Anyone, who would have entered the room 406, that gloomy morning in July, would have immediately stopped dead in their tracks. For, a girl with crazy bed head (which had been piled atop her head), was sitting on the bed on the furthest side of the room. That wasn’t what was unusual, for all women, (except for serial heroines’, who wake up with hair and makeup intact), have their own version of bed head, irrespective of their hair texture. But what was unusual was that the girl, was also surrounded on all sides by different bones of the human skeleton. Aided by both the sunlight streaming through the open windows, and the light from a florescent bulb, for it was a gloomy day, the girl was hunched over the Anatomy textbook on the bed, with a skull in her hands, trying to memorize the various foramina (holes in bones) and the structures that passed through them. To a person unfamiliar with medical field, it would have looked as if the girl was a witch (her bed head not helping the case!), and that she was doing some black magic ritual with all those bones around her. All it would have required to seal that conviction, was, if she had turmeric, vermilion and lemons also with her. As she kept the skull aside and picked up radius and ulna (forearm bones), her phone rang.
Standing up, she walked to the foot end of her bed, careful as not to trod on any bones, and stood at the end with left foot on the bed railing. The reason being, that was one of the two spots in the room where one’s mobile received good signal, the other being the centre of Sarojini’s bed, where a person has to sit exactly at the centre when they spoke on their phones or while surfing internet. An inch to the left or right and you would be in a no signal zone. Of course, this was the case in only room 406, because each room in that hostel block had its own specific mobile signal spot. If in room 401, people would have to stand near the windows, which opened onto the side of the hostel, with their hands on the window rails (hand on the window rail being a must, for if one removed the hand, then it was understood that the signal would also be removed from the phone), then in room 405, one would have to stand with one foot inside the room and the other outside, while talking on the phone. A girl was also spotted leaning over the low wall of the corridor on the first floor of the Kaveriamma hostel while talking on the phone, an inch more and she would have plummeted to the courtyard below. When she was found in that same position in the consecutive days, it was understood that, that was her mobile signal spot.
“Hello, Amma, can you hear me? Hello…” “Hello, Indu, yes, I can hear you, what about you? Hello…”. As Indu shifted an inch to the left, her left leg still on the bed railing, the signal got clearer. “Yes, I can hear you” “Did you sleep well last night? Are you getting ready for college now? Don’t lose track of time reading, like you did on Physiology and Biochemistry exam days, only to get late and then in the hurry of getting ready, forgoing your breakfast as well. You have a long day today, you need to eat now as you won’t be able to later on. Have you packed your Dissection and Histology record books?”. “I am almost done with studying Amma, and I slept for 4 hours, which, when compared to others in my class, is equivalent to 8 hours. And I packed my record books last night itself, remember how you nagged me till I put them in my bag?” “Yeah, yeah, enough insolence, now listen…” “Amma, I can’t talk right now, they have told us to reach college by 7.30, it’s already 6:10. I have to revise some more before getting ready. I am really anxious about today’s exam. Geetha, who finished her practical exams yesterday, was saying that the external examiners were really strict. On top of that, I am almost sure that there would be shavige for breakfast today. Malli always makes sure to prepare the breakfast that he should be forbidden from doing on the exam days, and…” “You were saying that you were getting late, and yet, you can find time to complain about the food! It doesn’t matter whether it’s shavige or pongal today, I know that you don’t like both, but you have to eat whatever there is for breakfast, understood?” “Yeah, fine, I have to go, will call you later” “Ok, all the best, do well and please answer the questions in a voice that the examiner would be able to hear. Your voice has different decibels for home and for college, and don’t look like you have just been dragged out of bed, comb your hair properly and…” “Ammaaaa, I have to go…” “Ok, all the best, I am giving the phone to your Appa”, “All the best chinni, be brave, you will do well” wished Indira’s father. Indu could imagine him sitting next to Amma at the dining table, with the newspapers spread before him and a cup of tea beside him. “Thanks Appa, ok bye, I will call you after the exam”. Saying so, Indu cut the call, before shuffling around the bones so that she had space to sit on the bed.
