“What would you have done, given we never crossed paths?” Krishna enquired.
“I would’ve lost reason.” came a docile reply.
“Then it’s high time you lose it now. Good Bye.” He walked away.
Krishna felt wretchedly miserable watching her face fall. It was like fighting with a lifelong best friend. He had never felt anything more painful. The remorse worsened with every step he took. But whatever happens, life has to go on. He hoped with all his heart she would come to realise it. She better realise that sooner or later.
Veena felt unbelievably stationary. She could not move. Her spirit shattered as she looked at her reason walk away. She felt very stupid though. Deep down, she knew she had been expecting. It was all like a dream. A dream that could be bundled into four years of enchanting memories.
“Veena?” she heard an oddly familiar voice. It was at that moment that a strong breeze of February air swept past her, sending chills through her bones. Ayesha walked to wards her.
“Veena!!” she exclaimed. “What are you doing, standing in here at this time of the night? Don’t tell me you’ve been studying again. We’ve completed our course, you know that right? No more studying for a good three months from now! Can you believe it? We’re all Bachelors of Engineering now!”
Ayesha looked at her face and knew something was wrong. Ayesha also knew what was wrong. She knew it was something that everyone had been painfully expecting.
“I’m so sorry Veena. But admit it, you knew this was coming. He knew this was coming. We all knew this was coming. That is the peculiarity of your story. Everyone on campus knew it was going to end. Everyone, except you two. ”
They were back in their room. Veena still hadn’t spoken a word. Ayesha decided not to push her and give her some time. She was in a fine mess. But at least she had a way out.
Three hours later, around three forty in the morning, Veena spoke.
“Ayesha, what do you think is better? Job as a Systems Engineer in Delhi or an M.Tech in Astronomical Instrumentation?”
Ayesha got out of her bed and took Veena in a warm hug. Her best friend was back.
“I think you’ll do great as a scientist. Go for that M.Tech degree. Who knows, given your brains, you might become a scientist of national importance! ”
The two of them smiled and looked around the room they had shared for four years.
“Its all going to change now, isn’t it?” Veena asked.
“Our lives? Yes. But the fact that you are not going to stop quoting Hermoine Granger? Nope.” Ayesha retorted.
The two girls broke into a laugh. Veena felt oddly better, and the way ahead seemed brighter, illuminated by a new source of light that she had failed to notice a very long time ago.
Yet, the oddly comforting assurance of the new source of radiance was not good enough to make Veena sleep. She lay wide awake on the upper bunk of the bed, starring into the ceiling that was exceedingly close. The ceiling had the glow in the dark stars that she and Ayesha had painted when they were in the second semester. Don’t think back. She told herself. But the loud noise of the rain spattering on the windows of her room would not allow it. It felt rhythmic, calm and nostalgic. Veena could not help but laugh at the irony. She remembered one particular rainy day three Septembers ago that completely changed her life and added up to everything that she was today.
It was the second day of college. She had moved in and she knew her roommate Ayesha was definitely her type. They got along incredibly well. It was an early evening and the two were on their way back to their rooms. It was very dark and the clouds looked like it could break into a pour anytime. The University was built on the high terrain of the Western Ghats and it looked absolutely scenic.
“Veena, what a shame it would be, to walk back to our rooms and lock ourselves in the annoying and dusty company of those boring walls.” Ayesha complained.
“Let’s not go back then! Have you heard that they serve really scrumptious Punjabi cuisine in the food court that’s in the left wing of the university? ” Veena asked excitedly.
They started to hike. In fifteen minutes, they arrived at a small and uninhabited shack that was located far away from campus and on the top of a hillock. It had a sign board that had the words “Closed” in bright red paint.
“Oh wow.” Ayesha was panting as she spoke. “We climbed this high trek for fifteen minutes, covered out brand new three point five inches stilettos in mud, missed our evening tea, and came to this. Could this GET any worse?”
Then, it started raining. Not just any kind of scarce monsoon drizzle Veena had witnessed in Madurai, but a very sturdy and thick rain storm of the Western Ghats. In four seconds the two girls were drenched from head to toe. In nine seconds, they could not walk. In fifteen seconds, the land in the tiny hill was starting to slide.
“Never start walking downhill on a raining day, dressed in long flowing skirts. They should put up signs for that” Veena heard Ayesha say. A few footsteps later , she knew what Ayesha meant.
Her heel stepped on her skirt, she tripped and fell down. But she did not roll down the hill. In fact she was rising. He had caught her.
Veena still had no idea how Krishna got there.
“Uh…You can put me down now.” Veena alleged.
“Uh…Sure.” He said meekly.
They were both equally embarrassed.
“Krishna, what are you doing here?” Ayesha asked in surprise, breaking the awkward silence.
“I was just taking some pictures. The Western Ghats look magnificent when it rains, right?” He asked Ayesha, all his gaze fixed on Veena. It was still raining.
“Veena, you know Krishna right? He’s from the Mechanical Department?”
“Oh.” Veena replied. She was starting to feel cold. The tall boy with wheatish complexion was still looking at her. She could see that even through his glasses.
“I think we need to get back, Ash” Veena spoke after a very long time. She started walking down the hill.
