Muddling Through: The Life and Times of Tara Chatterjee

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Chapter 2

August 5th 2013

Wednesday

8:55 a.m.

Assembly

So I know I’m really not supposed to be writing right now, but honestly I have nothing better to do. If I hear the words ‘perfect grooming’ or ‘slipping up’ once more I will actually throw a fit. Jesus Christ, I swear my school cares more about our socks being of a suitable length than our actual grades. Mrs. Hariprasad, or as most of us call her Mrs. Buttback is going on about the importance of leadership and how Orion International School’s focus on discipline and grooming helps us become citizens of tomorrow. Yada yada yada.

Honestly do they really think screaming at us about the straightness of our ties is going to make us worthy citizens of tomorrow? I highly doubt that. I mean Mahatma Gandhi didn’t even wear a tie did he? And he’s the father of our nation.

Ah crap, Mrs. Buttback is staring at me threateningly. I had better put this away for just a bit.

9:09 a.m.

Economics

So I am an idiot. Well I was already away of this fact but I think my actions today have proven that without a doubt. I mean for Christ’s sake. It’s barely after nine. I shouldn’t be able to humiliate myself so early in the day.

It all started when Mrs. Buttback stopped lecturing us on grooming.

“And now,” she intoned. “Two of our students are going to make speeches about important leaders.”

I groaned a little because speeches of this sort take ages and I have no time for such nonsense.

A sweet very Mary-Sue-ish sort of girl walked up to the front and read out a speech that had very obviously been copied straight off the internet. And I applauded her for that. When making speeches about leadership in front of a fairly useless eleventh grade class, make as little effort as possible.

Everyone clapped when she was done and then an earnest looking, zit-faced boy with a massive butt marched up to the front. I promise I’m usually not quite this shallow and judgy (okay I am a little), but the nonsense he started spouting when he got up there perfectly justified my rather harsh description of him.

“I think we need to talk about the great leaders we often ignore,” he started. “For example Adolf Hitler.”

Now that is something that threw me for a toss because one no one ignores Adolf Hitler. I’ve learnt about him for pretty much seven years in a row, and two, describing Adolf Hitler as a great leader was undoubtedly erroneous.

“Development,” the boy said, his fat face, looking rather excited. “He helped Germany progress.”

And that was when I may or may not have put my hand up in the air and started yelling at him.

“Misinformation,” I said, and then winced because my voice was weirdly squeaky for some reason.

The boy looked rather horrified. “I’m not-“

“Hitler didn’t help Germany progress,” I stormed, my voice at least going back to its normal decibel. “He came to power during an economic upturn and anyway his rule eventually led to Germany being split up for ages. Not to mention the fact that he killed six million people. Because y’know that’s always a mark of a good leader. Genocide.”

Everyone around me was suddenly paying attention to the speaker. I heard ripples of laughter echo through the audience and I was pretty certain they weren’t laughing at Captain Dumbass up there. They were laughing at the red-faced girl who still had her hand up in the air. Because I looked ridiculous. Mrs. Buttback, rather surprisingly didn’t scream at me for destroying the sanctity of the Leadership speeches. Probably because it would have been a tad hypocritical since Hitler’s number one fan was up there spreading Nazi propaganda. She just ushered Captain Dumbass back to his seat amidst the giggles.

“Everyone move to class,” she said, sounding not entirely happy with the way events had unfolded.

“What a bitch,” I heard HB say well aware that the carrying quality of her voice meant that I could hear her. “It takes so much courage to go up there and to just-“

“Fuck off,” I turned around and said quite rudely because it was just that sort of morning.

Her evil little face twisted into an expression of horror and, Karan who was walking with her looked at me a little taken aback. But even his disapproval was something I couldn’t bring myself to care about…because as I said, it was just that sort of morning.

So now I’m sitting here, waiting for my Economics teacher to turn up, ignoring the fact that people are still staring at me and laughing. Oh look there he is.

9:27 a.m.

Still Economics

Alright I’ve been sitting in the class for ten minutes and it is safe to say that I am very bored. I’m pretending to write down notes on the reasons for the direction of the demand curve. I probably should but I still haven’t exactly managed to shake summer off and am hence quite the slacker.

