The best moral story I liked as a kid was,” The fox and the grapes”. The fox after all its attempts realised that the grapes were not worth its effort. Similarly despite my attempts to outshine Divyanth I finally realised that it was not worth it. Divyanth! Oh! How she hated that name! I did not know whether the fox developed a deep frown between its eyes whenever “Grapes” were mentioned but I did whenever his name was mentioned. This meant most of the times when I was in my colony and always when I was with my Mother. Most of the times I felt that I was talking to Divyanth’s mother and not to Roshni (my) mother.
My mother had transferred all the love she had had once felt for the unborn boy child to the colony hero,”Divyanth”.
Divyanth! Though I had never seen him. I was sure I could be able to shoot arrows of anger at him (Like in those mythological movies and Animax cartoons) if I encounter with him face to face . So What if he was admitted to the prestigious St.Victor’s School I was in the second best Mother Theresa School. What if he had won maths Olympiad three years in a row I was the runner up of Science Olympiad four years of now. So what if he had been interviewed by “The Hindu” I had been interviewed by our local” Gangapur Times”. So what if he had been offered an acting offer from MVA Studios to act as a younger version of the Super Star in his next film. The seventh standard Abhijeet living next door said I looked better than all the actresses put together in his mis spell love letter. And now I was eagerly waiting for the results of the Twelfth Board that am sure could get me admission in the best colleges.
“Yeah! You are better than Divyanth. Don’t keep in mind the things that Mom, Aunt Leila and Aunt Sheila were bragging about him. You can do it. I am the best” I said aloud to my image in the mirror. I tucked that stray adamant hair back into my ear and checked myself in the mirror. I went through the list of things to be packed for the retreat that we were to go with our locality. I was to be the Monitor of all the girls in our locality. There were in total 25 girls and 20 boys. Divyanth was to be the Monitor for the boys.
The retreat had gone mostly smoothly. It was fun going for ski rides with my friends. It was fun playing in the snow with the kids. It was fun throwing them at the boys when they passed by. It was fun watching the couple games being played by our parents. It was even fun trying to scold the kids when they did something wrong.
But all the fun, my happiness, my enjoyment came crashing down with one instant and with one throw of a stone.
It was the last day of the retreat. There was just 6 hours left before we could pack our bags. And 12 hours left for our train journey to our home. I looked once again at the snow clad mountains. There is something indescribable about snow, rain, the early morning sun and dew. It just fills your heart with contentment and bliss that can’t be paralleled by any movie, book, series, and food.
I sighed aloud. I wished I could stay here forever. I don’t know how long I had zoning back like this. But I was brought back to earth by an ear splitting cry.
“JUST GET LOST YOU DEVIL” six year old Akshay was pulling the pigtails of five year old Anjali who was weeping silently. I rushed to the spot cursing myself for not minding them earlier. I tried to separate those two who seemed determine to rip off each other‘s head or at least hair.
For a boy who was just a scrawny- pesky -six year old Akshay got out of my grasp each time I tried to pull him away from Anjali. My frustration was increasing while my strength was decreasing. The fact that toddlers who were with Akshay and Anjali were cheering for their respective counterparts made me lose every bit of patience I had. I was just one second away from swearing in the worst language I had learned. Then suddenly out of nowhere Divyanth out of nowhere and picked up Akshay as though he were a doll.
“Hey. Hey break it up Akshay. What’s going on here?” he said. He managed to calm the rebellious toddlers and proceeded to hear the reason for fight.
Though I was acting all cool inside I was seething with anger. I knew I had to be glad that he had come here to control the situation. But for some reason I wished I had been able to control the situation without his help. Maybe I could have done a better chance handling the situation if only I had been given five minutes more. I don’t know how he was making sense of their childish word and reasoning. I was not able to understand the reason of their fight at all but he was nodding patiently all the while patting Anjali’s head in an affectionate manner.
After listening to their babyish talk I concluded that the fight had started with a cricket game. When the boys were playing cricket they were disturbing the girls playing hopscotch nearby. The infuriated girls under Anjali’s captainship had successfully stolen their ball. And in a fight I still don’t understand this part they had hurled the stone at the nearby cottage.
So the conclusion of the fight was that Akshay now had to apologise to Anjali and the owners of the cottage who could come back in the evening.
I was just about to use my favourite quote on mistakes and forgiveness thereby persuading Akshay to regret his mistakes and make him a better person.
But once again Divyanth beat me to it.
In a playful voice he ruffled Akshay’s voice and said, “You seriously have gotten angry for a small thing, Akshay. Now apologise to her for messing up her pigtails (here he affectionately pinched Anjali’s cheeks). Come on. Then I will go with Anjali so she can explain about this mess to the cottage owners.”
“What” I asked surprised at his ridiculous handling,“Why should Anjali ask sorry to the owners?” I asked
“Because she threw the ball at the window” he said in an obvious manner.
“Yeah. But if Akshay had not irritated her she could never have done that.” I argued my tone rising a bit higher.
“Well. If they did not irritate the “Young Challengers” (name of their cricket team) by taking the ball. This could not have happened.” He replied his voice also rising higher.
