Read THIS First ..

Read THIS First..
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Happy Reading!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015: Here's how you should be for me

Are the years passing by so quickly or what? It all zeroes down to spending all your time either studying through the years and/or being so into technology that you don't realize how quickly your time's running. If you don't believe me, try spending two hours in a sunny park on a winter afternoon, without your cell phone or any other tech device. It'll seem like ages as you peacefully read a book or just watch little kiddies play weird games. Then observe the next two hours at home. Trust me, it'll be a good five hours before you realize how much time has passed. Yesterday, I was talking about a black colour sketch I'd made of a couple of famous personalities, when I realized that I'd made those in 2002. It didn't even seem like a long time, but calculate it and you'd see that it's been more than twelve years! How do you feel when you look at life running through your hands like this? Don't you feel like easing out a bit, living more and running less? With this realization, I've decided to ask God and 2015 to go easy on me.

|      What I learned in 2014      |

Last year, I'd thought that 2014 would be an amazing year, especially since 2013 was just so annoying. It was partly true, because 2014 was a mix of amazing experiences but also some really bad ones. Nevertheless, it was also a year when I learned a lot, and at an entirely another level too! I think I finally grew up, mentally, emotionally, demographically. I'm no longer a formal student (because people like me never stop being students of some sort :P ), and that has marked my entry into another level of life. Surprisingly, it's one where I've learned that fear is overrated. As students, we're constantly being made to fear the 'real' world where there's 'cut-throat competition' and all that blah blah. I personally feel that there's enough space for everybody, if only you truly believe that. If you keep the silly competition in mind, you'll be forever stressed and keep running around and it'll be a long time before you realize that you're not even running for yourself, but for others. We need to really take a chill pill, spend productive time working on bettering ourselves and only look at other, successful people for inspiration, not jealousy.

You might have been asked to change your schedule, plan your day and be disciplined when you were preparing for your Board exams, but the fact is that more than then, you need to bring all that discipline now. Once you start working, if you have any kind of a future goal, you will have to consciously take a step back from all things that are limiting or hurting your feelings, and bring your focus to those that'll help you get better. I talk of feelings because they're more important than things you have or the money you earn. Feelings make your entire world; keep them safe. Protect yourself from bad feelings, stay away from people who make you feel guilty for no fault of yours, or make you wish you weren't with them. You are most important for yourself, because you can never love anyone else unless you're at peace with yourself. Just first and foremost, focus and work hard on being the best version of yourself, and present it to your loved ones. The rest will follow on its own.

I learned that some people will try bringing you down, just because they might be insecure themselves, or just because they can't help it. Sometimes it's not even intentional. Like every relationship, you have to work to make it better. It's no guarantee that it'll be better. If you see that the effort is not reciprocated or even after ten times of talking through it you don't 'feel' it's working, say a genuine apology and walk out. If it really means a lot to you, it'll work out for the better. If not, respect your feelings and do what makes you feel better.

I read quite a lot of books last year, and apart from numbers, I read the kind of books I hadn't read so far. Most of it was because of the entry into a new phase of life and working for it, but I have to say that I learned and matured a lot because of it. New genres, understanding books in depth, being more accepting to styles of writing and content that I positively looked down on earlier, I realized you really have to experience things first hand to understand them properly. The close people in my life have seen this marked, almost funny change. You thought I wasn't capable of making crass jokes, using colourful language or calling people deluded? You'd be in for a surprise the next time you talked to me. :P

I've also learned, after a lot of denial, that the way I wrote my blog posts earlier is a thing of the past. Unless I force myself (which I don't) or unless it's a rare mood swingy thing, my style of writing has definitely changed.

Among all this, I've learned how important friends are, specially when you're emotionally fluctuating from one point to the other; how assuring it is to know that you trust someone outside your immediate family to always be there when you need them. I've learned to cherish such people.  

|      Welcome, 2015!       |

I've been a regular resolution maker. That's how I actually keep my mental state intact, as a matter of fact. While working on a book on philosophy last month, I came across a line that said how it's important to have a philosophy of your own, how you cannot really know your ethics, morals and value system unless there is a set of philosophies you believe in and follow. So that explains how I need certain guidelines I set for myself at the beginning of each year. It's a different matter that the year's also interspersed with interim guidelines.

