Tring … Tring!
She ignored the ringing telephone, as she concentrated on the task at hand. Her brow furrowed, as she chewed her lower lip, the pen in her hand poised in the air, following each written line. She couldn’t find anything amiss.
Finally, she picked up the telephone receiver. “27 “, announced a voice on the other end, before she could say anything. “48”, she replied, staring at the ceiling.
“Ha, I win!”, he exclaimed.
“That’s not fair. I solved it, just a few seconds later probably”.
“Nope, you picked up the phone late. Besides, you got it wrong”, he continued. “Tomorrow, samosas (a popular Indian snack, stuffed with spicy potato filling and deep fried) and tea are on you”, he chuckled.
“How did I get it wrong, it’s 48. You hurried through just to win the bet and you got it wrong”, she retorted, still staring at the ceiling.
“Did you derive the value of X”, he prompted gently. She bit her lip again.
“It’s zero, I couldn’t have got it wrong again!”, she wailed.
“Ani, you have to derive it from the first equation. You can assume it as zero, only if Y is mentioned as 1. And here, it’s not” he explained patiently.
“How am I going to pass this exam. I keep making these mistakes”, she fretted.
“Relax, this is the more complicated of the problems. You got the rest correct. I’m sure you’ll do fine”, he said comfortingly, before hanging up.
Anaisha sighed, tossed her pen on the open notebook and leaned back on the chair. Easy for him to say that, she thought, after all he was the class topper. Teacher’s pet and classmates’ favorite. The most popular guy in school. Ravi Verma – The Star, they called him. He reveled in the attention, though never misusing his powers as School Captain. His Math problem solving skills were legendary and his expertise at Architectural Drawing impressive. Why did she even agree to spar with him every time, she failed to understand. Maybe because it challenged him and hence, helped him cope with his loss. After 4 years, he still hadn’t gotten over his father’s death. He probably never would, she realized, but he had learned to cope with the pain.
She remembered that moment well, when he had returned to school, after his father’s fatal acccident a week earlier.
He couldn’t afford to cry for the sake of Rahul or Mom, he had said stoically, and the very next moment, he’d broken down. She had sat there, kneeling beside him, watching helplessly, as he sat there sobbing inconsolably, while holding Rama teacher’s hand. They sat there cross legged, in the corridor right outside the Counsellor’s office, until he had felt better and had composed himself. Fortunately, the corridor had been deserted and Ravi had been able to release the pent up grief, without feeling conscious.
She had been through it all and had seen it all. The brat that he had been earlier, the transformation that had happened almost overnight, the struggle and hard work he had put in to improve his grades. All their teachers too had been a pillar of support and some had taken it on themselves to help him with extra classes and special assignments, all of which he completed diligently; sometimes, even staying up late into the night. That practice had stuck on, and even today, his friends and classmates would call him in the dead of the night knowing fully well that he would be awake, studying. They would discuss possible exam questions, complicated equations and numerical problems. He could verbally solve equations and not miss even one step, she had realized with amazement, one day. That was also when she realized how strong their bond of friendship was.
That incident was still etched in memory. It had happened sometime last year.
Their last lecture been free, since one of their teachers was on leave. She had been sitting alone in class, while a few students had gone to the Chemistry lab to practice. Some had even left for home. She had preferred to stay back and work on some Math problems. Ravi had chosen to take an extra class on Architectural Drawing. They had planned to leave together, after school.
Stuck on a problem, she had looked up and glanced outside the window. Their classroom was right next to the playground below. She could see Manisha and Ravi talking animatedly, in what seemed to be a heated discussion. Curious and alarmed, she had looked on more closely. It seemed as if Manisha was suggesting something that Ravi was vehemently opposed to. Both being School Vice-Captains, they must have been discussing something to do with the upcoming Annual day, she had assumed. Uninterested, she had been about to look away, when she heard snippets of their conversation. The wind had probably carried their voices up. She had heard Manisha mention her name, when Ravi had cut her off and said something, which was audible only in bits and pieces.