And anyway my Economics teacher is insane. Hey I probably should recommend Aruna Aunty to him. I mean in the space of about ten minutes, while teaching us about demand curves he has also managed to inform us that Subhash Chandra Bose survived the plane crash and is still living in China, and also that Nehru was the one who ordered his removal, telling the Chinese ‘Premier’ (as he calls him) Chiang Kai Shek that Subhash Chandra Bose better stay the fuck away from India otherwise he’d get a ‘bullet in his chest’. I kid you not; he used the term ‘bullet in his chest.’

Oh look that nice looking boy and his less nice looking best friend just turned around. They’re smiling at me very suspiciously. I do not trust such expressions of mirth. I bet they’re going to mock me about my inability to act like a normal human being in assembly. I mean its assembly for crying out loud. No one yells in assembly. No one’s even properly awake in assembly. Except for Captain Dumbass and Mrs. Buttback.

9:41 a.m.

Still Economics (but almost done so huzzah)

They weren’t mocking me. Nice looking boy and his less nice looking best friend. So anyway NLB turned around. “That was pretty awesome,” he said.

LNLBF nodded in agreement. “He’s a cunt.”

“I am well aware of that,” I muttered, rather relieved they weren’t calling me a cunt.

“I mean some people just sort of say things for shock value don’t they?” NLB said, very wisely. And I could’ve hugged him. I was also v surprised because in my last two years at the school with NLB he never exactly seemed like the smartest.

Hey if NLB and his LNLBF didn’t think I was a psycho then maybe other people wouldn’t think I was a psycho either. Hooray for NLB and his LNLBF. They have restored my faith in humanity. Or at least restored my faith in teenage boys (apparently they all don’t spout Nazi propaganda, who knew?).

10:20 a.m.

Historyhistoryhistory (how I love thee)

Have I said before how much I love History? I feel like I might’ve but I need to reiterate the fact that I love love love history. Because only in history class does the love of my life sit next to me while I read about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Well this history class actually started off as being the exception to the rule of History-class-being-the-best-place-on-Earth.

Karan asked if he could sit next to me, which is ordinarily never a bad thing. But he had a rather serious expression on his face.

“So about today,” he said.

“I know,” I sighed, just preempting it. “You think I was out of line.”

“Oh no,” he said. “Well not with Mohan at least.”

“You don’t think it was a horrible thing for me to do?” I asked nervously. Because even though I said that it was just that kind of morning I really didn’t want him thinking I was a terrible person.

“As a student of history it is your duty to correct misinformation,” he said, mock pompously. “And you carried out your duty with distinction.”

And I let out a relieved giggle. Because Karan thought I had been an exemplary student of history.

“No this is about Sowmya,” he said, more seriously.

And I bit back a groan.

“I’m not apologizing,” I said.

“Look,” he said. “I know she was kind of out of line. But you-“

“Not apologizing,” I said firmly.

He sighed and gave me one of his disappointed looks and then went back to listening to Mrs. Mandana who was gesturing wildly to a map of Asia.

I felt a weird feeling in my stomach because all I had to do to get Karan to like me was apologize to his heinous girlfriend but I couldn’t. I had no idea where Tara-with-a-backbone had come from but I kind of liked her and I wasn’t letting go of her that easily.

“Projects,” Mrs. Mandana said. “Pair up. There will be three topics and six pairs. So two groups do the same topic.”

“Why don’t we just have groups of four then?” Ragini asked.

“Because everyone has to work,” Mrs. Mandana said sternly.

“Then just make us do individual projects,” Ragini said, a little cheekily.

“Pair up,” Mrs. Mandana said, resolutely ignoring her.

I looked at Ragini hopefully because she’s usually my partner in these things but she shook her head and gestured to Diya. Indicating that she had in fact found a partner who was not me.

I started to panic a little because I was almost a hundred percent sure I would get stuck with Stinky Saurabh who seems to think that just because we both happen to be half Bengali we are meant to be. And not that I would ever object to a boy liking me, but Stinky’s just weird. And has bad hygiene. Two things that really aren’t qualities one looks for in a boyfriend. But before I could dive headfirst into a full-blown panic attack, Karan tapped me on the shoulder.

