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Not only had I ignored his impressive business statistics, I had rejected his whiskey. I said, She nodded, as if tny choice was -reasonable Are yon poor rightnow? Embed Size px. However, my main challenge inKola, apart from constantly fighting off thoughts about Aarti, was to enrolin a good study programme, 1 had spent the last three days doing therounds of every coaching school I took in their tail claims about zappingany primate into an IITian, I went through their super-flexible not tomention super-expensive fee structures, Bansai, Resonance and CareerPath seemed to be everyones top choices. What about the rest? Oh, wow, we were just talking about you Raghav said. I attended classes, though my hangover made it difficult to understand Benzene structures or radioactive isotopes.
Good night- sweet dreams, sleep tight? Its no use now, I said, closing the maths textbook. Rest before the m m Is a must. Baba told h i s t Not today, Baba? Ragloe; said.
I read out from the screen. I had come to Raghavs house inShivpur. Sure, I hadnt scored loo badly; Out of ten lakh test-takers,. However, the N i l s had only thirtythousand seats. Sometimes, life played cruel jokes on you. Id be one ofthose unfortunate eases. Raghav smiled. Electronics in Delhi f "Theres: MIT Lucknow too, right?
Raghav said. Raghavs father said,fully aware it would not. He didnt mear to hurt me, hut it felt bad. I swallowed. You owe. I continued to ramble until Ragh. Yeah right, take a top-ranker to meet, your parent when youve flunked,I thought, "Dorft worry lies laced worse things in lifer I said.
No, they deoft publish results in the newspaper anymore, Baba, whatis this mess? IMI today the datef he said. I kept quiet as 1 stacked the newspapers.
I wanted to tell, him theresults-won the out for a. Peace lor a Jew more days would be nice,even If temporary I saw his aged lace, the wrinkles around his eyes. Baba said, happy to make the five--hour journey to find out his son. The antique gas stove tooksix. We hmm to get the. When old. I wondered if life woulde ei be the same again, One rtupid exam, half a. Mv lathers expression changed, He had the look every child dreads,t he look that say.
Paha got up agitatedly and stai ted to circle the dining table. I cm sorry Baba, 1 said. You have to work. Yon do. Hv ia a. I tossedand turned for ages. There would be no sleep till I sorted things out withBaba, 1 went: He was asleep, the hot- water bottle still by his I kept, the bottle aside. He placed a hand on my head as if in blessing. It acted as a tippingpoint. I broke down, 1 1 1 work extra. He had never chargedme in all these yearn I would take his boat for an hour, and buy himtea and biscuits in return.
Maybe not a lot but enough to survive. If only Baba would understandthis. Japanese tourists" I wont take more than half an hour I promised. He smirked, "You are ping with a girl. Yoa-mayforgetthe time 1 wont He smiled,. His paan- stained teeth, shone ID. Til get nowhere in life J! Is he okay? We arenom a simple Indian family. I jiiLUt ,,! Dont, Aarti said sternly, -You will spoil our friendship 1. Youhave been my best friend for wars. Hurt myfeelings?
She complied. We remained siknt till, we reached the ghats, Fhooichand gave us a smile,whIch evaporated- fast when 1 glowered at him. We stepped, off the boat You want to come home later today? Localaapers carried big stories the next day. Four students from Varanasi had.
Among those four, only Raghav had cleared the exam as of Varanasi, The other three had appeared from Kota. J did they go. He did not react to my. Everyyear, the tiny western Indian town of Kota accounted for athousand, or a third of the total 11T -selections, What? How is that -possible? University The 12G. Ineed to buy college admission forms!
Baba looked like I had stabbed him. Arent you. IL "pened ihe door ard housed me straight off. Ragbag father sat on a sofa with visiting relatives. Ihey had come rocongratulate the Kashyaps. Anyway,it didnt matter, Raghav and I went-to his room. When people are offered something on a platter, they dorft value it. Raghav had a thing for writing.
