*** Warning : A very long post ***
He was utterly bewildered. He simply had no idea about what was happening to him. He had lost track of everything. No clue to the lectures he attended. Or to those that he missed. Sunny reminded him that he had been absconding from the training for the entire week and that the coach was out in search of him with a cricket bat in his hands and breathing fire through his nostrils. He was even disoriented about the days and dates. He had been missing his meals and still didn’t remember feeling hungry. It was getting crazier by the day.
But one thing he never seemed to miss was to get to the lecture-theatre a good fifteen minutes early every morning. Staring towards the door and counting every passing second until he would catch a glimpse of that face. And then he would feel the blood rushing to his face. Blocking off all the noise in the hall from entering his ears. The sound of someone’s footsteps and the voice of their owner were just the sounds he could hear.
She had always hated waking up in the mornings. But all that hatred seemed to have vanished into thin air. Getting to the morning class had never felt so exciting. And she would find herself trying to catch her breath as she neared the lecture-theatre. And just round the bend, from the corner of her eye she would catch a glimpse of that face. But as she would make her way inside the door, she made sure not to let her eyes wander across to the far end of the hall.
He was hysterical this morning. It had been almost a week since he saw her. The strange sense of irritation was crushing him. He could feel his head hurt. He fidgeted for the hundredth time when suddenly he saw her entering the hall.
He suddenly decided that he couldn’t take it any longer. He had to put an end to all the misery. He had to talk.
By the time the longest ever lecture of his life concluded, he had meticulously planned his every move. He rehearsed each dialogue over and over again in his mind. There was no turning back. He leaped from his seat as he saw her leave the hall. He saw her walking towards the lawns. He quickly matched her pace and anticipated to catch her just round the fourth tree.
She could sense him following her. She felt a strange sense of fear and excitement. But she had to make sure. She suddenly stopped and turned around. He wasn’t expecting this from her. He stopped dead in his track. All the confidence which he had built during the past hour seemed to have made a dash for the restroom.
He took a quarter of an hour sitting beneath the guava tree trying to rebuild the confidence which had given him the slip at a crucial moment. And just then he saw her go into the cafeteria at the far end. He jumped up and rushed towards her to get it over with before it got too late again. With nerves of steel, he entered the cafeteria house to confront her when he saw her standing across the hall with five of her closest friends. Their eyes met. And he could feel steel turning to wax.
It was the post-lunch bell that got him out of his trance. He dejectedly walked towards the academic building with his head as clear as an empty can. He was still brooding, staring blankly as he turned the bend and found himself face to face with her just as she appeared from the opposite corridor.
“Hi !” He said. Though he wasn’t sure if he heard his own voice.
“Hi.” She replied with a faint smile.
“Could you please guide me to Lab Three ??!!??”
She turned to walk. And he followed her. Still trying to gather his wits and telling himself that he actually spoke to her. They climbed two floors worth of stairs as she led him into a door labeled ‘Lab No. 3’.
As he walked across the strange smelling room, he was startled as a familiar voice boomed across. “Late again ?? You’ve been attending this lab for almost one year now. But you can’t ever come on time. Can you ???!!”
He was still sulking as he emerged out of the lab a couple of hours later, when he saw her talking to her friend.
“You go on. I’m going to talk to the HOD. See you later.” She said. Suddenly she looked back at him and turned around to the professor’s room.
He was petrified. It was clear she was going to report him. He tried desperately to think of some excuses. But he felt stymied. And in utter panic, he ran after her. She was already into the corridor when he reached her.
“Hmmm ??” She looked at him.
“Why are you going to the Prof ??”
She kept walking. Still trying to think of something to say.
“You’ve got it all wrong. See, it’s nothing like that. I’m not like those guys. You’ve got to believe me !!” He implored.
She gave him one last look and turned to enter the professor’s room. He felt his heart sinking to newer depths. He turned to walk away to escape the inevitable. He had hardly got to the stairways when he realized the peon running after him.
“Sir wants to see you in his room.”
‘That’s it ! I’m done for.’ He thought, and moved towards the dreaded room, resigned to his fate.
“May I come in sir ?” He enquired feebly.
“Come in. See,… she’s missed two of my lectures last week. Just give her the notes and help her with any problems she has !” The professor ordered.
“Yes Sir !” He found his voice for a change. His heart which had gone into arrest, starting to beat once again. It was in an overdrive by the time they emerged from the teacher’s room. As they walked the length of the corridor, he looked at her and found her looking back. And suddenly, they both burst into laughter.
They found the lecture hall empty and decided to sit there so that she could copy down the text. She was still smiling when he handed over his notes to her.
“Why were you saying all that ?” She asked with a giggle.
“I thought you were going to report me for following you.” He replied looking away.
“You were following me ?? But why ???” She looked at him.
He looked back at her. And then he felt as if time had stopped again. Looking into her eyes, as she looked into his. Looking right through each other. They let the eyes do all the talking. The eyes confessed. And the eyes accepted. And suddenly, all seemed to clear.
All of a sudden, he didn’t feel that anxiety. He felt strangely calm. He felt like flying. And he wanted to capture the moment for ever.
She couldn’t believe what was happening too. She had never felt so happy. Not in a long time. She felt giddy.
And suddenly, her eyes stopped on her hand. And she felt as if she had been stabbed. She could feel her eyes brimming.
“You know, I wanted to say something to you…..” He started to speak.
She assembled her belongings in haste, and quickly got up to leave. He was taken aback by her sudden action. She got up and turned to leave.
“Hey…. !!! Heyy…. !!! What happened ??!!” He exclaimed.
She stopped. And put up her hand for him to see. The glitter of a jewel twinkled through his eyes.
She turned back to face him. “I’m getting married this Friday !”
And she walked away.
(to be continued.......)
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