Rajani shook her head. “I love pakoras and I am starving!”
“Phew! Glad to hear that.” Manu laughed. He sat down beside her and laid out their picnic treat. “And attack!” he swooped down on the first one and popped it into his mouth.
“It’s hot, crispy and delicious!” he managed to say in between his sputters.
Rajani nibbled on hers. “Yes they are.”
“What about the chai?”
“I haven’t had it yet.”
“Try it,” he urged.
“In a bit. It’s too hot.”
“Mmmm.” Manu closed his eyes. “Mind-blowing tea.”
Rajani took a cautious sip. “Yes. It’s nice.”
“Nice! It’s fantabulous. Superb. Out of the world.” He declaimed passionately expansively almost spilling his tea. “Ouch!”
Rajani had an attack.
He sipped his tea and looked at her with interest. He munched on the goodies as she carried on. She attempted to control herself and succeeded too – after all she wasn’t that well acquainted with him.
She picked up her cup of tea and had barely sipped it when Manu sneezed – a big loud one and the samosa went flying.
Rajani choked, coughed and dropped her cup of tea. There was chaos as Rajani completely lost it. She lolled, swayed and bent over double.
“Ahh so that’s why people shush you when you laugh?”
She sobered and looked at him guiltily. She started as he scooted close to her and put his arm around her. “Don’t worry I think it’s cute.” His voice was low and tender.
Rajani froze and sort of blanked out at the unexpected development. She looked up at him mutely her eyes wide and questioning. Manu took it as an opportunity (or an invitation) – he bent his head and placed his lips upon hers.
“Hey Bhagwan! Where is this Rajji ki bachhi?” Shikha fumed and stressed as she tried her phone for the nth time.
Harry too was as jumpy as a cat on a hot tin roof, though he did pretend to be nonchalant and blasé. “Relax Shikha, where could she go?” He turned away and unobtrusively tried her phone as well. No luck.
“It’s been so long and she did say we would go for the Dumb Charades together. How long does it take to drink coffee?”
Exactly. “There was a huge crowd at the coffee spot, perhaps they are still stuck in the midst of it?” Harry couldn’t quite decide if that was good or not.
“Why is her phone unreachable?” Shikha uncharacteristically was feeling antsy and on the edge. That Rajani was always getting into some trouble or the other. No saying what she would do next. And gone off alone with some unknown guy. Oh God why did I let her coax me into this madness. I should have put my put my foot down, Shikha castigated herself.
Harry looked at his watch, coughed and casually sauntered off.
“Yeah right! You also disappear.” Shikha grumbled feeling quite out of her depth.
Harry had nipped off for a quick look at the Coffee Spot to see if he could catch a glimpse of either of them. Just a glimpse and he would be off. But to his surprise, the coffee joint was quite empty barring a few customers. The crowd had dispersed to the various LH and Audi to participate in or enjoy their respective events.
So where were Manu and Rajani? Perhaps they too had gone to see?
“What?” she looked up eagerly.
“The Coffee Spot is quite deserted. Maybe they have gone to see some event? Didn’t Raj see them both at the JAM session?”
“What JAM session? And why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
Harry flushed. He had been put out at the rather crude way Raj had described the cozy twosome. He shrugged.
“So that means, they couldn’t have coffee earlier because of the crowd. Oh!” A sudden thought struck Shikha. “Do you think, Manu convinced Rajani to go out of campus for a cup of coffee?”
“How would I know?” If you had tried to convince her you would have known, the voice in his head sneered. Scaredy-cat, it taunted.
“No,” Shikha shook her head decisively, “Rajani wouldn’t dare go outside the campus. I am quite sure about that, but…” she trailed off. What if that Manu smooth talked her into it? It would be dark soon. What if she got lost?
“Harry will you come with me to the campus gate?” To her relief, Harry didn’t question her as to what she hoped to accomplish by visiting the campus gate.
He started walking. “Come.”
She hurried after him.
They had gone just a little distance when a figure with hair flying behind her like a thick black cloud chasing her exited from the side where the campus nursery was located.
“Oh Shiks.” They fell into each others arms.
“What happened Rajani?” Harry glowered. “Why are you running? Where is Manu? And why are you crying?” his suspicions grew but he kept his thoughts to himself.
“Yes Rajani, what happened? And where were you? We looked for you all over. Where’s Manu? Did you two have a fight?”
“Oh Shiks he tried to…” registering Harry’s presence and possible repercussions, Rajani exerted self-control.
But that was enough to set Harry off.
“Harry! Where are you going?”
“Harry wait!” Rajani also called him but he had vanished in the direction Rajani had emerged from.
“Let him go,” Shikha shook Rajani, “tell me what happened? Why were you running?”
“Manu kissed me.” Rajani said baldly.
Shikha looked at Rajani stunned. “What?! Why? Did you also? Why did you let him?”
Rajani stamped her foot. “Of course I didn’t. And I didn’t let him. He kissed me before I realized what he was doing.”
“When did you wake up?”
“Shikss! Why are being so mean? I am so horrified and shocked! Look my hands.” She held them up she was indeed shaking.
“Okay, relax” Shikha relented. “Sit down. What happened after he…he…”
It could have been a second or a minute before Rajani unfroze – she leaped up with a tremendous screech and took to her heels.
Manu stood up undecided as to what to do. He was still dithering when Rajani halted in mid-flight. She made an abrupt U-turn and came charging back. Rajani came close to him and bent down. Startled Manu backed up. Rajani swiftly grabbed her phone, which was lying on the stone ledge.
A snort escaped Manu. Incensed, Rajani gave him a push and dashed off at top speed. She heard him give a tremendous yell and spew curses. She focused on getting away. But she couldn’t resist a backward glance. Was he following her?
But Manu wasn’t even looking at her. He was busy brushing at his shirt front all the while twisting this way and that way squinting at his posterior.
“Strange! I wonder what happened?” Shikha asked.
Rajani shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe something bit him?” she brightened. “A bee.” She reconsidered. “A snake.” Her eyes narrowed. “A poisonous snake.” She said with relish.
“Worse.” It was Harry. He was grinning.
“Daku Mangat Singh met Rajani.”
Up next Chapter 103: Harry and Manu