“Since you’re a journalist, and they often hear things they shouldn’t, what salacious bit of gossip do you think you can slip to me?”
“You want this date to be scandalous?”
“If I can help it.”
“Alright. This was a long time ago.”
“I was whisked away to the school principal’s office…”
“Wait, what? You’re kidding!”
“I had thrown a pencil box at a classmate. And throwing pencil boxes was acceptable in class. You could throw zipped ones easily because they settled in the fist. And as long as it didn’t fly past the dog in the front row, we could rain all day. And he had intercepted it.”
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
“I stood outside the principal’s room, hands on ears, sort of a global expression of solidarity with the world’s rascally lot. And a scarecrow for aspiring pencilbox throwers.”
He shook his head. Smiling.
“That’s when I heard a fist bang on a table from beyond the wall. And words – “No! You cannot mean this! Didn’t you hear me? Wait until I get home!”
My teacher, who’d slunk a few feet away from where I stood, eyed me like a wary hunter eyes its kill, wiped her forehead with a handkerchief and got up to go to the reception. Meanwhile, the wall nearly vibrated.
“I have no words for a craven fool like you! I will come home and teach you a lesson!”
I didn’t know the word craven but the principal’s Malayali accent had gifted me a new phrase.
“I remembered how it stayed with me for weeks. It came up in fights, bullying and was always met with confusion mixed with anger.”
He doubled up with laughter.
“I suppose you are a bit disappointed.”
“I’ll try to be.”
As he continued smoking, I went back to the corridor where two fiery eyes had cut open the scarecrow and let the child go. Another time. Warning for now. Lucky crayon.