Chapter Eighteen: James

It was Monday and the three of them sat in class, anticipating their first lesson in psychology. Their teacher entered, a young man in his thirties. He wore a jean and a black tee shirt with matching shoes. He stood there, seemingly unsure how to proceed. All the students stared at back him, not only because he was handsome, but also because he appeared relaxed and informal. ‘The school teachers would never approve of this,’ Praveena thought.

Suddenly, she realized she had more freedom than she had ever had in her life. The only rules that bound her were of the college, which anyone would approve of breaking. She was no more under the protection of her school. She was now responsible for herself. One foot out of the line and people would blame her and her alone. She had no uniform to blend into or to categorize her into a group; she was an individual in every aspect. ‘I’m going to enjoy this,’ she thought gleefully.

“Hello, everyone. I’m James. I’ll be your practical psychology teacher.” He paused, “Lecturer sounds too formal doesn’t it?” There was some nervous laughter around the class. From the girls in particular, Praveena noticed. Niveda stared at the wall behind James with a glassy look. She eyes looked puffy and bloodshot. Anil raised his eyebrows at James in a disapproving look. Praveena smiled to herself.

“You jealous of him?” She whispered to Anil.

Anil turned to glare at her, annoyed.

“That girl in the last bench seems to want to introduce herself to us.” James suddenly called out and Praveena realized with dread that they were in the last bench. She turned to look at Niveda, and felt her face redden as James went on, “not the insomniac girl, she seems tired. You’re the one who seemed excited.” He spoke directly to Praveena, as she turned to face him. She stood. “I’m sorry,” she said in a quiet voice. And then she realized Anil was almost shaking with suppressed laughter.

“Don’t be,” James said briskly waving a hand. He started walking towards the end of the class; towards her. “won’t you tell us your name?” he asked tilting his head, eyebrows raised. ‘He’s got beautiful eyes’ her inner voice observed as Praveena looked into them. “Er – I’m Praveena.”

“Nice to meet you, Praveena” he pleasantly said and turned to the class. “Ok, now lets’ get to know every one else, shall we? What are you called?” he gestured towards the boy in the first row. “You can take your seat, Praveena” he added amused, without turning around.

She did and stared hard at Anil who tried to look like he hadn’t done anything. “Very observant, isn’t he?” Niveda suddenly spoke up quietly from Praveena’s right side. Praveena and Anil turned to her in surprise.

“Where were you?” Parvenu asked her incredulously.

“Yeah, I thought you were day dreaming?” Anil added.

“I was, until he called me insomniac,” she said turning back to stare at the wall. Praveena gave her an incredulous look and shook her head.

The introductions went on for another fifteen minutes. It was a huge class of seventy students and James did a great job of keeping them on track.

“Alright, now” he clapped his hands as the last person—Julia—had introduced herself, “let’s begin. I want you all to follow me into the gallery and once there, I want you all to write down something for me. You take your places, observe the room and write whatever comes to your mind — about the room though. It could be anything on the walls or the colors, the size of the objects in it, or about whatever is in the room — anything off the top of your head.” And with that, he left, the class following him chattering like a group of half-trained parrots. He led them to a larger room, painted white. It was empty except for about a hundred individual desks laden with a notebook and a sharpened pencil. As everyone filled in noisily, James spoke making his voice heard over the din. “Now, remember, you can write down anything from the depths of your mind. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a well constructed essay, it could even be abstract thoughts. It just has to come from the heart.” With that, he took the desk on the farthest corner of the class and began writing on the notepad on it. A wave of quiet whispers rang out until James called out from behind, “silence please, concentrate on your notebooks only.”

For some reason, everyone listened to him. He made even orders sound like requests, and it was not only because he used ‘please,’—he sounded sincere. Praveena was all set to write when she paused, the pencil tip hovering over the paper. What would she write about? On her right Niveda had already started and was fully concentrating on her essay. Anil too had started writing. Praveena looked around—something deep, something about the room, something about people and orders. She thought of the instructions James had just given out and how everyone followed without protest. Smiling slightly, she bend down on her paper and began writing.

An hour later, the bell rang out signaling the end of their lesson. James called out, “Pass me your notebooks everyone. Make sure you name yours first. Thanks for being great students. I’ll see you all tomorrow.”

The class dispersed.

It was recess. They came out to the ground within the campus. A layer of dry grass covered the area and, here and there stood a variety of trees. ‘This is beautiful,’ Praveena thought. ‘except for the litter, and that odd stench,’ her inner voice contributed. Praveena led the other two over to a Neem tree that stood away from the crowd thronging the place. They had a thirty-minute break and decided to spend it chatting.

Niveda and Anil were engaged in a conversation, and Praveena, not wanting to get involved, looked around. Saw a group of girls ahead, poring over a mobile phone and laughing.

There was another group comprising mostly of seniors. She heard snatches of their conversation, and realized the target of their amusement was a younger boy who stood in the middle, cowering from their abuse. Another boy came to his rescue, but was also rudely laughed upon.

Praveena took this all in, wondering how different college life was from everything had seen and known all her life. Turning to the other side, she saw a couple sitting on the grass with the girl resting her head on the boy’s shoulder. They held hands.

Looking away she saw more couples and more huddled groups. She then turned to Anil and Niveda. Looking at them talking, she realized she had never before had such a deep conversation with a classmate. She now regretted it. Perhaps she should have been a bit friendlier at school.

People here were so sociable that it surprised her. Even as she watched, two boys shared a smoke. ‘Wait.’ Her inner voice shouted, ‘smoking? Within the campus?’ she watched in shock as a teacher approached the boys, apparently seniors, and reproached them. She watched, as they replied harshly, warding off the teacher.

Praveena widened her eyes; maybe people weren’t so good after all.

‘Hell yes.’


National Blog Posting Month – Day 20

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