Muddling Through: The Life and Times of Tara Chatterjee

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Chapter 4

August 7th 2013


9:10 a.m.


Okay Varun is very nice. I mean if I wasn’t already deeply in love with Karan and if Ragini didn’t have a distinct preference for him I would probably just kiss him on his incredibly large mouth. But Karan remains the light of my life and I’m fairly certain that Ragini was trying to flirt with Varun before Assembly today. But that boy always has a constant supply of chocolate and a constant supply of chocolate always makes a good friend. Today it was M&Ms.

But the love of my life seems to be a little put out with me. I mean when I asked him if he had watched the new episode of Community he just shrugged noncommittally. And then HB linked her arm with his and swept him off with a distinctly evil smirk. Bitch. And anyway I don’t know why he’s so cross. I mean he told me to audition. Its not my fault a plate has more talent than his girlfriend. And anyway I probably won’t even get it. Not to be a pessimist, but I mean I’ve never acted in a play before. Squeaky Abhaya has more of a chance than me.

Oh I’m sitting with Aliyah today. She’s very pretty. It makes one a little self-conscious. I mean have you seen our uniform? It’s green and hideous and makes my lack of breasts even more apparent. And that’s just the PE uniform. The formal uniform is even worse. I have developed an intense dislike of the colours red and green because of our ridiculous tie.

But somehow Aliyah still manages to look perfect and pixie-ish. Oh why did I have to be born a flat chested individual with a weird nose and thick eyebrows? I mean if I cut my hair off people would probably think I was a boy. Or a tranny. I’ll bet people still think I’m a tranny sometimes.

10:20 a.m.


So my teacher’s actually legitimately insane. What is it about Bengalis and conspiracy theories? I mean I’ve heard plenty of my uncles rage against Catholic schools and call them honeytraps. Even though hypocritical much? I mean they all went to schools called St. Xavier’s or St. Michael’s or Notre Dame. Who do they think were running those schools? Buddhists?

But anyway, today my teacher decided to forgo the theory of supply and demand for a lecture on how the 2004 Tsunami was caused by Indian nuclear experiments. This is why I have absolutely no qualms about writing in my journal instead of listening. I mean I’d do it anyway but I’d feel guilty. But there’s no guilt to be felt when your teacher has a couple of screws loose and thinks that the world is out to get him.

Also NLB and LNLBF are both playing some strange pen war game. I kind of want to join in but I don’t know them very well. And given that I mostly refer to them by acronyms I’ve created probably doesn’t give me much right to butt into what looks like an extremely absorbing game. Ooh LNLBF just got NLB in the arm. This game doesn’t seem to require much skill.

Haha they just got yelled at because they interrupted crazy conspiracy theorist’s rant about big businesses. You know for an economics teacher, he seems quite anti-capitalistic. Distinctly communist in fact. Great. I have an insane, possibly Maoist conspiracy theorist as an economics teacher. This is going to be interesting even if it does result in me failing my boards.

Ugh I’m so tired today. I stayed up till like two trying to hit all the notes on “Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee.” I didn’t succeed but I think I got the Rizzo Kenickie scene kinda figured out. Oh wait. Isn’t NLB in the school band? I bet they’re doing the music for Grease. Maybe he’ll play it lower so I don’t end up sounding like a monkey on crack. Wait I’ll ask.

10:27 a.m.

Still Economics (but nearly done, and crazy conspiracy theorist is running out of steam)

Joy to the world I get a brief reprieve. I was so sure the band was going to be around for auditions today, but they aren’t. So that means I can fuck around with the pitch and it might not sound god-awful. And yes they are doing the music but NLB said if I got the part he’d help pull it down a couple of octaves, which is really good because hello, I can’t hit high notes. I can barely hit any notes. And it was awfully nice of NLB to say ‘if I got the part’ ‘cause lets be honest, the chances aren’t very high.

But anyway that means that I can stop freaking out because of the singing. Because I cannot hit things without doing an awful, high-pitched breathy head voice thing. Why couldn’t we be doing Shakespeare or something? Huh? There’s minimal singing in Shakespeare and I bet no one has to do a jive. Though thankfully the Rizzos don’t have to do a dance audition like the Dannys and Sandys. Because unfortunately HB’s right. I do kind of dance like someone with a debilitating disease. But as long as I can trick people into thinking I’m a good singer I should be in with a minute chance.

