Sunday, January 04, 2009

High School Love Stories

Ajinkya was more than happy to come back for the new school season. This was his last year in the school and he jumped to this last year class with a bang.
He top scored in his class and also got the best score in mathematics the school has ever seen. He scored a 98, the previous best being 95 set like a lot many years ago.
When students come to 12th grade some of the best and some of the worst things happen with them.
For starters they are called the 'Seniors', everyone who has been to school understands what is it to be called a 'Senior'. When you are senior almost everything in the school belongs to you.

'Boys left turn' bellowed Mr. Sahani from the grounds, he was the physical trainer and his voice was like thunder and specially if you are new in the school you dare not put a wrong foot during the parade.

Ajinkya has studied in this school for more than 7 years and this was going to be his 8th and final year.
There was little doubt in any one's mind that he is going to be a senior prefect this year and this realisation every now and then made him all the more happy this year.

The classes started for the new academic season and almost a month passed but more than half of the class hadn't purchased the books. Teachers will every day come and shout at the class to get the books but rarely students listened. Everyone was surviving on the notes teachers were giving and that too sometimes on borrowed papers.
That's another benefit of being in High School, you can dare to do things that you can't even imagine in other grades.
But that day after Mrs. Bakshi lectured for more than 30 minutes on why the class should behave and why it shouldn't take everything for granted just because of being in 12th, it was necessary to get the books. It was the 30 minutes lecture class was scared about more than anything else.

Rahul, Parminder, Ajinkya and Raaj dropped at the bookstore during lunch time and asked for the physics, English and maths books. That's as much as I can afford right now said Rahul, rest of the money dad gave me for books I spent on that guitar.
Don't worry at least physics book will keep Mrs. Bakshi calm. Rest we can purchase next month, said Raaj.
While they were discussing on the side of the bookstore, Can I get a notebook and a pen please? a shrill voice asked. Ajinkya moved his head little on the side to see who was calling.
He saw a girl handing out a 50 rupee note to the bookseller and explaining something animatedly to her friend standing with her. Her smile was beautiful, her short hair were beautiful and her face was, what is the word they use 'divine'. She was laughing madly about something, suddenly her hairs fell on her eyes and she shrugged them off with a gentle stroke of a finger. Ajinkya's heart sank for a moment.
'Where are you sir?' Raaj snapped. He looked in the direction Ajinkya was looking.

'Beautiful piece man' he exclaimed completely checking her out, the other 2 also looked in the same direction, suddenly both the girls became conscious and looked towards the guys, for a split second Ajinkya's eyes met with the girl.

The bookseller's voice interrupted, there you go miss, the girl took the notebook and change back from him and both girls rushed off. Ajinkya took his eyes off her but rest 3 pairs of eyes followed the girl until she turned into a corridor.
And before the guys could start conversation about the girl, Ajinkya rushed them, "lets go fast lunch time is over". They took the books which were sitting on the side of the booksellers table, paid him and they were off to the class.

Ajinkya couldn't forget her for next 2 days and couldn't find her even. He started a small investigation about her, saw her during assembly and followed her.

She was in the 11th grade in section 'D'. He started following her since then, the time she entered the school (he had to come school early for that but it rarely mattered), the time she would be taking lunch in the school canteen, the time she was leaving, everywhere possible.
And all he was doing was crossing her path again and again and after a few times there eyes started meeting every time there paths crossed but he wouldn't and couldn't say anything.

Her name was Shweta, she joined the school this year only coming from Loyola High, she comes at 7:15 AM and leaves on her bike. That's as much information he collected about her in one month.
3 months into the session the extracurricular activities begun in the school and sports sessions also started, so the decision on Prefects was around the corner.

One summer morning in the assembly, prefects were announced, the junior prefects were announced first, there were cheers and whistles in the whole assembly. Senior Prefects for Blue and Yellow houses were announce.
Red House Senior Prefect 'Ajinkya Sahani', a roar of applause broke, cheers and whistles. Raaj with 4 other guys took Ajinkya on shoulders and made way to the Principal's desk.
The Principal tucked the Senior Prefect badge on his shirt. He was too happy, probably this achievement is something no one forgets during his life time. Thats the first real step towards leadership.

Things started moving fast in the school and in no time there were schedules of debates, elocution, parade, sports and quiz contest.

Ajinkya was way too busy in preparing his house for all the events, he has to finalize the debate candidates, basketball team, watch the performance of the parade enthusiasts on the field. He was ably supported by the junior prefects and his house teachers but the decisions had to be his.