He had published: However, this soundedinsane. Journalism is my passion. Why are vou doing engineering then? Why else? Oh, I have told him f am lakiog. BHU heeause I will a belter branch like ,ompuier Science.
Hon t tell htm anything else! Raghav, you still.. I owe you guys a treat He goi up to leave. When people achieve something they become self-obsessed, Want to know what 1 am going to cto? I said casually, Raghav stopped. When people clear JEE, they star! Von could do that too," Raghav said, His father shouted outJ o r himagain. I l l also leave See you, buddy" Raghav patted, my shoulder;cio, Baba, I said.
Tuition is thirty thousand a year. How-much Is that for twelvemonths? Thirty plus thirty-six thousand , J Baba mumbled to himself. Sixty-six thousand! Baba, who are we? Give me the money for that Atleast. Whats the point of a useless degree? And how will you do a repeatattempt without better coaching?
You just missed a good rank because ofa. Maybe ,Kota will help you get those extra marks; I was confused.
I had never thought of a second attempt, let alonegoing so far for a year. You haw to give it your best. Look at Ragfeiv He! Besides who will take care of you here? Allahabad is nearby Ican. You can visit, J 1 can mauage, Dont: I do most of the housework? Baba said. Sure, she had said no to me in the boat, but I knewhow much sM cared for me.
Not a day went by without us-talking. It wasshe who suggested I go to a college here, and IB alreadyfound out the best Ipromise I will work harder next lime 1 said. We finished dinner and I began to clear the table. Baba shouted suddenlyYou are going! You have forty thousand. What about the rest? What about expensessuch as travel, books, entrance exam feec. It had a thi. You want to sell Mas jewellery for coaching classes?
Reiki to preserve all this for medical! You join an engineering college and my age will reducehy ten years,daba laughed, trying to soften the situation, 1 saw his face, one front toothmissing.
His laughter meant everything to toe! Do it for your old man! M move with you to Kota, but Its Uoatd for me to travel so far.
If 1 go, III go by myself! Take carc of your father! I f it makes you happy, i will! Mv son! We had come to a househHd m-m:. She went to the utensils section and picked up alarge steel bowl md held it up, "For emergencies! If I came toKota with you, Id cook foryou everyday H e r f i k hands held up the shear vessel, The picture of her cookingin my kitchen flashed in my head.
Why does Aarti make statements likethese? What dm I supposed to soy? Aarti looked at me, She hypnotised meevery time,. She was fuming prettier every week A,: She turned to the shopkeeper. Uncle, twenty per cent discount! Aarti wasiit too conscious of her looks,She never checked herself out in mirrors, never had make-op on, a nd eyeoher hair often,.
At the last minute you say random thing? I could. J will ieil dad I also wane to repeat a year. I said, almost believing her. Tm joking, stupid. She burst iuLo peals of laughter. I am not agulli-whateverperson. Still, Aarti could defeat. She logged at my elbow and dragged meout of the shop,! I said as I tumbled with my wallet. She took my wallet and placed it back in my shot pocket. You want to try the new Domlnos at Sigra?
Dont Its not good, Especially for yore Why? They dorft say good things about girls who sit 00 theghats. I hated that term, I wanted to talk, about my place m her life, eventhough I did not want to-makethings unpleasant "But now I aro leaving,I said.
We will he in touch. Kota, tight? I nodded. Loni look so glum, she brid, V e 1 card the leoipk bells ring m ihe 1distance.
About anyone. And I like what you and I share, Dont you? But I am leaving now; If we had a commitment wouldnt it bebetter? Gopal we are so young! We walked down, to the waters. She purchased a set of six lit diyasfor five rupees;She passed one. She set one diya afloat. I said, baffled by the drivers knowledge. He laughed and "turned around. My whole family is into education. My wife. He extended his grease-staioedliand. I diook It as little as possible txopal from Vmmmil.
He gave me a business card for the tiffin service.
