18 year old Sandhya was sitting under the large oak tree that grew on top of one of the rolling hills of the Mumbai City College campus. She found she enjoyed that spot as it was one of the few fairly secluded places on campus, but still she could see across a good section of the buildings.
So it startled the girl to hear a voice.
“Hi. I think we have math together.”
Sandhya squinted as she looked up. There stood a boy. Young man, she guessed would be the right word. It took her a minute for her eyes to adjust and recognition to take place.
“I think you’re right,” she said.
It had taken some courage to walk up here in the first place. Part of the reason she was startled, he knew, was that he almost snuck up on her. It was the easiest way. He had practiced that opening line. Then she just stared at him, then left him with a blank answer and nowhere to go. He either had to think fast or this meeting was going to go up in flames fast.
“Is this your first time in college?” he asked and as soon as the words came out of his mouth, he knew they sounded stupid.
She looked at him, thinking about the same thing as he had, but responded, “Of course. Do I look like I’ve been to college before?”
“No! I mean … Uhhh … Well…”
She was getting perturbed now. This sounded just like high school and what the boys there did.
“Look, I don’t need anyone talking to me now. I know just what you’re going to say. So just leave, ok?”
She didn’t expect the look she got, or the turn of the head when their eyes met. His shoulders seemed to droop, but that may have been her imagination. After all, she was looking at his backside as he walked away.
The next day Sandhya thought she was going to have to find a new spot. A girl was walking up the slope and it looked like she was heading right for her. As soon as the girl got to within five feet she stopped and stared at Sandhya.
“Just who the hell do you think you are?” the girl spat out.
Sandhya’s eyes went big and she stuttered out, “What?”
“You heard me, randi. Just who the hell are you?” stormed the girl.
Sandhya cowered and looked down, her hands clasping together as she almost whispered out, “Sandhya Kapoor.”
“What?” the girl said, not quite believing her ears.
Her question of who the hell she was, was rhetorical. She didn’t expect an answer and especially not this miserable one’s name.
“Shut up! Now I don’t know who the hell you think you are, but I can tell you right now that you made a big mistake, yesterday.”
Sandhya tried to think what happened yesterday, nothing came to mind. She was hoping this girl mistook her for someone else, but then the pieces started to fall into place.
“A boy talked to you, yesterday. He’s my brother, and you hurt him.”
“Me?” Sandhya said in surprise.
“Are you telling me you weren’t up here yesterday about this time?”
“No, I was here.”
“An a boy came up here?”
“Yes, but he…”
“That was my brother,” the girl said cutting Sandhya off. “You hurt him.”
“He … he was going to hurt me!” Sandhya said in defence, still not understanding how in the world she had hurt him.
The girl’s demeanour changed. “He tried to hurt you? Shit. What did he try?”
“No he didn’t hurt me,” Sandhya said completely missing the meaning of the words. “He was going to. I know he was, so I told him I’d heard it all before, and told him to leave.”
The girl stood there for a minute and then shook her head in disbelief. She took a deep breath and sighed.
“Are you really that stupid?”
Now Sandhya was mad. No one called her stupid. They may call her a lot of names, but stupid was not one of them.
“No, I’m not stupid! You’re just like your brother. Mean. Mean, mean, mean,” Sandhya said and then started to cry.
“Hell,” the girl said. “First my bother and now you. Why the tears? Fucking babies, the lot of juniors these days. Look if you think some guy is going to hurt you, you can’t just ask him to go away. Didn’t you take any of those defensive classes they give?”
Sandhya looked at the girl like she was crazy. “What are you talking about?”
“Protecting yourself. Not that my brother would be anything you would have to think twice about. Why didn’t you take a class? You’re going to end up in trouble if you don’t know how to handle guys that don’t take no for an answer. It happens way too often when they get drunk.”
“What’s the use of that? Like any of them would look at me,” Sandhya said, revealing a side she didn’t like of herself. “They would have to be drunk enough to not be able to stand, to think I was pretty.”
“Oh my God!” the girl looked at Sandhya in shock. “Are you serious?”
“About what?” Sandhya wondered.
“You don’t think a guy would think you were pretty?”
“Oh course they don’t.”
“Where did you come from?”
Another Rhetorical question Sandhya missed.
“Thane? What kind of a name is that? Maharashtra?”
“It’s just a small town, about six hundred.”
“In your high school? I think that’s about average. I went to a huge school. There were about six hundred in my graduating class.”
