“Here is your lighter, thanks”, the short-haired girl said in a soft-voice.
“Have it”, Golu took the last puff off his cigarette and walked towards the darkness near Material Science department.
Neha was surprised, but didn’t say anything. She just sat down on prakruthi’s elevated porch watching Golu walk away. She took out her phone and started typing something.
Half an hour passed. Neha took her attention out of the phone and looked towards Materials department. The poor guy was still sitting there. Not smoking anymore.
Only a single street light was glowing at the end on that dark walk-way of IISc. Golu was sitting at the dark corner where a beam from the street was passing just infront of him, without touching him, respecting the contrast of emotions in his heart. She walked to Golu, slowly.
“Here, have it”, She offered her last cigarette to Golu.
Golu simply took it, without even looking at her. And waved his hand asking her for the lighter. She put the lighter on his palm. Golu was about to lit that up.
“That’s my last cigarette btw. I wanted to have it”, Neha said in angst as she was expecting a bit of gratitude.
Golu leaned slighly and looked up. His face suddenly came into the light he was sitting away from. Neha saw him, clearly for the first time. She also saw the tears in those puppy eyes. His hair were just looking like morninghead. His right hand which was holding the lighter was shaking. She felt like his mute voice was trying to say something. She understood what needed to be understood.
“Move aside”, Neha asked Golu, made a small room for herself and sat beside him. Now both went back again into the darkness. She took the lighter and leant forward towards Golu and lit the cigarette.
“Are you okay?”, Neha
“No, I am not”, Golu.
Years later, Golu still remembers that last cigarette being the longest he ever had. He can hardly recall anything he spoke that night with his trembling lips. But despite his lost consciousness, along with Neha, that fuckin’ last cigarette witnessed Golu’s hardships, Pramod’s story, his own journey, his feelings, his dreams and of-course Tanya.
The next morning, Golu woke up around 2in the afternoon with a hangover, having a little clue about what happened the last night except one thing. Golu was still dizzy until he realized that he has a meeting with Prof. Dukkipati, his guide. Now here’s the thing. Any IISc’ian, however stud, however badass he (or she) thinks he is, might not fear ghosts, spirits, aggressive dogs, empty taps in toilet or death for that matter but they surely are afraid of their advisors. Golu’s depression and love strokes went into thin air when he realised about the meeting. Neat, clean and sober version of his appeared. Bike’s silencers were fired. The only thing he noticed while driving from hostel to lab is Prakruthi’s porch. The next moment, he was in Prof’s cabin.
Professor kept asking for results of the experiments in the entire meeting and the only expression our hero could produce was of an apology. The thing is Golu hadn’t even started with the experiments. 20 minutes passed by. Golu came out of the cabin with a gloomy face, as always. Nobody ever came out happy from that cabin for that matter. He checked his phone, 3 missed calls and a whatsapp text from Mitesh, his labmate, asking him to come to gymkhana.
“What did he say?”, Mitesh asked Golu while passing the cigarette.
“Kuchh nahi, bass wohi.”, Golu.
There was an awkward silence after that. The kind of silence Golu hates. He had to brake it.
“Dude, you remember the time when we found this place?”
The place was actually at the backside of gymkhana. Full of old bushes and a lot of scrap. It was hard to spot from gymkhana canteen or the main ground. A part of it could be seen from the rear window of gym though. A near perfect hideout.
“Yeah, I remember” and Mitesh smiled.
“Mitesh, don’t you think nearly two years at this place have taught us guys a lot. It opened its hearts and offered us its secrets. Take this place for example. You can’t even imagine what I used to here. It reminds me of having countless stuff and listening to a special song over and over.”
Mitesh smiled again.
“What are you smiling at ******, don’t you have any guilty pleasure?”
“See Golu, I didn’t want to say this. But now as you brought this up, I have to kneel down and handover your crown to me.”
“Oh”, Golu’s face was having question mark and curiousity at the same time.
“I did that here.”, Mitesh made a sign with his hand.
“Whaaaat?? Here?? Dude this is the last place on earth where you wanna do that.”
“And I even had a pleasure of having that. Here at that corner”, he pointed out a small corner there.
