Today’s prompt is “The Humble Pie”. I have to write about an incident where I realised I was wrong and had to gulp the humble pie. I am sure when we are posed with such questions, most of us will instantly remember at least one incident that struck our conscience. For me, I had three in my mind instantly on reading the topic. But. . . they are too embarrassing for me to post here. So I sat digging my past, thinking about my humble pie days. Oh boy! it did take me a while to circle upon the one I am going to write about. Here we go.
We are the sum of our experiences. The mistakes we do, the lessons we take and every time we strive for the right path- each moment frames us into what we are today. Am I serving an explanation for what I am going to tell you? Well, yes!
This incident dates back to 2002. I was 11 and in class five. My school organised an annual picnic for every class. Like any classroom, we were also divided into sub-class, species or genus. I mean, our batch of 60 was divided into smaller groups. The rule of the picnic was simple-
- Date was fixed
- We would be taken to some random location. For class five, it was usually some silly playground with a rink. The rink served more as a spot to sit and relax rather than to skate.
- We were to get our own games and meals. Tradionally, it was the potluck in every group. Girls decided who would get what and it was a grand affair!
The day did come. Needless to say, we were ecstatic. Everyone got everything as planned. Things were perfect and we could not wait. Finally our class-teacher, Sheila Ma’am (who also happened to be my mom’s friend) enters.
After the prayer session and being given the guidelines, we were soon geared to move. We stuck to our friends and started forming a queue. But, there popped an issue.
-“Amrita, who is with you?”
Silence. Suddenly the focus of the entire class shifted to that one girl sitting in the cornermost seat.
Amrita. I still do not know what was wrong with her. Perhaps she was dyslexic, spastic or something else that I don’t know. All I know is that she flunked to join us when we were in class four. I know she had flunked a year before that too. I know she was quiet, with spittle dripping from her mouth, two messy plaits and she couldn’t eat her own meal properly.
She was bigger than us, she was huge and different. I know nobody wanted to sit with her and I was one of them. In the three years that she was with us, I heard her speak only once. That is how I know how she sounded and I still remember her voice so clearly.
-“No”, she said. Her voice was heavy, a bit coarse too. Was it sad? I don’t know. I didn’t care.
-“Who is going to take Amrita with them?”, our teacher asked.
No points for guessing. Not me! Not anybody. Were we a ruthless class? Maybe.
Maybe we were too young. Maybe we were uncomfortable with her.
Nobody spoke a word. Shame.
-“if nobody volunteers, I will assign her to a group.”, she re-announced
Yes. A human had to be assigned.
Complete silence. The excitement had died. All the groups were praying hard that it isn’t us. Who wanted to take up a liability on a fun day? She had to be taken care of! Who would do that?
Just as I was praying hard, trying to look away from Sheila Ma’am, the inevitable happened. I caught her staring at me.
NO. My eyes told her. N – O.
So much for being your friend’s daughter!
Yes. Amrita was assigned to be with us. The other groups were relieved and the commotion restored. However, there was chaos in ours. We tried giving petty excuses.
-“We have exactly 22 chocolates for 22 girls ma’am. How will we give her?”
-“Share”, came the answer
I think Spriha gave up her chocolate that day. I didn’t. To make it worse, I was asked to accompany Amrita and make sure she hangs along with us. We were not allowed to leave her tagging behind.
We finally gave up. We took her along. Reluctantly shared our food. Did not play with her. She kept sitting alone at a corner of our bedsheet and perhaps guarding our belongings. We mind our own business. I don’t remember being nice to her. Once the picnic was over, we didn’t care anymore.
Yes, it pains now to think about it. Children are harsh sometimes. At this moment, I wonder where she is. I wonder how she thinks about her childhood. We weren’t bullies, but I don’t know what we should be termed as.
Amrita made it to class six with us but not after that. She flunked again after that. I don’t know when I started thinking the other way round. I don’t know when my approach to the special ones changed.
From class six until the tenth, I was always elected the class monitor. We had four more girls in class seven who were different and had flunked to be with us- Ritu, Vanessa, Arunima and Varsha. As far as my memory goes, I loved them and they loved me. With one, I am still in touch. Other three flunked eventually and left school.
Was being kind to them a part of my role as the class head? Don’t know. I bumped into Vanessa once a few years ago and it was nothing less than warm. She remembered me and I remembered her. I look more like a girl now, she said.
I think I did change. I don’t know when. I think I am sorry but sometimes you don’t have the one around to make up. Maybe I never thought about her until today. Am I again explaining myself? Yes.
“Children aren’t coloring books. You don’t get to fill them with your favorite colors.”
― Khaled Hosseini
Did you ever have your moment when you had to swallow the humble pie? Share with me below 🙂