“WHAT IRRITATE!!! They were the ones who started the fight when they marked the place where the girls playing as FOUR. And purposely aimed their shots there.” I said as my nose begun to flare up.
“For heaven’s sake it’s not FOUR. Its BOUNDARY. And why were they playing in the place the boys were using as BOUNDARY.” His ears were turning a deep shade of pink.
“Because they came here first.”
In five minutes we had forgotten the reason why we had started the fight. We were arguing back and forth with no end watched keenly by the toddlers like audience watching opposing tennis players moving back and forth across the net.
My voice was turning hoarse and tears were starting to form. I was restraining my tear glands which could start functioning any second. I was at my wits end. I had no intention of continuing the fight. But neither had I the intention of giving up to him. I wanted to win this argument and finally make him see the right thing. Maybe it could work…
“Okay! Fine!” He said holding up his hands in surrender.
“Hey!! “ I rejoiced in my mind.
“Let’s do stone paper scissors and settle this “He said holding up his right hand.
“What! Are you FIVE?” I asked surprised at this immature suggestion from Divyanth. Divyanth who according to my mother had dealt with many troubled issues at his him in a matured manner. Was STONE,PAPER,SCISSORS his mature way??
“Why Not?” He snarled back.
We started arguing again and we settled only when the cottage owners came in the view. And I hastily prepared for my first ever stone paper scissors game. We agreed that the one who lost could have to go and say sorry to the cottage owner.
“Stone Paper Scissors. Start” said Akshay appearing in between as the referee as in a boxing match.
I put forth my fist. Divyanth stretched his palm.
“Yeah .I won” He laughed out loud as his paper engulfed my stone.
I glared as much as I could at him.
The “Gangapur Local Retreat Of 2000” does not remind me off the snowy mountains or the funny childish games. It reminds me of the day I stood embarrassed in front of the cottage owners apologising for the wrong doing. Their prickly comment to me about the reckless younger generation of these days (meaning me) still makes me purse my lips.
“We are surely going to lose it,” whispered my pessimistic partner Alisha into my ears. The tears that I had locked up were slowly starting to well up. I tried best to put them back as we watched the stage that we had put up together fall apart. We had spent sleepless days trying to think of the stage and the costumes that could fit the concept of “Shakespearian Era” for the intercultural Theatrical Competition. But now everything was ruined. All thanks to the miserliness of our Professor who had refused to lend the funds at the last minute. Due to lack of funds we had to finish the stage with some beg, borrowed and stolen sticks. And despite our numerous prayers and assurances from many classmates of who claimed that the “Stick was strong. It will last through the show”, the logs had snapped. The theatrical classic of “Macbeth “had turned into comedy as the stage shook and rumbled for every slight movement of the actors.
I was sitting trying to gulp down the 7 Up that a flirty senior had passed me. But anger, resentment, depression blocked it. And I chocked.
“Careful, Hansa.” Said Alisha patting me on the back. The people at the table briefly stopped their chatter and looked at me. I wiped the water drops clinging to my mouth with my kerchief. And resumed my drinking as though nothing had happened. They also turned their head and resumed their chatter.
“You still upset?” whispered Alisha in ears. “No one is exactly blaming you. They know it was the ‘Barrel Professors’ fault. It’s just that they wish you could somehow have thought of a solution as you were in charge of that.” She lamely concluded her consolation which did not really serve its purpose. Not realising that she had no aptitude for consolations she made another jab at consoling me.
“And moreover everyone has forgotten about it already. Look they are all just yapping, yelling and cheering Divyanth’s race with Ashok.” She said, turning her attention back to the race. Ashok and Divyanth were having “One Shot Race” The one who could take most one shot of the soft drinks.
Divyanth! My anger entered a new dimension. Why is he here? I get that Charu one of my juniors and a part of the cast was his girlfriend. But for that why should he drop by? I had breathed a sigh of relief when he had graduated out of MIT after one year of my joining. That one year was the most depressing year I had ever experienced. I had to deal with the worship of my peers towards Divyanth as if he were the Hero, the Professors references towards him as if he was the one who had literally moved the college to the centre of the world through his excellent academic records.
Despite all these nonsensical worship for our “Bestest Student Leader”,fortunately ,I never got a chance to encounter him face to face during my First Year. But now thanks to his flirty nature which had never seen any of his girlfriend last more than 6 months, I had to put up with his presence now at my Final Year
The race ended in a comic turn of events as a Sprite bottle was opened up under pressure drenching everyone in the carbonated content. I woke up disgusted and made my way for the hotel room leaving the joyous Divyanth and his fangirling crowd.
I walked back to the hotel. I was just making my way to my room after getting the room key when a shy little boy enquired,” Mam, Do you know Priya from WBT college?”.
“Priya?” I wondered, trying to recollect if I had encountered her. Ah! Yeah! The long legged girl form WBT who had did a belly dance during the Dance Round. I nodded.
