The class listened in rapt attention as she engaged them in the notes of her perfectly modulated voice and dramatically emphasised tones of Shakespeare’s most romantic works –
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometimes too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexed dimm’d,
And every far from fair sometimes declines…
The imagery of the narrative seemed to come alive through the pristine realms of an old-world romance. The room filled with the exuberance of her soulful expressions and effortless rendition.
Just then…Knock, knock.
The enchanted mood of a captivated audience was suddenly broken by an interruption.
“Excuse me, 3rd Year Literature class, he asked in a deep baritone voice.
Signalling him inside without losing her focus, she continued the portrayal without further interlude.
The broad-shouldered boy with a loosely straddled backpack on one side made long strides through a room that cast him with cold stares and frowned tints. Hurriedly he settled down on an empty bench in the far corner.
Her performance ended on a high note evoking a thunderous response from the whole class, including the old and finical Professor. She had done exceptionally well and the proof lay large in the rapturous emotions that filled the room. She headed back to her seat. But somewhere amid all this excitement, she had also noticed a new pair of eyes permeating from the far end of the room which seemed to have found a comfortable resting place on her happy person. Gradually without trying to attract any attention she turned her head and met his glance with a mild whiff of shyness. Something inside her stirred and the brilliant Rohini found herself instantly attracted towards the unbeknownst charm of her new classmate.
Rohan sensed a strong magnetic pull towards this enigmatic new girl whom he had just locked eyes on and exchanged the most captivating look with. She wasn’t anything like what he had seen or encountered before. She had a different kind of energy that lighted up the whole room. He wanted to know her more.
A girl like Rohini who had bound herself to the astute domain of books, ranks, merit scores and competitions had never wavered from her focus. Her academically incited home environment had always instilled the strong belief that scholarly excellence sans distractions was to be her primal focus in life.
But what was happening now?
Was her stoic heart experiencing the new flutters of love?
Being classmates, the two got several opportunities for interactions, classroom events and campus activities. Through the course, they became more aware and convinced of their feelings for one another. But still, something stopped them from confessing their true emotions. There was hesitation from both sides in making open declarations of love. Other than Rohini’s strict family background that held her back, she was often left perplexed with Rohan’s extreme behaviour that expressed itself through unprovoked temper tantrums or emotional outbursts. Reasoning with him would only turn into a blame game.
Albeit these sporadic displays of abnormal behaviour, Rohini did not let her pure emotions be clouded by other judgements. She loved him, she knew it. Rohan tried hard to control his behaviour and not let it have any bearings on his newfound feelings for Rohini but he just couldn’t curb that sudden distortion of emotions. He could not hold them inside and behave like a normal individual. The baggage of his doings had found a volatile visual display so very often. He loved her, he knew it. But how could he tell her any of this? How would she react if she knew the truth?
But the two young hearts beat hard and craved for each other whenever they were not together. They controlled themselves till that beautiful monsoon evening when the forces of nature conspired to bring their green souls together. Rohini had stayed back after class to prepare some notes and Rohan had been wandering on campus with his friend. When he spotted Rohini alone, he was suddenly imbued with the courage to speak to her privately. They walked towards the lush green gardens behind their campus where no one else was in sight. She was very conscious at first, of being alone in his company but he seemed to be in a completely different mood today. She could sense his lightheartedness and fluffy disposition.
The gentle pitter-patter of the rains further enhanced his manner as they soaked blissfully under the gentle monsoon showers. Rohan lovingly took her hands in his and kissed them lightly. She felt an odd smell emitting from his mouth but his touch pleasured her so much that she lost herself in those small electric sparks coursing through her veins. She experienced heightened sensations of an ecstatic kind and immersed herself in its effect. The vast grey skies generously covered her with a mesmerising scent of delight.
From then on started their daily rendezvous. Rohini continued to balance her studies and affair well by continuing her spree of winning dramatic competitions, debates and quizzes. But Rohan began to fall behind. Despite her constant telling, she often found him dazed, highly distracted and lost in a gazillion of illegible feelings. She reprimanded him, mentored him, stood by him but he still fared poorly in his internal credits and year-end papers. They started having several arguments which accentuated his feelings of insecurity and displacement. Rohini wanted to understand his behavioural patterns and often suggested counselling for his anger issues. But he shunned her advice outrightly. Despite all the odds, she remained strongly yoked to his side. The ghastly chaos of his surmounting negativity was painful but she stayed unnerved. He distanced himself from her and often remained out of touch for days at a stretch. He wouldn’t answer her calls or messages. But she gave him his space. Whenever he showed up for class, he looked pale and sickly. Was he ill? She became concerned, but her probing only pushed him further away.
He attended the final papers and when the results were announced, she had as usual topped the class and Rohan’s name was marked in bold red!
But where was Rohan today? Her eyes searched for him everywhere, amidst all the other students, but he was nowhere in sight. Why hadn’t he come to get his results?
Anxiously, she tried his cell phone, his landline, but he remained untraceable. His friends were nowhere in sight. Finally, she gathered the courage and went to his house with one of her closest friends. She knew his terrace room had a separate entrance from the outside. Carefully she made her way up without any noise and saw the door ajar..as she pushed it fully open and stepped inside, her eyes saw a sight so horrifying that she just froze in her boots.
“Rohannnnn, rohannn,” she shook him hard but he was dazed out. She slapped his cheeks, yanked his hands, whirled his head but he lay there motionless with a trail of white sticking to the ends of his nose.
Was that a syringe in his hand? And what was that white powder snuff?
“What have you done Rohan? Have you drugged yourself?” she screamed and wailed..but he was in no state to respond to her. She gathered her bag and hurriedly ran out fighting back her hot flushes. Her friend ran behind trying to match pace, but Rohini fled as soon as she could. Her mind was jumbled with multiple thoughts.
