Goodbye, Jasmine Silva

Sunday Herald Short Story Contest Entry

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Goodbye, Jasmine Silva

 

   Excerpt from The Indian Daily dated 24th June 2013, page-3:

GIRL FALLS TO DEATH

Bangalore: Deceased identified as Jasmine Silva, a seventeen year old student of Stu Gardens College, fell from the fourth floor of the building on Saturday evening.

   A resident of Golden Palm Layout, Silva was the only daughter of Rupert and Lily Silva, studying science in the same college.

  The Police, after the post-mortem, have confirmed that the girl died of an accident. Although they claim to have found slit-marks on Silva’s wrists hinting at a case of self-harm, the absence of any suicide letter rules out suicide.

  Silva was found unconscious at around 4.05 pm in the ground floor corridor by a college security guard and was later admitted to Wobring Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

  It was a case of a mismanaged mob which led to this mishap and it was completely avoidable, the police said.

                    ************************************

Isolation.

Manipulation.

Silent treatment.

Rumours.

Jasmine’s cubicle read: “Warning-Hippo inside”.

    Quickly after the one o’ clock bell, Jasmine would thrust her mouth with the soft pooris her mother had prepared (chew them, relish them, she’d say but Jasmine wouldn’t listen) and head to the girls’ room. She ate only a half of the dish-at least to escape from her mother’s scolding.

   Jasmine was plump- an awkward duckling amongst the lithe swans. Her hair wasn’t tied and they flew freely in the breeze. No matter how much she tried, she couldn’t hide her desperation to fit into medium sized trousers. A dusty brown jacket over a pale purple top was a feeble attempt to hide the excess flab.

   Normally, ten minutes after the bell, the crowd inside the loo would secede but today, as more than half of the college had a free period before lunch- a ‘let-off’ so as to speak, the place was empty. Except for the aayah who would occasionally pop in to take a mop or something from the broomstick closet, she was alone.

  Jasmine never had any friends nor did she socialise with anyone. She was never a talker only a silent observer- watching people and grasping how they talked, how they moved they moved their nimble fingers, how they expressed and carried themselves. No appreciated her for that. Neither did they acknowledge that. That’s what made Jasmine sad. That’s what made Jasmine think that her wrists deserved the blade.

   Jasmine looked at the razor blade she held in her hand. If her mother found out about it, Jasmine would be dead.

   The door swung open and Jasmine was distracted by two pairs of heels tinkle across the wet, tiled floor before actually catching a glimpse of her classmates- Reeva and Jyoti walk inside.

Reeva was dark and looked dangerously thin in her skimpy black top and denims. Jyoti, who had a wheatish complexion, was dressed in a peach-coloured dress. Fancy nail colour embellished their long, brittle nails. Thick smouldering mascara outlined their cold eyes and they spoke in fake accents.

“…so that leaves us with Jay, Nita and Jasmine,” Reeva read out from her list that she held.

   Jasmine froze when she heard her name. She pressed her ear against the door and continued to hear.

   Jyoti walked up till Jasmine’s cubicle and glanced at the words sketched on the door.

“Do you really think we ought to invite her?” she asked.

   Reeva, who was busy dabbing cherry lipstick, stopped and shot a quizzical glance at her friend, through the mirror.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean if I were you, I would never invite that fatso for anything. Have you actually had a careful look at her? Oh my God! I have, pretty much, never seen anyone so—huge with such a fat butt,” Jyoti spoke in her slightly-affected tone.

 Jasmine’s heart sank.

“O-M-G, Jyo! I so totally hate the clothes she wears. Where does she get them from anyway?” Reeva said, finally stuffing the lipstick into her bag.

  Jasmine looked at her clothes and thought, what’s wrong with them.

 Jyoti looked around carefully for anyone around and continued, “Have you heard the scoop? What happened at Aman’s party?”

Reeva turned back and stared excitedly at Jyoti. “What?”

