As a school going kid I was very bashful and quiet. My early days of schooling was spent in a very small school. I became even more shy when I transferred to a bigger school. I would find it so big that I would get lost on my way to class from the rest room. If I sauntered into the wrong corridor I’d have to say that I was a new student and I did not remember where I was going.
I would often leave the main ground of the school 10 minutes earlier after the lunch break in case I got lost and had trouble getting back. After 4 years, each minute detail would be imprinted in my mind but before those years were over, a million things would pass.
Memory is a tricky thing, they say. We can distort and recreate memory of events that never happened. It’s not very reliable. Yet, a wave of memory hit me after almost a decade of leaving my school which I’d like to remember. The memory cue might have been a chat with two other friends who went to the same school, but none of us knew the other existed back then.
Back to the shy kid that I was. I don’t know how I kept myself from bursting into tears the first few weeks of new school. I must have though, silently wanted to run away. Being the new kid is interesting in some way. All eyes on you. Everyone else is new too, so my eyes must have fallen into a huge state of confusion. The second thing we often asked each other after our names were our grades which is rather funny now that I think about it.
I was a major laggard in extra curricular activities. I had no clue what I could do apart from memorizing passages from books and finishing all my homework before I got home so that I could play Mario or stare at the TV with animax playing on it. I wasn’t good at art, music was okay, sports was a nightmare, and forget about public speaking.
Whenever teachers came in to get in names for the inter school or inter house competition I raised my hand, in an alternate universe billions of light years away. I wanted to raise my hand in the universe I lived, but I lacked the courage to do so. It was all inside my head.
Fast forward to a few years later, I don’t remember when or how, one day a news about a story writing competition arrived. The visions are a little blurred, was it a teacher who suggested my name or did I finally muster the courage to raise my hand, I don’t recall. But I found myself as one of the participants from my school.
For a moment it felt cool. Back then it was a big deal. Imagine what would happen if I won, I kept telling myself. My name would be called at the morning assembly and I would walk out of the hustling mass of students wearing maroon and white to get my certificate. What a splendid sight it would be!
I think I heard one of the teachers telling me to write a story sample. I wrote and wrote and wrote. I had no idea what the organizers were looking for, but I wrote and wrote some more in royal blue ink. I continue to write in royal blue ink even today, and I still can’t seem to figure out who wants what.
I must say the story back then was a carbon copy of the Barbie movies I had been accustomed to. I had grown to admire the stories in the series. I found it magical. I thought I was creating magic.
For some unknown reason I always felt nervous walking into the staff room of teachers. But on this occasion I had to find the teacher who had asked me to write the story. I climbed many flights of stairs to reach the top floor and in my squeaky little voice I said, “May I come in Sir.”
To my dismay, the teacher I was looking for was not there. There was somebody else though. Normally, my mouth would have run dry and the words would have died out half way through my lungs, but I had to tell who I was looking for.
I had already written two stories, I told the teacher there. I was a participant for the story writing competition. Not much was said. The teacher asked me my name and I slowly exited the room. I walked down the stairs, feeling a little miserable with each step.
I never heard from the teacher I was intending to speak that day and I never enquired about it ever again. May be I should have gone back the next day, or the next week. In my over excitement I had written two stories that did not make much sense. There was no prize. There were only Two Stories.
While I sure felt miserable that time, I do not remember feeling really sad about not being able to participate. I had two stories, and my friends loved it. We would go on to talk about it for many years. They would say I would write a story, I would write it. My best friend even told me that she’d publish it if I didn’t. Guess as children we love to believe in big things!
Perhaps I’ll find the two stories hiding in my bookshelf someday or they could be completely lost now, thrown away or burnt down. But they were the reason I managed to have a brief conversation without falling apart of nervousness. They were the reason I wrote in excitement, they were the reason I thought I could create magic. My friends believed in me. And that was cool. That is cool.
And I thank everyone who read the carbon copy of the Barbie stories I wrote to the ones who read writings I publish on my little blog every now and then; my little cousins who tell me I should become a writer when I grow up.
Thank you for joining me in this journey. And a new destination awaits!