This was the best day in the 18 years of her life. A cool breeze blew through her hair. She felt like she was floating in the heaven without a care in the world.
Rosemary was pursuing her studies at St Patrick’s College under sports quota. She was a state recognized athlete and she had got into her dream college. Her heart and soul were into English Literature but sports was her passion. She was also the class topper in her chosen stream of study. According to the college rules the sports trainees were required to stay at the girl's hostel because of the rigorous practice before and after college hours every day. So Rosemary had to live in the hostel too.
It was here at St Patrick’s’ that she met the man of her dreams. Although an all- rounder, Rosemary had a complex that she was dark skinned. Beauty was not gifted to our protagonist. She would look with wondrous eyes at the fair- skinned femmes and fantasize about her Prince Charming just like the other girls of her age. Her Mum would say that it was perfectly normal for a girl to feel so and that it is a temporary infatuation that girls have and it should not be taken seriously.
“The time will come, when you'll find the best person for you,’’ her mother had said. "For now, just concentrate on your studies and getting a good job.”
But Rosemary kept on waiting eagerly and searching for her Prince Charming. There were simply too many things she wished to share with the One.
On the first day of sports’ coaching at the college, she met the man of her dreams. It was love at first sight. It was none other than her coach. Sigh! He had an amazing personality. His voice, style, confidence, physique, gesture etc everything was perfect. She fell head over heels for him.
Coach Krishna was no less charmed or attracted by the nimble, graceful, jolly young newcomer. He noticed that she was quick and eager to get accustomed to the practice sessions and the long workouts before and after college hours. He encouraged her to excel in all sports training that the college offered - be it kabaddi, badminton, 100 m/200 m sprint, hockey, football, table tennis, gymnastics and kho - kho. He pampered her with his comments saying that she was a rare gem in millions. Sometimes, after the team rehearsals, Rosemary would talk with Krishna about her aspirations in life and her dreams. Krishna would also talk about his experiences as a coach and his stint in state athlete competitions. Rosemary would talk about her problems too. And Krishna would console her. This made our little heroine accept him as a companion and the two would laugh together at childish jokes. These little things made Rosemary blush to the roots of her hair. Sometimes, her heart would skip a beat when she would see his smile spreading across his handsome face. It resembled a ray of new hope, new life...
Krishna also knew that Rosemary was falling for him. He would show his care in every way. Although he would receive snide remarks from other players and staff members about him flirting with Rosemary, he never really cared about anything other than Rosemary. He would, at weekends, take special permission from the college authorities for Rosemary in the pretext of additional practice requirement for the best player. They would sometimes go to the local restaurants or cafes and chat for hours. He would pick restaurants that were a bit far away from the college. He would also, never visit the same restaurant twice so that other people of the college don't spot him. His chivalrous nature would reflect when he would open the door for her, lift the chair, pay the bill for their lunch or breakfast etc. Rosemary would treasure these small gestures in her heart.
At times, Rosemary would think about their religious differences. She knew that her parents were against inter-caste marriage but somewhere her inner self also knew that they would accept it at the end if God was willing. After all, all marriages are made in heaven.
Everything was going great and Rosemary’s affection towards coach Krishna was increasing day by day. However, she was unsure about her ways to express it to the man himself.
One day, the principal announced the Inter District College Sports Competition had arrived. It was being held in another college which was around 25 km away. The first event was a 100m sprint. The coach during the daily sports practice round up had announced that Rosemary, himself and another student who was her substitute would reach the venue at least a day before the event, preferably by evening, as the competition was going to be held on the next day at morning 10 AM or so.
Rosemary called up and informed her parents about the event. Initially, they had their fears but since Rosemary had previously traveled to other far-off places for sports competitions, they agreed for her participation in the event.
For the next two days, Rosemary and her substitute, Nisha practiced rigorously even during free periods and lunch breaks. Both days, she returned back to the hostel tired but with a beaming countenance. On the evening of the second day, both Nisha and Rosemary packed their bags along with coach Krishna to go to the venue.
Rosemary was super- excited. A day with coach Krishna! She felt that maybe this was the right chance to express her feelings for him. She had been meaning to tell him during one of their restaurant meetings, but something always held her back. There was a chance that he may not feel the same but there was an equal chance that he liked her too. Rosemary was ready to wait for 3-4 years till she finished her studies and secured a job. All that was left was telling him about her feelings.
The D-day finally arrived. Rosemary woke up feeling very energetic and fresh. She prayed to the Almighty seeking his blessings for the game as well as the task in hand. She freshened up and rushed to the ground for early morning practice.
A gentle breeze was blowing and her hair brushed across her face. The grass swayed to and fro in harmony with the breeze and Rosemary was in tune with Mother nature. She noticed that Nisha had not yet turned up. She was probably in the mess hall. Coach Krishna came sprinting along. He gave her a beaming smile. Now was the chance, Rosemary thought. Neither Nisha nor anyone else was near them. Students from other colleges were practicing on the ground but they were spread out in far away corners.