Let us take cart of the food. You hoys study it is such a tough exam: Come on, Gopal bhai. I went to the smallguard post at: A watchman sat inside, Who do you.
The watchman. One held clothes, the other carried thebooks thai had failed to get me anywhere so far. I hadn't rowed in ten days. My arms felt flabby.
I wanted to exercise, but 1 had to figure out the ten million brochures first. I had indeed called Baba, twice. He seemed fine. I told him I had started preparing for next year, even though 1 couldn't bear to open any textbook. I didnt care. Whichever coaching class 1 joined would make me slog soon. I wanted to talk to Aarti first. Id called her four times but could not speak to her even once. Her mother had picked up the phone the first two times.
I hung up without saying anything. I did not want Aartis mother going "why is this boy calling you so many times from so far? Aarti had mentioned she would get a cellphone soon. I wished she would. Everyone seemed to be getting one nowadays, at least the rich types. Aarti did not have a number to reach me. I would have to try again tomorrow. I picked up a green-coloured brochure. The cover had photographs of some of the ugliest people on earth. The pictures belonged to the IIT toppers from that institute.
They had grins wider than models in toothpaste ads but not the same kind of teeth. Since my favourite hobby was wasting time, i spent the afternoon comparing the brochures. No, I didn't compare the course material, success rates or the fee structures. In any case, everyone claimed to be the best in those areas. I compared the pictures of their successful candidates; who had the ugliest boy, who had the cutest girl, if at all.
There was no point to this exercise, but there was no point to me being in Kota. The Bansalites were Kotas cool I had to crack their exam. However, I had little time to prepare for the test scheduled in three days.
In factj many of the coaching classes had their exams within a week, The next set of exams was a month away 1 had to join something now. Staying idle would make me go mad faster than the earlier occupant of this room.. Each institute asked for a thousand bucks for an application form. I had fifty thousand rupees with me, and Baba had promised me more after six months. The brochure of AimllT said: They might as well have written: Tf you have the cash, you are welcome,' I spent the rest of the afternoon filling the tiresome and repetitive forms.
I kept myself motivated by saying I would call Aarti once more before dinner, I went out for an evening walk at 7: I found an STD booth. The meter at the STD booth whirred. I had already called Baba in the morning, I called Raghav. Gopal From Kota,' I said, my last word soft. Oh, wow, we were just talking about you' Raghav said. With who? Flow are you, man? Hows Kola? We miss you. Where are you? T wanted to ask her why she had come to Raghavs place. However, it didn't seem the best way to start a conversation.
J will call you. I want to talk. Whats up? Generally' When girls use vague terms like 'generally', it is cause for specific concern.
Or maybe not. It could be my overactive mind. T have to choose a course. That s the only reason 1 am doing it I want an easy course' lOh 3 so your air hostess plans are not dead" 1 said. Maybe BSc Home Science is better, no? Sort of related to hospitality industry. Or should 1 leave Agrasen and join hotel management? Who is he? A career counsellor? Or does he have the license to preach now because he has a fucking JEE rank?
I only got a click in response. I returned to my room where my dinner tiffin and the brochures awaited me, I imagined Aarti at Raghavs place, in peals of laughter, jMy insides burnt.
I picked up a brochure in disgust I took a blade from my shaving kit cut out the cover pictures of the 11T- selected students, and ripped them tosltreds,, Bansal classes did not look like the small tuition centres run out of tiny apartments in Vararrasi, It resembled an institute or a large corporate office, I stood in the gigantic lobby, wondering v.
Like in many other coaching classes in Kota, the students had uniforms to eliminate social inequality. You had rich kids from Delhi, whose parents gave them more pocket money than my father earned in an entire yean On the other hand, you had losers like me from Varanasi, who had neither the cash nor the brains required to be here, Equality in clothes didn't mean Bansal believed all students were equal A class system existed, based on your chances of cracking the entrance exam.
