Featured

COMING OF AGE – XII

“Now what?”, snapped Rishi. “Till now the going has been smooth. But with exams soon approaching, I don’t want to be a part of all this anymore. This doesn’t seem to be getting over anytime soon.”

“So smart of you! You walk in to the party and have your slice of the cake and walk out irrespective of whether others have a bite for themselves or not. So . . . so . . . selfish! That Miss Dumbie Tanya was right about you – mean is what your nature is. Disgusting . . . Huhh!”, Aditi retorted in a single breath.

“Guys, lets plan for the next turn of events quickly. And you two, better stop this infighting. This would give us away. United we stand, divided we fall,” chipped in Priya.

Rishi, Aditi and Priya were having a video conferencing chat from their homes.

Tanya had taken the day off. The events of the last few days had created a slushy mesh in her mind. After her conversation with her mother that morning, she saw her mother’s gentle side – a mother’s concerned heart, which she had not seen earlier. Or may be her mother had never shown earlier, busy that she was with her own life.

She regretted allowing the fleeting emotions of teenage to drive her feelings to an utter mess. How easily had she played into the hands of someone – the one she only knew as her secret admirer! And how easily, had she gone on that blind date! The thought of it all sent a shudder down her spine.

“How to get out of all this now?”, she said aloud. “With whom shall I share this stupidity of mine? Mom may be the right person. But, she will remind me of this idiocy of mine constantly in the days ahead. I can’t think of anyone . . . I feel as if my brain will burst out of my head. What to do? Oh God!!”

God . . .oh yes . . .God! He can help me. No way that He would pester me with this episode after all this is over. He won’t judge me as Mom may. It will be easier telling Him because He has been a silent witness to it all, already – thought Tanya.

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

So thinking, Tanya sat up from her reclining position. Knowing that there was no one in the house that time, she took the liberty of talking out aloud to God. “Dear God, well, I haven’t trusted you much. But, now I am in a situation in which I need your help. Please don’t refuse. Please help me find out who my secret admirer is and what this Aditi girl is upto. I am really really confused and I can’t sort this out on my own. Umm…yes, I am sorry I didn’t think to seek your guidance before. But, now please help me out.”

Tanya stretched her arms and legs and got down from the bed. She turned the Music Player ON and thought to sweat herself out on a few aerobic numbers before heading for  a shower.

“You were the one so very desperate to bag the first position and somehow beat Tanya – the unbeatable. And now that you think she is distracted enough not to be able to focus well on the upcoming exam, you want out! Your goal is on the way to be achieved, so it seems . . . But, ours is not yet achieved. So hear it well Rishi, you have no choice. You cannot back out now. You better not!,” said Aditi with a menacing threat sharply evident in her tone.

COMING OF AGE – VIII

“Tanya, get up, you will be late for your college,” shouted her mom. Startled, she woke up and jumped out of bed. She couldn’t afford to miss her college today. She had to solve the mystery at any cost. She had to work her for her exams also. There was so much to be done.

Hurriedly, Tanya had a quick shower and got ready. Her parents were waiting for her at the breakfast table. “I need to rush,” screamed Tanya, trying to put her sandals while grabbing her backpack.

“Calm down, eat something and your dad will drop you.” Tanya’s mom said.

“No mom, you don’t understand”, cried Tanya.

“Yes I do”, said her mom. She made a parantha roll and handed it to Tanya with a paper napkin. “You can’t handle challenges with an empty stomach!”

Tanya looked at her mom, who was smiling at her.

“Now hurry up, let’s go”, her dad shouted.

Tanya ran towards the car, looked back at her mom and said, “I love you mom”.  She was thinking that no matter what, a mom is always there for you.

