"Hi Rajas", she blurted out. And her hand rose, her fingers trembling. She could hardly wave her hand.
"Hi Karan.. long time man, where have you been" Rajas walked past her and hugged a classmate who was standing right behind her. Anushka thought he was smiling at her - little did she know that Rajas was still upset.
"Rajas..." Anushka tried to grab his attention.
"Anushka, I have told you so many times not to speak to me!" Rajas said, without even looking at her.
"Rajas, you are getting me wrong!! Please give me a chance of explain!"
"Enough has been said, Anushka. I don't want to discuss it."
"Stop it!" Rajas banged the bench.
The professor entered the room and gave Anushka a surprised glare. She was rather embarassed and occupied the third bench - away from Rajas.
"What's wrong between you guys?", Jatin who was sitting besides Anushka said raising his eyebrows.
"Nothing, the same old thing." Anushka hushed.
"He hasn't forgiven you yet?"
"Why! It was such a childish thing after all. And you guys have been friends for long right?"
"Yes! Third bench! Please do not speak while I am speaking!!" the professor scolded the two of them.
The lecture continued - Anushka was back in her books.
That evening, Anushka returned home. She wasn't normal at all. Sukanya had sensed it. She hadnt rung the bell more than four times. Her socks weren't thrown around the hall. She went straight to her room. The room that she shared with her brother, Jojo.
Sukanya went to Anushka's room and saw her sleeping. She was surprised - Anushka never slept at this time of the day. Sukanya began to get worried. She saw an element of herself in her daughter. And today, she saw her daughter depressed.
"What happened to you?" Girish asked Sukanya as he entered.
"Nothing much. How was office?"
"Just as usual. The manager irritated me as always... That guy loves only the people who can butter him up!"
"Oh.. from your comments, I can make out that it was a usual day indeed." Sukanya giggled.
"Sukanya.. you and your jokes!" Girish laughed as he made way to the basin.
He turned the tap and splashed cold water on his face. Then he took a napkin and wiped his face clean. Then the hands. He opened the cupboard and selected the clothes he wanted to change into.
Ten minutes later he was at the dining table asking Sukanya, "What could be wrong with her? Was she like this even after coming from college?"
"Ya, she was silent throughout - didn't tell me how crowded the trains were. Didn't sulk. She was in a terrible mood."
"Oh.. want me to ask her?"
"Let's ask her after she wakes up." Girish said and got up from the dining table.
"I am taking Terry for a walk. You coming along?"
"Ya sure. Give me five minutes", Sukanya hurried to get ready.
As she dressed up in a maroon salwar kameez and came out of her bedroom, she inadvertently peeped into Anushka's.
"I know you are worried. We'll ask her, don't worry!"
"Should we be leaving her alone at home like this? What if she is not feeling well?" Sukanya said as she entered Anushka's room.
Sukanya touched Anushka's forehead to check for fever. Anushka moved a little. Thankfully, there wasn't any. "Sukanya, I think you are worrying too much..."
"Girish, you go ahead. I'll wait. I'll serve her dinner as soon as she gets up. I'll make her favourite bhaji today!"
"Hmm.. alright! I'll be back in an hour! Take care of her. and take care of yourself."
Sukanya was in the kitchen when the doorbell rang again. It was Shyaam back from his tuitions.
"Hi aai.. how was your day?"
"Good Jojo, how was yours?"
As Shyaam walked towards his room, he saw Anushka sleeping. "Why is Taai sleeping???"
"Sshh... don't shout! You'll wake her up!"
"But mom! It's 8 o' clock! When has she slept at eight o' clock in the night?"
"Uhmm.. I know! Maybe she had a tiring day! Ok anyways, you wash your hands, clean up and come. Will you have dinner now or will you wait for baba?"
"I'll wait. It's okay. I'll watch Tom and Jerry till then."
"Ok." Sukanya said as she got back to her cooking.
Shyaam came out of the bathroom, clean and tidy. He got dressed in blue shorts and a white tshirt. He was combing his hair when he heard Anushka's voice.
"Jojo..." Shyaam could make out from her voice that Anushka had been crying for a long time.
"Yes taai.." Shyaam went to her and sat besides her.
"Jojo.. if I tell you a secret, will you promise you'll not tell Mom?"
Shyaam was visibly scared now...