Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Front row blues

I always wanted to be a backbencher.
It is the only thing I ever really wanted when I was in school. Sadly, I never made it.

Okay, here are the gory details—I have a rather short mother and a rather tall father. I inherited the wrong genes—so I ended up with the wrong nose and the wrong height, and spent most of my school years sitting in the first row.

Yes, I was in one of those schools where you 'sit according to your height.' And life always seemed to happen behind my back. All those ample bosomed, long-legged girls in my class seemed to inhabit an ecosystem that thrived on sleaze, sleath, voyeurism, boy-talk, pranks, defiance and all things exciting and wonderful.

I so wanted to belong there, to be part of their plots and schemes, to be the bad girl, to be the one that had the audacity to tell the teacher that she hadn't done her homework.

In contrast, I was the one who 'paid attention in class' and knew all the answers and always turned in my homework on time, my notebooks remained as meticulous as ever, my uniform was always ironed, and my compass box always had everything in it.

So all my life's ambitions paled into the background, while I, completely by default made it to the nerd rank—something that took me years and some serious messed-up-ness to wash off.

Every year in June, when we entered a new class and places were allotted, I would breathe deeply and hope to stretch a few inches, so that I could at least get promoted to the second row. But that never happened. Because at age 11, I realized that I had stopped growing vertically. So there I was—relegated to front bencher status year after year.

Even in the annual class photograph, when I thought I could creep into the back and blend, the teacher would pull me out, and say something derogatory like 'the small ones can sit in front, please!"

I desperately wanted out of the first bench stigma, and as long as I was in school, I didn’t see a way out. So it was no surprise why college felt very democratic and liberating, chiefly because one could sit where one wanted, and no prizes for guessing which was my favourite spot.

Suddenly, the world began to look like a different place, and I felt I had shed my front-bencher baggage.
I felt further rehabilitated when once, I walked out on an exam paper, because I had no clue on the questions asked. The proverbial bad boy hanging outside said, "I like that. You are a cool chick." I hated admitting to him that it was the first time I ever did anything cool.

But it is kind of different now. I am still all of 5" 1, but I can fill a room. And I don't have to be a bad girl to do that. I finally know that small is beautiful. I am at peace with my size. Or the lack of it.

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