It was a brand new day. Everything about that day was pretty different. For instance, I didn’t get into the usual argument that I always had every morning with my pesky neighbor. I didn’t trip while walking to the bus stop—that one misappropriate footpath cobblestone always tripped me. But somehow that day, I seemed to have avoided it. I knew right then it was a brand new day. Confirming my suspicion, I met her—the girl of my dreams. She was apparently the first year student in Pre Med and that’s so not my area. I was pursuing my Bachelors in Occupational Therapy with patient care and wellness always the extent of my spectrum. But there was something different to see a premed student having that kind of an effect on me. She was apparently quite a catch already for, as I watched her climb the bus at three stops after mine, the seniors at the back some of who were my pals started their gossip. I learned from them her name—Harini Chakravarty. That’s a sweet name. I looked up her name on Google and found it means Goddess Lakshmi. Ragging was prohibited in the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences in Nashik—that’s where Harini and I studied—but that never stopped the seniors from doing it. According to them, rules were meant to be broken.

So that day, the seniors decided to get to know Harini better. I, being in the third year, was asked to summon a second year student to fetch her to the back. My orders were obeyed and soon, Harini was at the back. I fell silent. I was never good at ragging. I was more of a watcher than an inflictor. And in circumstances such as these, I intended to be just a wallflower. The seniors started their grind by asking her questions starting with her name (though they all knew it), age, field of study, what her parents did for a living, whether she had any siblings, whether she had a boyfriends, how many boyfriends she had in the past, what should her ideal husband be like. Trust me; none of her descriptions matched my looks. I wonder what got us together.

She was asked to showcase her acting skills by pretending to campaign an apple as a sex toy by using sensuous moves. Being the kind of sport she was, she did it—and I must tell you, she fared well at it. But little did they know that she had filmed the whole session in her phone. The video and audio clips were later edited by her to remove the portion where she obliged to do the whole promoting apple as a sex toy before sending it to the desk of the college dean and university chancellor, complete with the names of the seniors who were directly or indirectly involved.

But it is worth noting that she left my name out. And I still haven’t asked her why she did that. I wish I could ask her that now. Can I? Of course, but I’d have to be dead for that.

Rattan’s eyes fluttered open as he woke up from his sleep. The morning sunrays burned through the window and fell on his face, assaulting his eyes. He groaned, snapping fully into his senses. He shook his head and rubbed his face with his hands, taking deep breaths. It was just another day, he told himself. As he sat up, he watched Rupa walking in with a set of folded clothes. She said, ‘Good morning, Rattan.’

He nodded, unable to speak yet. Rupa looked at him as she stacked the clothes neatly inside the closet. Once done, she walked over and sat by him but on the bed.

‘What’s wrong?’ she asked.

‘Uh? N—nothing,’ Rattan said, wiping away a thin layer of sweat from his forehead.

‘You know, you should take up some kind of job here,’ Rupa said. ‘Maybe an internship at the Chanak General Hospital wouldn’t be such a bad idea.’

‘I’m not ready for studying or doing anything,’ Rattan said, slightly agitated.

‘But you shouldn’t waste your days like this sitting idly at home.’

‘I know. I know, Aunt Rupa,’ Rattan sighed. ‘It’s just—she’s just gone and her memories are still fresh in my mind.’

‘She will always haunt you if you don’t gather yourself,’ Rupa said. She sighed and said, ‘I had a friend back when I was in school. She was my best friend and we spent almost the entire day together. Sometimes we even had sleepovers. So we basically were inseparable. But then she was diagnosed with cancer.’

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