Novel Illusion. Complete Novel

Today the entire hustle-bustle of Rajesh’s wedding reception. Rajesh had intentionally selected a spot, neither at an over-crowded town centre nor too far outside the village, surrounded by the green lawn. Under the pretext of reception, all of Rajesh’s old college friends, had purposely gathered and were chatting in a group, just for the sake of nostalgia. Suddenly, through the crowd they saw Priya entering there and all the chat stopped instantly. Priya, of the college days and the one now, was appearing to be radically different. At that time she was a youthful girl on the brink of adolescence and now she was a fully-blossomed beautifully charming woman. Perhaps, none of them had ever seen so well-dressed and that is why they were sensing that striking difference. All of them were staring straight at her. Priya gave a mild smile while paying a glance
at everybody and all of them too responded at her in the same manner with a mild smile of recognition.
After reaching near the group, she gave the bouquet to Rajesh to congratulate him and said, ‘Congratulations and wish you a happy married and prosperous married life’.

‘More than being happy, prosperity is important’, somebody from the group commented, and once again the group was revitalized.

Then Rajesh too took the lead to introduce his wife to Priya.

‘Priya, meet my wife, Kamal’.

‘You need not tell me what is clearly visible’, Priya funnily replied, ‘Only telling the name is sufficient’.

Everybody endorsed her remark with another stroke of laughter.

One friend, then explained, ‘That’s not the matter Priya. Telling that is also equally important. What happened once is that once during the wedding of a friend of mine, both his wife and her sister were mingling enthusiastically in the crowd and our friend did not bother to specifically introduce his wife to all of us such that throughout the wedding we were assuming his wife’s sister to be the actual wife of him’.

Once again everybody passed through a stroke of laughter.

‘Under the pretext of some other friend’s name’, somebody clipped, ‘is he telling the mischief he has committed in his own wedding reception?’ and one more thunder of laughter passed through.

‘This is my friend Priya’, Rajesh attempted to introduce Priya to his wife, ‘Myself, Priya and Vijay, we had an excellent group during our college days’.

‘How shrewd is Rajesh’, somebody seized at the opportunity, ‘in order to avoid any misunderstanding he has carefully inserted Vijay’s name in between’.

That comment sparked off another round of laughter.

After seeing Kamal feeling awkward, the same friend offered an explanation to Kamal, ‘Don’t take me seriously, I was just pulling Rajesh’s legs. It’s all in the fun’.

But, the same friend continued to say, ‘I cannot give the same guarantee about Vijay and Priya’.

Now it was Priya’s turn to blush.

‘Look at that, look at that’, another friend of them jumped at the opportunity, ‘how pinkish have her cheeks become immediately after joining her name with Vijay’.

Priya was continuing to feel blushed and she was confused how to react over this.

‘How is that Vijay has not yet arrived?’, Rajesh took the lead to change the focus of whole discussion.

‘He will definitely come, haven’t you given him the invitation or forgot it while keeping all your focus on wife?’, somebody else said.

‘Oh No! He is my best friend! Will such a thing ever happen?’, Rajesh quickly replied.

Few moments passed in peace.

‘So Rajesh? Have you made any plans for honeymoon or not?’, another friend started making fun of Rajesh by turning to change the topic under discussion.

‘Of course yes!’, Rajesh replied with meaningful gesture at his wife.

Now it was Kamal’s turn to blush.

‘What plan have you made?’, Rajesh’s friend does not seem to be in any mood to spare him.

‘Simla’, Rajesh replied.

‘Oh! Only domestic!’, I had thought you would go out of India.

‘It takes long time to reach out of India! He doesn’t have that much patience to wait!, yet another friend taunted.

Discovering that the discussion is becoming increasingly mischievous and absurd, Priya moved from there to another group of guests, by formally saying, ‘Excuse me’, under the pretext of finding somebody from the acquaintance.

 Vijay entered the reception venue from the gate the very moment Priya moved away from the group of Rajesh, his wife and his friends to another group of women. He was accompanied by his family i.e. his mother and sister too. Vijay’s mother was a barely educated woman and his sister was slightly elder to him and introvert in nature. After entering the reception venue Vijay started glancing here and there but Rajesh was completely attentive of him and he was well aware whom Vijay was searching for. When Rajesh stared at one his friends and gave a mysterious smile the entire group of friends too noticed Vijay and they also started smiling in the same mysterious manner. Yet, Vijay was unaware of them and he was continuing to look here and there as though searching for somebody. Just then, one of the friends standing in that group raised his hand and said loudly,
‘Here! Here! Come Here! We all are standing here!’.

Another boy from the group said sarcastically to Vijay, ‘Mr. Rajesh, the host of this function, for whom you are searching, is waiting for you here’.

Now Vijay was left with no choice to pay attention to the group and he approached Rajesh and his friends on the dais along with his mother and sister.

‘Think of the devil and the devil is there’, one from among the group said, ‘just now we were talking about you only’.

‘At least once in lifetime, please manage to reach in time’, one of them mischievously said to Vijay.

‘Why? What happened?’, Vijay could not figure out his contention and he asked.

‘My friend! Till this moment she was standing here only’, Rajesh whispered into Vijay’s ears knowing fully well of the presence of Vijay mother, while pointing at Priya.

Vijay looked in the same direction where Rajesh was pointing at and noticed Priya there. Priya too was looking at him alone and they both exchanged a sweet smile of acknowledgement. But Vijay found it little odd to immediately leave the group of his friends behind and approach her. Perhaps, she too faced the same problem since she was standing among all ladies.

‘This is my best friend Vijay’, Rajesh introduced Vijay to his wife.

‘Yes! Yes! You had introduced him in our wedding’, Rajesh’s wife said, ‘I am aware of it’.

Vijay handed-over his gift-box to Rajesh and said, ‘And this is my mother and my sister, Shalini’.

Rajesh, in turn, handed over that gift to one of his friends standing nearby and bowed before Vijay’s mother to offer his respect. Rajesh’s wife too followed him and bowed before Vijay’s mother.

‘Live a happy life together’, Vijay’s mother blessed both of them.

‘Didn’t you get your father along?’, one of them asked Vijay.

That friend asked this question and suddenly the atmosphere in that group became serious because almost all of them were aware that Vijay’s father was almost always be under the stupor of liquor and Vijay would always avoid carrying him along since he was known to be very whimsical. Similarly, he would also avoid taking his sister along because of her introvert nature. She too disliked to mingle with group of people and therefore Vijay would rarely take her anywhere along. But today Vijay had brought his sister especially for Rajesh’s wedding reception since Rajesh had insisted for it. Apart from her introvert nature there were many other reasons why Vijay would avoid taking her along which were very awkward for him to describe. Therefore, if at all anybody would insist, he would simply put up the problem of her nature as an excuse. That way, Rajesh had insisted Vijay to bring his father along and had personally invited his father too which he too had willingly accepted. But Rajesh was well aware that he would not come and Vijay too would resist him even if he expresses his desire to come. On the other hand, even Vijay found it convenient to carry his sister along, instead of bringing father, because it was one and the same to honor Rajesh’s desire. Therefore, conveniently, he had sought to bring his sister along. Finding that the entire atmosphere had become serious, Rajesh was puzzled about how to restore it back to normal. Since everybody in the group was knowing about Vijay’s father, Rajesh was aware that the one who asked such a question was either ignorant about Vijay’s father or had intentionally asked that question to put Vijay in an awkward situation.

‘Mother! Please come here to meet Vijay’s mother and sister! Were you not so keen to meet both of them’, Rajesh addressed his mother and found a good excuse to change the topic.

Rajesh’s mother came there and after the exchange of few smiles, she carried Vijay’s mother and sister to the same group of ladies where Priya was standing. Priya smiled at Vijay’s sister, Shalini, and also offered her respects to Vijay’s mother.

Even though Vijay was busy chatting among his friend’s group of men, all his attention was over Priya and she too was doing the same. Although she was chatting among the group of women she was watchful about Vijay. Vijay’s mother and his sister were standing adjacent to Priya. Vijay’s mother was talking something intensely with Priya. Vijay realized that it was an excellent opportunity. He can always approach his mother under the pretext of talking with her and then talk with Priya.
‘Excuse me’, Vijay formally said to his group to slip out of them.

‘You are indeed excused’, one of his friends again remarked mischievously.

But Vijay ignored that remark and approached his mother. But right at the same moment, some other lady-friend of Priya came near her and holding her hand pulled Priya somewhere else. Vijay was thus disappointed.

 ‘What?’, Vijay’s mother asked him.

Having approached his mother, now Vijay had no choice but to say something to his mother.

‘Mother, why are you standing all the while? Go and occupy some chair otherwise your knees shall pain as usual’, Vijay said.

‘Yes! I’ll go after some time’, Vijay’s mother replied and ignored him to continue chatting with other women.

Shalini, being shy by nature and introvert, was unable to understand what she can talk with strangers and was also unable to locate anybody whom she knew well. She glanced at her mother but mother was intently busy talking whether or not she knew women around her. Now Shalini started getting bored. She looked here and there for a chair but all chairs were placed far away from her. She did not want to leave her mother alone and therefore she simply stood against a pole and delved deep into her own thoughts. Suddenly she realized that somebody was signaling at her standing on the steps of that premises. When she turned around to look at that individual she discovered that the same young man was waving his hand to attract her attention itself.

‘I don’t seem to know him’, Shalini thought.

‘Then why is he calling me?’, Shalini was puzzled.

She turned around to see her mother but mother was not being seen anywhere around nor could she find her brother, Vijay. When paid a second careful look around, she noticed her brother but he was standing too far away. She once again looked at the same youth who was waving his hand at her standing from the steps.

But Shalini failed to comprehend why was he calling?

And she found it odd to even go at him without intimating her mother or brother about it.

In the meantime, that youngster himself approached her.

‘Your mother is calling you upstairs’, that young boy said to her.

Shalini felt tremendously relieved.

So many questions and doubts about that young boy had gathered in her mind in split second’s time.

She thought, her introvert nature alone was responsible for this.

‘Brother always advises her to learn the art of mingling and talking with people. Leading a lonely life is a hurdle in the path of one’s social and psychological progress’, Shalini’s thought process warned her.

‘Yes, my brother is right to say that. If I become little extrovert and mingle among the people such weird thoughts won’t appear in mind’, Shalini concluded.

‘Perhaps mother must have called me for the same reason that I am standing here alone without talking with anybody or perhaps mother must be wanting to introduce me with somebody’, Shalini thought to herself.

And she started walking behind that young boy.

 Finally at the right opportunity and after escaping the prying eyes of his friends Vijay managed to find Priya alone. After a long span of time they both were meeting face to face.
‘How are you?’, Vijay enquired for her.

‘How are you keeping?’, Priya stared straight in his eyes.

Perhaps she was searching for her own reflection in his eyes.

‘I am fine’, Vijay too was staring at her eyes only.

Some moments passed off in silence. Vijay carefully looked around and after confirming that nobody was attentive about him, he said,

‘I wanted to tell you something’.

Priya didn’t utter a word, and started looking down. Once again few moments passed in complete silence. Perhaps he was trying to compose his words. Once again Vijay looked around carefully. This time he noticed his mother approaching him.

‘It doesn’t seem possible here at this place’, he depressingly said. ‘Anyway, do one thing. Tomorrow evening at 6 pm……where can we meet? Where?’.

‘At our usual place’, Priya suggested.

‘That’s right! Our usual place! Ashok Park!’.

Noticing that his mother is coming closer, Vijay escaped from there by saying, ‘I will wait for you there’.

When Vijay’s mother arrived there Priya was still looking down. She had not got a single opportunity to talk. She glanced in the direction where Vijay had gone. He was going toward his friend’s group. Suddenly he stopped and even he glanced at Priya.

By this time, Vijay’s sister, Shalini, had reached up to the first floor, walking behind that young boy. There, she looked around everywhere in the balcony. Nobody was being seen around there. Only the noise of laughter and talk of the people gathered below on the lawn were being heard.
Once again Shalini’s mind developed some doubts.

‘Nobody seems to be here. ‘Where is my mother?’, Shalini gathered some courage to ask.

That young boy stopped and said, ‘She is there. Inside the room’.

She glanced at that boy and tried to grasp what was going on his mind. Both of them stared at each other. But she could not sense anything of his mind. Neither did she feel anything malicious or objectionable in his eyes.

‘What a doubt-prone my mind is’, she thought and warned herself.

That young boy turned and started walking ahead. She also followed him. After walking for some distance, he stopped in front of a room. Even Shalini also stopped behind him.

‘Your mother is sitting inside’, he pointed at the door of the room.

Shalini went in front and pushed open the door. It was already open. She once again turned and looked at that young boy.

‘Go inside’, he ordered while standing outside there.

She looked at him with questioning face.

‘Go inside. I will continue to remain watchful and alert here only’, he ordered.

‘Watchful and alert?’, Shalini felt surprised.

‘Yes. Watchful and alert! The times are like that!’, he said mysteriously.

Shalini could not decipher anything from that mysterious voice.

‘Whatever it is…….’, she thought and ignored him.

When she started going inside, that young boy said once again,

‘And yes! Do not forget to lock the door from inside after entering there’.

Shalini once again paused and asked, ‘Why?’.

‘Do whatever that is told to you. Don’t ask too many questions’; the voice of that boy had suddenly turned harsh.

Shalini went inside the room mechanically and locked the door from inside.

The voice of that young man itself was so overpowering that he had left Shalini completely captivated by it. Afraid of that overpowering voice, Shalini went inside the room and instantly she locked the door from inside. But there was complete darkness inside the room. A question popped-up in her mind, ‘Why must have her mother called her here in this darkness?’.
‘No! No!’, fearsome thoughts came to her mind again, ‘there is something malicious in all this’. She turned back to open the door and suddenly she saw some figure sitting there in the darkness on the bed there. She turned and looked at that unrecognizable figure but it was difficult to understand who it was in that thick darkness. She tried searching for the light switch but it was located right above the other end of the bed. She could not gather courage to go there and light it.

