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Half Girlfriend(8)
Chetan Bhagat

‘Yes.You?’

‘From Delhi itself.’

I wanted to continue talking to her. I wanted to know her full name and her native place. That is how we introduce ourselves in Dumraon. However, I didn’t know how to ask her in English, the language one needed to impress girls. Plus, I had a selection trial in a few minutes.

The coach blew his whistle.

‘I have my trials now, will you watch?’ I said.

‘Okay,’ she said.

I ran—rather, hopped—in excitement towards the changing room. Soon, I was back on court and Piyush started the game.

I played well. I don’t want to brag but I played better than any player on the college team.

‘Basket,’ I shouted as I scored my fifth shot. As the crowd dapped, I looked around. She was sitting on one of the benches, sipping water from a bottle. She clapped too.

I had a good game, but her presence made me play even better.

The score inched forward; I pushed myself harder and scored a few more baskets. When I took a tough shot, the seniors patted my back. Piyush blew the final whistle. Final score: 25-28. We had done it. The newbies had managed to defeat die St. Stephen’s team.

My body was drenched in sweat. I felt drained and exhausted. Players patted my back as I struggled to catch my breath. Piyush came running up to me in the middle of the court.

‘You scored 17 out of 28. Well done, Bihari,’ he said. He ruffled my sweaty hair. I walked out of the court deliberately towards Riya.

‘Wow, you really are good,’ she said.

‘Thanks,’ I said, still panting after the game.

‘Anyway, I have to go,’ she said and extended her hand. ‘Nice meeting you. Bye.’

‘Bye,’ I said, my heart sinking. My head had known it would end like this. My heart didn’t want it to end.

‘Unless we are both lucky,’ she added and grinned. ‘And the higher powers here admit us.’

‘Who knows,’ I said.

‘Yeah. But if they do, then see you. Else, bye.’

She walked away. I realized I didn’t even know her full name. As she became more distant with every step, I wanted nothing more than to get admission to St. Stephen’s. '

I walked up to Piyush.

‘You cracked it. On fire on the court, huh?’ he said.

‘Sir, but the interview... My English—’

‘Sucked,’ he said.

Disappointment slammed into me. His expression suggested ‘sucked’ meant something nasty.

‘But you play bloody good basketball,’ Piyush continued. He patted my back and walked away.

I stood alone in the middle of the basketball court. Everyone else had left. I saw the brick-coloured buildings and the greenery around me.

Is this place in my destiny? I wondered. Well, it wasn’t just about my destiny. It was our destiny.

That is why, one month later, a postman came to my doorstep in Dumraon with a letter from St. Stephen’s College. He also wanted a big tip.

3

'Hey,’ she said. Her perky voice startled me; I had been scanning the college noticeboard.

I turned around. I had prayed for this to happen. She and I had both made it.

She wore black, skin-tight jeans and a black-and-white striped i lurt. Without the sweat and grime from court, her face glowed. She had translucent pink lip gloss on, with tiny glittery bits on her lips. Her hair, slightly wavy, came all the way down to her waist. Her long lingers looked delicate, hiding the power they had displayed on court. My heart was in my mouth. Ever since I had got my admission letter, I had been waiting for the month before college opened to pass quickly and to find out if Riya had made it too.

‘Riya,’ she said. ‘You remember, right?’

Did I remember? I wanted to tell her I had not forgotten her for one moment since I left Delhi. I wanted to tell her I had never seen a girl more beautiful than her. I wanted to tell her that the oxygen flow to my lungs had stopped.

‘Of course,’ I said. ‘Glad you joined.’

‘I wasn’t sure, actually,’ she said and pointed to the noticeboard.‘Is that the first-year timetable?’

I nodded. She smiled at me again.

‘What’s your course?’ she asked, her eyes on the noticeboard.

‘Sociology,’ I said.

‘Oh, intellectual,’ she said.

I didn’t know what that meant. However, she laughed and I guessed it was something funny, so I laughed along. The noticeboard also had a bunch of stapled sheets with the names of all first-year students and their new roll numbers.

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