“Wait, Chirag! Make a wish before you blow out the candles,” Ma said excitedly.
It was my 13th birthday. Ma and Baba had made all possible arrangements to make me feel special as I was going into my first year as a teen. I, however, knew that the next year would be nothing new but the same old story of school, tuition, exams and my futile attempts at yoga and physical training to reduce my ever increasing weight. Doctors said that the sudden gain was primarily because of the pre-puberty hormones, which would decline as I grew older.
To add to my weight woes, was an infamous trio in my school. They called me ‘Rhino’.
Vicky, Ronnie and Ishan. They called themselves “VIR”, meaning ‘brave’. But all that those cowards could do was to bully some distinctive kids like me and my best friend Yash, who per them, was a nerd.
The trio had made my life so thoroughly miserable that as soon as I closed my eyes, I wished that my size reduces to half or even better, I become invisible altogether and get rid of the daily torment, once and for all.
The next day, I woke up to a state of chaos. Ma was frantically running around the house, screaming my name while I was right there, lying on my bed. Trying to stop her, I yelled into her ears at the top of my voice, only to discover that it was not working.
Baba was perhaps searching for me outside. I stood at the door as he ran inside, ignoring me as if I didn’t exist. Ma started crying. They called the parents of Yash and several other friends of mine and were contemplating calling the police to register a ‘missing’ complaint. Never before had I seen them so worried.
I then realised that my casual birthday wish has been granted. I was clueless and flabbergasted. I wondered if this was some sign, a test or perhaps an opportunity!
I prepared myself to face it as it is. I got ready as usual and boarded the school-bus.
“Hi nerdy! Where’s my notebook?”, Vicky asked Yash with his signature wicked smile.
“I am sorry, Vicky. I could only finish my homework as I returned late from Chirag’s birthday party. But I promise I will finish yours tomorrow”, Yash replied, timidly.
“You better do. Else, you know the consequences, don’t you? You must remember what happened to your glasses the last time I got punished because you didn’t finish my homework on time. By the way, where’s Rhino? Couldn’t your fatso bestie get up after his gluttonous birthday meal?,” Vicky gave out a loud devilish laugh as his two spineless disciples joined him.
I was standing right beside them. They obviously didn’t see me. But what they did see was that Yash’s bag opened itself and the blood red Camlin permanent markers jumped out of it, opened their caps on their own, flew in the air and drew designs and quotes on their bright white shirts.
As they got down from the bus and walked into the school premises, all heads turned towards them. The whole school stared at Vicky’s shirt with wide eyes and mouth open. It read in bold, “I AM A BULLY”
Our VIR boys by then had turned into a bundle of nerves, breaking out in a cold sweat.
The classes passed one after the other. I sat in my seat, unnoticed. Around the time for recess, I was reminded of those occasions when the VIR boys wiped clean our lunch boxes and Yash and I had to stay hungry for the whole day. Even though we knew it was them, we couldn’t complain, because of lack of evidence.
But as they say, every dog has his day.
For the mad run since morning, I couldn’t eat my breakfast and what better than satiate my hunger with not just one but three delicious lunches. So, the already traumatised VIR boys were treated with sand and gravel filled lunch boxes.
Unable to figure out what was going on, they had turned almost paranoid by then. Never in my wildest dreams had I ever imagined that I would see such nervousness on those oppressive faces.
However, for the tough nuts that they were, during the sports period in the afternoon, they dragged Yash to a corner of the football field and asked him to explain the strange events happening since morning. Poor Yash curled up. He was terrified. Vicky pulled his collar as Ishan and Ronnie held his hands. But the next thing they knew was that some unknown force was slapping them hard, left and right, in rotation, until they had the imprints of a full palm on each of their cheeks.
Confused, thirsty and scared to death, they ran away from Yash, towards our empty classroom. As they hurriedly grabbed their water bottles and caught a breath, Ishan drew their attention towards the white board. The marker flew in the air and wrote on it –
“The adorable, chubby guy whom you call Rhino is infact a fluffy UNICORN. Keep enjoying his majestic powers until you stop bullying”
And with that last act of the day, the VIR boys had wet their pants.
I laughed my head off.
Later that night, I had the best sleep of my life.
The next morning Ma and Baba held me tight and wept for hours as if they had got me alive, back from my grave. I kissed them and realised that it indeed was a new life.
One day of invisibility had made me question myself. What was stopping me from being fearless when visible? Why couldn’t I be as bold everyday as I was on that one day?
That morning and the mornings thereafter, the VIR boys passed servile smiles at me as I walked into the bus with my head held high, like a hero.
Phot By: Gisela Merkuur