by Nirupama Akella
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Her mind began wandering again to the day’s events -- even the children had not enjoyed themselves, some stalls had not been upto the mark. Thankfully the art exhibition had gone off without a hitch and then the circus show organized solely for the small children had also been somewhat of a success. Nandita yawned. She simply had to leave before she fell asleep here! She straightened and looked about her. All eyes were staring straight ahead as if Lata Naidu was an alien from Mars. She quietly got up and eased her way out of the room. As she was sitting in the last row, she had no difficulty and was soon standing outside the room. Sighing gratefully, she slowly descended the stairs and soon stood in the fading light. The stalls had been removed and the organizational committee and the gardener were busty at work clearing the lawns. Inside, she knew, the rooms were being swept, paintings and exhibits being removed. She spied Sue Danely and Diya Sahu standing with arms akimbo, supervising, instructing and generally making sure that everything was being cleared efficiently. Nandita smiled to herself walking past the canteen area and could distinctly hear empty pots and pans being cluttered under water and banged and washed, with the harsh shrill tones of Mrs. Gopal working overtime. From the hostel, she could sounds of running feet, laughter, high pitched shrieks as the girls removed grease paint, refreshed themselves and generally had a riotous fun time before supper. Nandita grinned to herself nostalgically remembering her own college days.
She approached the teacher’s quarters and then suddenly stopped, frowning. Directly in front with his back to her, she saw a familiar manly figure. She frowned racking her memory and then smiled as recollection came flooding. It was the construction supervisor, Rajeev Ghosh, who, Nandita remembered chewing her underlip thoughtfully; she had met four weeks ago in the restaurant with Gayatri. What was he doing here with an empty dark navy blue travelling bag in hand bearing the logo “Air 77”, dressed in deep brown trousers and a pale brown shirt with polished narrow black heeled boots, looking very much like a busy executive. She had recognized the slim figure at once and even his clothes looked familiar to her eyes. Of course, she had seen him in these same clothes on that fateful day of Shanta’s disappearance. She had seen him standing in the entrance in this dark trouser at the entrance of the Old Wing. And she had wondered then, what he had been doing there because the Old Wing had not been under any sort of construction or renovation. Nandita frowned -- she distrusted this fellow ever since she had finally recognized him as the figure she had seen in the entrance of the Old Church that Monday afternoon, when Shanta had disappeared. And now, here he was again.
She suddenly felt a strange sense of foreboding of danger. She moved forward thinking hard -- all the guests except the ones who had been invited to attend the seminars had left the college as the festivities had ended nearly three hours ago. She could not imagine this Rajeev Ghosh to be one of the invited few who had been persuaded to remain behind to attend seminars on socio- economic issues! Somehow, he didn’t seem that type of person who had an interest and deep abiding passion for listening to seminars and presentations.
“And what was he doing with a travelling bag? Maybe he was going out of station,” her brain reasoned. But she refused to accept this possibility. She tapped him on the shoulder and he turned with a surprised, guilty look on his pleasant face.
“Hi.” said Nandita looking at him curiously. “Remember me? Nandita Sharma… we met that day at the restaurant…”
“Of course….er of course,” Mr. Ghosh said clutching his bag tightly to himself.
“He seemed to be highly agitated and nervous,” thought Nandita. Aloud she said, “so how are you?How is your business going? What are you doing here? Did you come to see the show?” Nandita rapidly fired questions.
Rajeev Ghosh ran a hand through his hair and bit his moustache.
“Hiding his tension but tension about what,” thought Nandita observing his facial expression – “he doesn’t look too pleased to see me…in fact, it seems to me he was planning to sneak in somewhere without being seen…and I spoiled it…I saw him!” her mental ruminations continued.
“Business is fine,” he said jerkily. “It was a nice show.”
“Why are you still here? Are you attending the seminars?” Nandita knew she was being uncharacteristically nosy but she had to know everything in this case.
“Oh! Do you enjoy them?”
Rajeev didn’t answer but wet his lips.
“Another sure sign of nervousness,” decided Nandita gleefully. She said, “Why are you carrying a travelling bag? Are you going somewhere?”
“Ye…..es,” there was a pause,. Rajeev Ghosh shot a furtive look about him and continued, “I am going to visit my anut in the bus…”
“That explained the bag,” thought Nandita – “but it still didn’t explain the reason for his obvious nervousness! But maybe she should give him a break, and stop being so nosy,.”
She said, “Well… I better get going. Nice meeting you, Bye!” Waving she walked back to the Quarters and went towards her room. *****
To be continued....Instant Spelling And Grammar Checker