Updated: Nov 5, 2020
Chapter 5: Stupid 'Hero' Act
26th August, 2014 - Tuesday
"I think you did the right thing!", Dhruv told Riya.
"No, she didn't!" Kam countered, almost immediately.
"Did she do it?" came a voice from the door. Everybody turned, as did I. Ankush walked in with his handkerchief in his hand, wiping his dripping face. Ankush, being the topper that he was, ran out between every two periods to catch a teacher in the corridor. On certain occasions, even I accompanied him, in case I had questions too. But he usually had more; probably why he was the topper and I wasn't! Today, however, I didn't even focus in the class. I had other thoughts clouding my mind. I only noticed he had gone, after I saw him return.
"Sshhhh," Kam shouted a whisper, as she hurried to him, caught him by his arm and hurried him back to Riya's desk.
Their whispering resumed, and I felt uncomfortable sitting in my seat, knowing that every other statement was about me. I stood up. I wanted to move out, maybe wash my face, and come back after catching some of the cool breeze blowing outside. As I stepped away from the desk, I noticed every face in that whispering circle turn away in unison. They probably had turned towards me when I stood up suddenly.
"Get back to your seats," Kaushalendra Sir entered through the door. I considered asking him for permission to go and freshen up, but decided against it. Any word with any soul just felt like a bad decision at the moment. I sat back down and grabbed the Chemistry notebook from my bag.
By the time it was our breaktime, it had become common knowledge that Riya did not register a formal complaint. Apparently, she even chose not to tell any of the teachers her version of the incident that happened on Friday in the train. But we all knew Dhillon Sir had heard about it, 'cause he was already furiously throwing sermons on 'being human' last day, even before he had a chance to talk with Riya.
And of course, he would! Dhruv, Rohan and Ojha didn't hound him for nothing the previous day! In fact, the second class after the break was Dhillon Sir's. He looked visibly pissed at me, and probably at Riya too. After the class, he called Rohan and Ojha outside. Shaon, being sound in Physics had some major doubts regarding what the master at Geography, Dhillon Sir was teaching regarding the Coriolis forces working on the wind and water currents. So, Shaon followed Sir out after the class as well. I saw from my seat as they had a dramatic conversation with Dhillon Sir getting redder expressions with every moment.
Five minutes later, Shaon walked back in and came to me with a smug smile on his face.
"We'll have to figure out every bit of this drama," he declared.
"Well, I know I have to," I looked at him confused. "I can't rest until I know the entire picture. I know Dhruv doesn't like me, but there is a lot more to find out, especially how did Shreya's name came up when I spoke to Kam."
"Yes, that bothers me too. You and I have been sorting out her relationship issues for so long now. Why would she say something like that even in passing?" Shaon whispered as he looked around to check for any erect ears. "But more than that, I need to know why Dhruv and Partha's entire gang is taking this so personally. Rohan usually doesn't take anything this personally, but this time he is. I think this is about Sharmistha, a lot more than we expected."
"Sit down," I shifted to the side. "I know you brushed it off as some stupid 'hero' act that Partha was pulling to impress Mistoo, which backfired, but if we are going to sort this, you need to know all the details about that incident when Partha threatened me."
11th August, 2014 - Monday
"Come naaa!" Sharmistha pulls at Anirudh's arm like a nagging kid, as he just keeps sitting there at his seat.
She has been asking him to come to the practice room to take a look at her choreography since last week. But Anirudh insisted every single time that he had no knowledge whatsoever about dance moves. Today, she just won't have it any more.
"But I don't even know what purpose I'll serve," Anirudh stated for the eleventh time since this morning.
"And what purpose will you serve here?" Sharmistha put her hands on her hips dramatically. "Oh right! You'll watch your precious Shreya, who will be busy kissing her boyfriend!!!" she almost shrieks the last bit while making sure her volume won't go screaming. "It's pathetic and creepy, you know."
"I know," Anirudh looks around to see if anyone heard. "That was one time, okay? I just walked out of the class at the wrong time, and retreated just as fast. They never saw me."
"Yeah, yeah. Drop that drama, you drama queen! You are coming with me, and that's final. NOW!"
"Take your boyfriend, Mistoo. I'm pretty sure he'll appreciate your moves lot more than I will."
"Exactly!" Sharmistha rolls her eyes. "He will appreciate anything I do. I need someone who'll criticize, which, apparently, you'll do always except the one time I actually ask you to. Plus, he has his game!"
"It's dance, not math! I don't know a thing. You should ask people who know things."
"I am 'people who know things'. I need audience reaction, and audience mostly doesn't know things either. I can incorporate super hard classical moves into the dance, and the audience won't even know what they just saw. So, yeah, I need a dumbo at dance, not a professional. I am the professional. Get up!"
"You know you are a pain in my ass, right?" Anirudh stands up.
"Uh-huh. Love you too. C'mon," Sharmistha trots to the door as Anirudh sets his bag straight before leaving the room.
Ten minutes later, in the practice room, Sharmistha is dancing to the tune of a patriotic song, preparing for the upcoming Independence Day Programme. The practice room is a carpeted open spaced hall with no furniture. Anirudh is sitting down along with two other girls from junior classes, who are supposed to be extras in Sharmistha's predominantly solo performance.
Anirudh feels like a fish out of water, sitting in the room with two juniors who are frequently pointing out minor issues and appreciable moves in Sharmistha's performance, while it all feels like 'dance' to him.
The music ends.
"Okay, say something," Sharmistha insists, hands on hips.
