THE JOURNEY ( part 2)

The train chugged along and  with it moved  Swati’s  thoughts. She tried to block them out , but somehow, they kept intruding into her consciousness.

The year was 1996… Swati has just joined the MBA program. A brilliant student, it was not surprising that she had made it through the All India Entrance Exam.  But what was surprising was how Priya by her own admission had sort of “wandered into” the program.

Both the girls were so different and yet so similar! Swati was from Delhi and  the daughter of a IAS officer. A very honest man , her father had raised her to be strong on values because of which she  had a tendency to see the world in just two colours – black and white! Priya was the daughter of a Professor of English from Dharwad in Karnataka.  An aspiring poet, her father floated through life in a liquor induced haze. Having lost her mother to cancer at a young age and her father to liquor, Priya formed her own sets of values which ranged from shades of light grey to jet black!

An air of vagueness always seemed to prevail in room no 104 of the girl’s hostel. Priya who was a wonderful artist and painter was usually lost in her world of art while Swati was the proverbial absent minded professor with her head buried into books or throwing her things around looking for something she had misplaced. Swati’s  vagueness was  however restricted only to her day to day existence. In her work she was  sharp witted, analytical and extremely logical. Though  Priya’s art reflected her clarity of expression her answer sheets and assignments usually did not. ,It was left to Swati to help her through these. One was high on intellect while the other was brimming with talent.

Swati was extremely protective about Priya and could tear to pieces with her acid tongue , anyone who made fun of her best friend! Priya on the other hand always wondered how someone who was as intelligent as Swati could be such a sucker for sob stories- giving loans to the lady who did their laundry at the hostel ( which were never repaid) or buying lunch for any passing beggar who said that he had not eaten a meal.

Priya looked up from her berth at Swati and thought with a smile about how Swati had picked up a drunken beggar from the road all by herself and  tried to take him in an auto rickshaw to a government hospital nearby for treatment. That idiot had not even realized that the fellow was twice her size. Swati was very small built – hardly five feet and  gave the impression of a school student who had walked into a college by mistake! An innocent girl from a metro and a worldly wise girl from a small town, they perfectly complimented each other. Life was  bliss until that last semester.

It was on a cool December afternoon when she first met him. Swati remembered the day clearly. She had gone looking for sponsorship for the annual student’s seminar at the corporate office of a  multinational firm. Someone had directed her to him- Vikram Roy- Senior executive Public Relations – it said outside his door. She was mesmerized by his dimpled smile and deep brown eyes! It had never happened to her  before..!

 That evening he called her at the hostel number and asked if she would come out with him for a movie next Saturday. Swati was surprised. No boy or man had ever  noticed her. They usually thought she was a school girl ( that is when they registered her presence). She had often wished she was like Priya, tall willowy and mysterious!

 One date led to another and soon she was going out regularly with Vikram.

 It took about a month for Priya to realize what was happening to her friend.- subtle changes in the way she dressed, her distraction ,her obsession with the phone and her sudden disappearances….

 And finally the cat was out of the bag. Swati and Priya spent four hours one night discussing Swati’s love!  “I can’t live without him” confessed Swati to Priya.

  “When do  I get to  meet him?” asked Priya teasing her friend. “Oh anytime… ! “ promised Swati.

 But somehow it did not happen until the exams were getting over. It was the last exam and after that the plan was for Swati and Priya to meet Vikram for a movie. After the movie Vikram had promised to take the girls out for dinner. “ Hope it is somewhere nice. Remember it is the first time Priya will be meeting you. And please be on your best behaviour. I want her to approve of you” threatened Swati.

 But that meeting never took place – at least not the way it was planned! Just as she emerged out of the examination hall, she found her uncle, Dr. Iyer  waiting outside  “ You Appa had a heart attack. Please pack your things. You have to leave for Delhi immediately” he said gently.

 Swati went through the next hour in a daze. Priya helped her pack. Suddenly she remembered the date with Vikram. She handed the tickets to Priya and told her to go for that movie with Vikram and tell him about the latest development in her life.

  Tears trickled down her cheeks as Swati remembered the events that followed thereafter.

Appa had to have an emergency by pass surgery. Thankfully it went off well. She had been so grateful to have Priya with her – or so she had thought then! Priya had come to Delhi after a week and had spent some time with her.

 “So did you meet Vikram ?” asked Swati the day Appa was discharged and Priya was getting ready to leave. “Yes.” said Priya. “And…? “asked Swati expectantly.

 “Swati he is not for you..! You are fool to trust him. The moment he realized that you were not going to be around he started coming on to me. He called me a couple of times after that asking me if I would go out with him” said Priya.

 To say Swati was shocked was an understatement. She tried to contact Vikram but he seemed to avoid her calls. Her heart ached and she went through her days pouring out her feelings in letter after letter to Priya. Priya’s letters were strangely curt and Swati was hurt that she was not being more understanding.

Meanwhile, it was time for her to join work as a management trainee at the bank in Chennai. Priya  had not taken up a job saying that she needed to be home with her father for a while.

 Three months passed by …..

 And then she saw it one day on her desk- the invitation to Priya and Vikram’s wedding! She thought she was going mad. She made a colleague read it out to her just to be sure that she was not hallucinating! She felt that she was plunging headlong into a deep valley. Her only prayer at that time was that she should keep her sanity.

 She immersed herself in her work  clocking in over twelve hours daily, dropping on her bed exhausted at the end of the day.

“Nothing like work therapy” she thought wryly…

A phone was ringing in the background- Swati pushed her hand into her bag trying to locate  her mobile in the mess inside!  “Hello” she heard Priya say. Surprising , that they should both have the same ring tones…! She closed her eyes going back to pretending sleep.