“Yeah, we should. We’d end up with a bad flu.” Ayesha said as she walked to catch up with her.
Krishna stationed himself in that spot though. He did not want to move. He watched them, walk back. A warm smile spread across his face and his heart.
“You know, this is about the time, when someone would say ‘’Thanks’.” He called out to the two girls who were now halfway down the hill. The two of them stopped walking.
“Thanks” Veena turned around, and smiled.
Krishna‘s camera clicked.
Veena. Pretty name. He thought as he watched them disappear out of sight. He knew for sure that she was not the one who had actually fallen.
The two girls were back in their room.
“What a Day.” Ayesha crashed on the bed.
“You know what that reminded me of?” Veena asked.
“Sense and Sensibility. The part when Marianne Dashwood meets John Willoughby.”
Ayesha looked up, puzzled. And then it hit her.
It had dawned. Veena still hadn’t had slept. The rain was over and she could hear the hum of the tiny birds chirping. The room was filled with a very sweet scent of the roses that drifted in from the gardens. It was another day, another chance to soak in as much of the campus as she could.
“Ash? You up?” Veena asked.
“Yea.” She heard Ayesha’s sleepy voice.
“You know, I was just wondering if, uh, you know, maybe we could like take a walk up the hill in the left wing? You know, just to have some alone time? Away from the buzzing activities of the campus?” Veena asked.
Ayesha looked at her friend. She knew what she was thinking of. Veena was deliberately trying to sound casual about it, but she knew she was hurting on the inside.
“Veena?” Ayesha paused before she asked any further.
“Have you been dreaming of the rain again?”
Krishna woke up to a beautiful dawn. He felt new, clear and pure. There was a long lost feeling of freshness to his life. Everything made sense again. He walked straight up to the bookshelf and too out his hardbound copy of HP 5. He laid the book on the table and sat down. Five pages into Dudley Demented, he couldn’t read any further. He was lost in thought when he noticed how the beautiful golden rays of sunshine filled the room through the open window and fell on the book. Light always fascinated him. It reminded him of the possibility of things to remain pure and unadulterated. Light fascinated him in a way the Western Ghats failed to.
The most impulsive thought struck him. He wanted to leave the painfully lonely confines of the mountains. He longed the comforting hustle bustle of the city. He had the urge not to feel captivated, lost and lonely. His phone buzzed.
“Krish! You ungratefully forgetful Idiot!” It was his sister. “It’s mom’s birthday. You forgot, you dumbo. Again!! She’s upset. When are you going to learn to keep reminders in that expensively useless mobile of yours?” She was screaming and speaking very fast. He hated it when she did that.
“Damn.” he said in a low voice.
“Call her in thirty seconds, or I’ll send a howler, burn all your Nicholas Sparks books, tamper your diary, Shift Delete your summer photographs, Ink your Record books and Oblivate you !!” She cut the call.
Her sister never joked about stuff like this. He very well knew she was capable of doing all that she had just said. He dialed home.
“Hello? Krishna?” He heard a sweet and comforting voice.
“Happy Birthday Maa!” He said in an emotionally flooded voice. How selfish he had been. He been so much caught up in his personal mess that he had forgotten her birthday. He felt ungrateful. His mother sounded very excited. Fifteen minutes, they had said all that they had to, and the call was over. Three minutes later, his phone buzzed again. It was his sister.
“That was more like it.” she sounded tamer now.”Why is it such a big deal for you every year?”
“I forgot, okay! That’s just it. I FORGOT. Now stop being so annoyingly pushy!” He burst out.
“Don’t you dare raise your voice on me like that. I was just trying to HELP you.” Her voice was rising.
She did not have to mention that. He knew it. She had always been there for him, helping. But she did it in an extremely annoying way. He was now silent.
“Keerthi, I’m sorry. ” He said.
“It’s Veena, isn’t it?” She asked.
“You know EVERYTHING now, don’t you? You’re kinda scary that way.” He replied.
“Want to talk about it?” She asked in a cool tone.
“No.” He gave a cold reply.
“Whatever, little boy” she smirked.
Krishna was lost in a traffic of racing thoughts after the call ended. That was why he hated the hills. It was so quiet, that his thoughts became louder and more irrational. He missed the noisy streets of Chennai. The busy roads and its loud people. It was always packed and amusing that he never had to deal with all the confusing thoughts of his mind. He was always occupied. His phone buzzed again. It was a text message from his sister.
Just so you now, I forgot Mom’s birthday too. Veena called her. That’s how I remembered. We talked. I know.
A wave of shock spread over. He waited. Five minutes later, he got another text.
You’re still bright to me. You’ll be fine. Its actually better for both of you this way. Love you.
P.S: Should the memories haunt you, try legilimency. It might work.
He smiled at the last note. He had the craziest sister in the world. As long as she was around, he knew he would always find his way back home.
4. NOT TO REGRET
“How do you feel?” Ayesha asked with very deep concern.
It was very chill for an afternoon and the two girls had climbed up the hillock. She was meddling through the playlist in her music player. Veena was sitting on the stone bench, and the air was very moist. She looked up as Ayesha continued.
