THE LOST DREAM
“We won’t have classes today? But why?” someone shouted at the back.
Professor Shom adjusted his glasses and announced, “You are all aware that the Psychology department is hosting a seminar today. It has been decided that students from all the other departments have to attend it as well. Therefore, we have cancelled today’s classes. Please, gather at the auditorium upstairs within an hour.”
There was a loud, collective groan from the students. Professor Shom made an apologetic face. Shravan piped up, “Sir, what will happen if we don’t go?” Some of the students nodded in approval.
Professor Shom said in a strict voice, “Attendance at this seminar has been made compulsory. If any student fails to attend it, ten days will be deducted from his or her attendance record. There are many here whose attendances are below par, I believe this will be a severe punishment for them. I would suggest each of you to attend it though. We are getting many renowned personalities to chair the discussion panel. It will be highly interesting and informative to hear what they have got to say and we want the Chemistry department to be an active part of this important event.” He swept away from the class, leaving all the students muttering angrily behind him.
Shravan said adamantly, “I’m definitely not going. I’d better go home and sleep. Who cares about attendance?”
Some of the students agreed with him and they huddled together to discuss the matter further.
Pam bent towards Snigdha and Romita, across the bench, and asked excitedly, “What do you think girls? Should we leave?”
Ashish frowned from the bench next to Pam’s and said, “Let’s go and watch Spiderman. It’s playing at INOX. I’ve been dying to watch it.”
Romita said with a foreboding air, “Good idea, but I don’t think the watchman is going to let us go outside because of this stupid seminar. We can try to convince him, I suppose.”
Abir looked quizzically at Snigdha. “Snigdha, will you come with us if we go for the movie? You don’t bunk classes, do you? Your dad’s going to freak if he comes to know about it.”
Pam said, “Abir, how are her parents going to know? Nobody’s going to tell them. Snigdha, come on, don’t be a spoilsport. It’ll be loads of fun.”
Snigdha looked morosely at the excited faces of her friends and rued, “I can’t go. The watchman is friendly with my father. What if he blabs? I’m sorry. You guys go ahead. I’ll stay for the seminar.”
Abir said triumphantly, “I knew it. She’s always like this. Okay, guys and girls, let’s go and convince the guard.”
Snigdha felt a pang of disappointment. She felt hurt because Abir was looking glad about leaving her behind. But she followed the others till the gate to bid them goodbye.
The guard didn’t allow them to leave the college premises as Romita had suspected. The others, especially Abir, got furious about it. They had no intention of sitting through long-winded, sleep-inducing lectures from some boring old guys. Fuming, they trudged up to the canteen and sat around a big, round table placed beside the back gate of the college. They ordered some samosas and started abusing their professors, their principal, and the guard. Snigdha was feeling relieved that she wouldn’t need to stay alone after all, though she was trying not to show her glee about it.
Romita’s eyes suddenly gleamed and she turned towards Ashish. “Wanna take some risks today?”
Ashish asked, perplexed, “What?”
A wicked smile was slowly spreading across Romita’s face. “See that gate.” She pointed at the back gate. “It isn’t that high. All of us are tall enough. We could climb the gate and get out. No one will know. Snig can give our proxy.”
Everyone’s mouth hung open in surprise. They turned to ogle Romita. Romita blinked nervously and said, “I thought it was a good idea. If you people don’t like it, it’s fine.”
Pam thumped Romita’s back and said with a laugh, “Are you kidding? It’s a brilliant idea. So rebellious!” She suddenly stood up and shouldered her sling bag. “Let’s get moving, guys. We can’t be late for the movie.”
Abir said ecstatically, “Yeah. Snigdha and I can give your attendances. Don’t wait for some professor to catch you. No one is around here right now. So, hurry.”
Snigdha looked at Abir, startled. “You are staying back?”
Abir said, “Yup, can’t leave you alone.”
Snigdha looked at Abir with wonder in her eyes. Suddenly her insides had started doing the conga.
Pam walked towards the gate confidently and stared up at it. She touched the gate tentatively then grabbed an iron bar, put her feet on the narrow, extended base, and hauled herself up. She made her way slowly up the gate. When she reached the top, she grinned and called out to her friends, “See you on the other side. Abir and Snig, we are gonna miss you.” She lowered herself to the other side and vanished out of sight. A few minutes later her voice could be heard from the other side of the gate, “Hurry up.”
Ashish and Romita too followed Pam and scaled the gate to get out. Now Snigdha had the whole day and Abir was with her.
Once all of them could be heard cheering and whooping from the other side, Abir called out to them, “All the best, guys. Enjoy.” He turned towards Snigdha and smiled at her. “Let’s go from here. We can’t let anybody know what just happened.”
Snigdha nodded and started moving away from the canteen area. Abir followed her and they went inside an empty classroom on the first floor. Abir asked lazily after flopping down on a bench beside her, “Do you really want to go to that stupid seminar?”
Snigdha suddenly felt no intention of moving even an inch from her position. She could sit there with him the whole day. She slowly shook her head sideways.
Snigdha asked without any real interest, “Didn’t you want to see the movie?”
Abir fixed her with a soft gaze. “How often do I get to spend time with you like this? Why would I want to waste it on Spidey and his web-flinging tactics?”
Snigdha beamed. “At first, I thought you wanted to go with them.”
Abir said emphatically, “Nope. Won’t leave you for anything.”
A thought that had been pestering her lately raised its head at that moment. She said sadly, “You know, the finals are approaching. After that you will have to leave Kolkata and go back to your parents.”
Abir frowned as he thought something. “I’ve decided to do my masters from here.” He sounded determined. “I can start doing a part-time job as well. My parents have shifted their base for their convenience; I’m not going to uproot my life for that.”
Snigdha said, “But you can’t stay separated from your parents. That will be very wrong. I can’t ask you to do that.”
“Yeah, mom and dad have been grilling me about that actually. I didn’t tell them the specific time for the exams. I do have to visit them after the exam though. I’ll return before the results come out; have to run around for admissions.”
Snigdha asked, “But will they allow you to continue your studies here?”
Abir replied, looking a bit worried himself, “Well, they have to. I’m not going to budge from my decision. I can go and stay there after I finish my PhD. By then, I’m sure we can talk to our parents about us. We can go to the US together.”
Snigdha blushed. She felt all her doubts melt away on hearing his plans. They were going to be together in the future. That was all she wanted.
Abir suddenly said, looking at her expectantly, “Snigdha, I brought something for you. I had no idea how I was going to give it to you in front of the others. Thank God they left. I didn’t want to share it with anyone else.”
Snigdha’s curiosity was aroused. “What have you brought?”
Abir opened his bag and took a tiffin box out of it. He removed the lid and Snigdha saw that it was her favourite chicken sandwich with extra cheese. She grinned in delight. Abir said sheepishly, “It’s my first attempt at cooking. See whether you like it.” He extended the box towards her.
Snigdha was touched by this gesture. Abir had cooked for the first time and that too for her. She took one sandwich and put it in her mouth. It was not bad for a first try. In fact, at that moment, it felt like the best thing she had ever tasted. She smiled. “It’s delicious. What made you cook suddenly?”
Abir replied, relieved, “You have been looking really worried for the last few days. I wanted to cheer you up. Thank God the sandwiches didn’t turn out to be awful.”
Snigdha felt tears pricking her eyes. She thrust the half-eaten sandwich back in the tiffin box and flung her arms around him. She said in a voice choked with emotions, “Nothing you do for me can be awful. I’m so glad I have you in my life. Thank you for loving me so much.”
Abir pulled her back to stare at her. “Love you.” Then he bent his head and kissed her hungrily. She responded with an equal enthusiasm and pressed herself tightly against Abir. They were lost in each other.
When they finally drew apart, Snigdha blushed furiously. Abir stroked her face tenderly. “Miss Basu, don’t ever go away from me.”
Snigdha was ecstatic. She loved this man and he was hers.
Her phone rang suddenly and Abir hurried to turn it off with an irritated face, all the while keeping his other arm wrapped around Snigdha. He scowled when he saw it was Dhruv’s call.
Snigdha asked without any real interest, “Who is it?”
Abir disconnected the call and said angrily, “That moron, Dhruv.”
Snigdha was surprised. Dhruv had been calling her quite often for the last few weeks. Suddenly she remembered that Dhruv wanted to meet her at 1 p.m. that day in the canteen. He had something important to discuss. She told this to Abir.
Abir tensed up. “Are you going?”
Snigdha was slightly taken aback at Abir’s reaction—his milky white face and ears were becoming pink. “He said it’s something important. So, I thought I should see what he wants. But why are you getting so worked up?”
Abir got up and started pacing the room angrily. “Because I know what he wants to say to you. I heard him talking to his friends the other day. That scoundrel wants to take you on a date and he has the nerve to think that you will be interested.” Suddenly he came and kneeled in front of Snigdha, his face brightening. “Do you want me to make him back off?”
Snigdha was getting mesmerised by the smile playing on his lips. Before she could process what exactly Abir wanted to do, she said, “Yes.”
Abir picked up Snigdha’s phone and dialled a number. Snigdha could hear Dhruv’s voice on the other end. Dhruv said excitedly, “Hey, Snigdha.”
Abir said in a voice full of menace, “It’s Abir.”
Dhruv went silent. Abir continued threateningly, “Listen, you idiot, stay away from my girl.”
Dhruv seemed to get back his confidence. He said arrogantly, “I want to talk to her. Please give her the phone.”
Abir said scathingly, “Why? You think if you ask her out for a date she will agree?”
Dhruv said, “Yes. She might want to know me better and come with me. I want to talk to her.”
Abir practically growled, “No, she doesn’t want to know you and she is definitely not going anywhere with you.”
Dhruv asked angrily, “How can you say that? You can’t speak on her behalf.”
Abir smiled at this and said slowly, “Yes, Dhruv, I can talk on her behalf.”
Dhruv was exasperated. “Where is Snigdha? What is she doing? Let me talk to her.”
Abir continued smiling as he said, “Oh, she is right here with me. She was busy kissing me when you so inconveniently disturbed us. If you are done, and you better be done, we are going to get back to what we were doing. Don’t disturb us again.”
Snigdha heard a last outrageous howl from Dhruv before Abir disconnected the phone.
Snigdha asked Abir despairingly, “Why did you tell him that? That’s so embarrassing.”
Abir frowned at Snigdha. “Kissing me embarrasses you?”
Snigdha said, “No. But what was the point of telling him that?”
Abir said stubbornly, “He needed to know that you are mine. Trust me.” He got up and once again pulled her in his arms, and they continued from where they had left off. She didn’t think of Dhruv any more.
Srestha shook Snigdha’s shoulder. She opened her eyes to see the huge mountains, covered with trees and moss, flash past the Tata Sumo they were travelling in.
Srestha said accusingly, “We are about to reach Ghoom Station and you are sleeping. I’m so excited about this Darjeeling trip. Coming in a huge group like this is always fun.”
Snigdha nodded. Mrinal had arranged a three-day trip to Darjeeling. They were on their way to Darjeeling now and Abir was miles and miles away. He was never coming back to kiss her again. She was supposed to give Abir’s place to Sameer instead.