The Not-so-Common Girl
The Not-so-Common Girl
She sat gazing at the piece of paper which was kept near her. I waited for her to break the silence. I did not know what to say at that moment.
“I am not the kind of person I seem to be doctor. I am one of the worst people whom you might have ever known”.
I am Mishti Sengupta. The girl who seems to be mysterious and there are reasons for that mystery, but I was not always like this.
There was a time when I had been so blessed that never had I thought such a time would come when I will be an epitome of darkness. Never.
I was a jolly, fun loving girl who was greatly admired in school and everybody around her. My world was centered around my mother, who was the best mother in this world.
She was everything in the way she lived; my father, whom I used to see once in a while during his leaves, but whom I respected and loved a lot; and my evergreen buddy, Timothy, my pet dog.
Yes, the name had been given to it by me, inspired from one of the stories I had read in childhood, being a book lover as I was. I’d wanted a pet since I was 5.
That demand was finally fulfilled when I turned 15, and since then Timothy had been an indispensable part of my life. I could never imagine staying at home without having Timothy near me.
Demands, yes they were always fulfilled. I was not a spoilt kid who wanted everything she looked at, but I was a single child, the lively daughter of an energetic Army officer and a caring teacher, and being a single child has its own advantages.
I always got what I wanted if they felt it was suitable for me. I was way too outspoken for many others my age and had too many friends in each city where we stayed.
I had those kindergarten friends with whom I went till I was in class 3, and we played pranks on fellow classmates . Then came a group of those childhood friends when I started learning how to bully those who bullied the innocent kids.
Yet another bunch of friends in teenage, with whom I used to play basketball every day, in school and after school, in the club of our colony. And the last group with whom I had developed my intense interest in writing.
And some of my mischief were overlooked, because they were never intended to hurt anybody, and because I never compromised with the title of ‘a sincere student’.
So, everywhere I had learnt something. I had each skill of mine which I owed to the city I had lived in. But we never stayed for more than 5 years in a city.
I was at a loss every time but I never felt lonely, because when I left from there, I had learnt enough, not just to remember the people, but to carry a part of them with me through what I had started loving. And this was not the only thing.
I had always found good friends. And they remained such that if I’d ever met them again in life, we would have been the same. Not that I had always met good people, but I knew how to stand up for something that was not right. I had been taught to do that.
This trait of mine made some people get scared away too, but I never bothered about it. Those who wanted to talk, always came up and realized that I wasn’t a monster for everybody.
Moreover, as I grew up, my ways of standing against wrong things changed. I no longer fought with the ones who were guilty or pulled their hair like I used to do in childhood, I simply proved them wrong silently and they had to agree.
The ones who were closer to me always considered me the best as I was. So, there had been no need for me to behave in a particular manner anywhere. People knew me that way and admired too.
Back to the time when I consider this story to begin, the story of my world turning diferent, I was completely contented with my life.
I did not want any changes in the way I lived. I had a lovely family, a lovely pal at home and my own world where I did not require anybody else.
We had just shifted to another city, Hyderabad. As usual, it was again a city to be explored for me. Though, different from the previous cities, my father had been transferred to a much larger one that time.
Anyhow, I loved to be at a new place, much because I was habitual now. Though being in an officers’ colony in every city, there was nothing much new around our place, yet each city had something different and so did Hyderabad have.
I had just appeared for my secondary school examinations and was waiting for my results, which were going to be good, as I expected. Nobody at home was worried about them actually.
Plus, I hadn’t yet decided the choice of my college since it was dependent on my results. But I knew, it would be a place which had something to do with journalism.
Over the recent years, I had seen myself with a growing inclination towards this passion of mine to look deeper into it, especially when it came to issues of national and public interest. I also had that desire to write more about untouched issues of common people. There was so much in the society to write about.
With all these factors, it was quite an extended summer vacation for me. My mornings started with breakfast, a walk with Timothy and basketball at the colony club. Timothy and basketball made me acquainted with a lot of neighbours there.
I used to meet old ladies going for a walk, small kids out for riding bicycles and school going kids teasing the younger ones. It was a familiar scene for me. Every kid is the same and I had done the same things too, I used to think with a smile.
It was very refreshing to watch the same events every morning. Timothy used to enjoy a lot over there. Both of us never returned until we heard my mother calling us from the garden.
