An unpleasant ride!
The academic year had come to an end and it was now time for the examinations.
The examination centre was about seven kilometres from my home and I rode to the centre every day on my faithful bicycle.
It was the third or the fourth day of the examinations - I don't exactly remember now, and I was riding leisurely. I had plenty of time in hand and there was no need to hurry.
I might have covered half the distance when a tempo screeched to a halt by my side. Peering out of the window was my friend Zakir who asked me where I was going. I told him. Zakir asked me to hop into the vehicle along with my bicycle and he would drop me.
It was just a matter of a few kilometres and as I mentioned, I had enough time. So I told him that I would rather ride my bicycle.
But Zakir is a person who is very insistent. He jumped out of his vehicle and lifting my bicycle dumped it inside and then made me get in too. Zakir was a school dropout who earned a living by driving vehicles for others and transporting goods. So I found myself sitting amidst a clutter of household goods including utensils and furniture. Someone had probably changed residence and Zakir had been hired to shift the goods. Had the vehicle been covered at the rear it would have been alright. But the vehicle was open at the rear and I, sitting amidst the furniture, must have appeared like a refugee for the whole world to see.
To tell you the truth, I was feeling rather embarrassed. I kept praying that Zakir would have sense enough to drop me outside the gate of the college so that I could sneak inside quietly without being seen by my friends. Well, my prayers went unanswered! Zakir, not heeding the security guards at the gate, drove right inside and halted only in front of the examination hall! The students were busy taking a last-minute glance at their notes but it seemed as if every eye looked up when the tempo rattled inside making a great noise. All the eyes were focussed on me and some smiled to see such a funny spectacle while others were annoyed at being disturbed. I cringed in embarrassment and wanted to hide. But I had to hop down. I pulled out my bicycle and murmuring a small "thank you" to Zakir (actually I wanted to punch him) I made my way gingerly to the stand to park my bicycle.
Recognising the teacher
It was the first day in the law school, and we were getting to know each other in the class-room.
There were still around 15 minutes for the first lecture to start and we were making full use of the time available to us.
"What is your name?"
"My name is Rajesh. What's yours?"
Small talk like this was in full swing. But when 50 voices make small talk, it is bound to become a big noise. Such was the case with our class-room as well.
Just then a middle-aged lady walked into the class-room and we abruptly fell silent to show respect to the teacher.
The teacher had entered the class-room five minutes ahead of time.
But, oddly, she did not take the podium meant for the teachers but, instead, came and sat on one of the benches.
"What is your name?" she asked the girl seated by her side.
"My name is Prerna, ma'am," the girl replied rather meekly.
The woman broke into a loud guffaw. "Hi, you don't have to be scared of me, I am a student like you."
So the mystery was solved. She was one of us.
Of course, in our law school there was no restriction on the age to obtain admission.
Once the mystery cleared, the cacophony began once again.
Then, entered a youngish-looking man, perhaps not much older than the rest of us. But, we had learnt our lesson well and paid no heed to the man.
Instead of taking a seat on one of the benches, the man, however, took the podium.
"In a law school, we will try to maintain law and order," he spoke clearly amidst the din and we realised that we had made a mistake once again.
"Well, if I may have your ears, let me introduce myself. I am Prof Khanna and I will be teaching you "Constitutional Law".
All of us fell silent. I cannot remember any other day when we had maintained such a pin-drop silence.
Just a few days ahead of my twelfth standard examinations, my father passed away. As per the customs, I had to shave my head.
Some months before this personal tragedy, I had also applied for the National Defence Academy (NDA) entrance examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission. The examination was scheduled a few days after the twelfth standard examination.
So, by this time, I had grown my hair but it was still short - just like the cropped hair of soldiers. The NDA, incidentally, is a premier academy that trains future officers of the armed forces and the boys who are finally selected to join the NDA as cadets have their hair cut close to their scalp!
Anyway, on the day of the NDA examination, I reached the hall. I found a friend there who was aware of the personal loss that I had suffered.
He approached me with a smirk on his face. "Hey, do you know what the others are saying about you?" he asked.
I was surprised. Apart from this friend, the others at the hall were all strangers who had come from different cities to appear for the examination. So why should they be talking about me! I knew none of them.
I said this to my friend.
"Why should they be talking about me?" I asked.
"Well, they are pointing at your head and commenting that you appear to be so confident of passing the NDA examination that you have already cropped your hair," he said with that smile still playing on his lips.
For a moment I was very angry with my friend for making fun of me even in my period of grief. But then the irony of the whole thing dawned upon me and I smiled back.
By the way, I did not clear that examination. I have no way of knowing whether those who had commented on my over-confidence, had passed. But my friend too had not passed that examination.