Neelu marched toward her school with a huge smile. Her dusky dimpled cheeks were filled with a reflection of happiness. It was quite unusual.
She hated school since the very first day. Not aday had passed without her feeling low while going to the temple of learning. Yes, a temple indeed. A temple where she sacrificed her happiness on the altar of the headmaster’s nagging. And an incomplete homework was like committing a unrepentable sin.
But that day, she felt as if her happy days in the school were about to start. Why not? Neelu was in the third standard now, she, because of constant scoldings, had got first rank in the class. She had a new bag, new shoes, new waterbottle and a new lunchbox, and she was a grown up girl now.
‘I will not talk to Sunita … she never shares her lunch with me.’ She murmured. She heard the school bell ringing as she entered the building.
‘ Neelu … Neelu ‘ it was Sunita’s voice.
‘I won’t pay heed’ Neelu thought.
‘ Neelu! There is a worm on your shirt’ Sunita yelled.
‘O my God, O my God!’ sayimg these words, Neelu ran toward the gate with all her force. The gate was stiil open. The guard tried to stop her, but her determination to run failed him.
She flung the bag near the gate, and kept on screaming while running.
‘What happened Neelu? Are you okay?’ Shocked Sushma aunty asked her.
‘Wo…Worm’ Nervous Neelu cried.
‘Where’ Aunty took Neelu’s shirt to check if there was really any worm on it. But Neelu continued running toward her home. Every villager present in the way followed her to her home.
At last she slipped inside the house. Ammu, who was sorting grains heard her scream and rushed toward her.
‘What happened?’- Ammu asked her nervously. Neelu kept on jumping and shouting.
Ammu took out a stick and angrily asked her again- ‘speak out’.
‘Wo… wo..worm on my shirt’ Neelu told as the tear drops rolled and rolled on her cheeks.
In the meanwhile, many people stormed into the house. One was carrying Neelu’s bag, and other her waterbottle. Sushma aunty came holding her school-shirt in one of her hands.
‘There was no worm on your shirt dear.’ Sushma aunty said with a smile.
‘No..there was..’ blushed Neelu said hesitantly.
The only voice heard was that of bursting laughter.