10:37 a.m.


I just saved Amira from certain death so now she owes me till the end of time. Muahahahaha. Okay so I actually didn’t do that but I might as well have. So I walk into out English class about five minutes early and I see her sitting in the corner of the room looking terrified. And I’ve known her for two years now so I know it can only be two things: birds or beaches. And since we haven’t magically been transported to Goa I’m fairly certain that it’s a bird.

“What happened?” I asked.

She just pointed a shaky finger at the front of the class, and there, perched on her bag was a malevolent looking crow.

I laughed and shooed it away and she looked at me very gratefully.

“You could’ve thrown something at it,” I pointed out.

“What?” she said, snappishly.

“An eraser,” I said shrugging. “I don’t know.”

She just scowled at me and picked up her bag. Well that’s gratitude for you.

10: 50 a.m.


Motifs in A Streetcar Named Desire

Þ Light: Blanche avoids bright light. Represents the past she is trying to escape.

Þ Bathing: Represents Blanche’s constant attempts to rid herself of the past. Calms her.

Þ Drunkenness: Leads to destructive behavior in both Stanley and Blanche.

I kinda like this play actually. The idea that you want to avoid your past. Well it isn’t such an outlandish one. Even though Blanche doesn’t exactly deal with her problems in a particularly positive way, but who does? The past is a scary thing to be honest. But escaping it isn’t always entirely possible. I mean I should know right? I suppose that’s what literature’s meant to do. Make you think.

Fucking hell. I swear to god if I hear Lovely call Blanche a slut one more time I’m going to shove pinecone up her ass. Don’t ask me where I’m going to get that pinecone. I am going to find one and make her life miserable.

11: 55 a.m.


Okay I’m beginning to think it was the fork stabbing incident that’s made Karan mad. Granted I might have started it but she tried to actually physically harm me. Like actually stab through my hand with a metal implement that could injure me. I mean she’s obviously entirely psychotic. And he didn’t even sit next to me this time. So guess who’s currently stinking up the air around me? My soul mate Stinky Saurabh of course. At least the partners are definite so Karan can’t swap me for anyone. But Christ he could’ve at least not thrown me to the dogs. Not that Saurabh’s a dog, though he could definitely use a little deodorant. Its just that yesterday I was sitting next to the boy of my dreams, now I’m stuck with someone who frequents my nightmares.

He isn’t even turning back and giving me those amused haha-look-what-Mandana-just-said-isn’t-she-a-whacko looks. Which is making me very sad right now. I mean the only reason I signed up was because he told me to. And that was the only reason that bitch verbally assaulted me in the dining hall. And I had to defend my honour didn’t I? So the way I see it its actually his fault he’s mad at me. Ugh why must such nice boys be friends with such horrible people?

Ohmygod, is that Stinky’s leg? Why is it pressing up against mine? What exactly did I do to deserve this Lord? I mean sure I flicked a bit of chicken in someone’s hair and rejoiced in her failed attempts to impress my favourite teacher but is that really deserving of Stinky desperately trying to play footsie with me? I do not think so.

Ahh assault. Can you not see this Mrs. Mandana? Okay I must escape.

11: 59

Girls’ bathroom on the second floor

So I told Mandana that I needed to use the loo and ran. And I’m just going to stay here until the bell rings because I am not going back to hang out with that molester Stinky. Oh there it goes. Christ in heaven I have to make up with Karan somehow. Bribery? Maybe I can make brownies or something.

12:10 p.m.


Ragini seems to have forgiven me for all the mocking. Which is definitely good because German boy scares me a little. He’s sitting next to Diya now but she seems to be holding her own. At least she isn’t shaking in fear like I would be. I think it’s a height thing. And besides Diya’s never intimidated by anything.

12:17 p.m.


