Joined: 28 December 2006
"He bhagvan,...in logon ne kabhi ladki nahi dekhi kya?" she thought a bit self consciously.
Somehow, curbing the rising anxiety, she made her way towards the Principal's Cabin where she had been on the previous occasion when she had come with her father for the purpose of admission.
"May I come in ma'm?" she asked softly.
"Oh Hello Naina...do come in dear...take a seat."
In her mid fifties, the principal was a kind and considerate lady who took particular care of each and every student in the school. Since the school had a very small strength, it was easy on her part to know the students and made conscious efforts from her side to connect and bond with the students. She knew that Naina was a bit hesitant since it was her first day in the school and therefore put her at ease by behaving in a friendly manner with her.
"So...I hope you didn't have any problem in finding the way to my cabin...did u??? The campus is so tiny in comparison to your previous school campus..." she smiled affectionately at the young girl.
Naina smiled a bit at this human gesture...she had thought that he principal would be very strict lecturing her about rules and regulations...but contrary to her misgivings...she was very friendly. "It is a very nice and beautiful school ma'm." she replied politely.
I'm glad you liked it darling...so how do you find our small township...?"
"It is really very small...but it is so natural ma'm..." She looked out of the window as she continued... "So beautiful...sitting in the lap of the nature...full of trees... the roads winding like a huge snake...u have to put an effort to walk in this road...up and down...u know... and the tribal folks...who probably don't know the importance of this place from the view point of the defense...but nonetheless...are a part and parcel of this place... a variety of birds,... there are so many I couldn't identify... you will only find crows and sparrows in Delhi... oh Ma'm...it's worth being painted... photographed...somehow...if only I could capture the essence of this place...I would..." she stopped realizing that probably she was taking advantage of the lady's patience.
But Mrs. Sharma only smiled affectionately at the young girl sitting in front of her...looking at the scenery outside with an excited look on her face.
"And what else do you like about this place?" she asked.
The climate ma'm...It is...it is...so..."
Naina smiled and blushed slightly."It is a hill station ma'm." she said.
The lady laughed merrily at her discomfiture. Then after a while she said. "Okay then... I see you have taken quite a fancy to our small town in a very short span of time... And I am not complaining... you know... I will be looking forward to listen to your views about nature and the people... and since you have a strong academic background... I am not going to waste my time lecturing you about it..." she winked at Naina and the girl smiled.
"I just hope you have a good time here... All the best darling..."
"Thank you ma'm."
"Walk straight down this corridor... and you will find your class IX on the right hand side...just opposite the library... see you some time soon...have a nice day darling,"
"Thank you ma'm." And Naina walked out of the principal's cabin and down the corridor as directed.
SOCIAL SCIENCE CLASSS:
"Gud Morning Class...We will start with a new chapter today... we have it in our syllabus for the half yearly exams...so better pay proper attention to it."
Cumulative groans of "Oh No Ma'm" could be heard to which the teacher replied strictly... "Oh yes Dear sir and ma'm...so better stop groaning and start preparing for your half yearly exams...they are just a month away."
And she started taking the attendance.
"Mam... is it true that we are going to have a new student in the class..." Nilesh finally asked the question which everybody had been dying to ask.
"Yes...it is true...and she is supposed to join from today...so I'm waiting for her..."
"But ma'm... we are almost in the middle of the year... will he be able to cope up with the studies... we have gone very far..."
"First of all...it isn't a HE...it is a SHE...and secondly... she has a very good track record... she was the topper of her previous school...her father had been transferred in the middle of the year... so we had to make an exception... but I will say this Nilesh...better watch out...she will soon be taking away your position as the second rank holder of the class..."
His face fell...but he didn't say anything.
"But ma'm...why Nilesh's position...? If she is such a good student...then maybe she will replace Raj as the first rank holder..." Akshay said. His rivalry with Rajveer Singh Shekhawat was quite well known in the school... Raj was the stud of the school...excellent in studies, superb in sports... outstanding in cultural... name an event and Raj would be there... So it was well known how much Akshay and his gang hated Raj.
The teacher smiled at this. But before she could reply, Raj answered Akshay on her behalf... "Ma'm never said that... She is reputed to be a good student...so if she comes to hold the fist position in class... I wouldn't be surpised."
Just then a peon came and called the teacher and she went away asking the class to keep silence. Akshay used this opportunity to raise an agument with Raj.
