“Take it back!” Madhu demanded.
Nayantara scowled. “Or else? What will you do? Proudy, proudy, proudy! I’ll say it a zillion times: you’re a proudy!”
Furious with her once-best friend, Madhu spun on her heel and stomped away. She marched to the school bus and clambered in. “I’m not a proudy,” she told Aftab.
Her current best friend raised his eyebrows in surprise. “When did I say you were?”
“Not you, baba. That Nayantara.”
All about the fight
Uh-oh. Aftab slouched lower in the seat, wishing he could disappear. He knew all about Madhu and Nayantara’s latest fight. In fact, the whole class knew about the feuding best friends. And the last thing he wanted was to listen to a grumbling session.
Alas, the grumbler didn’t really care about his wishes. “How dare she … thinks no end of herself … I’ll show her … I can’t believe I was ever besties with her…” Madhu droned on.
“I’m sure she didn’t mean it,” murmured Aftab, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.
“She did. She said I was super proud of my long, shiny, thick hair. And that’s why I’m so mad at her…how dare she…” She launched into another round of grumbling.
Poor Aftab. He wished he hadn’t said a word. Too late. The tirade ended only when the bus reached Madhu’s stop. She was so angry, she even forgot to wave him goodbye. Aftab knew things wouldn’t change till the best friends got back together. But how?
“I have a plan,” he told Madhu the next day.
“What plan?” asked Madhu, looking out of the school bus window. They took turns sitting at the window seat (like good little best friends).
“See, Nayantara thinks you’re proud of your hair, right?”
Madhu stared at Aftab, a curious expression on her face. “Right.”
“So, why don’t you do something that proves the opposite?”
Madhu’s eyes widened in shock. “You think I should hate my long, shiny, soft, thick hair?” A guilty look came over her face. Oh no. That sounded as if she loved her hair. Well, she certainly liked it. It was so long, she could sit on it. It was so soft that it looked like a satin curtain. It was so shiny that it looked like a rippling water body. It was so thick that combs would get lost in it.
Everyone complimented her. Mummy called her Rapunzel. Papa called her Goldilocks. Aunts and uncles and teachers and friends, everyone said she had beautiful hair. Why, just last month, a stranger had stopped her in the middle of the road and asked her what shampoo she used!
But did that mean she was proud? Suddenly, she wasn’t so sure anymore. Was Nayantara right? Was she annoying, irritatingly proud of her hair? Was she a proudy? She certainly hadn’t looked at things that way before. She wished she could discuss it with Nayantara, before realising they weren’t on talking terms anymore.
She forced herself to listen to what Aftab was saying.
“…That would settle it once and for all. I think,” he added cautiously. With the warring best friends, one never knew.
“Hmm,” was all Madhu said.
She had a lot to think about. So, it was only natural that she forgot to wave him goodbye again.
“You didn’t!” Nayantara gasped, her hands flying to her mouth. Madhu sailed past her into the classroom, her nose in the air. Aftab trotted in behind her. The class gasped.
“You chopped off your hair?”
“Till your shoulders?”
“Do your parents know?”
“Did they shout at you?”
“What if it doesn’t grow back?”
Her classmates fired off a volley of questions. Nayantara walked up to her, looking paler than a vampire. “How could you? Your hair was so beautiful–”
“Not so proud of it, am I?” Madhu shot back.
To her shock, Nayantara burst into tears. Madhu and Aftab exchanged an alarmed look. This wasn’t going the way they’d planned.
“Hey Nayan…please don’t…I didn’t mean to make you cry,” Madhu consoled her, springing to her feet.
All she’d wanted was for Nayantara to take back her hurtful words. But she was shedding enough tears to flood the classroom.
“I-I didn’t mean it, too,” sobbed Nayantara.
It was just what Madhu needed to hear! She reached back and started pulling out the pins from her hair. She’d tucked it in cleverly (with a little bit of help from her Didi). “I didn’t chop it off. See? It’s all there? Okay, now wipe your eyes.”
It was like turning off a switch. Nayantara stopped crying suddenly. Madhu beamed at her. She couldn’t wait to share all the new secrets with her bestie once again.
“You think I’m a fool? How dare you trick me…I never want to talk to you again…”
Aftab smacked his forehead. He wasn’t looking forward to the bus ride back home...