“I’ve heard rumours about her and that Vikas, God, he’s such a loser!” Jyoti said grabbing her friend’s hand instantly. “I heard they snogged there.”

 Reeva’s mouth opened automatically with shock. “What?”

“Yes. They actually kissed and Shakila swears that she saw them do it-by the pool,” she replied.

“Shakila’s such a perv. But—entertaining at the best of times,” Reeva added, after carefully observing her pouting face in the mirror. “She’s such a slut, Jasmine.”

  Words stung hard. For God’s sake, she wasn’t even there in the party and how could Shakila fabricate such a dumb story? And how could these nitwits believe her words? But this wasn’t the first time she’d heard her classmates talk about her like this. She tried hard to fit in but gave up when she couldn’t. Sure, people would never stop talking but with another scoop on another day, this would be forgotten too.

  Jasmine wiped her teary eyes with her sleeve and meekly, stepped out of the cubicle.

  As expected, Reeva remained ignorant; busy powdering her dusky cheeks but Jyoti who was busy trimming her incredibly long nails, caught a glimpse of Jasmine.

  Jasmine brushed her moist cheeks again.

You were in there the whole time!” Jyoti barked into her face.

Reeva let out a superficial sigh and spun around. Jyoti grabbed Jasmine by the wrist, squeezing hard just where it hurt the most.

“What did you hear?” she shrieked. Jasmine scowled and tried to free herself but Jyoti’s grip over her tightened. “What did you hear?” she repeated-spelling each word out distinctly.

“What’re you doing, Jyo? Let her--” Reeva spoke in her careless manner.

  “NO! Reeva,” Jyoti interrupted, “can’t you see? She was in there all along. She heard everything.”

Jyoti’s dim-witted friend gasped with shock.

“She heard everything! We have to do something, else she might—I don’t know!” she exclaimed.

“She might tell on us. Blame us for all the rumours that’re circulating the whole college. Report against us for calling her ‘fat’ and maybe even complain to our class teacher,” replied Jyoti. 

  Jasmine gritted her teeth and managed to free herself from Jyoti’s tight clutches.

She stared back at them coldly and said, in a disgusted tone, “I might as well do that.”

The sound of footsteps echoed through the restroom.

“Quick!” Reeva gasped. “Someone’s coming. Do something!”

Jyoti rolled her eyes.

Before Jasmine could think of leaving the spot, Reeva seized her, pushed her into the dark broom closet and locked her in.

“What are you— ” Jyoti opened her mouth to speak. She could hear her heart thumping loudly with fright.

“GET ME OUT OF HERE!” They could hear Jasmine scream from behind the door.

“Let her be there,” said Reeva staring into Jyoti’s eyes.

The loud reverberation of the bell distracted them.

“Quick. Let’s go away before anyone catches us here,” said Reeva as she grasped her friend’s hand-Jyoti who was still in shock, and walked out of the restroom.

 

   Jasmine glanced around but couldn’t see much. It was a broomstick closet and normally, the aayah would dump brooms, buckets and phenyl bottles. There wasn’t a light bulb or anything that’d enable her to see.

“Please…let…me…out,” she cried banging her fists against the door. Tears welled up in her eyes when she realised that there was no one on the other side who could help her. 

  Jasmine turned around with fright. Beads of sweat outlined her eyes and face. The smell of perspiration and tears mixed with the aroma of phenyl unsettled her. The dark, murky walls of the closet seemed to be closing in on her. Her heart was pounding and the still, dry air that surrounded her- prevented her from speaking or thinking.

  She was claustrophobic.

   Before Jasmine was reminded of her fear of closed spaces, she began to search. A torch, a matchstick, anything could have been helpful.

   Jasmine looked up and found a little hole gaping from the side. It was small but a little light entering from it, couldn’t go unnoticed. Enough to spot little specks of dust floating in the air.

