As the cacophonous sound of my alarm blares through my purple coloured room I move my hand wildly in the air trying to slam the device which has the time 7:30 a.m. glowing in bright green. Groggily I peel myself off my bed as Isha enters my room screaming “good morning”, or at least I hear it as a scream. Isha Sharma is my best friend, roommate, and partner in crime. We are doing our MBBS at KMC, Mangalore, third year. She has two mugs of steaming coffee in her hands and lifts one towards me. I murmur a thank you and hug the cup with my fingers. She knows my likes and dislikes like the back of her hand. I wouldn’t be able to function without her.
Her eyes meet mine asking if I am okay after last night’s incident. I nod. Last night I had gone to the mall to meet my ex Nicky, he had been blackmailing me about some pictures he had on his phone and I was irked with him for not leaving me, even when everything was over. I gave two years of my life to him. And he returned it by hurting me. He has anger issues, severe anger issues. I still have bruises on my arms and back from the times, he used to grip my arm tightly, his fingernails biting through my skin, intentionally inflicting pain. Of course, after that, he would profusely apologise saying how much he loves me and is doing this only because he cares for me and how he will never repeat it. I don’t blame him, I blame myself for foolishly believing that he will change. For not knowing that what you see is what you get and no amount of love can change a person. My stomach still rapidly sinks at those terrible memories. I remember him coming home drenched in bottles of vodka and stinking of day old cigarettes out of his senses accusing me of being unfaithful because some guy from college tagged me in a group photo. He slapped me and I stood there, too shocked to make a move, hot tears burning my eyes. And the ironical part is that in the end he was the one who was cheating on me. I broke up with him soon after that but it has been the same story since then. He keeps calling and threatening to post my pictures online so, I decided to sort this issue out.
When I confronted him, he didn’t have any pictures which could harm me and he was furious when I called out his bluff, clutching my wrists again, I had tried to rationally sort this out and not make a scene. But he wouldn’t budge. My wrists were starting to hurt and I could feel the piercing pain in my wrists, I don’t know what came over me but I was beyond pissed at this point, I screamed at him and stormed off.
KMC Campus, 12:30 p.m.
My heart does this weird flipping thing as I find a text from Swayam Rai illuminating my phone screen. He had texted me last night concerned as he and his brother had witnessed the entire drama with Nicky. Talk about timing, right? I had given his brother Shrey my number last week at my junior college’s reunion. Yes, the infamous Swayam Rai flamboyantly being the life of the party all the time. I don’t know why I decided to give my number to him like this, let’s call it a sudden burst of stupid courage, but I did and here we are. I had replied with a quick “Hi! I am fine. People from the past being assholes. Thank you for checking up on me.” And we had been texting on and off. Under his “cool” guy act there was a person who cared and I was slowly starting to figure that out.
I find my friends sitting at our usual corner table. Isha and Yogesh are chatting about this new pop singer who dropped his new single.
“Hey Avni, did you hear James Arthur’s new song? His voice is sexy.” Isha says excitement gleaming in her eyes.
“Yes, he has this low mellifluous voice” Yogesh jumps in, munching on his sandwich.
Isha as if waiting for this opportunity makes a big show of pulling the Oxford dictionary from her pastel blue bag pack and going “What was that word you said, again? Mel-a-lu-foo was it?” with a straight face.
AVNI and ISHA’s APARTMENT:
My eyes move up as I hear a giggle coming from my roommate. Her eyes are glued to her phone screen and she has the widest grin glued her face.
“Hey, Isha who are you texting?”
“Huh, What? Oh, me? No one.” She says trying to hide her smile which still tugs at the corners of her mouth.
“Tell me, tell me, tell me,” I say, simultaneously throwing popcorn at her.
“Alright, alright. So…”
“I think I might have a crush on Yogesh”, she squeals.
Aww my best friend is crushing, “Well then tell him.”
“Fine, I will think about it, okay?”
“Okay” and I engulf my arms around her, I haven’t seen her this happy in a really long time, hopefully things work out. Her phone buzzes and it’s her mom video calling.
