Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Prayer

Sai Madhurika Mamunuru. MADster. Topper. Hothead. Small Dynamite. And a feminist to the core. One in the long list of women(?) for whom I've fallen. Anyway, she sent this story to me like about 2 months ago. I fell for its innocence. Far too pure for me not to fall in love with. I didn't tell her I was posting it up my blog, so if she wants me to remove it, I'll have to. So, read it fast before she realizes I posted it.

--

Suhi slowly pulled the blanket off a small bundle stubbornly
lying on the bed. A naughty, smiling face, slender arms and thin
legs, all tightly coiled up, revealed themselves reluctantly.

“5 minutes Akka, please!”

“Wake up, Komi! We’re going to be late for school!”

Komi quickly grabbed the blanket from her sister and tried her
best to go back into the cosy position she was in before being
woken up. Under the blanket, the warmth was blissful but
the sleep had gone. And however hard Komi shut her eyes, it
refused to come back. She drifted instead, into a happy (almost
voluntary) dream.

“Komi! Do you want Akka to leave without you? Don’t you
want to go to school?” her mother said, trying her best to sound
inquisitive and innocent.

School. Komi’s eyes were wide open under the blanket now.
She suddenly wished the night had never ended; that this was a
dream; that today were a Sunday; that her sister would actually
leave without her. Something. Anything. Not school. No!

But like every other day, none of the wishes materialised. Not
long after that, she was at the gate, her father kissing her good
bye. The kiss was a daily ritual she enjoyed. She loved it when
her father’s moustache lightly tickled her soft cheek. It made her
feel wanted and loved, not stupid. She always returned his kiss,
with both her arms wrapped around his neck.

After a breezy ride on her sister’s scooter and a deliberately
slow walk down the long corridor, she reached her class room.
Her classmates were excitedly talking about the home work that
was supposed to be submitted today. Each student had to copy
the first paragraph of the chapter Snoopy-The Dog into her note
book in the “best hand writing possible”. Komi as usual had not

done it.

“Komi! Show me your hand writing,” an enthusiastic girl
asked. “Oh no! I forgot my note book at home,” Komi lied.
Disappointed, the girl found other girls to share her enthusiasm
with.

Komi on her part, decided to do what she loved doing. She
slipped into her own world. She positioned herself comfortably
on the chair with her head resting on the desk and began
dreaming.

In her world, there were a lot of wrist watches to choose from.
There was a pair of high-heeled shoes that made noise when she
walked around the school, distributing sweets on her birthday.
She had a dress that resembled Kareena Kapoor’s in K3G.
Home work for some reason was never an issue in her world.

She was still dreaming when her class teacher walked in. Mrs.
Patel was a short, plump woman. Her hair was cut short and her
face was always bloated. Komi loved noticing how a little bit
of the lip stick that she smeared on her thin lips always stuck to
her teeth. It made her look like a vampire, according to Komi.

The girls swiftly rose to their feet and sang, “Good Morning,
Miss!” She mumbled a quick reply and heavily settled on the
chair in front of the teacher’s desk.

“Now! Children! Hand me your assignment notebooks so that I
can check and return them by the end of the Assembly! Quick!”

The class monitor quickly stood up and assumed responsibility.
She seemed to be an expert at it. She collected all the copies
(sixty of them) and handed it to Mrs. Patel. Komi’s heart was
thumping. Her lips were drying. She looked around nervously.

She was making up fake excuses in her head when the assembly
began. Assembly in Komi’s school went this way. The
Principal, Sister Nivedita addressed the Assembly sitting in

her cabin. She spoke into a mike placed at her desk. In each
classroom across the school, the girls could hear it through a
speaker hung at the head of the black-board. The Assembly
would often begin with a Prayer and would be followed by the
Thought for the Day and general instructions, if any.

Now, the box-shaped speaker started to ring. The bell was then
replaced by Sister Nivedita’s voice.

“Good Morning Girls!”

“Good Morning Sister!”

“Join your hands; Close your eyes and pray to the Almighty.
Dear God! Please give food to the hungry, a home to the
homeless….”