"No...nothing ever suprises you...does it Raj..." Akshay was losing his temper.
"One thing certainly does..." he replied gravely.
"Ohh really...then please let the class know... what is that which surprises the Great Rajveer Singh Shekhawat..."
"Just this that how can a person change colours like a chameleon and be so nasty to a co student the moment a teacher is out of the class." A voice from the doorway attracted eveyone's attention and they turned to find a beautiful girl standing in the doorway clad in the school uniform. She was a bit healthy...but the grey skirt and the white blouse fitted her petite form giving her a beauty which other girls only dreamt of possessing. She had a black coloured bag slung on her back and she stood with her hands folded across her chest.
Akshay lost the colour on his face, while all the others gaped at her in wonder. Nobody eve dared to talk to Akshay lie that... except perhaps Raj... but this new girl was a real bombshell.
Raj however was the first one to react. He got up from his seat with a smile and walked upto her. "Hi...welcome... Glad to see you here..."
"Thanks Raj..." she smiled at him gratefully.
"Tum isse kaise jante ho Raj..." Rita was a bit surprised.
Raj smiled enigmatically at this as he ushered her inside and made her sit at the only vacant seat available in the class next to Rita. He himself was sitting at the other end.
Rita was a friendly girl and it didn't take her long to befriend Naina. But before Raj could answer her question, their teacher came back to the class.
"Ohh...hello Naina...so you are here... good...m pleased to have you here..."
"My pleasure Ma'm..." Naina replied politely.
"I see that you have met your friends...but still I would go about with a formal introduction. So please will you introduce yourself?"
"Sure Ma'm...Hello friends...I'm Naina Mishra...and I am from Delhi. I have done my schooling till date from Delhi Public School and now that I'm here...I hope to complete the remaining years from here..."
"And I hope we will have you here for the rest of the time."
"Thank you ma'm."
"Hey Naina... this is Anamika...this is my sister Rashmita...this is Lovely...and this is Sneha... we have been friends from childhood..." Rita completed the introduction.
"Hi..." Naina smiled. She felt a bit odd. The girls had been gaping at her the moment they heard that she was from Delhi. Only Sneha...the chatterbox of the group went on speaking... and the way she behaved was so natural that Naina found herself warming up towards the girl.
Sneha was tall. Thin and fair... very beautiful to look at. But she was stark mad... "mad hatter..." Naina thought to herself with a smile. "Ye ladki to kisi ko bhi pagal kar degi..."
She looked around the school grounds. She noticed something... all the students were having their lunch outside...but the girls were sitting apart from boys. This surprised her a bit.
"Ek baat bata Sneha..."
"Haan puch na..."
"Yaar... tum log humesha aise hi lunch karte ho...?"
"Matlab...ladke ek taraf... ladkiyan ek taraf...alag alag baithke lunch karte ho...?" she wanted to know.
"To kya ek saath baithke lunch karen?" Sneha appeared shocked.
"To... problem kya hai usme...?" Naina wanted to know.
"Yahan aisa nahi hota...hum alag alag hi khate hai..." Sneha rolled her eyes at Naina.
Naina laughed at this and kept quiet.
EVENING: 6:00 PM-
"How was your first day at school child???" Mrs. Mishra placed the cup of tea and snacks in front of Naina as she asked her daughter about her day at school.
"Nice mom... school is so small...but then that lady was so nice...oh ...I mean our Principal...ma...wo mujhe itni genuine lagi na... and then class ki strength bahut choti hai par then... achha tha..."
"Raj se mili tu...?"
"Haan Ma...wo calss me hi tha... par pata hai kya...maine ek cheez notice ki..."
"Kya notice kiya meri beti ne...?" Mr. Mishra came into the room and sat next to her.
"Papa... pata hai...class me na Raj bahut chup rehta hai... aur akshay aur unka group Raj se bahut nafrat karta hai... pata nahi kyun..." she wondered.
"Shayad wo ladkiyon se baat karne me sharmata hai... isliye..." Mrs. Mishra replied.
"Aaj ke zamane me mom...?" Naina asked incredulously.
"Ye Delhi nahi hai beta...jahan ladka aur ladki ki dosti ko accept kiya jaata hai...ye ek chota sa sheher hai...yahan par agar koi ladka haskar kisi ladki se baat bhi kar le to usse shak ki nigahon se dekha jaata hai..."
"Tumhare papa sahi keh rahen hai beta... aur agar tum yahan par tikna chahti ho na to yahan ke logon ke sentiments ko samajhna hoga tumhe..."