And then it used to be a race between me and Timothy, from the place where we were to our gate, with either of us landing flat on the ground in front of the entrance, leaving it to my mother to decide the winner out of the two; who always started the sentence with, “When will you grow up, Mishti?”. But I didn’t want to, at last not for this. After all it was a matter of one chocolate each day.
My whole afternoon was spent either lazily dozing off with Timothy or writing down all what I thought. Sometimes it was not about politics too. I simply loved to pen down all that I felt.
Over the years, I had found out there was so much that we often left unexplored in our hearts and nobody but we had the access to that part. I used to keep a diary in which I wrote a few lines whenever I liked.
And the funniest part was that the first page denied access to anybody who did not know the password. Yes, that’s what I had written on that. It was very childish, but even after these years, I never felt like removing it from there. It was a part of me and I was not ashamed of it.
Every evening I went to stroll out with my mother and Timothy. With some more basketball and the race with Timothy(this time not for a chocolate), I had a lot of time to help my mother with the dinner and then again spend my time with Timothy.
And when my father used to come home, it was time for me to get up from watching my favourite shows and have dinner. I used to love the dinner especially because it was with the whole family. It had been that way for years except for the days when my father was out of station. Before going to bed, I had my golden time with Timothy.
All those days had the same routine, but I never got bored of them; not because I had nothing better to do, but because I loved it that way. Probably the reason that I never required any change in the routine.
On Sundays, if my father was at home, we used to go for outings. With new cities in every five years, we had so many places to explore and I loved the way we were together.
It was also a Sunday, when we planned to visit a picnic spot nearby. I was too excited to take a step out in the city. The result being: I did not let anybody remain asleep after 5 in the morning, I pulled Timothy all around the house for getting things ready, though I did not need any help.
By 8-30 A.M., all of us were set to leave. My father had already parked our car outside the gate. We were soon out on the road. On a Sunday morning, a city like Hyderabad also seemed devoid of people.
Probably, the residents preferred to get a peaceful sleep on a weekend. Sleep is at times, such a rare aspect of our lives, as I got to know later when I was haunted by the nights. But back then, I had never preferred sleeping till late in the morning. Mornings brought a booster, which shouldn’t have been missed, as my father always said.
Even on such a quiet morning, I didn’t know that we were going to witness a tragic scene. After two major traffic signals, we came across a turn. What we saw, couldn’t make us move ahead leaving it all behind.
A man, probably in his thirties, was being beaten badly by a group of four men. There was nobody else on the road. My father immediately pressed onto the brakes.
We sat, horrified at the scene. He stepped out of the car.
“Stop it you guys!”
Nobody seemed to listen.
“I said stop it with that man”, my father shouted again.
My mother and I looked at each other in terror. My father stepped in between and tried to stop them.
“What have you got to do with this? You want to be spared, I suppose, or not?”, he said looking at the car.
“It is you who should stop. Else you’ll get into trouble. I am from the Army”, my father said.
By that time, Timothy jumped out of the car towards the men. It bit onto the legs of two of them. Surprised by the sudden attack, they left the man and my father.
“We’d better take him to the hospital”, he said.
We helped him to make space for the man. We got the man admitted into a nearby hospital and dropped my mother back home.
“Dad, can I come with you when you go to report the incident?”, I asked feeling anxious.
“That’s not required dear. You better take care of your mom. She needs a strong girl like you around her.”
“Take care Dad”, I looked at Timothy and it accompanied him.
Later that evening, we got to know that the men had been from a political party and the victim was a journalist. I felt enraged by the thought that those who stood for the truth were always the victims for those in power. My father did not have a problem anywhere about it and we tried to forget it as just another incident.
Nevertheless, it was not a good start in the city I felt. Still some more days went by without any information of that incident and we had completely forgotten that any such incident had happened back one Sunday.
Days went by just like earlier. We went for two subsequent weekends outside around Hyderabad. I loved the city with the elegance that it carried. There were varied places of interest, all with equal charm and grace. The best part was that I did not feel awkward in the city, even though it was probably the first one being so vast, where I had ever lived.
My results were announced after some days. Expected, yet unexpected. I had secured 96.80%. Of course, it was time for celebration.
Not just for the charm that had followed when I looked at the proud faces of my parents, but because, I had my dream of going into a reputed college for my journalism course seeming to get fulfilled by this. And of course, it meant a hault to my extended summer vacations that year. Yet, I was happy for myself.
