My first story

Mohd. Sheikh was getting ready to go to school. Even on a cold winter day, he had got up early. Spring. Summer. Rain. Autumn. Winter. Whatever the season be, he used to follow the same schedule. He gets up at 5 o'clock and jogs 5 kilometers. He goes to the railway station and meets the newspaper boy sorting the dailies to be circulated in the town. Sheikh likes to get the newspaper at the railway station, to be the first person in the town to get the morning news. On the way back, he stops at the milk depot to collect two packets of milk.

Today was the coldest day of the season. He had not bothered it. As usual, he handed the packets of milk to his mother and started getting ready. Now he was fully dressed in the white school uniform and black shoes. He was sitting at the breakfast table. Outside the sun had risen. But the thick fog cover had kept it hidden. It did not snow in this part of the world, but the blanket of mist enveloping the town brought with it the same kind of chillness.

Sheikh was enjoying the cool breeze blowing through the broken pane of the window. It always brought ideas to his mind. Lines of a poem were building up in his mind. He was good at poetry. He had written lots of them in the school magazine and had won prizes at various clubs. Today's theme was fog.

What is it?

Is it the god's sheet to save us from evil,
or is it the magic of a blackhearted devil,

so pure, so serene,
it looks the picture of heaven,
It can be nothing
but the gift god has given

Or, can it be the sky ,
come down to meet his eternal mate,
while the people sleep,
dreaming about love and hate.

"Come here and take the paranthas", his sister called from the kitchen. He walked into the kitchen and got his plate. As he munched his breakfast enjoying the breeze, phrasing the poem, he heard his friend Wasim calling him at the gate, "Sheikh, come fast or we will miss the bus".

Stuffing the paranthas into his mouth, Sheikh rushed out to join Wasim on the bus. The school bus was something Sheikh detested. The old rickety bus with clattering windows adding to the noise of the children. More than the bus, it was the sounds, made by the seniors around him, that irritated him. Sheikh never used to talk to girls. And that was the topic of discussion. His seniors mocked and sneered at him. He was the source for their daily dose of laughter. Sometimes he felt infuriated. Sometimes hurt.

"I have to do something about this", he told Wasim as he got down at school.
"About what?"
"I want a girl friend. I am fed up of the mockery."
"Oh my dear friend! Dont get upset by that. They were just having fun."
"NO. It is too much. They have been laughing at me for quite some time", Sheikh said with determination.
"Okay. Go on. Dont forget me if you want any help", said Wasim to cheer him up.


***

A month had passed since then. Sheikh had been thinking about it. First he was not sure which girl to pick from the whole bunch of girls in his class. He had never cared about them before. So he started watching them. As he observed them, he started finding interest in a girl. Her name was Asha. She was short with dreamy eyes, chubby cheeks and long hair. She kept to herself most of the time and was very attentive in the class. She was hard working but was never among the toppers of the class.

Sheikh was attracted by her dreamy eyes. He wondered what went on there, behind those little eyes, in her thoughts, in her dreams. He was very shy to approach her. He felt dumbstruck when he confronted her.

Sitting in the English class, taught by the principal, Sheikh was thinking about her. He was phrasing the sentences in his mind that he would speak.

"Hi, Asha. How are you?" "How strange that we have been in the same class and have never talked to each other." "Have you done the homework that Taneja Madam has given us?" "Could you lend me your physics notebook?"

Lost in his thoughts he was gazing out of the window. At a distance, he could see the football ground. Lush green, with two goal posts at each end, the boundary lines marked with white lime. A gentle breeze caressed his neck. He could smell the fragrance of the roses and lilies that grew in the well-maintained garden just outside the window.

"Tell me how do you pronounce this word", the principal had asked the class pointing to a word written on the black board. A few students had raised their hands to answer. The principal had noticed Sheikh in a physically-present-mentally-absent state. Sheikh had known nothing of that. He was engrossed in his conversation with Asha in his dreams.

Slap! That was what brought him to the reality. It was not from the principal. Wasim had slapped him on his thighs. Sheikh noticed the steely stare of the principal.
"Yes Sir?", he muttered.
"I asked you how to pronounce this word", said the principal.
"muh-ley-zhuh", he replied.
"Correct. But be attentive in the class." And the principal continued with his lectures. Sheikh tried to concentrate but soon found his mind drifting towards the conversation that he had left in the middle.

