Crucial Craziness

The Fifteen Minutes’ Journey

on June 22, 2010

This is my first short story I wrote about a year back

It was exactly 12:00 noon. As the bell rung, I was looking out of from the window of my classroom at the third floor.The half yearly exams had ended. Howling and screaming children ran out of the school, trying to beat each other, suppressing all other noises.

Human ears exposed to this sonic boom for a short span of time would become a total failure as it sound would tear the inner,middle and outer layers.You tell them Roosevelt,they would ask where’s the loose bolt.

Lucky people,I sighed at them who were let loose.We,the unfortunate lot,the board going class ten had to stay back to collect the holiday assignment.How sick!The more unfortunate class twelve students had to stay back too,which was the only solace.

I wanted to run away right that moment.I would surely get lost in the crowd and escape off from school.Watchmen wouldn’t doubt;he would think I belonged to class 8 or 9 because I was short by average.Thanks to my height,I could deceive people,but I didn’t have the guts.

I hated staying back after exams, mainly because I didn’t want anyone to discuss about the exam. I hated even a word about it. Every time after the examination, I would be the first to run out of the school. Once a new watch man never allowed me to get out, thinking I had tried to escape.He had to be strict because,once a girl,my classmate ran all the way till benagalooru,to her granny’s house because the teachers had scolded her. Poor girl,when she

returned back,she was scolded even more.I had a bitter squabble with the watchman, and when my PT teacher signaled him to leave, he let me go.Gone were those days. It wasn’t possible now. I really wonder

if teachers had no joy about the last working day. How would it be- teachers running out when the bell goes?oh..oh…bad imagination. Most of them were fat and cannot run.

My math ma’am entered with a frightening pile of papers. They were the assignment questions we had to complete during the holidays. Holidays-the word which had once brought happiness now irritated me. School was better; we needn’t complete loads of homeworks.Casually,she announced that there were just 350 sums. More than the number of sums, what annoyed me most was the adjective she used-‘just’. If someone pickpockets 350 from her purse, would she tell then too?-just 350?three hundred and fifty by ten….so thirty five sums each day, she brought math into that too.We had no other go,but to complete it.We were asked to take photocopies from the shop opposite to our school. A total of thirty five pages that would cost 35 rupees exactly.

I checked my purse if I had money. Yes,I did have twenty. Though I was 15 years old, my parents always saw to that I had no excess money.I would always have a limited amount of 30-40 bucks.I never complained about it as I had no important needs.I never hanged out with friends, eating ice-creams, puffs and samosas.So no problem with the limited resource I always had.

I grabbed the papers clumsily from my teacher, tearing a bit from a corner of one of the papers.I just acted as if nothing had

happened,though I knew she saw it.I colud now get it Xeroxed first and run home.We had to raise to wish Namaste and Thank You.Thank you for what?Those just 350 sums?Before she stepped outside the class,I ran out.When she stared at me,I had to smile sheepishly.I always wanted to be the first…I had absolutely no patience and was obviously the first in everything.First to finish off the exams,first to run from school,first to go to the washroom(else it would get crowded),first to get hurt,first to get scoldings and the list continues.But,one main thing…I had never been the first in class.That was okay for me..I had my own exceptions.

I walked hastily through the corridor giving a proud look at the twelfth standard students just to add more fuel into their burning stomachs.

I took some five-six minutes to reach the gate.Out,there were some eleventh standard akkas standing with some annas.Ours was a girls’ school and it was only after the school timings that girls could speak with boys who were at the boys’ wing some two hundred metres away.People called this kind of chit chat as ‘kadalai’,which means groundnut in Tamil.I still don’t know whyit is called so.If any scholar does research on it and finds out why,please let me know.

I had no boys waiting outside.In fact,I knew not a single fellow.I had not even spoken to any.Hmmm…What to do?Think it was because my mom was a teacher in the boys’ school.

