It was now or never.

He looked around one last time to make sure noone else was around. The halls were empty. In the room down the hall, he could hear Mrs Latha Devi talking about something that had happened in class that day. Her loud voice would have been annoying any other day, but today it acted as a lighthouse for him, warning him of any movements she may make within the staff room.
From the edge of the corridor, he could view the proceedings inside the biology lab. The students all stood around a microscope as Mrs Sharma described the differences between a dicot and a monocot. Their attention, atleast physically if not mentally, was on her for the moment. Behind him, the physics lab door was half ajar. He couldn't keep an eye on both doors simultaneously. He'd just have to take the risk that noone would come out for the next 30 seconds. He bent down on one knee.

He was conscious of the school bag on his shoulders. Ideally, the books would really be heavy, but today, even without the usual books, he felt the weight of the bag and it's contents. He glanced back and forth one last time, making sure noone was coming from either lab, then reached forward. Even though there were a dozen bags lying down on the floor beside the lab, he knew exactly which one he wanted. He had watched that bag every day for months now and could have picked it up from a 100 bags, if needed.

He opened the zip of his own bag and removed the contents, neatly wrapped in yesterday's paper. He unfolded the paper carefully and stared at what lay within. He debated whether to remove the plastic cover that held it together at the bottom. It was tacky, but necessary to avoid everything falling apart and becoming a mess. He'd just picked up the first plastic bag he'd found at home which suited his need. In hindsight, he wished he'd wrapped it up in a better cover... maybe even a make-shift holder of some sort made of  gift wrapping paper. 
His mind was jerked back to the present as he heard a chair screech. Mrs Latha Devi had gotten up from her seat. He couldn't get caught now !
He quickly placed the package in the other bag, making sure it didn't disturb the books within and zipped it up quickly before getting up, waiting for Mrs Latha Devi to walk out the door. In a few seconds, he heard her voice again and realised she'd just gone to another corner of the staff room. 
Without looking back, he turned around and hurried back to the physics lab he'd come out of a few minutes earlier.
"Madam, please may I come in ?" 
"Yes, come in." she said without raising her head from the textbook she was reading.

________________________________________________________________________


By lunch break, everyone in the class knew about the package. She was suddenly the centre of attraction of all the girls. The contents of her bag was the only topic of discussion on all of their lips, but he couldn't make out what they were saying from where he sat, eating his lunch quietly. He tried to see her face and gauge her reaction, but she was lost under the avalanche of her friends. He decided not to attract attention to himself by modifying his normal routine and so got up and left the classroom after lunch, walking silently across the school corridors. 
He remembered the fear with which he'd bought the flowers from the shop, looking back over his shoulder repeatedly to make sure he wasn't spotted ; waiting for Amma to go into the kitchen before entering the house and rushing upstairs immediately with the bag so she wouldn't see ; the cuts on his fingers where the thorns had pricked him as he'd scrapped them off so they wouldn't hurt her.
  
"Sunil ! Sunil !"
He turned around, startled at the call of his name, then relaxed. It was just Deepthi, their classmate, coming back from the canteen. She was one of the few girls he felt comfortable talking to. Of course, that had more to do with the fact that she was a family friend than anything else. She slowed down as she reached him.
"Did you hear about Vineeta ?"

"I saw all the girls surrounding her. But I have no idea what's going on."
"Oh my God. It was awesome, man. After practicals, she came out and found these gorgeous roses in her bag. A whole bunch of them - red, orange, yellow and even blue. "
"Really. Wow. Who gave it ?"
"Well. That's the best part. There was a card attached. 
It said - 'Sometimes, a simple gesture from someone can brighten our day and they don't even know it. I just wanted you to know that your smile brightens my day... everyday. Happy Valentine's Day.' 


That's it. So romantic, ya. The guy didn't sign his name. The girls are all still sitting there, trying to identify him by the handwriting. We think it's mostly Karthik, Harish  or Ravi."
"But don't you think Harish would have told her directly ?"
"Hmmm.. that's also true. He isn't the type to play these sort of games, right ? God knows."
"Anyway, how's she taking it ? Is she embarrassed or pissed ?"
"Are you kidding me ? She's blushing like a bride.  She's such a fair cutie-pie anyway and now, with everyone ragging her and all, she really looks like a red tomato. I swear, I've never seen her so happy ya. Damn. That's the bell. Come on. We'll be late for class."
"Ya, I'm coming." He controlled his emotions as she passed by him and ran back towards the classroom. She was blushing out of joy. He tried to suppress the smile that was dancing on his lips. 

He'd done it. He'd made her smile today. So what if she would never know it was him ? The plan had been to let her know she was loved. That was all. He entered the classroom and walked casually past her to his table at the back of the hall. He watched her laugh and giggle as her best friends ragged her and she struggled to stop them from pulling the flowers out of her bag for all to see. He felt at peace as he sat down in his usual spot. Everything had gone according to plan.
"Happy Valentine's Day" he said in a low voice to himself as he smiled. 

________________________________________________________________________


Vineeta sat on her bed, staring at the flowers she'd snuck up into her room after school. She stared at the note again, trying to figure out who her mystery valentine was. Dhanya and Namitha felt it had to be either Harish or Ravi. They'd gone to the boys directly but both had denied it. That joker Karthik had directly admitted to doing it, but a few simple questions were enough to identify that he was bluffing as usual. She read the words again, trying to decipher a new meaning behind each word. She looked up and caught her relfection in the mirror. 


