The news was more than enough to make a dreary evening lively. Channels were hotly telecasting the shocking news that plus-two student Shweta Krishnan has committed suicide, or she was about to...
With a fervour you feel when you get a prize catch, the star newsreader of our times adjusted his spectacles and made his usual high-pitch talk on the matter. "The incident happened just a few minutes ago. Shweta Krishnan, student in a prestigious higher secondary school in the capital city, bunked her classes to go to a movie with two others. In the evening, when she returned to get her books, her class-teacher caught her red-handed and scolded her in a VERY VERY (capital letters to emphasise the tone that he used) harsh manner," he continued with dramatic pauses.
"She was sent to the hostel after that. Now the question is did she commit suicide or not. We are restraining ourselves form giving out the name of this school at First Cross, Ragaramapura, Vishwa Samaj Road, Karol Bagh, Delhi -110005, because we value privacy and uphold journalistic ethics higher than other news channels. Our associate to the deputy assistant chief news editor Charkha Butt is on line with more details and exclusive visuals of... er.. a possible suicide," he continued.
"Charkha.... Charkha, what are the latest updates? Is the student dead? Has she committed suicide?"
"Yes, Aplomb. I'm here, right at the gate of the girl's hostel. They have RESTRICTED (capital letters to emphasise the tone that she used) us from entering the compound. The gate is still closed, but we can see the gathering of girls at the respective balconies of the respective floors. They seem to be waving at me... (chuckles, but changes tone suddenly) but actually they are crying for media help. According to the very few text messages from some of the girls inside who have mobile phones, Shweta had bolted the door of her room. As of now, her death is not confirmed, Aplomb."
"OK Charkha, let's leave the matter of her death for a moment. What was the subject she bunked? Was she scoring low in that subject? Was there a potential harassment from the particular teacher? Which theater did she go to after bunking the class? Which was the film? Who all were there with her?"
"(uff!) Aplomb, four hours is too long for any subject, so I don't think that matter is relevant. As for the theaters, sources are giving different names. Anyway, our cameramen are there in all these theatres to catch girl students in uniform, so that we don't miss any other potential suicides. Most of our sources are sticking to English films."
"(English, eh?) OK Charkha... These two persons who were with Shweta... were they men? Were they seated together? Our viewers are anxious to know more details about it!"
"One was a man and the other was a lady, both clad in jeans and T-shirt... that's what our sources say. They left the from the school in a car. After the school, they went to a restaurant and had food. No more details are available now, Aplomb."
"Thank you, Charkha. Our correspondent Manjith Mental is on the phone. He's inside the hostel now with more details. Let me remind our viewers that we are restraining ourselves form giving out the name of this school at First Cross, Ragaramapura, Vishwa Samaj Road, Karol Bagh, Delhi -110005, because we value privacy and uphold journalistic ethics higher than other news channels. Now, Manjith is with us..."
Screen changes, Shweta beams on the left side, Manjith on the right.
"Manjith, what are the updates on her death... er.. attempt to suicide? Manjith? Manjith.... Manjith (you) Mental... Looks liker there is a technical difficulty."
"Keepp.. beep.. bopp..blurrrrrrrrrrrlrl.. Aplomb."
"Manjith.. Manjith, did you manage to get inside the girls hostel?"
"Yes Aplomb, I'm inside. Shweta's room is still closed. Hostel warden and other students are standing outside."
A beaming Shweta and the hind-portion of the girl students in front of the room flashed on the screen alternatively.
"OK Manjith. Who is this warden? How old is she? How does she look like?"
"APLOMB (capital letters to emphasise the tone that he used), she's a lady of close to forty years... Mrs Bakshi... good-looking modern lady. Girls call her aunty."
"Ok, what does aunty say about Shweta's attempt to suicide?
"As of now, I could not talk to her, Aplomb. She's talking over two cellphones at the same time now. Girls are beating at the door of the room shrieking Shweta, Shweta, Shwe.."
"Thank you Manjith. Now tell us whether this girl Shweta had any affair. Now we can safely assume that she went to the movie with a boy, and they were roaming around the city for quite some time before they went to a rest.. er... hotel. Did they take a room in that hotel? How long did they spend there? What was the room number? Which hotel?"
"Aplomb, there is a possibility of an affair, Shweta being a plus-two student. But no details are available right now, I'll get back to you as soon as I get any information."
"Thank you Manjith. We'll take a short break, but don't go away dear viewers. We'll be right back with more details and exclusive visuals of the suicide... issue of seventeen-year-old Shweta, plus-two student in a prestigious higher secondary school in the capital city. Stay tuned."
