Then one fine day…
He as usual marched into the institute for her class and was taken aback when he saw her sitting there, her eyes glued to some book. A round of usual greetings followed. For a minute he was at a loss. He had never been alone with her like this. Just the two of them. It meant nothing to her, he thought. But his heart raced ahead in speed. He took his usual spot, too consumed by the power of the situation.
“Why haven’t you attended any of the English classes?” Her sudden interrogation startled him.
“Ma’m..actually, I just need you… your help…in Maths, I mean. English I can manage.” He was quick to pick up on the faltering confidence.
She gave a, ‘I don’t really understand it’ look and he shrugged. She smiled; he reciprocated.
He could feel the blood rushing on his cheeks. Damn! Her dimpled smile and those shining eyes. To n ot appear like some love stricken road side Romeo, he started fidgeting with his phone, lest the thumping heart blabbered out something crazy.
What an irony! Wanting her to know and then hiding it at the same time.
After a moment’s pause, she spoke again.
“And what about the tests? They’re starting this week. Do sit for them.” It was more of a suggestion than a question.
“Will you be around during the tests?” He asked, as a matter of fact.
“Yea, all of us would be there.”
“Then I’ll come.” He spoke with a firm eye contact. She just nodded in approval.
The conversation was making him all the more confident.
Again after a significant pause he raised his head, when she all of a sudden requested, “Can I borrow your phone for a while? I need to make an important call and my phone is not working properly.”
“Yes, off course.” He said as he handed her the phone.
He saw her punching the numbers. There must be ringing on the other side as she held the phone near her ear, myriad emotions flipping on her face. A few seconds more and she disconnected. “I think its network issues. Never mind.” She returned his phone.
Till this moment, Akaash never thought about the possibility of existence of someone else in her life. Based on the call she made, the sudden seriousness in her tone after, he got skeptical. He blankly stared at the number she had dialled, wanting to know about its owner. If only he could call back….! His heart trout with jealousy and heart-break.
Another sleepless night was spent, again in longing and gushing over her, this time accompanied by a deep sense of insecurity.
The next day when he reached the centre for his usual class with her, he saw her talking to the office boy.
“Get something to eat, please…. I’ll die of starvation. A packet of biscuits, chips, anything would do… I have had back to back classes since morning, don’t you realise that?” Her voice was filled with irritation, perhaps a result of the gurgle of empty stomach.
“I can’t really help as none of the departmental stores nearby have opened as yet. Even that fast food stall has not yet started. What can I do now?” The office attendant narrated helplessly.
“Go to hell.” It was the first time that Akaash saw her in such a terrible mood.
So Ma’am is hungry today and has turned into a ferocious tigress, he chuckled at the thought.
Another minute, he made a quick phone call. Fifteen minutes later, he had a packed lunch box from home delivered at the Institute.
She was sitting in the office, preparing for her next class, when he approached her.
“Here, take it.” He said. Confused, she looked at him. “I got it packed from home for everyone here. It’s prepared well, so I thought….” He tried to clarify.
He had not completed his sentence when the others from the office – the marketing manager, the other teachers, literally pounced on the lunch box. In another second, they flung it open and grabbed the food.
Aastha eyed others as they happily gorged the food. She was really hungry but then, she was a little hesitant to eat. But as she saw others picking up without any thoughts, she also came ahead and picked a parantha.
It was pure bliss for Akash watching her finally eat from the lunch box. She grabbed another piece as soon as she finished the first. Her facial features turned peaceful again, the effects of hunger slowly fading away. Akash was staring with a smile plastered on his face, when she suddenly turned around and looked at him. “Wow! This is yum. Thanks a lot and please tell your mother, she’s an amazing cook. It is finger licking good….”
All others nodded in approval.
In all other situations like this, when someone mentioned his mother, he would just walk away from the scene. But today, he stood there frozen.