Just then she heard Ravi angrily exclaim in a loud voice, “Don’t … just don’t”, and saw him abruptly walk away. She had been concerned and confused, when Manisha looked up, right at her and shrugged. Anaisha had hurriedly gestured to her to come up and explain what that had been about. After a few moments, Manisha walked in to the classroom and blurted, “Listen, I am sorry, yaar, but I tried. He says not now, the exams are just too close.”
“About what?”, Anaisha had asked, still confused as to what the discussed had conspired.
“You both.. you are perfect together. I think you should definitely be a couple.”, she gushed.
“What?!”, she was incredulous.
“Sorry, I tried”, Manisha explained again, thinking Anaisha was upset about the rejection from Ravi.
Instead, Anaisha had been furious at Manisha. “Don’t try to play Cupid”, she had replied angrily. She hadn’t herself yet been ready to admit that she had liked Ravi more than just a friend, because she hadn’t really figured out her own feelings. More so, because she had no inkling of how Ravi felt. Not to mention that a perfectly healthy friendship might be ruined by unnecessarily complicating relationships, especially if he didn’t reciprocate her feelings. Even if there would had been a chance earlier, Manisha’s immaturity and premature actions had completely blown everything apart. Now Ravi would probably be up in arms against her, she had feared. He may have even assumed that all of this had been orchestrated by her, she had thought tearfully.
Anaisha had just gotten back to staring outside the window, when Ravi had barged in. “Did Manisha talk to you?”, he had asked angrily. She had nodded silently, too anxious of what was to come next.
“How stupid of them to assume and jump to conclusions like this”, he had continued. She had nodded again, unable to say anything for fear of further complicating it. Atleast he was still talking to her, she had thought.
Ravi looked at her and said, “You won’t let this spoil our friendship? We go far beyond than this nonsense.”
She had remained silent, and looked down at the books that were open in front of her.
Ravi had softened and looked at her notes. “You already finished the homework?”, he asked surprised, as he packed up his books and stationery. “N… No,” she stuttered finally.
Ravi had paused and had started to say something, then stopped, and instead just walked away. Just as abruptly, he turned around and asked her, “Did you ask Manisha to do that? Is that what you want?”, he had asked slowly. She shook her head, thoughtfully. Ravi took a step forward towards her, and explained, “I mean… I want this but… maybe, not right now. And I won’t let others dictate how our friendship develops.”
She nodded again and smiled, relieved at the double realization, that their friendship remained unaffected and that they both felt exactly the same thing – attracted to each other and yet not wanting to pursue it further just then.
Ravi had grinned broadly, told her that he would be waiting near the parking, and turned around to walk out. Just before he stepped out the door, Ravi had looked over his shoulder and called, “Cos Theta / Sin Theta = x2 – Tan Theta”. She had looked down at her notebook, and suddenly could see the solution stare right out at her.
Anaisha smiled at the memory, shook her head, and attempted to solve the equation once again. Two treats were due now, she rued. Someday, she would get him to treat her, she thought. Afterall, he was the one who solved the equations before her and won the bets every time.
Little had she known that years later, Ravi would have to do more than just that.
Little had she known that, he would happily be giving a party to their entire group of friends, after being cornered to admitting his feelings for her, in front of them. ************************************************************************************
(Many Years Later…)
The doorbell rang again, this time a longer press of the call button.
Anaisha had just finished putting on her make-up. She picked up her dupatta, threw it around her shoulders and proceeded towards the main door. There would be someone she hadn’t met before, she remembered with trepidation.
These guys were always trying to link her up with someone, she thought resignedly. It wasn’t that she wasn’t interested. She just wanted to meet someone on her own terms. Someone who would accept her and all the baggage that came with her. Someone who would look beyond her past. Someone who would allow her to be who she was – a hugely independent, working woman. A single mom. That was a lot for anyone to process, and usually scared away all the suitors.
Anaisha gave herself another look over in the mirror near the entrance, and satisfied with her appearance, turned to open the door.