Thursday, June 4, 2015

Chapters from my Nostalgia: The First Crush

Crushes play a significant part of our formative years. They make us understand and realize the myriad little feelings inside of us. I am sure each one of you must have had several crushes in your school days. But the story of your first crush will always remain the most cherished one no matter what. All of you will certainly have a story to tell regarding your first crush.

This one is mine.



The Victoria Memorial looked spectacular amid the dark clouds hovering above it. I kept gaping at the monument and its surroundings; the magnificent scenery having taken my breath away. A call from someone broke my reverie.

“Hey, what are you doing standing there? Want to race?”

I spun around. It was Anish, my classmate. Our entire 3rd standard batch had been taken to an excursion to the Victoria Memorial today. It was a Saturday and for some reason, the principal was in a cheerful mood. It was a cloudy day and just before the lunch break, it was declared to us that we will have this little trip. Elated, we had jumped on the school bus and were now at the sprawling Memorial grounds; jumping and playing around jovially.

Anish, meanwhile, wanted me to race with him.

“Let’s race to that bush there,” he said and pointed at a clump of bushes at the far end of the field. It was far away from our entire group. But I was confident of beating my classmate easily; having already won the school race this year courtesy my long legs.

I agreed and we immediately braced ourselves for the race.

“On the count of three,” Anish said and then raised his voice a bit,” One, two, go…”

I was already off the mark before he had muttered the ‘g’. I ran like the wind and did not even look back. Running made me feel exhilarated. It pumped me up like nothing else did.

I was huffing now but my eyes were set on the mark: the bushes. With every step, I took they came nearer. From the corner of my eye, I could see that Anish was nowhere near me. I smiled and decided to finish with a flourish, by running a little harder.

The cool wind slapped my face. My hair bounced around wildly. I could now practically touch the bushes.

I was about to exclaim a loud “Yes” when suddenly I completely froze in my tracks. With a bound, a great, black dog had leaped out of the bushes.

I fell down on the ground; completely taken aback and horrified. The dog barked menacingly and advanced towards me.

I turned around and ran for my life. I did not want to look back. I just wanted to get away from the scary brute.

I ran hard and finally came to a halt near a bench. The dog was nowhere to be seen now.

I fell down on the bench and burst out crying. I don’t know why I did so, but I just could not hold back after the scary experience. I realized that Anish and several others of my classmates had surrounded me now. I could hear many of them laughing but I just could not stop my tears.

Only after my kind class teacher, Nivedita Ma’am, consoled me, did I cease my bawling. After a few minutes, she, along with my giggling classmates, left me alone.

I sat there sniffing to myself; the scary image of the black dog still fresh in my mind. I was too embarrassed to face my classmates now. All I wanted presently was to dig a hole and bury myself in it.

“They shouldn’t have laughed at you,” came a girl’s voice suddenly.

I turned around to see a girl sitting near me. She was Disha, my classmate. She was a new entrant in our 3rd standard and had started just a few months back. She was a very good student but I had hardly ever spoken to her prior to this.

“Dogs can be very scary sometimes. I am scared of them too,” she added in a sage-like tone.

I was blank and just gawked at her.

“Now don’t just sit there. Our bus leaves in a few minutes. I am leaving. You also should come,” she said.

I still remained silent.

“It’s okay. These things happen,” she said kindly and patted my left shoulder lightly. My stomach churned a bit for some reason.

Disha then got up and turned to leave. I observed her properly now; as if for the first time. She was extremely fair and had light-brown eyes. Her hazel-colored hair was tied behind in a bun and matched nicely with the white school uniform she was wearing. Everything about her was completely immaculate.

She smiled at me once before hopping off towards our group. As I looked at her going off, my stomach churned again. I realized then that she was very pretty. No, she wasn’t just pretty. She was absolutely beautiful!


**


Tinkle Digest Vol. 3. Already read. ‘Great Short Stories’. Um…No. The Jungle Book. Already read. Amar Chitra Katha- Elephanta. Yess…

With a triumph, I picked out the book from the library shelf. It was the last class of Saturday and my absolute favourite one: the library period. Most of the others in my class were busy chatting or gossiping on their respective benches. Very few cared about this period. But I did.

I was standing at the extreme right corner of my classroom where the bookshelf was kept. I hadn’t read this title of the series and checked the book with a smile; sniffing at its pages happily.

“Smells good doesn’t it?”

It was Disha. She was holding a book too and looking at me with a radiant smile.

“Yeah I know,” I said, relieved that at least someone understood this precious emotion related to books.

“I have read this one. It’s very interesting and informative,” she pointed at my book and said.

Before I could respond, she added, “But you should also read Enid Blyton. She is my absolute favourite. You will love her books.”

I didn’t say anything. I was quite surprised at her enthusiasm with books as hardly anyone in my class read books in the library period or showed genuine interest in books ever.  

