This is the quasi-autobiographical story that I wrote four years back, and which was recently published in 'Chicken Soup for the Indian Teenage Soul'
The Small Town Girl
She was the small town new girl in her posh all-girls’ school. Gawky; unsophisticated; perpetually ill at ease among her more worldly classmates.
For twelve years, she’d loved watching the children’s movies screened biannually at her local community centre – it was only after moving to the big city that she realised people had something called televisions and could watch sitcoms at home every day. The other girls laughed at her because she had never heard of “I Love Lucy” or “Top of the Pops”. They wondered which burrow she had been hiding in when she admitted she’d never seen a Bollywood movie. And they thought she was a freak for not caring which sexy actress the current heartthrob was dating.
Infact, she did not even seem to know what dating involved – to her, boys were the people she raced bicycles with, not creatures she gossiped about. While her classmates had been experimenting with make-up and clothes, she’d been climbing guava trees, chasing dragonflies, and reading books - not the fashionable Mills & Boons romances, but outdated stuff like Jane Austen, Conan Doyle and P.G.Wodehouse.
She was the freak, and she knew it. She excelled in studies, but her classmates teased her because one or the other of them beat her in all subjects except Geography, Science and Mathematics. Her teachers loved her, but she hated herself for being different. She thought she could win her classmates over by doing better then them in class, but the better she did, the more she was teased and the more she was teased, the more she withdrew into herself. That was her only defence – erecting a protective barrier of shyness and stuttering around her.
She was a swift runner, and everyone wanted her on their team, but they selected her so grudgingly, she felt she had to burst her lungs out in gratitude to them for bestowing that mark of approval on her. Her paintings were good, but never good enough to be pinned to the classroom wall. Her needlework was neat, but never as good as the professionally done embroidery her classmates turned in. No matter how hard she tried, she was never good enough, and she knew herself for the inferior creature that she was.
They were putting up Cinderella that year, and when the class was told that they would all have to be on stage, she resigned herself for the part of the footman who carried the glass shoe from house to house. Her classmates, however, had other plans for her –
“We just need to find one Ugly Sister,” said one. “Or m-maybe, if o-one h-has a s-st-tutt-tter, we d-don’t even n-need t-two,” added another.
But she knew that her acting skills were inadequate to enact even that part.
Like all the others, she was forced to audition for the title role. She could empathise with the girl who was forced to become the perennial misfit, and amidst general twittering, read Cinderella’s lines in her scared, faltering manner.
She was the perfect Cinderella, and when she smiled at the Prince while he bestowed a kiss on the hand she proffered him, she brought the house down. The red velvet curtain swung open and shut seven times while she came back for encores.
She was a Star.
Her stammer was a thing of the past.