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April! Such a pretty name, such a pretty month. The flowers were out in all their colourful splendour. The air was fragrant with the freshness of spring.
But why, oh why had she been born on the 1st of April! She was April Fool to everyone.
Why couldn’t her mother have faked that birth date, made it April 2nd, 31st March anything, but April 1st, the nicknames had dogged her all her life. April fool was the obvious one. Fool! Hey, Fool. Fooly-poo, if they were trying to be friendly or affectionate.
She hated it all.
And having an older brother made it worse. “God knew you were going to be stupid!” he had teased her ever since she was old enough to know. “That’s why you were born on April 1st!”
“I’m NOT stupid! Muuuuuummmm! Tell him.”
It would take intervention from her mother to stop him.
“I am not a fool! And I won’t be one,” she had told herself from the time she was five. She learnt her alphabet faster than anyone else. She excelled at numbers and then mathematics. She had studied extra hard and topped her class year after year. “Who’s the fool, now?” she taunted her classmates every year when the results were announced.
“You know we don’t mean it like that,” her best friend June said to her.
“Easy for you to say, no one teases you although you were named after a month too. If they’d even given me another name that would have worked.”
But, no, she was April, born on April 1st. April the fool.
She hadn’t even allowed herself the luxury of following her heart when she’d had that crush on the school cricket captain. He looked like he may have liked her, but she hid her head in a book and looked away.
Once, he approached her when no one was around, “Hey, April…” he hadn’t been able to say anything else.
She’d lashed out at him, her legendary sharp tongue eloquent in its surgical precision as she cut him down to size. “Hey, cricket! You look as though you’re over worked and bowled out. And is that your slip peeping out from under your shirt?”
He’d turned red. Raised his hands and said the only thing he could, “Yo, Fool. Not everyone’s out to be mean you know.”
None of the other boys had ever tried to ask her out after that.
Today she was 21 years old. She had completed her A levels with the highest grades possible and done two years of university.
“I think I’ll take a gap year and go to Europe,” she told her parents.
“You do whatever you want luv,” her mother had been encouraging.
“I can support myself as I go around.” She assured her dad.
“Don’t you worry about that, dear; we’re here if you need us.”
They’d been loving parents, the only thing they hadn’t thought through had been her name.
Now she had a chance to change things. Her passport application gave her that opportunity. She stared at the space where she had to enter birth date. All the years of teasing, all the results of that teasing swept through her mind. The determination born out of the teasing. The ambition and drive. She chewed the end of her pen and smiled as she entered: April 1st.
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Click to see: Books by Rohini Sunderam.