The Paper Ball
The Paper Ball7 mins 399 7 mins 399
It was like any other day in the suburbs of Delhi, when Aansh Malviya, a student of 9th standard tried to reach his school within time.
As a newly appointed prefect it was not good on his part to be late, but what could he do? He never told anyone to set the school clocks so perfectly on time. Five- ten minutes up or down is okay. Isn’t it? The country is not on a war yaar!!
But today, the matter was not of a five or ten minutes, he was late by half an hour. He expected many hurdles from school gate to class door. When he locked his bicycle on school stand, the assembly was already over. Students were marching back into their respective classes. His heart came into his mouth. Aansh stealthily took up the class newspapers from the school gate and headed towards his class. Very cleverly, he hid his bag in the newspaper lot and pretended as if he just came from the assembly to pick this lot.
This trick worked in front of all other teachers and disciplinary authorities, but he knew his class teacher will not let him go. She must have taken attendance in the assembly line and will punish him for such irresponsible behaviour.
He walked into the class as fog entered into the paradise, slowly and steadily.
Much to his relief and surprise, his class teacher was absent at that very usual day. Classes began in the same routine as they did from last 9 years of Aansh’s life: First period of Social studies, then Hindi, then Mathematics, then Science and so on. Like any other day, he rubbed the blackboard after every period, he dusted the duster, counted the chalk boxes, minded the discipline of the class, then what happened so unusual that I have to narrate this usual day to you? Let us see.
In the fifth period, when Aansh returned to his class after recess, a girl named Avanti Shukla was sobbing continuously. Her spectacles were back in the plastic jacket. There was a tremor on her lips, her big eyes were red and swollen and the whole class was in dreadful awe.
Aansh was new to this class and the city. His intelligence was unable to comprehend why she was crying and why everyone else was so amused of her sobbing. He hardly knew the girl. Being a defense kid, he had to frequently change his schools and a mere acquaintance was equal to friendship for him.
Later Aansh and Avanti became very good friends. He even called her ‘rosogulla’ but that usual day was baffling and puzzling for him.
The class teacher was absent today, which meant, it was the duty of two prefects to manage this 55 minute period on their own. The other girl prefect was also absent, so it was on Aansh’s shoulder to sort the situation out.
Aansh had a very few friends in this class, one of them was Piyush Mittal, who being a delhiite was familiar with this class and its manners. Aansh asked Piyush, ‘What is the matter bro? Why is she crying?’
Piyush asked Yashmin, Yashmin asked Juhi, Juhi asked Avanti whether to tell others or not and at least after a panchayat of 10 minutes, a paper ball came into Aansh’s hands.
He opened the letter as if it was filled with RDX and Avanti was the detonator but it was just a piece of copy paper filled with some Ghalib poetry, an alien material to Aansh, which ran like this:-
“In her every gesture is a sign of some other thing.
As in her love transpires doubts of some other thing.
Lord, she has not and will not understand me talking,
Give her another hurt or give me some other language.”
Along with this copied Shayari, there was a stumbling expression of love which told her, how beautiful she was and how much the person who threw this paper ball cum love letter loved her.
To Aansh, it appeared to be a very innocent love letter which was a deed of some nervous schoolboy. He was unable to comprehend why she was crying so much. Contrary to Aansh’s explanation of this paper ball cum love letter, Avanti took the gravest offense, a middle-class girl could ever afford, as I already explained it to you, she was crying.
The situation became more pathetic due to other girls present in the class, who acted as if the girl’s future was ruined forever. Now no one will believe her chastity and purity.
I can explain you the meaning of their gestures and expressions being familiar to the ways of this world, but for Aansh everything was dubious.
And to make his situation worst, the girl perfect was also absent. So, now he had the responsibility to catch the culprit as well as to console or cheer up Avanti. As I already told you Aansh hardly knew Avanti at that usual day and since he was also confused, in a very light-hearted manner he told her, ‘Avanti it is okay. It is not a big deal. It is just an innocent letter. ANYBODY COULD HAVE WRITTEN IT and why are you sobbing. If somebody wrote me such a letter, I would be rather happy than being sad.’
Aansh was unable to know, whether Avanti gave an ear to his consoling or not, but other girls definitely did. The girl community disliked this way of consoling, as it was insensitive, characterless, etc. The capitalised line also irked a possibility of Aansh being culprit of that letter. Maybe his pretensions of not being late punished him in a different way.
It was insensitive and characterless for them because their point of view was very different from that of innocent Aansh. They treated the matter as if someone was stalking and bullying Avanti into a relationship. Their perspective was a result of the over-cautious upbringing which generally is a part of a girl’s life in Indian Society.
For Aansh that was stupid and to think he was the culprit even more. According to him the person who wrote this letter was so nervous that he couldn’t even say his feelings on Avanti’s face, how could someone charge such a guy with harassment?
He stood to his point even in front of school authorities. After listening to other girls point of view as well of Aansh’s, the authorities severely punished him with 500 sit-ups and a letter of complaint to the parents.
The usual day turned into a very unusual one for Aansh. His legs were in pain but his mind was more tortured than his body.
Why was Avanti crying? Why was he punished?
Even later when Avanti became his rosogulla and he asked for answers, she just smiled.
Aansh never understood that she was all grown up even before they (boys) started thinking about such matters. His friends Piyush and Abhinav consolidated this point since they had the same feeling which Aansh boxed in his heart. The situation was incomprehensible and their minds were too small to take in all these societal crap.
Then what made the girls different? Was it their menstruation cycles or emerging waistline or a cup size?
No, the answer was obvious at that usual day and still is, but it is an answer which is unsaid for many decades in Indian Society. Everyone is aware of that answer but nobody wants to acknowledge it, and that is why it was so hard for Aansh to comprehend the situation. What Aansh couldn’t get that day was the feminine consciousness of a mother which gets transferred into the girl child. It was the fear of the society, which left that little girl sobbing for hours. That fleshling could feel ‘the male gaze’ which tried to penetrate her clothes to disturb her mind, body and soul forever.
Both Avanti and Aansh slept while crying at that unusual night, their pain and suffering were gone in the morning, that paper ball went into the unwanted documents of school authorities. But the elements which remained after this usual day were confusion (for Aansh) and fear (for Avanti) which would result into the monster of patriarchy if not curbed as soon as possible.