"Okay, so now we have all the groups ?", our maths teacher said. The class nodded in consent and the teacher wrote down everyone's name. I was still looking daggers at Nandita for doing this. Great, now we're stuck as a group for a month and a half. Brilliant. I can already imagine myself strangling Nandita to death.
My thought process was broken by our teacher's voice, "Okay, so I want you all to discuss and tell me the topic of your project. You can choose any topic from either your maths book, or any other theme related to the field of mathematics. You all have to prepare a powerpoint presentation and a chart depicting the summary of your project. The powerpoint should have a minimum of 30 slides"
The entire class groaned. 30 slides is really no joke, and considering the number of ppt's we've made this year, none of us wanted another one to be added to the list. Our group sat down together and started discussing. We all agreed on one thing - The topic should be simple and easy. No complication.
"I think we should take up 'Historical mathematicians', that's the easiest of the lot", I said as soon as we sat down.
"Yeah and boring as hell", said Ayush, "We'll want to dump this theme halfway through. There's no fun there"
"Fun is not on our priority list Ayush. We need to get this stupid thing done as soon as possible. And I'm not interested in killing my head for 1 and a half months over this useless project", I replied in a slightly annoyed tone.
"Yeah ? Then why are you even doing it?", he was beginning to get irritated too.
"What's the alternative ?", I replied, now completely irked at his 'I-wanna-be-a-good-student' attitude.
"Calm down guys. Relax", chipped in Vivek, "Jeez. We've not even started doing anything, and you guys are fighting already"
I sighed and mumbled, "Whatever". Ayush kept quiet too. Nandita's gaze flickered over both of us for a while before she said, "Okay. Let's do this. Let's write down our choices on small chits and jumble them up. We'll pick out a chit and whatever topic comes out, we'll take it. Okay ?"
We all nodded in consent as Nandita fished out her notebook from her bag. She tore a paper and then tore it again in smaller pieces. We all wrote down our choices, and since I was miffed already, I chose to be adamant and wrote down 'Historical Mathematicians' in bold with my permanent marker. Nandita gave me a 'Stop-being-kiddish' look, but I didn't pay much heed to her.
All the chits were then jumbled up properly. Nandita extended her hand and picked out one. She paused before saying it aloud, "Um, Historical Mathematicians"
"Ha!", I exclaimed before I could stop myself. A grin played on my lips as I gave Ayush a victorious look. I was being extremely childish, and I didn't know why, but it felt good to know that my topic had been chosen. Ayush's shoulders slumped. I wasn't done, I really wanted to rub this in his face, "Fair enough Ayush. It's not like my suggestion was given extra preference, right ?"
He glared at me and said, "Fine. Let's do it"
I arched an eyebrow and nodded, "Finally"
We informed the teacher about our topic and decided to start working on it from the next week onwards. Since I was the well known powerpoint maestro, it was decided that I would be the one handling the presentation. Ayush was good at caligraphy and art, so he decided to take up the chart work. Nandita and Vivek offered to do all the
As the last class got over, Nandita and I decided to go for a little chuski treat (A small stall was right next to our school) before heading home. I needed to talk to her about certain things. We sat down on the small wooden stools next to the stall. Few minuted passed before I said, "Mom's a little worried. There's, uh, a little financial problem going on"
She looked at me and said, "Hmm, I guessed. You seem a little off since the last few days"
"Yeah, everything's just not falling into place. I don't know what to do", I replied in a softer voice. Nandita simply leaned forward and took hold of my hand. She nodded empathetically at me. It wasn't the first time I was sharing the fact that our financial condition was rocky with her. And somehow, she always understood. It was something I was extremely grateful about.
I took a deep breath and said, "Dad called. He just discovered his new passion - Online poker", and our faces broke into a smile at that. My dad was not just my dad, he was also my buddy. We were really more like friends. He wasn't the 'I-wanna-protect-my-daughter' type father, he was the 'Find-your-own-way' kind of dad. Infact, once when I was a kid, I fell down while skating and hurt myself pretty badly. He just stood outside the ring, giving me a sheepish grin. I had to ultimately stand up on my own. After the practice, he had said to me, "See, that's why you're different. You don't need your dad to stand up on your feet. You can do it on your own"
"Uncle's always been quite the fun guy", said Nandita. I nodded, "Yup. Can I say something really nasty ?"
She shrugged. I smiled and said, "Divorced parents are the best parents in the world"
"Uh, Tell me about it. My parents keep bickering all the time. For no reason. You're right, you know", she replied while making a face. I laughed at her expression and shook my head.
"What ?", she asked with a blank expression. "Nothing", I said and got up, "Let's go. It's getting late"
She nodded and got up. We were about to leave when I suddenly stopped and turned around. She jumped slightly and staggered, "Shit. Naina. Are you nuts ?"
"And what the hell was the whole morning drama about ?", I slipped into my angry demeanor and barked at her. She still had the blank expression on her face, "What drama ?"
"Don't act innocent. Why did you ask only Ayush to join our group ?"
Then it seemed to hit her. Her face relaxed in realization for a moment, "Oh that", and the next moment she had a nonchalant expression on her face, "Nothing. I want you to be his girlfriend that's all", and with that, she walked past me, leaving me with my mouth agape.
I quickly regained my self-control and started walking. I'm going to kill her.