Thursday, April 26, 2007

"If I were a One Rupee Coin"

"You seem to have a knack for writing romance stories. Write one for your 1119 - the examiners will eat it up, I promise."

June Yong, my old English tutor


Note: I ultimately ended up writing a war story from an Afghan boy's perspective - but I still got my 1A, though.


Here's what I wrote for UTSAV. The twist is right at the very end. The criteria for "writing creatively" are;
  • Why-didn't-I-think-of-that topic interpretation
  • Simple-yet-still-kick-ass plot
You be the judge on how far I've missed the targets. Suffer! Enjoy!

Jessica’s seat was about 7 feet away from mine and if I were to turn my head to a slight easterly position, I’d have a rather good view of the left side of her face. I know for a fact that in the period of one lecture class – which lasted about an hour apiece – Jessica would have twirled her right index finger in her thick, luxuriant ponytail five times at least (more than ten times if the lecture was particularly dull). I also noticed that there’s a small mole perched on the back of her left earlobe, and that whenever Jessica smiles, a cute dimple would appear on her left cheek. Occasionally, I was treated to the delightful sight of her throwing pretty head back and laugh whenever the lecturer up front made a joke. Mind you, when Jessica laughs, it was no polite ha-ha affair. It was real laughter, infectious and straight from the heart. I could swear that whenever she laughed, the world would stop for a second in its orbit, babies would cease crying, and flowers would bloom in the courtyard outside. That’s how beautiful her laugh was.

I knew all this because – well – more half the time, I was watching her instead of paying attention to whoever was talking at the podium upfront.

Around her slender neck ran a silver chain, and from it, a one rupee coin with a hole in it dangled over her bosom. It was kind of like her trademark – after all, how many girls you know wears our national currency around her neck like some sort of jewelry? I knew only Jessica who did. Apparently, when she was a tiny girl of four, her best friend gave it to her, and she had never taken it off since. It followed her wherever she went, and for all I knew, she could have even worn it to sleep.

“If I were a one rupee coin,” I mused my days away wistfully. “If only I were that one rupee coin, I’d be able to follow her for the rest of my life.”

***

Hi, my name is Kumar and as you probably have guessed, I am very much in love with Jessica, a colleague of mine in a medical school which I shall decline to name. As clich├ęd as this is going to sound to you, I am also a fantastically shy person with less charisma than a carton of skimmed milk. The most intimate moment I’ve ever shared with her was when I shook her hand on the first day of our academic First Year while I (futilely) attempted to stammer out an introduction of myself. Pathetic.

But today, that is going to change. I’ve taken the initiative to purchase two tickets to the upcoming annual ball which cost me 10 lunch-less days – and I’m going to ask Jessica to go with me as my date.

***

Right after Monday’s last lecture class, just as Jessica and her girlfriends were about to leave, I called out after her. She topped and turned. Unfortunately, her twelve girlfriends did exactly that as well. You’d be stunned too if you have thirteen pairs of eyes looking straight at you, but after the initial shock, I barged on anyway. I searched myself for every drop of courage I could find in me – and I pour it all out in that singular moment;

“Jessica, I’ve bought two tickets for the upcoming annual ball, and I wonder – just wondering – if you would like to come with me.”

A short moment of uneasy silence passed, and Jessica said, “No. I’m afraid I can’t Kumar. I’ve already promised Suresh I’ll go with him.”

A herd of cows could have fallen from the sky right on top my head without me realising it. And before I could stop myself, I held my two tickets up to eye-level and repeated lamely, “But I have two tickets…”

Twelve pairs of girlfriend eyes were scrutinizing me on every level at that very moment. If social etiquette was more permissive for outright indulgence in schadendfreude, they would have taken out their video camera phones and capture this ‘drama’ for their later viewing pleasure.

“Kumar…” began Jessica.

“Why Suresh?” I blurted, regretting the words before they were even out. “What does he have that I don’t?”

To the utter disappointment of her army of girlfriends, Jessica asked them to go ahead without her first, and that she would catch up with them later. Very reluctantly, they left Jessica and I alone. Jessica then took a deep breath.

“Kumar,” she said as she fingered the trinket she wore around her neck, “You know this coin, don’t you?”

I nodded, not having the slightest clue where she was going with this.

“When I was four, there was a boy my age who moved into my neighbourhood from a big city elsewhere, and I – having no brothers or sisters – was thrilled that I would finally have someone to play with. We did everything together, that boy and I. We were best friends,” she said, a smile starting to take shape on her face as remembrance kissed her. “That was, till his father moved him and his mother to Delhi just six months later. But that bit of time I spent with him – that six months – was the happiest days of my life. I cried bucketfuls because my best friend was leaving, very much afraid that I’ll never see him again,” she said.

