Lohith was the biggest boy in eighth standard at Cambridge Public School. There was a boy in ‘A’ section who was taller than Lohith but not bigger, and he was in the Hindi group so he didn’t matter because he wasn’t a local. The students from the Kannada group didn’t like them very much at least not till Hindi and Kannada students were shuffled in to two sections from sixth standard. The intra-class politics until then were based on the second language (Hindi or Kannada only) but once they were shuffled these politics became more reduced and lurked only in the dark places.
Lohith came up to me at when I was packing my bag to head home after the bell for the end of the day had rung. He asked me to go to the washroom with him. I wasn’t part of the two major groups then and was always bullied by the Kannada group (my second language was Kannada too) Lohith had always been polite and nice to me; so I didn’t think too much about it, and to have the biggest guy on my side meant less or no more bullying. Also most class secrets were discussed in the washrooms in small groups.
I remember talking, teasing, and annoying Anita that day, because I found out she had a crush on her neighbour and this was an excuse to tease her and to dawdle around her. I had just learnt to make a tie knot from Anita and that was when her friend Preethi had spilt the beans, on purpose. She spoke me through the procedure of making the knot, started by overlapping the tie and drew the longer end inside while holding the short end out to make a loop. I made a few schoolboy attempts to flirt, she chided and asked me to pay attention and I said well if only I was “Rahul”.
She turned pink and then red and smacked me on the arm and told me to pay attention to tying the tie and I did, now I had to tie it on my own. Anita watched me closely and I said Rahul probably does it better because the teacher had special interests towards him. She was never the girl to walk away when someone annoyed her, instead she was always the one to smack me and I had to run to dodge her hits.
Lohith and I walked to the boys’ washroom that was fourteen steps from section ‘B’ and eight steps from section ‘A’ in the building right next to it. We walked into the badly lit, unhygienic, and smelly bathroom to find Preethum standing there waiting for us. The light from the ventilators illuminated the loo just enough to walk around and see and right then it looked like a space for filmy fight scene. I asked why we were all gathered here and Lohith went towards the door to keep a watch and Preethum grabbed me by my tie and slapped me. My school badge hanging to my collar loosely by the safety pin went out flying and landed in to the Indian style commode on my left.
“Don’t talk to Anita. Don’t make fun of her. Don’t annoy her.”
He pushed me against one of the walls again and then dragged me back and pushed me on to the floor. He walked out of the bathroom, and I watched how he still looked like a “smart” boy in his ironed khaki pants and white shirt, with the maroon and navy blue striped tie and a house badge on the collar of his white shirt; his shoes were still clean, just a few droplets of water on it. I was on the bathroom floor, with a wet bottom, scuffled white shirt, ugly tie knot, missing badge, and shoes that had been stepped on. Lohith walked me back to class and made sure I left because they didn’t want me telling on them and Preethum had threatened to beat me up again if I did and also that it would be insulting be for me to repeat the story and then no girl would want me.