“I mean, I thought maybe you’d feel better if you talked about it.”
“For God’s sake, Ash. Stop treating me like I’ve recovered from a life killing disease. I’m fine. It was just a bloody break up.” came a very sharp reply.
A very cool breeze swept past them, and Ayesha knew that Veena was in one of those crappy moods where she would get mad at even the most normal conversations. What was even more annoying was that she never accepted that she was having a temper issue.
“When you say you are fine in THAT tone, I know very well that you are not” Ayesha replied.
“Ok, You want me to talk? Let’s talk.” Veena took off the earphones and placed the music player away. She looked up at her best friend.
“I saw him, we liked each other, we did lots of dramatic stuff,. He made me feel special. There was reason to everything. It was infact, very deep. So deep, that I could start writing about it, and it would make a national bestseller.”
Veena’s voice was starting to break. A sudden flash of memories flooded her mind. She could see everything again. A huge wave of mixed feelings took over.
“But that was just it. All of it makes an interesting story, a very intriguing plot, or even a block buster movie. But it gets easily washed away in the wave of REALITY. ” She choked on the last words.
“Krishna realised that pretty fast. I do now.” Veena paused. “I’ll never regret it though. I’m not going to go down the dark lane of depression.”
“You don’t regret it?” Ayesha was in fact, surprised at that note.
“No. Why should I?” Veena stood up. She smiled at Ayesha.
“Reality is such a messed up concept that continuously changes with time. Start believing you are in it, or be pleased with the way things are going in your reality, it has a very cruelly funny of showing us how it was all nothing but a joke and reveals its actual facade later.”
“Veena, have you considered inspirational talk as a career option?” Ayesha mocked.
“I’ll miss the class room, the lectures and the occasional rebel acts we do in campus.” Ayesha complained as the two girls got ready for class the next morning.
“I doubt I’ll miss anything at all. I’m actually glad its all over and we get to chuck out of this place.” Veena said as she walked to the mirror.
A tall girl with dusky complexion was looking back at her through the mirror. Her hair was long and wavy; her large eyes were deep with the thick stroke of Kaajal. She was dressed in a deep blue salwar. Veena looked into the mirror for a full ten minutes.
“Yeah, yeah. You look absolutely stunning. Now let’s get going. We’re late already.” Ayesha dragged her out of the room, restlessly.
“You now, Ash. For a moment there, I couldn’t identify myself.” Veena said. “I felt different.”
Ayesha pretended like she did not hear that. She was honestly growing tired of Veena’s philosophical questions that made no sense at all. They were walking past the corridor, to the Control Systems block, and there out of the balcony at the end of the corridor, they saw him. A long lost friend, a loyal cohort, an intelligent companion.
“Kartik!!!” Veena yelped in exhilaration and dashed to the open ground.
Ayesha jerked at that shriek. She knew Veena would be delighted to see him again, but she did not expect her to crash her books down and run to him like that. She turned around and saw that everyone had dropped what they were doing and were giving a weird look their way. Ayesha picked up the books, and walked fast, mortified.
She is definitely loosing it. She thought to herself. But deep down, Ayesha was pretty much excited to see Kartik too. He was exactly what Veena needed to brighten up her day. It might take one emotional male to break her heart, but another magnificent one to mend it. Ayesha walked to the ground. She was just in time to witness the most touching and dramatic reunion ever.
Veena ran towards Kartik, and fell into him in a huge hug. But he was simply way too huge to fit into her comparatively miniature arms. She was literally pouring her feelings over him.
“20 months, Kartik. It has taken 20 months for you to come back to me.” She complained to him. “You seem to have forgotten that I exist.”
“Elephants don’t forget, Veena.” Ayesha said, as she walked to them. “They have an incredible memory.”
Kartik now gave out a mild grunt on seeing Ayesha. He stroked her cheeks with his huge trunk. The two girls took him in a cuddle again. It had been more than a year since he had seen his two most favourite girls. The two always made him feel loved and special, like he was one of a kind. Veena felt deeply emotional and painfully nostalgic on seeing Kartik. She buried her face onto his trunk and let a few tears fall.
“So much has changed in our lives since the last time we met.” She whispered to him. “I’ve missed you.”
She wanted to stay close his warmth forever. He was, according to the recent records, the only male who did not hurt her and made her feel secure and content. She had always loved elephants, since her childhood. But Kartik was the first Tusker she had ever seen and touched in reality. She felt like she had a special bond with him. It was like she had known him in another life. He redefined the meaning of one particular word in her life. Trust.
“Did you come here all by yourself?” Ayesha enquired. Kartik was the campus elephant; he belonged to the Zoological Research department of the university. The girls had met him first during a weekend in their first semester. Krishna was with them, infact he was the one who took them there. Veena still remembered how she had developed a deep connection for Kartik since the first time she saw him.
“I think he did. There’s no one around. He must’ve wandered off the zoo.” Veena assumed.
Just when the last words came out of her mouth, she saw a tall, fair stature at a distant. It was a very oddly familiar figure and it was walking towards them.
“Figured he would make you smile. Turns out I was right.”
Krishna was smiling.