T have 79 per cent. A1EEE rank 52,' I said. He handed me a receipt - cum - admit card for the entrance exam. Anyway, you don't look like a bright student going by your marks. My suggestion is to apply to other institutes,' he replied.
The officer looked around to ensure nobody could hear us. I kept quiet He slipped me a visiting card: Course material is the same. My cousin is an ex-Baiisal faculty' I examined the card. Wails covered with stamp-sized pictures of successful J EE candidates, resembling wanted terrorists, greeted me everywhere.
I also realised that the reputed institutes kicked up a bigger fuss about 'repeaters'. After all, we had failed once, and institutes didnt want to spoil their statistics. Top institutes claimed to send up to five hundred students a year to IIT. AimllT and Careerlgnite had less people lining up. In fact, they gave me spot offers. So nice to hear your voice,1 A art! She recognised me in a second It felt good. How stupid. I do care. He said no more than twice a week' "So what? I will be the only one calling you, no?
Anyway hows life? I hate it here' I s it that bad? Have you started studying? It is hard to pick up the same hooks again. Maybe I will gel motivated after I join a coaching class. Baba is there, Raghav, me. Please dont start that again. You say you miss me. But not in that way. Anyway, we have to focus on our respective careers. You are there, 1 am here' I f I had a girlfriend, at least I could talk to her. Talk to me whenever you want. Or we can-ch. We can chat in the evenings.
Ill tell you about my life, and you about yours. Should I jomatefmbed-imt'e the upcoming but cheaper ones? One, I didn't clear the Bansal exam, I could join their separate correspondence programme, which kind of defeated the purpose of being in Rota.
Resonance hiked its fees at the last minute, It became unaffordable for me, so I didn't even write their entrance exam, f made it to the waitlist of the Career Path programme. IT and Careerlgnite offered me a thirty per cent discount.
However, five days later Career Path told me I had made i t I handed the accountant at Career Path a twenty-thousand-rupee draft with trembling hands. I also collected three sets of the Career Path uniform, Wearing it made me look like a budget hotel receptionist.
I walked out of the institute with the uniform in my hands, 'Congratulations! T am Sanjeev sir. They call me Mr Pulley here, I teach physics' I shook his hand. Apparently, nobody could solve pulley problems in Kota quite like Sanjeev sir. I soon realised there were subject experts across institutes in Kota. Career Path had its own wizards. Mr Verma, who taught maths, had the moniker of Trignometry-swamy.
Mr jadeja taught chemistry. Students affectionately addressed him as Balance-jl He had a unique method of balancing chemical equations. TEE also, sir. High potential? Once you get low marks you learn to lower your eyes rather quickly.
Tt's okay. Many non-high potential students make it It all depends on hard work' Til do my best, sir,' I said. I could call myself a true Kota-ite a month into moving there. Like thousands of other students, my life now had a rhythm. Career Path resembled a school, but without the fun bits. Nobody made noise in class, played pranks on one another or thought of bunking classes.
After all, everyone had come here by choice and had paid a big price to be here. We had three to four classes a day, which started in the afternoon. In theory, this allowed the current class XiX students to attend school in the morning, m reality, the class XII students never went to school Career Path had an agreement with a cooperative CBSE school, which had a flexible attendance policy.
It was rumoured that the CBSE school received a handsome kickback from Career Path for the cooperation extended, I hated the brutal Career Path schedule at first, Lectures started at two in the afternoon and went on until nine in the evening. Alter that students rushed home to eat dinner, and do the 'daily practice sheets' a set often problems based on the current lesson. I usually finished by midnight.
After a few hours of sleep t would wake up and prepare for the next days classes. In between, I did household chores, such as washing clothes and shopping for essentials. I went along with the madness, not so much because of the zeal to prepare, but more because I wanted to keep myself busy I didn't want Kotas loneliness to kill me.
One night our classes ended late. To my surprise she was still online. I typed in a message from my usual handle, GopalKotaFactory: Flying Aarti: Guess what! If girls got to set grammar rules in this worlds there would only be exclamation marks, GopalKotaFactory: At their computer centre!!