Oblivious to my thoughts, Disha continued, “Library periods are the best, isn’t it? I wait for them all week.”

“Yeah I know,” is all I could say again. This was exactly how I felt and for the first time in my life, someone else shared the same sentiment. I was speechless and just stood there; a little dazed with what had happened.

She smiled and turned away towards the teacher to register her book. My stomach churned again.


**


“What have you got for lunch?” Disha asked me.

She used to sit one bench ahead of me. It was our lunch break and there was cacophony everywhere around me as my classmates ate and yelled at the same time.

Her brows were raised and she peered at me with those big brown eyes of hers. I avoided eye contact and felt uneasy.

“Um…Nothing much. Just roti and alu dum,” I muttered and tried to hide my Tiffin box. The oil from my alu dum had spread everywhere in the box, even on the roti. Moreover, my lunch box, I noticed, was quite simple compared to hers. She had a swanky and big, round blue-coloured Tiffin box. Mine’s print was coming off from the lid. I didn’t want her to see it.

But she didn’t seem to care.

“Ah…I haven’t eaten alu dum in a long time. All I get is sandwiches these days,” she said while eyeing the ingredients of my Tiffin box longingly.

“Will you trade my sandwiches for your alu dum and roti?” she asked me then. Her brown, innocent eyes glistened in the afternoon sun coming in from the window near us. I simply could not say no.

“Um...Ok,” I said.

She grinned excitedly and took away my Tiffin box almost instantly while slamming her own on my table.

I gently munched on her sandwiches and observed her furtively. She ate the contents of my Tiffin with great gusto. And for some strange reason that I did not understand, I really enjoyed watching her eat.

Within no time she had finished eating. She turned around and returned my Tiffin box.

“Please bring this alu dum again. It was absolutely delicious,” she said with a genuine smile. Her face was glowing in delight.

“Yeah ok. I will,” I said and returned the smile.

As I kept the Tiffin box back inside my school bag, I felt a surge of happiness seep through me. I did not know what that sensation meant. But I really wanted to see her eating from my lunch box again.


**


My legs hurt from the constant marching we had done in the P.TE. Class. I rubbed my legs a little and entered the classroom along with the other students.

Before I could reach my bench, though, my eyes fell on Disha. She was sitting on her bench, silent and tensed.

“What’s wrong?” I asked her.

She looked up at me with sad eyes and replied, “I forgot to bring my Hindi book. The next period is Hindi. Banarasi Lal Sir jee will punish me for sure.” She looked really scared as our Hindi teacher was known to be pretty strict.

I didn’t want her to feel scared. I had to do something.

Without wasting a moment, I sprang towards my bench and opened my bag.

“Here, take this,” I offered her my Hindi book.

She looked on surprised at me and then at the book. “But…What will you do?” she asked worriedly.

“It’s okay. I am one of Banarasi Lal Sir’s favourite students. He won’t punish me. At the most, he will scold me a bit. But it's fine,” I said confidently.

She looked at me nervously, perhaps undecided on what to do.

“But…” she mumbled.

“Keep it. Nothing will happen,” I said.

She said “okay” after a while and finally kept the book on her table. A few seconds later, she turned around and said, “Thank you.” She looked a little relieved and the smile had returned to her face.

Even as the impending fear of facing Banarasi Lal Sir Ji loomed over me, I did not feel afraid. And neither did my legs hurt now. Everything seemed so perfectly good.


**


With a resounding ‘trrringg’ the final bell went off. This was the bell that every student in the whole school waited the entire week for the last bell of Saturday.  

All the students got up from their benches and rushed outside towards the stairs. I waited until Disha got up and then walked out with her.

“So what are you going to do tomorrow?” I asked her as we began walking down the stairs towards the exit. Excited students rushed past us.

“Well, I will first finish my Math and Hindi homework and then read the 7th chapter of our English book which Nivedita Ma’am is supposed to teach us on Monday morning. It’s good to be prepared beforehand,” she said matter-of-factly as if studying on a Sunday was as normal as breathing air for her.

“Oh…” is all I could say. My Sundays were peppered with watching cartoon shows, sleeping, playing cricket and reading comic books. I, however, thought it wise to not disclose this information to her. I got the feeling that she might take offense to my leisure filled Sunday itinerary.

“So why do you put a tika on your forehead?” she asked suddenly and pointed at my head. She was referring to the black ‘nazar ka tika’ on the right side of my temple.

I was taken aback at the sudden change in conversation and fretted with my hair, trying to hide the ‘tika’. “Um…My mother puts it every day,” I said shyly, “It’s a nazar ka tika.”

I felt bashful. The ‘tika’ had been a cause of much embarrassment to me as several of my friends often made fun of me for wearing it to school even in the 3rd standard. I had repeatedly asked my mother not to apply it but she never listened. I felt angry at her now.

