“You’re good and you know it. Just trust yourself and be calm.” I wanted to tell Raj that the problem lay in the execution of his ideas but I loved it when he fussed over me like this. We were standing outside Block 49, and Raj held my hands like he always did when he thought I was nervous. It made me feel good.
Out of the blue, I heard someone scream my name. I saw Garima running towards me along with my other friends Ananya, Vedika, Karan and Siddharth. The moment they reached me, Siddharth caught me in a bear hug. “All the best, babes!” I know I shouldn’t be surprised that they remembered I had an event but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t. Ananya read my expression like she always did. “You thought we forgot, didn’t you?” I nodded sheepishly. “I always underestimate you guys. I am sorry.” Karan came forward and hugged me. “You know just because we don’t stick with you forever like Raj here doesn’t mean we don’t care! Good luck girl! Show’em all!” Raj made a face and scanned the length of the corridor. “Has anyone seen Adi?” Aditya, or Adi as we fondly called him, was another Mr. Popular thanks to his amazing antics on the soccer field or in any other sport for that matter. Adi and Shashank were very good friends and shared the same fan club. But unlike Shashank, Adi was my best friend and both Raj and I were very fond of him. “His match just got over. We won!” said Vedika in her sing-song voice. “He wanted to come but his team wouldn’t let him go. So he sent this for you and wished you all the best.” She handed me a red rose. Ah! Typical Adi. I wondered how he managed to find a rose here…. The volunteers had begun ushering the participants inside. “Ok guys I have to go.” I said. Thanks so much! And tell Adi congratulations. See you!”
My event was split into two rounds. The first round was essay writing. The second round was an extempore speech. Writing had never been an issue, it was my forte. The tricky part was the speech. I always had a bad case of nerves when I had to speak in front of an unknown audience. Familiar faces made me feel relaxed but the unknown ones made me fumble with my sentences. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea after all. But then my thoughts drifted to Raj and Adi and the others, to what Shashank had said. They believed I could crack it. Fire away then, I thought. The topic for the essay was ‘The day I wished I had never been born’. This was easy. There was no dearth of embarassing incidents in my life. Suddenly, a series of images flashed in my mind. Garima’s birthday party, Shashank sitting next to me, a bottle of ketchup…. I smiled to myself and began penning down the ‘ketchup catastrophe’, blessing Raj for bringing it up that morning.
When I was finally allowed to step out, the first person I saw was an anxious Raj. I should have known he would be waiting back. He began the rapid fire the instant he saw me. “How was it? What did they test you on? When are they announcing the results?” I decided to wait till I found a pause in his endless questionnaire. “Relax. Breathe. It was a piece of cake. I had to write an essay. Round two is an extempore speech and it’s scheduled for 4.30 pm in the auditorium.” He beamed at me and said, “Let’s go to the main foyer. Everyone’s down there. There’s a DJ there and….” I knew it was a bad idea to ask him but I couldn’t resist. “Is Shashank …” He answered even before I could finish my enquiry. “Oh heavens yes! Prince Charming is already on the dance floor surrounded by sighing damsels. Now will you come?” He knew he wouldn’t need to ask me twice. “By the way, what did you write the essay on?” Oh boy! He was going to love hearing this….
(Contd. in the next post)