By nature, I’m one who love to remember dates, days and events that have some kind of importance to me, that too, in every minute detail. I’m proud that I can still recall many such ‘points’ from my past, right from the early childhood. At any moment, I could start with some incident from, say, my school days, and give an incredibly accurate description of the entire sequence of events, exactly as it happened. But, there had been some, even though very few, days that I’d love to put into oblivion, rather than keep alive in my mind, but unfortunately I find I can’t. And what I wish to present here now is nothing but the memories of some of those ‘not - so - lovable’ days.
It was my second year of graduation, in the Govt. Engg. College, as a student of Computer Science & Engineering. The year - 1997. We, the students of 3rd Semester Batch, were on our first ‘tour’. (which, incidentally, turned out to be the only tour we had during the entire period we were in the College) The days: 7th & 8th of March; The site: Kodaikkānal. Our team had a ‘healthy’ strength of 35, including 33 of the 36 students plus two teachers. Only three girls of the class were ‘missing’ from the group, and that made the number of girls in the team exactly half their strength in the class.
Among those girls, there was one person for whom I had a ‘special consideration’. (At least some of you may be tempted to read it ‘soft corner’, but that would be true injustice to my feelings.) She was ‘special’ to me as an ‘unborn’ sister, an elder sister, to be precise, even though she was elder to me by just a few days. Yes, at an age when others think of girl friends, romance (real or just for ‘time pass’!) Etc., I was viewing this girl as my own elder sister. (The reason why I had such a feeling for her is still a mystery for me...! May be because I don’t have an actual elder sister, and I had a ‘long - cherished dream’ of having one, and I admired her for some really good qualities in her.) (Of course, I do have another ‘elder sister’ whom I love so much, and I’m not attempting to ‘sideline’ her. She, my most beloved Anju ‘chechi’, (elder sister) always had a very special place in my heart. But, right now, I’m concentrating on the ‘subject matter’ of this anecdote only.)
On the second day of the tour, in the afternoon, most of us found ourselves surfing through a line of make shift shops along the road by the lake, checking out various items of curios and souvenirs on display, and many of us did buy some items. The most ‘popular item’ was a set of artificial flowers made of velvet & plastic, fixed on a seashell, with a wooden base. As my friends were on the shopping spree, a thought struck my mind like never before. How about a gift to my ‘sister’ as a souvenir of our trip? I found the idea so excellent and touching that I immediately decided in favour. And in a couple of minutes, I also had a set of flowers in my hand.
As we were back in the bus, I felt that instead of presenting the gift as it is, I should do something to add a ‘personal touch’ to it, so that it will ‘tell’ her how I feel about her, how deep my love and respect for her is and how precious she is to me. So, took my pen out and started scribbling a few words on the base of the gift. By the time the words read ‘To Ms. SMV, My Dear Sister, with love’, I had a ‘flood’ of words coming up to my mind, but there was hardly any space to write any. So, I decided to put the rest of the words to rest in my heart, and wound up, writing my name. (Oh...! Sorry! I forgot to tell her name...! She was Ms. Sneha Mary Varghese, hailing from Azhoor, Pathanamthitta District, close to the southern end of our state. I used her initials only on the gift to save some space.)
By the next morning, we were back in our ‘home town’. By 6.30 AM, the bus came to its last stop, in front of the Girls’ Hostel of the college. As soon as I stepped down from the bus, I was looking for my ‘sister’. She was already out there, just about to move towards the hostel gate. Without thinking much, I approached her and held out the ‘gift’ I had kept ready, with the words ‘Here’s a souvenir to you to cherish this tour for ever’. She was rather ‘stunned’ than surprised at my gesture, totally unexpected for her. She was a bit confused and doubtful at first, and that was clearly ‘written’ on her face. After a few seconds of hesitation, she made up her mind and accepted the present, and presented me, in return, a short, but clear, ‘Thanks’, and that was worth a thousand words for me. I was so happy as I walked on to join my friends on the way to our hostel. I felt that I have taken my first step in speaking my heart out.
