Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Numaa-Ish Chapters 4-6: LATE POST!!

A/N: First of all, sorry for the late post, guys. I know I was supposed to post this on Tuesday, but I did not have time, so I'm doing so now. I hope you guys will understand. 

Chapter 4


The look on Charlie’s face when Numaa had somehow, it seemed to him, magically conjured up her Mathematics Activity Notebook, had been one that can be best described as one who has been hit in the solar plexus with a powerful roundhouse (Parth has had that uncomfortable experience once). As the bell rang, he ran out of the class muttering “Well I’ll be damned.” Kawaljeet gave a thumbs-up to the two of us; it was every student’s dream to humiliate Charlie. “So, what’s the plan?” asked Numaa, as I walked with her up to the school’s main gate after school was out. “Well, I was thinking of going to Hotel Prakash, since it’s my birthday tomorrow”, I replied. I caught sight of Numaa’s undies yet again, as she bent to cross the chain tied on the gate. I mentally smacked myself on the head for fantasizing about her. We were just friends, and that was it. When the big day finally arrived, it was a chilly Saturday. “Brrr….it’s freezing!” said Numaa, her hands around her shoulders. Anoop, as usual, was up to his stupid antics. He took off his school T-shirt, and proudly strutted around in just his vest and his school pants, his belt all awry. “Thinks he’s a hero, the faggot”, I commented, as he gave Junaid Shekhawat a well-aimed punch in the face. It was the recess. Suddenly, without warning, our imposing buffalo of a principal, Cyriac entered the room. Anoop ran to his seat like a cat with its ass on fire. “You,” he said, “come here”, pointing at me. Wondering what I had done this time, I got up from my seat. Anoop started sniggering, the fatass. “You too”, said Cyriac, gesturing at Anoop to come. Instantly, the annoying smile was wiped from his face. The two of us walked up to Cyriac’s lair, exchanging nervous looks. “Wait here”, said Naseem Bhaiyya the peon, pointing to the waiting room. I walked in, followed by Anoop. “What the fuck have I done to be called here?” I complained. “What have I done to be called here?” said Anoop, still in his vest, as if daring Cyriac to take action against him. It felt like an eternity, but finally, we were both called into Cyriac’s office. “So”, he said. “So.” I looked at Anoop, wondering what the hell made me a co-conspirator with him in some dastardly plot. “You think it’s funny to just stick chewing gums on students’ benches? And you….running around naked like a hobo.” “What?” I asked flatly. “You’re acting like you don’t know? This morning, a young girl walked in from the biology lab, with a piece of chewing gum stuck to her skirt. She told me that the bench she was sitting on had the words ‘Insane Ishan’ written on them. Evidently she thinks it’s you. Your record isn’t exactly clean itself. So, what do you have to say for yourself?” I stared at Cyriac as though he had just said that the Statue of Liberty held not a flaming torch but a giant ice cream cone. “It wasn’t me”, I said. “Then who was it? Speak up! Don’t try to fool me!” he said. “I’m calling your parents. I’ll let you off for now, but beware, I will rat you out to your parents. No further infractions will be tolerated. Now get the hell out of my office. And you….put some clothes on.” I walked into the class, looking like somebody who had just been told that his sperm count was zero. Anoop however, walked in with a wide grin on his face, looking like some sort of war hero. I wondered what his problem was. “Look at him, smiling like an idiot. If he didn’t have all that adipose tissue, I’d beat the shit out of him”, I told Numaa, who was looking at me with a concerned look. “Do you want me to kick him in the nuts again?” she asked, her face contorting in a mixture of a sadistic smile and anger. “No. That would just get you into trouble too”, I said. “By the way, who told you to write ‘Insane Ishan’ on that desk? I thought you hated that name.” “I most certainly did not write that name on the desk!” I protested. “Y’know Ish, I smell a rat. I think someone’s trying to frame you. Let’s go to the V-Dragon”, suggested Numaa. Vasunthi Agarwal, or the ‘V-Dragon’ as she was more commonly known, was our biology teacher. She was fat, but it was in a graceful way. She looked like somebody’s mother, and indeed, scolded her students like she would do her own son. If something was going on in the biology lab, the V-Dragon would know. It was ten minutes before our next class would start. “Ok”, I said. Then we walked out of the class, and headed downstairs to the lab. Inside was the V-Dragon, who had had her breakfast, and then we saw the most bizarre sight we could ever imagine. The skeleton kept in the lab was out of its cage, and it had lipstick on its teeth. The sternum and the pelvis bore the words ‘Insane Ishan’ and ‘Ish x Vasunthi’ in an alternating pattern, written with – wait for it – lipstick! The sight was so sickening that I was forced to say out loud, “What the fuck?!” The V-Dragon looked up, and then glanced at me like I was a skunk. “Ah, Ishan Mukherjee. Just the man I was looking for. Would you care to explain as to why you have written such a hideous thing about your teacher?” she said in a loud voice that would put a roaring dragon to shame. I noticed that beside her stood a short girl, who was sobbing and had pink bubblegum stuck to her hips. “Look ma’am, that’s why we’re here. We think somebody’s framing Ish-“ “You keep your beak clenched,” said ma’am, now looking thunderstruck. “Why, oh why did you do such a thing? I looked upon you as a son. I considered myself a second mother to you. Why would you have dirty thoughts about your own mother?” she said, half-sobbing herself. “Look ma’am, I didn’t do this, I swear. That’s why I came here. Brother Cyriac summoned me to his office earlier, and that’s when I came to know that someone was doing this stuff to frame me. And I swear, when I get my hands on that bastard –“ “Please Ishan, language”, said the V-Dragon. “Do you suspect anyone?” “There aren’t a great deal of people I know who would do such a thing, but I suspect that somebody who sat on that seat wrote my name there”, I explained. “Where is the seat?” “O-over there”, sobbed the little girl, her face red from all the crying. I walked up to where she was pointing. “Ma’am, do you know who sat here the last time, before this girl did?” I asked. “Alok Mishra, I think”, replied the V-Dragon. “Who’s Alok Mishra? Do you know any Alok Mishra, Ish?” asked Numaa. “Oh I know very well”, I said, clenching my fists and grinding my teeth. Alok Mishra was Anoop’s brother, who studied in the 12th grade. Alok and Anoop were both well-known troublemakers, and Alok in particular hated me for some reason I cannot comprehend. “So that’s why Anoop was smiling today!” gasped Numaa, as realization dawned on her too. “Would you two explain to me what you’re babbling about, or will I have to call in Leonardo DiCaprio?” said the V-Dragon irritably. “Come with us, ma’am!” urged Numaa. When the V-Dragon just stood there, Numaa grabbed her hand, momentarily bewildering her. “Whoa!” she said. “Let go kid, I’m coming!” And so Numaa and I ran up the stairs, Numaa bringing up the rear. Panting, we finally reached the classroom. Anoop was, as usual, enjoying Junaid’s tiffin. As soon as the V-Dragon entered the class, his characteristic twisted grin was wiped off of his face. “There he is, the co-conspirator. He and his brother planned all that shit”, said Numaa. Anoop made to run, but the V-Dragon pushed him down, grabbed him by the collar, and gave him a tight slap that resounded throughout the hallway, making people stop to look at what had happened. “Come with me, Anoop, and I’ll show you what you get for pairing a teacher and a student as lovers”, said the V-Dragon calmly. And with that, she took Anoop to the principal’s office, and we didn’t see him all day after that.

