The Admission

It was six o’ clock in the morning of seventh of June. Rishi Sharma was well awake and was on the internet trying to get logged onto the website of the SCOE i.e. State College of Engineering, the best college in the country after BITS (Pilani). The results were scheduled to be declared at 7 am, but taking the advice of some seniors he was online from an hour before. He kept the SCOE website open in one of the tabs of his Firefox internet browser while keeping his messenger open to see if his friends came online. Nothing happened right until 6:45 when suddenly he refreshed the page and he had got through to the freshly loaded results page. He entered his roll number and date of birth and in an instant his marks flashed onto the screen – Math 98          Physics 99            Chemistry 96. Rank 008. “Yeeessss!” he shouted at the top of his voice as his dream had come true. His labours of the last twelve months had borne fruit; he had secured a rank that not only ensured him a place in the college he had always wanted to go to but also ensured him of his branch. Rishi had always wanted to be a Computer engineer right from 10th standard when he first thought seriously about his career choices. He informed his mother who was preparing the breakfast. “I knew you would get in” she said, “After all you did work so hard. What about Arun, Prateek and Mihir”. “Oh no, I forgot all about them. I’ll just go back and check out their ranks also” Saying this, Rishi ran up the steps of his two storey house into his room. He filled in the details of his three friends on three different tabs. Arun and Prateek had got ranks 81 and 119; which meant that they had made it. Mihir however, failed to make the cut as he had a rank of 878 which meant that even if he made it he would not get a branch above Civil at the most; something totally unacceptable to him. Mihir wanted E&TC which he would easily get in any of the other good colleges in the city. Suddenly a slight gloom fell on Rishi’s heart because of a thought of losing touch with a very close friend like Mihir. No matter what people said, Rishi knew that not being in the same college had a huge bearing on friendship. Mihir and Rishi had not only been classmates for 8 out of 12 school years, they had been partners since 10th standard. They both shared a special bond. They were almost like brothers. The kind of stuff those two had done in school were the kinds of stuff that comes straight out of adventure books. Suddenly he looked at his messenger window and he found Mihir had signed in. He did not know whether he should send him an IM or not. Just then Mihir sent him an instant message.

Mihir: Hey dude congrats.

Rishi: Thanks man.

Mihir: Looks like finally your wish will come true.

Rishi: What wish?

Mihir: Remember back in school whenever you got angry with me you said that you wished you had a new partner. So now you got the wish, I won’t be your partner ever again now.

Rishi: Dude, don’t say that.

Mihir: Ok man. At least I am happy that some friend of mine will get into SCOE, even though I won’t ever enter that college.

Rishi: Why are you saying all this man? This isn’t the only college of the world.

Mihir: Easy for you to say. I guess I’ll sign out now and get back to my loser life.

Rishi: You are not a loser. Come on dude, cheer up.

Rishi was now getting worried. He had never heard or seen Mihir talk like this. Mihir was ever the optimist. This certainly was not the way he expected Mihir to react. Rishi then got the feeling that he was being watched, he turned around to the door of his room. It was closed. He got back to typing.

Rishi: Let’s meet at CCD at ten. Ok?

Rishi waited for Mihir to reply. There was no reply. He waited another ten minutes.

Rishi: Are you there?

Still no reply.

Rishi: What happened dude? Why aren’t you replying?

Mihir: Sorry man. I just finished making a few arrangements.

Rishi: What arrangements?

Mihir: I just tied a rope onto my fan.

Rishi: What for?

Mihir: What do you think? I am sorry man. I am going now. Just wanted to tell you that you have always been my best friend and I hope you miss me when I am gone now. Bye. Tell my mom I love her. Do well in SCOE. My best wishes are with you my friend. Bye.

Rishi couldn’t believe what he was reading on his computer screen. What was Mihir thinking? He had to stop this. A cold sweat formed on his forehead. His brain stopped thinking. He looked at his computer screen, Mihir had just signed out. “No”, shouted Rishi. He got up from his chair and put on his slippers. He was going to Mihir’s house. He stopped suddenly and thought if Mihir was going to hang himself, he wouldn’t reach in time. He had to call up Mihir’s mom.

He opened the door and found to his surprise Mihir, Arun and Prateek sitting on the steps laughing their heads off. “What are you all doing here? What happened? Mihir?” asked Rishi, who was totally bewildered. “You should have seen the look on your face” said Arun before he burst into laughter again. “Will someone tell me what is going on here?” asked Rishi again. “You are not a loser. Oh God that was great. You are not a loser. Oh man, what a line that was, really inspiring” said Arun, unable to contain his laughter. Mihir and Prateek were also laughing. Rishi got angry, “Shut up!” he yelled at the top of his voice. “Is everything alright?” asked Rishi’s mom from the kitchen below. “Yes aunty” replied Mihir. All three had now stopped laughing seeing that Rishi was really angry. “Come on let’s get inside”, said Prateek pushing all the three others into Rishi’s room and he closed the door. “What the heck is going on?” demanded Rishi. “I’ll tell you. First sit down” Mihir said “Arun and Prateek were at my place right from five in the morning. I was online from four because I knew that the website would have a test run at four thirty when for a period of five minutes they would load the site and then see if there was any error. All three of us found out our results and even your results in that time. Then Arun here came up with this amazing prank to play on you” Arun gave a wicked smile to Rishi. “We were waiting near your house about half an hour before and heard you shout when you saw your result” continued Mihir “Then we eavesdropped from the window on your conversation with your mom. When you went back to your room we called out to your mom to open the door. Then we climbed up the stairs slowly and took turns looking at you from the key hole in your door. That’s the whole episode”

