Story Collection - Chaalbaaz

Anything to Learn

“Hello… ahem… Hello… oh no.. not like this.. HELLO!” Arika practiced her voice modulation several times in front of the mirror. She was making sure that the voice was a perfect imitation of a man.

Scalte School of Knowledge is one of the best schools in the world. In fact, apart from one single problem, it was hands down the best school in the world. The problem was that it only took male students. This meant that it scored very low in gender diversity and got ranked 2nd or 3rd in the world.

The truth however, was obvious. Every guy in the world tried to get in Scalte and every girl wanted to get in. Arika, however, was desperate for this. She loved studying and had excelled throughout her life. She wanted to continue it in the future as well and was determined to go to the best school in the world — Scalte.

Initially, she was only interested in going to the first ranked college in the world — Genesys, but then she got the opportunity to visit Scalte when her friend’s brother got admitted to the school two years ago and he took his sister and Arika to a tour of the school. Arika fell in love.

The school was perfect in every way. Scalte taught as she wanted to learn and had the amalgamation of experiences that she hoped to have.

It was then that she decided that she would go to Scalte. It was not an easy task. Fake IDs are very easy to capture in today’s technology driven world. However, she had taught herself programming at an early age and by now, she was part of a giant network that helped her out. Her best friend was a hacker and while she wanted to pursue other interests as well, he had given his life to computers.

Together, they created a fake boy — Arik. He had studied in the same school as Arika and he had similar credentials. She was cheating on her gender but she really wanted to know if she was worth the college so all the credentials were hers. With that, she submitted her application.

— —

“Hello, My name is Arik. Good to meet you.” Arika said in a gruff voice and stretched her hand out. Since her admission, she had been practicing the voice so that she could fool everyone. She had even cut her hair so that she had to take care of one less thing. Lucky for her, single rooms were given to each student and thus she would be able to get the costume right every day.

Still, meeting a new person everyday and keeping the appearances was turning out to be more difficult than she originally imagined. Especially with the work load of the school.

“Hi. My name is Jai. Good to meet you.” The guy awkwardly held his hand and shook it limply. Arika shook it vigorously. She had learned that guys are vigorous hand-shakers and thus tried to put all her energy in each handshake.

“Good Handshake.” Jai said.

“So, where are you from?” Arika asked.

“I am from London. I had never imagined that I would be studying in Scalte.” Jai said excitedly.

“Yeah. Tell me about that.” Arika said as she smiled. ‘If only he knew.’ She thought.

“So, what do you think will they tell us in the orientation.” Jai asked still holding a goofy smile on his face.

‘He is acting more like a girl than me. If these are the guys Scalte is taking, what is wrong with taking girls.’ Arika thought bemused.

At the orientation, the environment was as energetic as she had expected. She was a little apprehensive as she was the only girl in the whole system. However, as of now, no one had recognised her. She was hoping that she would pass the school without anyone finding it out.

Also, she had heard rumors that the school might be made co-ed in future. If this was true, then she could use her degree as well once she was out. No one is actually going to check when the school was boys only.

‘Besides, does it really matter to you if you have a degree.’ She remembered her friend’s words as he had created Arik’s profile.

— — -

It had been almost six months in Scalte for Arika and while being a guy was a chore, no one had recognised her. Most of the guys were too busy in themselves to focus on her. After all, she was one of them — a guy.

Unfortunately, the dream run eventually ended.

Worse, it was not a student but a teacher who recognised her. She had been running around practicing for basketball, when Mr. Jonathan called her. He was the sports teacher and was famous for taking the basketball team to number one in the past five years.

Arika had expected to take a beating in basketball but she had held her own pretty well till now. However, she knew she would have to practice harder than any guy. Hence the extra running.

“So Arik. I will be honest with you. You are barely making the cut right now. You have to work harder if you want to play basketball.” Mr Jonathan said.

“I understand sir. I am working hard on improving my stamina.” Arika said making her voice extra gruff.

“There are other games you can try your hand at as well Arik. We need an extra player in tennis. You have the physique for that game.” Mr. Jonathan suggested.

“No offence sir, but basketball is my favorite game and if possible, I would like to give it my best shot.”

“Hmm.. Alright. I will give you 10 days more. The trial was originally a week later but I will extend it.”

“Thank you sir.” Saying this, Arika turned to leave the room.

“Arik, you dropped your bandage. Are you injured?” Mr. Jonathan said and Arika immediately turned to see. To her horror, the piece of cloth that Arika used to flatten her chest was on the ground. Apparently, it had loosened during the exercise and chose this moment to fall off completely.

She was standing in front of her teacher and it was clearly visible that she was either a girl or a boy on very different kind of drugs.

“Come with me.” Jonathan said and started to move towards door.

— —

Arika had been sitting in front of the principal for over half an hour now. Her bandage was on the table and for the past 5 minutes the two teachers had been talking. They were waiting for the other teachers to come. Arika had taken over 25 minutes to tell her story. She told them how much she loved the school and how much she wanted to be a part of it.

She had done a lot of crying in between as well. She had been acting as a guy for months now and now that her secret was out and all her efforts seemed to be in vain, she could not control it.

Soon, the other teachers came and principal filled them in on the story as well.

“She was able to hide for six months. That’s impressive.” Arika’s maths teacher said scrutinising her.

“Yes. But we have to decide what is to be done now. Should we expel her? Also, her previous school has to informed. Also, should we inform the police. What she did was a crime after all.” Another teacher said. He was hated by almost all the students but Arika never thought he would want to give a student to the police.

“Please don’t call the police. Please.. I want to study here. I don’t want to go.” Arika said as tears poured from her eyes.

“Arika. Please leave the room for some time. The teachers need to discuss this. Also, please wash your face. We won’t send you to jail.” Principal said.

Arika waited in the corridor for almost ten minutes. In between, she went to the bathroom and washed her face, wiping her tears. She was relieved that she was not going to jail but she was sure that she would be out of the school within a few hours. She was heart-broken.

“Come in Arika.” Mr. Jonathan said coming out of the office.

Principal looked at her with kind but stern eyes.

“You have made some grave mistakes young lady. But, we appreciate your love for the school. Also, the teachers told me that you are consistently a top performer. While, I do not condone these activities in my school, I have decided to make an exception in your case. You can stay in the school.”

Arika could not believe what she was hearing. She kept looking at the principal and from there to the other students.

“However, you will have to keep your appearance. We are an all boys school and until that changes, we do not want anyone to know we are making such an exception. So, you are not to tell anyone this secret. Can you do that?” Principal said peering through his glasses.

“Yes Sir. I will do that. Thank you so much. I will not let you down. I promise.” Arika said as her eyes began to well up.

“Alright then, Arik. Scoot along. The matter is closed.” Principal said smiling faintly. The other teachers were also smiling.

Arika jumped off her seat and ran towards the door before they could change their mind. She was halfway the corridor when she realised that she had left the bandage in the office only.

She came back and was about to knock the door.

“Wow! I did not expect that.” Arika heard Jonathan’s voice.

“Yeah, what did you expect. Last year, there were 10%.” Her maths teacher said sarcastically.

“I know man. But from 10% to zero. It is a steep drop. And Arika kept the secret for so many months. I am impressed.” The teacher who wanted to send her jail said.

“That is indeed impressive. We caught most of them by the first week itself. By the first two months, we knew all of them. I was almost hoping that Arik turns out to be a girl, you know.” Jonathan said.

“You got your wish Jon. For the first time in history of Scalte, there is not a single boy in the whole year. I think it is time we make it a co-ed. What do you people think?” The professor asked.

Stunned, Arika knocked.