*

The liquor shop outside Hotel Prakash was flooded with people who wanted to get their daily, monthly or weekly dose of high. Numaa went and ordered two cans of Kingfisher’s Beer, and we headed upstairs to the Restaurant section, waiting for the rest of our friends. “I don’t get one thing, Numaa”, I said, as we sat down on the seats at the very end, facing a giant sofa-seat-something. “And what is that?” she asked. “Alcohol is haram in Islam, isn’t it? So how come you, being a Muslim, drink booze?” “Oh, I don’t follow the rules of any religion. I think religion is bullshit”, she admitted. “Then how come you believe in God?” I taunted. “Oh, it’s just convenient. There are certain limits to things you can do. If I didn’t believe in God and sin, I’d probably be murdering people, you know, killing Anoop, drinking your blood”, she said, looking at the puzzled look on my face. “Sadist.” “Oh you have no idea. Oh, here they come.” And so they did – Junaid Shekhawat, Malvika Chattopadhyay, Kawaljeet Singh, and Javed Bashir. “Hi Numaa”, greeted Malvika pleasantly. She was a tall and busty girl who possessed the rare ‘Bengali beauty’. “Hey hey hey! It’s my birthday!” I complained. “Oh yeah. Happy b’day Ishan.” “Happy b’day mate!” said Kawaljeet, a medium-height guy with specs. “Man, you screwed Charlie up the ass big time”, said Javed, a swarthy guy also wearing specs. “Congoz on sweet sixteen, dude!” said Junaid, who was the only white Muslim guy I knew. He looked like a slimmer version of Jesus, with his beard and all. “Sit down everybody”, I said, slightly embarrassed. They did. “So, what do you guys wanna order?” I asked, as the obsequious waiter (apparently he was new, the older ones were more like supercilious) hovered over us. “Sir, you can’t have that here”, he said, pointing to the can of beer. “Ma’am, you too.” “It’s just one can of beer man! Tell you what. You don’t say a word to anybody, and I’ll tip you a hundred bucks, I promise you that”, I offered. “Are you mad?” mouthed Numaa. “Deal. Pleasure doing business with you”, said the waiter, smiling. “Let’s see. Do you guys want burgers first? They make good appetizers. Plus, we can throw in some pizza later”, I said. “I wanna eat Chinese”, said Malvika. “Ditto”, said Numaa. “Seconded”, said Kawaljeet. “Thirded”, said Junaid. “Oh alright. That’s enough. So we’ll be ordering dry Manchurian balls or burgers?” I asked, looking around at the entire gang. “Definitely burgers. We’ll be ordering the Manchurian balls with the main course”, said Junaid. “Which will be?” “Veg Chopsuey or Chinese Chopsuey”, said Numaa. “I want Veg”, said Kawaljeet. “Chinese”, said Malvika. “Oh, ok, we’ll order both. And what drinks do you guys want?” “Fanta”, said everyone except Numaa, who said “Fresh lime soda.” “Okay then. Bhaiyya, bring six veg burgers, four Fantas, and two fresh lime sodas, mixed”, I said. “Right back atcha sir”, said the waiter, positively beaming. And he returned with six burgers not five minutes later. “I’m bringing the drinks now”, he said. And almost instantly, he returned with four Fantas and two fresh lime sodas (salty and sweet mixed). “See? You offer them a little money, and they’re right in your pocket”, I said, grinning. “Stop being such a poseur, Ish. You’re not a fucking billionaire”, said Numaa. “Aw, you two make such a great couple”, said Malvika, in what she thought was an off-hand manner. I blushed and looked down. “Bitch please”, said Numaa. After we had barely finished our burgers, we ordered one plate Veg Chopsuey, one plate Chinese Chopsuey, and half a plate dry Manchurian balls. “Let’s dig in!” said Kawaljeet, taking three dollops each of Chinese Chopsuey and Veg Chopsuey and a generous amount of dry Manchurian balls. “Yaar, where is Johnny? I thought he was gonna come too”, said Numaa. “I’m right here, bitches”, said a voice from behind. We all turned around to see the one and only Casanova of our class, Johnny Fernandez, dressed in formals, with a bag tied to his shoulder. We all stood up to greet the latecomer. “Why the bag?” I asked. “You’ll see soon enough”, he said, winking. “So, where’s the waiter with my food?” he asked, eyeing Malvika with what I hoped wasn’t a mushy look. “We’re calling him right now. We haven’t started with the beer yet, though. Numaa and I have one can each”, I said. “Good. I have a fucking awesome idea”, said Johnny, grinning. “All right. Bhaiyya! Bring another plate of Veg Chopsuey”, I called out. “So, what’s in the bag?” asked Numaa. “Take it out, the suspense is killing me”, said Kawaljeet. “Alright,” said Johnny, sitting down on the sofa thing with Malvika and Javed, “here goes nothing.” “Oh you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me”, I groaned. Johnny had taken out a bottle of Mountain Dew - fucking Mountain Dew! - from his bag. “Mountain Dew? Seriously? That’s the big surprise?” “Shhh!!” whispered Johnny. “This ain’t no Mountain Dew. I threw out that shit earlier. This bottle contains straight grain whiskey, for those of you who want to drink. Of course, nobody’s forcing you.” “Okay, so what’s the big idea?” asked Malvika,  while  Junaid  whispered  something  that  sounded  like “Haram…” “Well, we’re gonna play a little drinking game. It’s called ‘I Never’. You see, the person whose chance is up tells you a thing he or she never ever did, and whoever has done that particular thing at any point in their