Thursday, June 26, 2014

He and his fluorescent lunch-box..

He was a short boy with spectacles in my class. He was quite and sat at the back of the class. His teeth were somehow disfigured, maybe he had been in an accident. He had a big scar on his right cheek and a mole near his left ear. He was not a bright one, in fact he was amongst the dull ones in the class. Usually he forgot to do his homework. He even could not read a sentence while asked to read in the class, without stumbling upon words. He used to stammer when he was afraid. He was not "the cool" guy. He was made fun of and was bullied during lunch breaks. Nobody wanted to be friends with him. People ignored him like he was nobody. Teachers thought he was a waste of humankind. He went to people trying to strike a conversation, but everyone ignored him, and he would then go and sit at his own last bench of the class. He never used to play. He never went on trips. And nobody asked him why.. not the students, not the teachers.

I was also not very famous, and even I was not a "cool" person, but I had my small set of friends, and we used to hang out together, to the canteen or the movies.. and no, even we never bothered about him. If nobody cares, why should we. We never even thought upon him. He looked at everyone with longing eyes, but nobody looked back. But when he used to look at me with those soulful eyes from behind the glasses, which had a sea of emotions, something used to break inside me; something used to move me, something terrified me, something used to make me want to sit beside him, hold his hand and listen to his words. That was because I was and have always been scared and terrified of being left in solitude, with nobody to listen, with nobody by my side. I used to feel for him from the deepest core of my heart. I used to be scared because I have never ever wanted to be in his position. But I could never sit and hold his hand. Instead I used to turn my head around and walk away, leaving him sitting alone on the last bench. After all, I did not want to be seen with someone like "him". I could not risk my so-called reputation with my bunch of friends.

He never went out in the lunch breaks. I never sat next to him, but I could always see him from where I used to sit. I was the quiet kind, so a lot of times I preferred sitting in the class during the lunch break instead of sitting about in the canteen, playing and making big noises. So mostly it was both of us in the class during those 60 minutes, and I could see him looking at me from the corner of my eye, and I saw his same, hopeful little eyes from behind the glasses, urging me to start a conversation, or maybe even pass a little smile to him. But I hate clingy people, and "he" was a big no-no. I never wanted him to always try to talk to me. So, put frankly, very rudely I used to ignore him, which made him feel I never noticed. But I did, for I was scared. But how could he have known how I felt?

I not only remember for these little reasons, but for that he had a fluorescent coloured lunch-box. Yes, FLUORESCENT. It was a bit too peculiar for a guy to have a lunch box of that colour. While he used to bury his head in his simple, plastic lunch-box, and there used to the only the sounds of silence of the classroom, during those times, I usually used to steal little looks at him. Not because I felt sympathy. Not because I felt love. Not because I felt anything else. But because I was scared. Because I never wanted to be him. Because I never wanted to be left alone. Because I never wanted to look at the world with longing eyes, begging people to at least smile at me. I used to look at him and his "fluorescent" lunch-box. Every single day. His lunch box had a pink coloured mickey mouse sticker on the top cover, and inside the top cover was something written in black permanent marker pen. I could never gather the courage to look at it from up-close, but I suppose it was a message from someone to him, might be someone very close to him, might be from his mother.. or father, or his brother, or sister.. But he never looked at "the message". He used to carelessly open the cover and just ate. Maybe he had read that message so many times he remembers what's in there. So he used to remove the cover carelessly, looked into his food and just ate from the fluorescent lunch box...


I remember he not only used to look with those hopeful eyes, so that maybe, someday I would strike a conversation with him, but I heard him trying to call out my name, even though he could not say it well, but he tried to call out my name, in hopes I would turn my head. But I never did. I did not even budge. He even tried to offer me food from his lunch box during those short moments our eyes met, but he thought I never noticed. But I did. Every single time. Even if I looked away. He never used to wash his hands after eating. He never went out, until all the classes were over, since the moment he came in the class in the morning, to occupy his last bench. Even if there was no teacher....

