Our perception of ourselves is often limited and sometimes harshly unfair. At such times, it helps to see ourselves through the eyes of the people around us!
“Guess what?” Manisha said. I looked at her bright black eyes, the glossy hair that framed her face and said, “I can’t!”
“Try!” Manisha urged and I was reminded of all the times when she had looked exactly like that. She had always been pretty, even when bawling her eyes out with me on the first day of kindergarten. “Tell me!” I smiled.
“Remember Kartik?” she said. “Kartik Rangarajan?”
Remember Kartik? Of course I did! “Kartik?” I said. “Yes, I remember him? Our classmate till the 10th and…”
“He left school after the Board Exams!” Manisha said. “And none of us knew where he was… well,” Manisha grinned and announced, “he’s on Facebook!”
“Oh!” I said, my voice sounding weak even to my own ears. Kartik had been our classmate for five years and in all those years, I had never spoken to him. That didn’t mean that I hadn’t noticed him or thought him cute. “I’ve written to him!” Manisha said. “If you register on Facebook you could write too!” she suggested.
I hadn’t been interested in registering but with the prospect of seeing Kartik, I did just that. Kartik’s photo told me that he was still cute. I sat there, the computer humming contentedly, looking at Kartik’s picture. Manisha looked unbelievably pretty in her photo and I stared at in despair. What was the point of writing to Kartik? Would he even remember me – the fat girl of the class? What chance did I have against someone as pretty as Manisha?
And when Manisha called to ask if I had written to Kartik I asked her “Why would Kartik Rangarajan want to speak to the fattest girl in the class?”
“As if that matters!” Manisha scolded. I longed to tell her that it did matter, that it decided how many friends you had and how many of them remembered you years later. And that is why, though I agreed to write to Kartik, I didn’t.
It would be so embarrassing to write to Kartik and find that he had forgotten me. I thought instead of my school days, remembering all the un-funny jokes I had heard about myself, the comments and snide remarks that had made me decide that only one person could tease me and that was myself. I had become the class clown as a result, but I hadn’t minded because it was better than being teased.
But now… I would mind very much indeed if Kartik had forgotten all about the fat girl in his class. I was wondering if it was better to be remembered as the fat clown or not remembered at all when I fell asleep. In the morning my fears seemed silly and I laughed at my reflection as I brushed. But my decision to not write to Kartik seemed sensible and I was just congratulating myself when the phone rang. It had to be Manisha, to report on mails from Kartik. Instead a strange male voice spoke, asking rather hesitatingly to speak to Asha. “Speaking,” I said, wondering who it was. “Hi…Asha!” the voice said. “This is …. you probably don’t remember me at all… but we were classmates till class X and then I left. I ….this is Kartik!”
“Kartik?” I echoed stupidly. It couldn’t be, could it, that my wildest dream was coming true?
“Remember me?” Kartik said hopefully. “We were…”
“Yes,” I said. “I remember you!”
“You do?” Kartik sounded delighted, as if he had won a lottery.
“But,” I asked, suddenly waking up to reality, “how did you get my number?”
“I got a mail from a girl in our class, some Manisha,” Kartik said. “And she had given her number, so I called her and she gave me your number!” He sounded delighted with himself but there was something I had to find out. “Some girl named Manisha?” I echoed. “Yes,” Kartik said, doubtful. “She said we had been classmates, but to tell you the absolute truth I couldn’t recall who she was!”
“But,” I said, my head in a whirl, “how did you remember me?”
“How could I have forgotten you?” Kartik sounded amazed. “You were…”
“The fattest girl in class,” I mouthed, feeling my heart fill up with sick dread.
“…the most cheerful girl in class,” Kartik said and for a minute I thought there was something wrong with my ears. “And I really liked the way you always found something to laugh at and be happy!”
If you only knew, I thought. But I was grinning. This was no time to think of the past and nurse regrets. This was a time to talk and remember all the good times. And I was determined to enjoy every minute of it.
This story was published in Young Buzz, the children’s pages of Sakal Times.