Ranjan was mad.
It was the World Cup Final, where every fan in the stadium were screaming their head off. It had taken days to come reach here and here was the team’s striker, giving me the worst advice in the worst situation possible.
The ball was at least two metres away from me. I had a bulldozer of a defender charging towards me and two midfielders ready to crush me to pulp. I had three options:
- Run like Usain Bolt and tackle the keeper on my own.
- Defy aerodynamics and jump over the defender.
- Punch Ranjan in the face.
The third one sounded really appealing, but I had only a second to make a sensible decision.
Immediately, it struck me.
I ran with all my might for a metre and suddenly –
I slid through the defender’s legs in a kind of martial arts kick, taking the ball with me. The poor guy had no clue what was going on until –
The midfielders behind me were just as surprised as the defender as all three of them smashed into one another at top speed.
By this time, I had managed to spit the grass out. The ball was within my reach. I ran ahead with the ball when I met another defender. This time –
“Oi! Look there!”
By the time he realised he had been tricked, I was well past him and had only the keeper left. The keeper kept jumping around the goalpost, with his hands spread out. Ranjan was keeping pace with me, screaming for a pass. Again, I had three options:
- Politely ask the keeper to make way.
- Punch Ranjan in the face.
I made up my mind.
I mustered as much power as I could, and smashed the ball into the top right corner. The keeper only had time to see something white whizz past him and duck as the ball weaved around the net, aiming straight for his head.
As for me …
My teammates jostled me to the ground, everyone jumping on top of one another. We had done it.
We had finally done it.
The World Cup was ours for the taking. I could hear the crowd roar as people poured into the pitch and fireworks exploded into the sky. Now Ranjan definitely had his hospital bill coming …
“What are you doing???!!!!”
“Ranjan! Watch ou….”
“I said, what are you doing?”
My vision was still blurry as my eyes focused to the light. I was in my room, with my Chemistry book at my side and a very angry looking father standing near my desk. I didn’t know what to do, so I yawned.
“Get ready for school. You have ten minutes.”
“But Dad,I just had a football match. I’m really tired and the coach said I need all the rest I can get. Even …”
“Nothing doing. Get moving”.
My father always has the final say in such matters. Realising there was no point in arguing, I got up and readied myself for school.
Getting ready was another battle of its own. Within ten minutes, I had packed my bag, ironed my uniform, gulped down my glass of milk and started to tie my lace at top speed. As I was doing so, I looked at my shoe.
It looked HORRIBLE.
Horrible was actually an understatement. I had been playing football the previous day in the slushy water due to the rains, and had completely forgotten to polish my shoes. Without thinking, I took my brother’s cricket shirt, cleaned the shoe, put some polish on it, and it looked good as new. As for the shirt, I was nothing less than a dead man walking.
Finally, I managed to leave my home and jogged to the bus stop. Rajiv was waiting. He always had an expression of someone deep in thought, about when the world was going to end or something like that. Rajiv was always the first person to reach the stop, although he had to trudge up the slope like a camel up a desert dune.
I came up to him and said, “Nice day,na?”
“Dude! Priyanka Chopra’s coming.”
See, that’s how guys respond. You try to unleash the Wordsworth in you, nobody cares.
Then came the girls. All five at once. I started to say hi when all five of them started giggling. AT ONCE. I don’t know whether some sensor went off in all their heads or not at the same time, but it happened. “Ok, act cool” I said to myself.
“Heh Heh Heh Heh!!!”
One of the girls, Shreya, mumbled between fits of laughter and said, “ Look at that dog! Its so cute!”
I looked up and saw a massive greyhound growling at me from the park. When it looked at the girls, it started wagging its tiny tail. I was utterly lost as to what looked so cute in a dog which had the sharpest teeth that I had ever seen, but I kept quiet and started to examine a leaf on the ground.
I got on to the bus, allowing the juniors to go first so that the teachers could see how responsible I was and nominate me for School Prefect. I managed to get the window seat without any trouble, shooing the juniors in the front. As the bus moved on, Rajiv and I got talking. For some reason, guys always run out of topics to debate on. This is what our converstation was like :
“Dude, did you see the match yesterday? The way Kohli was hitting the ball …the bowlers almost cried. Amazing sixes, man!” I said.
“Yeah. Saw it too. Batted well.”
Rajiv always answered in syllables or in morse code. At most, he would speak sentences which sounded like telegrams sent during war time, short and to the point. No extra chakkar.
He then went back to his thoughts and looked out of the window.