I looked into his lunch box a lot many times. He used to have plain boiled potatoes with curd on some days, raw carrots on other days, and even just some biscuits on some days. Sometimes he had just plain boiled rice. Sometimes bread with a pickle. I supposed he came from a lower income family. A lot of times I saw him saving his food in the lunch box and closing the half-eaten box. More peculiar was that when he used to open his lunch box the next day, it would have the same left over food from the past day. Sometimes I did not feel like eating my food, and a thousand times I wanted to offer him my lunch box, but just could not gather the courage to further degrade his self-esteem, so I could never allow myself to offer him up. He used to bring a matching fluorescent water bottle, with a bright crimson cap and a crimson belt. He wore the bottle around his neck like a little school kid, and spilled a lot of water on himself whenever he drank..

The story of him and his fluorescent lunch box would have continued the same way, or would have maybe taken a turn or a two, only if that day would not had been there. It was a Sunday and I was alone at home as my parents used to visit a temple every Sunday. I was in the kitchen and out of the window I saw someone standing at the gate of my house, and then he started calling out my name and banging on the door. He was the one with the fluorescent lunch box on the last bench of my class. What the actual hell ??? I was angry as hell and was thinking "maybe he's stalking me", and then I got scared as hell.. and ducked myself down so he could not see me. Sitting on the kitchen floor I heard. The banging continued. The shouting continued. The doorbell was pressed a zillion times. I heard him urging me to come out. I heard him shouting he wants to talk. I had not an iota of idea how he got my address. I wished he would go away. I waited with baited breath. I felt numb and was just, plain terrified of hearing loud shouts of someone I had only heard low voices of trying to get people to talk to him. He was shouting like a madman. He did not stop. A thousand thoughts crossed my mind, "what if he jumps in the gate and breaks in my house?" "should I call my parents?" "parents might take time to come, should I shout and call the neighbours instead?", "should I call the police?"; and the like...

And then the shouting stopped. And the banging started dimming. And then everything stopped. Silence. Plain, simple silence. Maybe he has gone. But I was too scared to stand up and look out. So I continued sitting on the kitchen floor. 15 minutes. No sounds. I gathered a bit of courage and peeked out a little from the window, while hiding the rest of myself from the view. There was nobody. My eyes quietly scanned outside for anyone hiding behind the tree, or on the sides of the walls. Nobody. There was nobody. So I stood up straight and waited. I thought maybe he was not really gone and the banging would start again. And the shouting. 5 long minutes passed. Nothing. Complete silence. So he was gone. I heaved a big sigh of relief and then I cried. I cried a pool of tears for quiet sometime. Then after eating the sandwich I had made for me before ducking on to the kitchen floor, I washed my face and opened the door. My hands trembled. I was expecting someone hidden in my garden, who would pounce upon the door as soon as it would open, and I was ready with a hockey stick to attack. I was even expecting someone to crawl through the bottom of the door and attack me. So my feet were ready with big, heavy boots, and prepared for a big kick. My sixth sense came up. Yes, someone is indeed crawling near my feet. Oh my god! Okay, here I come... !!! Without looking down, I banged that "someone" hard and attacked with my hockey stick as hard as I could... Yes, I did it... and when I was slamming the door shut in another millisecond, I looked down. Oh no !! It was not "the fluorescent lunch box guy".. it was a little poor cat, who was maybe trying to find a way across my garden. Little did he expected to get kicked and beaten with a hockey stick suddenly outside in the garden he visited frequently.

I cursed myself for having hit this poor fellow like anything. I checked him and he wasn't much hurt because cats can move rather quick and swift that any other animal. Had it been a dog, he would have been dead by now because the force with which I hit was unquestionable as it was actually meant for a criminal of some sort. So I thanked heavens it was a cat and it was not dead. I carried him inside and slowly shut the door behind me. I laid a carpet on the floor and laid him over. I gave him water to drink. But he was in pain. He had some wounds which I dressed up and checked for any broken bones. Thankfully there were none. I dressed two of his feet which were hurt (and I suppose that's why he could not run away) and petted him. I told him I was sorry and gave him milk to drink. He obliged and fell asleep soon.

