Friday, August 1, 2014

The Original 3 Idiots !

Memories are a very fascinating aspect of our minds.

Its amazes me how we are able to retain photographic recollections of things, people and experiences from our past , bringing  them to our attention on demand as and when needed within the fraction of a second.
This mental database in our brains only grows larger day after day.

I am not saying that our memories are fool proof or resistant to wear and tear but some things that happen to us we never forget.

This is especially true for one group of memories I like to call 'The Firsts'.

We almost invariably cherish our first experience and attempts at anything , this can apply to friendship, to  love, to breakups, to sitting behind the wheels of a car for the first time , to our maiden journey outside our native countries, so on and so forth.

This post too is about one such first - The first time i got kicked out of a live lecture class.

It may not seem to be much but wait till you read what follows.

I remember every single thing that happened  on the 13th of September 1996 during the last 2 periods on a Friday afternoon in my IVth standard English class.

I should have seen it coming, after all, it was Friday the thirteenth!

Deepika and Amit were my benchmates for nearly 3 years in a row, if not for Deepu as we called her, Amit and I would have probably stayed at middle school forever.

Dont get me wrong,  she never allowed us to copy from her answer sheets  but Deepu was always there to help us two borderline ADHD cases find our way back to our books when it mattered the most.

We were the original 3 idiots.

Amit was the prankster, I was his reliable enabler and Deepu was do i put it gently ? Sort of dumb.

Even though she excelled in academics and had the best handwriting i have ever seen in my life, she was the usual target of all of Amits pranks. 

It didn't matter if the signs were glaringly obvious she never saw it coming .

Amit once convinced her that the centre of our poorly ventilated classroom had a very powerful magnetic field, according to him it was the best place in the whole school to meditate, he assured her that if she kept her eyes closed long enough-she would levitate.

Deepu  believed him and sat on the floor with her eyes tightly closed and without her knowledge Amit initiated the worlds first ever paper aeroplane war, absolute chaos ensued, the two halves of the class that were at war used her as a reference point to throw their pointed, misshapen pieces of paper at each other.

And in case you were wondering - She didn't levitate.

I loved them both, but every morning i faced a weird ethical dilemma, Deepu would make me promise that i would let her know if Amit had anything up his sleeve and barely 10 minutes would go by before Amit would threaten to kill me if I warned her in advance.

After the plane incident, for unknown reasons Amit took a temporary break from all of the pranking.
I must admit, that was a peaceful time.

Then Mrs. Kanti's class happened, she was our English teacher till Vth grade.

Our ADHD would flare up during her classes, She used to force us to complete our workbooks  while teaching us for nearly 2 hours at the same time, as far as Amit and I were concerned these were the longest 2 hours of the week.

It wasn't her fault, she simply didn't trust any of us 30 odd mini delinquents to complete our homework on our own accord. This way she not only ensured that the portions got completed on time but also that we finished our assignments simultaneously.

Those days using a pen instead of a pencil in middle school was considered a grievous offence and God forbid you had the audacity of using a ballpoint pen, you would incur the wrath of the entire teaching force at the school.

Deepu carried two extra pencils everyday in her precious 'Disney Mickey Mouse' pencil box, she knew that her 2 bench  buddies probably  lost theirs while chasing butterflies in the school yard during the lunch break the day before.

So there we were, the three of us, staring down at our workbooks, writing every word that Mrs. Kanti dictated in her loud clear voice.

It was a class on superlatives, i remember it clearly because for the word good deepu had written good, gooder, goodest instead of good, better, best, she was so confident that her answer was correct that she even wrote a sentence to prove she was right-'My elder sister cooks good, my father can cook gooder but my mothers cooking is goodest'.

When the correct answer was given Deepu was dejected, her disappointment got worsened when she suddenly realized that there was no eraser in her otherwise neatly organized pencil box.

This was unprecedented.

Amit and I looked at each other exchanging expressions of shock and surprise.

Of all people on God's green earth How could Deepu forget to bring an eraser to class ?

She looked at me and lip synced the words "Do you have an eraser to spare"  as discretely as she could without drawing attention 

I remember the look of absolute antipathy on Deepus face when i shrugged my shoulder as though it happened yesterday.

"Duffer" she said angrily (again as discretely as possible) and turned to Amit. 

I knew that dolt didn't have an eraser but to my amazement i saw him nod and put his hands inside his unkempt bag as he searched around for the eraser Deepu so desperately needed.

Things happened too fast.