I headed towards the Xerox shop.No one actually knew the name of the shop.We just say,Xerox shop or opposite shop.It was simple and fine. It was started a few days back and from day one,our school students had become loyal customers.He charged Re 1 per

side.It was 50 paise or even lesser else where.But all we wanted was immediate Xerox.So we never complained about the extra 50 paise.I bet,in another five years,he would become a multi millionaire taking photocopies just to our school.I won’t surprise at all.

I gave the originals and asked for a single copy.I peeped into the computer nearby to read what was being typed.I was inquisitive and always did that while waiting for my copy.That day,the shop’s ‘akka’ was typing something related to a land case that didn’t interest me.I seriously don’t know why all young elder girls and boys became akkas and annas!Was that because we pledged everyday,’All Indians are my brothers and sisters?’I would’ve been fine if Swami Vivekananda had reworded it like ‘All Indians are my brothers and sisters except one’!

Within a minute my hot Xerox copies arrived.I gave two twenty rupee notes and got a five rupee coin back.My classmates had come by the time and I handed over the originals to them.It was the headache of the last girl to return the paper back to the teacher;it wasn’t mine.I didn’t care.

I crossed the road to reach the bus stop-to take a share auto.I never took a bus,because share autos were convenient as I could stop it to get down where I wanted…I always said this to others,but the truth was that I never knew which bus would go where.Most of the bus numbers are really mystifying. Heard numbers like 2A2AE, PP119, 45BM8 , 61BE, 159AE?No..they aren’t ASCII or alphanumeric codes.These are some weird bus routes.Come to Chennai and you’ll get mad!Really grateful to the person responsible for assigning these bus routes.I took some bus one day and ended up walking 20 minutes back home..So never ever took the risk again!

Within two minutes,one auto came.It was already half full;but had a stereo which most of the autos lacked.So,I somehow manged to find a seat for me.

My place was Thirumangalam at Anna Nagar which is about fifteen minutes from my school at Mogappair.A fifteen minute ride would mean I can listen to one full song with ads,two if lucky.

I love music,but hated music classes.Visit a Tamil Brahmin family here,I bet the the girl children would either be trained to sing or to dance and would later give it up to concentrate in studies.Its more or less the same story everywhere.Like most of parents with daughters,my mom admitted me to music class mainly because my grandfather had once said I would sing well from the way I cried.Wow! I still remember excellent excuses I would give to escape from the class. Head ache ,stomach ache, leg pain, hand pain, eye irritation..all possible common pains found in the medical books.Probably hair and nails were the only parts I pardoned from false pains.

Yes!!Yes!!The next song to be played in FM was my favourite.I would jump,but people were around me.The song started and I sharpened my ears to listen to it with utmost interest.

‘Hi!’I heard a voice.That was from a lady sitting next.She was a lady.So no problem.This was a misconception I had,and most girls have, I hope.With a little hesitation,I replied a “Hi” to the total stranger.She was Big,Fat (occuping one half of the four seater) and wore a gaudy pink saree with sleeveless blouse.Such kind of a dress will never suit such stout people.I had my own prejudices on how people should dress,and she was violating it.She looked like a hindi

serial actor who eats and sleeps with full make-up and huge jewels.She was a north Indian too…her bad English accent revealed it.

I’m sorry,but I have to tell.Most of the North Indian ladies I’d seen dress a bit too much for any occasion.In my Punjabi school dominated my North Indians , the parents would come for a parents – teachers meeting with too much dressing that would scare away small kindergarten children.I wonder if it’s a meeting or a dating.Once an eighth standard girl came to school with a very horrible dress (hope you understand the meaning of horrible) for her birthday.The shocked principal made her stay at her room and called her mom.She got more shocked seeing the mother with an even horrible dress. Choti and badi diwali celebrations together that day at her room.

The woman smelt roses…no a rose flower shop.I think she would’ve jumped into a perfume bottle.But, to my knowledge no perfume company makes such mega size perfume bottles.The smell emanating from her was no normal to a normal human nose.

