“Amma, I told you not to buy those green ribbons. I hate them. They make me look dark. I like white”
“Don’t make a fuss Lakshu. I bought them in a hurry from Geetha stores and that’s the only color they had today. Now just wear it and don’t make a fuss”.
Lakshmi was angry. More than angry, she was irritated. She wondered how her mother couldn’t understand such simple instructions. What was so difficult in not buying green ribbons or brown? But she dint say anything. She just made a face and wore them. Shouting and an argument made her disobedient, which she din’t want to be. Appa would get angry and then she would be grounded for the evening. She quietly wove them into her braids and got ready for school.
On the way to school she saw Durga. They started chatting and were soon joined by Preeti. This was their daily routine. They met every morning before school and hung around each other the whole day till the end of the day. Neither of them was ambitious or intellectual. They dint aspire to become doctors or to major in physics or anything along those lines. They were perfectly content discussing what 17 year olds usually do – movies, boys and clothes. That was why they got along so well.
“Ei Lakshmi. Did u do the maths homework? Hissed a voice from the back.
“No dee. I dint do it. I hate doing Maths. I’ll copy it down from Preeti’s book. I don’t think geometry is going to help us in life much anyway. The second class is Sanskrit. I’ll finish it then.
“Oh, ok I dint do it either. I’ll also copy it from Preeti if she finished it. Have to make sure we don’t get caught”.
The rest of the day went on uneventfully except for the usual scolding from the teachers which were being called brats, accused of rowdy behavior and being compared to boys. That was the worst insult a girl could get according to the teachers - to be branded a boy. Not that too many of the girls cared anyway. There were a few who would cry if they were singled out, but by and large the school population grew immune to it by now.
When the school bell rang to signal the end of the day, there was the hurried shuffle of feet and the shoving of books into bags. The din was unbearable. But among a bunch of excited school girls it was inconsequential.
“ooh. Look, Look!!! It’s Suresh! He’s looking at you.”
“No Way. I don’t like him” Lakshmi could feel her face go red as those lies escaped her lips. She turned her head to an angle she knew was flattering. Lakshmi dint really like Suresh, but was flattered by the attention she was getting from him. This made her feel as though she liked him. He would look at her when they crossed paths to and from their respective schools. She was in an all girls school and he was studying in all boy’s school. Which were at opposite sides of the road. Lakshmi always wondered what the whole point was. It just made the high school students want to look more and more to the opposite side.
Lakshmi was never the gutsy type. She was too scared to look him in the eye, going up and talking to him was unthinkable. His name reached her ears one day when someone called him and he turned in response. He was one of the popular boys – The School Pupil Leader as his blue colored badge was proudly displayed on his white shirt. Lakshmi longed to speak to him, to hear how his voice sounded when spoke her name. She often wondered how it will be if she went to have an ice cream with him sometime at Cool Blue ice cream shop. And have him hold her hand and declare his undying love for her. Many a math and history class was spent thus. If the class was particularly boring, she would concentrate on all kinds of details like what clothes she would be wearing. Would she wear her black salwar kameeze with the scooped neck or will it be the red one with the gold trimming and the sheer chiffon dupatta? She really needs to check out which one would look more flattering on her complexion. Suresh was tall and dark and had that little bit of a wave to his hair that was so ‘in’ among the boys. Lakshmi stole another quick look at him and started talking about something else to her friends to distract their attention.
“Do any of you want to go to the library this evening? I requested Ms.Rao to keep a copy of Pride and Prejudice for me.And then we can go to the stores along the temple. I've been wanting to buy green earrings to match my new dupatta..." Lakshmi said as she was rummaging through her bag checking to see if she took her history book from class.
No one was really paying attention to what Lakshmi was saying. All their attention was drawn to something that was happening a few steps away. Lakshu looked up from her bag and saw four pairs of eyes staring at her.
"Aren't you going to read it?" asked Preeti expectantly. Durga's eyes were bright and looked like as if they were going to pop out of her head.
"What is it?" Lakshmi repeated as her eyes spotted a small slip of paper with her name lying on the ground.
"Oh god. Looks like she dint see what happened" gushed Durga. This small boy from the boy's school came running this side, threw this piece of paper at you and ran away"
Lakshmi dint know whether to laugh or not. This was absurd. These things happen only in movies and not in real life. This even looked a bit shady to her. Curiosity got the better of her and she picked it up.
'Lakshmi, call me at this number at 6 30 pm today. please. I want to talk to you. Suresh'
For some reason her hands started shaking. Her eyes got bigger than usual, and accentuated by eyeliner, she looked like a timid, small child. Her expressive eyes did not hide much. "What do I do? Amma will kill me if she finds out"
"You HAVE to call him" insisted Preeti. "C'mon! You like him right?"
Lakshmi's face turned red. She crumpled the piece of paper and hid it in her bag, not before memorizing the number.
....to be continued.....
*I don't have a name for this story, hence the unimaginative title.