Saturday, January 14, 2017


4-year-old Tony saw her, standing there, waiting for her mother to pick her up.  None of their classmates were around them.  This was his opportunity.  He took out the folded piece of paper from his pocket.  In it, he had drawn a picture of her.  He had spent a lot of time working on it.  He had drawn as many as 6 strands of hair on her head which was a circle.

Earlier in the day, he had shown it to his friend.  Tony felt that this friend was the only sensible guy in his entire class.  The friend had looked at it, and said that the heart beside the picture was a nice touch, and also suggested that he write her name beside the drawing just in case she didn't realize it was her.  Tony felt it was a sensible suggestion.

Right now, just a few feet away from Kalyani, Tony stopped.  He noticed Ms. Divya standing nearby.  She was talking with a man and laughing until she noticed Tony.  Her expression suddenly turned stern.  She is becoming another hurdle, Tony thought.  It was like the universe was trying to keep Tony and Kalyani apart.  Just when Tony was gathering up enough courage to ignore Ms. Divya and hand over his drawing to Kalyani anyway, her mother came over and took her away.

Disappointed, Tony placed the drawing back into his pocket.  His sister who studied in the 6th grade came over with her nose up in the air and grabbed his hand and pulled him away.
"I will catch you guys tomorrow!" his sister said to her friends who stood hunched together in a group, gossiping.  It bothered Tony that his sister acted differently at different places.  At school, she acted like she didn't like him, but at home, she would be a caring and loving sister.  Grownups were complicated.

That night, Tony and his sister sat on the floor in front of the TV.  They were watching a romantic bollywood movie.  In the movie, a young couple were having a candle lit dinner, and the boy snaps his fingers and produces a rose out of thin air.  The girl gasps, then blushes, and receives the rose.

"Awwww.... so romantic! I wish my husband was just a itty bit romantic," they heard their mother say from the sofa behind them, cuddling up to his father.
"I heard candle fumes are unhealthy," his father said.
His mother playfully hit him.

Tony's sister turned to look at him with a blush.  Tony looked back at her with a blank stare.  She took out her phone and started typing something into it.  Tony tried to take a peek, but his sister shielded it away from him, and put it away.  A moment later, there was a chime, and she looked at the phone and blushed again.  Grownups are weird, Tony thought.

On the TV now, the girl's parents were dragging her away while she cried.  Tony could hear his mother sniff from the sofa behind him.  On the TV, the couple finally were united after running towards each other in slow motion.
"I wish somebody had asked my dad for my hand in marriage instead of just running away to the marriage registration office," Tony heard his mom say when they saw the hero asking the girl's dad for her hand in marriage.  Tony saw his dad roll his eyes, and get up and walk to the bedroom saying,
"Good night, kids."
His sister's phone chimed again.  She blushed again.

Next day, Tony noticed a rose on the rose plant in his mother's little house garden.  Making sure his mother wasn't watching, he carefully cut out.  He used a nail clipper to carefully cut out the thorns, then placed it in his bag.  Now he had to wait for some 'alone time' with Kalyani to give it to her.

The first 2 hours were spent by Ms. Divya teaching them numerals 80 through 90.  After that, they were taken to another room where there were no tables or chairs.  The walls were painted with colorful pictures of animals.  Here, they would sing nursery rhymes and dance in dull choreographed movements.

Tony felt this was stupid.  He never could make himself like these rhymes.  But Kalyani seemed to enjoy it.  And all his friends seemed to enjoy it.  Even his sensible friend sang along and did the motions with a smile plastered on his face, but Tony knew the truth.  A while ago, Tony had opened up about his feelings on the nursery rhymes to his sensible friend.  His sensible friend said that once he too had refused to take part in these practices, and he was beaten down into submission by his games and internet time being taken away.  He had finally decided to fake his way through it all.  He said it was easier to just pretend to enjoy it and be done with it than trying to fight against it.
"Its part of growing up.  You gotta do things you dont like," his sensible friend had said.

Suddenly, everybody stopped singing and looked at Kalyani.  She had fallen down.  Tony rushed to her and helped her up.  Gasps spread through the room.  The boys believed that the girls were beneath them.  They always made fun of them, mocked them.  The girls believed that the boys were beneath them.  The boys would get into fights and have dirt and mud over their uniforms all the time.  And now, a boy was helping a girl up, and he still held onto her arm.

"Tony, ewwwww!" his friends said in unison.

Almost on cue, all of Kalyani's friend crowded around her, giggling at her.

