When something wrong is about to happen, your instincts scream at you and you feel the restlessness. On that fateful day I felt the same restlessness, I had to read news of the day, which was my daily routine, whenever Rajaram (green) house was on duty. It was a bad start as I couldn’t get the newspaper at the usual stall and school newspaper guy didn’t show up on time. I reached school with few minutes to spare for the assembly and raced towards the podium. This was a time when internet was only on computers, we grabbed the headlines from here and there. My initial idea was to read out previous day’s news. Trust me, I have tried that before, no one gives a fuck about it. Not even the teachers notice it. That day I tried to reason with the coordinating teacher of Rajaram house that I would like to call it a day and assign the task to someone else, as I was not well-versed with the national pledge. (Yeah, I know, I should have memorized it!) But that day only two members of my house were available, one of them being me. So it was decided that the other guy would be dealing with the national pledge and rest would be handled by me.
To my dismay, the other guy chickened out at the last-minute and disappeared in the crowd as soon as the final bell rang. The coordinating teacher and I exchanged glances, me being outraged at the turn of events and the teacher remaining calm as a seasoned warrior.
The non-verbal communication went something like this.
Me: “He will pay for backing out at the last-minute! Damn this shit even I’m walking out”
Teacher: “Cool down! Carry on with the news and other stuff. Pledge will be the last item. I will make some arrangements till then.”
So now I was the only one left to start and finish the assembly. I read out the news, thought of the day, announced the birthdays and read out some other stuff! Then I stood near the podium, switched of the microphone and whispered to the chorus girls about the situation. I told them to start with me instead of following me as usual, the front row of girls nodded in approval.
So I went back and stood at my place as the school head boy gave commands to the crowd, I asked the teacher if he was able to find a replacement, to which he shook his head in disappointment. For the first time in my life, I was blank with my instincts clearing indicating a fuck up laid ahead.
I walked towards the podium, with a heart rate of at least 140 bpm. I started with the first statement. ‘India is my country.’ and was shocked not even a single girl said it with me. I looked back at them in utter shock! A few seconds were lost and I could hear the entire school repeating the sentence, along with the girls who promised to read out with me. I thought to myself, “They forgot! Damn females, now I will be crucified! Thanks for the coordinated murder!”
And national pledge took a nose dive after starting at ‘India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters.’ to ‘To my country and my people.’ Skipping rest of the content.
I received hostile stares from entire staff, few of them enjoying the moment! It was the Principal who spoke first (read snapped!), “You can’t even memorize the national pledge? How will you clear our exams?” I wanted to say, “What the fuck this has to do with the exams?”, but then I just kept my head down, staring at the coordinator and scanning for the guy who ditched. The vice-principal ordered me to get the school diary which contained the national pledge. I ran back to the nearest classroom, opened the first bag available, grabbed the diary, ran back to the podium and started with the pledge fresh again. Finally, the assembly was over, but the Principal was not done with me. As I proceeded towards the chorus girls, demanding an explanation for the utter betrayal, she called me by my name. I was shell-shocked at the fact that the principal knew me by my name, which meant, damn, one of my deeds has reached her ears! (not the good ones, of course) either ways it meant one thing for sure, I was screwed! I went to her with my eyes fixate on the ground. What happened next was rather pleasant, she commended me for my courage to face the odds, but also ordered me to recite the national pledge next time again when my house was on duty. Which meant I had four weeks to memorize it, there was no running away for me, as the principal knew me by my name!
Cursing my luck, I lashed out at the guy who had disappeared, the coordinator finally calmed me down. As it was Saturday, the last day of house on duty, I was not found on the assembly ground for next entire week. The next time when there was national pledge to be recited, I made sure someone was available to do the god damned job!