I desperately dial Miss-friend-in-need-is-a-friend-in deed’s number as I half-walk half-run through the desolate corridors of the hostel. She is not answering. This is not a promising sign. I am late…yet again. I sheepishly grin at the room-clean akkas who make admonishing noises even as I hurry past them trying to tuck my shirt in with one free hand while still fervently trying to reach friend-indeed with the other.”Hullo?” Finally a barely audible whisper at the other end. “Has the class started?” relieved I almost shout into the phone.”Come fast” is all she snaps and before I can say save-a seat the line goes dead. I break into a run encouraged by the sight of Mr. Brawn and a few others running just ahead of me, silently re-affirming my faith in the safety of numbers. As I hurry past the mess it takes some effort to ignore the olfactory summons of breakfast and keep moving even as hot idlis and coffee start making funny patterns in my head. I try and shake it off returning back to the grimness of reality only to notice Mr. Brawn and company turning the corner towards the classrooms far ahead. I silently curse myself for my cibarious reveries and try and push my already wasted legs to run faster. As I near the academic block in sweat and near-tears I realize to my mortification that I am totally clueless about which room to enter.Worse, Mr.Brawn and Co. are nowhere to be seen. The closed doors of three equally probable classrooms grimly stare back at me as I stand there stupidly, hoping for a miraculous epiphany. Just then my phone blinks. Friend-in -deed’s message’ where ARE you? Come fast..Lake Veeranam!!’ Relief flooding my senses, I quickly rush in through the door, desperately hoping to make an unobtrusive entry.
Thankfully Professor-I –Iove-surprise- quizzes is in an intense huddle with the IT department guys and I am able to make good a quite entry. ‘Never again’ I swear to myself for the umpteenth time exhaling an audible sigh of relief. With that I plomp down upon the nearest available seat in what is endearingly or ominously termed as the’ back-side-of –the-beyond’ depending upon the range of vision and interest of the professor in question. ’Chappa mara?’ An all too familiar voice happily asks from the neighboring seat just as I start to smugly settle down into what I suppose to be the anonymous comfort of my chair. I almost get up with a start realizing with a sinking feeling that I can bid inconspicuousness goodbye for today having inadvertently taken a seat beside I-question-therefore-I- am. I look up to see more than a dozen grinning faces staring at me with what seem to be smiles of wicked glee . With dead static playing in my head I drag myself towards the biometric fingerprinting device to register my doomed presence.
“Goooood morning Class’ booms I-love-surprise-quizzes’ voice across the hall as I get back to my desk. There are few murmurs of response as 150 anxious minds quickly try to gauge the probability of a surprise quiz happening today based on subtle nuances like his voice modulation and rapid eye movement patterns .I-question-therefore-I-am complacently chuckles beside me,’Aaj ka toh easy hain yaar…there should be a quiz today’ giving rise to dark murderous thoughts in my head. Sure enough his dire wishes come true and before my mind can register signs of protest I see all too familiar white answer sheets being handed out. The next fifteen minutes are a blur as I struggle with esoteric concepts of demand supply and free market trade and before I know it the dreaded quiz is over. The class gets under way even as I try to reconcile myself to the reality of the increasingly growing distance between a respectable grade and me with each passing day.
Over the next one hour I try to make sense of the intelligent discourses flying thick and fast all around but the only thing my mind registers is a dull monotonous drone. I vaguely recognize I-question-therefore-i-am intermittently bobbing in and out of his seat but I can make no sense of his more than enthusiastic exhortations. Each time he starts to speak I merely sink down further into my seat hoping to live through another day unnoticed and unquestioned. I realize that by doing so I jeopardize my class-participation grades but I optimistically put my faith in tomorrow yet again to announce my existence. I feel magnanimous enough to concede today to the I-can-answer-faster-than-you-can-questions around.
After what seems like an eternity of listless stupor the class finally comes to an end and I quietly edge my way through the chaotic babble of unintelligible chatter towards the bistro. Friend-indeed calls out from behind running to catch-up “Where WERE you? I thought you had missed the class!!”I merely shrug and walk on too tired to explain. Explanations can wait. First I need some food. Fifteen minutes later after much pushing and shoving in a bistro bursting at the seams with hungry people shouting for attention, I am finally able to grab a plate of maggi and gobble it down without much ado. As I walk out back towards the classroom I see students flowing out of the corridors and staircases in various stages of the pre-read and assignment life-cycle. I marvel at my own state of unpreparedness and quietly brace myself for an unexpected assault.
Sure enough catastrophe hits in the very next class as Professor Staunch-Believer-of-Class-Participation calls out my name. At first this seems so incredulous that I confidently look around assuming my auditory senses have deceived me. But the last shreds of hope of a mix-up come crashing down as Professor Staunch-believer clearly spells out my name once again to dispel any further myths. Realizing it is too late to hide my nameplate, I stand up hesitantly, unsure of what I am supposed to say. I murmur apologetically something about debits and credits desperately trying to make sense of my own gibberish when to my relief the professor carelessly dismisses me with an admonishing “fallacious argument.” I sink back into my seat thoroughly embarrassed by my poor show wishing I ceased to exist.
The rest of the day goes by pretty uneventfully running between classes ranging from Chinese to Statistics, the cross of failure bearing down heavily upon my dejected shoulders. It is almost 8:00 by the time classes are over for good and I tiredly trickle into the mess with leaden feet and drooping shoulders sitting down to listlessly chew away at the food on my dinner- plate. Out of the corner of my eye I spot Miss social- butterfly fluttering past with boisterous resolve leaving me almost envious and marveling at her boundless energy reserves.
After dinner me and friend-in-need take a short walk round the sports block where our local slam-dunk ping-pong and fitness enthusiasts have already started with their respective evening routines. All around I can see people huddled in groups deep in animated discussion or mere idle banter. Just as I indulgently start soaking in the dynamic vivacity of the environment, Mr. No-Nonsense ambles over and grimly declares “Group meeting at 9:00 to work on tomorrow’s marketing presentation.’ I nod lamely rudely snapped back to the reality of mails waiting to be read ,pre-reads and assignments waiting to be completed and presentations waiting to be made all within the span of the night . I stifle a yawn fully aware that the comfort of sleep is a long way off yet for my day has only just begun.
(To be continued…….)