Friday, November 4, 2011

Cruel Kids

There I was, a ten-year-old, propped at my homework desk at home, swinging from side to side on the bright blue office chair and getting more excited by the second. The Geography teacher had given us a photocopied rectangle of the world's continents and asked us to show her the next day where all the tropical rainforests lie. I was in that random mood where you decide to do more than expected. I looked around the bedroom for ideas and, spotting the "Stationery Box" above the wardrobe, proceeded to drag my office chair, carefully climb on it and reach for the box to start.

An hour later, I put the box up again, sat back down and leaned back to admire my work. I was satisfied. The ache in my fingers from trying hard not to leave behind any white spaces was worth it. The waters were a smooth blue, the land varying shades of green, and the tropical rainforest areas a burst of colour, with trees and birds added for good measure. A voice in my head was praising my work, and I smiled shyly as I glued the corners of the back of the map to my geography notebook.

I was so busy thinking of the beautiful piece in my bag to allow anything to get to me on the bus ride to school next morning. That's saying something: bus rides in the morning were disgusting things. The bus comes early the day you snooze the alarm too much, and late the day you happen to be the early bird. The atmosphere inside the bus is a mixture of all the possible moods of school kids woken up from dawn, ranging from anger to bitterness to weariness to indifference. Halfway through the bus-ride, the kid who ate too much egg early morning tells the bus conductor she needs to puke. If we're lucky, we get to stop at the side of the road and watch her get sick from the window. Otherwise, we are stuck with the contents of her breakfast spilled over the bus seat and the bus floor and flowing with each movement the bus takes.

That day was no exception. But my excitement kept me smiling through the vomit smell and negative auras. We were earlier than usual that day, so I reached my classroom empty but for one of my class-mates, one of the exceptionally quite and anti-social girls that I'd never actually had a conversation with. She approached me cautiously, "Did you do the geography homework?"

Just the question I wanted to hear. Yes! I beamed, plunged my arm into my book to retrieve the masterpiece I was so blatantly proud of. "Oh!" Her tiny brown eyes widened, reaching out to hold the book closer to her eyes. At that moment, a bunch of people came in, with a bunch of distractions that I can't for the life of me remember today. All I do know is that for a few minutes, my eyes were away from my book. But I went back to check if the girl had returned my book, and I saw it squeezed between all my other books. Phew.

The day dragged on endlessly until the highlight of the day finally arrived: the geography class. All the kids lined up at the teacher's table as she examined everybody's maps. I had played this out in my mind several times by now that I knew exactly what to do. I reached out for my book, opened it-

A blank page stared back at me. My heart missed a beat. I looked back at the cover page to make sure it really was the geography book I was holding. It was. I went back and felt over the blank page. It felt rough and wrinkled.

Was this really happening? How? Did I just imagine I had made such a beautiful map? Had I forgotten to stick it in the book? But I remembered doing that. And yes, had I not seen it stuck in the book that very morning? When she asked if I had- Oh God! No, that can't be.

In shock, I surveyed the queue at the teacher's table and watched her hold out her book to the teacher, with MY map. The one I spent an hour working on. I watched on as I saw the teacher hold up her map to show to the classroom. "Good Job! That's amazing", and everybody's oohs and aahs.

That day was a turning point in my life. I learned a valuable lesson. To give in to the reality that life is unfair.

Can you relate to this? Did you ever have an experience as a child that taught you how vicious life can be?

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