She then reach for her one rupee coin again and caressed it lovingly.

“This was his most prized possession, a coin with a hole in it. I remember that he treated it like it’s worth a gazillion rupees. But before he left, he gave it to me, telling me to wear it always – so he’ll always know it’s me however I grew up to be like.”

“But what has it got to do with Suresh and the ball?” I asked helplessly, my voice and composure fractured into many tiny bits.

“Well a week ago, Suresh told me that when he was small, he gave something like this to a girl he knew named Jessica - and he's sure it's me,” said Jessica. “He’s a really nice and witty guy, and him turning to be my childhood best friend – it’s just too perfect to believe! I thought... I thought I could really be with a guy like that.”

“You believed him?” I asked, making it sound more like a statement of unbearable grief rather than a real question.

“Yes.”

That was the point I dropped the tickets and walked away. I really didn’t want to cry in front of her, but the tears - I could not stop them coming.

***

Dear Jessica,

I congratulate you on your engagement to Suresh, and I am honestly happy for both of you. It’s a real fairytale ending – you being engaged to marry your best friend from your childhood, and him finding you by a coin he gave you. It is unfortunate that there is no room in this fairytale childhood love story for me. I myself could barely remember anything earlier than when I was six.

I’m sorry I cannot make it to your wedding next June. Right now, even as you’re reading this, I’m probably hanging from my ceiling fan, and my feet are dangling one foot off the ground.

There are many bitter hurdles we need to leap over in life, Jessica – and tried as I can, I cannot clear this one.


Sorry.

Love always,
Kumar
***

It was late March in 1990. A four-year-old girl named Jessica was running excitedly to the house next door to find her best friend. To the little girl's surprise, she found her playmate sitting under a Mahwa tree in the garden, hugging his knees. His eyes were red and puffy, and he had obviously been crying hard.

“Why are you crying?” asked Jessica. She felt like crying too, seeing her best friend so unhappy.

“My Amah said that we must go to live in Delhi,” said the boy, wiping his eyes with the back of his hand.

Hearing this, Jessica burst into tears as well, and they sat there crying together for a quarter of an hour under that large, shady Mahwa tree.

“So we can’t play together anymore? When will I see you again?” asked Jessica between sobs. “And what if I don’t recognize you next time when you’re big and tall?”

The boy thought hard – as hard as a four-year-old boy could possibly think. He then took a small shiny object out of his pocket and pressed it into Jessica’s tiny hand. It was his treasure – a one rupee coin with a hole in it. He was terribly proud of it because nobody else had one.

“Put a string through it and wear it around your neck,” he said brightly. “So, I’ll always know it’s you! But I’d much rather stay here with you. I wish I can turn myself into a one rupee coin. If I am a one rupee coin, you can hide me in your purse or dollhouse. If Apah and Amah can’t find me, they can’t make me move with them!”

Jessica throw her pretty little head back and laughed, in that special way the boy found to be endlessly fascinating. He always tried to make her laugh because of that.

“You say the funniest things, Kumar!”

Goodness gracious, you actually made it till the end? Bloody impressive patience you got there! Do let me know what you think of it.

Now here's a tag from fuolornis - 10 camwhore shots of self! (I can't think of anyone who needs a bit of silliness in his or her life to tag, so this ends right here).

"Slurp, yummy."

Now for House episode 20 of season 3.

To all House fans in Manipal - ask for it, and you shall receive! And no, I don't have Grey's Anatomy (because it has got no Hugh Laurie in it). If you come and ask that from me, I'll give you a computer virus.

Ps: I deliberated whether I should just strike-out the entire suicide letter bit - but I went on with it included anyway. I didn't really like it (but hell, I do like suicides). And in case you haven't yet notice, I like unhappy endings. I can learn nothing from happy ones.


Drained,
k0k s3n w4i

17 comments:

fuolornis said...

Bravo, bravo. another masterpiece fr sen wai. I like the arangement of the storyline.

And another clap for the camwhore pics. Glad u survived the ordeal. Let's js sit and wait for inn shan's pics.

innshan said...

aaaahhhchieeewww...i'm done too~ woohoo!

Innocent^^Guy said...

Nice story..but you probably didn't make it because if the reader reads it with a strong indian accent, the outcome is just crap. Ha ha

Mischique said...

A very nice piece of work indeed. I see that being in India has inspired you in some ways :)

Zzzyun said...

being somewhat a writer myself (or used to be) i just cud see what twist was coming at the end! lol..

anyway its a nice piece. really enjoyed reading it. =) bravo.

michelleg said...

nice story.. what are u doing in med school!! go write a novel or something and earn more than a specialist. haha!

i love that camwhore shot. nicely done.

