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Love Part 4

by Tawsif


When I bang on the door and clutch at the hinge, my right leg slides awfully. A terrible collapse was certain, but somehow, I manage to recover balance and scramble to my feet. This entire blooper has the whole class in stitches.

Tittering, I turn to Mrs. Sriti who’s probably halfway through her lecture by now. She’s not glaring, which is even worse.

“You’re late.” She’s clearly forcing herself to keep her voice low.

The first period is at 8 in the morning, and it’s not like 8 AM is too early for me. But occasionally—once or twice every week, to be precise—my sleep gets lengthier than the usual, like today.

With a deep breath, I mutter the words I’ve rehearsed so many times on my way to school, “I’m sorry, ma’am. It won’t happen again.”

Mrs. Sriti sighs. It’s as if her face is saying, He’ll keep doing this over and over; but her mouth utters different: “Get in. This is your last chance.”

I grin and walk to the benches. I sit beside in the second bench. Apon looks at me and says, “You know, this isn’t the first time she said ‘Last Chance’.”

I pinch at his whist softly. Apon winces and tries to pinch me back, but I shy away. Apon always misses!

Mrs. Sriti goes on to talk about the functions of mitochondria of the cell. I’m attentive for the first few minutes, but my attention drifts soon. Thoughts of Nidhi begin to dominate, the same enigmatic feeling returns. It used to feel unfamiliar in the beginning, this enigmatic feeling, but now it feels as if I’ve known it for thousands of years.

The need to look left and steal a glance at her torments me. I suppress it first, but it keeps building up, growing wild, uncontrollable. Eventually, I succumb to the need and turn left.

And with a dart of fear, I find some of the girls—of course not Nidhi—looking at me as well. I turn away immediately.

Goosebumps are all over my skin. The girls, I think, why were they looking like that? How did they

And then, it flashes on me: I have Nidhi’s exercise-book in my bag, and my stupid memory didn’t allow me to remember it.Nidhi must’ve looked for it when she came to school today. Perhaps one of the other girls, who could’ve seen me taking her exercise-book yesterday, told her. Shit! The girls know!

Symptoms of nervousness at this point could’ve made for further suspicions. Luckily, my conscience shows some sensibility and keeps me calm.

When the first period ends, I decide to give it back. I take the exercise-book out of the bag with sweaty hands, stand up, and begin walking towards the girls’ benches.

Nidhi’s right there in front of me, and the girls around her are chuckling. Another dart of fear surges through me, but I manage to ignore it—thanks to my conscience again—and say in a rather awkwardly high tone, “Mrs. Sriti told me to take your exercise-book yesterday. Here it is.” I move the book forward.

She blushes, and then takes the book from my hand. The girls chuckle once again.

When I get back to my seat, I feel embarrassed and delighted together. Embarrassed, because now even the girls know the secret, which means it’s not a secret any more. Delighted, because Nidhi just offered me the most adorable blush the world has ever seen.

***

Nidhi’s worn a scarf today. A white scarf to be precise, wrapped around her head immaculately. It’s a perfect sign of the ‘Purdah’ custom, that women should always be covering their faces when they are outdoors.

Earlier, when she didn’t wear scarfs, there was a fire in her deep black hairs, blazing and flaming as the wind played with them. It would spread out and ignite my heart as well. But now that she has the treasures of her head hidden under the scarf, I feel no heat when I look at her. It’s as if the scarf has poured out water in the fire of my heart.

I’ve realized today why the ‘Purdah’ custom is mandatory in Islam. If it weren’t for this custom, all men would be helplessly trapped, spellbound, under the charm of women like Nidhi in their open, unrestricted beauty.

That weird thing is again happening to me, the feeling of being mad at Nidhi. Once again, I’m thinking Nidhi should’ve thought about my needs first before choosing to wear that scarf. I’m fully aware that it’s the stupidest thing to imagine, and yet it’s too powerful to be wiped out.

