Chapter 104: At Crossroads

Collage whooshed by without any further ado or mishaps. Rajani and Shikha jointly won the poster making competition while Harry and Rita won the consolation prize in the vocal category. Girish found a girl who willingly hung around on his arm for the entire duration of the festival making it a dream come true time for him. Even though he was poorer by a few thousand rupees – or at least his father was.

And now that Collage was behind, the professors upped their ante – but the memory of those fun and carefree days dogged them, especially the guys.

The girls? Oh they were mostly sleepy and exhausted.

“So who all are ready to go for the college trip? Let’s have a show of hands shall we?” Girish proposed.

Only the boys raised their hands.

“What! None of the girls are ready? Why?”

“Exams!”

“Expensive.”

“Exhausted!”

“Papa won’t agree.”

“Then don’t tell him.”

“What if he gets to know?”

“At least ask him. What’s the worst he can do? Say no, right?”

But thankfully for Rajani, those plans fizzled out as none of the other girls were interested – the specter of exams was enough to dampen their enthusiasm.

Days and nights flew by exams came and went – some good days and some not so much. And before they knew it, even their all too brief winter vacations were over – they were back in college as if they had never been away.

Feeling restless and bored, the boys again raised the issue of a college trip.

“But what excuse will we give this time? There’s no college festival is there?”

“We’ll just bunk Saturday, Friday is a holiday on account of Good Friday. So that won’t be a problem.” Sameer said.

“But…” Rajani was just short of wringing her hands.

“Shikha,” Raj ignored Rajani, “why don’t you talk to your father, get his permission. If he agrees, perhaps Rajani’s dad may not have any objections?”

“Okay, I will talk to him.” Shikha agreed.

“Why did you agree to talk to Uncle?” Rajani accosted Shikha.

“But why not silly?” Shikha laughed.

“Because I know Uncle will agree but Papa won’t.”

“I am sure both Dad’s will agree.” Shikha predicted.

But for once, Rajani was right – Lalit agreed while Suryakant refused permission.

“You go.” Rajani was done pleading and crying with her father. “It’s just for a couple of days. I will sit and study,” she attempted to smile, “and do better than you in the final exams.”

“No. I couldn’t do that!” Shikha felt terrible. “I will tell Mom to speak to Aunty.”

“No! Don’t. You know there’s no point. Papa would never agree even if Mamma did.”

“No harm in trying, right?” Shikha was optimistic.

But this approach too failed and they were back to square one.

“You go have fun.” Rajani said.

“No I can’t go.” Shikha refused. “It wouldn’t be any fun without you.”

“How would you know unless you try it?”

“I know.”

“No you don’t. I’ll be fine. Okay, don’t worry, I won’t study.” Rajani smiled. “I will go see a movie…”

“With whom will you go?”

“I’ll find someone.”

“I think I like the idea of a relaxed weekend, seeing a movie, lunch, some shopping more than a trip with the class boys, without you. I am not very friendly with the other girls.”

Indeed she wasn’t. Plus Rajani looked so sad and lonely even though she was trying to be brave and positive about it.

“Please Shikhs don’t withdraw on my account. I wouldn’t like that.” Rajani drew patterns with her finger on the counterpane.

“No I am not.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.” Shikha was busy texting. “There I texted Rita and Sameer.”

Rajani face glowed. “Really? Are you sure? You wont regret it Shikhs! The movie is on me!” She was jumping for joy.

Shikha laughed. “And what about lunch?”

“Lunch and shopping too!” Rajani said recklessly.

“I will hold you to it,” Shikha warned.

Rajani tossed her head. “Sure! Anything.”

“My, someone is feeling generous. Just a while ago you were convincing me to go.”

“Oh if you want you can still go…” Rajani instantly backtracked.

“Don’t be silly…hello? Yes Mummy? Okay. But… Why? Okay, if you say so. No, I am fine. Yes. Okay. No I am not crying or sulking. Okay fine. No it’s okay.”

Rajani stared at Shikha trying to make head or tail of this conversation. But Shikha refused to even look at her. Rajani’s heart sank. Now what? Was she talking about the trip? Why would she be crying?

“What? What was Aunty saying?” Rajani was torn between curiosity and dread.

“Nothing.” Shikha heaved a sigh and flicked a hand over her cheeks. She sniffed.

“Shikssss! What’s wrong?”

“Nothing.” Shikha mumbled averting her face. Her shoulders shook.

Rajani pulled at her trying to look into her face. “What did she say? Tell me otherwise I am calling Aunty,” she threatened.

“Mummy said…said that I…I shouldn’t go for the trip.”

Rajani stared in confusion at Shikha’s laughing face. “And she said I could spend the money on a movie, lunch and shopping.”

“Yay!” The penny dropped and the girls jumped up and down dancing and laughing in glee at having bested their parents.

“I wonder why Aunty changed her mind?” Rajani wondered aloud later after they had sobered down.

“I think your mother may have said something that worried Mummy. But never mind. It’s not important. I wasn’t going in any case and now I have license to spend the money too!”

The boys were disgusted with the two girls – they went ahead as planned and had a gala time. The girls couldn’t help but be a wee bit jealous of all – the remember when? And then?

“We had a grand time too.” Rajani declared stoutly.

“Yeah? We saw a movie too,” Raj jeered.

“I hate late night shows.”

“There speaks the Maharani.”

“Hmmph.” Rajani stalked off.

It would have been nice to go on a college trip – have something special to remember college days, which were flying by at the speed of light.

In no time they were graduates. It was time for the gang to disperse and go their respective ways. Sameer and Harry were continuing on a dual course at the college. A few of the girls were getting married and there was some talk of Shikha’s marriage too.

Rajani tried her best to dissuade Shikha, who was undecided either way.

“But what about Math? You like Math don’t you?”

“I like Math. But it doesn’t like me.” Shikha mourned. “I didn’t do too well in the finals. I won’t get admission anywhere.”

“You don’t know that for sure. No harm in trying, is there?”

“Yes but what’s the point in struggling with Math for another two years if I have to get married and make rotis?”

Up next Chapter 105: New Plans

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