffer the same fate, only then will they sympathise. Seeing me stuck in a whirlpool of confusion, two aunties sitting to the left of the driver, decided to catch my bag. They sympathised as I passed my bag: oh, why so heavy child? I just smiled gratefully at them. I got down around 15 minutes later, and ran my way home. I was all excited to show my belt to my mom, and stood proud in front of her. But my mom found herself staring at my empty pinafore waist.

image

I changed my school again in standard eleven, and was in the school hostel. My life was in fact acting like me – all of a sudden it wakes up realising that it had perhaps fallen asleep a bit, and was horrified that there were only two years of schooling left. The deadline was near, and hence such varied long experiences in the last two years of school for me. The very first day, the uniform detector walked up to me in the corridor assembly, flashed her evil smile that I had been thus cursed to see for the next two years,  and swiftly removed my ring, put it in her pocket and wandered off in search of her next prey. I stood there bewildered. The ring had been in my finger for so long that I didn’t realise it. It was one among a set of three, the other two with my two best friends. Those two years were when I was in such close contact with my uniform – I had to see its stupid face every day, iron it, wash it, and make sure that somebody else didn’t flick it because the laundry never returned their uniform. They even made us wear ribbons, and I had the tiniest you would find. That way, I was quite satisfied, and they couldn’t complain.
The detector had the audacity to disrupt your line of thought during exams. Being somebody who gets lost in my brain during exams, if somebody disturbs me in between, my reaction would be to keep blinking at you till I returned to earth. So she walks in while I write my physics, or perhaps my chemistry exam. These subjects require me to search my brain for some sort of clue, using which I can make up the rest of the answer. At such a delicate moment, she touches one of my ponytail, and I jump in my seat. Thankfully I didn’t shriek or throw my pen. I made a what-is-it-now face at her. She smiled slightly, and I rolled my eyes. She waited till I had taken out my ribbons from my pocket, and tied it.

image

Onnekil ketta, alenkil vetta. She threatened one fine day.
My hair was not long enough to plait, so I decided on the other option she gave me: cut my hair. It was my last year, and I was quite fed up of her. A few days later, I tied my newly cut hair into a high pony, so it looks like it’s too short for two ponies

description, school

Uniforms and Dysfunctional Laundry

image

The school was a big quadrilateral, and the assembly ground in between. During monsoon, the corners would be filled with water where student made paper boats. All this before they filled the ground with interlocks. This was where I had to spend the last two years of my schooling. My best friend and I, we used stand right at the beginning of one side, near the corner, and look down at the ground. We commented on the patterns they were making with interlocks, and the colours they’d used. How we both liked the smell of polish. How we cursed every time others occupied our place. How we laughed at people who tried to be like us.
My uniforms were like these big lohas. It was salwar kameez, but just the kameez was like a nighty only as long as below the knee. No slits, they said in the piece of paper which explained how to stitch your uniform. On top of the light blue and white checked kameez was the blue waistcoat. The same grayish blue as the salwar. The waistcoat could do a lot of repair to the kameez, but mine only enhanced the weird look. It was short, and lacked the pockets it was supposed to have. It looked, weirdly enough, at least a size larger than required. All this because the tailor who stitched my uniform didn’t know to stitch waistcoats. Thankfully, I had a pocket in my kameez – I cannot live without pockets.

image

My best friend’s tailor on the other hand, knew stitching. Her waistcoat was long, had pockets, and had a straight line at the end. While mine had 2 triangles facing down – the only thing my tailor had copied from the uniform diagram. We had to wear the white uniform not once, but twice a week. Extremely irritating especially when you’re in the school hostel, with a dysfunctional laundry service. But as if they cared, we were still held responsible if we were in the blue uniform due to shortage of the white uniform. I thankfully had 2 blue uniforms and 2 white ones, my mother was very farsighted you see. I had to wear blue shawl (my house colour) on Wednesdays and white shawl on Fridays, with the white set. More like the brown shawl, since it gets dirty so easily. Thankfully, they changed the Friday uniform to blue waistcoat with the white set, in my second year. Only, we then had to wash the waistcoat twice. Still better than washing that stupid white shawl.