Revathy sat outside her hut, staring ruefully at the murky clouds that synchronized with her sombre mood.
“Hey, Revu. How was your first day at school?” Hari, Revathy’s neighbour parked his bicycle and sat next to her.
“Horrible!” She said tearfully. “I shouldn’t have listened to you and amma.
“Why? What happened?”
“I wasn’t welcome there. The students made fun of me. They drew my cartoon on the blackboard holding a fish. They rebuked me saying I stank of fish. Isn’t it obvious I will? After all, I belong to a family that’s been selling fish for generations.”
“Is that all?”
“Isn’t that bad enough?” Revathy gaped at him.
“It’s natural, Revu. I mean we do tease newbies. It’s called ragging, and it’s done for pure fun.”
“I didn’t know my best friend was an insensitive fool,” Revathy admonished. “You have fun at someone else’s expense? Do you even know what goes through us?”
“I’m sorry, Revu. I never thought about that before. I promise not to trouble anyone in future,” Hari pulled his ears. “But please don’t stop going to school.”
“But, Hari… they are mean…”
“Didn’t you promise me that if I stop playing marbles with the roadside guys, you’ll start going to school? See, I’ve reformed. But if you go back on your word, then…”
“Stop blackmailing me,” she hit his head. “Your milk teeth hasn’t fallen fully, and you’re ordering me!”
“Revu…” Her amma called from the kitchen. “Come inside and study something.”
“Coming, amma,” she pouted and stood up, as Hari giggled.
“Amma, do I have to go to school? I’ve been selling fish with you since I was a year old. Can’t I continue doing so?” Revathy tried convincing her mother.
“I wished to study when I was young. But I was married at the age of fifteen, and you were born 10 months later. I wanted you to study at least, but after your achan’s* death, I couldn’t afford to send you to school,” Amma said melancholically. “Now that we are doing well by God’s grace, I think you should study. It’s never too late, dear.”
“But math is so difficult, amma. Someone has hundred apples and fifty chocolates! Who eats that much?” Revathy scratched her head.
“What’s so difficult? Instead of apples and chocolates, think of pomfrets and sardines. You’ll be able to solve,” Amma chuckled.
“What’s the joke brewing here?” Hari came with his grandmother, Girija. “See what ammamma* made for you, Revu.”
“Kappa and meen curry*!” Revathy drooled.
“Didn’t I promise to cook your favourite dish once you begin schooling?” Girija fed her dear friend a morsel.
“Revu, no second thoughts on going to school, right?” Hari asked.
“Mannerless boy!” Girija berated Hari. “Calling someone your grandma’s age by her name?”
“She’s my best friend, ammamma,” Hari hugged Revathy. “And I’m so proud that she’s learning at this age.”
“With all your love and support, this newbie is not going to quit,” Revathy winked, beaming cheerfully.
Achan: Father in Malayalam
Kappa and meen curry: Boiled tapioca and fish curry, a favourite food of Malayalis across the world.
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