The Enchanting Midnight

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The Dilemma of Desires

CHAPTER 22

The Dilemma of Desires

I did not think of interrupting her the next day when she might have been busy with her old friend, at a time when she had just started experiencing happiness again. I left at my usual time in the morning. It was a beautiful winter morning with the chill getting inside my soul with my breath. Yes the season always seemed beautiful to me by then.

I had covered myself with a single jacket. The bus stop seemed empty just like the day when I had first seen her over there. Yet, I could feel as if it was that very day at the stop, even though she was not present in reality. I thought again. What had I started wondering! It was completely crazy of me. I jerked my head and tried to concentrate on the surroundings before my bus arrived.

The road was devoid of any person because of the severely cold atmosphere, except for a sweeper doing his work. A sweeper on a similar chilly morning---reminded me of the conversation when I had heard her for the first time. I was thinking too much about her probably.

My bus arrived on time. I stepped inside, alone after many days. It was normal, but it did not seem comfortable to me. Something was missing from my newly created space. I took out the newspaper after many days because I was alone. The conductor smiled at me and looked at the vacant place beside me.

I smiled back at him, and after he got busy in something else, I turned to the vacant place beside me too. I had become so used to listening to everything she had to say that for a moment I felt as if the breeze was whispering something in my ears. I had to try reading the newspaper so that I did not feel strange.

The twenty minutes seemed like a decade to me. I had never noticed earlier that the way to the hospital was so long. Though I could find the beauty of the season in every little thing around me, which again I had never noticed before, but I wondered that it was a little gloomy without her.

I did not get time to think about it in the hospital throughout the day. My internship was in the final stage. Apart from the additional work, I had to appear for the second last phase of my internship examination that day. I had just completed my work and was getting ready to leave when I heard my name from behind.

“Dr. Mukherjee”, one of my seniors called me.

“Yes sir”.

“The Dean wants to meet you in his office”.

I turned my steps towards the Dean’s office and knocked at the door. As I entered, I saw Dr. Reddy talking to him. Dr. Reddy smiled at me, as I wished them there.

“Take a seat Dr. Mukherjee”, Dr. Sharma, the Dean said to me.

“Thank you sir”, I took my place, “You had called me”.

“Oh yes. I’ve seen your reports. They were impressive and well-maintained. I must say you work hard in the hospital too. I have to tell you that after you clear your internship examination, you might be be selected for a training programme, in which you will have to accompany your senior doctors for some time and with the added experience, you can join any place with an advantage.”

I was not thinking about it at that time. I had to clear my Post Graduation entrance examination, study surgery and join my father’s hospital to be with him. I did not want to leave from my place. It was everything to me. I did not want to leave my parents.

“Dr. Mukherjee? I think you are aware of the importance of this prestigious training”, he seemed confused on getting no reaction from me.

“Oh yes sir. Yes, I know about it. I will do my work in the same way sir”, I replied.

“Yes, we expect a lot from you”, he smiled at me.

“Thank you sir”, I stood up and left from the room. Dr. Reddy accompanied me outside.

“Dr. Siddharth!”, he called me.

I turned to him.

“You will work in the same way, but you are not eager for this, isn’t it?”, he asked me, looking into my eyes.

“No sir, I am not”, I did not lie.

He smiled at me in an understanding way and I smiled back.

I left at my usual time. It was a winter night, which meant a beautiful night for me by then. I did not cover myself much. I did not need to do so any more. It seemed very soothing to me. I got into my bus and thought about what I wanted to do.

I had told him the truth. I did not want to leave this place any more. I did not have any logical reasons for the same, but I just did not want to. Moreover, I felt a strange bonding with my parents and my lovely home, again the reason for which, I could not explain. I wished to remain over there always.

Of course, I had always wanted to do that too. My long cherished dream was to be a specialized surgeon and join my father making him feel proud of me. I know he had always wanted that secretly. I had so many reasons already and by then I knew some more had been added to the list, which were unexplained, but known to me. I did not regret telling Dr. Reddy the truth.

As the breeze touched my face, I felt closer to the secret soothing I had in my heart already, and also to myself. I was beginning to find answers to many questions which I hadn’t asked myself till then.

Yes, again I looked to my side habitually, as if there might be another story coming to me in her voice. The feeling of her abstract presence made everything beautiful around me, but I could not help admitting to myself that I had started missing her in a day! It surprised me because I had thought that I could always stay without thinking of being with her.

I did not know if I could be with her. I had never thought that way actually, but everything seemed to pull me into that. I looked at the sky when I got down. There was everything around me that had her essence in it. I could find her everywhere. I did not understand why it was so important to think about it. That was the moment I realized that I had to believe in what I was able to find. Love was not about trying to find the presence, it was about living in the presence found everywhere, because once I started living it, I was sure to find it everywhere on my own.

I reached home and looked around again before stepping inside. Probably I would get some answers on my own because some questions still remained unasked to myself, and I knew I could not find them all at once.

That night after dinner, my mother asked me a serious question, which was unexpected for me at that moment.

“Siddharth, who is this N. Ramamurthy?”

I got startled for a second, then wondered why she had asked about it.

“What happened mom?”, I asked, trying to sound normal.

“Nothing much, but I wanted to know about him because he seems like a secret”.