It was the second week of June and summer was at its worse form in Hyderabad. I had to visit St. Mary’s College to secure my admission for Bachelor’s in Journalism course. That was not going to be much of a problem, I thought. Getting a good score at the secondary level had its own advantages.
It was going to be another opportunity to explore the city as my father was out that day and I could not take Timothy over there. I left home early so as not to get late.
It was a beautiful morning despite the scorching weather of the city, and I could not help appreciating the weather around me. Rather, I thought it was one of nature’s miracles to send blessings to me when I was going to start something new.
I reached the college entrance, and looked around. Considering the fact, that it was an old college, I was impressed by the neatly maintained place with its own grandeur.
I looked around for any signboard so as to look for the office but could not find one. I thought of asking somebody, though at the back of my mind I also wondered what if I come across a senior.
Still, I had to find it out. I saw a tall guy of normal build looking at a piece of paper, as if lost away from the surroundings. ‘Better dreamer than a senior’, I thought.
“Excuse me”, I interrupted him.
“Yes”, he looked up at me.
He surely seemed to be a fresher as well, I sighed as I thought, looking at his soft black eyes. His neatly trimmed hair was also properly managed and he looked like a school-going student in his loose blue jeans and white shirt.
“Could you please tell me the way to the office?”
“Actually I had to go there too. You can come with me.”
“Oh thank you so much.”
“Not a problem. Came for new admission?”, he asked.
How stupid. Hadn’t he come for the same. “Yes, you too I think”, I tried to be polite.
“Oh, I see”, I didn’t understand if that was a sarcastic remark or a statement.
I saw many students waving towards him on the way. Oh, so probably all his friends are here. Cool, he knows everybody on the first day itself. We reached the office which was at the end of the vast building.
“Here we are”, he said with a smile, that seemed genuine to me.
“Thank you very much”, I said as I joined a queue which was before the signboard ‘New Admissions’ and expected him to join the same. But he didn’t. He walked straight towards the clerk and gave him the bundle of papers he had been carrying.
Impressive, I thought, this guy knows how to form impressions on the first day, I felt surprised though. I was interrupted by my turn. I grabbed the form and sat down to fill it. It wasn’t difficult at all. Within minutes, I got my work done. Having paid the deposit, I stepped out of the office like a winner at that moment.
I walked towards the gate and saw the same guy who had taken me inside. Why not ask who he is. ‘Better someone than no one on the first day’ I thought.
“Hey hi”, I called him from the back.
“Need to find something else?”, he asked. How over smart, I thought.
“Well, no just wanted to know your name. If that is not a problem. You see we will be batch mates I think”, I tried to make my tone natural as well as polite.
“Ah well, I don’t think so.”
How rude of this guy, I thought.
“Really!” I couldn’t hide my irritation any longer.
“Yeah, I am from the second year”, he replied being casual as he walked out with me.
Oh, how stupid of me. That’s why he’d known it all, and that’s why the clerk had known him too. How pre decisive I was, I wondered. I did not say anything.
“By the way my name is Aryan. Aryan Sharma. And in case you want to know anything else the next time, please call me ‘Sir’, at least with people around. It would be very polite of you, miss..?”
“Sorry sir. Mishti…Sengupta.”
“Miss Sengupta. Have a good time in college”, he left and I saw him going, standing at my place, as if struck by a lightning bolt. I took some time to absorb that I had just spoken to a senior that way. After having heard all sorts of stories about ragging, this was what I encountered for the day zero. I wished if the same thing happened again. At least this guy would help me out if I get stuck with any seniors who were not like him.
That evening when I returned home, I could not stop laughing at myself and repeated the story almost ten times, to my mother who refused to listen to it for the second time itself, to Timothy, who had to listen to it till my father came and to him, at least three times, who couldn’t stop laughing each time.
“You better watch next time or you’ll end up calling your principal the clerk”, he added.
“Oh no Dad, I know everything you see”, I said softly.
“I saw that”, he laughed and I joined and we all joined.
It was ten more days for the college to start and that was quite a good time to explore the city, spend quality time with Timothy, write up something and enjoy at home; for once in college, I knew I’d be busy with my work, and I never compromised with it.
I wondered how college would be.