“Wait a minute. If you were in my house all along then who was chatting with me?” asked Rishi who had now calmed down. Mihir pulled out his latest cell phone from his pocket. “I was chatting through this” said Mihir. There was silence for a minute as all four friends looked at each other. Then all of a sudden Rishi burst out in laughter and all the three followed him. “I can’t believe that stuff you typed man. You are not a loser. You got nailed” said Arun roaring with laughter once again. “Ok, ok you got me. But I am still angry with you guys. You will have to make up” said Rishi. “What do you suggest” said Arun. “Let’s actually head out to CCD at ten” replied Rishi. “Fine and the bill’s on the three of us” said Mihir looking towards Arun and Prateek. “No guys I can’t make it at ten. I’ve got to meet Priya at that time” said Arun. “In that case you will have to cancel your meeting and it shall serve you right for pulling off this gag on me” said Rishi. “Hey! That’s not fair man” Arun protested. “All those who feel Arun should cancel his meeting and come to CCD, raise your hands” Rishi said. Three hands went up instantly. “Dogs!” said Arun looking at Mihir and Prateek “Ok you win. I’ll call Priya and say I can’t come”.

Arun called up Priya from his cell phone and told her that he was busy on the internet trying to get his result and that he can’t step out of his house till eleven. “Why did you lie to her?” Prateek asked Arun. “What else should I have told her? I can’t tell her that I am ditching her for my friends. Girls find that kind of an excuse very insulting. You’ll not understand until you have a girlfriend” said Arun tauntingly. “I need to use your phone” said Prateek to Rishi “I haven’t yet told my family about the result” he added before he went downstairs to the drawing room where the landline was. In a short while even Arun went down to inform his parents. Rishi always couldn’t figure out why these guys forgot that they had mobiles and could have used them to speak to their families.

At about nine thirty the four friends left from Rishi’s house and arrived at CCD. Each of them was sipping a coffee along with burgers. Suddenly the topic of discussion went on to college life. “Rishi now that you’ve got into SCOE will you concentrate on anything else except for studies?” asked Mihir. “Concentrate on what else?” said Rishi. “I mean girls. Will you now at least try to have a proper girlfriend?” replied Mihir. “Dude it’s not as if until now I was purposely not having a girlfriend. I just didn’t find anyone really good” said Rishi. “Look at me Rishi. I had a girlfriend in two weeks into 11th standard. You should learn something from me” interrupted Arun. “Yeah, like lying to girlfriends unnecessarily” Prateek said. “Prateek, stop being jealous, ok. You have to be tactful while dealing with girls. Look how easily I avoided meeting Priya and didn’t even let her feel bad. I don’t say that you should lie to your girlfriend, but a bit of lying never hurt anyone. Today is not the first time that I have lied to Priya, even though it is the first time you may have heard me doing so” boasted Arun. Suddenly Rishi looked tense and kicked Arun from underneath the table. “What happened?” asked Arun looking at Rishi, Rishi just looked back at him and then looked down. Arun sat back in his chair and put his hands behind his head, relaxing as he continued his lecture on girlfriends “Where was I?” he asked. “You were on – Today is not the first time that I have lied to Priya, even though it is the first time you may have heard me doing so” said Prateek, grinning as he finished his sentence. “Thank you Mr. Prateek. Yes, so as I was saying lying is an art. You have to distort the facts so that you don’t lie completely and still get to do what you want. For example, just last Saturday, Priya asked me to take her to that handloom sale near MG road. Now, what kind of a guy goes to a handloom sale and besides Star Wars had just released in the new multiplex close to JJ tower. So I told her that my uncle was sick and I had to go to JJ hospital to visit him. She let me off and I saw Star Wars along with Shankar, Prashant and Vivek. On the way back I did go to JJ hospital dispensary which is on the ground floor and bought a few lozenges for my throat. Next day when I met Priya she asked me whether I had gone to JJ hospital. Yeah I had said and it wasn’t a complete lie, after all I had gone to the dispensary of JJ hospital. So you see guys it isn’t so difficult to handle a girlfriend” He looked at his watch and said “I think it is time to end this lecture now and get onto some serious stuff like ordering another coffee” Just then he turned around and his heart skipped a beat. Priya was standing behind him along with two of her friends and Prateek, Rishi and Mihir were looking in all possible directions but him and were trying their best not to burst out laughing. Priya was fuming with anger. Arun got up from his chair and said “Priya, believe me I was just joking and everything that I just said was a joke” “Really?” asked Priya. “Of course Priya” said Arun in total earnestness. “Boss, get three coffees quick” Arun said to the waiter nearby who set off immediately to get the order. “Sunidhi, just give me your mobile and dial Vivek’s number” said Priya to the girl on her left. “Hello Vivek, yeah hi, Priya wants to talk to you” said Sunidhi while handing over the cell phone to Priya. Arun was sweating now. Seeing that things were turning serious now, Rishi and Mihir stopped laughing and were thinking about what would happen next. Prateek however, was laughing openly now with one hand on his stomach and one hand pointing towards Arun. “Hello Vivek, yeah this is Priya. Hey I wanted to know whether Arun has seen Star Wars already because I am thinking of buying tickets for today’s show” said Priya in her sweetest voice. An unsuspecting Vivek told Priya about the movie last week and how Arun had “enjoyed the movie totally”. “Thanks Vivek. Bye” she said to Vivek before handing the phone back to Sunidhi. Arun had given up hope now and sat down on his chair. The waiter came with the three coffees and was about to place them on the table when Priya lifted one of the mugs and poured the entire coffee on Arun’s shirt. “I don’t want to hear from you ever again” she said before walking out of the restaurant. Arun was aghast; Prateek was now on the floor still laughing. “Come on do something Rishi” said Arun looking at Rishi, who was the one who always bailed him out of trouble. Rishi got up from his chair “Get cleaned up and come to Akshaya in one hour” he said to Arun as he left CCD and got on his bike. Priya was riding her scooter and was not far away from Rishi. Rishi could have caught up with her anytime, but he followed her for fifteen minutes until she stopped on a traffic light. Rishi overtook two rickshaws and stopped right next to her. “Priya, look, please stop over at the Neem tree on the right” Rishi said to her. “I don’t want to hear anything from Arun or even you for that matter” said Priya angrily. “Priya just stop for five minutes please. Why get angry with me? What’s my fault?” Rishi requested. Priya gave him a stern look but stopped right under the tree as Rishi requested. It was now upto Rishi to save his friend’s relationship.