She reminded me of a Hindi teacher in my school who would smell almost the same.One of my friends said she took bath only once a week and to make up the bad smell she’d spray perfume all over her body everyday.None of us ever dared to stand near her for more than a minute.Even for getting the books corrected, submitting at her place in the staff room was the best choice as a personal meeting with her would emphatically choke us to death.

Sometimes,you start hating people right from the first sight.I hated her.

She asked me if I was in class ten.How colud she guess?I nodded.I wanted the song.

“Exams Over?”


The song…

What exam today?


But the song…

How did you do?

I’ve never answered such questions after exams.My parents never ask me.But now,I had to answer to this bossy lady. I just said fine.I thought my monosyllable answers would make her stop nagging me.I wanted the song! She spoke more.She asked me how the question paper was.I just said OK.Again ,she spoke.She wasn’t ready to leave me.So I had to forget about the song.I just wanted give her piece of my mind.

I regretted about my inability to do such things and remained silent though I was fuming inside. She asked me if I would show her my question paper.She was really getting on my nerves.I could do nothing but give her the paper. She read the first question aloud-1 mark.

“Name the place in India where the magnetic dip is zero.”

“What’s the answer?”,she asked.

Who was she to ask me?She’s not my teacher nor she is my mom who would never pester me talking about finished exams. The horrible part was that I didn’t know the answer.I honestly said,”I don’t know, Aunty”,though I hated addressing the witch aunty.She burst out laughing and said,Its Thumba in Kerala.Why did she laugh?Me not knowing the answer was so hilarious for her?

She asked me what I had written.I just said nothing.I was ashamed of telling the answer I had written.I had written ‘Mogappair’ just to fill up the place;my teachers had told not to leave out any question unanswered,and me the very obedient girl followed it blindly.

“Next Question.Name two alloys used for making permanent magnets.Come on tell the answer,”she urged me.I felt I could snatch the paper from her hands and throw it out.Why just the paper?Throw her too through the window,but she’d definitely get stuck.

I knew the answer this time.So I boldly said,Nipermag and Duralumin.She burst out laughing again.”No dear…Nipermag is right,but not Duralumin.So,you are losing one and a half marks in two questions”.

I really got sick.She was a pain in my neck.I had run out of the school early just because I didn’t want to discuss answers with my friends.And now, the beast has caught me to punish for the greatest mistake I’d done.I had first though her to be a teacher,but later discovered she wasn’t.

She said she worked in the Canara Bank. Next to my school.I pity this bank that would have lost worthy customers.This big fat aunty would have driven them mad.She informed me that her daughter was in class ten in another school. I understood.That poor girl would have done great sins in her previous birth.When she was screwing me up so badly,what would be the plight of her daughter.But one thing I had noticed is that all these ‘doing too much’ moms had ‘doing too much’ daughters who come crying from the exam hall because they would loose half a mark.There were quite a few such girls in my school.The super mom asked me if she could take copies of all my

question papers for her super daughter to practice. By the time,my place was nearing. I had some relief. I said her that I had to get down. We were waiting at the signal.I asked the driver to stop after crossing the signal and taking a right turn. I put my hand into my pocket to take the only five rupee coin I had had.My god!It asn’t there.I checked again.It was missing.I searched desperately but in vain.I recollected if I had taken it from the shop.Yes,I did.Did I drop it anywhere?No,I didn’t.But where’s the coin?

I had no time to investigate where it had gone.I had to get down.I could do nothing.I had no money.No friends around. I asked the lady if she could give me five rupees. That was nothing more than a ‘decent begging’. I felt like banging my head somewhere. How could I do that? I never like borrowing money even from my friends. Even if I had to borrow, I would return it the very next day, be it a rupee or two. But this case was no worse than begging.

The woman smiled, took out a five rupee coin and gave me.The person whom I hated helped me.So it doesn’t mean I should start liking her.I still hated her.I just said thanks.

I paid for my trip and got down from the share auto.I felt terribly bad, embarrassed and ashamed. I started walking towards home, taking an oath that I shall not tell it to anyone, even accidentally. As I put my hand into the pocket, to my shock, I found the five rupee coin I had!


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