Chapter Sixteen: A Curious Case

On Saturday, Praveena was sound asleep when something brutally shook her awake.

“Wha—?” she sat bolt upright, blinking away the sleep from her eyes. Her eyelids felt heavy, and she couldn’t open them. When she tried to, the underside of her eyes pained her.

Rubbing her eyes hastily, she stared at the scene in front of her.

Niveda was ransacking the place. Praveena watched in horror as Niveda upturned her books and trunks, looking for something.

Niveda turned to face her. She was ashen faced, her messy hair flying all about her. She stood there, lost and scary. She was sweating and a little shivering. Her eyes looking puffy and red as if she hadn’t slept all night.

“What are you looking for?” Praveena mumbled her voice coarse. She was sleepy; she hadn’t fallen asleep until after midnight. Even as she asked the question, she knew something was wrong. Niveda looked beyond recognizable. She seemed in to be in great distress.

“I lost my meds,” she breathed, her breath coming in gasps. She looked like she would suffocate. Praveena tried hard not to panic as she rushed out of bed looking all over for what, she didn’t know. She just looked for anything that might look like a brown paper medicine bag.

She looked around the unturned room: their trunks, the desk, their stack of text books, she even looked under the beds and the table.

Finding nothing, she stood in the centre of the room, hands on her hips. She heaved a sigh, and turned to look at Niveda. She was not in the room.

“Niveda?” she called out, wondering where she could have gone. Just then, Niveda stumbled out of the bathroom, shaking and her face dripping water.

“What happened?” Praveena was puzzled. Did Niveda have any illness she hadn’t told her of? She thought she’d put that question off until after Niveda was back to normal.

“Nothing.” Niveda swallowed hard many times before saying, “I’m dizzy, I’m going to sleep.” She stumbled again. Praveena held her steady and helped her get into bed. “Sorry I woke you,” Niveda apologised her voice faint. Before Praveena could respond, Niveda turned and fell into a deep sleep.

Praveena looked at the room and hit herself on the forehead. This was not the way she had imagined her first Saturday in Bangalore; cleaning a room she had managed to mess up so much.

She brushed her teeth, and set to work. That’s when she realized what a huge room they had been given. At first look, it had seemed modest.

It took her about an hour to set the place in order. She sighed heavily, and ignoring the rumbling in her stomach, went far a bath.

Niveda was still asleep when Praveena came back. She got ready and went outside leaving a note, in case Niveda woke up.

She went out of the hostel building to take a look at the sight of Bangalore from where they were. She saw the college building next to the two girls hostel buildings. On the other side of the college, was the boys hostel area of four buildings. The whole campus was spread out wide over acres of land, and as far as the eye could see, there was a thin sheen of grass, dotted here and there with a few trees. She had come out to call her father, but stood transfixed at the view. She stood there, experiencing the mild, cold breeze that played across her face. Her phone lay forgotten in her hand, while she drank the sight of dewy grasses and the songs of countless birds singing their own tunes. Somehow, even though the cries of the birds lacked rhythm and sync, they were full of passion and inexplicable peace that pierced Praveena’s veins. In a sudden urge, she pulled off the band that held her hair together. She laughed to herself as her hair danced with the wind.

“Nice, isn’t it?” a familiar voice called out from behind. She turned and saw Anil walking towards her, beaming bright in the mild, morning sun. Her smile widened when she noticed that his hair too waved in sync to the wind’s rhythm.

“So,” he said with his hands on his hips “any plans for the weekend? Where’s Niveda?” he added, looking around.

“She’s asleep,” and seeing the look on his face he quickly said, “she isn’t well.”

“Oh, what happened?” Praveena shrugged and told him of the eventful morning.

“OK. Shall we go out somewhere? How about sightseeing?” He suddenly became excited.

“I’m in,” Praveena replied brightly. “Let’s see if Niveda would join us.” she added as an afterthought.

“Sure, let’s go check in on her,” he said spiritedly, turning towards the hostels. Praveena held him back by tugging at his collar. “I’ll do that,” she reminded him with an understanding smile.

“You. Wait here.” saying so, she started walking back towards the hostel leaving Anil crestfallen.

When Praveena opened the door to their room, Niveda was sitting on her bed cross legged and looking quite relaxed. As Praveena entered, she smiled, holding the note she had left.

“How are you now?” Praveena asked sitting on her bed which was next to Niveda’s.

“Loads better!” Niveda smiled. Looking around the room, she said “You should’ve waited, we could’ve done this together.” she waved a hand around the room.

“That’s OK” Praveena said lightly. “You think you’re up for a day of sight seeing Bangalore?”

“You bet!” Niveda cried as she jumped out of bed, pumped up. While Niveda got ready, Praveena called Anil and told him to wait by the college entrance. She then called Kamal.

“Hi, Pa. How are you?”

“I’m good, Praveena. How’re you? How’s college?” He sounded happy to hear her voice. Praveena was the only remaining joy of his life.

“How’s the food, and the room? Did you settle in comfortably, or do you need anything from here? Your pillow?”

“All good, Pa.” she smiled into the mouthpiece. “It’s great here, we’ve planned to go out — just hang around.” She spoke to him for a while, exchanging stories. From what Praveena learned, Chennai was boring her father. As they exchanged goodbyes, her father gave her a bit of advice.

“Take care, Praveena. Stay safe.”

“I will Pa” she promised before disconnecting the line.

Niveda was still not ready. Praveena urged her to hurry up, and cursing the unreasonable roaming rates, dialed Ms Marrie’s number. She heard the same girlish recording she always heard, “The number you are trying to reach is currently not reachable. Please try again later.”

She swore silently as she caught up with Niveda, and together, they walked out of the hostel, towards the college entrance.


 

National Blog Posting Month – Day 18

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