Deepti didn’t move but she was awake. Archie gave a gentle tap on her shoulder. She called her again, “Deepti! Main tumhari dost jaisi hoon. Meri baat suno. (I am like your friend. Listen to me.)”
She didn’t respond. Archie didn’t want to give it a third try. Her limit was only twice. Sunil used to always fight with her for this. Archie turned her back to leave, when a feeble voice stopped her, “Aap kaun hain? (Who are you?)”
Archie turned around to see Deepti. The light was enough for her face to be clearly seen. Only her pink lips shone brightly and her black eyes that were glistening because of tears drops in them. Her features were neatly cut. Archie went towards her and bent a little. Deepti moved back a bit with Archie’s sudden reaction.
“Daro mat. Main yahaan tumhari dost ban ke aayi hoon. Mujhpe bharosa rakho (Don’t get scared. I have come to be your friend. Trust me),” saying this Archie made a place for herself beside Deepti and sat there.
Banu looked at this whole situation quizzically. She had seen Deepti respond so quickly for the first time.
Archie put her hands on Deepti’s palms just to give a friendly gesture. Deepti moved her hands away. Her face was all the more clear then. She was dark complexioned but her features made her look all the more beautiful. In fact, she was even more beautiful than Pri. Pri was known to be the ‘Aishwarya Rai’ of their college.
After a pause, Deepti broke in suddenly saying, “Bharosa!!!(Trust!!!). Kispe karun? ( Whom should I trust?)”.
Archie had never handled such a situation with anyone except her friends so she said, “Achcha, kisi pe mat karo.”(Okay, don’t trust anyone).
“I am here to just listen to all and solve problems. If you wish to you can tell.”
Deepti gave her a look as if she were to say,” Oh! Go away. Who are you to solve my problems?”
Archie was about to say more when Banu interrupted saying, “Didi achchi hain. Baat kar lo na.”(She is good. Try talking to her).
The whole room was quiet. Archie was looking at Deepti with anxious eyes. After a long pause, Deepti spoke and that too so openly.
She continued in Hindi but could also speak English.
Here D refers to Deepti.
D: I came here a month back.
AN: What problem did you have? You seem to look perfect.
D: Nothing. I was forced to come here.
AN: By whom?
D: Haan. (Yes.) I used to study in a nearby literacy school.
AN: Do you have parents?
D: Yes. I have.
AN: Where are they? I mean why…………….?? (Archie was about to say,why the hell have you come here? but she stopped.)
D: Everything got spoilt. I was in the 8th standard.
AN: How old are you? (One cannot guess their age by the class in which they are studying.)
D: I am 15 years old.
AN: Oh! Okay. Continue………… what happened?
D: My dad works as a rickshaw puller and mom as a servant in the nearby quarters. I am basically from Karnataka . I assist her after my school.
AN: Okay. Then what?
D: This continued for years and then……….
She stopped abruptly and burst out crying.
Archie was taken aback by the sudden reaction. She put her arms around Deepti’s shoulder and told her, “It’s okay. We can talk later. Take care. See you tomorrow.”
Archie sat there for a second but Deepti still continued to cry. She bade good bye to a chirpy Banu and left the room.
Archie met Sunil and Sherin. They were talking about something. Archie was still thinking about Deepti and was confused by her sudden reaction. She wanted to know what could have happened.
Sunil and Sherin together asked, “How was it?”
AN: Just fine.
Sunil: You don’t seem to look fine though.
AN: Nah!! I’ll be fine. (Archie didn’t know how to tell them).
They met the other 3.
Ashu, Namu and Pri were quite happy and they started talking about their experience.
Ashu: It feels great to meet them. They are such lovely people.
Namu: They seriously need love and care.
Pri: Yes. A bit of love also works here. Look at us. Even if someone gives us love we don’t seem to care. We always want more.
Sherin: You are right dear.
(Saying this, Sherin looked at Archie.)
Ashu: What Archie? You are quiet. How come?
Namu: Yes. How come?
Namu never had an intellect of her own. She blabbered what the others said but she was a real good friend. A bit dumb but very pure at heart.
Sunil & Sherin: Yes. We also asked her the same thing but she says she is fine.
Pri: Look at her. Does she look like the same Archie?
Sunil: Leave her. (With a fed up look on his face).She won’t tell. It’s her mood.
On the way back all 4 were talking something or the other. Ashu was walking beside Archie.
Ashu, for the first time was nice to Archie. He said, “What has happened Archie? You can at least tell us, right?”
Archie felt that a miracle had happened. Ashu was the one who was like the ‘don’t care’ types and always full of fun. He was asking with so much of concern, so Archie had to blurt out. That time Archie felt that boys ‘do care’ but they don’t show it always like girls do. They express less.
AN: I met a girl called Deepti .
Then she continued with the whole story.
Archie’s voice was so loud that the other 4 could also hear everything while she was teling Ashu.
“Yes. She pointed out that girl to me yesterday,” Sherin nodded in agreement.
Archie continued and by the time her narration got over they had reached their room. Ashu was listening quietly. In fact, all did. Even Namu didn’t speak.
Ashu broke the silence and said, “So, you are worried thinking what could have happened to her?”
Ashu: Don’t worry. We are going tomorrow. You can talk to her.
Sunil: Yes Archie. Ashu is right. Don’t think over it again. Let’s have dinner and sleep. I am very tired.
Pri: Dinner is so bad here.
Namu: Oh God!
Sherin: It’s a matter of one month gals. It’s almost a week now. We’ve three more to go.
AN: I am not able to realize how fast the days are passing.
After dinner they went to their rooms and dosed off. Archie couldn’t sleep. She was eagerly waiting for the next day.
Sunil messaged her: Take care dear.
Sleep well. Don’t think much.
I know you’ll be thinking about her now.
Archie smiled, set the alarm and closed her eyes.