The buzzing of my phone wakes me up next morning. It is Sudeep.
“Hello.” I say , still groggy.
“ Tuna, still asleep? Are you well? Tried calling you , texting you but you didn’t reply. ” I melt on listening to at least one familiar voice in this big bad world of Gorakhpur. Suddenly I want to tell him everything. But then I decide otherwise.
“Just got exhausted. Can we talk later? I am late. And by the way thanks for waking me up.”
“At your service. Rise and shine my lady. ” What is with men and cheesy lines!
I reach the Collectorate in good mood. I present my report to Dr Malik and he buries it into his heap of files for review.“The Home Minister will arrive today for inspection. He will stay for the night so we’ll have to host a little dinner for him now. As if we are not already troubled! I don’t like VIP visits at times like these. I already have limited resources. Chauhan , you are new, you escort him.”
“Yes sir.” I come out and wait in my temporary office.
The Home Minister is all business from the start. Precise questions, on the spot decisions. He fills the relief workers with motivation. He reassures complete support to the distressed pubic. I watch him in awe.
There is still hope for Indian Democracy.I keep checking my phone. Still nothing .Classic Rana. It’s like dejavu, this anticipation.
“Leave me alone. I don’t want to talk.”
“And I want you to talk. I want you to talk to me. And not just small talk. Tell me why you got so angry on your course mate this morning. Tell me why you have a mole below your lower lip. Tell me about the last time you cried. Tell me why you believe in God. Tell me everything.” I am frustrated. I take a deep breath. He does the same on the other side of the phone. “Just tell me what happened in there?”
“Do you want to know what happened? I have been relegated. I’ll have to spend six more months in training. I screwed it. It is my fight now. I need to prove myself first. Then someday I will talk to you.”
“Life screws us all, Fauji mine. Keeping the grief inside, building barriers to your heart, being alone won’t solve the problem. You were the one who said it to me. Remember? You have got to talk.”
“I have loved you since the day you walked into the class in that perfect sized skirt and sunflower on the hairband. Don’t hate me ever.”He disconnects the phone and me from his life.
I get a text from Dr Malik, breaking my thoughts. Don’t be late tonight . I’ll send a car for you. And suddenly it dawns upon me.
I have nothing good to wear.