Rahul stared outside of the bus with mixed emotions. After his good performance at the Dr. C.S.N Murthy Talent Search Exam for the 9th class students, he was one of the 25 students selected to attend a camp that would put their skills to test for a whole week; a week away from parents and teachers. It was the first time he would be away from home. His feelings were mixed - he was happy to be finally able to meet so many equally talented fellow students and was sad to be away from his parents for a whole week. His mom tearfully dropped him at Kakatiya University and bid farewell to him, praying for him all the time.
Rahul was shown his dorm room by the matron on the 4th floor; A room which he was supposed to share with 4 other guys. Vamshi, Rakesh, Rohit and Karan were not the usual run-off-the-mill guys. Vamshi had just finished his 10th class and was an experienced candidate. He knew how to tackle the project and was also ready to help anyone in need. Rohit was the exam topper and was a bit haughty. Rakesh and Karan were good-natured though, helping Rahul arrange his stuff and made him feel a bit at home. They then started discussing what was an unfamiliar territory for Rahul a.k.a. girls. The girls' dorms were just a floor below theirs and the other guys were pretty excited that atleast there won't be any parents nudging them for 7 days atleast.
The next morning Rahul got ready early to make sure he was on time to the presentation. He was a stickler to timings and hated being late. Rush hours and late nights were alien to him. Even though he was already involved in activities that were not meant for his age (some quite illegal) and was quite mature for his age, he rarely showed of his true nature. He maintained his "introvert and quiet nature" image quite well. He enjoyed being different from the others, being unique. It gave him a different thrill altogether. Little did he know that a scheming teacher will using that fact against him soon.
In the projects section, he found out that he was assigned a project in the subject he hated the most – Biology. They said his rank was in the lower end among the 25 candidates (it was 16th) and he had to settle for that. Rahul went to the Biology side of the room, visibly pissed off. Rohit got in Mathematics, just as he wanted it. Karan got into Physics and Rakesh managed a project in Chemistry. Vamshi got into Biology as well, and was looking forward towards working with Rahul. But Rahul had other things in mind. He hated biology in school and never liked the tough diagrams he had to make in the exams. He always viewed subjects from an exam point-of-view i.e. if he scored well, he liked the subject, or else he hated it. There were no exceptions at all. He was a ghissu in a different sense - he studied not just for the marks but for the knowledge also. But marks were the prime issue for him to like/dislike a subject, a perfect proportionality.
He entered the room half-heartedly to a set of eager students. he noticed that there were a group of 4 girls and the rest were boys. he heaved a sigh of relief that atleast his interaction will the opposite sex will remain minimal. Rahul hated unfamiliar territories. it was like changing schools at regular intervals - something his dad kept him away from. being in the same school from the kindergarten days makes one feel really weird when he/she hears or sees a change. he sat quietly in his seat. The teacher noticed him – he was looking the smartest of the lot and so had more potential (atleast thats what the teacher felt). He kept observing Rahul for a while, studying his moves and trying to see what clicked him. The teacher, Prof. Ranganathan, was a genius in his own field. He was an accomplished teacher was renowned all over the city for his work in genetics and botany. He sensed that Rahul didn’t feel like he belonged there and decided to make him the centerpiece of his next segment.
“Friends, welcome to this wonderful camp. For the next 7 days, you will work on a project that will help you study better with a different perspective in the remainder of your school days. For starts, I am Prof. Ranganathan. I will be in-charge of you biology students for the coming week. Let’s see a show of hands – how many of you are actually interested in Biology?” Vamshi’s hand was the first to rise, followed by a few others. Rahul didn’t move a finger. He was kinda happy that he had company in the many students whose hands didn’t rise. He looked at the professor, smiling cruelly.
The professor showed no emotions. He just counted the hands and noticed that Rahul’s hand was not one of them. Then he said, “I see. Not many are interested in Biology eh? Looks like we are not going to have many doctors from your batch (smiled sheepishly). Well, I do need to know why is it that biology doesn’t click with you people? Any suggestions?”
One student responded, “Sir, it’s perhaps people are more interested in science and technology, rather than in biology. It is perhaps too cliché and is also taught by boring professors.”
Rahul remained quiet, but he certainly had a point in mind. Sensing that, the professor asked him “Do you have anything to add, Mr. Rahul (seeing his name tag)?” Rahul flinched and said, “Perhaps it’s because of less medical colleges in AP as compared to engineering colleges”. The professor looked at him in the face and muttered “Don’t think that far young man, please stay in your limits dear”. He then continued towards his blackboard, clearly unimpressed by Rahul’s answer. He then said, “Biology is the study of living beings. Bio- means life and -logy means study. We, as humans, need to co-exist with the other creatures of the planet in order to live on it. We make so many scientific discoveries that we fail to see how we are affecting the planet. Species are getting extinct, Genes are being altered etc. Anyways, Biology is also a “science” which needs to be studied and leant in a manner that every science is learnt – by interrogation.”