The matter should have come to a close there. But Fate had something more in store for me. A few days later, I decided to put my tour experiences to paper. It was nothing but a short description of the tour from my perspective, and I had mentioned my presenting the gift to my ‘sister’ also in it. I had given a crystal - clear description of my heart - felt feelings for her. After completing the ‘memoirs’, I decided - in one of the worst moments of my life! - to give it to a few of my friends, asking for their views. Many of them, staying in the college hostel and outside, did read them and also passed a few comments, which I could very well take ‘lightly’, as it should have been.
But I could never expect what followed next. The next morning, I saw my ‘memoirs’ being ‘circulated’ in the class. I could have just ignored it, but for a few ‘comments’ my ‘so - called’ friends had scribbled on the pages. The comments were characterized by lots of ‘dual meaning’ words and even outright foul language. And as if to add insult to injury, they had made some ‘oblique references’ to my relationship with Sneha, right on the pages where I had mentioned her name.
I was really upset to see the ‘pathetic’ condition my ‘work’ had ended up in. More than the ‘comments’, what really hurt me was the ‘references’ linking me with Sneha. I couldn’t even think of my ‘friends’ to be so cruel and drag her name to the most unwelcome state. Had they attempted to tarnish my name alone, I could have taken it ‘on the trot’, because I could understand their mindset. But, this was too much. As the papers were being read by the girls, I could see the pain on her face. To be honest, I don’t know how I should describe what I felt, looking at her face. In fact, I did not have the courage to face her.
After a few minutes, I found myself standing near a window at the back of the class, looking outwards. It was the usual short break in between two hours of class, as we awaited the arrival of the next ‘Sir’ to come in. As I was about to return to my seat, I saw my ‘sister’ coming towards me. Trying to read her face, what I expected was an ‘outburst’, for she might be feeling that it was me who is responsible for the cruel treatment meted out to her by way of those comments. Had she did that, I wouldn’t have felt offended, for I myself felt that it was my fault that has led to the unfortunate turn of events, and I would have even apologized to her for all that had happened.
But what happened was clearly an unexpected reaction from her. She said: “Don’t call me ‘sister’... I don’t like it...” The words came as the heaviest ‘blow’ ever to me. I was really shocked and devastated by the totally unexpected reaction. I could not even think on a reply to tell her. The only word I could tell was ‘Okay...’, and without waiting for my further reaction, she turned and walked back to her seat, as I stood stunned, not even knowing how to react.
Later, in the afternoon, as Sneha was seen standing outside the class, I did ask her why she had reacted that way. Her reply was, as expected, a direct reference to the ‘comments’ by our classmates. “Haven’t you seen those...? What they’ve written... Why should we give them more opportunities to build stories on us...?” I was not really convinced, but since I could understand her feelings, at least to some extent, I didn’t attempt any ‘argument’ with her.
The whole episode would have come to an end by that, but my ‘friends’ were not in a mood to leave us ‘live in peace’. At night, a few of them came to me in the hostel room. What they wanted to know was what Sneha had told me in the class. The moment they got my reply, they grabbed the ‘opportunity’ in a ‘vigorous attack’. They were quick to question her rights to speak like that. Most of them had their own versions of responses, and many of them accused me of being ‘too soft’ on her and demanded an outright ‘offensive’ against her. According to them, the denial of ‘brotherhood’ was an insult not only to me, but also to them, being ‘men’, and a few of them even ‘threatened’ to take up the matter on their own and tackle Sneha ‘properly’ for her ‘offence’. Even though there were responses in plenty, there was one particular ‘view’ from one of them that struck my mind deep. His argument was that to call a girl ‘sister’ is the most polite way a man could treat her, and if she says ‘No’ to even that, she must be either his love or a ‘street - girl’. It was too much for me, because I could never even think of any girl, let alone my own sister, in that angle. I was so upset by his rude comment that I retorted ‘It’s between her and me... And I know how and what to do... You need not interfere...’ ‘The ‘issue’ is your brain child... and It’s a ‘closed chapter’ as far as I am concerned...” That reaction appeared to be enough to shut them out.
