When Devesh Kumar, at a younger and trimmer age studied masters in political science at the university, he had an ageing professor. The professor was a rather old one and continued to stay on the campus even after retiring. The professor had a daughter who Devesh Kumar had seen on and off, learning to drive her scooter in the varsity campus streets or dry her hair on the terrace by squeezing it out of the towel and hitting it softly as droplets of water from it turned into quiet mist around her. But he was never in love with her. Because of the very same reason that he was not in love with anyone else at that age.

Campus politics had kept him busy and having lost the elections for student body president, two times in row had made him a venerable opposition to whoever the incumbent president was. But despite the chaos and much running about, he had come to know that her name was Ipsa and that she was studying literature somewhere in the city. Ipsa visited her father on the weekends or on fortnights. In their house on campus, the professor who now acted as a visiting one, lived on with a middle aged house maid who had been there his entire life.

Devesh Kumar graduated without any further liaisons with the professor’s nubile daughter and started looking for a job after spending several sobering weeks with his family. After several months of appearing for interviews after encircling job openings from newspapers, he was lucky enough to get an entry level gig at the directorate of industries. With a degree that meant nothing to him behind him and with a job he knew nothing about ahead of him, Devesh Kumar bore the quiet assurance of a twenty three year old man who kept telling himself he would get through it.

And get through he did, more than good, he, with his social skills seamlessly connected to people and charmed them with his words and actions. In two years, he had become the boss’s darling and a go to person in the directorate if you needed anything done. It was also understood that he got some kickbacks and passed on to people their due share without delay. And hence the extra outpouring of love from co-workers.

His parents had also happier with their son’s achievements and that he had been helping out at home by contributing some to his deaf and mute brother’s upkeep. He also had another sister, the youngest one who would soon be marriageable, back then. Amidst all this, Devesh Kumar was invited by his college professor to help a bit in arranging his daughter’s wedding. Devesh Kumar was not astonished with this invite. He was aware the professor didn’t have any relatives to help about and his ex-students were his only family, besides his daughter.

So Devesh had hastily applied for a few days of casual leave and rushed off to his old campus, where a couple of his old friends awaited him. Together they ran about and spoke to caterers and negotiated with tent houses, wholesale flower dealers, travel agents, booked hotel rooms for the bridegroom’s party, the whole deal. Exhausted after long days of work when he lay on the mattress in the hall, sometimes he would catch a glimpse of the bride-to-be, Ipsa, roaming around in her pajamas and loafers, hands died in henna, hair tied in a bun. While erecting bamboo poles to hang tents and setting up shamianas with the bride’s and groom’s names, sometimes he would catch another glimpse of her smoking or talking on the phone. But that was it.

In those several moments, it wasn’t that their eyes never met. Ipsa caught his eyes in hers and remembered that this was the boy who she had seen ambling in her father’s chambers years ago, this was the boy who lost all these elections that her father had mentioned, and this was the boy whose eyebrows were thick enough to make it seem that they had a separate identity altogether. But that was it. She never took it any further. She was excited and happy that she won’t have to deal with her old life anymore because her brand new settled in Germany aerospace engineer husband was going to get her a brand new life of shiny expensive things in Western Europe.

Things ambled their way to the wedding night when Ipsa sat in all her wedding finery and took gift envelopes from guests and Devesh Kumar guided them to and away from her to the dining hall. Then he saw her again and wondered what it will be like for her old father with his only child thousands of miles away and looked away in pity.

After the bridge-groom arrived he heard some disagreements going on between the professor and the groom’s mother. Something about a four-wheeler or a patch of land in the city that he had promised them. The cheque for the four-wheeler had bounced because the fixed deposits the professor had pre-closed to pay for it hadn’t been closed on time. The groom’s mother felt betrayed and also wasn’t very amenable to wait for the title of the land to be changed after the wedding. After that cheque had bounced, how could she ever trust him again?

The professor called Devesh Kumar in and asked him to fetch the bank manager from his residence at that very moment. After all, this should get sorted before the garlands are exchanged. Devesh Kumar returned empty handed as the bank manager seemed to be out of town. Hapless and too old to prove his point, the professor sat down on the floor clutching his chest and sighing loudly. This scared young Devesh Kumar a bit and he quickly ran to the bride after giving him a glass of water.

He knocked on the door of the bride’s room and she opened draped midway in a simple yellow sari, hair untucked and a jasmine string hanging from it. This was the first time they spoke after having observed each other from respectable distances and having formed one-sided shy opinions. The bride then hid in Devesh Kumar’s shadow and ran to be at her father’s side.

The professor in sobs said he didn’t know what to do. The groom and his family were all set to return and there was nothing anyone could do to stop them. Ipsa ran her hands on her father’s forehead and told him that it was going to be okay and that he needed to be strong and healthy. He would leave this campus and move to her rented place in the city where she worked. She could still cancel her resignation and get back the job she had quit for the marriage. Everyone would understand dowry harassment.

Seeing the two of them huddled that way in mutual consolation, something very hard struck Devesh Kumar’s heart. He walked up to the bed and held the professor’s hand and offered to marry his daughter. Ipsa was too vulnerable to speak, let alone refuse. The names were taken off from the shamiana and Devesh Kumar married Ipsa that very night. Instead of a thousand miles to Germany, she was headed a few dozen kilometers to Devesh Kumar’s parents’ house in the city.

It was such a shocking surprise for his family, they could barely speak. Except for murmurs in the kitchen and whispers in the living room. Only the deaf and mute younger brother sat by his sister in law and gave comfort with his timely smiles.


A considerate excerpt from a rather longish short story. Because you wouldn't read the whole of it, anyway. Because it never mattered enough that I wrote it. Because it wouldn't matter either if I hadn't written it. At least, I have an amateur litterateur's inconsequence. What-have-you 

Memories from the Eucalyptus

The first memory of you I have is from kindergarten. Both of us were about four, I guess. It wasn't a formal school is all I remember. And more than the school, I have a lucid memory of returning from school. And of being neighbors. In that uncomplicated phase of childhood. You didn't live next door. Our houses were not adjacent of course, like apartments these days. You lived with your maternal grandparents for the summer, or probably the whole year. Your house was three storied, hidden aptly behind the ample foliage of coconut and mango trees. My house was a little further. We had our trees in the backyard, and our house was pretty much exposed, except for a sole eucalyptus near our front door.

This eucalyptus tree was the cynosure of my life back then. I would sight it from a distance from the wooden lorry that drove us home from school and feel happy. I got down at the eucalyptus tree. Sometimes you got down with me. Your grandparents lived alone and didn't talk much to anyone, let alone my family. Only somehow we had procured their landline number to call and tell them you were with me. And we would play house. Probably we were too young to play anything else.

The wind blew seeds and hid them in the crevices of the eucalyptus tree. In the rain, these seeds would shoot into saplings and burst out into small plants. With leaves very different from that of the eucalyptus, their host. Some saplings lived to grow tall and strong. All this made the tree appear very composite. Several trees within itself, like a thriving plural phantom from my dreams.

But they chopped down that tree one day. It was so sudden and immediate that I just found the tree gone when I got back from school. My landmark, my cynosure was no more. I mourned in my own quiet way but you found out and shared my loss. Then onward till the end, we played at your house. Until, I switched schools to a proper one and you left your grandparents alone for good.