link to part 3 here
Sheetal reached her college with a feeling of enthusiasm. But her mood dampened a bit on entering. The college was unusually crowded and active. She suddenly remembered that it was student council elections. The next thought was natural for her. Tarun was one of the candidates for the post of president. The odds were heavily in his favour. Tarun was one of her first friends on campus. Now she wished she had never talked with him. But at some odd moment, she recalled time spent with him, she recalled moments when she had thought of him as ideal man, she recalled moments when she started realizing that he was not what she thought he was. She recalled moments when she hated herself for making a bad mistake, desperately hoping that she is mistaken. “Ohh, that is past. I should not be so hard on myself. Everybody commits mistakes. Even in my mistake, I was in love with an ideal vision in mind”, she thought. Love. She suddenly felt as if she skipped a heartbeat. “Yes, I was in love with him. Or was it with the vision I held? How does it matter one way or the other? I just hope he didn’t know it.”
But she knew that he knew. That was evident from the way he looked at her with a smirk every time he saw her after she started avoiding him. Tarun was a poster boy of current generation. He had a huge fan following on the campus. He was tall and had a handsome face. But what attracted everyone towards him were ‘boy-next-door’ expressions and a smile which showed not even a hint of pride but generosity towards others. A smile which indicated, “I understand you. But neither you nor I can help anything.” But he often went out of his way and made sure he helps everyone and is in their good books. He never had a particular end to achieve. All he wanted was power over everyone. “This is not an age to rule people by force but it is age of ruling people by compassion”, he often thought. Once he developed this firm belief, path towards goal became clear. Everybody else was a means towards the unknown end, except Sheetal. He had met her on very first day of college. He had always enjoyed his friendship with her. She was his escape route. No matter what he said while talking with others, he confessed to her what he truly felt. He thought that she loved him and would understand him. He never questioned to himself whether he loved her. He had always taken her for granted. When she started ignoring him he was puzzled. But he didn’t bother to find out reason. By now, he was the most popular person on campus and was touted to achieve big things. If she would have really loved me, she would not have questioned me but would have trusted me, he thought. With every success of his, he held an even more boastful look when he met her. She was totally indifferent. This bothered him even more. Gradually, however, he chose to ignore her. An impractical idealist fool like her will realize her mistake one day. Life is not like how she sees. The world doesn’t run that way, he thought. Impractical--for whom? --- Whose life?--- Which world? These questions didn’t occur to him.
Sheetal watched all the processions blankly. She had some important work to do but it seemed impossible to do it amidst elections. “How come I forgot about the elections? Wouldn’t have bothered coming to college today,” she wondered.
“Hey! This is a surprise. You would be the last person I would expect on campus today” said Tarun. He had spotted her and was genuinely surprised.
“It might sound stupid, but I forgot that it is Election Day,” she replied.
“Haha. That is funny and rude at the same time. Typical of you. “
“I would get going now”
“Your wish. If it matters to you, I am expected to win today with clear majority. Everybody is voting for a change and they say that I am the one to bring about a change. They have faith in me because I have faith in them. It is always mutual”
“Good Luck, Tarun. You need not explain them or yourself to me”
“OK. I too have to go now. Your hatred towards me or my ways is futile. Bye”
Sheetal spotted few of her friends at canteen. But she wanted to get out of the campus right away and started walking back. Perhaps Tarun is right. My hatred is futile, she wondered. Perhaps thinking so much is worthless. I should go back, have a nice time and then vote for the popular person. I can have the popular reason of, ‘it doesn’t matter anyway’. It should be so simple. Why then do I feel exalted when I achieve result after complex thinking process, whatever the nature of problem might be? Why do I feel guilty when I don’t think something through? Do they not feel the same, everyone else? Why do they choose to belittle that which has carried human race forward and glorify all that which is wrong? There you are! Again, thinking of yourself as someone great just because you think. What right you have to judge someone? It is so simple. Adapt yourself to the world. Accept nature to be malevolent and people to be benevolent. You will get along fine with everyone and everything.”
Sheetal reached the bus stop. There was a long queue in anticipation. There was a boy who was staring at tall buildings and trees. Suddenly bus arrived and people started pushing him and cursing him. He had expressions as if somebody has woken him up when he was fast asleep. Sheetal burst out laughing .
That boy was last one to enter the bus. The place next to Sheetal was empty.
“Can I sit here?”
“Your choice. I don’t own this bus or seat” she said smiling, still recalling the funny incident.
He sat down. He had watched her laughing outside. No matter how much dumb he acted, nothing of significance ever escaped his eyes. He had watched her carefully. There was something peculiar, something different about that laughter and those eyes. “She seems different from the rest. The eyes certainly say so.” He thought, going back to that moment. “Maybe I am assuming too much. And how does it matter if she is different. Probably I will never even get a chance to talk.”
“Hello, is something wrong with you?” she asked
“What? Me? Maybe. Don’t know. Why?”
She laughed. “You are making weird faces and mumbling something.”
“Oh, I see.”
“Were you searching for words to speak to me?”
“Uh, what? Who? Me? Maybe.”
“I am Sheetal”
“I am Nakul”
Nice to meet you, Nakul. I couldn’t help but notice you staring at buildings and trees. What was so special?”
“I too couldn’t help but notice your laughter. I was comparing the tree and the birds residing on that tree, a scenario which had been same since ever against journey of human beings from caves to skyscrapers. “
“Ooohh, quite philosophical and I didn't imagine you would notice me laughing! Anyway, do you think thinking in such terms is of any use?”
“I don’t know. Maybe.”
“Do you always talk in terms of ‘maybe’?”
“Well, just because this is first meeting I am acting weird. From next meeting onwards, I would be quite normal”
“Who told you there will be next meeting?”
“Oh, there isn’t? Well, maybe then we can continue this meeting longer. When is your stop?”
“Next one,” she replied.
“Is it? Funny. Mine too. Incidentally there is a nice café near that stop,” he said with poker face. Sheetal smiled.
To be continued….