An old story with a new end
I was learning DTP in a private institute as I could not afford a college education. My mom was working as an ayah in a private clinic. I visited daily the nearby local government library to read the various dailies and magazines when my mom was away at work.
I was reading a supplement of a paper looking at the situations vacant column. A shadow passed by my side and when I turned I saw a young girl of around 18 lingering for a moment at my table before moving to the adjacent table. She looked very pretty with a small nose and well chiseled features. She was in a much worn and faded salwar suit that indicated her poor circumstances. There was a trace of restlessness as if she was waiting for something. There was no book or daily in her hand or before her. I resumed reading the vacancy column for a moment and then turned again to see her. She was looking at me but put her head down when she saw me gazing at her. This happened a couple of times before I smiled at her and asked whether she wanted to say something.
“Sorry Sir, I am actually waiting to see the supplement you are holding in your hand. When you have finished it, please give it to me before others take it “she said softly
“I am sorry I didn’t know. I was just browsing without any specific purpose. Please have it” I said as I handed over her the paper
She smiled and said “Thanks. Someone told me of an ad that has come today.”
As she went back to her table I saw her long hair in plaits falling almost below her hip. She looked graceful in her walk. Though I had no inclination to read, I picked up an astrological magazine and turned inside its pages. Now and then I looked at her side and noticed she was also glancing at me sideways. After about half an hour she got up, hesitated for a moment at my table and left after returning the paper.
That night as I lay in my bed dreaming of my future with a steady job as a DTP operator, the face of charming girl I met in the library lingered before my eyes. I rolled on the bed cursing myself for not asking her name, where she lived and whether she visited the library daily.
I was at the library the next day in my best T shirt and jeans. My heart sank when I looked around and found her missing. I took a couple of newspapers with appointment supplements to the same desk hoping she would come. In about thirty minutes she came hurriedly and I could see the expectancy in her face when she looked around and rested her eyes on me. I smiled at her and showed the opposite vacant chair. When she sat down I said “I am Selva learning DTP and living adjacent to pillaiyar temple in the next street. I come here daily and am lucky I could meet you yesterday. What is your name?”
“I am Akila” she replied after some hesitation. When prompted what she did, she said “I stopped school after class11.I am preparing for typing examination “
“Why did you not complete at least class 12??” I asked
“I have no parents and live in my uncle’s house just next to the flour mill.Though affectionate, he cannot afford the fees. Aunty asked me to discontinue my studies and to look for a job. I know typing”
“I am very sorry to hear that. I hope you get a job soon. I will collect the appointment supplements as soon as I come here and keep them ready for you daily” I said
I felt pity for the girl. We have been meeting at the library ever since almost daily except on Sundays. When her 18th birthday came, I wished to give her some small gift. She refused telling that her aunt is watchful and if she finds any new thing with her she will enquire and stop her from library and typing classes. We became very fond of each other and wished to spend as much time as possible together.
One day a week later when I met her in the library, I found her face forlorn and eyes swollen. I felt she was trying to hide her face. I asked her what bothered her and why she had cried. She did not reply but looked very glum. When prompted, she said, “Uncle has decided to shift to his village near Salem this Friday as we are unable to pay the rent and meet the expenses in this city I do not wish to go out of Chennai. I want to be here permanently. I feel like crying”
I was shocked and could not gather words to console her immediately. I held her hand in mine and said ”I know Akila.Don’t worry. We will find a way out very soon We still have three days” without knowing what else to say.
“Selva, I am shy to tell you. Please find some way to keep me with you.”
“I know. I am also in love with you, Akila.” I said
She was 18 and can decide her future. I wanted to check with mom whether she can keep her with us 6till she found a job. I told Akila “Give me time to think. I will come up with some solution before Thursday, I promise”.
I discussed with my mom that night itself. She was supportive and assured me “I would discuss with the owner of the clinic to employ the girl as they were already in search of one assistant for the reception and to maintain records.” She added “Akila can stay with us till an alternative accommodation with the nurses in the clinic is arranged. Tell her not to lose hope and that I am on the job”
I could not go to the library the next two days as I had examination. On Wednesday night my mom said “The owner of the clinic has agreed to employ her and to stay in the premises with others. We can go to her house tomorrow morning and talk to her uncle. Do not worry as everything can be managed” and patted my shoulder. I was jubilant and could not sleep the whole night.
There was no difficulty in locating the house when we went to the flour mill. When I asked an elderly woman where Akila lived, she showed the locked door of a portion and asked who I was. When my mom explained the purpose of the visit, the woman said “How unlucky the girl is. She was crying for the last two days. She never wanted to leave this place. Her wily aunt kept her locked and did not allow her to go out fearing she may run away. They took her with them very early this morning itself instead of tomorrow as originally planned. Are you related to that nice girl?”
“My mom replied “, Not exactly, but wished to get related to her. Do you have any idea of the place or name of village where they have gone to?”
“No, they were secretive and did not give any inkling of where they are going to anyone here. I know as I stay here only”
As my mom put her arms around me, I could not suppress the tears from my eyes as my dream had crashed.
“Do not cry. I understand your love for her but both of you are unlucky. May be she may write to you in due course. We did our best to help her. Wipe your eyes now” she said
As we trudged back to our house and opened the door, I heard a voice from the flower seller at the temple telling someone “They have come.”
We both turned to see Akila rushing towards us and falling at the feet of my surprised mom. Amidst inconsolable sobs, she said “I gave my uncle and aunty a slip at the bus stand when the bus was about to start. While my uncle wanted to trace me, aunty pulled him inside the departing bus and they left. I have no one now except you and Selva.”
My mom put her arms around her and said in consoling tone “Do not worry. We are returning from your house only. Everything has been fixed. Selva, who was devastated a while ago, should be very happy now. Come in and put your right foot inside first.”