“It's Boris Johnson.”
“It's not Boris Yeltsin. He was the first President of Russia after Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. I think you’re confused with their names.”
“Umm..what’s your name again?” She stared at me as if she’s seen an alien. And..well.. I’m not surprised. I rarely talk and that would be an understatement. But seeing Aakansha blurt out stupid things was a trigger, I guess. How can one get confused between those two? The collapse of Soviet Union was in our syllabus last semester. And Boris Johnson? He’s on the paper everyday. Just take the international column and whoop.. there he is. THE BRITISH TRUMP!
“Priya..” I said and brought back my eyes back to my book.
“Ooh..” she said and cleared her throat “And about Boris...”
“Johnson” I reminded her but kept my eyes on the book.
“Yeah.. about that.. so what if I was wrong? If I don’t try to answer questions Professor is asking, I will fall asleep,” she let out a chuckle.
I kept my eyes on the book.
“You’re a weirdo, you know that?” she said.
No I’m not, you are. I felt like telling her. But I didn't. She’s like the most vocal person I’ve ever seen. She talks to everyone... except me of course... until now. She even talks to the professors, asks them doubts while they are still in the class! I mean how can she do that?! I can’t even look at my the professors or anyone..for that matter. Maybe I’m a weirdo. But if the majority were like me, she would be the weirdo and I’ll be the cool one. But unfortunately it is not like that.
She cleared her throat once more and I put a pause to my talkative mind which is just like Aakansha's.
“Um..why do you think I’m a weirdo?” I asked still keeping my eyes on the book making sure not to even take a small glance at her.
“You don’t look at people, you don’t smile at them or talk to them. You just don’t do stuffs that people usually do.”
As she stressed on me not looking at people, I gathered the courage and finally made eye contact.
“Well, it’s not mandatory as long as the stuffs that you mentioned aren’t written in our Constitution.” I rolled my eyes at her surprising myself.
“No. But it is written in The Rule book of Socialisation,” she told me in a small voice, almost a whisper and I sensed an excitement in her voice
“I’m sorry, what?”
“WAIT YOU DON’T KNOW?” She almost yelled and the whole class’s attention was on us. But the Professor had gone by then so I just had to drop my eyes away from the class for a few seconds and they will go back to their own world.
“Please tell me you’ve read it,” she looked at me with confusion and shock and I could feel my face getting hot and getting all red with embarrassment.
“Your parents are supposed to tell you about this. Not me. But since you don’t know anything about this, I’ll give you my copy of the rule book,” she paused for a second, “My parents gave me this when I was eleven. I’ve been reading this ever since. You would think it would get over by the time you’re in college, but it never does,” she chuckled again.
“Why can’t this be taught as a subject, if this is so important?”
“It’s always been secretive, you know. People don’t really discuss about this.”
“Oh.. I'm a fast reader. So I’m sure I could complete it easily,” I said proudly.
She just smiled at me.
So I took her copy of the rulbook to my home and I started reading.
Oh boy, was I wrong about completing it? It was huge with tons of pages, almost like the Constitution. I decided to really grasp the concept of Article 1 of the rulebook. It said, ‘Smiling is the foundation of socialisation’.
The next day I entered my campus with a smile on my face. But I guess the rule book was wrong. I smiled at a lot of people and no one was reciprocating it. Later, Aakansha told me that my smile was creepy and I looked like a psychopath. So I decided to practice my smile on the mirror. As I started reading more and more into it, I realised it was’nt easy at all.
Article 25 was one of the most important part of the rule book. It said, ‘Conversation with people who share common interest as you is the best method of socialisation’.
The next day, Aakansha literally pushed me towards a group of nerds in the class. They were talking about studies and as soon as they saw me, they looked at me with the expression ‘what the hell is she doing here’. And I suddenly started feeling numb all over my body. But I somehow managed to ask, “ What is your view on socialism?”.
“It's fine I guess,” one of the guys said. That’s it. No one said anything. And then I realised what I did wrong. Article 15, eye contact! I TOTALLY FORGOT! But then it was too late. I walked away as fast as I could. At that moment, all I wanted to do was stay away from them, stay away from everyone. I felt myself tearing up.
“Priya, are you crying?” Aakansha asked.
“Just stay away from me!” I yelled.
I went home. And there stood the two people to talk to whom I didn't need a rulebook.
“Why didn’t you tell me about the rulebook. Why didn’t you give it to me?!” I yelled feeling the salty taste of my tears.
“Priya, we thought you would learn it by yourself. We don’t have to tell you everything. Some things you learn by yourself. Our parents didn’t give us any rulebooks and we turned out fine.” Dad said.
“SO? You didn't have electricity when you guys were young. So let’s just cut off the electricity supply!” I yelled “I’M A FREAK DAD. AND I’M CRAZY!”
Dad came towards me “Priya, you are a freak and you are crazy. Do you remember the line from Alice in Wonderland?”
I thought for a moment. I used to love that movie when I was a child.
And suddenly I remembered. “ALL THE BEST PEOPLE ARE” I said and I felt a small smile emerging on the corner of my lips.