“I’m pissed buddy, the whole idea seems totally wrong now.”
“Cool down yaar. Can’t you trust this Midas of a man? Whatever I touch turns to gold!”
“I know you’re cool at whatever you do. But right now, I feel like a wretched soul, a sinking ship, a drowning man who can’t see, let alone catches at a straw!”
“You’re over-reacting buddy.“
“I know, but…”
“There are no buts. C’mon you coward, you know who’s handling this case!”
“I know but I can’t shake this fear off!”
“You’re getting unnecessarily worked up.”
“Maybe you’re used to facing such situation, but this is the first experience for me!”
“You know what? There’s a very more-than-apt term for persons like you – Philophobia! The fear of being in love.”
“I don’t give damn about that term.”
“That’s because you ain’t got guts to face rejection!”
“Rohan, the Midas, the 007, the Theseus….”
“There you go again!”
“You’ll see it when I will slap the acceptance letter right at your filthy face. Wish somebody told you that the proof of the pudding is in the eating.”
I was sick of Rohan’s boisterous and haughty talks, but the rascal was not only my best buddy at school but was also an accomplice to all not-so-dirty and sometimes not-so-social mischiefs that we committed after school. It was quite a strange feeling that when he boasted about himself, I used to get beside myself with rage; but when I was being boasted about among others, his voice serenaded me and I always coasted on cloud nine. Hypocrisy must have its origin in such feelings! Though I didn’t openly tell Rohan to boast about me, I used to reward him with a piece of Suun Papri, my favourite sweet, after he was done boasting. This fiend always ended up eating more Suun Papri than I did.
The event leading up to my present predicament was pretty scary. Scary because I hated failure to its loathsome level. And rejection is a form of failure! I never slept a wink during exams not because I wanted to excel but because I didn’t like my class teacher not taking my name first while declaring results. But then preparing and standing first in class was under my control. How Anamika would respond to my love proposal was beyond my control. The sheer prospect of rejection created in me something called fecund imagination, and I started imagining quite a lot of things – Anamika giving me unfriendly glances and frozen reception when reception was a necessity, her hanging out with some retard just to make me go blue with jealousy and the things like that. I now marvel at profusion of imagination that love letter infused in me. I can vouch that no other incident has made me so creative in imagining things than that love letter. I could have written another Romeo-Juliet like saga had I tried!
I just couldn’t imagine my love letter being shred into thousands of tiny little pieces and flushed through the dirty commode of girls’ toilet into the stinking cesspool. I cursed myself for having toyed with the idea of proposing Anamika, and more for having told Rohan about it. I don’t know what got this rascal so impatient that he himself wrote the letter for me, with full of filmy dialogues, a verse from a song “I Will Stand by You “ by The Pretenders. Among several bollywood dialogues that the love letter was littered with, the one that I still remember, read like this – “Tu mujhe chahe na chahe yeh tere bas mein toh hai … aur main tujhko na chahun yeh mere bas mein nahi.”
I don’t know where did he get those dialogues from. Judging by the way the letter was written, he had put in quite a lot of hard work. I silently thanked him for writing such a wonderful love letter for me. Though the larger part of my heart and most part of my mind expected rejection, there was still very slight chance of acceptance too, and the very thought of Anamika and me going on a date set me on the chain of reverie that I wished continued till the end of time.
It was not until I got to 10th standard that I got drawn towards Anamika. Right from 6th standard, we both had been in a very fierce competition of securing the top position. She had had to satisfy herself with the second position right up to the 9th standard. I secretly promised that if she accepted my proposal, I would drop the competition and let her take the top spot in the class. This sounds too condescending given the fact that I outperformed her only by whiskers in exams. Condescending though I might sound, I made that promise and prayed every morning for two days for the positive outcome.
I’m still not sure whether it was my age, teenage that is, or was it my dirty mind shaped by secretly watching ‘X-Rated’ adult movies with friends that made every girl appear beautiful and elegant? Whatever the reason, Anamika looked ethereal to me, something out of this world, something celestial. Beauty beyond description. I felt that the word beauty was an understatement. I could find plenty of boys ogling at her and the super hero feelings in me wanted to chuck their eyes out, but all I could do was fume within. Nobody could understand why cool and calm Pramod as they knew me, was turning into a moody and mercurial Pramod.