For the next year, I've decided to take into consideration all that I've learned so far, and consciously tell myself what to do and what things to follow. Most of these are the 'small changes' we can make in life to make it better and easy. These have been created from the perspective of improving what needs improvement and ditching whatever is extra. Let me know if you identify with any of these!

1. Read qualitatively
Participating in the Goodreads reading challenge the past three years, I've read nearly 175 books. It might not be a big number for a lot of people, but it was definitely a delight for me! The past year as I struggled to make the numbers reach my goal of 60, I realized how I'd fallen into the numbers trap. When you read with even the tiniest idea that it'd help increase a number, it's not the same. The more I read, the more I realized it wasn't giving as much happiness as it used to. Add to it the new job, where I figured it'd be better if I sometimes, somehow emotionally detached myself from what I was reading or working on, because of course, feelings. Those brutes need the most care.

So for the next year, I've decided to chill, not make any quantitative goals, read whatever I like or am interested in, with absolutely no expectations. I'd be rereading a lot of my favourites, including the Harry Potter series and some books I loved from the previous years (will update the book blog with the details soon). That way, I'll be reading more for the pleasure (or work) and not because it is a chore. I just can't wait to start! *_*

2. Take care of health
I'm not old, but I've realized that a lot of junk food is totally 'college-y' for me. It just doesn't feel as exciting as it did. Now eating out frequently makes me feel like I've become a baby elephant. To stay healthy and able to fit into my clothes easily, I'd be monitoring and improving my water intake, carrying a water bottle every time I go out, reduce the ordering out food/snacks to once in two weeks or longer if I can help it. More than that, I will not stress about this either. Carrying little amounts of healthy snacks so I won't feel impulsive in terms of food, knowing what kind of foods don't work for me (sweets, cheese and coffee, for example) and such little things make it easy to follow what sounds like a boring plan. 

3. Spend more time with family
I mean real time, not virtual time. It's annoying how people sit in the same room and either watch TV wordlessly or scroll through useless messages on WhatsApp. Oh the malice of those forwarded messages! When you're with your loved ones, give them the best of you, no? Play real games together - do you even know where your ludo/monopoly/carrom board/hangman/jenga is? 

4. Be brave
It takes bravery to stand up for the right things, specially if it is something you've been living with since forever. I think it works better to act and do than simply criticise things or complain. Sure, we need to speak up when no one else is, but it must be accompanied by a strong belief and followed by the right action. Being brave is also about respecting yourself - your limits, your ethics, your feelings. Let go of the emotional baggage. I've decided to simply call it quits with whatever/whoever I feel is dragging me down. I seriously have spent a good part of two-three years recovering from the loss of a loved one, and I'm seriously much, much grateful to those who understood, gave me space and stuck with me throughout. If you've seen the worst of me, you are the only one who deserves my best. So I'm reserving it for you. If, on the other hand, you're among those with whom I spent good times, but we drifted apart during the bad, I simply want to thank you for giving me those good times. It's just that I cannot feel enough to share my life with you ever since I realized that some of you only care about the good. 

In short, I'll just be me. The reserved, shy or whatever girl I have always been. No trying hard for anyone except those who matter. I'd rather reserve such energies for my work, right? 

5. Work. Work hard.
I actually love this phase of life. You're not bound by a certain kind of education, but you're free to pick and choose what to learn. You don't have heavy responsibilities at home, and you can spend time on yourself. The best thing in this case would be to dedicate yourself to your work, learn the trade and gain as much knowledge as you can. This year will definitely be one where I'm a little more sure about my goals, where I want to be, and making the most of what I get. It's starkly different from the same time last year when I was filled with uncertainty. Funny how much can happen in such a short time. So if you have goals to accomplish and you have the time, I guess that's all the motivation you need to get going. Ditch the distractions and just work. You'll be surprised how the rest of your life falls into place. That is, if you do it nicely and right. :) 

6. Help
The last year was also a time I learned how charity cannot be defined, because there are just so many ways to help other people. It's also true - charity begins at home. There's little point carrying stacks of clothes for NGOs when there is a family in your relations who needs it more. Then there are also the little gestures of connecting with people who seem lonely. It won't be a great idea to be the best of buddies, however, especially if you're a good listener. But it really varies from person to person. Just consciously try being a little more kind in general, with everybody, and like charity, even kindness begins at home. :)  

    |     The little things:    |

- Make the bed every morning. It actually takes less than a minute!
Action taken: Already started

- Keep the curtains on the windows open so you can wake up to sunlight. *_* This however, depends on whether or not sunlight reaches that window :P
Action taken: Windows cleaned, space behind it cleared. 