In all this rush he has still not completely forgotten Shweta, he was still trying to cross her paths at times but it had become all the more difficult for him to talk to her.
For one, being a Senior he was supposed to be keeping company and so called 'affairs' with the girls in the same grade and not juniors and now that he was a Senior Prefect it was another trouble, he couldn't be seen talking too much with any girl or the rumours take no time in spreading in the whole school. The so called 'dignity' of the post has to be maintained.

On a hot afternoon he was sitting in a classroom with a couple of junior prefects and the his house teacher Mrs. Bose, discussing about the upcoming debate and elocution candidates.
Why are students not coming up for participation? this house always had the best debaters and now we are having trouble finding a good debate and elocution candidate, that's insane, he said with frustration.
We do have candidates, and more will be coming, Ajinkya you need to take it easy, this is how it is always the case. Initially there are few or no one coming forward then once a few students come forward other students get confidence and you have more than desired number of candidates to manage, Mrs. Bose said.

I guess you are right madam, I need to take it easy. I am sorry. That's alright son, we have a girl from 11th grade coming for elocution. We need to see if she fits the bill.
Who is she?
Suddenly there was a knock on the door, "come in" Mrs. Bose said. A short girl with a bright smile on her face walked in. She had some amazing effect on everyone present and everyone started smiling too. Good afternoon Madam, she bowed towards Mrs. Bose and then looking towards Ajinkya good afternoon Sir, she said.

I am Ajinkya and you should call me by that name, he said moving forward to shake hands with her.

Yes Ajinkya Sir, she said, I am Payal singhal from 11th grade, enrolled for elocution contest. Someone else was making way from the now half opened door. Rajat, the junior prefect shouted only Red house here, no sneaking other houses.

"I am from Red house only" a voice came, the voice Ajinkya knew pretty well by now. He looked towards the door, Shweta was standing there.
Payal moved towards her, Ajinkya Sir she is my friend Shweta also in our house, would it be ok if she sits here during my elocution. I was very nervous and asked her to come with me.
Ajinkya looked at Shweta smiled and looking at her, replied to Payal, yes sure by all means.

Everybody set down, Ajinkya saw Shweta sitting and sat besides her leaving one desk.
Payal started reciting the poem she had written on her diary, Ajinkya was half listening and half looking at Shweta, occasionally their eyes met and Shweta coyly looked down or looked towards Payal standing in front.

Mrs. Bose was stopping Payal in between and giving her instructions, where to pause, which word to pronounce clearly etc. and she restarted again everytime.
It went on for like 30 minutes and when Mrs. Bose said "Ajinkya what do you think?",
that Ajinkya became completely present in the room.

She is good madam, except for a few words that she should have pronounced clearly, that we can take care of during training. The good part is she is expressive.

"And Payal" he moved towards her, holded her by shoulders, looked straight in her eyes, 'You have to speak louder than this', this is just a small room you know how big is our auditorium. You will have to speak infront of hundreds of students and make sure that everyone hears your voice clearly'.
There is nothing to be afraid of, You are good, more than good and you have to prove that our house is the best house in the school when it comes to elocution. And we are here to help you out anytime you want. And this time it was diary next time you should learn it by heart, OK?
Yes Ajinkya Sir, I will do my best and hopefully our house will win. The little talk from Ajinkya seems to have filled her with confidence.

Ajinkya suddenly turned towards Shweta, and Shweta what are you participating in for our house? She was taken aback by this sudden question, she tried to gain her composure and without looking at him she said, "nothing as of now".
Why not? You should also take part in some activities, our house needs participation and if you all will not participate our house will take a beating. Look at Payal she is also doing good with the elocution.
Yes Shweta, try to participate, start preparing for quiz contest, Mrs. Bose said. And if you need Surinder can help you, she pointed towards a guy sitting next to her, who started grinning. He is in your grade only.

Ajinkya felt a sudden anger inside him, he promptly replied, yes Surinder or anyone, you can come to any of us for help if you want to participate in any event.

Shweta's face flushed, I am not as good as Payal but I will try to participate in something.

Shall we go Payal? she asked. Both said goodbye and went out of the room.

The debate and elocution contest were good for the Red house, in both the events its students won the first place. Payal won the first place in elocution contest. In sports also the house was standing at the second position.