life, drinks from their glass”, he said. “Waiter!” I barked. “Bring us five empty glasses. And take these glasses of water away.” “Yes boss!” “What’s with that waiter?” asked Johnny curiously. “Oh, I told him that I’m about to tip him a hundred bucks, which I am”, I said proudly. “Poseur”, sneered Johnny. “Ok, let’s begin. Junaid, Javed, you guys can play this game with your soft drinks as well. Numaa, you start. I’ll pour the whiskey into your glass first, and then you top it up with the beer.” Numaa nodded, as Johnny filled one-fourth of the glass with whiskey, and Numaa opened the can and filled the glass to the top with beer. “Ok, here goes. I never kissed a guy”, said Numaa. Malvika andJohnny took a shot each from their glasses (which had been filled with a mixture of my beer, and whiskey, by Johnny). “Johnny?” said Malvika, staring incredulously at him with an open mouth. “You never told me you were gay!” “I am NOT. I was drunk. It was last year”, he said, almost dropping his glass. “By the way, who was the guy?” asked Numaa. “Promise me you won’t gag?” pleaded Johnny. “Promised”, said Numaa. “Anoop.” “What the fucking fuck?” I roared. “We were both drunk as fuck. And he had also done an entire ganja joint, so he was stoned”, explained Johnny, as if trying to justify kissing a menace to the public in general. “By the way, I hate him”, he clarified. “Was it just a kiss on the kiss on the cheek or a proper smooch?” I asked. “A proper lip-lock”, sighed Johnny. “I don’t think any of us will be able to get that image out of our minds for the rest of our lives”, I said. “Amen”, said Numaa. “Next, since I’m sitting next to Johnny, it’s my turn”, I said. “I never kissed a teacher”, I admitted. This time only Johnny drank deeply from his glass. “Ok. What the actual fuck, dude?” said Numaa in a loud voice, prompting many heads to turn in our direction. “It was only one time. You know, Miss Shanaya. She didn’t seem to mind, but she told me that she’d kick my butt if I came near her anytime in the future”, said Johnny gleefully. Miss Shanaya was a divorced, busty teacher, who had come all the way from Doon School. She always wore too much mascara and kohl, but half the class boys never looked past her boobs. Her nickname was ‘Mother Dairy’, a name that, fortunately, she did not know. “Okay, my turn”, said Numaa. “I’ve never had tequila.” This time, only Kawaljeet drank from his glass. “Kawal?” said Malvika, amazed. “I had it at my brother’s ring ceremony. We Punjabis have really drunken weddings”, he admitted. “Next, my turn”, said Javed. “I’ve never seen a porno.” Everybody excluding Javed and Junaid drank from their glasses. “Numaa, even you?” I asked, surprised. “Why should boys have all the fun?” she said, winking. “You into lesbian porn?” asked Johnny. “None of your business”, snapped Numaa. “What about you guys, Javed and Junaid?” I asked. “Not really interested in watching some white chick getting boned by a white guy”, admitted Javed. “Okay, next, it’s my turn”, said Junaid. “I’ve never seen a real girl naked.” Everyone except me and Junaid drank from their glasses. “Malvika?” I asked, interested. “My cousin sister, Numaa, my 14-year old niece, and my mom”, she replied. “Lesbians. Lesbians everywhere”, I said, earning a jab in the ribs from Numaa’s elbow. “Okay, my turn”, said Kawaljeet. “I’ve never had a crush on a schoolteacher.” Only Johnny and I drank from our glasses. “Eww!! You guys are so dirty!” said Malvika. “Look who’s talking”, said Kawaljeet woozily. “May I ask who that unlucky teacher was?” asked Numaa. “Um, let me start from the eighth grade. First it was Mrs Verma, then in the ninth grade, it was Shanaya ma’am, and now it’s Pooja.” Pooja was the new teacher temporarily filling in for Garima ma’am, since Garima ma’am was about to get married. “Fuck you, Pooh’s mine!” said Kawaljeet. “Uh, the game’s supposed to be about stuff you haven’t done, Kawal”, said Malvika. “My one true love will always be Shanaya Khan”, I said fondly. “Ok, enough. My turn,” said Malvika. “I’ve never had a pet.” “That’s lame”, said Numaa. “Yeah, yeah whatever.” Only Johnny, Kawaljeet and I drank from our glasses. “Man, I think Kawal’s gonna get drunk tonight”, commented Johnny. “I had a Cocker Spaniel, but she died very young”, I said plaintively. “Ah, the good die young!” sighed Kawaljeet. “By the way, what was her name?” “Nikki”, I sighed. “I have a German Shepherd. He’s really friendly though”, said Johnny. “That’s what you think”, said Kawaljeet. “What about you, Kawal?” said Numaa, with a puppy dog look in her eyes. She had reached her limit of alcohol tolerance. “I have a Labrador named Julian, and she’s my best friend. She sleeps in my bed. I’ve even tasted her Pedigree”, said Kawaljeet. “That’s not really something to boast about or even say out loud”, I commented. “He’s out. I’ll drop him home, don’t you worry,” said Johnny. “I’ve come walking. My Dad dropped me at the Century Gate (the gate that was the entrance to Civil Lines, where Hotel Prakash was).” The food had almost disappeared. “Bring the bill”, I called out to the waiter. “Yes sir”, he said smiling. As he brought the bill, I noticed that the booklet thingy had packets of what looked suspiciously like mouth freshener. “You’ll be needing them, sir”, said the waiter, smiling. “Thanks”, I said. And as I paid the bill, I accidentally tipped the waiter five hundred bucks.




