Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Somewhere over the rainbow

“Sister Agnes hates me”

“Nah. I don’t think so. That word is reserved for me”, Swapnil said after carefully chewing her nail.

A few seconds of silence.

“Sister Agnes abhors me.”

I had a better vocabulary than Swapnil. That’s perhaps the only thing I had better than she!

Sr. Agnes was my principal from when I can remember. She had this twisted smile which she subject to everybody save a chosen few. Swapnil and I were high on the list. She visibly glared at me when she saw me running through the corridors. Ok, you are not to run through corridors, they are built for walking, but what if we were practicing for a fire? I was giving her this explanation, when Swapnil who was a few seconds later in her fire escape ran straight into me.

We had our parents sign our blue diary. I think she liked my daddy’s signature- he was given plenty of practice anyway…



When in class 11, I would be the school captain, all the girls told me. I knew it wasn’t to be so. Sr. Agnes hated me. But I didn’t really know whether I wanted to be school captain! It was a very prestigious position mind you. The best school in Pondicherry ours was. The boys though they claimed had a better school, knew hearts of hearts that ours was better.

But the whole thing came with a lot of responsibilities, right from carrying books for teachers from the class to the staff room to a lot of set example types, which I had to trade my freedom for. I really didn’t know whether a badge and a sash during annual and sports day was worth trading so many things for. And if it was popularity, well, I’d had enough of that anyway.

The dates for the ‘choosing’ was nearing and there was only one topic that was being discussed. Padmasini was the then school captain. And we were fast friends. She would tell me confidently, “Oh you are gonna be the next one girl. I can’t see anyone else becoming one” I would shake my head dejectedly.

“Hmmm… I think you need to work on your image a little bit more”, the wise one said.

Two weeks I wore my hair braided to school, small braids that were tightly plaited and held in place by innumerable hair clips. Zarina would every hour, braid it again and hammer the nails again on my head. My hair was too short to be braided and too long to be worn as a pony tail. And a pony tail wasn't something a to-be-head-girl would wear! I tried telling my mother that I thought this hair raising thing would kill me if she didn’t manage to before! But in vain. I was 16 and girls at 16 had long hair. Her logic sucked.

I walked about in school feeling like a voodoo doll with too many pins sticking on me.

I lost all my cheer. I was morose and barked at anyone who came and talked to me. Then thanks to nudges and painful ones at that from a bunch of my ‘supporters’, I would immediately turn the bark into a cough and answer the question civilly. I stopped writing those innumerable bits of papers that would be passed around in class- comments on the teacher’s hairstyle to random bits of poetry. I sat on the first bench and looked pitifully at the teachers who went on to coat me with chalk dust as they vigorously dusted the blackboard. I walked on corridors. I even helped an old woman who didn’t want to cross the road, cross it.



I did my own assignments. I cut my nails, I cleaned my ears and I managed to get my dupatta home everyday. I’d lost several during the years when growing girls were forced to move over from skirts to salwar kameezs.

Swapnil watched me slowly ruining myself. My mother was convinced I was ill and dangerously at that. From where I saw it, there were too many yesterdays… and if the tomorrows were to be like this…

Class was in session when I saw Padmasini walk past my class and wink conspiratorially at me. She’d been called into the clean white room. As head girl she had a say.

I pulled Swapnil out of her chair and excused the both of us out of class, before the teacher or Swapnil even could refuse. I ran with her to the gallery behind school, where we would spend hours sitting and discussing whether we should love the Jews or hate them, or whether Leah was really turned into a pillar of salt and a zillion other useless topics.

“I don’t want to be head girl”

We both sat there for a long time. People who knew us always knew where to find the two of us.

I saw Padmasini walking down the steps towards us. She sat down beside me.

“Sherene is the head girl”, she told us with tragedy and calamity written all over her face.

My ego was in the nadir while my relief was at the zenith. Padmasini left after a couple of, ‘Sr. Agnes *&^%$’. She didn’t know what to tell me and how to console me.

The first thing I did was pull out all the pins from my hair!

“Sr. Agnes hates me”

“Sr. Agnes abhors you”

Swapnil was a fast learner. We sat there for a long time again.

Walking back to class, she squeezed my hands before she slid away. All my class mates surrounded me. Unfair. Terrible. Shameful. These words rang repaeatedly.

I sighed. Shrugging my shoulders I gave my best speech ever apart from the one I gave during our farewell, on how it was ok. On how we can do whatever we want and not just by being head girl. How we should give our best, that’s all that matters. And we should stand by Sherene because needs us at this moment most of all. And a lot more of those totally false but politically correct statements.

Class resumed after the break. We were doing letter writing in English.

I sat on the last bench and looked out of the window. The days didn’t seem all that bad. Hell, I could even see a rainbow! Life existed and beyond the rainbow. Thinking beautiful thoughts and running my fingers through my hair now ribbon less, I was shaken out of my reverie by a piece of paper that found its way to me.