- Start taking care of misplaced objects in the house. Cleaning my room every few months is definitely not enough. If I feel irritable not finding something at the right place, I should myself put misplaced objects in their proper places, right? Plus, it's exercise.
Action taken: None. 

- Make the effort to step down the bed and put that dream-notebook and a pen under the pillow. Did I ever tell you how cool it is to be able to wake up and quickly scribble the part of dreams you remember? You anyway forget them after a few minutes, if not seconds, so why not write them down to remember them for later? I'm not sure what this activity achieves, except feeling good about having a weird habit :P Besides, not every thing has to have a reason. Some things just are. 
Action taken: Managed to mentally adjust getting up slowwwly, and scribbling in the half-light with partly closed eyes. Discontinued since a few weeks; need to take it up again.

- Reduce time spent on social networking sites. 
Action taken: Struggling, but persevering. At least I've managed to block out useless information and not be affected by stupid news, so that's cool.

- Follow the happiness-inducing things I started in mid 2014 when it became crucial to do so. Now that it's become a habit, let it be. :)
Action taken: Been doing it since the past few months. 

- Speak in English. It sounds funny, but I'm a lot better at writing than speaking. I mean, even G gives me a complex sometimes, so you can figure it out. And now that I've made it public, I guess I'll consciously be motivated to do it.
Action taken: Do it whenever I remember it!

- Okay, I've been postponing putting this ever since I started writing the points, and it's not exactly a 'small' thing, but let's just say it is. Learning to prepare small meals for whenever I'm hungry! I know, it's embarrassing to admit that I know absolutely zilch about preparing food. It's complicated, so I won't bother to explain it here. I'll just spend a part of weekends with mom, learning how to boil eggs, for instance. (Goodbye people who would undoubtedly be running away after this! :P)
Action taken: Except for three experiments this year, nothing.

- Stealing some points from a friend's post, I'll add 'preparing and setting out clothes for the next day, the night before' purely because I spend a lot of time staring at the clothes and ending up wearing the same, usual ones without experimenting!
Action taken: Nada

Dear 2015, I hope you've realized that I'm completely prepared to make the best of you. You should be as excited as I am and be with me.

A very happy New Year, dear readers! Wishing you all a year full of happiness and great experiences. Thank you for reading my life stories blog and often writing to me. It feels great to have friends like you. :)
Do you have your own set of resolutions or plans for the year? I'd love it if you'd share them with me!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

You shouldn't always be 'cool with everything'. Here's why...

There are some things that sometimes make me feel guilty. Getting annoyed at something/someone, not feeling quite satisfied with life, finding people in the metro annoying, feeling dizzy looking at newspaper headlines, or news shows that talk about a monkey saving another monkey as headline news. These are recent. Since childhood, I've accumulated quite a lot of similar stories where I was made to feel, and now I automatically feel, guilty about feeling annoyed/irritated/angry/sad at anything I feel is not quite right. It's a reason deep rooted. We're supposed to be good kids and not shout or crib a lot. Of course we should! That's what kids are supposed to actually do. Because when they don't, they keep it inside and start hating everything that's related to the thing they weren't allowed to sulk over. 

Now in this age and time, despite the fact that it feels sickening, we've seen the relative and even absolute importance of being online. That inevitably led to a shift in thoughts - for the good and for the bad. We're exposed to almost everything that happens in the world, yet we don't feel strongly for any one thing. We have all the information that was never there before, yet we cannot make sense of some sensitive topics. We cannot argue with maniacs who've taken over the social media to spread hate messages, because they're beyond control and influencing other maniacs too. And most of all, we cannot express how annoying all this, because we're supposed to 'just chill' and 'be cool with everything.'