I have discovered that German boy’s name is Kersten. Which is surprisingly feminine. Maybe not in Germany actually. I bet its super manly. Kersten looks super manly so I doubt anyone is going to mess with him ‘cause he has a girly name. He’ll just flatten them with his forthright German-ness. I’ve actually realized that I’ve never heard him talk. Apparently he’s not that scary though. At least that’s what Ragini told me. I don’t even know how she manages to make conversation with anyone. I mean I understand Varun ‘cause he’s nice and talkative and has the most blinding smile ever. But German boy doesn’t seem talkative at all. He’s all taciturn.

12:32 p.m.


Ahahahaha German boy has a full-blown Indian accent. Its hilarious and I’ve made up my mind to be friends with him. Apparently he’s lived here since he was like seven and learnt how to speak English here, hence the Bangalorean accent. This is so awesome. I better stop calling him German boy. Though I’m not sure I’m pronouncing his name right. K-yer-stun? Kir-sten? I dunno.

But he’s actually kinda friendly. I mean Diya seems to be carrying on a conversation no problem.

1:45 p.m.

Lunch (Friday food!)

OHOH guess what? I have company. I mean not exactly but sort of. So Gita Menon who’s in the 10th grade’s going for the dance auditions today. Gita’s a family friend. My parents both went to this college called TISS where they met each other. Like some TV show they made this friends group of six people and then promptly got married within that group. Now they have this gigantic group of friends that’s basically an extension of that core group and Gita belongs to one of the extensions. And Gita’s a really good dancer so she’ll definitely get Cha-Cha and that means I won’t be all alone. Yes!

But anyway today’s Friday. And Friday food is always the best food. Its like they give us crap the whole week just so Friday food’ll seem that much more awesome. There’s Biriyani and Maggi. Maggi is gross. I don’t get people who like Maggi. It tastes like congealed flour and sadness. But the Biriyani. It’s basically the best thing in the world. And every third Friday they give us Shetty-Chinese, which is also nothing to turn your nose up at.

Varun and Ragini are sitting next to each other. Ooh she looks so pleased with herself. I’m glad he realized that HB’s heinous. Wait a second, why are Bowel Movement Boy and Karan’s rather more attractive cousin Karthik making their way towards us? Oh Amira waving at them madly. Wait a second Karan’s coming too. Ugh no…not today. He’s mad at me today. Dammit Amira. Be gone new people! Go! Shoo!

Well surprise surprise that didn’t work. Oh look and now she’s looking at me smugly. Like she did me a favour. I suppose you think you’ve paid me back for chasing that bird off by calling the love of my life to our table. Well you most certainly have not. Oh wait he isn’t glaring at me. Hey he’s actually smiling kinda nervously. Ohh yus. You have totally paid me back for the chasing the bird away thing. Okay I’m going to stop writing now because everyone’s looking at me like I’m a little weird. Oh wait last thing to comment upon. Varun and Karan have totally become BFFs. I mean look at the talking about Game of Thrones so passionately.

Okay I’m going to put this away now. Dammit I hate these conversations about the TV show. There is so much I know already. Like they were just talking about how Robb’s so cool and he never makes mistakes. Well he makes a pretty big one pretty soon. And it’s all ‘cause he can’t keep it in his pants. Oh you poor dears. Just wait till you see what’s in store. Dammit now I made myself sad. Robb’s my favourite.

1:59 p.m.

Lunch (which keeps getting better and better)

Ahhh Karan apologized. Well not really but he was all “oh I was just in an off mood today morning I didn’t mean to come off as abrupt.” Even though lies. Hello he was so obviously being bitchy because I threw chicken in HB’s hair and then got an audition for the same part as her. But I don’t even care.

And then I was like “Well you had better not ditch me in history again.” I was totally trying to be flirty (though Amira said it looked a little like I was having a stroke).

But it must’ve worked because he winked and said “Oh I wouldn’t dream of it.”

Yayayay no more Stinky.

Then Amira looked at me all smugly and her eyes were basically saying, “Aren’t I the best friend ever?”

And well I had to agree because Karan was definitely flirting with me.

3:05 p.m.


Okay so I’m almost a hundred percent sure HB’s been muttering insults at me in Hindi for the last twenty minutes. She’s one scary woman. She’s also super cross that Karan walked me to the tuck shop and bought us both Munches. I mean sure it was my money, but he stood in line while I waited outside. And she was hovering too because she cannot live without him. And she kept shooting me the dirtiest looks but boo sucks to her because no one cares. Oh I don’t think I’ve ever been in a better mood.

