This is a story that goes way back to 2001 or 2002. I was in the sixth standard. Yes, I do remember it quite vividly. It was funny, painful and a bit out of the ordinary – basically it had all the ingredients that allows a memory to stick a great while longer than others. In the process of my recollection, I may miss out a few pieces here and there, but it will be pretty accurate. Of course, the intention of this exercise is in no way to humiliate anyone else or point out the flaws about others’ actions. I now find it hilarious and I think so would you.
I studied in the Vivekananda Mission School, a private English medium school in Joka, on the outskirts of Kolkata. If you know the location of the Indian Institute of Management, Kolkata, you know the location of my school. I studied there till the twelfth standard. We had many students in our class (sixth). We were divided into several sections, ranging from A to F (not sure if it was F or G). But anyway, I was in section B, the section that I stuck to since I was in Nursery II.
I was always a romantic. Even in the sixth standard when I was still in my half pants. I take some pride in ‘falling in love’ when I was in my 3rd grade. So doing the same in the sixth was not abnormal (for me). So there was this girl name Megha in Section C who caught my eye. She was pretty, fair (I used to consider that a plus then, not so much now), tall – almost my height. I liked her smile, the way she used to talk, her dress, her walk etc. In short she looked like the heroines we see on TV. It was almost ‘love’ at first sight. Now don’t get me wrong, I used to ‘fall in love’ quite often, but I used to forget about them in a week. Or two. But Section C was right next to our Section and getting to see her was practically unavoidable. Eventually, I looked forward to seeing her. Coming down from the school bus, stealing a glance in the prayer hall, watching from the back (without any sensual overtones) etc.
Then there was this movie I watched. There was a guy called Aftaab Shivdasani who has now faded into oblivion. But then, ‘Mast’ starring him and Urmila Matondkar was a hit and I absolutely loved it. We only had Doordarshan in our TV then, my mother was strict about not letting Cable TV in. But even then, cupid struck. The story of the movie really resonated. The protagonist in the movie falls in love with someone way above his stature and finally she loves him back defying social boundaries. This idea in particular stayed with me and I pictured myself as the protagonist and Megha as the lady I wished to ‘make mine’. With my impressive lower secondary intellect I deduced that she was too pretty for me and that was the reason she will be impressed by my passion for her and fall head over heels for me.
With the intent, I made my plans. It was simple. I just had to get my feelings known to her and then things would fall into place and we would be a couple. There were a few couples already in our standard. Arghya came to mind. It was not much, but sitting together, sharing a few roses on Valentine’s day, sharing cassettes and drawing each other’s faces (horribly) were all signs of showing affection for one another. It was great. I wanted to do it too. Megha had a friend she almost carried with her all the time. Her name was Debolina. She was pretty too, with a bob kind cut, she looked smart and intelligent. A close friend of mine, Suman, was totally infatuated with her. But he never wanted to make an advance. I never insisted. I had enough on my plate already.
I decided to deliver a letter. I wanted it to be subtle. I will come back to its contents later. I met this guy (actually a boy) named Soumyadeep in our school bus. He was fat, almost round and looked funny. And he also ‘loved’ Megha. Plus he belonged to Section C as well. I never considered him a threat. Then I did not even think about it, about why I chose him to deliver this letter. Now I think perhaps because he was fat and funny? I don’t know. We became decent bus friends – meaning we barely talked in school. We only talked in the bus. We used to choose the last seat in the bus and hatched our plans. Hatched my plans, actually. He was my accomplice. We used to talk about all kinds of things. About Megha, of course. We explored very probably scenarios and how we would act if we were in so and so situation at the time. For instance, what if there was a terror attack (it is interesting that terror was a possibility at all)? Of course, the terrorist would be naturally inclined to shoot Megha for some reason. What would we do? I said I would jump and take the bullet/s. Soumyadeep replied the same, with even greater vigor. It was obvious. We would both jump, take the bullets, save Megha and die. And Megha would fall in love with us. It would be perfect.
But terror attacks (fortunately) were unlikely. Even we knew that. So we had to take initiative. I mean, I had to take initiative. Soumyadeep was not the one to take the lead. He was content being the follower, even a faithful one (I dare say). So I wrote a letter. It was actually only a folded piece of paper. I wrote ‘I love you’ and signed ‘From Me’. It was short, smart, subtle and simple. It just could not fail. Whenever she used to walk past me with her friend Debolina, I would watch her in a fake gaze (I emulated how Shah Rukh did that almost in a trance when seeing ‘her’ for the first time in movies). Everyone knew I at least ‘liked her’. I am pretty sure now she knew it as well. Not that it mattered. I had written the letter. I had done my job. Now she would read it and she would do hers.
