For a very long time both, Vijay and Priya, continued sitting there on the steps of the college staircase. Priya had not spoken a single word about the decision Vijay had taken. But even then she did not appear to have been convinced about it.
‘Priya’, Vijay called her, finding that she is so completely engrossed in her thoughts.
‘What?’, she responded even after being engulfed in the thoughts.
‘Today I am going to tell you something that I have avoided telling you so far and you too have avoided asking me those questions!’, Vijay said to Priya.
‘What are those things you intend to disclose?’, Priya said.
‘Almost four years must have passed for that misfortune to have taken place in my family. I was probably studying in the SSC that time. Our family of four was leading a very happy life then. My father loved my sister, Shalini, a lot even though he never disclosed it apparently. Of course, he loves her even today also. In those days, he would drink liquor very rarely, perhaps only when he would be too happy or sometimes casually while being with friends!’, Vijay took a long breath and started telling further.
‘My sister’s formal education was over and she aspired to appear for the MPSC examination. She had successfully passed through the MPSC examination right in her first attempt itself and now she was headed for her interview. She had made very strong preparation for the interview but after reaching the location of that crucial interview she realized that she had lost all her original documents necessary to prove her identity. In the absence of proper documents, the authorities refused to conduct her interview. This mishap left such a strong negative impact on her mind that by the time she came back home she was no more the same woman. In spite of we, the family members, attempting to convince her several times that she can still aspire to face the interview by obtaining the duplicate copies of the papers or she can even reappear for the MPSC examination again next year or she can even look for other opportunities life could offer her but she was not responding to any of our suggestions and advices. On the contrary, this psychological ailment she was suffering from continued to deteriorate further after each passing day. In the absence of good doctors in this small town and also account of lack of sufficient financial backing, my father too was helpless to arrange for a proper medical treatment of my sister. This affected my father’s self-confidence to such an extent that he increasingly took it to consuming more and more liquor because he was never able to withstand my sister’s state of health after returning home. He then started staying more and more away from home and became an alcoholic. In the due course of time he also wasting money in gambling so much so that, forget about the medical treatment of my sister, we even started suffering from scarcity of food and diet on account of least monetary contribution from my father.
Vijay took a brief pause and started describing his troubles further, ‘At one point of time in my life, the situation at home had worsened to such a pathetic extent, that I was even feeling tempted to give up my education and contribute at home by working as a daily wages labor but soon ignored that thought because earnings made through that kind of a source would not have filled the requirement. Finally, it was my mother who showed the courage to work at home to produce and sell household kitchen-made products like pickles etc and I also contributed whatever little I could by distributing newspapers every morning etc along with managing my education. But that too was proving highly insufficient and that is why I had made up my mind that I will strive to complete my education and choose one such stream of education, after completing HSC, that will give me a job and a fixed monthly income as soon as possible and help restore the financial health of my family’.
After Vijay’s monologue was over, Priya said, ‘I can very well understand and appreciate what troubles you must have suffered from in your life. I think, in the present circumstances, your decision to choose engineering as an option of a career instead of medical is perfectly correct and fully justifiable’.
Vijay looked at Priya with complete satisfaction over this unexpected reply because so far he had thought of her as a childish girl but unexpectedly she had expressed a completely matured reaction over Vijay’s explanation.
Vijay secured an admission for engineering and Priya, having left with no choice with certain element of reluctance, opted for medical as the career since she was undeserving to seek an admission for engineering having avoided taking Mathematics as one of the subjects for HSC. Moreover, she did not even make any further efforts to persuade Vijay because she was aware how firm he was about any decision he usually takes. Besides all this, the reasoning provided by Vijay was perfectly apt and Priya would never want to create a trouble between him and his family through her presence. So, eventually, the triumphant gallop of both of them began in the respective domains of career they had chosen.
With the passage of time flowing rapidly, communication between both of them continued through letters and they would occasionally meet also whenever they would return to their native town during vacations.
Passing days got converted into passing months and both of them did not even realize how quickly the duration of four years went by. Hardly a few days were remaining now for Vijay to secure engineering degree and although Priya had spent four years in acquiring medical education, yet there was one more year of internship remaining, to secure her medical degree.
Today was the happiest day of Vijay’s life because he has succeeded in securing most cherished degree in engineering and a boon to that joy was that Priya was to come to meet him the same day. He was waiting for her on the railway station and a train came and stopped on the station.
‘This is the same train using which Priya was to come and meet me’, Vijay thought, ‘Yes, this is the train she was to travel into!’. His excitement reached to its peak. His eyes started searching for in the huge crowd of people alighting from the train and nowhere she could be seen because a massive flood of passengers was moving toward the exit door of the station and he felt as if it was really difficult to search for a single individual amid this big a throng of the people. ‘I have indeed come to receive her here on the station but the possibility of being able to locate her is indeed very little!’, Vijay thought.
The size of the crowd getting off from the train had reduced by now and hardly one or two passengers were seeming to be hiring a coolie to move their heavy luggage when he saw Priya coming toward him and he exclaimed, ‘Yes! That is none other than Priya!’. His depressed face suddenly glowed up with ample joy and he started hastily moving toward her.
Within moments even Priya saw him and reacted in the same fashion, all her tiredness vanished and her face, exhausted so far suddenly beamed with joy. Now even she started moving toward him hastily but was unable to do that because of her luggage. But within moments Vijay reached up to her and they both hugged each other out of excitement.
Vijay and Priya were sitting in a café for a cup of coffee and their talk started.
‘Indeed, after such a long spell have we come here in this café?’, Priya said.
‘You are saying this as if we were coming regularly here to drink coffee!’, Vijay replied.
‘Not too frequently but quite regularly we would come here!’, Priya said.
‘And whenever we came, it was you alone who always paid the bill!’, Vijay replied.
‘When is Rajesh coming?’, Priya glanced at the door and asked.
‘He will come only if he is aware of your arrival and even if he was to be aware of your arrival, the possibility of he coming to meet you is very less’, Vijay replied.
‘Did you not inform him about my arrival?’, Priya asked.
‘No!’, Vijay replied.
‘Why is that so?’, Priya asked.
‘How shall I tell you that now? In fact, it is a big story!’, Vijay replied.
‘What? Have you had a quarrel with him?’, Priya curiously asked.
‘Are we any kids to quarrel between us?’, Vijay said, ‘to be really frank with you our ways parted with the HSC result itself!’.
‘The how do we tend to meet when even our ways are different?’, Priya asked.
‘We meet because we have a strong desire to meet each other!’, Vijay replied.
‘Does it mean he does not have a desire to meet either you or me?’, Priya asked.
‘You can say that!’, Vijay said, ‘with the results being declared, he went out of the college and started slowly distancing himself from us. I tried to reduce that gap between us and even gave a sympathetic thought to his state of mind but it was of hardly any use!. He had no desire left to come closer again!’.
‘Does it mean he never meets you now?’, Priya asked.
‘He does meet me sometimes but very rarely and he is never intense during such encounters. He behaves like a complete stranger!’, Vijay replied.
Original Novel by Sunil Doiphode
English Version by Girish Katre (GirishKatre@gmail.com)