“Hello … Is anybody sitting here?”
“No”, she said, making room for him to keep his book on the library desk. She kept wondering why he would come to sit on the same table as hers in the library, while others were lying empty and more importantly, when they did not talk much in first 3 years of their engineering. In fact, they usually did not get along well, especially after many spats earlier during their college life. They did not see eye to eye in any matter be it scheduling of tests, sharing of notes, or even sorting out an issue with a faculty member or anything. In fact, once in the canteen they were arguing over petty issues like who should get the sandwich first, as both ordered same thing nearly at same time and the sandwiches came at an interval of 2 minutes.
But there was more to it than plain not getting along. It was after all a matter of image. If he relented, his image would be tarnished in his group, and more so in the boy’s hostel. Same was the case with her. And this was further complicated by the fact that they were sort of rivals as far as academics were concerned. She always managed to top in the class, and he had to be satisfied with the second ranker tag. Anyway, it didn’t really matter if it was gold medal or silver. But it mattered a lot to him whom he lost to, if at all.
Library was one of the better places to sit down and study. It wasn’t really needed that moment as there was still more than 3 months for the examinations. She was actually quite miffed by the way he came all of a sudden to her desk and was now whistling around in the library. Nobody else in the library seemed to care. It seemed quite clear that he seemed interested in irritating her. Finally, her patience ended and hell broke loose. Finally, she was pacified by the library authorities and he left.
In the evening, she had an unlikely visitor waiting at gates of her hostel. She was quite surprised to see him standing there. Maybe he had come to apologize ... or maybe to give her a verbal lashing. She prepared herself for the verbal duel. But, it was something else she heard.
“I …I am sorry. I shouldn’t have been bugging you in the library.”
She stopped. But again she continued,
“Maybe, I got too angry at you and overreacted”
He was about to leave. But something struck him. Maybe all wasn’t that good between them, and there was no reason to carry on the same grudges further.
“Probably, we have been spending helluva energy in useless arguing. I don’t think it serves any purpose. After all the reasons we have not been getting too well are petty. And after all it doesn’t serve any purpose at all”.
Damn. He was running out of words in his fourth sentence.
He stopped, asked her to join him for a coffee at a nearby coffee house, and prepared himself for a lashing. But to his surprise, she agreed. She also realized that they had been fighting uselessly over petty things and holding any grudges won’t do any good for them. That day, they ceased to be enemies … rather rivals; enemy is too harsh a word.
Meanwhile they started seeing more of each other. Back in hostel, he became the butt of many jokes. But he couldn’t have cared less. He believed that what he was doing wasn’t wrong. Maybe, some might have seen it wrong but what mattered to him was what he thought of it and not others. The more they knew about each other, more they rued the ‘cold-war’ for past three years. But they had such a lot in common. But the most important thing that made them connect was their passion for winning.
Meanwhile, the final exams approached. It was 2 weeks for the same, and probably after a period of 5 weeks they would leave the college and their paths totally different. Meanwhile they had intensified their preparations for the examinations. In most of the cases, couple of days of studies would have been enough to sail through, but it was their passion to win that made them slog hard in order to be right there at top. They usually studied together. To no one’s surprise they did their papers extremely well and were expecting fabulous results.
Finally, they had to part… Yeah, they would probably meet after a month when they were supposed to come to the place to collect their mark sheet and all stuff. But that was for few hours. As of now, she was leaving by the evening train. She hoped to meet him before leaving. Never had she thought that they would become such close buddies. She once said that it was a privilege to know someone like him, and he couldn’t have felt otherwise for her. He came to see her off at the railway station, and decided to be at the town on same day for collecting their mark sheet and all. That would probably be the last time they were seeing each other. They may not meet later probably, unless they were destined for same university for their master’s degree. But that seemed a remote possibility.
The day finally arrived after a long one month. She was quite happy to see him, and he was more than elated. Their results were out. His plan had worked. His long cherished dream had been fulfilled. He had managed to get a gold medal, and she missed it by a single mark.