Chapter 5


It was a full fifteen days before we saw Anoop again. He entered the class swearing under his breath. Numaa gave him an ‘I’ll-beat-the-shit-out-of-you’ gesture, and he frowned, as he finally got back to his seat, knocking over his neighbour, muttering something about ‘black dogs’. It would be Christmas Eve the next day, and all of us were excited, because this time Frappe Ash was finally selected to sing his rap in the Christmas function, and the combination of a good rap with a good rock band playing (whose extant members were still at school, some of whom were, like Frappe and me, in the tenth grade). Numaa’s mother was a pleasant lady who had graduated from Oxford University. As a result, every year we were invited to Eid and Bakr-Eid, Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving (of course without the turkey), at Numaa’s place. This year would be no different, except that Numaa was no longer a kid, so she insisted that we don’t get her any presents. “Good morning students”, said the V-Dragon (she was our class teacher), as she entered the class. She looked sunnier than ever, and my first impression was that she had won a lottery or something. “Today’s a free period, since we’re done with the formatives. Tomorrow, you will have a revision test for the summative”, she said. Everyone in the class let out audible groans. “Now, now kids (Numaa rolled her eyes theatrically at this), we mustn’t forget that what you do in these three months has the potential to decide your entire career. It’s make or break. Buck up!” It was more than a bit hard to have fun when you knew you had a test the next day. Almost everybody got to work, studying the topics to be covered in the forthcoming summative. Numaa, however, sat back and stretched her arms, letting out a yawn. She nudged Malvika, who was sitting right next to her. Malvika woke with a start, for she had been sleeping with her head on the desk. Numaa said something to Malvika that I couldn’t hear. Malvika nodded, and Numaa wrote something down on a piece of paper, and passed it to Kawaljeet (who was my neighbour). He gave it to me.

We’re playing Hollywood. Wanna join? 

I nodded, and wrote back.

Sure. Who else is playing?

Numaa seemed to take a while to think. Then she started writing again in her elegant, flowing cursive handwriting.

Malvika and Johnny. Javed’s in ‘do-not-disturb’ mode, and Junaid’s sleeping. Anoop’s been apologizing to me since morning, and has been giving me weird looks ever since the V-Dragon entered the class. Maybe we should go easy on him and let him play too?

I looked at Anoop. He looked like the tragic hero of some Gaelic ballad, or a hopeless Romeo who had just had his heart broken by his ladylove. Smiling petulantly, I wrote back.

Ok. As long as you don’t kick him in the nuts again :)

Alright then, let’s begin.

Then, Numaa tore another page from her copy, and handed it to Malvika, who wrote down the first movie. At long last, the paper reached our table.

__U__A__ __I

“C?” ventured Kawaljeet. Numaa shook her head, and crossed out ‘H’ from the giant ‘HOLLYWOOD’ written at the top of the page. “F?” he tried again. Another cross. “Randomly guessing alphabets from the consonants? Seriously Kawal? That’s your strategy? How dumb can you get? Move aside, let me try”, I said irritably. “N. N for Numaa.” Numaa smiled and wrote.

__U__ A N __I

“Oh”, I said, beaming. I instantly knew which movie it was. I wrote down the entire movie.


J U M A N J I


Numaa frowned and then mouthed “Correct”. This time Numaa wrote down the movie.

__A__A__O__ __ A__ / A__ __I__I__ __

This time it was my turn to frown. Knowing Numaa, this wouldn’t be an easy one. I gestured to Kawaljeet to keep quiet, but he spoke anyway. “T?” Numaa nodded and then wrote.

__A__A__O__ __A__/A__ T I__I T __

I paused for a while and thought. If there were two T’s in the second word, then the word was ‘ACTIVITY’. And if the second word was ‘ACTIVITY’, then the movie was….”Paranormal Activity!” I said out loud.

P A R A N O R M A L / A C T I V I T Y

“You are impossible”, said Numaa, as I wrote down the next movie and gave it to her. After that, Malvika sent the paper to Anoop, who had to fend for himself. At the end, the score was: Boys – 3 and Girls – 3. The bell for the next period rang not ten seconds later. “It’s a draw!” exclaimed Kawaljeet, not even standing up to say “Thank you ma’am”. “Of all the rotten luck”, groaned Numaa.

