The book “The Waiting” by Dipavali Sen is a mystery that spans Jurassic and modern times.
Beginning with a fossilized egg, the novel takes up the live issue of bullying or ragging and connects it with mythology, magic, historical research, scientific experiment, contemporary attitudes, and mystical practices.
School children Anit, Bimal, Chandan, and Deeksha (The ABCD) interact with the elderly and the young around them and find out that over-strict parenting and schooling can disturb psychology and persistent bantering can lead to violent consequences. Like an egg waiting too long to crack and burst out with the force within.
Read an excerpt from the book below.
Prologue: Waiting To Hatch
The egg was waiting to hatch.
It was 65 million years ago in the Pranhita-Godavari Valley of the Deccan plateau of India, then teeming with dinosaurs.
A Sauropod Dinosaur was sitting in her nest – a shallow hole in the muddy river-valley. She was laying eggs, soft and cream-coloured, shaped like ellipsoids. There were other nests too – with other dinosaur couples stomping around the swamp full of palms and ferns, the only vegetation of those times. Young ones were straying here and there and moving back to their mothers.
Suddenly, there was a searing beam of light from the clouds. A massive grey chunk came hurtling down and hit the valley with a deafening explosion.
It was a meteorite about 10 kilometres in diameter. It created a 200-kilometre crater and deposited iridium all across the valley.
The dinosaurs found the earth shaking under their legs. Somewhere far away, a volcano erupted and molten lava covered them up even as they tried to escape. Soon, the entire valley disappeared under a sheet of lava.
More upheavals – more quakes – and it moved down into the depths of the earth.
The dinosaurs went down with the rest of the valley. So did their nests full of un-hatched eggs.
One of them wondered, “Oh, what is happening outside?” It then said to itself, “Well, I will know soon enough. I just have to wait.”
Anit in Gurgaon
“Oh, for some magic to take care of those bullies!” said Anit loudly as he wiped the tears trickling out of his eyes. He trudged home, feeling the entire weight of his schoolbag upon his back.
Anit had thick, curly hair, a flat nose, and uneven teeth. His family had just shifted from Noida to Gurgaon and he had got admission to Class Six of New Gurgaon Public School. It was an old school, earlier in the older parts of Gurgaon. But now, it had shifted to a new location along Sohna Road, not too far by bus from the locality where Anit stayed. It was an impressive red-brick building with every facility for studies and sports. But the ragging he was facing as a new student at school was wearing him down.
When his parents got their own flat in Gurgaon, Anit had been as thrilled as they had been. They had booked it some years back and visited it occasionally from Noida, where they were then staying. Thus, Anit had watched his new home at various stages of its construction and had gone through various stages of admission to the new school. He had been ready for the shift but was taken aback by the tough ragging his new class-mates were subjecting him to.
“Yaar Anit! Tell us how to grow such a fine tail!” Someone one would say, and Anit would give a start and half-turn to find a belt emerging from a loop at the back of his shorts.
“Anit! What a pretty printed shirt you have got!” Another would be slapping him on the back with inky palms. These were the milder forms of ragging. Anit had to bear with sudden kicks at the back and pricks from sharpened pencils. The worst among them were Sumant and Kireet; two big, burly fellows.
Anit tried telling his parents.
“You are in Class Six now,” Baba said sternly. “Be a man!”
“Oh, Anit, within a year you will be making friends with them and having them over for your birthday!” smiled Ma.
Going to the Staff-room, Anit complained to the class teacher –young and pretty Madam Paramjeet. And, all that she said was:
“Now, now, Anit, you know you have joined at mid-term. The others have been here longer. In fact, some of them have been here as long as we have, that is, since KG – the first class we opened this branch of the school with. They feel you are a newcomer, and they are only testing you.”
“We took our admission test, isn’t it?’ said Madam Paramjeet. “ Now they are taking theirs! Once you clear it, they will welcome you in as one of them!”
Anit walked away from the Staff-room. Suddenly, four boys from his class blocked his way. One of them shot out a kick, sending Anit sprawling, and smashing up a potted plant that was outside the Staff-room.
Just then, round the corridor there appeared the Principal Mr. Pradhan. Anit and his parents had heard that he had held the post even at the old location and for decades. Senior students too had had him as their principal. Nobody could remember the school without “Stickler” in it.
An immaculately dressed man carrying a stout stick with a curved handle; Mr. Pradhan was very fond of the sentence “I am a stickler for discipline.” That and possibly his stick had got him the nickname Stickler.
He had indeed looked intimidating at the admission interview. And now, it was most unnerving to look up at him from a sprawled position on the floor with all the pottery and plant scattered around him. The boys who had kicked him had vanished and Stickler held him responsible for the mess. He had to clear it up as a punishment.
The school-bus dropped him on the main road through the sector where Anit lived. From there, Anit had to walk a little to reach his block of flats with a guard at the gate. There stood several houses down the lane, all occupied except for one. It stood empty beyond a large but unkempt lawn. The others were smaller and hardly had any lawn to themselves. But they were peopled, mostly by young or middle-aged couples with school-going children. There was a small shop wedged in between them. Under a canopy, it sold fruits, vegetables, some groceries, biscuits, mineral water, and cold drinks. Bright streamers of shampoo and coffee sachets hung down from the canopy.
As he trudged along this road, Anit’s heart swelled up within him, and he could not help saying out aloud:
“I wish I knew some magic to take care of those bullies.”
Excerpted with permission from The Waiting, Dipavali Sen, Invincible Publishers. Read more about the book here and buy it here.