House rocks!! now i think grey's is boring compared to House.

niCk said...

like what Lai Yin always says after reading your blog.

you shouldn't be here in medical school! go write novels!

great wey!

michellesy the grey said...

Very touching and bittersweet - I liked how you worked the one rupee coin into the storyline.

I thought the subtle touches of India brought a sense of authenticity to the mise en scene too - you have to write with your audience in mind hey? Actually I'm surprised there weren't any mentions of cows in there, Kumar =D

I'm always a sucker for plots involving fate/ destiny/ star-crossed-lovers, but the twist was nice I have to say, so kudos for that.

And why would you strike out the suicide note? It's an essential part of the storyline, no?

Yeah, I, too, like my stories extremely 'grey' - literal translation from Mandarin.

So if the hero and heroine can be together and all that jazz, that's fine and dandy.

But if insurmountable barriers stand in their way and they cannot hold each other in each other's arms for all eternity because dia punya bapak-emak tak suka, or the skies happened to be hailing stones at that time or they're actually siblings separated at birth all the better =)

Oh, and if they could manage a suicide pact where they could gently and gracefully shuffle off this mortal coil in a manner which did not mar their looks - that gets brownie points from me too.

I do wonder what this predilection for (extremely fatuous) and unhappy endings says about me LOL!

Wan Yean said...

so... sorrowful. silly though, for him to hang himself.

well, my 2 ruppes, i think it'll be more dramatic if she found out that kumar is her childhood friend after kumar hanged himself.

k0k s3n w4i said...

@fuolornis
I like the arrangement myself too - Tarantino-ish...
I just took a video and chop out the bits I can use. :)

@innshan
Bugger.. I wish I got photoeditting skillz like urs!

@innocent^^guys
Dude, everything comes out crap when you read it with the local accent here, Haha.

@mischique
You read the bit about a herd of cows falling fr the sky huh? LoL

@zzzyun
Why don't you read anymore? I always like a good yarn! Srsly, you shud start writing again!
I would have saw that coming too - maybe that's why I lost...

@michelleg
If go write novels? What about Mr Champion, Mr First Runner Up and Mr Second Runner Up in this UTSAV thing? Paiseh wei.

@nick
Why can't I do both? But nieways - still far from author material. I need to get a whole lot better before I'd try to get any books published.

@michellesy the grey
Cows! There was!
The suicide note's only role was to prepare the last bit - it's sort of like an enhancer, a volume-upper. My quibble was that I don't write good suicide notes (If I shud ever contemplate suicide, my note will be kinda cheerful and happy - just for the heck of it).
Your predilection for unhappy endings - it says you need more chocolates. That stuff does wonders.

@wan yean
Precisely why I wanted to strike out the letter bit. But people had killed themselves for less...
Indeed it's more dramatic, to find out somehow and then finding him already dead. But I'm the sort of guy that likes stories to slow down my heartbeat - instead of racing it. I like subtle.

Wan Yean said...

oh well, i guess i prefer slutty then. :)

k0k s3n w4i said...

@wan yean
You would... :p

michellesy the weary said...

Omg, how did I miss that? I must be more sleep-deprived than I thought 0_o

Hehe - a happy suicide note, and I thought I'd seen it all =P Something along the lines of 'See you later suckers!' maybe?

Yeah, comfort eating eh? I like it so much that my years in Australia have packed more than a few pounds on my frame I'm afraid =) There isn't much to do here as you've probably guessed.

Shit day? Nothing a bar of Cadbury can't fix =)

Jen said...

i love it!! sad endings bring real emotions to a story. extra points if someone dies! somehow, i was expecting the twist at the end to have kumar involved. hmm but the story turned out great.

if this one didnt make it, gosh, the ones that did must be pretty darn good.

k0k s3n w4i said...

@michellesy the weary
I mean, if you want to go out, why not go in a special way?
Make a cheery suicide video and smile all the way to the noose. That'd be a hit on youtube for sure.

@jen
Girl, we share the same theatrical taste. I can never quite stomach saccharine-sweet hollywood endings.
A friend of mine said that I didn't make it because I didn't include a Bollywood dance scene.

Kit Sze said...

i have a feeling the judges are looking for something more shallow when they came up with that title.

remember those primary school essays "jika saya sebatang pensel?" where u write abt how that pencil was made, bought buy a little boy who eventually broke it into a million pieces yada yada yada?

yeap i think they were expecting that, not that creative story u wrote.

screw the judges *salute kok* it's a damn good story u wrote.

btw, loved ur camwhore pics. lol

k0k s3n w4i said...

@kit sze
Well, I took the 'creative' part of 'creative writing' too literally then. Shucks, LoL. You really should have gone too. Bet you'd knock 'em dead.