This story by Ilaiya Barathi Panneerselvam was originally featured on Malaysian Indian Anthology and has been reproduced in Astro Ulagam.

36 pairs of eyes slashed through my dignity like a dagger in the hands of Dr. Hannibal. Some of the lips smiled at me, not because it is contagious, but to be sarcastic. Some, to add to the flavour of distaste, mumbled softly but loud enough to reach the reddening ears of mine, "Dia ni memang bodoh" (He's really stupid). A few of the concerned ones were sympathetic towards me but didn't know how to help.

I was standing there, like a decaying scarecrow - scared of myself instead of scattering away the sharp-clawed birds. Only in my case, it was humans.

"Ko hanya layak jual burger kalau tak ambil Add Maths" (You only deserve to sell burgers if you don't take Add Maths) shouted my teacher with her disgruntled face that indicated something much worse than just anger, as if saying 'He's worth nothing'.

She squeezed me with her eyes and stepped on me with her words - leaving me just with two choices.

Fast forward, and I am now recollecting this while writing my first story, thankfully with a Degree in Journalism and after having freshly graduated with a Masters in Film Studies back in September.

And oh yes, burgers are still my favourite.


Photo source: Malaysian Indian Anthology, mystudentvoices.com