“Yes?” I asked, my voice slightly higher pitched than usual because I saw Stinky giving me his come hither look.

“Partners?” he asked.

“Really?” I said, rather surprised. “Even though I was a bitch to your best friend.”

“I love Sowmya,” he said with a shrug. “But I’m pretty sure if I worked with you we could get at least a seventeen on twenty.”

I tried not to let his words puncture my happy bubble too much. Because I mean usually when I imagined him asking me to be his partner there were a lot more declarations of love. Something along the lines of ‘Tara I love you and your wonderful history skills make me weak at the knees. Also will you date me and eventually marry me and have my babies?’

So a seventeen on twenty was rather a far cry from that. But still I got Karan as my partner so huzzah. History class remains the best of the best.

10:52 a.m.

English

Amira is currently throwing bits of paper at me. And now something that’s distinctly crumbly. Biscuits? Are you throwing biscuits at me you mad woman?

Stop writing in your journal Tara. Its getting weird- A

You must never touch the journal without permission. The journal is sacred-T

Is you handing me the journal counted as permission or am I still not allowed to touch it. -A

Well obviously if I’m handing it to you it means you can touch it stupid. -T

I don’t know. You’ve been weird today. -A

Oh are you referring to my little outburst in assembly? Because that was just me being a dedicated student of history. -T

Oh I know you’re a dedicated student of history. I’ve been friends with you for two years now. I’ve had sleepovers at your house. Do you know you sometimes mutter things like ‘Gorbachev’ and ‘Treaty of Versailles’ when you’re asleep? -A

I do not. I’m a very nice sleeper. -T

Do you really think I’d know who Gorbachev was if you hadn’t been having a sex dream about him? -A

Sex dream? Ew. Gorbs is like a billion years old. That is disturbing even for me. -T

So Gorbs is off limits but Kevin Spacey’s fine? -A

Kevin Spacey is fine indeed. –T

Miss Poori is glaring at us. –A

Au contraire, she is glaring at you. She loves me. –T

That is true. So why did you turn into a rage machine today morning? –A

I don’t even know. It just all sort of happened. I guess I saw red. –T

You were red. You looked like you had spent several hours in the sun. –A

Oh I am deeply sorry for my annoyingly pale Sindhi complexion. I know it’s mostly my fault because I avoid the outside like the plague but really I think it’s all down to genetics. –T

Okay she’s definitely glaring at me now. –A

11:05 a.m.

Still English

I must say I do adore Miss Poori. She’s just so nice and pretty and always tells me my analysis is accurate. Granted most people take Higher Level English Literature because they are generally unable to do any other Higher Level subject not because they have any love for Literature so my competition for best student is limited but still, its nice to hear her say it on occasion.

Its mostly just between Ragini and me. Though HB and Lovely are also in this class. But hah. They definitely aren’t as good as me. Miss Poori also thinks I’m still taking notes about Tennessee Williams’ life. But I already did those yesterday while everyone else was goofing off.

Ugh Lovely’s such a bitch. She just said that Blanche wasn’t a tragic character because all her problems are her own fault. Dumbass that’s literally all tragic characters. And anyway I don’t quite think you can blame her rape on her though I’m sure those Modi supporting anti-feminists would do that gladly.

Anyway I have now had three people walk up to me today and congratulate me for screaming at Captain Dumbass whose name I have discovered is actually Mohan. And two people (Lovely and HB of course) tell me that I was an absolute bitch. I think I’m going to start keeping a count.

Oh look presentations. Miss Poori does these things where she makes random people in the class analyse a part of what we’re doing and give a presentation. I wonder if it’ll be too nerdy if I –

Oh never mind, HB waved her hand in the air enthusiastically and got picked. Does she really think a presentation is going to make Miss Poori love her more than me? Yeah right. Miss Poori and I share a bond that’s deep and founded on mutual respect.

11:37 a.m.

Hindi (oh the torture)

Number of people who told me I am awesome: 7

Number of people who told me I deserve to burn in hell: 4

See Hindi would be bad enough just because its Hindi and I suck at languages in general. But its like thirty times worse because HB’s in this class and she loves Hindi. And she’s actually good at it too. I mean I know I’m better at English but at least she kind of gets good grades. I have never gotten more than a 4 in Hindi. And she routinely gets 7s.