Ajinkya was well praised for his efforts, he brought laurels to the house through his able leadership.

Time really flies, Raaj said as they were sipping tea at the college canteen.
Yaar it feels just like yesterday that we started the year and we are already coming to the end, the pre-board exams are after 1 week only, Rahul mentioned.
Yes we have to really get started with the studies, there is no time left now, Ajinkya said.
The pre-board exams were relatively tough than any other tests during the academic year, as after pre-board there was normally only a month left for the board exams and the school had the rule that no student can appear in the board exams unless they clear the pre-board exam.
This exam used to give the school a fair idea of which students it can bank upon for bagging the best inter-school student award. Also if students were found weak in any subject,the teachers could provide them extra classes before the board exams.

Ajinkya started thinking about all that happened in the past 10 months or so,he got so busy with the things around him that he didn't realized that how soon the time was passing.
During the past few months, he has seen less of Shweta, although he still tried to cross her path sometimes and a smile of recognition was exchanged between the two but nothing more than that he could achieve and he for sure was not able to get her out of his mind.
For some time he has been thinking about talking to her and letting her know that he likes her. And this feeling grew intensly inside him since last month when he saw her with one of the boy from her class going out of the school and sharing lunch and spending a lot of time with him. The guy's name was Ravi, he wasn't smart type of guy and Ajinkya has wondered since then what she was doing with him.

Since then Ajinkya has been thinking that may be he has already been late in talking to Shweta. But he still wanted to talk to her once and take his chances but wasn't sure when to do it.
"Tomorrow" he told himself, tomorrow for sure I will talk to her he thought.

He was interrupted in his deep thoughts when Raaj shook him, "lets go".
He has not shared this secret with anyone till now except with Shalini, who was his good friend for last 3 years.

She has also suggested him many times to talk to Shweta and even offered him that she will talk to her on his behalf but he refused.

Next morning he was in the school early, he has made up his mind at night and was very anxious, she used to come early. He was standing at the corner window in the class which overlooked the passage leading to all the classes, that was the place from where he has often seen her and then ran down to see her.

After another 15 minutes of anxious wait and looking at many students running in he saw her coming, thankfully still no one was in the class and none of his classmates were around.
He started walking down with butterflies in his stomatch, his mouth dry, and almost sweating in the winter, he had never before actually proposed anyone. With thousands of things running through his mind he was walking down and suddenly he saw her, both saw each other, he started with a little "Hi", she replied in an even lower voice, 'hi' and continued walking.

"Shweta", I want to talk to you, how the words came out of his mouth, he had no idea.
She stopped on her way, turned towards him and suddenly her face expressions changed and she looked taken aback and slightly scared. It seemed to Ajinkya from her expressions that she already knew that this was coming sometime.

"No, no, not now", she said in a very low voice and started walking upstairs fast.

"But listen....."

She was way far by now to listen to his voice. Suddenly a group of junior students passed with all their hullabaloo about yesterday's match from where Ajinkya stood frozen.

He ran towards his class, breathing heavily and if it was not for the class that he was walking in he could have cried his heart out. As he entered the class, Gemini was sitting writing down something, she said good morning to him to which he replied and sat on his desk staring out of the front window towards the green trees and high mountains.

He was heartbroken and in bad shape, he didn't eat, he didn't come to the school the next day. Stayed home and tried to read for his exams but couldn't concentrate at all.
Thousands of questions were in his head Why did she said no? what did she meant by not now? Is she not at all interested in me? Did she knew I was going to propose to her and so she ran away? Is Ravi really her boyfriend? what is wrong with me, why wouldn't she like me? I am good academically, I am the Senior Prefect, what else she wants? Should I try to talk to her again? Is there some problem at her home that she said not now?
Questions and more questions were floating in his mind to which he didn't had any answer and was hard for him to console himself.

He came back to school and talked very less to anyone, didn't go out for lunch, didn't go out to cheer his team in the basketball match and when Raaj asked him after 3rd day of seeing the same behaviour as to what was wrong, he just replied, I am just not feeling well, thats all.

After a couple of days he did narrate the whole incidence to Shalini. He was happy that Shalini was there with him as he couldn't share this with anyone else.
She tried to console him in many ways, that may be she was not ready then, may be she was scared too much, may be she was scared as you are the Prefect or she thought it was some other thing you were going to mention. She again suggested him that she can talk to her but Ajinkya refused.

Days passed but everyday he was stuck up with the same thoughts, he couldn't concentrate on anything else, it was way too hard for him.

