I knew it was him even before I saw him. I was already seated in the bus when I heard his voice. I could never fail to recognise that voice, even in a huddle of other noises. It compelled my eyes to seek his face, a phenomenon I never really understood.
“Come on guys, get inside the bus already! We don’t want to be late for the events. I want to win that Best School Representative trophy!”
Of course, they made him the School Representative. Our school was participating in the city’s biggest inter-school fest, and he was chosen to babysit the participants and the over-excited horde of students tagging along for moral support. Excellent choice, I daresay. You would have thought I was biased, but his appointment as the SR was the unanimous decision of the principal, the teachers and the Student Council. Naturally, the other students approved. They were simply besotted by him. Just like me….
One of the guys queuing up for the bus bellowed, “The trophy belongs to you already, Shashank. No doubts about that!” Everyone expressed their approval noisily. After all, he was Shashank Mehra. He was a perfect blend of all the qualities that made him the most popular boy in school – academic brilliance, excellence in sports, an inclination towards every co-curricular activity the school could offer and tons of wit and charm. As if god wasn’t already partial, he had the gene for attractiveness bestowed upon him too. And so you had the whole school, including the educators, going gaga over him.
He was done herding the others in to the bus and noticed me gawking at him. He smiled and walked up to me. “I haven’t seen you in a while. Where have you been?” I had been avoiding him lately thanks to an embarrassing episode where I clumsily knocked down a bottle of ketchup all over him. But it wasn’t my fault. It should be against the law to look so unbelievably gorgeous.
“Oh just the usual,” I said. “You’re the one with the busy schedule. I bet even the President could spare more time than you!” I usually wasn’t so bold in his presence but I knew what reaction would follow my taunt and I prepared my heart for the leap. He blushed slightly (leap!), trying to be modest and gloat at the same time. “Yes, well, being in the Student Council does that to people. But I shall try to work on your complaint. You see, we at the Student Council aim to address the grievances of all students!” We both laughed. I guess I forgot to mention his remarkable sense of humour before.
He proceeded to sit with his batchmates. He was a senior and this made things a little… inconvenient. I had to wait for break time to get an eyeful of him. Unless it was one of those lucky days when there was an extended morning assembly. The principal droned on while I was free to do my staring business as he stood on the stage with the rest of the Student Council. Easily the handsomest visage in the throng. But, as I sat on the bus seat across from him, I was beginning to have a hunch that there would be hours and hours of uninterrupted staring today.
“Uh! Will you get over it please?”
That came from my best friend, Raj. Of course, he had no idea how visually stimulating the object of my incessant staring was. “You wouldn’t understand,” I told him, as he slipped into the seat next to me. He shook his head disapprovingly. “I assure you I don’t want to either. Listen, why don’t you just go up to him and make a little confession? It might save you from future embarrassment,” he snickered. His reference to the ‘ketchup catastrophe’ irritated me. “Oh yeah? And how long before you make your ‘little confession’ to Nisha (the hot property in our batch)?” He suddenly became more interested in the view outside the window. Haha! Always worked!
(Contd. in the next post)