Rahul was feeling uneasy thinking “There goes another speech on blah blah blah…”, when suddenly the professor looks at him and tells the class, “The questions are mentioned here on Mr. Rahul’s shirt – Who, What, Why, When, Where and How. These are the questions you must ask as a man of science. These questions will give you all the answers you need”. The whole class was looking towards Rahul and his blue t-shirt, including Rahul himself. He never realized that he held the key to the questions of Science, right on his t-shirt which he has been using for the last 6 months. He was a bit shaken by this sudden attention, something he never got in such a crowd. At school, a fair number of students liked him, but he was never in such a position among strangers. It was like being in an embarrassing, yet potentially cool situation. For a second, just a second, he felt that he would just perhaps like it here. He may adjust, he may finally get the attention he needed…
The professor seemed pleased by his efforts to get Rahul’s interest. He now proceeded to tell them about the various projects that they were supposed to do and on how they were supposed to present it. He gave then some flexibility in the presentation, but did give them some guidelines as to how to go about it. Then he asked then to pick up chits to randomly select their projects. Rahul got No. 7 and looked it up in the sheet posted in the wall. His topic was something completely alien to him – Study of Human Blood Groups. Vamshi got some project regarding culturing of tissues from plant samples around the university. He was pretty excited and proceeded immediately to the lady teacher in-charge to talk about it and on how to proceed. Rahul waited his turn, listened to what the teacher had to say, and quietly exited the room to his dorm.
At the dorm he was greeted by many smiling faces. Rohit had got a really interesting project related to working on Fibonacci’s last theorem. Karan was working on lasers and Rakesh got some project regarding electrolysis of liquids. But what was the hot topic of the discussion in the room was that of Rahul’s t-shirt.
Karan: “Dude, I heard your t-shirt made you the darling of the professor today? That sounds gay you know…”
Rahul: “What? How the hell did that news spread so fast…? Oh, I forgot, we have Mr. Vamshi the chatterbox here. Then did he tell you how he was sticking to the lady teacher like gum to a shoe and asking her so many questions that almost blew her brains off.”
Vamshi: “Hey I was not. I knew her from last year itself so wanted to know more on the project that’s all. But she was pretty impressed with you it seems...”
Rahul: “What’s impressive about me anyways? I am an introvert and like boring stuff considered too smart for others. Big deal...”
Rohit: “Hey c’mon. That’s cool right. I heard the girls do dig into the smart ones.”
Rakesh (patting Rohit slowly on the back): “I think you must get out more often instead of being obsessed with Mr. Fibonacci so much...”
Rohit (Getting angry at this remark): “What the hell do you mean by that? You…”
Vamshi: “Guys, please. We are going to stay with each other for a week now. Atleast please don’t fight yaar. It seems Mr. Smarty Pants over here is the top ranked fella in the Bio-deparment. We have had a history of the top-ranker in Biology always being the one who impresses the guys who hear the final presentation. So I guess there is a lot of interest in him for the moment…”
Rakesh: “Hey Rahul, use that point to get some girls to go out with you. I think that’s what Mr. Fibonacci here would have suggested”
Vamshi: “C’mon yaar, forget that statement naa. This does not have to be a running gag. Let’s go to dinner now, shall we?”
Rahul: “Yes, oh mighty dorm-master!”
Vamshi: “Yaar, tub hi naa.. Now let’s go before the seats get full. It’s pretty hard to get a seat once they are full.”
Karan (catching on what Rahul said): “Oh ya, we forgot. You are the “experienced” one right, oh fearless leader…”
Vamshi: “Baap re… This batch will never learn… Let’s go fast…”
The mess was what it is called – A Mess! There were many people there as some of the parents stayed back for one night with the students themselves. Those were the days without cellphones and the students had access to a PCO booth 5 minutes away from the hostel. But the parents were, well you know, the typical Andhrite parents.
The fellas waited for their turn and took their seats as soon a table for 6 was vacated. They had a quick meal and hastily returned to their dorms. they were not sleepy, but felt like playing a game of cards. According to Vamshi, cards was the best way to make friends. Almost everyone liked it and it helped develop friendships. Rahul though, felt a bit sleepy. He was not used to sleeping late, unless he had one of those novels under his bed which he read late into the night (under the light of his pen-torch) after his parents were asleep. But the others wanted to get themselves acquainted to the other fellas in diff. dorms. Rahul lied on his bed and fell asleep soon enough.
The next was going to the pretty exciting. At-least that’s what Rahul was hoping…
(To be continued)
What makes this story different is that it ends in the most abrupt way possible. you will kick yourself after knowing what Rahul does in the last Chapter and you will most certainly feel like kicking me also (either for the poor story or for the ending).
Part 2 of the story will be out before the week ends.