I waited and waited. I needed to let Beautiful Eyes know that I am free this weekend, That Arjun had gone home. I stood near my room window and watched for his bike. There was no sign of him or his bike.
I saw Prasad(canteen boy) walking towards the ladies hostel. The only reason he comes to the ladies hostel is to pass a message from one of the boys.
And only the lovers send messages through the canteen boy and usually the messages are regarding the rendezvous. Simple messages that informs Where and When!
I ran out of my room and stood near the hostel entrance. It was already getting late and I had to be back in the hostel by 9.30 before Gangamma locks the gate. I didn’t want to waste time. Each second that I lose by waiting for the messenger to deliver the message is a second I could have spend with the one I love.
I watched the canteen boy walking towards the hostel in slow motion. So slow that even a snail could have won the race. I knew he was cherishing every free moment outside the hot sweaty canteen kitchen.
A part of me was so angry with him for walking so slow. But I knew the truth. Children like Prasad are the back bone of Indian economy.Child labour act of 1987 prohibits employing children below the age of 14.Yet you find Children like Prasad who are certainly below the age of 14 still working in places like a medical college canteen where nobody(including me) even bothers to bat an eyelid or talk about his rights.
Each and Every one of us in the medical college is aware of the fact that education is the key. That is exactly the reason we are all doing medicine, so we could have a better life. Yet not one of us was bothered about the education Prasad was missing out on.
May be it is ingrained on our culture or may be we are selectively blind, because we continue to exploit children like Prasad and blame Prasad’s destiny instead of blaming our own apathy.(see this, this, this and this )
“Hello Madam” Prasad looked at me and grinned
“Any message for me?” I asked him. My heart was full of hope and excitement
“No madam. I came to see Soumya madam” My helium balloon suddenly lost all the helium.
“Arjun sir went home No?” He was staring at me. I could see the disgust in his eyes.
“Oh yes, he did. I forgot” I tried to limit the damage. He shrugged his shoulders and walked off. I hated myself for being in the mess I was in.I felt guilty for double crossing Arjun. But I just couldn’t stop loving beautiful eyes. I just couldn’t.
I walked back to my room. Shylaja had gone home and Aparna was with her boy friend. I contemplated if I should leave the door open or close?
What if Prasad comes back with a message for me and didn’t knock the door properly. I left my room door opened, just in case he knocked the door and I didn’t hear. I waited and waited, every time I heard footsteps outside my door, I lifted my head to see if it was Prasad. He never came.
May be Beautiful eyes really did send a message and Prasad didn’t want to deliver the message, because he might have felt it was wrong of Beautiful Eyes to meet me when I am going steady with Arjun. How many Poppins I bought for Prasad? Is this how he treats me after all that I have done for him? What is his problem, if I see Beautiful eyes when Arjun is away? Who is he to bother about my personal life?
Some where at the back of my head I heard the sensible Nina trying to say something sensible like ‘Nina you are being unreasonable’. I quickly told her to Shut Up. Only I know how much I want to be with Beautiful eyes!
Saturday morning I woke up with a heart full of hopes. I knew by now Beautiful eyes would have noticed that Arjun had gone home. We can spend the whole day together because even Caroline isn’t around. Yay, I wanted to shout and do a victory dance. I looked at Aparna. She was still sleeping.
I wanted to go and brush my teeth. But what if Prasad comes with a message and Aparna tells him that she has no idea where I was?
I tore a piece of paper from my record book and wrote in bold letters
GOING TO BRUSH MY TEETH.
I looked at the paper in my hand. How stupid am I getting. What if Aparna gets up and see the note and asks me, why I wrote a message like that? What am i going to tell her? Stupid stupid Nina. I crumpled the piece of paper and threw it in the rubbish bin. I walked towards Aparna’s bed, trying to make as much noise as I can, so she might wake up and I can tell her. She was sound asleep.
“Aparna” I whispered softly. She didn’t respond. I didn’t have the heart to wake her up.
I opened the window to check if Prasad was walking towards my hostel. He wasn’t. I quickly grabbed my toothbrush and ran to the wash room, brushed my teeth quickly and ran back. I hoped I didn’t miss Prasad.