At the back, another war was going on.
Shrishti had stolen Shreya’s clip and the entire group was jumping all over the bus to retrieve it.
“Gimme my clip, my mom will kill me!” Shreya screamed.
“Arre, if your mom kills you, why do you need a clip?” Shrishti countered, laughing hysterically.
I was bored, so I tried to butt in.
“Ladies, calm down. Take a deep breath …”
Sanjana took her notepad and swung it at me. I ducked and avoided getting hit by an incoming paper ball from Himani. Shrishti, Eshita and Shloka joined in as the poor clip was conveniently forgotten. A junior in front, who was playing Dragon Ball Z, tried to execute an attack in the air but the bus moved and he hit his friend instead.
“Attack is the best defence,” someone had said. So I left Gandhiji’s principles and started throwing my own paper balls.
“Rajiv! Help!” I shouted.
I took a paper ball and chucked it at his head.
He got up suddenly and jumped, but hit his head on the top of the bus and sat down again.
Clearly, this was a losing battle. I said, “Alright STOP! Everyone!”
The bus was silent.
“Who was that, I say?”
Ok, now we were in trouble.
That was one of the teachers, Mr Shashikant aka Shashi Sir. He was the PE teacher and very strict. Although you didn’t do anything wrong, he would look at you with eagle eyes which would make you confess something completely unrelated. Legend has it that once a boy came to school with long hair, but went home almost bald. Rumours spread that Shashi Sir had a massive pair of gold scissors which he kept in his drawer specially for boys who had long hair.
“Who was that, I say? Come out of your place, I say.”
I was rooted to my seat. I suddenly found the birds outside very interesting.
“Nobody, I say? Wait, I will come there and you will have it.” He marched menacingly towards the back row.
Out of the blue, Shreya exclaimed, “I found my clip!!!”
Shashi Sir whipped his head towards her. Shreya whimpered.
The atmosphere was tense. The axe was high in the air. Shreya’s life was a thin line. The axe almost came down …
Shashi Sir’s gaze softened. He said, “Oh, its only the clip, I say? No problem, I say. Be more careful, I say.”
Shreya managed a weak smile and said, “Sorry Sir, thank you Sir.”
Yes. I’ve escaped.
“And what about you, I say?”
He was referring to Rajiv. The poor fellow had hit his head on the top of the bus and was now massaging it vigorously.
“Me Sir? Nothing Sir, please Sir, I didn’t do anything Sir … it was Sh …” Rajiv replied, scared out of wits and stuttering madly.
“What I say? Trying to fool a teacher? You wait, I say, you will have it from me. I say.”
“Sir, please….” Rajiv looked sick with fear, his face turning red and then green, and then a very interesting shade of blue.
Shashi Sir walked away without a single glance.
Everyone was shocked. Nobody moved.
I broke the silence. I said, “Bade bade deshoein me aise chote chote bate hote rahtein he. Fikar math karo, kyonki picture abhi baaki hai!”
I did not see the punch coming five seconds later.
After the hungama in the bus, we get down from the bus and trotted towards our classes. I walked past the school ground, wished the teachers on the way, greeted a few friends and sat in the classroom. I entered my class, full of chattering teenagers talking about various topics in the world –
“Dude, did you see Ronaldo fighting with Messi??! Boss, the way the referee got hit …”
“Have you been to Mainland China? It’s almost like Chinese food!”
“Hey ya! Did you know? Ananya’s joined math tuition! She’s going out with Rohit! He’s horrible at maths! I wonder why she’s going out with him!”
I really couldn’t see the connection between Rohit, maths and Ananya … but I got the point.
Ok, so I’ve pretty much told you about what we ACTUALLY talk about in class. In my class, I can segregate people into categories
- IIT PAKKAWALAS
Quantum Mechanics and Integration is to these guys where pani puri is to us. These guys live, breathe and talk studies. Their only goal in life is to get into IIT, go abroad, become an NRI, go to a roadside coffee shop and ask for a cappuccino (decaf, it seems), and once in a while courier dollars to relatives in India, generally contributing to the country’s economy.
- THE “COOL” PEOPLE
These guys always try to impose themselves on other people because they can string together one or two bigger words in English than the general public. They try to act like studs, but thankfully fail miserably.
- THE MACHAS
The Machas are a group of four guys who want only one thing– to impress girls as much as possible. They “line maaro” girls at any given opportunity.
