It was the best day of her life in these 18 years. A cool breeze was blowing through her hair and lifted up her shadows of expectation of the man she loved. She felt like she was floating in the heavens with not a care in the world.
Rosemary studied at Queens’ College, where she was studying under Sports Quota. She was the state recognized athlete and she had got into her dream college. She was through heart and soul into English Literature and sports was her passion. Not just that she was good at sports, but she was also the class topper in her chosen stream of study. She was staying at the Girls’ Hostel since there was rigorous practice before and after college hours daily hence it was compulsory for the Sports trainees to stay at hostel.
It was at Queens’ that she met the man of her dreams. Though an all- rounder in everything, with not a thing to find fault with her; Rosemary had however a complex; she was dark skinned. Beauty was not gifted to our heroine. She would look with wondrous eyes at the fair- skinned femmes and fantasize about her Prince Charming just like all girls of her age. Her Mum would say its just a temporary infatuation which all girls have and its perfectly normal and not be taken any seriously.
“The time shall 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 somehow Rosemary kept on eagerly waiting and searching for her Prince Charming. There were so many things she wished to share with “the One”.
On the first day of her sports’ coaching at Queens she met the Man of her dreams. It was love at first sight. Her coach. Sigh! What an amazing personality he was. That voice, that commanding style, that confidence, that assuring gesture, that amazing body shape, everything was just so perfect that she fell head over heels for him.
Mr Krishna was no less charmed or attracted by the nimble, graceful, jolly young newcomer. She was quick and eager to get accustomed to all the practices and the long work outs before and after college hours. He encouraged her to excel in all sports training that the College offered- be it kabbadi, badminton, 100 m/200 m sprint, hockey, football, table tennis, gymnastics and kho- kho. He pampered her with his comments showcasing her as a gem not found in millions. These little signs made Rosemary blush to the roots of her hair. Sometimes, her heart used to skip a beat seeing him smiling across his warm, handsome face like ray of new hope, new life...
At times Rosemary used to think about the difference of religion where she being a Christian and he being a Hindu would pose difficulties in the societal relations if she were to tie the knot to him. She knew her parents were against this sort of inter- caste marriage but somehow her inner voice told her that they would accept it at the end if God were willing. After all, all marriages are made in heaven.
Everything was crystal clear. Her affection towards Mr Krishna increased day by day; however, she was uncertain how to express it to the man himself.
One day, the principal announced that it was Inter District College Sports Competition and the first event was 100 m sprint which was to be held at some college which was around 25 kms away. The coach during the daily sports practice round up announced that he, Rosemary and another girl who was her back up also go to the venue at least 1 day before the event, preferably by evening, as the Competition would be held by morning 10 or so.
Rosemary called up and informed her parents about the event. Initially, they had their fears but since Rosemary had already gone to other far- off places earlier in connection with her sports competitions so they heavy- heartedly agreed to her participation in the event.
The event was scheduled to be held day after tomorrow. It was at short notice that the event was scheduled. Rosemary and her substitute, Nisha had rigorous practice for the next 2 days even during free periods and lunch breaks. Both days, she returned back tired to the hostel but always with a beaming countenance. The second day’s evening 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! Maybe this might be the right chance to express her feelings for him. Maybe he may not agree, but chances were that he also liked her so she couldn’t hold back her laughter at the look of his face. Nisha would be there, but she would nip in there at some break and break the news to him. She was ready to wait for 3-4 years till she finished her studies and secured a job. All that was left was telling him how she felt.
The D day finally arrived. Rosemary woke up feeling very energetic and fresh. She told her short prayer to the Almighty seeking his blessings in the game as well as the task at hand. She freshened up and rushed to the ground for early morning practice.
A gentle breeze was blowing and her hair floated across her face. The grass heads were nodding their heads to and fro in the breeze and Rosemary was in tune with Mother Nature. Nisha had not yet turned up. Probably in the mess hall. Coach Krishna came sprinting along. He gave her a beaming smile. Now was her chance. Neither Nisha nor anybody else was there. There were students of some other college practicing in the grounds in the distance but none within ear shot distance.
‘Ok Rosemary, where is Nisha?’ queried Coach Krishna. Rosemary opened her mouth but was interrupted by someone calling in the distance, ‘OK, ALL CONTESTANTS LINE UP HERE, and HURRY!’
So there was no more time left. So everyone went 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 her golden opportunity was missed out by seconds. Anyhow, she kept her fingers crossed.
Queens’ sports players and Coach were given a place in the stadium back stage where they could keep items that they urgently needed during the game. Rosemary’s game was due to start in about an hour. Something similar to butterflies played in her stomach but Rosemary prayed to God for solace.
At that moment, Coach Krishna was called backstage urgently by the Host College’s office boys. He left in a hurry. Krishna’s phone rang. He had left it behind and gone. Rosemary and Nisha stared. It rang again and again and it seemed irritating.
‘Who is it calling Rosemary?’ asked Nisha ‘I know we are not supposed to pick up but I think its urgent. Just pick up the call and tell them Coach is in an event and will call in an hour.’
‘Well I better not’, murmured Rosemary fighting down her pangs of nervousness. But the phone continued to ring. Rosemary seized it on with desperation.
‘Hello?’ queried Rosemary. ‘Hello Papa! Where is Papa? Why are you not picking my phone? When will you come home Papa’, asked a tearful childish voice.
Rosemary stood rooted, stunned, at a loss of words. She felt like blood had completely drained out from her body as though she had no life in them.
