The year was 1989. I was in standard 3 and had just joined a new school. I was shy, introvert and a bit scared by being in this large school. One day in the class, one of our teachers asked the name of our school. Nutan….Nutan everyone started shouting. Nopes nopes that was not the answer the teacher was looking for. “Shree J P Shroff Nutan Vidya Mandir” said one girl siting on the first bench. I looked at her, that was the first time I had noticed her and in fact that was the first time even I came to know the full name of the school! Wow! I said to myself, that girl is smart! Who is she? I asked someone. Her name is Bijal, I was told.
Bijal. That was her name. That IS her name. And she is my life.
So that was how I came to know of her.
Then it so happened that one day our class teacher rearranged the seating arrangements. Well in a typical Indian school there are benches and they are arranged in columns and boys and girls occupy one side of classroom each. Our class teacher Jyoti Mam was fed up by the constant chit chat going on amongst the students. So she decided to rearrange the seating and made one boy and one girl share a bench. She randomly picked one boy and one girl and allocated them to a bench. I had two wishes – one, to get a first bench and second, to share the bench with that smart girl. Lo and behold both my wishes came true. I don’t know why and how but the teacher paired me with the smartest girl in class. I was a rank new comer in the class and she was a ranker. That was the best day of my life till then!
I was good in studies and it wasn’t late before I started getting good marks and got everyone’s attention. And that’s also when the academic rivalry started to flourish between the two of us. We two were the undisputed scholars of the class. And exam after exam we would fight over who got better marks and a higher rank. It would alternate. Both of us would bring the best in each other.
She was first in standard 3.
I excelled in standard 4 and was first not just in class but in school.
She came back in standard 5 and became the top ranker.
Standard 6, it was me again.
Standard 7 it was her.
By eighth standard we were teens. I have always been attracted by smartness and the liking and fondness that I had developed for her was becoming a crush by then. I couldn’t stop thinking about her all day. I had also developed another interest by then – comics – I was an avid comics reader and was also into creating my own comic line that affected my studies and I permanently withdrew from the rank race. But she was becoming my fascination and I did what many stupid 14 year olds would do. I wrote her a letter.
A love letter!
I don’t exactly remember what was written in the letter, may be just I love you and drawn a heart with an arrow. Very filmy! When we think of it today we just cant help stop laughing. I actually had guts to POST that letter to her home!!! I thought I was very smart to the extent that I put the letter in a small envelop and wrote – this envelop should be opened by Bijal only – and put that envelop in a larger one and addressed it to her home. It didn’t even occur to me that that stupid gimmick of mine wont prevent someone else from opening the letter and that the letter can get in anybody’s hands and it can do a lot of damage.
Luckily nothing happened.
The letter ended up in Bijal’s mom’s hands and she tore it with rage. She asked Bijal about who might have sent the letter and whose handwriting it could be. Now Bijal says she did recognize my handwriting but she didn’t tell her mom! She won’t tell me why but she didn’t want to ruin my life at school by blowing the whistle.
And then after the tenth, the school life came to an end. By that time my crush had somewhat subsided. One major factor was height! She grew taller than me! It may sound silly but when you are 15 and everyone around you is growing taller and stronger and you are not, that has immense effect on a boy’s psyche. So school ended and we lost contact. I didn’t see her until three years later barring a couple of chance encounters on road.
to be continued…