Posted: 31 January 2008 at 2:19pm
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Armaan and Atul joined some other friends on a table. "OK, Ms Sharma…ab aap sabke order lee jiye aur jaldi se ley aaeeye!" said Armaan authoritatively.
Riddhima just stared at him and took her PDA out to take the orders.
"Wow, high tech junior hai, bhai!" quoted Manek, one of the other students.
Rahul was also at the table but was busy researching something on his laptop and did not even look up.
"mujhe coffee chahiye with spoon sugar and some cream-naa zyaada naa kum. GOT IT!" Armaan ordered. Riddhima looked at him with a mischievous expression and turned around obediently.
She came back with a tray with drinks, coffee, tea, pakoras, samosas etc etc –whatever she was asked to bring. She saw another woman student sitting next to Armaan. The woman had her elbow on Armaan's shoulder and whispered something in his ear as Riddhima approached the table.
She served everyone their choices but as soon as Armaan sipped his coffee, he spit it out, "yeh, kya mazaak hai? Yeh tumney namak daala hai ya cheeni?"
"I am sorry, Armaan…"
"Armaan nahin….SIR kaho!" he scoffed.
"I am sorry sir….yahan Mumbai mein cheeni aur namak bilkul ek sey lagte hain….can I get another cup?" she pretended to be apologestic.
Everyone got a chuckle to see Armaan flustered. It was rare to see Mr. Overconfident, Armaan Mallik in that state. Rahul was particularly pleased as Armaan and he were arch rivals-both smart, brilliant and ambitious.
Rahul was aware that Anjali was crazy about Armaan and he tried his best to keep their rivalry at the professional level only. He cared about his sister and would hate to create problems between her and Armaan.
Riddhima came back with another cup but the coffee was just lukewarm; Armaan liked his cup piping hot. Armaan was a perfectionist in every sense; he got frustrated and grabbed Riddhima's hand, "Mere saath chalo, main tumhein dikhata hoon coffee kaise serve hoti hai." He pulled her towards the food counter. Riddhima realized that he held on to her hand till they reached the coffee machine. There was something about his touch that sent a shiver down her spine.....she had never felt that way before.....what was it about his touch? She dismissed it to nerves and just followed him quietly.
Meanwhile, Anjali had her eyes on Armaan and Riddhima. She did not like the way he was holding her hand. She was relieved when they came back, Armaan a few steps ahead of her. Riddhima soon made friends with most of the people on the table. She was generally a friendly girl and made friends wherever she went. Anjali did not like that either…she was used to getting all the male attention in the college…after all she was "the princess…the Dean's darling….", why were all the men talking to Riddhima instead? She was even more furious when she saw Armaan sipping his coffee but staring at Riddhima intently, without even blinking.
"Armaan, let's go…you need to help me with a paper….." Anjali pulled Armaan by his hand, forcing him to get up.
"Ragging abhi khatam nahin huyi hai….Ms Sharma….aaj raat ko theek 8 baje, you shall report to the men's hostel mess…GOT IT!" Armaan snapped his fingers at Riddhima as he got up.
EIGHT O'CLOCK AT MEN"S HOSTEL MESS
Riddhima promptly arrived at the required destination. She knew that there was no way out of this ragging…even though she had her fair share at her previous college, the only difference was that in her previous college, only women could rag women but Mumbai….that is a different story. Trying to resist ragging or portraying fear usually made it worse; the best course was to humor the "bunch of boys"- yes they were boys and not men…real men would have more respect for women at their college!
8'O clock was the seniors' dinner time- no one else was allowed in the mess at that time. The "seniors" had earned that status as this was their final year and the mess cooks would oblige them with special feasts, not available to anyone else in the college.
"Aaj, hamare beech ek junior student hain , Ms Riddhima Sharma…wo aaj sab seniors ke liye khana banayengi" Armaan announced as everyone clapped. Riddhima was shocked….how was she expected to cook for a bunch of hungry boys? She did not protest but gave Armaan one of her cold looks and stepped into the kitchen. In a short while, the students were surprised to see a variety of dishes being served by Riddhima and the mess boys.