The sudden surge of uncontrollable urge to express my love to Anamika was triggered by an incident. The pathway leading to boys’ and girls’ toilets of Pelling Senior Secondary School used to be notoriously slippery during summer. The toilets were located at a little distance below the playground. One afternoon during lunch break, when Rohan and I were climbing up to the playground after using toilets, we saw Anamika and two of her friends walking down. As we were about to pass abreast, Anamika slipped, as a result of the slippery path worsened by her canvas shoes with worn out sole. She literally fell upon me, embracing me totally. I would also have fallen down were it not for Rohan’s strong hand right behind my back.
The incident happened so fast that before the curious teenage in me could summon forth romantic moves or dialogues, Anamika was pulled away by her friends. I could see how she blushed and her face turned crimson, making her look more beautiful than ever. Her friends giggled all the way to the toilet. This fleeting incident turned me from her fierce competitor into a lover in an instant, though I didn’t know if my love would be requited at all. My imagination wandered into a new domain after the incident. I could write poems, shaayaris and songs. I became a poet overnight. I kept on imagining the incident, of course with a 3D angle and in very very slow motion – forward and backward options included. The more I imagined about the incident, the more I cursed Rohan for supporting me and preventing us from falling down and rolling together on the wet ground, like lovers do in most bollywood movies. Ahh… what an experience could it have been were it not for the fiend of a friend Rohan!
After the incident, I surprised my parents daily by getting ready for school well before 8 in the morning while my usual schedule was 8:30. They kept on asking me what the hell was wrong with me, and I kept them feeding the same answer – Remedial classes! Lucky for me, they never tried to find out. I had told Rohan about my new feelings about my competitor-turned-crush Anamika.He had agreed to support me in his usual boisterous and boastful tone and he had lived upto his promise by adjusting his usual timing of leaving for school from 8:20 to 8. I felt very grateful, blessed and proud to have bumped into a friend like him. Now I started boasting about Rohan and praised him openly. My friends were surprised out of their wits and Rohan was little disturbed at the change of role but was okay with it.
One day on our way to school, I told Rohan about proposing Anamika. He let out a huge guffaw which rattled my confidence. He then placed his right arm around my shoulder, appeared little serious and said almost whispering – “I was about to tell you just that. But you know what, more than the feelings you’ve stored in your heart, what matters is how you express it. The courage, my friend.” Before I could say anything, he added – “And what are friends for huh? I know your mind knows nothing besides history and formulae and geography and shit like that. When it involves love, one needs a masterstroke to nail it right at the very first time!”.
“But I don’t know how to write a love-letter”, I said nervously.
“I will be writing the love-letter for you buddy – I got Midas touch!”.
I could not agree more with him on that. I wanted to execute a divine masterstroke and spellbound Anamika into happily accepting my proposal. He was the only one who could flawlessly execute the masterstroke and could ensure a happy ending to my love story. I saw a living cupid in Rohan. My eyes welled up. I almost prostrated before him, but may be that appeared too awkward so I ended up saying only thank you. He replied, as usual in a haughty tone – “No Thank Yous between friends”.
After days of thinking and planning, we finally agreed on sending the letter on Games Day, that is on Saturday. Rohan had written the letter and I had read it over and over and had remembered it by heart!
“It’s a big day buddy.” Rohan grinned as we strolled towards the playground. It was short break.
“The biggest day of my life dude.” I replied, unable to hide my joy and nervousness.
“Why are you looking pissed? Chill buddy.”
“It could be a disastrous step too. What if she rejects and tells the Principal about it?”
“C’mon you coward! When it involves Midas, things are bound to play out as Midas decides!”
“When are you going to hand her the letter?”
“Pretty excited eh? I’ve already handed it to her friend Tanusha. I’ll ask her during lunch break whether she’s handed it over to Anamika or not.”
“Have I ever failed to keep my promise? Here, I’m giving you my word – The answer from her will be in affirmative. You got that? In affirmative.”
I was relieved and liked his confidence. I don’t know why I again felt like lying prostrate before him in utmost reverence, but could only utter thanks, to which I got the usual reply. Rohan’s image was building up in my mind like that of a super hero. He had started eating my lunch and my Suun Papri without even bothering to ask me and I was happy for that.
I confined myself in the class during lunch break. Rohan went out to check whether Tanusha had delivered the letter to Anamika. I was getting impatient. I then realized I was more of a pessimist than an optimist. All the imaginations and pictures that my mind conjured up were of humiliating rejection. Of Anamika telling the entire class and complaining of it to the Principal. The Principal then calling my parents. My parents then waiting for me at home with a specially designed bamboo cane. I imagined swelling welts all over my body. I was in the midst of agonizing imaginations when Rohan entered into the class and sat beside me. He had the triumphant look painted all over his face.
