Praveena shook with grief as Anil sat next to her, her hand in his and tears in his eyes. They sat alone in James’s room, as James, the matron, and the other teachers took care of the police investigation proceedings.
It was shocking, Niveda’s smiling face kept flashing in Praveena’s mind. She had spoken countless of times to the police inspectors and teachers about the previous night’s incidents. Every time she spoke, or even thought of it, she felt sorrow seeping through her veins poisoning her from within. She couldn’t cry anymore. It was as if her tears had all evaporated even before they were spilled. The last time she had felt so sad was when her mother had died. She silently wept within.
Anil was in a state of shock too. He hadn’t expected Niveda to lose herself. He had thought she would come out successful. After all, he had done it. They remained in James’s room, and after a while and James entered with a knock. Neither of them winced. James took his seat facing them.
“Why did this happen, Praveena?” James sounded sorrowful. Praveena looked up at him, her eyes heavy. She sniffed. “I didn’t notice. Again,” she broke off, unable to continue.
“It’s not your fault,” Anil said in a low voice.
“She was a good girl,” James kept blinking trying to block the tears that threatened to lose control.
“I’ll never be the same again,” It was the second time in her life Praveena had felt that way, but it was her first time voicing it. She did, but Anil and James didn’t.
Praveena hardly got any sleep in the following weeks. She felt loneliness surrounding her. Every time she tried to close her eyes, Niveda’s final look came back to haunt her. Each day the police discovered leads about Niveda’s suicide. According to the autopsy report, there were large quantities of drugs in Niveda. James broke the news to Anil and Praveena.
“It looks like she was never really out of it,” he shook his head in disbelief. Anil wore a crestfallen look and Praveena was too shocked to even say anything. She just sat dumbfounded as if everything that happened around her made no sense at all.
She couldn’t understand what had gone wrong. She had made sure not to leave Niveda alone, what had made her inject herself again? Praveena didn’t know how she felt.
Niveda’s parents had come to school the day after she died. They seemed horrified at their daughter’s drug addiction, and her suicide.
They spoke to Praveena and Anil in private. Niveda’s parents blamed them for their daughter’s death. They said the couple of kids poisoned their daughter’s mind, got her addicted, and then killed her.
Praveena felt anger boiling up inside her. She tried hard to remain civilized, but couldn’t. She broke away from Anil’s clutches and walked up close to Niveda’s mother, who looked dressed up for a cocktail party, and pointed a menacing finger at her. “You,” she screamed, “you ruthless woman,” she breathed trying to stable herself, “you told Niveda to go to hell!” she shouted.
“You—you don’t deserve to be a mother.” She then turned to Niveda’s lean father who looked like a model for men’s suits, “and you don’t deserve to be a father either,” She made a spitting gesture at his feet and allowed herself to be taken away by Anil.
Niveda’s mother later reported to the police that she had been drunk when she spoke to Niveda and that was the reason for the exchange of harsh words. The text messages stood against her, but she escaped the cuffs, thanks to an expensive attorney.
When the college management heard of Niveda’s addiction, they were furious at Anil and Praveena. The principal himself spoke in favor of their expulsion.
Praveena didn’t even defend herself. She thought it better to go away from this wretched place, rather than stay in the same room thinking about Niveda every day. She had got special permission from the warden to stay in the same room alone. The warden hesitated at first, doubting that Praveena, in her sorrow, would follow in her friend’s footsteps. But at last she had given in to Praveena’s request.
James vouched for Anil and Praveena. He assured the management that they were not to blame.
“They knew of it, and didn’t report it! They spoiled the college name!” the principal had barked. James hadn’t flinched or reacted.
“It wasn’t their fault. You can’t do this.” James responded coldly. How could these people think only of the school’s reputation when a student had died in the campus? The duo didn’t know what else James had said, but they knew after that incident with James, the principal had avoided any encounter with him.
All around her, students recovered faster than she had expected. They remained sober for a couple of days, but then all of them got along with their own work. They threw pity looks at Praveena and Anil, which infuriated Praveena even more, but that was all they did. Praveena didn’t know what to expect from them either. They hadn’t known Niveda as much as her, but it was painful that Niveda had been secretive, even from her. She couldn’t get over it, and it affected her lessons.
Overcome with helplessness, Praveena started drawing. It happened in a whim, she hadn’t drawn anything much before, but every stroke she made on the paper helped her feel better. As the days went by, her drawings had more depth and meaning. Losing two of the closest people to her heart had changed her perception of life. She couldn’t believe she was the same girl who had been upset for someone who had given up on his passion—as if that was a part from another life.
Her drawings connected well to viewers, but she grew increasingly private. She hardly spoke to anyone except Anil. He too had problems of his own. It was as if Niveda had been the bridge that held the two poles together.
National Blog Posting Month – Day 28