Standing there in the darkness, she gave a call, ‘Mother!’.

But there was no response. Now she gathered some courage and went near the bed to put on the light. She reached up to the switch and put it on. A ray of bright light spread throughout the room and the darkness vanished. Now she could clearly look at the figure sitting there on the bed. He was some another youth sitting there. He gave her a pleasant smile and said, ‘Welcome’.

‘Come and sit here’, he said.

Shalini and that youngster stared at each other. There was a captivating charm in his eyes. She could not remove her eyes from looking at his face. Shalini sensed that there was such a thrilling magic in his voice that she was mesmerized so that she went and sat near him on the bed, at least, as far away from him as possible.

‘There is nothing to be afraid of’, that young man assured Shalini and she felt slightly relaxed and the fear in her mind subsided a little, if not vanished completely. That young man now moved near her. Even she started staring straight at his eyes. Slowly she started sensing that his eyes were turning feverishly red. Even the expressions on his face changed radically. Now she, however, electrifyingly startled when she realized that the red colour in his eyes was nothing but the lust in his mind. She had now managed to get rid of the charm he had overpowered on her mind and she started to get up from the bed. But it was too late because by now that youth had already leapt over she and she were left with no other weapon to retaliate except only to scream as loudly as she could.

After intimating Priya to meet him next day at Ashok Park, Vijay had escaped back to the group of his friends when his mother had approached him there. After reaching among the group he had once even glanced at Priya and she too was looking at him only.

‘So? Is the mutual dialogue over?’, one friend clipped.

‘What?’, Vijay tried to plead innocent.

‘Man…….when a cat sips the milk it closes its eyes thinking that even others have closed there eyes’, another friend tried to be funny with Vijay.

‘What cat…….what milk are you guys talking about?’, Vijay tried to act innocent again.

‘From your actions it is visible that soon you are scheduled to follow the suit of Rajesh. Nothing bad about it. Now that Rajesh has got married you should be the next’, Vijay’s friends were not allowing him to close the topic.

When Vijay was about to react over it, he heard a loud screaming of a woman’s voice from the building adjacent to the lawn. The entire noise of laughter and gaiety spread over the lawn was suddenly silenced after hearing that scream.

‘What has happened?’, majority of them asked.

But even from such a far off distance Vijay had recognized the voice of his sister.

‘The noise is probably coming from the first floor’, somebody whispered.

‘Let us go there’, another said.

‘Some serious problem seems to be there’, yet another joined.

Vijay rushed fast toward the staircase of the building and others followed him quickly. All other guests standing in the lawn who were stilled by that scream too started running after them. However, the senior citizens among them sensed the impending danger of all of them gathering over the first floor and hence they stopped others except those who had already reached upstairs and tried to calm them down.

Vijay and all his friends had, by now, reached on the first floor and were trying to find out the direction from where that noise of screaming still coming. Soon they got their answer and started running.

 Vijay and all of his friends rushed in the direction of the noise of screaming and came near the room’s door. Still lot of people had gathered there running behind them. It was indeed very wise of the senior citizens to prevent all the crowd to rush on the first floor because it would have caused some confusion and also some mishap. Vijay tried to push the door but it was closed from inside. Few others started knocking on the door but Vijay had no patience to wait for that long a time. Even if he was to have patience it was of no use at that particular moment of time. Along with two of his other friends, Vijay simply dashed against the door with such a powerful strength the latch inside broke down and the door opened. Immediately thereupon, Vijay and his friends pierced inside the room and others too followed them. A crowd of people thus invaded into the room. After seeing the scene inside the room, Vijay cursed himself and repented for bringing Shalini along with him there whereas there was a wide expression of curiosity and fear on some other bystanders. Inside the room, on the bed, Shalini was alone screaming and cursing somebody as though some invisible entity was misbehaving with her. Even after Vijay and all of his friends rushed inside the room, Shalini had continued to scream and shout ferociously.
‘You rascal! Leave me! Leave me alone!’, Shalini was screaming.

Vijay went near her and tried to put his palm on her shoulder. But she firmly resisted and continued screaming. All of Vijay’s friends and other people stopped there and were utterly confused.

Now Vijay held both of Shalini’s shoulders firmly in his grip and shook her. All the people gathered in the room were staring at Shalini and Vijay with surprise in their eyes.

‘Shalini! Shalini! Please wake up! See for yourself! There’s nobody here!’, Vijay tried to make her aware of the reality.

‘Vijay! Look at that son of a bitch! He is trying to rape me’, Shalini continued to yell. Once again Vijay shook his sister holding both of her shoulders firmly.

In the meantime, Vijay’s mother reached the spot.

‘What happened my dear child?’, mother tried to console her.

Held in her arms, Shalini started crying vociferously while saying, ‘Look at that bastard! He cheated and induced me to come here!’.

‘It is fine! My child!’, mother tried to sooth her, ‘We will hand him over to the cops’.

‘That is what I had warned you’, Vijay annoyingly said to his mother, ‘not to take her with us. She has not only spoilt the whole function here but has ruined even my prestige!’.

Till then, even Priya had reached there and she calmed down Vijay first by patting over his shoulder. Then she tried to console Shalini by moving her palm affectionately over Shalini’s head.

‘Isn’t she taking the medicine course nowadays?’, Priya asked Vijay’s mother in a lowered tone.

‘What shall I tell you, my child’, Vijay’s mother tried to reply, ‘she doesn’t take the medicine nowadays’.

After seeing that weird instance, the discussions started among the people gathered inside.

‘Nobody is here! Why was she crying and screaming then?’, said one gentleman.

‘Is she affected by some ghost?’, another curiously asked.

‘No! It appears a typical black magic case’, yet another man expressed.

‘Don’t talk anything nonsense Mr. Shyam’, somebody reacted, ‘you are such an educated man’.

‘What education matters here?. What else is this to be called other than an evil effect of a ghost? This girl gets induced to come here alone and then the latch gets locked automatically from inside?’, Mr. Shyam tried to explain.

Some of the men there were looking at Shalini with eyes filled in hatred and disgust while few others were sympathizing with her.

‘She must be insane! She herself must have locked the door from inside!’, yet another opined.

‘Not insane! She must be suffering from hallucinations’, somebody rationalized.

‘Hallucinations? That necessarily means she is insane!’, the same man argued.

Vijay’s mother had turned furious after hearing all these remarks.

Priya requested all of them, ‘Will you all please go out of the room?’

Even then nobody was willing to move out of the house. Finally Vijay’s mother angrily reacted, ‘You fools! Why don’t you first get yourselves out of the room? Let some fresh air come inside the room. Can’t you see how perspiring my daughter is’.

After hearing this emphatic request, all the people got silenced and started slowly moving out of the room, assuming as if not only Shalini but also her mother might be to be indeed insane.

 As per Vijay’s instruction, Priya was waiting for him at a specific location in the Ashok Park. She was remembering that it was the same location where she would sit with Vijay and Rajesh to discuss one and the same topic for hours together. Quite often their topic of discussion would be the subjects pertaining to their study. It was a very common practice among them to hold several rounds of debate about the subjects of their curriculum so that all their doubts would clear. Indeed, this method of carrying out their study was perfectly nice and whatever they had successfully achieved today in life was a result of that dedicated study alone. Vijay would always advice that one should dissolve so intensely in the study of a subject that any discussion among them should revolve around the same topic and above all this should happen automatically.

But, perhaps, today he had called her here to discuss about something radically different. Actually, that was her genuine expectation. It was the issue that both of them had never discussed among themselves in spite of meeting here several times so far. Therefore, ever since Vijay sought to meet her here in the park, she had become eager to meet him in the garden. That is why she had reached the garden a lot of time before the appointed hour. She glanced at her wristwatch. It was 5:30 PM in the evening which means she had arrived there at least half an hour before time, assuming he would arrive there in time. Of course, he was quite disciplined to keep the appointments. Now Priya glanced in all angles through the length and breadth of the garden thinking over how to while away the remaining time. First she had a small stroll throughout the garden. Everywhere, couples madly fallen in love were sitting. Priya recalled that both, Rajesh and Vijay would laugh sarcastically looking at such couples sitting in the garden because they always felt that ‘love’ was a kind of a mental and emotional weakness. Although, Priya never expressed herself over this, she never appreciated this sarcastic laughter because she always believed ‘love’ to be an emotion worth respecting. But she was aware that both of them will realize how sacred this emotion of ‘love’ is only when both of them would fall in love with somebody. And perhaps today, after a long passage of time, Vijay had sensed the serenity of that emotion thus inducing him to invite Priya at this garden. She once again scanned through the garden. Now scores of changes seemed to have taken place in the garden compared to what it before was. Earlier where there was lot of green lawn had now got converted into a barren piece of land. Perhaps the new gardener was not taking adequate care of the garden. Or perhaps even her outlook had changed over such a long period of time. How pleasant was her life like a park filled abundantly with trees of flowers and fruits when Vijay and Rajesh were studying with her during college and how barren had the life become now under the burden of the duties and responsibilities life had in stock for her like a monotonously running machine?. While delving deep into the thoughts Priya was lost in the past memories…..

It was the very first of Priya in that town and in the college located therein. Since her father was transferred in his service, she was forced to relocate in this little town from Mumbai. She had had all her education till 11th standard in Mumbai itself but now further education she had sought to take an admission in this new college. New town, new college and company of new students, almost everything was now new to her.

When she stepped into her classroom she became an instant object of curious eyes of all her class. Not only because she too was a new member of their class but also because knowing well that she has arrived from a metro city like Mumbai was sufficient a reason for the class to be curious about her. Besides that a girl in a modern outlook of bob-cut hairstyle was something totally new for those students of that little town. Compared to Mumbai, this town was definitely backward to a large extent. Priya even sensed a radical difference in the overall behaviour of the boys there. The boys in Mumbai were far too dashing and confident whereas the boys here appeared far too shy and introvert. These boys always maintained a distance between them and the girls in the class. Although Priya found these things worth laughing at, slowly she learnt that these rural boys were an equal match to their Mumbai counterparts in terms of academic intelligence but they were under the impact of the rural surrounding atmosphere for which even they were not to be blamed.

It being an important academic year of HSC, the regular classes had begun taking place right since the first day itself and almost all the teachers were conducting a revision of their respective subjects in order to take a stock of how much of the knowledge imparted in the previous had been retained by their students and how much had they forgotten during the long summer vacation. After a brief spell of two or three lectures one glaring feature of that class dawned upon Priya soon was that if all the students in her class would fail to answer a given question, the teachers then would turn to a boy student called Vijay sitting in the third desk of the middle rows who would promptly reply with a correct answer. His answers were so sharply precise that even Priya was impressed by his intelligent precision. She was charmed not only by his glittering intelligence but also because of his polite mannerism and his plain smile. It was not that Priya had never any bright students during her stay in Mumbai but she found Vijay far too different than what she had so far come across. Finally, she could no more curb her curiosity, and sought to know from her fellow girl-student who that impressive student was?.

‘Who is he?’, Priya asked.

‘He is the most intelligent student from our class’, came the reply.

‘I know that already, but what is his name?’, she impatiently asked.

‘Vijay’, came a quick reply.

‘I know even that since the beginning of the class……but what is his Sir-Name?’, Priya maintained her patience.

‘Sawant’, came an equally quick reply.

Priya once again turned and looked at him.

 Chemistry – 2 class was going on. Professor was busy writing variety of different chemical reaction formulae and the students were busy in writing them down in their notebooks quickly before the teacher would erase them from the blackboard. Vijay was completely engrossed in writing them down and Rajesh too was doing the same. But Priya was, time and again, turning to look at Vijay while being busy in writing her notes.

‘Do you notice any difference between this formula and the one previous to it?’, Rajesh suddenly asked Vijay while taking the notes.

‘Of course, there is a difference’, Vijay replied.

‘I don’t see any! In fact, I find all the chemistry-2 formulae one and the same!’, Rajesh said.

‘All formulae one and the same?’, Vijay surprisingly asked.

‘Yes! Just like Chinese men standing in a row with their tiny eyes’, Rajesh replied.

‘You crazy guy! Sometimes you come out with amazing analogies!’, Vijay remarked.

‘You know! One of my friends uncle had been to China for his corporate work and had been there for long time! He told that it took him three months to learn to differentiate between them and identify each of his surrounding Chinese employee separately!’, Rajesh replied.

Without pay much heed to what Rajesh was talking about, Vijay started taking notes rapidly and thus Rajesh too was forced to pay attention to what professor was teaching. Suddenly while writing notes Vijay soon realized that somebody was time again turning backward and glancing fat him from his right side. Now he turned to check who it was and he saw Priya. For a moment Vijay and Priya looked at each other and realizing that Vijay has come to know about it Priya quickly turned her eyes back to the blackboard.

During the 20 minutes recess all the students were standing in the corridor outside their class in small groups and whiling away their time. Vijay was standing against a pole and Rajesh was in front of him. Vijay clandestinely looked at Priya’s group of girls. Although even Priya was standing among all her girl-friends all her attention was focused on Vijay only. She also clandestinely looked at Vijay and both of them looked at each other for a moment and Vijay said to Rajesh, ‘fifty’.

‘Fifty?, What fifty?’, Rajesh asked.

Vijay again got engrossed in looking at the girls group.

‘This ‘fifty’, what you said just now, is like that mad man standing on a bridge’, Rajesh replied.

‘What mad man on a bridge?’, Vijay asked although he was not much attentive about Rajesh.

‘Once a mad man was standing on a bridge uttering loudly ‘fifty’, ‘fifty’!. A man passing from near him asked, ‘What fifty, fifty?’, then the mad man pushed him down in the river and started reciting, ‘fifty-one, fifty-one!’, Rajesh told a joke and started laughing.

But Vijay being inattentive about him there was no chance of why he would reciprocate the laughter.

