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Mario Coelho



Mario Coelho




9 mins 150 9 mins 150

Excerpts from the secret diary of Komal Barretto, student of VII B, Mary Immaculate High School, Candolim:

Nov 13th I’ve been having a really rough time in my music class lately. Mrs. Menezes, our lah-di-dah teacher, has been getting on my case a lot. She says I play the flute really well, but she’s peeved about the fact that I play only the happy-catchy tunes and don’t practice the sad ones.

“Life is a mixture of happiness and sorrow”, she keeps saying, “You’ve got to bring out the pathos as well as the joy of life, Komal.”

Well, I don’t want to. I want to play only the happy songs and leave out the sad ones. I don’t want to dwell on the sadness and horror of life and play sorrowful or haunting melodies. Music should be happy! Music should be fun! My flute plays only happy music, not spooky melodies.

Nov 15th   Rohan was rather mean to me today. He promised to help me with Maths, which has always been my weakest subject. He knows I missed three days when I had the ‘flu last week, but when I reminded him he’d promised to stay back for an hour after school, he laughed and said he was going to see ‘The Avengers’ with his dad and needed to prepare for tomorrow’s test before that.

Now that’s rubbish. He gets straight As in every subject, including Maths. He always tops the class and knows his Maths inside-out. He’s bound to score 100 % anyway, so I do think he could’ve taken the time to help me out. Besides, he’d promised, and I’d brought lunch for the both of us this morning. But what could I do? He laughed … so I did, too. And picked up my books and left.

Nov 21st   Six days have passed, and I’ve still not been able to get over Rohan’s death. They found him trussed up like a pig, in a copse of trees a hundred meters from the school. I heard Mrs. Wagle, our Maths teacher, saying there was this really l-o-n-g, slimy length of twine, like a creeper, wrapped tightly around his mouth and body, and all-around his neck. He looked just like a stuck English pig dressed in human clothes, she said. Rohan’s all pink and chubby, so I know what she means. Only his face was blue, apparently, and his tongue was sticking out. It was a real ‘horror scene”, Namita, our school peon, told me.

Poor Rohan. I really liked him…

Nov 25th   The mystery of Rohan’s death is still unsolved. They say he must have died soon after we left school on Tuesday afternoon. When he didn’t turn up even till 3.00 o’clock, the maid phoned his mum, who phoned his dad, who phoned the principal, Jr. Gemma, but she said she didn’t know anything. By the time they went to the police, it was late evening. His body was found only the next morning. A scary story, indeed!

Nov 28th   Mrs. Menezes is really beginning to get on my nerves. She goes on and on about sad pieces and haunting melodies, and how I really need to practice them if I’m going to play for our school concert in Jan.

Why can’t I play just the happy tunes and let someone else play the sad ones, full of pathos and what she calls “heart-rending sorrow”? I’m generally a happy person, so why should I play something that’s contrary to my nature? But she doesn’t agree. She says that in music, as in life, there has to be a balance. I don’t know what that means. And she has a haunted look on her face most of the time, anyway – it’s probably because of those sorrowful tunes she listens to.

Dec 1st    Uncle Balu, our local greengrocer, said something rather upsetting to me yesterday, and in front of so many people. Mama had sent me to buy a kilo of tomatoes and half a kg each of onions, potatoes, and carrots. But he said we hadn’t paid our bill for the past six months and he couldn’t give us any more credit. Has your dad lost his job, he asked, and are you on the streets?

Rather rude of him, I thought, since I always speak to him very respectfully and wait for my turn. But I smiled and went back home. What else could I do? Some of the other customers – there were at least six of them – sniggered, though.

Dec 3rd    Everyone at school calls me “Sunshine”. I have such a dazzling smile, they say, it lights up my face and brightens up the entire room.

Well, I don’t know about that. I think I look pretty ordinary, myself. When I look in the mirror, all I see is a pale, skinny, twelve-year-old with shoulder-length hair and a rather serious face. But the teachers at school go on and on about my radiant smile and deep brown eyes. Everyone has brown eyes, don’t they? Or black? I don’t see what’s so special about mine.

Oh, and another thing – “What a sweet, soft voice you have, my child”, they say. “And you never ever get angry or upset, even when you’re being ticked off or yelled at.”

Well, what’s the good of getting worked up, I say. Doesn’t solve anything, does it? Might as well grin and bear it. Or give one of my dazzling smiles.

