Shikha and Rajani muddled through the rest of the week and fell into a sort of pattern.
Wake up late and miss breakfast. Rush through the morning ablutions and dash off to college. Most days they ended up running that was offset and nullified by them having to intermittently stop to catch their breaths (as Rajani would also be gripped by an uncontrollable giggling fit). On a lucky few days (when the first class was at 9 instead of 8 am) do a brisk walk (more of a hop, skip and jump) to college.
The days they had a few minutes to spare or they had also missed dinner, they took a detour via Rocky’s. They would grab something and even learnt to dash off without paying him – shouting for him to put it on their account. Depending on their blood sugar status, they would munch on the way or stuff it into their bag to be nibbled on during dire straits during the interminable lectures.
In general, girls of their batch were more organized than these two who were notorious for being latecomers and the cynosure of all eyes as they entered the LH, just before the boys straggled in.
HK could predict who was entering first – Shikha or Rajani. Shikha usually made an unobtrusive unremarkable entry. It was Rajani who had a distinctive trademark entry.
His heart invariably gave a leap every time the door flew open in a certain distinctive way and she all but fell into the LH – plait, bag, books dupatta flying in different directions.
One day after class, Rajani found HK inspecting the LH door very carefully.
She stared. “What’s the matter?”
He turned and peered intently at the side of her head.
“What?” The tips of her ears turned red. She backed away, half annoyed half-embarrassed.
HK shook his head and frowned, “I just checking the door to see if any skin from your ear was stuck on the door.”
“What rubbish you speak HK! As if that’s even possible.”
“Yes Harry,” Shikha butted in, “can’t you see her hair cushions her ears?”
HK looked blandly at a furious Rajani and shrugged. “Whatever. It’s no skin off my nose.” He chortled and walked away whistling while Shikha clutched her stomach. He turned to wink at Shikha.
“Not you too!” Rajani snapped at Shikha. “And what business have you to adopt this holier than thou attitude? You are just as late as I am.”
“Which, by the way is not my fault,” sniffed Shikha superiorly, “You are the one who takes ages to get ready and your hair…”
“I have been telling Mamma to let me cut my hair right from class 5 but she doesn’t let me cut it. Papa wouldn’t like it.”
“Why wouldn’t Papa like it?” Shalini another classmate queried. “Oh right! He probably thinks shorthaired girls to be ‘loose-character’ and lower ratings in the marriage market.”
Both Rajani and Shikha glared at her. “What?”
“Haww you mean Uncle thinks I am a bad character, fast girl?” Shikha was aghast.
Shalini backed off. “I didn’t mean Uncle specifically, I was talking from my Grandpa’s perspective.” She hurriedly excused herself.
“She didn’t mean anything.” Rajani consoled her.
“Fine, let’s get you a haircut then. Save us at least 15 minutes everyday.” Shikha said sourly.
Rajani put up a hand to her hair as if Shikha stood ready with a pair of shears. “No! I will get up earlier. I promise.”
“You and your promises,” sneered Shikha knowingly. Rajani flushed.
Slowly but steadily, they caught up with the rest of the class. But they also realized that college was no cakewalk or school curriculum. A lot of new information was handed out over the course of a lecture – most of which was new and unheard of. And if they didn’t revise the same day, keeping pace with the next class was tough.
Classes usually got over by 3 or 4 pm. They would stumble back to the hostel feeling quite top heavy and crash out for a couple of hours. Wake up, pick themselves up and go out for a bite to the canteen, hang around for a bit, come back and attempt to the impossible – make sense of their notes. And match it to the information given in the textbooks.
A couple hours of struggle, dinner and then back to the grind. Slowly bit-by-bit, they got on top.
But it’s not as if this routine was etched in stone – in fact quite the contrary. They managed to follow the study schedule about twice or thrice a week – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Okay let me explain.
What happened was, by Friday, a major chunk of their batch would be desperate for relief and succor. The anticipation of soon being let off the hook turned their heads, even the teachers looked less grim and human. The backbenchers took the opportunity to draw up plans for the weekend, movies, city explorations, bunk Saturday half-day and go off to Mysore or somewhere more exotic – chits were passed around, questions and costings flew across thick and fast.
Amidst so much of infectious bonhomie and cheer, it was difficult for the girls to remain unaffected. Moreover the others of their batch also urged them even begged and coerced them to join them in their escapades. It wasn’t just that they were that popular. They were no doubt well liked by most but primary reason for their urgings was rooted in their concern that while they were busy living it up the girls would be mugging up their notes and subsequently ace the exams 😉
Not really getting the deeper implications of their exhortations and floored by their own charm and charisma, more often than not the girls allowed themselves to be drawn into their plans.
So weekends ended up being busier than the weekdays – it was always somebody or the other’s birthday, a new movie, pool party etc etc. Monday was a rude shock and Monday evenings were spent in glum despair over piled up course work, some impending test or reliving (and recuperating from) the fun weekend. By Tuesday, they had no choice but to pull up their socks, tighten their belts and get back to some serious work – looking up every now and then to check if the weekend had arrived.
So that’s how the weeks rolled by.
This particular weekend was extra special for Rajani – her brother was coming all the way from Manipal, just to meet her. Besides, Rakhi was around the corner.
Rajani was terribly excited. She couldn’t sit still, focus or concentrate on her work.
“Bhai is coming! Just imagine Bhai is coming just to meet me!” she told all and sundry. But Shikha had to bear the brunt of it.
“Big deal! Why are you making such a fuss?” She burst out after the nth bhai-song.
“What’s the matter with you?” Rajani was aghast. “Bhai is so busy. Exams, clinics, postings…”
“Well I think he should have come earlier to meet you,” Shikha snapped. “Wasn’t he supposed to come the first weekend and then the next…
“I told you he was busy,” Rajani interrupted.
“He is permanently busy. It’s been over a month since we came and he didn’t even come to see you when…” Shikha bit her tongue.
“Oho Shiks, he had exams. And besides tickets are so expensive, such a waste of time…”
“Waste of time? I wonder if he would have come for your funeral.” Shikha was bitter.
“Come on Shiks don’t exaggerate…”
“You almost died and he was busy topping his exams…”
“That’s because Papa didn’t tell him about the accident. Poor thing not his fault…”
“Fine! Then it’s Papa who’s the culprit…”
“Enough Shiks,” Rajani stiffened, “let’s drop this discussion shall we?”
“As you like! If you don’t mind, why should I care?” fuming Shikha buried her nose in her indecipherable notes.
Up next Chapter 77: One of Those Days