I struggled to keep my eyes open while trying to understand the Angle Bisectors in an isosceles triangle theorem in my Geometry textbook. Maths had never been my cup of tea since childhood but the last two years of my school life were even more miserable, all thanks to Algebra and Geometry. I managed to score decent marks in other subjects except maths. I was staring at my textbook for a good ten minutes, but nothing could quite ring a bell. You can do it, Rakesh. Come on, you can. I kept on encouraging myself in my head.
If I had to score a good percentage and get admission in a good college, I had to do well in Maths as well. After all, my parents were working day and night to ensure that me and my younger brother Dev have a bright future. My father worked as a night watchman in one of the nearby buildings and during daytime he worked as a laundryman. He would collect clothes from all the buildings in the locality and iron them while my mother worked as a maidservant. Sometimes, me and Maa helped Baba with the laundry. Since he worked in double shifts, he hardly had anytime to sleep. Dev was just 9 years old and too young to understand our financial position.
In spite of all the hardships and struggle Maa and Baba had to face, they ensured that we get the best education in the best English medium school in our locality. Both my parents were educated only upto primary school level. But still they believed that good education is the key to success in life. I had few friends in school as most of them belonged to rich or middle class families. They were blessed with all sorts of facilities and conveniences which I could only dream of. Most of them would travel by car or school bus while me and Dev walked our way to school everyday.
In short, I envied the rich. It’s strange how God blesses some people with all the riches of the world while some have to struggle day and night to get a proper meal. I felt hurt whenever I saw my parents giving up on their needs only to fulfil our requirements. I aspired to be a mechanical engineer and improve our financial position once I started earning. And for that, it was necessary that I study well now. So I dragged myself back from my thoughts and concentrated on the stupid theorem.
I still had a month left before my SSC Board exams. After my tedious 5 hour long coaching classes, I would play cricket with my friends in the nearby playground. Maa would allow me to play for an hour and a half. It was a simple way to get rid of my exam stress and then back to square one. I was a good batsman and considered myself to be a future version of Virat Kohli i.e if I ever played for the Indian cricket team. When Aakash bowled a full toss towards me, I tried to play a hook shot for a six. As I turned to have a look at the ball before I ran between the wickets, my eyes were hypnotized by the sight of the most beautiful girl I had ever seen.
I felt like I was Adam and she was my Eve. Her large black eyes and long black hair alongwith a cute nose was just perfect. She was just perfect. I was so smitten by her that I did not even realise that my friend Raghav had taken the perfect catch to make me look like a fool in front of the most beautiful girl in the world. I could only see her face upto her shoulders in the small window on the 2nd floor flat of Spectrum Towers. She was watching us play from her bedroom window and she seemed to be enjoying the view. I tried to take a better look at her whenever I got the chance.
I noticed that she had a dimple on her right cheek. When she smiled, I couldn’t stop myself from smiling and continued looking at her like a kid who looks at his chocolate. I did not sleep the entire night as I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about her. Neither could I concentrate on my studies. The next day, after my classes were over, I went to play with a hope in my heart. That I would get another chance to look at the pretty girl in the window.
And she was right there, at the same place, where I had seen her yesterday. She must be almost my age, I thought to myself. To be honest, there were many pretty girls in school. But no girl had ever managed to mesmerize me with her beauty the way she had. She was someone who didn’t seem to be the snobbish type. God, Rakesh, you have just seen her. She seems too good to be true. She looked just like an angel in a white shirt. That’s when I got a reality check.
She stays in Spectrum Tower and you stay in Govind chawl. She must be from an educated family while you are the son of an ordinary watchman. Forget about love, the girl will never even want to be friends with you. For the first time ever, I wished I wasn’t poor. I cursed myself for being poor and economically backward. My brain kept repeating the harsh truth but my heart was in no mood to listen. I stared at her more than often, only to make her realize that I was gawking at her. I must have abused myself a 100 times in my head when she disappeared from the window after a few minutes.
The same cycle continued for five more days. After my classes, my playtime had become something I now waited eagerly for. I eagerly waited to behold the sight of the mysterious girl in the window. On the sixth day, something different happened. I saw her smiling at me. I immediately smiled back at her but felt that her eyes were looking in the opposite direction. As I turned back, I realized that it was Baba who she was smiling at. I felt like a complete idiot.
Baba looked at me with suspicion but did not say a word. Before going home, I decided to get some information from Baba. If he was smiling at her, then definitely he must know something about her.
“ Who was the girl smiling at you from her window, Baba?” I asked him sheepishly. To my surprise, he didn’t seem to mind.