Control yourself, a still voice inside me says. She’s showing respect to religion. She’s doing the right thing. And you should be proud of it. Don’t be such a criminal!

Yeah, speaking of criminality, I reply, I’m being criminal too often these days. Way too often!


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Sun Apr 26, 2020 9:44 am
ShapeOfVoid wrote a review...



Heyo Tawsif! I've been following this story for a while now (used to be hiraeth); and it's cute! I thought i'd help take this out of the Green Room and give you a few pointers.


Relatability

The first thing that drew me to this story was how relatable it was - I'm from the Indian subcontinent too, and it's startling how much culture and mindset is influenced by region. It's a nice change from what I usually read. It's also startling in its accuracy; I have nostalgia from my own middle school years.
Readers like to read what they can relate to. You'd have no problem with looking for an audience for this story in our region. If you're aiming for international, however, some inclusion and explanation of concepts are required - western and eastern school systems vary vastly from country to country, and culture/religion influence the way we think.
For example,
I remember somewhere in the beginning of the story, you talked about the 'girls' benches and 'boys' benches. Now, my school is very deeply co-ed, and we don't have such segregation. We mingle with each other, and gender is a very small factor in who we talk to or sit beside. However, I do get where you're coming from, because I have friends in different schools where this barrier is there. From a western point of view, the entire concept is extremely sexist - like,,, extremely. It thus, needs to be explained, that this is how the region works. It's not ideal, and yes, we are trying to come out of it, but this is the society now. Gotta accept it. This explanation is not required for the rest of us who have lived in this subcontinent.

In the end, though, it's about which audience you're trying to reach - local, or global; and I'd advise tailoring your story through the readers' eyes, depending on who you think they are going to be.


Characters.
Your characters are extremely sweet. Speaking of our protagonist, i love how honest he is with his thoughts. How unfiltered. Smitten teenager, and he's not even trying to hide/deny his feelings. He's a topper, he's of the male species, and he's the teacher's pet. There's a certain category I can fit him into - and even before I finished the first chapter, I knew who he was going to be. I knew and recognized the thoughts, the competitiveness, pressure from parents, etc.

That's all I know, though. I know the protagonist, and that's it. I would like to know about his best friends, more about his parents, more conflict, and of course, more. about. Nidhi. See, all I get from here is that she's the beautiful girl with high grades, and the protag is in love with her. But I keep thinking, why? I know nothing else about the girl - is she funny (and if she is, show us, not tell us), is she stubborn, charming, witty - we have painfully very little page-time with the real girl, and an awful amount of fixation over the girl in our protag's mind. I need a personality, and I need to be shown it - not told about it through what the protag thinks of her. She's definitely a very central piece in the story - it revolves around her, and I've seen no real interaction where she is something other than a timid, sit-still-look-pretty girl.

However, I do like how much room you've given your characters for improvement. The protag may be perfect in the general sense - but his mindset/ personality is yet to show its best self. The purdah scene, for example. The MC said,

Once again, I’m thinking Nidhi should’ve thought about my needs first before choosing to wear that scarf.


It was... incredibly sexist, with a little bit of toxic masculinity, and i'm afraid a very likely reaction of the men in our societies. The fact that, I am yet to see a proper interaction between the two, and our MC already feels so possessive over her, is a startling revelation, and maybe quite common in our patriarchal communities. In my knowledge, they're not even proper friends yet, let alone in a relationship. Yet, MC feels like Nidhi should be thinking about him; that she should consult him before she takes decisions on how to look. It's ugly, and unfortunately a part of the society. These are the things the character has to overcome; this development is what is going to give depth to the story. I would love to see how your protag grows over time and how his mindset changes. Character development is an essential part of a story, and yours has a lot of potential in that department. :)

(also, on a personal opinion, i love it when a book has strong, influencing side characters. Like six of crows, or carry on, or even percy jackson (especially the later books). So I would love to see some more minor characters playing a bigger role in the upcoming chapters.)


