Finally the two-hour marathon math class was over – and not a moment too soon. The girls were near fainting with hunger. Rubbing their cramping fingers, they scrambled up on shaky legs. “I wonder where the canteen is,” Rajani muttered to Shikha.
“I can show you if you like.” It was of course HK.
Rajani rolled her eyes and turned to him. He grinned engagingly. “And you can lend me your notes.” He held up his notebook marred with thick sketch pen marks blotting on to the other page. “You owe me.”
Rajani was up in arms. “I owe you?”
Shikha intervened. “Please can we go to the canteen and continue this argument? I am ready to collapse!”
“Come let’s go.” He led the way. Reluctantly, with Shikha urging her, Rajani followed – if she wasn’t so tired and sleepy she would show that Harry, no not Harry what was his name again? Hari puttar? No Harry…if only her head didn’t swim so much, if only the floor didn’t wobble and rise up like this, if should but raise her hand, she could touch the floor….why was everything so blurred…
“Rajjii,” Shikha shook her but Rajani was quite oblivious. She crumpled and fell neatly into Harry’s arms.
When she came to, she was on the floor of the cafeteria with about a thousand eyes on her. “Mamma,” she whimpered.
“It’s okay.” It was that boy what was his name and what was he offering? She didn’t want anything. She just wanted to close her eyes and sleep.
“Rajjii!” She smiled, that was Shikha, she knew her, her bestest friend but why was she crying?
“Drink this Rajji.” Someone thrust Mazza into her mouth – she drank greedily, some spilled over and ran down her neck. She struggled to sit up.
“Drink it up.” Again that boy. And he didn’t wait for her to agree, he tilted the bottle into her mouth. Choking a bit, she drank it up. It was cool and refreshing.
“What happened Shiks? Are you okay?”
“Budhoo.” Shikha smiled through her tears. “I am fine. You fainted. Come and sit here.”
HK waved away the crowd. He leaned over her. “You okay?”
Rajani’s heart fluttered a bit at the intense look in his eyes. She managed a small nod and a sheepish, “Thank you.”
He left their table abruptly.
Pale and wan, Rajani looked at Shikha. “What?” the color returned to her face.
Shikha pursed her lips and controlled herself. There would be time for talk (and teasing) later. “You need to eat something. What shall I get?”
“I am okay. I had the Mazaa…”
“Don’t annoy me Rajji.” Shikha glared at her. “I am starving even if you are not.”
“Oh! Sorry. Anything will do.”
“What anything? I think they have sandwiches, burgers samosas, biscuits…”
“Here, have this.” A loaded HK reappeared carrying idli-sambhar a mound of sandwiches and gallons of coke.
“What’s all this?” the girls were taken aback.
“Breakfast what else? Even I missed breakfast.”
“But you came in after 10 am.”
“So what? The mess closes at 9 am.” He handed them a plate of idli each and attacked his.
The girls looked at each other embarrassed but the smell was too tempting. They dug in. Idlis washed down with iced Coke was refreshing and rejuvenating to say the least. With brighter eyes and warmer hearts, they thanked HK from the bottom of their stuffed stomachs.
“What thank you? Why insult the sandwiches? Eat it up! I got one for each of you.”
“Nothing more thanks and we better go, it’s almost time for the next class.”
“Leaving me here alone?” He raised tragic eyes – with his full mouth he looked like a cartoon character. Rajani’s eyes danced and nostrils flared. HK watched these developments with great interest – she didn’t disappoint. She giggled, shook swayed – the works. HK drank it all up until Shikha dragged her away calling to HK, “Hurry, we’ll be late for class. You have Physics?”
HK stuffed the sandwiches in his bag and followed them out of the cafeteria. “You should have come for the fresher’s party. It was great fun. Awesome grub.”
“It was last evening wasn’t it?” Shikha huffed as she kept a brisk pace.
“Yep. You would have gotten to know the others. Who’s who kinds.”