Rishi was just the right guy for this kind of stuff. He could convince anyone to do just about anything, provided he believed in the case. He never lied completely while doing this but he was just a great persuader. Maybe it was just the honesty in his eyes or the right words he chose to use at the right times. Many times his friends, who had benefited from his skill, jokingly advised him to take up law instead of engineering. Now before I go on and tell you what happens next I must make clear the amazing presence of mind and skill Rishi used already even before he started to talk to Priya. As is written before Rishi did not stop Priya for about fifteen minutes and when he caught up with her he asked her to stop under the Neem tree. What is so skillful in this? Well, firstly he gave her some time to cool down and ponder over what she had just done. Secondly, he decided to talk under the Neem tree because under it a sugarcane juice vendor had set up shop, Arun had told Rishi just as a by the way thing that Priya loved sugarcane juice. Rishi had planned fully well to make the best use of this information by making the external conditions favorable for his next move.

Priya parked and got off her scooter and waited as Rishi did the same. Rishi stood close to her and looked in her eyes; this kind of stuff made her feel that he had nothing to hide and the confidence with which he stood put her on the defensive even before he had spoken anything. There was silence for a whole minute until Rishi first spoke, “Priya first of all let’s sit down on that bench there” “No! I am fine here. Just say whatever you have to about that lying fiend Arun” she said defiantly. “Ok but first let’s just have a juice, please. Its quite hot today and I for one need it” said Rishi. “Fine” said Priya still trying to sound angry but she couldn’t hide her love for the juice. Rishi walked over to the vendor and asked him to make two glasses of sugarcane juice. As he did this he used his mobile to call Arun and kept his cell in his shirt pocket so that Arun could hear all that was said. Priya did not see this. Rishi handed over the glass to her and motioned to her to sit on the bench nearby. This time she did not refuse. “So what do you have to say in my boyfriend’s defence?” Priya said. Well that was certainly a step in the right direction; Arun from being a lying fiend had once again become her boyfriend, thought Rishi. Sugarcane juice sure did have some unknown virtues. Rishi then spoke at length, “Priya I have known Arun since the third standard and you, I have known you since the day you met Arun. Has Arun ever been rude to you? Has he ever looked at any other girl except you? I think not. What happened today was that you heard him at the wrong time. He was stupid to say what he said and I am sure even at this moment he is regretting what happened” All the while Arun heard what was being said. Priya interrupted, “But I heard him boasting about how he has lied to me so many times. I don’t think there was any tone of regret in his voice. How can I trust him after this?” Arun was now sweating as he began his journey to his home. Arun had not forgotten Rishi’s instructions to reach Akshaya which incidentally was once again Priya’s favorite eating joint. “Priya I think its time I tell you something about all guys. All guys like to show off in front of their friends about their girlfriends. Arun,  like any other guy was doing the same thing. It’s just that you heard him while he was unaware that you were there. I am sure you too must be embellishing a little in presence of your friends about Arun” Rishi said.  “What’s embellishing?” asked Priya. Rishi had succeeded in diverting her mind from the main point. That was crucial to let her forget some of the stuff that she had not yet pointed out, like the lie about the movie to which Rishi had no reply. Rishi knew that Priya, though she spoke fluent English, didn’t have a – mastery over the language – to say the least and it was something he knew that she did not like. She did not like the fact that she did not know the meaning of “embellish”. Rishi most gladly spent the next five minutes explaining the meaning of embellish to Priya who by now had forgotten all about the movie episode, at least temporarily. Once she had understood the meaning she smiled and then said “Actually Arun does not know this but whenever he wants me to go out on his favorite time pass i.e. the long ride on his bike. I refuse saying that my mother wants to take me shopping. Well, he always buys that excuse and I do go shopping but instead of my mom I go with my friends Sunidhi and Arpita” “So see you both are even with each other” Rishi said. “I guess so” said Priya and got up to leave. “Where are you off to?” Rishi asked. “I am going to meet Arun and apologize for what I did. I shouldn’t have thrown the coffee on him” she said. “If I were you I would head off to Akshaya, you may find him waiting for you there” Rishi said with a wink. Priya smiled then took a few quick steps towards him, embraced him and kissed him on his cheek. Then she sped off on her scooter. She would take about half an hour at least to get to Akshaya. Rishi was quite pleasantly surprised by the bonus hug and kiss. He quickly removed his cell from his pocket and said “Arun, I hope you are ready because Priya has left for Akshaya” “Damn. You are really good at this. Thanks a lot. I heard everything. I owe you one” Arun said ecstatically. “No, this one’s from my side for you” Rishi said smiling as he knew that Arun did not know about the kiss.

