Graduation day had ended with a blur of lights and a whiff of undetected alcohol from the boys’ hostels. Kamal left for Kerala early next day to catch up with his business meetings. Praveena, however, had one more day in Bangalore. She had planned to stay in the hostel on Sunday and board the night train back home.
She and Anil met their batch mates. They had all changed so much that Praveena couldn’t identify most of them. Everyone remembered her though; people don’t forget the best friend of the drug addict who slit her wrist in a hostel room. Half of the girls pursued higher studies, but already gotten engaged. They were to use the two years of post graduation to get to know their future husbands.
It surprised Praveena that they had all so easily given into marriage. Among these girls were a few who, she knew, planned about marriage life, even while they were at college. Praveena kept wondering why these girls limited their ambitions, why they rarely thought beyond marriage. The thought left her blank and blurry, before she decided to save the thought for later.
The morning progressed without much adventure, except giving Praveena a mind-full to ponder. Her schedule gave Anil enough time to spend time with her; he took her out for lunch hoping to cook up a proper conversation.
Praveena suggested The Green Leaf, and a silent car ride later, they sat in the same table as before.
Praveena’s mind felt strangely light. Convocation was over, she was now an official member of a society she didn’t understand.
She had been wondering what to do with her life, and all of a sudden, she realized she had been staring at her untouched meal. Anil broke into her thoughts.
“Hey! Eat!” he said shaking his head in disbelief.
“Huh?” Praveena started, “Hmm,” she managed as she began to eat.
“What’s up with you suddenly?” Anil looked suspiciously at her. He raised his eyebrows, and Praveena noticed how they curved beautifully over his eyes.
She sighed in reply to his questioning glare. As he held his look, she said, “I spoke to Pa.”
“About what?” Anil asked innocently not understanding what she said.
Praveena exasperatedly heaved a sigh. “About the plan we made,” she said. And when Anil continued to stare at her with puzzled eyes, she continued irritably, “about the organization for drug addiction recovery. Remember?” she added mockingly.
Anil had to hide his laughter. Praveena threw him a stern look like an annoyed teacher glaring at a mischievous child.
“Oh, yeah. Sorry,” he tried to sound apologetic, unsure of the effect. However, Praveena said nothing more. She just nodded, lost in her thoughts.
“Hmm,” Anil dragged. He rubbed his chin, wondering what to say. “What exactly did your father say?”
“He told me not to do it. Said it was a bad idea.” Praveena said flatly.
Anil thought. “What do you want to do?” he demanded.
Praveena had been asking herself the same question. “I want to do this.” She said with an air of certainty. She would do it for sure. Someday.
“Then, lets do it.” Anil said simply. He didn’t understand, and Praveena wasn’t sure he would, even if she explained it to him. She leaned back on her chair signing. Anil looked at her for a response. “I can’t go against Pa.” She said dully. “I can’t hurt him. He’s already had a lot of troubles.”
Anil looked at her in confusion. “So, what have you decided to do?” he asked rubbing his forehead.
Praveena looked into his eyes impassively. “I haven’t decided anything.”
Anil, locking his hands, rested against his chin, looking at Praveena with a tiny smile on his lips. He said nothing for a while. He just watched as Praveena struggled within herself to discover what she wanted to do next.
Ten minutes later, they paid for a meal they hadn’t enjoyed and left for the hostel. Praveena had a train to catch.
Praveena comfortably settled in her seat on the train. Anil had come to the railway station to see her off. “When will I see you again?” he had asked, with a touch of sadness that Praveena hadn’t noticed before. “Soon,” she smiled, adding, “hopefully” with raised eyebrows.
Anil smiled as he waved goodbye. The train began to gain momentum and Praveena soon lost sight of Anil and his raised hand.
She leaned back in her seat, enjoying the drizzle that gently splashed on her face. She smiled. She had always enjoyed the rain. She loved the cold water running down her face, washing away all uncertainties and fears.
‘Speaking of uncertainties,’ he inner voice began, but Praveena was so used to shutting it out by now that she did it with ease. She knew she had to make a decision. Soon. She knew what she wanted, but getting it was the problem.
Could time fix problems? She wondered. ‘Perhaps,’ her inner voice piped in. Praveena turned to stare at the speeding trees through the window. Time meant that she would get older, but so would her father. Kamal hadn’t agreed now, and she wasn’t sure he would agree he got older. ‘But it’s worth a try.’ Her inner voice made a point. ‘Maybe it’s better to put things to rest,’ she thought. ‘Give Pa some time to think and reflect on the idea’. That could work out.
She smiled to herself as the thought lifted her mood.