‘Raja! I will share one fun with you!’, Vijay mysteriously smiled and said to Rajesh.

‘Fun! What fun?’, Rajesh replied.

‘Look around! In that group of girls!’, Vijay asked him.

Rajesh turned his sight and started looking at the group of girls.

‘You fool! When I asked you to look at the girls, why do you always look at that fat lady?’, Vijay annoyingly asked.

‘She is not a fatty girl as you call it! She is only slightly stout!’, Rajesh explained.

‘Oh is it?, anyway, forget it, look at that new girl who has joined our class!’, Vijay said.

Looking in that direction, Rajesh said, ‘Oh! So you are talking about ‘Priya’!’.

‘Great! So by now you have come to know her name also!’, Vijay pinched.

‘What is so great about it?. The whole class knows her name! Even you must be knowing it but you are only pretending innocence!’, Rajesh replied.

‘No! Really! I did not indeed know her name!’, Vijay clarified himself.

‘Anyway, coming back to what you were telling? What is the fun?’, Rajesh asked.

‘What was the subject of our first lecture?’, Vijay asked.

‘It was of Chemistry! Why?’, Rajesh asked.

‘Right since the chemistry lecture, I am counting’, Vijay started telling, ‘She has looked at me exactly fifty times so far and now see for yourself, this is the fifty-oneth time she has glanced at me!’, Vijay replied.

‘Oh! So this is the fun you are talking about?’, Rajesh mischievously asked.

‘Now I will tell you one more fun!’, Rajesh said to Vijay.

‘What fun?’, Vijay asked.

‘Just tell me one thing! She looked at you fifty-one times! How did you come to know about it?’, Rajesh asked.

‘Of course, I have counted it’, Vijay replied unknowingly the wit of Rajesh.

‘You counted! This means you came to know only when you too looked at her at least that many times, in fact more than that!’, Rajesh trapped him.

‘Which means even she can accuse at you that you have been looking at her fifty-one times’, Rajesh caught the point.

Vijay was completely cornered and was tight-lipped about this.

‘You are talking on my behalf or her’s?’, Vijay angrily asked.

‘I am not talking on anybody’s behalf. Only explaining the facts!’, Rajesh shrugged his shoulders.

‘What do you mean?’, Vijay asked.

‘This means my dear friend! You have become habituated to calculate everything using the mathematical terminologies only. But always bear it in mind that there are certain issues which never fit into the mathematical jargon’, Rajesh explained to Vijay as though he was explaining the gist of something.

‘Now I understand what you are explaining’, Vijay replied.

‘What have you understood?’, Rajesh asked.

‘That this is an excellent excuse for ignoring the physical weight of that fatty in numerical and mathematical terms’, Vijay hit back.

‘Why the hell, you time and again come back to that girl?’, Rajesh annoyingly asked.

‘Oh! Sorry! Sorry!’, Vijay apologized.

 College was over. A big flood of bicycles and motorcycles started coming out together. The faces of some of the students were brightly glowing with the feeling of college being over while those of few others were bearing the expressions of being utterly tired and burning with hunger. Generally the last lecture of Vijay would always be of chemistry, biology or physics laboratory practical only. In the morning, started for college after a sufficient breakfast, first few lectures of different subjects would take place followed by a short recess. Then during the second session, generally, languages lectures would get over again followed by a recess. Finally in the third session at the end when all the students would be usually tired, they would be engaged with the chemistry, physics or biology laboratory works. Thus the students of the science stream would hardly get a moment of leisure whereas the students of arts and commerce streams would truly relish the charm of living the college life. If there is any mood to attend the classes they would go for the lectures or would straightaway while away time chatting either in the college canteen or while sitting on the compound walls of the college premises. Just like the science students were occupied even their professors would be equally busy with work. After completing the lectures in the college till the afternoon, they would be required to begin their personal tuitions immediately after the lunch which would continue right up to 10 pm at night. Some of them even would not spare an opportunity of conducting single hour tuition between 6 am to 7 am i.e. before the college would begin. The professors of the arts and commerce stream were, however, very lucky as far as the busy schedule of conducting lectures at college and followed by the tuitions. What it means is that, for the teachers staff of the arts and commerce faculties, the classes in college would take place only if the students would be interested to attend them and there would not be any activity of tuitions after the college getting over. At times, then, the professors of these two faculties would bored not to conduct lectures at college and then they would develop a sharp desire to conduct one lecture but after visiting the classroom if they would find it empty, they would summon a peon and dispatch him straightaway at the college canteen to fetch the students. During such times whatever a few number of students they would find in the canteen would be forced to attend a lecture irrespective of their will.

Therefore, the students whose faces would appear to be utterly tired and exhausted would be belonging to the science stream and the others whose faces would be full of joy and cheer would be of the commerce and arts faculties, sent to college forcibly by their parents. Another reason why these arts and commerce students would be so joyous was never the college being over, at least for the day, but it was the opportune time for them, to see the beautiful girls of the science faculty, appearing to be more and more charming, thanks to the strain they would have endured during their college schedule. Vijay and Rajesh found their way through that outpouring flood of students and started pedaling their bicycles toward home through the main street of their town. Usually while going home they would hardly talk with each other for being tired and exhausted, they would be very eager to reach home fast and eat lunch before commencing the next equally stressful schedule of attending the tuitions. The science students were thus were deprived of looking at the beautiful girls, not because they were disinclined for it but because they would hardly have any time to while away like this. After joining the main street, both, Rajesh and Vijay peddled their bicycles hard as fast as they could and at one turning their roads would bifurcate.

‘Ok! Bye for now! See you soon at the tuitions!’, Rajesh said to Vijay.

‘Bye! Bye!’, Vijay replied without even looking at Rajesh and started riding ahead.

After covering some more distance, a turn to the road would lead Vijay to his home. While taking a turn, Vijay suddenly felt that somebody was coming from behind him. If it was somebody from his college itself, he would have easily ignored but he also sensed that it was some beautiful girl, perhaps he knew her, and therefore he turned back to have a look at her only to realize that it was Priya. Her home too was in the same direction but Vijay knew that she could never follow him since he and Rajesh would rush ahead fast after moving out of the college premises with burning hunger in their bellies. Vijay realized that since she has followed him today necessarily means she too had driven her bicycle equally fast today, perhaps because she too had some necessity to reach home faster. But, while engrossed in these thoughts, Vijay observed that not only had his speed reduced but immediately thereafter Priya too had reduced the speed of her bicycle. This created a doubt in his mind whether she was following him intentionally.

While Vijay was engrossed in this thinking process, suddenly he heard a call from Priya,


For the first time Vijay sensed that he had heard his name being pronounced by a girl of his age, whom he liked, and that too with sincere intensity. He sensed that his heartbeats had increased suddenly and he reduced the speed of his bicycle further. By this time, even Priya had reached up to him and was riding parallel to him. Vijay was confused about what he should talk and so for a moment he stared at her but instantly, as though, he was looking straight at sun, he turned his eyes back to the road ahead.

‘Wasn’t today’s chemistry lecture slightly difficult?’, finally Priya herself took the initiative to talk.

‘Difficult?, Yah! It was difficult’, Vijay replied.

‘Of course, you must be finding it very easy!’, Priya said.

‘No, no, nothing of that sort!’, Vijay blushed to hear that flattery.

‘No! What I mean is’, Priya replied, ‘Usually I find it difficult to comprehend the chemical reactions of the Chemistry-2 and even if I understand them, I tend to forget them 2 or 3 days later’.

‘Yes, you are right! And that is why perhaps Chemistry-2 is called as ‘Volatile’, Vijay funnily replied.

‘Volatile?, yes, you are right! It indeed deserves to be called that’, Priya laughed heartily.

Vijay was seeing her from such a close distance laughing so heartily and his sight could not escape from looking at the twist appearing on her cheeks and those equally beautiful white teeth glittering like white pearls.

‘But in order to being able to remember the reactions one must first be able to understand them. Isn’t it?’, Priya asked.

‘Yes! You are perfectly right!’, Vijay replied.

‘Then have you understood all the reactions taught so far in the class?’, Priya sought to know.

‘Yes!’, Vijay replied.

‘I have been able to understand some of them and the rest are not understood. Will you be able to explain to me those which I have not grasped?’, Priya asked.

‘Of course! Yes! I will!’, Vijay replied affirmatively.

‘Ok then, Bye for now! I will ask them from you some other day!’, Priya thanked him and turned toward home since the road to her home had arrived.

‘Bye’, Vijay replied.

She had gone and he had realized that he had stopped his bicycle on that turn and he was looking at her till such time she went beyond his sight. Even she was smiling at him.

Now Vijay shook head as though he was discarding something and he started toward his home.

‘No! No ! This must not happen! My goal is of supreme importance!’, he warned himself to achieve that first and only then think of the rest.

Deeply involved in these thoughts he was moving toward his house but even then he was feeling better for the barely few moments he had spent with her.

Again he warned himself to control his emotions and must let this happen again. Deeply engrossed in these conflicting thoughts, he did not even realize when he reached at his home.

 It was the evening time but still there was lot of time for the darkness to spread. The atmosphere was very pleasant. Those who wanted to go for an evening stroll were slowly coming out of their houses. Even Priya was riding on her bicycle through the road. While riding the bicycle her hairs, styled as bob-cut, were flying on her forehead, and her manner of removing them back from there using one hand while riding the bicycle was appearing very attractive. Moreover, after every brief spell she was also resetting her skirt blowing up on the air and even that action was quite pleasant. After covering some distance she moved on one edge of the road and stopped it near the compound with a wooden gate on it. After putting the bicycle on its side-stand she locked it first and then approached the gate of that home. All her actions, such as stopping the bicycle and resting it on the side-stand were following some beautiful captivating rhythm. The gate she had approached was of Vijay’s home. While peeping over the gate and opening it, she glanced over the open space in front of the main door to see whether anybody was sitting there. Since it being an evening time she hoped to see somebody from Vijay’s family sitting there in the open space or at least Vijay could be there. Contrary to her expectation of the evening time, the main door too was closed.

Have all the people gone out, Priya thought.

She first opened the gate and stepped inside the open space. Then she glanced here and there since she was coming at Vijay’s home for the first time. Similarly, not a single window of Vijay’s home seem to be open. All the windows were closed from inside. She approached the main door of that house. Fortunately, there was no lock hanging on the door which, Priya was assured, there must be somebody inside the home.

Perhaps, Vijay’s mother must be alone at home or it could also be that Vijay must be alone at home and he must be engrossed in his studies inside his room.

She gave a thought to all this, came near the main door of the house and raised her hand to ring the doorbell. Her arm, raised above to ring the doorbell, came down automatically after realizing there was no switch to ring the bell. Then she was forced to knock on the door and wait for someone to open it. But she could not sense any movement inside the house and therefore she knocked on the door once again. Even then there was absolutely no movement being felt inside the house.

Now she genuinely wondered whether all the family members had gone out. She also felt tempted to go at the backyard of the house to check whether the backdoor was locked since she had, by now, come to know that in order to prevent thefts taking place the people of this town had a regular practice of locking the backdoor from outside while going out.

For a couple of moments, Priya even felt tempted to visit the backyard of the house but she avoided going there because firstly she was coming to that home for the first time and secondly she was not even knowing the exact layout of the backyard of that home.

Finally, she turned back and started going toward the wooden gate of that house but suddenly she heard the noise of the door being opened. Therefore she turned back only to see Vijay standing in the door.

Then Priya said, ‘I thought there is nobody at home?’.

Hoping that he might her call inside his home, she stood near him. But Vijay came out himself and pulled one of the chairs kept in the open space and invited her to sit on the other.

‘Come! Let us sit outside only!’, he said, ‘Sit on that chair!’.

‘I had come to you to borrow your notes of P-1’, Priya said to Vijay, ‘unless you don’t need them now!’.

‘No! I don’t need them immediately for next two-three days!’, Vijay replied, ‘because currently I am studying the M-1 and M-2 whose test is expected tomorrow and the day after. But after three days I will need them back since Prof. Patil’s test is coming immediately thereafter’.

‘I will definitely return it to you within two days’, Priya assured while removing the hairs blowing over her forehead with the wind.

Vijay was secretly watchful of her hairs appearing on her forehead with the flow of the wind and her typical pleasant style of removing them back. Suddenly, one middle-aged woman came there out of the house. She was combing her hairs.

‘Meet my mother’, Vijay introduced Priya to his mother, ‘Mother! This is Priya! My classmate!’.

‘Good evening aunty’, Priya welcomed Vijay’s mother and she in turn gave a smile of acceptance.

‘Whose daughter are you?’, Vijay’s mother affectionately enquired.

Experiencing the warmth in her voice, Priya invariably remembered her mother.

‘My father’s name is Mr. Ulhas Kulkarni’, Priya promptly replied, ‘probably you may not be knowing him because he was located earlier in Mumbai and we have recently shifted here after he was transferred’.

‘Where does your father work?’, Vijay’s mother asked.

‘He is in State Bank!’, Priya replied.

‘Is it? Your father must be knowing him?’, Vijay’s mother said to him.

‘No mother!, Father works far off in the forest department! Her father is in the bank!’, Vijay replied.

‘But he must be going into the bank sometimes!’, Vijay’s mother said.

‘But how can her father be knowing every visitor to the bank?’, Vijay questioned.

‘Yes! Even you are right to say that!’, Vijay’s mother replied.

‘But now probably he may come to know!’, Priya said.

Suddenly, some noise was heard from the kitchen of that house and Vijay’s mother turned back and yelled, ‘Coming! Coming! Baby!’ and she went inside again.

After Vijay’s mother went inside again, for a couple of moments both, Vijay and Priya spent in silence. Perhaps they were thinking what to talk next.

‘Can you give me those notes?’, Priya reminded Vijay.

‘Just a minute!’, Vijay said and he went inside home to get them.