Sandhya looked at the girl to see the lie on her face. She’d learned to read people fairly well. It helped ease the heartache.
“No. Six hundred was the whole town.”
The girl put her hand over her mouth. She couldn’t fathom of living in a place that small.
“So I guess you knew everyone. How big was your graduating class?”
“Seventeen. It was the largest class in twenty years.”
“Holy shit,” the girl said.
With this revelation, the girl studied Sandhya. She was not short, but a bit under average height wise. Small frame, petite, she guessed the right word would be. Her breasts fit her frame, so on the small side.
“Seventeen. How many girls and how many boys?”
“Twelve girls and five boys,” Sandhya said, thinking this conversation was weird and could stop any time.
“So those boys got to pick the best girls, didn’t they? I bet you were never one of those girls.”
Sandhya looked at the girl. She was tall, blond, and had blue eyes. She looked like one of those beach girls, with nice large tits.
“Why do you have to be mean? Mr. Jenkins said college would be different for me.”
“I’m not trying to be. I was just asking.”
“Fine. Yes, I never got asked out. I sat at home every night of my high school years. I’ve never even kissed a boy. Satisfied?” Sandhya said, trying to hold back the tears.
“Yes, and I’m sorry. Well no. I guess not. I mean, hell. It was just not right. You went to a lousy school.”
“I did not! I’m here on full scholarship,” Sandhya said proudly.
“No shit! Wow. You must be a fuckin brain then, but that’s not what I was talkin about. See you only got one look at what guys like and it fucked you up.”
Sandhya tilted her head, trying to grasp what this girl was talking about.
“Ok, by the way my name is Sumee,” the girl said as she sat down. “I taken a couple psych classes and I think I may know what’s going on, even if I may not say it right. All of you grew up together, didn’t you?”
“Yeah. It’s really weird when a new family moves into town.”
“So then what, about age twelve or so, some girl got tits, right?”
“Margaret Mason. I hate her.”
Sumee laughed. “We all hated that girl, whoever she was.”
Nodding, Sumee said, “Even me. I didn’t start this way, but Janet grew them over the summer and all us girls were jealous of her. You know who liked it though.”
“The boys. They went crazy. That’s what made us mad. They were all looking at Janet all of a sudden and left us out.”
“Yeah, I remember.”
“So somewhere along the line, usually things even out. But that didn’t happen for you.”
“What do you mean?” Sandhya said, and then she got it. “Oh, you mean that you got a nice big set too, so guys started to look at you too.”
“That’s what the five boys looked for in a girl, wasn’t it?” Sumee asked. “They had to have the biggest tits.”
“Yeah. There were even some contest I heard about, where the boys would ‘check’ the girls to see. I never got invited. They didn’t even want a free feel,” Sandhya choked out before the tears started.
“Fuckin idiots.” Sumee said. “Look, Sandhya, those boys didn’t deserve a feel. What you got was five stupid boys and that was it. Some boys like girls that look like you.”
Sandhya looked at Sumee and shook her head.
“I don’t know why, because it doesn’t fit what brothers are supposed to do. See, they’re supposed to go after someone like their mother, and my mom looks like me. Well, sort of, in an older kind of look … Well, you know what I mean. Anyway, he likes some of the things, but he’s always looking at these girls that look like they should be in … Sorry. They look like you. I mean, hell this is coming out all wrong. I guess I just don’t get why he would like someone who is not like me.”
“Are you in love with him or something?” Sandhya wanted to know.
“Gross! God no! He is my brother after all. No. Now the point I was trying to make, was that my brother thinks you’re hot.”
Sandhya was going to say something, but she found she couldn’t. She just looked at the Sumee.
“I’m going to fix this, ok? You’ll be here tomorrow, right?”
“Yeah,” Sandhya said slowly, wondering what she was getting herself into.
“Good. See you tomorrow then.”
Sandhya didn’t sleep well that night. She overslept, and because of that, missed her first class: math. She contributed her lack of sleep as her excuse of not being able to pay attention in class that day, even though she knew it was all a lie. She wanted to know what this Sumee girl was going to do.
There was this ‘I’m going to fix this’ thing floating around in her head. What did she mean, fix this? What was there to fix? Her tits? Sandhya almost laughed in the middle of Professor Mukherjee’s lecture.
She had tried falsies once. They didn’t look real and everyone laughed. She laughed at that one, herself. They did look as fake as you could get. So not that … What was it?
