Come dinner time, and as I enter the dining room of the hotel, the woman waves at me; she had already procured a corner table and was waiting for me. Her saree had changed a shade of green, and the woman suddenly looked older with the overhead lamp throwing a shadow on her face and enhancing the wrinkles and puffiness of her face.
I meagerly fill my plate at the buffet just to be polite; hunger wasn’t one of the many emotions bursting inside of me. She finally began her story.
“I was in 11th grade, and in the middle of the year, a new boy joined my school. I noticed him on my bus, sitting alone, quietly. He was also in 11th grade. He had a charming face, with expressions mature beyond his years would hardly ever change, and he rarely spoke. There was something about him that was strange, as if he didn’t belong there. His stop came before mine and I would see him slowly walk to his house as the bus would start to move again.
Because of his withdrawn nature, and the fact that he joined mid-year, he became the subject of bullying by his classmates. This slowly spread around the school and he was a constant target of jokes wherever he went. But never did he say a word, nor his expressions changed.
This went on, and we all became used to him just being physically present, until one morning he missed the bus. He boarded a few stops after me, and his lonely seat was gone. He looked around trying to find a place to sit, but not finding any except for mine. He finally approached me and timidly asked if he could sit next to me. That was the first time I had heard him speak and he did not say anything more on the ride to school.
The next day, again he sat alone, looking more lost than usual. I deliberately went up to him and asked if I could sit next to him. Without a word, he moved his bag to make space for me to sit.
“Hi, I’m Anamika,” I said. He looked up at me, trying his best to force a slight smile, and replied, “I’m Meet.”