Preeti rushed into the house, her face was red with anger and her fist was clenched, something she did when she was angry. Her mother, who was standing in the kitchen could make out from the reverberation of closing of the door that her daughter was really angry. She waited for some time and went to Preeti’s room to cool her down, which was something she was very good at. When she opened the door she saw Preeti lying flat on the bed looking towards the ceiling. “What happened beta?” she asked like any Indian mother would ask. “Just a new assignment in school” replied Preeti. “Out of all the topics that sir had written on the chits the one I had to get was first love. First love? Seriously? Who even gives such topics for assignments?” continued Preeti before even her mom could say anything. “That’s the easiest topic you could get. You can write about anything na, from shopping to serials to that boyfriend of yours whatever his name is” replied her mom. “I don’t love any of these things ma. Now don’t look at me like that, I just like all these things. I have never had butterflies in my stomach or made a fool out of myself for someone else, I have never had any of the romantic things that we see in movies” said Preeti.
“Well, you don’t need all those things to love someone” replied her mom. “You seem to know a lot about love. Tell me who your first love was and I will write the same story and submit my assignment” said Preeti. “I don’t think it will be a good story to submit as your assignment” replied her mother. “I’ll modify it, don’t worry about it” said Preeti. After heaving a deep sigh her mom replied, “The spring had just started.
The spring had just started and all the schools and colleges had reopened. The new semester had just started in Dr. Ambedkar College. It was Pooja’s first day in college. She had opted for history, economics and English as her major subjects. She had still not got used to the filthy hostel, the cramped up room, the separation from her family and her nosy roommates. She wore a loose pair of jeans and a loose top to prevent the unhealthy gaze from all the guys in the college. Being from a smaller city in U.P named Allahabad, Delhi was a big change for her. She asked a short and scruffy looking girl the way to the first year history class. “So you want to know where the first year history class is huh? Come with me, I will show you how history is made”, saying so the girl took Pooja behind the college canteen. There was a big dumping ground behind the canteen inside which a group of people were dancing. A lot of people were sitting on elevated areas with samosas in their hands. These people were laughing at the people dancing inside the dumping ground. “Hey people, look what I have here” said the scruffy girl. All the people, mostly guys, who had samosas in their hands turned around and started checking her out as if an auction was going on. All this was really embarrassing for her and her cheeks became red. One of the guys walked up to her and bowed in front of her and said, “Please go into the pit and start dancing madam”. Actually I had a ligament tear in my right knee while playing basketball, so the doctors told me to give rest to my knee and not to perform any strenuous activity”, replied Pooja. This made the scruffy girl very angry. She stormed towards Pooja and pulled her towards the pit. Pooja reluctantly gave in to the force applied onto her. But just when she was about to enter the pit, the scruffy girl stopped walking. Pooja saw a tall and well-built guy standing in front of her blocking her way. “If the girl plays basketball then being the basketball captain it’s my duty to protect her” announced the tall guy. The scruffy girl left Pooja’s wrist and everyone surrounding her backed off. “That’s enough you guys, well done all of you. Now head back to your classes and don’t loiter in the campus” he continued facing the freshers in the pit. All the sweaty and stinky first years climbed out of the pit and dragged themselves to their classes. As Pooja turned and started walking, the tall guy called her, “Hey basketball girl! Come here”. The smile on her face vanished as she imagined herself walking towards the human embodiment of the leaning tower of Pisa. “Hi! I am Saurabh. So you really play basketball huh?” he asked. “Yes I do. I played till district level” she replied. “We have a tournament in about 5 weeks’ time, and I really want some representation from the first year to keep the management happy. I think you would learn a lot if you just come for the practice and be ready to sit on the benches during the actual matches” he said. “Okay but don’t make me exert too much, I don’t want to get hurt” she replied. “Okay madam, as you say, now I think it’s time for you to say ‘thank you’ and go to class, it’s not every day that I go against my friends to save a fresher. I do it only for the good looking girls who play basketball” he said with a smirk on his face. “Thank you for saving me today” she said her face becoming red.
From next day onwards Pooja went to the practice sessions regularly. This went on for the next 2 weeks. Pooja got her touch back, and started jumping around like all the other players just to show what she was capable of. She started with the lay-ups and went on to tackling and even attempted dunks. 1 week before the tournament during the warm up session in the morning when Pooja was attempting the lay-ups she landed on her right leg with a sudden jerk. As she sat on the court crying Saurabh who was practicing on the other court saw her and came running towards her. “What happened?” he asked genuinely worried.
I think the ligament tore again” she said in between her sobbing. “Tell the coach I am not well when he comes”. He shouted at one of his friends. He then lifted Pooja who started wailing when she was lifted and took her to the nearest hospital which was a 10 minute walk.
2 days later
Saurabh was sitting in the canteen with his friends when he saw Pooja walking towards her class with crutches and a plastered leg. Saurabh ran towards her and almost collided into her before stopping just in front of her. “I am so sorry about the other day” said Saurabh. “Why are you sorry? I should in fact be thanking you. You lifted me and walked till the hospital, you were a complete gentleman” said Pooja. “I am sorry because being the captain it was my responsibility to see that you don’t get hurt after you told me specifically about your ligament problem and lifting you and walking till the hospital was my pleasure. It’s not every day that I lift a girl as beautiful as you and I am sure every guy in the college and on the road would have turned to ashes on seeing you in my arms” said Saurabh. “You don’t have to flirt with me to get my forgiveness” said Pooja. “I am not flirting; I am feeling guilty so I am just trying to make myself feel better by making you smile. Now you practiced a lot for this event so I will make sure that you get a certificate” said Saurabh. “But I won’t be able even take part when the coach sees my leg”, said Pooja. “Don’t worry about all that, I have already given an order for the jerseys through the coach and the certificate will be in your hands in a few days” said Saurabh. “Okay. You know the best”, said Pooja, before turning and entering her class.
A week later the basketball competition started in the college and teams from twelve colleges were taking part in it. It was a 3 day event and Saurabh’s team had two matches in a day. On the second day of the event after the first match Saurabh saw Pooja standing outside the court and watching the match. “Hello wounded soldier”, said Saurabh walking up to her. “Hi! Congrats on the victory”, replied Pooja. “I have your certificate in the bag, do you want it now?” asked Saurabh. “The competition is still going on and you already have my certificate ready?” asked Pooja. “See, our college is organizing this event, so we guys only get the certificates printed. I haven’t written the position of our team in the certificate, rest everything I have filled up. Don’t forget to write the position of our team after the competition gets over”, said Saurabh and took out the certificate from his bag and gave it to Pooja. “Wow! I don’t know what to say Saurabh, thanks for all the trouble you took and for this certificate”, said Pooja. “No problem, just keep this certificate safe and don’t publicize it much. If anyone comes to know about this then I might get into trouble”, said Saurabh. “Okay Saurabh, don’t worry about it, now go and rest before your second match starts”, said Pooja. Both Pooja and Saurabh said goodbyes and parted ways.