Even though I said so, and tried to convince myself that the matter is a ‘closed chapter’, my ego was not that much ‘flexible’. The result: I continued to suffer the heat of a ‘fire within’. The words of my friends, accusing Sneha of over - reaction and me of ‘non - reaction’, continued to trouble my mind. Especially, the ‘either lover of pros’ argument by one of my friends, who, I believed, would normally keep away from making such harsh comments, at least while talking with me.
After a few hours of a ‘fight within’, I finally made up my mind. I decided to give ‘shape’ to my feelings in words, by writing a small poem, which I would then hand over to Sneha herself. Let her read my mind through the words. I was confident that she would learn the truth, and when she does, it would mark my best and sweetest ‘victory’ over a girl.
The very next day itself, (Date: 12.06.1997) I had my ‘reply’ to Sneha ready in my bag. Even though I could have given it in the morning itself, I decided against it and waited till evening. My plan was to ‘strike’ at the end of the day, so that she will have enough free time to read it and get the feeling right. (And, of course, if the result is not what I would like, I won’t have to face her till next day!) It was a short poem, just a few lines, just enough to drive the point home. But, a few of the lines, especially if taken ‘out of context’, I knew, could have a ‘disastrous’ effect, as it could be thought of as a deliberate attempt to tarnish her. Even though my sole aim was to make her understand my feelings, how she has gone ‘wrong’ in her reaction to the ‘comments’ and accept my view of her as my sister, the way I had adopted to achieve my goal was a bit ‘dangerous’. If she fails to ‘read between the lines’ of the poem and understand what I had actually meant by writing those lines, it had the potential to really hurt her too much, much more that what the controversial ‘comments’ had done. To be precise, the poem itself could be a ‘nuclear reactor’. Handle it carefully, and it would be safe and beneficial. Be a bit casual and try to explore it ‘out of place’, it could turn into a ‘virtual bomb shell’ and ‘finish off’ everything. The complete text of the poem is included in the 'works' section. I would like to quote the the ‘critical' portions here, as below.
ദിവ്യമാം പ്രതിഭാസ,മതി -
ലേതു നിന് മുഖമെന്നു ഞാന് കരുതേണ്ടൂ...?
മാതാവായ്ക്കാണുവാന് സാധ്യ -
മല്ലതു പോലെ, മകളായും.
നിഷേധിച്ചതാം സ്ഥാന -
മിനി ബാക്കിയുള്ളതു കാമിനി,
പിന്നെ, ജീവിതം തള്ളിനീക്കുവാന്
സ്വന്തം സ്ത്രീത്വവും വില്ക്കുമാ
പാവം തെരുവിന് മക്കളും മാത്രം...!
ഏതു നിന് മുഖ,മേതു നിന് ഭാവ -
മിതിലേതു നിന് സ്ഥാനം? ചൊല്ലു നീ...
These lines are the most important and at the same time most ‘dangerous’ ones. I think a rough translation of the lines would be appropriate to demonstrate their ‘power’ and what I had actually meant by those lines.
The lines say, ‘ Womanhood: a five - faced
And which, among these,
Should I think, as yours?
You can’t be my Mom,
Neither be a Daughter,
And a place as my Sister,
You’ve said ‘No’ ...
The rest’s a sweetheart,
And the ‘child of the street’
Who trade her flesh
To keep self in flesh n’ bones...
Which is your face, of these,
Which is your state, your place,
Tell me, dear...!’
The lines describe a ‘common man’s view’ of women, in five facets, viz., Mother, Daughter, Sister, Lover and one who’s forced to ‘flesh trade’ to support herself. Then I proceed to deny the first two for the obvious ‘age factor’, by which I can’t view her as my mother or daughter. Then, the focus comes to ‘sisterhood’, which she herself had denied. (The denial, of course, was the reason behind my writing the poem itself, and I was trying to prove to her that she’s gone wrong in the way she treated me.)