Oh no Ms. Archana’s just collapsed into her chair. That’s never a good sign.

“I don’t sleep anymore.” She seems to be wailing a little. “Everything is so tiring. And that Beena. You don’t know what she is doing to me.”

Ms. Beena is the other Hindi teacher. And she’s also the Yellow House housemaster. Ms. Archana is the Red House housemaster. They have a rather intense rivalry.

“Her children are always coming to me only for help,” Ms. Archana says, continuing to wail. “Hundreds and hundreds of papers to mark but can I say no to these childrens? No I can’t. So I am not saying no and I’m only sleeping at four o’clock in the morning. And then I am waking up at six to do more corrections.”

“Why don’t you just talk to Ms. Beena?” Ragini asks quite sensibly

“How can I do that?” Ms. Archana asks, shocked at the idea. “And she is never listening to me anyway. All the time she is saying Yellow House Yellow House only. Maybe the reason Yellow House is winning all the time is because she is paying no attention to her students. Only to her Yellow House. Doesn’t matter if they will be getting 1s and 2s only Yellow House Yellow House. She doesn’t know her Yellow House is like susu only.”

Ragini’s finding it rather hard to choke back laughter. Considering she’s a member of the illustrious Yellow House I’m surprised she isn’t rushing to Ms. Beena’s defense. I don’t think she’s quite forgiven her yet for forcing to compete in the inter-house dance competition. Yellow House won that incidentally. I think a lot of Ms. Archana’s bitterness springs from the fact that Red House comes last rather consistently.

3:45 p.m.

Outside the DP Block

Okay the buses are leaving. And I can’t even chicken out now because I’m stuck here.

Gita’s telling me not to freak out but I’m totally freaking out. This sucks because I thought I would have moral support, but apparently the dance auditions are in the Sports Complex and not with the rest of us.

“You’ll be fine,” she keeps saying soothingly.

But I won’t be fine. How do I trick these people into thinking I can sing?

Gita: What are you writing you weirdo.

Me: My thoughts and feelings.

Gita: Well stop. Your thoughts and feelings are just making you stressed.

Me: [Stubbornly.] Nothing can make me feel more stressed. What are you-


Okay Tara’s being weird so I have confiscated this. And now she’s yelling something about sacred journals and how karma’s going to get me. Anyway you’ll do great. And stop having several nervous breakdowns. You’re talented and as you said before Sowmya Singh has the talent of a plate. Okay I’m giving this back to you now but don’t psych yourself out. Be calm and think of Rachel Berry or something.

Good luck


4:05 p.m.


So they’ve shifted the audition space up to the PYP AV Room, which is the only place, apart from the Admin Block that has A/C. If I wasn’t so nervous I might actually be comfortable. But I am nervous. My stomach’s all tied up in knots but Jyoti-the-veteran-of-countless-auditions is sitting next to me and is very calm. Her calmness is making me slightly calmer. It’s like its being transferred by diffusion. Oh no here come the butterflies again. God almighty why can’t they just hurry this up. I have to sit through the Danny, Sandy and Kenickie auditions first as it is.

Oh thank god it looks like they’re getting a move on. Rather predictably Jyoti’s up first. Oooh she’s intense. A little bit flat in her intenseness but still. And she can sing. They’re so lucky. The Dannys and Sandys I mean. ‘Cause they get to audition together. And the Kenickies don’t have singing auditions. Now they’re singing ‘You’re The One That I Want.’ Ooh she is good. Her Danny is Dhruv Thapar. I never even knew Dhruv Thapar could sing. But he can. He can hit higher notes than me.

Now Aliyah’s up. Not bad not bad. If anyone gets Rizzo I hope its her, even if she did try out for Sandy. That would wipe the smirk off HB’s face, who doesn’t even look nervous. Like why is she not nervous? I mean I know she has an ego the size of a house, but there are plenty of people more talented than her. Just because I might not be one of them doesn’t mean she’s in the clear.

4:20 p.m.

