Coward11 mins 648 11 mins 648
As usual, he drove the cycle through the gate by banging it and parking it inside the compound. As he was about to go inside the house, he was startled to hear the clapping sound coming from behind and looked back to see a beautiful smiling face of a girl; still clapping, standing on the other side of the compound in the neighbor’s house.
Startled, he tried to turn away when she spoke. “So, is this how you give entry, like a film hero, every day?” He turned towards and faced her for the first time, but couldn’t utter a word; He simply stood there staring at the twinkling eyes and sparkling teeth.
“Oh, are you deaf? Can’t speak?” said the girl with a mischievous smile on her radiant face. Somehow, he mustered enough courage to say, “I can speak. I was just taken aback from your abrupt talk, that’s all. Where did you come from, by the way?” She looked at him with a mischievous smile on her face said, “Why? You want to make friendship with me?” Again, taken aback with her direct talk, he mumbled something and went inside the house even as the laughter of the girl reverberated.
That’s how his friendship with Poorvi - he learnt her name later - started. She was like a breath of fresh air in an otherwise drab life wherein, he simply went to work in a private company and came back home in the evening only to leave again to meet his friends until nightfall.
He woke up very early next day and waited near the compound to get a glimpse of the girl. He could not see her till late evening again. This time too, as he banged his cycle through the gate, the girl was standing there promptly with a radiant smile on her face. “You smile a lot.” Said he as he parked the cycle and turned towards her before continuing, “is that why your name is Poorvi or does it mean anything else?”
“You don’t smile at all!” Pouted Poorvi. “Oh? you found out my name is it? But tell you what, you are too late!” Smilingly, said Poorvi.
He looked at her and said, “This is the first time I took trouble in finding the name of a girl. I have never ever spoken to any girl even in my college.”
Poorvi frowned. “What kind of a boy are you? All the boys whom I have met were dying to find my name first. You see, that is where the friendship starts.”
“I don’t know about others. You are the first girl with whom I am talking.” Said the boy.
The daily meeting became the highlight of the boy’s life and he longed for the evening. Somehow, Poorvi was not seen in the morning hours at all and he was desperate to have a long and private talk with her.
When the boy was forced to go to the temple by his mother – as soon as he came home in the evening – he fought with her in vain. But he smiled broadly when he saw Poorvi standing near the gate of the temple and thanked his mother!
“So, what you going to ask the God?” chided Poorvi. The boy looked at the smiling Poorvi and said, “You”.
When the boy, mustering courage asked to for a movie, Poorvi looked at him and with a broad grin said. “Not bad. Not bad at all. You are a fast learner; you have mustered courage enough to ask a girl for a movie! I am impressed. But there is a problem. I don’t think I can come along with you but will join you in the theatre.”
“Will you definitely come? I will wait outside the theatre for you. We will go inside together. Ok?” The boy looked at Poorvi doubtfully. Poorvi smiled at the boy, took the ticket and went inside the house leaving the boy staring at the closed door.
No sign of the girl; the boy looked at his wristwatch, sighed and went inside. The theatre was dark; he managed to find his seat and sat down. Next to him, another man was sitting. The boy stood up in shock and whispered. ‘Sir, how did you get this ticket?” “Poorvi gave it to me.” Said the man a bit too loudly startling the others sitting nearby; the boy was shocked; the voice belonged to Chandru, his next-door neighbour, and cousin of Poorvi.
The boy got up and went out of the theatre fuming.
Poorvi was standing near the compound when the boy got down from the cycle, still fuming with rage and turned his face away when Poorvi called him. Still not showing his face, he asked roughly, “why didn’t you come? Why promise and then break it?”
“First show me your face; my God! How red your cheeks have become! Hey, common, please listen to me before you come to any wrong conclusion.” said Poorvi.
The boy slowly turned and watched Poorvi who had that mischievous smile on her face. “Promise. I wanted to come but what do? Chandru wanted to take me to the same movie. I convinced him to go alone by parting with my ticket. Sorry…please don’t get angry?”
The boy was in no mood to listen to excuses; he kicked the bike and even as it fell down with a thud, he went inside and slammed the door.
Next day, as he entered the compound in his usual way on the cycle, Poorvi was not to be seen. He felt bad. Maybe I overreacted, he thought. I must apologise at the first instance; he decided.
When the boy went inside he was shell shocked. Poorvi was sitting and chatting with her usual charming smile with his mother.
Poorvi looked at the boy and winked. The boy felt relieved. Later, surprisingly, even at night 10, the boy could see Poorvi waiting to talk to him near the compound. “You know something? I love when it rains. Tomorrow evening, I will be going near the pond close to the temple. Will you come and meet me there? “
She was indeed waiting for the boy near the pond even though it was drizzling lightly. The boy parked his cycle under the shade of the tree and walked briskly towards Poorvi. She handed a pebble to him and showed him how to throw the pebble on the water to make three to four jumps. The boy and Poorvi spent almost an hour playing; the boy couldn’t take his eyes of Poorvi’s smiling face.
On the way back, Poorvi refused to sit on the cycle; instead, they both walked; the boy towing the cycle along.
Suddenly, Poorvi stopped, looked at the boy directly and spoke. “My marriage is fixed. Even before coming to Bangalore, I got engaged to a relative of mine and probably, in two or three months marriage will take place.”
The cycle fell with a crash even as boy stood there without speaking. Poorvi held the boy’s hands in her hands and squeezed gently and spoke with a soft voice. “I know you like me. I like you too. Will you be my friend always?”
The boy with a tear-filled eye looked at the smiling face of Poorvi, gently took his hands away, pulled up his cycle and rode as fast as he could towards his home.