*

Due to its low altitude, Roorkee never witnessed any snowfall. So I was more than a little surprised, when on the next day, Friday, Christmas Eve, Numaa walked into the class, shivering, covered in what looked like snow. “What’s that?” I asked, pointing to the white mess on Numaa’s right shoulder. “Snow spray”, said Numaa, still shivering. “Johnny sprayed it onto me. He knows I hate snow spray. He’s even ruined my hair. Look.” And she turned around to show me her curly hair filled with confetti-sized pellets of the snow spray. I couldn’t help but let out a laugh. “Funny, is it? Oh Ish, you’re horrible. I won’t be able to go to the school assembly like this”, she said. “Chillax,” I said, “I’ll help you wipe it off.” “How?” said Numaa. I checked to see if anybody was around. I spotted nobody, so I took off my shirt and handed it to Numaa. “Ummm…thank you? I should hurry up, or people would think we’re up to something”, she said. Just as Numaa started to wipe her hair with the inside of my shirt’s breast pocket, Anoop entered the class. That devil’s eyes fell on us, and they widened to the size of tennis balls. He ran out of the class, yelling, “Ma’am, ma’am!! Ishan is raping Numaa!!” “Oh fuck!” spat Numaa. Hastily wiping the snow spray off her shoulders, Numaa handed the shirt to me, and said, “You’d better put that on fast, or there’ll be hell to pay for.” I buttoned my shirt as fast as I could, and was tucking it inside just when the V-Dragon entered the class. “Okay, what’s the big ruckus, Anoop?” she snapped. As I had finished tucking the folds of my shirt into my pant, Anoop pointed at me and Numaa. The V-Dragon just looked at us, and then stared at Anoop piercingly. “Are you trying to get suspended again? Just go back to your seat, and stop it with these false allegations. I’m growing tired of you and your brother. Don’t make me tell Brother Cyriac to call your parents. Go and sit down!” she scolded him. “Oh, and there won’t be any assembly today, as Brother Cyriac is on leave. Your other friends will find out soon enough”, she added hastily. The V-Dragon and went to her office to get what looked like a worn-out practical file. “I’ll write down the questions. You will write only the answers down, on a piece of paper. Hand in your answers at the end of the period. Let the revision test begin!” she said decisively. And with that, she said writing down the questions that would surely be the doom of lots of students in the class. I looked at the first question. If the phenotypes of the child and the mother are short and tall respectively, what are the possible phenotypes and genotypes of the father? I pondered for a moment the answer. The genotypes of the mother and the child weren’t given. That meant that although the child was homozygous for short (tt), the genotype of the mother could be either Tt (heterozygous) or TT (homozygous). However, any sperm combining with a T allele would give a tall individual. So, the mother had to be heterozygous (Tt). That meant the father could be either heterozygous tall (Tt) or homozygous short (tt). I wrote down the answer, and then proceeded to the next question (there were a total of four questions). Why does menstruation occur? I read. I looked up at Numaa. She was halfway between a frown and a giggle. Because fuck you, that’s why, I thought. I then wrote down the proper answer, the one that I had written down a thousand times before. Next question. Explain homologous and analogous organs and give two examples of each. It was as if the V-Dragon had really gone barking mad. I was pretty sure easy questions like these wouldn’t come up in the exams. Nevertheless, I wrote down the answer. By the time I had finished the fourth (and last) question (Explain the male reproductive system with a diagram.), my hands had gotten so tired that I literally wrung them randomly in the air. I finally poured some water into the lid-cum-serving-cup of my steel water bottle, and drank it in one gulp. After that, I slept and missed my attendance in Charlie’s period, missed a couple of notes in Garima’s and Mrs K’s period, and then mindlessly gobbled Numaa’s tiffin while she ate mine in a dignified manner. Most of the second half of school was a blur, and when I reached home, lunch was a quiet affair. I then went to sleep and didn’t wake up until at least three hours later.

