All their friends later claimed that they had seen the Incident coming, but then whenever something unusual happens there are enough people to claim that they’ve known all about it. In case you are wondering what Incident I am referring to, it occurred in one of the “poshest” schools of Delhi, which we will call G. I. S (Generic International School) and notably, did not involve a secret camera and activities that may not be mentioned with propriety on a family blog. (G.I.S was a value-based school, thankyouverymuch). No national newspapers covered the scandal either. But from that moment Ritika’s reputation for oddness spread through the school faster than the common cold in a crowded classroom.
Ritika Ghosh and Saikat Majumdar hated each other almost from the first day of Standard Five. They would hardly have spoken to each other except for the Bhaskaracharya Mathematical Trophy, which the school had been winning for the last seven years. At the tender age of ten and a half, such things are seen with a sterner and more serious eye than adults realize. The school authorities may have thought it cute to have Mrs Verma take extra maths classes for a select few students during , but for Saikat, Ritika and the chosen others, it was as deadly serious as being trained for a war.
Especially Ritika and Saikat. These two behaved as though they were opposing sides in a Corsican vendetta, bound by honour to score higher than the other in every Practice Test, and if that did not happen, to ignore the other’s presence pointedly. Ritika was better at this than Saikat, who seemed to delight in calling her Miss Four-Eyes (regardless of the fact that he wore considerably thick glasses himself). One heedless joker dared tell Ritika that she clearly had a “crush” on S. The result was that the said joker was firmly cast out of existence itself, as far as she was considered.
The fortunes of war went this way and that as the Bhaskaracharya test came closer. Sometimes Saikat would score higher than Ritika on the Practice Tests, owing to the latter’s carelessness in Ratios and Proportions; another day Ritika, with her superior appreciation of Properties of Triangles and her shameless memorization of all the geometry formulae (shameless because True Maths Students, like True Engineers who are but their older versions, memorize nothing and derive even the Pythagoras Theorem on the spot), would come out of the exam room smirking.
When the great day came Ritika realized she was suffering from a mild confusion of objectives. She wasn’t clear whether she wanted to get the highest marks in the exam or just score higher than Saikat. She had enough set theory to determine that the former was a superset of the latter but she honestly wondered if anything could beat the joy of gloating over her rival’s discomfiture. As you have probably realized by now, she was not exactly made of sugar and spice and all that is nice.
The results arrived two months later, by which time ten students of Generic International School had suffered the agonies of Limbo. Their joy in Paper Crafts, Art and Clay Modelling was completely dulled by the waiting. (They had stopped attending Maths class, of course, having mastered all of the current syllabus and part of next year’s as well).
To Ritika’s pleasure, she had obtained the highest marks in the exam. She would thus be the proud recipient of the rather misleadingly named Silver Medal. This was to be presented by The Bhaskaracharya School Mathematics Association in a suitable ceremony. Since the school contingent had also won the Overall Trophy, all ten, plus the teacher, got into a rickety minivan and arrived at the festive scene.
When the boring speeches and ceremonies were over, and everyone had crowded into a large air-conditioned room for snacks, Ritika went in search of Saikat Majumdar. She was in a good mood and wanted only his dejected face to complete her victory.
But there he stood, grinning from ear-to-ear, as if *he* had won the Silver Medal in her place.
“Well, Miss Muggu,” he laughed. “Happy, finally?”
This was not to be borne. The next few seconds were a confused blur for Ritika but eyewitness accounts state that she seemed to swing her arm around in a great arc and bring down the entire contents of a well-filled glass of Mirinda onto her enemy’s best white school uniform. Everyone gasped.
Physical movement has been observed to have a great positive effect on the clarity of one’s mind. Before Saikat could recover our violent criminal had prepared and rehearsed an appropriate apology speech. Faced by her repeated insistence that she had merely slipped on the carpeting the teacher – and even a furious Saikat – had to drop the case.
Even after twenty years, their school friends still say they saw it coming, inspite of Mrs Ritika Ghosh –Majumdar’s efforts to convince them otherwise…