She was smiling. And yes, Namitha was right. She was blushing so much she looked like a strawberry milk shake. She couldn't stop smiling all the way back from school even after she'd gotten down from the bus. Her first Valentine's gift had made her the envy of all her friends, but more importantly, she loved how it made her feel. 
She'd borrowed a vase which was lying idle in her sister's room and placed it on her dressing table. She filled it with water and then took out the roses from her bag and placed them gently into the vase, one at a time. She noticed that there were no thorns on any of them. After placing them in the vase, she spent another few minutes rearranging them to her satisfaction. She then noticed the few petals that had fallen into her bag throughout the day and the plastic bag the roses had been wrapped in. As she removed the petals and placed them into the bag, she saw a piece of wet paper stuck to the inside of the bag. She'd missed it earlier as it had been on the bottom under all the flowers. She removed it and read the words on it. 
She stared at the paper for what seemed like an eternity, then looked up at her reflection in the mirror. She found she was still smiling. She couldn't help herself. 

________________________________________________________________________


It was midway in the first period of Algebra that Sunil got the chit. He didn't notice from which direction it had started it's journey and neither did his benchmate who passed it on to him. He opened it and stared puzzled.
"What the... " he almost said aloud.
His benchmate looked at him and raised his eyebrows. What is it, man ?
He stared at the paper again perplexed. 
What was a paid laundry bill of his dad's business suit doing in school ? And why on Earth was there a heart drawn on the top in shiny pink ink ?

He looked up just in time to see three pairs of eyes turn forward to face the blackboard again. Of the three, it was Namitha who stared back first, smiled, then giggled and turned forward again. She must have made some motion to the others because a second later, Dhanya too turned for just a second to stare at him and smiled. 

And then Vineeta turned her head slightly to her side. He could only see her face in profile as she smiled. Her head turned back a little more, making sure he was watching her, before she smiled at him and mouthed three words silently.

"Happy Valentine's Day."

________________________________________________________________________


Authors note : 
The term 'Old school' refers to anything that belongs to an older era or generation, be it music, behaviour or clothes. This Valentines, I just thought it would be nice to relive Valentines Day as we used to remember it, back in our days : not with mobiles, emails and Facebook updates while sitting in a cafe, but in a simple school classroom where guys and girls my age had their first memorable experience of Valentines Day the old fashioned way : with chits, roses... a shy smile of acceptance.
Happy Valentines, everyone.

23 Comments

Ankita Ghosh said…
Grand! Liked it through and through :)
maithili said…
Such a sweet story :) The narration made me smile.. Just loved the innocence and freshness of this post :) Happy Valentine's Day !!
Rohan said…
Bringing back memories huh doc??? ;)
Dr Roshan R said…
Annkita, thanks :)

Maithili, thats what I was hoping for... a "back to innocence" kind of story. Happy Valentine's Day to you too.

Rohan, definitely trying to bring a smile on people's faces...I'm guessing most of the readers here are old enough to have gone through a similar Valentines :)
Sweet and simple . Loved it ! Happy Valentine's day 2 you too !
Nirvana said…
Awwww.... awwww.. Awwwwww man!!! You made me cry! This is like the times when I was in school - Damn!!
Rohan said…
Am not that old! Am still a boy! At least that's what my parents say!!
Sunitha said…
You have recieved an award . Check here. ajournalcalledlife.blogspot.com
Dr Roshan R said…
Anita, thanks.. Happy Valentines to you too.

Nirvana, thats exactly what I wanted.. not the "you crying" bit, but rather the memory of old and golden moments of our lives.

Rohan, thats probably what my mom says too :D

Sunitha, thanks...
Sumana said…
Lovely!!
Is it fiction or your own first Valentine's day experience :):)
Dr Roshan R said…
Sumana, not my own Valentine experience, but definitely from experiences I've seen
geeth said…
Simple beautiful!
Jackpot!! Bringing us back to our memories of school - romantically...
Dr Roshan R said…
Geeth,:)
Glad to see it doing that for so many here - bringing back fond memories of more innocent times
Meety said…
Quite a nice and different V'day post as compared to the others I read today :)
Reflections said…
That was lovely!!!!
Simple and beautiful:-))!!!!
Varsha Naik said…
so sweet...happy Valentine's day
Anonymous said…
Hey Roshan, that was really too good... we miss our days at school and college so terribly! Wish we get those times back in our lives :(

Reading your post, gave a chance to walk through those corridors for a few minutes.. thanks a lot!

Sharni.
Anju Renjith said…
Loved it!!!
remebered my school days once again..
Its really refreshing!!!!
Thanx for making my day!!!
Dr Roshan R said…
Meety, thanks. Glad you liked it.

Reflections, :)

Varsha, Happy Valentines.

Sharni, really do miss those days as we grow up. The story was written keeping in mind Balabhavan itself :)

Anju, thanks for the lovely comment... made my day :)
swashbuckler said…
Simply perfect!! Felt like I was in the school corridors and actually in class.. 12B... :-D
Dr Roshan R said…
hehe.. glad to hear that :) Woohoo !! 12B.. just the name brings back so many fun memories :D
Sahana Rao said…
Aaah! That was a lovely write-up. Loved reading it.

PS: Please remove the word verification.
Dr Roshan R said…
Sahana, thanks... and if I had any idea how to remove word verification, I would :)