In June, the incubating heat shrouded Nazuk’s presence,  she tugged at the hem of her skirt as she sat on her chair in the poorly designed classroom of her posh South Delhi school for rich brats, where every third guy was either Raghav, Vipul or Karan, she wasn’t exactly spoilt for choice.

The air-conditioning had failed and the classroom was showing signs of ageing with the plastic paint cracking off the walls like broken eggshells, her fingers unconsciously traced the ironed pleats on her skirt,  like a catholic girl covering her mouth when laughing.

The tug was more out of anticipation intermingled with fear, she wore the shortest skirt to class, and after being severely reprimanded on more than one occasion, her defenses were on full alert, the 12th grade Rep was apparently on the rounds.

The Rep was a woman on the wrong side of thirties with a bad temper and a marked disdain for all girls considered attractive, they were a threat to her own waning beauty, she still had a body worthy of admiration, but her face had begun to show signs of ageing and weariness.

She felt a deep sadistic pleasure in pointing out how inordinately these girls were dressed to school, particularly how short their skirts were, the nitpicking also included the boys with ties too long and knots too big, much too phallic for her comfort, giving out stern warnings and threats clearly earned her month-end incentives.

Nazuk was amongst her favourites, as humiliating as it is to be singled out in the classroom for such a misdemeanor, there is also a secret delight in it, now that the ‘shortness’ of her skirt was highlighted it had grown an aura of its own, the boys from her class would boast about it to others, staking their claim on every pristine piece of flesh as boys usually do, she never forgot to grease her legs in the morning before school, the boys didn’t forget to acknowledge her in subtle ways, the sheen on them reflecting in their sparkling eyes.

She secretly enjoyed the attention conferred upon her, and she was strong and wise enough not to let this attention go wayward, but the exhibitionist in her would revel in this discreet pleasure of flaunting what she possessed as the other girls with hairy legs would enjoy seeing her being punished.

She had been drawn to Asher from early on, once when he was playing hand squash with the boys in the corridor during a free period, the tennis ball, through some quirk of fate had rolled into the girls toilet, according to the rules he had to go fetch it, the boys dared him.

His initial protest was doused by his deep curiosity and a rebellious streak which made him so popular in school, nothing was too difficult for him, so with his trademark grin and a cocky strut he made his move.

The ball had rolled into one of the loo cubicles with doors like short skirts, if you knelt down they would reveal too much on the inside and thats exactly what he did and before he realized, Nazuk was standing right up his nose with the door flung open, smiling at him. She brushed past him, walking up to the boys and asked them if they wanted to get their balls squashed, while Asher looked at her with his gape wide open.

In the Biology Lab, Nazuk was mysteriously drawn to the human fetuses preserved in glass vats of formaldehyde, like some ancient relics they decorated the Lab walls, drowned in their watery graves, to sleep; perchance to dream. There were 3 of them placed on a table, marked “12 weeks”, “18 weeks” and “24 weeks” respectively.

The lab had an air of visceral energy embalmed around it, like a living growing cyst, it made Nazuk edgy and nervous, as if she might get possessed by some alien force beyond her control, a deep desire to be touched and held against a strong muscular body ran through her spine leaving a trail of sweat across her forehead, she gulped and wiped it off with her sleeve.

The foetus marked “4 weeks” had cast a spell on her, she would spend minutes silently observing it,  after a quick sex determination test she decided to adopt him, inspite of the obvious practicalities involved, she even christened it Jove, just like she had named her laptop Chad and her cellphone Doofus, breathing life into inanimate objects made them worthy of love and showering them with attention was validated by some vague ovarian logic.

Jove’s skin was still smooth, unlike the others which were all shriveled up like botox cases gone wrong and sueing, his facial features were well formed and intact, almost of a healthy baby, his hands were suspended, pointing outwards, as if reaching out for help, his legs crossed, he was hunched up and his eyes were partly open, she gazed into them stupefied, wondering if he would ever blink.

How did they end up in specimen bottles and not perambulators?   The world reduces the horrible into the palatable, inside their glass cages, they looked so peaceful, deep in their eternal slumber, never having the need to wake up and go to school.

Obviously this morbid obsession didn’t go down too well with most of her classmates, but Nazuk wasn’t just any girl, she was aware of the quiet desperation in people to fit into sanctioned moulds, into predictable patterns of behaviour, the deep anxiety of being singled out was too much to handle for most, to be a person unto your own was a treacherous path to take,  regardless of the consequences.

“I have a surprise for you”, said Asher, startling her.
“You scared me, you idiot”, retorted Nazuk.
“Looks like this little baby has struck your fancy, let me know when you feel like making some of your own”, said Asher with a grin on his face.
“I’m considering artificial insemination, no thanks”, quipped Nazuk.

Asher gently brought his palm close to her and opened it with a quick jerk, revealing a bloody severed heart of a rat he had just dissected, he gently picked it up and placed it into Nazuk’s soft warm palms, as it continued to beat with a passionate thump.

“There, I offer you my beating heart, it’s all yours now”, said Asher.
“Then i shall return it earnestly to your safekeeping”, said Nazuk.
She smiled and slipped it into Asher’s shirt pocket.
“See ya after school, stay back okay? C-block,  3rd floor”, said Asher as Nazuk turned around and disappeared into the corridor.

Asher and Nazuk would stay back after school and lock themselves up in the classroom after the cleaners had left, sitting on the last bench they would exchange notes on the beauty of tenderness,  in the computer lab they sat together and feigned the knowledge of C#, the new department block under construction provided new opportunities to the young and restless, they were always on the lookout for new places, they were novelty seekers.

It was a warm summer morning, a girl had fainted during the assembly, the bell had rung marking the beginning of the first period, but something was amiss, the Lab assistant had noticed the absence of  the foetus marked “18 weeks”, poor Jove had gone missing, the glass vat with the formaldehyde was intact, it was quite impossible for Jove to evanescence into thin air and also quite improbable to remove him from the vat without breaking it since they are sealed and tamper proof. A strange lull had gathered over the Lab, before giving way to chaos and confusion.

Asher started to look around for Nazuk, while the teacher started taking attendance, Nazuk was also, absent, missing from her glass vat, so to speak.

Nazuk in her school uniform is  taking the Metro.
The sun is about to set, the sky is painted a bloody red.
She gets down and emerges into a nondescript part of the city.
She seems composed, almost aloof, yet curious of her surroundings.
Some people are staring at her, she seems out of place, some keep staring up at the hem of her skirt as they walk past her.
She is walking down a maze of streets, crisscrossing into one another, she seems to know where she is going, as if she has been here before.
She enters a dark shady opening of a cul-de-sac, a narrow passage rising in a gentle incline, which tapers down into a row of rooms with exposed bricks, painted a deep red, the paint spattered, as if slapped with clumsy furtive hands in a hurry.
She enters one of the rooms, through a soiled half closed unhinged door, and disappears.

Published on June 13, 2009 at 9:07 am  Leave a Comment  

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