The Painting Pen – “How Dare You?!”

It was already 11:30 PM and Suresh was still 110 KM away from Chennai. The so called Express bus closing the distance at 80 KMPH wasn’t fast enough for him. He glanced at his Nokia again in utter disbelief. The text message carried one single word in it– “Tomorrow”. He began to feel restless at an exponential rate. He wanted to jump out of this bus and run like the DC Comic character Flash towards his home. But he couldn’t.  He cursed himself and his misfortune, his parents for putting him in this predicament and then he cursed the bus for going so darn slow! To vent out his frustration, He gave a kick to the seat in front of him. His younger sister sitting in the front seat gave him a glare that almost burned a hole in him. “Oh well, I’m screwed. Again!” he thought.

Suresh was a final year student in one of those regular engineering colleges in Chennai. He wasn’t as exceptionally studious or talented as he imagined himself to be, so he couldn’t cut it in to those “Top Tier” Engineering colleges, he had learnt to live with this fact. But this had come back to haunt him in his final year. With all his schoolmates updating their FB and Twitter status as “Placed in a certain MNC Company”, he felt left out. He felt so small that he decided to shut down all his social networking accounts. Would it kill his college’s management to bring At Least ONE SINGLE Company for a campus recruitment to his college? As if someone had heard his prayers, a certain company did finally have the courtesy to add his college to the list of colleges they’d include in their off-campus drive. There was some confusion in the date of the first round because of trivial reasons, but it was now solved. The message from his best friend Ranjani had confirmed that the date is tomorrow, only 10 hours away. He’d be lucky if he even made it to the venue in time, so he obviously had to forget hoping for any chance for preparation for the interview. He didn’t want to make the trip in the first place this year, but NO! His parents HAD to go to their ancestral temple and get His blessings for him to get placed in a good company. “Well, tough luck folks! I’m gonna blow it, thanks and no thanks to you” His anger was fuming out. His phone beeped again. “Chill dude, everything is gonna be fine!” Her words diluted his frustration, as it always did, in the three years that he had known her.Their batteries were dying out after the exchanges of texts for the day, so they decided to call it a day.

The coming morning, he grabbed all of his Aggarwal books and rushed to the venue. He still had 4 hours of sleep he owed to his body, but he decided that it had to wait. He barely made it in time and all the procedures and introductions sucked away any time and hope he had left in him. He saw her preparing with their gang of friends. He went and sat near them. She knew his predicament, that he was useless without being prepared well in advance and started explaining the pattern of the exam to him, asking him to prepare at least something to scrape off the exam. But he was too restless, everything went over his head. After ten minutes of discussions and trying to calm him down, she decided and told him that she’d be helping him during the exam. Since they had to sit in the Alphabetical order and they belonged to the same room, he hoped it would work.

Everything went as per plan, or so they thought. As he sat down and looked at the question paper, he was completely empty. All he had to do was to write the choices from A through D on a blank sheet of paper. But he couldn’t answer a single question. He stared up at her sitting in front of him, and tried to reach her. Even the slightest sound of his hissing seemed to turn the invigilator’s head in their direction. Damn him for being a bit too vigilant! What struck him even harder was that she didn’t seem to pay attention to his attempts. She kept on writing. On and on and on, with not even a second wasted to even try and help him. Not that he was an expert at it, he kept trying all of his tricks to get her to help him, but they were of no use. He felt betrayed. “How dare her, to leave me like this even after assuring me that she’d help me!” He felt trapped now, knowing that the next interview is no way within the horizon. He felt crumbled and helpless, now visibly sweating. Time was closing in quickly as he tried one desperate attempt at solving the Mathematical questions, but he somehow couldn’t get over the fact that she blew his trust away. He never imagined that she would do such a thing to her, and at such an important time like this! She broke his trust, he should have seen it coming, he thought. He decided that he is not going to talk to her anymore, that he’d hate her forever. At last, the 3 hours of being oil-fried in hell was over. He walked out of the hall, with his shoulders down and face dull. She came towards him and gave him her usual and calming smile. But it didn’t work the magic this time. “How dare you?” he thought. She either didn’t notice or didn’t react to the anger and contempt that was clear in his face. They both slowly walked towards the cafeteria for lunch.

The hour of the announcement arrived. They were standing next to each other, of course. He knew she’d get selected. He pictured her going into that MNC, leaving him behind, jobless, wearing a torn shirt. He felt agitated again. Urgh… He hated that thought. He even hated this betrayer standing next to him. As her name was announced, he congratulated her, and turned to leave the hall. But she pulled him back, and made him hear them call out his name as well. He was shocked and surprised. How? He hardly answered anything, let alone correctly. She kept her smile, but he somehow felt scary this time. “How dare you think that I’d let you down?” He felt knocked down. “But?” was all he could manage. “Simple!” she handed him the paper that he was supposed to submit at the exam. “I completed mine early and I switched your paper with another copy I wrote; you think your handwriting is so special, eh?” He kept staring at the paper in utter disbelief. “Lighten up dude, you’re stuck with me even in our office. Now, come on! You owe me a treat!” As they walked towards the cafeteria, all he could think of was… How did he even dare to think that she’d break his trust…

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