 ‘What for has he gone, to fetch the notes of P-1, or for something else?’, Priya was thinking about Vijay, sitting in the open space outside his home, since a lot of time had passed away after he went.

Suddenly, Priya sensed somebody standing behind her. She turned back and was startled instantly, so much so that, feeling afraid she was about to scream for seeing a 21-22 years old insane girl with hairs freely flowing from her head, was holding Priya’s chair looking straight at her and was mysteriously smiling at Priya. Right at the same moment, Vijay came out of his home holding the notes in his hand, and finding Priya completely afraid, he laughed at her and said, ‘This is my elder sister Shalini’.

Feeling relieved, Priya offered her greetings to Shalini by saying, ‘Namaskar’ to Shalini but she did not respond and went away inside the home.

Priya slowly sat down on the chair and Vijay too occupied a chair in front of her and explained, ‘ She is suffering from, you know, some psychiatric ailment’.

‘I can understand it!. I am sorry!’, Priya replied.

‘You need not feel sorry about it! We are very much habituated of it by now’, Vijay replied while giving the notes to her.

Priya flipped through the pages of those notes and spontaneously said, ‘Your handwriting is really very beautiful’.

‘Even you have been endowed with one beautiful gift’, Vijay responded.

‘What is that?’, Priya curiously asked.

‘Your teeth are marvelous’, Vijay explained.

‘Is it?’, Priya blushed with all pink colour being spread on her face with eyes looking down.

‘Thanks that you came to my home, at least under the pretext of notes. I am delighted’, Vijay said.

Priya felt confused what to say on this.

‘No! Usually no one comes to us!’, Vijay said further probably because of his insane sister.

Priya sat there in silence for few moments and then got up to leave. She then assured, ‘I will definitely return your notes within two days. Precisely within two days!’.

‘I know you will!. Not an issue at all!’, Vijay too got up and came as a courtesy to drop her up to the gate.

Right at the same moment one man, in his late fifties, entered the wooden gate holding his old bicycle. His face was full of sweat, unshaven as he was, and his clothes too were crumpled. Besides all of these discourteous looks, when he came and stood near Priya, she was bitterly irritated since his mouth smelled disgustingly foul with liquor.

‘Who is this drunkard man? And where is he going here in decent family’s house?’, she thought, ‘probably he must have entered by mistake’.

Priya thought like this and glanced at Vijay but he was standing calmly.

That man gave an unrecognizing glance to Priya and pulled out a pack of cigarettes of some utterly cheap brand. After opening it when he realized that it was empty, he annoyingly threw it in some corner of that open space outside Vijay’s house and pulled out a Rs. 50/- currency note from his pocket and order to Vijay, ‘Go and get one pack of cigarettes!’.

Priya thought that Vijay might react against that discourteous behaviour but on the contrary he calmly inserted that money in his pocket. That drunken man, in turn, moved ahead and disappeared toward the backyard of Vijay’s house to keep the bicycle he was holding. Vijay glanced at Priya’s confused face and explained, ‘He is my father!’.

Failing to comprehend what to say on this, Priya brought her bicycle out of the gate and said to Vijay, ‘Bye for now!’. While she was ready to move ahead Vijay stood there to bid a farewell to her and responded equally.

For a long time Vijay continued standing there in the gate looking at Priya till the time she moved away from his sight.

Slowly the friendship between Priya, Vijay and Rajesh started growing. Discussing on many subjects together, sharing jokes, and chatting together became routine activities. Rajesh too was accompanying them since he would be usually with Vijay constantly. They used to chat together so frequently but Priya never spoke again about Vijay’s troublesome family background like his sister or the way she had confronted for the first time with his father. Frankly speaking she never dared to raise those topics and nor Vijay volunteered to describe anything further about it. But after witnessing all of those troubles constantly present in his life, Priya had started respecting Vijay for his determination to move ahead in life.

‘What an inspiring will!’, she always felt curious and surprise toward Vijay for this.

Vijay was already going at Rajesh’s residence for studies since it was not possible to do it at his home given the kind of limitations he constantly faced. But ever since Rajesh’s elder brother got married, even their righteous occupation of that room was annulled and now they both faced the same problem. This problem was easily solved by Priya because at her home only she and her father were living, particularly because, her mother had expired during pregnancy while she was studying in the fourth standard and her father had avoided going for a second marriage after her death. Now he was playing the duel role of Priya’s mother and that of being her father. Priya’s residence was a nice State Bank of India quarters of three room’s house. Therefore, she decided to invite Vijay and Rajesh at her home for studies sitting there in the dining hall of her home.

Once Rajesh, Vijay and Priya were studying at home in the dining room and Priya’s father came out there. He glanced at all of them but they were so deeply engrossed in their studies that they did not notice him at all. Priya’s father, was holding one carry-bag in his hand and it appeared that he was going out for some work. He went up to the door and wore sandals and again glanced at three of them. Even then they did not notice him at all.

So he called at his daughter, ‘Priya’.

Startled by his voice, Priya looked at him and got up to say, ‘Papa, where are you going?’.

Both, Vijay and Rajesh got aware of his presence and they too started getting up. But he generously said to both of them, ‘No need to get up! You carry on with your studies! I am just going for purchasing some commodities from market! Please look after the home!’.

‘Don’t you worry uncle! We are there to take care!’, Rajesh assured.

‘Yes! I could see that how attentive you are’, Priya’s father said mischievously.

‘I was going out and yet you did not notice me. A thief won’t have to strive hard to steal anything after entering from outside’, he replied.

‘Papa, you are worrying unnecessarily! What is there precious in our house to steal from?’, Priya retorted at her father.

‘Anyway, I am getting late’, Priya’s father said while stepping out.

Suddenly Priya remembered something and she loudly yelled at him, ‘Papa!’.

‘What is that?’, he answered from outside.

‘Please get few more essential commodities while returning home’, Priya answered.

‘What are that?’, father replied.

‘Get some tea powder, milk and a toothpaste’, Priya replied in turn.

‘Anything more?’, Priya’s father replied sarcastically.

Realizing his sarcasm, both Vijay and Rajesh smiled at Priya.

But Priya replied, ‘No! That’s all! But don’t forget to get it!’.

‘Sure my child!’, father replied and immediately thereafter was heard the sound of his two-wheeler being started.

‘Bye Papa’, Priya yelled again.

‘Bye for now!’, came the reply and then came the sound of that two-wheeler moving out of the premises.

‘But Priya, your papa is really great!’, Rajesh said.

‘Yes indeed! My papa is really great!’, Priya replied with pride.

‘But won’t you like to know why was he calling your father great?’, Vijay asked.

‘Yes! Quite right! Why did you call my father great?’, Priya asked to Rajesh.

‘Just casually! I felt like that and hence I called him great!’, Vijay replied.

‘Here in our town any naïve man is called as ‘Great’, Vijay clipped.

‘Rajesh?’, Priya asked with eyes filled with surprise and anger, ‘did you mean my father is naïve?’.

‘Oh No!, Vijay is only inflaming the fire by pouring oil in it!’, Rajesh replied.

‘Then why don’t you disclose why you feel he is great?’, Priya was not going to let him go without an explanation.

‘Frankly speaking, your mother died when you were studying in the fourth standard and yet your father did not marry again is the reason why I feel your father is truly great!’, Rajesh replied.

‘My father loved my mother intensely, even today his passions for my mother are the same’, Priya whispered as though her memories were awakened.

‘Do you know, it was my father’s love-marriage!’, Priya said.

‘Love-marriage, and that too in those orthodox days?’, both, Rajesh and Vijay exclaimed with surprise.

‘What a foolish question! Does love-marriage is subject to any times? It only takes love between a woman and a man and there is no guarantee when that bond may flourish between the two. But once formed, it happens irrespective of any hindrances like caste, creed, community or even religion!’, Priya asserted.

‘You are quite right!’, Rajesh agreed.

‘Of course, anything told about ‘Love’ will appear true to you’, Vijay remarked mischievously to Rajesh.

‘And do you know how the love story between them blossomed?’, Priya asked by ignoring Vijay’s remark.

‘How did it happen?’, both, Vijay and Rajesh curiously asked.

‘You know how it happened……’, Priya started narrating the story, ‘My mother must be hardly in her early twenties that time, perhaps 22-23 years old. She suddenly developed apathy for this material life and sought to retire at Mount Abu by renouncing all the material pleasures’.

‘What for did she go there?’, Rajesh asked.

‘What do you mean what for? Of course for leading a saintly life!’, Priya replied.

‘The could she achieve her goal?’, Rajesh asked curiously.

‘Are you a fool?. If she was to have really become a saint could we have get to see Priya sitting before us today?’, Vijay annoyingly remarked for such an ignorant and naïve question by Rajesh.

‘No! What I mean to ask is that then how did the love between the two occur?’, Rajesh was appropriate to ask.

‘Actually what happened! My father was distantly related to her and he took the initiative’, Priya started explaining, ‘to persuade and bring her back from there’.

‘Then what happened next?’, Rajesh asked.

‘Then what? He went and succeeded in his mission. In the meantime, the love blossomed between the two’, Priya plainly answered.

‘What a fascinating love story it is’, Rajesh exclaimed.

‘It is a new concept altogether! Worth making a film on it!’, Vijay opined.

‘What happened thereafter?’, Rajesh’s curiosity was not quenched.

‘What next?, you idiot!’, Vijay shouted again, ‘Next they both got married and Priya was born! What else do you want to happen?’.

‘But their love between the two was indeed an ideal love’, Priya was still lost in her memoires, ‘anybody would feel envious of it’.

 As usual, Vijay, Rajesh, and Priya were studying together at Priya’s home. But it seemed that Priya was not paying any attention to studies at all. From the corners of her eyes she was, time and again, glancing at Vijay. At first Vijay did not realize this since he was deeply engrossed in his study but after a long time he sensed something different happening and soon he discovered Priya constantly glancing at him. Vijay tried to ignore it or at first he even pretended to have noticed it but soon he too was unable to concentrate since Priya continued to glance at him repeatedly.

Now Vijay too could not focus on his studies and once he caught Priya red-handed, as though she was stealing something, and asked, ‘Priya, what is this happening today?’.

‘What? Nothing!’, Priya shrugged her shoulders and started reading her notes as if nothing was happening.

Now even Rajesh’s attention was disturbed and he asked, ‘What happened?’.

Finding that nobody was answering his question, Rajesh continued studying again but when Vijay discovered that still Priya had continued glancing at him clandestinely he warned Priya, ‘It seems your mind has gone helter-skelter today and you are unable to control it!’.

‘Oh! That means you do sense my feelings!’, Priya passed a taunt to Vijay.

‘Why? Why can’t I sense your emotions? Am I any mechanical device like a senseless machine?’, Vijay hit back at Priya.

‘No! But I thought that you are indeed a machine, with the only difference of, a machine made of bones and flesh!’, Priya retorted.

Rajesh’s concentration was completely disturbed by this intriguing talk between Vijay and Priya. He annoyingly sought to know, ‘May I know what is this going on between both of you?’.

‘Rajesh! Do you know what happened yesterday night?’, Priya seized the opportunity to disclose.

‘How will I get to know what happened yesterday unless you tell me that?’, Rajesh made a fun of Priya.

Priya ignored his jocular remark and continued telling, ‘Yesterday night I heard the noise of our gate being opened while I was busy studying!’.

‘Some thieves must have tried to enter!’, Rajesh interrupted Priya.

‘Will you please listen to me completely!’, Priya argued.

‘Fine! Fine! You complete your story without my interruption!’, Rajesh conceded.

‘So what was I telling?, Yes, yesterday night when I was studying, I heard the sound of our gate being opened. So I saw from the window that Vijay was coming’, Priya said.

‘What?, There you are! My dear friend, Vijay! Yesterday evening when I enquired whether you are interested to join me for watching a movie, you refused under the pretext of studying and now I know why you refused!’, Rajesh pinched at Vijay.

‘Yesterday night I had come at your home! What nonsense!’, Vijay said surprisingly.

‘Will you please listen to me what happened next? Will you both please remain quiet?’, Priya pleaded before them.

‘I came out to receive Vijay since I saw him coming but after coming out I was astonished to see the gate was closed and above all there was nobody there!’, Priya explained.

‘Hey! Wait! I will tell you what is all this!’, Rajesh quickly tried to interrupt.

‘What?’, Priya replied.

‘It must the ghost of Vijay’, Rajesh taunted by laughing at both of them, ‘that you got to see from window!’.

‘Rajesh! Don’t talk foolish! I am serious about I told you now!’, Priya angrily said.

‘It happens this way sometimes’, Rajesh tried to get serious with Priya, ‘while studying you must have felt dizzy and you must have seen this dream!’.

‘No! No! It was definitely not a dream at all!. I myself feel surprised nowadays but this is what is happening with me every now and then!. Day and night Vijay keeps appearing before my eyes!’, Priya replied.

‘But does this keep happening only about Vijay?’, Rajesh mischievously asked.

‘Yes! You are right! This happens only about Vijay!’, Priya confirmed.

‘Do you know when does this happen?’, Rajesh smiled and asked.

‘When does it happen?’, Vijay joined the discussion.

‘When……Somebody falls in love!’, Rajesh smiled and concluded.

Priya felt blushed and she started looking down.

‘Nonsense! There is nothing call ‘Love’ etc!. It is, but, a one type of mental weakness!, and sickness also!’, Vijay analyzed.

Priya raised her head and looked angrily at Vijay.

‘Hey! Why are you looking at me like this? Are you going to butcher and eat me!’, Vijay taunted in a tone of mischief.

Priya once again started looking down.

Rajesh once again opened his mouth to tease Priya but seeing sorry feelings on Priya’s face he restrained himself and said to Vijay, ‘When one does not understand certain emotions, one must not at least ridicule them’.

‘Master Rajesh, bloody you keep running behind the shadow of that fatty? Now you tell me honestly whether you have a genuine love for her in your mind or it is only a physical attraction?’, Vijay angrily asked.

Priya started going from there angrily banging her steps on floor and both, Vijay and Rajesh kept looking at her in a surprised manner.

Therefore, Priya herself, turned back and said, ‘I am going to get a cup of tea!’.

‘First of all I have told you several times not to call her fatty!’, Rajesh angrily warned Vijay, ‘It hurts me severely!’.

‘It hurts me!’, Vijay sarcastically repeated Rajesh’s words and said, ‘Show me where does it exactly hurt you friend!’.

‘Vijay please! Stop it!’, Rajesh replied.

‘Ok! I’m sorry!, but at least answer my question honestly! You genuinely love her or is it only a physical attraction!’, Vijay was not going to spare Rajesh without obtaining the answer of this root question.

‘I cannot say it so clearly!. There is some love mixed with some physical attraction or even some casual feelings!. But all said and done everything sounds really nice and worth craving for!’, Rajesh replied.

‘That means you can call it an utter confusion of emotions!’, Vijay asserted.

‘You won’t understand these emotions! Perhaps, only when you too will fall in love that you will get to experience this!’, Rajesh calmly said.

‘I don’t think that this is possible in my whole life!’, Vijay said.

‘Let us see what happens in future!’, Rajesh challenged.

Then, peeping inside the house, Rajesh said in a low voice, ‘You are really a fool! How the hell you fail to understand that Priya is in love with you!’.

‘She is crazy and is also little talkative! That’s why she keeps churning out words like this!’, Vijay ridiculed Rajesh.

‘Bear one thing in mind Vijay! If you are unable to understand her emotions then you have no right to ridicule her emotions!’, Rajesh warned.

‘Then what do you think am I suppose to do?’, Vijay asked.

Rajesh kept mum over this.

‘Shall I induce her further and deviate from my goal! Is even she not going to suffer then in all this mess?’, Vijay ruthlessly asked.

‘This means you too understand her emotions to some extent!’, Rajesh smilingly asked.

‘They are not emotions but only a confusion of feelings!. And above all nobody can deviate me from my aims!’, Vijay once again confidently replied.

‘Do whatever you want man! But at least don’t hurt her!. That is all I want to say for the time being!’, Rajesh sought to finally advice Vijay.

Priya, who had vanished from the scene angrily, soon brought with her three cups of tea for all of them. Now there was no anger apparent on her face. She kept one cup of tea each in front of them, but they knew it well, that usually she would personally give each cup into their hands. Instead, she had just kept it today in front of them. Then holding her own cup in her hands, she started sipping the tea slowly with continuing the studies further. Rajesh and Vijay glanced at each other. Vijay was feeling sorry for unnecessarily hurting her.

‘Yes! Do you know what is it called to that you were saying before going for tea?’, Vijay asked her. Frankly speaking he was only trying to restore her normal mood by talking with her again.

‘Before going for tea, what was I saying?’, Priya suddenly asked unknowingly.

‘That’s what, that you get to see me in your front every now and then or throughout day and night!’, Vijay explained.

‘I was only joking. Does anything like this happen ever?’, Priya remarked, ‘I was bored of studying so I just thought it better to change the topic for initiating some relaxation and entertainment! Isn’t it Rajesh?. Wasn’t it a good relaxation and entertainment!’.

Rajesh did not utter a word because he could understand how deeply Priya must have felt hurt which was why she was casually turning the leaf of any discussion to that topic away. Finding that Rajesh was keeping quiet, Priya once again got engrossed with her reading or, at least, started pretending the same.

‘Anyway, that apart!’, Vijay now turned his attention to Rajesh, ‘I will tell you what I was about to say!’.

But from the corners of his eyes he was carefully attentive of Priya.

‘What are you going to tell me now?’, Rajesh was reluctant to hear because he was hesitant to insert his hand in the ‘Cold War’ between Vijay and Priya to avoid inviting the wrath of any one of them since he had had his fingers burnt several times before by doing that which is why he was alert about it now.

‘Please! I am studying now! Don’t disturb me with your casual talks!’, Priya intervened.

‘How nice of you! Last time did we utter a word against you when you were chatting with us after feeling bored?’, Vijay angrily asked her.
Priya continued delving in her book and studies by ignoring Vijay’s angry assertion forcing Vijay to continue saying, ‘and now you are feeling disturbed by our talks. It is our turn now to feel bored and hence we are going to change the topic’. Vijay sarcastically stressed the mention of his phrase, ‘change the topic’.

‘We are going to change the topic?’, Rajesh pinched, ‘If you both want to continue quarrelling you both may very well continue with it. But don’t unnecessarily pull me in between’. It is often said that a wise is the one who doesn’t interfere in a street-quarrel or between the dispute going on among a husband and wife’.

‘What?’, both Vijay and Priya startlingly asked.

‘No! What I meant is that I was only comparing dispute between you both with a street-quarrel!’, Rajesh quickly sought to clarify himself.

‘That is what even I say, how could you dare to pass such a nasty remark!’, Vijay reacted.

‘But why did you not ask one should not interfere in a street-quarrel and also in a dispute between husband and wife?’, Rajesh asked.

‘Why should one not interfere?’, Priya curiously asked.

‘First I will tell you about the dispute between husband and wife!. One should not try to reconcile between a husband and a wife is that there is never any guarantee when both of them may shake hands and start quarreling with you itself’, Rajesh explained.

‘And why should one not interfere between a street-quarrel!’, Vijay curiously asked.

‘One should never interfere in a street-quarrel because’, Rajesh quietly got up from his chair and started moving toward the door and before running away, he cunningly replied, ‘you never know when the parties involved in a street-quarrel appear out to be a husband and wife!’.

Realizing that Rajesh has again pointed out the whole story back to the phrase ‘husband and wife’ and thereby sought to pair them up again, Vijay angrily shouted, ‘You bloody scoundrel’ and ran after Rajesh.

As soon as Vijay got up to catch him, Rajesh quickly ran away from the door he had intentionally opened carefully before passing that mischievous remark but Vijay also started running after him to catch him outside. Now even Priya was induced to come out of the house and watch, for a long time, their running episode full of fun where Vijay was vigorously attempting to get hold of Rajesh and Rajesh in turn was trying to repeatedly dodge Vijay.
Today when Vijay arrived for the studies he had brought one circular-shaped card and two-three long iron nails with him.
After seeing that Priya curiously asked, ‘What is this have you brought with yourself?’.

‘Even I have been asking him the same question for quite some time’, Rajesh replied, and he is only saying that he is going to show us some experiment.

‘That’s really nice! Go ahead and show it quickly!’, Priya curiously said.

‘First of all, you at least occupy your seats friends!’, Vijay insisted.

Both of them occupied their seats but still they were unable to trace what experiment Vijay was intending to show. Rajesh was aware that Vijay was purposely delaying so that everybody’s curiosity may reach to its peak but he too was cunning enough not to ask even a single question to defeat the very purpose of Vijay’s delay.

But how was Priya to restrain herself from asking and that is what she did by saying, ‘Yes! We have taken our seats and now show us what experiment you have decided!’.

‘Yes! Yes! Certainly!’, Vijay replied, ‘will you please wait and watch. You are always so impatient about everything!’.

Priya got annoyed with remark, and just like yesterday, felt angry too. Immediately, she opened the book and began her studies because she had realized that since yesterday, Vijay was intentionally maintaining some distance between she and himself. Now she had made-up her mind not to talk with him on her own unless and until he would not open some dialogue.

Vijay was going to say something to Priya but sensing the changed mood of Priya he said to Rajesh, while clandestinely giving an intentional gesture at Priya, ‘Yes! Rajesh, you were saying yesterday that anybody who has fallen love starts feeling as though he or she is seeing his or her fiancé or fiancée everywhere’.

Hearing this sentence, Priya too was tempted to glance at Vijay but she focused her attention back to the book after Vijay saw at her at the same instance.

‘Yes! Quite right!, what new have you said?’, Rajesh replied.

‘No, what I mean is that, you assume that you get to see that fatty, sorry, that queen of yours, everywhere!’, Vijay asked.

‘Why to assume! Of course, yes, I experience seeing her everywhere!’, Rajesh committed himself with pride having been able to join Priya’s camp.

‘Fine! I accept it that you see her everywhere! But do you know what is this called as in the scientific terminology?’, Vijay asked by first looking at Rajesh and then after glancing at Priya.

Once again Priya glanced at Vijay clandestinely because it appeared that her curiosity was now aroused after what Vijay was telling.

‘What do they call it?’, both, Rajesh and Priya instantly asked as though all her anger had vanished instantly within a fraction of a second.

‘That is called hallucination!’, Vijay now looked straight into Priya’s eyes.

‘It is also called as Illusion!’, Rajesh contributed.

‘Quite right!’, Vijay endorsed.

‘It is about that concept itself I am going to demonstrate one experiment today!’, Vijay said, while lifting the cardboard and the nail, the instruments of the same.

Rajesh and Priya glanced at each other and they started carefully observing the cardboard Vijay had held in his hand. The surface of that board was white and there were many circles drawn on it with a same centre, one circle, drawn outside the other thus giving it a look of a coil. Then Vijay pierced a hole at the centre of the board and inserted the nail there. Now holding that nail Vijay started revolving the board around that nail.

‘What is this new idiotism?’, Rajesh exclaimed.

‘Now both of you start staring at this board for two minutes without even blinking your eyelids and immediately thereafter you look at your fingers’, Vijay asked, and started revolving the board at a much faster speed

Accordingly both, Rajesh and Priya, stared at the board, consistently for two minutes without even blinking their eyelids. After the completion of two minutes, Vijay signaled them to look at their own fingers.

Instantly Priya shouted, ‘Fantastic! My fingers are appearing to be bending!’. ‘Even mine!’, Rajesh endorsed with equal surprise.

Vijay was only smiling mysteriously.

‘Now they are straightening up!’, Priya said soon.

‘Yes! Mine too!’, Rajesh endorsed again.

‘Do you know this is called?’, Vijay asked with a smile.

Both of them looked at him with the same question on their face.

‘This is called hallucination’, Vijay replied with the same smile, ‘or even an optical illusion!’.

Their curiosity fully aroused, both Priya and Rajesh, lifted that cardboard and started revolving it themselves to look at other objects in the room and soon discovered that even those objects were appearing to be bending at first and then straightening up. Both of them were enjoying the fun and Vijay was watching them silently with a smile on his face.

After giving them some to enjoy with their new discovery, Vijay gave a thought for a while, and he said to Priya, ‘Anyway, now let us turn to the prologue of this experiment. Let me ask you the answer of a riddle!’.

Priya curiously smiled at Vijay as if all her anger had vanished within no time.

‘It seems you guys are not interested in studies today’, Rajesh questioned.

‘Just wait! After solving this riddle we will get back to the studies!’, Vijay requested.

‘Of course, while studying some short break of relaxation is a must!’, Priya commented.

‘That is quite right but ever since we have come only relaxation is going on and nobody is even making a mention of studies!’, Rajesh protested.

‘No! No!’, Vijay argued, ‘after this riddle we shall definitely get back to studies.

Rajesh offered his silent consent and he started listening to Vijay carefully.

Vijay purposely took a big pause before disclosing the riddle.

‘Are you telling the riddle or just whiling away the time?’, Rajesh angrily asked.

‘Wait a minute! Wait a minute! Some mood needs to be created before disclosing the riddle!’, Vijay replied.

‘Oh Yes! The mood is already created!’, Priya insisted, ‘Now tell us the riddle!’.

‘There was a pond with a small island exactly at its centre’, Vijay started explaining the riddle, ‘the distance from the banks of that pond to that island was 23 feet. Also, there was a wooden plank kept nearby whose length is 20 feet. Now a man wants reach up to the island from the banks of the pond. So, how will he manage to reach?’.

Priya and Rajesh delved into their thoughts for a while and Rajesh exclaimed, ‘It is very easy!’. Priya too endorsed saying, ‘Indeed! This is very easy to answer!’.

Priya started telling the answer, ‘That man use that wooden plank to walk the distance of 20 feet and thereafter he will jump on the island which would then be only three feet away!’.

Vijay laughed loudly to hear that.

‘Yes! Quite right’, Rajesh replied, ‘That is the answer even I was to tell. Why are you laughing! Priya’s answer is correct!’.

Vijay again laughed loudly and said, ‘Friends! There was no water in the pond!’.

‘But you had not told this earlier!’, Priya argued as though she wanted to assert that Vijay cannot fool them so easily.
‘Yes! Absolutely! You should have told this to us before!’, Rajesh endorsed.

‘That is the whole fun of this riddle!’, Vijay continued laughing before offering his explanation, ‘when I said ‘Pond’ you guys assumed that there was water in it!’.

‘The fun is that’, Vijay continued explaining, ‘there is one specialty of human brain to assume concepts or call it a habit of filling the gaps with pre-set notions or assumptions. If the human brain tends to use this facility excessively then the concerned individual suffers from hallucinations or, as Rajesh rightly called it, illusions. Not only that if a human being loses his or her control over this specialty then several variety of hallucinations start taking place which can even culminate into being insane’. After completing this explanation, Vijay laughed loudly as though he was making a mockery of Priya.

But right at the next moment a grave sadness spread over his face probably because he realized that his own sister herself was an insane woman.
 Vijay, Rajesh and Priya did not even realize how the days passed in meeting, discussing and studying together at Priya’s home. But now the examination time had come. Nevertheless, they were not worried at all because their studies had been completed and to the sufficient depth too. It was only now they were realizing the benefit of conducting discussions while studying. Throughout that fun and frolic Vijay had carefully avoided one thing i.e. he did not hurt Priya ever. Vijay was fully aware that Priya used to frequently look at him intensely or at times even clandestinely while studying or chatting but continued pretending as though he was completely ignorant about it or sometimes he would simply smile at her mildly. Through all these experiences he had learnt one very significant lesson that as more and more you may confront something from entering your sphere with equal strength it rebounds further back to you whereas the more you firmly oppose it from happening equally fast does the intensity of it wanes and eventually it loses its sharpness. If he was to have opposed or even react against Priya’s sentiments probably even he could have got involved in the maze of those emotions in the future but given the firmness and impartiality with which he was continuing to handle the situation, equally least was the possibility of he being involved or trapped in that mess and that is what he wanted to achieve, at least until, he would attain his goal of life.

