Shikha and Rajani looked at each other in consternation. “We were told 4021.”
“Who told you?”
“I don’t know, some senior.”
“Oh God save me from these idiotic nincompoops.” Abhishek was ready to tear his hair out while Rajani was ready with the water works.
“Hey relax Abhi!” Smriti took in the situation at a glance. “It’s okay girls,” she smiled at them, “just write the correct Room numbers on a sheet of paper and stick it over the incorrect number. Okay?”
They nodded dolefully – all that hard work and visions of being honored with the honors and accolades going down the drain.
But there was no time to mourn. There was work to be done. “Who gave us the room number do you remember Shiks?” Injustice burned Rajani. It wasn’t their fault and the real culprit must be brought to book.
“Nope. There were so many posters, so many instructions.”
“I think it was Smriti.” Raj said.
“Shush.” Rita nudged him.
“Forget it. How does it matter?” Shikha said without much conviction. It wasn’t meant to start like this – with a disaster.
“Of course it matters! Everyone will think we are fools.” Rajani was seething.
“Don’t worry about that,” Sameer entered breezily feeling refreshed after his massive soul-satisfying breakfast, “we already think that!”
“Sameer!” Rajani screeched.
Shikha laughed her good humor restored. “Chill Rajji. He’s right.” she grinned.
Sameer grinned back. “Thanks! Err by the way, what were you guys talking about?”
“Sameer you are too much!” Rajani huffed.
“Come on guys stop bickering! Here you guys and outside Smriti and Abhishek.”
“Really? What’s up with them?”
“Dunno! Something about poster mix up.” Sameer clicked his fingers. “Oh yes, Abhishek was accusing Smriti of giving wrong info and then not accepting her fault. And Smriti was telling him to take his overbearing bossy attitude and…”
“Okay, okay fine fine we get the picture,” Harry inserted, “let’s get on with sticking the correct room number shall we? Shikha and Rajani you can write, I will cut them out and Raj and Girish can stick them. Okay?”
They worked swiftly and in tandem – in no time the posters were ready to be put up. Smriti and Abhishek came back to help them set up the registration counter and soon they were in business.
“Hello! We meet again.” Manu smirked at Rajani who started and then blushed. She cast a sly triumphant look at Shikha who made a moue and frowned with her eyes.
Feeling victorious, Rajani ignored her. “Hi Manu. How may I help you?” she asked formally.
“Well I did want you to show me the campus but,” he heaved a big sigh.
“Yeah well, I had work to do,” she waved her hand at the pile of sheets scattered over her table. “Have you registered?”
“Nope. That’s why I came here. Can you help me please?”
Rajani blushed at the intense look in his eyes. “Of…of course. Here fill this form.” She smiled shyly.
“Rajani, could you have a look at this important notice from Smriti to all volunteers?” Rajani turned in surprise at Shikha’s formal tone.
“What is it?” she asked.
“Here read this.” Shikha handed her a note, which read REMEMBER GIRISH?
Rajani quickly folded it up. “Don’t worry. I got it all sorted.” She replied sweetly, feeling rather proud of herself.
“Here,” Manu handed the filled form, “when do you get free? I want to return the favor?”
“Favor? What favor?”
“The breakfast treat.” He smiled. “At least let me treat you to a coffee?”
“Actually Shikha paid for the breakfast.”
“Of course I meant both of you,” he recovered quickly and included Shikha in his smile.
“Thanks Mang…I mean Manu, but as you can see, we have a lot of work.” Shikha refused politely.
“But surely you will join the fun? Later?”
“Yeah maybe later.” Rajani sent a pleading look to Shikha, who refused to meet her eyes.
“Cool! Give me your number I will call you in an hour or two. Okay?”
“Sure.” Rajani mumbled her number, pretending to be involved in the poster in front of her.
“Great! Bye, see you guys later.” Manu left.
“What on earth is the matter with you Rajani?” Shikha pounced instantly.
Rajani looked up wearing a half guilty half defiant expression. “What’s the big deal Shiks?” she quavered. “It’s just a coffee. And I haven’t gone yet.” Her voice firmed. “Besides, you will be there with me.” She smiled coaxingly.
“No chance Rajji! I am not going anywhere near that…that daku!”
“Oh come on Shikhs don’t overreact okay? This is Collage time, time for some fun.”
“And what would Papa say?” Shikha couldn’t help saying.
“Why are you dragging Papa into this? Haven’t I gone for endless cups of coffee with Girish? For you?”
“Oh no no Rajji! You don’t get to blame Girish incident on me! Did I tell you to go and support him? It was your own damn fool idea and look what it got you into – trouble. Remember the saying – give an inch and they will take a mile?” Shikha was on a roll. “So just drop this weird crazy idea…”
“Well I am going. Even if you aren’t!” Rajani burst out, surprising herself even more.
Stunned, Shikha retired hurt and upset. “Fine. Do as you like.” She picked up the posters and went to Smriti, “Shall I go and put these up at the girl’s hostel?”
“Would you? Thanks so much! And will you check and let me know how the dance practice is progressing? Where is Harry…oh yeah practicing his song with Rita I guess.”
Shikha marched off without another word. If truth be told, she was a bit jealous – for perhaps the first time, Rajani had disregarded her suggestion and was planning to take a bold step. Going out with young guys that too unknown ones was not something ‘good’ girls did. If anything Shikha thought herself more likely to take such a step rather than Rajani who was such a scaredy-cat.
And Rajani what about her? Rajani too was surprised at herself. She really did want to go and she couldn’t see any harm – just a cup of coffee in full public view. So what if he was a stranger – he was from home, so friendly, so natural and so damn handsome. Aha! So that was it – a little flutter in her heart was all that was needed to overturn all prudence and rational thought – not to mention years of ingrained sanskar and caution 😉 😀 . Suddenly everything seemed correct and propah! (oops there i go rambling again)
Now the question was, what should she wear? Something nice and different – right? After all this was festival time, oh! Rajani put a hand to her hair, she needed to wash it ASAP. But was there time? He was going to call soon – maybe she should postpone the coffee to evening. Yes that would be best – that would give her time to finish her work, get ready and convince Shikha.
“I finished these Smriti. I think I will go and help Shikha with the putting up of the posters.” She dashed off without waiting for Smriti’s reply.
“Hi Shikha!” Rajani panted. She had run the entire way to the hostel. “Let me help.”
“No thanks.” Shikha was stiff. “Don’t you have to get ready?”
Shikha melted. “What?”
Rajani smiled. “No I am not going now.” Shikha’s smile grew. “He hasn’t called yet. When he does, I will tell him that I will go in the evening.”
Shikha’s face fell ridiculously.
“Come on Shiks! Even if you don’t want to come along with us, everyone will be out there! What can happen? Just have some coffee, I doubt if we will able to hear ourselves speak. It’s so noisy and crowded.”
“Then why go? If you are so desperate for a coffee, I can treat you to one.” Shikha huffed.
Up next Chapter 101: Rajani's Date