Tony let go of her arm in an instant and stood stunned.  Kalyani then shut her eyes and slowly opened her mouth and a cry escaped it that steadily grew in its volume.  Ms. Divya knelt down to her and tried to soothe her,
"Stop crying, kiddo.  Is this how you want to remember this place by?"

But Kalyani continued to cry and was now pointing at Tony.

"Oh, its him, is it? I will send him away," Ms. Divya said, and turned to give Tony a stern look and said,
"Go to the classroom, Tony!"

Tony felt hurt.  He walked out of the recreational room and went into the classroom.  He could still hear her crying, and it made him feel really sad.  After some time, the crying had stopped, and the nursery rhymes resumed.

Tony remembered the rose.  He had stumbled upon another opportunity.  He took out the rose and placed it on her desk, and waited for them to come back.

About 10 minutes later, the rest of the class filled the room.  From the corner of his eyes, Tony could see Kalyani going to her desk and picking up the rose.  He could see her smelling it.  He could see and hear one of her friends trying to touch it, and she turned away with it and held it close to her heart.  Tony realized he was blushing.  May be accepting the rose was her way of saying thank you.  May be today will be the day he will give her his drawing and seal the deal.  The bell rang, and Kalyani along with others rushed out.

Even though Tony tried to catch up with her, he lost her in the sea of students.  He accidentally walked into his sister who was talking to a boy her age.  She was blushing and talking in a strange voice.  But as soon as she saw Tony, she sighed and said with her old tone of voice,
"Oh, my brother is here."
"Fine! I will message you later," the boy said.
"Cool!" she said with a wide smile.  Tony had never heard her use that word before.

Next day, Tony found one of Kalyani's friends sitting in Kalyani's seat, and there was no sign of Kalyani anywhere.

During snack time, Tony confronted the friend.
"Kalyani, told me I can use her seat," she said.
"Where is she?" Tony said.
"She said shes going away."
"Going away? Wher....."
"Listen! I dont want anybody to see us talking, okay?" with that, the girl walked away leaving Tony lost for words.

Tony would spend the rest of the day in a daze.  He felt like his insides had turned hollow.

That evening, his parents dropped him and his sister at their grandparent's house.  His parents were going to have a candle lit dinner at a restaurant.  Even though his mom was excited, his dad looked like he was being dragged into it.

Tony had fallen asleep in their room and was awoken by his sister yelling into her phone.
"Its over!! Dont talk to me ever again!!" she shouted and threw her phone at the floor.
She spent a moment staring at the floor at her broken phone, then she turned around and, almost as if just realizing that Tony was in the room, said in her caring voice,
"Oh! Did I wake you up?  I am soo sorry."  She rushed to him and adjusted his blanket over him.  She was smiling, but her face was red and her eyes watery.
"Its okay.  Go back to sleep," she said gently.  Tony took a leaf from his sensible friend's book and pretended like he had gone to sleep.  Grownups are crazy, he thought.

Next day in school, Ms. Divya was teaching them the numerals 101 through 110 when she was interrupted by someone at the door.  A man was excusing himself and requesting a word with her.  As Tony watched, bored, he noticed someone peeking into the classroom below the man.  It was Kalyani.  Tony couldn't make out for sure if she was looking at him, but before he can be sure, she had disappeared again.  Along with her, the man and Ms. Divya had walked out of the room.  A low murmur started to grow in decibels in the class as the kids started to chat, sing songs, and say random stuff that came to their minds.

Tony knew this was another opportunity that the universe had granted him.  He took out the folded piece of paper from his bag and walked out of the classroom.  Outside, he noticed Ms. Divya talking to Kalyani's mother and the man who Tony guessed was Kalyani's father.  And Kalyani stood next to them.

Then something happened.  Kalyani started running towards him.  Tony stopped, stunned.  He could almost see her running towards him in slow motion.  A moment later, she had ran past him and towards the girl's toilet.

"Tony! What are you doing away from your desk??" Ms. Divya shouted bringing Tony back to his senses.

His first impulse was to run back to his classroom, but he stood his ground.  He had to do this.  If he couldn't give this to Kalyani, the least he could do was to make sure she got it somehow.

He walked over to Kalyani's mother and handed her the folded piece of paper with his drawing in it and said, "Please give this to Kalyani."
Her mother didnt say anything, but took the paper with a curious look on her face.

Tony felt relieved.  After giving a look of defiance at Ms. Divya, he turned around to walk back to his classroom, but stopped.  He realized the universe had granted him yet another opportunity.  He turned back to face Kalyani's parents again and said,
"I would like your permission to marry your daughter."


- Rejo John.

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