Conflict

Right, okay. So. The main conflict here is, obviously, the love interest. Getting the girl, yeah? At least, as far as I can tell. However, even in most 'getting the girl' stories, there is often a deeper conflict in the story. Love is good and all, but you're not going to be able to keep an audience without introducing a major plot point that isn't banking on romance. Give me trouble. Give me tension, problems, questions without answers. Everything feels too smooth.

Aldo, expanding on side characters: include other people's stories. How the protag plays a part in his friends' life. Take my favourite bollywood film. Take 3 idiots. (not talking the book by mr. bhagat. i hated the book.) We don't just get a story about three friends. We get specifically detailed backgrounds of multiple characters, including a lot of minor ones. And more than that, we get insight on how the protag plays a part in all of their lives. Rancho not only helps his friends, but he influences others' lives too! He made Joy's science project helicopter, he prevented pria from taking a terrible marriage decision, he showed his professor Virus some valuable qualities, he even helped and influenced Millimetre! Such intricate relationships is what makes a story strong. I would love to see how your protag interacts with others more. The Apon part was sweet, but do i get to know who Apon is? what his story, in a few short lines, is?

So, create conflict. Take other characters, give them problems, and give your protag problems too. Big problems. The ones that last months, and requires a team effort to solve. Make the story real, believable, and deep.


Setting, Images, etc

So there was a part that really stood out to the poetic side of me in this chapter:

Earlier, when she didn’t wear scarfs, there was a fire in her deep black hairs, blazing and flaming as the wind played with them. It would spread out and ignite my heart as well.


This was beautiful. I would love more of these moments in the story. More descriptions, because I feel like you'd be great at them. A story's setting is important; it gives us a feel - really sets out the emotion. Like, is the day rainy? School shoes squeaking on wet pavement? Or sunny, the sunlight seeping in through the windows, and everyone sweating through their white school shirts? I'd like to imagine a classroom with wooden benches that have writing on them, and compass marks, with the fan making rhythmic creaks above. These things give feel to a story. Makes it more than the words.

Also, most of the protag's life revolves around school. I would love to see how he interacts outside of it- at the mall, maybe, or with other kids in his neighborhood, or even at his home. If all my life was concentrated on school, I would be going crazy during quarantine. So I'd like it if we got to see more of the protag outside of an educational setting.


Conclusion

So, I'm going to cap it there. You don't need specific grammar or writing tips; you're good to go in that department. The story's voice is mature enough for its characters' ages. Keep in mind what I've said - develop conflict, track potential for char. development, and give descriptions, establish a setting.
Well done, so far, and Happy Review day!

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Tawsif says...


That is the best literary criticism I've ever had. I want you to review all my chapters. Please.
I Was actually thinking about these areas, you kno, side-characters and plot development. I wanted to get on with the story and then focus on those issues.
Thank you sooooo much. And I Really want you to review all my chapters. Please!



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Tue Mar 31, 2020 7:05 pm
starlitnight wrote a review...



first, this is cute! i love the interactions between the main character and his best friend (apon is such a cute name!). maybe it's because i haven't read the other parts, but i am confused where this is set but i don't really mind. it's a nice piece!

er, was the spelling of wrist a typo? it looks like you were typing in uwu for a second there (if you don't get it it's okay hee).

I pinch at his whist softly.


make sure to add a space between sentences! and a colon, oo. i never know how to use those so seeing one always intrigues me because i want to learn how to use them haha.

And then, it flashes on me: I have Nidhi’s exercise-book in my bag, and my stupid memory didn’t allow me to remember it.Nidhi must’ve looked for it when she came to school today.


keep up the good work!

~laynie <3




Tawsif says...


Thanks for the review.




There is a difference between being poor and being broke: broke is temporary; poor is eternal.
— Robert Kiyosaki