Annoyed with Shikha, Rajani turned her back to her. Hmmph as if she cared – her beloved Bhai was coming all the way to see her. She was going to see him after ages. Poor thing, he was so busy, always had his nose to the grindstone – no time to even have a proper talk. The last time had been when she had cleared the AIIMS exams…she faltered, tears clouded her eyes, if only, if only…
No she wouldn’t think of it, she wouldn’t…
If only the accident hadn’t happened, then Bhai would have come to AIIMS. She would have shown him around the campus, her college, one almost a doctor another on the threshold of becoming one…but now those dreams lay shattered on the pavement of Chandigarh. Tears rolled down her cheeks – perhaps Bhagwanji was punishing her for trying to outshine Bhai – a sob escaped her.
“Rajji!” Shikha was by her side. “I am sorry. Don’t cry. I am sorry. I am a mean awful, horrible witch, get angry at me, don’t cry please.”
“Okay okay I am fine!” Rajani scrubbed her face and gave a watery smile, “see, I really am fine. Look,” she spread out her craft things on her table, “I was wondering what type of Rakhi to make for Bhai. I want to make something different.”
“Let’s see, what do you have?” Shikha joined in enthusiastically and soon they were chatting, arguing, bickering like always.
Friday night Rajani was so excited she could hardly sleep. “Oh I wonder what time he will be here! I hope he comes real early, and then we can go out and paint the town red for two whole days. I need to go shopping…”
“Shush, Rajji!” Shikha rolled over, “go to sleep and let me sleep. I swear I wont wake you up in time for class tomorrow. And why should he come early? We have a double math class tomorrow, don’t you remember?”
“I thought about bunking it.” Rajani said excitedly.
“Budhoo! We have missed so many classes already. Why would you want to miss more? I forbid you to miss…”
Rajani sat up. “You forbid it?” she was incredulous. “Who do you think you are — Biji?”
“Yes, I am Biji – now shut up and go to sleep or I am calling up Aunty,” she narrowed her eyes, “No I will call up Uncle and tell him…”
Rajani glared at her. “Tell him what may I ask? You don’t even have his number,” she stuck out her tongue at Shikha.
Shikha picked up her phone, “Hello Aunty? Could I speak to Un…”
“Shikha!” Rajani snatched the phone away and stared at it. “You were bluffing,” she accused hotly.
“Yeah so? You aren’t letting me sleep. Your brother’s coming. What’s it to me?” Shikha lay down.
“What’s it to you meaning?” Rajani was incredulous. “But of course you will be coming out with us.”
“Me? With you? No, no, that wouldn’t be right,” but Shikha perked up.
“Of course Budhoo, you think I would go out without you?”
“How would I know?” Shikha said sulkily, “for days now, it’s just been Bhai’s coming Bhai’s coming, I am going to do this and I am going to eat that. Did you say anything about me tagging along?”
“But that’s understood Budhoo! Okay fine,” Rajani held her ears, “I am sorry Maharani Shikha for being so remiss and not making things clear. Will you please come along with us? Please? Bhai would also like it I am sure.”
“Well, if you are sure.” Shikha said disdainfully. “And if you insist.” She said snootily. But then she couldn’t quite maintain her airs and graces, her eyes shone and she clapped her hands in excitement. “Oh what fun! I can’t wait for him to come! What time is he coming?”
“Exactly! But he hasn’t yet told me. Can you imagine? He is supposed to come tomorrow and no news of his plans.” A sudden fear clutched her. “I hope he is coming? I hope he is fine!”
“Rajji! Don’t talk nonsense. Of course he is fine. Now go to sleep. We have a long day tomorrow and day after – with or without classes.”
“Yes.” Rajani lay down but sleep took a long time in coming – part excitement part worry.
Morning but some relief and disappointment – Abhi was on his way but would reach only by evening.
“Evening! Why so late Bhai?” Rajani whined. “We are waiting for you since morning!”
“We? Who’s we? And Mom said you had classes in the morning so I thought I best to come a little late. Give you time to have lunch, rest and then meet.”
“Shikha and me of course.” Rajani lowered her voice. “We could have bunked class.”
“Bunk class! Haww Rani, just over a month away from home and already corrupted? Hmm will have to tell….”
“Tell what?” Rajani interrupted hurriedly. “I was just joking. Anyway I got to go now otherwise I would be late for class.”
“What?” Shikha was looking at her with foreboding. “He isn’t coming is he?”
“No silly! Of course he is coming.” She took her arm. “Later in the evening. Come let’s go for our math class.”
“What happened?” it was HK. “Didn’t your beloved Bhai turn up?”
“He is on the way.” Rajani turned up her nose. But then Rajani hadn’t just told HK (or Shikha)! She had told anyone who cared to listen that her Bhai was coming, how handsome and brilliant he was – you get the gist right?
It was revenge time and poor Rajani was inundated with taunts and hoots.
“Stop it guys!” Sameer castigated his batch mates when the ragging peaked in between classes. “Stop it. Can’t you see the poor girl is exhausted answering the same question over and over again? Give her a break guys.” He clicked his fingers. “I have a super idea.”
Rajani stared at him with a mix of hope and suspicion.
Sameer went over to the blackboard and wrote in big white letters – Rajji’s brilliant Dr. Bhaisahab on the way. For further updates, watch this space.
“Sameer!” Rajani shrieked and ran up to him. “I swear I will kill you.” She hurriedly wiped off the notice – just then the Physics teacher entered the hall. Sameer was gone before the professor, distracted by the muffled gurgles, could register him. Rajani was slower on the uptake – probably frozen with shock and surprise.
He glared at Rajani who backed away with the duster and chalk (which she had wrested away from Sameer) in hand. In her confusion, she noticed her gaffe only when she reached her seat. Shikha nudged her and pointed to her hand and then at Sir who was looking for chalk. Horrified, Rajani got up and went to give the chalk back as the professor was opening and closing drawers. There was an expectant hush in the class.
The scene couldn’t have been timed better.
Rajani reached the professor and held out her piece of chalk; the professor opened the final drawer – a black cat leaped out of the drawer with a yowl.
Or perhaps that was Rajani or maybe the professor. The duster in Rajani’s hand went flying, and floated down to land on the professor’s head showering him with chalk dust. The cat bolted like a streak of lightning across the lecture hall. She darted and jumped from table to table (at one instance over a bag and more notably rested a light paw on Deep’s head). The boys were united in their approach and attitude – personal safety over dignity. With a collective yell that almost brought down the roof, they scattered like a pack of popcorn breaching the invisible boundary between the girls and the boys.
As one can imagine, pandemonium reigned supreme. Things became even more interesting as the cat reached a dead end and made an abrupt U turn. This time the girls leaped over to the other side. This continued for some time until a spoilsport opened the door of the LH.
Now that the crisis was over, the boys straightened, squared their shoulders and smoothed their hair their laughter subdued in deference to the professor’s presence. On the other hand, the girls still clutched each other for support – palpitating and trembling (with intermittent shudders) from the shock of their narrow escape.
Peppered, disheveled, mortified and disconcerted the Professor retired rather precipitously from the scene.
The burst of raucous laughter that erupted the moment he shut the door of the LH burned a hole in his stomach. He headed straight for the Dean’s office and spewed acid.
Up next Chapter 78: Cat-astrophe