26th July, 2009
ToE : 1 PM
Just a routine jaunt to my favourite haunt in the campus. As expected, the place was silent as a tomb not because of any strictness in adhering to the “Keep Quiet” signs, quite conspicuous by their absence but because it would have been completely out of character for any person to come here when the semester had just started. Imagine the consternation if he/she was found out by their peers, immersed in a novel in the library, barely 24 hours after registering. Horror!
Nothing much has changed over the vacations. The guard on duty, roused out of his mid-morning stupor impetuously asks for an ID, happy to have found someone to heckle for no reason. He is a new one on the job, I see. Thakurji usually waved me in without such ceremonies. Well, he will learn over time. I see a couple of matkas in the corner(M.Tech students) going at it like rabbits( rabbits very sincere towards studies, that is). For them the year is usually one giant monolithic study hour and I can make out 3 very old timers poring over manuscripts like there is no tomorrow. They all as a rule, keep to themselves and its always awkward to smile at them while passing by; they seldom smile or even frown back for that matter. The books are all there of course, except those that have been listed as reference texts by the respective Course Instructors. They are the first ones to be whisked off in bulk by rampaging students and I suspect that they will fulfil their destiny of gathering cobwebs through the semester in somebody’s room while he/she plays Counterstrike on his latest laptop. Well, it’s our not to reason why...
But the rest is all there. Works by Spinoza, Landau, a solitary Wodehouse, Coffee table books on the murals of Ajanta and Ellora, a veritable feast for one who looks closely enough. The library seems to be the perfect place to be, to curl into one of the wooden chairs that would give a neck pain to ElastiGirl with a newly discovered Thurber in hand while the sylvan fountains outside blocks out the world from your consciousness. Ah... it is good to be back.
Found Nirad C Chaudhuri’s 1979 edition book “Hinduism”. My day is made.
27th July, 2009
ToE : 7:45PM
Headed straight for my customary ‘workplace’ on the third floor. The hostel quad is witnessing unparalleled levels of ragging the freshmen. Needed some peace and quiet and 34 degrees at 90% humidity in a room isn’t really my idea of one.
A new entry. Usually you don’t see freshers coming to the library so early.,mostly because of the blanket ban on movements outside the hostel gates once the classes are over. And a female at that. Interesting. I steal a glance .Yes ,definitely a fresher . The dress code, the flinch on hearing footsteps that might herald the discovery of her blasphemy, the sigh when I had crossed, all there. Didn’t see her face in that millisecond glance.
I pitched tents 3 desks behind her and got down to the Adventures of Bertie Wooster and Reginald Jeeves in the county of Snodsbury-in-the-Bush. She had luxuriant brown hair knotted in a cute ponytail. Wonder what her face looks like. She had taken off her shoes. Clever move. Salwar Kameez with shoes are always incongruous and distinctive especially with Fresh-men and Women are being hunted by rabid squads in the days before the Fresher Party. She left at 10 so as to make it back to her room without arousing suspicion. Wonder if she made it back safely.
By binary search , I have isolated her time of arrival. She comes in at 6:30 and leaves at 10. I suppose she hasn’t met any of the squads yet on her way back. Good. Good. I look up as she enters, cast a knowing eye on her dress code, throw in a reassuring smile for free only to see her blanch. Seems like the smile is more evil than reassuring. Maybe my facial muscles have atrophied. But at least she knows that I mean her no harm as she slides her Reeboks beyond sight. I could have applauded her grit. Though she can do with some more humor in her reading. Dostoevsky isn’t very healthy to read especially in times like hers. Well, every man his own poison ,every woman her own eu de cologne .
2nd August, 2009
Things brought to a head today. Gave her a nod and a smile to her. I see she wears specs and the physiognomy tends to the cute end of the spectrum but other details are still hazy.
Feeling like Young Lochnivar galloping in from the East. Sat facing her today. Two overzealous sophomore girls pottered into the section and suspecting foul play, zoomed in on the prospective offender. Now there wasn’t enough number of people around to annoy if you raised your voice and that’s what they did. After a dialogue or two on the importance of interacting with seniors , they were going to embark on an exposition of the choicest abuses that you can hear from members of the IITK fraterinity when I stepped in. I didn’t of course physically step in,just cleared my throat from a distance to announce my presence.