“Divyanth sir asked me to pass it on to her as soon as the WBT students arrive” He said in a memorised way and thrust the paper into my hands and scampered off. Well! Well! Well! Divyanth was delivering a supposedly romantic chit to belly dance Priya while Charu his So- Called-Girlfriend was here.
I opened the note
“Meet at the usual place. Don’t let them know.”
The charismatic Divyanth! The mesmerising Divyanth! He had been praised all his life to the extent that his flirtish ways were looked upon as a charm . Oh, He can be flirty but he can’t be a flirt and a cheat.
“This can’t be” cried Charu in anguish.
“Are you sure the kid said “Divyanth”” asked Alisha for the third time.
“Yes. Alisha. He said Divyanth. And I am sure. It could not be a mistake or a plot to undermine his relationship with you. And I checked out. There really is a girl named Priya and she has been secretly slipping out since we came here. But her roommate does not know where. His entire caring facade when he came here specifically to celebrate your birthday has a double purpose to it. So you need to snap out of it and show him you are above his filthy dirty ways. You give him a piece of your mind so that he understands that girls are not fools to be cheated on.” I practically yelled at the end of our two hour long session of anguish, crying and consolation.
“Yes. You are right. “Said Charu getting up wiping her kajal smeared face. She squared her shoulders. She made up her mind with a defiant expression. Then turned to me and said in a pleading voice, “But will you come with me, SIS?”
I had finished reading the menu for the third time.
“Why is he taking so long? “ I groaned looking at Charu. She paused in the middle of her phone conversation with one of her friends about her “Being cheated story”, and said, “He is usually a half hour or so late for our dates?”
“Then why did you bring me here one hour before?” I asked through gritted teeth.
“This was the place where we started our relationship.” She said and resumed her conversation of” How Pitiable She Was”.
I slumped lower in the chair and tried to catch up some sleep that I had lost last night due to Charu’s crying session. I had barely closed my eyes when Divyanth burst through the open door with his famous one cheek dimpled smile.
As soon as he reached Charu (as per my many suggestions) slapped him hard against the face. She then followed it up with a string of bad words and complaints about the relationship. She finished it up by crumpling the note and throwing it across his face. Then forgetting her pillar of support (aka me) she stormed out resuming her teary phone conversation.
“Ah, Bye!” I said lamely as Divyanth glanced at me. I picked up my bag and was about to leave.
Divyanth had opened up the note and was scrutinizing it. I was about to head out when he said,
“This is not my handwriting.”He said slowly.
I turned and looked at him baffled.
“Were you the one who gave this note to Charu?” He asked arching his eyebrow.
“ Yeah. A kid of 5 or 6 years old near our hotel asked me to deliver it to Priya of WBT College. He said it was from you” I said in a dignified voice praying that I had not blundered.
“WHAT! Priya’s boyfriend name is Dibyanth and not Divyanth.”
“Ah! You are bluffing “. I replied in a not-so-sure voice.
“I know this because Dibyanth shares the next room in the hotel. And you were supposed to deliver it to Priya and not to Charu. Did you open the chit? “He asked in a dangerously slow voice.
“Mmm. That… Yeah. I opened it because I wanted to protect my junior in case her boyfriend was bluffing.” I replied back in a noble way.
“Stop acting concerned. First try to learn some manners and then act noble.” He said and was about to leave the place in a huff.
But my ego was hurt even though it was my fault so I continued,” Oh, as if you are concerned about her. If you had even a tiny bit of concern to your relationship, you could have stopped her and explained the situation to her instead of asking me to learn manners.”
“Don’t comment on my relationship as if you know about it” he said his anger slowly seeping into his slow voice.
“The whole world knows about your skittish relationship” I shot back
“Yeah! And the whole world also knows about your earth quaky stage “he shot back. His temper rising by the minute.
Soon we were taking pot-shots at each other and abusing each other verbally on academic, cultural, gender and what –not grounds.
People were pointing at us openly. Waiters were hurriedly whispering to the manager. Our angry argument was continuing. And I realised he was not going to give up. I also knew that I was to blame. I wanted to retort to his hurting pot shots on my failure at the Student Council election, but, I decided to put an end to this.
“Okay. Let’s just stop this. Let’s do “Stone Paper Scissors”. Whoever wins says ‘Sorry’, since we both are to blame.” I said in a matter- of-fact tone.
A glimpse of recognition crossed his eyes. He recounted a similar experience in the Local Retreat with a fiery feminist girl. The same girl who was now using his tactic.
“Okay. Lets do it. But instead of Sorry let’s just say the one who loses has to hug the other.”
“What?” I asked looking at him incredulously.
“What? A hug adds a year to your life and all that screaming and arguments just subtracted one form mine. So let’s just level it.”
I don’t know what made me agree to this stupid suggestion.
Stone. Paper. Scissors.
I put forth scissor.
He put forth stone.
He winked at me as his stone crushed my scissor.
We got up. I awkwardly put my arms around his muscular figure and pulled apart as soon as my head bumped into his shoulder. The colour in my cheeks were rising as I rushed out of the hotel.
“See you around” Divyanth’s parting words were reverberating in my mind for a very long time. But I did not see him around for years till my unluckiest day.
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