"Maa aap ye kehna chahti ho ki mujhe bhi inke jaisa banna padega..." She wrinkled her nose at her mother.
Mrs Suhasini Mishra smiled at her daughter's distate. "Nahi beta...par mai ye kehna cahti hun ki tumhe inhe samajhna padega...tum jaisi ho waisi hi rehna...par inki soch se khud ghabra mat jaana...thik hai na...?"
"Yes mom..." and she hugged her mother happily.
A few days had elapsed since the discussion. Naina had noticed raj to be a very quiet and shy fellow in the class. He hardly ever talked with the girls, chose to keep away from them. Naina had also felt the sentiments running in the class. The girls were mad after him, but then he never had the time to notice.
Initially Naina really had problems in catching the back log but then with the help of Raj (or rather Raj's parents) as well as Sneha she was able to catch up really fast. The first week she was there, she found the school in frenzy of preparation for Sport's Day. She didn't want to distort the function; hence she chose to stay away. But as luck would have been, a couple of days before the function, the lead dancer of the group fell down and sprained her leg and Naina was selected as the replacement.
When she mastered the complex dance moves after three hours of incessant practice, her teachers were all praise for her. The function was a hit and especially the easy grace with which Naina portrayed the emotions as well as the dance moves earned appreciation from all.
The month of January again threw the school into agitation for the preparation of Republic Day. Naina was chosen for hosting the event along with Raj earning resentful remarks from Akshay which she chose to ignore.
"Did you both understand what you have to do?" Mrs Susan Varghese asked for perhaps the tenth time.
"Yes Ma'm" Naina replied smiling. "When the chief guests comes I will have to initiate the welcome song which will end by the time he reaches the flag post."
"I will then request him to unfurl the tricolor." Raj added quietly.
The prayer group girls will join us on the stage. And we will lead the national anthem." Naina added. "And we have to check the time during the practice session ma'm. The anthem should end in sharp 52 seconds."
"Right Naina. I will ask your music teacher to do it."
"Right Ma'm; then I will request the chief guest to take a seat."
"Arey baith gaye to parade ki salami kaun lega?" Raj asked.
"Arey khud khade ho jayenge na Raj. Itna to unhe bhi pata hoga. Ye bolne chale ki May I request Mr. So and So to please stand up and take the salute...wo pakka mere sar pe danda marenge."
Raj started smiling at this while their teacher looked on at the warring couple. They had conveniently forgotten her presence and were engrossed in arguing and practicing at the same time.
"Anyways...jab parade chal raha hoga to I will describe the various houses and their achievements." Naina said.
"Ok..." Raj conceded. "And after the parade I will announce the commencing of the dance drama by the scouts and guides."
"Then a competition on patriotic songs which will be judged by our music teacher and the chief guest's wife. Pata nahi unhe music ki kya samajh hogi...kisi ko bhi baitha diya... khair next."
"Next ek awareness program hai... caste system par..."
"Aur last me prize distribution hai house events ko lekar... right..."
"Haan... aur last me drum beats par function khatam..."
"Aur saath me anchoring bhi...khatam..."Naina ended the dialogue.
Needless to say the function was a huge success along with their anchoring. And this function sowed the seeds of friendship between Raj and Naina.
The final exams were just around the corner and Naina knew that she would have to struggle a lot to get a decent position this time. So she threw herself heart and soul into studies. The exam week passed away with a lightning speed and soon it was the beginning of a new year. They all were now in class 10th. Nothing had changed except perhaps their class room and the sitting pattern.
Naina found herself sharing her seat with Sneha. The two girls had grown quite fond of each other and Naina found herself spending some time daily at Sneha's house either in the morning or in the evening.
Raj used to sit beside her on the row to her right. Sneha used to grab every opportunity of talking to Raj and teasing him along with her making raj go scarlet in his face and forcing him to search for cover. Naina always enjoyed his pitiful state and never left a chance to tease him herself. She could see clearly the extent to which Sneha was smitten over by Raj and his charms and she found herself amused by the turn of events.
One such day when she returned from school amused and chuckling to herself, her mother could no longer contain her curiosity.
"Kab se dekh rahi hun beta apne aap me muskuraye jaa rahi ho...Aisa bhi kya yaad aa gaya mujhe bhi to batao...taki mai bhi hass sakun."
