A brief elationWhen Dipak started helping Sarala with her assignment, he felt the urge to get to know her better.
“See, the code is not working,” Sarala sighed and gazed at Dipak, who was sitting beside her chair. They had been continuously working on the laptop for forty-five minutes.
“You better show it to Krishna sir,” Dipak said, continuing to punch on his keyboard.
“Can you just check it once?” Sarala frowned.
“I’m not finished with mine. You seem to have completed it rather quickly,” said a surprised Dipak.
“Quick? The code is not even working. What’s the use?” Sarala grew agitated.
Krishna sir was sitting on the chair, his eyes transfixed on the laptop in front of him. All the students, including Sarala and Dipak, were assigned to code a Java programme on the computer. Sarala ran her eyes across the room and noticed that no one had completed the assignment. She knew if she showed it to Krishna sir, he would hurl nasty comments about how it was all because she didn’t pay enough attention in class. She didn’t want to be humiliated in front of her classmates, so she stayed quiet and decided to wait for Dipak to finish his task. Occasionally, she would look at Dipak from the corner of her eyes to see if he had finished the assignment. When she found out he was still doing it, she would look at Krishna sir, who seemed to be engrossed in his own work.
On several occasions earlier, Krishna sir had made fun of Sarala, saying she must prioritise her studies over Facebook and Tiktok. Now, as the code she typed didn’t work, she didn't dare to ask Krishna sir where she had been wrong. But how would he react? Knowing how badly Krishna sir had treated her lately, she had requested Dipak to help her. But Dipak was also having a hard time as he struggled to write the complete code.
Every now and then, Krishna sir would scan the room, and when he found someone not doing the assigned work, he would stare at the student long enough to make him/her uncomfortable. Everyone in the class was aware of how strict Krishna sir was, so they would pretend to work on the computer.
Sarala nudged at Dipak, who was nervously staring at the screen. His face was drenched in sweat.
“Have you finished it?” she whispered.
Dipak looked at her eyes. Their eyes met for over a few seconds. It was the first time they had stared at each other for so long. Also, they had never been so close physically as they were now. Dipak was late to come into the computer lab that day, and since the chair beside Sarala was the only vacant one, he had settled on it. It wasn’t that they hadn’t talked to each other before, but this proximity was new between them.
“Ah! This is working,” said Dipak, sounding happy. Joy rushed through Sarala when she heard Dipak had successfully written the code.
“Let me see where you committed the mistake,” he said and approached the chair Sarala was sitting on.
Krishna sir had gone to fetch his laptop’s charger from his office. As soon as he left the computer lab, students started discussing the assignment with each other. The student who sat by the door kept his eyes on the doorway so that he could warn everyone when Krishna sir neared the room. Dipak was adamant about finding the mistake committed by Sarala. After a while, he found out where she had been wrong and fixed it immediately. Sarala was grateful to Dipak, and he acknowledged her with a smile. She also mentioned how he had saved her from facing humiliation. They laughed and went on talking until Krishna sir entered the room.
“Have you all finished the work?” asked Krishna sir.
Some of the students nodded, while a few of them avoided his piercing gaze. Then he began to inspect the work done by each student. Sarala was confident that she had her assignment finished on time. Dipak was happy to help her, and their brief interaction left him wondering how things would have been if Sarala were his girlfriend. He started daydreaming about it right there in the computer lab. He dreamt of her cooking in the kitchen while he stood by her, singing a song.
Dipak had always been studious, and he’d always told himself that he wouldn’t make a girlfriend until he graduated and secured a good job. However, at the moment, his mind was wandering at the prospect of making Sarala his girlfriend. He’d always seen her as a beautiful young girl. Her aquiline nose, broad forehead, and full cheeks made her face appear attractive. Some boys in the classroom always tried to flirt with her, but she never showed any interest in them. Although it had already been more than a year since they enrolled at the same college, Dipak had no clue where Sarala lived. In fact, he’d never taken keen notice of girls before, let alone Sarala. But after what happened in the computer lab, he was desperate to get to know Sarala better. He hadn’t yet added her on Facebook, and he planned to do it as soon as he reached home. He got so excited, thinking how they would become friends on Facebook and chat all night long. The mere thought of her messages appearing on his phone transported him to a state of bliss.
As the class got over, everyone walked down the stairs to the entrance gate. Sarala was nowhere to be seen. Dipak went looking for Sarala. She had already reached outside the gate. He quickened his pace so that he could stand by Sarala and talk to her. From her demeanour, he could guess that she was waiting for someone. Just as Dipak neared Sarala, a man on a motorbike stopped by her and said, “Come, sweetheart. Sorry for making you wait.”
It took a while for Dipak to process what he had just witnessed, but he could guess the man was Sarala’s boyfriend.
Sarala climbed up on the motorbike and smiled at Dipak, who was completely shocked. Dipak forced a smile and went on his way.