- THE ALLROUNDERS GUYS
You can only handpick such people. These guys top their studies and are extremely good in their extra curriculars. They never look like they study, and are always cheerfull and ready to help. They almost have an aura of confidence surrounding them.
5. THE QUIET ONES
Neither great nor bad in academics, they tend to be extremely antisocial and exclude themselves from any class activity.
6. CLASS CLOWN
There’s always one, in every class. Most of the time out than in.
I walked up to Shwetha to ask her what we had in the first period.
“Hey Shwetha, do you …?”
“Ha! Ha! Ha!”
“I mean …”
“Ha! Ha! Ha!”
“C’mon …” I begged.
She finally stopped after much coaxing and said, “Maths.”
Just as I was about to turn around, she called out to me, “Hey Shiva, did you finish the maths homework? Y’know, the ten sums of matrices?”
I smirked. “Heh, easy. I finished it in class only yesderday”.
Math homework? I had no clue.
At that moment, the teacher entered the class. Ms Sharma was an extremely strict lady, with thick glasses and a stern face. As soon as she walked into the class, everyone ran to their seats and in a matter of seconds, the entire room was silent. Ms Sharma looked around the class, her eyes darting to every corner of the room. Everyone shifted uncomfortably in their places, glancing nervously at each other.
Finally, Ms Sharma said, “Good morning, class.”
“Good morning Ma’am,” we chorused like a bunch of parrots.
She suddenly erupted. “My god! You children never learn! How many times have I told you to say good morning in a dignified and courteous manner? Very shameful, such behaviour coming from twelfth graders.”
“Everyone sit down.” There was a clatter of benches. “QUITELY!” Ms Sharma screamed. The class was silent again.
“Students, open your books to page 45, addition of matrices. Today we will be discussing how to add two matrices. Now, if we take an example to start with….”
She droned on for the next forty minutes without a single pause. I started feeling sleepy and my eyelids began to droop. The ones on the board started to become curly while the minus looked like a missile aiming for five …
“You, stand up.”
I got up from my daze, startled. I had woken up in such a hurry that my neighbour, Vishak, who was one of the Machas, and had kept his hand behind my chair to impress the girl behind us, suddenly screamed out in pain as his hand was sandwiched between my chair and the girl’s desk. Like a chain reaction, she also started screaming at the top of her voice as the entire class’s attention shifted from Exercise 2.1 to Vishak’s hand.
“Ow the pain! Oh the pain! Aiyo the pain!” Vishak dramatically exclaimed. Did I mention Vishak was a theatre artist? He could express pain in a hundred different ways.
“Yes, yes, that’s fine, accidents happen. And Shiva, why did you have to get up so quickly? There’s nothing wrong in slowing down once in a while. Youngsters today … tch…” she tutted disapprovingly.
She bandaged Vishak’s hand using the medical box that someone had got from the First Aid room. As she was doing so, she turned to Vishak and asked, “But Vishak, why were you keeping your hand behind Shiva’s chair?”
Vishak looked stunned for a moment. He hadn’t expected such a question when from the teacher when he thought that the entire class was sympathising with him. I felt really sorry for him. To save him the blushes, I stamped his foot hard. He again started yelling at the top of his voice, by which even Ms.Sharma was taken aback. She started to bandage even even faster, as he continued with his dramatics.
Immediately, the bell rang, its shrill sound resonating throughout the school block. Everyone scuttled out of the classroom for the short break.
“Hmm …” Ms Sharma said thoughtfully. “Vishak, go to the First Aid room and stay there for a while. Your hand will start swelling but it should be fine in few days’ time.”
Oh wow. She had completely forgot that I had been asleep in her class. I tried to slip away as quietly as possible.
“And where are you going, young man?”
“Short break, Ma’am,” I replied innocently, inching towards the door.
“No chance. You were asleep in my class and you will get the punishment. By the way, did you do the ten sums that I had given yesterday?” she asked sternly.
Now there was no getting away.
“Ah … no Ma’am, actually I was …” I fumbled.
“Excellent. You will finish the ten sums and you will do an additional homework of fifty sums and the entire assignment must be submitted to me by tomorrow morning, 8 am sharp. Is that clear?” she finished.
I kept opening and closing my mouth like a fish. “Yes Ma’am.”
“Good,” she said crisply and left the room.
All this while, Vishak had been present next to me, suppressing his smile. When Ms Sharma left, he opened a biscuit packet and asked, “Want one?”
Shiva Shankar Iyer is seventeen and has just finished Class XII at SKCH, Bangalore.