The Leftover Lives of Lawrence
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Chapter 1. The Dawn
She walked up to the stairs, paused for a while to gaze into the long narrow corridor buzzing with new bees. Each face was so unique. Their eyes were brimming with hopes for the unknown. Strangers became friends, exchanging chance greetings with an occasional trade of petty conversations. She stood there waiting to discover the changes.
While she watched, a new student bumped into the other and exclaimed, “Oh, this has to be my den, I have the note.”
“I got the same one too,” said the other.
The two new students stared at each other in brief silence and fiddled with the note when one of them remarked, “So I guess we are roommates!”
Smiles followed, underlining a thousand questions.
“Business major, 1st year,” said the shorter one, carelessly throwing her luggage around.
“Interesting; I am majoring in Chemistry, 1st year as well,” said the taller of the two, looking at her roommate’s sloppy ways.
“Where are you from….when do your classes start…how many,” the sleuth of questions seemed endless.
Nandita started walking away and observing the changes, reconnecting new with old, extracting memories from the nooks. She looked at the new birds settling down into their nest; their home for the next three years. She turned to look at a door that read No. 16. This time the letters and the numbers are embossed into a wooden plate, a step up from the painted signs, she thought to herself. The windows had glass panes, and the doors were arched on top. She wondered how much had changed. She glanced at door No. 16 and its new inhabitants, and a thought flickered across her mind, how much will never change!
Nandita was very proud of her 10 year-olds idea of choosing Lawrence as the subject for her annual literature report on Memoirs. Nandita had narrated stories of Lawrence to Meghana; of its glorious past and its promising future. The little one was not so much in awe of the glory that surrounded Lawrence, as much as the eventful episodes that was always part of its tales. She wanted to visit the site so she could connect with all stories she was told. She had always been a curios and insightful child.
Meghana stood on the grounds of her dream school and felt the excitement that came with unwrapping a gift. She quietly promised herself that she would return in future and be what her mom could never be.
Nandita looked through the window of an empty Room No. 16, into the field that was bustling with workshops, vendors, and exhibitions. There it stood, amongst the entire flurry, firm and composed, as large as ever, the great banyan. Memories flashed through her mind; recollections of untold stories. It felt so distant yet so real. A chill ran through her veins and numbness engulfed her feet. The very next moment she found herself briskly stretching out her arms to grab onto the window latch. A voice was closing in, almost like her own.
“Are you all right Ma? What are you doing here? I kept looking for you!”
It was Meghana. She had been watching the new-student orientation through the hostel auditorium window, when she noticed her mother was not by her side. Nandita had spoken to the hostel warden a few weeks back and had timed their visit to coincide with the orientation. This way Meghana could see how a fresh start looks like. The warden had gladly accepted their request in the hopes of seeing Nandita after over a decade. Meghana looked at her mother staring outside the window.
“Ma, you all right, did you want something to eat? There is a cafeteria right outside to the…”
“I know where it is,” Nandita interrupted with a frown, almost defensively.
It wasn’t Raghu’s café anymore. It read “Hideout”. Why would they call it Hideout, thought Nandita. “No one needs to hide, they just need a cup of coffee and relax,” Nandita said.
“Ma, who cares, it is just a cafeteria; it is just a cafeteria, right ma?” Meghana carefully corrected her placement of words. She was always careful and observing about people’s emotions, their needs –a quality qualified to be Nandita-like.
“Yes it is,” surrendered Nandita.
Nandita noticed a short and plump man sitting at the counter. He was too short and old to be Raghu’s brother, yet some resemblance was undeniable. While waiting on the order, she decided to walk up to the counter and run a few whereabouts with the man.
“He sold the shop two years back and left. No one knows where he is,” the man said when asked where Raghu, the original owner of the café, was. “I took over from him,” he added.
“Oh,” Nandita sighed.
“Thanks,” said Nandita and returned to her table.
Mother and daughter sipped their drinks quietly; two different world of thoughts running through their minds. One building dreams, the other trying to break away from the incomplete ones.
“Ma, you promised me that you would attend the reunion tomorrow. My story would remain incomplete without the reunion,” claimed Meghana. “And you don’t have to go there just for me, you know that,” she added. Nandita looked over her drink at Meghana and her Netbook displaying an open, unformatted Word document. “Is that it?” asked Nandita.
“No, that is not it,” said Meghana with a smile.