As soon as my alarm clock gave voice to the fact that I needed to be up, I begged it to wake me up in another 5 minutes. The alarm then proceeded to voice its opinion of how important it was to wake up early on exam day and how it would rather be working in the kitchen finishing the samayal than waking me up. Coming to the conclusion that consciousness was better than listening to more of this I woke up and saw my mom heave a sigh of relief and move to the kitchen. Toothbrush in hand, I assessed myself in the mirror. It was the last exam and I’d be having no more of this for the next 4 months or so of my vacation. Maybe I could talk my mom into allowing me to sleep for a week. Knowing fully well that I was still dreaming I proceeded to do the necessary steps to ensure that I reached college in time for the exam. Somewhere along the way my alarm clock lost sight of me and when I got out of the shower I found that I would need something more than my breakfast ready on the table and my clothes laid out to ensure the proper execution of my plan. Something like a teleporter that could instantaneously transport me to the bus-stand. In one quick motion that was as well practised as an olympic pole vault I slipped into my clothes and in another timeslice had gobbled up my breakfast and discovered that hot things remained in a state of hotness well after they’ve been removed from the source of heat. Dousing the flames in my mouth with ice cold water I rushed out of the house , backpack in one hand and one unworn shoe in the other.
On reaching the bus stand after narrowly avoiding being caught for speeding I was relieved and angry to see that the bus was nowhere in sight. It was then that I noticed my friend standing in the shadow of the shop’s awning that saved us from the early morning UV rays. On seeing me his face flashed a vision of surprise. Curious about what had surprised him I approached him and he started
“Hey , is something wrong with you ?? “
Thinking it was about my mad rush to the bus stand I replied
“ No nothing..I just thought I was late and that’s why I came running”
“Oh not that, your shirt..you are not wearing THE shirt”
I looked down at my shirt in slow motion. No audio. My head bends down , looks at the shirt and then my mouth slowly opens in an agonizing scream as I realise that it is not THE shirt I am wearing. A bit about THE shirt...it was a normal half-slack , with light green white stripes on a white background..most ppl used to say its pale from age (I’d had it for 5 years then)and my mom threatened its existence on a daily basis but I held on to it because of its brilliant track record..23 successful end-sem exams and I had had IT on for every one of them.In fact I was thinking of sending that shirt to the convocation to accept the degree instead of me and now all those ideas would be moot just because in the euphoric last-exam-of-the-sem state I’d actually forgotten to wear it..I quickly shot a look at my watch. my friend,observing my action, warned me,
”No da , not worth it.you’ll miss the....”
I wasnt there to hear the rest of his sentence..I was racing faster than I had while coming to the bus stop...the lazy cows walking along the street started in surprise and were hurled hither and thither as I blazed a path through the bustling street.vendors and school children were treated alike as I hurdled and squeezed thro every obstacle.I was home and rushed through the hall straight to my closet, ignoring my mom’s surprised cry and my father’s stare from behind the newspaper.when I was thro finding my shirt the room looked like a tornado swept disaster area.I put it on in a hurry.the lightning pace was brought to a standstill as I screeched to a halt in front of my father.
“What??” he asked,not even bothering to see me from behind the newspaper.
“Can u drop me at the next stop?? I’ve surely missed the bus here but I can still catch it at the next stop.” I blurted at one go.
Here’s the funda behind that : the bus usually took a slightly longer route to get the next stop and there was a shorter way that would get me in time to the stop.it wasnt the first time that I was late and this being a well practiced routine I was sure my father already had his scooter keys ready.he did.as he walked out mom went to the puja room to pray that I catch the bus.
“Its not like I am going to board a space shuttle”,
I thought to myself but didnt have the time or the temerity to utter it before toeing my father to his scooter.
“Hurry, appa,hurry” , I urged my father. I jumped on the scooter and we whizzed away.I rediscovered my faith as we progressed in starts and stops thro the maze of madness that the shortcut was.
”If I catch the bus, I’ll offer all my notes to be used as scrap paper to wrap prasadam at the temple”, I promised my family deity.
It seemed like an eternity before we rounded the corner and I could finally see the next stop and the group of students waiting for the bus.
”Aha..made it on time”, as I thought these very words, I also caught sight of the college bus approach the same corner from the other side...I swear I cud see the eyeballs of our tyrannical driver as he took a look at me and then proceeded to accelerate more into the turn.it seemed as if he cared more abt making me miss the bus than the poor souls onboard.like schumacher and coulthard we raced into the corner.he had the inner edge but my vehicle was of a lighter design and so it was a question of driving skill rather than physics.my father revved up , sped through and cut across reaching the bus stop a full half second before the schumi-wannabe.
”Bring out the podium, where’s the champagne, where is the pit crew??” .
With a triumphant grin I sprang off the scooter,acknowleding the applause from the huge crowd.I turned back and thanked my chauffeur before climbing into the bus and grinning at the furious driver.with a self-content smile I plonked beside my friend who congratulated me on the successful dress change and bus chase.we started quizzing each other abt the exam and before we knew it our driver was honking his horn to warn us that the sharp turn into the college gate was approaching.we braced ourselves as he swung into the turn.after thanking God for our safe arrival despite the driver I got down and went straight to the class.as I sat down I was aware that I was grinning.
”Nothing could go wrong now”. my lucky pen.check. my magic shirt.check.I could write a short story in the exam for all I care, I wud still pass.A shadow came over the desk and I looked up at the professor in charge of the exam.
”Hall ticket” were the only words he uttered.
”Sure” I said , putting my hand into my shirt pocket to get the hall ticket out. hand encountered emptiness.the slow motion again.I looked down into my pocket s..l..o..w..l..y. of course I had left the hall-ticket in the other shirt.as I headed to the principal’s office I knew that it was going to be a longer day than usual.
I no longer have the shirt or the pen.I no longer depend on such powereless things for success.I rely only on myself, my talent and most importantly my favorite striped socks.I washed them once and failed a midterm - havent washed them since.