"Arey mom...khuch khaas nahi.. Meri dost hai na Sneha...jaanti hain na usse aap?"
"Haan beta...humesha to phn karti rehti hai...kya ho gaya usse?"
"Infatuation, attraction ya crush...jo chahe bol lo."
"Matlab... mai samjhi nahi."
"Matlab ye ki madam ko pyaar ho gaya hai...aur jaanti ho ladka kaun hai...?" she asked her mom mysteriously.
Mrs. Mishra shook her head in negation.
"Uss ladke ka naam haii... Mr. Rajveer Singh Shekhawat."
Instead of replying Naina burst out laughing. "Haan maa... aapko yakin nahi ho raha na..."
"To kya Raj bhi..."
"Arey nahi Maa... usko to sab kisi Sonal naam ki ladki ko lekar chidate hain...
"Ab wo kaun hai...?"
"Wo to nahi pata... par jahan tak mujhe lagta hai shayad koi nahi hai,... ainvai ched rahen hain bechare ko."
"Aur Sneha ka kya..."
"Mujhe nahi lagta mere alawa kisi aur ko iss bare me koi idea hbi hai."
"Tu Raj ke bare me kya sochti hai...?"
Naina had been doing her homework all the while she was answering her mom. She didn't even stop writing for a second but replied nonchalantly. "Achha ladka hai...talented hai... handsome bhi hai...uski aur Sneha ki Jodi acchi rahegi."
Her mother ruffled her hair and left from the place. Little did she know that she had missed that look in her daughter's eyes which proclaimed something else.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The annual function was round the corner and the kids in the school were too busy preparing for the same. This time the anchoring had been assigned to Nilesh and Aparna and Naina was a little sad about it. But she had her share of accolades, much to the chagrin of her batch mates. She had been asked to give the opening speech of the ceremony and welcome the Chief Guest . She also had a solo dance performance showing respect to Goddess Saraswati, the patron of learning and art.
However she looked around for Raj's performances, and that was when Mrs. Varghese dropped the bombshell. Raj was acting with her in the skit and also was her partner in group dance. Naina didn't know how to react to this because she could well imagine Sneha's reaction when she would find out about this.
"Yaar... ma'm kabhi mujhe akela nahi chod sakti?" she fumed to herself.
Just then someone called her from behind.
She turned to find Raj standing some distance away from her. The moment she set her eyes on his smiling face which were a shade red because of having to talk to her. She forgot her earlier irritation and suddenly the desire to tease him took the lead. Very quickly she smiled and said, "Haan Raj, bolo...kya baat hai...?"
"Wo ma'm hume practice ke liye bula rahin hain."
"Oh... to thik hai chalo chalet hain." And she started walking with him towards the grounds. Raj was looking anywhere but at her.
"EK baat bata Raj... tu humesha aise hi zameen ki taraf dekhta hua chalta hai."
Raj suppressed his smile and refrained from commenting. Naina found his silence amusing but she decided to grill him as much as she could throughout the practice sessions....
Joined: 28 December 2006
"Ek baat batao Raj... tum humesha aise hi zameen ki taraf dekhte hue chalte ho kya...?" Naina asked mischievously.
Raj smiled a little and refrained from commenting. He didn't have an answer to that question. Naina in the meantime resolved not to leave even one chance of teasing him.
Raj and Naina spent a lot of time together during the course of their play. Naina used to tease him mercilessly. The more he tried to shy away from her, the more she picked on him.
One day during one of such practice sessions, Raj was sitting on a chair during a break when Naina came and knelt down beside him on the grass. "Huff..." she was panting.
He scrutinized her carefully. The uniform clung to her figure accentuating her curves. She had her hands on her hips and was trying to control her breath. A few locks of hair had escaped from the pony tail and were falling on her face making her look even more beautiful.....
"Beautiful...." thought Raj.... "Haan.... wo sach me bahut sundar hai..... kitni pyaari lagti hai.... even in uniform.... she is a class of her own....."
To make matters worse for Raj, a cool breeze started to blow just at that moment making the weather even more romantic. It blew away a few more strands of her hair from her face.... making her look even more irresistible...... He felt like kneeling down in front of her and taking her sunshine face in his palms. He felt he could stare at her continuously.
