The Zeitgeist

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Chapter 6: Billet Doux

After his sojourn in Bada Shehar he returned with new vigour and vitality. The memories of the city had the painful clarity of nostalgia, but still he was feeling good about coming back. The air of nostalgia overcame the irritation by crowd and noise all around. He was unaware of the surroundings just feeling the surroundings. He was the soldier who has just returned from the war to his home country. He reached the prepaid booth for auto rickshaw outside the station from the platform in nostalgia. It was the early morning peak hour and the people were in haste of reaching the destination. He was watching them as if he were not a part of that race. But he returned to be the part of the race; although this time after some thought given to it. Perhaps this is life! He thought and smiled which was noticed by the auto rickshaw driver in the mirror placed at an angle of 45 degree with the level of his eyes and immediately shifted the focus on the road again without asking anything. He decided to let go off the questions about the existence and the meaning of the life to move on. He halted the thought process and enjoyed the drive. He reached Baikunth and handed over the receipt of the already paid amount. As he entered Baikunth the floor was barely visible. It seemed as if it had faced sand storm of late. He took the broom and cleaned the room to make it a livable place. Cleaning is a tiring process, whatever the dimensions are. Dimensions do affect but the graph between the cleaning and tiring starts off exponentially before taking a linear shape. Journey and the effort to put Baikunth in order tired him so much that he fell asleep as soon as he lay down on the bed. Next morning after getting up early he took Ekant Road for a walk. Same familiar ambience with nature in its full bloom in the lap of chaos of the city.

“Hi Akshay, What’s up?”

“Sky.”And both smiled.

“What’s in your mind?”

“I feel that I should register myself in a professional course and be a part of the production process, leaving aside all unproductive thoughts and processes.”

“Go for it.”

He felt the need to join the crowd to lead a stable life. His interests in computer prompted him to join Computech, a renowned institute in computer education. He reached the institute same day and got registered for the course in C++. Counselor informed that the course would start next week.

Next week Akshay reached the institute early and was guided by the counselor to the classroom. He chose to sit on the first bench for the change. He wanted to experience what it would be like sitting on the front bench. Slowly and steadily students entered the class and the commotion ensued. Quietly, he was watching the commotion in the class. Students were trying to get familiar with each other. In the whole batch Akshay was the only student sitting quiet and alone. Akshay was watching every group that had been formed in the class. In one group two students of opposite gender were talking with each other which seemed quite probable that they knew each other already or may be in relationship considering it was the first class. Suddenly the attention shifted towards a small in height, stout and wheatish complexioned creature who was standing in the front and centre of the class.

“Hi, class. As you know I am Batuni. So let’s introduce ourselves one by one.”

Nobody in the class was interested in his impromptu. This indifferent attitude of the class had little impact over the never say die attitude of Batuni.

“Guys and girls, let’s introduce ourselves. Please be calm. Listen to me,” he persisted.

“We will calm down only if you will shut up and sit down on your seat,” retorted Akshay.

Batuni smiled embarrassingly and went back to his seat. A lean creature that belonged to the female gender with tresses hanging loosely entered the class and introduced herself as the new teacher for the course. By her intonation it looked like as if she was new to teaching in the class-room.

“Good afternoon. I am Kusum. I am here to teach you C++. Before we proceed further I want to know your names and purpose of joining the course.”

Almost all of the students said that they have joined this course to get a decent job, then came the turn of Akshay to introduce himself.

“I am Akshay. I have joined the course to know more about computers and their pre-defined behaviour.”

After that Akshay started listening to the introductory lecture of the teacher carefully. After two hours the class got over and everybody starts interacting with each other but Akshay got out of the class as soon as it was over. He used to reach the class on time and leave immediately after the class. He found the programming language interesting hence devoted sufficient time to understand what it was all about. After a month Asif, a student from Videsh joined the course. People from Videsh are usually tall and well-built. Asif was different. He was well-built but not that tall. Akshay kept on following the same routine of going from Baikunth to Computech. He spent his spare time in Baikunth or Ekant Road. He kept following the same monotonous lifestyle. Little by little his monotonous life style and disciplined unsocial life became excruciatingly difficult to sustain. Then he felt the need to socialize with the people around him.

“Aks! I am feeling that I should interact with the students of the class.”

“I am reiterating this point over and again, but you—pig headed fellow—never understand until you are in dire straits.”

“Experience is truth,” said Akshay smilingly.

Then Akshay thought from where to start? Let’s meet somebody today. But who? Then he recalled Rajesh a gregarious fellow, who once said that he felt good in his presence and exchanged each other’s number. He didn’t ask the reason for it. He called Rajesh immediately and asked for his residential address. Rajesh was dark and thick skinned boy with a conspicuous paunch of a middle aged man. He lisps at times. Akshay hopped on to his bike and reached there in no time. Two other students of the

class, Anudhat and Prabhash were sitting there. Rajesh was living as a paying guest in the house. He had to share the room with another person. The room had two single beds and a table for computer arranged in a way that it left hardly any space for the movement of more than two people at the same time.

“Hi, everyone.”

“Hi, Akshay.” (They all replied in unison)

Then the conversation started. All of them excluding Akshay started telling about various incidents that were taking place in and out of the class. Akshay was astonished to hear some of the stories. He thought that all this was happening in the class and he was unaware. The reason for this lack of information was him not interacting with the people in the class. In a way he found it amusing. These trivial matters which until then never enthused him, were providing a sense of enjoyment. Information creates satisfaction. At the same time it empowers you. Was it something he was missing? He used to consider this a waste of time. For the first time, he realized the importance of these so-called trivial important things of life. Now he had realized how the housewives kept on doing a monotonous job for the most of the part of their lives. Perhaps these talks refresh their mind and help them keep moving without getting bored from monotonous job.

“Rajesh! Let’s have tea.”

“Ok.”

“For me, less sugar, less milk and more water. Tea leaves according to you. Do you have biscuits?”

“No.”

“Then get one packet of glucose biscuit and moong dal.”

“Ok,” then pointing towards Anudhat, he said beseechingly “Can you go and get the things?” and Anudhat went out to bring the required items. By the time the tea got ready, Anudhat came. They had tea and then left for their respective destinations. While riding back to Baikunth, Akshay was feeling light. Zephyr was flowing. Road was clear. The traffic signal was green everywhere so the flow was smooth. All the traffic signals were either green or turn green the moment he reached there. He felt as if he was riding on the clouds with complete freedom and joy.

Next day Akshay was little excited about attending the class. He felt as if he is going to an amusement park. When he reached the institute, he saw Rajesh, Anudhat and Prabhash with Adata; girl of the same batch, near the canteen. Akshay went towards them and shook hands with all the boys.

“Hi, Adhata.”

“Do you find anything wrong with my hand? Is it thorny?”

“No! Why this question?”

“Your reluctance to shake hand with me implied this.”

“I am not used to shaking hands with girls.”

“Then get used to.”

“I will.”

Adhata’s words made him ponder over his behavioural indiscrepancy. His reluctance could be traced to his past experiences. There were girls in the school but he never talked to them. During his schooling days when a girl once said hello to him and he never replied. Now he thought that it’s time to change. He felt it was the right time to get comfortable with the other sex too, as they occupy half the space on the earth. Next day, when he went to the institute, Adhata was sitting with same three guys. Anudhat extended his hand and said, “How are you?”

“I am fine but before I shake hand with you, I would like to shake hand with Adhata-moving his hand forward.” He felt relaxed .If you decide to take an action and accomplish it; it creates a sense of achievement which calms your mind. He had done what he had thought of.

Akshay continued his routine: waking up early for physical exercise, attending the class and then studying what was taught in the class; information gathering rather than sharing in between. Suddenly life has taken the fast mode. That’s what he wanted. During his interaction with the students, he got to know about a lot of facts which he was unaware of. Most importantly, the fact that the girl and the boy that he thought to be in relationship were actually in relation to each other; they were cousins and this information lightens up his mind. Her name was Aarushi. Subconsciously, he wanted her to be single. Now the desire of the subconscious mind was raised to another level, where he wanted Aarushi to be in a relation with her suitor – himself. He always found a place in the class from where he could see her without being caught. He scored perfectly with the opportunities he got. He never missed an opportunity to look at her, whenever he got one. At the same time he made efforts not to get caught in the act. He was reluctant to divulge this feeling of his. He became so much protective about “The Feeling” that he did not touch that, even himself. It was beyond his assessment. The glass box in which he had kept “The Feeling” was getting bigger with each passing day and making it difficult to accommodate. But for someone like Akshay who idolized the Earth as the epitome of tolerance; it was bearable until it kills. He was enjoying this phase of life. His enjoyment included exchanging glances while going upstairs or downstairs; gazing at her in the class-room without getting caught by either the class mates or the teacher. If she glanced back, he felt heavenly. At that stage of life when he was struggling to find economic stability, nothing was more gratifying than the glance of those big eyes. Akshay’s ailing heart felt as if those eyes reassuring him everything would be alright. This ethereal experience evaporated in the heat of the realities of life. But still, whenever, he wanted to run away from the fear of insecurities of future, he took refuge in the cozy world created by himself for himself and he just ran into it. Then he started thinking that he was overly engrossed in her thoughts which was not a good thing to follow. At the same time, he was not ready to come out of it. He wanted to proceed further. Six months were left for the course to get over. He thought that even if she says no at that moment, there would be still six months left for him to make her understand. Now the problem was how to proceed? Should he ask her directly or through somebody else in the class? He was thinking that if he had to propose it should be after the start of the new semester. But there was a problem. The problem with idea was, if she became uncomfortable she might change the batch or leave the institute. Perhaps his over cautiousness was making him to think through all the possibilities. After weighing all the pros and cons of both ways he decided to go through somebody close to her in the class. He observed that a girl of the class named Bulbul was close to her. It should be done at the end of the first semester. He started interacting with Bulbul so that it would be easy on the D-day. He thought that as soon as the final exam would get over, he would share his feelings towards Aarushi with Bulbul. As the

D-day was getting nearer, a mixed feeling of fear and excitement was making him restless. He was not able to sleep the night before the final exam; these time the reason being different from the other times. He was preparing himself for every possibility that may come up. Fluctuations of elation and sadness on the prospect of being accepted or rejected made him fidgety. He tried to calm his restive mind by focusing on the exam, the next day but in vain. So he decided to ride on the waves of elation and sadness.

Next morning was bright and sunny as usual but not for him. For him it was the morning of hope and fear. He was not much concerned about the exam as he was quite sure of clearing it, if not passing it with distinction. That day he did everything: he chose the best dress, best shoes and even spend some time in front of mirror to give his best performance. He reached the institute one hour earlier as everyone was expected to arrive early today due to examination. Bulbul and Aarushi were standing in front of the gate. As he passed by Bulbul asked Akshay about the preparation. He replied positively. Meanwhile, Akshay glanced at Aarushi and then turned his eyes towards everybody around him. He was behaving like a thief who just stole something in a crowded place.

Test started. It was online. Exam got over in two hours. After the exam was over everybody was talking about the exam, but Akshay was concerned about the whereabouts of Bulbul. Rajesh told him that she had left for home. Aarushi drove away in her car. Now he was sure that Bulbul would be alone. Akshay thought of making a call to Bulbul. He dialed her number. His heart started thumping. He cancelled the call. He didn’t understand the reason for being that scared. He realized the difference between making plans and implementing them. He was not aware of this fear last night. He encouraged himself by saying that it won’t matter how much he got scared at this moment but what he had done in this situation, that would matter. And he called her again.

“Hi Bulbul, Akshay here,” he spoke gently trying to overcome his fear.

“Hi, what happened?”

“Where are you?”

“Near St. Martin college, why?”

“Get down on the nearest bus stop.”

“Why? Anything serious.”

“Just do it. Rest I will tell you there. I will be there in five minutes.”

In five minutes Akshay reached the bus stop where Bulbul was waiting for him.

“What happened?”

“Nothing, I just want to talk to you and I am not going to propose you; so relax.”

“Where?”

“Mithaiwala, come with me.”

“I don’t go on bike with boys except my brother and my boyfriend.”

“Ok, then see you there.”

