Anu’s new school was much smaller than the previous one.
“That’s nice”, she remarked to herself. “I’m sure I shall be able to have my own way here, without stupid rules to mess me around”. It was the lunch break. Pupils had been told to eat their tiffin in the playground, and not in the empty classrooms which were swept and cleaned in the interval. But Anu decided she’d much rather sit in the just-cleaned classroom and eat her lunch while she read a comic, rather than be outside, with all the other noisy girls. So she slipped into the room and was busy reading and munching pop-corn, scattering it on the floor as she ate, when a loud voice boomed “What are you doing here girl? Haven’t you been told not to eat your tiffin indoors?”
Anu looked up to see a large fierce looking lady with muscular arms, a frightening beak-like nose, and piercing eyes that looked even more frightening than the nose, as they stared down at her through steel rimmed spectacles.
“Wow!” thought Anu “This must be the headmistress. My last one used to be scary, but this one makes her look like a fairy godmother by comparison.
“Now get up little girl and pick up every single bit of that pop-corn you’ve dropped, or else I shall take you to the headmistress.”
“Oh, who are you?” demanded Anu, surprised, and rather relieved, that the fierce looking one was not, after all, the headmistress.
“I’m Malti the cleaning woman”, she replied “and I have cleaned this classroom only minutes ago”
“Well Malti”, responded Anu, “I’ve done a lot of geography in class, and I’m tired. So I’m not going to pick up the pop-corn.”
“Then come with me to Miss Lobo”, said Malti sternly. Not scared any more, Anu allowed herself to be led to the headmistress.
Miss Lobo turned out to be charming, young, and with gentle, delicate features. She smiled at Anu, and got a cheeky grin in return.
“I’ll have her in my pocket in no time”, thought Anu confidently. Malti explained the situation and ended by telling Miss Lobo that Anu claimed she was so tired after Geography, that she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, pick up the pop-corn.
“Yes, geography can be both tiresome and tiring, if one doesn’t pay attention”, said Miss Lobo with apparent sympathy. “Never mind, if you don’t wish to pick up the pop-corn, you needn’t”. Anu beamed.
“Instead, do an hour’s detention after school, as punishment”. Anu frowned darkly.
“Why?” she demanded.
“Because you disobeyed rules and now you have to face the consequences.
“No way!” muttered Anu, under her breath. She was looking forward to a game of cricket with her three brothers who didn’t really like playing with her because she made up her own rules and changed them as it suited her. But she usually had her way by throwing tantrums before her mother, who then coaxed the boys into agreeing, so that Anu would stop pestering her. Detention would delay her going home, and then she’d miss playing cricket.
“I can’t stay back in school”, said Anu piously. “My parents would be worried”.
“How considerate of you”, said Miss Lobo. “Don’t worry dear, I’ll phone your mother and explain”. Anu’s eyes opened wide in alarm.
“No, no, Mummy will be out”, she lied.
“Well then, I can always phone your father at the office”. Anu turned pale. There was a long pause. Then she said
“I’ll pick up the pop-corn”.
“I think that’s a very good idea”, agreed Miss Lobo, with her charming smile. “Malti, please see that she cleans up the classroom properly”.
Looking considerably less fierce now, Malti gave an impish smile in return, and winked as she marched out of the room with Anu.
That night, Anu drew two pictures in her scrap book. She was good at drawing. However, she drew people, not simply as they appeared on the outside, but what they represented in her imagination and as they made her feel towards them. One picture was of a ferocious looking bulldog, wagging its tail in the friendliest manner. Underneath she wrote “Malti”. The other, was of a beautiful, angelic, other-worldly being, complete with halo and, holding in her hand, a big threatening stick. No prize for guessing who that was meant to be.
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