A week after my twenty sixth birthday, I visited my old college. It was the same old building with new paint. I met the new Principal. He was cordial to me and introduced me to the lecturers. Everyone except four were new. The four, remembered me well. After a brief chat I told them that I was getting married in a month and invited them. They were genuinely happy for me.
After an hour, I took my leave. I went to the same Bus-stop where i boarded a bus every evening after college during the three years that I studied there. The bus-stop looked the same but with new hoardings. Six years has not made a considerable difference.
A metro-bus stopped and I stepped in. During my college days I hardly ever boarded a Metro because our student bus-passes were invalid in them. I sat down near a window. The ride was for forty minutes. After about fifteen minutes, a girl of about eighteen got in. She had an extra large dose of lip-stick and eyeliner. She sat just behind me.
Something about her seemed familiar. I turned back to have a better look of her. She took out a latest version of I-Phone and started texting. I still didn’t get a good look of her face. Suddenly she sensed me and looked up from her Phone into my eyes.
A moment passed. Her eyes widened. She whispered something inaudibly. Then she cleared her throat and said, “Alpanakka”.
In the whole world only one person had ever called me that. My name is Arpana, but she called me Alpana akka (sister). That word suddenly reminded me who she was.
Now It was my turn to have a dry throat. “Maisu” i called her. Suddenly we both were smiling. By then the bus was crowded so we couldn’t come closer.
“Where are you going?” i shouted at her.
She was going to the same place as i was. We decided to talk after getting down since neither of us had anything important to attend right away.
Maheswari or Maisu as she called herself can be considered as a friend of mine from college. She was a beggar, then barely seven. Everyday after college, she would be at the bus-stop, begging. The first time that I saw her she was being teased by some guys. I went near her and pulled her away from them. She then told me that her name was ‘Maiswari’ but loved to be called as ‘Maisu’.
That was only the beginning. In a week, we became good friends. My friends of course didn’t approve but i never cared. I brought snacks for Maisu almost everyday. I taught her to read and write in English. She was a quick learner. Once in a while, I took her for a short ride on a friend’s scooty. Maisu loved standing at the front and screamed when the wind blew onto her face.
Maisu was fun loving. She was smart but innocent at the same time. She used a lot of cuss words without even knowing what they meant. It took a lot of time to reduce them. She had no idea about who her father was. Her mother ran away with some construction laborer. Whatever she earned, she had to give to her Aunt, unless which she had to forgo her dinner.
Maisu’s story made me sad. But i never did anything much about it except being sympathetic. She wanted to be a Doctor.On asking why, she had only one answer to give injections to her aunt.
For almost two and half years, We met almost every working day. On my last day of college, Maisu cried a lot. She was a bit grown up by then but still she wanted to be a doctor, now to treat people. I asked her to study well in the government school that she attended once in a while for the free lunch. I told her that I’ll help her be a doctor when she finishes school and I genuinely meant it then.
After college, I went on for my further studies and conveniently forgot all about Maisu. I did think of her sometimes but never tried to meet her. Nor even thought of meeting. She just remained as a memory till Today.
The bus-stopped. Maisu and I got down. I invited her to my house. She enquired about me and my life. I told everything. I told her about my wedding and invited her. Then I asked about her.
She was silent. I sensed something wrong. I held her hand and asked her to go on. She started her narration,
” After you left, I went to school regularly. My aunt found out that I can read English, so she encouraged me to go to a Spoken English class. I learnt well and in an year I could speak English like you. Then she took me to another Aunt’s house to stay there. The new Aunt had many daughters or so i thought then.
In a month, I realised that I was sold to a Brothel. The other girls though older to me by a few years were professionals. They taught me about the secrets of pleasing a man. I couldn’t escape, the punishments were severe. My name was changed to Mona. Within two years, I was introduced to my first customer who paid me more than well.
English Speaking girls get paid more than others as they have only elite customers. Now I earn more than a Lakh per month.” She sighed.
I realized that my mouth was open. I quickly closed it. I looked at Maisu. She wore expensive clothes, expensive perfume, diamond earrings and beyond her fifteen years.
Her phone rang. As she was answering, i went in to get a cup of coffee for her. When I returned, she was standing, ready to leave.
“I have some urgent work. I’ll come for the coffee sometime later. By the way don’t worry about me. I still want to be a doctor and I’m studying for that though secretly.” she said and walked towards the door.
Just outside the door, She turned back and said,”Arpanakka! If it was not for you, I would never have had the strength to Dream.”
With that, she walked away. I went back to my Kitchen. As i looked out of the window, I saw Bentley. Maisu walked towards it. The driver got out,opened the door for her. She got in and the car drove away. Maisu has a new customer.