She picks up the call and aunty starts scolding Isha for never calling her. I motion to Isha that I am going back to my room.
As I lay on my bed staring at the bleached ceiling, I feel this heaviness in my chest. I am envious of Isha. She has a mother who cares for her, mine ran as far away from me as she could. I was raised by my father and his side of the family. I still remember the day it was mother-daughter cooking competition at school and 10-year-old me, sitting in the audience clutching my grandmother’s sari as all my classmates played assistant chefs to their mothers in matching aprons, laughing and smiling, their mothers making sure that their children were safe. There is part of me that still craves for that sense of safety. But now I know better. That woman, who gave birth to me was unfaithful to my father and ran away with her illegitimate second child. Whoever she is or was, is a coward.
My hands reach for the letters which I have hidden in a shoebox under my bedside desk. There are so many of them now. I had started receiving anonymous letters 3 years ago, they had no address or any other information besides a couple of lines written in terrible handwriting. I get two letters weekly, usually on Tuesdays and Fridays, I have tried to find out what this is or if someone is trying to play a sick joke with me, but I can’t find anything. It’s like the person or the group which is doing this vanishes into thin air. Initially, I thought it was an impractical joke, but this has been stretched out for far roo long to just be a joke. I almost doubted Nicky being behind this, but some of the thing which were written like this one-
“ Today Kokila refused to wake up. Despite the sunrays poking her through the thatched roof, her eyelids were closed and a strange tinge of blue had taken over her skin. Ma touched her forehead only for her mouth to spread into a terror, unanticipated. ‘Call your Baba’, she screamt. After an hour of running from one doorstep of an Ayurvedic mevan to another under the ablaze sun, it seemed to dawn on them. I, Bittu, Sheela and Vedha blankly exchanged confused gapes as tears stinged our parents’ eyes. ‘Your youngest sister Kokila has spine tuberculosis.’ Ma’s cries punctuated those words we could not comprehend the gravity of. ‘Time for school everyone’, I said to my younger siblings, trying to shift the air. I was in 3rd standard. Our wheathish-skinned Madhuri teacher barely thought us anything other than Hindi alphabets, for she had to take care of five classes simultaneously under the giant banyan tree. Learning was always fun. When teacher would leave the class, I would walk up to the board, overwriting on what she had, trying to imitate my teacher to the dunces who never learned how to even hold a pencil. I would wear my rugged saffron muffler as my saree, trying to recite Hindi alphabets. But there were children our age who would go to a school that stood high on the other extreme of the Hanuman temple surrounded by a trail of camels. They were clad in satin-white skirts and darkblue shirts, no hole found in any, polished shoes shining all black and strands of hair neatly braided with hair clips of dancing butterflies and colorful fairies. They belonged to the royal families of Rajasthan, my neighbour Jigna Kaaki had once told me. I and my brother Bittu used to stand along the pavements of the sandy streets, our eyes devouring every inch of their luxury that we only dreamed about, in the stars sprinkled on the night sky. But nevertheless I was happy. With the curd-riceballs passed by Ma to all of us under the moonlight with tales of cats with missing tails, wise princesses and magicians with a left ear missing, our giggles knew no limits. But not until Kokila’s body decided to give up slowly. Her coughs had blood, her palms would tremble often and her eyeballs had turned maroon with every passing week. ‘City hospital treatment is required to save her life’, some seriously warned. Baba buried his head in his palms, trying to hide his tears. Yes, in our village, men don’t cry. Although aged 7, I knew. He didn’t have the penny perhaps. He had cut down on his daily lunch these days, to save a little bit of earning but the dying Kokila’s cells demanded more. What could we do? Tell me what, dear leaflets? Have you a solution, dear leaflets or should I call my small little diary? I shall come to talk to you again, tell me tomorrow if you knew of some medicine to cure Koki, for she’s my favourite, I can’t see her soaked in a pool of blood. I shall see you, dear diary. ”
is beyond Nicky’s capacity, he is an airhead.
The mysterious factor of all this is bemusing. I push those thoughts aside and switch my phone on, there is a text from Swayam asking if I would like to meet him and his brother, Shrey.