Dec 7th    Another horror story! Uncle Balu was found hanging upside-down from the ceiling fan in the back room of his shop late last night, trussed up like Rohan was, a small cabbage stuffed in his mouth. They say it was the exact same sort of slimy green twine, like a creeper, that was used to kill Rohan with. It couldn’t have been suicide anyway.

But who would want to kill Uncle Balu? He was such a sweet man. The only time I saw him get a wee bit cranky was when he said he couldn’t sell me any more vegetables. But that’s okay. I mean, six months is a really long time to go without paying your bill. Very careless of Mama and Dada, I feel.

Poor Uncle Balu. I really liked him...

Dec 17th   Oh, horror! Mrs. Menezes says I won’t be able to play for the school concert after all. She’s given me enough chances, she says, but I just won’t listen. She can’t understand why I won’t practice those sad-sad pieces of hers. “They sound so nice on the flute, my child,” she warbles, but I don’t agree. Give me a happy tune any day.

Sigh! I guess I’ll have to break the news to Mama and Dada. They’ll be heart-broken, they were so looking forward to my performance. Mrs. Menezes was very sweet, actually, I‘ll give her that. “You really don’t mind, my girl?” She asked, “You understand, don’t you, why I had to leave you out?”

Of course, I understand. I am, as everyone says, a sweet and understanding child. So I smiled. What else could I do?

Dec 19th   You won’t believe this! There’s been another murder! They found Mrs. Menezes’ body just outside her doorstep this morning, a length of slimy green twine wrapped tightly around her mouth. Another long strand was used to pin her arms to her sides and a third bit was wound around both ankles. Apparently, she’d been dragged all the way from Shetye’s supermarket to her little cottage by the beach in Candolim. It must have happened late last evening – that’s when she does her shopping, so she told me once. She’s lived alone, poor thing, ever since her husband died last year.

Whoever did it dragged her over the rocks, can you imagine, for a distance of about one and a half miles? Her face was unrecognizable, they say, and her whole body a mass of cuts and bruises.

“Walking keeps you fit,” she used to say. It doesn’t seem to have done her much good, poor thing.

Dear Mrs. Menezes. I really liked her…

Dec 25th (Christmas Day) - Such a lovely funeral, it was! Oh, the masses of flowers and wreaths! And the altar girls looked just like little angels! The church was packed to the brim, and the choir sounded…well, heavenly. Mrs. Menezes’ two sons had come all the way from Australia, tall, strapping young men, looking so serious and sad. And Dorothy, who’s taking my place at the school concert, played Mrs. Menezes’ favorite piece – Chopin, I think it was – on the flute. So sad, so hauntingly beautiful. Not my type, of course, but full of pathos and heart-rending sorrow.

Jan 1st    Yesterday, I got another of my splitting headaches and that hot, hot pricking in my eyes. Oh, did I forget to mention those? I get them every time someone, you know, says or does something mean to me and I have to flash that warm, dazzling smile. I get this tight, hard knot in my chest, which comes up into my throat and almost chokes me to death. That’s when I feel I’m about to explode! Then I get a tingling sensation in my arms and legs, and I feel strong … so strong … so very, very strong.

It happened yesterday when Dorothy smiled and said, “Thanks for opting out of the concert and giving me a chance!” And then she stuck out her tongue. Like Rohan did when he said – “See ya, I’m off to the movies! All the best for tomorrow’s test!”

And it happened when Uncle Balu said those things about Dada losing his job and us being out on the streets,

And again when I was told by Mrs. Menezes that I wouldn’t be performing for the Annual Day concert after all. And oh yes, when Sr. Gemma scolded me yesterday and said I‘d better look sharp or I‘d fail in Maths and not get promoted.

At such times, when I look in the mirror I don’t recognize myself. I’m not the same slender, serious-looking girl I had described earlier. My skin turns a horrible shade of green, and my limbs get all ropey and muscular. Even my face looks different, all sharp angles and jutting corners. And my eyes…oh, Lord, my eyes! They're like the eyes of a ghost – wide and staring, with flint in them.

That’s about the time when my left ankle starts throbbing like mad, just above the instep and that red, angry wart appears…and that slimy, green creeper-like thing starts coming out…and coming out…and coming out. For as long a time, and as long a length as I want it to. And I feel strong. So strong. So very, very strong.

I wonder how many people are going to die this year?

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