Few more days passed. Sheikh had talked to Asha during a lunch break. After the first rendezvous, he had gained confidence. He had then used all opportunities to meet her and have a conversation going. Most of their meetings were in the corridors or near the water tank. In the class, he maintained the same shyness. But slowly he was liking her.


***

Wasim didnt know about Sheikh's feelings. He was desperate to break Sheikh's inhibition towards girls. Wasim was the most jovial person in the class. He was involved in all the activities of the class and was a friend to all boys and girls. He was also the problem solver, especially regarding relationships. Most of his classmates came to him for help and he gave them solutions that worked.

Seeing that his dearest friend has not made much progress himself, Wasim decided to play a trick. He called up a girl of their class, named Mini. Mini was the biggest flirt in the class. She was hot and could seduce any guy. Wasim set her up to try her hand on Sheikh.

The Chemistry lab hour was the next. Students were settling down behind the workbenches. Each experiment was done in groups of two. Sheikh had reached the lab earlier and had collected the equipments for the experiment. He was waiting for his partner.

Sheikh noticed a cunning smile as Mini entered the lab. Later he would know that the smile was planted on her face by his dearest friend. He would also learn that Mini had exchanged with another boy to be his lab partner. She was now coming towards him.
"Hi, Shekhu. I am your lab partner today", Mini said and blushed.
Sheikh couldnt understand the change in her behaviour. She had never given him a glance or talked to him. But today she was there sitting in close quarters and trying to stir him. He tried to keep distance but she somehow sensed his movement and moved closer. He was feeling uneasy and his hands were trembling. He couldnt concentrate on the titration experiment that they were doing.

Just as he was transferring a solution through a pipette, he felt a pair of fingers on his thighs. The fingers were simulating the motion of a tap dancer, slowly climbing up from his knees. Anger rose in him. He had had enough of her drama. He gave Mini a stern look, caught her hands just in time and shook them off his body. The message was clear. I dont expect such thing from you.


***

Sun had set behind the cement factory building. The sky had an orange tinge. The chimney blew a puff of white smoke that merged with the passing cloud creating interesting shapes. Sheikh and Wasim were sitting on a bench in a park. They relaxed here daily after a game of cricket. Few kids were running around or playing on the see-saw. Wasim was unusually quiet. Sheikh had noted the change in him, but couldn't guess the reason. After three long minutes of silence, Sheikh asked him, "What is the problem? You were very silent during the game."
"I was thinking about something" replied Wasim.
"What is it?"
"About you"
"Me?"
"Yes. Tell me one thing. Did you find a girl friend for you?"
Sheikh was surprised by the question.
"Well. Sort of..."
"What? You have? Now I guess why you behaved like that to Mini", said Wasim.
"With Mini? I dont get you", quizzed Sheikh.
"Oh that is nothing. I had told Mini to come to you during the chemistry lab. She told me that you didnt like her and got angry."
"So it was your job. I was surprised by her behaviour today."
"I was just trying to help you. As you know, she doesnt mind going out with anybody. Since she is single after her breakup with Raju, I thought I would help her too."
"Thanks for your help. But I dont need them, at least in this matter.", said Sheikh.
"So tell me who is she?"
"Asha." His cheeks were turning pink. "I think I love her. It is a nice feeling being with her. She has invaded my dreams too."
"So you have been together. I didnt know that. You seem to be the same in the class."
"We have met a couple of times. Near the water tank... In the library..."
"You cheat. So much has happened and you haven't told me."
"Dont get excited. Nothing has happened. I know I like her. I dont know whether she likes me too. I dont know whether she dreams about me."
"Dont worry. I will get that information for you."
"No. I will tell her myself" said Sheikh.
"Okay as you wish. I will give you two weeks. You make yourself clear to her. And I will make sure that nobody else gets to her, said Wasim and winked.


