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Stars in her eyes

This is the story of Teesha, a young girl working with a well-known bank in New Delhi. She comes from a small town in the Gopalganj district of Bihar. She is the youngest child of her parents, Shyam and Gauri Mishra. Her father worked as an accountant for a local businessman all his life. Her mother is a housewife and not very well educated. She has two elder brothers and three sisters. Two of her sisters got married while Teesha was very young. As a result, she never ever got to know them very well. It is her third sister, Nisha who was and still is the closest to her, largely because they are closer in age to each other.  

As for her brothers, there was never any love lost between them, especially with the eldest Raj. Somehow he always rubbed her the wrong way. Even as a child, she remembers being bullied by him, shouted at by him for the flimsiest of reasons. It’s been a long time, but she still remembers how he always just wanted to ruin everyone’s life and especially hers. The reason was never clear to her; in fact, it still isn’t.

Though a loving girl, one thing that Teesha always hated  and still does is being controlled by anyone. She is an independent and free-spirited girl with a mind of her own and can never get along with controlling people. She has always been fairly outspoken, which was something which Raj could never tolerate. He was the first male child of the family, thoroughly spoilt by his mother. As a result, he thought no end of himself. He always wanted his way no matter what, and everyone else had to play second fiddle to him. Unfortunately for him, Teesha wasn’t one of them.

Another reason why she disliked her brothers and continues to do so till date is that both of them, in particular, Raj are wastrels. They never worked hard in life, managed to scrape through most classes in school and ultimately couldn’t complete it. Though now in their thirties they largely live off their father’s money. They pick up a few odd jobs now and then but can’t hold on to them for too long. Raj, especially though with a wife and a child, has now become an alcoholic which makes Teesha’s blood boil. Though their father tried very hard to make them do something worthwhile, he couldn’t succeed. Out of her love, she does send some money back home, but it isn’t enough. The younger one a shade better is working in a factory, and though doesn’t earn a lot he is still able to take care of himself and his family.

In her growing up years, Teesha had always seen her father struggle to make both ends meet. Being the only earning member, it had always been a struggle for him to provide for his family. He had always hoped that his sons would someday share the burden with him, but his dreams remained dreams. 

He somehow managed to get  his elder daughters married but after that money became an issue with them as he had borrowed heavily for the weddings. So after paying off the monthly instalment of debt and taking care of the household expenses, he did not have much left with him. This, in a way, suited his younger daughters who didn’t want to get married very early. Both wanted to study and become financially independent.

In particular, Teesha had ambitions and aspirations and getting married did not feature in them. One of her dreams was to earn so much that her father would not have to step out of the house. Her heart went out to him when he came back in the evening after having spent a long day at work. She could even as a child feel that he needed a break, he needed rest, but there was no way that he could get it. His struggle always seemed never-ending. Teesha remembers seeing her father going to work even  on the days he was not feeling well. Her brothers apart from being useless were incredibly selfish and uncaring even as children. They were never there to lend a helping hand or even to have a conversation. It was always all about their wishes and requirements. Since the mother was on their side, they never had a problem. She on her part revelled in the fact that she had two sons. For her, their wish was her command. She pampered them, spoiled them and bowed to every desire of theirs. It isn’t a wonder then that they turned out the way they did. For the mother, the daughters were just a liability, and she wanted to get rid of them as quickly as possible. Their education or their happiness was of no concern to her. She wanted them to be submissive and passive, which Teesha could never be.

Looking at the lives of her mother and two elder sisters, both Nisha and Teesha were very clear that they didn’t want to lead their kind of lives. They wanted to be independent in every possible way, a view which their mother could not relate to at all. It angered her when they refused to listen to her and help her with the household chores. It wasn’t that they didn’t help at all; it was just that they did not want the chores to take away all their time. Teesha had big dreams for herself. She wanted to move to a big city, get a good job and be on her own. She wanted to do everything to make her parents’ life as comfortable as possible and to buy every conceivable luxury for them. Her father was very fond of cricket, but he could never get the time to watch a match. Though they had a TV, it was monopolised by Raj most of the times. Whenever Teesha saw him walk out of the room or start reading the newspaper because he couldn’t watch the match she would feel very bad. Tears would well up in her eyes to think that the man who worked so hard for his family couldn’t enjoy one thing that he loved the most. She wanted to do something about it and so had this  desire to buy the biggest possible TV for her father, which would only be his.