   A slow current of atomies sailings upwards caught her attention.

Everything was bullshit.

 A few years ago, Jasmine had been a cheerful girl surrounded by friends and people who loved her, supported her and didn’t give a damn about her obesity or her thigh gap. But today, none remained and those familiar peers pushed her into darkness. Their absence was the darkness.

   Jasmine stared at the small hole and let her fingers run over it. Again, a set of footsteps distracted her.

“OPEN THE DOOR! GET ME OUT OF HERE! LET ME OUT!” she screamed banging the door. “Let me out—” she sobbed and collapsed onto the floor-still distraught.

No one.

   The walls of the closet loomed threateningly over her. Jasmine cried and chortled as the foul, static air prevented her from breathing. “Let…me...out…”

The minute shaft of light beamed on the door.

  Jasmine, still quivering, closed her eyes and eased back onto the wall that was adjacent to the door. Her moist eyes stared at the opening again.

Her life was the dark and the opening was her strife towards light.

Jasmine’s cheeks dried up. Her back remained slumped against the wall. Except for an aeroplane droning somewhere in the sky, everything was silent. Jasmine’s hair felt wet and heavy. Her heartbeat returned to normalcy. Her eyes fluttered- still adjusting to the darkness.

The silence was enough to put her to sleep.

 

                    *****************************************

    After the three o’clock bell, Professor Parikshit Shantanu walked fast into class. He was dressed in his crisp cotton shirt and trousers that didn’t look worn out even at the end of the day. He was in his mid-twenties and didn’t tolerate any nonsense.

  After a tired ‘good afternoon sir’ from his students and keeping his paraphernalia away on the table, he placed himself in the centre of the dais and spoke in a curt manner, “I hope you have finished the exercise I gave. Let’s review them again, in case you have any doubt.”

  He wrote some equations on the board and said, “Can anyone differentiate this for me? How about Jasmine? You need to work out these.”

“She isn’t here, sir,” one of the students replied.

“Isn’t here?” He turned around.

“She isn’t absent nor did she go home. Her bag’s still here,” Jasmine’s neighbour spoke out.

“Well, we’ll see about her later. Can anyone tell me the dy by dx value of this?” he asked.

“May I come in, sir?” He turned towards the door and saw a timid, worn-out Jasmine at the door. Her eyes were puffy and her hair awkwardly standing out.

“Aah! Jasmine, where were you all this time?” He asked sternly as she walked inside.

“Must’ve been sleeping in her cosy, little cubicle,” someone shouted. The class burst into laughter.

“Enough now, class. Settle down fast and, has anyone got the answer?” he spoke red-faced.

   Jasmine timidly sat down in her place. She didn’t even bother to see Reeva and Jyoti making faces when she walked past them. She wasn’t interested in the math lesson anymore. She just took out her notebook and started scribbling something in a hurry.

    Professor Parikshit always did his best to engage his students in the subject. He did his best to help Jasmine (who was weak in maths) concentrate. But today, she didn’t answer any of his questions. His only relief was that she was doing her best to take down every concept he explained.

   After a quick, enlightening class, Prof. Parikshit was relieved when he headed to the ground-floor staff room. He had covered a major chunk of the syllabus by now.

   He was seated on his chair, with his eyes closed in a relaxed position, when a loud scream alarmed him.

   He rushed to the corridor where he found his student Jasmine Silva, covered in blood, writhing on the floor.

“Jasmine!” he shouted. “What? What happened?” he asked as he tried to lift her head.

   Jasmine opened her mouth to speak but struggled. Her light brown eyes gazed at the sky and remained fixed for a few moments before she became unconscious.

    An ambulance arrived and he along with another female teacher took Jasmine to nearest hospital.

    Jasmine was taken inside and upon the doctor’s examination she was pronounced dead.

   Her pulse had stopped in the ambulance itself.

   Prof. Parikshit was shocked by the turn of events. The girl, who was in his class just a few minutes ago, jumped from the building and… died.

