Great Divide10 mins 246 10 mins 246
Youth. The stage where everything has a brighter shine, a mellower vibe, a more hopeful glimmer. Enough responsibilities and experiences to rouse the ego, and enough freedom to not care. Enough naivete for pure friendships, and enough emotions for drama!
The trees and plants seem extra fresh, as if the morning dew had dried hours ago but never left. One curving path under the leaves is a darker brown than the rest of the grove's floor. On it several soles are drawn, some old and faded, some fresh. New pairs of feet add to the collection of prints as they amble toward the college hostel. They go down the earthen stairs, around which grass and smaller flowers replace the larger foliage, and brush against the mat placed at the entrance to the ground floor of the building. The students head to their rooms after a tiring college day, but there is disturbance! From one of the rooms on the first floor, a loud and serious discussion can be heard, choiring with the other noises in the building.
"He is late again today!"
"He's like that."
"Only since he's been dating."
"Doesn't matter. We'll give him a good thrash once he gets back."
The fellow in question to be thrashed is Shrawan, who currently being in the company of his girlfriend, and by connection several butterflies, is oblivious to what is waiting for him at the hostel. His friends have had it up to their necks with his lackluster performance in the field of friendship, an inexcusable treason, which mind you, they had excused several times in the past. But sadly, Shrawan has failed, despite feigning agreement most believably, to fix the time disproportioned between his love life and his friends.
This discussion is taking place in room number 23, where three young men, Ronit, Aryan and Ambarmani of ages nineteen, nineteen, and twenty, sit on their respective beds.
"You guys know I don't engage in violence, but sometimes what must be done, must be," says Aryan as he punches the ghost of Shrawan that appears in the room.
Ronit is not to have much of it, "Save your energy. Some people are like that, they get too lovey dovey with their partner and forget their other commitments. I was also like that with my ex, but I learned my lesson fast. Some people need a bit of extra help for that. Shrawan is a bit dumb, he hasn't learned much from his last relation. We will help him understand the dangers of getting lost in love."
"Hmph! He's definitely going to understand, but he'll need more than words, otherwise he would have already fixed his habits. What do you say Ambar, you'll be useless like this guy or are we actually going to have a proper intervention?"
Ambarmani remains silent for a while. Upon looking at his face, one may even conclude that he is thinking. He finally says, "Look brothers, my policy is let a man do what he does. If he doesn't get in someone's way, that someone doesn't need to care"
"BUT, since we have come to the point where we have to discuss this matter, and since I obviously will have to support you two during the talk, I will say this much: We will thoroughly inquire Shrawan today. And the answers he gives will have to satisfy all of our concerns. Depending on what he has to say, I may let him off for the last time, OR, and this is the main plan, give him a bit of passionate fistfuls, a bit of sentimental fuck yous, a bit of you've changed... You know, not just angry hitting, a bit of emotional torture you see. That is what's bound to work."
Indeed, the oath of friendship is a great way to coax and blackmail any person (the good kind of blackmail that is, if not good, at least fun). And anyone who is completely guilt proof against its effects, is best left alone to fullfill their duties as the next incarnation of some higher or lower being. Aryan and Ronit agree that this method seems most likely to succeed, and there grows a momentary atmosphere of placid vigour in the room. The wait after however, is not filled with apprehension, or eagerness, or any heightened emotion really, except mirth which comes from discussion on other topics, and interim setting aside of Shrawan's betrayal. The unfairness of college and hostel rules, the abuse of authority bred in 'The System' , the students who expertly butter that bred, are all discussed with most skillful enactments; skillful atleast, for the situation.
This mirth too fades eventually as the friends grow tired of banter and retreat to their phones.
Study hour isn't till six P.M., and the free time they have is too precious to not spend laying about and relaxing. Few comments are passed occasionally, a single trip to the washroom is made by Ronit, a few guests are entertained, and soon the time displayed on their screens come close to five P.M., at which point the regular mechanism of grabbing cups and heading to the mess comes to take control in the room, it is tea time.
While the three friends unceremoniously exit the room, Shrawan is looking for a cab, as he intends to reach his hostel well before study, more so than usual. Shrawan wasn't a particulary athletic man but was fit and young enough (being a relatively healthy nineteen year old) to jostle against the other pedestrians looking for a ride, and finds a seat without wasting too much time or energy. He looks at his phone, it is ten past five. He should reach hostel at around five thirty if there isn't too much traffic. It was the same routine for him everyday after college, but today he seems a bit happier, eager, restless even, perhaps from spending time with his love, perhaps from not having to fight over the last free seat of more than two cars. He spends the ride thinking about the evening with his sweetheart, and about the evening that is left. He collects his many thoughts, although his friends' disappointment is not among them, and stares outside the window.
