Seated at the back of the classroom, with only two other people in her vicinity, Nandini concentrated on her notes. It had been an hour and fifty minutes since class had convened and she was next in line for the presentation. Secretly hoping that the bell signalling the end of the stipulated two hours would ring before her name was called out, she crouched over her notes and mentally began to revise from the text.
Just as her head began filling with citations and case laws, she felt a tap on her shoulder. A man she hadn't seen before in class was standing beside her and gesturing towards her to shift inside. She hesitated for a moment, but for fear of creating any nuisance in the middle of somebody's viva, she slid down the bench and picked up her notes. He sat down beside her, keeping his bag between them and a cellphone on the desk.
"Hello. I'm Shaurya Singhal. And you are?"
"Now that's a fine name. Haven't heard it before , I must admit."
Realizing that she was being unfairly short with him, she pasted a phony smile on her face and said to him, "Nandini Sehgal. And I'm sorry for being so rude but I am next in line to be massacred by Professor Bindra. So, if you don't mind...."
"Sure sure. I don't mind at all. Let me know if you need any help." Saying this, he got busy with his cellphone which had been flashing for his attention for quite some time now.
Trying to ignore his overwhelming presence beside herself, she turned her gaze towards the papers on which the ink seemed to be swimming. Not being able to make out a word of what she was reading, she began to panic a little. Closing her eyes for a moment, she recalled all that she had been preparing for the past week, and took a deep breath to soothe her frayed nerves.
Public speaking had always been a challenge for Nandini. Since childhood, she had felt nauseous and sick each time that she had been forced to take the stage. Her family often mocked her and said that they thought it ironic that a girl who was scared to death of climbing a podium and addressing countless people, had chosen law as her line of work. She still felt cold down to her very bones when she thought of her future, addressing a jury and a judge in the middle of a cavernous courtroom.
Now, awaiting her turn to the guillotine, she looked at the current speaker. Mridula Kashyap, a short raven-haired beauty, whose father was one of the top advocates in the country. Her confidence behind the lectern was awe-inspiring and her demeanor calm. Nandini envied her these qualities but knew instinctively that she would not get along with her in the least. They had been in the same batch during their graduation days and hadn't spoken more than ten words to each other.
Now thoroughly distracted from her revision, Nandini glanced towards the man she was sharing a desk with and saw him engrossed in texting somebody. A little curious, she asked him, "So, is this your first lecture?"
"Oh! You're talking to me. I thought you were cramming." His smile eased the sting in his words and she found herself smiling back and saying, "Cramming? Naah. I was just revising a few vital points for my oral presentation. I forgot my charger at home, so I can't boot my laptop before the viva itself."
"Oh! Okay. Well, this is my first lecture, yeah. Was out of town for the past week and just got back late last night. Thankfully I don't have my turn today or else I'd be dead by now."
"Yeah? When are you slated for your viva?"
"Next week, Tuesday. Professor Bindra will be on leave. So that's a blessing, I guess."
"You are one lucky dog, really. I have been seeing him grill students for the past couple of hours and there's just no stopping him."
"Well, I think you may get lucky yourself. In about a minute the bell is going to clamor and declare your freedom from Prof. B."
Glancing at the mickey mouse dial of her watch, Nandini saw the minute hand slide towards the cursive twelve and felt a wave of relief wash over her skin. On the podium, Mridula was just winding up her speech and slideshow when the bell saved her. Listening to it clamor wildly, she smiled at Shaurya before putting her notes in her bag.
"Alright class. That's all for today. Students from Roll No. twenty-eight onwards shall report to Professor Khatija next week on Tuesday. Am I clear?"
A unanimous affirmation later, Prof. B left the classroom and behind him several relieved students, including Nandini. "Guess you were right, huh? Prof. Khatija sure is a lot more easy-going than Bindra. So, who do you have for your next class?", she asked Shaurya.
"Constitution with D.V. Verma. Yours?"
"Oh! I'm done for the day. Anyway, it was nice meeting you. See you around." Waving back at him, Nandini walked out of the class and towards the parking lot.