I had to choose an occasion to give it to her. It could not have been any day. Now here’s the thing – I don’t really remember the day I got it done. But it was just another weekday. About that I am sure. I must have been in a hurry. Time must have been of the essence. So I handed the letter to Soumyadeep and asked him to deliver it to her for me. Before that I did think of the children’s day (how smart and appropriate of me!). Priyam danced in our class, I liked it and kissed her hand – she smiled and ran back in embarrassment. Megha wore a saffron shirt (we were allowed to wear anything that day), I recollect that. But she had too many fans around her that day. So a regular weekday it was going to be.
We used to have a tiffin break between classed at 2 PM. We used to finish our tiffin in 10 minutes and spend the rest half an hour running around, playing, and gossiping and so on. It was the perfect time to deliver a love letter. We were allowed to do as we please, you see. I gathered all my courage and decided to confront her in the corridor right adjacent to our classroom. As she was passing I stood in her way. She guessed something was off. Debolina, as usual, was by her side. She tried to go her way. I had to make her stop and I held her exactly the way I would hold a boy my age – on the shoulders/chest. She stopped momentarily, looked at a side and ran away. The sexual angle never hit me. But I did not have the letter. I am not sure if the letter was delivered on the same day. But here’s how it happened.
It was the same corridor. Megha was running with her friends, Debolina and Sneha. Soumyadeep walked slowly (he was too fat to run) intercepted them and delivered the letter. I saw him do that from a distance. I had to make sure it was done properly, right? Soumyadeep stood aside. Sneha and Debolina were giggling. Megha took a look and stormed out. My heart raced wildly. The next few hours are a blank. It must have been a tough time. The suspense was intense. Anytime I would hear from her now – I must have thought.
I heard from Sanhita sister. She used to teach Bengali in a few other sections. She asked me curtly to come out of the class. I came out. The letter was in her hand. She asked me if I wrote it. I said I did. She said that I would be severely punished for it and I would have to pay dearly for it. I tried to fake some crying but tears did not come to my aid. Not even when she threatened me with a meeting with the Principal. She mentioned a possible guardian call as well, almost a capital punishment in those days in our school life.
The meeting with the Principal was expected then. It happened. Both the Principal and the dreaded Vice Principal were there. Soumyadeep and I were in the Principal’s room. Sanhita sister was in the room as well, desperately trying to suppress her smile sitting on the sofa on the right. There was absolute silence. The clock ticked. The charges were read out to me. I confirmed them. The sentence began. Both of us were thoroughly reprimanded. He was called a dutiful postman and perhaps a greater amount of scorn was poured on him. He broke down and started crying and begging. I tried that, but it did not come to me. I looked at Sanhita sister. She was still barely concealing her suppressed laugh at the site of two half panted ashiqs. The Principal stated that Soumyadeep would probably be ‘asked to leave school’ and be a postman. The Vice Principal mentioned that our guardians need to be called. I protested! I said that my mother is not well and my father stays in Siliguri. The Principal shut me down saying that I should have thought about it beforehand. I did not say anything and handed out my diary. I was sentenced to a guardian call and a severe reprimand. I don’t exactly know what happened to Soumyadeep. He left school, either then or soon after. I don’t remember exactly how soon he did it, or rather how soon he was compelled to, as I now suspect strongly.
Breaking the news home was tough. I played it remarkably cool. While having the evening snack of some rotis and my favorite aloo dum, I said that, “Mom, you have been asked to meet the Principal Sister”. She was aghast, it was never a good news – a guardian call was tough. What happened next is best left unsaid. A typical storm passed, one that any Indian child could expect under similar circumstances. She called my dad, my dad talked to me. He said, I heard what you did. I said, nonchalantly, “Yeah. Won’t happen.” It was bad. Really bad.
I quickly managed to build a reputation in school – one of the few to ‘propose’ to a girl in class. I was not really able to get out of the fascination for her for another couple of years. I even was shifted another section in my eight standard and she was put in there too. But there was no enmity, she was way ahead of me in maturity and I minded my own business. In my ninth standard, things changed very rapidly and she became history.
I came across Soumyadeep much later. It was the marriage ceremony of some relative of a friend of mine. He also visited. It was very awkward. I never really asked him what happened to him. Not that I suffered from any guilt (I barely do), but I thought better than asking him right away.
Megha and I became ‘normal’ acquaintances (certainly not friends) and there was always a decent amount of rivalry, especially in terms of scoring marks, which continued till we ended our school years. After that we lost touch, except for some social media interactions that barely count.
Disclaimer: All characters are fictional, some name/s changed on request. Any semblance to any event, person (living or dead) is coincidental.