Chapter Nineteen: Unnoticed Signs

Three years of psychology, and Praveena had two of them left. Over the past year, she had grown increasingly close to Niveda and Anil. They became her best friends. For the first time, she had been friends with someone for such a long period. She felt much happier and comfortable with them than with anyone else.

One bright Saturday afternoon, as she sat alone in the open ground in front of the hostel, she reflected on how her life had changed since her mother’s death. She hadn’t cried at all. She had mourned her mother, but she hadn’t, or couldn’t give in to tears. She wondered why that had happened. It was the saddest she had ever felt in her life, but she had had overcome it unlike anybody else. She smiled to herself. These thoughts were bringing back old memories—memories she’d rather keep buried deep within her.

She thought of Niveda and Anil, and wondered what she would have done without the pair of them. They had helped her recover and overcome the problems within her, without even trying. Their presence by her side, was enough of a moral support to her. How much they had grown together. They knew each other so well and everyone in college had heard of their friendship. She let the happy feeling flow inside her, when suddenly a woman walked up to her looking lost.

She was a large woman, and she wore a sari. Praveena didn’t like the look of that woman, particularly her betel stained lips, and eyes that had lost it’s focus.

“Do you know a girl named Niveda?” she asked Praveena in the local language, Kanada. ‘What does this woman want with Niveda?’ Praveena wondered. She had never seen Niveda talking to this woman, or even talk of a woman. She wanted to ask, but decided against it. She nodded to the woman and reached her phone to call Niveda.

“Hey, Niveda. There’s a woman out here,” she paused, and glanced at the woman who was now looking around the grounds, “wanting to see you.” Praveena knew that Niveda would have caught the disapproval in her voice.

“Coming,” she replied in haste and disconnected the call. Praveena, surprised, wondered what had happened. Why did Niveda sound so tense? Even a bit scared? What about this woman was so important that she sounded so hurried? She had to ask Niveda.

A few minutes later, Praveena watched as Niveda run towards her and the woman. When she came to a halt, Praveena could see her shaking. Niveda had lost a lot of weight over the past year; she had had to visit her family doctor every weekend. She didn’t seem too weak, but she was not eating as much as she used to.

“Why did you come here?” she barked at the woman. Before Praveena could say anything, Niveda shouted at the woman again, who for some odd reason, obeyed her without protest.

“Come on,” Niveda pulled the woman away from Praveena’s earshot. From where she stood, Praveena could see them talking, but couldn’t hear what they said. Niveda seemed angry; she waved a threatening finger at the woman, who, Praveena was surprised to see, didn’t cower with fear. The woman stood tall, peering at Niveda, replying quietly.

And all of a sudden, Niveda didn’t look angry anymore; she appeared more frightened. Her face tensed and seemed like she was pleading with the woman.

Praveena watched, wondering what was going on. Then the woman pulled out a small brown paper bag from with her handbag. She extended it to Niveda, who longingly reached out to get it. Before she gave it though, the woman said something and Niveda nodded her head vigorously, her bloodshot eyes on the bag.

The woman gave the bag to Niveda and left without a backward glance. Niveda stood there, examining the bag’s contents. A look of relaxation spread across her face. She then noticed Praveena’s eyes fixed at her. Smiling, she turned and hurried back to the hostel.

Praveena turned back to stare at the dew on the grass. ‘That was odd,’ she thought. Why would Niveda hide something from her? It wasn’t like Niveda to do this. Praveena had expected her to walk up to her, and explain this strange woman and why she had come. She just sat there, disappointed and curious.

For the rest of the day, Niveda acted as if the woman hadn’t showed up at all. They had lunch with Anil, but neither of them brought the topic to the table. They had the usual conversation and the customary walk around the college campus speaking of useless things. When the sun grew too hot for them to walk anymore, they found some grass under the Neem tree.

They sat in silence for a while and all of a sudden Niveda slapped her forehead hard saying, “My assignment! I didn’t finish it yet! What about you?” she asked the other two.

“Done it,” Praveena shrugged. “Yeah, me too.” Anil said a little too quickly.

“Oh,” Niveda looked crestfallen. “Drat! Ok, I’ll go finish it. See you guys later,” Waving carelessly, she left the duo wondering.

Looking at Niveda’s retreating figure, Praveena wondered what could bother Niveda. She turned to Anil, hoping to talk to him about Niveda. That’s when she noticed, Anil stared at her with a funny expression on his face. “What’s with you?” Praveena laughed.

“Praveena,” he began, his forehead cringed seriously, “I want to talk to you” He seemed disturbed. it’s important,” he gulped several times as if to swallow an inconvenient lump in his throat.

“Yeah, me too” she replied worried there was something troubling him too. As he heard her reply, his face lit up instantly.

“Yeah?” he asked expectantly, “what is it?”

Praveena was now a bit confused. “Er — you tell me,” she looked serious, and Anil decided to just get it over with. He looked into her eyes, her small, bright, recently bespectacled eyes. And he suddenly looked away, shaking his head. Praveena watched him confused, ‘What’s wrong with him?’ her inner voice sounded amused.

He tried again. He looked at her in the eyes, “I’m in love with you, Praveena.”

National Blog Posting Month – Day 21


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