The clock strikes 9 setting off in me, fresh waves of panic. I gobble the last piece of the paratha before lobbing the plate like a frisbee into the kitchen sink. I grab the car keys and hurriedly snatch the haversack packed by wifey. Before I can hurry out of the house, she manages to grab hold of my neck and plant a worried kiss on my cheek! I wonder when I shall see her again. I reach my destination. I had thought I’d be decently early. Ahem! Apparently not! There are already around a hundred in the queue. I quickly join the tail end of the line… Furrows of worry are beginning to appear on my forehead. Am I too late? Ahem! I need not have worried. Within half an hour there are 300 men and women lined up behind me. I avoid eye contact with the women lest I fall prey to their pleading looks to exchange places with me. ( I have strict orders from wifey regarding this, as she knows that my Achilles heel is my chivalrous nature!) I look at my watch. Ahem! It is only 11.30 pm. The queue seems to lengthen non- stop! I look around. New coteries are being formed. Old acquaintances are not acknowledged for fear of favours sought. Some are beginning to settle down for the day. Some enterprising ones take out the foldable chairs, they have brought and relax. I curse myself for not having thought of that. Now I’ll have to squat on the road for the rest of the night. Past midnight. All is silent. People have retired for the day. Ahem! I can’t seem to sleep. Good thinking on the part of wifey to have made me take a valium 5 the previous noon and made me sleep for 8 hours. Now I am as wide-eyed as when both Wifey and I were struggling with post- natal depression! I keep a sharp eye on the sly ones who try to worm their way up the queue surreptitiously! Ahem! I say aloud, alerting the intruder that he was being watched. 3.30 a.m. Wish I had brought a hooded jacket. These February nights are c..c..cold! I hug myself, hoping that the sacrifice I am making will be worthwhile in the long run! 5 a.m. People are getting up… getting ready. A mallu thumbi appears out of nowhere vending tea that is welcome… oh so welcome! 7 a.m. The long queue is causing traffic snarl-ups. It is peaktime and tempers fray and pop out! Soon the police come, trying to control the crowd. Ahem! They don’t seem to succeed much! 7.30 a.m. The gates open. Instantly pandemonium breaks out. All those people who have been waiting patiently all night have changed into panic stricken beasts stampeding for life. The security guards can hardly handle the avalanche of parents tumbling into the school. I am propelled by unseen hands to the counter when my turn comes. ‘Sorry, only one application form per parent says the indifferent shadow on the other side of the bullet proof sheet of glass. ‘I have twins’, I yell into the hole in the glass too low and tiny for me to put my head into. I whip out my wallet and thrust it in showing her my twin sons’ photograph. Luckily she believes me and gives me 2 application forms for the kindergarten section of the school. As I step out of the queue jubilantly, an irate parent shouts, ‘They are going back on their word. They are issuing more than one form per parent. This’s black marketing!’ Like angry bees they swarm towards me. Someone tries to grab the forms from my hand. I dodge, trying to escape. Soon I am grappling with a man twice my size. My yelling, ‘I have twins, you idiot!’ falls on deaf ears. I struggle hard to free myself. THUD! I fall down. Even as I fall, I am…ahem!...clutching my two forms! ‘Are you okay?’ screams Wife. ‘THE FORMS….the kindergarten application forms for the kids…’I mumble desperately! ‘What! Your kids completed their B.Tech three months back… what’s wrong with you?’ She yells! Ahem! I pick myself up from the floor and glance at today’s newspaper in which I was reading about kindergarten admissions in the emirates when I had fallen asleep… What a nightmare at…ahem…!!