I went to a boarding school meant for boys from a middle-class background. It was great. It gave me access to a library, an auditorium, international cinema, a life of discipline, membership to the NCC and acres and acres of Himalayan jungles to roam in - basically, things that were not available to the middle-class family, community and locality I came from.
We were about 70 odd boys in my class. Most of us became extremely close friends, in spite of petty fights and rivalries in athletic and academic pursuits. All of us were smart kids who had made it through a rigorous competition to claim our place in the school.
A close friend of mine, AG, had the darkest skin of us all. He came from a district in East Uttar Pradesh, was very well versed in the local dialogues and could beat anyone else in the long distance cross country course track. He and I would sit on the stairs and pretend we were farmers solving different problems. Our problems differed in nature every day. One day, we would be busy making plans to find a buffalo which had run away. Another day, it had not rained for a year and we would plan crops suitable for a dry climate. I would always trick him into involving buffaloes in our conversation and then label him a buffalo because of his complexion. Or I would plot the story in a way that would involve a scorching sun and then, AG would arrive and it would be nightfall.
If AG were writing this article, he would write to me as a fair skinned friend named SKD who could beat most people in declamations and recitations (..and was okay on the cross country track). He would say SKD was fun as we did the role playing games. He would say that he used to call me a cow and would manipulate the plot of our stories to include a cow. He would also joke about how if I went in a blackout area, I would give away our position to enemy aircraft.
We meant it as fun. We were good friends. Over the years, however, my other classmates started laughing a little bit more at the jokes played on AG than they laughed at me. Other classmates picked up my habit of pulling his leg. No one pulled my leg.
And it is after so many years that I realize why AG and I slowly drifted apart.
We weren’t able to burn the shade card and save the bond we shared.