It was a cool Sunday afternoon and Praveena lazed back on the couch, reading. Ms Marrie had recommended the book. It was a book about living life from a different perspective. It was titled Tuesdays with Morrie, a non fiction by Mitch Albom.
Praveena had taken refuge on the couch after a heavy lunch and she felt her eyes drooping when all of a sudden, her phone rang, chasing the drowsiness away. Stifling a wide yawn, she saw that it was Anil.
“Hey!” Praveena exclaimed, delighted as she answered the call. “How are you?”
“I’m good, what about you?” Anil responded with equal delight. Praveena smiled widely. She had missed the long conversations. Hearing Anil’s voice boosted her mind.
“Hmm, I’m I’m good too” she replied. “So? To what do I owe this pleasure?” she mocked.
Anil laughed. It was a deep and spontaneous laugh. It made Praveena smile. When he spoke, she could feel the joy in his voice, “nothing, just felt like talking to you.”
“So, what up with Bangalore?” Praveena sat up on the couch and placed her book on the table next to her. She didn’t feel sleepy anymore. “how’s MBA?” she asked.
“It’s alright. When has studying ever been fun?” he added with a chuckle.
“Yeah,” Praveena suddenly remembering her college life.
“So,” Anil said, “what are you up to? What’s your plan?”
That’s when Praveena realized she had done nothing since she had got back. She had been too busy becoming aware of the things around her. She told him that, along with the previous day’s events. She told him about her understanding and her conversations with Ms Marrie.
It was easier to talk to Anil now. The invisible barrier between herself and the others had somehow evaporated.
Anil didn’t say much. He listened to Praveena with evident delight and Praveena enjoyed having his rapt attention.
“Now,” she paused, “you tell me, how’s life in Bangalore?”
Anil related the story of his life. “Well, MBA’s draining most of life,” he laughed hollowly. “but it took me a while to realize that it wasn’t giving me much joy,” he paused for a breath. “so after some advice from my teacher, I joined as a volunteer in a non-profit organization.”
“Huh?” Praveena responded surprised.
Anil laughed. “You surprised?” he asked joyously.
“Ya-huh,” Praveena replied defensively. “So, tell me about this organization of yours.”
“It’s a non-profit organization; an alcoholic anonymous institution. Their primary mission is to help people recover from their drug addiction.”
“Oh…” trailed Praveena. She hadn’t expected that. She couldn’t speak for a while. Niveda’s thoughts overwhelmed her. There was an uneasy silence that widened, until Anil broke it.
“Hey, you there?” he asked knowingly.
“Yeah,” Praveena managed, “sorry, I – ”
“I know,” he said simply.
They spoke for another half hour in which Anil explained all the activities that happened in the meetings of the organization. They were mainly counseling sessions, Praveena learned. On some days they had priests, psychologists and doctors advise participants about the dangers of the habit. Some other days, they would call over “people like myself; survivors” said Anil. “Even people who have lost loved ones to drugs would come over and have a chat.” The main purpose of doing stuff like these, according to Anil, was to help addicts realize how much they matter to their families and to educate them about the physical and mental damage that drugs did to them.
Anil also told Praveena how he spoke about Niveda and that a lot of addicts had spoken to him afterward saying that they wanted his support. Anil said it almost ecstatically.
“That’s really good Anil,” Praveena said earnestly. “At least you’re doing something to change someone’s life.” she nodded to herself. If only Niveda could have gotten something like that, she thought bitterly.
“For the better,” Anil added.
“Ya. That’s right,” Praveena agreed.
Another short silence.
“Hey,” Praveena exclaimed.
“An organization! I want to be a part of something like that too. You think I can volunteer?” she asked, excited. She liked the idea of helping someone get rid of the terrible addiction.
“Hmm…” Anil hesitated, “I don’t know, Praveena” he sighed. “Why don’t you try volunteering for some other local institution there?”
That sounded sane to Praveena. She agreed, but she was more interested to do this a as team. She wanted to work alongside Anil.
“Why don’t we start on organization ourselves?” she almost jumped with excitement.
“Huh?” Anil was taken aback. He hadn’t expected Praveena to think like this.
“What do you say?” Praveena pressed him, “you, me, and a few others. I can gather people. What, you’re in?”
“Hey, wait.” Anil replied quite reluctantly, “this isn’t simple, you know that?”
“Yeah, of course.” Praveena said in haste, “but I’m sure we can pull it off.” She was keen to do something.
Anil thought. “hmm, maybe – ” Praveena waited with bated breath. She didn’t understand why she was so interested to get this running, but she had an impulse that it would be a great idea. It was bound to improve a lot of lives. It suddenly struck her; this is what she wanted to do. There was something inside her that pushed her to do this.
“Alright, Praveena. If you’re so sure – then do it. I’ll do everything I can to stay with you.” He said the last part a little extra cheerfully.
“Wonderful!” Praveena exclaimed. She had almost forgot Kamal was asleep in the next room. “Let’s do this!” she vowed, and heard a laughter of agreement from Anil.
Praveena felt sleepy no more. She brimmed with energy — energy that came from the thought of building their own support group. The helplessness she had felt during Niveda’s recovery acted like a stimulant within her, driving her and providing her with all the enthusiasm she needed.
That night, Praveena made plans. She didn’t want to discuss her ideas with her father until she had it all mapped out. She sat cross legged on her bed and thought about it. It seemed like a good idea, except for the problems that it involved. While speaking with Anil, she had thought only of the effect a help group would have. Now though, when she considered the smaller aspects of starting a group, she began to have questions. Her inner voices conflicted.
‘Where would she set it up?’ – ‘Home.’
‘Home? Really?’ — ‘ Ok, the garage then.’
‘Who would be the initial members?’ – ‘Anil and Ms Marrie.’ Yes, she thought, Ms Marrie would agree for sure. She was interested in these kinds of things. That was settled then.
Next, ‘where would you get the money?’ – ‘ personal savings’. Praveena doubted that. But at least, she thought, her savings would be enough for initial investment.
‘How would they spread the word?’ – ‘Internet – duh!’
‘What do we do in the organization?’ – ‘conduct meetings and discussions,’ like Anil had said, she nodded to herself.
‘Just meetings would be boring’ – ‘we’ll come up with something else later.’
‘Is this a good idea at all?’ – ‘I think I’m sleepy.’
Praveena lay back, she’d deal with her doubts later; now, she needed the rest.