Preparations were going on in full swing. Not a single student was idle and everyone was occupied with various tasks. The moment class wise pookkalam competition was announced in connection with Onam, they had unanimously elected Athira as their leader. She was a natural leader who knew whom to assign what task, her patience and dedication were something that needed to be extolled. Sometimes, when all the students had left the classroom, she could be seen wiping the blackboard with a wet rag and making sure they were raven black for monday morning and leaving no reason for the teachers to complain.
Days before the competition, she diligently got all the students to stay back after classes and they discussed the patterns they would make and the quantity and colours of flowers they would need. Money was collected and a few boys were given the task of going to the flower market and bringing fresh flowers early in the morning. Riya was given the task of drawing the pattern on the floor with a chalk and various others were given other duties like separating the petals from the flowers, arranging the classroom furniture and decorating the classroom. Nobody grumbled or even mentioned that they were being burdened, the whole class had a single mission – to win the competition.
She looked nervous, it was clear that the class was depending on her execution skills and Athira did not want to fail her friends. And then there was Mithun from the other divisioin. He had taunted her in front of all his classmates that her class, the B division would lose this competition.
Now dressed neatly in traditional Kerala attire, her friends looked so engrossed in their tasks, the concentration on their faces admirable. Everything was falling into place – the classroom looked neat and festive, the floral pattern on the floor was nearing perfection and the general air in the room was one of warmth.
How she wished every day was like this..without people fighting for the back bench, without her friends sitting gloomy because they had not done their homework and without having to spend all her time in school with her nose buried deep in the textbooks.
The doors of the class were closed for a reason, to keep prying eyes from stealing their design and ideas, still there were nosy people who came knocking on some pretext or the other. “There it is again. Another series of raps on the door.” Athira grumbled as she walked over to open the door.
There he was, that idiotic Mithun from C division, a wide grin plastered across his face.
He gestured for her to come out, which she promptly did, so that he would not walk into our class and copy all the hardwork we did. He continued to smile at her and told her, “You look really pretty today.”
I don’t know what happened after that, I could no longer stand witness to such a scene. The bright yellow flower in my hand drooped as I turned around and walked away.
Taking this opportunity to wish every one of you a Very Happy Onam :)