***

Spring has shown its first signs. The mornings were pleasant and clear. Flowers bloomed in the gardens and gave a colourful look to the whole town. Spring had cheered up Sheikh too. His love had shown progress. He had changed course of his morning jogs. He had chosen a longer route to pass through Asha's street. Initially, he had no success. But within a couple of days, he got sight of her in the balcony. She had smiled to him. The smiling had changed to waving and that had changed to exchanging pleasantries.

Sheikh had figured out that Asha went to get milk from the same milk depot and he accompanied her daily. Thus their friendship grew and during those morning walks they came to know about each other and each other's interests. They talked about music, art, nature and sports. Soon they found that their tastes were matching and their favourites were identical.


***

English class was going on. The teacher had given them a home assignment to write an essay about a character from the chapter "Love across salt desert". The story was about a boy who travels across the Rann of Kutch to Pakistan to meet his love. The boy takes risk to cross the desert guarded by the army and succeeds to get her. It was a story of sacrifice, hurdles, suffering and happiness. The assignment was to justify the actions of the boy.

Sheikh had written a two-page writeup. When his turn came, he stood up and narrated his essay. He spoke about the meaning of sacrifice in love. He elaborated about the hurdles and gave examples of suffering from Shakespear's titles. He justified the deeds that are worth the happiness in the end. Throughout his speech, he had looked at Asha. It was like him proving himself in front of her. And she knew about it more than anybody around her. She knew that those words about love and life were meant for her and her only. She was so impressed by his speech that she knew life would not be the same as before. She had lost her heart to him and the red rose in the garden outside looked prettier than before.


***

Mishra was smart and was good at studies as well as sports. He liked competing with people and teased others in the class for fun. Though very smart and cheerful, he had few friends in the class. He was brash, shrewd and egoist and his classmates knew this.

Mishra was always against Sheikh. In debates, in football, in class committees, in everything. There was a latent religious hatred too. They confronted each other on many occasions. And mostly, Mishra won. But still he disliked Sheikh for the competition that he gave.

So when the news of an affair between Sheikh and Asha got around the school, Mishra was the most affected. He couldnt believe that Asha would go out with Sheikh. It hurt him very much. There was another reason for his anger. He had tried to approach Asha and she had ignored him.

Mishra was looking for a chance to take revenge. So when he got this old photograph, he was very happy. The photo was taken during the recent School Annual Function. Sheikh had performed a role in the Hindi play. So was Mini. During one of the scenes, Sheikh was supposed to act as limping and Mini would support him across the stage. He had put his hands around her shoulders and she had taken him to the sofa. The photo that Mishra held in his hand was that scene. He could clearly see the position of Sheikh's hands. He was thrilled and thought of a plan.


***

Asha was going to the library to meet Sheikh. Mishra caught her on her way. There was a smile on his face. A strange smile. He seemed very glad. Asha wondered why.
"Have you seen this?" Mishra asked showing her the photograph.
"Yes. I was there for the annual function. Where did you get this photo?"
"Dont worry about that. Dont you see something interesting?", he questioned.
"Well. Sheikh seems so natural in his role. He is a great actor", she replied.
"Yes he is. See how nicely he acts as a lame. He is all over her. Just look at his hands. He must have enjoyed it." said Mishra and left.

Asha couldnt believe it at first. Then Mishra's words seemed true. Sheikh was leaning over Mini. His hands had slipped from her shoulders. His eyes were closed, seemingly enjoying the moment. Asha rushed to the library.

As she entered the library, to her horror, she found Mini sitting beside Sheikh. As Asha would later know that Mini had met Sheikh to discuss about the upcoming poetry recitation competition, but at the moment she was tormented. A photo in her hand and another scene in front of her, the words of Mishra. All of them seemed to be true. She left the place without meeting Sheikh.

Later, Sheikh and Asha had a fight over the issue. He couldnt prove his innocence and she left him mid-way in the discussion, angry. He was left alone, in despair. Mishra had won yet another battle against Sheikh and gave a huge party to his bunch of friends.

Sheikh was upset and tried to solve the matter. But Asha was adamant. She avoided meeting Sheikh and rarely gave him a chance to talk. Wasim came to know about the issue and figured out that the culprit was Mishra. Sheikh was infuriated when Wasim told this to him. He knew he would be teach Mishra a lesson one day.


