Continuing from last episode….
Vineet had sought the help of Mukhtar a.k.a. Mukki bhai, a senior citizen and batchmate of Lucky who had promised him that he’d look into the matter. He was told the next day that he was in the working committee of the Freshers’ Day functions. He was to join 32 other students drawn from across the batches. 5 freshers were members too. The group had to gather in the auditorium after college hours for the delegation of work.
At the gathering, he was grouped with 3 others and they were given the task of preparing posters and promotional material and coordination. His partners were Harish (5th chemical), Jyotsana (5th Computer) and, as it turned out, Jessica. They had to report to Mukki bhai. Vineet gave Mukki bhai a bear hug and whispered thanks in his ear. Jessica wasn’t too happy with the arrangement but she took it in her stride. At least she had someone in the group that she knew. She had found it weird that first year students had to work in the event that was being held for them but Reena opined that as she didn’t have anything to do in the evenings, she would be happier working rather than crying in her room, feeling homesick. She’d agreed.
They worked on the posters for a couple of hours and at 9 pm, organizers announced they’d break for 40 minutes for dinner. Vineet asked his group what their plan was for dinner. Harish and Jyotsana said they were going to the mess with their own friends. Neither Vineet nor Jessica was in any mood to eat at the mess. So after the other two had gone and they were themselves just loitering around, Vineet asked Jessica to accompany him to Wasimbhai’s stall outside the college. Jessica was hesitating when Vineet said, “C’mon now, I won’t eat you. I know we’re both hungry.” Jessica couldn’t prevent a smile forming across her lips. They proceeded towards the stall.
Later that night in her room, poring over the books but hardly gleaning anything from them, Jessica’s mind went back to how comfortable Vineet had made her feel. It was a novel experience for her to meet a guy who wanted to listen to her talk rather than trying to impress her with his “feats,” wanting to know how it was back in her hometown, what her likes and dislikes were. Quite the reverse of the stereotypical guys she generally came across. Though they hadn’t talked about anything too personal, she had a feeling at the back of her mind that Reena Di might be right in her assessment about him. He wasn’t phony atleast. As they kept talking about their likes and dislikes, she could feel his authenticity and passion in his beliefs, from movies to engineering. And how shameless he was with his obvious flirting! She wasn’t as shocked as she was pleasantly surprised by the way he was mixing praise with playfulness. For the first time she had noted how he actually looked and the results weren’t bad. He had a friendly charm to his voice. The smallish eyes almost closed when he laughed and the horn-rimmed glasses made him look brainy. That stubble which he kept grazing with his fingers as he thought of something or the other in response to her statements was something too, although his fashion sense needed working on, like a lot. She might have to teach him a thing or two about that. Jessica had to admit to herself that between the fine chicken at Wasimbhai’s and the flattery and flirtation, she had enjoyed a lot the whole evening. In this reverie, she didn’t notice when she drifted off to sleep on the chair itself, with the lights on.
The next morning, Vineet woke up before the alarm on his bedside rang off at 6:45 am. He was very excited and looking forward to the evening. Yesterday was the first time that she was with him. He hadn’t expected her to accept his offer of eating out but she had, and he’d loved every moment after that. The way she laughed, those wavy strands of her hair curling around her ears before turning back to kiss the nape of her neck with those blonde streaks, that twinkle in her eyes when she conspiratorially told him about her penchant for bike-riding, the fullness of her lips, that innocence radiating from her face when she described her school days’ experiences to him, the way she dressed, all that had created a flutter in his heart. She was so pure. He couldn’t stop himself from praising her. Maybe even flirt a bit. But all that was in good spirit. He hadn’t behaved improperly. That was the key. She mustn’t take him to be a obnoxious pervert. And he needed to get himself in some shape. He was growing on all sides and needed to control that. All the more reason to start running in the mornings. He tied his shoelaces and went out to jog.
At the auditorium after classes, there was a lot of urgency compared to the day before. It was Saturday and most of the work was unfinished. They only had a Sunday now before the big show. So everything was in overdrive. Harish and Jessica prepared the poster for the event and got it approved by the organizers. Vineet contacted the caterers along with Jyotsana and another senior guy who was looking after the finances. At 9:30 p.m., dinner break was announced. Vineet, who was with the group, looked at Jessica with a wink and an impish grin. Jessica’s eyes lit up. Jyotsana, who was looking at both of them from across the table, coughed forcefully. Both of them looked at her. She gave a knowing nod and they all laughed. Harish – oblivious to all this – was working on a slogan poster and looked up, ” Eh, what happened?” Jyotsana made up something and asked him to accompany her to the mess for dinner.