Fine, you're propagating peace. No one is allowed to argue or point out the negatives, but why should the world get away with doing something so stupid? We should start speaking up. Not on blogs, not on social media, and certainly not in the form of protests. Don't feel bad about stopping someone from doing something silly just because you don't want to hurt their feelings or spoiling their time after a long day. Speak up even when someone silences you with a 'chill dude' when you protest against a racist remark. Point out when someone in a group cracks a rude joke. Would you rather feel terrible about the kind of people you hang out with, or tell them somehow that they're wrong? Tell them if what they said is wrong. Stop 'chilling'. It's not helping. Neither you, nor the world. You don't feel at peace anyway. You just think you're feeling cool because you fool yourself into believing so.

Taking yet another helping of a large scoop of chocolate ice-cream because the host is forcing you, letting your classmates make you stay for an hour longer because they're still working, letting go of a prejudiced remark because it didn't seem too offensive at the time, laughing at stupid WhatsApp videos people keep sending, looking at people sneaking peeks at other people's cell phones in the metro, a neighbour's pet dog roaming freely around because they say it's harmless - all these have personally been things I've felt guilty about. Not just about letting all that happen, but also about feeling not-so-cool about it. That's the level of stress expectations can have. Why can't I say if I find something wrong? I'm terrified of dogs, so even if he's a harmless half-lion, I will feel bad if you tell me that I'm wrong to say it's not right to leave it out like that. It makes me cringe when people talk in terms of caste and social status about anyone, and then describing them, so I will tell you that you need to shut up. It's not just about how "I" feel, but about right and wrong. This chalta hai attitude is wrong. Nahi chalta aise. 

When you get into the chalta hai attitude, you forget your limits. You cross an invisible line and become one of those who know no better than to just have 'fun' and live for themselves. You show others that it is okay to deviate, to accept what they might feel is wrong, to become 'cool'. 

Src: pinterest

Of course I don't mean you should always be on edge and snap at everything that ticks you off. Sometimes you just cannot point out things directly. Sometimes it's not required. But we need to be aware of what we're doing, what we're saying and how we say it. It's important to know what you think! Most of the times, we're not thinking for ourselves, but simply repeating what others are saying, or worse, what the majority is saying. Take a break, sit back and just think. How do you feel? What makes you feel bad? How can you make a difference? It's not all that difficult, really. You affect the people around you. Stop doing things that you think are wrong. That's it. It's not difficult. When people would see that you don't participate in anything you don't like, they're going to actually feel inspired. Even if they criticize you on your face, they're wondering how you do it. Some might even say that they admire your stand. And if you feel that it'll be difficult, look around. There are always heroes somewhere; someone who's quietly living the way you should. Approach them for help, they'll never refuse. 

So the next time you're tempted to laugh at a sexist joke, stop yourself and tell the person that it's not funny. You should not feel guilty about doing what is right. Never, ever.  

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Theandric Thursday # 10: Best Friend For Life...

Zack is my best friend. He lives down the street in the corner-most house, right at the edge of the woods, which I find equally awesome and terrifying. He's been my best friend for life since we met in the library three years ago, and I found him clutching the special edition comic I'd been waiting for months! I couldn't resist and politely asked his mother - who never seemed to leave his side, and sometimes it seemed overbearing, if you ask me, especially for an eight year old. She asked Zack to hand it to me to read. I suggested that we could read it together, but his mother seemed scared at the prospect, as if I would have hurt him, so she quickly shook her head, forced a smile and took the special edition comic away from him and gave it to me. Anyway, that's a long story, and Miss Clara asked us to write a page a day. Zack is my best friend for life. Mother tells me that I'm quite an unusual boy for my age, which is twelve years, four months and twenty-three days at the moment, not counting the hours and minutes. I could do that too. I have always been able to do that, which is what made Zack interested in a scrawny boy like me and we became best friends. I'm unusual because... well, it sounds like I lack humility, because I haven't yet learned how to phrase words without seeming self-important, but she says I'm a lot kinder for my age. When I think about it, it doesn't seem to make any sense. I mean, Miss Clara tells us to be kind, and it took me a while to know what it meant. I was rather happy too, I will admit, because from what we were told, I figured I was usually kind. But what was the big deal about it? I asked mom once, and she sighed so heavily and smiled so sadly, although lovingly, that I didn't ask her again. Yet, I want to know. What's the big deal if I'm a kind boy? What's so unusual about it?