“Tanusha has handed her the letter.”
“Did she take it?”
“You can guess it when things involve Midas – Always in affirmative!”
“I’ve started imagining horrible outcome. I can’t shake it off!”
“You’ll find the result on Monday. Just two days buddy. Till then, just chill.”
“Chill? Are you f****** out of your mind? I can’t chill unless I get her response!”
“If you can’t chill, then go f*** yourself!”
“Look Rohan, I’m not like you. I lack the confidence in this matter..”
“Then believe what I’ve told you. Don’t be too Philophobic!”
The lunch break was over and the class started. I could not concentrate. I kept thinking and I kept looking at Anamika furtively, every now and then. I was curious to find out how she behaves with me. She was behaving quite normal and I deduced she hadn’t read the letter yet. I felt little relieved. The last bell rang. Rohan walked up to Anamika and her friends and talked with them as if nothing had happened. I could not muster courage to look at Anamika’s eyes, let alone talk to her. The following Sunday was the longest Sunday of my life. I could not concentrate on anything. I kept thinking and planning. Planning about my move if she rejected and planning about where and how to go on date if she responded in affirmative. The night was very excruciating. I had completely become hallucinate. I couldn’t sleep a wink. The day finally broke in and I couldn’t wait to dress up and leave for school. Rohan was waiting for me. I felt very reassured at his sight. We started towards school, quite strangely, without talking about Anamika. I wanted to broach the topic but kept quiet hoping he would do it. He didn’t. May be nervousness had got the better of this Midas too. We reached school. Our eyes were glued to the school gate. Waiting for Anamika. The first bell rang. Waiting. The Assembly bell rang. Waiting. Finally, her friends including Tanusha entered the school gate. Relieved. Rohan went to talk to Tanusha, I went to order students to file in to the playground for the morning Assembly, as I was school prefect. My eyes kept wandering to Tanusha and Rohan. After few minutes, Rohan came and whispered into my ears - “She fell sick. She won’t be able to come to school today. She didn’t tell anything about the letter to Tanusha”. The news pierced into my heart like red hot iron bar. I felt cold. Cold sweat trickled down from my forehead and struggled to enter my eyes through either canthi. I gathered and composed myself. Failed. “What kind of sickness?” “Tanusha doesn’t know.” “Is she going for treatment somewhere?” “Yes, to Gangtok, and then probably to Siliguri.” “When?” “They’re going to Gangtok tomorrow. Whether she’ll be required to go to Siliguri for further treatment will depend on the advice of doctors from STNM.” I felt like the floor beneath my feet disappeared and I was falling into an endless abyss. Unable to conduct the Assembly, I requested Rohan to do it. I feigned stomach pain and got the permission to leave right after the Assembly. I felt quite strange at Rohan’s reaction. He didn’t stop me, nor did he bunk the class to be with me, as he always did. I wanted to go to Anamika’s house to check on her, but the cowardice in me prevented me from doing so. I headed home straight and went to my room, closed the door and slithered under the blanket despite the summer heat. My mother knocked at the door and before she asked anything, I told her I was having mild stomach pain and will be okay after some rest. She insisted me to open the door to which I complied. She felt my pulse, checked my fever with the back of her palm on my forehead and said I was okay, as if she was an MBBS, but she was right! She went out and I closed the door, lay on the bed, took out an old photo frame with lord Vishnu in it and prayed fervently for Anamika. This was the first time I prayed from my heart. Whenever my parents took me to temples and told me to pray, I used to open one of my eyes and looked at the praying devotees and found it difficult to suppress my giggles. I felt little relieved after praying. When the clock struck 4:30, I rushed out to meet Rohan. He was sipping tea on the verandah. Without me asking anything, he said - “ I went to see her on my way back from school. Her parents have taken her to STNM.” I figured Anamika’s health was critical. There was no other explanation as to why her parents would take her to Gangtok in the afternoon. I was feeling very miserable and may be I also looked miserable. “I will go to Gangtok tomorrow.” “Are you mad Pramod?” “I think I am.” “And what will you tell her parents?” “Anything that I can think of at that moment.” “Don’t go without informing me.” “The Gangtok service leaves at 7 in the morning. So I won’t be able to inform you!” “Cool then. Don’t tell me later that I didn’t advise you against this.” “I won’t”. I don’t know why Rohan looked very impassive. When Tanusha broke the news of Anamika’s illness, he looked neither worried nor tensed. He behaved as if nothing had happened. ~~~~~ Next morning, I boarded the Gangtok service at 7. Monsoon wreaks havoc on hilly areas during Summer and Sikkim is no exception. The several blockades due to landslides extended the usual four and half hours journey to six and half hours. During the journey, I kept planning as to what I would tell Anamika and her parents when I met them. By the time I reached Gangtok, it was 1:30 PM. I rushed to STNM and nervously checked every female ward. I couldn’t find Anamika. I re-visited the wards to make sure and I became sure Anamika wasn’t in any of the wards in STNM. When I was running around the female wards, I noticed a nurse watching me with a smile on her face. Looked like she wanted to help me. She looked young and I figured she was an intern. I had no courage to ask her about anything. She went downstairs and an extreme fear gripped me. Had she been referred to Siliguri today itself? She didn’t look sick on Saturday. How could such a healthy girl fall so sick within two days? There were so many questions and no answer. I stole a glance at the wall clock inside duty nurse’s room which said 4:30. I rushed out of the hospital and darted towards the taxi stand. The last vehicle for Pelling had left an hour ago. I had spent two and half hours scouring the female wards of STNM for Anamika. Luckily, I got a vehicle bound for Jorethang and boarded it. There was some chance of getting Pelling bound tourist vehicles from Jorethang. By the time the vehicle dropped me at Jorethang, it was well past 7:30. Darkness had completely engulfed the beautiful Jorethang bazaar. The chance of finding any vehicle to Pelling was very bleak and I cursed myself for this foolhardy adventure. I ran towards Akar bridge and waited there. After waiting for about half an hour, I saw a white Innova car coming and raised a hand asking for lift. The car stopped. I craned my neck inside the car from the passenger window and said - Pelling. The driver said - “If you got 200 bucks, hop in!” I jumped in and thanked God for the chance to ride shotgun as I was extremely tired. It was 1 AM when I knocked and woke up my mom. Dad was on tour, a solid reason for my today’s Gangtok venture. There were millions of questions in mom’s face but she let me go after smelling my breath! Moms are like that. I couldn’t sleep the whole night and kept on praying for Anamika’s health. I skipped school the next day. Mom pestered me the whole day with her questions. I bored her with monosyllabic answers and she finally stopped questioning. I expected Rohan might show up to check on me in the evening, but he didn’t. Expectation hurts. But despite knowing this truth, we keep expecting things. I think expectation gives us hope and we can’t give up hope and we can’t give up expecting things. The night was more excruciating. Same thoughts invaded my mind. Sleeplessness engulfed me completely. I had completely forgotten about the love-letter I had sent to Anamika. I was only concerned about her health now.
The next morning I got ready little earlier than usual and darted to school without eating breakfast. Mom looked worried but I told her I was alright. I saw Rohan’s mom talking to an elderly from the village in the yard. I said Namaste to her and before I enquired her about Rohan, she told me he had some work at Geyzing and left early morning. Without Rohan to comfort me, it was difficult for me to push myself towards school. But I had run out of excuses to skip school. I met Tanusha on the way. We greeted good mornings and shook hands.
“You look sick Pramod.”
“Yes you do. Is everything okay?”
“It seems like you’ve mastered the art of love-letter writing!”
I blushed at this remark. It also proved that Anamika had read the letter. Only I knew who wrote the letter. I felt proud once again to have Rohan as my buddy. I silently thanked him for writing love letter loaded with emotion and romance. Then Anamika’s sick face flashed in my mind.
“Oh she’s fine.”
“Is she? When did she return from Siliguri?” I regretted it as soon as I uttered it.
“Who told you that we she went to Siliguri?”
“Nobody. I just thought she was referred from STNM to Siliguri.”
“You think a plenty of things. Imaginative is what I must say after reading the letter!” She sported a broad and mischievous grin.
“You all must have made a fun of me.”
“Not at all. We were all flabbergasted by your dialogues and shaayaris the letter was painted with!” I figured Rohan was hell of an expert on not only writing love-letters but also on reading girls’ mind. He seemed to have mastered what makes love-letters work. I thought for a while whether I should ask Tanusha about Anamika’s reply and decided to ask.