The car reached the college on time. Tanya thanked her dad and went inside the college with the burden of the commotion going inside her. She looked for Aditi at their usual meeting spot, but probably she was late today. She didn’t bother to give her a call to check. She decided to go and sit in her classroom instead. She had reached 10 minutes earlier than the usual time. The room was empty and looked haunted. She was scared, but stepped inside. Just then she heard an announcement that the lecture which was about to start in 5 minutes has been postponed for the next class. So, there won’t be any class today. Tired Tanya cursed herself for hurrying upto the college so that she couldn’t miss this lecture. She turned back to the corridor, but stopped before moving.

“It can’t be there so early.” She said to herself, thinking about the envelope. She decided to check once before leaving the classroom, making sure that no one was there watching her.  Slowly, she stepped towards the last bench and her heart skipped a beat. It was there!

Baffled, she instantly grabbed it and kept it in her backpack. Pretending to adjust the books, she opened the letter, without taking it out.

The library would be a better place!

Tanya agreed to the statement. If her secret admirer was right, if he really cared about her, he would not want her to be in any trouble. But, what if Aditi was correct…

Thinking about the jeopardy, she decided to take the stairs towards the library.

She checked for the pepper spray can inside her backpack. It was there. She didn’t want to take a chance at any cost. Her neurons were completely freaking her out, yet she was determined to go to the library. She stood outside, making sure it wasn’t vacant.  Yes! The librarian was there, with a couple of other students. She went inside and bumped into Rishi.

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

“Oh! Hi topper”, he said in a teasing voice.

“Huh! Whatever”, she replied.

“So, all set to beat me in these exams?” Rishi asked.

“Yeah, but I don’t have a weapon like you” Tanya replied amusingly.

“WEAPON!”  Rishi exclaimed.

“Oh, don’t act innocent. Aditi has told me everything what you guys are planning against me.” Tanya said.

“I am not getting you. What are you talking about? Which weapon? I haven’t even seen or met  Aditi, other than with you the other day. It’s true that I want to top, but I can never think of using any weapon or any unfair means.” Rishi tried to explain.

“Listen, I am least interested in your weapons and all. I am busy right now.  Do whatever you can. I am not scared.” Tanya said irritatingly as she was thinking about the envelope guy.

“That’s what I like about you- your confidence. Hope God keeps you away from all the devils around you.” Rishi said and left the library.

Tanya stood there, thinking about what Rishi had just said…

COMING OF AGE – VII

Tanya was trying hard to focus on her studies but her mind was wandering elsewhere. While she knew that she needed to study hard for the upcoming exams she couldn’t help but think about how her life had changed ever since she had met Sameer.

The events from last few days were running in her mind like a movie. A beautiful girl falling for a secret admirer through the letters they exchanged and then they decide to meet one fine day. A perfect plot for a romantic movie, isn’t it? But Tanya’s story was no more romantic. Her secret admirer had turned out to be a peon with pan stained teeth. Tanya threw her book out of frustration. She couldn’t believe that someone as stupid as Sameer had made a fool of her. Tears started streaming down her cheeks and her room filled with her sobs.

It took some time for Tanya to calm down. She got up, washed her face and decided to start studying again. After all, she had to beat her academic rival Rishi.  With great determination she bent down to pick up the book she had thrown some time back and she froze to see a white envelope. She had totally forgotten that earlier in the day she had picked the white envelope and when she was about to tear it she saw Rishi approaching her so she had no other option than hiding the letter quickly in the book.

Tanya was contemplating whether to read the letter or not. She was scared about how much more details Sameer knows about her. It is what it is, she thought and geared up to read the letter. With shaky hands she opened up the white envelope and removed the letter from it. The paper was same like all the earlier letters – light pink in color and scented. How she had loved this fragrance, only until she met Sameer. While Tanya slowly unfolded the pink paper, she felt like her heart will leap into her mouth.

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

The letter read:

“Dear Tanya,

Hope you read this letter unlike last few which you just tore off and threw in the dustbin. I am worried for you dear. Someone close to you is going to stab you in the back. I wish you had met me that day and I would have told you everything. Letter is not a safe medium to share such important information. I request you once again Tanya, please meet me, please! I care for you and I want to safeguard you from all the devils around you.