So immersed was she in studying, that when she next looked up from her books, the clock on the study table next to her bed, showed the time as 6:40. Panicking, she scrambled down from the bed and went to take a bath. When she came out of the bathroom and looked at the clothes that she was to wear that day, her eyebrows knit in annoyance. For laying before her on the bed, was a saree. Her college had a rule that girls were to wear sarees on their practical exam days. For what purpose that rule was made, no one had a clue. Muttering in frustration as to why the guys in her class were not made to wear dhotis on practical exam days, she quickly wore her saree. Though the pallu and pleats of the saree were already pre-pinned by her mother, knowing that Indu had little to no experience in wearing a saree, it still took her about 10 minutes to assemble the beautiful yards of cloth to at least remotely resemble a saree, and also to ensure that it doesn’t unravel while walking. Quickly tying her hair into a ponytail and thrusting her textbooks and Maruti’s femur (thigh bone) into her bag, as she wanted to revise the femur bone enroute to college, Indu locked up her room and hurried towards the mess (hostel canteen), which was in the old block on the other side of the Kaveriamma hostel.
Entering the mess, Indu had the sense of the feeling of dread worsening in the pit of her stomach, when she saw that the breakfast was shavige. Heaping curses on Malli, she went near the breakfast counter, and after a few unsuccessful attempts at trying to transfer the shavige from the serving bowl to her plate, courtesy the shavige being so sticky, Indu sat down to eat. She was planning on gobbling up the breakfast within a few minutes so as not to be late for the exam. But, alas, it looked like the universe had different plans for her, as the shavige seemed to have taken the phrase ‘United we stand, divided we fall’ to heart. The shavige was putting such an united front before her, ensuring that Indu couldn’t separate even a tiny portion, that for a moment she wondered if it was cooked in Ambuja cement, instead of the usual dalda (hydrogenated vegetable oil), that Malli favoured because of its low cost . Thinking that she would definitely need the energy to help her get through a long day of practical exam, she took the whole mass and swallowed it down, post which she had tears streaming down her face as the hot food went down her Oesophagus (food pipe). She gulped down her now cold coffee and out she ran.
Since 7:45 was the earliest that the college bus ran from the hostel every morning, Indu planned on taking an auto rickshaw. As she stood at the hostel gates and searched the road from end to end, not a single auto was in sight. But, that was to be expected, for, if a person is walking on the sidewalk with no intention of taking an auto, then there would be empty autos parading before her/him one after the other. But, if a person is in need of one, then it would be as if there was an auto rickshaw strike! Sighing in dejection and thinking of catching an auto from the circle two blocks away, she started walking quickly on the sidewalk. Just then, an empty auto came whizzing out of the narrow lane beside the hostel compound and halted before her. “Where do you want to go?”, she hesitated, but replied “To GDIMC college” “Hop in”. After a moment of hesitation, when she looked at the autos parked at the circle, she climbed in, thinking it would be a waste of time to walk till there to catch an auto, when there already was an empty one in front of her. Taking her femur and textbook out of the bag, she started to revise about the bone markings and the origin and insertion of various muscles on the bone. When she was almost done with her revision, she looked up, thinking that they should have reached the college by now, as it took just 5-10 minutes to reach the college from hostel. But, when she looked up, she didn’t see any fruit stalls or sweet shops that lined the road leading to the college or the huge trees that stood majestically on one side of the wide road in front of the Girivana government hospital or even the huge circle near the college, which was an important intersection and which would be bustling with activity in mornings. In fact, she couldn’t recognize the stretch of road that they were traveling on. She could see a few houses scattered here and there, but aside from them, the area looked pretty deserted. Thinking that the auto driver hadn’t properly heard her when she told him the college name or that he was taking some short cut to the college, she asked him, “Which road is this? I said GDIC college. Is this some sort of a short cut to the college? Please get to the main road, I am already running late”. She was answered with silence.
To be continued…