*

“Merry Christmas, Numaa”, I said, as I entered her house. “Joyeux NoŃ‘l Ish”, said Numaa, running up to greet me. I noticed she was wearing a black, off-shoulder top with blue jeans. She had braided her hair into even more curls, and she had a hint of kohl in her eyes. “Where are the others?” I asked her, for I couldn’t see the other guys and gals from school anywhere. “In my room”, replied Numaa. And she led me to her bedroom, which was nothing like that of any girl I knew. Instead of the tidiness expected from a girl, all her school books were carelessly cramped into a corner of her study table, her pens and refills made a mess in her open drawer, her bag lying open on the floor. She had posters of Billie Joe Armstrong (the lead vocalist of Green Day), Eminem, Jim Carrey and Jim Parsons stuck on her walls, and the floor of her room looked like somebody had attempted to break the very foundation by stomping on it. Inside I could see Malvika in animated conversation with Johnny, and Kawaljeet arguing with Javed, who was holding something that looked suspiciously like a Christmas gift, in his hands. Next to him sat Junaid. And then I noticed a girl I hadn’t seen before in my entire life. She had burgundy hair, which she wore in a ponytail. She had a round face, just like Numaa’s, yet her eyes were larger and jet black. Her face was red with blush, and she had pink lipstick on. As I moved closer to her, her hair smelled like strawberry. She looked up at me. “Yes?” she asked, raising her eyebrows. “Er…hi, I’m Ish. Ishan Mukherjee”, I muttered uncertainly. “Aisha Sripada. But you can call me Pinky, if you wanna be my friend, that is”, she said with a smile I knew would stay in my mind for forever more. “Umm, okay. Where’re you from, Pinky? I haven’t seen you at St. Gabriel’s”, I said. “That’s ‘cause I study at St. Ann’s. I’m from Hyderabad, but my family originated in Kerala. That’s how I know Numaa. She and I are old family friends”, said Aisha. She paused as I processed this new piece of information. To break the awkward silence, Numaa said, “I’m bringing the poufs and wooden table from the store room, along with the bottle of Thums-Up I drank yesterday. We’re gonna play Truth or Dare.” “Isn’t the game supposed to be played with a glass bottle?” asked Aisha. I noticed how shiny her hair was, how cute she looked while she took up a decisive stance and (I mentally kicked myself in the ass for this) how big her rack was. “Problem, Pinky?” said Numaa, raising her eyebrows. ‘Pinky’ in turn, stuck her tongue out at Numaa. Once Numaa was out of earshot, Aisha said, “Problem, Pinky?” in a mocking voice. “Gosh, she can be such a sour puss at times”, sighed Aisha. Her sigh, the sound of her voice, everything about her, turned me on. This was one girl, whom I would make mine, that I promised myself. In a couple of minutes, Numaa bought in a large, ellipsoid wooden table. “You,” she barked, pointing at Aisha, “help me get those poufs here.” “Yes ma’am”, said Aisha submissively. In a matter of mere seconds, Aisha and Numaa brought in four maroon poufs each. “Let the moment of truth begin”, said Numaa. Everyone sat around the table, with Aisha sitting on the bed, me sitting below Aisha’s leg, and Numaa sitting on the pouf directly opposite to the bed. Numaa took out a bottle from under her study table, and put it on the ellipsoidal table. “You first, partner”, said Kawaljeet. “Alright then”, I said, as I spun the bottle. When it finally stopped, the neck of the bottle faced Johnny, and the back end faced Aisha. “Alright then. Johnny, is it? Have you ever had sex with a girl?” she asked. “Oh boy, here we go again”, said Malvika. “I think we all already know the answer to that”, said Numaa. “That ship sailed long ago”, I said. “What he said”, said Johnny, looking slightly embarrassed. “By the way, who was the girl?” asked Aisha. “That’s classified information. Let’s just say that she’s sitting in this room with us”, replied Johnny, earning him a jab in the ribs from Malvika. “He’s like the Stiffler of Roorkee, getting laid first and all”, said Numaa. “Now I think I’ll spin the bottle”, she said. And so she did. When the bottle stopped this time, the neck of the bottle faced Aisha, and the other end faced Numaa. “Ooh, this is gonna be interesting”, said Numaa, with an evil grin on her face. “So, are you a virgin?” “Yes, Numaa, sadly I am. I just haven’t found the right guy yet”, said Aisha plaintively, winking at me. Was she bluffing? Or hitting on me? Or both? This time Johnny spun the bottle. The neck of the bottle faced Kawaljeet, and the backside faced Johnny. “Alright, tough guy. Time to confess. How many times have you gotten drunk at a wedding?” asked Johnny. “Umm…lemme think. Five? No, maybe six? I haven’t kept track”, replied Kawaljeet. “This guy is unbelievable!” said Johnny. Next, Javed (reluctantly) spun the bottle. This time the neck of the bottle pointed towards me, and the other end pointed towards Malvika. “Err….ahem!” I tried, clearing my throat. “How many guys have you kissed?” I finally asked, thinking that this was a relatively innocuous question. “Just one. I’m no – god I can’t even say the word - whore. Don’t ask me a question like that ever again”, said Malvika, crossly. Just then, Mrs Rahman (Numaa’s mom) arrived. “The cake’s ready. It’s all cooled down too now. Come out and eat it”, she said, beaming. We rushed out into the living room, where chairs had been arranged for all the guests. “Sit”, said Mrs Rahman. We did so. We were given paper plates, with a piece of chocolate cake with a melted chocolate frosting on top too. Aisha took a bite out of her cake. “Mmmm…it’s sweet”, she said, the blood rushing to her cheeks. “So are you”, I said suddenly. Aisha blinked and then said, “Are you flirting with me, tiger?” she asked. “I’m really, really sorry I said that, I just - ” “Shhh. No need to apologize”, she said, putting her finger on my lips. “This is the first time I’ve met someone like you”, she said, smiling. “You’re cute”, she said. “Come close.” As I went a bit closer to her, she pulled me into a full-blown kiss. I could feel her tongue on mine, the corners of mouth with my tongue, her hold on my cheeks, the saliva coming from her mouth, the taste of her. I held on, as our tongues battled for dominance. “Wow!” I finally said, when she let go after a full two minutes. And just like that, ten months rolled by with my new ladylove.


10 MONTHS

LATER






Chapter 6


It had been ten months since that fateful night of Christmas Eve. So much had changed. We were now in the eleventh grade. Junaid and Javed had left us. They had gone to Kota for IIT-JEE preparation. Aisha was now in our school. Malvika, Johnny, Numaa, Kawaljeet, Aisha and I, were in class 11B, with the subjects PCM with biology. According to Aisha, she had moved to St. Gabriel’s ‘for better prospects’, but I knew better. She wanted to get out of the oppressive hellhole that was St. Anns, and wanted to come closer to me. So, here I was, sitting right next to Aisha, maybe a little too close for comfort, on the desk, my feet facing the bench. Johnny sat on the opposite desk, shamelessly hugging Malvika from behind, DJ A.Sen’s remix of Dhunki playing on his phone. “Look at us”, he said. “It’s the recess, we’ve bunked two periods, and we’re sitting here not one week from the exams, listening to music, with our girlfriends.” “Chillax. It’s not like we haven’t studied anything”, I said, stroking Aisha’s neck. “I wonder where Numaa’s disappeared to”, I mused out loud. But just then, Numaa entered the classroom. “Dhunki?” she asked smiling. “Ah Numaa. Just the person we were looking for”, said Johnny, patting the bench just below the desk on which he and Malvika sat. Numaa sat down on it. “So, where were you, Numaa?” asked Malvika. “Oh, I was in the staff room. They say they’ve postponed the exams. They’re gonna hold them in February instead”, she sighed. “What!?” said Aisha incredulously. “They’re gonna ruin our Valentine’s!” roared Johnny so loud that a startled Anoop (yes, he was still around) turned around. “Oh, they don’t care about that. Our school doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s Day anyway”, said Numaa, in a pacifying manner. “But we do!” protested Aisha, tightening her hold on my free hand. “So, what periods do we have next?” asked Kawaljeet, who was sitting on the bench in front of me, and who still didn’t have a girlfriend. “Double chemistry with Chummi and physics practical with Mrs Kaur, both of whom are absent, followed by English with Bhandari”, I said, counting the periods off on my fingertips. “Ah, Bhandari the Bespectacled!” sighed Johnny. “Do that mimicry of Bhandari that you always do”, begged Malvika. “Beta, I did not expect this from you”, said Johnny in a mock disappointed voice. “What about Muttu?” asked Numaa. “Ah, alright then, if you insist”, said Johnny, stealing a glance up Numaa’s skirt. This pissed me off for some reason. And then he put on a falsetto fat, pompous voice. “Beta, computers read and write at the same time – and then – are you barking mad? How can a computer read and write at the same time?” He dropped the falsetto voice. “Total retard, I tell you. Good thing I took biology instead of computers. Too bad we don’t have the fun stuff in the 11th grade”, he sighed. Kawaljeet grunted. He knew as well as I did what Johnny meant by the ‘fun stuff’. The girls knew too. “God, Johnny, is that all that you guys ever think about?” asked Numaa, facepalming. “Tell you what,” I said, “let’s all head out to the jungle and bunk Chummi’s chemistry periods, then come back to sleep off during the free practical period, and then have a little fun in Bhandari’s period. What say, Numaa?” I asked, glancing at Numaa, who was still my bestie. “We’re ninjas, buddy”, she said, winking, punching my fist. “Oh, alright, alright, that’s enough. We’re all going”, said Aisha irritably. She looked cute even when angry. Just then, the bell rang to signal the end of recess. “Let’s go. It’s now or never”, said Numaa. And we grabbed our bags and ran out of the class, down the stairs, to the school stage.

