We reached the venue of the fest, and Shashank went into full-fledged SR mode. “Participants have to report 15 minutes prior to the event start-time. I have all the details here, so anything you guys need, ask me. The teachers will be arriving shortly. Any questions?” My literary competition was not until afternoon, and I had already made a note of the venue and timings. Raj kept tugging on my sleeve. “Let’s go watch the dance competition in the auditorium.” I wasn’t really sure what Shashank planned to do after dealing with the querying participants so I hesitated. I wanted to keep him within my line of sight. “Oh just hang on a minute”, I said, “let’s wait and see what the others plan to do.” We were a group of eight friends, including Raj and me. Our friends were permanent members of the ‘We-Love-Shashank’ fan club. That’s right. Shashank did not have friends. He had fans. And his fans considered it their duty to follow him wherever he went. Moral of the story: To find one, look for the other.
“We could check out the stalls if you like.” Raj suggested again, indicating the various booths put up by students and sponsors that lined up both sides of the main foyer. Just then, I heard my friend Garima say, “Come on guys, we’re going to see the dance competition,” and saw the rest of the fan club follow her. I nudged Raj and said, “Let’s go watch the dances.” He did look bewildered but one glance at Shashank and party and he knew why I had suddenly decided to comply. Clearly miffed, he trudged along nonetheless.
The auditorium was in the dark when we filed in, with most of the seats already occupied. Raj managed to find us good seats but I was busy looking for Shashank. Finally, I spotted him five rows ahead. The SRs of all schools had the front rows reserved for them along with the teachers from participating schools. I saw Garima and the rest of the fan club settle down in the row behind Shashank’s. I told Raj that we could find better seats ahead. “These seats aren’t half bad. If we go ahead and don’t find any, we might lose these too. And anyway, you can’t stare at your eye candy in the dark now, can you?” I scowled at him. He knew me very well.
The event commenced and the dance performances made me forget all about Shashank for a while. The competition was tough, but Raj was positive that our school’s performance would be the best. “You just wait! They are gonna set the stage on fire. I have seen them practice.” I decided to pull his leg. “Of course you have! Isn’t Nisha one of the dancers?” Even in the dark, I could swear I saw him blush.
His confidence was not in vain. Our school’s performance received the loudest cheer. I saw Shashank, the proud SR, standing in his seat and hooting loudly. It took me a while to notice that he was alone. His fan club had evaporated it seemed. Maybe they were off to see the soccer match that was taking place in the grounds. I knew this was my chance. “Raj, look the seats ahead are vacant. Let’s shift ahead before they get occupied again.” Raj seized my hand and thrust my watch in my face. “Look at the time! The competition starts in twenty minutes!” We had exactly five minutes to make it to the venue before the 15-minute deadline. We both rushed towards the exit.
“Hey guys! What’s wrong?” Shashank’s voice had the usual effect on me, which means I stopped in my tracks and turned around to look at his gorgeous face. He smiled at us from his seat and I had a mad urge to go sit beside him and forget about the competition. But Raj gave me a ‘we-don’t-have-time-for-this’ look and for once he was right. “Her event’s in less than 20 minutes so we gotta get there fast. Mind if we rush?” Shashank immediately consulted his SR file. “Oh yes! It’s in Block 49 in the West Wing. Third floor. All the best! You’re gonna kill it!” Shashank’s extreme confidence in me made me blush and have a momentary lapse of memory so Raj thanked him for me. He yanked me out and we both ran to Block 49.
(Contd. in next post)