He shook his head to clear his muddled thoughts and tore his eyes away from her with the greatest difficulty. God knows what had happened to him after the anchoring. He felt as if he had got used to her presence around her. He felt so alone without her. She was the only person who had accepted him the way he was.... shy, reserved, reticent... he never felt the need to change himself for her.... Many times in the last few months, he had caught himself staring at her when nobody was noticing him. He would stare continuously at her... without her knowledge and it took Nilesh's jostling to pull him out of his trance.
"Kitna ghurega yaar.... ab rehne bhi de...." Nilesh would often remark making him go red in the face. His shy smile could steal the heart of any girl.... but he never noticed what effect he had on other girls. His only concern was what effect Naina had on him.
He was staring ahead of him as all these thoughts raced through his mind. It was her voice which broke his trance.
"Kya soch raha hai tu.?"
"Haan... nahi...kuch bhi to nahi.... Wo to bas mai aise hi dekh raha tha..."
"Oh come on Raj.... jhuth mat bol.... tu kuch soch raha tha..."
"Achha... tujhe kaise pata?" He asked with a sweet smile.
She loved to see the smile on his face. "Teri aankhen bol jaati hai.... ye kabhi jhuth nahi bol paati... ab bata bhi kya soch raha tha..."
"Kuch nahi re...." he smiled shyly.
"Ohhooo.... bada Sharma raha hai.... kaun hai wo ladki....haan..."
"Bahut.... kya boli.... kaun si ladki......"
Naina had in the meantime burst out laughing. "Dekha...pakda gaya na tu.... mujhse jhuth bolne ka anjaam yahi hota hai..... bata bata....kaun ladki hai...."
"Pagal ho rahi hai kyat u....koi ladki nahi hai...."
"Achha ji....jhutha..... bataega mujhe ya Sneha ko bulaun....?"
"Ab bechari Sneha ko kyun bich me ghasit rahi hai.....?"
"Kyunki ab tere pet se sachhai wahi nikaal sakti hai........ ruk tu...." Naina looked around the ground and spotted Sneha standing in a corner talking to Nilesh.
"Snehaaaaaaaaa...... sunn zara.... jaldi...."
A few minutes later, Sneha joined a visibly shy Raj and an amused Naina in the middle of a fight.
"Kya ho gaya Naina....kitna hass rahi hai....?"
"Tu puch Raj se zara...kaun hai wo ladki jiske bare me sochte hue ye pata nahi kahan kho jata hai..."
"KYa......Raj ke life me koi ladki hai..... Breaking news of the Day..... abhi batati hun sabko...." Sneha rubbed her palm in glee.
"E Sneha....jyada bakwas mat kar." Raj warned her.
"Mai to karungi hi.... tu kya kar lega mera.... haan.... bhalai chahta hai to bata de apni girlfriend ke bare me.... warna abhi pure school me dhindhora peet dungi...." Sneha was laughing uncontrollably as she said this to Raj.
"As if mai bata dunga to mujhe chod degi...huh...."
"Tu aise nahi manega na..... abhi batati hun sabko....Raj ki koi girlfriend bhi hai...."
Akshay who was passing that way heard this and was immediately alerted. "Achha.... hume to pata hi nahi tha.... zara hume bhi to pata chale ki kaun hai wo ladki."
Immediately Naina's face underwent a transition and she grew serious. She had never liked Akshay and she knew pretty well that he was jealous of Raj. Sneha however continued to chatter unhindered.
"Arey haan Akshay....hai na iski girlfriend..... ab to Raj jab bhi usse milega...yahi gaana gayega.... 'Utha le jaunga tujhe mai doli mai...dekhti reh jayengi sakhiyan bechari....'...."
"Sneha bass kar....bahut jyada ho raha hai...."
"Arey koi jyada nahi ho raha....hai na Raj...." And she playfully hit Raj on his forearm.
"Kyun maar rahi hai yaar bechare ko....." Naina objected at that instant. But Sneha hardly listened to him.
"Bata na Raj....kaun hai teri girl friend..." Sneha asked him again.
"Haan haan...bolo Raj.... hume bhi pata chalna chahiye." Akshay poked him further. By now a small crowd had gathered around them. Raj had been smiling all this while, never losing his temper even once. But Akshay's behavior was getting on to his nerves and by looking at him, Naina could decipher that he was going to snap any minute. She just didn't want Sneha to bear the brunt of his anger.... or rather provocation...whatever you may call it.
But Sneha was always the irrepressible... The more Naina tried to caution her, the more she started to tease him and pick on him. The way she talked to Raj made it very clear to an observer that she was madly in love with him. In the initial days, Naina had thought it was infatuation.... maybe even a crush..... maybe even now it was a crush..... but it had deep rooted feeling's in Sneha's heart.
