The Photograph

Written by Suchita Senthil Kumar

The first thing she notices in the photograph is that two braids suited her two years ago. The second thing she notices in the photograph is that there were two things in the air behind her, that definitely did not belong in the air. She wonders how she hadn’t noticed this before despite all those times she glanced at the photograph hanging from across her desk. She wonders if maybe, she had noticed it but forgotten it over the course of these two years, and that thought scared her so she did not linger on it for too long.

Two years since she changed her school and this was one of the few pictures that she’d taken on her last day there that she decided to keep. She remembered her last day quite faintly. A blur of cameras flashing, hugs, and a recess in which she didn’t eat anything too busy clicking pictures. The girl in the photograph whose name she didn’t remember had a slight smile as opposed to the toothy grin Krithi herself wore, both girls oblivious to the scene behind them.

Krithi sat down on her bed, photograph in hand. Three boys, whose names she remembered as though it were only yesterday that they were introducing themselves to the classroom, whose names she reckoned no one who met them would ever forget. The three boys were right behind the girl in the photograph, outside the classroom and the camera had captured their antics through the glass window. The glare from the sunlight hitting the glass hid most of what was happening, but just enough for one to realise what they had been doing.

Arjun, the sanest of them all, had an expression of bits of both exasperation and nonchalance at the scene unfolding in front of him. Everyone knew him to be the mastermind behind all the trouble the boys created in the school for as he had his way with the teachers, a charm that allowed people to buy any story that the boys had woven. Varun, the boy that never wore his school uniform right, had a box full of food in his hand. To be a little more specific, it was only the box in his hands as the food was midway in the air. Maaran, their Gang Leader as they endearingly called him, had a plastic cup in his hand, orange juice also in the air.

There were other students in the photograph who watched the scene in horror, a teacher who clutched onto the wall with a look of amusement in her eyes, and a little child who seemed to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time with his eyes closed firmly and the orange liquid threatening to spill atop his head.

The photograph was a piece of art by itself and brought peals of laughter in her again and again, and every time. It was in that moment, legs folded upon her bed and photograph in hand that a surge of memories hit her hard in the head as they ricocheted in her brain. These three boys, she reckoned, had made themselves a part of the lives of everyone that ever had the fortune to even chance upon them.

A sudden resolution came over her and she stood up quickly, putting the photograph aside, to pick up her photo album from inside the wardrobe. She pushed through the pile of clothes, her books, stopping to remove a few until the hard cardboard of the book hit her hand. She pulled the album out the same time she opened it and quickly flicked to the pages that held her memories from school, memories that she hadn’t dwelled on too much, memories that she hadn’t cared about too much.

In the first photograph that sits firmly behind the film, the first thing she notices is that she remembers the name of the girl that stands beside her. The second thing she notices is that there were two things in the air behind her, that definitely did not belong in the air.