After the reference to her denial, the poem proceeds to tell that only two ‘faces’ remain, either that of a sweetheart, (which, of course, she won’t be happy to take up with me - and neither was I!) or one who’s taken to prostitution to make both ends meet. (which No girl having even the lowest level of self - esteem would like to even think of, and hence a ‘non - issue’ in itself.)
What I was trying to achieve by writing these lines was some sort of ‘proof by contradiction’. I was trying to convince her that because I can’t view her in any other angle (for obvious reasons, even though not specifically told) as described in the poem, the only acceptable way to think of her was as a sister, and there’s no feasible reason for an outright negation of the same. (In short, ‘mother’ and ‘daughter’ are totally unacceptable at the very outset, ‘lover’ is by no means acceptable to her, and the last ‘option’ acceptable to nobody, thus resulting in the only conclusion that makes any sense is that of sisterhood.)
In the evening, just before the end of the last hour, I called Ms. Praseetha, one of my class mates and Sneha’s hostel - mate, and gave her an envelope, in which I had put my ‘reply’, and asked her to hand it over to Sneha, saying that it was just a ‘message’. I chose her to be my ‘messenger’ for two reasons - First, she was the girl sitting closest to me and hence could be reached easily. Moreover, she was one of the only two girls in the class with whom I could talk somewhat freely.
Seeing Sneha opening the envelope, I left the class, not even waiting to see her response. As I walked towards the hostel, I met some of my friends, who, last night, came to me and made the whole episode into a ‘hot issue’. I told them that I ‘struck back’ and had given her a ‘fitting reply’. I also showed them a copy of the poem that I had with me. One of them took the paper from me, as if to read. In just a few minutes, my ‘reply’ turned out to be a ‘hot topic’ for them. Most of them apparently supported me, and said that she did deserve the ‘treatment’ I had given her with the poem.
One of them then asked me whether I had any other copy of the same, and, unaware of their plan, I said ‘Yes’, because the original ‘script’ of the poem was with me in my bag in my hostel room. “Then, we want this...” Before I could do or tell anything, he walked away with the paper. Without thinking much, I knew that it was more trouble in the making for me. As long as my ‘reply’ remained with Sneha herself only, I could have claimed that I didn’t mean or cause any insult to her by my words. But, once it has gone public, there could be no escape route for me. Having seen the way my ‘friends’ had ‘treated’ my ‘memoirs’, anybody could have guessed what the fate of such a poem would be. I knew for sure that it would add much more insult to Sneha, that too, in my name. I was really upset, because hurting my sister’s (or, for that matter, any girl’s) feelings was something that I could never even think of, and here, it was going to happen, and, even though unknowingly, I have become party to it.
The next morning, I reached the class only to see my poem doing the ‘rounds’ among the students. ‘Fortunately’, (?!) there was no ‘modifications’ done to it. My ‘friends’ might have thought that those lines themselves would be more than enough. From the very beginning, I was expecting an ‘explosive’ reaction from Sneha towards me. I felt it was my own fault, and was prepared to face the consequences. I started exploring many possibilities, even though I had no idea of how exactly she might be feeling. Of course, I knew she was really hurt, even though she was not showing that. There was a grave and very composed look on her face. May be she was trying to look unaffected by whatever was happening around her. But, behind that ‘mask’, I could clearly read the frustration and rage she was trying to suppress.
Later on the day, while we were attending the Electronics Lab, one of my friends, Mr. Unnikrishnan, initiated a discussion on the ‘hot topic’ of the day. He was in the same group (for the Lab Session) as me, and we had one of the hostel mates of Sneha in our group. Vineetha was of the opinion that my words were a bit too harsh, especially for a girl like Sneha. (Earlier, I’ve mentioned about Ms. Praseetha as one of the only two girls of the class with whom I could talk freely, and Vineetha was the other.) Considering the fact that Vineetha and Praseetha were the only ‘sources’ who could tell anything solid about her feelings, I took Vineetha’s words as a reflection of Sneha’s thoughts. But, even she could not describe what exactly Sneha was thinking, or whether she had any plan for an outright action on the issue.