Rishi then was on his way back to CCD where Mihir and Prateek were waiting for him. They were sitting on the same table. He showed them the thumbs up and they both celebrated by charging at him and giving one another hi fives. He narrated the whole thing to them. “Wow man. Embellish. Now that’s the kind of English I want to learn. Where did you come up with that? Don’t tell me you prepared that” Prateek said. “Of course I didn’t PREPARE that. You can’t prepare what you are going to say in such situations. It’s just that I thought of using an alternative word for fake or lie and the word embellish struck me” Rishi said sipping his second coffee since he came back. “Now why don’t such words strike me?” Mihir said blankly. “For such skills you should read good stuff. Not just dumb magazines and how many times have I told you to read Lord of The Rings and Jeffery Archer. But you’re still hooked on to comics and Playboy” Rishi said. “Well in Playboy you’ll learn words that I dare you to use in front of Priya or any girl for that matter” replied Mihir, the three of them laughed. “Well if that suits you, fine with me. But now I’ve got to go home for lunch. I didn’t eat breakfast at home thanks to you three” Rishi said as he left CCD. Mihir and Prateek paid the bill and calculated how much Arun owed them both as he had left earlier.

Rishi ate lunch and went to his room, closed the door, switched his computer on set his playlist on Winamp and settled down on his Bean Bag to listen to music. He heard a lot of Metallica. He wasn’t totally into heavy metal but he had begun to understand the language of the guitar. Rock was a complete package for him. There was a song for every mood. If he had a fight with someone, if he hated someone, if he was angry, if he was depressed (this occurred very seldom), if he was happy, given any situation he could hear rock. The beauty of rock was that it gave an expression to his thoughts. He had read in a leading fortnightly magazine that rock music made students dumber. Nothing could be further from the truth, he felt. For his case, it was the truth. He began to hear rock in the 11th standard, he knew that 11th was the year to freak out and he did just that; the result was that he wasn’t topping the class, but he didn’t believe that hearing rock had made him dumb. Maybe it was just that people blamed their failures on the music. Well, he didn’t care what some stupid survey said and that’s what he proved in his 12th and the SCOE entrance.

He began to think as he was listening to music that since he had made it into SCOE – why not get some advice from some seniors. He knew quite a few guys in SCOE in every year of the current batch, but the one whom he had the best rapport was Karan Saxena. He messaged him asking him when and where he could come over along with Arun and Prateek to meet him. He got a prompt reply – Evening 6:30, at my place. He messaged Arun and Prateek about this. They were also willing to come.

