The first week had started taking its rigor on us. At home, waking before 5 am would have been a miracle. But now, every day was miracle. We not only had to wake up at such an eerie time but also get refreshed and start our reading sessions. Someone had said that one must put oneself in other people’s shoes to understand their feelings. I hadn’t really caught on to that until now. But now, I could empathize with the war time prisoners. We were spared the beating which they underwent but all other things food, wake up time and work (studying) seemed common to us both. The only consolation I had were the companionship of Gopal and Prabu. Gopal seemed to be more of a carefree type taking whatever life gave him and then keeping it aside. And certainly, the adage that ‘Experience speaks for itself’ holds very true in his case. His one year of hostel experience had improved his six senses. During the morning reading sessions, while the other people would alternate between reading, dozing, snoring and get caught by the warden, Gopal had an unique talent. He will sit in his place with the book and immediately doze off to sleep yet his posture wouldn’t give any clue of that. He would have the book in the one hand, with his head hunched over the book and other hand on the book as if he had stumbled upon some interesting line in the book. Mind you, his six senses operated in perfect harmony even when he would be dozing peacefully!
The surprising thing was that whenever the warden would come in a close proximity of 3-5 feet, Gopal’s alarm would ring automatically. The funnier part was that on one or two instances, he would wake up and ask a doubt to the fellow sitting next to him as if he was clarifying his doubt, so to convince the warden that Gopal was really studying. During one such instance, Prabu was sitting next to him. Gopal as usual got up from his slumber and ask Prabu something in the Organic Metals chapter in Chemistry. Prabu , poor fellow who was until then figuring out the intricacies of the generic names of the plants was dumbstruck by the invasion of the organic metals into his domain. While Prabu was figuring out in his head, under which family of the plants, did the organic metals come, the warden who was at a close proximity came nearby and started looking at Prabu. Prabu mumbled him a Good Morning. The warden without answering him, kept looking at him, expecting an answer for the question posed by Gopal. By the time, Prabu realized that he was expected to answer the question, the warden rebuked him saying he should learn to be active and hard working as Gopal. He then went on with his rounds. Prabu was fuming with anger at Gopal, who by then had entered his nirvana state again.
The first day in class is always exciting. You see new faces all around you, and people with varied personalities. The teacher had come and she started off by asking us to introduce ourself. Once the introduction got over, she started explaining the achievements of the past students in the school and how her students had gone to top the boards and make the school proud. I leaned over to Gopal and told him “Well, that’s what every teacher claims to have done”. When I looked back at the teacher,I realized that the teacher’s eyes were grilling into me like a one ton barrel gun about to explode. She said “You boy, come over to the front of the class.” I slowly walked to the center of the class. “Class, you have got yourself a new class monitor”. Certainly it wasn’t my day. Being under the watchful eyes of one teacher would be a pain, but being a Class Monitor is excruciating which can’t be explained. Not only you have to spend your free time running to the teachers and submitting assignments, you have to be mindful of your behavior. I guess she would have bet on the fact that by making the trouble maker as the Monitor and the others students will not dare to create any trouble and adhere to the rules, hence maintaining discipline. “And Monitor Vikram (she read my name from the student badge, I had pinned on the chest), now you will go out and stand outside the class for the mis- behavior you exhibited. Let the class monitor set an example to the class how to be disciplined.” What chance I had of explaining to her of my innocence. So, I walked outside the class. It was at this moment, that she entered my life.
As I reached the entrance of the class, she appeared before me. All I could see was her, everything else went out of focus. She was simply beautiful. She had her hair tied in a pony tail. She didn’t have any make up in her face but that added to her beauty. Like an angel radiating freshness and beauty around her, she stood there. I was prompted to ask “Am I in Heaven”? but no words came to me. They seemed to have gone to a silent strike & my tongue got tight lipped. All I could manage was a smile, which seemed ridiculous to me itself. In return, I saw that she had a surprised look in her face. I wondered the reason for that expression, when the teacher pulled me back to reality by saying “Vikram, I don’t mind you guarding the class entrance but can you please let the new student into the class”. It dawned on me that she was about to enter the class and I was obstructing her entry into the class. I gave a sheepish grin, and moved sideways to let her in. She just went in and explained to the teacher about the delay in her arrival and went to take a seat. The next class started but I was least aware of what was happening. All I could do was to gaze at her. Once or twice in the class, she must have seen me gazing into her, and she turned and looked at me. I immediately looked away as if in a deep contemplation. But there was this feeling of elation of finding that special person who you feel has been born only for you. The rest of the day passed in a blur and we came back to our rooms.
