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My New School Bag

March 16, 2024 | By

A 15-year-old schoolgirl in a new city, finds herself without money to return home. Find out what happens next…

It was the summer of 2002. I had to leave my cozy nest, a small town in the northern part of India, where I had lived for 15 years with my parents, and shift to the capital city, Lucknow, for my secondary education. The reason was that in my town, there was no English-medium school for 11th and 12th grade.

My sister, who was ten years older than me was doing her master’s from a government medical college (KGMU) in Lucknow. She was given basic accommodation on the medical college campus. I was to live with my sister. I got admission in a school. The only problem was it was too far from our place. I learned to manage the commute with public transport.

The school bag I was using was an old one, and I wished I had a new bag, but I did not ask my sister. My sister noticed my worn-out bag, and she gifted me a new one. It was towards the end of July, a Tuesday, at around nine in the night, when she gave me my new bag. I was very excited. I immediately moved all my stuff to the new bag.

Since I was studying in a Kendriya Vidyalaya, I was asked to bring certain documents to prove that my father was a government employee, which I had not yet submitted. My sister said that she would accompany me to the school the next day, submit the documents and come back.

It was my best day, my sister by my side in the autorickshaw, and my new school bag on my lap. My school was around eight kilometers away and it took us sometime to reach. My sister went to the school office, and I went to my class.

While returning home, the moment I sat in the autorickshaw (there were two other passengers in the shared auto), I realized I had forgotten to take money from a small pocket in my older bag and keep it in my new bag. Frantically, I started to search for the money in my bag and prayed for it to appear magically.

I was sweating badly, my mouth was dry and my heart was pounding. With trembling hands, I searched for some coins in my bag, but I knew there would be none. In desperation, I got down at the next stop, saying that there was an emergency and I needed to go back to the school. Luckily, he did not inquire much.

Clueless, I was standing in a city I had known for just some twenty-five days. There was no mobile phone in those days. Now at this age, although it sounds so simple, but my fifteen-year-old mind did not know how to handle this at that moment.

I looked up at the sky, there were no clouds, only the scorching rays of July. I did not even have water to drink. I missed the water cooler at my school. After wasting around some thirty minutes, I finally decided to walk. I did not know the roads. The autorickshaw had used the flyover, so how would I go? I thought of returning to school, but then I did not know whom to contact there. Had it been my old school, I would have never hesitated. I did not even have any friends in the city, nor did I know anyone staying near the school. There were no shops around to ask for help, just busy traffic.

I was looking here and there when I saw a big plastic bag on the roadside, very old but luckily neither torn nor soiled. I picked up the bag and sitting on my knees, I managed to transfer all the items from my school bag to the plastic bag. The next autorickshaw that came along, I climbed in with my school bag in one hand and a plastic bag in another hand.

All the passengers had got down at the previous stops by the time my stop came. I stepped out of the auto-rickshaw and asked the driver to take my new school bag instead of money. He was taken aback. I told him my story. He smiled and said that he did not need the bag, but I insisted. He assured me he would take the money if he happened to see me again on the same route. I nodded in relief. He laughed and left.

With tears in my eyes, I walked towards my room. My sister used to come late in the evening, as she was working on her PG thesis. By this time, I was badly thirsty. I shoved my hand into my new bag to fetch the room keys, and then I realized that I had forgotten to transfer the keys from my old bag.

I smiled and sat on the doormat, waiting…

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Smita Tiwari holds a bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communication Engineering. She worked as a Technical Evangelist in Infosys Limited. Despite her background in science and a successful career, Smita had always been captivated by literature. She left her full-time job to embrace motherhood and found herself drawn back to writing in her leisure time. When she lost her father to the pandemic, Smita’s writing found a new purpose — she sublimated her grief in lyrical prose. Her debut novel, Kabir An Inward Journey, beautifully weaves the universal themes of love and loss and celebrates the enduring connections that define our lives.
All Posts of Smita Tiwari

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