How come? Raghav joined college. He brought me here. Gopal Kota Factory: Isn't it too late to be in his college? How will you get back? I have dad s red-light car. GopalKotaPactory; How often do you visit Raghav? I waited for her to type a message, FlyingAarti: What sort of a question is that? Do you keep tabs on meeting friends? Just a friend, right? FlyingAarti; Yes, dear. You should become a detective, not an engineer. I only came to see his campus.
So, whatl- up with you? I completed one month in Kota. At least you dont refer to it as a godforsaken place anymore!
I am quite busy though. Mugging away. We even had class tests, FlyingAarti: You did okay? In top fifty per cent. Not bad for such a competitive class. Who knows? If I do, will yon go out with me? I like us how we ate. And how is it linked to JEE? You are my favourite!!?
Stop using so many exclamation marks- FlyingAarti: Nothing, Anyway I. Okay, I expected her to ask me to chat for a few more minutes.
Not just give me a bland okay She didn't even ask me if I had had my dinner FlyingAarti: Did you eat dinner? Not yet. Will do so when I get home. When girls are hiding something, they start speaking like boys and use expressions like 'cool! How about you? Raghavs treating me. Only at his canteen though.
GopalKotaPactory; You still seem excited She did not respond. If someone stalls you on a chat every minute seems like an hour. She finally typed after five long minutes. Okay, anyway, Raghavs here. He says hi. I have to quickly eat and head back home. Chat later then, Xoxo.
I don t think Aarti meant them. She logged out, f had twenty minutes of Internet time left. I spent them doing what most guys who came here did - surf the official IIT website or watch porn. I guess these are the two things boys wanted most in Kota, At least the coaching centres could help you get one of them, K J n the eve of Aarti s birthday I had finished three months in Kota, For the first time I managed to reach the top twenty-five percentile in a class test.
Balance-ji congratulated me. My chemistry score had improved by twenty points. Mr Pulley didnt like my average physics performance Shishir sir, also known as Permutation guru, paused a few extra seconds by my seat as my maths score had improved by ten per cent, 1 kept my answer-sheet in my bag as 1 sat for the physics class.
I looked around the three-hundred-seat lecture room. Mr Pulley was speaking into a handheld mike, tapping it every time he felt the class was not paying enough attention. I still had a long way to go. One needed to reach at least the top-five percentile in the Career Path class to feel confident about an I1T seat. Increasing your percentile in a hyper-competitive class is not easy You have to live, breathe and sleep HT. The top twenty students in every class test received royal treatment.
They were called Gems, a title still elusive to me, Gems stood for 'Group of Extra Meritorious Students' Gems comprised of ultra-geeks whod prefer solving physics problems to having sex, and for whom fun meant memorising the periodic table.
Career Path handled Gems with care, as they had the potential to crack the top hundred ranks of JEE, and thus adorn future advertisements. Gems were treated preciously, similar to how one would imagine Lux soap officials treat their brand ambassador Katrina Kaif: However, the top twenty-five percentile felt good.
I wanted to share this with Aarti, Also, 1 had told her I'd be the first one to wish her on her birthday. I tried again but couldn't get through, I made five attempts but the line was still engaged. I waited patiently as he ended his call at I rushed into the booth and called Aarti again, The line came busy After several attempts the shopkeeper gave me looks of sympathy. He told me he had to shut his shop by I tried calling many more times, at two-minute intervals, but to no avail I don't blow why, but I decided to call Raghavs house.
It being a Friday night I knew Raghav would be home for the weekend. I hesitated for a second before I dialled his number. Of course, if the phone rang so late the whole house would be startled. However, my suspicions were right. The line was busy I tried Raghavs and Aartis numbers in quick succession.
He switched off the lit sign. No auto-rickshaw agreed to go to the railway station at a reasonable price at that hour. I reached platform 1 of Kota station at 1: Even at this hour the station was bustling. A train arrived and the general-quota passengers ran for seats.