During those days, whenever Vijay would notice Priya staring at him like this, he would think, ‘What crazy girl is she?, really immature and idiot indeed!’ whereas after noticing him to be smiling mildly, Priya would think, ‘What a crazy boy is he?, how does he fail to understand what I think of him?’. Looking at this staring and smiling episode constantly going on before him, even Rajesh would think, ‘How idiot these children are!. How are they going to deal with their emotions in future?’.

Once Vijay arrived at Priya’s home little early than usual and both of them began studying while waiting for Rajesh. Priya’s father too was to arrive late because he was on tour with some office work. It must be about 8 o’clock at night and yet Rajesh had not arrived. Usually he would not be so late. Vijay thought, ‘What must have happened? Why is he so late? Has he once again entered into some conflict with his brother?’. Vijay thought this way because nowadays he had heard that Rajesh was facing many troubles from his brother especially because having been married now, for Rajesh’s brother, everybody else in the family such as his parents or brother had become family members of least priority, compared to his wife.

‘Shall I pay a visit to his home?’, Vijay said.

‘No need to do that!. He must have come across some work to do! He will come soon!’, Priya opposed.

Instantly, at that moment itself, the electricity supply went off and a thick blanket of darkness spread everywhere, both, at home and on the roads outside. The sudden confused noise of the people could become all the more audible probably because now all the electrical equipments like television, fan etc. had stopped functioning.

‘Nowadays this frequency of electricity supply being cut off has sharply increased, isn’t it?’, Vijay said while trying to look at Priya through darkness.

‘And midst of that this examination of ours is coming!. Sometimes I doubt, whether is anybody intentionally doing this since our exams are approaching!’, Priya expressed herself.

‘No! No!, Why would anybody do this intentionally?. Even otherwise also, when we don’t have examinations the electricity supply does vanish!. We tend to feel that way because we sense its absence so glaringly thinking the need of it on account of the approaching examinations!’, Vijay replied.

 ‘I will get a candle!’, Priya said and got up to go inside her home.

Vijay sensed Priya’s movements of going inside the house to fetch a candle and he continued sitting there in the same position but soon he started feeling very hot, the prevailing season being the summer, and especially because the fans had stopped functioning. Therefore, after some time, he got up from his chair and went to stand near the window where the cool breeze was flowing. Very soon he heard a loud noise of somebody falling down strongly and wailing out of severe pain fallowed by the sound of falling untensils.

‘Oh! My God!’, Vijay thought, ‘has Priya fallen down due to darkness!’.

Vijay hurriedly went inside the home but could not locate Priya on account of thick darkness.

‘Priya!’, he called.

‘Oh! My God!’, he heard the sound of Priya wailing out of pain.

‘What happened Priya? Did you fall?’, Vijay repeated his question and moved toward the direction from where he heard Priya’s wails.

While searching for her in that thick darkness he suddenly happened to touch Priya’s body and he instantly withdrew his hand as if he had suffered an electrical shock.

‘I had fallen down after my feet was twisted!’, Priya said while trying to get up from there holding on the grip of Vijay’s shoulders.

Vijay’s heartbeats started increasing sharply with that soft touch of her hand and such a close proximity so much so that he could sense each single breath of her. The sweet beautiful fragrance of her body started making him all the more restless because he too was sensing the increasing speed of her heartbeats responding equally passionately. Even his body temperature started rising fast and soon he also kept his hand on Priya’s shoulder under the pretext of enquiring, ‘Hope it is not paining too severely!’.

‘No! No!, not that much!’, Priya leant on his arms and tried to walk while saying, ‘But sudden strokes of pain are coming!’.

Thereafter all the subsequent actions took place with a couple of seconds. Vijay wrested his arm around her shoulder and pulled her instantly near himself. Even she hugged him instantly without making any opposition whatsoever. The speed of breath of both of them had increased sharply and both were sensing it fast. Vijay softly raised his head over her chest and gently moved his palm across her face and soft lips. He was seeing her everyday but this was the first time he was experiencing her sensual presence from such a close proximity. Even she raised her hands and inserted her palms through his thick hairs on his head such that the excitement would grow further. Instantly, both of them stopped for a moment because now a conflicting battle of thoughts was raging in their respective minds. That conflicting battle was to eventually culminate into the final triumph of some or the other thought only and that is what happened soon. Vijay soon passionately drew her all the more closer and touched her lips with his own and kissed her intensely. Even Priya responded in an equal zest and her lips too soon tasted the charm of being wet with Vijay’s restlessness such that both of them were only short of being blended into each other’s wave of sensual pleasure.

Suddenly, both of them heard a loud shout from outside, ‘Vijay’.

Instantly both of them separated from each other because it was the voice of Rajesh.

‘You go ahead in front and I will search for the candle to light it!’, Priya advised to Vijay.

Vijay too stood there in the confused state of mind and finally went ahead to open the door without being able to arrive at any conclusion about what he should say to Priya on what had happened between them.
 Vijay came in front of the door and waited for a while there, even though Rajesh was continuously knocking on the door. First he restored his breath and reset his hairs back to as usual and then opened the door.

After the door was opened, Rajesh angrily asked, ‘Why do you take such a long time to open the door?’.

Vijay replied, ‘No! The power supply is cut!’.

‘Even I can see that!. There are no lights glowing on the street. I just missed from colliding with somebody on the road!’, Rajesh replied while entering from the door.

Vijay remained silent on this.

‘Where has Priya gone?’, Rajesh asked.

‘She has gone inside to get a candle!’, Vijay replied.

Rajesh could notice that Vijay was replying only what was necessary. But he did not show that. In the mean time, Priya fetched the candle from inside and came there with it.

‘The electricity supply has stopped for a long time now!. Did it went off here just recently?’, Rajesh asked to Priya.

Priya could easily diagnose the intent of Rajesh behind this question.

‘No! Not that!. Even here also the electricity supply was cut long time ago but for a long time I was unable to fetch a candle due to the darkness!’, Priya replied.

Even Priya was replying what was necessary and he was feeling surprised why none of them seemed to be curious about why Rajesh reached there so late. Moreover, Rajesh could also notice that the entire dialogue between them was not happening in the same normal and free style as usually it would happen. He could even a mysterious tension there among them. But even this he avoided being over-inquisitive about it.

‘How shall we study now?’, Rajesh asked.

‘Of course, by using the candle only! What else is the alternative?’, Vijay replied as though he was now trying to get relaxed and free.

Rajesh could even sense Vijay’s conscious effort to make himself feel relaxed.

‘Why are you talking today like the memorized dialogues in a play?’, finally Rajesh could not restrain from asking a sensitive question.

‘Don’t talk like a fool!’, Vijay had now truly turned angry.

‘Fine! Fine! If not like a theatrical play but like the dialogues in a film! But what is there in this to be so much angry about? Isn’t it Priya?’, Rajesh asked.

‘What rubbish are you talking?. If at all I am angry then that is because of this damn electric failure!. Why should you feel any hurt about it?’, Vijay asked.

‘Why should I feel hurt?. All I am just trying to put is that your behavior today is appearing to be rather different than normal everyday behavior. If you don’t believe in me then you can ask Priya whether am I not right?’, Rajesh replied.

Vijay avoided passing any comment about this and lifted his book to begin trying to study in the dim candle light. Thinking slightly afraid that Rajesh might now turn his attention to Priya and start asking questions to her, especially now since Vijay was keeping quiet, Priya started going inside.

‘Now where are you going?’, Rajesh asked her as expected.

‘No! I will just check whether I can fetch one more candle or at least an oil lamp because probably only one candle will not be sufficient for us!’, Priya said.

‘I think, till such time the electricity supply is not restored, shall we do chatting instead of trying to do studies?’, Rajesh proposed.

Priya stopped there as though she was confused what to say over this.

‘Examination is scheduled and there is hardly any time left for us to prepare but this gentleman is proposing to chat!’, Vijay passed a taunt.

‘Chatting means only pertaining to our studies. It may help us clarify our doubts’, Rajesh argued.

‘Doubts?’, Vijay remarked to crack a joke in order to fill some jovial mood in the atmosphere, ‘Doubts exist only when there is any study done!. One thing is quite right that no study means no doubts!’.

Rajesh had even sensed that also. Vijay was desperately trying to normalize the atmosphere because all his efforts in this context were appearing to be very artificial. And instantly then, electricity supply was restored.

Light spread everywhere, inside homes and through the streets also and the cheerful voices of people for this positive happening were being heard.

‘Yes! Yes! The power supply has started again!’, Rajesh joyously shouted but neither Vijay nor Priya expressed any remark over this.

‘Have you quarreled before I came?’, Rajesh could not restrain himself from asking this question.

‘No! Not the least!’, Priya replied without staring straight at Rajesh and appeared eager to get inside the home.

‘Are we any tiny kids to quarrel between ourselves?. In fact, we felt that you yourself quarreled with your brother and got late to reach here!’, Vijay replied.

‘But one minute! Priya, can you look at me?’, Rajesh stopped Priya and asked, ‘Why is your face looking so much full of red?’.

Now Vijay was feeling extremely angry toward Rajesh but he was helpless from divulging it to him frankly.

‘You know, she fell down in the kitchen while searching for the candle!’, Vijay clarified and immediately Priya took the opportunity to get inside the home.

‘But how is falling and face turning red…….?’, Rajesh suddenly stopped, because given the quickness with which Priya had preferred to vanish from there, had convinced Rajesh of what must have happened there.

Vijay went into a corner of the room and started reading his study book. Now Rajesh went near him and mischievously asked, ‘And why even your face is looking so much red?’.

‘What are you asking me?’, Vijay pretended to be confused.

‘What I mean is that have even you fallen somewhere here?’, Rajesh was not willing to give up. Now he had become all the more curious.

‘Enough of your curiosities!. Keep quiet and start studying. Examination has approached and not too many days are remaining now in our hand!’, Vijay continued pretending being angry.

‘All I just wanted to know whether did I come here at a wrong time?’, Rajesh now thought of cornering Vijay fully.

‘Are you not going to keep quiet now? Enough of your mischief!’, Vijay lifted his book as though he was to hit it on Rajesh while smiling at Rajesh’s question.

‘How nice to hear this! It is you who commits a mischief in my absence and blame me for the same!’, Rajesh retorted.

Now Priya came out of the room and she appeared much more calm and steady. She had even had a wash and cleaned her face using water.

‘Shall we have a cup of tea?’, Priya asked.

‘I have no issues!. Ask Vijay whether he wants!’, Rajesh said.

Priya looked at Vijay and for a moment both of them stared at each other. Instantly they turned their faces elsewhere.

‘No! I don’t want it!’, Vijay immediately said and got deeply engrossed in the book or at least started pretending like that.
 When the shadows of examination started looming large, some of the students applied all their time and strength to studies enthusiastically while many others got panicky about their studies. Vijay, Priya, and Rajesh too were among those who were enthusiastic about their studies since they were not among those who would get tense because all their studies had been already completed as per the planning done by Vijay right from the beginning of the academic year and now only the revision was what perhaps only necessary thing to do. Above all they were fully aware of the fact that the HSC examination is a vital turning point of life.

One funny aspect of the HSC examination is that the real merit of the students truly gets tested only through this exam. What this means is that the erstwhile scope of hiding one’s merit otherwise does not become possible in the case of this examination and everybody gets to know his or her real intellect or true merit only through this examination. Obviously therefore, once after completing the studies, during their short break for relaxation, a topic pertaining to this dimension of the examination, came up between Vijay, Priya and Rajesh.

‘I heard Shyam is going to take a drop this year!’, Rajesh enquired.

‘It is an excellent escape route to hide one’s own weaknesses!’, Vijay remarked, ‘but how long can one continue escaping from the reality. Some or the other day the truth is bound to come out in the broad daylight’.

‘He must not have been able to complete his studies!’, Priya argued, ‘his father had come to our home sometime ago and he was saying that Shyam’s health did not keep good throughout this academic year harping his studies adversely!’.

‘What health problems he is trying to make an excuse of!’, Rajesh taunted, ‘he continues showing his body muscles behind the girls throughout the year!’.

‘But next year he will come in the merit list!’, Priya argued, ‘his father was saying it so confidently!’.

‘What kind of people are these?’, Rajesh said sarcastically, ‘So far Shyam has never secured more than 60% marks in any of the classes and now he is talking of directly winning a position in the merit list!’.

‘Frankly speaking, it is the parents who go wrong in such situations’, Vijay reacted, ‘they must recognize the true ability of their children before forming any expectations!’.

‘Then what do you think is my ability?’, Priya tried to build proximity with Vijay.

‘I said, abilities are to be tested by parents and not by friends!’, Vijay tossed her question funnily.

‘I am confident that you will secure an admission to medical easily and nothing needs to be spoken about a bright student like Vijay but it is me who is headed for a major debacle’, Rajesh said in a depressed tone, ‘I will be grateful to destiny even if I manage to get an admission for agriculture!’.

‘Now look at this how demeans he makes himself!’, Vijay instantly replied, ‘This is your main problem!’.

‘Wasn’t it the same you spoke about?’, Rajesh argued, ‘that one should be clear about one’s own ability!’.

‘I repeat, I had said about parents and not about oneself!’, Vijay remarked.

‘Anyway, let it be!’, Rajesh said and raised the same topic again, looking at Priya now, ‘Who else is going to take a drop this year? What is the ‘insider news’?’. He was obviously pointing toward the group of girls.

