Indrani was the fattest girl in our class and everyone teased her. Indrani had not many friends, no girl in the class was willing to sit next to her, most girls used to avoid her. She was teased for her looks, obesity and dark skin. Indrani used to cry on most days due to constant bullying by peers.
Indrani lost her father when she was barely 6 years old. Her mother was a beautiful young woman who unlike the accepted norm in our Indian society did not stop living after becoming a widow. She used to not wear a white saree as expected but come dressed in fine colourful silk sarees. She even used to put lipstick, makeup and wear a red bindi. I must admit she looked prettier than the other mothers who used to come to drop kids. Indrani used to get bullied by her classmates for her mother’s lifestyle. Her misfortune gained her teases and taunts from the society instead of sympathy.
When we were in class IV Indrani’s mother remarried. In the 80s a widow getting remarried was not accepted gracefully. Rumours started doing rounds. Some rumors even went to the extent that Indrani’s mom had an affair and she had smothered her husband to death so that she could remarry. Some said after becoming a widow her mom had turned into a call girl to manage financial crisis and later on married one of her clients. Even many teachers used to taunt Indrani. She was never good in studies and probably had some learning disability however her mother was blamed for her bad performance. It was said that her mother was so self-obsessed that she never bothered about the daughter.
When we were hitting puberty many girls in our class started receiving ‘love letters’ from suitors. However, nobody wrote letters to Indrani. She also wanted to receive a love letter. One day I and my friend Tania were sitting on the stairs when Indrani came to us and said that she had a crush on Tania’s cousin and how she wished to receive a letter from him. She requested Tania to help her. Tania knew that her cousin would never like her. However, we didn’t have the heart to tell her the truth.
Then we decided to do something to make her happy. We wrote a ‘love letter’ and signed the name of Tania’s cousin and gave it to Indrani. Tania said that her cousin really liked Indrani. The joy on Indrani’s face was precious on receiving that letter. We started this letter writing game. Indrani used to reply to the letters and then we used to reply back. This whole thing continued for almost a year. I am sure that one year was the happiest year of her life. In the meanwhile, Tania’s brother got admission in IIT and he left the city. We wrote a farewell letter on behalf of him and gave it to Indrani. Indarni cried for days after receiving that. We used to console her. Gradually, we all got busy with our studies and forgot about Indrani’s love. She used to intermittently inquire if there was any letter but we always made some excuse.
Many years later, I met a gorgeous and stylish woman in a shopping mall in Delhi. I was not able to recognise but the lady called out my name and hugged me tightly. The ‘ugly duckling’ had indeed transformed into a ‘beautiful swan’. The swan’s handsome prince also joined us along with their bundles of joy. She winked at me and asked ‘How is Tania’s brother?’ A part of me felt guilty of the incidents in past. She nudged the elbow of her husband and said ‘you know these two girls used to write me false love letters’ and burst out laughing. Her husband also laughed heartily but I smiled awkwardly.