“No Vikram that is not fair. I had taken off from work and come all the way to Hyderabad just for this. Why are you changing your mind now? Please.. don’t do this” she heard Priya plead. “Okay fine.. whatever but don’t deny me my child” said Priya her voice breaking into a sob.

Swati could no longer pretend sleep. She opened her eyes and looked at Priya. Her body was shaking with sobs. Before she realized it , Swati had switched on the light and walked over to the opposite berth putting her hand on Priya’s head. “ Hey Priya what’s up? What is this about your child “ she asked.

“My son Anush lives with his father Vikram. Has been  living with him for the last two years – ever since we separated” said Priya.

“But shouldn’t you get custody since you are the mother?” asked Swati naively.

“It is complicated Swati. You see, after I separated from him, I met another man. Now Vikram says that I cannot have Anush if I am with Dheeraj. His lawyers are threatening to prove that I am a woman of “loose morals” or worse  someone mentally unbalanced” said Priya  in despair.

Swati spent the next two hours of the journey listening to the horrible story of Priya and Vikram’s marriage- violence and infidelity seemed to be the main themes..! Priya poured out her heart to Swati as the night disappeared into dawn.

It was with a start that Swati realized that her station had come. She quickly gathered her things and gave Priya a hug before moving towards the door. Priya followed her out of the coach. She was getting down at the last station.

Priya spotted her immediately on the platform even before Swati did- a sleepy eyed  just- turned- thirteen girl still in her pyjamas standing with a tall man wearing thick glasses. The Albert Einstein hair was a dead give away!

“That is Sakshi- aka Minky and that is Sunil” said Swati pointing at them.  “Aren’t you going to introduce us? “ asked Priya.

Swati hesitated before she said firmly “ No Priya. Don’t mistake me, I don’t  hate you any more but I don’t think I can let you into my life again. Too much has happened between us. What we shared in college was beautiful and let us keep it as a happy memory. Our presents are too diverse to intersect. God be with you!”

The train whistled and slowly pulled out of the platform.. ! Swati looked on at Priya standing at the doorway waving at her….. The Journey was  over!

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13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. KP
    Sep 03, 2011 @ 01:38:51

    The story is a bit longish but narrated very well.Life is full of unexpected happenings.Priya cannot be faulted if we remember in matters of love and war, there is nothing fair or foul.When Swati left,Priya took advantage of the situation as any girl in love would do.Swati should actually be thankful to her as she was saved from Vikram as subsequent events proved that Priya’s life has not been rosy.To my mind Swati has been overcautious in spurning her friendship.

    Reply

  2. Meera
    Sep 03, 2011 @ 12:51:11

    Thanks KP. I know the story is probably long. I spent some time doing Swati’s charachter in part 2 because in part 1 she appears to be very abrupt and rude. I was considering doing 3 parts to it but finally decided to stick with two. Yes, Swati has been overcautious but that is how she is – a person who sees things only as black and white- right and wrong. Difficult for someone like her to understand a lost soul like Priya…!

    Reply

  3. The British Asian Blog
    Sep 03, 2011 @ 15:42:06

    Another good story. Swati character is almost similar to someone I actually know. When I was reading the story, I just imagined her inside this story. Good stuff

    Reply

  4. Bikram
    Sep 03, 2011 @ 15:58:41

    Hmmm I dont like parting.. and i dont like friends part .. there is always another chance to make up for the lost time and who knows she might have changed ..

    But a lovely story …

    Reply

    • Meera
      Sep 03, 2011 @ 23:58:36

      Yeah, Bikram, I dont like partings either. But I am glad that the friends came to some sort of understanding about their relationship!

      Reply

  5. Shomoita
    Sep 03, 2011 @ 17:18:01

    I think the ending was a bit rushed. There should’ve been more space for Priya to give her explanation on what exactly was on her mind when she didn’t bother to betray her best friend while Swati was so down with her father’s indisposition. I don’t think any girl would take advantage of such a situation. No matter how black, white or grey one’s thinking is, betrayal is something which can never be forgiven, given that it happened between two person with a bond of trust called friendship. Or it may be that the friendship meant nothing to Priya. Glad that she suffered in the end. She paid her price. Swati did perfect by not letting her into her life again. I guess if the story ended with a kind of sadistic pleasure from Swati’s side seeing Priya suffer would’ve been grand! 😛

    Reply

    • Meera
      Sep 03, 2011 @ 23:57:49

      Shomoita, thanks for dropping by. I am touched to see that you have read each of my stories and left comments. Such encouragement is really helpful 🙂 Yes, Priya and Swati’s friendship could not survive the test of difficult times. Let us not be so harsh to Priya.. she has afterall been handed her punishment by life!!! People like Priya often require an emotional anchor to keep them steady in the sea of life. Swati was that anchor that kept her steady. When she left Priya tried to put Vikram in that role and ended up getting involved with him…

      Reply

  6. Basil Sylvester Pinto
    Sep 04, 2011 @ 12:32:42

    mid-way thru the second part, I knew where it was headed towards. a nice read again.

    Reply

  7. Tharani
    Sep 05, 2011 @ 13:55:27

    Huh…The story is narrated well. Just could easily imagine it especially the climax.. Keep writing …

    Reply

  8. Krishnapriya
    Sep 10, 2011 @ 23:44:26

    Both the parts were really good.. part 1 beautifully built suspense, while part 2 did good justice to the previous part, and the character of the girls.. becoming a fan!

    Reply

  9. Gayu
    Feb 11, 2012 @ 12:00:59

    best one…..loved it……
    “SHORT STORIES BY MEERA”…loving each one more than the next…:)

    Gayu

    Reply

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