Too late.

          *****************************************

   The StuGardens Institute breathed a sigh of relief when the sounds of sirens, crowds and vehicles had finally subsided. All that investigation, interrogation, media-encroachments and the parents-had not only tired the students but the teachers as well. The Police claimed it was an accident. The whole investigation was botched up after the Dean bribed the police authorities in order to stop further enquiry and embarrassment. The college had been in trouble the moment Jasmine fell from the fourth floor-where apparently no one went, let alone have a lesson there. A ‘big’ police officer had graciously accepted the money which was the donation paid by hundreds of parents who worked their ass off for their children.

Bullshit.

   Professor Parikshit was in the staff room- pensive and mellow and a little shaken after seeing one of his students pass away right in his arms. The last helpless look Jasmine gave, haunted his mind.

“Sad. It’s just too sad,” English lecturer Mrs. Thomas remarked for the third time remembering Jasmine’s bright face.

“Everyone’s upset,” replied the old, chemistry teacher Dr Sharma. “Shantanu hasn’t spoken a word since.” He said loud enough for him to hear.

  Professor Pariksit set his papers aside and looked at the chemistry teacher expecting another sharp remark.

“Oh! I almost forgot,” Mrs. Thomas rose and walked up to the side-table to retrieve a bag. “The police… now that the enquiry is over, found it right if one of us would return this back to her parents.”

“That’s why they so conveniently forgot it here. They didn’t even wait for the autopsy report to come out-like fools, hurried the press release,” added Dr Sharma indignantly.

   Professor Parikshit opened the bag-hoping to find Jasmine’s math-book.  He procured the book and on opening, he found a letter. Mrs. Thomas and Dr Sharma peered into the letter that read:

Dear Friend,

   I thought of addressing this letter to Mum but I figured it may or may not reach her.

   You may be thinking that I’ll write about how sick I got with life and how I decided to take this drastic step and all that superficial crap.  But I really am tired of stitching up old friendships together-which had gone sour long back. I really can’t portray myself as what society expects me to be- becoming part of so-called social groups, making friends with people who can’t bear to see my face, starving to fit in and at the same time, compete to be crème de la crème-which I’m not. 

  I had this revelation. Had it not been for Reeva and Jyoti who locked me up in the broomstick closet, I wouldn’t have had it. When I was in there-panicking and screaming, I realised that my life had been filled with darkness. God, I’m such a loser!

   But I found a way out. An end to all unwanted sufferings. You may think I could have a great life but I don’t. Even at the end of the day, folks still laugh at you when you trip and fall but don’t bother to pick you up and say it’s okay. I just—can’t live in such a society. I don’t care what people talk about me behind my back and I don’t know why people should worry about my fitness and diet when I don’t anymore. Before, no one bothered to listen to me but now that—now, my voice will be slap on their faces.

   I won’t go on telling how depressing and unfair life is and all, but I do wish I had my fair share of goodness in it.  I hope that at least in my next birth (if there is), I would get my slice of fun and cheer—I would feel the glazing sun and the sheeting rain again without having to worry about meaningless worldly matters.

But for now, I’ve had enough of this shit.

We will meet again.

Until then, Goodbye.

Jasmine Silva

23 June 2013

Dr Sharma collapsed onto his chair-sweating.

Reeva and Jyoti?” Mrs. Thomas looked up-utterly shocked. She turned to the peon and told, “I think the principal needs to see this!”

Professor Shantanu finally put the letter away-tears had filled his eyes.

I am such a loser!

   He felt a lump in his throat, recalling her strong words. He could have saved her. He could have asked her where she had been. He could have called her to the staff room and asked if there was any problem. And for God’s sake, he could have done something when she was in his arms-dying.

We will meet again.

    He buried his face in his hands, took a deep breath and sunk into his chair.

Goodbye, Jasmine Silva.

 

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