“Didn’t they rag you?” Rajani was wide-eyed.
“Ragging? No. Just a bit of harmless fun and interaction.”
“Harmless fun and interaction.” Rajani muttered in an aside to Shikha. “As if.”
“When and where can we meet the others of our class?” Shikha quelled Rajani with her eyes.
“Class? Batch you mean. There is no class as such, everyone has a different set of subjects.”
“Yea, sorry old habit. That’s what I meant.”
“Okay you both go ahead for your Physics class,” they had reached LH3, “I will meet you here after class and we can have lunch together.” He paused and watched the play of expressions on their faces. “With the other girls and boys of our batch.” He added.
Shikha’s expression cleared. She nodded enthusiastically. Rajani was skeptical. She didn’t want to have lunch with HK or with the others. She and Shikha were fine. But…
“Go in!” HK hissed. “Mam’s here.” He dropped out of sight and the girls dashed inside the lecture hall.
Another intensive hour later they came out from the class and sure enough HK was standing there. As he had warned, he wasn’t alone – there were others with him, boys and girls.
“Here, I brought the welcome committee for you gals!” he waved them over. Shikha went ahead while Rajani tagged on a bit reluctantly – she wasn’t too keen to meet so many new people, all of a sudden.
“Are you okay? Not planning to faint again are you?” HK asked.
Rajani blushed and shook her head. The others laughed. “It’s no laughing matter guys.” HK cautioned. “You had to be there! One moment walking steadily,” he minced a few steps and then swayed and fell heavily against another boy – but his reflexes weren’t as good. Both fell down with a thump. A roar of laughter rose – Rajani joined in. She couldn’t help it. She giggled and giggled.
Shikha face-palmed and waited while the others goggled and stared. After a while, Shikha said, “Let’s go and have lunch. Her fits will stop in a bit. Ignore her.”
They began walking but someone or the other kept turning around to look at her, “Has she always been like this?”
“Since childhood!” Shikha rued. “I should know. We were neighbors ever since I can remember.” She clicked her fingers. “Good afternoon Sir!”
Rajani instantly sobered up. And went red.
“Okay? All done? Let’s go for lunch shall we? Everyone is getting late all because of you.” Shikha scolded.
“Not to worry,” HK jumped in, “Lots of time – the next class isn’t till 2 pm…
“And it’s already 1.20 pm,” Usha another classmate butted in. Murmurs and exclamations followed as the gang moved in unison towards the main mess for lunch. Rajani fell back. “I am not hungry Shiks, are you?” she whispered.
“Not really,” admitted Shikha, “but we don’t know when we will get to eat next. I am not risking another hungry session and you shouldn’t either. Do you want to faint again?”
Rajani made a moue, “But I really couldn’t eat a thing! I am sure I will throw up if I eat another bite.”
“Be practical Rajji,” Shikha exhorted but Rajani was adamant. Shikha gave up trying to convince her – besides, she too didnt feel like eating much. But in memory of the morning agony, Shikha managed to nibble on a sandwich while Rajani toyed with a glass of lassi as the others dug in laughing chattering, joking.
The afternoon was another jam-packed chemistry practical session, which the girls had a bit of a difficulty following, as they hadn’t attended the preceding theory classes. HK turned out to be the savior here as well and after a while, the girls muddled along quite well. The practical class was more relaxed and informal than the lectures. In fact, an uninitiated person dropping into the class could be forgiven for thinking some college festival was going on. Most experiments were to be done in batches of 4 or 5 and the ratio of boys and girls was also along these lines – one girl per batch of boys was the unwritten norm. Nobody actually dictated but funny how it just ‘happened’ like that in every batch.
But of course our inseparable twins were in one batch for wild boys couldn’t drag them apart – Rajani wouldn’t countenance it and Shikha wouldn’t risk it. Besides, Rajani seemed to be in serious need of a chaperone and a firefighter.
That and more happenings in the next update!
Up next Chapter 73