"Ok Rosemary, where is Nisha?" queried coach Krishna. Rosemary opened her mouth but was interrupted by the voice, "Okay, all contestants line up here, and hurry!"
Everyone lined up for reporting and registering. Both Rosemary and Krishna were shortly joined by Nisha. They did a pre- game final rehearsal and framed a plausible strategy. Rosemary was slightly set back as she missed her golden opportunity to talk to Krishna. Anyhow, she kept her fingers crossed.
St Patrick’s’ sports players and coach were given a place in the stadium backstage. Rosemary’s game was due to start in about an hour. She felt butterflies in her stomach but she prayed to God for solace.
At that moment, coach Krishna was called backstage urgently by the host college’s office boy. He left in a hurry. Krishna’s phone started to ring. Rosemary and Nisha stared at it as they realized that he had left it behind in a rush. It rang again and again and it seemed irritating.
‘Who is it?" asked Nisha. "I know we are not supposed to pick up but I think its urgent. Just pick up the call and tell them that coach is in an event and he will call in an hour," she said.
"I better not," murmured Rosemary fighting down her pangs of nervousness. But the phone continued to ring. Rosemary seized it with desperation.
"Hello?" queried Rosemary. "Hello, Papa! Where is Papa? Why are you not picking up my phone? When will you come home Papa?" asked a tearful childish voice.
Rosemary stood stunned. She was at a loss for words. She felt a rush of blood draining out from her body as if there was no life left in her.
"Hello, hello, where is Papa?" the childish voice at the speaker started crying. Rosemary somehow managed to tell the child that coach will call later and she hung up.
She felt dazed but she immediately composed herself to make sure that Nisha didn't notice her expression. She didn’t want anybody else to know about her little secret. But she wondered as to how was it that she never came to know about Krishna being married. Why hadn't anyone at school ever mention about it? A thousand questions flooded her brain.
Her mental turbulence was broken by coach Krishna’s voice urging her to approach the ground and take her place along with the other players. She ran and took her destined place.
She heard the distant voice of the referee announcing the start of the game. She simply floated along the grounds, finishing third, much to her surprise, because her mind was not in the game at all. All she could think was how she had been double-crossed and hurt beyond words.
It was a field day for St Patrick’s’ as the college had not won any medal in sports in the past 2-3 years. Rosemary was an instant star and many were already calling her on her cell phone to congratulate. But her mind was not where her body was. It was miles away. Coach Krishna’s compliment and smile seemed to come far away in painful pauses. Like a badly played tape recorder nearing the end of its life. His cheerful remarks and jokes seemed to tug at every chord of her heart. She didn’t even remember the ride back to St Patrick’s’ Hostel.
Back at College, Rosemary found her voice back. She asked her favorite teacher Ms. Rita about Krishna and his character. Rosemary casually asked her whether she knew about his marriage. Ms. Rita was shocked and said, "No. Krishna has been working here for two years now. As far as we all know, he’s not married."
Rosemary shares her experiences to which Ms. Rita listens open- mouthed.
"That’s wrong," interrupted Ms. Rita, "Him being married and not informing anyone at college leave alone the principal. Also, him flirting with you like that. That is really intolerant. I had heard some rumors but I thought they were simply stories without any base. You should not have gone that far you know especially when you are just in college now. I know you are a very sincere and honest girl Rosemary. The world is not as you expect it to be. Everything doesn’t happen like in fairytales and movies. Anyway, we will ask the principal, Mr. George to confront Krishna about it."
"Ma’am, I was really wrong," said Rosemary her eyes downcast. "I really regret my actions. I got carried away. He had taken the place of a hero in my mind. I promise madam, I shall not repeat it again."
That evening Rosemary and Krishna were called to the principal’s cabin. Mr. George was having mixed emotions as Rosemary had won the college a medal, but he couldn’t tolerate affairs happening right under his nose and that too between a teacher and student of the same institution. He appreciated her talent and assured to support her in every way and but also warned her. Next, he turned to Krishna. Krishna sensed something amiss.
Mr. George came directly to the point. "Tell me, Krishna,: he said looking right into the coach’s eyes in a steady gaze. "Is it true that you are married?"
Krishna turned his head slowly from Mr. George to Rosemary. He knew he was at fault as he had tried to coax Rosemary for meeting his selfish ends. His initial plan was to get selected as the best coach for the district through Rosemary’s success as the leading player in the district and that way he would slowly rise to the state and then the national level of sports. Though his lips made way for a "No", a look at Rosemary’s face made him hear his voice saying, "Yes Sir, I have been married for the past 4 years. I have a little daughter too."
Rosemary let out a shrill cry but immediately controlled it. All her self- control had now reached a breaking point. "And to think I found myself falling in love with this man. I am such a stupid girl to fall into his trap."