“I didn’t get you”, I still felt scared.

“Actually Mishti had come home with her friend today. We were gossiping around the usual topics. When I went to the kitchen and came back after a while, both the girls were discussing something. I heard this name, but they got quiet and changed the topic after that. I thought you might know”, she looked at me as if her eyes were scanning everything that was on my mind.

“Oh yes, he is just a local politician in Hyderabad. Both the girls being journalists would have a lot to talk like that mom”, I tried to assure her.

“It wasn’t something of a secret though”, she kept her doubt. I did not know what all to tell her about him.

“By the way Siddharth”, she continued, “What have you thought about yourself?”. That was an expected question.

I looked at her questioningly.

“Would you like to practice with your dad after your internship?”

“I don’t know mom, I had thought about something else…Surgery”, I told her at last.

“Oh, actually, there is a proposal for you”.

Her last few words seemed like a bullet hitting my head right through.

“What!!!?? Who?? How???”

“Is that a thing to be surprised about really?”, she eyed me.

“Of course mom! I haven’t thought about it at all. Not now for sure. In fact I don’t approve of it”.

“What’s there to disapprove in it?”, she looked at me in disbelief.

I shrugged with an annoying look.

“Cool. Any way I am your mother. I knew that. I have told them we are not yet interested”, she replied.

I sighed with relief, “Mom! Thank you so much. You scared me! Please talk to me before entertaining any such things from now on. It is a request”.

She was still looking at me,” Hmm, and what do you think about Mishti?”

I stood in silence. I did not know what to answer. It was unfair if I answered it keeping up to what I thought.

“I am your mother. You can tell me”, she continued.

I could not drag her into this. And what if it ruined the beautiful friendship we had. How could I give up on that. I had seen one day without her presence. I found her everywhere.

“I haven’t thought about it. I am not sure. I just know that we are very good friends and I am glad for it”, I hadn’t lied to her.

“I see”, she eyed me, “You two think the same here too”.

“Don’t tell me you had talked to her about this??”, I opened my mouth in disbelief.

“We can talk about this. She is my friend too if you remember Siddharth!”

“Fine, but what have you said to her now?”

“Nothing much. asked the same question”.

“And?”

“And she gave exactly the same answer…with an additional point that you are a very good person and deserve someone equally good like you, not somebody like her, while she was a good friend of yours”.

I did not know what to say. I did not understand her assumption, but I did not want to react in front of my mother. She already said and knew too much. Moreover, I did not want to say anything before I knew if my communication with Mishti wasn’t at stake for this thing. It mattered to me a lot.

“Oh. Please tell me from the next time before asking any such thing from her too mom”, I pleaded.

She continued to notice me and gave up when she couldn’t understand much. I knew I couldn’t tell that to anybody, may be not even to the one who should have known then.

As I tried to calculate the events that had turned up that night, I couldn’t sleep. Superficially, nothing was different, but I had started to sense the building up of an atmosphere of something not-so-good like it had been for the past few days. I feared deep inside my heart.

Beyond the explored depths of my thoughts, lived an innocent childlike Siddharth, who was afraid of something, who did not want to lose anything that was going on. Yet, so many changes had crept in unknowingly. I tried to console that child that I would not leave my place, I would remain there, I would not compromise on what I had thought, and everything would be the same, nothing would change. I hoped…

I found Mishti the next day at the same place thankfully. I was happy that some things hadn’t changed. Somewhere, I feared what she might have thought about my mother’s discussion with her. But she did not seem to be troubled by that at all. She still talked about her like before.

However, she seemed a little different. I did not know the reason, but I had to find it. At times, she got lost into some thought until I asked her something. She was being somebody else. She wasn’t the Mishti whom I had seen for the past few days. She was happy, but something was troubling her.

For the next few days. I saw a Mishti, different from the one who had been with me till then after the camp. She was worried about something. She had something in her heart which I did not know. She was hiding something, that wasn’t very pleasing as I could make out.

I had been waiting for her to speak about Ratna or her findings about the case, but she did not speak about that too. In fact, she tried to change the topic whenever I wanted to know what she had come to know from Ratna.

I was completely bewildered at seeing her that way. For me, she spilled magic around her when she was in her happiest form. I did not care about anything else, but seeing Mishti Sengupta without her usual charm made me feel lost. I could not see her getting lost into something that seemed hazy.

Somehow, I had to make her speak. I had to know what was troubling her. I might not have enough days with her to come, I feared, but I needed to know for the amazing friend that I had been to her. It was killing me from inside to see her that way. I decided one day to know it straight through her.

It was another chilly night. We had stepped down from the bus. Walking back to home, I noticed that she kept getting back to herself for a while and then being lost into something unknown to me, and I knew it was the right time to ask her directly about it.

“Mishti”.

“Hmmm”, she replied, still lost into her thoughts.

“I am not your amazing friend any more”.

She looked startled and hurt. I saw tears flowing out of her eyes. “You too doctor?”, she said.

She seemed terribly hurt. I felt bad for having said that.

“I mean, you don’t tell me anything that you have been thinking about. I can see that you are troubled!”

She replied through her tears, “I have been thinking about how to tell you. That is what I am lost about”.

I looked at her. She did not seem to lie. I knew she was saying the truth. I had to know the truth now.

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