The following are two excerpts from the book A Half-Baked Love Story. (Buy A Half-Baked Love Story at the best price here.)
2 July 2008. It was the first day at my new school. I had scored ‘pretty average’ marks in my secondary school exams. Well, 88.7 per cent was considered a ‘pretty average’ score in my family. But I had to change my school as my father wanted me to study in a reputed institution. So I was dragged away from my friends. That day, I felt like a primary school kid, unwillingly sent to an alien place.
I had reached school in time so as to make a good impression on the teachers on my first day. I was missing my previous school and friends terribly. To make matters worse for me, I had taken up the sciences. Everything was making me anxious. I felt an urge to run away. I wasn’t really sociable, so I couldn’t gather the courage to introduce myself and make friends with the people around me. What if they say, ‘No, we can’t be friends with you’? I felt they should have been courteous enough to help me feel comfortable on my first day.
Friends hugged each other as they were meeting after the long summer break. But I had no one to talk to. This made me paranoid. 8.00 a.m. An announcement boomed through the halls. Everyone started leaving their classrooms with diaries in their hands.
‘Hey, you don’t look concerned at all about the assembly, eh?’ a chirpy voice asked.
It was Rahul, a tall, dark and handsome Jat boy, as tall as a Lakers’ basketball player.
‘No, actually I don’t have a diary with me. I am a newcomer,’ I mumbled. ‘By the way, I am Aarav,’ I added with a smile, offering my hand to him.
‘Hi, I am Rahul, the prefect of eighth standard,’ he said with some pride.
We both left hurriedly for the assembly hall. The ‘prefect’ had disappeared among the thick maze of students. I remembered my father’s clichéd advice: ‘Beta, dost-vost sab sath chhor dete hai musibat ke samay.’ My head was filled with such thoughts as I looked around me to find a place to stand. Finally, I recognized a few faces from my class and stood in a file behind them.
The morning prayers commenced, followed by a welcome speech by the principal. I looked up at the sky—dark grey clouds were bursting at the seams and it seemed like they would start crying any time to sympathize with me. Meanwhile, our class prefect started inspecting our uniforms. I looked around for Rahul, but couldn’t spot him anywhere despite him being taller than anyone else in the hall. My father’s words were ringing in my head, again.
Just then, I heard the voice of a girl carrying out the inspection of our row of students. She started getting students out from the queue due to faults like long nails, dirty shoes, missing school belt, wrong tie, no diary . . . Her voice was as soothing as that of a nightingale. The moment she came to me, I turned my head to look her straight in the eyes. She was almost four inches shorter than me, so I had to look down into her eyes. A tremor rushed through my body. Those twinkling eyes were trying to ask something, but I had no answers to give.
I was left gaping at her, struggling to find my breath.
She was a rare beauty. She was not too fair, nor did she have long hair. A frame of thick-black spectacles covered her beautiful brown eyes. She had tied her hair into a ponytail. She had a small nose, red lips, and a mole above her upper lip like Cindy Crawford.
We both stood looking at each other. I could not move, my body was almost paralysed. This was the first time my
heart skipped a beat on seeing a girl. Maybe it was because I was standing so close to a girl after such a long time.
The last time I had come so close to a girl was in the sixth standard. We had both tried to kiss for the first time, but it had ended disastrously. She told me she’d get pregnant if we kissed for more than five seconds. Pre puberty days are the silliest, yet the most beautiful days of one’s life.
She looked at me—from my hair to my shoes—keenly.
Was I looking handsome?
Was she impressed?
I wouldn’t dare open my mouth, in case I had bad breath.
It was my tendency to get sweaty every time I faced a tense situation. My body froze whenever someone looked straight into my eyes and questioned me. She was doing the same thing. A badge pinned to her right pocket gave
away her name and designation—Anamika Roy: Prefect, XI standard. I read ‘Prefect’ as ‘Perfect’.
‘Where is your diary?’, she asked, inspecting me again from top to bottom. ‘Show me your hands,’ she inquired in her saccharine-sweet voice as she looked at my nails.
‘Umm . . . err . . . actually . . .’ Being the shy person I was, I was struggling for words.
‘Oh! So you’re not carrying your diary, is it?’ she asked, as if she was going to give me third-degree torture for
such a minor error. It was a big school with thousands of students. I didn’t expect her to recognize that I was a new student.
She held my hand and took me out of the queue to present me in front of the teacher in charge of discipline.
As soon as she grasped my hand, I felt something magical, something out of the ordinary.
“Hi sweetheart”, I said and smiled as I finally got Anamika by my side.She gave me a what-did-you-just-say look.I stepped forward towards her, and then I just know that I saw the ground next.“Where are you Anamika, please come back, I want to say something”
“Hey Aarav, are you alright? Get up, I am here only”, she expressed deep concern. How caring she was!
“Hey Anamika, I am so glad to see you again and yeah, Nothing like that, I am fine”, I said and chuckled.“Aarav, are you drunk?” she asked in a raised tone, looking away.“Shh! All this is for you”. I looked straight into her shining brown eyes now. Everything went silent.“What is happening here? Will someone bother to explain me?” she panicked.I managed to stand up straight on my own. I bent forward to take her hand into mine and sat on my knees. Karan hooted and laughed. His voice echoed and disturbed me. I took out the first thing that came into my hand from my pocket and threw it at Karan. It hit Rahul I guess but my aim was achieved. Silence spread all over.I got back to Anamika. Her soft hands were cold, yet sweaty. She was shivering or perhaps I was swinging a bit too much.
I began.“I still remember the day I first saw you. The very moment I saw you, you made my heart insane. I never had guts to talk to you, never had the confidence to say ‘hi’. I don’t know what you do to me, I can’t explain how you make me feel. “I crawled towards her, and held her hand between both my hands and gently rubbed it. She seemed to have frozen, no response, good for me.I breathed and continued. “Anamika, you are the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love you ….”I waited for her to respond. She didn’t even blink once. I felt more dizzy with every passing moment. I waited for her to say something. But darkness replaced her beautiful face. I just felt I was floating in the air.
This excerpt from A Half-Baked Love Story by Anurag Garg and Gunjan Narang is reprinted by permission of Penguin India. Connect with Anurag Garg on Facebook. Find the best price for A Half-Baked Love Story here.