Today was the last day of availing concession on coaching fee. My coaching center offered 25% discount to students who have cleared IIT-JEE prelims in one of the previous years. Some kids paid their yearly fee in two installments.
The faculty used to call them meritorious kids, a euphemism for poor hungry kids. ‘Hungry for knowledge’, he used to say jocularly. ‘Hungry’ I was okay with, but the word ‘poor’ was too hard to swallow; as it came with a filthy baggage of sympathy from every single person around- a burden heavy enough to kill me.
I’d have never availed the two installments facility had they been asking questions about your economic background. Besides, some of the well off kids preferred to be poor and gratified themselves with this extra little privilege.
The procedure was simple: Show your previous IIT-JEE scorecard. The counter guy would, without even looking at you, stamp a receipt. You hand him the cash. He hands you the receipt. The transaction lasts hardly thirty seconds. No words spoken. No condescending stares. Just pure business.
As the clock struck seven I started searching for my scorecard the whereabouts of which had slipped off my mind a week after I paid the first installment; while she, sitting in her lawn, her chin rested over her knee, started searching for something unknown in her mind. Something was amiss today.
After rummaging through 17 books, 8 notebooks, a stack of Reader's Digest and a ream of pages from ‘Kachhi kaliyaan’ and ‘Manohar Kahaniyan’ along with 2 older editions of Mastram, I found it in an 8 months old edition of ‘Outlook’.
It was a yellow colored postcard size card, in contrast to her A4 size light blue report card that lay on her Victorian style study table waiting to be signed by either of her parents. There was this interesting play of numbers in our cards.
We had similar digits against similar subjects, only (the digits) reversed on the other card.
She had scored 85 in Physics. I had 58. Similarly, she had 92 in Chemistry against my meager 29 and 56 in Mathematics against my handsome 65. In addition, she had 98 in English and 84 in Computer Science which have no consequence to the story other than to indicate her inclination towards literature.
I picked up the scorecard along with the Outlook and rushed, as I was already getting late.
I reached 15 minutes late. Deposited the fee. Complex numbers was today’s topic. As soon as the class got over, I almost ran towards the ticket counter.
The queue was just beginning to form. I joined as the 8th person. By the time my turn came, the queue had grown into a snake of 50 odd people. I bought 10 tickets as against my regular average of 7, including one for self. Reason: Ajey Deogan is a bigger star than Amita Bachchan in Jhansi. And this one had both. Plus Akchhay Kumar and Aiswarya Rai to boot. (The box office here is funny, even Saaruk Khan bites the dust)
I was happy today for, in addition to wholesome entertainment (Rajkumar Santoshi is one of my favorite directors), I’ll be earning 200 odd bucks as against my usual 100-120. More chaos at the box office the better I felt. I decided to wait for the tickets to run out. But then, something struck me. And I started strolling about the end of the queue that was no longer a queue. Anarchy would seem somewhat like it.
I started doing the routine, tees ka pachaas. Two of the persons- they must have been 124th and 97th in the queue- realized that by the time- if they were lucky enough- they get to sneak in their wrists into the semi-circular opening of the counter, it’d be too late. This dawned upon the 91st and 93rd too with an additional insight- that black ticket prices shoot, sometimes up to 100, within minutes.
And now I’m left with 6, 5 of which I need to sell; a matter of another 15 minutes. But those 15 minutes would elude me, and I will be confronted with this specimen of ravishing beauty, stunning enough to stop time itself.
Her attire tells me she’s from St. Francis’ Convent. She’s wearing a white shirt revealing a hint of her perfectly carved collarbones, a grey skirt that ends very well above the knees, and a subtle smile toxic enough to kill; the curves of her lovely legs precise, as if they have been constructed with about as much concentration and detail as exercised while attempting the 10 mark ‘Geometric Constructions’ question in the 20 marks mathematics paper; her hair melting against the sunlight falling over her slender neck.
A subtle curve on her lips seem to whisper hundred love poems into my ear; left ear to be precise. (Scientifically the right ear for matters pertaining to love is the left one.)
My eyes track her while my mind is lost. Everything else is turning invisible.
Lo and behold, she turns, facing my direction. A cloud is covering the sun. The sunlight is fading out. Time is slowing down. It will halt when she reaches within hearing distance from me. With her coming closer, my senses seem to be going further, away from me.
I feel an urge to accost her. It’s funny, in situations of crises the mind works in rapid succession- pretending to suggest a solution, only to add to the confusion. It goes into the details like what and in which language to speak if I ever muster enough courage. Hindi would sound lowly and English- though I’m quite fluent- I’m not too confident about.
This lack of confidence- even if you write debates that win competitions with public schools- is earned from an all boys sarkari school background, and a lower middle class background makes sure you get sucked into the black hole of self consciousness.
to be continued...