Collage was upon them and excitement was at fever pitch although organizers were mostly exhausted and dazed. Many doubted their own sanity for volunteering for the madness.
“Who does this? I mean no like really?” Shikha groaned easing her aching back as she raised her head from lettering yet another poster. “And do we really need so many posters?”
“Yes, we need to put them up at the other colleges. We don’t have too many sponsors. But if we can get more colleges to participate, sponsors will also flood the place.” Aditya wore a fanatical gleam.
Shikha was even more depressed. “Oh so that means, I slave away over here and some junior’s junior will reap the benefits! Not fair!”
“Hey come on!” said Rohan, a senior (on whom Shikha had a secret crush) sauntered by and dropped a pile of chart paper by her side, “you could always hang around.”
Shikha’s heart leapt but she couldn’t help glaring at him.
Rohan’s brow furrowed before he burst out laughing. He raised his hands. “Hey! All I meant was that you could do your Masters, Doctorate, get a job here and then your kids could reap the benefits,” he twinkled attractively at her. “You could think of it as a labor of love for our kids.”
Shikha’s eyes fluttered. Flushing and mumbling incoherently, she bent over her ‘labor of love’ 😉
Rohan’s phone rang.
“Shikhsss!” Rajani wailed. “Look what you made me do!”
“I didn’t do anything,” Shikha protested. “You did it yourself.” She lowered her voice. “Serves you right!” she hissed. “Don’t dare you giggle while that guy…?”
Eyes glittering with merriment, Rajani put a hand to her back and straightened with difficulty. “That guy? Really Shikhs?” She put a hand near Shikha’s cheeks. “Ouch! My hands!” she jerked them away as if scalded.
“Rajjiii.” Shikha scowled shooting apprehensive glances at Rohan who was still busy on the phone.
“What?” she asked innocently, too innocently.
“Shut up. Otherwise I swear…”
“Otherwise what? Admit that your heart went dhak dhak over the labor of love,” Rajani was off again.
Rajani clasped her stained hands together and intoned soulfully, “Today will go down in history as the day I, Rajani Ahuja was witness to pure louuve! I am so J!!!”
“J my foot! Just you wait Rajji ki bacchi,” Shikha threatened even as she clapped a hand over Rajani’s mouth. She hurriedly withdrew as Rohan disconnected his phone. She sat down with her head bent demurely over her work. “Don’t disturb me Rajani,” Shikha’s voice was a tad shaky, “Otherwise, this poster will be beyond recovery.”
Rajani smoothly rolled up her poster. “Well, I am done for the day!” She leaned close to Shikha and whispered through her giggles, “I am not crazy enough to slave away for your kids.”
Chortling, she looked at Rohan who was now busy with Aditya.
Shikha was terrified that Rohan would glance their way and then her game would surely be up. Embarrassed, she made a lunge for Rajani who danced out of her reach, shaking, quivering and all but literally rolling on the floor and laughing.
Harry gave up trying to make sense of their conversation or antics – he settled for staring at his crazy ladylove wearing a beatific besotted expression.
“What’s up Harry?” Smriti asked knowingly. He grinned sheepishly and went back to his work – micro-planning the day’s events.
“Just you wait Rajji. Just you wait.” Shikha threatened direly. “You can go back to the hostel alone.”
Rajani opened her eyes wide. “Why? Do you have a date with…?” Shikha gave her shove for Rajani’s voice had risen.
Rohan turned around.
“Going somewhere Shikha?” he looked terribly disappointed. “I was hoping you could do some more posters. You have such a neat hand.”
Rajani’s eyes narrowed – What the hell! Was Rohan really interested in Shiks? She had been just teasing Shikha trying to get back at her for the umpteen raggings she had suffered. But wouldn’t that be cool if he too…?
“No problem!” Rajani rushed in not that Shikha was in any condition to say anything, she was the color of beetroot and seemed to be choking or something. “She can hang around with,” Rajani winced as Shikha kicked her, “I mean stay here and do the posters.”
“That’s good but better if you could also hang around,” he flashed her a broken tooth grin, “you also have a neat hand,” he allowed.
“Thanks!” Rajani all but clasped her hands in acknowledgement of that concession for her art prowesses. She yawned. “But I am rather tired. Maybe tomorrow?” She looked at them guilelessly while her nostril fluttered unmistakably.
Shikha pursed her lips and shot daggers with her eyes while Rohan nodded amiably. “Cool. As you wish.”
“No!” They turned to look at Shikha in surprise.
“I mean even I have to go back to the hostel.”
“Why?” Rajani questioned.
“I have to wash my clothes.”
“Never mind! Do them tomorrow.” Rajani brushed them off.
“They will stink,” Shikha refused. “But if you…” she ventured slyly.
“Oh I would Shiks I surely would,” Rajani swore, “but you know my arm right? It’s on fire. Actually I am going back because of my arm, not because I am sleepy or tired or anything.”
“Oh you poor girl. I better come along and help you with….”
“No need Shiks!” Rajani wore a martyred expression, “I will manage. You carry on here. After all the show must go on. Right?”
Rohan got bored of the exchange, which for some strange reason was giving him uncomfortable vibes – as if he should know, as if he was in some way involved but he didn’t quite put his finger on it. “Never mind. I think you girls can join in tomorrow.” He waved them away.
Rajani was most disappointed. “What the hell!” she whispered to Shikha.
Shikha scowled at her. “This is what happens when you make mountains of nonexistent molehills.” She flounced off.
“Nonexistent? Nonsense! He did say ‘our kids’.” Rajani nudged her giggling. “And he said you had a neat hand.”
“He said that to you too.”
Rajani looked lugubrious. “Only as an afterthought. Only because he wanted the work done.” She looked sad. She heaved a huge sigh. “Not because he appreciated my work. Or had “feelings” for me.” She was back to giggling.
Shikha rolled her eyes. “You are just taking revenge aren’t you?”
Rajani nodded. “Great fun! But why did you come away? Don’t you have a crush on him? I gave you such a golden opportunity to cozy up, work in isolation on your labor of love.” She swayed clutching her tummy.
“Shut up Rajji!”
Shikha shook her head and shrugged. “I did have a teeny weenie crush on him. He is so handsome and that dimple. But I am not sure why but I didn’t really like the double entendre – I think he was deliberately leading me on, as if he knew I have a crush on him.”
Shikha shrugged. “So nothing. I don’t want him to think I am dying for him. That he can just crook his finger and I will go running, grateful for his attention.”
“Even though you are technically “dying” for him?”
“Not technically, “figuratively”. When I am dying “literally”, then I shall see.” Shikha declared.
Giggling and chortling they went back to the safety of their hostels to rest their aching bodies but happy full hearts.
Up next Chapter 99: Collage begins
Hello friends! What’s up? Busy counting notes and votes? 😀 Anyway, I seriously think I overdid the ragging bit. All those agreeing say Aye – come on don’t be shy.
And before I forget, don’t forget to read today’s SPF: Nipped in the Bud. Hope you will like – especially Chotti fans 😉