How could he demean her love through such escapism? Was he so weak that instead of working hard and proving himself, he had taken recourse in such delusional flights of fancy? She finally understood the extremities in his behaviour.
He had let the evil of life consume him, he had let powder take power and succumbed to its deadly fold.
Rohini scurried towards her home and locked herself into her room. She couldn’t come to terms with the nerve-shattering scene that she had witnessed at Rohan’s place. She badgered herself with innumerable questions, how could he do this? Is he mentally so feeble? How could she go wrong in choosing the love of her life? Is she somewhere responsible for all this?
While Rohini was entangled in the web of her unsettling thoughts, she suddenly heard a loud knocking at the door of her room. Wiping away her tears, she opened the door. Her parents stood right there, their eyes probing her about what had gone so wrong?
Albeit Rohini had never discussed Rohan with her parents before, but she was deluged with tears the moment her mother caressed her head. She disclosed to her parents everything about her relationship with Rohan, how they both met, how the cupid struck them, how madly they’re in love with each other and their plans of getting married. For a moment, Rohini’s parents were flabbergasted to hear all that but immediately, they regained their composure and tried calming her down.
Suddenly, Rohini’s cellphone buzzed, it was Rohan’s best friend Aditya who called up to inform her that Rohan had been admitted to the City hospital due to an overdose of drugs. The phone slipped off Rohini’s hands, she and her parents rushed to the hospital. Aditya introduced them to Rohan’s parents. They were in a terrible state.
Rohini was deeply hurt. She decided not to meet Rohan, instead, she penned down a note for him and asked his friend Aditya to pass it on to him.
Upon regaining consciousness, Rohan unfolded Rohini’s letter.
“Rohan, I shall love you till the last breath of my life. And if you love me, you shall fight your demons and come back to me. You’re way stronger than this abused substance. Let drugs not overpower you. You’re a fighter. A beautiful life is awaiting us. Come back soon.
Instantly, tears began rolling down Rohan’s cheeks. Flashes from his gory past blurred his vision. Rohan reminisced his first rendezvous with this unusual character when he was all of 13. It was his neighbourhood friend Raghav, who introduced Rohan to the lethal potent. Rohan and Raghav were childhood buddies who used to play together the whole day and have sleepovers at each other’s place. Before Rohan could even decipher the aftermaths, he had already got immersed in the pool of drugs. Noticing his falling grades and the change in his behaviour, his parents dug deep into him to find out the truth. They had to make arduous efforts to make him confide in them. Rohan was then sent to a rehabilitation centre where he spent the next two years of his life. Though these years were not easy on Rohan or his parents, but the regular counselling, varied treatments, therapies, and the love and support of his family helped Rohan eventually bounce back. Initially, he remained confined to his room shunning away his friends, but gradually, he regained his lost confidence, began stepping out of the house, meeting people and resumed a normal life.
While Rohan was lost in a reverie, Dr Pathak, in charge of ICU suddenly came over to see Rohan. Although Rohan looked pale, decrepit and had big dark circles around his droopy eyes, yet the doctor enquired about his health to uplift him.
“Hello Rohan, how are you doing today?” asked Dr Pathak.
“I’m, I’m okay”, stammered Rohan.
“Today, we’re shifting you to Zorbacare, the best rehab in India. There you’ll be looked after in a much better way as they have a trained team of psychiatrists, therapists, CBT counsellors and life coaches,” Dr Pathak announced and hopped on to check on the next patient.
Rohan had already been to rehab during his teens. The mere thought of going to such a place again gave him the chills and he started screaming badly and throwing things around. The nurse came running and gave him a shot of a sedative that put him to sleep for some time.
When Rohan opened his eyes, he found himself on bed number 104 of Zorbacare.
His treatment began instantaneously. Initially, Rohan was adamant and posed problems for the doctors and therapists but gradually, he began co-operating. And that was the biggest achievement for them. They could see within Rohan a keen desire to get back to normal life. He was remorseful, it took him a tad longer but he eventually realised how harmful drugs are.
The doctors at Zorba offered him personalised therapy programs. Their approach was holistic and involved a medley of therapies to treat Rohan. Their goal was to help him become an acceptable, responsible, and productive member of society and for the entire family to find a joyous life, free of addictive and co-dependent patterns of living.
Life was slowly getting back to normalcy for Rohan. While under treatment, he kept studying further and even took up a few language courses. On the other hand, Rohini’s life had become miserable. Her parents pestered her incessantly to get married but she couldn’t even think of anyone else other than Rohan. She left early for work, came back home late, and often remained confined to her room.
Phew! Two long years had passed. Rohan had completely avoided drugs and it was time for him to get back home. Almost everything was the same for him, yet there was a vacuum. He missed Rohini badly but never tried contacting her. He assumed that by now she must be happily married and well-settled in her new life.
Subsequently, he applied for a job at a few places and around a month later, he got a job offer from an English Teaching Academy in Bangalore. Rohan accepted the offer as he wanted to start his life afresh. Before moving to another city for work, Rohan decided to meet all his friends one last time. Concurrently, his best friend Aditya called up to invite him to the school alumni meet, going to be held two days later.
Life is unpredictable. It unfolds surprises when we least expect them. Rohan was astounded to see Rohini there. Rohini too was at a loss for words. There was an awkward silence between them. After a while, Rohini broke the ice. They both cried, hugged each other, and nothing, absolutely nothing had changed between them.
Picture credit- Mishal Ibrahim on Unsplash.com
Team Name- Blooming Dales
Authors- Sujatha Kini and Deepa Jandial