There was something musical in the rhythmic creaking of the fan. Madhav’s hand began tapping involuntarily on the side of his thigh. In his head, the rhythm turned into a song. He hadn’t realized it was all happening until he found himself humming the song.
Groaning, he rolled over in his bed. Across the room, he saw Laxman Dhule, motionless, his head buried in his pillow. The blanket was a mess, strewn to one side, revealing a big, fat leg. Madhav found himself wondering how Dhule was going to handle the Boards. I’d be surprised if he shows up… Dhule wasn’t exactly a model student. He was quite the opposite.
Usually, in the Aryabhatta Residential School, one was either good at sports, or academics. The exceptional students were good at both. Dhule, however, was good at nothing. It didn’t matter what work he had. He was never going to do it. Unless it’s eating, thought Madhav.
He didn’t mean that as an insult to his size. The boy was actually a food connoisseur. He loved talking about food in general, and how crap the food was at school. The way Nandini was about books, Dhule was about food.
Madhav’s thoughts went straight to Nandini, and a smile appeared on his face. He rolled around, facing the blank wall, and thought of her. Her flowing hair, her thin, warm hands, her way smiling that seemed to blind him. Especially their late-night chats.
Unbidden, unforeseen, Madhav felt a wave of guilt wash over him. He hadn’t talked to her last night. He was studying… A second wave hit him, but this time, it was fear. All at once, he remembered what day it was.
Quick as lightning, he reached up to the windowsill for his watch. In his haste, he knocked aside his glasses. He turned the light of the watch on to properly read the time in the dark. On the press of a button, a pale blue light illuminated the screen of the watch, showing him the time and date. 6:53. Shit.
He twisted around and crashed into the bed, exhaling loudly. He checked the watch again, looking at the date this time. SUN 25.3. One day. That’s all. One day. He wanted to yell and scream, he wanted to tear his hair out. He wanted to pound the walls until his hands were bloody stumps. These exams were going to be the death of him. He knew. The only thing he could do now-
Thump, thump, thump. The noise made Madhav snap his head around. Behind him, the House Parent loomed from the other side of the window. “Get up!” he shouted from the window.
Groaning, Madhav obeyed. Every muscle in his body ached, as if he’d just finished the most intense work-out of his life. Pain shot through all his nerves, as he lifted his back from the bed, only to have it flop back down, his head dangling from the far end of the bed. He wanted to cry, but the tears wouldn’t come. He saw the silhouette of the pile of books on his study table, and all the sticky-notes sticking out of the sides. He did not want to get up.
He heard the house parent slam the window on Dhule’s side of the room. Madhav slowly got up and put his legs beneath him.
He saw the House Parent come back into his side of the window, and shout at him. “On the light! And wake that boy up!”
“Switch on the light, dumb-ass.” Madhav muttered, as he got up and walked across the room to turn the light on.
All at once, light flooded the room. Madhav closed his eyes, and massaged them.
On muscle memory alone, Madhav walked towards Dhule, and grabbed his shoulders. Shaking him violently, Madhav said loudly, “Oye, Dhule, wake up, or that dumb – “
Suddenly, Madhav felt something wet on his hands. “What the – “
His eyes focused, and widened. All words stuck in his throat. His legs felt like jelly. His knees gave in, and he tumbled backwards. His heart-rate quickened. His breath came up short, and hollow. He tried to scream, but it died in his throat. When he looked down at his hands, however, his voice came back, but only to scream.
“Sir! SIR!” he cried, as the blood trickled down his hands, and slowly dropped to the floor.
TO BE CONTINUED…