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The Last Laugh!
by Debashish Majumdar

Shankar was the latest addition to our class. He arrived after summer, a green turtle shaped schoolbag slung across his right shoulder and a red floral umbrella in hand.

Devika, Sahana and Lata - (newcomers beware!) inspected the new boy from head to toe. He would have won the Battle of the Bulge award anywhere on earth.

“ Hey listen,” Sahana spoke melodiously to Sankar , “ What do you eat daily?”
“ I am a rice-eater,” Shankar spoke coyly, “ And I am a veggie.”
“ I wouldn’t be surprised if you are a kid-eater,” giggled Lata,” How come you are s…o…o…o fat?”
“ My dad works in an ice-cream company,” admitted Shankar, “ I slurp up nearly a dozen ice-creams after dinner every night. Maybe that’s why I am so belly-heavy.”

Devika, Sahana and Lata licked their lips and huddled together.

“ Lucky boy!” said Devika, “ How I wish my dad had owned a chocolate- making machine…”

Shankar was rather frightened of this female trio. He would avoid their gaze and uttered only a few syllables whenever they found an excuse to talk to him. Not that Shankar was particularly shy of the girls in his class. He chattered away like a trained parrot with Raima. She was an attractive, bespectacled girl with a pair of ponytails that hung like a pair of thin elephant trunks behind her small head. She was smart and intelligent too.

“ I’ve got a great idea!” Devika whispered into the ears of her two friends, “ We’ll take Shankar on a goose chase.”
“ How?” Sahana’s large black eyes popped out, “ Can we really hook him up to Raima or something?”
“ Yeah!” quipped Lata, “ We will make a real big fool of Shankar, just you wait and see!”

The next day in school, Devika greeted Shankar as softly as a butter candy.

“ Do you like Harry Potter movies?” she asked him gently.
“ Of course, I do,” smiled Shankar, “ Just not getting a chance to view the movie Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince…”
“ Luck is on your way,” winked Devika who had skipped along to Lata’s side, “ Expect an invitation for Sunday.”

That evening, Devika slapped Shahana’s palms and said: “ I will call up Shankar on his mobile and …”

The Newcomers Beware Squad rolled into action.

“ Hi, Shankar…guess who?” Lata spoke stylishly.
“ Hello, that’s Raima,” beamed Shankar.
“ Care for a movie, Sunday at four o’clock …at the Princess Mall?”
“ Wow, thanks,” Shankar was elated, “ Thanks for the invitation.”

Lata clicked off her cellphone. The three impish girls reeled with laughter.

“ Well done,” Sahana thumped Lata’s shoulders, “ Even Michael Jackson would have been proud of that imitation voice.”

Shankar believed from his heart that it was actually Raima who had called up on the mobile and offered him this grand movie invitation. And the Naughty Threesome slowly traced their steps behind Shankar as he headed for the movie hall.

It was nearly four o’clock when Shankar reached his landmark. He raised his head like an antelope and searched for Raima.

“ Ha! Ha! Ha!” said Lata as the three girls laughed out, “ Snooty Shankar …we have taught him a sound lesson for caring only for Rai….!”
“ Wha----?” said Sahana, her mouth open as wide as a hippo.

Raima came ambling down the road dressed in a brown outfit, black high heel shoes and waved a fashionable vanity bag merrily.

Even before Shankar could speak, she held out two movie tickets and smiled:

“ My brother has fallen ill. Let’s hurry, you have arrived just in time.”
“ Gosh!” said Sahana.
“ Eeks!” shrieked Devika from a safe distance, obscured by the teaming crowd.
“ What a disaster!” said Lata.

The next morning, Shankar stepped into the class proud as a peacock. He held his nose even at a higher incline so that he could hardly see the withered, pale faces of the Newcomers Beware Squad.

“ A coincidence!” said a defeated Lata, “ We will surely win next time.”
“ What? Another idea up your sleeve?” tugged Devika impatiently.
“ Listen to me, please,” said Sahana and she whispered into their eager ears.
“ Fantastic!” cried out Lata in a shrill voice.
“ Three cheers for the Newcomers Beware Squad!” said Devika.

Devika, Lata and Sahana painted a hand drawn birthday invitation card.

Dear Shankar,

Please attend my happy birthday on Christmas Day, the 25th of December.

Love,
Raima

The girls slipped the card in an envelope, addressed it to Shankar and placed it inside his class desk. Surely, Shankar was thrilled!

The girls had a rollicking start! Raima did not attend class on that day, Christmas Eve.

“ So let Shankar belly-crash into Raima’s house,” guffawed Devika, “ And she will pound him to flour for carrying thus far.”
“ What if a Christmas party is on?” asked Lata.
“ That will make things even worse, poor boy,” Sahana was bursting at the seams of her skirt.

Now Raima’s house was located at the bottom of a hillock. Christmas Carols wafted in the chill wintry air. The girls stretched out on the grass at the top of the green mound, anxiously waiting for Shankar to arrive.

Surely, Shankar panced along excitedly , reaching at six and chimed the door bell. He was carrying a birthday gift in a silver wrapper! What a fool! Raima opened the door and to the utter dismay of the girls Raima warmly welcomed him in.

The girls shivered and waited in the cold. After two hours, Shankar left the house and Raima waved him goodbye at the door.

Shankar began to climb up the hillock. The girls scrambled up and stood to attention.

“ Hi, Shankar!” said Devika, equally puzzled as her two dumb-struck friends, “ What’s up?”
“ Just attended Raima’s birthday,” he said quietly and proudly, “ She was born on Christmas Day.”

The girls’ mouths snapped close like a bunch of stupid tortoises. They simply failed to digest what they had heard. Shankar had the final laugh! And Devika, Lata and Sahana vowed never to tease newcomers again.

17-Feb-2010
 
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