HE SHOUTED AGAIN AND WAITED
Examination was drawing near, and with exam fever catching on, Alice had little time to be with Beng. May, her room-mate, teased her. "Nowadays, we seldom see you with Beng. Rather we see you with books. Quarrel? Actually is he your boyfriend or your rival?"
"Don't be fresh! Beng is intelligent. He can talk of mermaids and stars above and moon below, and yet score. I can't. I have to study."
"Why won't you two compromise and share the Literature Prize. Later, you may share your life with him."
"You must be mad. If you like him, marry him!" Alice retorted in jest. "And don't forget Rajoo's also a hot favourite to win the prize."
But for Beng, winning the Literature Prize was never a great concern. Even the examination itself was not of much importance, because he sincerely believed in the wider and nobler aims of education. Hence he usually prepared for his examinations at the last minute.
But when he started to prepare, he had a rude surprise. His lecture notes were missing. He searched everywhere but still could not find them. He thought a friend might have borrowed the notes without his knowing, but when he inquired and found that no one had borrowed them -- worse, no one had ever seen them -- his surprise turned to shock and panic. He might be idealistic, but he still had to pass exams, and without the notes he might not be able to.
Then an irrational thought struck him. Someone jealous of him might have stolen the notes so that he couldn't study. How incredible! Downright mean!
Time was running out. Beng must get the notes that night, for the exam was on the next morning. He made a quick assessment of the friends he should approach first to borrow the notes, considering the little time available and the relative chance of the friends lending. Obviously Alice was the best choice. She stayed nearby and was his girlfriend. Surely Alice would lend him her notes. Just to be photo-stated; that would be enough. He reckoned that if he rushed to town, he would still be in time to reach a photostating machine before the shop closed for the night.
Beng sighed with relief as he neared Alice' dormitory and saw Alice' graceful figure silhouetted against the drawn curtains. Beng called gently at the window. But Alice did not pop out her head like she usually did. Instead her silhouette disappeared from the thin curtain. She must be coming down the stairs to meet him, Beng smiled boyishly. He waited. But Alice did not come. He shouted again and waited. And Alice did not come. Beng became anxious, and shouted loudly. A dozen heads popped out, all with weary eyes tired by studious reading, some with angry looks but other more kindly ones with each an index finger to a pouted mouth, telling Beng in no uncertain terms to keep quiet. Yet Alice' head did not appear.
Beng was furious. He almost ran up the stairs into the girls' rooms, but he didn't. He could only call again, and again, and again, ignoring the many angry faces and frantic limbs shaking from unintended windows. Before long, May ran down. She wore a puzzled look, said Alice, her room-mate, was not in, asked Beng not to make such noise, and before Beng realized, she had disappeared into the girls' dormitory, leaving Beng more perplexed than despairing.
Beng had no time to speculate. He rushed to Rajoo's house, charged into his room, and begged him for his notes. But Rajoo was unwilling to lend, saying that his notes were in a mess and he had no time to sort them out.
By now Beng was really desperate. Even if he could get the notes now, he did not have time to photostat them. Then he thought of Uncle Ramli. This fatherly figure simply surfaced in his mind. Beng did not know Uncle Ramli's address, but he could ask and find out. By the time he arrived at Uncle Ramli's house, it was almost midnight, but Uncle Ramli was still studying, studying the very same notes Beng was frenetically trying to borrow.
"I'm still reading the notes, but of course you also can use them," the kindly Uncle Ramli said. "Why not you stay here and we study together. Remember the discussion we had. It was wonderful."