As my ‘reply’ to Sneha and subsequent talks among friends stirred up a hornet’s nest in the class, many of my ‘friends’ bent backwards on their opinion on the issue. One of them even told me that she was planning to initiate proceedings against me, including lodging a complaint with the Head of the Department and, may be, the Principal. “What will you do if she does that...?” The question was rather unexpected. “…Your ‘theories’ are not going to work here...You’ll have to start a ‘damage control operation’ right now...” He continued.
I didn’t have to think for much long to build up a reply. “Well, I also don’t think that ‘theories’ could save me... If it’s me who wrote those lines, I did it not without thinking... I know exactly what I wrote, what she may feel like and what her reactions could be... If she feels like complaining, let her do it... I have my line of defence clear. Believe it or not, I have even prepared the reply I would give in case I’m served a notice by the HoD or Principal...” (Nobody would have expected me to be that much well - repared. In fact, even myself was not sure how I could put such a brave face on!) Even though I had claimed that I had my line of defence clear, it was, in fact, only an exaggerated version of the truth. Actually, I started thinking of the ‘reply’, that I claimed I already had, only after saying so. (Of course, it was just a matter of a couple of minutes for me to manage a clear and honest explanation in my mind.)
The next few days I spent expecting some sort of response from my ‘sister’. Whenever I saw her face, I thought of her coming to me and ‘speaking her heart out’, but nothing happened. Absolutely no reaction at all. Normally, one should have felt somewhat relieved at her silence. But, for me, it was not the case. Her ‘inertness’ was really hurting me much more than any actual reaction could. She appeared to be totally neglecting my presence, and even my very existence itself. Sometimes, I even hoped had she done something, at least a ‘verbal whiplash’, it could have brought me a bit of ‘relief’.
As days passed by without anything ‘solid’ transpiring, I started feeling the bite of my conscience. My urge for a ‘win’ over her just ‘vanished’, and a feeling of guilty conscience slowly set in. I began thinking that I have committed a terrible mistake, an unpardonable offence, by hurting the feelings of a girl, and that too, whom I loved to consider as my own sister. Till then, I had considered myself as one who always showed utmost respect to womanhood and was really proud of my perfectly clean record of decency and respectful behaviour towards the ‘fairer sex’. But, with the way I behaved (or, rather, misbehaved?) with Sneha, the castle of my ‘false pride’ lay shattered.
Unable to bear the sting of my own conscience, I began thinking of ways to work out some sort of ‘damage control’. Even though the best way out could be an open - minded talk with Sneha herself, I was too timid to even think of making such a move. So, I decided to adopt an ‘indirect’ strategy, seeking help from the likes of Praseetha and Vineetha, who, I hoped, could bridge the gap between me and my ‘sister’. At the same time, my ego was compelling me not to ‘surrender’ so meekly. It was too difficult for me to differentiate an outright surrender and a respectable exit from the situation.
After a few days of indecisive struggle, I decided to bring to an end my mental agony, by way of a public apology to my ‘sister’, so that I could get rid of the ‘ever - growing’ feeling of guilty conscience. But, at the same time, because I still believed that she was also partly responsible for the unwelcome sequence of events, I felt that I should go for a ‘conditional surrender’ rather than an outright submission. My idea was to make Sneha accept her ‘fault’ first, and then proceed to apologize for mine.
With the ‘plan’ in mind, one evening, I approached Praseetha, just outside the classroom, asking for help. Without much introduction, I presented my proposal for an amicable settlement of the entire episode. “I hope you are aware of the situation I have landed in... I mean, in the issue regarding Sneha... Now I badly need to find a way out, and you’re the one I can rely on for it... Please convey my message to her... That if she’s willing to withdraw her ‘denial’, I’m ready to apologize to her publicly, in the class. I’m so upset over the way things are going...” Hearing my request for help, Praseetha agreed to talk to Sneha, even though she was not sure what the result would be.