“Did Anamika like the letter?”
“Ohhh she was blown away by it!”. That’s was all I needed to hear. Thursday was going to be my luckiest day in my life. I entered into a blissful trance right in front of Tanusha. In my trance, I was with Anamika, sitting behind the middle of the three Chortens of the famous Rabdentse ruins, my favourite place. The place I go to whenever I’m happy or sad. I was holding her tender and soft hands in mine, looking deep into her eyes. I ran my vision down to her sharp nose, succulent lips…
“Anamika is so lucky.” chirped Tanusha. I was furious with her for forcing me out of my sweetest reverie ever but her remark made my heart skip a beat in happiness and I could barely utter “Thank You”.
“What are you thanking me for?”
“For considering me worthy of your friend Anamika. I can’t believe she said yes! I promise that…”
“Oh hello! Are you crazy?” snapped Tanusha.
“She said yes to Rohan, not you!”
“Rohan? My best buddy?”
“Yes, Rohan. Wasn’t it he who proposed her and you wrote the letter for him?”
I could see shade of surprise and disbelief being painted slowly on her face. Then I could not see Tanusha’s face. No, it was not anger, nor was it desperation. It was shock. Plain shock. I don’t know for how long did I go dumb. I felt something queasy in my stomach and almost threw up. I don’t know how could this fiend of a friend Rohan pull such a devilish trick on his best buddy. I was shattered. My faith in friendship would obviously take years to recover. It was pointless telling Tanusha about the entire episode. Gathering myself together and holding my tears back, I asked her – “How’s Anamika’s health now? I heard her health was little serious.”
“Who told you? She just went to see the dentist.”
“Yes, she only wanted dental braces. As soon as she received the proposal from Rohan, she wanted dental braces to position her teeth properly. She told me that she would be going to Gangtok on Monday to see the dentist.”
“That son of a b****!” I cried out and regretted soon after.
“Hey watch your tongue! What’s wrong with you?” Tanusha protested. Her face still wore curiosity.
“Sorry. I better be going.”
“The bell is about to go.”
“I’m not feeling well. Bit under the weather since yesterday. I’m going home.”
“You heard that. Catch ya tomorrow. Bye!” Tanusha gave me a looked filled with surprise and I had no courage to narrate her my miserable episode that made my love for Anamika a hilarious joke. Leaving Tanusha perplexed, I darted towards the only place I go to when I’m happy or sad – The Rabdentse ruins. All the way I kept thinking about that rascal Rohan holding Anamika’s hand, hugging her, looking deep into her eyes. That was too much for me to take. I wanted to grab him by his collar and ask why he lied to me about Anamika’s health. Wanted to ask him why did he not stop me from going to Gangtok? What kind of a friend pulls such a nasty trick on his best buddy? Rohan was not my friend. He was only after my Suun Papri.
I cursed myself for having befriended him. It now made sense why Rohan didn’t display any emotion when he broke the news of Anamika’s illness. That rascal had proposed Anamika! He wrote that letter for himself, not for me. That’s why I felt why he had put in quite a lot of hard work in penning down the love letter. Rohan, the back stabber. I almost passed out. Thursday was now the worst day of my life. I paused to wonder how the importance of Thursday in my life changed within twenty minutes. Rohan, the Midas, the cupid had outwitted me. I could outwit him only in studies. I hated books, teachers and even my parents at the moment. I hated everybody who praised me for scoring good marks. I cursed God for not stuffing my heart with little more confidence and courage in matters that involve love. I was a coward like Rohan said. I hastened my pace.
As I entered the gate and started walking on the walkway, the cool breeze helped me cool down a bit. I rewinded the entire episode in my mind. It didn’t start with me after all. I only got drawn to Anamika after that incident. The letter was written by Rohan. It had his feelings written on it, not mine. It was Rohan’s feelings that blew Anamika away. They say everything’s fair in love and war, but sadly it has extended more to friendship too!
I entered the main area of the ruins and started climbing my way up to the three Chortens. I wanted to sit behind the middle of the three Chortens as I always did. I climbed the stairs and squeezed myself through the narrow space between the Chortens. I could not believe what I saw. I pinched myself very hard at my cheek until it hurt really, really bad and made sure I certainly was not dreaming. Anamika was sitting right behind the middle Chorten with the love-letter in her hand.
“We all knew you would come, but I didn’t know you’d come this fast” she chirped, sporting a broad grin.
“W…where is Rohan?” I uttered in disbelief.