The entire Saturday, I put my life on hold. I had lots of clothes to wash. I had 3 assignments to do, one assignment was due couple of weeks ago. It was a forensic medicine assignment and I didn’t do it because I haven’t bought a text book yet. I should go to the library and borrow a text book. But I chose to stay in my room,because I knew for sure he would send a message. By evening I was mad. I was mad at him for not sending a message. I was mad at myself for not going with Arjun. I could have eaten some home cooked meals at Arjun’s house, I could have partied all night long. I could have gone out for a movie. Instead I am stuck in this stupid room waiting for a message.
I was sitting on my bed and cursing myself when I noticed a cockroach climbing up my cupboard. My first instinct was to get up, grab my slipper and whack the cockroach and kill it. I smacked the cockroach with my slipper and it fell down to the ground. The antennae and the legs were still moving. I lifted my slipper to hit it again, then I remembered something.
I sat down on the floor and tried to figure out the best way. I had to be careful. That means no finger prints, no handwriting. My heart started to pound because I was petrified, at the same time excited. I took out my dissection set used the forceps and lifted the poor creature from the floor. Part of the gut had already come out of the body. I felt disgusted.
But I convinced myself by saying
‘Come on Nina, you have dissected so many cockroaches when you were doing pre-degree, you have even dissected deadbody!.
This cockroach can’t/shouldn’t make you sick’
“What are you doing with that?” Aparna was standing near the door and screaming. I didn’t even hear her opening the door
“It is a cockroach”
“I know, I can see, what are you doing holding it with your forceps?”
“I am going to throw it” Sadly I walked to the rubbish bin and threw the cockroach inside
“Is it dead”
“Oh yes” I lied. Hoping Aparna won’t go near the bin and check it out. If she saw the legs of the cockroach still moving, she would freak out!
The cockroach gave me hope. It kind of opened up that part of me someone predicted long ago.. The shrewed and cunning part of me. I knew what I am going to do. The only part that I didn’t know was how was I going to do.
May be it was the cockroach,may be it was the sheer boredom of waiting for a message, I stopped waiting for the message. I had more important things to do.
Sunday morning, I went and washed all my clothes, applied oil on my hair and took a very long shower. Went to the library and borrowed a forensic medicine text book. I still looked for his bike at the parking area. It wasn’t there. I had no idea where he went. I felt a sense of betrayal. My heart felt so heavy.
Then I thought, It is ok for me to betray Arjun, and not ok for someone else to betray me! I shook my head and walked back to my room.
Monday morning, Arjun was waiting for me at the bus stop.
“Hi Nina, I missed you” He spoke as soon as he saw me
“Me too” I replied. hating myself for lying
“I got something for you”
“You want to get it now or later?”
I looked at the bus and at Arjun. I wanted to see so badly what Arjun got for me, but the bus would leave in the next few minutes
“Oh Arjun, I want to see, but I will miss the bus”
“Nah, I will drop you”
“Ok” That was a super good idea.
“wait at the canteen” He ordered
“Ok” I walked to the canteen. I didn’t want to be seen standing outside the canteen, so I walked inside. I must have waited only for a few minutes. I could see Arjun walking from the boy’s hostel holding a parcel. I was so excited. it isn’t often I get gifts!
I also saw Dr. Jagadish walking in to the canteen
“Good morning sir” I greeted him. My instinct told me I was going to be in big trouble, but it was too late.
“See what I got for you” Arjun shouted as soon as he entered the canteen. He too wasn’t expecting to see Dr. Jagadish. I could see the shock in his eyes and I saw the look on Dr. Jagadish’s face.
“Good morning sir” Arjun too greeted him
He ignored both of us. But we both knew we are in for big trouble.
I walked out and Arjun followed me
“Why did you have to scream and let the world know you got something for me?” I hissed
“Well, I wasn’t expecting Mr. Filthy to be in the canteen. How was I to know? Why didn’t you give me a signal that he was inside?”
“How can I give you a signal? Before I could even open my mouth, you were shouting already and saying See what I got for you”
“You could have stood outside”
“I could have, but I didn’t have time. You could have just shut your mouth. You have a big mouth.” I screamed
“Go to hell” He screamed
“You go to hell first”
“Fine, I will see you there” He walked off.
I stood there watching him going to the bike parking area and starting his bike. He was looking at me. . He can go to hell for all I care! I walked back to my hostel. I missed the college bus, I missed my morning rounds. I was mad.
I was still hopping mad when I reached my room. I looked at the parcel in my hand. I threw it on my bed and screamed
“Damn you Arjun. I hate you”
I kicked my shoes off and watched it flying and hitting the door. I removed my lab coat and threw that also on to my bed. I was so mad.
I looked at the parcel Arjun got for me. I was angry, but curiosity got the better of me and I opened the wrapping paper. Inside was a green colour tie and dye salwar suit material. The duppatta still had the tie and dye knots on it.
Arjun knew my favourite colour is green and he took the trouble to go and find a green colour material.
Damn you Nina. I cursed myself. I felt so miserable for treating Arjun so badly.
In the afternoon, I waited outside the class room for Arjun. I had to tell him I am sorry. I waited and waited. There was no sign of him. I saw Dr. Jagadish walking towards the classroom and I quickly entered the classroom and went and sat the back of the gallery,hoping he won’t notice me. I was just so relieved that when he took the attendance and started to give the lecture.
“Today we will discuss the medico legal aspects of rape” He spoke.
He looked around the class and his eyes came to a stop when he saw me. My heart started to pound.
“Define rape” He barked
I didn’t bother. There were plenty of students in front of me. He could have been asking any of them
“Nina he is speaking to you” One of the students sitting next to me whispered. everyone started to look at me.
I got up slowly
“I said define rape” he barked again
I shook my head
“You don’t know the definition of rape?”
I refused to answer. I knew this was a trap, set for me after the morning incident. I don’t know why, but the moment a professor sees a couple, he/she start to harass them. They seem to derive some sadistic pleassure in mentally and emotionally torturing student lovers!
“Class, your friend doesn’t know to define rape. Why are you wasting your time and my time madam?”
I didn’t respond. I knew what was going to happen. He will ask me to get out of the class. I took my books, ready to walk off
“sit down” He yelled. I was taken aback. Why did he ask me to sit down? His standard procedure is to throw the student out of the class.
“Class, today let us talk about rape and virginity” I could see him looking at me through the tinted glass.
“What do you do, if one of your patient comes to you and say she has been raped? It is your job as a doctor to verify that claim. We can easily find out.”
He proceeded to explain the physical signs and the procedures we have to follow. I was expecting a personal attack and it didn’t happen. All that Dr. Jagadish spoke was from the text book and I felt relieved. Then he dropped the bomb shell
“What if someone says that the girl isn’t a virgin” Dr Jagadish was looking at me. There was a pin drop silence in the class and I knew each and every one of my classmate knew what Dr. Jagadish was referring to.
“What would a girl do, if she has been falsely accused?” He asked the class.
No one responded.
“If she has nothing to hide, all she needs to do is go to a medical doctor and get a physical examination done. It is so easy! Even I can do it” He was staring at me now.
I stared at him back. Straight on to his eyes. My virginity was none of his concern. And if he was trying to harass me because I was going out with Arjun, it wasn’t going to work.
May be he wasn’t expecting me to look at him. May be he was expecting to see a shattered Nina. I saw him looking at all the students. He looked at me again and I stared at him. He looked down quickly.
My heart was pounding. I was angry. I was angry with George for making me go through all these. I will make him pay. There were plenty of cockroaches around!
Government statistics shows that currently there are 12.6 million child workers in India.(unofficial statistics shows 3 times more)
“Often, child labour is considered to be a “necessary evil” in poor countries such as India for the maintenance of the family. In that context, some consider it virtuous to give a job to a child. In fact, some academics and activists campaign not for the reduction of child labour but only for a reduction in the exploitation of children.
However, the question has to be asked whether it is justifiable to allow children from poor families to undergo physical, cognitive, emotional and moral hazards because they must help their families.
Is the joy of childhood reserved only for some, privileged, children? (Clarence James Coonghe)