7.30 AM. The usual horde of fitness enthusiasts were wrapping up. I was relaxing in my usual corner, taking in the stillness of the wintry morning, when…
“Hey, fatso, move it!” A shrill feminine voice ripped the air.
As if on cue, I heard the thump-thump of a pair of heavy feet, accompanied by erratic huffing. It was the new kid. She’d been coming here for a week now.
“Easy now, don’t hurtle into us! I don’t want to die crushed under a walking whale,” the sturdy boy mock-reproached, and the little gang burst out laughing.
The new kid, who plopped herself on the bench, joined in too.
Girls these days know how to take a joke on themselves. Pretty cool, huh?
“No wonder Samar left you Minal, he must have got tired of getting lost in the folds of your flab every time he hugged you,” one of the other girls quipped, amidst sniggers.
The kid didn’t smile.
“Come on, let her catch her breath,” the first girl announced, “We’ll run another round, and meet you here, alright fatso?” and they all left.
The kid wiped her sweat. I could see the teardrops concealed in it.
“Your friends?” I couldn’t help asking.
She turned back, startled at the question, but then smiled, “No. Classmates.”
Ah, wise girl.
“Trying to lose some weight, eh? Going for a post-break-up makeover?”
“Nah, just figured I could focus on myself for a while. Boost my health, look great, feel good…”
She began some stretching exercises.
“Why hang out with those rude peeps?”
“I don’t mind a few jokes. Been hearing these since I was eight, and I’m twenty now…”
“But you do. I saw you crying.”
“No I wasn’t.”
“There’s a thin line between fun and disrespect, Minal. You’ve got to give it back sometimes and that’s never uncool.”
“I don’t want to. Let them -”
“-bash you? Okay, fatso!”
“Arghhh… I’m crazy! I’m talking to an upside-down tree!”
“Mind your tongue. Don’t insult the Baobab, the wisdom-tree!” I was miffed, but she smirked, trying to do a ‘touch-your-toe’ in vain.
“Hey, don’t stress your bottoms. They might burst!” The gang was back.
Minal, still in the middle of her forward bend, hit back, “You know what Isha, your nose looks so small from down under, I’m amazed how you manage to breathe after all the poking it does in others’ business.”
She continued, “Imma buy you all tickets for a comedy show. You guys must be bored, harping on the same old jokes about me. In fact,” she straightened herself, “I’m pretty bored with the stale crap myself. So, call me when you learn new ones. Until then, bye-bye!”
She left. Her classmates stood dumbfounded for a while, before dispersing with a general query of “Why did she flip?”
But I laughed so hard that my boughs shook.
Sometimes, you just need to flip… see things upside-down, to learn what it is to live with your head held right side up.
Author’s note: The baobab tree is often called the upside-down tree due to it’s branches looking like roots sticking up in the air. These trees, that live up to a 1000 years, are an African species, although a handful can also be found in India in its old Portuguese colonies. There are a lot of ancient myths surrounding this tree, one of which is about old African kings consulting with the tree-spirits for decision making, which garnered it the name of ‘wisdom-tree.’
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