‘You won’t come to know that unless the examinations begin!’, Priya replied, ‘because girls do not usually disclose this so overconfidently like the boys do!’. Further she easily said, ‘What is so great about taking a drop? Just abstain yourself from appearing for one of the subjects examination and the drop is made!’.

‘You are saying it so easily as if you are yourself intending to take a drop!’, Vijay mischievously asked.

‘Let us see!’, Priya only shrugged her shoulders.

‘You crazy girl! Are you seriously saying this?’, Vijay asked.

Priya said this so casually that Vijay genuinely felt apprehensive that she was indeed thinking of taking a drop.

‘No guys! When you are there constantly to accompany me in the studies why do I feel the need to take a drop? And so also, thanks to you, my studies have been prepared well in your shadow!’, Priya clarified.

‘Studies is an activity of self-learning and it never happens because of somebody’s company!’, Vijay said firmly.

‘No! What I mean is that if we were not to have adhered to your plan then we would have definitely been panicky today!’, Priya thanked Vijay.

‘You are perfectly right to say this Priya!’, Rajesh endorsed, ‘more important than actually studying is how to study following a proper design and schedule!’.

‘All I simply mean is that the success comes in the lives of only those who understand that it is he or she alone who has to face the battles of life!’, Vijay passed a concluding remark.

‘Priya! Don’t you feel nowadays he has started talking more and more like a philosopher?’, Rajesh taunted.

‘Of course! He is indeed a great philosopher!’, Priya said it with pride.

‘By the way, what is happening between that Pinky and Sanjay nowadays?’, Rajesh turned now to a relatively soft topic.

‘It seems that they both have come too closer to each other!’, Vijay remarked, ‘they meet in gardens and keep roaming together!’.

‘Indeed both of them love each other!’, Priya said.

‘Love? What foolish concept is this?. How can they even think of this when examination is confronting them so bluntly?’, Vijay replied, ‘They must have come to know about their true fate now. Those who cannot face the harsh realities of life only sustain themselves in such dreamlands!’.

‘See the philosopher again!’, Rajesh again pinched Vijay.

‘I fail to understand what is wrong between love and this chap?’, Priya instantly remarked, ‘raise the topic of love and he is bound to speak against it!’.

‘When he will himself fall in love will be the only day when he will realize its significance’, Rajesh remarked.

‘Keep waiting for it infinitely!’, Vijay confidently said, ‘I don’t even see a remote possibility of me falling in love!’.

‘So confident about yourself?’, Rajesh asked.

‘In this world there is only one thing that is truly worth believing and that is none other than one’s own confidence!’, Vijay said.

‘You are quite right to say that!’, Priya replied, ‘if you cannot believe in yourself what iota of expectation can you have to seek confidence from others?’.
Vijay, Rajesh and Priya had, by now, started spending time for studies intensely because there were hardly eight days remaining for the examinations to begin. Through these last eight days doing one last revision was necessary and above all doing it properly was extremely important. Examination started after the eight days passed. Everyday they were supposed to appear for one paper. Now all of them started studying independently at their respective homes since each and every moment was important. Everyday the examination was scheduled at 10 o’clock in the morning and after finishing it at 1 o’clock in the noon, they would return home for lunch and take-up the preparations for the next day’s subject. After each examination, the only brief time they would stay together to enquire, ‘how was the examination for that respective subject?’, and then separate for going home on bicycle together.

Almost all the examinations were through now, as per the schedule of per day one subject, except the last today. The subjects that were significant for shaping their future were already over and today was the last examination of the language paper. It was only a formality remaining to be completed for ending the schedule of examinations. After that paper was over all the students started coming out of the examination hall. Everybody’s face was flooded overwhelmingly with joy at last as though the faces that were appearing grim and tense under the fear of examinations had now suddenly changed into a blossom of joy and happiness. A huge crowd of students gathered outside the examination hall and everybody was craving to talk such that the scene was appearing funny because there was no one to listen except that everybody was talking. All of them started toward their respective homes holding their bicycles in hand and even though it was a time for lunch no one seemed eager for it or even appeared to burning with hunger. After the discussion pertaining to how each of the went through each of the examinations, the focal point of overall discussion now turned to how they were to celebrate the thrill of having finished with the examinations. Not with much debate all the groups of students unanimously passed a resolution that they should go and watch a movie after first having finished with lunch. It was impossible to attend the 3 o’clock cinema show since none of them could sense that it was already 2:30 pm while being thoroughly engrossed with chatting and therefore they decided to gather outside the Sandeep talkies at 6 o’clock in the evening. It was only then all of them paced toward their individual homes.

Right since 5 o’clock the groups of boys and girls of HSC started gathering in the lounge of the cinema theatre. Although there was a lot of time yet for the next show to begin, the queue for the tickets was already increasing because the movie was recently launched. All the groups of students appointed a leader of them and handed over necessary amount of money to him or her asking them to stand in the queue so that the remaining of them would be free to continue chatting.

While the flow of their chat was on, one of the boys, paid a clandestine glance at the group of girls and said, ‘How aged are the girls from our class appearing to be?’.

‘What do you mean by ‘Aged’?’, another of them intentionally rounded him with a cross-question.

‘What I mean by ‘aged’ is that till yesterday all of these girls were appearing to be like children in frocks and blouses and now all of a sudden look how grown-up they are looking!’, the first chap tried to save himself.

‘All of their tiny frocks and blouses are a part of a history long ago!, Where do you keep paying your attention man?’, another chap among them replied.

‘Throughout so many days when did he any time left to look at girls after paying all his attention to the books?’, another boy among them taunted.

‘Is that the reason why now he is looking at them like a hungry dog since he has got ample time?’, the first boy pinched.

‘Hey! You rascal!’, the first felt mischievously angry and all of them laughed.

Rajesh, Vijay and Priya with few other boys were chatting in another corner and yet another group of students started a round of discussion about them there.

‘Why do this girl continuously keeps herself in the company of Vijay instead of mingling with the group of those girls there?’, one of them asked.

‘My dear friend, she has arrived here from Mumbai!’, another replied.

‘So what? If she is from Mumbai!. Are all the girls from Mumbai behave this way?’, the third boy remarked.

‘That Vijay too is a shrewd guy!. Under the pretext of studying he entered her home and now……!’, one more of them contributed.

‘Now what?’, one of them asked.

‘What? You don’t know anything?’, the second boy replied in surprise.

‘No! Not at all!’, again came the same reply.

‘Not just now! I will tell you some other time!’, the second boy calmly said.

On the other hand there was a different discussion going on in the group of Vijay and his friends standing in a corner.

‘The movie appears to be a good one!’, Priya said, looking at the different posters placed in the showcases and hanging on the walls there.

‘Nothing can be told about a film going by what is displayed on posters!’, Vijay replied.

‘The movie has been launched just yesterday otherwise by now we would have easily come to know about how good or bad it is!’, another boy remarked.

‘Our neighbour Ram was telling that it is not so really good but only slightly better than the one on display at the Subhash talkies!’, the second boy contributed.

‘That means we don’t have any other alternative!’, Rajesh said.

‘Why not? We do have another alternative!’, Vijay replied.

‘What is that?’, Priya curiously asked.

‘Wait for the right movie to arrive and watch it only when it is approved by others!’, Vijay remarked.

‘What rubbish! Will it ever happen that the examination got over today and we should not watch a movie immediately thereafter!’, Rajesh reacted.

‘That is the precise mistake we often do!’, Vijay said.

Right at the same moment the first bell rang.

One more queue was shaped outside the entrance of the cinema hall. All the boys who had stood in the queue to buy tickets came and handed over the tickets to their friends and then they too joined the queue to enter the hall.

Exactly at 9:30 PM the cinema was over and all the boys and girls started coming out of the theatre with their confused faces. Their expressions alone were sufficiently proving that the film was not any good worth watching.

‘The whole of our nice time was utterly wasted!’, Rajesh said irritatingly after coming out of the theatre.

‘How can you say it was wasted!. Even from this bad experience we have learnt a good lesson indeed!’, Vijay replied.

‘Great! Great! You are truly a philosopher!’, Rajesh admitted holding his both palms like a Namaskar in front of Vijay.

‘I remember a joke now, but not now! I will tell you sometime later!’, !’, Rajesh said after glancing at Priya coming from behind both of them.

‘Why not now?’, Vijay asked.

‘You fool! It is not worth telling in the presence of girls!’, Rajesh whispered into Vijay’s ears with appropriate expressions on his face.

Once again while returning from the theatre the students were chatting among themselves overwhelmingly except for the fact that the topic of discussion was revolving not around the examination but about the film they had watched.

‘What a boring film it was!’, one of them said.

‘There was hardly any story for the film!’, another of them said.

‘But the heroine was showed beautifully from all angles!’, another boy mischievously said.

‘It is only because of these rascals the films such as this one that lay all its focus on body exposing even with a bullshit story run well on the theatres!’, another guy remarked sharply.

‘What is bullshit about it? And body-exposure is also an excellent art!’, the same boy argued in self-defense.

‘What nonsense art are you talking about?’, another guy remarked.

‘Of course it is an art!. Reaching an exact balance between an actress’s body fully covered with clothes and the one exposed with all her feminine beauty is not an easy task to achieve. This is so because when a body gets covered more and more the film turns boring and when it is exposed beyond a limit then the film becomes very nauseating. Making a film that does not appear to be boring and yet not even nauseating is indeed one of the definitions of art itself!’.

‘Wow! What an excellent analysis! You deserve to be a great analyst!’, another boy complemented.

‘Yes! Quite right! He is excellent at making an analysis……of bullshit concepts!’, the same critic opened his mouth again.

After cutting some distance from the cinema hall, the big group got split into smaller ones while approaching their homes.

With the passage of time passing swiftly nobody even realized how the examination approached and was even finished. After the examination got over all of them spread from their village to all their relatives to enjoy the holidays. The day of examination being over was a day of full joys and overwhelming happiness because they were feeling to have finally broken their chains and freed themselves to taste the spirit of independence. Now there was no tension and no worries at all. They were now completely free to do anything except studies. Not only had they been freed from the awesome responsibility of studies but anybody who continues to do the studies even after the exam was over should necessarily be deemed as a fool only. But the human nature is also a very weird phenomenon. After finishing the examinations all of these boys and girls tried venturing into all forms of entertainment such as chatting, playing, watching films and simply relaxing or loitering here and there but soon they realized what limitations each of these methods had or perhaps because all their money to be spent for enjoyment too was exhausted by now. Sometimes they were even feeling that the times of studies were at least better because they were not feeling stressed to think of what to do next anytime. The mind that was constantly busy in studies was now feeling absolutely free and therefore sad too. An individual who is constantly overburdened with work if let free absolutely then he does enjoy the freedom but only temporarily because later, especially after the first stroke of joy is over, a mysterious sadness grips his or her mind. That is the precise reason why each of them were quite literally running away from their village to variety of their relatives either under the pretext of holidays or even under the trivial excuses like a wedding etc. Even Priya went to meet her grandfather and Rajesh too went to meet his sister. But Vijay had no such options and there was also a problem of money. Therefore he stopped at his home only and started spending time at the library. During this phase of his life his reading habit flourished and he read biographies of many prominent people. He also read the fiction stories written by prominent freedom fighter Sane, the veteran teacher. And while reading the stories of his mother, tears often came into the eyes of Vijay because he got a glimpse of different side of the life, that narrate the bonds between a mother and her son. Later he also read the humorous literature of renowned leaders like P.K. Atre or distinguished authors like P.L. Deshpande. Slowly, Vijay was enjoying the company of books and above all what was more important that the books were successfully keeping him sufficiently occupied also.

But when the date of the result started approaching near and near, all the students who had gone out started returning back. Now none of them was facing the problem of spending time because now most of their time was being spent in thinking about the probable result. Finally that very day that was to decide their fate dawned soon.

Priya, Vijay and Rajesh were sitting on the steps of the college looking at their mark-sheet.

‘Now I don’t see much of a problem for both of us to secure an admission in a single medical college!’, Priya said enthusiastically looking at her result sheet.

‘You both can dream of going for the medical but what the hell is my future?’, Rajesh angrily got up and reacted sharply.

‘Why do you bother so much? Even you will get an admission at some good college!’, Vijay tried to pacify him.

‘Finally the same fate I have!’, Rajesh annoyingly said, ‘to become a teacher!’ and he started going away from there.

‘Listen! Wait for a moment!’, Priya got up and tried going behind him.
But Vijay signaled her indicating that let Rajesh go from there alone. Priya stopped but after returning back to Vijay she curiously asked him, ‘Vijay! He is our friend!. He needs our company utmost today at such a grim moment of his life and you are stopping me from consoling him?’.

‘No! At this point of time, he does not need us but he needs to be alone with himself in seclusion! And certain problems or calamities in life can be solved, not by using any other medicine but only after allowing the wounds to heal naturally after a passage of time and that is what Rajesh needs most at this point of time in his life!’, Vijay calmly replied.
 After Rajesh went away from there, Vijay and Priya continued sitting there on the steps of the college staircase for a long time completely engrossed in their thoughts.

‘But how did he so pitiably low marks?’, Priya broke the silence and asked.

Vijay did not utter a word.

‘We both secured so nice marks and that poor fellow who studied equally with both of us got so low a score!. How can that happen?’, Priya exclaimed sadly.

Even then Vijay continued to maintain the silence.

‘I think there is some mistake in the checking of his answer sheets. His marks must have been allotted to somebody else by mistake and somebody else’s marks must have been recorded against his name. it happens like this sometimes, my father was telling me once!’, Priya was not willing to accept.

Vijay was maintaining the silence completely.

‘I think he should apply for revaluation of his answer sheets. It may bring about some difference!’, Priya suggested.

‘Listen to me Priya! How many marks do you score does not just depend on how much study have you done!’, Vijay remarked.

‘Then what else does matter?’, asked Priya surprisingly.

‘Your ability and intellectual merit also plays a lot of role. Why do you ignore the fact that all throughout he was getting similar range of marks even during the practice mock examinations too. Then why should he expect some miracle to take place even in this real examination?’, Vijay concluded.