A couple of days passed, and I awaited some response, either from Sneha herself or from my ‘messenger’, Praseetha. But, nothing happened. I felt that they’re also trying to avoid me. The next day, as I was thinking of reminding Praseetha of the matter, she came to me and said that she won’t be able to help me, because she and Sneha were not in good terms since last few days, because it was she who functioned as my ‘messenger’ in triggering the issue.
I was not in a mood to buy her version of the story as it is, because I knew very well that both of them were keen to keep away from further controversy. So, she was trying to carefully avoid me, and at the same time, convince me that she did make an attempt to help me out. I knew that there’s no point in looking for a helping hand any more. If I want to settle the issue, I have to set out on the ‘mission’ on my own.
Once I decided to fight the battle alone, I thought I would start afresh, with my ever - trusted ‘weapon’ from my ‘armoury’. That resulted in the birth of my first - ever letter to my ‘sister’. Very much eager to drive my point home, I had tried almost everything I could in that letter to induce a favourable change in her mindset. But, before long, I knew that I was not ‘lucky enough’ to achieve an ‘easy win’. The letter apparently didn’t have any impact on her. May be, I tried to put too much into it and failed to add enough ‘punch’! Anyway, my first attempt turned out to be nothing more than a ‘damp squib’.
I did try my luck once again a few months later, with another letter, shorter, but crisper this time. But the only ‘problem’ with it was that the outcome was ditto! That was enough for me to learn that I have to look for some other ‘unconventional’ ways to get into her mind. As I thought of every possible trick, suddenly, a ‘point’ struck my mind. Why not a poem itself? The best way to get out of the crisis caused by a poem could very well be another poem itself, I thought. Then I started working over the idea.
During the later years of our life in the college, I did come face to face with Sneha many times, and she did speak to me in somewhat friendly manner whenever we met. Still, I was not feeling well, with thoughts of those old days coming up time and again to pester me, even though she herself didn’t show any signs of detachment.
Close to the time we entered our last year in the College, I finally decided to try my new - found ‘weapon’. Once the decision was made, I started my wait for the best opportunity to strike. I didn’t have to wait for long. As our senior batch (final semester) was about to complete the course, a ‘farewell’ programme was organized for them by the junior batches. The moment I heard of the programme, I knew that it could be used as the ‘platform’ to launch my plan. I didn’t have to try much hard to prepare. In just a few minutes on the eve of the programme, I completed another poem, a true statement of the exact state of mind I was in at that time.
The day came, and I did stage my ‘plan’. Almost everybody of our batch, plus a few from the other batches, including the seniors, had to think not for long to read between the lines and understand who my ‘target’ was. Sneha herself knew it, but still, didn’t respond. (I think she was testing my patience!) Even though I could not achieve what I wanted, I felt a bit ‘relieved’ after ‘speaking out’. (or, rather, ‘singing out’ ?) Yet, there was a slight feeling of lack of satisfaction. I still felt that what I had done was not good enough to make it a ‘win in losing’.
Days gave way to months, and, before long, it was time for us to say ‘good bye’ to the college. Time to get into the ‘exam fever’. But, before that, there’s one day to come. The last ‘formal get - together’ of the class before we part ways, probably forever. The programme was planned to be staged in a ‘high - profile’ hotel in the town.
As the day approached, I felt that practically, I was running out of time to make a decent, dignified exit, because I still was under the impression that I have done some ‘irreparable damage’ to my own self - esteem, rather than my beloved sister’s. As days passed by, I grew more and more distressed and upset. I felt that I must now prepare to go to any extent to ‘clean up’ myself. Once the 'farewell' is over, there’s absolutely no way out, I thought.
