“I’m amazed, Praveena.” It was James’ class on a Thursday evening. He had just appreciated one of her drawings in front of the whole class. She had forgotten she had cast her drawing inside her assignment essay, and James had happened to come across it. Praveena felt her face redden. She hadn’t expected this reaction from James.
She had drawn three stallions grazing a green meadow. She had thought of Niveda, Anil, and herself while drawing the picture. ‘Maybe that is why it looks so good’, she thought. Three stallions, away from civilization; away from the people who would hurt them. She had such strong feelings that it had reflected in her drawing, even without her realizing it.
When she took her seat, Anil whispered, “nice one.” She smiled. The two of them tried to act as if they had gotten over Niveda, when neither hadn’t. They did it for each other despite knowing it was obvious.
College went back to normal in a few days. For them, it was an excitement of a holiday and a day of supposed mourning. They all went back to their studies and examinations. The second year drew to a close, and students and teachers alike clamoured the corridors clarifying doubts and exchanging last minute notes.
Praveena, oblivious to all that, could neither concentrate on her subjects or sleep. Those days of youthful sleeplessness threatened to take her over again. She longed to speak to someone, she wanted the comfort Ms Marrie had given her. She wanted to hear herself speak the truth. That was the hard part; even though her mind knew Niveda would never come back to sit by her side laughing, her heart still clung to that thin rope of hope. Speaking the truth out loud would mean accepting the inevitable, and it would break her heart. She shuddered every time she thought of Niveda. She spent weekends in her room all alone, staring into space lost in her thoughts about Niveda.
Anil tried calling her, though she wouldn’t respond. Whenever she answered him, she’d put him off with some excuse or the other.
Anil grew worried and scared at her sinister behaviour. He told James about Praveena’s condition and James asked her to meet him.
“What’s happening Praveena? You seem unlike yourself, I hear,” they were in James’ room, and Praveena had her eyes cast down.
“I’m not myself anymore” she mumbled.
“Neither are we.”
Praveena looked up, surprised. James looked at her, with a look that meant what he had said.
“I’m not asking you to forget it, Praveena. Just learn to live with it.” Praveena looked confused.
“Accept the fact and go on with your life. It doesn’t stop for anyone.”
Even years afterward, Praveena would consider that as the best piece of advice she had ever received. Simple truth.
So Praveena tried to take the advice. She realised the difficulty in getting over a loss, but she tried. She attended the final exams, and left home for the term end holidays. She was looking forward to a few good solitary days.
Praveena was leaving Bangalore; she was going home, home to Chennai, and her lonely father. She was glad to get away from college. She needed a break, and she expected good couple of weeks. She had ten days of freedom; freedom from college, lecturers, pity stares, and assignments. She arrived at the Chennai Central Railway station with high hopes. And there he stood waiting, her father. Looking older than she remembered him, making her realize that even as she grew older, so did her father. It came as quite a shock; she hadn’t seen Kamal for nearly half a year, she had been too involved with Niveda and her treatment – ‘Okay, don’t go there!’ her inner voice interrupted sternly.
“Hi, Pa. How are you?” Drained of energy, she gave him a weak hug. Something in Kamal’s embrace comforted her more than anything had had in the past few months.
She hadn’t told Kamal of Niveda’s addiction and suicide. She had told him all about their friendship, but decided not to open up the sad part. She didn’t know if she could handle saying it out aloud. Now though, she knew she had to. She wondered how he would react. Kamal wasn’t the type of father who would shower his daughter with too much concern, but he would take it seriously. ‘Not Ma, though’ her inner voice reminded her. ‘Yes’ she silently agreed. Her mother would have taken it in a different manner. She would have offered suggestions to help Niveda. Her mother had been a good friend, a place Niveda took over. They were both great companionship. Except they were dead. Gone.
“Shall we?” Kamal stepped aside, gesturing Praveena to take the lead. She did. As Kamal drove the motorcycle, Praveena enjoyed the ride. It was early in the morning, the streets dust and smoke-free. As they drove past the tall buildings, Praveena felt the cold wintry breeze playing across her face, making her locks bounce in ecstasy. Praveena thought back to her first weekend in college, when she had stood facing the green valley, letting the wind kiss her face. She thought back to the day she and Niveda, along with Anil, had sat on the grass looking on, savoring a moment of bliss. Those were memories that wet her eyes.
When they reached home, Kamal turned to her, “what do you want for breakfast?” He became excited, clapping his hands and walking with a spring in his step.
“Anything, Pa” she shrugged, smiling. Kamal nodded and left for the kitchen, whistling her favourite song.
Praveena smiled to herself. She was happy that she had got to spend time with her father. She spoke to him over the phone quite a lot, but her physical presence meant a lot to Kamal, and Praveena knew that. ‘Pa, looks dull,’ her inner voice observed. ‘talk to him,’ it urged.
Praveena didn’t know what to say. Niveda was the only thing on her mind, and the guilt that she hadn’t told her father about almost being expelled.
She followed him to the kitchen.
National Blog Posting Month – Day 30