“Crush” sounds childish. “Puppy love” sounds even more childish. “Infatuation” seems dignified and blog worthy. But this is my personal blog, I’ve every right to write whatever I want and proudly display my lack of good vocabulary too.
I was 12 when I had my first crush. Year was 1997. I grew up in a small, laidback town in India. And at that age my world consisted of school in the morning, chatting with my best friend, playing with my cousins, quarrelling with my sister, painting in the afternoons and watching old American TV series’ that were aired on Indian television in the late nineties (think “I dream of Jeannie”, “Who’s the boss”, “Different Strokes” etc), and animatedly telling the events of my day to my parents during dinner. That’s my life back then summed up in one line. I hadn’t even known what romantic love was, I knew it existed when I saw these people mouthing “I love you” in movies and the all-knowing classmates who gave us the wisdom about the going ons of the adult world. But that was about it. That was the period when the girls who had considered the boys gross, rowdy, loud and extremely sweaty, suddenly found the very boys “cool” (whatever that meant!). And the boys too were more than enthusiastic to allow girls to be a part of their games. Territorial rights gave way to a new equation between the boys and girls of my class. There were occasional shy glances, the incessant giggling if a boy approached a group of girls and the most horrifying scenario…when a guy was caught “just talking” to a girl alone without any friends of his hanging around. The teasing that followed was cruel. There were no boyfriends or girlfriends at that time. The concept hadn’t caught up with our small town in the late nineties. Just the teasing. But even that seemed horrifying to me. And I never wanted to be the victim. So I carefully avoided being in such scenarios. That wasn’t too difficult considering the fact that I had always been a huge introvert. And I was least interested in the new thing that we had discovered, “love”. I was happy and content in my own world. I didn’t even find any of my classmates particularly good looking (that was the main criteria back then; shallowness ruled). Seniors and juniors were a no-no. So I knew I was safe.
Little did I know what lies ahead! I was an above average student. Study was a chore. I wasn’t the competitive sorts, nor was there any parental pressure as long as I got an A in all the subjects. I didn’t abhor books. I loved them. But not the ones in the curriculum. But still I completed my studies dutifully, and since I was good at math and science, the teachers liked me too. I hated the arts (social sciences, history, and geography). I prayed for the months to pass quickly so that I can get into eighth grade and toss the history and geography books for good and buy my copy of advanced math.
I prayed too soon. Because that was the year I fell from my history teacher! I was head over heels in 'looooooooooooove' with him. That was what I thought it was back then. He was a new teacher. He got in that year, ’97. He was just like any other teacher for the first six months but a good one though. He made the classes very interesting. He made us think and told us interesting trivia and held fun quizzes and I gradually found myself getting genuinely interested in the very subjects that I had hated so much up till then. And I enjoyed attending his classes and looked forward to learning rather than studying history. I went to the library to get books on history, researched for my assignments which was unheard of in our school back then. My parents too were shocked at this sudden transition.
Then came the half yearly exams. It was the first exam where I had actually enjoyed studying a subject instead of plain memorizing. So when the question papers were handed out, I noticed that few questions were wrongly published. I was very timid back then, standing in front of the whole class to say something was a big task for me. But I did get up and pointed out the mistake to my history teacher. He was surprised at my noticing the mistakes that even he had overlooked, and corrected them promptly. That was the first time he noticed this timid girl. And he smiled at me, patted my back and told me that he hoped I do the best in the class in his subject (and yes, I later did.). I was so happy. A sincere compliment from the first teacher I appreciated. And I can’t exactly pinpoint what, but something in me changed that day. I fell for him really bad. I suddenly had an attack of coyness when he looked my way or talked to me. After the exam was done, I remember it was raining outside, and taking the rain as the excuse I stood in the corridor next to the staff room stealing occasional glances at him. I didn’t know what came over me. It was a new emotion I was experiencing. And on that very day, summer holidays began for a month. I wouldn’t get to see him for a month! I came home and that afternoon drew a sketch of him. In the blue and black check shirt that he so frequently wore.
When school re-opened, everything was the same except that I had a heightened sense of awareness whenever he was around ,and whenever he talked to me I would be too shy to even look directly at him. I told no one about it. Not even my best friend. He was my secret. My first crush was way too special and personal to share with anyone. He was always appreciative about my work complimenting me always. Once I remember he held a quiz and our team won, but he had only one bar of chocolate in his hand. Everyone started shouting that they wanted it. And I was sitting at the extreme corner and was too self-conscious to act like the others when he was around. Maybe he saw how quiet I was from the rest of the kids, and when he threw the chocolate bar in the air, it fell on my lap. I still remember that moment, this small, insignificant gesture on his part felt so good. And once he punished the whole class, and kept us in during the entire recess period, but when there were only 15 minutes to go, he called me and let me go out because he felt I was always obedient and didn’t deserve any punishment. So I walked out happily leaving a bunch scowling and angry classmates.
Little gestures meant a lot. It wasn’t like I fantasized romantically about him, he was about fourteen years elder to me! And I was only 12! It was just that I admired him so much, and even a little appreciation on his part kept me smiling for days. I acted very awkward when he was around. My unusual coyness and few silly goof-ups made him know that I was infatuated with him for sure. He never told me that he knew, I would have been mortified. But I knew that he knew. I would remember those classes, those gestures, his words in my autograph book, the one time he bumped against me while hurriedly getting down the stairs,his left arm grazing my right arm, the confused scowl that he wore, the warm smile he had, the appreciation. I know I can’t get across my point clearly and there’s nothing special or extra-ordinary in what I wrote. But it was a very special phase of my life.
I transferred to a new school, new city the next year. And the last time I saw him, it was on the last day of my seventh grade. I told him I was transferring to a new school; he said he would miss one of his favorite students. And those were the simple parting words that I would remember my whole life
My first crush; the freshness and innocence of which still lives a lingering a feeling of happiness even 12 years later. The last time I visited my home town I visited his home; but he wasn’t in town. I got his phone number. I messaged him asking whether he remembered one of his favorite students, least expecting him to do so. But he did. He remembered me, and was happy to hear from me. He was married with a kid, and a new job in journalism. It felt good hearing from him. It felt even greater that he remembered me. I excitedly told my best friend and my family about it. For the first time, I shared the secret. So many years have passed since that day in December ’97, and still how vividly I remember the details. After all, a “first crush” is always special.
P.S: I forwarded this post to my history teacher, so that he knows about this confession too. I was a rather lost kid back then, going through the mundane school life without any significant memories, and thanks to him, I not only got a renewed interest in studies that year, but also have some really sweet memories. Hope I will always remain one of his favorite students.