The queue was getting shorter and shorter. Ms. Broom still had no idea where she should go. Just as I reached the counter, the lady inside the counter lifted her head and stared at me.
“Where to?” She finally asked
Ms. Broom closed her eyes for a second. She could see McMurphy with a pillow on top of her head. I shook my head. I couldn’t do it.
“Bangalore Please” I paid the fare and took the ticket from the lady and was just about to walk towards the platform when I heard two young guys who were standing behind me in the queue speaking
“eda ethu Bangalore il mattey pani anenna thonnunney”( I think she is going to Bangalore to do ‘that’ business)
Ms. Broom shook her head. She has the power not to hear anything that hurts her. I was just so glad that I finally found her. With a smile on my face I walked to the platform. My life awaits me and the moment the fog clears, I will jump out. I knew that for sure.
A group of semi seniors( those in the final year, that have to repeat few subjects) were standing near the hostel entrance. They must be going for the morning rounds.
“Hi Nina, you came back early! I thought your classes starts next week?” Spoke one Kannadiga student
“Yes it is. I had some work to do” I smiled and answered
“Oh!. Hey, Did you bring any banana chips this time?”
“Sorry, I didn’t have time. I will bring it next time”
My room smelled musty as I opened the door. The first think that caught my attention as I entered the room was the three beds. The strangeness of the three people that are forced live in the same room was evident from the bedsheets. Mine was a flower printed Chinese bed sheet, that Amma bought in Penang before we left Malaysia. Shylaja’s was a colourful sheet that had temple arts type of motif and Aparna’s was a plain white sheet with pink embroidery.
Only then did I notice the book on my bed
‘Oh my goodness, my Chaurasia text book’. It was exactly in the same place where I left it before I lost it, near the pillow.
I was so excited to get my book back. It was like a friend, you meet after a long time. I wiped the dust off the book. All the pages and my scribbles, they were all there. Only what happened from the time I lost it to the time I found it was unknown. I knew it has to be one of my room mates who took it. Nobody else can just come inside my room and take a book. Was it Aparna? or was it Shylaja? I didn’t know.
I opened the window on my side of the bed. I could see few students standing outside the boys hostel and smoking. The sign of Princy’s absence! I smiled thinking about the futility of insane rules that are invented to produce the best doctors. Wasn’t Princy at one time a medical student? Didn’t he see his friends smoke cigarettes and break all the hostel rules? What makes a person think, he is better and smarter than the guy before him? What makes a person think that he can change the world? I never understood the logic.
I had nothing much to do, so I decided to go to the library and read the newspaper. The dissection hall was closed, so were all the lecture halls. I hoped the library wouldn’t be closed. I was so glad to see that there were lights in the library and I pushed the glass door to open, almost knocking in to Dr. Rajesh.
“Oh I am sorry sir. I didn’t see you” I know that sounded stupid. How can I not see through the glass door? I wasn’t sure what happend. But I didn’t see Dr. Rajesh.
“Oh Hi Nina, you are early”
“Yes sir” I nodded my head, hoping he wouldn’t ask me why. I noticed Dr. Rajesh was holding a huge manila board and I used the opportunity to change the subject
“Sir. What is the manila board for?”
“Oh, I have a paper to present at the ASI( Anatomy society of India) conference”
“Oh” I nodded my head, hoping he wouldn’t ask me any anatomy questions.
“Nina, I remember someone telling me that you draw very well.”
“No sir. No such thing. I am extremely terrible when it comes to drawing!”
“You are lying. I remember now. Your anatomy record was one of the best. You can draw very well. Can you help me?”
I looked at Dr. Rajesh. I could see a 10 year old girl running to her mother to show her the picture she won the first prize in the class. It was the picture of a police man in Khaki shorts being chased by a dog. My teacher was so proud of my painting, she actually clipped it on the wall for everyone to see. I remember Amma looking at the picture and telling me
“You call this a painting? Look at the police man, his legs are shorter than his body. Which police man will pass the Physical test, if his legs are short”
“But Amma, Mrs Jacob said my painting was the best. She even clipped it on the wall”
“Oh Nina, Mrs Jacob and I know each other from the time we studied together in the boarding school. She would have simply said you are a good artist, because she knows me and is my friend. She is just doing me a favor. You know, just to make you feel a little important in front of your classmates!Who in their sane mind would call this crap as a good painting? Oh Nina, you can’t even draw a straight line and you call yourself an artist?”
“So can you help me” Dr. Rajesh was speaking to me.
” Here Nina, take this manila board. You just have to copy the shoulder joint pictures from Keith L More’s book. His illustrations are good” He passed the manila board to me.
“I am presenting a paper on ‘Winged Scapula’. When can you finish it? Actually Nina, You don’t have to draw it in a hurry. I only need it by sunday. You know, normally I would do all the srawing s myself. It is just that I have to prepare for my entrance exam. You will help me?” He looked at me
“Ok” I took the manila board from him and walked to the reading room
I spend the rest of the week, reading, sleeping and drawing the pictures for Dr. Rajesh. By sunday morning I finished all the pictures Dr. Rajesh wanted.