There was a half a notion to not show up under the tree, but she was sure Sumee would find her, and that would be worse. The way she had shown up yesterday … Sandhya shuddered.
Sitting down, she looked around. There was not going to be any studying today. She was going to keep an eye out, and be prepared. Or at least she thought she would be.
Nearly twenty minutes later, she could see two people, a girl and a boy, walking her way. As they got closer, it was Sumee and her bother. She knew him from Math. Just because Sandhya knew she never would have a boyfriend, didn’t mean she didn’t look at the guys and dream.
There was something wrong with the way they were walking. Sandhya watched intently. He was being led. What was going on? Then Sandhya stopped looking at the hands and feet and looked at their heads. He had a blindfold on! How did she do that?
As they got closer, Sandhya could hear Sumee talking to him.
“We’re almost to the spot.”
“Good, I don’t know how you talked me into this, but it’s the last time Sumee. I’m not going to do any more of your stupid tricks. The last one almost did me in.”
Sumee winked at Sandhya. “Oh, I think you have that all wrong, brother dear. I get the feeling that what looked all wrong, was just the opposite.”
“Fine, you want to make me start crying, again? I haven’t done that in years. Sumee, she was just a bitch to me. I’ve never felt so much like dirt, in my life.”
“Suman, what if she thought you were just up here to make her feel like dirt? Maybe she’d got that from so many boys in her life, that she thought you were just like all the rest.”
“You know I’m not! Can I take this off, now?” he said starting to pull at the blindfold.
Sumee stopped him. “Not yet, but in one minute, ok?”
“Fine, I’ll play along. This is the last game, though. Understand?”
“I do, Suman, that’s why I’m making it count.”
“I can’t wait.”
Try,” Sumee said. “Now, I know you are a nice guy, Suman. Too nice, probably. Girls like to have a guy be assertive every once in a while.”
“Do I need to listen to this?”
“No, what you do need to hear is that even though I know you are a nice guy, how would this other girl know? Did she know you from Aasim? You’re in her … Math class, right? It hasn’t changed that much from when I took that class has it? Do you write your name down, your favourite colour and your first pet’s name, then pass them around, do you?”
“Very funny, Sis. No. Now I’m taking this off,” he grabbed hold of the blindfold and yanked it off.
His eyes closed from the brightness. Then he blinked several times. Then they just about popped out. There was the girl! Oh shit!!
Suman looked around and found that his sister was already walking down the slope. He turned back around to see this girl, the one who had been cruel to him yesterday, up on her knees.
“I had no idea. I’m sorry.” Sandhya said.
Sandhya forced herself to say, “That you could think I was pretty.”
“But you are.”
“No one in my school thought so.”
“You’re kidding!” He said and then thought that was a stupid thing to say so he made it into a joke, “I mean, where they brain dead or something?”
Sandhya laughed. “No. I guess I was stupid for believing them.”
“It’s hard not to see you as anything but pretty.”
“Even if I was a bitch?”
“No, I’m sorry. I guess I treated you, like I thought you were going to treat me. It wasn’t right.”
“So now what?” Suman said.
“I guess you have to be assertive,” Sandhya said with every ounce of courage she had.
“Does that mean I could kiss you?”
“I wouldn’t stop you.”
“You wouldn’t?” Suman said, as he stepped forward and then got down on his knees to be at her height.
“No,” she squeaked out.
This was not one of those kisses described at the end of Jab We Met’ movie. It was short, and awkward. That was the physical aspect of the kiss. There was an emotional side that was so overwhelming, that Sandhya couldn’t contain herself. She started to weep.
“I know I’m not a very good kisser,” Suman said, feeling bad.
“No, it was great,” Sandhya said though her tears. “I couldn’t have asked for better. You were my first.”
“Really? You were my second, and I don’t like to think about that first one.”
“You need practice,” Sandhya said half joking.
“I know,” he said with remorse.
“We could practice together.”
“Do you mean that? You want to be around me?” Suman asked.
“You want to be around me now?” Suman said confused.
“We can practice, now.”
Three weeks later Suman put his arms around Sandhya and pinned her against the wall after math class.
“My sister is mad at you.”
“I told the family I was going to go with you for Diwali.”
“She’s really mad?”
“Yeah,” he said, and then broke into a big smile. “I think she’s jealous that I have a girlfriend who loves me.”
Sandhya grinned, “She did tell me she was jealous of girls who got what she didn’t have.”