Clandestine: Part III

Ranjan broke the silence, clearing his throat.  As agreed earlier, no one questioned Preet about his story afterwards. They decided that there would be judgement thrown at them either.  Now it was Ranjan’s turn to break the ice and share his part of the story. He started telling his story by looking at Preet.

“Back in high school days, I was not just a known face to my classmates and teachers. Everyone knew me well. It was not because I was a brilliant student, but for my outspoken nature and more than average build. At the age of 14, I was 6 feet tall with wispy moustache. It was my distinguishable build that helped me avoid much public confrontation in school canteen or playground. I did not flaunt an airy attitude, but enjoyed every bit of such privileges that came along with such looks and build in those days.

I was the goalkeeper in my school soccer team. I also mentored junior students in soccer practice sessions regularly. I was part of the annual cultural event organizing committee. Moreover, the principal was a very close friend to my father. Now, you might understand why I was more than just a known face in my school.

My involvement in so many extracurricular activities did not affect my grades. I was not very good when it came to studies by somehow I managed to balance my studies with my other part of life. My parents never pushed me to up my grades although I could see some of the times it was really poor. I somehow managed to pass the exams and avoid any scolding from teachers at my school to keep up my reputation.

It was first day of the final exam in standard VIII. I was not much prepared for the exam but somehow tried to answers the questions as much as I could. I had a hunch that the paper was not going well. After one hour of the exam, I checked and could not figure out much of the answers. I asked one of my friends sitting in front of me to tell me couple of answers so that I can get the pass mark. I did not want much.  After some time, he put his papers on the left and slid to the right a bit so that I can peep into his paper and copy some of the answers that I wanted. Everything was going as expected.

Suddenly, a junior fellow sitting diagonally opposite to me called the invigilator and pointed at me. Noticing this, my friend standing in front of me slid to the left to his actual position covering his answer paper. The invigilator came towards us and asked for both of our answer papers. He checked on the papers and it did not take much time for him to understand what was going on. He passed on one paper to my friend and asked me to leave the room.

I suddenly felt embarrassed. The room was full of students of my class and a lot of junior students. I knew some of them from soccer coaching sessions. I was their mentor. I was the centre of attraction of the entire class at that point of time. Everyone was looking at me. When I approached the exit door of the room, I heard a sudden murmuring voice in the background and the invigilator shouted ‘Keep Silence everyone. One hour remaining for the exam.’

While coming back to home, I was thinking about the whole situation. It was nothing new in my school but certainly it was new for me. I tried this trick and every time it worked fine till date. Either no one cared or simply dared not to tell on me. That junior fellow, how dare he tell on me?

The incident somehow reached my father. At the dinner table, he asked me about the incident and I remained silent. I was prepared of acerbic comments on that day from my father but all he said was ‘Do not you have sportsman spirit? Are you not a player? Can you not prepare for any game in life and play to your heart content without thinking about winning or losing? I did not expect you to bring good grades, but did not expect you to be coward enough to cheat on exams.’

I did not say a word but it infuriated me the most. I suddenly felt very angry and could not find a way to alleviate my rage.

Next day, I went to school for the next paper. No one talked to me about the incident but I felt like everyone talking about it among themselves. Whenever I noticed that someone was looking at me, I thought that they must have been thinking of yesterday’s incident. I could not control this feeling and did not know what to do about it.

I looked at the junior fellow with contempt. He was a thin guy with a pair of spectacles. He was reading a book open in front of him for last minute preparation. How dare he insult me like that in front of the entire classroom? What did he gain from that? Or it was a sudden call of conscience to prevent every unjustified act, however small or harmless it might be. I must teach him a lesson.

I never felt this sort of anger. I could not figure out how to lessen up my anger and thought only about teaching that little stupid a lesson that he would never forget.

On that very day, while returning from school, I followed that guy and outside the school premise, I pulled him by his hair to make him stop and pulled his hand to make him walk with me. He resisted initially but soon realized that his resistance was of no match and started walking with me. I took him to a corner and pushed him. His forehead fell on the wall. I heard a mild sound of the collision. He held his left palm on his forehead. I could see sudden fear in his eyes. He was puzzled of the situation. He could clearly understand what was happening and why. He did not utter a sound.

I was so mad at him; I could not see the fear in his eyes. I slapped him on his left cheek. It reddened immediately with clearly visible impression of my fingers. Tears came out of his eyes. He opened his mouth and I could see droplets of blood on his lower lip. He was not sure what was about to happen but he did not move. He sat on the ground with the heavy bag on his back.

He lifted his head and looked at me standing in front of him. He was not able to utter a sound. After some seconds, I could hear a low voice. ‘Please do not hit me. I am sorry. I’ll never do it again’ it was all he could utter looking at me.

I left that place immediately leaving him behind.

I do not know what happened to me then. It was not like I never got into a fight with anybody or never hit anyone before. There was something in that face that day I have seen. Till date remember the face. He was at my mercy. I was the wrong doer, but he told me sorry. I felt guilty after coming back to home. His face with fearful expression started haunting me. During the last couple of days of the exam, he never looked at me. Once, I was waiting outside the room and he came out of the room. Our eyes met and he deliberately avoided the sight of me and looked at the floor while crossing past me.

I did something very bad and thought of talking to the guy. Next year, after the final vacation, when school started, I could not find that guy. I talked to one of his classmates and could find that they have left the town as his father got posted to another location in service.

I never met that guy again. Now, you might say that it was a small incident and could happen with anybody. I do not agree. Every incident can be considered to be small or big based on their relative impact to other incidents. It was a turning point in my life. I do not know how to describe but the facial expression of that guy on the very day was far more expressive than his words.

I never thought I could do such thing that I did to him till date. It made me realize that I had a high potential to be something I never really wanted to become. A bully”

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