They arrived almost together and parked their bikes and climbed up the two floors and rang the bell. Karan opened the door himself, “Hi guys, congrats” he said. “Thanks dude” they said. He directed them to his room. His room was any 19 year old guys dream. He had a PS2, a small fridge, AC, an amazing sound system, TV, a laptop, a PC, a mini gym at the corner of the room and at the far end of the room his study table. The walls were covered with various posters; right from cars and bikes to hot models, he had it all. His dad was in the merchant navy and barely came home once in six months, his mom was a very busy socialite. He had all the freedom he needed and all the money he needed, but he used it responsibly – he was a regular 9 point guy, i.e. his grade points were always above 9 and most importantly he was the GL of second year students. He was in mechanical engineering. He offered them each a can of Coke and they accepted gladly. “So tell me Rishi what you want to know?” he asked Rishi. “I want to know about the college, the teachers, the crowd, the events, studying tips that sort of stuff” Rishi replied. Karan then spoke at length, “Dude after getting the kind of marks you’ve been getting I don’t think you need study tips and even you guys know what all I am upto. I just study three days before the term tests and one week before the end sem exams. But I can tell you all about the rest of the stuff. So just hear me out. It will take a while though to explain everything. You all know that this college is one of the best in India and all that. You know the grade point system and its benefits, you know the great Alumni of this college but what you don’t know is that this college has been trying to get international recognition for the past three years. The reason for this is that even though this college is considered to be just below BITS Pilani in ranking in India, internationally it has no clout. That means that we get decent placements but far too small pay packages than the IIT’s and BITS. So the college is hell bent on improving its rank in the international scene so that the students get what they deserve. Currently for you since you want Computer engineering the best placement that there is… is from Microsoft with a package of 9 lakhs par annum. But there is a catch; they take only 1 student. So that does it for the placement scene. Now for the teachers… well, the teachers range from downright ass wipes to really amazing ones. In first year there is this guy who teaches BME and Graphics called Prof Hakim. No one knows his first name and no one has ever dared to ask. He’s the senior most in the college – excellent teacher but has an attitude problem. If you get on his wrong side, then he will screw things up for you. But he’s not so bad and I know you all aren’t the guys who will get into a scrap. He’s the only one who needs special mention. The rest are all average. The only other teacher who is amazing is Professor Kapoor whom people call just Prof K. He’s really good and very friendly. They say he’s a laugh riot but he only teaches in the third year so I also haven’t seen him in action. But he won’t be teaching you because he is in Mech. Department. So that’s it as far as SCOE is concerned” “But what about the other stuff, I’ve heard that the canteen is huge and there’s a gymkhana and all?” Prateek asked. “Yeah you’re right the canteen is very big, always lots of room to sit. The gymkhana is good too but that’s mostly for “hostelites”. Hey, by the way I forgot to mention this but in SCOE the ratio of hostelites to localites is very bad it’s something like 80:20. So basically the hostelites rule this place” Karan answered. “What is The Group and since you are the Group Leader tell me all about it?” Rishi asked. “Dude “The Group” is the standard nick for Students Development Group and the Group leader i.e. the GL is as the name suggests the leader of the group. The Group consists of ten of the best students of the batch from various branches. 9 are chosen as specialists for various comities like the Gymkhana Committee, Gathering Committee, Magazine Committee etc. all of the nine are the Vice Chairpersons of their committee but the Chairman of all the committees is the GL, hence he basically is the most powerful student in the entire college for that batch of students. I am not boasting but the GL is the best student and this system is under use from last ten years ever since the college became autonomous from the University and it really helps to avoid politics entering the students union as was the problem while we were in the University control. Political parties were beginning to enter the fray and luckily the then Principal Prof Shah saw this and devised this new system that really uprooted politics even before it entered this college. Now there is no students union, but still every branch gets a member in the group. Because there are 9 branches, so one student each is selected from each branch at the end of the year and the GL is selected by a combined voting of students and management. Each management vote is equal to two student votes so that the management has fair amount of control over whom the students vote in as the GL. But most of the times the GL is chosen by consensus. If no consensus is reached then there is voting in each branch. Most of the times Mech. guys have their way because they are the largest of all branches and have always ruled the Group. So well that’s all there is to it” Karan had a huge gulp of his Coke because his mouth had gone dry talking such a lot at a stretch. “That sounds like a lot of serious stuff man. How much time does all this formation of the Group take place?” asked Rishi. “No man all this takes place towards the end of the second sem and is actually quite fun, at least it was for me. It becomes quite clear in a few months who will be the GL” Karan replied. Suddenly he got a message on his cell from his girlfriend. “Guys I’ve got to go now. My girl is waiting for me; I have to take her to that handloom fair. What sort of a guy goes to a handloom fair? But I guess you have to do all this for chics” he added. Rishi and Prateek grinned and looked at Arun. “Is there something I don’t know?” he asked looking at Rishi. “No man, its nothing” replied Rishi. “Got any more quick questions?” Karan asked. “How are the girls in SCOE?” asked Arun. “Well the good ones are few and far between but there are some. You just have to be quick to get them early. But I thought you already were seeing some girl” Karan said. “Yeah, but it’s always good to keep an eye open for options” Arun said with a wink. “Thanks a lot for the advice man” Rishi thanked Karan as all three got up and walked towards the door and left.

They had just reached their bikes when Arun said, “This whole Group thing is really quite cool, isn’t it” “Yeah man, it’s only in this college. So what do you think Rishi, are you going to give it a go?” asked Prateek. “Give what a go?” Rishi asked back. “You know – the GL position” Prateek replied “you are the best in academics so that part is covered and you have half your work done” he continued. “Guys, relax ok. I am not into “The Group” thing. I am just going to concentrate on my studies and enjoy a bit. This GL thing is not for me. And I know I am not the best in academics. Not yet at least” Rishi said modestly. “Yeah man come to think of it you are not even the best in studies man there are seven others ahead of you in the merit list. I think you’ll just be one of the average guys in the college. Being GL is beyond you” Prateek said. “I agree. Karan said that to be GL you have to be the best student overall. You are just not that material” Arun added. “Thanks a lot guys. That was really encouraging. First you put me on a pedestal and then throw me into a dump. Real nice, guys” Rishi said. Arun and Prateek laughed. They headed back to their homes.

