Every school had that one student. The scary senior, the school monitor, the ruthless ‘complaint-box’, the bully with a badge. The other students lived in the terror of this student and no matter how many achievements he brought for the school, this student is the scion of the antichrist.
When we were in class 9, this antichrist was Raina baa. She was a year older than us and light years scarier. The ‘ideal’ student on paper; Raina baa was top of the class, captain of the sports teams and also the President of the Students’ Discipline Committee, an overachiever and adored by teachers. Needless to say, we hated her.
When she walked she never looked sideways and had a brisk, straight-backed gait. The rare smiles she cracked were directed toward the occasional teacher who praised her on Olympian levels. Raina baa never talked to us juniors and even didn’t talk to many of her classmates, for that matter. She was short and plain but, school legend has it that Raina baa’s infamous glare had made a group of class XII boys stop talking when she was a class VI student!
Her titanium tongue had made her the owner of many debating trophies but, it had made her hugely unpopular with the rest of the students. With impeccable grammar, a calm but gravelly deep voice, and some English words that we understood as much as Czechoslovakian, when Raina baa scolded us, we started hoping that the ground would split open and swallow us. She detested the juniors and her dislike was reciprocated equally in the hatred we had for her. Regardless of her good aspects, to us, she was fierce, scary and hateful. This had earned her the nickname ‘dhumuha’ ; the storm.
We lived in constant terror of her and were too proud to show it. We, class 9 boys were at least a foot taller than her. But, whenever she walked we parted like the Yamuna before Vasudeva. Raina baa patrolled the corridors every morning and barked at anyone responsible for disturbances till they cried. That is why, one morning when we found a class 1 student sitting and crying on our corridor we were nothing short of electrocuted.
We had just returned from our morning assembly when we found the tiny girl bawling her eyes out. With our limited knowledge on calming children, we three boys knelt next to the child and started saying ‘shhhh…’ on loop. My friend, Ajey asked her what was wrong in a ridiculous baby-voice that made me almost chuckle. Her high pitched falsetto and incomprehensible sobbing made her answer almost unfathomable. “Bad ground!!”, she screeched “Naina fall on ground.., ground hurt Naina! Call Police for bad ground!”And launched into another volley of tears and shrieks.
Ajey and I looked at each other and saw our bewilderment mirrored in the other’s face. Raina baa would be on her rounds soon. She raised hell when there was a chocolate wrapper on the ground. Surely, a sobbing child will be much worse and somehow she’ll figure out a way to hold us three responsible. We tried to calm the dramatic Naina but, our soothing seemed to oil her vocal cords. Suddenly, Ajey started tugging on my sleeve and started whispering “Dhumuha aahise, dhumuha aahise!” I turned and saw the approaching storm make a beeline towards the crying child.
The three of us stood as if doused in freezing water as Raina baa picked up the child and completely ignored us. She started whispering to Naina in such a soft voice that Ajey actually gasped. I elbowed him in his stomach and watched in astonishment as the crying child started calming down in the arms of the scariest student in the school. Before ten minutes, Raina baa was mock-hitting the ground to the child’s amusement. The three of us were rooted to the spot. “I hit the bad ground, baba, it will not disturb you again” Raina baa whispered to the child in her arms “Go to your class now.” And the child ran off.
Raina baa looked at the retreating figure for a few seconds then, she looked at us and lashed out in her usual petrifying manner, “Well, don’t you idiots have to get to class? Move!”, and walked away. The first bell rang and I was left wondering how many layers the storm had.