"Wow, ladki ke haath ka khaana khaane kaa mazaa hi kuch aur hai" said one of the students. Armaan quietly chewed on his food but could not help agreeing that this was one of the best meals he had tasted in ages…..perhaps since his mother's cooking…..
As Riddhima gathered her belongings to leave, Manek got up and came close to Riddhima. " Ab ladki jab men's hostel aa hi gayi hai, tho aaj ki raat bhi yahin guzaarni chahiye" he said with a devilish grin on his face. The other students laughed in agreement but Armaan stayed quiet. He thought this was getting too far.
"Theek hai, tho aaj ki raat, Ms Riddhima mere saath rahengi…." Armaan got up and declared. He knew no one would challenge him but she gave him a disgusted look and raised her voice finally, "'aap log desh ke future physicians and surgeons hain......sharam aani chahiye aap logon ko……"
"humnein sharam to medical college mein aate hi chodd di thi…ha…ha…ha" one of them said as everyone joined in the laughter.
Armaan came close to Riddhima, grabbed her hand and turned around, "she is going with me….so all of you stay out of it!" No one had the guts to challenge Armaan, so they remained seated and said nothing.
Armaan walked with Riddhima down the stairs and then to the main gate of the hostel while Riddhima kept trying to set herself free, "you guys disgust me….I wish I had never moved to Mumbai……" she was almost tearful but was surprised when she saw they were at the main gate of the hostel. She looked up at Armaan and before she could say anything, he set her hand free, "Kal subah surgical floor par rounds ke liye 6 baje aa jaana…Dr Jain likes to start on time….GOT IT!" he pointed towards the gate and waited till Riddhima left the premises safely. Riddhima felt relieved as she left…..why did Armaan do that….was he trying to be protective or just trying to scare her……?
Riddhima entered her room late at night; her heart was still beating fast after her experience at the men's hostel, "I hope this is the end of ragging!" she prayed silently.
She had not even unpacked her boxes yet as she had been busy with orientation and ragging all day! She sat down on the floor and started opening the boxes one by one. She was wondering whether she made the right decision in switching colleges at this stage. It would take her time to break into the culture at a new college; so far she had not been impressed!
She heard a knock on her door, "OH, HI Muskaan, tum abhi soyee nahin?"
"Tumhari light dekhi tho aa gayi. Waise hum sub bahut der se sotey hai…we are all night owls you see." Muskaan smiled as she walked in.
Muskaan joined Riddhima on the floor and helped her unpack. "Riddhima, tumhein unn ladkon ney zyaada tang tho nahin kiya? Hamare college ke ladke thode sir-phire hain par waise bahut helpful aur protective hain. Don't take them too seriously." Muskaan advised Riddhima.
Riddhima smiled, "Don't worry Muskaan, aisa kuchh bhi nahin hua.....i can handle a bunch of foolish boys," she remembered how scared she was when they had asked her to spend the night at the men's hostel and how Armaan had saved her from further harassment.
"Waise, most guys are fine but wo jo Armaan hai naa, bahut arrogant hai. Uski naak hamesha oonchi rehti hai. No doubt, he is very smart but itnaa attitude…..GOD….aur uski girlfriend, Anjali…..she is something…..she is very possessive about Armaan and does not like it if any girl even talks to him ……we all can't stand her either! I think they are made for each other……ha…ha…ha" Muskaan could not control herself.
Riddhima remembered the woman in the cafeteria; the one who was clinging to Armaan and did not look very happy when Riddhima was the center of attention, "AH, now I understand" she muttered softly.
"Tum ney kuch kaha…..?" asked Muskaan.
"Nahin…..thanks a lot Muskaan for all your help. I am glad I have a friend in this new place…." They both wished each other good night……
……to be continued
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