Join your hands. Komi tried to think of the many different ways
in which one could join her hands. The first was the boring
obvious way. You could also join your hands so that the fingers
of one hand touched the palm of the other. The other way was
to join only the fingers of both the hands. Or you could join
only the finger tips. You could also join the tips of different
fingers together. Unconsciously Komi was trying these things
practically through out the prayer. By the end of the prayer
Komi was delighted to discover that there were 13 practical
ways in which one could join hands. Imagine the theoretical
possibilities, she thought.

“… Amen!”

“The Thought for the Day. Speech is silver but silence is gold.”
Komi laughed to herself. How stupid, she thought. She ignored
the instructions that followed. They were generally never for
her.

“Komali Sharma,” Mrs Patel called. Komi had now gone
back to her Join Your Hands Game. She didn’t hear her name
called out. “KOMALI SHARMA!” Komi looked up, startled.

“Will you please come up in front?”

Komi did not move. She had sensed what was coming her way.

“Can you understand English, Komali?”

Komi sat on, like a stone. She did not want this happening.

“I AM TALKING TO YOU,” Mrs. Patel spat into her face.

Komi stood up slowly, timidly. She walked towards the front of
the classroom, her legs shaking, and heart thumping. She could
feel sixty pairs of eyes on her. She could also feel this heavy
thing at the base of her throat. Guilt, maybe.

She was barely at an arm’s distance from Mrs. Patel when she
felt five hard, long-nailed fingers dig into her cheeks. She was
swung around to face the class. Her cheek hurt. The sensation of
her father’s tickling moustache that she had savoured so far was
vanishing rapidly

“What were you doing through out the Prayer? Acting like a
clown and playing with your fingers all the time!” Mrs Patel
now mimicked Komi by putting her hands in front of her face
and making strange formations with them. She coupled these
hand movements with distorted facial expressions. The class
laughed in chorus.

Komi’s eyes stung.

“Answer my question Komali. Were you listening to the prayer?
Were you?”

Komi thought silently of how Mrs. Patel was not listening to the
prayer either. She was busy looking through the home work note
books. Komi lacked the courage to say this, of course.

Mrs. Patel became impatient now. She pulled Komi’s slight

body towards her and gave her two hard slaps. They made
Komi’s ears ring. Her jaw felt out of place. She was astonished
at her own capacity to endure. Why was she not screaming
and kicking, like she generally did at home for the slightest of
things?

“Did you do your home work at least? I don’t remember
correcting your notebook.”

“Miss, I left my note book at home.” Komi spoke for the first
time. This was, however not the first time she was lying.

“LIAR! I will take you to Sister Nivedita today. Not only do
you not do your home work, you also lie. The other kids are
quickly learning from you. I can see a change in some of the
girls who you are befriending. And look at how untidy you are.
Why is there no ribbon on your hair?” Mrs Patel went on to pull
the rubber band that was holding her hair together. “Can’t your
mother tie your hair properly?”

Mother. Komi thought of Amma back home. She thought of the
trouble she had given her mother while getting her hair combed.
She thought of the satisfied smile on her mother’s face when
the hair was finally done. She wished Mrs. Patel left at least her
alone.

Komi stood there, looking at her fellow class mates. She could
see amusement in the eyes of some and indifference in some
others. The ones that made her cry that day, however, were the
eyes filled with pity. She hated it.

“You are going to stay like that for the rest of the day! You are
not going to tie your hair back.” She now faced the class and
continued. “No ONE is going to help her tie it back together.”

“This is your punishment. Go back to your bench and sit down.
AND. Dare disturb the girl sitting next to you,” she looked
down at Komi and said.

Later through the day, Komi would almost forget about what
happened in the morning. She would actually wave Mrs. Patel a
good-bye on her way out of school. She would lie to her sister
about how a friend had pulled the rubber band off her hair. Her
parents would never know of the episode.

But for years after that, she would never be able to do any
assignment that required her to copy blindly from another book.
For years after that, whenever a prayer was being said, she
would close her eyes and join her hands, but never EVER listen.

--Sai Madhurika

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