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Nov 29, 02:45 AM

Y ou’re such a nice guy, thanks!”, said Divya, putting the notebook in her bag. It was his notebook, and her singing voice made him angrier. He had spent hours solving all those difficult math problems, writing all those solutions that just went into that brown bag. “I’ll return it on Wednesday morning before class, pakka!”. “Sure!”, he said, masking his irritation with a fake smile as he packed his bags. The day before, he had skipped playing the daily game of cricket in the park in front of his house, skipped his favorite show on television and ate all his meals in 5 minutes straight: all to get the homework done in time. “She must have watched all her favorite shows, talked to friends and done whatever she felt like all day yesterday”, he thought sulkily as he walked towards the school bus. And now she had the audacity to come and ask him for his homework. But he said yes! Damn, why did he say yes? He couldn’t understand it. He thought it was wrong, he wanted to say no. But then, he said yes. Yes! He felt he had made a complete fool of himself, he was in 6th grade now; “I should have learnt these things by now”, he thought to himself, in fact echoing — but without realizing — his mother’s constant complaint in those very words.

He was quieter than usual in the bus. He was thinking. He was silent all evening. He chose not to bowl during the evening cricket game, and missed quite a few catches. Before sleeping he had reached the culmination of all the thought process: “I am going to think about myself from now on. I’ll be selfish, no need to worry about others.” He wrote it down on a piece of paper so that he doesn’t forget it and then went into an uneasy sleep.

He didn’t smile at anyone in the bus next morning. He hastened his pace during lunch to grab the best seat on the table, making his best friend sit on a broken chair that was the only one left. He didn’t even notice some of his friends while on his way to the water tap: no time! Being a new person wasn’t easy.

In the afternoon, their English teacher, Mrs. Roy, who was also the school magazine supervisor called him to the staff room. He was on the editorial board of the magazine, along with another friend of his. “We’ve got a lot of entries this time and need to filter out 10”, Mrs. Roy said, as she sipped her tea. He always envied the tea teachers got in the staff room. “Why don’t the students get the tea, we pay the fees after all!”, he wondered for the millionth time. He could already imagine himself sipping a nice cup of tea in class while studying dates of dynasties no one cared about, or reading about the average temperature of a place he was never going to visit. “Rohan!”, the teacher roared. “Sorry Ma’am, I got distracted”, he said blushing. “Boys at your age always seem to do, except Vaibhav. He is the most sincere boy in the whole school”, she quipped. Vaibhav was his co-editor standing right next to him, with a new pride in his eyes now. He was everyone’s favorite, and everyone seemed to feel compelled to reaffirm it all the time. Rohan flushed. The teacher did not pay attention, “Okay, so what I need you both to do is to select 5 articles each, edit them and give them to me by tomorrow morning 10 am, now run out of my sight!”

Rohan came back to class, but his mind was already crunching. Vaibhav had now been an editor for two years. He was popular among teachers, and always got good marks. Rohan wanted to be like him, and certainly wanted to end up in the editorial board next year. What if he finished all the 10 articles himself, and gave them to Mrs. Roy at 9:30 am tomorrow? Surely, that was the sure shot way of getting into her good books. She might wonder a little about why he did all of them, but he already had a plan. He would avoid Vaibhav’s calls all day. Then when he gave her the articles, he would tell her he couldn’t talk to Vaibhav, and just did all of them for backup. He would rank the articles so that if she wanted to take only 5, she could. He was amazed at his new found scheming, it wasn’t so hard being selfish after all! Pleased with himself, he finished school, went back home and finished all the 10 articles. The phone rang four times, but everytime it rang, he was alone at home and didn’t pick up. (this is from a time with no cell phones)

Next morning, in a stroke of good luck, he spotted Mrs. Roy passing near his class early in the day. He promptly took out the articles and gave them to her, but she was in a rush and didn’t look at them. “That’s fine”, he thought, “she’ll see my rankings at the top of each article. Worst case she would just call me to ask and I’ll explain”. He spent the rest of the morning rehearsing his story, but she didn’t call him. He was sort of relieved, he wasn’t good at lying.

During break, while he ate his lunch, Vaibhav accosted him. Rohan felt nervous, but ate lunch calmly: he had his alibi ready. “Thanks so much yaar, you’re such a nice guy!”, Vaibhav exclaimed, and gave him a big hug. “Wh…what?”, Rohan said in a choked voice as he struggled to gulp that last bit of food with an enormous pressure on his chest: Vaibhav was a strong hugger. “So I had to go to a marriage yesterday, and couldn’t finish my 5 articles. I tried calling you but couldn’t reach you. I was running late, so I told Sakshi to call you. But I got back from the party late and wasn’t able to talk to her. I didn’t know what to do…(cough)”, he said all that in one breadth. “Okay, relax, here take a sip of water”, Rohan offered him his water-bottle, he was curious now. “Thanks, so well, I thought I’ll just talk to Mrs Roy and say sorry. So I went to her today at 10. But before I could tell her anything, she told me that you had given her all the 10 articles: yours and mine!”. At that instant, Rohan realized what had happened. He didn’t know what to feel about all this. “I think you’re the most amazing guy ever. I don’t know why we never became good friends, but now we should!”, everyone gathered around as Vaibhav told the entire story passionately, at least his version of it. Rohan was stupefied, but then he saw the deep gratitude in Vaibhav’s eyes and felt the appreciation of his classmates who gathered around them now. “Being nice isn’t that bad after all”, he thought to himself. “People like you when you do nice things for them”. “What are you thinking again now? Let’s go to the canteen, I’ll buy you a chocholate”, Vaibhav pulled him out of his thoughts. “Yup, let’s go!”, Rohan packed his lunchbox and ran after him.

The next day, Divya returned his notebook, with a big coffee stain on one of the pages.


Rahul Jha

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Comment

  1. Aaawwwwwwwwww!

    Kartikay · Nov 29, 07:02 AM · #

  2. Awesome ending! :D

    — Garvit · Nov 29, 02:31 PM · #

 
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