The Special Assembly of Saint Paul's School was in progress. Sitting in the eighth row， Sachin was trying hard to concentrate on the speaker's lecture.
Every Friday， a Special Assembly was held in Sachin's school and a lecture was organised on the occasion. At this moment Mr. Naresh Agarwal， Branch Manager， State Bank of India was delving into the details of the various schemes offered by his bank to encourage the habit of saving in the public.
“Hey， Joe， look at 'monkey brand'. Have you noticed his new haircut？” Rohit said.
“Yes， yaar. He is looking real smart - straight out of a circus，” replied Joe.
“Earlier， he used to look like our friendly neighborhood chimp. Now he looks like a full fledged orangutan and……”
The rest of Rohit's words were drowned in giggles. The two stopped laughing only when the P.T. teacher Mr. Ravi Nair turned his gimlet eye on them.
Sachin's face turned red with embarrassment and shame. Rohit and his gang had started ragging him again. Last evening while going for his haircut he had been apprehensive. His father was with him and he hated long hair. Sachin knew had he gone alone he would have persuaded the barber to leave his hair a bit long. But with Dad around there was no chance. Ultimately he had ended up having an ideal 'military cut'. With his cauliflower ears sticking out like the handles of a vase he was a perfect target for Rohit's barbs.
Sachin was a short and skinny thirteen year old with a flat nose， big ears and small chinky eyes. He knew he was rather odd looking. Rohit on the other hand was tall， quite well built with curly hair and a chubby face.
Sachin had joined Saint Paul's around nine months ago， soon after his father's transfer to Lucknow. In the first few months things had been quite alright. Sachin who was basically quite shy had managed to make a couple of friends. Rohit was the class bully and Sachin had maintained a safe distance from him. Initially Rohit too had not bothered about him. He was quite happy with his gang of chamchas.
Things had suddenly changed after the results of the first term were declared. Sachin had stood first edging out Rohit who till then had been the indisputable number one. He had maintained his first position right from class four and the results came as a rude shock to him. He sulked for a week and then started hitting back the only way he could - by bullying Sachin.
He would leave no opportunity to insult Sachin. He had given Sachin the nickname Monkey Brand and made sure the entire school knew about it. In the Unit Test when Sachin got six out of ten in maths because of a silly mistake， Rohit， who had got ten， was jubilant.
“See yaar Paresh， I told you our Monkey Brand is a real mug pot. He can only cram. That's why in maths， which requires real intelligence， he is lousy.”
“You are quite right Rohit. In both the terminal exams Sachin got more marks than you in History， Geography， English， and Hindi which need pure mugging and little else， while in Science and Maths you left him far behind，” agreed Paresh whole heartedly.
“See how much he crams. Even his head is bulging from the back. It must be filled with all the bilge he must have mugged up，” Rohit said whacking Sachin， who was sitting right in front， on his head.
Sachin turned back his eyes filled with tears at the pain and humiliation.
“Keep your hands to yourself. I have tolerated all your insults. But I won't allow you to get physical，” he said getting up.
“What will you do you pipsqueak？” Rohit got up with a swagger， towering over him. “You'll bash me up？” he demanded. “If I whack you one you'll go flying and land straight in your mummy's lap，” he jeered and everyone burst out laughing.
Just then the class teacher entered and Sachin was saved further humiliation.
After the class as Sachin was walking out Rohit stood blocking the way.
“Listen you bag of bones. Next time you act smart I'll give you such a thrashing you'll forget everything you have mugged up，” he said and after pulling Sachin's ears， he walked away.
That evening Sachin was sitting at home staring glumly at the walls. He was still smarting from the insults heaped on him.
“What happened Sachin？ Why are you looking like your illustrious namesake after being clean bowled first ball？”
It was Sachin's cousin Manas who had just completed his MBA and joined a firm marketing electronics goods in Calcutta. The corporate office of the firm was in Lucknow and Manas had come there to attend a six month induction training programme .
“Manas Bhaiya， I want to take a transfer to some other school. Will you please convince Dad？ If I tell him he won't listen.”
“What happened Sachin？ Why this sudden decision？”
“Nothing sudden Bhaiya. Things started going wrong quite some time back. But now the situation is getting simply unebearable. I am just fed up of being the butt of all jokes，” Sachin said， his eyes brimming with tears.
“Take it easy Sachin. Everything will be alright. First tell me exactly what happened. I am sure we will be able to work out a solution.”
Sachin started recounting his tale of woe right from the time when the first term results were announced. He told Manas every little detail， every insult he had had to suffer in the past few months.
Manas patiently heard everything and after thinking for sometime said，“I accept that it is difficult to manage under such circumstances. It must really humiliating to be the target of all jokes. But you know running away is no solution.”
“Please Bhaiya， try to understand. Don't think I have not tried. I have made every effort to be as friendly as possible with Rohit. But it has never had any effect on him. I then tried to ignore him. But nothing seems to work. He seems to be hell bent on making my life miserable.”
“Why don't you complain to your class teacher or the Principal？”
“It will only make matters worse. Everyone will accuse me of carrying tales. Even the few friends I have will turn against me. And I am sure Rohit will not stop. He might lie low for sometime， but even during that phase he will make sure that his chamchas continue tormenting me.”
“What has Rohit got against you？ ”
“In the last terminal exam I beat him to the top spot. He had got so used to coming first that he couldn't stand an unfancied character like me pushing him to the second place.”
“Sachin， I would still not recommend running away. You are very young. This is probably the first hurdle you have ever faced in your life. You will have to face many more obstacles. And there may be many occasions when even the option of running away will not be available to you. What will you do then？ You have to learn to face reality. Moreover， suppose you are transferred to some other school can you ensure that there will not be some other 'Rohit' there ready to make your life miserable？”
“So than what am I supposed to do？ I am just not able to understand. The very thought of going to school and facing all those jeers is unbearable for me，” Sachin said burying his face in his hands.
“Sachin， I think I have a solution？”
Sachin looked up.
“I think you should challenge Rohit to a fight and bash him up.”
“Come on Bhaiya. Have I not told you？ He is much taller and heftier than I. He'll make mincemeat of me.”
“Sachin， I don't think you are aware that I was the boxing champion in my school as well as college. I am here for around six months. I will have enough time to coach you.”
“But Bhaiya even with all the training and coaching do you think I'll be able to fight a chap who is bigger in size？”
“Boxing is more about technique than size. Speed， alacrity nimbleness and skill are more important than bulk. Have confidence in me. I'll make sure you will be able teach Rohit a lesson or two. Remember another thing Sachin. Rohit is a typical bully. And bullies basically are cowards. They only dominate persons who are weaker than they are. But the moment some one stands upto them they turn tail and run.”