He can see the road with twists and turns that he had some hours ago travelled with his girlfriend in the opposite direction. It was definitely a hassle going to town, as both the hostel and the college were in a small locality away from it, and mostly everything a college hosteller could need, like stationery, medicine, cigarettes, and of course good food, could be found close by the college and hostel campuses. But in young love, hardly any hassle doesn't feel accomplishing being conquered, and the area itself was pleasant to travel through. Shrawan makes an early preparation of the taxi fare and holds the note in his hand. As the car exits town, the outskirts begin slowly merging into the trees that are still dutifully maintaining the beauty of the area. Little pimples of houses and shops are spaced out along the road, there are one or two more of these than when Shrawan first joined the college, but still few enough that one would not feel sorry. The spots begin to grow in number and closeness again as the vehicle reaches the small locality, and finally the college, which stands between the main road and the hostel. Shrawan impatiently hands the money to the driver and enters the old gate.
Impatience is brewing at the hostel as well as the impending time has brought the thoughts of confrontation back to the minds of the three friends. They are back to sitting in their beds, silent on their phones, till Aryan breaks the silence, "He'll be coming any moment now." And sure enough, in one of those any moments, Shrawan walks through the path below the trees, jogs down the earthen stairs, grazes the soles of his shoes against the entrance mat, and step by step, approaches his shared room. There is steady anticipation in his walk up the stairs to his floor, as is in the wait of his three roommates in room 23. A few familiar faces are greeted and Shrawan at last stands in front of his room. He knocks on the door, "I'm back. Open up."
The unlocking of the latch from the inside can be heard, upon which Shrawan carefully pushes the door open and enters, then promptly latches it again to deny would be guests their entry. The three friends are ready in wait.
"Well well well, decided to return to your guest house?" Ambarmani has made the first move!
Shrawan laughs it off. Thinking of the remark as a light jest, he says, "come on, I have to tell you guys something."
A futile attempt to change conversation. Nonetheless reinforcements may be required. Ronit provides just that, "We too have a lot to talk to you about. Actually, since we've been telling you about this for a long time now, we'll keep it brief today. Is your entire life now just spending time with your girlfriend?"
"Pshhhh. I know I've been coming late to hostel nowadays, but I'm with you guys from evening to the next morning. Anyways leave it for now, today was different..."
Alas! Shrawan still doesn't understand the gravity of the situation. Perhaps the one who can bring him on track is Aryan, "You're the one who is different, and not today but everyday," He proceeds to place his fist lightly next to Shrawan's face, as a warning, "I think you have forgotten that your friends came before your date. I am being honest, that is the most scummy behaviour."
"Listen!" Shrawan has had enough beating of the bush as well! Intending to interrupt anyone who speaks, he blurts out,
"We did it!"
His peers do understand their matter is more important, but this sudden statement does strike a bit of curiosity among them. On behalf of the lot, Ronit asks, "Did what?"
There is still a bit of hesitation and fumble in Shrawan's voice, a bit from his friends' dispositions, and a bit due to the nature of the announcement itself. Nonetheless, he gathers strength, speaks, "I went to her place. We did 'it' today. I'm not a boy anymore guys."
The words linger in the air for a while. As they fade, the air is replaced with a silence that feels like the center of a rope being tugged on both sides: still, but tense. As the realisation of what the information meant settles in, the palm that was fisted opens up, the arm that was straight slings down, the brows that were frowned curve up. A unison of "What?!" echoes from the three friends, and the word is accompanied by a flare of shock that no amount of facial zoom ins, no noise of the dropping of dishes, no distance between the two jaws of a children's cartoon, no discovery of a cheating partner and no first time introduction to pornography could do justice to.
"Her parent's weren't home today. I don't know what was up with her haha, you guys know how conservative she is. Somehow she agreed to take me back to her place today. Maybe she realised how good a boyfriend I am?"
For some, the sexual experience may not be a thing to fuss about, but for Shrawan it was vital, not even for the enjoyment of it (maybe a little for the enjoyment of it), but due to his sole lack of status as having "done it", something that his friends had already achieved, and much boasted about. But today he had joined the "men's club", and his friends now welcome him to it! Fists are landed on Shrawan as planned, but they are accompanied with hugs and pats on the back. What follows then is an account of the sexual experience of a first timer, leading to discussion and comparision of the experiences of his more veteran friends; discussion that, for the sake of the readers should remain contained within the walls of a room of close friends.
After much jovial and detailed sharing, where certain exaggerations were made, Ambarmani shifts to another important topic, "Sharing is well and good, but we need a treat Shrawan!"
No man worth his salt could ever deny a celebratory treat to his closest friends on the occasion of his first sexual encounter, "Ofcourse!" Shrawan agreed, "Let's go right now."
"But it's about to be six."
"No worries. We won't go to town. We'll go somewhere close by."
"Yeah, we can get take out as well. Let's see. Just get ready. A little late won't choke out the warden."
It no longer matters who did what and says what. It is time to celebrate!
Before fully becoming an adult, one makes many mistakes, and faces many hurdles. But when it is time for celebration, all hurts must be forgotten, all ill wills put aside, and the moment must be enjoyed to the fullest! Ronit, Aryan and Ambarmani put on their jackets. It is cold outside. Together with Shrawan, they step out, and the door to their room is locked shut behind them.