PYP AV Room (which is starting to get a little claustrophobic)

Well it’s never an audition without a nervous breakdown is it? And it wasn’t even mine. So I know I shouldn’t be happy that someone just completely missed all the top notes on ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’ then screamed at Mrs. Trask and ran out of the room in a rage but at least I know now that its impossible for me to have the worst audition. The person incidentally was Varshini Gopinath. And before she messed up and started screaming she was actually doing not so badly. But I think telling the teacher that their play is “bullshit” probably won’t get you a part.

4:45 p.m.

Still in the PYP AV Room (FREAKING OUT)

Reasons why I should not be in this play

1. I cannot sing.

2. I’ve never been on stage before as somebody else.

3. I have an airhostess voice and Rizzo’s all edgy and cool.

4. Airhostesses can’t play Rizzo.

5. They can tell people to fasten their seatbelts, not make people think they’re edgy, maybe-pregnant teenagers.

6. I’ve come to the conclusion that I can have a worse audition than Varshini.

7. I could pee my pants.

8. I know I’ve gone to the bathroom four times since this started but I have a nervous bladder.

9. I mean give me half a glass of Coke and I’ll be peeing till next Sunday.

Oh holy shit I’m up. I’m up.

5:13 p.m.

Waiting for the buses

Do you ever have those experiences? Like almost out of body experiences. Where you’re doing something and you know you’re doing it but at the same time you feel like you’re just watching yourself. Sufficed to say the audition could’ve gone better. So I did that whole Rizzo/Kenickie spiel but for some reason I just blanked in ‘Look At Me I’m Sandra Dee.’ I literally couldn’t remember anything. Not the tune, not the pitch. Nothing. So instead of going “can I have a minute to collect myself please?” I just started singing ‘There Are Worse Things I Could Do.’

Except there aren’t any worse things I could do. Because I’m pretty sure I sucked ass. And then I got out and Gita kept asking me how it was and I couldn’t even say anything because y’know what? I couldn’t remember how it went. All I remember is the stunningly awkward silence after I was done. I’m almost ninety percent sure I was crying a little toward the end of the song. Because that was how tragically horrible it was. And then Mrs. Trask just looked at me with the weirdest expression. Was I really that much of a disgrace to the illustrious name of Grease? I mean sure I might’ve almost burst into tears towards the end of the song but I didn’t completely butcher the script reading right?

6:55 p.m.

On the afterschool bus

If someone asks me what I do in my free time I’ll tell him or her I spend it in various modes of transport because literally that is all I ever do. I’ve been sitting here for an hour and a half and I’m still very far away from my house. And its not like the guy sitting next to me is any company. In fact I think he might be dead, because he was comatose when I got on the bus and he hasn’t moved since. Like literally, not a single movement. I should probably wake him up though. We’ve gotten to the Whitefield bus stops and I don’t want him here forever. I mean what if he starts to decompose or something. Dead bodies decompose don’t they?

I’ll try poking him.

6:57 p.m.

Still on the afterschool bus (but a little more scared for my life)

I tried poking him, but he just growled at me. Like I kid you not. He sort of snarled. Well at least I know he isn’t dead. But I mean I was just trying to be nice. And also I want my own seat. Well the only good thing about completely bombing my audition is that this is the last time I’m going to be on the afterschool bus. It’s terrible. Even worse than my actual bus, which isn’t exactly all butterflies and rainbows.

7:10 p.m.

Still on the afterschool bus (but I have my own seat now. Yay!)

So comatose boy just got up and walked off. Like does he have an inbuilt alarm or something? Because how do you do that. We stopped outside Palm Springs and he just opened his eyes, got up and left. I’m extremely envious of such people. Really. I take like ten minutes to wake up. That’s why I always get Tarun to wake me up at his stop. Because before that I used to routinely miss my stop and have to walk like a kilometer to get back home. And I am lazy. I don’t think anyone should move around unless they have to.

8:32 p.m.

Home (Finally!)

Feeling: Relieved

I’m actually very tired now. I mean I’ve never stayed back in school for two days consecutively. I want to die a little now. At least Gauri Didi gave me dinner, even if she did refuse to put any salt in the food. When I asked her why she said it was because I would get BP and glared at me. She doesn’t appreciate being questioned. I’m actually dying though. Well I guess its good that I’m not going to be in the dumb play then isn’t it. Because I’ll have to stay back everyday and then I’ll die everyday.