"'Twas good," Anirudh replies. "I mean, I know it sounds unhelpful, but you wanted noob audience reaction. I felt it was really good. That pose with the angry eyes and what not... I think you nailed it."
"That pose, exactly, was the worst! Urgh... Stupid!"
Anirudh breaks into a sudden laugh. As he sits up straight and looks towards the door, his eyes meet Kaushik Ojha through the glass panel. As soon as Ojha realises that Anirudh saw him, he leaves. Anirudh stands up.
"I think, I have served the purpose that you brought me here for. I'll scoot," Anirudh imagines all the three different ways things could go wrong. Ojha and his gang of jocks would definitely make a deal out of this scenario where he is the only guy sitting in the practice room while Sharmistha practiced. Either he would lose any hope he ever had of getting together with Shreya, or he would end up being the reason Partha breaks up with Sharmistha, or some of the teachers would show up with judgmental eyes with god-knows-what cooking up in their brains. Or, maybe all of them!
"Oh no no no..." Sharmistha holds him back by his arm. "You are not going back and pining over your lady-love, all by yourself. I know too well, you won't go out in the field, like the rest of the guys. So, you are staying here, where I can keep a watch on you, and you can keep a watch on my moves going wrong."
Anirudh tries to structure an argument that wouldn't be as bad as the real fear cooking in his mind. He knew what kind of people Partha and his friends where, but Sharmistha didn't need to know that right now.
"I don't want to hear anything," Sharmistha shuts him up. "Sit."
Anirudh sits back down. He starts thinking a reply to the possible questions thrown at him, "Mistoo needed me to take a look at her choreography. She asked me to come here..."
Minutes later, Partha peeks in through the door.
"Hiii," he smiles at Sharmistha. She turns off the music and runs to him. She pulls him in, hardly letting him take his shoes off.
"You sit here too, now that your precious game is over."
"Sure, it's only ten minutes left for the bell to go, anyway. What are you guys doing here?" he eyes Anirudh, as he joins him on the floor.
"I'm practicing," she moves to the music system. "And Ani is sitting here to watch how my choreography is," she turns on the music. "You too, Mister," she blows Partha a kiss as she counts the beats before starting with her dance. Anirudh rolls his eyes as the two juniors giggle amongst themselves.
Hardly ten beats into the song, Sharmistha takes a whirl, a step she has been meaning to better despite everyone in the room saying that it is perfect. A smile grows visible on her face, as she realizes that she finally did it perfectly by her own standards. Oblivious to her, her skirt flies high enough for her boxers to be visible. Partha immediately turns towards Anirudh, almost on instinct. He catches Anirudh looking straight ahead before he consciously lowers his eyes.
"Yayyy..." Sharmistha shrieks excitedly at her achievement. "Did you see that?"
Partha stands up.
"It was beautiful, baby," he smiles, trying to suppress his inner emotions. "Let's stop at this great moment. It's almost time. You pack it up with the girls, Anirudh and I will get a head-start, okay?"
"Okay. See you in class, guys," Sharmistha turns the music off.
Anirudh gets up, and joins Partha at the door. They calmly walk across the corridor to the class. Partha enters the classroom first. Then Anirudh gets in.
Suddenly, he feels a strong hand at his collar almost throwing him against the wall. Partha is visibly furious as his entire body shakes while holding Anirudh against the wall. Anirudh tries to slither out of his grip. He is not strong enough. A thought starts gestating in his mind. Should I kick him? But then he won't just grab me, he'll start hitting me. He starts getting glimpses of that one time he was beaten up by the elder boys in his neighbourhood.
"Stop," Sharmistha screams at her boyfriend, as soon as she saw boys. "What the hell happened?"
"He was peeking under your skirt while you were dancing. I saw him myself."
"I'm not naked under my skirt, damn it! Leave him," Sharmistha pulls at Partha's arm. "PARTHAAA!!!"
Partha lets go of his grip. Anirudh bends lower, gasping, barely able to process the situation.
"He was there because I wanted him there, do you get it?" Sharmistha continues screaming at Partha. "And I know I had dance practice; I'm properly dressed for the occasion. And I was dancing, for god's sake! He wasn't peeking at anything I didn't know I was already showing! You don't HAVE to be my saviour all the time, Partha Bhowmick."
She pushes Partha out of the way, and angrily walks to her seat. Anirudh stands up straight, and walks to his own. Partha walks out as Dhruv follows him out. The entire class remains silent until the bell rings a minute later.
On her way out of the campus, Sharmistha stops by the window of Anirudh's ride.
"Are you hurt?"
"No, I'm okay. I'm sorry, though. I didn't mean to-"
"I know. I've been dancing for a long time now, Ani. I know what dresses fly in what ways with what steps. It's okay!" she smiles. "I wore boxers for a reason."
"Thank you," Anirudh mouths as she walks away.
Yards away, at the cycle stand, Partha mounts Dhruv's bicycle, eyeing Sharmistha from a distance. Rohan spits looking at Anirudh, as Ojha casually rides away.
"I knew something was up with Rohan that day. He seemed to hold way more grudge than Partha did," I completed relating the incident to Shaon.
As my eyes drifted towards the door, I saw Siddhant looking at me. He wasn't looking for Shreya. He wasn't radiating disgust towards me like most guys... or like himself from the last day. He just stood there, eyeing me...
Based on real events.
Original series idea: Aninda K. Nanda
Written by: Aninda K. Nanda
Proof-reading and Suggestions:
Sayan Mandal, Shaona Kundu, and Tales, Fables and Fantasies Team
Promotional Art and Illustration: