Posted: 06 May 2015 at 8:53pm | IP Logged
Here's a link to an exclusive excerpt of my next book, "World's Best Boyfriend". Hope you guys like it.
Twelve-year-old Dhruv sat crying in one corner of the playground, plucking at the grass, watching the other kids play at the far end. It had been a couple of months since he first started avoiding them. His friends often talked about how his dad and mom were separating and they would ask questions to which he had no answers.
Do they fight?' Don't you try to stop them?' Will you leave us?' Will you stay with your mom or your dad?' Is your mom marrying again?' Is your dad?'
Their curiosity was legitimate. No one knew of such a case in their middle-class neighbourhood. Divorces, even in television soaps, were cause for much distress. Families were meant to stay together till the end of time.
School was a nightmare. He would have stopped attending if not for his mom. She taught in the same school"chemistry and maths for eighth and ninth standards"so skipping school wasn't an option at all.
Things had gone downhill so slowly that he didn't notice anything in the beginning. It was like Tetris on slow rewind. He thought other kids were going through the same crisis. For the past few months, there were rumours of his mother having a torrid, Mills-and-Boon-esque affair with the principal, who also owned the school and three other branches. The seniors would often cook up stories about his mother and the principal locking themselves in his room for hours. Dhruv would innocently ask, Why would they lock themselves in?' The seniors would affect a boisterous, evil laugh. He would ask again, Tell me, why would they lock themselves in? Tell me?' He would try hitting them and they would push him away. He would then lock himself in a bathroom stall for three straight periods.
Today morning, between the third and the fourth periods, when he was hiding in the bathroom, he overheard two seniors talk outside.
I can't believe Namrata ma'am is banging that oldie. She's quite something, isn't she? Very perky breasts for thirty-five,' said a senior, probably in the ninth grade.
Dude. We should totally check out the CCTV footage.Imagine her naked on top of that man! Did I tell you? That guy in the other class? Ramit? That bas***d dropped a pencil and Namrata ma'am picked it up. She totally bent over and showed everything. He tried clicking a picture but it came out totally blurred.'
Should we repeat it in her class tomorrow?'
They laughed. Dhruv heard the taps run. The boys left the washroom.
Dhruv returned home in a sullen mood.
Why are you not eating, Dhruv?' his mother asked, ladling another spoonful of rice, then cradling his face in her palms and kissing it. She was a good cook. Despite the toxic environment,
Dad always ate quietly, concentrating on every morsel.
I don't feel like eating.'
You didn't eat your lunch too. Is there something wrong? Someone troubling you? Should I talk to your class teacher?'
Mom asked, making little rice balls.
I don't feel like eating, Mumma,' snapped Dhruv, pushing her hand away.
What's the problem, Dhruv?'
IT'S NOTHING! THERE'S NO PROBLEM, MUMMA.
LEAVE ME ALONE!' His mother retreated in shock. Dhruv had never shouted at her. They were always on the same team.
And then he spoke. Don't pick up pencils from the ground tomorrow.'
Because I am asking you not to, Mumma!'
JUST LIKE THAT!'
What's the matter with you, Dhruv?'
THE SCHOOL WANTS TO SEE YOU NAKED.
THEY WANT TO SEE THE CCTV FOOTAGE OF YOU
IN THE PRINCIPAL'S ROOM WITH THE PRINCIPAL.'
Dhruv pushed the plate away and ran to his room. His father looked up from his plate, his eyes burning embers. For the next three hours, he heard Dad and Mom shout at each other in the next room, things breaking. He blamed himself for opening his mouth and cried into his pillow. Later that evening, he sneaked out of the house through the window.
It had been three hours he had been missing from home and no one had come looking for him. The other kids had gone home. He wandered the streets alone hoping that his parents, exhausted from all the shouting, would find him gone and come looking for him.
He had wandered to the E block of their apartment complex. This part had the cramped flats"little stinking one bedroom apartments with flaky wall paint and wet clothes hanging from clotheslines in balconies. As he aimlessly looked on, he saw a family stroll out from the lobby, giggling and laughing. A middle-aged couple, much like Mom and Dad, and two kids. The younger of the two seemed to be around his age and she was staring at her sandals which flopped and made a clapping sound as she walked. Her skin was brown and white in patches, like a dalmatian, but she was smiling. Dhruv felt envy rip him apart.
Aranya did not like Mango Madness, she liked Orange. Orange was one colour, unlike the yellow-and-white-striped Mango Madness.
There's no Orange,' said the mother.
No Vanilla, just have Mango Madness. It's good. Your brother likes it,' said the mother and shoved the ice lolly in her palm. She knew better than to fight her brother's choice"he was her parents' favourite child.
She would have rather stayed home and watched Evil Dead for the thirty-third time on her brother's computer, a second-hand AMD 1.2 GB Thunderbird Athlon, with 320 MB SDRAM, SoundBlaster Live sound card, a CD drive with a 12 GB hard disk.
She was making a list of her favourite movies in her head while her parents talked about the next loan instalment and lamented about the rising prices of onions, potatoes, lentils, ladies' fingers, brinjals, textiles, cable subscription, electricity, petrol, water, and even bribery rates! In her list, Evil Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Blair Witch Project were the top three horror movies of all time.
What do you want to watch these for? They are all so scary,' her mother would ask whenever she wanted a new VCD.
They are not scary at all,' she would protest. But they would all go by her brother's pedestrian choice of movies.
Let your brother choose,' her father would say.
Is it because I'm this way?' she would snap, pointing at the skin on her arms. Back then she was gradually beginning to realize there was something off about her. She knew she was different. She was yet to find out that the world treated the different with hatred.
No,' her mother would lie.
Generalized vitiligo was one of the first phrases Aranya had learnt to write down. It's what her prescriptions had said. It's a disease with no certain cause. It causes the skin pigment cells to die resulting in patchy, sensitive skin. Since people can't pronounce the scientific term, they often use the Hindi words safedi' and fulwari'.
It started showing up when she was only two. For a little kid it wasn't much of a bother, in fact it was a delight. Hey! I have two skin colours. I'm fair and I'm tanned. So cool!' she used to say.
The condition slowly worsened as her entire body went light pink and white in patches. The condition' didn't matter a lot to her, at least not till she turned nine. She thought it was just something people had, like short height, or a bad nose, or a shitty attitude, a brain less smart, or pointy ears.
Now she knew that pointy ears would have been better.
As she grew taller and wider and bigger, the patches swelled in size like an ink dot on an inflated balloon. Soon she was a freak' in school.
Don't touch her or you will get the same disease. Don't share pencils with her. Don't use the washroom she uses,' warned the ignorant parents of her classmates. Even her own brother wouldn't share a towel with her.
She grew up without friends.
While they licked on their ice creams that night, she could feel someone's eyes on her, not for the first time. Her skin often attracted a lot of unwanted attention. People would look at her and then look away, repulsed. She had learned to forgive.
She turned to see a boy staring at her. After a few moments of indecisiveness, the boy started to laugh at her, at first slowly, and then out loud, pointing fingers and such. Aranya's face flushed, her ears burned. Her mother put an arm around her and shouted at the boy, There's nothing to see here,' as if she were a policeman at a scene of a grisly accident.
The boy laughed some more and ran away. The brother sucked on his ice cream like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Aranya stared at her hands"olive brown like tanned Brazilian models in patches, and pale white like the women in the fairness cream ads; two perfect complexions like spilled paint cans on a floor. She was a shade card.
He didn't have to laugh. Why did he laugh?' Aranya asked her brother, who was playing Doom on the computer later that night.
Because you're different.'
Her brother picked up the CD cover of Chucky and threw it at her.
I'm like this?' snapped Aranya, still hoping it was a joke.
Not really, but you get the idea. You should get used to it.'
Aranya stared at the monstrous face on the cover of the CD. After her brother went off to sleep, she spent the night on the Internet searching for what being different really meant. Sameer woke up the next morning with a slip of paper with her sister's beautiful handwriting on it:
Sameer bhaiya, you're shorter in height than the national average of seventeen-year-olds in the country. Your BMI is lower than the accepted healthy ratio. Your scores in Hindi and social science have been way below your school average. So, I am left thinking that what does different really mean?'
The note was passed on to their mother who would have slapped her had it not been for Aranya's scholarship interview for the new school. Without the scholarship, Aranya would have to miss a year and try again the following year, a chance her financially strapped family didn't want to take. Luckily for them and for Aranya, the interview went well. In two weeks from then Aranya would join her new classmates, a patch-faced orc amongst fair, and dark, and lovely little kids.
Aranya loved the smell of books, new and old, she loved to scribble, take notes, memorize and recite, and feel a little smarter the next day. And unlike at home, it was where girls are believed, respected, loved and cared for, sometimes even more than the boys. Boys were seen as the inconvenience they really are.
Where's VI A?' asked Aranya to a group of seniors milling about in the corridor, discussing skirt lengths and pubic hair.
Why do you want to know?' asked one of them. Aranya had received two double promotions, once when she was in LKG and once in the first standard, making her the youngest in her class.
I'm a new student.'
The senior who now seemed to have noticed her patchy skin, pointed in the direction of the class, and looked away from her as if staring any longer would give him the disease as well.
It's not contagious!' said Aranya sharply and made her way to the class.
Her new classmates welcomed her with sideways glances and scared whispers. She sat alone on the first bench. The kids on the second bench leaned away from her. Some covered their noses. A few minutes later, the teacher walked in and the class settled down. A few kids still looked at her, cringed, but that was okay. She felt worse about her brother throwing that CD at her than the behaviour of these kids.
The teacher noticed Aranya sitting alone, smiled extra benevolently and said, If you need anything, my staffroom is on the fourth floor.'
People often thought Aranya had special needs because of her condition.
Ma'am, except for school picnics, which I would like to be excused from since I get sunburnt if I expose myself to too much of the outdoors, I think I would be able to manage myself. Thank you though for the help, Ma'am. It was too kind of you,' clarified Aranya with her gap-toothed smile. The teacher smiled back, asked her to sit down and welcomed her again.
Open to page no. 33. And all of you who don't have the books can go outside the class,' said the teacher.
She had started reading from the book when a boy at the door interrupted her. Good morning, Ma'am, may I come in?'
Dhruv? You're late again. I can't let you in,' said the teacher. Dhruv, without protest, took two steps backwards, leaned against the wall and stood there.
Aranya wondered where she had seen him before. She turned back to ask the two scared kids who held their breaths about the boy. You can breathe. My disease isn't contagious.'
One of the girls let up. Dhruv. He's the son of one of our teachers. He has failed twice. He keeps picking up fights with seniors.'
They say things about his mom.'
What things?' asked Aranya.
Dirty things.' Aranya drew a blank. That her mother gets naked with the principal in his room,' whispered the girl.
Aranya gasped. What? Why would anyone say that? That's horrible!' said Aranya. She saw Dhruv shift in his place. He looked inside and caught Aranya staring at him. She recognized him now. He was the boy who had pointed fingers and laughed at her that night. The pity in Aranya's heart melted away.
Maybe he deserved it.
Dhruv woke up early that morning to shouts and screams, and sounds of things breaking. He stumbled out of the room and saw his mother dragging out two suitcases. His father was throwing things which landed near her feet and shouting incessantly, Take this! Take this! Take this, too! Go away and don't ever come back!' he shouted, his voice breaking, his eyes full of tears. He had never seen his father so disturbed before. Mom dragged the suitcases out of the house but Dad kept on shouting. The next-door neighbour peeked through the grille door.
Tears streamed down Dhruv's face, his feet felt bolted to the ground. He wanted to scream but his throat ran dry. Take me!' He wanted to shout. He could hear the suitcases tumble down the stairwell. He ran after his mother but Dad caught hold of him.
She doesn't want you,' he said.
NEITHER DO YOU!' He broke free from his father's embrace and ran behind his mother. She hadn't even bothered to wake him up before leaving.
MUMMA! WHERE ARE YOU GOING? WHERE
ARE YOU GOING?' shouted Dhruv and ran into Mom's arms as she lifted him up; he was crying, slamming both fists into her shoulders.
You woke up? I'm so sorry. I'm so . . . so . . . sorry, Dhruv. I didn't mean for this to happen. I will come and get you. I promise I will come and get you.' She bent down and kissed him all over his face.
WHEN! WHEN! WHEN!' cried Dhruv, his mouth open, the words barely audible.
Mom took his face in her palms and wiped away his tears. She tried to walk away but Dhruv latched on.
We will come and get you,' said a man's voice and Dhruv felt an unknown touch ruffle his hair. There's nothing to worry about now.' Dhruv lifted his head to see the principal of his school staring down at him, smiling. So it was true.
His mother was leaving him and Dad for the principal.
SIR!' gasped Dhruv.
His mother clutched the principal's hand. Dhruv felt the insides of his stomach turn to mush and rise up his food pipe.
Dhruv, you have to understand. I'm not happy in this house,' said Mom and bent down to talk to him. Not happy? What did she mean? She wasn't happy with Dhruv? What had he done? What?
She tried holding him in her arms but Dhruv fought free.
Everything is going to be alright, Dhruv.'
You're lying. YOU ARE LYING! NOTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT.'
Trust me, Dhruv.'
YOU'RE LYING. LYING. LYING. LYING.'
Listen to your mother, Dhruv,' the principal said sternly.
SHUT UP! SHUT UP! You took my mom away,' bawled Dhruv and kicked the principal on his shin and ran towards the stairs of his house and then into the arms of his father who had already poured himself a drink.
I'm never going back to her. I'm never going back to her,' cried Dhruv.
You don't have to.'
We will be together now,' said his father to Dhruv after he won Dhruv's custody.
Soon after, his father had to break into his fixed and recurring deposits to cope with the expenses of his alcohol problem. He wasn't doing a good job of bringing Dhruv up, either. Dhruv missed Mom like he missed a limb. In her absence he felt a constant nagging pain. She would come to see him every week, and then every alternate week, and then once a month.
Why are you being so difficult?' Mom would ask on the monthly visits.
Because you're not my mother any more.' Dhruv would pretend to watch Duck Tales and Swat Cats. Mom would switch off the television and he would snatch the remote from her. The remote is not yours any more!'
During these monthly visits, Dhruv's father would go missing and Mom would spend most of the time cleaning the house of empty soda and whisky bottles. And when Dad returned, it would end with a verbal duel between his parents about who had been the worse parent.
Both of you!' Dhruv would shout from behind a locked door.
Mom would leave behind a toy, a hand-held video game, a CD player which Dad would smash and throw out with the trash. Dhruv did not mind. Sometimes Dhruv and his father would break those toys together.
The divorce proceedings and the custody battle were tedious and robbed Dhruv's father of most of his savings, and a good part of his mind. Dhruv had to leave school.
If you don't send him to school, I'm going to take you to court,' Dhruv's mother threatened his father.
So Dhruv was put back in the school, no fee charged.
The first day was horrendous. Dhruv put up with the sniggering without breaking down. He walked the corridors like nothing had happened. His mother, now freshly married, looked more beautiful than before, even younger. She was made the vice principal of the school.
Dhruv would never leave his class. During lunch breaks, he would go to the end of the class and sit down on the floor, hidden from his mother's prying eyes. Sometimes his mother would keep lunch wrapped in an aluminium foil on his desk.
What are you doing down there?' asked a girl one day while Dhruv fiddled with a fountain pen, shirt stained with little blue spots of Chelpark ink. Dhruv looked up to see the girl from his colony, the dalmatian, the one with the spotted skin, looking at him. Do you want to share my lunch?'
Dhruv shook his head.
You won't get it if you touch me or share my food. Didn't you get the flyer that was never distributed?'
I didn't say no because of that,' lied Dhruv.
Dhruv was hungry. His father would not wake up in time to help him get ready for school, or prepare lunch, or even drop him to the bus stop. He would, though, kiss him on his forehead every day at least once as they rushed to get dressed. I love you, and we are happy together,' his father would assert like a universal truth. But Dhruv wanted a lunch box and a clean uniform, too.
Why do you sit here every day?'
My mother is a teacher in the school and she comes looking for me with a lunch box. I sit here and wait for her to leave.'
Where's the lunch box then?'
I don't take it. She waits and she takes it back.'
The girl starts to laugh.
It reminds me of a ghost-woman from a Bollywood movie who wears a white saree and roams about with a candle in her hand.'
Dhruv frowned. She's not a ghost.'
I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. I don't know why I said that,' the girl said. Dhruv went back to taking the pen apart. I heard your story. I don't see why anyone should talk about it. If you were in the US, you would be in the majority. Divorce rates are 54.8 per cent there.'
How do you know that?'
I have a computer at home. AMD 1.2 GB Thunderbird Athlon computer with 320 MB SDRAM, SoundBlaster Live Value, CD drive and a 12 GB hard disk. It's actually my brother's but I can use it after he's done. He only watches po*n.'
It's just biology in action. Nothing something you would be interested in till you're thirteen.'
Dhruv's eyes widened. Can I see your computer? Do you have Wolfestien on it?'
No,' Aranya lied. Dhruv's shoulders drooped.
My parents are very strict,' she said. And no friends are allowed at my place. We have to serve them Coca- Cola if they come and Mom says it's expensive. Sometimes, my mother adds water to those glasses. No one can tell the difference.' Aranya continued, But you should tell people about the 54.8 per cent. They should talk about something else.'
Aranya and Dhruv would spend the lunch break together, sitting in the class, sharing lunches. Dhruv had played FLAMES using her name and his, and despite the result, he had decided she would be his wife. He would protect her from the world. They would always share their lunches. He had vowed he would never let her shirt stain with ink spots. And the day he grows up to be a senior, he would hunt every last student in the school who had hurt Aranya and punch them in the nose.
To twelve-year-old Dhruv, she was the most beautiful girl in the whole wide world and he would love her fiercely till the end of time.
By now Dhruv had learned to make his lunch"four slices of bread generously spread with pineapple jam. They would sit on the last bench the entire day and write little messages for each other on the desk. The class called them the weird couple. They ignored them. Dhruv finally realized what his mother meant when she told him, Everything would be alright.'
During the lunch break, they would wait for the students to leave and draw each other on the blackboard. Dhruv would draw her with big hands and big eyes, and she would draw him with big ears. Together, they would draw little hearts at the edges. They would also draw a little house they would live in when they grew up. It would have a lot of big windows and two computers.
What's that?' asked Aranya pointing to a patch on Dhruv's shirt.
Dad vomited again this morning. It smelled really bad so
I mopped it up. I couldn't get this out,' said Dhruv, rubbing his hand over the stain. Also, I found this is the mail today morning.'
Aranya took the envelope in his hand and tore it along the fold. Aranya and Dhruv read it together. It was a letter warning Dhruv's father of his extended absence in office.
He might lose his job,' said Aranya.
People who work in the government don't lose their jobs,' said Dhruv from previous knowledge. What does your father do?'
He is in construction. When people buy a new flat and they have to break a wall or two, redo the plumbing and the wiring, they call my father. He lost the thumb of his left hand. He can't hold things in his left hand any more. I think that's why he's constantly angry.'
Dhruv laughed at this and then apologized, not sure if it was a joke. At least he doesn't smell bad like my father does.'
At least your dad loves you. Papa loves only my brother,' muttered Aranya.
At least you're together.' Aranya smiled weakly. What did the new doctor say?' he asked Aranya.
She shook her head. Same thing. It's incurable, non-contagious. It picks its victim at random. Quite unfair too if you ask me. You can touch me though, you're totally safe.'
Dhruv touched her skin. He didn't die or feel woozy like the kids in their class had prophesied. Will you always be like this?'
Aranya nodded. That's why my parents hate me for it. Mom says I wouldn't make a pretty bride and I will live with them for the rest of my life.'
You can come live with me then. In our little house.'
Why would I live with you?' asked Aranya and smiled.
I will make you breakfast every day for the rest of your life,' answered Dhruv, his face flushed red like those little cartoons on greeting cards. But you have to promise not to leave.'
Twelve-year-old Dhruv held her hand. Their hands sweated, but neither of them wanted to let go. From then on, he would hold her hand whenever he got the chance to. I love you,' they would say and blush furiously and hold each other's hands tighter. It was them against the world, they had decided, forever and for always. Dhruv would always be Aranya's first love.
Not because he was a boy and she loved him but because he was the first one who chose to love her.
Usually people would go to great lengths to avoid her touch. Dhruv, too, had been scared but he knew what the word non-contagious meant. However, as it turned out, he was soon to use it against her. The girl he had fallen in love with, the girl who loved him back, the girl who had promised him a forever, the girl who was supposed to make everything alright simply because she was happy being with him.
The girl who'd now lied...
And here's why you can buy the book from : http://bit.ly/worldsbestboyfriend