Next morning Rishi left at 9:30 for SCOE hall for counseling. It was the final step for being admitted. When he reached the drawing hall, he saw that in the front part of the hall, on a long table seven teachers were sitting in a line and in front of them was a screen and a projector showing the number of vacant seats in each branch. Since the counseling had not started all branches had only vacancies no allotments. He spotted Arun and Prateek sitting in the third row. Arun looked pretty relaxed but Prateek was visibly tense. He sat next to Arun. Suddenly the teacher sitting in the centre of the table got up and said “Ok peoples. Now is going to begin the counseling so come fast fast when I call out roll number” Arun lowered himself on his seat and burst out laughing. “Did you just hear that guy?” Arun said. Rishi smiled but Prateek just closed his eyes and was busy praying. “What the hell is wrong with Prateek?” Rishi asked. “He wants Comp very badly and it’s not going to be easy either. Comp had the 2nd highest cut off last year and there are only 60 seats. His rank is 119” Arun answered. Suddenly the projector showed a new slide, the merit list was up from ranks 1 to 50. Rishi was totally relaxed he looked around and saw a girl sitting in the row in front of them and she caught his eye. He looked at her glowing face and couldn’t help noticing her faultless skin. She was quite beautiful. He was just about to bend forward to take a better look when he felt an elbow poke him in his ribs. “Rishi hurry up it’s your turn!” Arun was telling him urgently. “Already!” said Rishi. It had barely been five minutes. He got up quickly with all his documents in his file. Everyone in the hall was staring at him, he wondered why? He gave a passing glance to the girl he had been looking at a few moments ago, they made eye contact and suddenly she got up and followed him. Rishi wondered whether she knew that he had been looking at her. He reached the table and in a few minutes and five signatures later, he was given his admission slip. He had now finally completed the formalities. He was now officially a SCOE student in Comp engineering. He turned around and saw the projector screen. It showed one admission so far – his and seven absentees. So that was why everyone was looking at him, he was the first student to get admitted. The ones before him in the merit list had chosen not to come. He looked at the table to see the same girl now finishing up with her admission. One of the teachers on the table was arguing with her, “No, no, we can’t accept it like this. You have to sign first” the teacher was saying. “Ok sir just give me a pen I will sign it I must have forgotten” the girl was saying. Rishi stopped, he looked at the screen to see her name, she was one rank behind him, and her name was Shweta G. His mind went back to what was going on the counseling table – it seemed that Shweta had forgotten to cross the cheque of Rs. 24,575 which was the fee of the college. Now all she had to do was sign but the teacher insisted that she sign in black ink which she did not have at that instant. He walked back towards the table, pulled out a black ball pen from his pocket and coolly said “Here, use this” as he handed over the pen to her. She signed the cheque and said “thanks”.

Rishi went back to his seat and sat down. He saw Shweta walking out of the hall; she looked at him, smiled and waved as she walked out, Rishi waved back once trying not to look too pleased with himself. Arun saw all this and as soon as Shweta was out of the hall he asked Rishi, “What’s going on dude? You’ve started off already with mission girlfriend?” “Are you mad? I was just helping out a girl in need of help” replied Rishi. “Yeah, a really beautiful girl in need” added Arun with a wink. “Can you two just stop discussing girls for some time? Here I am in tension and the two of you instead of helping are just fooling around” Prateek said. Rishi had one look at the projector and knew why Prateek was tense; the seats in computers were filling up real quick. Out of the first ten admissions 7 had taken Computers. Rishi also saw that Shweta too had chosen Computers. He felt happy at that fact even though he didn’t know why exactly. By the time Arun’s number came about there were 18 seats left in Computers, he gladly accepted his seat. Arun came back. In the next hour the rate of admissions really slowed down with some parents making a scene about not being informed about the fact that cash wasn’t allowed as fee. Prateek was now frustrated by the slow pace of admissions. Finally when about 19 roll numbers were left before Prateek there were 9 Computer seats vacant. After that Prateek spent the rest of the time eyeing each student who walked up to the counselling table and if the student chose Computers then he would whisper to himself “Son of a Bitch”, if a girl took the seat then he made do by just one word – bitch.

Finally two roll numbers were left before Prateek and just two vacant Computer seats. Prateek was by now hysteric. The first of the two chose Computers; Prateek got up from his seat and yelled “Bastar-” Rishi and Arun got him down just in time before he completed saying what he thought of the student. “Calm down man… or you will get yourself thrown out. Just wait. Look the next guy has gone for admission” Thankfully he chose E&TC leaving a seat vacant for Prateek – the last seat. Prateek ran to the counselling table and completed the formalities. He looked mighty pleased with himself and smiled back at the crowd, unaware that he was getting almost a hundred curses from the remaining students. All three got out of the hall together and were heading for their bikes when Rishi saw Shweta standing near a notice board, alone. “I’ll catch up with you guys later” he said to Prateek and Arun as he went over to Shweta. “Hi” he said. “Oh! Hi. Rishi right?” she said smiling at him. “Yeah, how did you know my name?” he asked. “Well, I saw it on the projector” she replied. “Of course” he said. “So what are you doing here?” he asked. “Just some notices for hostelites. I will be staying in the hostel” she replied. “Will you come for a cup of coffee with me right now?” Rishi asked out of the blues, he himself didn’t know why he had asked so soon. “May I ask why?” Shweta asked back. Rishi smiled and asked “May I ask why not?” Shweta laughed at this and nodded. They walked to the college canteen.

