Chronicles of a Tamil Freshman – Part 3

Chronicles of a Tamil Freshman is a story series featured on revolving around protagonist Tanya. Make sure to read Part 1 and 2!

Written by: Thagsana Rangarajan

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Her name sounded far too familiar. “Claire Vijayanathan”, Tanya repeated to herself.

Crouching behind the wooden barrier of her bed, she stared at her new roommate like a judgmental uncle at a Tamil family get-together. Claire paced around the room, carrying a few textbooks in hand. Tanya could get a glimpse of a few—Sports Psychology Volume III, Human Aging & Development, Muscle Anatomy Edition II. “Ah, so she’s a Kinesiology Major”, Tanya speculated. She just couldn’t shake the feeling that she’d met this girl before.

Claire stacked her textbooks in a shelf nearby, standing on her tip toes to reach the highest row. She wore a neon green Nike tank-top, black track pants, and a pair of white running shoes. Her long, reddish brown hair was partially clipped back with a prominent rose-shaped pendant. It was at that very moment that Tanya felt the light bulb go off in her head, and the painfully supressed memories began to resurface.

Claire’s rose-shaped pendant triggered a flashback to July 20th, 2009—The Annual Top Tamil Teen Competition. The competition was geared towards Tamil teenagers, and offered games in a variety of subjects, such as Athletics, English, Mathematics, and a fashion show finale. The winners (one boy and one girl) received a $500 cash prize, an article in the Metro Star newspaper, and of course, the opportunity for Tamil parents to make this public announcement to relatives around the globe:

“So, I don’t know if you heard, but my brilliant child just won this world-renowned, cut-throat, impossible-to-win competition. What has your child done lately, hmm?”

Tanya could remember her dad stumbling into the kitchen, out of breath, and flailing the flyer in his hand. So, it came as no surprise that Tanya entered the competition every year. This year, however, would be the last.

She could remember it clearly, as if the event had happened yesterday. Tanya, just thirteen years old at the time, stood by the curtains before the last phase of the Annual Top Tamil Teen competition—the fashion show. It was the first time she had ever been a finalist in the competition, after being a regular participant for the last four years. She could see her parents sitting in the first row, waving a glittery pink sign that read: “T for Tanya, T for Tamil, T for Top! Tanya = Top Tamil!” Tanya cringed, as she noticed “Our #1 Kunju” also written in the bottom corner.  She tried to avoid eye contact with her embarrassing parents, before they had the chance to ask her to pose for a picture.

The fashion show required contestants to wear a traditional saree that represented each finalist’s personality and style. Essentially, it was the Tamil community’s spin on Miss Universe. The four judges sat in a panel that stood in the center of the completely packed audience. Tanya could see her hysterical parents giving her a thumbs-up from their seats.

In the female division of the competition, the two finalists, got into their positions and waited for the host to give them their cue to get on stage. Tanya wore a bright white saree, with a sequined blouse, complemented by a shining gold border. Her mom had spent the last 45 minutes behind the stage, wrapping, unwrapping, and rewrapping the saree around Tanya’s body, which was held together by an army of safety pins. Her opponent was dressed in a light green cotton saree, with a prominent blue border. Her arms were entirely wrapped in a dark brown henna design. Her reddish brown hair was partially clipped back, and stood at the length of her shoulders. Soon after, the host returned backstage and patted her on the shoulder. She smiled cheerfully in Tanya’s direction.

“Well, it looks like I’m up first. Wish me luck!” she said, as she walked towards the stage front.

Tanya gave her a thumbs-up, and proceeded to pace back and forth, trying to calm her own nerves. She could hear the crowd cheering loudly as soon as her opponent entered the stage.

“What’s the worst thing that could happen? Just go out there, and do your best”, Tanya thought.

She peered out onto the stage briefly, and saw the panel of judges holding up their final scores.

“Wow, 9.2! Let’s give her a big round of applause everyone, she looks stunning!” the host said proudly.

Her opponent returned backstage, smiling delightedly. She looked up, and noticed Tanya standing in front of her. Tanya noticed her smile begin to fade slightly.

“Hey, you! You’re going to do great out there, don’t be nervous! You look great!” she said, as she pulled Tanya in for a hug. She squeezed Tanya tightly, and patted her on the behind, just as she let go.

“Did she just smack my butt?” Tanya thought to herself in disbelief. She began to wonder whether this was similar to athletes slapping each other on the behind for good luck before a big game. Tanya decided to return the favour and patted her on the behind as well, smiling awkwardly. Her opponent stared at her with an uneasy expression, giving Tanya her cue to run out towards the stage, before she was pressed for sexual harassment charges.

As she entered the stage, she could see the bright lights illuminate the audience. She heard the roaring cheers of the crowd, and began to feel her confidence levels rising. She could hear the cameras snapping photos of her left and right. She could see her parents in the front row cheering: “Go Tanya, go!” This was her moment to shine. Tanya began strutting down the runway, hips moving side-to-side, waving at the audience, as if she were Trisha and they were her devoted fans. She felt unstoppable. She reached the end of the runway, and struck a fierce pose, even blowing a kiss to the male judge sitting at the panel.

Feeling accomplished, she began walking backwards to her starting position, but the cheers from the crowd quickly transformed into hysterical laughter. Confused, she patted her behind, and stared at the palm of her hand—a dark brown substance, smeared on the backside of her saree. The host quickly ran onto the stage.

“Uh oh, it looks like someone might have gotten a little too excited on stage, huh? That’s okay, maybe next time you can wear a diaper!” he said jokingly, as the crowd erupted in laughter once more.

“Let’s have the other contestant join us on stage, please!” he said.

Tanya’s opponent walked on the stage with a satisfied expression on her face, and stood next to her.

“And it comes as no surprise that the winner of the 2009 Annual Top Tamil Teen Competition is Claire Vijayanathan! Congratulations!” the host announced cheerfully.

Humiliated, Tanya watched in disbelief, as the girl walked forward to accept the prize, wearing the same prominent rose-shaped pendant.

To be continued…

Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this story are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.



Thagsana Rangarajan is in her final year of a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Electrical and Biomedical Engineering at McMaster University. In her free time, she enjoys writing short stories and hopes to publish a novel in the future. 

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