Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Chapter 2...contd.

As Raj lay awake in his bed that night, he kept thinking about his conversation with Neeta. Part of his mind rebuked him for telling Neeta about his US plans, but he knew that not to tell her would have been deceitful. He was tempted to pick up the phone and tell her that he had decided not to go to America. After all, there were some perfectly decent Business Schools around Delhi. They might be operated by fly by night operators, but as long as he got his degree, who cares? The more he thought, the more he realized how hopeless the situation was. He knew Neeta enough to know that she would never allow him to change his plans just for her.

India in 1995 was still a few years away from the technology boom, and jobs were still scarce. Especially for a non-technical graduate. He knew it was pointless, but he cursed himself for not studying hard in high school and not going to an engineering college, cursed his father for not having a business he could take over…cursed just about everyone and everything for his situation.

The next morning was slow and hazy. Everytime the phone rang, his heart missed a beat, hoping the call was from Neeta. By the time he pulled himself together, it was late afternoon and he decided to go over to Rishi’s house.

Rishi’s party had never really ended. As in most cases, when everyone else had left, the gang had stayed back. As always, the guys just drank more, and talked about girls. When Raj walked in next evening, they were all starting to wake up from partying all night.

Bunty was Anuj’s elder cousin and was also there. A plump guy with a ready smile and quick wit, he relished the role of the experienced advisor. He had an opinion on everything, from girls to music and he wasn’t shy about sharing it with his younger cousin’s friend. He had a great life and a killer girlfriend, so the guys usually took notice of what he said.

“Raj, buddy…you look deathly. Everything ok?” Bunty was the first to ask. The others simply got into the raunchy talk speculating as to why Raj might be tired after meeting a new girl. If it weren’t for the fact that he felt like shit, Raj might’ve actually laughed along with the guys…but not today.

“She dumped me!”…”what…whhh….” the whole room erupted.

“Guys…guys…shhhhh…settle down.” Bunty raised his arms, realizing that this was not a normal boy-girl thing that these guys were used to.

“How could she dump you? You just met her? What did you do to her?” Vikram was the first to get his questions out. Vicky was the playboy of the group. A fair, baby-faced boy of average height. No one could figure out what girls saw in him, but he seemed to have new girlfriends at regular, and relatively short intervals. His dad was a senior corporate executive and so he never seemed to be lacking in anything. His only goal in life was to score and then to score some more. He had dabbled a little in modeling, but that hadn’t been as successful as he had hoped.

“She realized that I would be going to America next year and decided that we didn’t have a future.” Groaned Raj.

“Dude, shit happens.” Chipped in Anuj. “You are going abroad soon anyway, so why take on extra baggage.”

“Raj, break-ups are not the end of the world. It hurts and it sucks, but guess what!?!...you move on. You only knew Neeta for a few days and to get all knotted-up over this is not healthy. Hindi movies make a big deal about first love and shit…but trust me…its all bullshit,” advised Bunty in a calm and forceful manner. “These should be happy days for you…you are working towards a goal, and not everyone at your age can say that about himself.”

And so the friends consoled each other, like they had always done over the past ten years. They had been through deaths in the family, break-ups, and disappointments together and could always count on each other for support. Young minds are unique, they tend not to dwell on things too much. So instead of sitting and moping, they all ended up going to a friend’s friend’s house who had invited them for a poolside party.

The party was at a farmhouse near Delhi. The house was a massive sandstone structure resting on pillars. As you drove down the long driveway, it looked like the house was floating on air. Someone had clearly spent a fortune building the house. Raj had never really hung-out with extremely rich people and he had always felt uncomfortable when around wealthy kids. This, he reminded himself, was the reason why he wanted to get out of the country. For an Army officer’s son, the options in India were limited, and none of them were appetizing to him. If he ever wanted to make something out of himself, he had to go to America where he could get a decent education and have a fresh start.

“I just can’t afford not to go to America,” he sighed to himself. At the end of the day, even if he didn’t go and stayed back with Neeta, they would have no future. The choice was not between Neeta and America, the choice was between despair and hope.


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