I kept checking the time between frequent bursts of writing. I was extremely sleepy, but I had to jot down whatever was being taught. When the teachers weren’t writing something on the board, they were explaining some concepts. During that time, I would usually look out the nearest window and take in the view, while the teacher’s droning filled my head. It was also somehow easier for me to focus on what they were saying while I was doing something else. However, the only window that was in this room was in the back and it didn’t make sense for me to turn my head around to look outside. Not that it would matter, considering the curtains were drawn.
I turned over the pages of my exercise book idly and realised I had left a lot of empty spaces on the sides while writing. Less than half the total capacity of the page was filled with ink. Maybe I should fill those up with rough work or something.
I had never felt this sleepy in a class before. The other students were keenly paying attention to the teacher. It seemed like they were genuinely interested in the subject matter that was being taught. They wanted to gain more knowledge about it, unlike me. They had a fixed goal that they wanted to achieve. What am I going to do with my life? I didn’t even know why I was here. I had no ambitions or goals to achieve. I was merely doing what I was instructed to do, like a machine.
Finally, after what seemed like an hour, the class ended. We were free to go home.
I looked around. The girls were sitting in the next row, away from the boys, which was the rule here. I never really understood the point of this and it made no sense to me whatsoever. I didn’t know what separating the boys and girls was supposed to accomplish. I was probably not the only one who felt this way, though.
There weren’t many students in the class, and they were all talking to each other. Smiles on their faces as they exchanged funny anecdotes. I could hear their frequent laughter and giggles around me. That probably helped them get through these six-hour classes. It felt like I was the only one in class who wasn’t talking to anyone. I just didn’t know what to say. They were talking about movies and cricket and I had almost no knowledge about those. I had not watched movies or cricket for so long.
I took my bag and slipped outside as inconspicuously as I could. I did not want to be there anymore.
Outside, the orange-yellow beams of the setting sun flooded the ground and the leaves of the trees looked golden. The sunlight on my body felt mildly warm. There was a light breeze blowing and I could hear the birds chirping at a distance.
There were a lot of people around on the streets, more than usual. I knew it was festival time but the significance of that hit me right then. Teenagers, children and adults alike, out with their friends and family, enjoying themselves. Students walked past me with their friends, eagerly chatting. I, on the other hand, wanted to walk away from everything. Walk aimlessly around and observe everything, without a care in the world.
I heard a voice behind me. I stopped and looked around. It was S—, from my class.
“You must be A—, right?”
Something about the way she said that made me feel like she had heard of me by someone.
“Is this your pen?” She held out a black ballpoint pen. It certainly was mine.
“Yeah, you’re right, this is mine. Where did you find it?”
“I think you left it on the table when you left.”
I thanked her and put the pen inside my bag. I looked up again to see that she was still standing in front of me. She was looking around her as if searching for something. It felt like she wanted to say something more.
I didn’t know what to do. Should I tell her something? What do I even say? I can’t just stand here and look at her, though. I had a vague feeling that I should talk to her but I just had no clue of what to say.
“See ya later, then.”
That was all I could say. She smiled at me and nodded. I quickly turned around and started walking.
Maybe I didn’t have to prolong the conversation, I thought. Perhaps she was just looking for someone. There was no point in me over analyzing random things, anyway.
I still had some time on my hands before I caught the bus home so I decided to buy a packet of chips to eat while walking, and a bottle of coke. Even if I was a little late to reach home, I could blame the traffic.
It was one of my favourite hobbies to walk around alone, albeit at a slower pace than most people. But I liked to watch everything happening around me and the constant change in the environment would always fascinate me. It was more fun at night when the whole city was filled with lights, especially during this time. I didn’t even know the city I lived in properly. There was so much for me to discover, different routes, places I had never been to, buses that I didn’t know the destinations of, secluded cafes or restaurants that I didn’t know existed. I wanted to experience all of it, but something told me that it was probably not possible. I could never really experience everything I wanted to.
Before I knew it, the sun had set, and it was already growing dark. It was time for me to take the bus home.
There was a lot of traffic and it took me a while to reach my stop. I got down and started looking for a dustbin to throw my garbage in. From the bus stop, it was still a ten-minute walk home. I found a trash can soon enough and took out the empty Lay’s packet from my bag. It was then that I noticed someone on the opposite footpath.
I didn’t know why I noticed that person. He looked slightly older than me and was walking with a couple of girls in the opposite direction to where I was going. I vaguely felt like he was familiar somehow but I couldn’t quite place it. Within a few moments, they had turned the corner and were gone.
I resumed my walk and reached home a couple of minutes later. I changed and freshened up.
“There were so many people outside today. Lots of traffic,” I remarked to my mother, who was nearby.
“Well, it’s Pujo aft-Oh!” she exclaimed. “I almost forgot to tell you; remember M— and the others you used to play with?”
“Oh yes, of course. What about them?”
“They came looking for you today. They wanted to go pandal-hopping with you.”
I realised why that person had looked familiar. He was my childhood playmate, along with the other two girls who were with him.
“They said that they were planning to get together with all of the kids you used to play with. I told them that you hadn’t returned home from tuitions yet.”
“And then? Did you tell them to come a little later?”
She shook her head. “They seemed to be in a hurry. I asked them to come inside but they refused.”
Why did I have to wander around the damn streets? If I had been a few minutes quicker, I would have arrived before they did. I could have gone out with them. We could have had fun. I had not seen them for more than ten years. I remember enjoying their company too. None of this would have happened if I hadn’t taken my own sweet time to come home.
“Did you ask for your ID card at the office today? You said you would ask them after class. It’s been a month already.”
“Oh, I will do it next time.”
I quickly switched on my laptop and stuffed my headphones in my ears to drown out my mom complaining about me forgetting everything.
Anubhav Majumdar is a student of Calcutta Boys’ School in Kolkata. He is passionate about piano and occasionally writes.