The proceedings then became more muted but I could see the terror in her eyes. For some reason, I went up ,said she was studying with me and them shooed them away. There are some advantages of being in the seniormost batch of the college. You are assured that you are not messing with the wrong person at any point of time. No doubt muttering oaths of being deprived of fresh meat, the two sounded retreat. She didn’t say anything as I made my way back, nor did I.
Dropped off the customary half pack of ‘Polo’ on her desk. She accepted with a smile and said ‘Hi’. Strangely enough, yet to get my voice. Got 2/10 in a quiz in Mth509 despite studying for 5 hours in the library. I know I should start sitting somewhere else and I know equally well that I won’t.
Seeing that she had finished her Dostoevsky when she was out for lunch, I surreptitiously place my favourite Wodehouse copy, “Jeeves in the Offing” on her desk with a small note specifying when I want it back and slide back to my place. She is bewildered, I am sure, but then laughs out lightly and I can feel her sight boring into my back. I desist from looking back.
The date of returning has come and there it is. I imagine I can smell a tinge of perfume on it but specificity as to whether it is Chanel No. 5 is beyond my reach. Tucked into the book is a small note saying “Thank You.” And I see a copy of “Crime and Punishment” on the desk too. Not very promising ,I must say, when a girl give you a blighted book as that. Next thing I know, she would be handing around Khaled Hosseini’s ‘The Kite Runner’.
Addendum : Heard her speak for the first time. Completely different from what I imagined it would be like but in a nice way. Ran into her in the Shopping Center. She seemed surprised on seeing that I existed outside the walls of the Library. I thought of asking her, her name, but somehow the fascination of the mystery seemed too precious to destroy.
It’s mid sem time again. The time of the year when everybody suddenly remembers the Old Faithful and comes flocking back . reminds me of the old couplet:
!! Dukh mein sumeeran sab kare, sukh mein kare na koi
Jo sukh mein sumeeran kare, to dukh kahe ka hoye !!
I just hope i have been praying fervently enough through the first three weeks to get me through the midsems comfortably. Usually I am cool at this time of the year but I know something hasn’t been the same and I am as worried whether chapter 4 is coming tomorrow or not as anybody else. I see her sitting at the same place but this time she has her friends with her. She acknowledges me with her customary bright smile as do I , with my insides freezing simultaneously to render any and all dialogue impossible.
Reminded me of the fast moving montage of two people sitting at the same position in Central park, New York while the world rushed past them in a blur and the leaves of the trees turned from yellow to red to green and then brown and crushed on the ground. I think I have seen too many romantic movies.
Reminder to self: Watch Transformers: revenge of the Fallen as soon as possible.
Back to the great Gobi Desert scene. She doesn't turn up. Probably out enjoying herself at the local Hookah restaurants with her wing mates ,just like normal people. Feeling alone. Absolutely no one in the building except the staff. Head back home for a day of watching Will & Grace, You've Got Mail, A Walk to Remember. WTH!
Saw her sitting as usual and exchanged our non verbal pleasantries . Looked like a guy had joined her for studies. Didn't like the looks of him, no sir. He had what novellas referred to as having the Shifty Eyes. Break a leg, moron, on the first opportunity that presents itself to you and the world will be a better place for it.
The leech leaves at 9. She too heads out for a cup of coffee. I take a swig from my flask and head out after her. Today, I will know her name,dammit! She orders coffee,black as usual. I place one for a cold coffee,strong and head out to the seating area making straight for her. Commanding my voice, I hum and haw while she looks with those beautiful eyes at me. Ggr..gaw..glug... it goes on. It seems it will never stop. My tongue is tying itself into nice sailor knots and the mouth is dry as the Great Australian Outback.
And then , the rum kicks in and I say , in a John Waynesque drawl, completely unlike my voice , " Umm... Hi , Do you have a name?". Stupid line.
A smile to die for. "Thought you would never ask."