January 07, 2013


'Twas the heady autumn of '89, and the young One was sitting on a green, green lawn strewn with dry brown leaves alongside an older friend whom we shall call, for the sake of argument, Friend. If you had listened closely, you might have heard Friend asking about one's participation in the annual school sporting event, and one replying that one had, er, not really been selected for anything. One was not especially known for fleet-footedness or brute strength in those days (or for anything else, in fact).

"Ah, so you'll be among the audience", Friend had said.

A fairly innocuous remark, you aver. But, and this is a painful admission, the young One was unacquainted with this term. Audience*. Such a strange word. Perhaps, one thought, he had said oddians. Perhaps this was some sort of 80s coinage for the odd ones out. One pictured this bedraggled, rather pitiable, almost deviant bunch of kids who were largely un-athletic and generally unpopular and thus had not been chosen for any of the dozen or so events. ("What? Not even one event?") We oddians would sit in the stands, ostracized and forlorn, with only our water-bottles for company, and watch assorted Bobbys and Varuns propel their towering four-foot frames across the finish line to raucous cheers from the public. (And from Namrata. Damn.)

Weirdness was cool and all, but one was just not okay with being an oddian.

Mysterious illnesses were duly felt on the morning of Sports Day, illnesses which the astute Parents were quick to dismiss as imaginary. Heartfelt pleas to Remain Absent were met with stern refusals and assertions that one should, at all costs, Remain Present. There really was no way out. One boarded the school bus with what is commonly called a sinking feeling.

Of course, said feeling turned out to be entirely unwarranted. The 'oddians', it emerged, comprised basically everyone, including the teachers**. (And Namrata had Remained Absent, so it hardly mattered that Varun beat Bobby and set a new primary-school record.) The sports meet turned out to be an entirely agreeable affair, featuring much full-throated cheering, loud proclamations of the general superiority of Class 3B over all other Classes, and cotton candy.

In any case, being part of the oddians was something one had to get used to. See what followed. Movie theatres, lectures, concert halls, meetings, the blogosphere, life in general. One has always, in one way or another, been among the oddians.

* Or, more likely, one had come across it in writing but never imagined that it would be pronounced that way. That happened fairly often, since the young One read far more English than he heard. One presumes that such quirks are much less prevalent among modern juveniles, given the glut of phoren TV shows these days.

** Although most of the teachers, bless them, were indeed somewhat peculiar.