Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Renuka Kirte

Renuka Kirte was the ugliest girl in class. She was so ugly, in fact, that it wasn’t even safe to dislike her openly, all the girls felt. Except my sister. When my sister joined this school in class six, she was already a head taller than any of the other girls in the class. And she disliked Renuka Kirte as soon as she saw her. Her pinafore was more black than regulation blue, and her shirt creased like wrinkles on a monkey’s back. Her collars drooped down below the round neck of the pinafore, and thin strands of jet black hair escaped from her loosely tied pigtails. My sister, on the other hand, was always neatly dressed, and considered the most beautiful girl in the class. I was in class three, and even my friends could see that. What’s more, she was within the first five ranks in class, while Renuka was closer to the bottom, so there was really no reason to dislike her.

One day, my sister asked mother to arrange her birthday party. I was envious that her birthday fell in the school season. Mine came in around April, so I never got to wear new frocks to school or hand out ravalgaon toffees. She chose the girls she wanted invited to the party. I saw the list she made, with many crosses and scratches, and it looked something like this.

Puja (Deepa gang)

Shalini (Didn’t call for her party)
Sonal (Refuses to share homework)
Renuka (NO NO NO)

It had many more names like this, but you get the gist. My sister was always very methodical in everything she did, and this list was no exception. The only name that really stood out on it was Renuka’s, written on again and again, so that the pencil marks had almost pierced the page, and crossed out vigorously. Mother found the list where my sister had hidden it, under the open wooden shelf, where we kept all our books, tucked in where the laminate was peeling away. That was when the trouble began.

Mother insisted that we had to invite Renuka. She stayed in our building, two floors above our flat. Her mother would surely notice that a birthday party was on at our house, and feel offended, she explained. It didn’t make sense to my sister or me, but we had to give way; When mother got really angry, there was no saying what she might do. What if she cancelled the party, sister would never recover from the shame. Most of the girls had already been invited, and news had gone around that Mother would even be serving pepsi. Pepsi! Who had even tasted one before. We had all managed to sneak out one or two rupees to buy the pepsi-cola they sold in tubelike pouches at the canteen, but the pepsi that came in a bottle. We had only seen the big girls standing at the corner shop near our school, sharing these, sometimes even with boys.

Still, it would be embarrassing when sister’s classmates found out that we lived in the same building as Renuka. Now, you may be reading this story, and thinking that perhaps we found out what was wrong with Renuka, and why she had more than her share of bad days. Not really. The birthday party came and went. It was a huge success. Mother made a walnut vanilla cake, no one had ever heard of such a thing before. Did she learn this in foreign, my sister’s friends asked. Renuka Kirte was also at the party, looking funnier than ever in the dunce cap my mother had given out. Most of the girls had pulled it off once my dad started taking photographs. But she kept hers on, and the other day, I discovered her in an old photo album, dunce cap perched on her head like a weird shaped bird. Her frock looked better though, as if it had been ironed with a hundred kilo iron, sticking out sharply at the sides. Some of my sisters’ friends were surprised to see her, but most of them behaved well, with a few parents around watching. One girl did say that she would invite only her own gang when her birthday party came around.

The next day, my sister and I played teacher, teacher. My sister was too old for this of course, but I begged her. She pulled up our old bed sheet and wrapped it around herself, a sari pallu over her shoulder. Then she took an old knitting needle that my grandmother had left behind. She called Renuka Kirte to the front of the class and beat her and beat her and beat her with this scale, while I watched. When she was done beating the air, I asked her what was the matter. She started crying loudly and pushed me away so hard that I hurt my head. The next day, Mother explained that sister was too old for such games now, and I should go play with my friends in the park instead, I was old enough.


Srihari said...

Very very well written...but I failed to understand the Renuka beating episode. Did I miss something?

itchingtowrite said...

very realistically written. children can be quite cruel at times. but why the beating? beating renuka must be part of the game - with the excuse of revenge as she was forced to invite her to the party but why was the sister beaten?

apu said...

hmmm looks like the beating episode has been confusing :)

You guys have played, teacher,teacher right ? Its a make-believe game, so everything, including the beating is make-believe, thats why "beating the air".

Srihari said...

I suspect this particular story gave you the liberty to make your characters do all the evil things you couldn't when you were a kid;) Evil!!

DesiGirl said...

not autobiographical, i hope! if so, who was it?
this is the only way i know u are still out there, u ass! what is it that u have against sending me a decent mail every now and then? or do i take this as 'the hint'?

apu said...

Sri - U know wht an angel I was as a kid, how can you say such things :)

Girlie, most things on this blog are meant to be taken with two pinches of salt and some pickle besides :) Its all mostly fiction, as I keep pointing out. And I promise will write sometime :))

Aparna said...

It must be in your style which made this story so manage to take a slice of childhood and present it, all garnished, albeit slightly in a different way :)

DesiGirl said...

er, you've been tagged!
visit my blog for details (shame on you for not doing so already!!)

shruti said...

ur story is so real but whats the reason behind that beating...

apu said...

Aparna - thanks for dropping in and the compliment;

Girl - Tag noted; Now doing it is... another thing :)

Shruti - the beating is a make-believe way to release anger, in a way which cannot be done in real life.

Intrepid said...

Really like your writing. Have you published yet? :)

apu said...

Intrepid, who doesn't live on that hope :))

itchingtowrite said...

tagged- check my post of 16th Oct

chikuado said...

interesting as always... and you seem to love leaving the reader hanging in the air.. are we supposed to expect a sequel, or is this another "apu-ism"? ;-)

apu said...

chik - so sorry, but thats all there is :) I didnt realise though that I was leaving the story hanging, it was just meant to be a vignette :)

(Good to see you back!)