Then came the realisation for Ajinkya, it was the first paper of the pre-board exams.
He went pale when he saw the paper, he didn't knew half of the answers. How he prepared for the exam he didn't knew. He was so immersed in his thoughts about Shweta and that incidence that whenever he took the book to read, he would put it down thinking that he knows everything or there is more time to read.

He came out of the exam room, he was numb and as he was crossing the canteen Raaj's voice fell in his ears. How did you do in the paper dude? He turned looked towards Raaj for a minute he didn't say anything and then blurted out, "it was too bad".
And before Raaj could understand anything or ask what happened he walked away, went to the bathroom and washed his face with cold water.

He stood there infront of the mirror and water running down in the basin, he tried to ask himself, what am I doing?, what has happened to me? After another 5 minutes he turned off the tap, came out of the bathroom wiping his face.

He walked towards the canteen and went and sat besides Raaj who was talking to Rahul and Parminder.
What happened to you Ajinkya? Raaj asked. I know you are not alright for sometime but you are not telling us. Tell us yaar, what is it? We are friends, may be we won't be able to help you with whatever you are struggling but we can still share the things.

Ajinkya grabbed Raaj's hand, I know you guys would do anything if I am in any problem. And yes I was not ok till now but I promise you I am fine now. I am just going to be fine from now on.
And now get a tea and a samosa, your treat, Ajinkya said smiling.

Ajinkya knew for himself what his priorities were and who he was. He just couldn't let himself slip into a mess from where he might not be able to come back. He was one of the top students of the school and thats the way he wanted to finish the school. Other things were secondary in his life.

He was amazed at how simple it was for him to understand this thing and wondered why he didn't understood this thing till now.

Only if ever Shweta comes by herself to me then I am going to take it somewhere otherwise I have several other things to finish, he told himself.

The pre-boards finished and except for a couple of subjects Ajinkya did good and now his whole concentration was on the preparation for the board exams. Although the house activities almost came to a standstill at this time of the year but still sometimes there was a few things to take care of. Ajinkya would complete those activities as fast as he could and then return back to the studies. Combined studies with his classmates in the morning and at night by himself.
He tried to shrug off any thoughts that were not studies related.

In that duration he saw Shweta a few times but simply ignored her, he didn't wanted to look at her more or it would weaken him again.

One afternoon when Ajinkya was studying in his group, a boy came running towards them. Sir, Sir please come, there is a fight a big fight is going on. You need to stop that, its really bad.
All the students who heard it ran after the boy who came in with the news.
It was a horrible scene in the grounds, two groups of students were fighting with rods, stones and chains in their hands.
For a moment everybody froze, then Ajinkya made a sudden move, he saw someone down bleeding.
"Raaj, come fast, we have to stop this". Rahul call the security and the teachers.
5-10 guys ran in between the fighting, shouting "Stop it you will kill someone" and some how they separated the two groups, some of fighting group ran away seeing other students coming their way.

Ajinkya ran towards the guy who was down bleeding, he took him and started carrying him towards the medical room. A boy running besides him said, Sir it was a boarder, day scholar fight and someone hit him with an iron rod. Ajinkya saw his face and was horror struck, the rod hit him in the forehead, near the eye from where the blood was dripping down profusely. Suddenly he realised, the guy he was carrying was Ravi.
For a second some mixed feelings engulfed him a memory flash came to him, Ravi and Shweta joking, eating together. He was still not sure what was there between the two but the guy he was carrying was certainly his competitor.

But as soon as those feelings came, they went away as fast once he saw his face again.

An ambulance came within 10 minutes and Ajinkya helped to shift him from the bed in the medical room to the ambulance. Hundreds of students were standing around the ambulance lookiing at the bad condition Ravi was in.

As Ajinkya pushed the stretcher inside the ambulance, he saw Shweta standing in the corner watching. Her face was pale, she must have seen Ravi's face. She stood there staring at him and then towards the leaving ambulance.

Ajinkya looked at her for a few seconds, then took his eyes off her and walked away.

The board exams started and Ajinkya couldn't remember anything else but studies, he forgot the difference between day and night as he locked himself into his room and only came out on the exam day. Raaj visited him often with his questions.
Ajinkya enjoyed his company as always and he would relax for sometime with the new songs he was carrying with him.
Everything was back to what it was.

The exams ended, vacations started and results were awaited.

He never saw Shweta again...