Benzie left his journal at that. He had already known that Miss Clara would not be reading whole summer journals by everyone in his class, which would be twenty-five. Even then, since he was one of her favourites - and he knew that despite the fact that Miss Clara didn't show it because she wasn't supposed to have favourties - he hoped she would read his journal and answer his questions. He looked at the page again, re-reading his entry five times over, because he did not want to have any spelling or grammatical error. A page a day is too short, he thought, wondering about all the things about Zack he wanted to write. His heart conflicted on a few things, because if he was honest with himself, he thought they were somewhat rude things to mention, like the strange smell of a chemical that fills Zack's house and which Benzie didn't find very pleasant. Nevertheless, he loved spending time with Zack, and his mother, because his mother never left his side even when the boys were eleven, and he didn't mind a little chemical in the air for that.

'Aren't you running late for school?' asked Grandma from the other side of the table while Benzie swallowed what was left of the scrambled eggs on his plate. He nodded vigorously and plopped off his chair. He made it to the door before turning back and planting a kiss on Grandma's cheek.

'Can I go to Zack's straight after school?' he asked, hoping that she'd say yes, despite having been refused each time.
Grandma's mouth opened and quickly shut again. It seemed to Benzie that she'd been about to say yes, but then thought the better of it. However, when he heard her speak, he couldn't have been more surprised.
'Only if you keep a promise,' she said. 
His eyes shone bright as stars. 'Really?' he squealed. 'Anything you say grandma. You know I never break promises.'
She smiled. 'Before leaving school, you have to apply the recommended amount of Klotin. You will not go without doing that, all right?'

Benzie nodded, only after a slight pause. 'I'm still not old enough to know everything?' he asked.
Grandma shook her head. 'It's a responsibility to know everything, Zie. Sometimes you're better off not knowing. Be a good boy. Here,' she took out a blue bottle of liquid, a nozzle on top, and put it in an inside zipper of Benzie's bag. 'Rush now.'

Benzie was happy that he would be allowed to go to his best friend's house straight after school, which was happening for the first time ever! Zack used to go to school, but he started homeschooling right after kindergarten. That's also when he started celebrating all his birthdays with his family and no friends. Till the time he met Benzie, that is.

J.C. Valley Middle School was a twenty minute walk from Benzie's place, but Benzie had fifteen minutes to make it. Hitching up his school bag a notch higher and taking care to stay on the pedestrian path, Benzie started running. Thirteen minutes later, he was making his way to the classroom, breathing heavily. Mr Jones was already in class, his back to the room, finishing writing the words 'Maladies of the current times.'

Mr Jones wasn't particularly Benzie's favourite teacher, especially since he taught them Biology, which Benzie wasn't quite fond of. So they'd be learning about maladies today? Ugh. He didn't even like the word.

'What do you know about maladies?' asked Mr Jones, once the class had been settled.
As usual, Kevin's hand shot up.
'An ailment, sir.'
'A serious ailment, sir,' Gina replied sharply. Benzie remembered that her mother was a doctor.
'Very good,' Mr Jones nodded to the two of them. 'An ailment deeprooted, or something that's not easy to resolve is a malady.'

Benzie's stomach twisted itself into knots. He wasn't enjoying this at all. Mr Jones spent the next half hour explaining three maladies to the class, after which Benzie was not the only one who seemed nauseated.

'I'm not sure we fall in the recommended target audience for this topic,' Gina muttered, looking angry. Benzie glanced sideways at her. He usually remained silent in Mr Jones's class, but today he was absolutely mum. The wall clock showed seven minutes and thirty-six seconds for the bell to ring, according to Benzie's calculation. He was about to start thinking about something far more interesting, like stories or numbers, when he heard the word 'Klotin'. Mr Jones was in the process of explaining something, and Benzie realized he had missed it. He peeped into Gina's notebook.

Her handwriting made deep dents into the page as she had written forcefully and furiously.
'... protective chemical... perfumed... mask... safety... flesh... similar to zo-' This was followed by a deep gash in the paper, and Benzie could read no more. He turned his attention to Mr Jones.

'... seems like something from fantasy novels and movies, and if you had any inclination and idea about it, I'm sure you'd understand better. This, however, is real life,' his voice had turned grave, and Benzie noticed how he wasn't the only one equally scared and intrigued. 'The victims then lose sense of smell entirely, except for the smell of skin. Of the scent of human flesh.' Benzie's heart started pumping harder. Mr Jones continued, disregarding Gina's look of pure dislike, which Benzie couldn't ignore. It wasn't her look as much as the angry shuffling of her feet on the floor, even as she sat, 'This malady is presently identified in nine people across the globe.'

A stunned silence reigned in the room. Mr Jones seemed to be enjoying the show. 'Now, who says we aren't really away from a zombie apocalypse?'

'What about those nine people?' Gina asked, her voice strained. Benzie could see her hands clutched together tightly in her lap. 'What happened to them?'

Now Mr Jones turned a slight shade of red as he properly registered Gina's question. Or rather, Gina herself. 'Well, you don't mean to say you don't know?'

What happened next surprised Benzie so much, he was sure he wouldn't do that ever in his life, for it could be so scary for everyone around him. Gina stood up, banging a fist on the table with all the force she could muster, a large tear rolling down her angry cheeks. Grabbing her bag, she cried out, 'No one cares for them! You talk about them like they're an experiment! THIS WORLD IS STUPID!' With that, she stomped out of the class, ignoring Mr Jones's feeble attempts to stop her. Benzie's heart raced. He badly wanted to go after her.

'This was an example of how you are not supposed to behave in class,' Mr Jones spoke in a serious voice, scribbling on an orange detention slip. Undoubtedly for Gina. The bell rang. Benzie spent the entire day looking for Gina - between class breaks, of course, which lasted five minutes - but she was nowhere to be found. By that time, he had already heard rumoured whispers about her, including some as weird as Gina being a zombie herself.

He felt uneasy all day long. Many questions came to his head, and he felt that Gina, with whom he hadn't spoken more than a polite 'Hi, how are you?', would definitely answer some. The final class came to an end. Benzie picked up his bag and rushed to the boys' restroom on the ground floor. He was sure he didn't want the other boys to know about him going to Zack's, especially not when he'd be dabbing himself with four squirts of Klotin on his face and arms, eyes closed. No one understood Zack. In fact, and he hated to recall, some of the boys even went so far as to call him a weirdo. While closing the zipper, he noticed with a sinking feeling, a library book that was due that day. J.C. Valley Library did not entertain late penalties, and Benzie did not want to face mother with a fine on his head.

Sighing heavily, he made his way to the library, hoping he would be able to drop the book and rush back before anyone could make out his strong perfume. To his relief, the librarian wasn't behind her desk, so he swiftly dropped in the book in the Returns stand, and turned around to leave. Just as he did, he caught a glimpse of a figure crouched low in front of the huge windows, bent over a book. He would not have bothered to see who stayed back after school in the library, but he knew it to be Gina, so he quickly went towards her, forgetting all about his perfume.

She looked up, narrowing her eyes at him. Her eyes seemed puffy.
'Hey,' he began.
'What do you want?'
'Umm... I just wanted to know if you're all right,' Benzie replied, unsure if he should sit down. 'I was looking for you. Before.'
'You won't understand. Nobody will. This world is so stupid!' She gasped for air as she said that, and Benzie noticed she had crunched up a page in the library book. He wished she would shut it or confess about it to the librarian, but he felt she wasn't going to do either of the two. She just wasn't there, really.
'Well, I want to. Something about Mr Jones's class was disturbing me too. I just don't know what.'
Gina looked up at that. 
Benzie continued, 'Do... do you know anything about Klotin?'
Gina stared at him. It seemed to Benzie that she was at first angry, but it turned to surprise, and then for some reason... to shock.
'What do you know about it?' she asked, closing the book and slowly crawling away from him. 
Benzie was tired of questions, and he figured if he didn't keep Gina's attention any longer, she would be gone. He realized his perfume now covered their surroundings. 
'My best friend,' he said in a whisper. 'I cannot go to him without Klotin. He is homeschooled. I've been told he is delicate, so he cannot really go to school and play like other boys. You have to trust me, Gina. I want to know.'