Mr. George turned his head slowly from Krishna to Rosemary and back again. "Is there anything else that I am not aware off, Rosemary? Speak up; I shall keep it strictly between us."
Henceforth, Rosemary unwillingly narrates the painful twist of events.
"But Rosemary, I had never....," started Krishna but broke off at the stern glance from Rosemary.
Towards the end of her narration, Mr. George said, ‘Well, I would say it's more of a teenage crush, but you, Krishna in- spite of being a grown-up married man with a child and above all this, being a teacher of this college you were engaging in such activities? What explanation do you have for yourself?"
Krishna felt crumpled up and unable to face the principal. His dignity was at stake. Finally, he blabbered out, "My parents got married me to a girl of their choice against my wishes after my degree. So I kept it a secret since I had more ambitions in my life, to be as a national-level coach or even a player if possible. I thought that as a single man, I had better chances at it. I was always willing to travel to national or international places and undertake any amount of training. But as a married man, I didn’t want to showcase that I was tied down. As far as Rosemary’s feelings are concerned, I actually wanted to highlight myself as the best sports teacher of this college and at all levels by gaining her confidence."
"Stop this double-faced-ness, you cheat!" shouted Mr. George. "You are a teacher at St Patrick’s and we won’t tolerate such baseless schemes of yours. What sort of example are you giving to these kids? I shall not allow you to carry unwarranted activities with the students and defile the decorum of the college. You shall not work in St Patrick’s from today onwards. You know I can take this up with the Sports Council which would tarnish your entire career. It will be really difficult for you to find a job as a sports teacher in any institution to start with!’
"Let me call up your father," continued Mr. George, "He was the one who had recommended you. You are now in serious trouble, Mr. Krishna."
Krishna continued to blabber. Rosemary was shaking all over, though she tried to keep up a bold face. Meanwhile, Mr. George rang up and called Krishna’s father, Mr. Gupta, who was a former teacher of the college.
"Is this Gupta?" Mr. George spoke on the phone, "I have some serious thing to discuss with you." Without waiting for a reply, he continued, "Your son whom we had hired on your trust has given due disregard to the decorum of the college. He had not informed us about his marital status and was involved in an affair with a student of this college. What do you have to tell about this?"
After hearing the reply from the other end, Mr. George responded, "Okay we can discuss this tomorrow. Bye."
"Your father has agreed to meet up with me," said Mr. George to Krishna, "You may leave for now. We shall plan our action later on. However, this matter is to be kept strictly between us to prevent further misconsequences, is that clear?" Krishna nodded, however, he still continued to be muttering something under his breath. "Now," continued George, ‘if you could stand outside a minute, I shall have a word with this young lady here."
Krishna walked out and Mr. George gestured Rosemary to sit down. "I hope this might be a good lesson for you," he said but not in a harsh tone. "My dear Rosemary, you are a very gifted child. How did you get involved in this? I am not criticizing you; I have seen plenty of kids your age who get carried away by these emotions. But these are simply a temporary excitement; you should not take them seriously. Concentrate on your studies and your extra- curricular activities and you will reach new heights. Make your parents proud. Don’t engage yourself in such fruitless activities but redirect your energies and time for positive thoughts." Mr. George gave a friendly beam and Rosemary stepped outside the principal’s office with a confounded mind.
Rosemary was again called to the principal’s office after college hours. She entered and said, "Good evening" and sat down demurely.
"Don’t be so moody Rosemary," said the principal, "I can understand what you are going through. It's easy to advise but difficult to put into practice. Think that God is looking after you very dearly and wants to bring every sheep of His to His fold. Just imagine, he saved you and showed you the true colors of a person who you thought you were in love. But it was just an imaginary impression that you were forming.
"I talked to Krishna's father. He has assured me that his son would not repeat this again so I am not going to complain the matter to higher-ups, the Sports’ Council, etc. We shall end the matter here itself. I anyway would not be taking back such a faculty on the basis of sheer dishonesty. It seems that Krishna was married off to a girl right after college since he wasn’t very interested in studies and was more interested in going ahead in sports. They felt that he would develop more seriousness towards the responsibilities of life once he has a family. However, that didn’t deter Krishna, so he had masked his marital status. Mr. Gupta said that he himself was not aware that his son had not revealed his marital status to the college authorities. Anyway, he has assured that there won’t be any further issues from his son’s side so I have decided not to do any further actions."
"Rosemary, I suggest that you get involved in the Youth Movement of our College. It will give you further insights into this life," the principal concluded.
Six months later, at a Youth Movement Camp, Rosemary suddenly found light through the sea of never ending darkness. The weight that was weighing down like lead in her heart finally lifted off like a feather floating in the wind. She seemed one with the Universe. She thanked God for having saved her from the devastating end. With that, she took a pledge to spearhead more such movements, actively participate and involve youth across the country. God had finally shown her the predestined path for her.