Debjit had completed his fifth year in MBBS and was getting ready for his internship in Pediatrics. Soma, his batch mate; a buxom and healthy woman who harbored a soft corner for him had also decided to follow him. He liked Soma as a friend who helped him in his studies; often taking down notes for him when he couldn’t attend class or occasionally on weekends accompanying her to watch a film in a theatre. The illicit joy of holding hands in the dark was the most he could think of in their relationship. Such shows of tenderness made Soma hopeful for their future ahead but it was just a gesture of gratitude on Debjit’s part and nothing more. Or a subconscious advantage he took of his besotted friend for he was a full-blooded young man. He never seriously thought about the consequences of his actions and whether it would encourage her to think about a serious and long lasting relationship.
There were other new entrants from different medical colleges who joined their hospital to do their internships. It was at the fresher’s welcome party that they got introduced and acquainted with each other. Priti was one of the new students who joined the hospital and made quite an impact with her talent in singing. Not a particularly good looking girl, she was slim and fashionable with a vivacious personality which made her appealing. Debjit took an instant liking for her and spent most of his time chatting with her. He learnt that she was a Jain; hailed from Allahabad and would be staying in their hostel. Although he was a local and could easily attend to his duties from his own house he took admission in the hostel with the primary aim of seeking Priti’s companionship. Every morning they would do their rounds in the hospital together and after the day was over they would head to the canteen or go outside for a cup of coffee sometimes accompanied by Soma and other friends. Soma was a silent observer of their new found friendship and could sense that something was brewing between them but couldn’t question Debjit about it as he never had confessed his liking for her.
Nearly eight months had passed when they all decided to go for a short tour to Maithon. .The breathtaking view of the open dam, its blue water, green hills and colourful flowers enchanted Priti. She clapped and yelled in joy like a child and demanded to go for a speed boat ride around the river. They all embarked the boat and went around the trip of the dam and its river. The rush of the wind disheveled Priti’s hair and made her look angelic. Debjit couldn’t resist but hold on to her. Priti seemed oblivious as she was engrossed in the natural beauty around. Everybody noticed their closeness and exchanged a knowing glance. A sharp ache passed through Soma’s heart as she looked away.
In the evening they watched the sunset on the river turning the colour of the sky into crimson which made the place look ethereal. Gradually the moon appeared and the stars twinkled like diamonds in the vast expanse of the sky above. Debjit yearned to be alone with Priti in such a romantic setting. Is this love he was feeling he questioned himself or was it just a passing infatuation? Whatever it was it felt strong. He decided to tell Priti about his feelings towards her rather than keep them bottled up within himself and suffer. That evening when they returned to their hotel rooms the men decided to enjoy a few drinks over snacks amongst themselves and any of their female friends were welcomed to join their group.
“Why not play ‘antaksari?”, suggested Ronita .
” Yes , yes”, cried out Priti.”Girls on one side and boys on the other.”
“But Priti, you will win in any group you are in. Don’t you find that unfair?” asked another friend Tapas.
“No you boys out number us. So it’s fair.”
They sang and played and the evening hours dissolved into night. Debjit had a few drinks by then and felt all his inhibitions disappear. In a sudden spurt of the moment he jumped up singing a love song, knelt before Priti; held her hand and declared,”I love you Priti. Will you be mine?”
Priti was taken aback for a moment and said,”Debjit you are drunk and out of your senses.”
“No I am intoxicated by love”, said he dramatically.
“Nonsense, I am married”, cried out Priti leaving the room.
It felt as if he was hit by thunder. He sat their nonplussed. All his friends left the room one by one. He struggled and got up gradually and went to the washroom to splash cold water on his face. That night he lay awake tossing in his bed. His world had seemed to come to an end suddenly.
After returning to Kolkata from their excursion Priti left for home. Debjit tried hard to concentrate on his work but to no avail. Always the thought of her haunted him. This longing for her was inexplicable. It was wrong but his feelings for her felt so right that he couldn’t discard them.
It was after a week that she returned from home. She looked pale, forlorn and not her usual effervescent self. A few days went on and they tried to avoid each other alone. A tense atmosphere between them prevailed whenever they met. This situation wasn’t conducive for anyone but he couldn’t approach her as he didn’t know what she felt for him. On one Sunday afternoon she went to his room and asked him to help her out in her studies. He stared at her for a minute trying to read her mind and finally said, “Oh yeah, of course sit.” She took out a chapter in her book and pointed at it. He read out aloud and tried to explain it to her. She looked cold and withdrawn. He asked her whether she had understood and she nodded.
“Anything else you want to know?”
He could see the tear drops falling from her eyes and rolling down her cheeks.
“What’s wrong?” he whispered holding her face up in his hands. She burst out sobbing uncontrollably covering her face with her hands. He stood up and embraced her gently against him cradling her face against his chest. He remained holding her like this until she stopped crying. Finally she gathered herself and wiped away her tears.
“I haven’t been myself these few days I spent at home and everyone noticed my change. I couldn’t eat or sleep properly.” she said at once.” What would I do Debjit?” she asked earnestly.
“Was your husband at home? Did he say anything?” he asked
“No I went to my parents’ home in Allahabad. My husband stays in Mumbai.”
“What does he do there?”
“He is an engineer working for a multinational company. I would have told you but I didn’t get the right opportunity to do so. I got married at an early age which is common among our community.”
“Did your parents arrange the marriage with him?” he asked tentatively.
“Yes .What would happen to us?” she implored.
“We will sort out something.” he said but didn’t sound convincing himself.
They were blindly in love and nothing seemed illegitimate to them. Life was a many splendid thing; a rainbow after a storm. They studied, went out; were found together everywhere and were inseparable. His close friends tried to reason him out of this liaison which may turn out to be disastrous for them in the long run. She continuously postponed her visits to her husband and as it would happen her parents got to know about her relationship. They were shocked and summoned her back at home at once. She was not allowed permission to go back to Kolkata and continue her studies there. She in turn stopped eating and refused to go back to her husband. Her parents had no choice but to approach Debjit for help. Her mother begged him with folded hands to stop seeing her daughter and convince her not to keep any relation with him any longer.
“Son, our community is very orthodox and we won’t be able to live our lives with respect if she breaks her marriage. Our family name would be put to shame “, she tried to persuade him to see reason. He couldn’t but be forced to accept her plea. All his friends were also behind her too. After her mother left he sat to write a long letter to Priti and with it he dispatched all the letters, poems and pictures they shared with each other. He was wretched after all was done. In this woebegone state Soma was with him as a constant companion trying to bring him out of his delusion with life but she knew that she would never be able to find a place in his heart.