I was still in the wonderful state of thinking about her. Prabu on the other hand, thought the punishment of the teacher to make me stand outside the class had affected me deeply and hence, I was in a sad mood. “Don’t worry, Gopal. Such things happen. But don’t you worry. Since you are the Class Monitor, you will have ample chances to make amends and gain a good reputation”. All I did was to smile back and nod my head. Gopal, being brilliant as always figured out that my mood was nothing related to that, and asked instead “Do you know her name atleast”. Prabu was dumb founded by this. The entry of a ‘her’ in the current schemes of things upset his mind grey cells. He didn’t understand what Gopal was referring to. I realized that I don’t even know her name. When the teacher had taken the class attendance, she had sent me to get few notes from her room and i hadn’t been able to know her name.” “Hey Gopal, please tell me her name”, I asked. “What do I get in return, Class Monitor”, So after striking a deal to sponsor 2 samosa’s in the school canteen I got to know her name”. Her name was ‘Keerthana”.
The rigorous schedule of the classes kept on going on. But I hardly felt it. The only thing which occupied my mind was thoughts about her. In the class, I would just keep gazing at her. Though, I felt she was aware of my looking at her, she hardly gave any reaction. She was mostly alone, but sometimes she would be with two other girls of our class. Gopal would say “Dude, you should go to her and tell her how you feel about her”. Yea, I would have done that, if only my tongue hadn’t decided to enter a strike state in her presence. I dunno why but whenever I get to see her alone; my tongue would be coil itself and enter hibernation. All I would end up doing was to give her a smile.
Gopal suggested a plan to approach her. In order to know more about her, you have to know more about her friends. Like Gandhi said “Show me your friends and I will tell you how good you are”. Now, even though I wondered how Gandhi could do that, I thought it was better to keep quiet. Gopal said that I can tell my feelings for her to her friends that I liked her and then the girls can introduce me to her later. The plan seemed really a nice one. We can talk with the girls she was close to and then we can find more about her. Gopal as usual volunteered for the arduous task. He said he will speak to the girls who were close to Keerthana and find more about her. So, I eagerly awaited the result of our plan. Two weeks went by and still no news came. Then it dawned upon me that Gopal had liked one of the girl and he just wanted an excuse to talk to her and I was the bakra who he got. I got angry with him that night and accused him of letting me down. He apologized for the delay and then he introduced me to the girl next day. We talked for a while when she told me that Keerthana’s birthday was coming next week. She said “If you want to impress her and convey your feelings to her, do it on her birthday. Buy her something which she will like and she will then start talking to you”.
Prabu suggested making her something on my own, which will show my feelings for her. Well, since the plan was made, I got down to making her a greeting card and a small plastic rose. Her birthday finally arrived. She was dressed in an elegant manner with her hair flowing freely and some hair tied around. She looked stunning. As the class norm, the birthday student goes round the class distributing chocolates. I was breathing heavily when she was 2 benches in front of me. What was I supposed to say “Many more Happy returns of the day” or “Happy Birthday” or “Wish you a Happy birthday”. Finally she came before me, and offered chocolates. I gave her a smile, and took one & said “Happy day”. The word ‘birthday’ choose to elude me in the last moments. I kept cursing myself for the remaining class for not even wishing her properly. After the classes got over, Gopal nudged me to give the greeting card to her. She was about to leave the class, when I called her from behind “Keerthana, just a moment”. She turned back and looked at me. My tongue as uncooperative as ever, recoiled inside my mouth. I extended the greeting card to her and managed to say “for you”. She looked for a moment as if confused then realizing that it was a card, looked at me and smiled. The smile got imprinted in my heart, and i once again was lost in her thoughts.
The quarterly exams were about to begin in few days. Since this was the first major test, all the teachers expected the students to do well in their subjects. The study rigor got more hectic. Since, we had special sessions starting immediately after the classes; I got to see less and less of her. And everyone was too busy to have any other thoughts. Tomorrow we had our first exams. Gopal, lay in the half in the bed, the other half toppling in the chair. Prabu hadn’t returned back to the room yet. Maybe, he was busily preparing for the exam with someone. As I finished reading the portions, I closed down my book and prepared to sleep. As I lay on the bed, I could think of only one thing – about Her.
To be continued...