“Now where is Rishi going?” asked Prateek. “He’s going to meet that chic he was staring at inside the hall” Arun replied as they went over to their bikes. Arun’s cell phone began to ring, “Hello… yes ma I got admission in Comp… Why? What happened? Ok I’m coming… I will tell Prateek… ok… bye” He put the phone back in his pocket. “What’s going on?” Prateek asked. “Something is wrong, your parents are at my place… something about transfers. Let’s go to my house and see what’s happening” Arun and Prateek got onto their bikes and left for their homes.

Rishi paid the bill in the canteen and was walking along with Shweta to the parking. “Thanks a lot for suggesting going to the canteen. I needed that snack after the mornings rush at the counselling hall” Shweta said. “You are most welcome. Although I must say that I was the one who benefited from going to the canteen with you” Rishi said. “Why?” Shweta asked. “I got to spend an hour with a very intelligent and beautiful girl like you” Rishi said in a cool manner, wondering whether he was flirting a bit too much, but he relaxed the moment she blushed and laughed. “Anyways, now I will head back to the girls hostel. Bye” Shweta said shaking hands with Rishi. “Hey, it’s quite hot now and I also am leaving for home. So why don’t you come on my bike? I will give you a lift till the hostel” Rishi offered. “No, it’s ok. I will walk back” Shweta replied. Rishi looked at her then looked up at the sun beating down and gave her a questioning look. “Believe me it is very hot and the hostel is a good kilometre away” Rishi said. Shweta looked tentatively at the sky, then at the road and then smiled at Rishi and said “Ok. Let’s go”

Rishi rode with more care than he had shown when he gave his driving test, avoiding every single pothole, ensuring that the ride was as smooth as possible. Shweta too was impressed because she thought that Rishi might speed up just to show off – as most guys did when a girl was with them. Rishi had certainly made a good impression on Shweta, with the way he spoke – freely, without ever mincing words. She could make out that he was a genuinely good guy and he made no effort to hide the fact that he liked her a bit, a fact that she appreciated. He stopped the bike a little before the hostel gate and both of them got off the bike. “Thanks Rishi. See you tomorrow” Shweta said stretching her hand out. Rishi shook her hand again and said “Bye” He saw her go through the gate and then sat on his bike, just then he got a call on his cell – it was Arun. Arun asked him to come to his house ASAP. Rishi drove fast wondering what was so urgent that Arun wanted me to come and speak to his parents, he hoped that Arun had not got into trouble… but why was Prateek there, that too with his parents. With these thoughts flying through his head Rishi raced through the roads, now that he didn’t have a lady to impress sitting behind him he used the full capability of his 180cc bike. He reached the Govt. quarters in about 12 minutes. Both Arun and Prateek’s parents were govt. employees; they worked in the Excise department. They lived close by and were old friends; part of the reason why Arun and Prateek were friends from a very young age. He parked his bike and rang the doorbell of Arun’s house. Arun opened the door almost instantly when Rishi rang the bell. Arun looked quite tense and so did Prateek and their parents. Rishi wished Arun and Prateek’s parents as he sat down on the sofa where Arun and Prateek were sitting. Arun explained the whole scenario – the problem was that both Arun and Prateek’s fathers had been promoted and were to be transferred to Goa. Now the issue was that Arun and Prateek wanted to stay and study in SCOE, but both their parents wanted them to go along with them to Goa. The promotion orders had reached them just an hour ago and since then a debate was on in the house. Rishi knew from the look on Arun and Prateek’s faces that he had to convince the parents to let them stay. Rishi knew that he had to convince any one of the parents and the other would then agree. “Look Rishi I know that you three have been friends for many years and that is why they have called you here. But you must understand that we can not let them stay here, all alone in some hostel when they can enjoy a bungalow in Goa. I know how hard this is but they just can’t stay. They will have to go” Arun’s father said; he looked determined and seemed in no mood to relent. “I agree totally with you uncle. They must go to Goa” Rishi said. Arun and Prateek looked distraught. Here was the guy they were counting on to save them and he, instead of helping them was agreeing with their parents. Rishi continued, “Why should they stay here? After all SCOE is not such a great college. They can always get into any low grade college in Goa. It wouldn’t matter would it? They can enjoy themselves in the beaches of Goa. Why waste their time in getting into one of the most sought after college in India, especially when they’ve struggled for a better part of two years to get into it? They deserve a holiday in Goa, not hard work in SCOE. After all what is at stake, just the guarantee of great placement and a degree from the State College of Engineering. Let them go to Goa and hand over their seats to undeserving candidates. Seats for which you also know how much work they have put” He said all this with a lot of intensity and sincerity. “We understand what you are saying. But we can’t just leave them here. The SCOE hostel is not a good one. They will have to stay in a cramped room with all sorts of people. What food will they get, who knows? If they come to Goa then we will all stay together and I’ve heard that the engineering college over there is also good” Prateek’s mom said. “Aunty, I agree that there is a college in Goa also. But you will have to admit that it certainly is not as good as good as this. There they will have definitely more adjustment problems there, than what they will face in the hostel here. Are you planning to send them to that De’silva Engineering Degree College?” Rishi asked. “Yes, it is the only engineering college in Goa and I’ve heard that it is good” she replied. “And I know that for a fact that three years ago two students of that college had committed suicide because of harassment. Just because they were outsiders, they were being harassed, and I don’t think that speaks well for the college.” Arun and Prateek’s mom looked horrified at the thought. Rishi cashed in on the doubt he placed in their minds and continued, “Just think aunty, at least here I am there all times with them. They know the city very well; they’ve spent their entire lives over here. Why send them into a new college, all alone with no friends?” Rishi said this and hoped that the parents would not realise the fact that their son’s would be more alone in SCOE than at DEDC. Rishi now knew that he had got them thinking seriously because not one parent had said a word; they all were staring at different parts of the room and thinking. “Just think of the college. The college’s name is DEDC. Sounds more like “Dead College” to me. Two students died there aunty, lost their lives. I remember reading that one of the parents was rueing the fact that he had let his son go to that college, even though he had got admission in some other college” Rishi said, as he saw the expressions on the two mothers. Arun’s mom was already picturing her son getting lynched in Goa. Prateek’s mom was also looking mortally afraid, as if someone was about to hack her son to death. Rishi was happy with the effect his words were making, “Such things haven’t ever happened in SCOE. And after all, my mother is also here. She will ensure that they have no problems here. If you cancel their admission now then you will lose ten thousand rupees unnecessarily” Rishi said. This seemed to make more of an impression on both the fathers. “Ok, let them be here. I think you are right” Arun’s dad said. “I agree. But Rishi you are responsible for them. If anything goes wrong, then you will be in trouble” Prateek’s dad said. “You have my word uncle” Rishi said reassuringly. “So then it’s settled. Prateek and I are staying here” Arun said. Arun’s dad looked at Prateek’s father and both nodded.

