‘We have an awesome adventure lined up !'
Mom's eyebrows were going higher and higher as my seven year old sister jumped with excitement. I am a twelve year old boy - old enough to be apprehensive about revelations like this one.
“What is it?’, I asked reluctantly, as Mom’s eyebrows were about to vanish under her hairline.
‘We are going to India for a year !’, she said . The eyebrows were heading back to where they belonged.
My sister had disappeared – that girl could sense trouble faster than I could.
‘Imagine – one whole year! Think of the things we could do!!’, Her eyebrows were going higher and higher again. ‘You will go to a new school. Make new friends. See new places...‘, my Mom’s eyebrow’s had vanished under her hairline.
“Where did you live in the US?”, my new friend sitting next to me in the bus asked.
We were sitting in the second last row of the huge School Bus on its way back home from our new school.‘It is one of the best International schools in Bangalore’, Mom had said, ‘It is a BIG school with BIG playgrounds and a BIG swimming pool’
I was not sure about the school, but the school buses was indeed BIG. Much bigger than ones in the US. But this one swayed a lot. And it stopped a lot more – not just to pick up kids for school, I mean it stopped a million times. It was already more than an hour since we had left school and we were not home yet.
I noticed that Ram (my new friend) was trying to duck behind the seat trying to avoid the girl sitting in front of us across the aisle.
‘What is the matter?’, I asked.
‘I will tell you in a bit ... when she is not looking this way’
Ram had saved my skin in the class today. I mean, in a BIG way.
He was in my section in seventh grade and was supposedly a good student or ‘topper’, as other boys teased him. Ram would dismiss these boys casually – ‘Shutup Chakkay !’, He later explained me what Chakkay meant but I am still not very sure I understood him completely - the anatomical description did not make sense. The word was currently the most popular derogatory term for boys in the seventh grade - loosely translated as 'Girly Boy'.
So coming back to the incident in the classroom. It was my first day in the school and the teacher asked me to introduce myself.
‘We have a new student in the class’, She said pointing at me ‘ Why don’t you stand up and introduce yourself’ , I had an uncomfortable feeling in my stomach as the entire class stared at me. Ram gave me an encouraging smile.
And then it happened !
The teacher continued , ‘And after SHE has introduced HERSELF – I want you all to give HER a warm welcome ..’ , her voice echoed across as the class burst out into peals of laughter.
I have shoulder length hair. Something that my mom had insisted to get cut for the last year or so – but I had refused to. Ram looked at me sympathetically as the laughter continued to ring through the classroom.
‘He is a BOY, Mam !’, Ram had stood up and shouted over the noise, ‘ He even has a mustache …’ , he added emphatically. This was the first time in my life I was proud of the thin wisp of hair on my upper lip that I had worn since I was two years old.
The laughter died down. Mam put on her glasses and peered through them. ‘ Hmmm .. how can I tell – half of the girls in this class have mustaches as well …’
This time only the boys burst our laughing. I felt bad or the girls – but was relieved to escape from being framed a girly boy. I joined the boys in their laughter and formally claimed my place in the cohort.
All this happened today morning. Now in the bus I had decided to help out Ram with whatever it was that was bothering him.
‘That girl is crazy’, Ram was uncharacteristically nervous.’ She flings her boogers at me !! ’, he whispered as I stared at him with wide eyes.’ … and she does it so discretely that no one would believe if I complained.’ Suddenly Ram's eyes froze in horror. The girl was looking back at him with an evil smile on her face. Then she put her finger inside her nose, pulled it out, and flicked it towards us !
‘Stop it!’ , I said , standing up in the Bus Aisle.
‘No standing in the Bus !’ shouted the teacher who was ‘in charge’ of the bus.
The girl extended her finger to touch me, even as I dodged and ran past her to the teacher.
‘Stop the ruckus, I say ...’ , The teacher shouted.
‘That girl is trying to put her booger on us’, I panted – relieved that I could finally get my new friend some justice, ’ Mam, She does it all the time - ask my friend'. ' He is right Mam - she always does that ...' Ram nodded his head emphatically.
‘Don’t lie’, came the unexpected response ‘Girls don’t do things like that ...’
‘But she JUST DID IT’, I exclaimed.
‘Get back to your seat ...’
‘I can prove it – just look at her fingers …’ I tried to explain.
‘That is the problem with you American Kids ... always arguing … go back and sit quietly otherwise I will send you to the Principal' My American accent had given me away !
I noticed that my little sister was sitting just next to the teacher, looking up at me timidly.
‘Girls cannot do things like that … my foot’, I thought of all the booger fights that my sister had started as I walked back to my seat.
“Dadu !!”, I hugged my grandfather who had come to pick us up from the bus stand that was inside the gated community we lived in.
‘How was the day?’, He asked.
‘I wrote seven pages !!’ , my sister chirped in. She seemed to be excited’ I wrote it ALL down from the blackboard !’ she exclaimed.
‘That is my smart girl‘; Dadu smiled ‘What subject was it?’
‘I don’t know .., but the teacher was writing in cursive ! ’
Dadu laughed. ‘How was your day’, He asked me. I did not know where to start.
‘I made a very good friend ...’
‘.. and I need a haircut.’
Authors Note : The Protagonist insists that all the incidences in the story are true. His sister later offered to get him re-introduced to the bus 'in charge' teacher. ‘She likes me – thinks I am cute’, she had said. ‘ I will tell her that you were telling the truth’.
Pratagonist’s dad and mom spent a lot of time analyzing and dissecting the situation and whether or not it deemed a visit to the Principal office to lodge a protest and fight for the rights of the argumentative American kids.
‘Lets not do it this time’, the protagonist suggested , 'After all it was just a booger fight !’