This time the phone rang. My temper was not something I was proud o f f wanted to keep it under check as the birthday girl picked up the phone, 'Hello? Uncle, Gopal,11 blurted out, even though I should have probably hung up. After so many attempts I had to talk to her, 'Oh, yes. Hold om he said and screamed for Aarti, Aarti came close to the phone. Tts my birthday, dad,' Aarti said and picked up the phone. Thanks, Thai s so sweet of you.
You stayed up solute to wish me? I also ran five kilometres and will walk back five more, I wanted to say but didn't. Tve been trying to reach you for an hour 'Really? Who were you talking to? I wanted to be the first,71 said. I have my aunt there, no? I could sense it when she lied.
I spoke to them for two minutes. Maybe I didn't place the phone back properly. Leave it, no. How are you? Wish you were here' 'Do you? Of course! I miss you,' Aarti said, her tone so genuine that it was hard to believe she had lied to me ten seconds ago.
I f you had placed the phone incorrectly, who placed it back correctly now? Stop interrogating me, I hate this. How old are we, ten? You were speaking to him. What's going on between ym guys? Can you not make it so stressful? Chat tomorrow on the net? Vtter my college? I value honesty a lot,' I said, 'Of course.
Okay, bye now. Dad's giving me dirty looks. Wait til!
Sunday, 1 consoled myself She never came online on Sunday I spent two hours at the cyber cafe. Noon became one, and one became two, There's only so much porn one can watch. I downloaded enough x-rated clips to open a video library, f couldn't bear it anymore. How hard was it to deliver on a simple promise? I had done nothing but wait for Sunday to talk things out with her, She had suggested the time, not 1.
The power went ofT 'What are you doing? Her mother picked up, "Good afternoon, aunty, Gopal here. Raghav is in the debating team. She's also participating. Singing, I think. Hell, it is importantt aunty. I want to know if your daughter is having a seme, "Nothing urgent. They'll come back tonight, right? Shes gone in the government car. With a security guards I wanted to post my own security guards next to Aarti. You study Then you can also be in a proper college and have fun like Raghav.
The month of November still had ten days left. One moment I told myself not to chase her. Let her call or mail hack. However, the next moment I could think of nothing but her.
I had crazy mental conversations with myself. She couldn't be dating him, She said she is not ready for a relationship. If she is, she will go out with me, Mr Optimist Gopal said. However, Mr Pessimist Gopal did not buy it. Okay, so Raghav has better looks. But Aarii is not so shallow.
I have known her for a decade, Mr Optimist-me argued. Raghav also has better future prospects, Mr Pessimist-me said, But would she choose a guy just on the basis of his JEE rank? She is a girl not a damn institute, said Mr Optimist-me. She will even find jokers in the circus funny, Mr Optimist said. My head hurt as the two morons inside would not stop arguing, Girls have no idea what effect their wavering has on boys. I had to talk to Aarti. I wanted to shake her and make her talk.
My temper flared again. I wanted to run to the Kota station and travel unreserved to VaranasL I couldht think about Balance-ji or my percentile or the stupid Career Path. If Raghav did anything with Aarti, I would fucking kill him. Tm not going to fucking kill myself, okay? You don't use f-words with your landlord. I didn't sleep the whole night, 1 kicked myself for thinkiog;;about her so much, She is a liar, ditcher and heartless person, I told myself fifty times.
She also happened to be someone I couldn't stop thinking about. V V e had a surprise test in class the next day - which went badly. In the chemistry class Balancedi scolded me as 1 could not answer even a simple question. I didn't give a fuck, 1 wanted to get hold of this girl. She wasn't online. I did not know what to do. It would be way too desperate to call her again. I had a horrible week at Career Path.
My results slipped to the eightieth percentile. Four-fifths of the class had done better than me, Career Path had a software that picked out students with the maximum improvement or deterioration, 1 featured in the latter. T m sorry, sir,M said, 'You are not in bad company, 1 hope" T have no friends. He seemed young and genuine, T know how hard it is.