"Bol na Raj....
"Deewana hai dekho ho oooo...
Sambhalo sambhalo na pyaar ho....
Apna banake dekho dil na chura le wo...
Aisa kyun lage hai bolo na...."
Raj got up from his chair and began to walk away.
"Kahan bhag raha hai Raj...bata bhi..." Sneha stopped him in his tracks.... "Kaun hai wo...?"
"Mujhe kisi ko dhundne ki zarurat thode hi hai.... TU hai na.... aur kisi ki kya zarurat.... tujhe hi utha le jaunga doli me...." And he walked away smiling to himself making Sneha blush furiously in embarrassment. All the while Naina had been rolling down on the floor with laughter.
"Kamina saala... Kuch bhi bolta hai...." Sneha muttered audibly.
"Arey kuch bhi kahan bola...tune jo pucha usi ka jawab diya na usne...." Naina reasoned with her. The crowd had started to thin around them, until only the two of them were left.
"Tu to aisa hi bolegi..." Sneha pouted.
"Obvious hai na dear.... maine sirf tujhe bulaya tha....puri bhid ikathha karne ko nahi kaha tha Sneha.... sabke saamne aise fass jao to kitna ajib lagta hai..... aur tu uss bechare ko sabke saamne hi pareshan kiya jaa rahi thi...."
"Par fir bhi...."
"KYa par fir bhi..... dekh usne tujhse aisa isliye kaha kyunki wo free hai tere saath...warna wo to bin bole hi chala jata.... ab jo kiya wo to bhugatna hi tha.... so stop cribbing.....okay.... aur chal practice me.... sir bula rahen hai tujhe...."
Okay...aaj sham mere ghar chal rahi hai na...."
"Haan re...school ke baad chalte hain.....thik hai...."
Naina and Raj spent a lot of time together, which made them come closer than before. Naina spent almost all of her spare time teasing Raj to which he never replied harshly. His only reaction was a shy smile, after which he would look down and sit quietly. Naina found his shyness amusing but it brought her closer to him.
Naina and Sneha too had come closer during this time. They had bonded thickly and it was a routine for Naina to visit Sneha every afternoon after school. Both the girls would lock themselves up in Sneha's room and spend time talking and playing with each other. Naina much to her enjoyment found Sneha falling head over heels in love with Raj. Every word that she uttered, every line that she spoke would invariably be connected to Raj. If it was his inherent shyness which caught her attention and attracted her, his charming smile made her heart go out for him. The way he stood, the way he walked, the way he talked, the way he smiled, the way he laughed.... everything had an effect on Sneha.
Naina had ended up asking incredulously. "Wo hasta bhi hai...?"
Sneha had been irritated at this comment. "Kya matlab hai...har insaan hasta hai..."
"Haan, magar Raj.... maine to usse kabhi haste hue nahi dekha..."
"Kya Naina...tu bhi.... kitna khulke hasta hai....tune nahi dekha...."
"Kab khul ke hasta hai Sneha... kuch bhi bolun... Sharma k ek sweet si smile deta hai aur chup rehta hai...bas...isse hasna bolti hai tu....?"
"Arey nahi yaar...hasta hai wo... dekha hai maine haste hue usse... kamal hai yaar tu itna time bitati hai uske nsaath roz...fir bhi nahi dhyan diya tune...."
Naina laughed and chose to keep quiet instead of retorting.
One day during a free hour in the class, when the rest of the students were busy gossiping, Naina had her head dug in one of the Nancy Drew mysteries. She was so engrossed in the book that she hardly noticed what was going on around her. Neither did she see Prakash come and sit beside her, nor the weird look which Raj directed in her direction nor did she notice that Sneha had seen the look which Raj had passed... which was of curiosity and concern mixed with amusement.... and was jealous of it.
After completing the story, when she finally looked up from her book did she notice that something was amiss. Then she noticed Prakash sitting beside her and was immediately wary of him. That guy was a sore trouble. Flirting and troubling her continuously, he always tried to make a pass at her. Naina was tired of his trials and used to have a hard time trying to control her temper in check. As such she was short tempered, and had been on the verge of losing her temper very badly quite a lot of times. She had scolded him numerous times, but to no avail.
"Hi Naina... kya padh rahi hai...?" prakash asked her sweetly.