It took Benzie a good part of the next ten minutes to explain and convince her to tell him what she knew. Gina told him about herself - her story, her relation with Klotin, and why she thought the world was stupid. Benzie felt hot tears running down his cheeks and surprisingly, he wasn't ashamed of them right then, even not in front of a girl. Perhaps that was because Gina's face was wet too. Klotin happened to be a protective applicant, to be applied on exposed areas of the skin. It was used to mask the scent of human skin, to keep them safe from those suffering from a dangerous disease called kloetinbititis. Benzie didn't even try pronouncing it right.

'We've got to warn them,' Gina said, getting up determinedly. 'I don't want that to happen to anyone else.'
Benzie nodded, trying to rid himself of the shaky feeling that had enveloped his body. He ran with Gina outside the school, and all the way to the end of the lane where Zack's house stood, right next to the woods. 
'You got any more of that Klotin?' Gina asked.
Benzie nodded and handed it to her. A sinking feeling filled him as he saw, for the first time, the true purpose of its use. 

They went inside. It was chaos.
Clothes, big and small, items of daily use, the silver adornments that always stayed on the mantelpiece, everything lay in a heap. In the middle of it sat Zack's mother, feverishly sorting them out and roughly folding them, keeping them in a couple of large trunks. She looked up at the two kids and for a moment, didn't register them.
'Oh,' she said. 'Benzie! Ohmy. I totally forgot your grandma said you'd come over!' she sounded frantic, getting up and coming over to them. 'You brought a friend?' she asked, glancing at Gina.

'I know,' Benzie said in a tearful whisper. Zack's mother froze. 
'Know what, dear?'
'About Zack,' Gina said. 'You've got to hide him. They're looking for such patients. Mr Jones told us in class today and I checked with my mother right before coming here,' she said in a rush. Benzie noticed how she had used the word 'patients' instead of what Mr Jones used - victims. 
'But... you... You're mistaken, kids,' Zack's mother said, forcing a smile. Benzie had seen too many of those to know what it was.
'We aren't,' he insisted. He looked around. 'You're leaving? Where's Zack?'
'My dad is one such patient,' Gina muttered, looking steadily at Zack's mother. 'He was taken away. He's one of the nine patients identified with the disease. I don't know what they're doing to him, but from what I overheard mom saying, I know it's not something pleasant. They talk about him like he isn't even human!' 

Zack's mother finally seemed to trust them. She looked tenderly at Gina and said, 'Thank you. We got a warning from someone I trust, and we're leaving. I... I'm really grateful to you. I will pray that your father is safe, and that you'd meet him soon enough.'
Gina shrugged. 'Can we see Zack? We've got Klotin on us.' Zack's mother nodded. Benzie ran towards Zack's room, Gina in tow. 
Zack was standing in front of his toy-cupboard, a large trunk behind him. 'You're late, Zie,' he said without turning around. 'I feel terrible, Zie. We're going away. We-' he stopped as he saw Gina.
As for Gina, she was looking at the strangest boy she ever saw. Nearly a foot shorter than them despite being the same age, Zack was a small boy, his legs rather thin. His sweet face was an entirely another matter. His hazel-brown eyes seemed like they were perpetually in wonder and his thin lips presently curved into a small smile.
'Hi,' he said, not coming closer. 
'Hi,' Gina replied. 'My name is Gina, and I'm Benzie's new friend. Nice to meet you, Zack,' she replied politely. Zack nodded. 
'We're going away, Zie,' he repeated, looking at Benzie, his eyes becoming sad.
'I'm so sorry about that,' Benzie replied, going over to where Zack stood. 'Is it far? Where you're going?' he asked, even as he knew the answer.
The two boys stood for a moment, conscious of Gina's presence. 
'I'll be waiting for you, Benzie,' she said, turning to the door.

