I was a first grader when I suffered the ignominy of being selected for a waltz as part of our annual school function. I was paired with Harwinder, a punjabi girl who eventually went on to complete schooling with me. She would be good in sports...and like all sportswomen, carried herself in a tomboyish way. Nilanjana and Sanjeev (both from another section) formed the other pair. Nilanjana, like me, was a bengali and so too was Sanjeev, who was the bully type.
There was a shortage of space in our school and that finally lead to our library floor becoming our makeshift dancefloor. How convenient...since I would raid the bookshelves during the many rehearsal breaks and read as many Tintin titles as possible. I wasn't fond of the dancing, though. It was way to girlie and I wanted a more macho role. Hard luck! We had no say and were made to suffer under the constant glare and choreography of our teachers. However, I harboured the secret wish of being paired with Nilanjana! She was pretty even then and I dearly wanted to impress her with everything I did!
The heavens smiled on me. Harwinder and I were the first pair to be choreographed. Nilanjana and Sanjeev were later asked to shadow us. I learnt my steps flawlessly, all for the sake of my girl! I was shy by nature and in spite of numerous initiatives never managed to break the ice. That wasn't the only thing that vexed me. Like me, most of the guys in our class would look down upon dancing as a delicate thing suitable only for the fainthearted. Being paired with a girl added insult to injury. I silently suffered the constant jeers of my classmates during the rehearsal days.
The big day came and I realized to my horror that I would have to apply make-up, just like the girls. Was there any end to this torture? My cheeks were blushed pink and my lips painted red! How revolting! I must have looked like a cheap sex toy that would instantly appeal to the warped senses of many a pedophile!
Being only a child, I quickly forgot my misery when I saw Nilanjana after she too underwent the cosmetic treatment. She looked more stunning than ever! We made friends that day and played to our hearts content until we were panting like pigs! All this even before we had danced on stage for the parents. Anyway, we managed to come up with a perfect performance on stage, even though I could feel my heart furiously pumping blood through my veins. The intense glare of the multicolored lights nearly blinded me and I couldn't see the audience at all. Good for me! I don't remember whether I pursued Nilanjana with my playful gestures after the dance.
Travel five years hence. Nilanjana is my classmate for the very first time! She looked as pretty as ever. And I remained as shy as ever! We behaved like perfect strangers. An entire academic year went by and we never spoke to each other, though we would sometimes laugh at the pranks our friends played on each other. Nilanjana left school after the 6th grade. I wonder what's become of her.