And the ‘Day’ came. By 6.00 PM, we were on the way to the hotel where the programme was set to be staged. Even though I tried to be busy with my camera, throughout the programme, I was really feeling tense, fully aware that there was little time left for me to ‘put things right’. I must do something really good and effective, at least in these last few moments, or else, I’ll have to live the rest of my life bearing the agony of my conscience. But, there was one problem - a really ‘big one’ - the question: HOW? Yes, I didn’t have the slightest idea as to HOW I should tackle the problem that has been troubling me for years. I could not really find any clear - cut way ahead, even though I badly wanted one.
Before I could find any headway, it was time for the dinner. It was really nice, and normally, I would have really enjoyed it. But, today, it was not going to be. I was feeling rather ‘disinterested’. It was as if I somehow managed to ‘hold on’. As I was about to finish, Raghuraj Sir, our ‘Group Advisor’, saw me and felt that I was a bit ‘off’. He asked me why, and even though I said I was okay, he (and even myself) was not much satisfied with the reply. As if to bring me up to the joyous mood of the gathering, he asked: “Well, Vijith, Don’t you have anything to tell us...?” He was obviously referring to the other students’ sharing their feelings, speaking out openly, on almost every topic of interest, as even the teachers joined the company.
The question was an ‘eye opener’ for me. Suddenly, I felt that I’ve got what I’ve been searching for. I even wondered why the idea didn’t occur to me before. Anyway, I had made up my mind within seconds, and my reply to Sir did reflect it. “Yes, of course, Sir, I’m just looking for the right time...” By the time I said those words, the way ahead was crystal clear in my mind. I knew exactly what I would do and how I was going to ‘finish it off’. My decision went in favour of an outright ‘opening up’ of my mind, without any ‘reservations’ whatsoever. Even though it could be some sort of a meek surrender, laying to rest my ever - compelling ego, I knew that I must do it, and there could be no choice.
A few minutes passed, and once the microphone was free, I knew that it’s time for me to act. I walked ahead, took the microphone up and turned around.As the attention of the entire group focused on me, I started, in a low voice. Just a couple of sentences to start with, and then I was ‘off the block’. Words started coming out freely and doing wonders for me. Never did I feel at a loss for words. “...Thanks to my nature, I was never really close to any of you, and, to be precise, even after all these years together, I think there are a few of you with whom I haven’t spoken anything more than a few words... And even to the very few with whom I was somewhat ‘close’, I think I could not be just... And worse, with my uncompromising, unrelenting attitude, I actually ended up hurting most of them on one occasion or the other... I’ve no intention to name any, but, at least at this late juncture, let me tender an open - minded, whole - hearted apology to all of them... I hope that you’ll be willing to forgive me...”
As words continued to flow unhindered, I watched the reactions on the faces of my friends and teachers. The teachers looked perplexed, as they could not figure out why I was speaking out in a ‘strange’ way. They were so confused that one of them, Mr. Radhakrishnan, even asked a couple of students what exactly was ailing me so much. (Of course, he didn’t get the answer!) But, there was no confusion for the students, for, they all knew what exactly I was saying, and whom I was referring to, even though indirectly.
As I ‘scanned’ the faces of my classmates, I was ‘searching’ for one face in particular. Yes, I was looking for my ‘sister’. She was sitting in a chair in one of the rear rows in the hall. Even though she apparently tried to avoid my eyes, I could ‘read’ her mind from the expression on her face. It posed an ‘I’m sorry’ kind of look. As I watched her face, I knew it - I have finally scored my point. And that was more than enough for me to wind up with a clear, calm and settled mind. The ‘weight’ that was haunting me throughout those years was no more there to trouble me.
Even though I was sure that I did ‘win’ over my sister’s mind, I was not really satisfied, may be because she was still not ready to speak her feelings out. May be, she was also upset at the ‘unexpected’ ways the issue had transpired over the period. Yet, I was happy that I have done my job, and it had a kind of ‘cleansing effect’ on my heart.