Golu went blank for a minute and then he laughed for two more minutes. Mitesh didn’t accompany though.
“Wow dude, I didn’t expect that. I mean I could, but not here. But that’s awesome. Kind of a memory it is!”
“No it is not. Not anymore.”
“What? Wait a minute. Stop puzzling around and get to the point.”
“Okay. Rima came to the room today morning”
“Shit”, Golu muttered as he realised that things are going serious in their conversation. He knew that Mitesh and Rima’s relationship was not working out well.
“She found out. Actually she found out a lot and.. ”
Golu was silent.
“.. and she broke my laptop!”
“Whaaaat? How could she?”
“She could and she did.”, Mitesh said in a soft voice. “And you know why was I asking you to come down here? It was to tell you that she is right!”
Golu was surprisingly looking at the stubborn boy he is most familiar with.
“Rima then cried for an hour. And I just stood there in anger. Not saying a word and looking at that costly broken thing.”
“And you know what! The magic happened. I saw the reflection of myself in those broken pieces. My anger vanished. I suddenly realised that those were me. Aimless, stuck in electronic circles, executing mindless stuff, having endless harmonal reward cycles. But now, broken. And then I saw that poor girl, crying on my study chair.”
Golu was not used to this Mitesh. People have their own special ways to surprise others, he thought.
“And then it struck me. I got to know that it’s a high time for change. Kabtak chalega aise! I should get a hold of my life. I can bear every damn thing, every single pain in this world. But not the one where someone’s reason for pain is you.”
Mitesh was looking somewhere else while having his drags.
“You are a good friend of mine and I had to let you know how I feel. So this is it bro. This will be my last cigarette here. I don’t want to come here again. I don’t want to maintain any souvenirs for my past self.”
Golu kept quite. He was not fighting Mitesh’s front. He knew he was doing a right thing and he had to respect his decision. Cigarette was almost over. Mitesh passed it to Golu for last puff and went on completing his decision.
“I know, change is a good but at the same time difficult thing. It takes courage. You might not know how hard it is to get over instant gratifications as much as I do, but one gotta try. And I think, I still have to wait for a long time to be what I want to be.”
Golu went silent. He hasn’t even expected these words of wisdom from Mitesh. He even picked up the bud he just threw and checked whether they were actually smoking a cigarette or something else. But it turned out that not often, but sometimes people really mean the things they say. Both left that place for the last time, together.
She smiled, that’s it. Golu felt good. What he failed to notice is the
You know why? Because I don’t usually give myself the permission to fail. You bother. You bother that things might go wrong and thus seek validation from others. Bro, don’t even bother telling world that you are ready. Change is a very personal journey. Grow up.”l
“See, places like these are not made from the renovated buildings and the facilities which can be bought in exchange of wealthy pockets, they’re made by people who live there. Every person you see, you meet, has something special to tell you. That’s the charm, every other person is smarter than the previous and this circle comes back to us as well and then it extends, again. In fact, if only the tree at the back of this canteen could speak, it will have few incredible stories to tell, and so is true for a person”, She.
“Hmmm.. you are right”, the answer helped Golu a bit. He gave a little smile.
Out of blue, Golu remembered something from long back, “Wait… What? What did you just say?”
“You dumb! Weren’t you paying attention? I was just saying that don’t feel bad about the thing which are superficial. Open you eyes and dive in to this place, this time for real. Feel everything. Meet everyone. Ask them about their stories…”
Golu interrupted her in between, “By any chance, I mean by any chance, do you know Tanya Mittal?”
She seemed surprised at that sudden question but responded, “Yeah, she’s a friend. We live in the same hostel block.”
She exclaimed suddenly, “You know what, the funny fact is we two met right here on the admission day. She also has this habit of complaining about a lot of things. She was cursing everything even back then, when I told her the same thing. Isn’t it amazing?? Actually she was sitting there on that chair and I was sitting on the backside facing the wall and then….”, She started pointed things with her hands.
But Golu had already lost the track when she started pointing. He was so confused and surprised that he didn’t even know what to say and how to respond.
“Holy Shit!”, Golu murmured.