*

We hid behind the stairs, waiting for everyone to go back to their respective classes. However, there was no sign of any teacher, or, for that matter, Cyriac. “Alright troops, let’s go”, said Numaa. We walked carefully down the precipitous yet winding path that led, through bramble and thorn, to a sort of clearing with a gorge in between. In other words, a miniature jungle. According to the gossip in the class and among the juniors, a monitor lizard had been spotted in the jungle, although since I hadn’t been to the ‘jungle’ in a long time, I couldn’t verify the veracity of this rumour. I, however, did know that there were many snake burrows in the jungle, and the only teacher who dared come after students into the jungle, was a balding guy with a long face, named ‘Pendu’ by the students. This Pendu was a very lecherous fellow, who shamelessly flirted with his female students. Rumour had it that he was once caught taking a girl’s sweater off at an NCC (National Cadet Corps; Pendu was an honorary captain.) camp. He was also recently suspended from the school when he asked a girl what her three boyfriends did with her (he had previously asked her how many boyfriends she had, and she had told him she had three), and her friend reported this to Cyriac. My train of thoughts was suddenly interrupted when we reached the clearing. “Well, what’s the programme?” asked Numaa. “Photoshoot!” said Aisha excitedly. “Okay then, let’s go”, said Kawaljeet, heading for a tree bowed down so low, it was almost as if were to break. Malvika went above to scout for any trouble, and returned not two minutes later with some really bad news. “I just saw Anoop heading this way. If he sees us, and rats us out to Pendu, we’re screwed for sure”, she said. “I’ve got an idea”, said Numaa. “And it involves all of you but Malvika and Aisha.” “Why not us?” protested Aisha. “Because we want our two most beautiful wingmen to be free from harm”, said Johnny, winking. “More like wingwomen”, said Kawaljeet. “Okay. Come on. No time to waste. Don’t freak out, but we’re about to take Anoop hostage. Malvika, you’ll keep watch. Aisha, you’ll momentarily distract Mr Rathi so that we can take the rope or the pump from the sports room, and you guys follow me. I’ll kick Anoop in the nuts, and you’ll help me drag him with us here”, said Numaa. “Alright”, I said. Although I couldn’t see how we could possibly pull this off, carrying Anoop with us without being caught, adrenaline and noradrenaline coursed through my veins. As I climbed up over the undergrowth, I saw Anoop acting as though he was strolling casually up to the NCC office, which was next to the physics lab, which was in turn adjacent to the biology lab and the sports room. Numaa caught up to him. She was neck and neck with Anoop now. It was now or never. I broke into a run. “Going somewhere, Anoop?” asked Numaa, ever so politely. “To screw you bitches up the ass”, replied Anoop with an evil grin. I was running at top speed now. Numaa kicked him in the nuts and said, “Wrong answer mate.” I tackled Anoop, taking advantage of his moment of pain. Kawaljeet grabbed Anoop’s right leg, Johnny grabbed his left, and Numaa and I grabbed his arms, bearing his weight together. In the distance, I saw Aisha making conversation with Mr Rathi, the sports teacher. Malvika, who was just near the school stage now, just dashed to a midway point, went to the sports room, hastily grabbed some rope and the pump used to fill air in the basketballs. Anoop groaned. “Just a little further now”, said Numaa reassuringly. “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming”, chanted Johnny manically. “What?” asked Kawaljeet, amused that somebody could associate walking with swimming. “Finding Nemo, dude. Remember that fish Dory?” said Aisha. We had successfully reached the back of the school stage. “Let’s roll the fatass down”, suggested Aisha. “Nah that would be too evil, even for us”, said Johnny. “I’ll get you guys”, growled Anoop, starting to stir. “Careful”, I warned. “Let’s go”, said Numaa, starting to move fast down the sloping path to the clearing, pulling us forward faster than ever. Suddenly, Anoop seemed to think it was a good idea to attempt to put his foot on the ground. As a result, we all rolled into a tumble. Numaa was two inches from landing on me, when Aisha pushed her out of the way, and said, “No, he’s mine, you bitch!!” and hugged me so tight, the breath was knocked out of me as I fell to the ground. Numaa landed headfirst on the grass, her hair now a mess. Anoop stood up, but Numaa, who had dirt all over her shirt, gave Aisha one piercing look and then pinned Anoop down with her foot. “You’ll never get away with this”, he said. “Oh, that’s debatable. Boys, tie his legs up”, commanded Numaa. “It’s a bit risky. You gals handle that department”, I said. “On it”, said Aisha, and I had the distinct impression that she would do anything I said. “Come on Malvika!” And together they somehow managed to tie up Anoop’s legs with the rope. “The hands next”, said Numaa. I nodded, and along with Kawaljeet and Johnny, tied the brute’s hands up. “That’s no good. He can still hop, skip and jump”, pointed out Malvika. “We need to stuff something in his mouth.” “Good point. Who’ll volunteer? Step forward!” said Johnny. Everybody excluding Numaa stepped backward. Numaa turned around to look at all of us standing at a safe distance from her. “Why do I always automatically come forward in situations like these?” she grumbled. “Er.., because you have the IQ level of a rhesus monkey?” said Aisha, in a mock uncertain voice. Numaa gave Aisha such a piercing glare that it would set the jungle on fire, if such a thing were possible. “Put the