The Post Script
A couple of years after leaving the college, I was in Mumbai, working with a small software company. One day, as usual, I was checking my e - mails, and among those, there were a couple of them from my old class mates at the Engg. College, from which I learned the news that my ‘sister’ is about to enter wedlock. She had sent invitation cards to them, the mails said. I wondered whether I might have figured in her ‘mailing list’ for the invitation. I hoped I did, even though there was practically no chance of my attending the ceremony, for, if she did extend an invitation to me, it could be an indication that she had, in fact, forgiven me.
The next Sunday, I called my home, as usual. I didn’t ask anything about any letters to me, even though I was eager to know about the ‘possibility’ of a marriage invitation. And I didn’t have to ask. My father told me that an invitation card had come the other day, and, even before he told the name, I knew it. I asked him to send it to me.
Four or five days later, I got a letter from my home, and it contained the invitation card (in fact, a ‘part’ of it only, cut away from the card) inside. Because I knew that there’s no question of my being able to attend the marriage, I thought that I should, at least, send her my ‘Best Wishes’, if not any presents. So, the very next day, I was on my ‘search’ for the best wedding greeting card I could find. (That was the first time in my life I was searching for a wedding greeting card. I had, of course, visited the shops a number of times before, but all those were in search of either a Christmas / New Year Card or a Birthday Card. (For my other ‘sister’, ‘Anju’, of course!)
The ‘Turn around’
Years flew past, and I now find myself working in a Pharma company (A place where the chance of finding one like me may be one in a million!) in Aurangabad. The year: 2002. The month: October. Date : 1st. Among the e - mails of the day, there was one from Sneha. It was actually sent to one of my old class- mates, and, may be unknowingly, it came to me as a forwarded message. (I don’t expect any of my friends to do that purposefully!)
Anyway, just as I saw the mail, I knew that I’ve got something I have been searching for over the years - Yes, my ‘sister’s mail ID. I was not interested in whatever else was there in the mail! Within minutes, I was typing my first - ever mail to her. Of course, I was not very sure whether she would respond to my gesture. I just felt like calling those old days back, scribbling a few words to my ‘sister’, without expecting anything in return!
But, this time, it was an entirely different ‘story’ altogether. Surprisingly enough, the very next day, I found a mail in my ‘inbox’, with the sender’s name as ‘Sneha’. The moment I saw that, I had a pleasant, refreshing feeling. I opened the mail, and in a few seconds, my heart was literally ‘leaping’ for joy. I felt like screaming out ‘Here’s my most ‘long - cherished’ Victory!’ Yes, at last, it has come - the day of my best - ever win. My ‘sister’ has understood me right, and she’s admitted that. She had also revealed the reason for her ‘unacceptable’ behaviour to me during the College days. She said: *“I no more consider you as a menace. When I joined Engineering College, my first time away from home, I had practically no experience interacting with people especially males. I had no brothers and I had no idea how to respond when you acted so. But now I have seen a lot more and am comfortable dealing with people.” (I had, in my mail, referred to myself as an ‘old menace’ who caused her a ‘head ache’ every now and then, and her reply was an obvious reference to the same.) The phrase ‘I had no brothers...’ Was the ‘crux’ of the mail, at least as far as I’m concerned. Her using the past tense form, for me, was indicative of her changed attitude. (She said ‘I had’ - which means (for me) she now ‘has’ one (or more?) or, put in a different way, she’s ‘accepted’ my calling her my ‘sister’.) I may be wrong in interpreting it this way, but, for me, it was something like one of the best ‘gifts’ I’d ever got!
Starting with ‘Days to Forget’, I think I’ve now reached ‘Days to Cherish’! So, it’s time to wind up. Whether I was right or not in what all things I’d done in those days, you may be able to judge better. Anyway, for me, it’s ‘Good Bye’ to those ‘not - so good old days’, for, a great ‘today’ is here for me, and I see bright ‘tomorrows’ ahead.
*: These words are quoted 'as it is' from the mail I received from Sneha.