The Maths teacher was absent that Monday. Normally, we go to the library or the playground. But we stayed in as it was drizzling outside.
When I returned from the toilet, I found, to my horror, a dead frog on my chair. It was repugnant. I had a terrible fear of creatures. I shrieked. They burst out laughing. My legs were like jelly. I felt like I was going to collapse. I told the teacher next door. He said he could not leave his class. I told the attendant. He was kind enough to clean the place.
A weird silence prevailed in the classroom. I looked around. No one dared to raise their heads to meet mine. Suddenly everyone had become studious. For the whole day I had to occupy that chair. I felt humiliated. My mind was not on the lessons. I could not take my literature notes.
The matter followed me home. I could not sleep properly. In the darkness of my room, I wept my heart out. Why were they doing this? I dreaded the next day. What was it reserving for me?
I am in Grade 10. I manage to obtain the bare minimum to go on. My name is Yash. I am timid. I do not socialize much. I have a couple of friends but most of the time I am on my own. I avoid sports because my classmates (at least, some of them) make wicked remarks about my legs. They say they are as smooth-skinned. I feel insulted.
The next day nothing happened though I knew they were making ugly comments behind my back. I had the feeling someone had a grudge against me. This was confirmed when, on the third day, I discovered they had written foul words against my name on the white board. What had I done to deserve this?
I informed the Deputy Rector. He said, with the wave of his hand, that I should not over-react. However, he did come and talked to the students. Everyone was acting innocent. It sickened me. They were hypocrites. I had no wish to be part of the class.
One day I found my Collins School Dictionary (a gift from my loving aunt for my anniversary) in the trash bin. Courageously, I asked who had done it. And why. No one answered. “Don’t look at me this way,” said Dick. “I’ve nothing to do with all this nonsense.”
My life was becoming difficult. My marks began declining. Teachers found that I was no longer focused. My Accounts teacher said I was getting lazy. “What’s your problem, young man? Where’s your mind?” His tone irked me. Whenever I was remonstrated, the students took a secret pleasure in it. I was an anonymous boy hitherto. I had become the centre of attention. It irritated me beyond words.
My mother scolded me severely. “No internet. No telephone. No pizza. These things are spoiling you.” I wanted to tell her the guys were harassing me. But I was sure she would ask, “Who exactly?” I would not be able to answer. She would raise a hell.
Kejilen had lost his pen holder. The Arts teacher ordered a search. When my turn came, I opened my satchel in all confidence. Profound was my surprise to find it there. Someone had planted it there. I was discouraged. I maintained I was not a robber. I begged to be heard. I had things to say. She did not want to hear a single word. “Give it back! And apologize!” I had not committed any wrong, so why should I apologize? I refused.
The college rusticated me for one day. I had lost my reputation in the entire institution. Students from other classes looked at me with suspicious eyes. How long could I walk around with lowered eyes? There was something not going round in my life. I wanted to share my pain, my worries. I did not know with whom.
Mother knocked the temple of her head with her finger and said exasperatedly, “You’re losing it, man!” She meant I was going crazy. My mind had stopped working. I was confused. I cried.
I have a cousin, Seela. I wait for her on Tuesdays to go to English tuition together. We are close friends. She is Chacha Dinesh’s daughter. One day I found her name scribbled on the wall of the toilet with a male sex organ drawn next to it. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I learned Kenny was behind it. He was tall, had cunning eyes, and was a good-for-nothing. On top of it, he was a repeater. I hated his face.
I knew what I was going to do.
An idea was crawling in my mind. I lived with it night and day. One Wednesday, during the last period, I saw him going to the toilet. I followed him. I took out my cutter and slashed his face. Not once. But twice. Not only this. I gave him a kick. He fell down like an empty bag of rice. Then, I went to the office and told the Rector. He was shocked. He jumped from his seat.
Kenny was hospitalized. I still could not understand how I had got involved in this mess. Mother said I was hopeless. “How can a timid boy like you do this?” There was disappointment in her eyes. On Monday, the Rector called a meeting. We were in the Visitor’s Room – the Rector, Kenny’s dad, my mother, a policeman, and a psychologist. I gave the details. I hid nothing. In their eyes, I was an aggressive, unruly fellow.
They all said I should have told them. The psychologist was a middle-aged lady. It seemed that they were all shifting the blame on me. It revolted me. They kept asking me about how it happened and not why it happened. Why were they evading the real issue? I had gone to extremes, they said unanimously. But it was Kenny who had gone to extremes. Why were they refusing to see this? Their whole sympathy was with the victim in the hospital, not with me. I was scandalized. They could see or imagine Kenny’s harm. It was physical. But they could not see my psychological and emotional agony. I wondered why.
They found that I was a danger for others. I needed to be transferred. I wanted no bloody transfer. I wanted to quit.
“You should learn to keep your calm no matter what,” said the psychologist.
“It’s now you’re telling me?” I retorted. She got as red as an over-ripe tomato. “Besides, they don’t teach it here.”
“In case of problems, we always advise students to seek the help of teachers,” said the Rector.
“I don’t remember when you ever advised us such a thing,” I said. I was determined to talk and to save my skin. “The teachers are ill-prepared. I informed a teacher. He did nothing. Another teacher jumped to the conclusion that I had stolen when I hadn’t.” The psychologist said officers go to schools to deliver talks to Lower Six students. “Only Lower Six students are harassed in colleges? Others are not?” I asked.
“Do you regret your act?” asked the policeman.
“Not at all. Why should I? If that fellow never regretted harassing me, why should I regret punishing him?”
“You’re rude,” he said.
“My son was never a rude boy,” intervened my mother. “Circumstances have made him into one. Please take note.”
“Kenny and his friends, weren’t they rude?’ I asked.
The Rector held his chin in his hand for some time before asking me, “By using violence what did you want to prove?”
Without hesitation, I said that I wanted to prove I was not a coward.
“You risk being imprisoned,” said the policeman.
I did not allow myself to be intimidated.
I answered back, “In one way or another, you’re all responsible for what happened. You’re the people who should be imprisoned.” I said it with a boldness I did not know I possessed. “Had you done your work well right from the beginning, we wouldn’t have had the high level of harassment that we have today in our schools.”