For now, I can just tell you that your best friend can hurt you ten times more than your enemy. Please be wise Tanya and look beyond the masks of friendship.

Love you dear, hope to meet you soon.”

Tanya couldn’t believe what she had read. So many thoughts crowded her mind. What did the secret admirer mean? Which friend was going to stab her in the back? Aditi? How is it possible? How does secret admirer know that she had torn off last few letters? From all these thoughts, the only thought that comforted her was that the secret admirer was still waiting to meet her which means Sameer was not the secret admirer! Whoa… what a relief!

Now things started making sense. Tanya realized that she had never shared her residence details or her car details with the secret admirer and even then the white car had followed her to the Family Kingdom. How? If Sameer was the peon from her college how did she never spot him ever before and after her meeting? Why did Aditi insist on tearing off the letters from the secret admirer? Did she want to ensure that Tanya never finds out the truth? Why? All these thoughts were pounding in her head and Tanya failed to understand when she fell asleep.

COMING OF AGE – VI

Tanya was perplexed and she wanted to return home as soon as possible. She felt entangled in an invisible unending vicious trap and the worst part is, she had no clue how to rescue herself or who to seek help from! As if this was not enough, impassable dense traffic greeted her, only to worsen her pensive state. She felt doomed! No matter how hard she tried to focus on her steering wheel, she was all at sea. Finally after an hour’s wait, Tanya managed to reach home.  Without wasting any time, Tanya shook off her sandal and hastily entered her room, and shut the door behind her. Tanya didn’t realize instead of removing her shoes, she was dragging it inside and a paper was clumsily stuck beneath the heel of the sandal.

Maya was watching the whole episode with the patience of a saint from behind the kitchen wall. But the sight of the paper stuck to the heel, excited her and she had moved closer to take a close look at the paper before the door was shut. But all she could see was a gorgeous bride’s hand neatly placed over the safe hands of the handsome groom!! The very sight galvanized Maya and gave wings to her colorful imaginations. Unable to control her excitement, Maya zoomed towards Tanya’s room and knocked it. Maya worked as a maid at Tanya’s place. “Who’s it? I’m busy!” came a sharp reply. “Didi, its me, Maya. Please open the door. I know what you are going through. This has happened to me once. Please open the door I can help you.” Maya’s words rang in her ears. “Did she just say, something of this sort has happened to her! This means Maya has a solution for getting rid of that paan-stained man! But how on earth does Maya know what’s troubling me?  Are my eardrums playing drums?” Tanya was thinking aloud. On the other side Maya was eagerly waiting for a reply but there was no answer. “Maybe Tanya is feeling shy”, thought Maya. So she knocked the door again and said, “didi please let me in”. Convinced by her voice Tanya opened the door with a big question mark on her face. “Come inside”, snorted Tanya and gave a quick detective glance round the corner and shut the door. “Yes tell,” Tanya said in an optimistic tone. “Didi don’t feel shy, in my time it was different, but my son was telling these days it’s done differently , even in pen and paper your work can be done”.  “Pen and paper!!”  Repeated Tanya with a surprised look on her face. “Not bad! How wrong I was! Maya is not brainless, she too has a brain!  By the way she must have been quite famous in her young days. Anyways why should I bother, my work is almost done,” Tanya smirked to herself.  “Didi,” Maya startled Tanya, “whatever documents you have show it to me.” A chill ran down Tanya’s spine when she heard the word “documents”. “Has she seen those envelopes? My goodness what will I reply now! Has she read everything?” Tanya blew a gasket on Maya thinking she has messed up with her stuffs while cleaning the room.  “Who told you to touch my things without my permission? What else do you know about the envelope?” asked Tanya in a rude tone. “Didi which envelop are you talking about?” replied a bewildered Maya, already sensing she had landed up in trouble as always. “What? Have you gone insane? You only asked me to show you the document. But listen carefully, I..I’m not going to show you that envelop, get that straight! Now go from here foolish woman”, thundered Tanya. “Bu…but I’m not talking about any envelop and I don’t even know what is it”, replied Maya in a perturbed tone. “What! Then what were you talking about all this while?” asked Tanya in a surprisingly sharp tone. “Actually didi, I saw it while you entered the house, and I,.” “Saw what Maya?”, Tanya butted in! Maya abruptly pointed towards Tanya’s sandal. When Tanya looked down, she saw the delicate strap of her sandal was caught in the midst of her toes and she was flummoxed to see a Jeevan Saathi.com advertisement pamphlet stuck to her heels!! Tanya was left wide-eyed and open-mouthed as she understood the entire situation. She was at a loss of words! She immediately shook off the sandal and signaled Maya to leave the room , thus calming herself from another outburst! “But didi what did you mean by envelope? And I never touch your things while cleaning. I..” Tanya didn’t let her complete and politely asked her to leave. Maya turned to leave to leave but Tanya threatened her “don’t you dare tell mom and dad about anything that happened today!” After Maya left, Tanya wanted to laugh out loud, as the situation was so amusingly funny. But she was so exhausted she dozed off.