Akshay reached Mithaiwala earlier than her. Mithaiwala is a sweet shop in a posh area. Few minutes later Bulbul arrived. She looked like someone who was always in hurry for reasons unknown. Mithaiwala’s sitting arrangement was on the elevated platform. You need to climb three to four stairs to reach the place where you could sit. Akshay sat near the entrance. As she entered the shop she was gasping for breath as if she had climbed the hill just then.

“Now tell me, what happened?” she asked pantingly with her palms on the table.

“You relax, take a deep breath and sit” replied Akshay with calmness.

Then she started talking about herself, her family and her boyfriend without acknowledging the purpose of the meeting. Akshay was blessed with good listening skills but her monologue tested his patience. When his patience crossed the threshold level, he interrupted her.

“Bulbul, I like Aarushi. Can you convey the message?” he asked hiding his impatience.

“Yes, I will but there is no point going after her.”

“Why?”

“She is going to get married soon. She never had a boyfriend. Now she doesn’t want to have one. Are you getting my point?”

“Yes I got your point. I just want you to convey the message and tell her not to leave the institute because of this. If she is uncomfortable then I will.”

“That I can do.”

Then she started boasting about her relatives and family. Akshay was least interested in her monologue but he had to listen to her. He didn’t want to disappoint her. He thought that her presentation of his message was critical to his fate. After that it was getting darker; they said good bye to each other and parted ways.

It was time for the new semester to begin. Most of the old students were in the same batch. Teacher was also new. This time it was a male teacher. He was stylish young man, a little dark. His front tooth was twisted inside out. He was in his early thirties and was confident of teaching well. He introduced himself.

“Hi, I am Krishna, your new teacher for the semester.”

Then he started teaching about OOPS. Both Akshay and Aarushi were present in the class. Akshay was satisfied with her presence although Bulbul told him that his proposal had been rejected. He was happy, if not rapturous and content.

What is hope?

This is hope

He is hopeful

Sees glassful,

Half is full

Half can pull,

The other half;

But you can’t deny

The other half

Which is real

If not clear,

One day you need to bear

Its existence,

With persistence

Then one realizes

Emptiness sucks fullness.

He had one more semester to prove his worthiness as a perfect suitor for her. He was concerned about the modus operandi. He had to manage himself as the time for Bada Imtihan was near. The Bada Imtihan was required to be cleared to get a boost to your professional career. It could be a turning point of one’s life. He thought of sharing his feelings with Anudhat and Rajesh but not with Prabhash. He was a very serious person who was burdened with the responsibilities of the family. He was from a rural background who had come to Shehar to fulfill his ambitions. He was a determined fellow. He was the only person who was making full use of the course. Anudhat was selected for an Advance Course and was enjoying his time there. Recently, he had developed close intimacy with Adhata. Anudhat left the institute for pursuing an advanced course. Akshay again started giving home tuitions as his savings were almost exhausted. This time he opted to teach students of higher classes. He was following the routine with a kaleidoscope of Aarushi’s thoughts and images rotating in front of her all the time. Time kept moving as usual. It was Diwali and institute was closed for three days. Akshay decided to send sms to break the ice and start the process of communication. He thought it to be the safe way of starting the communication. Moreover, if something went wrong he could defend his act. He already took the countermeasures in his defence by sending sms to some other classmates on the occasion of Diwali. As he was about to push the send button he took Aks’ view. He asked Aks, “Should I?”

“Why not?”

“What, if she gets angry?”

“Why should she?”

“You know, why?”

“No I don’t. Explain it to me.”

“She would think that this boy first proposed me and now he is sending sms.”

“So what?”

“I don’t want to disturb her.”

“You are coward.”

“Don’t instigate me.”

“I have done that.”

“I won’t get.”

“Because you don’t have the courage.”

And the send button on the mobile was pushed. He waited for the response. But no response came. After every fifteen or twenty minutes he checked the mobile but in vain. After the holidays were over, everybody came for the class. Akshay was little reluctant to see Aarushi. After the class got over Bulbul asked Akshay, “Did you message her?”

“Yes, what happened? Anything wrong,” he asked in a terrified voice as if he was charged with murder and had to explain.

“Somewhat.”

“When you sent the message her mobile was with her brother. After receiving your message his brother told her about your sms and she took some time to recall about you. That created suspicion in his mind. So she was little disturbed but its fine now.”

“Aargh! Say sorry on my behalf.”

“Ok.”

Things kept going like this for some more time. One evening, Akshay received a sms from Bulbul asking about his well being? He messaged, “I am fine. What about you?” She replied, “I am not fine. Could you

call me?” Akshay dialed her number in concern.

“What happened?”

“He doesn’t love me.”

“Who?”

“My boyfriend.”

“How do you know?”

“He has written the name of a girl on his wall. When I went to his house I read that. I was shocked and he was not even feeling guilty for that.”

“If things are so clear then there is no point in carrying the relation forward.”

“He loves me too. I am feeling like being betrayed. Sometimes, I feel like moving forward.”

“Then move on. Who is stopping you?”

“It’s difficult to forget your first love.”

“May be its difficult to accept the change.”

“Please clarify.”

“We find a comfort zone in a situation from where we don’t want to come out even if there are difficulties in that situation. That’s the irony of the human behaviour. It can adapt but it follows inertia of rest or motion whatever state it is.”

“Could you elaborate what you have just said?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“There are things in life which are meant for realization. They can’t be understood theoretically. Girls, not all, have little proclivity for their understanding. That’s why you find few women philosophers. You will definitely know if you want to.”

“Can you come tomorrow early?”

“Why?”

“Something urgent I want to talk about.”

“Ok, I will reach institute two hours before the class.”

“Thank you.”

“It’s me.”

“What?”

“It means no need to say thank you. It’s in my nature.”

“Ok, see you tomorrow.”

Next day he reached the institute two hours early. He called her, “Where are you?” She replied that she would be there in ten minutes. Akshay called again after fifteen minutes and got the same reply. After ten minutes he made the final call.

“I am going to Mush-hoor restaurant. Be there in ten minutes or I will leave the place.”

When she reached the Mush-hoor restaurant, she was gasping for breath. Mush-hoor restaurant was on the first floor as compared to Mithaiwala shop has more number of stairs and the slope of around 50 degree. The expressions of sense of urgency with which she entered the restaurant and asked for his forgiveness about coming late alleviated his anger.

“I am so sorry.”

“It’s ok.”

“What do you want?”

“A burger.”

“That’s it?”

“That’s it.”

Akshay bought two burgers and two cold drinks.

“So what’s the issue?”

“I want to leave my house.”

“Why?”

“They are putting pressure on me to get married.”

“You tell them that you are not settled in life and that you want to become economically stable before getting married.”

“They won’t listen to me. My mother might support but my grandmother and father won’t. So what do you suggest?”

“There is no point leaving your home. I mean it’s not a solution. Fight for what you feel is right. They are your well wishers. So if you convince them that something is not good for you, they won’t pressurize you.”

“I am very much convinced about leaving the home. I achieve something in life. I thought that you are the right person to ask for. There are two persons in my life whom I think are most sensible and intelligent- one is my economics teacher and other one is you.”

“Don’t be in the illusion that I am an intelligent person. I am giving you an advice which will work for you, most probably. If you leave your home it won’t work well for you. I don’t think you are ready for it.”

“But the urge to do so is very strong.”

“Give a thought to what I am saying. We will talk over the matter again after sometime.”

Next day, Akshay meet Bulbul before the class.

“What’s up?” Akshay asked Bulbul pointing towards her head.

“It’s cool. Moreover, I have postponed the plan sine die.”

“That’s good.”

Bada Imtihan was near and after that the end of the semester at Computech. Aarushi was slowly and steadily entering deeper into the heart of the mind. Heart was blocking the normal functioning of the mind- the ability to reason. There were revolts from the mind which were successfully crushed by the mind. Heart ruled over the mind. Every day he had to go to give tuitions to make both ends meet. Insecurity of the future was causing insomnia. It was like a butterfly fluttering inside creating waves of disturbance. With every flutter disturbance was increasing. Akshay was trying to clip the wings to stop the fluttering and in the process damaging the wings.

He wants to fly

Where?

Sky…Where else?

With clipped wings………… Not possible.

Who clipped the wings?

He himself

Why?

He doesn’t realize it

What’s the solution then?

Roam with the clipped wings or free the body of the wings.

Next day, when Akshay was about to enter the institute, Bulbul shouted from behind.

“Wait Akshay, wait for me; I am also coming.”

Akshay stopped there, till her arrival. “So how are you?” asked Akshay.

“Fine,” she panted. “Could you do me a favour?” she asked hesitantly (immediately).

“Why not?” replied Akshay.

“Could you teach me what have been taught to us so far?”

“Yes sweetheart. How can I say no to you? Anytime, but where?”

“We have a flat nearby which we normally give on rent. Right now it’s unoccupied. We can study there.”

Suddenly Akshay’s mind got inundated with the variety of thoughts known to mankind. ’Was he thinking in the right direction? Had he hit the nail? Had he got the implied meaning right? No, no, she just wanted to study. Perhaps his thinking was prejudiced because of lack of exposure to this gender. Whatever it was, he was desperate to know, what was right. ‘For a human who is full of volatile emotions it is advisable not to challenge his emotions. Perhaps god was testing my fidelity,’ thought he.

“I think we should sit in a cafeteria. The Perfect Coffee Maker is fine.”

“Ok, as you like it. You are the guru.”

“At what time?”

“11a.m.”

“That would be fine.”

Next day, Akshay reached there at right time. After reaching there he called her. She said that she would be there in five minutes. But as usual she was late again by fifteen minutes. As usual she was wearing jeans with flower patches over it in the region above the knee. She could be recognized from her old pink shoes. Her toe was peeping out from that shoe as if it was asking question, where it was supposed to be-inside or outside?

“Sorry.”

“This ought to be the last time. It irritates.”

“It won’t happen again.”

“Give me the book.”

And she put her hand in the bag to get the book. The size of the bag was so big in comparison to her (she was short in stature with round face) that it looked like she had to dive into it to get the book. But she found the book without diving.

“Where is the notebook?”

She handed the notebook to Akshay.

“And pen to write.”

Akshay started to explain his understanding of the subject. She was listening carefully. But grasping… After an hour of speaking continuously, he felt little tired.

“Want to have a cup of coffee.”

“Yes, I will take.”

“Which one for you?”

“Whatever you will have.”

“Then cappuccino is fine.”

Akshay went to counter and ordered two cups of cappuccino. He thought how life has been changed or shaped up for the future to come. Earlier if he was out it would be with the people of same sex or alone. You won’t go out for a cup of tea or coffee. The menu included something which is not normally prepared at home.

“So bulbul, how is life going on?”

“Going tough.”

“Why?”

“Actually, I take care of my own. I don’t take money from my father.”

“Again the same question, why?”

“I want to do it by myself.”

“I think if you will concentrate more on your studies at this point in life that would be more beneficial to you.”

“I want to stand on my own. Moreover, I can’t accept money from my father.”

“It’s like Pandora Box opening up.”

“What is Pandora Box?”

“Leave it for now. Tell me about your reluctance to accept money from your father.”

“I don’t like my father. He is at a very good position in the secretariat. I am an object for him. He wants me to marry a boy whose father is at very high position. He takes me to a party where you can find these high flying people. He orders me to wear the dresses in which I don’t feel comfortable but still have to wear. I don’t know why? I like my mother and my brother. I don’t ask my father for expenses. I even bear the expenses of my brother. The atmosphere at home is not healthy. Most of the time my parents behave like pettifogging lawyers always involved in bickering. I try to save my brother from all this so that it won’t have bad effect on his psyche.”

Akshay was listening to her. The story he was listening was encountered in movies umpteen times. Hearing about it, happening in real life, was like a bolt out of the blue. He felt as if his mind had been held tightly in a web-unable to respond.

“I am going to loo.”

He thought that might give him time to come out of the web that catches on far too quickly to a hypersensitive organism. It elevated the respect for Bulbul. This girl in spite of all her struggles was very cheerful.

“Let’s start studying.”

“Be serious towards your studies.”

“Ok, Sir.”

Akshay started teaching again. After sometime she asked for the break. This time Akshay started enquiring about Aarushi. “How do you think I should move forward?” asked Akshay in desperation.

“I have good news for you.”

“What?”

“Could you arrange for a book on Java?”

“Definitely.”

“She was asking for it. Not for me.”

“I can arrange for you also.”

“No, just do it for her only.”

“Don’t feel jealous.”

“I am not feeling jealous. Why should I?”

“Tell her that she will get the book before the next class.”

Akshay started contacting everyone known to him who could have had that book. Everyone that he contacted had either given the book to somebody else or never bought. What to do now was the question was floating? Giving her a new book would be a ridiculous thing to do. The act of cogitation lurked over the finger-nails. The existence of nails was at stake. Suddenly an idea saved the nails from

being decimated.

“Why not to buy one second hand book?” thought Akshay.

There was an old book store which sold old books near Baikunth. Akshay got ready and went there.

“Do you have second hand book on Java?”

“No.”

“Where can I find one?”

“You can find one at New Street Road. It’s getting darker. No point going there.”

Akshay wanted the book that day itself. He was getting restless to arrange the book. Suddenly, his friend called him.

“Akshay I have got one book on Java but it is in tatters.”

“No problem. Just give it to me. I am coming there. Don’t go away.”

Akshay collected the book and reached the institute an hour before the actual commencement of the class. He knew that she would come early as there was a mismatch between her language class and class at Computech. Moreover, he wanted the meeting to go unnoticed from the classmates. He was excited as well as nervous after her arrival. Students were moving in and out of the institute but those were unknown faces. He made sure that the students around them were not from their batch before reaching for her. They were on the either side of the service lane. He was holding the book in his right hand and she was sitting in her car with windows closed. He moved with towards her looking continuously in those big eyes who were reciprocating in the same manner. A reached near her, glass of the window started moving downwards. The entire universe came to a standstill for him. There were only two living and one non-living (programming language book) things in this world. The journey although was short but it evaporated the restlessness of the soul.

“I have got this book for you. I know that it is in tatters. But take this for meanwhile I will get a new one tomorrow”,

“I don’t want new one.”

“New one means better than this.”

“Ok,” she said in a soft voice.

“I am going now.” She permitted with the nodding head and turned her low towards the steering wheel.

He wanted to share the moment but his nature made him reluctant to do that. It was difficult for him to hold that bubble of joy. He could not concentrate for a moment in the class that day. He was looking phlegmatic as if nothing had happened. After the class got over, Bulbul came towards Akshay and

returned the book.

“What happened?” he asked in disappointment.

“She said that her brother would arrange.”

“I will get better than this next time.”

“Can you give this to me? I also don’t have any book to study.”

“Keep it.”

Akshay then went to the New Street Road to get another second hand book which was in a better condition. Next day too he went to the institute an hour early to give her the book. She also came early.

He went to her and offered the book.

“I have got soft copy of the book.”

Akshay came back with book in his hand. He was sad. He could not concentrate in the class yet another day and could not understand anything what the teacher taught during the class. Two contradictory emotions producing the same result- lack of attention in the class. He thought it to be the end of the story whatever it was. He decided to move on. After class Bulbul stopped him at the entrance of the institute.

“She was saying sorry to you.”

“Why?”

“I told her that Akshay was angry with her.”

“I told her to say by herself. But she won’t say. She is a shy girl.”

“It’s ok.”

And his eyes were beaming with happiness. He was unaware from where this happiness was coming from. ‘How did it matter as long as he is feeling happy?’ thought he. He was stuck again.

Akshay put himself again on the roller coaster ride- riding up and down. In the mean time he befriended Asif. He didn’t look like people from Videsh. Asif was new to the place and to the milieu of Shehar. Only

Akshay was comparatively comfortable in understanding his unusual accent. Asif’s house was near the institute. Akshay used to visit his house between the class and tuitions. Moreover, Akshay had always been curious to know more about the culture of different regions. That’s how he developed deeper understanding of his accent and the meaning behind what he said. Asif was from well to do family in Videsh. That’s why he was enjoying life in Shehar. He was finding it little difficult to cope up in Shehar. He was performing below the average standard here. Although he was trying but not very hard so that he could perform well in the tests. His dressing sense reflects the latest trends of the day. Overall, he was a pleasant personality but not someone who will touch you deep down. May be it’s your struggle in life that gives you the impetus to dig deep.

One day Aarushi was absent. Akshay wanted to know the reason but didn’t ask anybody. Then the teacher asked about her well being. Bulbul replied that she had met with a minor accident and had injured her knee. That’s why she was absent. Akshay was little worried about that. He thought whether it would be appropriate to ask about her well being or not. Perhaps he should call (not a good idea); but he could ask by messaging (quite possible). He thought of asking Bulbul before messaging. He didn’t want to create problem for her. Permission was granted this time. He was happy (for what?). He messaged Aarushi asking about the accident and wished her fast recovery. No reply came. He started studying for the Bada Imtihan. He slept after he was completely exhausted. He woke up and saw the mobile phone in hope of the reply, but in vain. Today was a free day. He messaged again. Message read: ‘No reply. Waiting for your reply’. (Few hours past still no reply.) He messaged again. Message read: ‘Still waiting for your reply’. Suddenly a call from

Bulbul came.

“Hello Akshay,” she asked in haste.

“What happened now?”

“What have you done? She is in deep trouble.”

“Why?”

“You messaged her and her brothers read those messages. Now she is in deep trouble. I told you about her brothers. They are very orthodox. They can’t tolerate a boy messaging her. They are calling me to confirm whether she had any affair or not.”

“I can go if there is a need.”

“They are very dangerous.”

“Still I can go there to make things clear.”

“I will handle the situation. You stop sending messages for the time being.”

“I can go there. Don’t worry about me. I can handle the situation.”

“No, you don’t go there. Please! It will make the matter worse. Anyways I am going there.”

“Ok, do tell me once you come back from there or had a talk with them.”

“Definitely.”

Akshay’s mind was inundated with the ideas which were all new. This was a new twist to the story. Where would the story go from here, was the concern? He spent the whole afternoon in the anxiety of what would be coming. He even discussed the whole sequence of events with Anudhat who had a practical view about life.

“It’s good that you have not gone there. That won’t be a sensible thing to do. Anything can happen.”

“I am prepared for anything.”

“Don’t be such a fool.”

“I can understand your point of view, but I cannot backtrack at this stage. I will be ashamed of myself then. I know it will be sentimental. Anyway I am not going so, don’t discuss this issue.”

“Ok, then wait for her call.”

In the evening Bulbul called Akshay to tell him what happened that day.

“Tell me what happened.”

“Life is very tough for her. I don’t know how she lives in a place like that. It’s like a prison. I don’t understand how do brothers can be so inhuman or perhaps so caring-I don’t know what to say- to their sister.”

“Could you elaborate what you are saying?” interrupted Akshay.

“I reached her home in the afternoon but it was dark inside. Sun was not allowed to peep into the room. She opened the door and switched on the light. I asked her to open the curtains which she rejected. “It’s not allowed” she replied. It was like Taj Mahal - a beautiful structure with grave inside. They live in a beautiful house where living beings are not allowed to live. The door opened into the drawing room of the house. There was a sofa-set consisting of two one-seater sofas and one three seater sofa. Unfortunately, I chose to sit on three-seater to enjoy ample space to relax. Then unprecedented things happened. She went inside and called her mother and brothers. She is the youngest kid of the family.

Her brothers sat on the either side of me on that three-seater sofa. I was sitting like an army man listening to his senior about the plan of action. They looked like bouncers in a pub. Once everybody got settled I was bombarded with the flurry of questions about you and their notions of alleged affair between you and Aarushi. I could feel the quivering of my own voice while answering their questions. They assured me by calling me their sister and should not be worried about anything except telling a lie to them. Thank god that you were not having affair otherwise it would have not been possible for me to lie in front of them. Even her mother did not intervene. I just wanted to come out of that suffocating atmosphere as soon as possible.”

“What about her father?”

“Her father died four years ago. Her brothers love her very much but they are way too protective. They can go to any extent in order to protect her. There is always somebody who keeps a watch on her movements. This fear suffocates her to suicidal tendencies. Her love for mother is protecting her from herself. She is not going to get married in this lifetime. What a terrible life this girl is living despite being from a very good family! Today I feel like I am living in a paradise. I have never seen a girl with such high levels of determination. I am afraid of being watched them from now onwards. ”

“Don’t be a fool. Why would they keep a watch on you?”

“You never know.”

“I think you are exaggerating more than necessary.”

“May be, but I am scared…. Forget her.”

“Not possible now. I have come a long way.”

“How come? It hasn’t started yet.”

“It’s all in the mind.”

“As you wish but for the time being try not to contact her.”

“That’s reasonable.”

For the whole night he was thinking, what’s next?

“Where are you?”

“Right here.”

“What do you suggest?”

“What do you want to do?”

“Wait for her.”

“Life long.”

“Yes.”

“Is it possible for you?”

“Why not?”

“It’s a big promise you are making to me. Would you be able to keep it?”

“I will. This I feel is love. Let’s do it once. But don’t share this with anybody.”

“How can I?” and both started smiling.

Anudhat left for the Advance Course in the mid of the semester. As Anudhat and Rajesh lived in the same locality so they used to spent a lot of time after the class. Rajesh was sad after the departure of Anudhat. One night as Akshay was about to sleep, he received a call from Adhata.

“Hello Akshay, this is Adhata.”

“Hi, how are you?”

“Akshay there is some problem with Rajesh.”

“What happened to him?”

“As you know that Rajesh was little sad after Anudhat has left for the course; he took some sleeping pills today. When I talked to him, that characteristic cheerfulness was missing. Please talk to him. You are the only person who can bring that smile back.”

“Ok relax, don’t worry. I will talk to him.”

Akshay then called Rajesh.

“Hi Rajesh, what happened?”

“Nothing much. Anudhat has left. So I was feeling little bad. I am not able to control my tears.”

“What is the need to control them? Let them flow. Tomorrow you will shift with me. Do whatever is needed to be done to make it happen.”

“I don’t have enough money to stay with you.”

“Give whatever money you are paying right now and rest I will manage.”

“Ok, as you say.”

“That’s better.”

Next day Rajesh shifted with Akshay. Then they started commuting together for the institute. Life was going relatively smooth. Preparation was going good. Akshay kept reviewing his decision of waiting for her. His determination kept getting stronger with every review. But he wanted to let her know about it. He has already been rejected. He thought that she might have said no because of fear of her brothers otherwise her response could have been positive.

Akshay’s friend asked him to submit his form by hand the next day as it was the last day for submission and he was busy, therefore, can’t go. The moment the target was set he was keen on achieving it within the stipulated time; before the start of the class at Computech. He didn’t want to miss any opportunity to have a feel of her. Attending classes was the only three he had a week. He could have started the next day and submit the form but that would have robbed him the opportunity to see her. So he planned to start the journey the same day. But there was a problem to his plan. There was no direct bus for Alipur at night. Alipur was a small town with number of good educational institutes. It was around 300km from Shehar. He took a route via Narnaul which was a detour but buses ply on this road at night also. He planned the journey accordingly and started late at night because he couldn’t have submitted the form before 10am the next day. Not everything went according to the plan as he had to wait outside the bus stand at Narnaul for two hours to catch a bus for Alipur. While waiting he slept on the bench which was put over the drain and its legs of one side were chained to the door of the sweet shop which was closed. Might be it belonged to sweet shop. He wanted to tell her what he was doing just to have a glimpse of her. Finally, he reached the class but missed the first hour. When the teacher asked the reason for being late he felt sorry and sat in the class after the permission.

Classes and studies took the pace as the end of the semester came near. One day Asif called Akshay to teach him the concepts that were discussed in the last class so that it would be easy for him to grasp what would be taught in the next class. Akshay without any second thought readily accepted the request to teach him at his home as it was near the institute. Akshay reached there in time so that there was ample time for making the concepts clear and to reach the class in time. Asif lived on the first floor of a three-storey building which was made for the purpose of giving out on rent. The locality was thickly populated because of the proximity of the area with the center of the city. Akshay parked his bike in front of the stairs that lead to Asif’s residence. At the entrance of the house you have to decide in which direction to go as there were two rooms in different directions from the entrance. When Akshay was trying to make him understand the concepts meanwhile he started the discussion about his low grasping power which according to him was contributed to his upbringings in Videsh where studying hard could make you mad. While discussion was going on a skinny character came stooping in the room and went into the balcony for fresh air without noticing the people inside as if he was engrossed in something within himself. While returning back he noticed the Akshay and Asif and felt sorry for not noticing them. Sense of guilt was quite clearly visible on his face. He looked a humble guy with his demeanours. He introduced himself as a painter who had come here to make a career in painting. He was not well for some time for reasons unknown to him too. Akshay’s curiosity to see his work took him to the next room where he has kept all his work. Paintings were spread all over the room. Cot used for sleeping by Sameer gave allusion about his stoop. Adjacent to the cot was a wooden stool with medicines on the top of it for his unknown disease. He discussed the different types of painting and mainly the purpose of making abstract ones. Akshay, with his limited ability to understand and judge paintings, found the paintings fairly impressive. Meanwhile, Asif got ready and interrupted the discussion in between so that they can reach class in time. As soon as they got down the last stair they encountered the furious owner of the building who was cursing the new generation for lack of discipline and recklessness; parking of bike being the reason. Akshay recognized the mistake and felt sorry for that. But the gentleman belonged to a different group which considers recognizing mistake as being weak and he intensified the assault ignoring his recognition of mistake. He knew this group is never short of ammunition firing back was the only option left which he exercised and rush for the class. After class was Asif look contented; when asked for the reason, he replied the better comprehension.

Akshay stopped tutoring and started devoting more time for Bada Imtihan preparation. He even stopped going to Computech so that he could devote more time for preparation and counter the distraction caused by Aarushi factor. He shifted the focus to get the focus right. He avoided the discussion of Aarushi even with Aks. Hard work finally paid off and he was selected for Prestige College. Final exam at Computech was near but he was not concerned then. He wanted to settle down with Aarushi. Now he could have presented himself in front of her as her suitor. He knew that Aarushi was learning French in an institute nearby. He googled it to find the location. Without much surety about his search he headed towards the institute to find out. He decided that to be the last day of the agony. He was prepared for every possibility that life would present. The institute was located in the center of the narrow street with both sides open. Akshay parked the bike on the street in front of the gates of the institute and went inside. He enquired about the course at the reception. Receptionist treated him as the prospective client and permitted him to see the classrooms. There were three classrooms and all were empty. He was not sure whether this was the institute he was looking for. While receptionist was giving him details about the course he was searching for time table of the classes. He saw one on the notice board just above the receptionist head. He guessed that if this was the institute he was looking for then he could estimate the right timings of her class by comparing it with the class at Computech. If his guess was right he could expect her soon. He left the reception with a pamphlet about the fee structure and the duration of the course. As soon as he came out of the institute he saw her at the end of the street coming towards the institute. He quickly wore the helmet to avoid been seen by her. He zoomed past her without getting noticed. From time table he knew that it would take two hours for class to finish. He came back after one hour and forty five minutes and stopped near chaiwala who was at one end of the street. From there he can keep a close watch on the movements of the students of institute. He was standing in the scorching heat of the summer but the scorched heart was unaware of that feeling. He finished the first cup and ordered the next one to continue with the waiting. While having the second cup he saw her coming with her batch mates. He put the cup on the tea stall, parked the bike there and followed her. He asked the chaiwala to take care of the bike. He wanted her to be alone before starting the conversation. He never got that opportunity till she reached the bus stop. All his effort to reach for her went in vain. But he was desperate to talk so he dialed her number. She refused to meet him alone. After his insistence of meeting her alone she agreed to meet her outside the Computech campus before the class a day after as proposed by Akshay. He was little excited as he crossed the first level successfully. Few drops of cold water on the scorched heart; not enough to cool it down. There wasn’t any computer class that day so he had to wait for one more day to present him. From there he went directly to Baikunth and read book to hold back the excitement brewing inside. Momentum of restlessness gives rise to moments of restlessness. Adhata called him with a message from Aarushi to return back her book which he borrowed few weeks back to start off the conversation. He suspected that Adhata might be aware of his liking for Aarushi; the source of information being Aarushi herself. He promised to return it back the following day with a heavy heart. He was not sad at the idea of returning the book back but with the allusion that came with it. He decided to call Adhata discuss the issues with her to take her opinion in moving forward. This time he wanted to explore every possibility that could have made his effort a success. He called Adhata and narrated the story till then and asked for her advice. She was shocked to hear the whole story.

“Whatever you are saying about her is not completely true,” she replied after listening to him. “She is not in any kind of trouble. In fact she is enjoying her life,” she added. “Who told you all this?”


“Bulbul.”

“How can you trust that girl?”

“We will discuss the issue of trust later. First confirm from Aarushi that whatever I have told you is true or not.”

“Ok, meet you tomorrow after the class. She has refused to talk to you. I was very much aware of your feelings for her. She had already told me about some incidents which you have narrated to me right now.”

“Let’s not discuss any more what had happened and move forward”, he interrupted with a sense of urgency in his voice.

In the calmness of the class lecture there was a bubble of truth bursting inside the classroom as the messages were sent from one corner to another. By the end of the class room lies of Bulbul were exposed but the reasons remain unknown. There were guesses floating around but the real answer lied within her. He was told that she was enjoying her life as a girl from an affluent family would have enjoyed. It was true that she was fatherless child but her economic condition was very good. The whole series of events had made him even more restless. He wanted to sort out the issues as soon as possible. He asked Adhata to arrange for the meeting with Aarushi and decided to talk to Bulbul separately about her lies. Adhata assured him of the rendezvous after meeting her. She informed Akshay about her reluctance to meet him.

“Why? What happened?” asked restless Akshay.

“I don’t understand her state of mind. She said “I won’t talk to him as I can’t refuse his proposal.””

“That’s weird.”

“I agree but when I asked for her reasoning, she refused to comment on that. But she becomes happy whenever I discuss about you and your inclination towards her.”

“So what’s the way ahead?”

“Forget her.”

“Just like that.”

“Yes, that’s better.”

“How can I?”

“Or you can do one more thing. Put your heart out in a letter and email it. I think that’s the only option you are left with at this moment.”

He has never felt such large fluctuations in happiness and sadness levels in his life. He decided to visit a Buddha Temple in the vicinity of Shehar before taking his next step. Before that he decided to meet Bulbul to understand her lies. An inveterate liar never pleads guilty.

“Why did you do that?” he asked, keeping his emotions in control.

“It’s just that I wanted to keep you away from her so that you are not left heartbroken”, she gave a reason just to answer the question as both of them know that the answer was wrong and there was no instrument to check the veracity of the statement. He felt like killing her but left her with little scolding.

“What an inveterate liar you are? I am astonished how one can lie with such ease. How can you betray the trust?” As a man of few words he showed his anger in those few words. He was disgusted on his own gullibility. How could he forget his first meeting with her where she told about her getting married soon? Why didn’t he analyze the two contradictory statements earlier? Restlessness kept him awake that night. Restlessness at being deceived for so long for every moment of the life during that period. He wanted peace to ward off restlessness that was killing him. He couldn’t live like this so he decided to visit Buddha Temple in Shantivan which was in the outskirts of Shehar. Whatever little he has known about Buddha, has inspired reverence for him. “May be the change in ambience would help him to feel better”, he thought. He woke up, got ready and reached Shantivan without procrastinating too much in Baikunth. It was a peaceful place; away from the commotion of the Shehar. But, how to tackle the commotion inside? He was hoping that the calmness of the surroundings might permeate to his core. A boundary wall delineates the periphery of the temple but at the entrance there was no gate; only an arch at the entrance the both ends of which touch the boundary wall. Cemented tiles pave the way from the entrance to the stairs of the main temple. On the either side Ashoka trees lined. Rest of the area was green with grass. As he entered the temple, he could feel the quietness in the surroundings. It was a big hall with statue of Buddha was placed on the side, opposite to the main gate. There were paintings of Buddha depicting various events of His life. He wanted to stay there for some time. He sat there on the floor. He was aware that the reason for his restlessness was lack of knowledge. He wanted to gain that knowledge which could free him from pain. But still when he asked himself the question, what he would like to have right now- God or Aarushi? The answer still was Aarushi. He was also aware of the fact till the time the answer of the above question is not god he will remain restless. Moreover, her ambiguous statements were making him confused and therefore, restless. He was still hopeful for the reasons unknown. In this state human mind neglects the reality and picks whatever suits to his likings. His restlessness kept on increasing. Even the pristine serenity of the surrounding could not do much to soothe him. For the first time he realized the importance of being in harmony with yourself. He was feeling as if he was the slave of his own emotions. He used to think of himself as the master of his own destiny but the enslavement to his own emotions had annihilated that belief. He was in a quandary over the issues of feelings, emotions and their implications on destiny or the manifestations of destiny in the form of feelings and emotions. Flustered, he woke up and came out of the temple. He lay down under the shadow of a tree. He might not be the master of his destiny but he was resolute in solving the issues; whatever would be the result. He had his lunch in Shantivan and then came back to Shehar. Ambience of Shehar makes Akshay restive. The impatience Shehar exhibits, permeates soul. This was much more infectious than the peace at Shantivan. This impatience in the air of Shehar has an attraction too. That’s what attracts.

After coming back from Shantivan, Akshay called Adhata again and discussed the issue again. Both of them decided to write an email to her explaining her, his state of mind.

Confessions of a Hallucinated Mind

This is not a love letter. This is not something to gain your sympathy. This is not something to convince you. I have arrived at a stage in life where my feelings are haunting me. The effects are so severe that they have made me apprehensive of the world around me. The effects are so deleterious that I am unable to differentiate between love or stress or depression or failures or ego. So this is some kind of emotional catharsis for me. This time I am not thinking about you. I am just concerned about my well being.

Let’s talk something rational. I can understand that I am like any other boy staring at you. You might have experienced this before but for me it’s something new. So my mind responded naively. There is

a chaos of feelings. I feel like being at war. The two opponents are within my mind and the body is the battlefield. Winning or losing is not what matters; the thing that matters is the duration of war. The emotional part says that you are the girl- I was looking for, but the rational part says –don’t be a fool, Akshay. Life has a purpose which cannot be sacrificed for a girl. Right now emotional part is overpowering the rational mind. Numbers of people including myself are looking up to me to stabilize myself, so that I can fit in their milieu. Right now, I am wandering around frenziedly with hollowness in my heart. Wherever I go I am being chased by your thoughts. Sometimes remembering your big round eyes meeting their counterparts while going downstairs in the institute, soothes ever growing restless- it is like the sprinkles of water on the fire; sometimes imagining the happy times we would have together. Mind has become an active volcano oozing out lava at regular intervals in the form of tears. After every catharsis, I tried to console myself looking at things objectively, suppressing the hallucinating subjectivity of this phenomenon. I wanted to say all of this in front of you. Then I realized it’s not possible for me to express my core feelings before you. Moreover, you have denied me the opportunity. So I have chosen this medium. I feel that love is like chicken-pox the later it happens to you, the disastrous the effects are. Phew!

Let’s talk something cool. Your dress-up; you look stunning in blue salwar- kurta, you look equally good in black coat with fur collar and black jeans. I think you are reluctant to wearing glasses. You look intelligent in those spectacles. So don’t feel shy in wearing them. Right now, I am feeling that you are sitting in front of me, listening to all; what I am saying. Now you can understand the severity of the problem. I will manage that as I won’t try to contact you after this letter after putting my heart out. And it’s up to you whether to read it or delete it. I don’t know how I got into it. This is the irony of the life. You can’t understand what you have not gone through. I tried to help people not to fall into this gorge and I fell. At the same time you can’t know the depth of gorge till you haven’t fallen into it.

Without stretching it much, I would like to say that it has been a blissful experience, although a painful one. See you in next life. Probably you won’t say no then….

Bye!

After composing the mail, Akshay clicked the send button on the screen of the desktop. He leaned on the chair and closed his eyes. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Akshay opened the door.

Four sleuths of ATS were standing outside the door.

“You are under arrest, Akshay.”

“For what?”

“In the case of the recent bomb blast in the city.”

“Where?” he asked in amazement as he was not aware of the bomb blast in the city. He was so engrossed in his personal affairs that it took him some time to recall about the blast.

“You were involved in the bombing of shopping centre in Cyber City in Shehar.”

“How do you come to this conclusion?”

“Come with us.”

He thought it would be a waste to argue with them. So he put on the shirt and locked the door.

And the zeitgeist continues…

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