Three ads: A car screeched in one, Aplomb screeched in the other two.
Ads over. "Welcome back to the details of the most sensational suicide issue of our times, which has the entire country at her toes," Aplomb started in a higher pitch, but halted. Screen was flashing 'TIMELY IMPACT' (capital letters because they actually used that).
"In a fresh development, youth wing of a major opposition party staged a protest march in front of the hostel demanding the resignation of the Union Education Minister, claiming that the education ministry was responsible for the increasing number of suicides of girl students in the country. They, they, they... the reports say the march turned violent. The protesters destroyed the gates of both the school and the hostel, and the youth wing of the ruling party came to counter them. Police did a lathi-charge. Twenty persons, mostly onlookers, are admitted in various hospitals." Aplomb was really charged up.
"Now, in the very first reaction on this issue from the officials, EXCLUSIVE on our channel, the Chief Minister has revealed EXCLUSIVELY on our channel that she will declare a judicial enquiry on the issue. She has exclusively informed us that the Union Education Minister will visit the school and the hostel as part of a preliminary enquiry," Aplomb finished in one breath, proudly. (capital letters to emphasise the tone that he used)
A beaming Shweta and the hind-portion of the girl students in front of the room kept coming on screen every 3-4 minutes.
"Charkha Butt is with us with more details on Shweta's death. Tell us Charkha... Charkha?"
"Charkha, what is happening there? Did seventeen-year-old Shweta, plus-two student in a prestigious higher secondary school in the capital city, finally commit suicide?"
"Aplomb, we still haven't got any conformation of her death. The room is still closed."
"Now, there is absolutely no chance of opening the door if Shweta has actually committed suicide. Ok Charkha. Depending on the situation there, can you elaborate on the possible methods of a suicide? Is there a chance of writing a suicide note?"
"Aplomb, there is no chance of jumping down from the building of the ladies hostel, because Shweta has locked the room from inside. There is no chance for poisoning also, because the move was a result of a sudden impulse caused by the terrible rebuke allegedly made by her teacher..."
A beaming Shweta and the hind-portion of the girl students in front of the room kept coming on screen every 3-4 minutes, now with a blood-stained knife on the background. Music matches that of a horror movie.
"OK Charkha. So, that leaves the possibility of a hanging or, or, or cutting her veins using a blade...."
"But think of it, Aplomb. If that suicide really happens, won't the class-teacher be blamed? Isn't it time for these disciplinarians to mind their words? Will they realise how much a student is hurt when they abuses them verbally?" Charkha was fuming."Why are these so-called moralists against teenage love..."
"Excuse us Charkha, Manjith is on the phone with exclusive details."
Beaming Shweta and the hind-portion of the girl students. Blood stains thicker, background music louder.
"Tell us, Manjith. Who was Shweta's lover? How many hours did they spend in the hotel room?"
"Aplomb, the Principal of the school is with us..."
"Yes, Manjith. Dear viewers, the Principal of the school is with us, EXCLUSIVELY on this channel (capital letters to emphasise the tone that he used). Tell us Manjith. Is it confirmed that seventeen-year-old Shweta, plus-two student in a prestigious higher secondary school in the capital city, was out with her boyfriend? Dear viewers, our conclusion that the teacher's abuse as resulted in this situation is slowly turning right."
"Aplomb, what the Principal says is..." Line cut.
"Manjith... Manjith Mental...."
"Aplomb." Manjith on the phone, voice noticeably toned down. "The Principal says Shweta's brother and sister were the ones who took her. They had come from Mumbai and had the permission of the principal. They went out for a shopping, movie and had food in a restaurant. The class-teacher had scolded her without knowing all these."
"Thank you Manjith. Charkha is with us with more details from the hostel. Tell us, Charkha. Did seventeen-year-old Shweta, plus-two student in a prestigious higher secondary school in the capital city, commit suicide?"
"Aplomb, Shweta was just taking her bath in the bathroom after latching the door from inside. She has come out now, and she's moving to the dining hall with her roommates."
"Thank you Charkha. Dear viewers, we could not include any other news till now. We'll get back to you with more news in the next bulletin at 10. Stay tuned."
(English adaptation of the short story "Oru Plus-Two Vidyarthiniyude Aatmahatya" by Ashwati Shashikumar, published in Kalakaumudi weekly, dated November 8, 2009. Found the story interesting. Under house-arrest, I had all the time to do the work)