Silence lingered all around. Darkness had descended and stars shimmering far away and apart from sound of the infrequent cars roaming around, it was peacefulness all around. The luminescence from the table lamp was going on and off at least couple of times in a minute. Nila had the switch of the lamp in her right hand, left hand supporting her head and she was seen sitting on a chair in a slant posture.
Depressed she was, but neither her cheeks nor her eyes stained tears tonight. Brooding eyes looking towards a corner of the room, she was waiting for Rahul to show up. It was the usual scenario, either he would show up really late high in alcohol or wouldn’t show up. In her 22 years of existence, she had loved nothing more than this guy but she has hated nothing more than the life they were living right now.
Half past midnight and someone knocks the door. She was sure it was him, probably as drunk as he could be. She gets up, walks to the door and opens it. Just as she expected, it was Rahul. She holds his hand, in a bid to help him back on the bed. He moves away from her and with a mouthful of abuses he retaliates. Trying to find his own ground, he moves in wobbly path and somehow reaches his bed and just drops dead.
Nila follows Rahul and makes sure that he is safe. She switches off the light, walks to the front room and closes the open door. She sits down on the sofa and thinks to herself that ‘How long is it going to last? How long shall I take all these abuse?’
She sits back on the sofa and closes her eyes, taking time to think about the past, the vibrant life void of any burdens in school. She could hear once again whistles being blown and she was all geared up to take a long jump, an event which she always dominated in the sports day. She used to have a gold medal reserved for long jumps and triple jump events.
A native of the place called ‘The Nilgiris’ she belonged to the Badagas clan, a group of people who inhabited there. Their clan was very much conservative, especially in allowing marriages from the outside. Badaga boys / girls were always expected to marry within the clan. Nila was a part of this ethnic tribe, typically good looking and smart. Her parents were educated and hence they wouldn’t compromise on her education.
St.Joseph’s convent was one of the famous convent schools in town. Started in the late 1870’s by the Britishers, this school was a very famous one in the town. She joined the school in 2nd grade and Rahul was her acquaintance from school. Nila’s father was working for the metrology department in The Nilgiris and her mother was a member of the small handloom industry run for the local people. Nothing more than a middle class family with not much of savings but life would smoothly run on their earnings.
Rahul’s father on contrary was an Army man. A major by rank, and he had moved to Wellington cantonment in The Nilgiris. His mother was a socialite and she had done her master’s in English literature. Rahul joined St. Joseph’s convent in the 8th grade, and he was in the B division while Nila used to be in the A.
Major Sushil Kumar was an ardent fan of sports. He himself used to play badminton and motivated Rahul from childhood to get into some sport. Rahul opted football and he used to go to the members of the Army team and watch them and train a bit with them from childhood. When his father was in Jodhpur, Rajasthan he played in the school team and their school team had won the local trophy. He still remembers his dad proudly talking about his son to the other officers there, something that made him feel honored. Deep inside him, he always respected his father and admired his style.
Within 6 months of joining, Rahul became the School Pupils Leader, SPL as they call it for their grade. All the problems of students of that grade would go through him. That’s how a crowd pleaser he was. Highly motivated and active though average in studies, his communication skills and leadership qualities set him apart. Nila was the class leader for her division and she was very good in academics.
(To be continued)