Mrs. Kanti arrived at our desk as Amit yanked out 'the eraser' which was just a pale rectangular stone.

Deepu didn't look up at Amit cause our teacher was standing next to her,she took the stone from his hands and started rubbing away at the pages of her work book.

As Mrs Kanti walked away, the pages on deepus book started ripping,till this day its hard for me to believe that even after the pages tore Deepu failed to realize that what she held in her hands was a stone and not a hard old eraser.

Amit covered his face to keep from laughing out loud.

Deepu looked back at me, "What do I do now Thomas?" she asked, loud enough for me to hear.

"Its an old eraser Deepu" I said, "You should try soaking it in water to make it soft first".

We couldn't believe our eyes as Deepu took out the water bottle in her bag and soaked the stone hoping its hardness would reduce.

By now Amit and i were like a couple of over inflated balloons about to pop.

His face was red like a beetroot.

Deepu started rubbing the stone on her work book again.

The damage was worse, some parts of the page turned black.

We both couldnt take it any longer.

Laugther erupted on our bench like a volcano.

We roared in our seats as tears of joy came down our eyes.

Deepu sat there frozen as we both clutched our bellies laughing our heads off.

She reacted quickly.

In her anger she tore off a couple of sheets from both of our workbooks.

Her retaliation only fueled our laughter further.

For a small moment we had forgotten that we were at school and not at one of our regular laugh fests in the common room.

When we somewhat came to our senses Mrs. Kanti stood next to us, ready to give us the biggest dressing down of our lives.

"What on earth is wrong with you two?" She shouted loud enough to wake Avinash the certified narcoleptic who sat on the bench next to us.

Amit immediately stood up, I followed suit.

We quickly wiped the tears that had formed on our eyes and looked back at her trying to make a brave face.

Well ma'am Amit started to say.

"Deepu..... sorry i mean deepika forgot her eraser today and......."

"And"? Mrs Kanti said in a menacing tone.

Unable to find the right words to say  he just held up the stone instead.

Looking at that wet stone tickled my funny bone right down to the marrow.

I bursted out laughing again.

Amit joined me soon enough.

Deepu sat in her seat motionless.

I expected our English teacher to laugh along with us, but when i noticed her expression turn graver by the second my hopes began to dwindle.

Our laughter went up and down like the peaks and troughs on a sinusoidal wave, it raged on like a forest fire  but it never stopped.

Mrs Kanti was wise enough to understand that the stone was the cause of all the mayhem so she took it from amits hands and in one swift motion she threw it outside through an open window.

The giggling finally stopped.

We both were unceremoniously escorted out of class that day.

To make sure that we didn't enjoy our time in exile she made me stand with my face touching the wall and Amit facing the hallway.

But as soon as she went back in Amit was at it again.
"Did you see the way she threw that stone out man" ? He asked me.

"It was the 'goodest' throw of all time". I replied.

"She should stop teaching and go play that throwball game". he suggested.

"Don't make me laugh man, I pleaded with him, "This is the first time someone has sent me out of a class, you have been here so many times before,we all think that you spend more time out here than inside the classroom".

My pleading had no effect on him and whenever i'd asked Amit not to do something he did it all the more.

He now started imitating the principal's waddling gait, the gym teachers limp topping it off with the sloppiest moonwalk of all time.

I started laughing again.

Seeing that the two of us were having more fun outside Mrs Kanti brought us back in.

This time she made Amit stand facing the northeast corner of the class and placed me at the diagonally opposite corner in the room, for a change the whole class laughed except for us two.

If Mrs Kanti thought a wall was all it took to contain ‘Amit the menace’ she was in for a surprise, as soon as the class resumed, he turned the wall into a makeshift tabla and tapped his way to glory, he even stomped his feet for an added bass effect.

There was no less action at my corner either, this was where the large garbage bin of the class lay, it had a smiley face with the words ‘use me’ written over it and so I.... used it.

I loved the mechanics of that dustbin, whenever i pressed down on a knob the lid flew open, and when i took my foot off it the lid fell back on making a loud tapping sound in the process, it was so fascinating to me that i kept doing it, if i’m being completely honest with you at some levels Amits ‘wall tabla’ and my ‘dustbin drums’ synchronized with each other.

"You both are incorrgible buffoons". Mrs Kanti Bellowed at us.

"I’m going to ki.......

And the bell rang
It was the sweetest sound in the world to us.

She left the class in a hurry, fuming all over.

Amit and I made our way back to our bench.
Deepu was incredibly mad at both of us, she valued her books a lot, her once neatly wrapped flawless English workbook was now a damp mess, and beside it lay our books that in her anger she ended up tearing to shreds .