Therefore, after finishing her school, she wanted to move to Delhi, which she had been told was the land of opportunity where all her dreams could come true.

Somewhere she knew that her father would support her, but she was fearful of how her mother and brothers would react. They were far too old-fashioned to understand her ambitions, her aspirations. Raj in particular just wanted to control their lives. So he would fight tooth and nail to stop them from going, but Teesha had made up her mind. She wasn’t going to give up on her dreams no matter what.

In any case, she didn’t care for her brothers. As far as she could remember, they had always bullied the two of them, and no one could ever say anything to them. Though they targeted both sisters, Teesha bore the brunt because she never took anything lying down. She was the kinds to answer back and argue, especially when she knew that she was in the right. As a result, she and Raj were always at loggerheads with each other. He took delight in tormenting her, teasing her, and since their mother was always on his side, he could get away.

He could take food from her plate if he so desired, make her run errands, order her around and even hit her if he felt like it. If she complained, her mother would conveniently put the blame on her.

In fact, one incident, in particular remains imprinted in her mind to this day. It had been a regular day, but one thing had made it different from the others. She had just come from school. It had been a hot day, and there had been no light in the school. The school was quite far from their house, and it took her almost an hour to get there. She had got late in the morning as she had had to make tea for Raj who had woken up just as she had been about to leave. There was no way that she could have refused as then he would have started screaming at her, her mother would have intervened and joined in the screaming, and she would have ended up missing school. So knowing all that, she had quickly made the tea and left the house. But of course, she had got late and had been punished and made to stand outside the school gate for an hour till the teacher after giving a lecture on punctuality had let her go. She had rushed to class only to find that she had missed the first class. Then being the conscientious girl that she was, she had spent her break time copying all the work she had missed. To top it all, due to no electricity, the whole day had been hot and uncomfortable. So when she got back home, she had been in an irritable mood. She had just wanted to change out of her sweaty clothes and if possible, take a bath and eat something.

But as she walked in she had been greeted by her mother who looked at her said, ‘Aa Gayi Maharani!’

Now Teesha had no clue why her mother had said that but she had been in no mood to find out either. As she was trying to bypass her to keep her bag, Raj had came in front and told her that they had decided that she would not go to school henceforth.

When she asked for a reason, he had said, ‘You are becoming too strong-headed and need to be taught a lesson.’

 She  had looked at him and said, ‘You can’t stop me!’

Slap!! that had been his answer. Not one to take things lying down, she  had slapped him back, and a full-scale physical fight had broken out between them which unfortunately she had lost. Raj had kicked her, slapped her, thrashed her and all the while their mother  had made no attempt to stop him. In fact, when he had exhausted himself and had to stop, she had looked at Teesha and said. ‘Serves you right. If you answer back, this is what will happen to you.’

Angry, hurt and humiliated, that’s how it had all made her feel. In spite of everything she still didn’t know the reason for this beating but the beating had the effect of making her resolve to leave the house stronger than ever before. There was no way that she was going to waste her life putting up with the treatment meted out to her. She started working doubly hard to do as well as possible in her school. She knew that good grades were the ticket she needed to get away from all of them.

Though Teesha wasn’t interested, her mother did reveal the reason for the beating. Apparently, the tea that she had served to Raj in the morning had been cold and though he had asked her to make a fresh cup she had rushed out of the house without paying any heed to his summons. Teesha couldn’t believe that that had been the reason for the beating.

But rather than becoming more obedient and subservient as her brother and mother wanted Teesha became more rebellious. The only two people she got along with was her father and Nisha. She couldn’t really care about the rest of them.

Though she still had to help her mother in the house and give in to her Raj’s tantrums, she managed to find time to study. In fact, since Nisha also had the same desire, they both split the housework between them and covered up for each other. The thing was that though their mother doted on her two sons, Raj was her favourite as he was the eldest and somehow she liked him more than the younger Ravi. Neglected by the mother and brother Ravi too sided with his sisters, and though he had no interest in their academic pursuits, he ganged up with them to get back at the other two.

