It was hot and sunny."Drink your milk", my mother nagged me .At this point every single thing around me was irritating me. It was anxiety raising its destructive head. "I feel full already. I had the idlis, now I am done." I yelled back. I ran to rinse my mouth and tidy up my face and hair."Where is daddy? I need to get there on time". I yelled again. My father didn't value reaching anywhere on time. He was always taking it slow and easy .Chatting casually with anyone he met on the road. He would definitely make me late on my important day. "Daddy, daddy the place is on the other end of town, we have to start now. I cannot be late". This was important to me. I had to nail this one. The aptitude test for Infy. Getting everything right was the only thing on my mind. This was an off campus selection and it was a rare opportunity. I was trying to recall the entire problem solving from Summers and Shakuntala Devi. My father appeared. "You have to come back on your own, I cannot wait until it’s over", he told me. That was okay, I could manage back but I never went to that part of the town."It’s too far for taking an auto rickshaw back, I still cribbed. "So then take a bus", he replied. Some fury started bubbling inside. That was an unnecessary inconvenience. Taking a bus. What if I got through the test, I would have to hurry back and prepare for the interviews next day. Waiting for a bus is just going to waste all my time. Not to mention I would get really tired and sleepy. But I decided to let that go and focus on getting the perpetual un-punctual father of mine out through the door.
As usual he wanted to dust the car a bit. I sat inside slowly seeping with fury. They do very well understand I get all crabby under tension, why can't they help me calm down instead of agitate me further, I wondered. I never really understood my parents. At this stage in my life I particularly wanted to run away from them. I was eager to get a job and move out. I had not landed any campus selections. I wanted to explore life, more importantly the world on my own. With my extra conservative and righteous parents it was not possible.
As we travelled from signal to signal I started wondering what so many people were doing early in the morning on the roads on a Sunday. I dared not express loudly thereby giving my father a chance to lecture me on patience. We finally reached the place, an old college with a sprawling campus. So many trees lined the paths within. The old Victorian architecture was very intimidating.
I flew out of the car the second he stopped. "I can find everything on my own. Bye daddy", I waved goodbye. "Wait up, All the best dear...don’t be nervous...take time to solve the questions carefully", he managed a smile even when he was disappointed to be not accompanying me further. I ran all the way, found my exam hall and ran some more. I prayed hard, dear God, let me get through please.
As I sat in my place I looked around. All smart boys and pretty girls. I never thought of myself as pretty. There was a very fair girl sitting a few seats ahead of me. She was dressed well and looked very confident. I am sure life is a piece of cake for her, I mused. Truly a Snow White. People would be falling all over her to help her. If she clears the written today she will sail through the interview in a breeze. That is if it’s a guy who interviews her. He may even put her on his team. My warped mind started envisioning. Then the test began and I had to pull all my brain into solving it.
The test was easy. After the test it was announced that we would have to wait for sometime to know if we cleared it or not. I decided that I would head for the canteen since my stomach had started to grumble and rumble. I did not look at any one around me. I knew I had a book with me and I was planning on losing myself in it.
When I sat down in the canteen with my samosas and coffee, I noticed that Snow White from my exam hall was walking in. She met my eyes and smiled. I had no other option but to smile. How come she is alone? I wondered. All the guys were eyeing her earlier. She took her tea and walked towards me. Oh no, I groaned within. I couldn't leave my samosas behind and run , could I ? She smiled again and dropped herself on the chair opposite me on my table.”Hello, you mind if I join you?” she asked.”Not at all, please...” I motioned with my hand. “I am Koshni, I was in your same exam hall”, she revealed. “Oh, is that so? I am Rachel”, I found it uncomfortable to disclose that I had noticed her. Petty jealousy. I have so many vices.
