Friday, January 5, 2018

First ever!

"Would you like to go with me?" My cousin- Rajudada- asked. I got up only when my mother nodded approval. Rajudada is very tall. In a few steps he reached to the other end of that large, rectangular room. I trotted behind. He opened a hardly visible access door with almost no efforts. The door led to a staircase. Curious, scared and confused, I followed him, carefully taking each step. I couldn’t believe my eight year old eyes when I reached at the top of the staircase. Heaps of boxes were everywhere. Boxes full of pencils, erasers, notebooks, markers, crayons! The room was laden with odor of brand new, unused things. A corner glass cabinet loaded with myriad army of pens drew my attention.

“Wow!” I said. It was the first time in my life that I'd seen plenty of anything. My eyes must have looked dreamy. My mouth must have been wide open.

My mama- whom we were visiting- owned a stationery shop. That was the storage room. Rajudada walked to that glass cabinet, opened the door and gently took a case out.

"Here! This one is for you." he said offering a pen to me.

Sleek silver body with black spiral lines and a stainless steel cap. Irresistible it was and yet I was hesitant to accept. I stood there gazing at it. Going against my mother’s rule of not accepting gifts was not easy. Finally, desire of having the pen won and I stretched my arms to reach for it. Its cold touch was marvelous. Holding the pen in one hand, I ran down the stairs like an unleashed dog.

"Rajudada gave me a pen, I didn't ask for it" I announced hastily when I was at the last step. I looked at my mother. Surprisingly she gave a pleasant smile instead of ‘the look’. That was a smile of admiration for her nephew.

"Raju, beta, you don't have to do this!" Mild protest from her followed by a sneak peek at my Aunt- Rajudada's mother.

"It's okay Atya. Look how happy she looks!" Rajudada grinned. Aunt didn't look very happy about it. Afraid of losing the pen to her, I quickly put it in mother's handbag.

Second graders were not allowed to bring pens in my school. We all used to get HB pencils of the same brand until 4th grade. In my house, only my elder sisters had the privilege. I had two long years before I could entail it. That sudden, unexpected ownership of a pen made me feel extraordinary.

On the way to the bus top, we met my mother's cousin who lived in the same town. My mother gave her detailed report of our day at Uncle's house. I stood there holding her hand, dreaming of flaunting my new possession in front of friends.

"Vanihi didn't like it for sure. But you know Raju. He is a good kid." My mother must have told her about the pen. Adults talking about M-Y pen made me feel important!

It took forever for the sun to rise the next morning. I woke up before the alarm clock and got ready before my siblings.

"Trupti, babu, remember pens are not allowed in your school?" My mother said when I was packing my backpack. "How about we keep it safely in my closet. I'll give it to you when you go in fourth grade, okay?" Her otherwise sweet voice sounded cruel.   

"But Aai, I want to show it to my friends." Pale, broken words fell out of my mouth.

She looked at me, thought for a moment and then told me to take it out only in recess and keep it back immediately.

"Aai, she will definitely lose it." My sister said. Siblings! Sigh!!

Unfortunately it was a substitute teacher day. My class was divided in two halves. Me and my friends were sent to Mrs. Buddhivant’s third grade class. Buddhivant means a highly intellectual person. The teacher was known for her terror more than her intellect. Pretending to be frozen was the only way to survive her class. Doing anything other than sitting steady with eyes glued to the board was an open invitation to a harsh punishment. And yet, I peeked at the pen several times. The day had been lucky!  

“I want to show you something” I said to my friends as soon as the bell rang for recess. I took the pen out and waved it really close to their eyes. They both didn’t seem excited. They just looked at each other and shrugged. I pulled a notebook out and wrote our names on the back page. Butter smooth nib gave me goosebumps.

“You know we are not allowed to bring pens” said one in a frigid voice.

“Let’s go play” Other one said and they ran out. Their cold reaction left me stunned.

“Can I see?” A third grader asked. She took the pen from me and wrote her name on the back page of my notebook. Butter smooth nib must have given her goosebumps.

“What’s going on there?” Mrs Buddhivant screamed.

That third grader threw pen towards me. I quickly slid it in my backpack and ran outside. My friends looked normal. We played usual games. Recess was over soon. The fear of going back to terror queendom was mixed with a light shade of excitement. As soon as I was back at the desk, I peeked at it...peeked again...and again…and again! It wasn’t there. The pen wasn’t there. Fiddling the backpack told no different story. Nervously I pulled the backpack out and started searching with no luck. My heart started beating so fast I could almost hear it. My hands became shaky. Tears streamed down my face.

“Ms Awati, What’s your problem?” Mrs Buddhivant’s strident voice struck my ears.

“My pen is missing” I said, now trying hard to control crying. I told her the whole story not knowing what to expect. Consoling words or a hug wasn’t something expected from her. An offer to help me look for my pen is the least she could have done. Instead she asked me to sit down and turned to the board.

I don’t know what possessed me but I demanded, “I want to check everyone’s backpack.”

My demand was more than enough to provoke the ire. She turned around and furious as could be, stormed at me. Shivering head to toe I stood in a fiercely stagnant room. As she came near, she viciously slapped me and pulled my ear so hard that I thought it was going to fall off. She stayed there for a few minutes spewing anger at me before letting go my ear. The immense pain prevailed her words. My face was ablaze. Fueling to it were shame, embarrassment, pain, and grief. Mrs Buddhivant continued the lesson after that. I sobbed quietly. I never saw the pen again.

I'm usually extremely cautious about my belongings, to an extent that I appear as a materialistic person to someone who doesn’t know me. Will it be farfetched to say that this incidence is at the root of my behavior? I don't know. I don't know if the impact was deep to form a personality trait. This was my first taste of some of life's many flavors. That's all I know for sure.

"I told you she will lose it" my sister said later that afternoon.

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