“How would I know?”
“But Tanusha told me that you and Rohan are…”
“We planned it.”
“Who do you mean by ‘we’”?
“Rohan, Tanusha and I.” Before I could say anything, I heard footsteps. I peeped through the space between the Chortens and saw Rohan climbing up the stairs towards us, with an evil grin painted all over his face. I was out of my wit and was not able to register anything.
“So, you coward, what sort of filthy thoughts did you have about me?” he blasted.
“Why would I have filthy thoughts about you?” I sensed the cowardice hidden in my answer.
“C’mon, I know what you thought of me. You must have believed whatever Tanusha told you.” Rohan prodded.
“I said I didn’t have any filthy thoughts about you!” I raised my voice, covering my cowardice to admit.
“Guys, cool down!” Anamika stood up. We all strolled to the lawn and sat down on the grassy floor. I was at loss. Rohan started.
“It was quite fun seeing you rushing to Gangtok.” I could feel the jibe.
“You son of a b**** knew everything all along yet didn’t stop me!”.
“Watch you tongue, Pramod!” objected Anamika.
“There was no other way to make you come out of your cowardice.” boasted Rohan in his 007 style.
“By the way, it felt so good Pramod that you went to Gangtok to check on me.” I felt a tinge of emotion in Anamika’s voice. I also got little emotional. I hate emotion. I really do.
“Now tell me Pramod, did you think that I cheated on you? Did you believe everything that Tanusha told you?” roared Rohan.
“Yes I did.” This was the first time that I could muster courage to admit something unpleasant. It felt good.
“What else did you think?” persisted Rohan.
“I thought that you were a serpent, a betrayer, a wolf in lamb’s clothing, and you care more for my Suun Papri than our friendship!” I felt so light having uttered everything I had been carrying since I met Tanusha.
“You are right about Suun Papri” grinned Rohan. He continued – “When I went to give your love-letter to Anamika, she rejected.” Anamika looked at me, then turned towards Rohan. Rohan continued – “I lied to you that I had given the letter to Tanusha. I wanted to give it to her myself.”
“Does the rejection still hold?” I said and felt the similar queasy feeling in my stomach.
“Whether the rejection holds or not depends upon you.” said Rohan mysteriously.
“How? Don’t bend it like Hindi soap opera Rohan. Tell me straight.” I objected.
“You must have noticed me chatting with Anamika and her friends on Saturday after the last bell. I told Anamika to come to my house on Sunday.”
“She came and when I handed her the letter, she rejected.”
“She said that she does not like to accept love-letter from a person who can’t pen down his own feelings for her and the one who’s so afraid that he can’t even give the letter to her friend, which is Tanusha!”
I glanced at Anamika. Her face displayed no feelings or emotion. Then I looked at Rohan. He continued – “She told me that she does not like to reply to the letter written vicariously as that would mean replying to the person who actually wrote the letter, in this case, me.”
“And…” I was feeling stupid and angry at my cowardice. I was digging my thumb into the soft and moist grassy ground and was gazing down at the army of tiny ants scurrying about in the grass.
“Then I told Anamika that you’re not a coward, which she didn’t believe”.
“And…” I thanked Rohan for that, silently, in my heart.
“Then I told her to bet.”
“Bet on what?”
“That if she doesn’t come to school on Monday and Tanusha tells you that she’s sick, you’ll come out of your cowardice and visit her.”
“Which I didn’t.” I was too afraid to look at Anamika. I was afraid she might look through my eyes right to the bottom where my cowardice reigns. Gazing down on the ants, I could only utter – “And..”
“She was disappointed at your cowardice, and told me that you lack commitment.”
“I don’t lack commitment and you know that Rohan!” My voice was trembling.
“Then we decided on the final bet.”
“And what was that?” I was impatient beyond my wit.
“The bet required Anamika to skip school Tuesday too, which she did. I was to tell you that she had been taken to Gangtok, and might be referred to Siliguri if her condition worsens, which I told you on Monday itself.”
“Yes you did, without caring a bit about how I might feel. And….”
“The condition was, if you went to Gangtok to check on her, which I was sure you would, she might reconsider your proposal.” My heart suddenly filled with extreme love and respect for this fiend of a friend, Rohan. He believed in me. I’m very weak because I’m emotional. I hate emotions. My eyes were welling up so I could not look at Rohan. Could not look at Anamika either. Without looking up, I prodded Rohan to continue.
