Rania rushed up the stairs clutching her books tightly in one arm; her scarf flying in a dark blur behind her. She was late for class again. She found it impossible to leave the warmth of her bed on such December mornings.
She checked her cell phone for time. Ten minutes late already. Shit! Just as she looked up, she saw her friend Adnan approaching. She bent her head lower and quickened her pace for Adnan always felt like he had something to say and said nothing.
“Rania! Class? Late?”
Of course he would spot her given her luck.
“No Adnan I just like running up these stairs with this brick of a book, it’s good exercise”
“Uh...Making fun of me again Rania”
“What? No, I’m serious. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing than running up these damn stairs at 9 in the morning”
“Okay, okay stop. Come have chai after class”
But she was already running and he had to shout over his shoulder at her.
Adnan was a sweet guy but he was as annoying as he was sweet. He was incredibly shy which usually left him tongue tied in front of people he didn’t know – especially girls. He often made uncomfortable conversation which just made him feel awkward and so he usually kept to himself. Adnan, however, had no problem talking to Rania and wasn’t necessarily a good thing because most of what he said didn’t really make sense to her. She wasn’t entirely sure how they became friends – maybe it was their mutual interest in The Beatles. He was usually the butt of most of the jokes because he didn’t realize what was going on but Rania would tell others to let him be. Maybe I’m too nice she thought and shuddered, who’d have thought?
She received a text message from her best friend Hamza which read: The Fatty is pissed. He won’t mark your attendance. You’re dead if you try entering the class muhaha
She could not afford to miss this class because she had to submit her assignment. She held her breath and opened the door to her class.
“Fifteen minutes late! Why can’t you people take your classes seriously? If I can be on time, so can you”
He was one of those annoying old fat farts who lectured about everything under the sun other than finance – which is what he was there to teach. Annoying Old Fart’s belly usually entered the room first – it was more swollen and bloated than any pregnant woman most students claimed they had ever seen.
“Sorry sir” she mumbled.
“What did you say?”
“She said sorry sir,” Hamza called out from the back of the class.
“Aap kia commentary kern eke liye bethey hain class mein? Woh bhi chappal pehen ke! This is against the dress code! Get out! Both of you! NOW!”
Rania knew better than to argue so she just left quietly. Hamza followed closely behind her laughing.
“Laugh all you want now that we’re both failing the course!”
“If I fail, it will solely be because of my foot gear”
They both looked at each other and burst out laughing. After catching his breath, Hamza asked, “Chai?”
“Adnan is saving me a cup”
“What?! Is he approaching? Where is he? Should we run for cover? Let’s hide in the library Rania”
“Knock it off! You are so immature...we can’t have chai in the library”
“Did someone say Adnan’s approaching? Hide me!” They were joined by their friend Zainab.
Zainab was the smartest girl in university with a ridiculously witty sense of humour that Rania had instantly loved. She was also incredibly helpful and Rania could swear that she had tutored almost the entire college during her time there – everyone came to her for help.
“Adnan alert! Adnan Alert!” Sharyar came running out of the cafe signaling them all to walk in the other direction. They all turned around but Rania slapped Zainab and Hamza’s arms and they grudgingly started walking toward the cafeteria again.
“Sherry you know I love you but you have to be the most obnoxious person I know,” Rania said rolling her eyes.
Sherry just smiled shamelessly in response. He was the most laid back out of all her friends. He loved few things in life: girls, Sound Garden and weed. He was really cool and he looked it with his unruly, shoulder length hair, rock music t-shirts and the tiny stud in his left ear.
Rania looked around to find an empty table and spotted Adnan sitting with Ali in a booth at the far end of the cafeteria. As the group approached, Ali who was looking dazed smiled with relief.
“So where’s our chai Adnan?” asked Zainab as she sat down, “I need some high dosage of strong tea before I step into MBR”
“I’ll just get it for you Zainab...Rania you too right? Okay”
“Thank you for that. If I had to listen to another word of incoherent mumbling, I’d be driving back to Gulshan...”
Suddenly Hamza recoiled next to Rania and she turned to see that he had been elbowed by none other than Neha. Neha was tiny and extremely hyper; you never saw her coming. She managed to slide in next to Hamza and said sweetly, “What’s wrong?”
Hamza groaned and everyone laughed. The first classes for the day had ended and the cafeteria started to get crowded.
As the group waited for their chai, the level of activity and chaos increased. Early morning hellos were exchanged loudly across the cafe. Sleepy students dragged their feet noisily to get a bottle of water to go or wait in line for their turn for chai.
Unoccupied chairs were dragged – and some occupied ones too, books were slammed down on tables creating big piles as conversation flowed in and got louder. Amidst the crowd of students stumbling in, the group spotted their friends; the Ahmed brothers.
Bilal Ahmed had a cool stride and shook hands and waved at acquaintances. He wore what he usually wore – his blue and red plaid shirt, faded jeans and a genuine smile. He was one of those people everyone liked instantly. He was funny and the best guitarist around for miles.
Osamah Ahmed was the elder one and he was just as talented. He had strong opinions about some things and sometimes one-on-one conversation with him got too intellectual for everybody else but he was one of the first friends Rania had made at university. He was also known to be very moody.
“Dih guys. Wad’s up?” Osamah always had a cold – it could be the boiling month of June but Osamah came with a cold. His nose was always red and peeling because of the poor quality, pink tissue he used. At times, Rania had urges to grab some Vaseline from Zainab’s purse and dip his nose into it. His poor nose was practically screaming, “MOISTURIZE ME!” but the dude didn’t notice.
“I’m gonna get you a friend egg. Did you have breakfast?” Neha asked sweetly.
“I wouldn’t mind one myself. Let’s go get some Neha”
Bilal and Neha returned a few minute later with Bilal’s breakfast. As Bilal chatted to a few friends who walked upto the groups’ table, Osamah sunk into the booth with a surly look on his face and didn’t participate in the conversation taking place at the table. He looked uncomfortable and finally with a scowl he turned to his brother and said, “Unda khao, undey ki boo aa rahi hai”
“Haan, added to the Osamah ki boo” Bilal quipped back and everyone laughed. Osamah slid in lower in his booth and Neha elbowed him playfully. The cafeteria started emptying out as students headed to their classes; the second session for the day.