“But why all of a sudden? When did you speak to your uncle in Delhi?” The boy’s mother spoke with a perplexed expression when the boy informed her that he wants to go to Delhi to find a better job and stay with his uncle in Delhi.
The boy lay on his bed staring at the ceiling. He had never ever spoken to a girl, leave alone, liking and falling in love. He cried silently and decided that he wouldn’t want to meet Poorvi before leaving to Delhi.
He was in for a shock when he opened his eyes in the morning! A smiling Poorvi was standing near his bed along with his mother.
“So, you are going to Delhi? Wow…. How nice it will be in winter! I love cold weather. Do one thing; once you go there, take a big house on rent, I will come during December and stay with you. Will you take me around?”
The boy, perplexed at the ease with which Poorvi spoke kept quiet, not knowing what to say. Finally, he got up and looked at Poorvi and said, “I am going near the pond. Will you come?”
The boy stood facing Poorvi, held her hands gently and asked. “Can’t you change your mind? Have you really made up your mind to marry your relative? Can you give me one chance? Please, I beg you? I love you so much, I can’t live without you.”
Poorvi pressed the boy’s hand’s gently and spoke looking directly to the boy’s eyes.” I know you love me. But the marriage will take place whether I like it or want it. It is an understanding between two families and I am bound to honour my parent’s promise.”
The boy took his hands and turned his face.
“Can you kiss me once?” Poorvi spoke and the boy turned with a shock.
Poorvi smiled and said, “I mean it. I know you have never kissed a girl. So, go ahead, kiss me. I will savour it for the rest of my life. I too haven’t kissed anyone.” Poor closed her eyes and slightly parted her lips.
The boy boarded the Delhi train and looked for his berth. Once he put his luggage away, he prepared his bed. It was a side berth and he looked at the trees running away from him through the window and cried.
The troubled mind of the young boy imagined death of Poorvi’s husband immediately after marriage. He dreamt of Poorvi running towards him. He hugged Poorvi and took her hands and was walking near the pond throwing stones.
The boy was woken up by the TTE who asked for his ticket. Boy showed his ticket and sat down, sleep eluding him. He cursed himself. Making Poorvi a widow even in his dreams, the boy decided was bad.
Three years is a long time; back in Bangalore after three years, the boy boarded a taxi from airport to home.
The boy’s mother hugged and cried. He felt nice to be home. Even as he relished eating food lovingly cooked by his mother, he asked a few questions and just listened to the mother narrating all the events that happened in town after he left for Delhi.
The boy stopped eating when he heard his mother speak about Poorvi. “Poor girl, I hope you remember her? She had come to stay with her aunt and went back and got married? Do you know what happened? Her husband died just one day after her marriage! Poor girl, she is so young. This kind of a thing shouldn’t have happened to such a nice girl.
The boy stood up in shock; even as his mother was shouting his name, ran towards the pond, sat on the same stone bench where he and Poorvi used to sit and cried.
The boy found out everything about Poorvi since he left the city. She got married to a man who was older to her by almost ten years and he died of a heart attack very next day of her marriage. The bank, where her husband was working, gave the job to Poorvi on compassionate ground.
The boy also found out that Poorvi got transferred to Bangalore, only recently.
The boy stood in front of the large head office building of the bank in the main road and contemplated his next moves. He mustered courage, went inside and asked the receptionist to see Poorvi saying that he is a friend.
The boy was sitting on the sofa when Poorvi walked.
The boy looked at Poorvi and smiled. Poorvi too smiled; but the radiant face that the boy remembered and the vibrant smile was missing. Poorvi was in a light coloured saree and looked older than her age.
After standing there and not knowing what to say and do, the boy asked. “Can you give me your address? Perhaps it is better that we speak there or alternatively, you can come to my house.”
Poorvi looked at the nervous boy, went inside and came back with a paper with her address written on it.
She just looked at the boy, forced a smile and bid goodbye saying he can come tomorrow evening to her place. The boy told his mother that before leaving the town he needs to meet his old school friends and went out in search of Poorvi’s house, next day evening.
The locality itself appeared to say few things about the economic conditions in which Poorvi lived, thought the boy; the small by lanes lead him to cluster of small houses. The boy checked the address slip and decided that he was indeed at the right house.
He was about to tap the door when he heard the cry of an infant.
The door was ajar and the boy could see a small child lying on a carpet on the ground with few toys scattered around. On the wall was a photograph of Poorvi in wedding dress along with her husband.
So, Poorvi has a child from her marriage; the boy stood without moving. This was unexpected.
The boy pondered his next move and was about to leave when Poorvi came from kitchen, took the child in her arm and looked up opened the door fully and smiled at the boy and said, “Wont you come in? How long you have been standing there?”
The boy went inside and stood feeling awkward and looked up to see Poorvi kissing the child’s face with all the love and affection. He hesitated for few seconds before asking, “is this your child?”
Poorvi looked at the boy and saw his expression; she looked at the child kissed and said, “Isn’t she lovely?” The boy felt miserable; he never expected Poorvi to have a child. He just wanted to leave.
“I am sorry Poorvi. I forgot that I have to meet a Manager from the company in Bangalore; I have come here on official duty. Can we meet some other time?”
The boy hardly waited for the reply; he put on his shoes and left even as Poorvi opened her mouth to say something. She simply stood there watching him go.
Poorvi took the child and tapped the next house door. The door was opened by a woman who smiled at Poorvi and said, “I hope my daughter didn’t bother you? You must be tired from work and travel, but still took few minutes to relieve me. Thanks.
Poorvi walked back to her house, looking in the direction where the boy went with a wry smile on her face.