"Kya karega jaan kar... apna raasta naap..." she retorted.
"Arey tu gussa kyun ho rahi hai.... mai to bass puch raha hun..."
"Aur mai bhi bas bata rahi hun kit ere matlab ki baat nahi hai...tere palle nahi padega.... ab dafa ho yahan se...."
"Kyun...mai yahan baith nahi sakta...?"
"Teri jagah hai ye....?"
"Nahi...par baith gaya to ho gai meri jagah..."
"Chup chap fut le yahan se Prakash...warna achha nahi hoga..." It was taking all of her self control to stop her from bursting out horribly at him, and sitting in the next bench, Raj was increasingly aware of the dangers if she lost her cool. He looked outside the classroom, his mind racing ahead to see if there was any means by which he could take her away from that situation.
He saw their English teacher going towards the ground and immediately hatched a plan. He turned towards Naina in an attempt to call her, but if only she would listen. Closing his book resolutely, he got up from his chair and approached her.
A touch on her forearm made Naina turn her head in the opposite direction. She found Raj standing near her. "Ma'm ne bulaya hai...chal..."
"Tu chal...mai aati hun..." she replied.
"Nai...abhi chal...fir time nahi rahega.... ye hour khatam hone wala hai. Chal na...."
She couldn't refuse him, his manner was so endearing. With a smile, she got up and left the room with him oblivious to the waging tongues behind her.
The annual function commenced with a welcome song and then a speech extending welcome to the guests. Naina was dressed in traditional kathakali attire as she read out the speech. Soon after the speech was a dance dedicated to Goddess Saraswati ' the patron goddess of art and dance.
Raj couldn't take his eyes off her all throughout the dance. She looked so beautiful in the traditional dress and ornaments. He walked up to her after her performance.
"Amazing performance Naina...it was awesome."
"Thank you so much Raj..." she smiled at his compliment.
"Bahut hi bsdhiys Naina.... excellent job." Nilesh joined them.
"Pata hai jab tum dono ko anchoring ke liye nahi liya tha na...to mujhe bahut bura laga tha..." Nilesh said.
"Magar ab nahi lag raha... pata hai kyun?"
"Kyun?" Naina asked.
"Kyunki Raj ko chief guest ko escort karne ko kaha gaya....imagine.... Navy ke chief hain aaj ke guest...."
"Pata hai Nilesh... speech maine hi diya tha na..."
"Haan... aur tujhe speech aur dance karne ko kaha.... isliye mai khush hun."
"Mai bhi Nilesh... bura laga tha mujhe jab mere upar Principal ma'm ne kisi aur ko chuna... magar anchoring se pehle, mere dance se iss function ki shuruat hui hai.... isse badhkar garv ki aur koi baat nahi hai mere liye....." Naina smiled.
Nilesh was a real friend. She treated him more like a brother. Tall, open hearted he was candid to the core. He spoke out his mind clearly but never hurt others. He was really close to Raj and along with him; he had come close to her as well. She was a year his junior and when he came to know of that, he had started treating her as his younger sister.
"Ab next tum dono ka play hai na..." he reminded them.
"Haan.... par time hai abhi...." Naina replied. "Usse pehle humara group dance hai."
"To taiyar ho jao..." Nilesh said.
"Haan...mai ja rahi hun... tum dono bhi taiyar ho jao.... aur Nilesh...teri wo partner dikhe na to usse bol dena jaldi se taiyar hone ko..."
"Teri best friend hai.... tu hi bata.." Nilesh retorted. He didn't like Sneha much...because of her nonstop chatter.
"Meri best friend jab tere best friend ke saamne aati hai na...to sab kuch bhul jaati hai.... siway tere best friend ko ghurne ke aur kuch yaad nahi rehta usse...mai bhi nahi.... isliye usse ya to tu sambhal ya tere BEST FRIEND se bol sambhalne ko....." And she winked at Nilesh before running away from there, leaving him in peals of laughter. It took Raj a few seconds to process what she had said, and by the time he had understood, both Naina and Nilesh had run away from there, leaving him face to face with Sneha.
"Tu yahan kya kar raha hai Raj?" Sneha queried. Her high pitched child like voice was a source of irritation for many...including Nilesh, but Raj found it amusing.
"Pagal Ladki..." he thought to himself.
"Kuch nahi...tu yahan kya kar rahi hai.... taiyar nahi hona group dance ke liye?"