We went on to discuss some questions and I tried to glance into my book signaling of my total disinterest in her company. She never took the hint. After we were done in the canteen there was still a lot of time left, so we decided to stroll around. “I am guessing that you are from South”, she told me suddenly. “Yes I am and you look like you are from the North”, I laughed. I replied “Yes, All the way up North, I am from Kashmir”, she revealed. I was a bit excited. Never met a Kashmiri before. Kashmir was indeed alluring. All the beauty and the strife. “Can we sit in the shades of some tree, please...I think I am starting to get rashes from the hot sun”, she said. She showed me her arms which were indeed getting very red. “We Kashmiris are not used to really hot climate.Very sensitive skin to sun.” She told me as we sat down. “So then why are you here? ” I blurted out and tried not to sound too rude. She smiled again. “I am a Kashmiri Pundit. We sort of ran away from Kashmir overnight for saving our lives. If I could I would go back and live there among apple trees and snowy mountains”, her smile was starting to fade. What an insensitive idiot I am.”I am so sorry, I didn't mean it like that”, I apologized. “I know. You really don’t know and so it’s ok. Our whole family left our homes and land and travelled down to Jammu fearing our lives. I hear that they have burnt down our homes by now. From Jammu I was offered a place in a school in Pune since the Govt had given some reservation in schools for Kashmiri refugees. I stayed here in a hostel.” She told me with sadness. From a princess to a refugee overnight, I concluded. “Your family stayed back in Jammu?” I asked. “Yes”, she replied “My father found some small work. His brother’s family also shared our one bedroom flat in Jammu. My uncle owned a medicine store in Kashmir. He used to take home cash in bundles and baskets. He didn’t even have money to by milk for his children. Some of the loyal workers back in our orchards still send us some cash, God bless them”
I never had such a first hand knowledge of what the displaced Kashmiris faced. This was really shocking and I didn’t know how to handle the situation. She seemed to be in the mood to talk. Maybe she felt she could bare her helplessness to a stranger who she never was going to see again. No one is ever comfortable sharing weak moments even when it’s not their fault.
She continued “I am the eldest. I have a younger brother and sister. They are still in school. Next year my brother will go to college. I am planning to bring him here. When I was in college I had taken up some odd jobs to support myself. After college I joined a call center as I needed the cash. Couldn’t keep burdening my family. I feel so bad that I couldn’t land a campus placement.”
I sensed that she was starting to unravel. Her eyes were getting moist. I thought I would change the subject. ”Look at that beautiful flower” I pointed to the Gulmohar tree. She looked and nodded.”Do you know that so many movies were shot in our orchards back in Kashmir? It is a lovely place. There is no place like that anywhere else in the whole world. I was still a child when we left but I remember. I remember every blade of glass. I remember every snow flake. All I want to do is go back to my home and orchards.”
“How is your rash now?” I asked her. She looked at her arm and stroked it gently.”It’s ok now. So many of us fell sick in Jammu and Delhi because we couldn’t adjust to the climate.”
I felt a pull towards her. I put an arm over her and said “I think you are very brave and very hard working. You will surely make your family proud and I am so glad to have met you.” I was a bit shocked hearing these words from my own mouth.
She managed to smile and then we walked back to the main entrance where the results were being called out. I had cleared and she hadn’t. We walked together again to the bus stop and she gave me tips about my interview the next day. She seemed to be genuinely happy for me. How could she not be so bitter after all she went through? I have such a disdain towards everyone and I even don’t know why. I had such a wrong picture about her easy life. And now she is cheering me on where she had lost. I truly admired her. I knew I could never be so giving and beautiful. She was so lovely to look at and even lovelier to be with. She had no hatred, no pull you down mind games. I felt ashamed of taking everything for granted. My parents and every comfort they provided wasn’t a small blessing. No small blessing at all. Can’t say that I suddenly turned into an ideal daughter but I was much more thankful and respectful.
I never met Koshni again but I can never forget her. When small plans go awry and irritate me I think of her and wish her well in all endeavors. She was proof to me that no matter how unfair life treats you its still worth a smile. Life is not just a win but beauty, a gentle glow of friendship and a joyful helping hand. Snow White, I pray that you find your way back home. One day the reign of the evil Queen will end and you will live happily ever after.
This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda
This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda