Updated: Oct 22
Chapter 3: "That bastard!"
25th August, 2014 - Monday
On our way back home, Shaon told me bits and pieces of what he had heard.
"Ummm..." he started. "I had heard of certain things in the tuitions. Got to know a bit more today. I think you should know it too."
As usual, he was behind me, and I was at the front seat beside Rajiv bhaiya. I knew Shaon was looking at me when he said that. I half-turned my head, and nodded an approval.
"You know Riya and Dhruv go to the Chemistry tuition together, right?" Shaon enquired. I nodded with a barely audible "Yeah".
"They had a class there on Saturday. I don't know, what all was discussed there. However, on Sunday when we had our Computer tuitions, David and Pratyush were talking about something. Sahoo and I caught on to your name. So, we asked them about the issue. Apparently, Riya felt harassed by you on Friday," Shaon said.
"Did you have any interaction that could have led to this accusation?" Shaon finally had to ask. I know he was waiting for a reaction from me, but I didn't have any. I had guessed by now, that it couldn't be any lesser form of an accusation that could turn the entire atmosphere against me. Throughout the day, even the breeze whispered disgust in my ears. I can swear I almost felt the disgust in the conversations of my juniors from across the floor, even though I couldn't hear them.
I know, not everybody hated me. But even the pity in the eyes of people like Mistoo and Rhitusree, was unacceptable. Why do they feel pity for me, instead of just feeling disgust for the souls soiling my name??? I almost screamed in my own head.
"Ani?" Shaon's voice felt like a sudden distant call.
"Yeah?" I almost jumped.
"Are you okay?"
I smiled... the broadest, I ever had. But there was no fooling Shaon. He knew me the best, sometimes even better than myself.
"You know there is no escaping this, right? You can't escape the situation at school. You definitely can't escape me."
"What do you want me to do?" I asked in a calmer tone than normal, constantly holding that serene smile on my face. My cheeks hurt!
"Can you specifically think of something that happened on Friday?" Shaon shifted to the right of the car to make eye-contact with me.
I let out half-a-laugh. Maintaining unbroken eye-contact was something we did if we felt the one in front of us might be lying. It's our thing; mine and Shaon's. A newbie to the art of lying almost always stresses out at that unbroken stare. For a moment, I saw the humour in this gesture. But it didn't take even a minute for me to start wondering otherwise. Is it just humour? Or does he not trust me? And why wouldn't I? Was there anyone who trusted me right now?
"I can think of only one thing. If that is at all what she spread about me or not, I have no idea," I replied not looking at him. In the event that he didn't trust me, I decided I would consider him another lost one among the rest of my close friends. I had no intention of proving to him, of all people, that I'm innocent. He should have simply trusted. We have been through a lot together for several years now!
"Fine," Shaon read the terrain. "If you wish not to enlighten us about the incident, that's okay. I know it is getting stressful. I will, however, tell you what I came to know from David, Rhitusree and Bhaskar. All three of them were there in the chemistry tuitions with Riya on Saturday...
23rd August, 2014 - Saturday
Kaushalendra Kumar, the chemistry teacher walked out only seconds ago. All of the eight students still remain seated at their places on the bed and the chairs. It is Aarush's room. Seated on the bed, occupying three of the edges are Aarush, Bhaskar, Dhruv, David, Riya and Upasana. On either side of Kaushal Sir's empty chair are two chairs occupied by Rhitusree and Pratyush. Upasana and Rhitusree are busy packing their bags. They never are the ones to gossip, unless in specific company. Aarush and Bhaskar are whispering among themselves, cracking up occasionally at their own stupid jokes. Pratyush, David, Dhruv and Riya are talking amongst themselves, their notebooks still open and the pages flipping from time to time.
"So, how many guys gave you their number yesterday?" Dhruv teases Riya.
"Yeah, I've heard the L'Ecolian boys are quite handsome and hot," Pratyush adds.
"Actually, yeah... How was yesterday?" David enquires quite cheerfully.
"It was all good... but I really wanted to talk about something that happened yesterday," Riya's voice sounds troubled, something very unusual about her normally jolly, bubbly self.
"Is everything okay?" David senses the gravity of her tone.
"St. David to the rescue!" Dhruv ridicules. "Why don't you two kiss already?" That was something Dhruv was known for. His take on sarcasm and funny jokes, rarely made everyone laugh. He prefers making fun of people than having fun with people. However, the thing about teenagers is that even this seems cool and appreciable.
Dhruv notices as David gives him a stern look. David is the entire school's favourite vocalist, the school captain and quite the ideal student in Principal ma'am's judgement. Dhruv knows better than to piss him off. It is his M.O. He never makes fun of the toppers during the exam season, any cute girl until they get committed (both from his class and his junior classes), or any teacher's favourite student. He is rude, in general, but never unsmart about it.
"Hey, I'm joking, bro. So, Riya, what happened on Friday?"
"I don't know if it was anything at all. It probably was just an accident..." Riya takes a moment to phrase her words carefully. "What do you guys think of Anirudh? As in, what kind of a person is he?"
"Well, he has been around for a few months. Seems like a good guy," Pratyush replies.
Upasana, sitting between Pratyush and Riya, feels weirdly caught in the conversation. "He has been an emotionally uplifting company for me when I was going through a phase," she adds.
"Yeah, right!" Dhruv scoffs. "You people do know why Partha can't stand Anirudh, right?"
"Yeah, it is partially because of those rumours that I am feeling unsure about what happened," Riya says.
By now, everyone in the room is looking at Riya with inquisitive eyes. Rhitusree has her bag packed, but she keeps sitting to listen. Bhaskar and Aarush have stopped whatever their funny story was. David looks intently at Riya eager to know the truth she knows not whether to express. Upasana seems interested too, but is slouching unlike others, mostly because being talked back by Dhruv is not something she appreciated. She wasn't used to saying much, and now she decides not to say anymore here. Pratyush and Dhruv adjust their positions by sitting up straight.
"Okay fine, I'll tell you. But I need you guys to tell me if you feel it was intentional or not," Riya takes a sip from her bottle, and shifts places with Upasana to move to the edge of the bed.
"So, I was sitting like this on the train," she continues after sitting with her legs resting on the floor. "Papa was at my front, facing me, and Anirudh was right here beside me, on my right," she pats the bed. "He said he was sleepy since he had to wake up early to reach here. So he crossed his arms on his lap and went to sleep by burying his face in his own lap," she takes a moment to phrase her next words.
"After about half-hour or so, he shifted. His right hand, which was crossed over to his left, like this," she explains by acting out, "crossed some more and settled on my thigh, like this," she uses Pratyush's thigh as a prop in her retelling. "Now, Papa was right in front of me, and even I felt a bit weird, so I seemingly adjusted my skirt whilst pushing his hand off. He woke up with that nudge. Now, I am not sure if..."
"That bastard!" Dhruv spoke up. "This fucker needs to be taken care of!"
"Wait, what if he was genuinely asleep?" David tries to make his point.
"No, you tell me, this is normal, right?" Dhruv crosses his arms on his lap. "Even in sleep, who does this?" he makes an extreme cross with his hands, each reaching out weirdly to the people seated on his either side.
"Did you talk to him about this?" Pratyush asks Riya.
"No, I didn't know if I should," she replies.
"You don't worry!" Dhruv reassures Riya. "We'll handle him. You don't need to talk to him. I know the kind of guy he is. I have seen the way he is with Shreya and Sharmistha. Anybody asks, you tell them unafraid what happened. If he tries anything, we'll take care of the situation. I'll call Partha and the others. Everything will be fine!" He pats Riya on the shoulder while getting off the bed and pulls out his phone.
"I think we should go," Upasana suggests and gets up. She walks out, and Rhitusree and Bhaskar follow.
Half-an-hour later, in front of the closed gates of Diamond Sparks School gather a bunch of teenagers on their bicycles.
Based on real events.
Original series idea: Aninda K. Nanda
Written by: Aninda K. Nanda
Proofreading and Suggestions:
Joy Chakraborty, Satamita Hazra, Sayan Mandal, Shaona Kundu
and Tales, Fables and Fantasies Team
Promotional Art and Illustration by: