After four months of silence and sneaking, February had arrived. In past four months, I had not seen her face even once. And, in past four months, not a single moment fumed when I had not thought about Riya. She looked little calm now. I could presume that things were getting normal for the family. Ragini was also attending the school regularly. Final science practical examination was on the way. Riya and I were in the same group. It was our Chemistry practical that day. I was busy in doing the stuff asked in the question paper. Suddenly I realized that Riya was sobbing in the back corner of science laboratory. I wanted to know the matter, but I couldn’t ask her. I went up to her one friend and asked. Riya was not able to perform the salt analysis as she had skipped the classes for a long span of time. I was confident that the salt sample given to both of us was same. She won’t copy the content, I was sure. I had already done the tests and written the scheme and observations. I hurriedly reached the lab assistant and asked for a new answer sheet. Within ten minutes, I had copied the whole scheme and observations on the new sheet. I rolled the sheet and went to her place. She was testing the sample again. Within no time, I pulled the answer sheet out of her clip board and replaced with new one. She looked perplexed. “I’ll be kicked out of the exam if you say anything right now.” I advised her while coming back. I didn’t look at her after that and kept myself busy. Everything settled peacefully. But, what after the exam is over? As we handed over the answer sheets, I quickly ran towards the door and went away.
Six months later, we were classmates again in Acharya Ram Nath college. But knowingly unknown classmates! I used to see her from a distance so that she could not notice. I am not sure if she also did this. Riya was a grown up girl now. Her hair was midnight black and plunged over her shoulders. She had an elegant face with black arched eyebrows. Her sculpted figure could entice anyone. She looked pretty even in simple cloths. One day, college notice board read the announcement of cultural fest. I loved acting and had participated in skits in school too. Screening for various activities was held and I was able to bag a place in our college drama squad. Riya was also selected in dance. I was happy to see that Riya has rejoined the gleeful stream of life. I could see her smiling and talking with everyone but me. Sometimes I did think that was it the price I was paying for being closed to her. Anyhow, I was happy.
Three days Cultural fest was to be held in DAV college, Amritsar. A bus was hired for all the participants to reach Amritsar. The whole journey witnessed the scenes of celebrations. We yelled, we sang, we laughed and we talked. Sharing the eatables with one another, we ate our lunch. A little piece of stuffed parantha travelled an unsentimental journey from Riya’s lunch box into my plate. My sandwich was not enough fortunate. After reaching the venue, we decided to visit Golden Temple in the evening. A walk in the streets of Amritsar supplements your eyes with traditional Indian wear, bangles, the famous Punjabi jootis and other trinkets. Aroma of desi ghee & sugar syrup drenched sweets can allure anybody’s taste buds. Boys bought the headscarves and girls covered their head with their dupattas. Few girls also preferred to buy headscarves. After getting the shoes deposited in the clock room, we queued up for darshan. Heads covered with scarves, everybody was moving ahead with fingers crossed. As I bowed my head in the main sanctum, I felt a touch on my left arm. I looked aside. Riya was sitting beside me with folded hands and eyes closed! After more than one year, I could look her so closely. Golden scarf on her head, closed serene eyes, pink lips mumbling prayer and folded beautiful hands! It was a feast for my eyes. I was lost in her beauty’s magic. I felt frozen. And next moment, we were looking to each other. I was caught. Yet, I decided not to let off my eyes. So did she! All objectives of last one year were achieved in few moments. All the longings were satiated.
While coming back, she kept walking behind me. It looked as she was chasing my footsteps.
To Be Continued…