I am a Kota product myself' On Sunday I went to the cyber cafe again.
As usual, no email. However, she came online in five minutes, A part of me resisted.
I initiated the chat anyway GopalKotaFactory: She didn't respond lot two minuted FiyingAarti: Are you upset? FlyingAarti; Only if you don't yell at me. Ym sorry! I wanted to ask why she went to Kanpur with Raghav. However if I came on too strongly she would give me the silent treatment that could kill me. Its fine, Apology accepted. I found it strange that 1 ended up saying sorry when she owed me an apology Is it ever the girls fault?
The good thing about chatting on the internet is that you can control your impulses,! So, what's up?
When in doubt, stick to open-ended questions. Not much. College is busy. Made some friends. Not many. Any special friends? Her mood had lightened. Ifs okay. Tell me. You wont tell me? Your best Flying Aarti: Gopal grinned.
Baby, eat this, for I have made it, is probably the T-shirt slogan he would choose. Thats incredible, I murmured, wondering how I could switch the topic. I noticed stairs winding up. Whats upstairs? Bedrooms and a terrace. Come, I will show you. We climbed up the steps. We walked past a room with a luxurious king-sized bed.
From the terrace I took in the panoramic view. This was a wasteland, all of it. My grandfathers old agricultural land, Gopal said. Ten acres? I made a guess. We had fifteen acres more, Gopal said, but we sold it to fund the construction. He pointed to a small array of lights towards the eastern wall of the floodlit campus. Right there, see. There is a mall coming up. Every Indian city is building malls now, I said. India shining, Chetan-ji, he said and clinked his glass with mine.
Gopal drank more than four times my pace. I hadnt finished my first when he poured his fifth. You big-city types. Drinking for style, he teased when I refused a refill. I dont drink much. Really, I said. I checked the time; When do you eat dinner? Up to you, I said, though I wished hed decide to eat right away. What is the big hurry? Two men, one educated, one uneducated. Having a good time, Gopal said and raised his glass in the air. I nodded out of courtesy. My stomach rumbled for food.
We came downstairs to sit down in the living room again. Did you really go to the professors daughters house? Gopal said. I smiled. Love makes us do stupid things. Gopal laughed out loud. He chugged his drink bottoms-up, then grabbed the half-empty bottle to make his sixth tipple. Forget stupid things. Love fucks you, Gopal said. Thats harsh, I said. Is that why there is no Mrs Director yet?
Gopals hand trembled as he continued to pour his drink. I wondered if I should stop him from drinking more. Mrs Director! Gopal smirked. He gripped the whiskey bottle tight. Easy, Gopal, you are drinking too fast. Its dangerous. Gopal plonked the bottle on the coffee table. Why dangerous? Who is going to fucking cry for me? If I live, I want to enjoy.
If I die, who cares? Your parents? Gopal shook his head. Successful people dont have friends, Gopal demurred. Its true, no? His lavish house felt cold and isolated. I took the whiskey bottle and placed it back in the bar. Pessimist, eh? Surprising, given you are doing so well. What well, Chetan-ji? Gopal said, now completely drunk and, presumably, completely honest. He pointed to the huge TV, stereo system and the silk carpet under our feet in quick succession.
What does all this mean? Ive lived with nothing 8. Our conversation had become serious. I patted his back to cheer him up. So you read about my girlfriend in the book. How about you? You ever had one? Gopal didnt respond, but looked distraught. He placed his glass on the coffee table. Touchy topic, I figured too late. He retched. Are you okay? He ran to the restroom.
I heard him throw up. I browsed the display shelves to pass time. I saw framed news stories about GangaTech, trophies, pictures of Gopal with guests who had visited the college.
I wondered if my picture would also be there soon. When he hadnt returned in twenty minutes I called for the maid. She took me to the bathroom.
I knocked at the door. No answer. I banged my fists on the door.