Seven Years Ago
Imperial Law College, one of the most coveted law colleges in the country. Every law student wanting to make a comfortable living wanted to get here. People could kill for a seat here. When the results came out, Janaki declared “I will not give the IIT JEE exam”. She couldn’t anyway. She hadn’t taken her admit card. She had a feeling that she would get a seat here and thus she never bothered with the damned engineering exam. The first merit list came out and she saw her name bold and clear, Janaki Desai and she even decided to drop her Delhi University seats. She was so ready to take the college on that she just started looking up the Constitution of India on the internet. The next thing was to make it her Facebook status. It was going to be a piece of cake and five years later she will be working in Amarchand Mangaldas making a killing in a year.
On the first day of college, the things the college threw at her, she was doubting her piece of cake theory. 5 project reports, one in each subject, citation systems for the projects and that is separate from the normal studies. The normal studies was also filled with readings that for some reason were always prescribed from outside the book. She always thought, why do they even give us this book, when they don’t teach from it. But these weren’t the biggest problems of her life. The most difficult thing in college was the library. They had access only to two floors and those two were so difficult to handle, the thought of having to deal with three more floors later was well dreadful. There was a lot of work to be done here.
But she liked her roommates. Every room had three, in her case it was Andrea and Sasha. Andrea was a Kerala Christian and Sasha like Janaki herself was born and brought up in Delhi. They got along well. They did not have a lot of petty roommate fights in the beginning. It was still the first year, things were simple, uncomplicated and innocent. They slowly learnt the ways of life in a law college. Moots, Alternate Dispute Resolution Competitions or better known as ADRs, how to deal with projects which meant getting good scores on your projects with minimum effort. Handling subjects that were tough, sharing notes and most importantly internships. Lots of things came along the way, being freshers and hence getting ragged, the college fest, freshers parties that were thrown for her batch and the ones her batch threw for their juniors. Slowly, if law school and Janaki did not become friends but they decided to have a passive agreement on letting the other live.
There could have been a breach of this agreement in the third year when life did get hell. All law subjects and that all of tough. She wanted to literally hang herself from her own hostel’s room’s ceiling fan. It was crazy. What she considered to be unholy grounds, the library, she found herself sitting there everyday and not for the air conditioning but actually for studying. It was a downhill road and it was getting steeper by the day. She could never understand why they couldn’t shift the subjects around a bit so that it becomes a bit easier on students. Then she realised wait, I was in ILC. She always remembered this one line the VC had said when they had gone to ask him for holidays in between the exams “This is the standard of ILC, our students are such that they can write 5 exams in 5 days and even then be ready to win an international moot the next day”, yes why not? She had thought.
It was another gruelling day, when she heard of the play that was being made in the college. It was a yearly thing, one play was made by the students of the entire college and the writer with other esteemed guests was invited to the college to see the theatrical presentation of the book or play that had been chosen by the students. She loved theatre but never as a performer but always as an appreciator. She preferred being in the audience and never showed a lot of interest in the auditions that were always a big deal. But this time, how could she refuse, they were picking up one of her favourite books, The Twentieth Wife by Indu Sundaresan, the beautiful retelling of the lovestory of Jehangir and Mehrunnisa. She deliberated on it over a long time. She was in the third year… times were tough… did she have time to spare… that too for a play,.. could she balance both… would it affect her studies… All of this plus she wanted to try mooting this year. But it was her favourite book- and the most wonderfully written characters were calling her to themselves.
She got up, with a start, in full vie of everyone sitting in the library and decided, she had never treated herself to something like that. She should at least give it a shot, not that she was the best of the actors, that she will say a dialogue and they will be waiting for her with open arms to be their Mehrunnisa. Then Andrea pulled her top, Janaki looked at her, she realised, she was in the library and sat down and told Andrea the epiphany she had just had. She read the invitation mail carefully, noted the time and place for the audition.
It was after two days. She finished all her work by 5 that evening and by 5:15, she stood outside the door of the audition room. She knocked and was surprised to see that she was the first one. She waited, slowly, people started coming, it was already 5:45 and still no sign of the organisers, which were the fourth years. Then she saw Sasha come in, Janaki motioned towards the seat next to her and she sat down and finally at 5:50 the fourth years came in. They were least bothered about the fact that they were late. Ahh.. the fourth years, they think that now that they are done with the third year, they are the kings of the world, no respect for others’ time. Never mind, she thought, its for the book. They began explaining the story and laid out the roles for which auditions would be conducted. They started taking down names for each role. Janaki raised her hand for Meherunnisa.
They distributed the lines. She read her lines again and again to herself. Sasha told her to shush. That is when he walked in, “Sorry guys. Hi I am Raghunath Diwan. I will be directing the play and well have written the script. I hope you guys like it. I got caught up in something. Thanks for taking out your time for us. We really really appreciate this and I think they have told you about the book and the adaptation we are doing, it is a great book, I advice you all to read, irrespective of whether you play a role in the play or not. I have a copy, you guys can borrow i whenever you want to” and gave a beaming smile. She wanted to shout “I have read the book, even I have a copy”.
He was so polite and nice. She couldn’t place him, but actually she never really knew most of her seniors, but she guessed he was another fourth year. But he was so handsome, he couldn’t be one of them. He wore a U S Polo T shirt and khaki pants, but he wore them with an almost royal elan. His face exuded warmth and confidence. It was as if, she was destined to be his Mehrunissa and he her Jehangir.