"Arey abhi to uske liye bahut time hai.... chal baith ke thodi der programme dekhte hain...." she pulled his hand.
He pulled her back. "Chal pehle taiyar hoke aaten hain, fir baith ke function dekhenge.... aja chal..." And he started walking in the direction of the dressing room.
She followed him. "Pakka dekhenge na..."
"Haan re...bilkul. Tu taiyar hoke yahin ground me aa jana...mai yahi milunga.... chal ab."
Later in the day, as Sneha lied to Naina and hastened through her makeup, and ran towards the ground, she found Raj waiting for her along with Nilesh at his side.
"Naina nahi aayi tere saath?" raj asked her the moment he saw her.
"Nahi... wo to taiyar ho rahi hai. Chal baithen." Sneha asked excitedly.
"Chal aaja.... baithte hain." He made her sit in between him and Nilesh and sat down. All throughout the next 1 hour she kept chatting and irritating Nilesh all the while laughing, poking and hitting a constantly smiling Raj.
His eyes caught her reflection as she suddenly appeared from around the bend of the stage. She was dressed in a lehenga-chunni with typical rajasthani ornaments and get up. The blender had mixed with her skin giving her a glow, the kohl made her beautiful eyes more attractive while the eye liner and the eye shadow only heightened the beauty of her large eyes.
The red lipstick was a stark contrast to her pearly skin and the perfection with which she had applied it kindled in him a desire to kiss her then and there. He was startled by his own chain of thoughts.... almost ashamed by it...but still he couldn't tear his eyes away from her. She looked so beautiful.... so ethereal...
Nilesh poked him hard in his waist. "Kitna ghurega yaar....ab rehne bhi de...."
He looked at him. Sneha was nowhere near them. "Ye ladki kahan gayi?"
"Bhag gayi apni dost ke paas. Tera ghurna bardash nahi hua usse..." he laughed.
"Shut up Nilesh..."
"I will shut up...but can you stop staring at her? Can you stop your heart from racing ahead when she comes in front of you? Can you stop the glow which comes to your eyes when you see her? Can you stop being attracted towards her?"
Before Raj could reply, the announcement for the group dance was made putting a stop to their discussions.
"Saved in time by the announcement." Nilesh commented as both got up from their seat.
Their play on "The Lady or the Tiger" was an instant hit. While she enacted the part of a beautiful but an equally barbarian princess who was in love with a common soldier with grace, he was equally convincing in the role of her paramour ' the poor soldier. They looked so good together that even the guests were heard saying that they looked fabulous as a couple. Their body language, their acting and their sparkling chemistry added colours to the play.
A lady in the audience whispered to her husband, "If a common soldier is more handsome than a prince, I don't blame the princess for falling in love with him..."
The gentleman smiled at his wife and replied, "One has to admit, that they look good together. They understand each other perfectly and without words.... made for each other...right...?"
"It's too early to predict. They are just children."
"In tenth class darling... hadn't I proposed to you in my 10th grade...?" he asked mischievously making his wife blush at his comment.
Naina had been walking back towards the dressing room when she was joined by Raj on the way. She smiled at him warmly and he responded with his trademark shy style. Clad in a blue coloured robe befitting a princess, she really looked like a royal lady.
"Bahut achhi lag rahi hai tu aaj." He said.
Naina couldn't believe her ears. Raj was paying her a compliment. "Pata nahi aaj suraj kis taraf se nikla hai..." she thought to herself but smiled at his compliment.
"U r welcome.... waise bhi aaj pure function me sirf tere jalwe hi dekhne ko mile hain."
"Kya matlab...... speech se shuru karke aakhri play tak.... kamala ki lag rahi thi tu aaj...." he said.
She could understand the genuineness in his words. It touched her to the core. "Bol to tu aise raha hai mano tu bilkul achha nahi lag raha tha.... muft me hi school ka sabse handsome ladka hai kyat u?" she teased him making him blush.
"Tub hi aaj bahut achha lag raha tha... Waise bhi maine humesha dekha hai ki tujh par to kuch bhi suit kar jata hai... fir chahe wo simple sa dress ho ya fir ye soldier ka get up."
She looked at him to find him staring at her. Their eyes met weighing each other, trying to reach into each other's soul... trying to read the thoughts.... Raj clenched his fist to stop himself and then looked down. "Chal change kar lete hain." He said.
She smiled and followed him unable to understand the reason of his sudden departure.
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