Over the next few days, Nikhil found himself waking up a few hours later than usual. With a heavy head, groggy eyes, he would drag himself to the wash-basin and stare silently at the mirror. Time passed slowly. Very slowly. He didn't like what he saw. This morning, he found a tiny pimple coagulating beneath his skin, right on the tip of his nose. He thought of puncturing it, but didn't want it to fester over to the rest of this sorry face. So he let it be and kept studying himself, wondering how he made such a mess out of everything. That day was long gone, but he still murmured those recited words to himself, the words which were intended for Jyotsna ran fluently on every other day in front of this very mirror. Only that those words never reached her when he needed them the most. He felt dizzy going over those thoughts over and over again. It was already noon, and to his relief he found the house empty. His Mom was probably at work, fighting against a project deadline, demanding the on-site laborers to work harder in scorching heat. His Dad on the other hand, would be massaging his knee at the sports shop, reading a magazine, nodding pretentiously at his ex-cricketter friend, who would boast about his off-field disputes with an arrogant match referee.
All Nikhil could hear in his empty living room were echoes of what happened on Rose day. “It happens dude” was the last thing Nikhil could remember Swanand saying to him, before dropping him home. After any auspicious occasion, Nikhil and his group would take it upon themselves to gather for a convention, talk about every singular detail of the episode, and then prophesize the possible outcomes. The convention for Rose Day took place at the foothills of Law College Hill. A confined terrain clear of any shrubs or rocks, that didn't take much of an effort to get to. Nikhil used his hands to broom the ground he was about to sit on. Omkar sat with a posture of a chief, hinting that he would be conducting the proceedings for the evening. Swanand sat to his right, waiting for everyone else to be seated. Devendra, the new recruit, sat excitedly for his first convention. His baby face gave a look that he had something to share himself. Nipun was nowhere to be seen. Before Omkar began, Devendra excitedly declared "Even I proposed to Manasi!" and he looked left and right as though the trees around him would shake, the pebbles would burst into smaller bits and sparrows would fall dead to the ground. Nothing but silence greeted him. His smile wasn't a perfect one, with visible gaps in between his teeth. But it vanished when he realized that nobody cared to look or even entertain him with a follow up question. They were all here to talk about another topic on agenda. Devendra didn't wait for anyone's response for long "So i told Manasi I like her and asked if she can be my girl. She turned me down after that" finishing his story as quickly as he started it. Just like that, he found himself on the list of people being turned down. Still, nothing from the rest of the group. He looked at Nikhil, and patted him saying "aaye.. this is a tough group to please" and gave another broken smile.
Nikhil just wanted to go home, but he had a duty to finish: Debrief his friends about how it all happened, talk about those feelings of rejection, and how he were to cope up with Life. After an hour long discussion, Omkar raised his hand signalling to stop. "So it is decided. Henceforth, Nikhil will drop the idea of chasing Jyotsna anymore. He shall pursue other interests." They all got up and began walking back to their bikes. Devendra, an ardent fan of Tendulkar, had a small pebble in his hand pretending it was a cricket ball and as they walked, he’d prepare a small run up and imitate a bowler bowling to the Little Master without ever letting go of the pebble. As they reached their bikes, they saw a couple cuddling up on one of their bikes. As they approached, his so called 'best friend' began a slow clap “Our star is here!”, and Nipun introduced everyone to his girlfriend, Dipti.
Devendra patted Nikhil on the shoulder again, "Don't look so sad man. We'll go for Erin Brockovich tomorrow"
Omkar interrupted, "Kasturi has called us to her place for a party”. On hearing that, Swanand frantically readjusted his glasses and asked almost desperately “When?? Why??” Kasturi’s parties were always full of exciting prospects. In the entire year, this was the one of those few times that the guys would be invited by the one female in their circle, giving themselves a chance to mingle with other girls they know but never had the guts to go and talk to. The simple notion of thought that 'something can happen' was enough motivation for all of them to show up at her parties. Celebrations began on the road as the guys began hugging each other with hope in their eyes. “Just one problem..” Omkar stopped the commotion and raised his finger pointing at Devendra, “you are not invited”. Everyone turned towards him, each making their own sympathetic face. Omkar explained “No hard feelings, she just doesn’t know you so well” and Devendra quietly nodded his head in agreement. Tragic as it was, no one came up with the heroic line “If he’s not going, I’m not going!” Since nobody wanted to be a hero. They wanted to be at Kasturi’s party. For the first time today, Nikhil found himself smiling. This was his life.. Imperfect, innocent, and truthful; and it felt so good.
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