Having gone through the 2 year ordeal of MCQ-mugging considered mandatory for clearing pre-med entrance tests with sincerity and dedication I had expected to feature in the merit list of at least one of the 11 exams I have appeared in(inspite of the fact that some of them were for even just 30 or so seats.. . ). With results being declared almost every other week doom started to dawn on me.I did not feature even in the waiting lists. It was one of these days when Suzanne, Ravi and me have bicycled our way to the Hideout. It was a small pond just about a couple of kms. from our school. The evergreen spot has been a cure of all our depressions for the terminal 6 years of our school life. But that day was different. All three of us have discovered that being among the best in our school did not count at all. The world was big and better if not bad. But there was nothing that could be done. Suzanne our school topper had scored 94% in the boards but could not make her way to the haloed league of the IIT’s or NIT’s. Ravi was in commerce and his result was not as good as we all (and hopefully him too) expected. With his long-winded anecdotes, metaphors and sadistic jokes he almost appeared suicidal. To top this none of the 10 pre medical merit lists featured my name. This I felt was the lowest point of my lifetime.
Darkness set upon the horizon and we embarked up on our respective bicycles to return back home. Ravi suddenty made a declaration, “I will go to Delhi. This second-grade city and a school which doesn’t rank among the best don’t give a clear idea of my own standing.” As Suzzanne snapped back in anger about Ravi’s remark about our alma mater it suddenly dawned on me that our paths are set to be different soon. In reply Ravi he stunned us again, “Everything has been decided. Am leaving by Rajdhani tomorrow. 20:30 hours. Hopefully you two would see me there.” I felt betrayed. How could Ravi set upon such important decisions in life without even discussing it with us? Did not we mean anything to him? I blurted out “You could have told us tomorrow itself. Is’nt this…..” Tears rolled down Suzanne’s cheeks. I gathered myself and gathered the other two for a hug. It was beyond words. Silently we started back towards our home. As we passed in front of the big blue iron gate which held the building which until that day was our world Ravi broke the silence, “ Don’t worry yaar, We will be in touch. Besides I will be coming up here and meet you two from time to time.” Suzanne stopped. All three of us gave a collective sigh….
The next day was frantic. It was barely eight when Suzanne called and informed me that there was a lunch farewell for Ravi at her place. She instructed me to get ready in 30 minutes flat and be at the bus stop so that we could go to the mall to buy a suitable gift for him. I almost managed in time only to find her a half an hour late… With no time left for squables we boarded the bus. It was packed to the power infinity. The conductor anticipating the crowd in the next stop asked us to barge in. As I jostled our way I suddenly realized Suzanne was left behind. I asked her to push over. But she said she was comfortable there. I voraciously counseled her about moving over to my place and we can then talk all the way for the one hour ride. I soon realized that there were ladies around her place. How stupid I get sometimes!!! Soon she soon got herself a window seat And Men like me kept on sweating like a horse amidst pot-bellied office goers.(I must have been smelling too…I forgot the deo in the rush) . Huhh!! Wasn’t gender equality aimed at bringing men and women at par. Looking back towards Suzanne I noticed how she has changed over the years. She was almost a lady now. Boy!! She has grown tall- almost my height. The lanky figure in the jeans and t-shirt topped with an executive glass made her look so attractive. There was a certain kind of aristrocracy in her face. Her locks of black hair playing with the wind caught all my attention. It was at this point that I suddenly realized she was looking back at me. Caught unawares I could’nt think of anything else and blurted out, “The ticket is on me.” As if reading into my mind she gave a mysterious smile and replied back, “ Fine. The returning one too..” trying to gauge out the maximum benefit from me (like always!!!!) Just as we were to enter into the mall we bumped into Maddy. She jumped at us and declared that the state entrance results were out. She further elaborated that she had cleared the engineering entrance but had decided to go to Bangalore for further studies. We politely declared our ignorance about the matter to which she excitedly laughed and exited towards her destination. Suzanne and me looked at each other. This was our last hope. “ Lets call up home from a booth.”, I declared.(It was the time when cell phones cost as much as petrols.. and if you did like to believe the incoming calls were charged too@ rs, 9/min ..:) ) Soon both of us were in a coin-operated booth (ohh!! I love them so much…nothing has taught me about the value of time and money other than this trivial machine) opposite the mall. I called up my Ma only to be handed over my enrollment number as the net service in our home was out of order that day. Same was the story at Suzanne’s place. So we marched forward to a cyber café. This one had cabins with blue flowery purdahs. The owner said , “ Are you two going in the same computer.” Suzanne quickly replied. “ Yep” “ 30 Rs per hour then.” He said. “ But the board outside says 15.” I protested. “Come on where on earth do you get to sit together in privacy for an hour in 15 and that too without anyone disturbing.” pat came the reply from the owner. “We will use the net one by one and that too for only checking the results. We will give you 15”. Suzanne declared in an authoritarian tone and gestured me to walk into the cabin It was then that I realized what the shopkeeper meant. “Huh!! What people do in the name of love..” I thought.
Both of us were on cloud nine when we steeped into the mall. We did decide to give ourselves a treat at KFC. A leg piece of chicken however treated and called by fancy names could never cost a 100 or so bucks. I had got myself a decent rank in the pre med and she was 99 in the engineering entrance. Situations such as these deserve some luxury. After all we were stepping into being something big. Suzanne dreamed of being to the US . KFC then probably signified as a stepping tool to success. We could now do everything Big- the American way As we were over with the chicken Suzanne reminded us it was 11 already and we did have to rush back for lunch. Ravi would be there at one. Suzanne spend almost more than an hour looking all over to buy a photo frame. I thought a jeans would have served more purpose with that amount of money. But she was adamant and I had to agree.
As expected we were about half an hour late. Ravi being punctual as always had infact turned up 10 minutes earlier. As we huddled into her room Ravi commented , “ Yaar what the heck were you two doing. I had almost discussed everything under the sun with auntie.” “ there is a surprise for you. Wait.” Suzanne replied and stepped out from the room. Sensing the opurtunity I whispered , “ Are yaar, mat bol we had gone to the mall to buy….” “ It’s a Surprise. Keep your mouth shut,you idiot.” She shouted back from the dining hall. How did she understand? Was I so loud. Slowly my wandered into the thought whether I would ever get such friends again in my life. Ravi is going. Suzanne will be away from me too . We will be in different colleges if not in different cities. How will I manage into a new place. What if I cant make a single friend? Who will give me the pep talk when am down in studies? And more importantly without the discussions with Suzanne will I be able to study at all?
“ Fare thee well my noble friend . This masterly piece of art is sure to be in your drawing room for all your life… See..” Suzanne exclaimed. It was a surprise for me too. The non-descript golden frame held a collage on a black background of all our pics. From the nursery go-as-you –like where Ravi was a happy beggar , Suzanne the fisherwomen and me Lord Krishna to the holi pics in class eight. From the rain dance in class 10 to the night in school in 11.The golden frame sharpened my memories of the “ best days of my life.”The gift had some magical powers. I could not hold my tears anymore. “ I am going to miss you two yaar.” I hugged Ravi.
to be continued…
next fortnight — Rajiv- the protagonist’s first day in hostel…
The novel is an effort by me.. the first.. plzz keep the comments coming.. if you all like it will update more regularly… else will discard it..