I was greeted with a grand welcome party. After that, I did not have much to do. Except, sit under the umbrella and engage with people twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the evening. They come to me with their little problems and issues. I give them a patient hearing. But they reward me well too. My assignment is only for a few days. Then I go back home and return next year. But when I am here, I enjoy this. The adoration and adulation people shower on me.
But once the last of them is gone, I am left all alone. Me under my umbrella. That’s the time of the day I am bored. I while away my time looking at the folk all around, going about their businesses.
That’s why I begin noticing the boy at the gate and the girl by the window.
The first day, the boy had whizzed past the house, some 15 times. I noticed that his eyes traveled to the window every time he crossed the gate. So, I too kept my eyes peeled to the window. But there was no one there.
The next day a girl’s face appeared at the window. She was so beautiful- with her dark luminous eyes and her shining long hair. She looked at me and gave me a deferential smile.
Just then the boy rode up the street and was rewarded by her presence. He slowed down and stopped the bicycle at her gate. He got off it and squatted next to it and pretended that there was something wrong with the wheel and he was fixing it. All the time, his eyes were focused on the window.
The girl at the window gave him a coquettish smile and hid behind the curtain. But in less than a minute she peeped out from behind it and gazed at him fondly.
Young love is so beautiful.
I am a confirmed bachelor. I have no hopes of changing my status, ever! My odd kind of looks and my pot belly doesn’t help, either. But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying love stories or appreciating the one that is panning out, right in front of me.
The girl came with her parents to meet me. Close-up, she looked even more beautiful. She was dressed in traditional clothes and had a small red bindi on her forehead. Her long hair was let loose and danced in the wind. The simple jewelry she wore sparkled in the sun.
The parents told me about the girl. About how she was planning on becoming a doctor. The dad spoke about how committed she had been since childhood to work for the poor. The mom told me about how hard she worked and how well she had been scoring in her exams. My respect for the girl went up a notch.
I looked at the girl. She was not listening to them. Her eyes kept flickering towards the gate and searching the street corner. Suddenly her eyes lit up and I saw that the boy was cycling along. He did not stop. He nodded at her imperceptibly and went on. Her parents did not notice.
The family went back home, fully assured of my favors.
The next few days went by with the boy’s cycle ostensibly breaking down more often, just outside the gate. The poor guy had to spend a lot of time, hunched over the wheels. But it did not look as if he minded, going by the happy smile plastered on his face.
It was a couple of days later that they managed to meet. There was a huge tree offering a secluded space, hidden well from the street and prying eyes of the public. But the young couple hiding there and talking did not realize that my eyes and ears, especially ears could reach them easily. The boy was handsome too. Hair falling on his forehead, an impish smile giving him a playful look. My ears picked up the conversation easily.
“Hey… I still haven’t heard your voice. Why don’t you say something?”
She replied with a naughty glint in her eyes, “I know this is not exactly what you want to hear! But, I have to go back. My mom will be looking out for me.”
“Then let’s meet at the park tomorrow? Let’s bunk college.”
The girl looked shocked “Of course I can’t. I have never done that. I have important classes and exams are just around the corner.”
He looked crestfallen. “Hey, you can’t do this to me. Then how are we going to talk? We haven’t even said “I love you” to each other. Have some pity on me. Do you know how many times I have cycled on this road just to catch sight of you? My knees are paining from all that kneeling, pretending to fix the tire.”
“Oh, you mean to say the cycle doesn’t really need fixing? And here I was feeling sorry for you and thinking of gifting you a new one.”
Both of them laughed together. Suddenly the girl clutched at the guy’s hand, trying to shield herself under the tree, and whispered “That’s my nosy neighbor. If she sees me talking to you, the whole street will know about it by tomorrow. I have to go. Bye.”
He held her hands desperately and asked, “What about tomorrow? Please, please say ‘yes.”
The girl looked into his eyes and lost all her resolve. “Ok. I will somehow make it.” She hurried away.
Now I am conflicted. While young love is a great thing, so is becoming a doctor and taking care of the sick. I know well how this love story will pan out. The kids are hardly 17. They will experience the bliss of love with each other, surely. But they have a long way to go before they are ready for a more fulfilling relationship. So the love will fall apart after a while. But pulled by the ecstasy of their new love they will give up on their studies and lose sight of their goals.
After mulling over it, I sadly know what I should do to break their love.
Even though I don’t have too many powers myself, I do have some influence. My dad is pretty high up on the echelons of the bureaucracy. I will make sure the girl’s dad gets a transfer and they move away to a new city in a month. They will have some more time to enjoy their infatuation before they are torn away, at the same time ensuring that they get to fulfill a better destiny.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all for love. For the record, I have once helped my brother win over his lady love. But I genuinely don’t want calf-love damaging their bright futures.
My term here is finished. Today is my last day. My farewell party is even grander than my welcome party.
After adoring and pampering me for 10 long days, they are finally going to jettison me. I look forlornly at my companion: my umbrella. The bright green and red-colored parapluie, glittering with golden spangles and silver tassels will be with me till I sink completely. They are going to sing Ganpathi Bappa Morya and take me all around the city in a huge cavalcade and immerse me into the sea using a huge crane. Ganesh Chaturthi has just concluded.
The evening sun is sinking into the ocean. The crane has hoisted me up. With invocation from my friends, for me to leave now, but to hurry up and visit them next year, the crane is set to lower me down. As I dangle high up in the air, I can see that the girl and the boy have used the excuse of the celebrations to meet up.
I watch the girl tearfully tell the boy about her dad’s transfer. I see the dismay in his face. I see their hands reaching for each other’s and holding tight with desperate love.
Gods are much maligned by lovers. But we have our own set of rules and our decisions. Some of them are taken with long-term views that may hurt people in short term. But believe me, they do break our hearts.
I am cast down amidst the sounds of music and the sprinkling of flowers. I am up to my chest in the water. I deliberately maneuver myself to watch the girl and the boy. As I sink deeper I see that they are sitting on a rock and watching the immersion. The boy’s hands are around her shoulder and she leans on his. The reddish glow from the setting sun reflects on their sad faces. As the water closes over my eyes, I tear up at what I have had to do.
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