Back benchers

Read the previous part here

Grandfather offered to accompany me to school and I blandly refused. I was twelve and quite capable of going things on my own. During the breakfast I noticed Grandmother disapprovingly eyeing my hair, but she didn’t explicitly say anything.

“Gautham, you better hurry”, Grandfather said glancing at the clock.” It is a long walk to school and I am sure you don’t want to be late on your first day”. I nodded. I had given a lot of thought about when I should be reaching the school on my first day.The school time was from 10 to 4. While in Carmel, students had to report in the class at 8:30 in the morning, though the classes started only at 9. We used to have a school assembly and a morning drill everyday before the classes. I was sure that there was no such things here. And I didn’t want to reach the class too early, it would be awkward sitting in a half empty class room when I knew no one in there. I didn’t want to be too late either, lest the only place I would end up would be the first bench. Unlike Carmel the students here won’t be lining up to sit right under the nose of the teacher.

While at Carmel, the seating arrangement changed periodically, students were rotated between first and last benches week after week. I  guessed that there would be no such system in public schools and I did not want to end up stuck in the first bench for a whole year. Cool guys are never first-benchers. I wanted to be one of them – the back-benchers, the coolest, most revered group!

I had to leave home early at my Grandfather’s insistence. Even though I took the longest route possible, I ended up reaching the school at 9:30 and one look at the corridor was enough to tell me that I was too early. So I walked out and roamed around the market place for a while and went back in when it was ten minutes to ten.  As I walked into the class, I noticed that it was almost full. Some of the students gave me a casual glance as I walked in, though most of them chose to ignore. The classroom was overcrowded and too loud. It felt as if every student in there was talking at the top of his/her voice. There had to be at least 50 students in that small room. I couldn’t help thinking of the classrooms in Carmel where the number of students in each class was restricted to 25 and each student had his own chair and table.Here, at least 5 students crammed into a small bench.

My eyes slowly wandered to the back of the class. My heart sank when I realized that all the back rows were already filled in. I should have come in a bit more early. On a second glance, I noticed that one of the back benches had only 4 boys. I slowly walked towards them.

As I reached the last row, the boy sitting on the right most edge looked up at me. I stood there, my heart beating wildly, not sure how I should be reacting. Should I be smiling at him? He did not have even a hint of smile on his face, so I decided against it. I returned his stare and stood there for what seemed like eternity. In the end I spluttered out “Move”, no please, no would you. Just plain ‘move’.

He exchanged glances with the others sitting in the same row. I started sweating profusely when I realized that at least half of the class was now watching me curiously.What if the boy refuses to move over and doesn’t let me sit? Should I be challenging him to a fight? He was huge, so were his friends and I couldn’t help visualizing his strong hands beating the pulp out of me. I don’t know if it was a fragment of my imagination, but it seemed like the boy sitting next to him gave a curt nod.  And just like that he moved and made space for me to sit.

A relief washed over me and I felt euphoric. I had passed the first test, I was now one among them-the back benchers.

Read the next part here

I am participating in the  A to Z challenge this April. This is my post for the letter B.


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