Saturday Story 20: When Helen met Srini
The campus was abuzz with an important bit of news. A French exchange student was expected in the second term of the second year. Well, it would have been a refreshing change in any college but more so at IIM Ahmedabad, where the ratio of boys: girls was 6: 1. And most of the girls already ‘taken’.
In the dining hall, Balbir Singh Punj – still in search of his soni kudi – declared his intentions.
“Mere pehle koi us ladki se baat nahin kareaga, okay!”
Not that most of his dormmates had the guts to talk to any girl, let alone a French girl.
Much to his surprise, Helen walked into the campus with Srini, that nerdy, mousy looking boy who had never ever shown interest in women. It so happened that he saw her at the airport, about to take an auto rickshaw to the campus, having struck a deal for Rs 1000. Srini’s ears perked up and he swooped in to rescue her.
“Kya samajhta hai apne aap ko!” he scolded the autowallah. “Do sau rupaye mein chalta hai to chal.”
Srini picked up her bag (as he would have done for his own sister) but couldn’t help noticing her beautiful legs under the billowing skirt. His cheeks turned bright red and his heart raced faster.
Careful Srini, this is something you don’t want to get into.
Balbir sought out Srini that evening and threatened him.
“Eh… wo Frenchie se door rehna… suna?”
Srini nodded indifferently as he was busy mulling over Prof Varma’s lecture that afternoon. A tiny part of him recalled the fleeting feeling of excitement, which he brushed away.
There were more important things in life to focus on!
That evening, in the mess, Balbir Singh Punj made his grand entry, in a tight t-shirt and skinny jeans, with matching turban. In front of the entire junta, he walked up to Helen, and getting down on one knee, handed her a single red rose. There was giggling, followed by light applause. Helen was amused but politely accepted. Balbir was a good-looking guy, after all.
She chatted with Balbir but as soon as she saw Srini, Helen smiled and moved toward him.
“Is this chair free, or kept for someone?” she asked.
Srini nodded but ignored her attempts at conversation. Inside, he was certainly feeling quite steamed up. The way she smelled was heavenly… he could hardly swallow his rice.
From a distance, Balbir glared at them…
“I am a bit busy… catch you later,” said Srini and made his escape.
Helen quickly realised she was a ‘novelty’. Every time she went anywhere, a million eyes followed her. Not just the boys, even the girls. Fearing that the Frenchie might steal their boyfriends, they informally ganged up against her. No atithi devo bhava on our territory!
Luckily, there was Balbir. He followed Helen everywhere. Offering to carry her books, help her with classwork, take her to Rambhai’s katta. One evening, they were having chai, and Srini was sitting on a mooda nearby, studiously ignoring her.
“I am dying to eat some pasta. Let’s go out for dinner this weekend!” she said, loud enough for Srini to hear.
What do I care where she goes or who she goes with.
But the next morning, when he heard Balbir boasting about how ravishing Helen looked and how she even came up to his room later on *wink wink* Srini found himself shaking with rage. He was unable to concentrate and ended up getting a B in the MANAC 2 quiz. This was getting too much!
As if his life needed to get any worse, Prof Varma assigned study partners and Srini found himself staring at a chit which said ‘Helen’. He pursed his lips and braced himself.
“Let us meet in the library at 8 pm,” he said brusquely.
The Vikram Sarabhai library is vast and spread over 3 floors. Srini and Helen found a table and began working on the case. He was surprised how bright and quick Helen was, and how quickly they finished their work. It was only 10 pm. Suddenly, he felt bold and said…
“Hey, I’m feeling hungry. Do you fancy an omelette?”
Helen was pleasantly surprised and felt her heart beating faster. They gathered their books and prepared to leave. When all of a sudden, the lights went out.
“Oh! Batti gul !!” exclaimed Srini. Instinctively, he reached out and caught her hand. She came closer. He could feel her warm, sweet breath.
“Don’t worry… ”
“Don’t speak… ”
Srini could no longer hold back, they shared a long, lingering kiss. Later they were seen walking around the campus, hand in hand.
The next day Balbir came up to Srini and said, in a not-so-friendly tone.
“Apni aukaat mein reh, Madrasi.”
This time Srini looked him straight in the eye and said, “Praaji, Madras is called Chennai now.”
The nerd walked towards the girls hostel, with a spring in his step.