***

Inter-house football tournament final was on Friday. Both Sheikh and Mishra were good at football and were the captains of their teams. Their performances had earned their respective teams a berth in the final. This was the most awaited event of the year as it would decide the Champions of the School.

The school ground was ready for the clash of titans. The stands were overflowing with supporters. The teams were lining up in the centre. The PT teacher was the referee. The crowd was still pouring in. The teams shook hands and took their positions. Sheikh and Mishra were standing face to face, with the ball between them in the centre. Both had similar expressions - indignation and displeasure. At the blow of referee's whistle, adrenaline pumped into their veins and the GAME was ON.

Kicks and Passes, Dribble and Scoops, Long passes and Short passes, Juggling and Slides, Free kicks and Saves, Corners and Throw-ins, Fair play and Fouls. That describes the game the best. It had all the elements of a fiercely fought final. Both teams were good and were fighting to be the best. There was only one difference between the teams. Mishra's team depended on their tricks and scuffle while Sheikh's team depended on formation and pre-empted passes.

Mishra was marking Sheikh and was not letting him to push the ball forward. Referee had warned Mishra once for foul play. But that made no difference. He was pushing and shoving Sheikh with pleasure. After lot of effort, both teams scored one goal each and it was half time. The crowd was enjoying the match and was cheering for both teams.

Asha was seeing the match from the stands. She was a fan of football and was supporting Mishra's team, which was her House team. She was happy with the score line but was worried of Sheikh's team's ability. The game after the break was no different from the first half. Both teams stuck to their strategies. Mishra was still moving around Sheikh. Asha had noticed the foul play by Mishra. She wanted her team to win but also felt pity for Sheikh. He was playing nicely but was obstructed by Mishra.

On one occasion, Sheikh had successfully dribbled past Mishra and was running with the ball towards the goal post. He got past two defenders and was about to score a goal. Suddenly, he felt searing pain in his thigh and his feet were off the ground. As he landed on the ground, he saw Mishra looking down on him. Luckily, the referee had seen the challenge and gave Mishra a RED card. Sheikh got a penalty which he converted to a goal. Without Mishra, the team conceeded two more goals in the second half and the game finished at 4-1.

Asha met Sheikh that evening at the milk depot. "Congratulations for winning the Champions Trophy. You played really well today", she said and went away without waiting for a reply.


***

Two days had gone by after the football match. Asha was still not seeing Sheikh. But he could sense that she was getting restless to make up with him. But something was stopping her from getting convinced. School picnic was coming up next and Sheikh hoped to use the opportunity.


***

It was a wonderful morning in March. Clear sky and moderate temperatures. The class had arrived at a lake side for picnic. Light breeze was blowing, picking up moisture from the lake. Students were in a gay mood. Some were playing antakshari. Some were moving around the lake enjoying the scenery. Some were boating in the lake.

Sheikh was sitting under the shade of a mango tree, lost in his dreams. Suddenly, a girl's cry woke him up. It came from behind, from the bushes. He rushed and found Mishra holding Mini by her hand. Mini was sobbing. Seeing Sheikh, Mishra released his grip and said "What are you doing here?"
"That is what I should ask you. What are you doing here?"
"It is none of your business", barked Mishra.
"It is my business and I shall today teach you how to behave with girls", said Sheikh and jabbed his fist into Mishra's stomach. Soon they were rolling along the ground and hitting each other with hands and legs. Sheikh overpowered Mishra and sat on his chest. He slapped Mishra hard many times. He vented his emotions and took his revenge.
"Dont force me to give you a revision", said Sheikh. He took Mini's hand and walked away.


***

Asha was playing antakshari with a group of girls. She had seen Sheikh relaxing under the tree. Though she was not meeting him, she had kept an eye on him. She had observed him rising, looking around and then going behind the bushes. She could see the rustling of leaves and could sense something happening behind the bushes. She waited for him to come out. She had lost interest in the game. She stood up and strolled towards the bushes.

As she neared the bushes, she saw Sheikh emerging with Mini. He was patting on her shoulder and she was smiling. They had not seen Asha. She hid behind the mango tree and listened to their conversation.

