There were those of us who were ordinary. We had ordinary looks, ordinary lives and even suffered from ordinary diseases. We were generally known as and we referred to ourselves as commoners.
Then there were those who were lucky enough to have been born with or acquired special deficiencies. Their eyes were sensitive to the sun. Their hearts were at a risk of exploding. Their bone marrows were infected. Their skins were irritable.
It may sound like there is nothing special or even lucky about having an ailment. But then you weren’t there to witness just how vain most of us were.
We couldn’t see how painful and scary the diseases were. All we knew was that the ‘special’ conditions of the students elevated them from being commoners to being ‘Special Cases’ (SPs). And for that, we envied them.
We envied the way they received sympathy and care from everyone. The way their friends walked around holding umbrellas for them so that the sun wouldn’t hurt their delicate bodies. The way people offered to do chores for them. Wash their clothes. Fetch their water. Lay their beds.
And they didn’t eat weevil-ridden posho and beans like us commoners. No. They ate ‘food’! On a daily basis! ‘Food’ was a term that we used to refer to any kind of meal that did not consist of posho and beans. We commoners tasted food only once in a while.
The SPs could not do work of any sort. For every chore, they were given supervisory roles. Even when were on punishment, slashing the farm grass sweating plasma under the scorching sun, they sat in the shade drinking water, ‘watching over us.’
Between songs about slavery and wiping our brows, we looked up at the SPs and wondered what we would have to do to get so lucky.
While the rest of us were generally treated with contempt, mostly because of our delinquency, SPs could do no wrong.
One time a teacher shouted at an SP because she was making noise. The SP clutched her chest and started crying. Then she fell to the ground and started to convulse. The teacher panicked and started to produce sweat through places we didn’t know could sweat.
Since then, everyone walked on eggshells around SPs. No one wanted to upset them. Teachers generally asked them, “Are you okay? Do you need anything? Have you understood?”
If SPs got slightly unwell, they were given special leave from school to go for checkups since they had personal doctors.
On those days, some commoners offered to carry the SPs’ sweaters, bags, water bottles and anything that would allow those commoners to be seen with SPs. They would return to class looking sad and worried. Some would go as far as crying to get sympathy and attention.
It seems strange to use another person’s ailment for selfish reasons. But like I said, there was no limit to the vainness of some teenage girls at my school.