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

Next day morning when Tanya entered college, she saw Priya and her group were giving her nasty looks. She tried her best not to focus and was frantically searching for Aditi. Finally she met Aditi and they headed for the girls common room. Since the room was full they sat in the corridor and Aditi said, “I overheard Rishi, he was talking about some weapon.” “What did you exactly hear? What weapon?” asked Tanya.  “Whoa! Now this will be a great weapon against Tanya. Tanya you are finished!!”, this is what I heard said Aditi, a sense of urgency in her tone. “What are you saying?” shrieked a scared Tanya. “I also saw bits of that envelope and letter in his hand”, said Aditi. Tanya stood up shell-shocked!! She knew Priya, Rishi and their group envied her as she was one of the best scholars. Tanya knew how revengeful they were.  Exam was round the corner and what if they play foul. She felt the ground slip beneath her feet.  Disturbing thoughts nestled her mind, because everyone knows the scar of college rivalry. “What if they tell my parents? What if they team up with that paan-stained-teeth man and harass me?”

COMING OF AGE – V

You did what??” shrieked Aditi. “Are you out of your mind, girl?” Aditi’s eyes were full of incredulous anger. She couldn’t fathom how her best friend who shared everything with her could go out on a blind date all alone that too 30 kilometres away from the city.  “Why didn’t you tell me? I could have come with you. Dumbo don’t you read the newspapers.. molestation, rape cases are like a dime a dozen these days in Delhi. Just the other day there was an eve teasing case in our colony. And you took the car. You don’t even know how to drive properly. What were you thinking girl……

Tanya closed her eyes. She could feel the beginning of a headache. Aditi was talking nonstop. Aditi was the closest she had to a best friend. She had this habit of speaking very fast and nonstop without waiting for an answer when she was angry or excited. And today Aditi seemed very upset.

Well I have given her a big enough reason to get upset” she thought.

Tanya closed her eyes and yesterday’s whole episode flashed in front of her eyes. Just the thought of Sameer made her feel physically ill. How her world of dreams had come crashing down around her.

Here I was thinking I would meet my prince charming or knight in shining armour and look voila whom did I meet the weird Sameer“.

Why oh God why did this happen to me only. Look at all the other girls having such classy boyfriends. And look at my luck, who fell for me? The peon of the college with paan-stained teeth… Eeek…

Are you even listening to me?” asked Aditi.

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

This was the second time since yesterday that someone has asked me this question. This whole blind date episode is making me go mad“, thought Tanya.

I said sorry na baba, please stop scolding me you sound exactly like my mother. I know what I did was foolish. But what am I supposed to do with this now?“, Tanya showed her the letter.

Earlier this morning she had come to college very reluctantly. She had no intention to come face to face with Sameer again in her life. From the moment she got down from her father’s car in the parking lot she had this weird feeling that someone was watching her. As though Sameer was lurking around the corner keeping an eye on her. She thought that he must have spied on her every day since she started exchanging the letters with him probably even before that!

The thought sent shivers down her spine.

I will have to be extra careful.” She ensured she was always in a group of friends or classmates lest he sees her alone and tries to talk to her.

She could hardly concentrate on her classes. All the time there was a debate on in her mind. On one hand she thought bravely that the way she had slapped him and shown him that she was not interested in him, he won’t dare to contact her again.

On the other hand all sort of bad thoughts crossed her mind. What if plans to take revenge. Like all the villains in the Bollywood movies do.

God what do I do now!

Anyways by the time the day was coming to an end she had slowly regained her confidence. There was no sign of Sameer anywhere. Maybe she was making too much out of a small episode.

But after the last class when she looked around, all false bravado left her when she saw the dreaded white envelope on the last bench.  Before anyone could see it she picked it up and ran from the class.

She really needed to talk to someone now. This was getting too much to handle. That’s when she called Aditi and poured out yesterday’s events to her.

Even though Aditi was a good friend she had not told her about the white envelopes earlier. Like a fool she thought that talking about it would jinx it.

Coming back to the present, Aditi and Tanya were both looking at the letter.

Tear it, burn it.. Don’t read it” said Aditi.

Yes that’s what I will do.”  She tore it into small bits and threw it into the bin.  Image of the paan-stained smile of Sameer flashed through her mind. She shuddered and prayed that this was the last letter from him.

But this was not to be.

Every day without fail a white envelope would turn up on the last bench. And every day she and Aditi would tear it up unopened and throw it in the bin.

Will this ever end? Tanya thought. Maybe it’s high time she should do something about it.

CONSISTENT TO TRANSFORM

Quote of the day

Our consistency in everything that we do can transform our performances from a state of mediocrity to excellence.

COMING OF AGE – IV

“Sameer…..” Tanya gulped, “I mean Sam” She gave a forced smile and tried to relax her shoulders to sound more casual “How do you know me?” She saw offence crept into his eyes and she quickly rephrased her question “I mean before the letters, how do you know me?” Tanya asked him, trying to know more about the man sitting across her, eating a burger and french fries that he washed down with a Coke can while Tanya munched on the chips served along with a Club Sandwich. Her appetite was gone the moment her eyes fell on Sameer and with it was gone all the build-up she had made in her imagination, dreaming of a suave, handsome man in sophisticated attire who would pull the chair for her like a true gentleman while he talked about her, letting her feel special. But the odds were not in her favour today as she found herself sitting across a man who was hardly a gentleman and couldn’t stop talking about himself.

He looked up at Tanya and smiled, somehow his smile seemed fishy to Tanya. “I think you have not recognised me. I am the peon of your college. I used to broom your class and exchanged the letters that time.” He told with a wide toothy grin which seemed like devil exposing his fangs to Tanya. She shook from head to toe. What has she gotten herself into? The pasted smile fell from her face and was replaced by befuddled bewilderment. Sweat beads broke on her forehead as the food turned ashen in her mouth.

“Th…The…..The letters” She stammered “you were writing them?” She asked in a hiccup.

He gave her a wink that was supposed to be charming but seemed obscene. “Yes, I know you are surprised. But I went to school, and I hear you people talking all day, so I picked up a lot. I am a fast learner” He said running his tongue over his stained teeth and cleaned one tooth with a long stained nail. She could have puked, but she wanted to keep a handle on the situation as long as she could.

“I am done.” She told leaving the half-eaten sandwich.

“So soon?” he asked while he was finishing up on last of his fries.

“Yeah….I…I think I should make a move now” She said looking at her phone for the time.

“But we haven’t even done anything,” he said with a crestfallen look.

Tanya’s back stiffened at those words, and her hand closed once again on the pepper spray in her pocket. “W……wh….what do you mean?” She asked looking around and finding solace in the crowded restaurant.

“Won’t you like to do something…..with me.” He said massaging the back of his neck and looking at the bill the waiter delivered to their table.

This freaked our Tanya big time, and she stood up hanging her handbag on her shoulder. “I have my mother waiting for me; I promised her to be back soon.” She said in an almost dismissive tone.

“Oh!!! I was hoping we would explore the activities here. You see the entry ticket alone is 1200, and I was hoping to make the best of it.” he told with his thumbs hooked into his pocket as he too stood up.

Tanya understood she couldn’t get away that easily and nodded as she picked up the bill and placed some crisp notes on the bill along with a good tip even before he could extend his hand to pick up the bill. She did not want him to spend one more penny. She wanted no obligations on her head from this man.

She took a deep breath thinking hard and decided maybe she can give him one more chance and see if the first impression had been wrong. She shook her head which made her hair fall out of her eyes and gave a small smile to Sameer “Ohk, what do you wanna do ?” She asked genially. He smiled and led the way. Tanya was wondering was he that bad or was she judging him too much based on prejudices? He said he wrote that letters and she had agreed on this blind date, so he fair and square earned it, but was he safe or was she reading too much into his simple words. Tanya walked by his side and wondered for the umpteenth time about the letters that were written with such finesse and choice of words that it was hard to believe that the man walking beside her was the proprietor.

They saw a puppet show, and Tanya saw him laughing like a hysteric over simple antics, his sense of humour was low. She didn’t enjoy the show one bit, and he noticed that Tanya could sense he was getting desperate with his failing attempts at winning over Tanya. She then went to the pottery wheel and sat down to make something out of wet clay. She had always wanted to try it. He too sat down on another apparatus. Tanya struggled a lot while trying to give shape to a small cup she was trying to make, but she liked the feel of clay in her hands, it was soothing her nerves. She looked at Sameer who had adeptly made a small pot and was placed over the kiln to get baked. He came and sat next to Tanya and smiled at her, Tanya returned it as her cup was not taking shape after all her efforts, and suddenly he placed his hands on Tanya’s hands.

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

“Let me help you,” he said and moved his clay hands over Tanya’s. Tanya felt uncomfortable as her hands trembled, but she didn’t pull them back. His grip was tightening on her hands, and Tanya tried to get her hands out, he let go and smeared some clay on Tanya’s cheek playfully. That did it. He was what she had thought earlier, a lecher, she slapped him hard across the cheek and while he was taken aback by the slap as he fell on his butt, Tanya took out her pepper spray and pressed the nozzle, dousing his eyes. He screamed and covered his eyes with forearms while Tanya ran from the place with her heart in her throat.

She went straight to her car and got in, driving back to home at once while she cried all the way from Faridabad to South Delhi. She cursed herself for getting in this tricky situation. ‘What if….what if…..’ the thought of the ramifications of her stupid blind date and secret admirer fantasy had her shivering. She promised herself she will never again make this mistake and will never trust on things so foolishly. All the way back home her eyes were in the rearview mirror to check if any white car was following her, luckily none was.

Upon reaching home she ran to her room, locked herself in and fell in her bed. Her mother came up to call her for dinner, but she told she was not hungry and wants to study. All night she cried and dozed off in the wee morning hours.

(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

She got up late and got ready for the college in a hurry and asked her father to drop her there. She feared to go alone. Her dad left her at the gates with a kiss and left. She made way to her class and sat on the bench, looking here and there with downcast eyes to check if Sameer was around, he was not.

When her class was over, she turned to look at the last bench and to her horror, there it was. A white envelope!!!