“I placed the bet that you would go to Gangtok on Tuesday to check on her and I was damn sure about it. But Anamika, as we know her, is pretty smart.” I loved the compliments about her. It was music to my ears. Rohan continued – “She extracted a promise from me.”
“What promise?” Impatience was all over me now.
“She doubted that I might tell you about the bet, which is but natural. So she made me swear upon my mother not only to keep you in the dark about the bet but also to discourage you from going to Gangtok.”
“That’s why you rascal advised against my going to Gangtok?” I faked anger.
“I swore upon my mother, Pramod. Besides, I also got curious as to what would you do next.”
“Then I went to Gangtok by the morning service. You people are nuts! Is that the way to test me? Moreover, how would Anamika know that I did go to Gangtok?” I had mixed feelings saying while saying this. Anger and love.
“I told you she’s pretty smart.” Grinned Rohan and continued – “She has an elder cousin doing intern at STNM. She was there to check if a nervous looking, fair complexioned guy with his hair parted from the side visits the hospital!” A young, smiling nurse from the STNM flashed in my mind.
“So, it was all planned huh? It was fun for you guys. Do you even have any idea what kind of hell I’ve been through?” I couldn’t control my anger. I was seething. I don’t know why I get angry so easily without being provoked. I could now glance at Anamika, my eyes full of fury. Then I turned towards Rohan, who was smiling, which made me angrier.
“Look Pramod, we are sorry for what we did but I couldn’t accept your proposal based on the letter written by someone else!” Anamika said with a heavy voice.
“Then you should have rejected it!” I shouted. I wondered how one starts acting pricey as soon as one knows that the feeling is being reciprocated in equal or greater measure. The culprit that has murdered plenty of relationships.
“She has not accepted your proposal yet, Pramod.” blurted Rohan. I was struck by a lightning. I turned from a pricey Promod into a miserable Pramod in an instant. I saved myself by not painting misery on my face. I acted playing impassive and it took a great deal of effort to pull that off.
“She still has a condition before she accepts your proposal.” Rohan said. A ray of hope emerged and I felt a surge of energy running up and down my spine. I cursed myself for playing impassive as I struggled to stop my excitement from getting painted on my face.
“What’s her condition?” I asked Rohan, without looking at him.
“I want you to propose me, right here, to my face.” Anamika said, and continued – “I don’t want to be with a person who gets someone else to write his love-letter and does not have courage to propose a girl.”
I was surprised at the boldness of shy and meek Anamika that I knew, but I instantly figured that it was all this fiend Rohan’s making. I trembled at the thought of expressing my love and proposing Anamika face to face. I had been like this for as long as I can remember. I looked up at Rohan. He was smiling. I wished I had a bag full of Suun Papri with me right now. I would shower him with it. I cursed myself for harboring thoughts filled with filth about Rohan. He certainly was Midas, 007, the Theseus and everything that he claimed himself to be. His Midas touch was evident right in front of me, in the form of Anamika, waiting with teary eyes for me to hurl at her proposals filled with love.
I closed my eyes and thanked God for granting me Rohan as my buddy. Thursday again was turning out to be my most auspicious day! I wondered how I cursed God earlier for sending Rohan as my friend, and took the curse back.
“Well”, I told God, “I can’t be faulted for the feeling. It was the situation they created you know!” I felt light. I opened my eyes. Anamika had stood up and was standing close to me. Rohan was standing at a little distance, smiling, teary eyed. It was the first time I remember Rohan showing any emotion. Just as I was about to say something, I noticed Tanusha entering the lawn.
“There comes my girl.” Rohan shouted.
“What?” I could not believe it. Rohan and Anamika exchanged glances and made funny faces and said in unison – “You don’t know anything kid!” I really didn’t know anything and cursed myself for that.
“Proposal, you dumbo. Or Anamika will walk away and you’ll regret that for the rest of your life!” teased Rohan.
I gathered myself, inched closer to Anamika, held her hands in mine, looked deep into her eyes, but could not say anything. I was lost. Lost in her big and beautiful eyes. I heard Rohan yell behind me – “C’mon you coward, say something. Remember – England’s difficulty is Ireland’s opportunity. I won’t be playing Ireland though but someone else will.” He guffawed and vanished with Tanusha.
His word must have encouraged me to utter the words of proposal beyond poor Anamika could fathom, otherwise, how could Anamika and I be parenting our lovely son, Rohan today!