The next day when Saurabh was relaxing on the benches after the semifinals his friend came running to him and said, “Saurabh! The principal wants to see you”. “Why? What happened?” asked Saurabh. “I don’t know but Pooja is also there in his office”, he replied. Saurabh ran to the principal’s office and knocked loudly, a voice from inside said, “Come in”. Saurabh opened the door and saw Pooja standing in front of the principal’s table and crying. “Good afternoon sir is anything wrong?” asked Saurabh. “Yes Saurabh, something is wrong. I got a call this morning from the girl’s hostel from an anonymous caller who told me that Pooja standing over hear got a certificate saying that she took part in the ongoing basketball competition”, said the principal. “Sir I think it must have been a prank call”, said Saurabh. “If it was a prank call then how is it that Pooja confessed to receiving a certificate from you which she didn’t deserve?” asked the principal. Saurabh was confused and couldn’t believe this, he turned his head to face Pooja and saw her crying. “Don’t look at her Saurabh, look at me and answer. I know you did it now tell me the reason. Did Pooja ask you for the certificate or did you give it for some other reason?” asked the principal. “She didn’t ask for it sir. I gave it to her because she had practiced a lot for the tournament, she got injured just a week before the competition and the injury was so serious that the doctor told her to never play any game henceforth. I just felt bad for her and thought that the certificate would at least help her when she passes out and starts looking for a job”, said Saurabh. “That is very generous of you Saurabh but it is against the rules of this college, we can’t let corrupt people pass out of this college. I am just suspending you this time but next time I will dismiss you from the college, so don’t repeat this behaviour”, said the principal. Saurabh hung his head down and stayed mum, he wasn’t expecting all this when he set out to help Pooja and he wasn’t expecting Pooja to spill everything in front of the principal. “Now go to the hostel and start packing your bags, I want you out of the campus by tomorrow morning”, said the principal. “But sir I have one more match to play, it is the final”, said Saurabh. “That is none of your concern anymore Saurabh, now both of you may leave”, said the principal. Saurabh wiped a tear and stomped out of the office and Pooja followed him. “Saurabh! Wait!” shouted Pooja. Saurabh stopped walking and waited for Pooja to catch up with him. “I am sorry about everything but it is not my fault, my roommate saw the certificate and complained to the principal”, said Pooja. “Yeah it’s not your fault I am the one who broke the rules and helped you and I am paying the price so you can go back and enjoy your life and let me go and pack my bags and see my team losing the finals”, said Saurabh. Pooja kept calling his name but he didn’t turn back.
From that day onwards Saurabh never spoke to Pooja. Pooja kept on trying to talk to him and even called him a million times but he was just too shaken up by the suspension. Even on the day when Saurabh was graduating he didn’t speak to Pooja. He could see her trying to talk to him and following him around, even when he got into his car he could see her through the rear view mirror. Saurabh got down from his car and walked to Pooja. “Still mad at me?” asked Pooja. “Not really. Just didn’t want to get another suspension by staying around you a lot”, said Saurabh. “Come on Saurabh, I said I am sorry, what more do you want me to do?”, asked Pooja. “The day you get a job come to this place”, said Saurabh, handing her a piece of paper. “What is this?” asked Pooja. “This is my address, come here on that day and I will tell you why I risked so much to get that certificate if you can’t figure it out by then”, said Saurabh and got into his car.
1 year later
Interviewer: Why did you choose our company to do your internship? Usually visual communication students apply for an internship in a news channel.
Pooja: Sir, in the last 3 years I was taught how to be creative, how to be innovative and how to be confident in something that you pursue through the different subjects that I studied. Of course there were some subjects in which I was forced to learn a lot of useless things by heart, but most of the subjects taught me the three things that I mentioned. I think that this internship will teach me how to apply these things that were taught to me in class in my real life and my profession. So that is the reason that I want to work here.
Interviewer: Hmm! That is a very cliched answer. Every person who wants to join us wants to grow or get to know themselves or exercise their creative sides, but the truth Ms. Pooja is that you don’t have much experience in any of the fields that is required to work in a news channel.
Pooja: Sir, I am a really fast learner and I am very fast in getting things done and I think that is very important in this field.
Interviewer: I can see that in your resume. You have played basketball at the district and college levels so I expect you to be quick on your feet and deliver all that you are promising.
Pooja: I hope I don’t let you down sir.
Interviewer: You don’t have many things going in your favour but I am interested in seeing you work here and apply whatever it is that you want to apply.
Pooja: Thank you so much sir.
Pooja got up and shook hands with the interviewer and exited the room.
“So that is how my love story goes”, said Preeti’s mother Pooja, bringing an end to her story.
“What? That’s all? Complete the story ma”, said Preeti. “You can figure out the end on your own, can’t you? Plus I don’t think the ending of my story would be suitable for your story”, replied Pooja. “Now wash up and come down downstairs to eat”, continued Pooja and walked out of the of her daughter’s room. She went into the dining room and looked at Saurabh’s photo hanging on the wall and gave him a flying kiss.