After the two of them had gone for dinner, Vineet asked Jessica, ” So what’s the plan today, ma’am?”
“You say sir, you’re the senior. You’d have better knowledge of the hot destinations.”
“Senior, eh? Well, I can’t counter that. How about having some authentic north Indian food, dirt-cheap?”
“I’m game. Where are we going for that though?”
“There’s a Punjabi dhaaba (restaurant) near the railway station. Me and Karun go there sometimes.”
“Railway station. Naa baba (no way!). That far away, without any vehicle? That too at this time of the night?”
“I thought you said you were game.”
” I am, but….”
“No ifs and buts, I’ll get a bike from a senior friend. We can go on the bike and return within the hour.”
“And you won’t try to be adventurous huh?” Jessica asked with a smirk.
“Ad..adventurous? Who am I, Valentino Rossi?”
Jessica thought, “What a fool! Here I’m talking about being adventurous and he’s talking about racers. Boys!!!” She sighed.
Vineet said, “Oh c’mon already. I had told you yesterday itself that I wouldn’t eat you. Let’s go!”
Jessica rode pillion on the way to the dhaaba on the Bullet Classic 350. She was thrilled to be travelling on that bike. Vineet wanted to enjoy the ride and hence didn’t drive faster than 40-50 kmph.
Jessica asked him, “What use is a Bullet if you drive it like a 100cc motorcycle? Rev it up.”
Vineet was impressed. Not for the first time, she had stumped him. He zoomed the accelerator, changed into 5th gear and let the engine rip. Jessica, after adjusting to the shock of the engine’s raw power, let out whoops of joy. It felt so good, the motorcycle’s engine sending out vibrations through the bike. This was unlike anything she had ever encountered before, a unique feeling of liberation. She kept her hands on his shoulder, gripping them tightly whenever the bike swerved or made a sharp turn. Her breasts would occasionally bump into his back when he braked suddenly, which wasn’t very often. After that sensuous ride, dinner tasted rather special to both of them.
After completing dinner, as Vineet got on the bike, Jessica asked him to get down.
“I’m going to drive, that’s what happened.” Jessica said with a touch of pride in her voice.
“Oww, woww!! My, my! So I’m going to get a chance to ride pillion with the national mountain ride champion.” He quipped.
“Whatever. Jyaada nahi bolne ka (No wisecracking!).”
As they started on their ride back to the college, Vineet could see that she was good at driving. Zooming at 90-100 kmph on a Bullet wasn’t for novices. He sat with enough gap between their bodies, gripping the support behind him rigidly and taking in her scent. Upon entering the college campus, he noticed a lot of wide-eyed stares from lot of students. He was feeling proud.
Getting down from the bike, he asked her something that had been in his mind the whole week, “What’s your plan for the fashion show?”
Jessica, taking off her helmet, coolly replied, “Plan? What plan? Let them tell who they’re going to pair with me. Uske baad dekhenge plan ka (We’ll think of a plan after that).”
Exhaling from his puffed cheeks, Vineet replied, “That’s right! I hadn’t thought of that yet. Say, what if you were to be paired with me?”
“You?” She asked, with more than a hint of sarcasm in her voice. She knew what he was hinting at and was playing along.
“Why not? We’d make a good pair, you and me. Stylish you and rustic me. Ha ha.”
They made small talk for a while, going back to the auditorium. They were welcomed by a smiling and vigorously nodding Jyotsana. By now, Harish had noted too. After work for the night was done, Vineet accompanied her to the hostel gate. He asked for her mobile number.
“What do you need my number for? I’ll be meeting up with the group tomorrow anyway.”
“Er.. if something important came along, I could inform you through text.”
“You have Reena di’s number, don’t you? Whatever comes up, send me on that.”
“As if you’d stay with her all day long. Even if it’s a Sunday.”
“Achcha baba (Ok dude), note it down.”
After exchanging their numbers, they bade good night to each other and went to their respective rooms. There was a lot of work to do the next day and both of them knew that things weren’t going to be the same ever again.