Rishi left for his home thirty minutes later. At home he was back to hearing music. He slept for a while. At around four in the afternoon he woke up hearing the door bell… it was Arun and Prateek. Prateek looked very happy and so did Arun. “We were at the SCOE hostel for the past two hours and we’ve got the rooms. Good ones, i.e. they are better than the others at least. Good ventilation, brand new ceiling fan, comfy beds and the internet room is just next door” Prateek said. “That’s great guys” Rishi said. “All thanks to you, if you wouldn’t have convinced them then we would most probably have cancelled our admissions by now” Arun said. “Well I must say that today I was really hard pressed to it. I mean, you did not give me any idea whatsoever about the matter until I arrived at your house. Otherwise maybe I would have been more skilful in my convincing” Rishi told Arun. “Yeah you seemed a bit harried when you started off. But I think it was that bit about the 2 dead guys in Goa that got our mothers thinking and my dad couldn’t let that ten grand go to waste” Arun said. “But it was close. I thought that we had nearly lost it, but you pulled it off” Prateek said. “Anyways I am happy that at least we three will be together now” Rishi said. They went up to Rishi’s room and sat comfortably as they continued to chat. “Hey you did not tell us how it went off with that girl” Prateek said. “Yeah, even I want to know. Spare no details” Arun added. Rishi told them about his meeting with Shweta in the college canteen. “Dude, you are awesome. I wouldn’t have ever been able to get all that information in the first meet. I mean, her surname, hometown, family background, sisters name, phone number, email ID, what’s left? And that too on your first date!” Arun said. “Look, it was definitely not a date. We just ate some snacks and chatted for a while; nothing more than that” Rishi said. “So do you like her?” Prateek asked. “What do you mean?” Rishi asked. “I mean do you find her attractive?” Prateek asked again. “Obviously he finds her attractive. I saw her walking out of the drawing hall. She is quite a bombshell” Arun said. “Arun! You already have a girlfriend” Rishi said, a little annoyed by Arun’s description of Shweta. “Yeah Arun, you shouldn’t talk like that about Rishi’s girl. You should look at her as though she is your ‘bhabi’“ Prateek said. “Thanks a lot Prateek” Rishi said. “Yup, a really sexy bhabi, I may add” Arun said with a smirk. “Dog!” Rishi shouted, before he got up and started to hit Arun with a book lying next to him. Prateek joined in. “Ok, ok I’m sorry” Arun said after getting hit a few times. “So what’s there tomorrow?” Arun asked. “We have to be there by ten for the opening lecture in the auditorium, after that a short tour of the college with seniors leading each branch and by twelve we should be free” Prateek said. “When are you moving into the hostel?” Rishi asked. “Next Monday, dad will leave on Tuesday after checking up how we’re doing in the hostel. Then we are free to do as we will” Arun said with a smile.

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