There was a lot of silence, for a few minutes we just stood there and before we could say anything to cheer her up she started crying inconsolably.

She picked up her bag and left.

We both were crushed, seeing Deepu cry that way convinced us that we had to make amends. That very same evening we went to a bookstore close to the school and bought a brand new copy of the workbook.

Amit had saved a few chocolates his aunt had brought him from kuwait for my birthday that was 10 days away, we used them to bribe Vidya to complete the whole workbook over the weekend which she did, God bless her soul.

By Monday we had the book neatly wrapped just the way she liked and we placed it on our desk next to a couple of brand new white erasers  and the stone which we both spent considerable time looking for in the bushes outside the classroom.

Deepu didn't turn up that day.

Every morning for the next 9 days we repeated the same ritual but she never came back to class. 
Nobody had any clue where or why she had suddenly disappeared.

Eventually My birthday came by, and as I distributed sweets to everyone in the class i really missed my old friend.
Every time someone would knock at the door during a class we would lean as far as possible in our seats and look to see if she had come, We even had our lunch that afternoon in the parking lot where her dad would drop her off each morning because Amit felt that there was a slight chance she would show up.

She didn't.

Post lunch classes were duller than usual, at 4 the final period ended and people started filtering out one by one till only Amit and i were left inside.

"Maybe we should throw this away". he said pointing at our little gift for Deepu.

"Ya, maybe". i said sounding dejected, I was standing near the window.

"Duffers you both are". I heard someone say.

"Did u just hear her voice man". I asked Amit

"Deeps" !!! Amit yelled out.

I turned to find her standing right behind us.

"Its You" !!! I screamed

"Its me" She said sounding equally excited.

"Looks like You’ve got something over there".

"Yeah, Its for you". I said trying in vain to reduce my enthusiasm as Amit handed over the book, the eraser and of course the stone to her.

She was the first to laugh, we joined in. 

Just when i thought things were going to go back to normal I noticed her tear up again.

"Whats with all the crying Deepu" I asked.

"I'm leaving this school guys".

There was an abrupt end to our laughter and pin drop silence returned.

"What do you mean your'e leaving this school"? Amit spoke up breaking the quiet in the room.

"We're moving to Nasik, Dad got transferred". 

"When were you going to tell us I asked"? still shocked by the announcement she had just made.

"Last week, after that crazy English period, I realized that i was going to miss you both and your stupid pranks so much that it made me cry".

"I thought it was because of what happened to your book". I said.

"No, that had nothing to do with it, we left the next morning but i came back with dad only because I wanted to say goodbye to you both".

We looked down at the floor, none of us spoke, time seemed to stand still.

Deepu's father called out to us from the front door.

"I guess this is it guys she said".

As she hugged me she quietly whispered the words"Bye Tom" in my ears.

She wiped the tears that were now freely flowing down her eyes and turned toward Amit.

Although he initially refused to hug her back standing there with a frowning face and his arms tied together, he eventually caved in.

We walked her to the parking lot, not a word was spoken, she waved at us from  the back of her fathers scooter as they drove away leaving us both standing there.

Amit and I spent the entire evening walking around the school talking about the times we three had spent together.

When we finally decided to get back home he made me promise that we would stay friends forever, no matter what.

But then as fate would have it we both changed schools the very next year.

Its been 17 years since I saw Amit and 18 years since i last spoke to Deepu,i have often scrolled through lists of thousands of people named Amit and Deepika on social and other public networks but to no avail.

Amits father was an upcoming businessman in Bangalore, a sudden surge in sales prompted them to expand operations to Cochin, thats when he left the city, i hope he has taken over the reins from his dad and ushered his company to greater heights.

I imagine Deepu to be already married with kids of her own, she is probably helping someone out right now,she was always trying to mend things, that was just her nature. 
Its possible that she still has that smooth rectangular stone with her wherever she is, maybe she laughs with her children when she recounts the tales of her two idiotic, goofy prankster buddies when she was in school, maybe, ..... just,maybe.

Its funny how I still can recall the events that occurred nearly 2 decades ago,Deepu's expression when the wet stone ruined the pages of  her book still makes me laugh out loud, sometimes that memory is all it takes to yank me out from a downward spiral when i'm dabbling with the melancholy brought about by life's changes and challenges.

I know its only a memory, but in a world where apparently the only constant thing is change I guess i'm glad that somethings will always stay the same.

Until next time,