I finished my practical and got out of the college. I was heavy-hearted. Darkness completely filled my heart. No thoughts were entering my mind. PITCH DARKNESS. I was not seeing anything. Total vacuum everywhere. No. I was not walking. I was being dragged. My legs were taking me uncontrolled.
It was winter. So the days were short. It got dark quite early. Very gloomy just as it was in my heart. I saw only the blackness in the sky. I could not see the stars. The entire vacuum in my mind was filled with darkness. The public on the road were walking. I was walking along with them. They stopped. I also stopped. Probably we came at the road crossing. I was not able to raise my head. So much disappointed. Some how dared to look up. The light was red. I sighted a big hoarding near by. It read.
“JOIN ARMY. TODAY COUNTRY NEEDS YOU.”
And these lines pushed me into the ocean of depression. Suddenly, the road sign changed its colour. It turned green. The public moved. They started walking. I also started walking. Again I looked down. It was impossible to look up.
Somebody put his hand on my shoulder. He asked” Have you seen Khandekar?”
Just to answer him I said,”No.” Not interested in knowing who was asking. How would I know about Khandekar? Can one notice some person in darkness?
I heard some announcement on public address system. I realized I was on the railway platform. In a short time a train arrived. I boarded the train without thinking. I stood in the door only. The train started. Cool breeze started biting my ears, digging my heart. I found it annoying. I was looking out of the door. But I could not see anything. Vacuum. Total vacuum.
The train stopped. Some people got off. Few boarded the train. I did not move. I realized lights on the platform were glowing brightly except one. One light was flickering. It was writhing in pain. Probably one of his ambitions was not fulfilled. So he was very uneasy.
Train started. Again cool breeze started biting. Again it began digging my heart.
When the train stopped again, Uncontrollably I got down. I took the stairs. Got off the bridge without thinking. Traced the road along with the public. I crossed few squares. But I was not seeing anything. I was drowning deep into ocean of depression. So deep that the ray of hope won’t reach there ever. I was walking. Soon I entered a chawl. Climbed two floors. Came up to my room. Took out the key and opened the lock. Pushed the door open. Entered the room. Put on the light. The room was illuminated. Took out my clothes. Changed into house clothes. The tiffin from the mess was waiting for me. But I did not pay attention to it. I sat on the cot. Was not in a mood to even study.
I remembered the flickering light on the platform, its writhing in pain.
Slowly I remembered my house in the village.
“Are you going to send Satish to Mumbai for higher studies? He secured good marks in SSC.” Teacher of my school asked my father.
“Yes. Of course. We are thinking on those lines. But we are not able to resolve the problem of his staying few colleges in Mumbai have hostels but they seem to be full. One of my friend’s relatives informed us. We are looking for a rented room.”
“There is no shortage of money for you. If you give some deposit, one can get a good room.” Teacher said.
“All this property is for Satish only. As such, studies are not necessary for my son. He does not have to work to earn money.”
Satish thought,“I was a good student at the school and my teacher wanted me to take up higher studies. He always encouraged me to go to Mumbai and take a degree.”
When through efforts of my teacher, we hired a room in a chawl and my admission in a college was taken, I started packing my baggage to move to Mumbai, my mother was upset. She was worried about my separation from her. She started weeping repeatedly. My father told her that was just a matter of 5 years. After completing his education, Satish will be back and will stay with us forever. Moreover he will be with us during Diwali as well as summer vacation during those years also.
After he completes his education, we will start a factory and Satish will be here managing that. So have patience.”
And I came to Mumbai. Adapted to new environment of college. Slowly I got mixed with the boys of city. My interest in studies increased. Five years were over. I got my Engineering degree. I was an Engineer now.
Then someone suggested to complete a six month post graduation course which would help me in managing the factory. I talked to my father about this. Very unwillingly, after a lot of persuasion he agreed and said “Satish, I must see you here the next day of end of your exam. Promise?”
“Yes, Baba. I will be there the very next day.”
I joined the course and started attending it regularly.
Meanwhile, China attacked India. State of Emergency was declared. Once I met my professor from the college. He suggested to join army. He said “If you don’t join services now, when our country needs you, your education is worthless. “
And those thoughts of joining Army influenced me completely. I decided certainly to join Army . But I thought of my parents. I needed to seek their permission. Immediately I wrote a letter to him asking for consent to my decision.
Immediately I received a reply.
I was very much upset to read your idea. Do you think you know so much that you can take your own decision? I have given you so much education. Is it only for sending you to Defense Forces? Country is in danger. But are you the only young man in this country? Don’t be over-wise. We have pinned all our hopes on you. Your mother has so many plans for you. Are you going to bring them down by such a decision? Nothing doing. You come down home immediately. Forget about the current course you have joined. I must see you here tomorrow. I am waiting for you.
And it crushed all my ambitions.
The letter from my father was staring at me. I picked it up. Read it repeatedly. I lay on the cot. I did not know when I slept.
Next day I had to go to college early in the morning. I dressed up in a disappointed mood. Only mechanically I attended the college and then the practical.
Now I was back from college lying on the cot. I once again read the letter from Baba. After facing the conflicting thoughts again and again for sometime, I dozed off.
When I opened my eyes it was dawn and got up. I realized my Baba’s letter torn into pieces, was lying in the corner of the bed. I had a disgusting feeling about my father’s selfish ideas. But I was not disappointed now. The sky was getting clear with rays of rising sun. My mind was also full with bright ideas. I was soaring high. Instead of getting pulled down in the ocean of depression, I was being pushed up.
Quickly I got ready. I satisfied my hunger by having the tiffin of the previous day along with the tea. I came out of the room. Locked the door and started walking briskly looking straight up. My eyes refused to bend down. I was watching hoardings of different products. But I was seeing myself in Army uniform operating some big weapons. In short time, I reached the station. I boarded the train which arrived in a short time. I got the window seat. The train started. Cool breeze blowing biting my ears. But it was not annoying me. After a couple of stations, I got off the train. Came out of the platform hurriedly. I did not have to stop at the road crossing as green signal was waiting for me to come. I reached the Army recruitment centre. And entered the office with confidence.