I kept the manila board on my bed, so it won’t get dirty. After my breakfast, I went to the library to read the newspaper. I only came back to my room after lunch. Aparna and Anitha was in the room talking.
“Oh hi Nina, when did you come back?” Aparna asked
“Few days ago”
“What is that?” Aparna pointed to the manila board on my bed
“Oh, it is for Dr. Rajesh. He is presenting a paper at ASI conference”
“Oh” Aparna didn’t sound too happy.
I didn’t want to sit in the room and gossip. So I took a novel from my cupboard and walked out. I will sit in the corridor and read.
I must have been so engrossed in the book, I didn’t hear footsteps coming towards me
“Nina” Someone stood in front of me and shouted
I was stunned for a second.
“What?” I looked at the same semi senior who asked me, if I brought Banana chips.
“I have been looking for you every where. How many times did I shout your name. Can’t you hear? Are you deaf?”
“I am sorry, I didn’t hear you”
“Dr. Rajesh is waiting for you at the canteen”
“oh ok. Thanks” I got up to go to my room.
“Hey, what is going on between you and Rajesh?”
Rajesh? Just because he is a Kannadiga, he is Rajesh not Dr. Rajesh or she has feelings for him?
I turned and looked at her, tying to figure out what exactly she is expecting me to say.
“Are you having an affair with him?”
“No” I walked off. Everyone only thinks about affairs!
When I reached my room, I could hear Anitha, Aparna and Shylaja talking. Shylaja must have come back early.
“She thinks, she can butter Dr. Rajesh by doing things like this. Dr. Rajesh was with me in the bus. He told me, she didn’t pass the viva” I heard Shylaja speaking.
My heart felt so heavy.I just wanted to cry. I never drew a single picture in the last 8 years. Liza and Sally were the ones who drew all the illustrations in my Anatomy records even my botany and physics records for the pre-degree.
It took me 6 days to draw those pictures for Dr. Rajesh. I had to struggle so much to shut that voice in my head that kept saying, you can’t even draw a straight line and you call yourself an artist?
I drew those pictures for Dr. Rajesh, because I wanted to honour my words. And that idiot failed me in the viva. I wanted to tear the drawings in to tiny pieces because I knew he was using me. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I knew my actions are making me grow smaller and Dr. Rajesh was becoming the new nurse Ratched. But I didn’t have the strength to fight.
I opened the door quickly, pretended I didn’t notice the sudden silence in the room and grabbed the manila board and walked towards the canteen. Dr. Rajesh was standing outside the canteen door and when he saw me walking towards him, he smiled. The wretch was smiling the winning smile. I gave the manila board to him and walked off. Ms. Broom was smiling because she was deaf and didn’t have to hear the fake gratitude.
Results were announced on Friday. Princy’s peon pasted the results on the notice board. I didn’t even bother to go and check. Because I knew I failed. Most of my classmates were in the canteen celebrating. I heard someone talking that only 85 out of 150 students passed. How I wished I was one of the 85! My luck is so terrible. Now I will have to study part 1 anatomy again. I ate the egg bhaji in silence and with a heavy heart I walked back to my room. Amma and her brother will be extremely delighted that I failed!
When I reached my room, I could hear someone crying. I opened the door quietly
Shylaja was laying down on her bed and crying. Aparna was trying to console her. I didn’t know what to do. I walked towards Shylaja’s bed
“Never mind Shylaja, it is ok. We will study together and write the exams again next term”
“What do you mean? Why do you want to write it again?”
I looked at her. Why is she crying? Isn’t she crying because she failed?
“Don’t pretend to be so stupid Nina, I know you passed”
“What?” I was too stunned to react
“You didn’t check your results?” she looked at me unconvinced
“No I didn’t. I thought I failed” I ran out of the room. I had to see it to believe. I was gasping for breath by the time I reached the notice board. I checked my number. It was there. It was unbelievable. I felt I was on top of the world. I wanted to sing. I wanted to dance. I wanted to scream and say
‘yeah, even the famous civil service rank holder’s daughter didn’t pass the anatomy exams in the first year and me, the deaf and dumb and blind Nina Thomas, who can’t draw a straight line, who can’t even string a single English sentence passed the exam’
My feet was so weightless as I walked back to my room. This time Anitha was also in the room and I heard her speaking
“She must have used her uncle’s influence and rigged the marks. There is no other way she would have passed”
Even after all the struggle, some body else gets the credit. But that is my destiny.
Anitha had to repeat Biochemistry and Physiology
Shylaja had to repeat all three and Nina’s Result is there for you to see. She passed all the subjects!
I scored 49 marks for anatomy practicals. 50 Marks are required to pass. Each department would know a students practicals score before sending it to the University, because they know the total marks the student got for the internals and externals. Normally the college authorities would give a bonus mark for border line cases. No one did that in my case. Because I passed all the other subjects, Bangalore university gave the bonus mark.