“I think it’s cute,” she said with a giggle and watched my ‘tika’ with great interest. My stomach lurched again and I did not say anything. I just kept looking straight and walked.

We soon reached the main gate of the school.

“Bye then. Have a happy Sunday,” she said merrily and hopped off towards her bus. We had different routes and hence had different buses to take us home.

I strutted towards my bus while sorting out my hair properly, wanting the ‘tika’ on my forehead to be as distinctly visible as possible.


**

One look at her that day and I knew something was wrong. It was a Wednesday and I had entered the classroom with a lot of vigor. But things changed when I saw Disha. She seemed despondent for some reason.

I walked up to her. She noticed me and before I could say anything, promptly said, “I am shifting to Delhi.”

I stared at her for a second. “What?” I asked in disbelief.

She nodded and said, “Papa is getting transferred again.”

“But…” I spluttered, “You have already been six months in this class. How will you begin a new one now?”

She sighed and said, “Papa has already made arrangements. I am supposed to start mid-season from the 3rd standard at some school there.”

I did not know how to respond and just gaped at her.

“I leave this Sunday and Saturday will be my last day in this school,” she informed me without looking at me. She was staring at the desk in front of her with her big, brown eyes which were very sad now. “I am tired of all this shifting. This is the third time we are shifting in the last two years. I was enjoying myself here and now…” she did not finish her sentence and kept her head down on the desk.

Shocked at the enormity of the news, I dragged myself back to my bench. My classmates were beginning their day excitedly all around me. But for me, everything had come to a standstill.


**


“Why aren’t you eating properly today?” my mother asked me.

“I don’t feel like eating,” I quietly replied and just stared at my food plate during dinner, lost in my own thoughts.

“Don’t be stupid. You have to eat,” my mother said and stuffed a morsel of roti and sabzi down my mouth. I chewed at them uninterestedly.

I finished the rest of the meal mechanically. Even my red ‘James Bond’ car - which I played with during dinner every day- did not interest me tonight.

After somehow finishing the dinner, I laid down my head on my mother’s lap. She did not ask me anything. But quietly began to caress my hair. Amidst the sadness engulfing me, it felt like a soothing balm.

I closed my eyes. A little teardrop escaped my eye and fell onto my mother’s saree, dissolving into it like it never existed. Just like Disha. By tomorrow night, she would have vanished from my life like she never existed.


**


“Here…This is for you,” Disha handed me a book.

We were standing outside the school gates. She had finished her last day in this school and was about to leave for good.

I looked at the book quietly. It was ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ by Enid Blyton.

“It’s my favourite book. I want you to keep it,” she said.

I didn’t say anything but just looked at her. Despite appearing to be sad, she looked very pretty. Her face was flushed for some reason. Was she sad because she was leaving this school or because she was parting from me? Will she miss me?

“Thanks…” I finally muttered before any further thoughts could flood my mind.

“Bye then…” she said and turned away towards her bus.

I stood there, rooted to my spot. Students of all ages jostled around me to get to their respective buses.

She boarded her bus but before getting inside, she looked in my direction one final time. Seeing me standing there, she smiled and waved. I too waved back, without any emotion. My bus was in the opposite direction. But I wanted to wait for a bit more.

Moments after she had gone inside, her bus’s engine whirred to life and it began to move. My heartbeat went up a few notches as I quietly watched the bus go away. Slowly, it picked up speed and left a huge cloud of smoke in its wake.

Within no time, the bus crossed the lane, turned left and disappeared. I kept watching until nothing was left there except dust and smoke.


**

It was way past midnight but I could not sleep. I felt restless and miserable. I tossed and turned in my bed, trying to get the image of her final goodbye away from my mind. But it was no good. I did not know what to do.

Finally, I picked up the book she had given me, from my bedside table. It was not a new book. She must have owned it. That thought comforted me for some reason.

I opened the book. There was something scribbled on the first page.

Even in the dim light, I could make out her handwriting:


Thanks for being my friend.

I will miss you…

Disha”


A smile spread through my face. I touched the place where she had written those words. There was a strange sensation of calmness inside me now.

I shut the book and kept it beside my pillow. She won't vanish after at all. 



                                                                                   ******************************************


I have no idea where Disha is today (I have changed her name here for reasons of anonymity) and I do not know that if she even remembers me.  But I certainly do remember her. And very distinctly at that. The motivation for writing this story down came from this song. It is a French song from an animated film and I do not understand a word of it. But for some reason, it reminds me of my first crush. I thus dedicate this song to her.




If you ever had a first crush or a first love, then listen to this song in solitude. Try and imagine your moments with him/her while you listen to the tunes of this song and you will perhaps understand what I mean.