Zack's eyes filled with tears. 'I don't want to go,' he cried. Benzie couldn't help feeling a deep sense of sadness. It was a grave sensation, something he had never felt before. He was too young to know that it was grief. The crying boy in front of him had been his companion, Star Wars and Harry Potter quizzer, playmate and best friend for life. Looking at him without his mother for the first time, he realized how difficult his life was. Suffering from a rare disease with no treatment yet, a boy of eleven, unable to meet other people randomly as other people normally did, for fear that he'd smell their flesh and react to it, living in a house full of chemicals just so he didn't react to his loved ones', or even his own, flesh. He was sure if he were Zack, he would have been a very unhappy, crappy kid. But Zack was the best. He was always polite and knew things even adults wouldn't know. Benzie didn't know what he would do if Zack wasn't there.

Zack wiped off his tears furiously and turned to his trunk. He took out a photograph of the two of them. Benzie remembered the day. They'd spent an entire afternoon staying in the tree-house Zack's mother had built on one of the trees from the woods, the one closest to Zack's house. It showed the two boys, aged nine, grinning cheekily from the tree-house. 
'I have a copy too,' Zack said, showing him another one. He flipped it over and wrote, 'I'll always love you, Zie. You're the kindest boy ever. Your best friend.'
Benzie took the pen and wrote on the other picture, 'Always your best friend for life, in heart and soul. You're the bravest boy ever. Love, Zie. Xx'

As if on impulse, the two boys came forward in a long hug, and Benzie realized what Gina meant when she said the world was stupid. Here he was with Zack, a little boy who was the best boy if you came to know him, and he thought he was lucky to have him as a friend. He felt all the times they'd spent together running in his head and heart at that moment, and he felt he hadn't ever been equally happy and sad before. The world was stupid because the world didn't know what this feeling was, how wrong it was to scare off Zack and his nice mother who did everything possible to keep him safe. The little boy had never been responsible for as much as a scar on Benzie, and here he was, frightened because the world was after him for something he hadn't done.

The boys tearfully smiled at each other. 
'I'll write you loads of letters,' Benzie said. 'You will have to tell me about any new friends you make too.'
Zack considered that. 'Won't they find me weird, like the boys here?'
'Well,' Benzie replied, 'they're the stupid ones. I think you will find a smart boy like me.'
'Maybe. Maybe I'll get someone who can actually beat me at a Star Wars quiz,' Zack said, sniffing. 
'I did beat you twice.'
'Totally did!'
Then they both burst out laughing. After a pause, Zack said, 'I think you should make Gina a friend. She seems nice.'
'Indeed. But I'll miss you, too,' Benzie said. 
'I know.'

Benzie found out, a few days after Zack's departure and getting his Grandma and mother to tell him everything, because he knew most of it anyway, what his mother meant when she said that he was kind. 'You had it in you even before we put it there,' she explained, 'while other boys looked at Zack's small frame, you looked at his friendship. You never questioned the dabbling of Klotin if that meant you could spend time with Zack. I can't tell you how grateful his mother had been. Zack had been craving company for so long. You gave a little boy the very thing that's most precious to him - the gift of a true friend.'

Benzie was honest with himself. He respected his mother's viewpoint, but to him, it was entirely the opposite. He wanted Zack to be his friend. So what if he didn't look exactly like others? So what if he didn't go to regular school? He was still a great boy. Gina had been a regular friend from then on, often telling him about her father, after which Benzie missed Zack all the more, but he thought that Gina couldn't really talk about her father to anyone else, and she seemed much happier after that, so he let her talk. 

One evening while the sun began turning a shade of red, and Benzie and Gina were returning from the park, they crossed Zack's house, and as usual, Benzie paused. 
'Do you believe he'll be all right?' he asked bravely, for this was one burning question he needed answered.
'Of course,' Gina replied, taking his hand and leading him away, 'it'll happen when I grow up, because when I grow up, I will show this stupid world how wrong they are. I will find a cure.'   

Theandric Thursday is a used to be a fortnightly feature on my blog (now it'll just be whenever I have the time and mind!), where I'll be having fun with putting down those weird thoughts and stories that occupy my mind most of the times. The dictionary definition of 'Theandric' is 'Relating to the joint agency of the divine and human nature'.

If you're interested in participating, write your own Theandric Thursday post and drop your link in the comments section. Feel free to write reality, part-reality-part-fiction or fiction, anything above the 'normality' of our world. ;) You can use this picture on your post and link back to this post.


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