The ringing sound of the alarm clock woke him up. He glanced at the time. It was 6. He resisted the urge to curl back into bed. He did not have a moment to lose. He had exactly thirty minutes to get ready. He jumped up from his bed and fumbled on the window sill for his toothpaste and toothbrush. He opened the door and was greeted by the harsh rays of the sun. The black little dog ran up to him barking excitedly. He ignored her and took steady steps towards the bathroom. As he brushed his teeth, a face with four day stubble peered at him from the mirror. He remembered how his boss used to comment whenever he came to office unshaven.
But he no longer had to bother about bosses’ preferences anymore for he was now a student again. As he walked back to his room, she again came running up to him, wagging her tail as if she wanted to set some record for maximum number of wags per second. But he again ignored her and walked up to his room. He reached out to the bottle of water at the corner of the table. It was empty. It was too early to order a new bottle. He would pick up a bottle on the way. He opened the large steel bureau and looked for a pair of clothes. He grabbed the first shirt and pants that were within reach. He had never understood the concept of matching clothes. Who made these rules of what color went with what, he mused as he picked up a set of undergarments and a towel to walk again towards the bathroom.
By now she had given up on him and settled down in her little cardboard box under the printer. She looked at him from a corner of her eyes as he locked the door of his room. As he opened the tap and waited for the bucket to fill, he caught the strong stench of urea. He found the cold water soothing and the sandalwood fragrance of the soap made his mind calm and serene. He felt like he was floating on the clouds as he walked back to the room. His reverie was disturbed by the screech of the chair leg against the floor from the next room. He quickly entered his room, left the bucket under the table and the soap box on the window sill, once again locked the room and was on his way.
He covered his nose with a handkerchief as the sweepers were raising a lot of dust. By the time he reached the gate, the smell of sweat threatened to overcome the sandalwood smell. He walked up to the line of autos and spoke up to the driver of the first one in his hesitant Hindi, “Will you come to Gandhi Ashram?”
The driver, a large man with a bald head a bushy mustache surveyed him for few moments and said, “200 Rs, Sir”
His face clouded for a moment and he looked around. Not too many vehicles were plying on the road . He took out his wallet from his back pocket and examined the contents. He then kept his wallet back and turned his eyes towards the next auto driver in the line. The first guy spoke up again, “Ok, Sir. 180 Rs. Last and final rate for you! Hop on.”
He paused for a moment and got into the auto. He sighed a breath of relief as the auto got onto the street. He had made his escape. He look at his watch. It was exactly 7.00. He had made it just on time. “Happy Holi,” he told himself. His friends had come knocking at his door this very hour the previous year. He had grown wiser this year.