"Dont worry. Nobody will know about this. I wont tell anyone." said Sheikh.
"Thank you very much." said Mini.
"I am glad that I got an opportunity to settle things right."

Mini waved bye to Sheikh and went away. As she was passing the mango tree, Asha came out of her hiding. Mini turned back, winked at Sheikh and said "Have a nice time with Asha".

Sheikh was glad to find Asha. He was waiting to see her alone and bring her back to his life. But she seemed to be in a bad mood. She was furious. Sheikh tried to think of a reason but found none. As he came near her, she said "Go to Hell. And dont ever see me again" before storming away back to the group of girls.


***

Sheikh was very sad. He didnt know WHY Asha was angry. He didnt know HOW to console her. He didnt know WHAT did he do wrong to break her heart. He didnt know WHEN they will be friends again. He didnt know...

He was sitting in his room in front of his study table. On the table were a bunch of papers. He was staring blankly on them. These were the letters that he had written to Asha before they started going together. He had never shown them to her. The letters had poems that described her, poems that symbolised their love. He was now wondering, "Do they have any meaning?" Unknowingly, tears trickled down his chin.

Wasim found Sheikh in this state when he came back after a tour to his hometown. He had been away for two weeks. He knew nothing about the football match and the picnic. He listened to the whole episode from Sheikh and decided to help him out. He slipped one of the letters into his pocket and planned to meet Asha the next day.


***

During the lunch break, Wasim took Asha to a corner and asked her about the picnic. Asha told him her version of the scene and said "I never thought that he will do this to me. I always believed that he loves me and he will come back to me. I know he fought Mishra well during the football match. But with Mini...."
"He didnt do anything with Mini." said Wasim and told her all that had happened.
"You can ask Mini for a confirmation if dont believe me. And if you want more proof about his love for you, read this", he said and gave the letter to Asha.

She was filled with tears. She has mistaken Sheikh. How could she be so cold hearted!


***

The annual exhibition of the school was coming up next week. Students stayed at school after class to make models and charts for the exhibition. It was getting dark outside. Asha was walking towards the water tank. She crossed the lawns and chose the path that went around the science building. Her feet kept moving so did her thoughts. She recollected the sequence of events at the picnic. Now she knew what had really happened. Mini had vouched for Sheikh.

Asha walked in solitude. There was nobody in view. A few windows on the first floor were lighted and showed human presence. The street light flickered on and illuminated her path. She saw the football ground and the final match flashed in her mind. She could visualise the contest between Sheikh and Mishra.

As she reached the water tank, she was happily surprised. Sheikh was there leaning against the lamp post, head towards the ground, eyes focussed at infinity.
"I was waiting for you", said Sheikh. "I knew you would come here. Do you remember? This is where I first talked to you." She nodded. Words werent coming out. Her eyes were overflowing.
"You are the first girl who came into my life. I was happy when we were friends. I liked you more than my best friend. Then I realised I love you."
"I love you too." said Asha and flung herself into his arms.
They stood there embracing each other. They gave the first kiss in their life and then walked off on the school garden surrounded by roses and lilies, hand in hand.

THE END

Afterword
This is the first story written by me. It all started as a chat with one of my friends, Abhishek, and we created the plots together. The poem above was written by him.

It is upto you to guess who is "Sheikh".

Comments

nice work, awesome..
The purpose of the characters were nicely described.
i am expecting few more stories as such..
Abhi said…
gr8 work vg, the story is as unpretentious and clear as u r, keep on the good work,
btw u dint need to tell who wrote the worst part of the story , tht silly poem :)
Ankur Gupta said…
Looks like you have started buliding Fictions in your thought..but great work keep going and hope to expect the next "Alchemist" coming up from you... :-)
Lot of life said…
i know these days ur mind working like a writer , any event or any conversation with u , can be posted here by u . This is what i can sense , and probably u r looking at ur life again , all event and everything that u have experienced.
***** who is Sheikh*** . ofcourse the poams r written by u
nice debut performance,
story has enough masala -
love of indian style, male heroism, color of friendship, communal harmony, all flavours in one cup.

i'd like to send my son to this school to study(or whatever).

P.S.
Can you get mini for me ... she's still single right? plz ..

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