Imtiaz AliThe day was fresh at 7-30 a.m. in the school. However, when Prakash Bhargav walked in a dull manner, it was quite evident that he had spent another practically sleepless night in literary pursuits. All his classmates noticed it, but no one said anything; he had been buried in his own thought frequently, lately.

Today, Prakash would not play volleyball - with the others but sit under some tree during free periods and think about the poem he had written last night. Today his drowsy attitude changed only when the English teacher asked him to come back from his dreams, but that was only for transient period. And of course; he became quite cheerful when Isha said “Hi” before walking past. Yes, this definitely shook his sleepy spirits to activity.

The second period was free, So, as I just said, Prakash, put the paper with the poem written on it in his pocket and was soon on the lookout for a suitable tree. His pals did, try to pester him for tussle in the volley ball arena, but they were soon thwarted by his bizarre expression, a very eloquent reply which said, “Do not disturb!!”

Soon, our hero was seated on a dusty surface (this he realized afterwards on seeing his dirty trousers!) and was reading the poem, verse by verse nodding in keen appreciation. “No one could’ve done better. Guy you are great!” he said, quite aloud. It’s a good way of earning praises, you know; sure praises which are so very essential to trigger poetry.

He was so happy about his effort that he began whistling to himself and walking around with his breath shaking in excitement. He even joined his amazed friends for volley ball and continued playing until the ball shoved him, with the others, into the class room, for a bitter doze of organic compounds.

Sitting through the class was just an image of Prakash, for the real Prakash was on the paper and running through the ink which had entangled the poetry. As a matter of fact, Prakash as still under the tree because the paper had been forgotten there. Well, the poem was about his very intimate sentiments, very personal feelings and true emotion concerned with someone who is known to you all - Isha Ajmani!

So, if I tell you that Prakash ran his fastest sprint to the tree at the end of the period and almost paralysed at not finding the piece of paper there, you should not be surprised.

Some one must have picked up the paper an then (Good forbid!) read it. The breeze was not strong enough as to make the paper, (whoever it might be would definitely blab about it until the whole school echoed with its sound and the very closely guarded secret (the only secret Prakash had in the literal sense), became commonplace, Mamma Mia! Where would our friend hide his face or rather what face would he show to Isha? She would definitely come to know and would positively be hurt and would most probably hate him for thus increasing her prestige?

The whole day in school passed in his worry. The English teacher thrice called him back from his dreams (or nightmares?) before realizing on the third occasion that he was too far away for a return journey in the same period.

He went down during the lunch interval to look for it again. While doing so, he noticed Isha looking down at him from one of the windows of the first floor. He was on his knees then and, on observing her, started whistling with a forced, casual expression contorting his well cut facial features.

Suddenly, he got up on his feet and skipped and danced off to hide his embarrassment, so that the two girls tee-heed to each other on seeing him do so.

This was very embarrassing because Prakash commanded a reputation for more serious, respectable and macho behaviour. His fame rested not so much on his pleasant, physical appearance but more on his rigidity of character and other qualities. Now his heart was fuming and boiling.

After having sat through all the periods it was time to go home. But how could he have gone home before searching the area around the tree once more? He waited for the teeming crowd of students to dwindle and then screened the area once again, but, to no avail.

It was when he was stepping through the school gate that a voice called to him; a nervous, but happy female voice. He turned before realizing that it was Isha! “What on earth is she doing in the empty school?” For a moment he forgot the paper, but, after that moment, he was reminded again by a loud thud of his impatient heart.

So this was it. Isha and Prakash, standing alone in the school, and it was something beyond his wildest dreams - them together! Then it happened. Isha brought her right hand forward from behind her back and her right hand in turn brought ‘the’ piece of paper!

Prakash’s eyes mirrored shock, her eyes were naughty and shy. He was staring at the sky, she was looking into the air under her eyes. She raised her hand and he did the same. No one would have been able to tell which was shaking more, but when Prakash’s white fingers almost touched the paper, the other hand was withdrawn. Having flashed a smile so wonderful, so eloquent and so meaningful as Prakash had never imagined, Isha took the paper along with her!

Imtiaz Ali, XIA, Splash 11, 1988