Opening it, I read Swapnil’s familiar handwriting. “Humbug”



I turned and grinned at her across the heads of neat blue ribbons arranged all in a row. She grinned back.

I saw all seven colors of the rainbow on my composition notebook...

23 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't mind now!

12:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hehe.. still first!! I'll print it and read and get back to you...

12:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful... and lovely just like you..

1:04 AM  
Anonymous Shyam said...

Amazingly well written (as always :-) ) - how much I adore ur writing!

4:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok.....am commenting.....nice stuff...u r surely inspiring me...but am gonna take time to start writing....hell! I could be the comedy opposite of your mellow style...wot say?! ;o)

4:59 AM  
Blogger Kraz Arkin said...

Very smoothly written. Could almost be my story except for two things - I did become Captain after much politicking and I never did any good deeds either before or after. Carrying books!!! Chhhaa!!!

7:26 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Fadia: You have always said kind things... Thank you.

Shyam: Only my writing? ;o)

Sharat: I am fed up trying to figure out who are the anonymous people in my blog! You have a name and a nice one at that! Yeah- start blogging...

Kraz: Ah! I carried a lot of books! My mom teaching in the same school as I studied helped I guess! You were captain. That's good enough... But you didnt have to wear tight braids and blue ribbons that would stick out of your head!

Good deeds! Lol! I tried. I even enrolled in the guides suff! Were you a boy scout or something?

8:14 PM  
Blogger hope and love said...

ohhh you cute girl..!!
:-))
id hav loved to have you as my best friend during my convent school days..!
v had one sr.Rosario.. :-o

10:57 PM  
Blogger arvindiyer said...

:) Poetry in motion!!!

2:48 AM  
Blogger yesbob said...

hmm

8:19 AM  
Blogger cactusjump said...

cute.

12:57 PM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Hope and love: I dont think I would have been a great friend!! Sr. Rosario, was she as bad as my Sr. Agnes?

Arvind: That's a movie no?

Yesbob: I asked for that didnt I? But was that a 'hmmm' of approval or?

Cactusjump: Lol! That's a first!

11:41 PM  
Blogger trv said...

you write well.

12:36 AM  
Blogger hope and love said...

hhmm no psuedo vinayam ok..?!!
sr rosario was almost as bad..
;-))

1:15 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Trv: Thank you.

Hope and love : Modesty was never a virtue and never mine!! ;o)

2:44 AM  
Blogger manuscrypts said...

..and a heady feeling?? :)

4:17 AM  
Blogger mannu said...

ah! schooltime memories never grow old! beautifuld days that they are!
diz blog of urs made me sit back and walk thru the memory lane agian! that mrng bells..maths teacher! ground, old friends.. :0

7:07 AM  
Anonymous Krishnan said...

Poornima,

The most popular person never becomes a successful captain...And a successful captain is not the most popular person as well... so you have a tradeoff here...

This is a debate in which I will have many people hitting at me - but this is what I have seen in my schooling atleast

All said and done, being a captain is a prestigious thing - atleast in my school at Poochatty it was

1:56 PM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Manuscrypts: I am not drunk here am I?

Mannu: Nostalgia...

Krish: ROFL. Who was the head boy at Bhavans when you were around? Not you I know! :p

Sour grapes huh? ;o)

9:10 PM  
Blogger Zealous Zygote said...

Hmm. Things have changed drastically within few months, isnt it? There we were, one day, skeptic about our anonymity getting revealed and I see you today: with so many ardent fans(shall i say that?), followers and friends. Its really nice to see people fighting on ur blogspace to post the first comment of a post! Well,the magic lies in what is being written, isnt it?

Of course, though you do not see my comments here, I am still visiting this space often. And the answer to your question:
Strange Connection, because, I dont know you, I havent even heard you, but yeah,thanks to the internet, I know you and you know me still,we are connected, and still we had so many things common between us, which I felt was little strange!

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Krishnan said...

Poorni,

I was not the "headboy" - the reason being that i left Bhavan's in 10th :) otherwise I was in the running haha :)

Hey no - I would have never become a headboy - there were quite a few strong contenders for that - But our batch headboy was a nice person :) :)

Sour grapes - no da - I was sure i would never become headboy and never wanted to...

7:27 AM  
Blogger Just Me said...

I remember the blue diary bit. I preferred Dad's signature because it looked hajaar better than Ma's squiggles.

But more often than not, the Diary and Report card events were mostly ceremonial. It was more normal to get a rap on the knuckles or something.

Me doesn't remember passing chits in class. But yes, once this doll sent chewing gum from the other end of the room to me during a Saturday afternoon extra-class. It passed some 15 hands with every green-eyed mate muttering 'Pass to $%&'..

It did wonders to my name-recall. I was a brand. More famous than all the School Captain and the deputies put-together..

If that's what matters..

12:27 AM  
Blogger Poornima said...

Zy: And they'll change again, when I run away from all the people and my blog. Force of habit! :o(

Krish: Ok. You have a halo too!

Just me: That's almost an anecdote you wrote here. Much better than my post!

1:01 AM  

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