‘But all the while he was claiming that he had not faced any problem throughout all the papers of the whole examination. That is what he was always claiming!’, Priya surprisingly asked.

‘Even during the mock examinations he was talking the same. What this only means that compared to his ability and merit he was giving good performance!’, Vijay explained.

‘You are quite right Vijay! But it is really saddening to discover that the one who studied so hard equally well with us ended up obtaining such a poor result and that is bound to make us feel sad slightly!’, Priya agreed.

‘Yes! Feeling sad is quite justified and even he deserves to feel it that way but I am sure he will recover soon and that is why there is no reason for us to feel worried or anxious about him!’, Vijay explained again.

At least now Priya felt fine because she would feel convinced only after Vijay would explain her properly and Vijay too would explain every such thing in a proper analytical manner suitable for her to understand. Furthermore time passed in complete silence.

‘Oh! Yah!’, Priya murmured as though she was coming out of deep thoughts.

Vijay looked at her with a questioning face.

‘Our topic of discussion that we were talking about is not yet completed!’, Priya exclaimed.

‘What about?’, Vijay asked.

‘About our admissions to a common medical college!’, Priya answered.

‘There is ample time for that!’, Vijay replied in order to avoid that issue.

‘What ample time? We have hardly eight days in hand to decide where we need to secure our next admission!’, Priya explained.

Vijay again sought to remain silent over this.

‘Yes! Now tell me please which medical college should we seek our admissions into?’, Priya again raised the same topic.

Vijay only glanced at her and again got engrossed in his deep thoughts while watching the Asoka trees and their waving branches in front of him with the flowing wind as though he was unwilling to discuss this topic.

‘Indeed! By staying constantly together with both of you a nice group of we trio was formed and now I cannot even imagine of leading a life in the absence of both of you!’, Priya whispered.

‘But it appears that Rajesh won’t ever be able to stay with us together!’, Vijay expressed himself sadly.

‘But at least he can secure an admission in the same village where we may take our admissions!’, Priya sought to find an answer.

‘Who knows? Not everything happens by our desires and priorities!’, Vijay said.

‘But now I do not think that even that is possible anymore!’, Vijay finally gave the right reply he was avoiding to talk about and even now he avoided looking straight into Priya’s eyes.

‘Why do you say that? In fact, is it not that you alone always insist for positive thinking?’, Priya annoyingly asked.

‘That is because I am going to seek an admission not in medical stream but in the engineering!’, Vijay replied with a resolved tone.

A deep sense of melancholy spread over Priya’s face instantly to hear that.

‘What? You never spoke this so far!’, Priya exclaimed as though she was bitterly shocked.

Vijay was maintaining his calm after being deeply engrossed in his thoughts.

‘But why? You can easily get an admission in medical? And besides that only a fool can think of going for engineering when he can easily get an admission to the medical stream?’, Priya spoke angrily.

‘You call it irrationality or foolishness or anything else you may like but I am going to seek an admission into engineering only!’, Vijay declared his resolve.

‘But why? Will you please at least tell me that?’, Priya argued.

‘There is a reason for that!’, Vijay replied.

‘What is that?’, Priya reiterated herself.

‘I wonder whether you will fell convinced by it or…..!’, Vijay doubted.

‘Will you please disclose that as early as possible now?’, Priya was about to explode by this never-ending sequel of fruitless questions and answers.

‘It is high time for me to secure a job as early as possible. It is my topmost priority to restore the pride of my home and if I am to secure a job as early as possible then I do not see any other alternative than engineering!’, Vijay briefly replied his problem.

Priya was now appearing to be sufficiently calm and quiet. She was not uttering a word now because probably she was convinced by the reasoning given by Vijay but the shadow of grief was glaringly visible on her face even now.

While thinking about this subsequently she again angrily said to Vijay, ‘And you are telling me this now. If you were to have told me this earlier would not I have taken the Mathematics in my HSC course?. I definitely think that you had long ago decided to distance yourself from me!’.

‘Priya you are really crazy!. What one should do for something always carries its own limitations. I knew this very well right since early days and that is why I did not tell you because it could not have ever been acceptable to me that you should destroy your own life like a fool for my sake!’, Vijay calmly replied.

Vijay said this and all of Priya’s emotions started flooding through her eyes overwhelmingly, ‘Is this what you recognize my worth for?’, Priya started attempting to restrain her sorrow and tears.

‘Are you crazy?’, Vijay got up and went near her to console her, ‘Wherever we may go our friendship will remain the same!’.

‘Listen to me Vijay! Till the time you came in my life there was no direction to my life! There was no meaning to my life and I was only living the life just because I was supposed to live it!. You came in my life as a true guide and altered the entire course of my life!. Only because of you I could secure so many marks!. If you were not to be there in my life I wonder whether I would have been able to even pass in this examination!. You gave a purpose for my life and taught me to live and now if you are to leave me alone how am I to survive in this journey of life?’, Priya argued and started crying vociferously.

Vijay could only pull her near him and kept patting on her back. He was aware that howsoever effort he was to take to convince her it would not yield any result so he only continued patting on her back calmly.
 For a very long time both, Vijay and Priya, continued sitting there on the steps of the college staircase. Priya had not spoken a single word about the decision Vijay had taken. But even then she did not appear to have been convinced about it.

‘Priya’, Vijay called her, finding that she is so completely engrossed in her thoughts.

‘What?’, she responded even after being engulfed in the thoughts.

‘Today I am going to tell you something that I have avoided telling you so far and you too have avoided asking me those questions!’, Vijay said to Priya.

‘What are those things you intend to disclose?’, Priya said.

‘Almost four years must have passed for that misfortune to have taken place in my family. I was probably studying in the SSC that time. Our family of four was leading a very happy life then. My father loved my sister, Shalini, a lot even though he never disclosed it apparently. Of course, he loves her even today also. In those days, he would drink liquor very rarely, perhaps only when he would be too happy or sometimes casually while being with friends!’, Vijay took a long breath and started telling further.

‘My sister’s formal education was over and she aspired to appear for the MPSC examination. She had successfully passed through the MPSC examination right in her first attempt itself and now she was headed for her interview. She had made very strong preparation for the interview but after reaching the location of that crucial interview she realized that she had lost all her original documents necessary to prove her identity. In the absence of proper documents, the authorities refused to conduct her interview. This mishap left such a strong negative impact on her mind that by the time she came back home she was no more the same woman. In spite of we, the family members, attempting to convince her several times that she can still aspire to face the interview by obtaining the duplicate copies of the papers or she can even reappear for the MPSC examination again next year or she can even look for other opportunities life could offer her but she was not responding to any of our suggestions and advices. On the contrary, this psychological ailment she was suffering from continued to deteriorate further after each passing day. In the absence of good doctors in this small town and also account of lack of sufficient financial backing, my father too was helpless to arrange for a proper medical treatment of my sister. This affected my father’s self-confidence to such an extent that he increasingly took it to consuming more and more liquor because he was never able to withstand my sister’s state of health after returning home. He then started staying more and more away from home and became an alcoholic. In the due course of time he also wasting money in gambling so much so that, forget about the medical treatment of my sister, we even started suffering from scarcity of food and diet on account of least monetary contribution from my father.

Vijay took a brief pause and started describing his troubles further, ‘At one point of time in my life, the situation at home had worsened to such a pathetic extent, that I was even feeling tempted to give up my education and contribute at home by working as a daily wages labor but soon ignored that thought because earnings made through that kind of a source would not have filled the requirement. Finally, it was my mother who showed the courage to work at home to produce and sell household kitchen-made products like pickles etc and I also contributed whatever little I could by distributing newspapers every morning etc along with managing my education. But that too was proving highly insufficient and that is why I had made up my mind that I will strive to complete my education and choose one such stream of education, after completing HSC, that will give me a job and a fixed monthly income as soon as possible and help restore the financial health of my family’.

After Vijay’s monologue was over, Priya said, ‘I can very well understand and appreciate what troubles you must have suffered from in your life. I think, in the present circumstances, your decision to choose engineering as an option of a career instead of medical is perfectly correct and fully justifiable’.

Vijay looked at Priya with complete satisfaction over this unexpected reply because so far he had thought of her as a childish girl but unexpectedly she had expressed a completely matured reaction over Vijay’s explanation.

Vijay secured an admission for engineering and Priya, having left with no choice with certain element of reluctance, opted for medical as the career since she was undeserving to seek an admission for engineering having avoided taking Mathematics as one of the subjects for HSC. Moreover, she did not even make any further efforts to persuade Vijay because she was aware how firm he was about any decision he usually takes. Besides all this, the reasoning provided by Vijay was perfectly apt and Priya would never want to create a trouble between him and his family through her presence. So, eventually, the triumphant gallop of both of them began in the respective domains of career they had chosen.

With the passage of time flowing rapidly, communication between both of them continued through letters and they would occasionally meet also whenever they would return to their native town during vacations.

Passing days got converted into passing months and both of them did not even realize how quickly the duration of four years went by. Hardly a few days were remaining now for Vijay to secure engineering degree and although Priya had spent four years in acquiring medical education, yet there was one more year of internship remaining, to secure her medical degree.

Today was the happiest day of Vijay’s life because he has succeeded in securing most cherished degree in engineering and a boon to that joy was that Priya was to come to meet him the same day. He was waiting for her on the railway station and a train came and stopped on the station.

‘This is the same train using which Priya was to come and meet me’, Vijay thought, ‘Yes, this is the train she was to travel into!’. His excitement reached to its peak. His eyes started searching for in the huge crowd of people alighting from the train and nowhere she could be seen because a massive flood of passengers was moving toward the exit door of the station and he felt as if it was really difficult to search for a single individual amid this big a throng of the people. ‘I have indeed come to receive her here on the station but the possibility of being able to locate her is indeed very little!’, Vijay thought.

The size of the crowd getting off from the train had reduced by now and hardly one or two passengers were seeming to be hiring a coolie to move their heavy luggage when he saw Priya coming toward him and he exclaimed, ‘Yes! That is none other than Priya!’. His depressed face suddenly glowed up with ample joy and he started hastily moving toward her.

Within moments even Priya saw him and reacted in the same fashion, all her tiredness vanished and her face, exhausted so far suddenly beamed with joy. Now even she started moving toward him hastily but was unable to do that because of her luggage. But within moments Vijay reached up to her and they both hugged each other out of excitement.

Vijay and Priya were sitting in a café for a cup of coffee and their talk started.

‘Indeed, after such a long spell have we come here in this café?’, Priya said.

‘You are saying this as if we were coming regularly here to drink coffee!’, Vijay replied.

‘Not too frequently but quite regularly we would come here!’, Priya said.

‘And whenever we came, it was you alone who always paid the bill!’, Vijay replied.

‘When is Rajesh coming?’, Priya glanced at the door and asked.

‘He will come only if he is aware of your arrival and even if he was to be aware of your arrival, the possibility of he coming to meet you is very less’, Vijay replied.

‘Did you not inform him about my arrival?’, Priya asked.

‘No!’, Vijay replied.

‘Why is that so?’, Priya asked.

‘How shall I tell you that now? In fact, it is a big story!’, Vijay replied.

‘What? Have you had a quarrel with him?’, Priya curiously asked.

‘Are we any kids to quarrel between us?’, Vijay said, ‘to be really frank with you our ways parted with the HSC result itself!’.

‘The how do we tend to meet when even our ways are different?’, Priya asked.

‘We meet because we have a strong desire to meet each other!’, Vijay replied.

‘Does it mean he does not have a desire to meet either you or me?’, Priya asked.

‘You can say that!’, Vijay said, ‘with the results being declared, he went out of the college and started slowly distancing himself from us. I tried to reduce that gap between us and even gave a sympathetic thought to his state of mind but it was of hardly any use!. He had no desire left to come closer again!’.

‘Does it mean he never meets you now?’, Priya asked.

‘He does meet me sometimes but very rarely and he is never intense during such encounters. He behaves like a complete stranger!’, Vijay replied.
Both, Priya and Vijay spent a lot of time there in the café, while continuously discussing about the attitudinal changes that had occurred in Rajesh and why he must have suddenly started distancing himself from both of them or whether anybody must have instigated him to behave this way. Vijay was increasingly feeling bored to discuss this topic anymore but Priya was sticking to that subject all the while.

Finally Vijay angrily said to her, ‘Enough of it Priya! Let us talk about something else now!’.

‘How can you say something like this?’, Priya exclaimed, ‘He was such a good friend of ours, in fact, he is a good friend of us even today!’.

‘That is what I am saying!. He is indeed a good friend of both of us even today but what about the fact that he does not look at it that way!. Friendship is always mutual, Priya and it cannot ever be a one way traffic!’, Vijay explained.

‘That is quite right! But even today I find it hard to accept that something like this can happen in the case of an erstwhile intensely good friend of both of us!’, Priya said and gave a sigh of sadness.

‘Listen to me! With changing times and circumstances even the attitudes of people do witness a profound change!’, Vijay tried to explain.

Priya did not say anything on this and continued sitting there calmly. Both of them were quiet for a long time as though they were having a dialogue with their own minds. The cups of coffee kept before them had long been emptied. Finally Priya, as though she had come out of that engrossed state of mind, said, ‘So? What next now?’.

‘What do you mean?’, Vijay asked having not understood the context of Priya’s question.

‘What I mean is, now we have secured our degrees!. So what next?’, Priya explained.

‘What next?’, Vijay answered, ‘Now I will take up a job. You know, even if an individual may be extraordinary but if he has born in an ordinary family, then the pattern of his life is predetermined!’.

‘Do you mean to say that I am born in some extraordinary family?’, Priya funnily remarked.

‘Compared to me, Yes! You are born in an extraordinary family!’, Vijay said.

‘This is going just too much Vijay! You call me a girl born in an extraordinary family! How foolish!’, Priya laughed at Vijay.

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