‘Hello, hello, where is Papa?’ the childish voice at the speaker started crying. Rosemary murmured a few words of the child’s father calling later on and kept the phone.
She felt dazed but immediately recovered to not show much expression to Nisha. She didn’t want anybody else to know her little secret. But how was that she didn’t know Krishna was married? Why didn’t anyone at school or any of the teachers ever mention about it? A thousand questions flooded her brain.
Her mental turbulence was broken apart by Coach Krishna’s voice urging her to come to the stadium grounds and take her place along with the other contestants. She ran mechanically along 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 at all in the game. It was filled with how she had been double crossed and hurt beyond words.
It was a field day for Queens’ as the College had not won any medal in sports for 2-3 years. Rosemary was an instant star and many were already calling in the mobile congratulating her. But her mind was not were her body was. It was miles away. Coach Krishna’s congrats and smile seemed to come from far away in painful pauses. Like a badly played tape recorder nearing the end of its life. She didn’t even remember the ride back only that she found herself back in Queens’ Hostel.
Back at College, Rosemary found her voice back. She queried her favorites teacher Ms Rita about Krishna and his character. In the normal course of conversation, she casually asked if she knew he was married. Ms Rita was shocked and said ‘No Krishna has been working for 2 years now. As far as we all know, he’s not yet married.’
Rosemary shared her experiences to which Ms Rita listened open- mouthed.
‘That’s really so wrong’, interrupted Ms Rita, ‘He being married and not sharing it with any one at College leave alone the Principal. I know you are a very sincere and honest girl Rosemary. Anyway, we will ask the Principal, Mr George to confront Krishna about it.’
That evening Rosemary and Krishna were called to the Principal’s cabin. Mr George was in a very good mood as Rosemary had won the College a medal. He appreciated her talent and assured to support her in every way. He next turned to Krishna. Krishna sensed something amiss.
Mr George came directly to the point. ‘Tell me Krishna’, he said looking at the Coach’s eyes in a steady gaze. ‘Is it true you are married?’
Krishna turned his head slowly from Mr George to Rosemary and 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 breaking point. ‘And to think I found myself falling in love with this man. I am such a stupid girl to fall in his trap.’
Mr George turned his head slowly from Krishna to Rosemary and back again. ‘Has there been something else that I am not aware off, Rosemary? Speak up; I shall keep it strictly between us.’
Henceforth, Rosemary though unwilling to rewind the painful twist of events started her narration.
‘But Rosemary, I had never....,’ started Krishna but broke off at the stern glance from Rosemary.
Towards the end of her narration of the small incident, Mr George said, ‘Well, I would say it’s more of a teenage crush, but you, Krishna you are a grown- up married man, having a child yourself, why did you hide from us about your family?’
Krishna felt crushed and unable to face the Principal. His dignity was at stake. Finally, he blabbered out, ‘It was against my wishes. My parents got me married to a girl of their choice just after my degree. So I kept it secret since I had more ambitions in my life to be as a national- level coach or even a player if possible and thought that as a single person I posed much better chances than as a married man. I was always willing to travel to any place- national or international, undertake any amount of training; but as a married man I didn’t want to showcase that I was tied down. As to Rosemary’s feelings, I have nothing to say. I haven’t approached her any way.’
‘Stop this double- faced-ness, you cheat!’ shouted Mr George. ‘You are a teacher at Queens and we won’t tolerate any sort of such baseless schemes of yours. What sort of example are you giving to these kids? You shall not work in Queens from today onwards and you know we can even take up to the Sports Council for fabrication and giving misinformation about yourself that would tarnish your entire career, leave alone you finding 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 something distractedly. 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 in the phone, ‘I have some serious thing to discuss with you’. Without waiting for a reply, he continued, ‘Your son whom we had taken on your trust has given due disregard to the decorum of the college. He has kept hidden a vital detail of his regarding his marital status and has also created a scandal with a student of this college. What do you have to tell about this?’
After hearing at the other end, Mr George responded, ‘Ok we can discuss about this tomorrow. Bye’ and kept the receiver.
‘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 confusion, 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 would like to 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’, said Mr George, though not harsh this time. ‘My dear Rosemary, you are a very gifted child. Why should you waste away for any other random male? 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 these seriously. Concentrate on your studies and your extra- curricular and you will reach new heights and make your parents proud.’ Mr George gave a friendly beam and Rosemary went outside the Principal’s Office with mixed emotions.
Rosemary was called to the Principal’s Office after college hours. She entered with a ‘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 advice but difficult to put into practice. Think that God is looking after you very dearly and wants to bring every sheep of His in his fold. Just imagine, he saved you and showed you the true colors of a person whom you thought you were in love but it was just an imaginary impression that you were forming.
‘I talked to the 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 basis on 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 family. However, that didn’t deter Krishna so he has masked about his marital status. Mr Gupta said he himself was not aware that his son had not revealed his marital status. Anyway, he has assured that there won’t be any further issues from his son’s side so it is on his assurance that I have decided not to take any further actions.
‘Rosemary, I suggest that you get involved in the Youth Movement of our College. It will give you further insights to this life.’
Six months later, at a Youth Movement Camp, Rosemary suddenly found light, thankful 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 that else would have been. With that, she took a pledge to spearhead more such movements, actively participating and involving youth across the country. God had finally shown her the predestined path for her. You will find our cheerful heroine one among the thousands of angels doing the Work of God.