When I was young, I knew someone in school, a very plump, tanned girl in the eighth grade, with thick glasses and oily braids. She was quite a bookworm and kept to herself – even during lunchtime. She was a good student, excelling in English, Biology and Art. Her library reading was, however, considered ‘quaint’ by her classmates as she read autobiographies, classics, historical fiction, travelogues, and Greek, Roman, and Nordic mythology, while her peers reveled in pop adult romances and murder mysteries.
Our ‘strange’ friend would play on the swings in the junior section of the school, while her classmates would discuss ‘important’ teenage issues such as passing on love notes to boys in the neighborhood.
Once, set off-balance by her own weight, she even toppled over from a swing, in full view of the junior section girls. The embarrassing sight was followed by shrieks of laughter from the younger girls. Our plump pal’s jovial nature, however, saved the day as she brightly got up and dusted herself, as if nothing had happened!
On another occasion after lunchtime in class, when she got up to answer a question, the hook of her skirt came undone with a loud ‘pop’, (the victim of a heavy lunch, I suspect) much to the mirth and amazement of the other girls. Our English teacher had not named her ‘Calamity Jane’ for nothing!
Our ‘Calamity Jane’ once volunteered for the role of one of the lead characters in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. This was to be staged in an inter-school competition. She was, however, given the part of Launcelot Gobbo, the main comedian in the play. She did not feel bad about the role she had been given and practised well for the big day! On the day of the competition, she played her part so well, that the audience was in splits whenever she came onstage. Her group came first in the competition and she got the prize for best actor.
Our natural comedian was also the pride of her school in quiz and spelling competitions. Also, she was a good singer and during a ‘free period’ she merrily obliged us by singing old Geeta Dutt songs.
Many years later, I happened to bump into the same girl, who had now transformed into an attractive young woman, with her son in tow. She was now a journalist with a reputed national daily. She looked as happy with herself as she had looked during school days when everyone would tease her and laugh at her expense.
I couldn’t help admiring her and secretly thinking that a positive attitude towards life, being happy with whoever you are, and not taking things too seriously, makes you grow into a wonderful, successful person.