It was a promising day. Not particularly like the ones on which the sun is too bright providing light and hope. Let us then just call it a pleasant day for enough has already happened on auspicious days in other stories. But it was important for it was his scheduled day to be with the Principal for a one to one session. He was supposed to reach her room at sharp 10:50 in the morning. And then he’d be asked to sit on of those really fancy chairs in the school, chairs that he considered immortal for they never lost their lustre since he had first laid his gaze on them. He had always liked those chairs and had even asked his father if he could have one like that for himself. Whether he liked the Principal equally so, was a different matter altogether.
These one to one sessions had a few pre-requisites. Like you have to be in full uniform (a term that, in hindsight, always makes him laugh), the uniform should be properly washed and ironed, your shoes were supposed to shine, and it goes without saying that you were supposed to have taken a bath, a head bath. In essence, you were supposed to be immaculate, in every sense of the word, both Christian and otherwise.
Mother had gotten the dress washed and ironed and it was neatly stacked upon his table, waiting for him with a promise of a good meeting. The thought of him sitting on one of those chairs excited him. And despite the chill, he ended up spending 3 minutes in the bathroom scrubbing him over (Exact three minutes more than he normally spent towards bath on schooldays during winters).
Withdrawing from the washroom, he got ready. He scanned himself in his parents’ bedroom mirror meticulously. Sensing that no one is looking at him he even upended the talcum bottle on his palm and applied some of it to his face. Father had already polished the shoes with the precision only a father can and waited for him in the balcony to tie the laces. Everything was perfect. Life is so easy with parents around. (Now, when he has grown up and is still not good with the laces no wonder all his shoes are slip-on). The cycle waited for him in the garage. Kicking the side-stand back, sitting astride it, he began pedalling. The cold winter air kissed his earlobe. He loved being kissed by the air in his earlobe, not his face, not his hair. But the earlobe.
Life doesn’t come with a warning, but if you happen to be travelling on roads in India so do spits. Nothing ominous like they show on the television happens either. This was a lesson learned a hard way and particularly on a wrong day. The boy who was being kissed by the air moments back and who was now attempting to overtake a bus that had just slowed down suddenly sees red spots on his shirt. A man, somewhere in his forties, both by his physiognomy and his indifference, the same indifference that mid-life crisis infuses in a man slid open the bus’ window and spat. Luckily the spitter was a professional at it and the spit left his mouth like a beam and ended up in a small spot on the shirt. The spot was nevertheless conspicuous. Coincidences do happen. And most of the times they are unpleasant. Being too far from his house, and the fear of being late especially on this day going back home was not an option. Lachrymose by now he just kept pedalling.
He soon reached the school. The hour finally arrived and he presented himself before the principal in teary eyes and stained shirt. The chairs didn’t feel the same way that day. Principal jested to him by telling him that she never knew students of convent school like theirs and especially so young like him chewed tobacco. He so wishes now that he should have retorted to her back then by saying who spits the chewed tobacco on their own shirt, in their own pocket. But he was just a child. And that would have tantamounted to a blasphemy. An adult had already screwed his day and yet another was adding to his agony by their lame remarks. He wished he never grow up. If that is what age does. And, he never overtakes a bus from so close since then. Above all, he wishes that Indian buses were equipped with spittoons.
Image used here has been downloaded from google.com