It was in the air; the reek of expectation. It wafted by every nose, unnoticed, for they’d all grown used to it. They all knew what it smelt like. But it remained unclassified. No one knew if it was sweet or pungent, bitter or warm, if it smelt of factory-working fathers or home-making mothers. Maybe that was how it was meant to be; there yet not.
But it was there. And not.
Yes. There. And not.
And everyone knew it and didn’t.
But to some, it was stifling. They didn’t need to expect. For they sort of didn’t want to expect what commonness would throw them as alms. Possibly coins that had lost their value over the years of economic and physical tarnish of living in neglect and poverty. Mani was one of them. He didn’t want to expect what was to become. It wasn’t that he knew that the outcome would possibly ruin him for another year. But that was precisely what he didn’t care for; the years. He hated it when anything asked him for dates; question papers, forms, this and that. They made no sense. It made no sense. Time. And he hated it when someone told him that he had forgotten a birthday. It felt like being asked to value the perfectly round ten-paise coins that he once took pride in collecting. He still had them with him; sleeping a pointless slumber; living an aimless existence among mothballs and silks. Silverfish still ate the silks and the silks still smelt of mothballs. And the coins were still useless. The failure of relations. And time. Mani knew that much.
And today, as he sat, half-caught in an extremely pointless hangover, an outcome of an even more pointless drunken night, with a hundred souls in the dorm poring over their books for their semester exams that were a day away, a hundred other souls learning to paraglide at a distant hill-station, a hundred more gloating in a mysterious pleasure at how a hundred would be flabbergasted when they attempted to solve the problems that they’d set for them to break their heads over, another hundred burning at Kannammapet Electric Crematorium, a good hundred more crying for souls that had run out of time and wishing they had had more, Mani knew not the time or the point of it.
It was ten o clock. And as pointless as it was mentioning it, Mani gloated in justification of his knowledge not known. He picked up his brush and box of soap and trotted off to the latrine. They could all wait. Exams. The coins and silks and mothballs that waited anyway. And time.