Now my task was to scan my garden again. I was still ready with the boots and all, but was careful this time around. I was almost sure nobody is lurking in my garden until now. So I softly opened the door and went out. I looked around. Nobody. I checked the whole garden and the porch. Still no sign of anybody. Then I went up to the gate to check a note of some kind which "he" might have left for me. I found none. I checked again. Nothing. By now he was a criminal in my eyes and I decided never, never again to look at him in the class. Better still, I shall change my seat. While making decisions of the sort, I went back inside, threw a quick glance at the cat and battled my mind weather to tell my parents or not. Finally I decided not to, because there was no harm done, except to the poor kitty of course.. and I promised to tell them the next time I find anything suspicious. So I made up a story to my dad for how the cat was hurt and that we need to take him to the vets in the evening. The vet gave us a thumbs up for the cat and so we brought him home... he drank milk and went to sleep peacefully for the night. I thanked heavens again and tried to impossibly shake off the day's horror story and tried to sleep.

The next morning came as usual for all, while I had a bit of mixed-thoughts about going to the class. I shook off my thoughts and started to get ready. I smiled to see the cat's swift and active motion quickly returning back. I petted him and off I went for my class. While I had promised myself never to look back at his seat, once in the class, I tried to locate him from the corner of my eyes, yet being careful enough he doesn't sees me looking.. and to my utter surprise HE WAS NOT THERE... Reason being my surprise was he had never, ever taken a day off from the class, he was ALWAYS there, every single day.. he scored 100% attendance every time and yet today, for the first time his being absent not only surprised me, but also worried me. But quick enough I remembered the last day's events, and how I was scared out of my wits, so I was happy to at least not find him for once, and happily finished the day and headed home.

Once home, I tried to locate the cat, and was informed by my mother the cat had already left on its own and that he was feeling better and was urging to be let out. He came back for the milk in the evening though, which drew a smile to my lips, and he looked happy, although not really in the pink of his health; but I knew he would recover soon. By the evening I casually picked up the newspaper, which I occasionally did whenever I was bored or tired. I was glancing across the headlines while a face printed in the newspaper struck me like a blow. It was him, the "fluorescent lunch box guy" along with a news. I hurriedly read along the whole news with a quickening pulse and then suddenly my hands started shivering and I could hear the loud thumping of my heart. Once again, I felt numb. The news said he had been hit on the road by a truck and died on the spot... The time mentioned was about the time I was tending to the cat the previous day after I had hit him with the hockey stick and was smiling to myself about "him" being gone for good....  Oh no, no no no.... that practically made me the last person who saw him alive... Really? I wished the news was false. I wished the face only resembled him, but was actually not him. I wished I was mistaken. So I saw the news again. And the face had a big scar on his right cheek and a mole near his left ear....................!!

I suddenly felt weak in my knees and I started feeling guilty and a tear escaped my left eye. I could hear the pounding of my heart loud, and I was shaking right there and then. I have never experienced death closely, and this was not either; in fact I even didn't know him enough, or actually I didn't know him at all. The last evening I had vowed never to look at him again, and so probably God had said "so let be it.." It saddened me invariably. I tried to shake it off my mind, but I just couldn't get his picture in the news out of my mind. I tried to eat but I simply could not swallow; neither could I sleep the night. Anyway, the next day came as usual and I HAD TO attend my classes nonetheless. So I set off to my class, and my eyes straight went to the last bench, and the emptiness of the spot made me sad beyond words. But what saddened me further was that nobody seemed to care about "him".. In fact I wondered if anybody even noticed that he was missing. That day, the emptiness of the lunch break became unbearable for me; even if we never had exchanged a single word, neither did we share anything in common, but because there was someone who used to be here, in this very class, and now he is dead; and now he shall never be.....



Days passed by and it became a habit to see the empty seat, but never went a day when I did not steal a glimpse of that last bench, till my class was changed of course; even though it always remained empty. Life and death are in god's hands and even the pain of losing the person closest to you heals with time; but what pained me was NOBODY in the class of 40 people seemed to care as to why he's not there. People never cared if he was even ill.. and I heard conversations such as "hey, he is not coming for a week, right?" and the replies varied from "forget it! let's go play", "why do you care", "he was hideous anyway", "wow, I never noticed" to "he might have left school, he was no good anyway", and "he might have killed himself".. Some made fun of him, some laughed, others ignored. That day I realized a bitter truth of life.. "Nobody cares." Nobody cares about you. Especially when you are not so "cool" or "famous", especially when you probably have a medical condition, especially when you are not one of the beautiful or handsome people in the class (or in the world, for that matter). People judge you. They judge you everywhere. Every time.