“She was Tanya. Mr. and Mrs. Sachdev’s only daughter. I usually go to collect their laundry. But why are you asking about her?” My father caught me off-guard when I least expected him to. I tried to come up with the best possible excuse.
“ Oh! Actually, she watches us play everyday. It’s strange how I haven’t seen the Sachdev family before.”
“ They shifted just a few months back. Tanya is the sweetest and kindest girl I have ever met. She is a year younger than you. If you had a little sister, I’m sure she would be just like her.” Baba patted my head lovingly before going back to work. The only problem was that I didn’t want Tanya Sachdev to be my sister.
Even her name seemed to belong to the rich while I was just plain old Rakesh Yadav. I had almost given up hope of being a part of her life but something unexpected happened the next day. She smiled incessantly as soon as I turned up to look at her window. But this time, I did not smile back. I looked around everywhere to find out the reason behind that infectious smile. Well, this time, her smile was for me. I actually couldn’t believe my luck. Tanya’s eyes were beaming with joy as if they were trying to say, ‘Yes, it’s you who I am smiling for.’ I was ecstatic to the extent that I ended up dancing the rest of the day at home.
The time I spent at the playground started reducing as my exams started approaching nearer and nearer. But I didn’t mind as long as I got to see Tanya’s pretty face everyday. I used to pass along her building after my classes and Tanya would always be there at her window. Even though I had never spoken to her, I felt that she was a humble and down-to-earth girl.
Almost a week before my exams, Baba fell sick due to high fever and cold. He could not report to work at night and neither could he go to collect the laundry. Maa asked me to collect the laundry on his behalf as she had to take care of the housework and Baba. On normal days, I would have created a ruckus. But life had changed its course in the last few days. I collected the laundry from all the buildings and went to Spectrum Towers, at last, to meet the girl of my dreams. I was excited and nervous, both at the same time as I rung the doorbell of Flat No.203, which belonged to the Sachdev family.
Tanya’s mother opened the door and looked at me with doubt. She looked exactly like Tanya and I couldn’t control my smile.
“Namaste Aunty. I am Nathuram ji’s son. Baba is unwell today. So I am here to collect your laundry.” I must have said the same sentence at every home I went and it was now at the tip of my tongue.
“ Oh! I’ve never seen you before, Beta. Please come in while I get all the clothes.”
She went inside while I waited patiently at their door. I had a look everywhere but Tanya was nowhere to be seen. Well, maybe she isn’t at home. I guessed that I was not as lucky as I thought I was. And asking a mother about her daughter was a bad idea.
Tanya’s mother came back with a pile of clothes after a few minutes. As I started counting the clothes and placing them on top of each other, I heard the hurried sound of wheels approaching me. After finishing my counting, I turned my head up and got the shock of my life. Tanya smiled radiantly at me, while seated on a wheelchair. Both her legs were amputated but she still had the courage to smile. I just couldn’t believe what I saw. A pretty girl like her was suffering even though she was blessed with all the facilities life could offer. I didn’t smile back at her yet she continued smiling while looking at me.
“Hi Rakesh. How is your exam preparation going on?” Now, I smiled. Her voice was as sweet as she was.
“ How do you know my name?” I asked in a low voice even though I felt Baba must have told her.
“ Nathuram Kaka tells me everything about you and Dev. He told me that you are in XTH standard and you have your Board exams next week. Plus I see you play cricket everyday. So I thought I should ask.” She giggled with a naughtiness in her voice.
“ I am prepared for my exams. Thank You for asking.” I turned to leave with the stack of clothes in both my hands.
“ You play really well, Rakesh.” She turned towards her mother. “ I see him play everyday, Mom.” Tanya’s mother smiled. “ If I hadn’t lost my legs in that car accident last year, I would have loved to show you some of my best shots. You see, even I’m a cricketer just like you.”
I was surprised with the determination in her voice. Even after losing her legs, she had the strength to face life like a soldier fighting in a battle. She had the guts to smile at her adversity. I realized that my family’s financial problems were nothing compared to the turmoil she must be facing within. I was indeed, more blessed than she was. The girl in the window taught me to face all the hardships in life with a smile.
I felt short for words, but I had to say something to appreciate this ‘WONDER GIRL’ I had just met. So, all I could say was, “ I’m sure you are a 100 times better than me in all aspects.”
“ I guess I am.” She nodded her head but I felt that she was crying from within. “ All the best for your exams, Rakesh.” She smiled at me again.
“ Thank You, Tanya.” I smiled back at her and hurried down the stairs.