old sock in ‘em”, said Kawaljeet. “What, and go home sockless?” said Numaa horrified. “Would you rather go home braless then?” said Aisha sarcastically. “Actually,” said Numaa, “now that I come to think of it, I probably would.” I had the distinct impression that she would do anything to spite Aisha. “Oh, take it off, take it off!” Johnny all but squealed. I don’t know why this pissed me off, for neither was Numaa my girlfriend nor my crush. But I guess I was justified in being a little put out. I mean, Johnny had Malvika as a girlfriend, for cryin’ out loud! “Don’t even think of following me, you fucking perv”, spat Numaa. And then she stalked off to a patch near the gorge that separated the small stream more often than not filled with garbage, from the rest of the jungle. As Numaa walked back to us, I caught a fleeting glance of her cleavage. Again, I mentally punched myself for letting my thoughts stray in that direction. “You wear size C-cups?” I asked Numaa, reading the label on her bra. “Problem?” snapped Numaa. “Congratulations, faggot. This is your lucky day. This is the first and last time you will get to taste a woman’s used bra.” And with that, she stuffed her bra, wincing as she saw how the fold ruined the creases, into Anoop’s protesting mouth. “Now what?” I asked. “Now, let us make him walk the plank”, said Numaa, an evil grin spreading on her face. “Walk the plank? What do you –” began Aisha, but I instantly knew what she meant. Numaa’s grin was reflected in my face, and Johnny, having seen my expression, said, “Oh.” He had caught our drift too. Kawaljeet, Malvika and Aisha all looked at us as though they thought we had lost our minds. “Wut?” asked Malvika. “The plank, Malvika. The plank”, said Numaa, narrowing her eyes towards the ‘plank’. The ‘plank’ was basically a narrow tree that created a bridge from the level ground to a high point with a clearing of trees, bridging the distance between a perpendicular high point and a low point, above what was otherwise essentially an abyss, a point of no return (You could climb up, but not before you ruined your clothes from all the mud in the gorge.). “Oh”, said Malvika, nudging Kawaljeet and pointing to the ‘plank’. “Come on, get up”, said Aisha, who had finally understood. With a great deal of difficulty, we finally got Anoop to his feet. “Now, hop like a bunny. Come on, like that”, said Numaa, pushing Anoop to the high end of the ‘plank’. Anoop took one step forward with his right leg, instead of hopping. That proved to be the wrong decision. “No!” wailed Numaa. “There goes my bra!” It all happened in a flash. One moment Numaa was with us, on the other side of the gorge, and the next moment she was dangling leg-first from the ‘plank’ (to be fair, it qualified as a log), trying to pry her bra from a falling Anoop’s mouth, the latter biting the right cup in an effort to remain airborne. “Let – it – go!” shouted Numaa desperately, looking as though she was clinging on for dear life. Anoop had a look of pure terror on his face. Numaa’s good leg slipped and Anoop gave way. With a distinct ‘SLOP!’ Numaa landed on Anoop’s stomach, her wet bra now in her hands, and Anoop in the garbage and the mud, his hair covered with dirt. His breaths came in heavy highs and lows. “I’ll – kill – you – bastards!” he finally said. Numaa gingerly got off of Anoop, and dusted herself. “My shoes will be kept outside the house for an entire week”, sighed Numaa. “You might want to get up. Your blazer saved your shirt, but you might need to do something about your pant. Oh, and one more thing. Don’t you ever dare touch my crotch again”, she added, slapping Anoop on the cheek. “Oh when I tell Cyriac, you guys are so busted!” spat Anoop, his face contorted with a mixture of fury and near-asphyxiation. “If you’ll tell Cyriac, you’ll get into trouble too”, pointed out Johnny. “He’ll ask you why the hell you were out of class without permission from a teacher, during a period.” “I’ll be a hero”, he hissed, and he distinctly reminded me of David Tennant in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. “Yeah, a filth-covered, suspended hero”, said Numaa, who had finally managed to climb back up, and was at the low end of the gorge. “So, what are you going to do? Leave me here to die, unless someone comes and finds me, in which case you’re almost certainly screwed?!” asked Anoop. “If you don’t cooperate with us, then regretfully we would have to do that. Your choice. Stay here and die, or just get your blazer drycleaned. It’s all in black and white, my friend”, said Johnny. “Oh, alright. Just this once then”, said Anoop, finally giving up. In the distance, we heard the school bell. The first of Chummi’s double chemistry periods was over. We now proceeded to pull Anoop onto the distal end of the ‘plank’. Surprisingly, it didn’t take much effort. I held Anoop’s right hand, and we all formed a human chain, and pulled hard. Finally, when Anoop’s feet hit the tree’s bark, we walked slowly, Anoop’s right hand in mine, and his left hand in Kawaljeet’s. It seemed like forever, but finally we were at the high, proximal end of the gorge, and had returned to the ‘safe’ part of the jungle. “Y’know Anoop, if you stopped being such an asshole at times, you could actually be a nice friend to us”, I said. “Just promise us that you won’t tell anybody about this. This whole event never happened. You do this and ask anything sane in return. Capiche?” “Well,” said Anoop, “I do fancy some of Peter’s burgers. I still haven’t finished my tiffin, so if you guys want, you can eat it too”, he said. “Ok”, said Kawaljeet, always happy at the prospect of free food.



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