This scared me. This scared me no end. Because I was also not one of those "cool" and "famous" people. I was not very beautiful (for appearances, but that's what people care for and judge for anyway), I was a little (or maybe a lot) fat, I did not have many friends, I was sort of introvert and did not like to open up a lot, just like many others did. So maybe if I died the next day, nobody would have cared. Yes. They would have probably said the same about me. If it would have been a famous or beautiful person, many would have still remembered him, but I'm pretty sure nobody would even remember his name; let alone writing something about a "so-called hideous" person like "him". Many years down the memory lane today, it won't be true to say that I remember him sometimes, but I sure haven't forgotten him. For many days after that I kept on wondering as to what was so important he came to talk to me about at my house.. but I will never know, because it went away with him. I thought upon his sad eyes. All I could do was to say a prayer for him and pray for his soul to rest in peace. And I did. And I remembered his odd-fluorescent lunch box. I will always...









36 comments:

  1. Nice and even better post. Such a wonderful memory for you.

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  2. Wow.. i wonder what he wanted to tell you. That memory must be so vivid.

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  3. The beginning of this story made me so sad. At least he will go on in your memory and you will continue to learn from him and his fluorescent lunch box.

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  4. Thank you for sharing your story. You write beautifully and honesty. We have all been there, especially in our youth, where we know we should stand up, and be courageous, yet we don't. If you dedicate courage growth to the boy with the fluorescent lunch box, then that is a way to honor him. Your story is too!

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  5. I also wondered what he wanted to tell you? The vividness of your story really brought it to life and brought me into it. Great writing!

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  6. What A Beautiful Story Very Thoughtful Of You To Write In Memory Of Him Thank You For Sharing!

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  7. I so wondered what he wanted to say. I'm sure that others missed him but just like you aren't saying anything. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. Your writing comes from the heart and it shows. never stop, this seems so therapeutic for you.

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  9. Crazy! I can't believe it. I can't help but wonder why he came to your house.

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  10. What would be his message? It leaves the story to an intriguing end. This was a well written story.

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  11. Eek, that post just rocks to the core. We've all known a 'him.' I'm sorry to hear the boy passed.

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  12. Great post! At first I though the story is about the lunch box itself. Deeper meaning and I know the end will be not as good as the beginning.

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  13. Oh my...this made me cry, I could actually see it. I knew a boy like that in school too and I so wanted to tell him it would be okay.

    I'm so sorry the boy died and we don't know why he came to your house, but maybe you, and those of us reading this, can learn a lesson from this because it could happen to any of us. We could just...die

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  14. Oh My!! this post made me sad because I am sure you are still haunted by what ifs., Maybe the lesson is you should be trusting with people.

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  15. That is one of the saddest stories I have read. Poor child to feel so unloved and just want a friend.

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  16. This just broke my heart. It's clear that you are haunted to this day by it. So very sad.

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  17. :/ So sad. I wonder what he wanted at your door that day. I bet you wonder daily

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  18. Wow what a story. I am curious what he wanted to say to you the day he went to your house. So very sad and tragic this happened.

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  19. I knew a boy like this in school too. This story makes me so sad and leaves so much to wonder about.

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  20. What a sad story :( I wonder what he wanted to say.

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  21. Wow, is this a memory? Well written.

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  22. What a great read! Your memories of this are very vivid and descriptive.

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  23. Another great post. Your memory is so vivid and clear and so descriptive.

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  24. Another great post. Your memory is so vivid and clear and so descriptive.

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  25. Most schools has one of these kids, that nobody wants to talk to. So sad.

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  26. So sad! I wonder what he wanted to say?

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  27. Great writing. I was hanging on every word!

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  28. This was really well written. It makes me so sad and I, too, wonder what he wanted to say.

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  29. Thank you so much for sharing this. I loved the story. It is amazing how certain memories are so vivid and we try and learn from them as we get older.

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  30. It's a bit sad. But I love how you still remember everything.

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  31. This is so sad. People judge other people all the time onmjust a "glance". This reminds my to always give everyone a chance no matter what.

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  32. His fluorescent lunch box really gave an impact but his message is now a mystery.

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  33. What a good read but at the time same it also brought about the feeling of sadness. It's nice that you are keeping his memory alive by sharing this story.

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  34. Wonderful story. Thank you for sharing this with us! Such a great message. <333

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  35. this really is a sad story :( i am sure it will take a long while before you ever forget the experience...

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