Rain had been pouring intermittently since noon. By evening, the girls lined up at the bus stand near the college, which resembled the radiant hues of a rainbow. Some broke away from the line, joining friends in private cars. The college van passed the waiting students. By 5:30 PM, the chorus of car horns, the girls' high-pitched laughter, and the drumming rain reached a peak before subsiding. Still, about twenty students remained huddled under umbrellas by the bus stand, beneath a tree.
The highway, flanked by bungalows with compound walls, offered no refuge from the rain. The students clutched their books close, wrapping them with their upper garments, shivering in anticipation of the buses. The distant rumble of diesel engines and the accompanying smell of exhaust signaled an approaching bus. As they pulled up, the splash from beneath the tires drenched the students' feet. Buses swallowed the waiting passengers, then departed with a mechanical sigh. The monsoon hastened the onset of night.
A rickshaw driver, clad in a translucent plastic raincoat, sounded his muffled bell in annoyance at a cow blocking his path. Despite the college girls nearby, he couldn't resist hurling a few choice words at the animal. His outburst set off a ripple of laughter. For a while, all was calm.
The students' feet grew cold, their saris dampened, and their mascara began to smear. With no bus in sight, the solitary cow took up a position by the bus stand. At the sound of another rumbling engine, everyone's head turned. Recognizing the bus, a senior student gleefully shouted, "It's my bus!" Waving, she called out, "Bye! Bye! Ta-ta!"
All but two boarded the bus — a junior and a senior. The junior, whose mismatched clothes hinted at a modest background, took shelter under the senior's umbrella. While she wore no jewelry, she didn't need any; her radiant face shone brilliantly, reminiscent of the moon.
Glancing at her watch, the senior noted it was six o'clock. Spotting another bus, she folded her umbrella, hoping to board. Recognizing it as her ride, she said a reluctant goodbye to the junior. With a blown kiss, she climbed aboard.
Two more buses appeared. The first wasn't the junior's bus. The driver, reading the disappointment on her face, continued past the stop. Now, her only companion was the old cow. Finally, the sound of an engine grew louder. Her bus had arrived. With a sigh of relief, she embarked on her journey home.