8:42 p.m.


Feeling: Nervous with a hint of sick

Things I should be doing right now

1. Doing my History project. It’s twenty percent of my grade this term.

2. Doing my Hindi homework.

3. Doing research so I can tell my parents all the nice places to see in Vietnam (where they are going without me).

4. Watching Grey’s Anatomy because the new episode is out today and that’s actually a fun thing to do.

Things I shouldn’t be doing now

1. Staring at the mail icon on the bottom of my screen that remains resolutely unchanged.

Things I am doing right now

1. Staring at the mail icon on the bottom of my screen that remains resolutely unchanged.

9:15 p.m.


Feeling: Mostly just sick

It’s still not here. Why is it still not here? I mean last night it came a whole nine minutes before this. Is Mrs. Trask trying to kill me? I think she must be trying to kill me. Its cruel and inhuman punishment. I could report her to the UN.


9: 35 p.m.


Feeling: Like I’m going to vomit up the ghee rice I ate for dinner

It’s here. Actually just sitting in my mailbox. It’s been here for a minute now but I still haven’t checked it. Because I know I’m going to see HB’s name next to Rizzo’s and then I’ll be so sad. Even though I didn’t even want to play Rizzo in the first place. I mean I was more than happy with Frenchy. So why do I feel like I’m going to cry right now?

Okay don’t be a chicken. Just open the damned thing.

9:37 p.m.


Feeling: Like I might cry a little

To: Drama group

Fr: Gemma Trask <>

Re: Cast List

Dear students,

Once again I’d like to thank you for the brilliant performances you all delivered today. Unfortunately I cannot give everyone the main parts though I would love to. It is going be such a pleasure working with you all. And congratulations my lovely cast. It’s going to be a wonderful ride.

Gemma Trask

Principal cast

John McCormack as Danny Zuko Jyoti Sangeet as Sandy Olsson Tara Chatterjee as Betty Rizzo Sanat Menon as Kenickie Siddarth Joseph as Doody Madhav Jagana as Sonny LaTierri Rohan Karthik as Roger "Putzie" Aliyah Sethi as Frenchy Hridya Khanna as Jan Varshini Gopinath as Marty Maraschino

School staff/others

Sowmya Singh as Principal McGee Kavya Biswas as Blanche Hodel Nadeem Khan as Coach Calhoun Arjun Jha as Eugene Felsnick Abhaya Gurbaxani as Patty Simcox Jai Kohli as Leo Balmudo Gita Menon as Charlene "Cha-Cha" DiGregorio Suman Soori as Vi Dhruv Thapar as Teen Angel Naveen Kumar as Vince Fontaine

9:43 p.m.


Feeing: Ecstatic doesn’t quite cover it

My neighbours are probably going to get tired of all the screaming. BUT I GOT IT. I GOT THE PART. AND STUPID HB DIDN’T EVEN MANAGE TO GET FRENCHY. SHE GOT THE PRINCIPAL HAHAHAHA.

I don’t quite know how I got it though. I mean I definitely screwed up my song. At least HB hit all her notes even if she did overact. I mean it is kind of exhausting seeing her act because she’s always super in your face. But anyway this is BRILLIANT. I’m underlining just for emphasis because that is how good this is. And okay so I was complaining about staying back but lets be honest I was just looking for the excuses if I didn’t get the part. BUT I DID! YES! I have to call Amira.

9:52 p.m.

Home (Skyping with Amira)


A: [Laughs.] That’s awesome.

Me: Now you have to come and be in the crew. Please please please.

A: We’ll see.

Me: I know that means no. Come on. Pleeaaase. It’ll be fun.

A: Alright, fine. But only because I need CAS hours. Not because you begged.


A: [Laughing loudly at my excitement.] Calm down.

Me: Oh and guess what? Sowmya didn’t even get Frenchy. She got the Principal. She got the lame-o principal. Victory is mine!

A: [Rather dryly.] Victory is yours?

Me: Victory is mine!

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