A really nice and healthy burp came out of my mouth. The tiffin I had right now, toast with fried eggs, was simply fantastic.
I was walking back to school now; I had my tiffin in my house. This was the usual practice for me. My school, BRRI Progati Primary School—Progati meant Advancement in Bangla—was located in the campus BRRI, abbreviation for Bangladesh Rice Research Institute. My father was a scientific officer here. Almost all the scientists’ kids, like me, went to this school. But it wasn’t really a special sort of school reserved only for the kids in the campus. Outsiders came here as well, though they were not lesser in number than the campus-kids.
And so, since the campus-kids had their house so close to the school, most of them went to their house in the tiffin period and came back to school again, like me.
Right now, I was standing at the beginning of the school’s driveway, and staring at a white, very neat, and elegant bus. The bus had a writing in its body in red paint: SARDI.
SARDI was one of the associative Institutes under BRRI. It was very close to BRRI, just a walk of ten minutes or so from the Pocket Gate Number Two of the campus. I’d never been to SARDI. But I heard it was a nice campus. And from that campus, quite a few students came to our school every day in that good-looking bus.
Nidhi was one of them.
I’d been sensing a really weird whim for the last few days. Every time I walked past this bus, I wanted to get on board. It wasn’t like an innocent curiosity-thing. It was more like a really intense craving. And it made me feel that enigmatic feeling.
I looked around. There was a wall to the right of the driveway, beyond which was a tin Golghar where the student’s parents usually sat down and relaxed. I saw no one in there now, though. To my left, three little kids—probably from Grade 1 or 2—were running and jiggling around. So, it was definitely an uncrowded atmosphere.
Not bad. You can sneak in,the inner voice said.
Sneak in? No! I’m not snaking in, I’m just going to… check out the bus.
Oh, yeah? Then why’re you looking around? Why’re you making sure nobody’s watching you?
I couldn’t counterattack. Really, why was I being sneaky?
Oof, you and your stupid thoughts! the inner voice snapped. Cut the bullshit and get on that bus!
I obliged the voice and started walking toward the bus.
And then, a flurry of steps and kicks, and a sickly childish voice: “Oops, sorry!”
The collision made me stagger back two steps. It happened all too quickly, like a storm that finished before it hardly started. I turned to the kid, who still kept running and kicking that godforsaken football, and yelled, “Watch where you’re going!”
The kid chuckled and showed no sign of slowing down, or watching where he was going.
I took one last look at the bus and started walking off. I’d lost all the excitement of sneaking onto the bus, or whatever the hell it was.
What I saw when I got into the classroom, was mayhem. All the boys and girls were standing face-to-face, hands on waist, finger-pointing the opposition, glaring, screaming. And in the girls’ benches, I saw Meherin with a paper-plane in her hand.
Right then I knew what all the fuss was about: someone flew the plane and it probably landed on Meherin’s face or something.
I ran to the boys’ benches. Apon was screaming, “So what if it’s your territory? The plane’s mine!”
“Yeah, yeah! Give it back!” some of my peers shouted.
Meherin shouted back at an even higher volume, “No! The plane might be yours, but it came to me! So I can do whatever I want with it.”
She held the plane up and twisted its curves. From side to side. Up and down. With all the tease in the world. Beside me, Apon was breathing very hard.
Okay, that’s it!
I took a step toward the girls’ benches and said, “Meherin, don’t you dare lay a finger on that plane.”
She looked up and smirked. That girl wasn’t pretty at all. Pale black face, a disproportionate nose, hairs that fell down the sides of her shoulders like a terrible mess. And a voice that really hurt the ears. She lived in the campus, and I’d had meetings with her outside the classroom. Well, not actual meeting, more like walking past each other without looking or saying hello, but with a great deal of irritation.
And that irritation surged like crazy now as she kept on twisting the plane and didn’t even care to look at me.
That girl needs some serious lesson!
I pounced forward in one swift move, pressed my left hand on the bench she was sitting on, and threw my right hand at her. In all this action, I accidentally touched Shopna’s nose—who was sitting beside Meherin—and she shied away at the touch in no time. In fact, almost all the girls shied away together. They were stunned, and probably, so were the boys behind me.
I kept trying to reach out and Meherin kept moving farther back in the bench. Soon it was me on one end of the bench and Meherin, Shopna, Shefali, and Jasmin cornered at the other end. Though I was stretching my hand as far as possible, I didn’t get inside the bench. That would’ve been too daring.
I was enjoying all this, but I sure was nervous like hell. Much as I was comfortable with girls, I’d been never been this close to their territory before.
I wasn’t going to get the plane anyway. So I made a different plan. I went back to my bench, took a steel-made ruler out of my bag, and turned around.
But Meherin wasn’t there in the bench. Where did she go?
There she was! At the front of the classroom, beside the teachers’ table. I gave her a sly smile—and that felt incredibly good—and started to walk toward the table.
“Gimme that plan. Right now.”
And she threw the plane at me right away. The plane didn’t take a flight at all—because she didn’t fly it; she merely got rid of it—and landed on the table. That was unexpected!
I picked up the plane. The boys clapped and cheered wildly. “Way to go, Tawsif!” I heard Shopon shouting.
But I wasn’t… I didn’t feel like I was done yet. She gave up too easily, and that kind of spoiled the fun.
And right then, I had an idea.