I was getting ready to drop Ro to school at unearthly 7 in the morning, which is the usual routine every week day. It was cold and foggy outside. Was making a note to send the car for servicing next week, when I stoped to gaze at the number of black items in my wardrobe. I remember telling someone long back ‘I am a black and white person really but you may never know how much of each!’ Over the years my wardrobe added more black than any other shade. Ma in her thankless effort to get my life on track has arranged all the ‘blacks’ in one row. Too distracted to ponder, I pull out the top-most, disarranging its neat folds. As I hurry to pull it over my head I notice its my old D School sweat shirt. Black. With D School written in white at the top left corner on front and Delhi School of Economics written in monotype corsiva in a semi circle at the back.
The black is faded a little. But the white letters are still bright. In the two years I would have worn it dozens of time but washed it only twice. PGW Hostel didn’t encourage us to have any water intensive rituals! The boys had it worse. They had formed ABC, which stood for Anti Bathing Committee. Hot water was scare and winters were fierce. Which resulted in the popularity of this outfit. The sweatshirt brought back a flood of memories. Friends, crushes (actually only one!), teachers, hang outs, K’nags……two years of jam-packed memories.
On the drive back from his school, I was smiling all by myself. I remember Rashmi and I had met this lad from DefCo infront of the Metro shoe store in K’nags. As usual both of us were in a goofy trip and we were inside the store trying shoes of every possible colour and design and going hysterical looking at each other. There were other shoppers and many were scornful of the rags we were wearing (my sweater was donated by a well-meaning cousin) and our prancing in fashionable high heels. At this point Rush hitchs up her skirt knee high and asks ’Isn’t this sexy, darling?’ She had on a sleek 3 inch black patent leather strappy number that had sequins shaped like a rose near the toes….distractingly pretty pair. Eyes turned and the entire shop was staring, shocked at her utterance and her gesture. The shop assistant asked us to leave in a threatening tone. Anyway by now we were bored so we decided to leave.
Still giggling we step out and bump into this tall guy in a tan leather jacket. We say sorry in unison and he smiles and asks ‘Are you guys ok?’ ‘Perrrrrfect’ Rush says with that drawl. I am admiring his jacket. Now, Rush is a good 4 inches shorter than me…and with her slim body can be classified as petite if not short. We look like two stow-aways in the middle of the hustling kamlanagar market. We turn to head towards the campus. He walks with us. Says, 'Its getting dark will you guys be ok all by yourself?’ No Baby we neeeeeeeed you to carry us both back to the hostel on your shoulders like Hanuman!! Ofcourse I didn’t say it but I really wanted to!! Rush ofcourse is more charming than me and definitely more charitable. She smiles and says ‘Thank you, but we would be fine…’ and turns and hops into the nearest cycle rickshaw before any one of us including the rickshawalla could react. I climb in tamely and this lad is still standing at the edge of the pavement looking confused. Mother Teresa that she was, Rush waves at him and says ‘I don’t know your name but why don’t we meet at Nirulas tomorrow?’ She doesn’t even wait for his reply. The rickshaw moves on. I try hard not to look back to see the fellow's reaction. Half way through we are laughing our guts out and Rush announces ‘Tomorrow we are coming back here at 6’. The thrill has caught on with me too so I was hardly in a mood to contradict.
Next evening, we wear what we considered our slutty best (she in a shoooort denim skirt and a white embroidered top that emphasized her ‘petiteness’ and me in black trousers and green cashmere that clung dangerously tight and I wore heels which I thought made me look sleek!) and turn up in k’nags waiting for Rush’s amour. Rush is right as usual. As we walk down towards Nirulas there he was waiting next to the staircase. (got to admit, he looked quite the stud!) We smile. He is a little flushed. ‘Lets have icecream’ he says. We don’t even know his name! We go inside and find a place to sit. Eager beaver asks what we would have. Rush orders a sundae that looked pathetic. I just wanted a chocolate chip. Holding our icecreams, we start talking. Vishal Saxena. 27. Stays in DefCo. Studied in KMC. Now helping his dad in his export business and yes he drives a Toyota. He tells us about his family, his little sister who looks like me. (he lost me at this point…) How he wanted to study further but his family wanted him to join their business. Except for his medical history his entire life span was out over an icecream. Rush listens without interrupting and I am fidgeting without making any attempt to hide it. He says I have beautiful eyes and anyone can watch me smile for hours. Then he gazes at Rush like a lost puppy and says she has an angelic face and heart to match. We smile. Rush touches his hand and says ‘Vishal you are a great guy but we really have to get back to the hostel or else we would get thrown out’. She says that with the right amount of pathos in her tone. Vishal ofcourse offers to drop us to the hostel, which is about 3 kms away. We get in his Toyota. Rush sits next to him and me behind him. We have a little more of the Vishal-life-story and he suggests that we go to Ghungroo the next weekend. He gives us his card and tells me that he would take me to his house to meet his sister (the one that looks like me). We reach the hostel and get out of the car. Vishal walks till the gate. ‘Call me anytime you need anything’ he says. We nod. Get inside the gate and head for Rush’s room. I had promised to help her pack. She was leaving the next day for our winter break and I the day after.
We returned post vacation full of stories of home. We met up in her room the day we returned. Vishal’s card was still there on Rush’s study desk. She got rid of it the next day. Somewhere both of us felt a sense of guilt of a prank gone awry. We never saw or discussed Vishal again. Then ofcourse I never saw Rush after I left Delhi...and she went back to her hometown to get married..