High school was a terrible time for me. Perhaps, all of school was a painful time for me. Now when I hear people say school days were the best days of their lives, I wonder what I missed out on, because, truly I will not have another childhood. Or at least one that will take me to high school.
I have absolutely no bonds with school friends that I cherish to this day. They are all bonds that are at most pleasant. I wouldn’t make efforts to go to their weddings, or cross the country to go visit them. I am just not that kind of a girl.
High school was traumatic for me because I didn’t fit in. Or maybe I didn’t let myself. I wondered about all these confident kids at school who were at best mediocre at everything they did but had tons of self-esteem which made them look like they were fantastic. I was always diffident about any skill I had and while I was not exactly a shrinking violet in school, it would have been easy to play on my deep and large insecurity had anyone wanted.
I made strange friends, kind friends, friends who accepted me, friends who were only willing to believe the worst of me as and when it suited them. Like everyone else, I made all sorts of friends. This, then, is a tribute to those who will remain in my memory, some of them in my friends, forever.
Sangeeta Mohandas: She was quiet, shy and yet she was the one who sought out where I lived when I first came to Muscat, visited me and forged a relationship of a life time. She, as were a lot of kids in my class, was trained to think that anyone who didn’t do well in maths and science (me!) wasn’t worth knowing. She was trained to think she would only be successful if she were a doctor or an engineer.
And even though she was unlike any of my friends in India, who were all boys, we hit it off, even as she tried to get me to shed my rambunctious behaviour and turn me into a girl.
Today she is a successful mother of a 6-year-old who has shed her conditioning, with a degree in home science and with a personality that I enjoy. She also lost tremendous amounts of weight in the last two years and looks a completely bomb. Complete inspiration for me.
Hetal: I forget his last name. I know, it’s terrible. But he taught me that boys can be gentle, and sweet. And that it was okay to be a girl. I don’t remember specific conversations but I know this boy stuck in my memory because he was different.
Anuj Kapadia: My first humongous crush. I think this guy was born sensible. Apart from that, here’s why I had this crush. He has dimples, he sang (I think. My obsession with men who sing started very early, as you can see), he was good at everything he did and always polite, but with a healthy dose of irreverence, which, by the way, has snowballed into the cheesiest, most corny sense of humour today.
Here’s an example: Recently my status line on FB said, I continue maintaing that I am a flake.
Anuj’s comment: Does that make Ben Afleck your sister?
Today, he has a PhD in some really complicated (for me) aspect of radiology, which he patiently explained to me once and which I am utterly incapable of reproducing here. All I can say is I think what he does will not waste too much water or use up too much plastic. He is also seriously warm, intelligent, doesn’t let any opportunity for a joke pass by and totally wholesome.
And so great was my embarrassment at the crush that I signed his autograph book (in class 7 or 8) as “your loving sister,” as the asswipe reminds me every chance he gets.
Harshita Nair: She was my best friend through school. She saw me through a lot. She was one of those confident ones. She could dance, she could sing, she could do maths, she looked and was super nice, she made prefect, she was hugely popular, I suspect she even won a supporting best actor award for an inter-house dramatics competition. And at times, I felt inadequate around her but loved her enough to not be envious.
She could eat two really big BurgerKing burgers, every day, and remain svelte, she spoke way more than the average number of words per minute and she taught me that it was possible to be talented and not be snooty about it. I will be ever thankful for her friendship through school.
Today, I am not sure we are best friends, or even friends. She has a decent career going, she’s done all the right things for her timeline: marriage, husband, bought a house, built a career, travelled abroad. But in my eyes, and I am being very judgemental so forgive me, she hasn’t reached the promise she shone with. And I always wonder what happened to that real firecracker I knew in school when I look at this now mellow person.
Seema Vijayan: We were never friends. I think I put her off the minute I entered class. My impression of this girl — apart from being someone who was good at academics — will always be of a really big girl with many grey strands in her thick long hair, someone who was a fantastic orator. The lines “I thrice presented him a kingly crown, which he did thrice refuse” from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar where Mark Antony speaks on JC’s death will never belong to anyone but Seema and her strong emphatic voice.
But she sticks in my mind for another reason altogether. In hindsight, I realise this girl had absolutely no sensitivity to anyone other than her friends; in fact, I am inclined to think she was a bit of a bully. In school, I happened to mention to a girl that one of our classmates had serious body odour issues. Then, I didn’t have courage to go up to her and tell her it is offensive to others around her, as I do now. So I mentioned it to someone else. This rat told the girl in question who quickly cried to her group, which included Seema. And the bully she was, she came down on me at the basketball court, gaggle of girls backing her up, sticking her finger in my face and saying she knew the “minute she set her eyes on me that I was not to be trusted”.
Dude, come on.
I don’t know what she does today but I do know she checked out my Orkut (when it was active) page a couple of times. When I saw her on my visitors list, I in the silly grown-up way I have, was very thrilled with this blast from the past and sought to add her. What do you know, she ignored it. Nice.
HM: I am only going to have her initials on here because I know some people who read my blog know her and I don’t want any uncomfortable situations for her. She and a few others, if they read, will know immediately who she is.
What can I say about this girl? She was a true-blue Scorpio. She had a glamour, a mystique that very few tweens or even teens have. She wielded considerable influence over anyone who was vulnerable enough to let her. She had an elder sister, so was privy to much information that duds like us didn’t. She was and still is very nice to look at, was loaded with personality and brought yum Gujju food to school. When we bonded, we bonded real tight but when she decided to move on she sort of broke my heart for a year. The loss and the humiliating way I was dealt it scarred me some. But a year later, or two, I realised shit happens. And when I grew some sense, I realised it was entirely her loss because, you know, I am a kickass friend. My lesson from there? A certain wariness of Scorpios, which by the way is unfair because they’re a good bunch of people and I don’t take the zodiac thing so seriously anymore.
Today, she lives in Dubai with a career I hope she enjoys; her FB status messages tell me her life is full and her marriage good. And her story won’t be complete if I didn’t say that after 15 years she took the initiative to call and chat, which I thought was sweet.
If I have enough readers, please feel free to take this up as a tag and tell me about some people in school you’ll never forget.