by Kakuli Nag
(Bangalore, Karnataka, India)
Continued from here...
He probably knew Minu liked him or felt sorry for him or nurtured tenderness for him or what-ever-the-hell they call it now a days and he did not want any of it. He had enough guilt to carry with his cross for letting Pratima down so many times with his repeated failures in spite of her best efforts, not any more.
Unconsciously, I had told so much about him to Minu after I first met him in Bangalore Central seeking her advice about his way forward, what recognition open school certificates possibly had in the education industry and corporate world – What could he do in Bangalore, a new city for him, to shape up his life so that things are just better for him – little realizing, the girl was beginning to feel equally protective about Babla just as I was, even before seeing him.
“Earlier once she had offered to tutor me in Mathematics” He murmured, looking out of bedroom window, into space, as the curtains were blown again.
“Aah! Your equation with Maths – always at war, and that is why you did not let her in, afraid she might propose that again” I stated. He smiled apologetically, confirming my doubts.
“That brings the question back – Do you like her? I mean Minu, not her mother”.
“I picked your call when she tried to reach you on your landline, one Friday night. When I told her you will be late due to a client presentation, she asked me casually what I was doing”, he avoided my question again.
‘Why can’t he just say “yes” or “no”?’ I never considered patience a virtue - it is sure waste of time.
“When I told her I was studying psychology and finding it rather difficult, she offered to assist me in
Mathematics and suggested I quit this useless open school.” He paused. ‘Did he feel humiliated?” I wondered.
“She was silent for some time and I could hear her calm breathing”, he remembered the moment with more than the required precision, clearly reflecting that it had left a marked impression on him. “She said ‘Failing thrice is not reason good enough to quit a subject forever’”
That did it. Sermons from someone his age, was the perfect reason to drive her away at once, I guess.
He was trying to get the right words to emphasize the finality of his decision, “I have traded my self esteem. I want it back” He looked at me sincerely, “I need to return to my own city where I failed not just in Maths, with people, everywhere and was stamped irresponsible and a permanent failure by everyone there. I need to face them first and take it from there, not here.” His innocence and determination were dominating each other.
He must have carried shopping bags even
in Kolkata, did groceries, idly surfed through Coffee Table magazines at the lounge when Pratima had her spa treatment, ran everyone’s errands, washed the car, prepared tea – did all these and lot more for two years as he wanted to please his mother, his relatives and his grand-parents by compensating in little ways for his failure. No one must have noticed that, ever. It was his juvenile way to make peace with all those who were cross at him for his repeated failures.
“So are you leaving Babla? Is Pratima back?” Asima’s voice from the door made both of us turn around startled. She appeared a little mellowed down.
From the corner of my eye I could see Babla turning pale with fear, as she entered the room looking at the open suitcase. He gulped and was waiting to be insulted, humiliated again.
“He wants to go to Kolkata” I volunteered to answer.
He slowly moved his suitcase to one corner of the bed, arranged the clothes to make space for Asima to sit. I wanted to believe he was making one mighty effort to win Asima’s confidence, respect or whatever. Just when I began to believe that he almost succeeded, Asima ripped him again with her bitter sarcasm –“Will you be always be this irresponsible Babla – all your life? She stressed on the last three words and gave him a look that made him shudder.
Babla stood there hurt.
“Do you want to completely ignore what just happened with Minu?” She was visibly reluctant as she continued
“I thought you were awkward – Now I know you are just different, perhaps more than ordinary - Your normal cells do not work like ours but the way it works is probably better than ours ” I and Babla, both stood there, unable to believe, what we just heard – Speechless - mute with stupefaction.
“Babla could be failure, not a retard - Minu used those exact words to tell me that my sarcastic remarks will permanently damage your confidence.” I could imagine the battle they both must have had over Babla. Knowing Minu, she is the one to win. Her logic never fails.
“I am sorry” He spoke softly, getting the hint of what she meant and not knowing what else to say.
“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn” She quipped the famous line from her favorite Gone with the wind. “I just don’t want the insect to migrate anywhere!” She grinned.
He still completed packing, determined to leave and pick up things from where he had left.
Now that someone could see him beyond his failures to what he could possibly be, I knew he will not quit a subject even if he failed a few times to capture – be it Mathematics or Mrinmoyee – and ever be a castaway again!! The End