My teacher’s quite nice though. She generally lets us mess around quite a bit. And at least I have Ragini in this class. So that’s probably why Hindi and Economics tie for the worst classes in the history of ever. Because I have no one to sit with in Economics. Sure looking at NLB is nice but there’s only so much looking a person can do without seeming creepy. And he isn’t exactly the most interesting individual.

But at least the Economics class is conducted in English. And I promise you I’m not the sort of person who hates their native language because she wants to be a foreigner with white skin. I swear. If anything I would love to tan a lot more because having half your face peel off every time you go to Goa isn’t enjoyable at all. No I just suck at languages in general. I mean I even tried taking Spanish for a bit. And that was worse than Hindi. And it was in the same script as English so obviously its not just Hindi that’s my problem its all languages.

Anyway so I’m sitting in Hindi now and HB’s just showing off and being all brilliant at it and I’m just so annoyed right now. And that’s why I’m scribbling in this journal instead of listening to Miss Archana go into transports about HB’s perfect grammar and pronunciation. I think it’s entirely unfair. I mean why does a table need a gender? Does it reproduce?

And you know what’s worse than Hindi? Double Hindi, which is the torture I am undergoing now. Its cruel and unusual punishment. And I don’t even have anyone nice to look at in this class. I mean sure Ragini’s pretty but so not my type. And also I think she disapproves of my actions today morning which might make making out a little bit awkward. She doesn’t approve of public outbursts really? Or any kind of outbursts. She’s a very calm person.

12:50 p.m.

Biology

Number of people who told me I am awesome: 7

Number of people who told me I deserve to burn in hell: 6

Ugh bored. Honestly I don’t even know how this is Karan’s favourite subject. When we get married and have many children I’m going to have to make sure they only like English and History and don’t get caught up in all this science nonsense. Oh look there’s a pickled fetus in one of the cupboards. Huh. I never noticed that before. And people wonder why the Bio Lab is my least favourite place in the world.

1:30 p.m.

Lunch

Number of people who told me I am awesome: 8 (including Miss Poori yay!)

Number of people who told me I deserve to burn in hell: 6

There isn’t good Naan today, much to my displeasure. And HB’s. She loves Naan. And you can tell she does because she’s kind of doughy looking. And wonder of wonders she seems to have recruited a new bitch to her team.

The new one’s kind of pretty though. Very pretty actually. She has this thick dark hair that I envy deeply given the fact that I am now balding. And pixie-like features. Though she’s going to get into trouble for that eyeliner for sure. I mean just wait till Mrs. Buttback sees her.

Anyway I got pasta instead. Slightly congealed looking pasta but at least it isn’t the green chicken. I don’t think I could handle green chicken on a day like this.

Diya, Ragini’s very tall friend has just collapsed in the chair next to mine. Jesus she looks very serious.

I’ll be right back.

1:35 p.m.

Still Lunch

Number of people who told me I am awesome: 8

Number of people who told me I deserve to burn in hell: 6

I know they say don’t shoot the messenger but I may or may not have just ranted at Diya for about five minutes. I feel quite bad about this because she’s a very nice person. She just informed me that HB and Lovely had told Mrs. Mathura about my little outburst in Chemistry. And Mrs. Mathura who was also the Head of School wanted to meet me in her office. Because apparently what I did constitutes bullying.

The bitches. I’m multitasking right now by eating, writing and glaring at them. Today’s worse than a green chicken day and in my book very little is worse than a green chicken day. I mean how on earth did I manage to go from being the victim of HB and Lovely to being called up for bullying? Me a bully? That’s actually ridiculous.

2:30 p.m.

Math (fun fun)

Number of people who told me I am awesome: 10

Number of people who told me I deserve to burn in hell: 7

Well at least I got to miss a little bit of math. And the conversation with Mrs. Mathura went pretty much as expected

“Come in,” she said in her extremely intimidating voice.

She’s one scary woman let me tell you. She has these big eyes and puts so much eyeliner around them she kind of resembles a Disney villain. You know, think Zira in Lion King II (also am I the only person that enjoyed that movie?). And it seems a little hypocritical when she and Buttback are yelling at people for leftover eyeliner from the weekend, because they wear considerably more makeup than just eyeliner.

“I’m sorry,” I said quickly just because I figured the quicker I apologized the quicker I’d get out of there.

“I’m afraid such behavior is unacceptable Tara,” she said. “I mean its not like I don’t agree with the sentiment but you could’ve not humiliated the boy.”

“I know,” I said. But she wasn’t even yelling at me.

“I expected better from you,” she said, though I think that’s just a thing that all adults say to make you feel guilty. Not that I felt that guilty. I mean the Nazi lover kind of deserved it. But still.

“It won’t happen again,” I mumbled, like the spineless worm I am.

“It had better not,” she said. “And you have to apologize.”

“So if I apologize I won’t be in trouble?” I asked.

“Oh you’re still in trouble,” she said. “If we have even one more complaint of bullying you’re suspended for a week.”

My dramatic storm out was totally ruined by the fact that I accidentally swept the audition posters for Grease off her desk and on to the floor and spent the next five minutes apologizing and cleaning them up.

Ragini is now telling me that I had better stop scribbling nonsense. How can she even tell is beyond me because she’s been concentrating the whole time.

5:15 p.m.

On the bus stuck in the mother of all traffic jams

Number of people who told me I am awesome: 12

Number of people who told me I deserve to burn in hell: 7

I don’t quite think I’ve said how much I hate my bus. When I got on and went to take my spot at the back right window but then jerk boy also known as Tarun Singh (another Singh I am plagued by Singhs) got there first. Tarun’s a twelfth grader who’s pretty much the most annoying person in the world. It doesn’t help that he’s kind of attractive too, because every time I bitch about him to my friends they get this oddly dreamy look in their eyes and then look at me pityingly, like I have some kind of mental disorder.

Like Amira just goes on about his eyes (which I must admit are rather nice) and even extremely grounded Ragini often gets a glazed look in her eyes when he’s mentioned.

“You are a dick,” I said venomously because I had already had a shitty day and I wanted my spot.

“First come first served,” he said, shrugging his unfairly broad shoulders.

“I hope you die a long painful death,” I said, harshly, throwing myself into the seat next to him attempting to show my disapproval with by dramatically sitting down.

“Why are you throwing a bitch fit?” he asked quite reasonably. But I still wanted to slap him.

“I got sent to Mathura,” I said crossly.

“You?” he asked, with far too much surprise in his voice. “You got sent to the HoS?”

“I did,” I said. “For bullying.”

“You bullied someone?” he said, giggling in a most unmanly manner. If only my friends could see him in his current state they wouldn’t think he was attractive at all.

“I yelled at a Neo-Nazi,” I said. “I think I should be getting a medal. Not being threatened with suspension.”

“Hah,” he said, most annoyingly. “Even I haven’t gotten suspended yet. And do you know how many times I’ve failed the urine tests?”

“And who got booted out of the Student Council because of it?” I asked crabbily.

“Well nothing on my permanent record at least,” he said.

“It’s been a crap day,” I sighed. “And I just want to go to sleep. Can you please let me sit in my spot?”

“No,” he said, stubbornly.

“Fine then I get to use your shoulder,” I said. Because even though the side of the bus (despite its unnecessary nails) is more comfortable, at least it was something.

He frowned at me but didn’t object. Possibly because he was being nice after I had a day from hell but probably because I was looking slightly murderous.

And since my bus journey is about two hours I couldn’t even spend the whole thing in blissful slumber because it’s too damn long and as I said before my bus driver possibly has a drinking problem so there’s only so much bumping a girl can go through before she inevitably wakes up.

Tarun’s still nicely asleep against my bus wall. And now we’ve gotten to the slow, never moving traffic bit so he isn’t even likely to wake up because he slept through the worst. Have I mentioned already how much I hate him? I hope his hair all gets pulled out by the horrible nails. But being male and since our school had practically army-esque haircut standards, his hair was rather short so he probably wouldn’t even suffer.

7:05 p.m.

Home and no therapy today! Yay!

I got home to a rather nice surprise. I do really love my father sometimes. Because when I got home and opened the freezer hoping to find sausages I instead found an entire carton of Orange Bars. What are Orange Bars you ask? Orange Bars are the gods’ own food. See most people just think Orange Bars (recently rechristened Fun Orange for some reason) are just frozen sticks of orange liquid. But they are so much more than that. Okay so I can’t exactly tell you why because I mean basically they are just orange popsicles. But trust me. Buy an Orange Bar. Your life will have more meaning.

“How was school?” my mother asked when I got back.

I didn’t really feel like describing my crapshit day to my mother even though I knew she would probably approve of my actions. Okay maybe Baba would approve more.

“It was school,” I said, collapsing into the sofa and putting on the TV.

“I’ve been translating plays,” my mother said.

“Oh those women’s health ones?” I asked.

“I think my translator’s going to leave,” she said, with a grin.

“Why?” I asked.

“They’ve been doing these plays for years in the villages but no one’s looked at them before. Its only when we needed English translations that anyone bothered looking at their actual content,” she said.

“So?” I asked.

“Well they’re kind of ridiculous,” she said. “At one point an old woman is threatened by the spirit of death because she mistreated her daughter-in-law.”

“That doesn’t sound too bad,” I said. “Maybe if more old women were threatened by the spirit of death there would be less mistreatment of daughter-in-laws.”

“Yes but saying ‘I will break your legs you horrible old lady’ isn’t exactly the message we’re trying to send,” my mother said dryly.

“So your translator’s leaving because of the old people bashing?” I asked.

“I think it’s more because of the ‘You smoke too much ganja’ comment Death made to the father-in-law,” she said, laughing.

I couldn’t help but giggle along. You see my mother is quite a nice person. Everybody loves my mother. At my old school this girl turned to me and asked if she could please have my mum after my mother chaperoned a field trip. I said no because that girl wasn’t particularly nice to me and it was a weird request. I mean I know it wasn’t serious but I was like eight a little bit worried she was going to steal Mum and replace her with her dragon of a mother.

9:30 p.m.

At home, not doing my history project but instead waiting for Karan to come online

A transcript of my chat with Amira Bharat

Amira: stop being pathetic

Me: I am not pathetic. I need to do my History project.

Amira: right and what about all those other days?

history projects then too?

Me: Shut up. I have a valid excuse today.

Amira: he comes on my bus now you know

Me: Whaat? Why have you kept this information from me?

Amira: because of your general patheticness

and because youll flip out because hes now my neighbor

Me: You suck and you’re horrible. Don’t you think I could use a little good news today? I mean I am going to get suspended for Christ’s sake.

Amira: you aren’t going to get suspended you loser

only if you bully someone else

are you planning on becoming a bully?

Me: Dumb Sowmya and Lovely are seriously making me think about it.

Amira: look at you though

just two days ago you were the biggest pushover ever and now youre yelling at people in assembly and telling sowmya to fuck off

who are you and what have you done to Tara?

Me: He’s online now! Yes I can go talk about the Cuban Missile Crisis1!1

Amira: have fun

Me: I can sense your sarcasm through the computer screen and I’d like you to know that its not appreciated.

Amira: oh go bother karan

Me: I will but I won’t be bothering him because he thinks I carry out my duties as a student of history with distinction.

Transcript of my conversation with Karan Singh happening simultaneously

Me: Hey :)

Karan: hi!

Me: So I thought about our project. You could do the reasons bit and I could do the events and the fallout.

Karan: planning already? the project is due in two weeks

Me: Oh well. You know I like history.

Karan: i think everybody knows you like history

Me: Well that’s why you picked me to be your partner isn’t it :)

[I hid my slight bitterness with a well placed smiley]

Karan: and we are friends right? i wouldn’t want you to think i was using you for your mad history skillz.

[Ahhh no longer any bitterness and so what if he said skillz with a z at the end. It’s obvious he’s just being ironic. ]

Me: Your history skills aren’t too shabby either :P

Karan: thanks

not in your league though

[Psh that’s all right boy. Very few people are in my league historywise. It would take an incredible lack of anything resembling a social life to be in my league history skill-wise.]

Me: So we got this right? We’re going to kick ass.

Karan: oh forsure


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