Isha wasn’t sure she had heard right. She had been dreaming about this moment for the longest time. It was the moment of epiphany (for her teenage mind), a quiet triumph of sorts over all and sundry. No, wait, not all and sundry, but scores of churlish contemporaries, who had created a culture of excellence where being anything less than awesome or simply not measuring up to them was not acceptable. No, not if you wanted to survive in that school. If you didn’t wish to be bundled off into some other less narcissistic institution.
Isha was sixteen and had seen enough of the world to declare it a “mean place”. She had won the “One of the Gang” title in the bi-annual “We are like that only” awards of the 11th class and if you were somebody, you’d get a title. Ashita’s title was “Miss Electricity” and Tanya’s “Ms. Ooh-aah-ouch” which didn’t sound too good but Tanya loved it anyway. Yes, all three of them were “somebodies” in school. Finally. After being ignored and snubbed through her 9th and 10th, Isha had finally found her spot under the sun. She was elated.
If Isha’s world-view was to be taken seriously, everything was black or white. There was hardly any place for grey. She didn’t understand grey. Either you were a nice person or nasty. And, putting you in either category depended a lot on how you behaved with her and how your day was going. She did not give a lot of importance to moods, personal liking, intellectual level and the other etceteras. Isha Khanna liked the world black or white, with no place for greys. People’s attitudes baffled her at times and drove her to tears sometimes, but they did have an impact on her. She was a sensitive “somebody” now from a too kind “nobody”. She had learnt to ignore the black areas of life and concentrate on the whites. That’s how she was sailing through her life and it was pretty cool for now.
“What’s Ritika’s title?” Isha SMS-ed her best pal Ashita.
“Guess what?” Ashita replied
“Jerry in Tom and Jerry?” laughed Isha, SMS-ing back
“Nooo…” replied Ashita
“Then?” SMS-ed Isha
“Lovelorn puppy” replied Ashita
“Really, how cute” SMS-ed Isha
“And Kamya’s?” she SMS-ed again
“Little Miss Sunshine” replied Ashita
“Now that’s a nice one.” SMS-ed Isha
“Hmm… How come I get such a rockstar one and everybody else’s is so cutesy” SMS-ed Isha
“Yours is the best babe, I even like mine” replied Ashita
“Oh yeah” SMS-ed Isha
“Ok, ttyl” signed off Ashita.
Most of Isha’s best gal pals had a gotten a title in the 11th Class “We are like that only” awards. The ones who hadn’t got a title were promptly branded losers and it would be un-cool to be seen anywhere near them. Sonia and Kira, the girls who sat behind her in class, hadn’t gotten any titles. Neither had her housemates Ashit or Punit, with whom she whiled away time in the morning assembly. Were they suddenly fuddy-duddies, she wondered. They had seemed quite cool to her till the Awards. Punit listened to Aerosmith and always had his walkman in his table drawer. He also painted besides. She thought he was the coolest. Kira was the topper in the class. Now she seemed like a geek to her because she didn’t have a title. Not cool at all.
‘In my place’ blared as Isha entered her room. Her older, college-going sis, Tanvi was a huge Coldplay fan. Tanvi was studying Economics at IP college. She was at her study desk reading. Tanvi was a sentimental type of a girl, loved flowers, poetry. She was good at studies and quite pretty too. Tanvi turned to look at Isha, as she threw her bag on the common couch.
“How was your day, sweetie?” cooed Tanvi.
“Great. I got the title – “One of the Gang” at the “We are like that only” awards. Isn’t that cool?” said Isha.
“Whoa, that calls for a celebration! I need a treat at Zombie’s,” said Tanvi.
“Sure, due on the weekend,” replied Isha.
“What’s Prateek’s title? queried Tanvi.
“He didn’t get one. Can you believe it?” replied Isha.
“Prateek Nayyar didn’t get a title? Actually, I can’t,” said Tanvi.
“Believe it or faint, the coolest guy on earth doesn’t get a title at the coolest awards on earth,” said Isha.
“Hmmm, he must be feeling so bad. He takes the whole cool business quite seriously, doesn’t he?” said Tanvi.
“Yeah, he thinks he has a reputation to maintain, so this might just harm that,” smirked Isha.
“Check on him, will ya? He might take it too seriously.” advised Tanvi.
“No, not now. Maybe later.” replied Isha.
Prateek was Isha’s boyfriend. Currently, she was miffed with him because he was hanging out too much with his gang of guys and not taking her out on dates too often. Isha decided to break up with Prateek because she didn’t find him cool anymore.
Lakshmi Nijhawan works in publishing as a copyeditor and is also updates in-charge for a website providing law judgments online. She is a cat-lover, had raised stray cats named koko and kitty from infancy to adulthood, feeds birds and other stray cats. Her first love is reading with reading interests ranging from fiction to non-fiction, her favorite authors being Marquez and Austen. She has a Masters in English Literature from Delhi University and a diploma in Freelance and Feature Writing from London School of Journalism (LSJ).