Time moved on, and  it wasn’t long before Teesha was on the verge of finishing school. She had all along been researching on the colleges in Delhi and had identified the colleges she thought she could get into. Her teachers were also confident that she would be able to make it, but the issue was how to convince her family. Nisha was already on her side, and Ravi couldn’t really care less. The problem was her parents and Raj. She had over the years figured that he had a special dislike for her though she had never been able to understand the reason behind it. Maybe it was because she was brighter than him academically though studies never interested him, maybe it was because she was the apple of their father’s eyes. She definitely was praised by everyone for her achievements which perhaps made him jealous of her. But whatever the reason she knew that they hated each other and could not stand the sight of each other.

Teesha decided to first talk to her father. Though her father loved the idea saying that at least one of his children had some aspiration in life his concern was how she would live all by herself in a strange city and where would he get the money to fund her education. She assured him that they would work something out. All she needed was his support, especially when she broached the topic in front of her mother and Raj. The thing was that Teesha knew that by the time she finished school Nisha would have finished college and would be looking for a job. Therefore instead of looking for a job in their hometown, she could look for one in Delhi. That would solve both of their problems.  

Nisha wanting to support her sister in every way agreed to the plan. In the meanwhile, Teesha convinced her father to speak to his employer and seek his help in getting a job for Nisha in Delhi. Their father did that, and as luck would have it, things worked out for them. The boss had an office in Delhi and he agreed to give Nisha a job there. Leaving the rest of the issues for later Teesha decided to focus on the upcoming exams to ensure that she did well in them. As expected, she did very well. In fact, she topped the district, which was a great source of joy and pride for her father. But of course, her mother and Raj were not too happy about it. Teesha in the meanwhile applied to the top colleges in Delhi and managed to secure admission in one of her choices. And now she decided to catch the bull by the horns and tell the rest of the family about the decision which she and Nisha had taken.

So a few days after the result one evening while having dinner, she informed everyone that she and Nisha had decided to move to Delhi where Nisha would be working, and she would be attending college. Before anyone else could react Raj just blew up. He started shouting at the top of his voice, trying to say several things at the same time. He was trembling with rage and  was so angry that his words could not make sense.  It was as though the devil had taken over him and the fact that the sisters did not even react enraged him even further. As usual most of his anger was directed towards Teesha but she ignored him. What he kept harping on was how, by doing that the sisters were going to bring shame to the family. They would not be able to get married into decent families, and they would all become laughing stocks. Their mother too joined him while the others kept looking on. Nisha tried hard to get in a word, but he refused to listen to her.

Finally, after about fifteen minutes or so their father got up and looking at his wife and son announced that they had no business to say anything to the girls. He as the father had taken the decision and that was that. The girls were going to move to Delhi, and he was going to support them in every possible way. Though Raj tried to argue with their father, he had to give up as  somewhere he realised that  this time nothing he said or did would make any difference.

However, he did not give up and decided to switch tracks. He tried to sweet-talk his sisters into changing their minds. He told them that they would all miss them if they left, their family would split. The expression on Teesha’s face as he said this was priceless. She was shocked and horrified by his audacity. She couldn’t believe that he could even imagine that they would get taken in by his drama. He even tried to scare them by warning them about their safety in the big, bad city and how it would be difficult for them to adjust to a new place, away from home. Teesha had a good mind to give him a piece of her mind, but she realised she didn’t have to as it could spoil things for them. They were determined and did not need to get affected by his threats, warnings or pleas. They knew that he was just trying to stop them because once they left home, they would become independent and would no longer be under his control.

Raj, by nature was a control freak and loved to control everything in the house. He knew that being a son and that too the eldest his mother let him get away with many things. He exploited this to the hilt. But now things were going to change. With his younger sisters leaving the house his kingdom would get affected. Who would he bully? Who would run errands for him. Not Ravi !!  He knew that he needed to stop this but how? This time their father had taken a stand and Raj knew that no matter what he couldn’t oppose him. This frustrated the hell out of him.

The girls meanwhile were over the moon. Not only were they going to do what they wanted to, but they were going to be away from home, from Raj leading a free and liberated life. Their mother and Raj meanwhile kept trying to convince the father not to send them painting horrible pictures of their supposed future but all their pleas, their tantrums, fell on deaf ears. The decision had been taken, and no one was going to be able to change it. Through all of this, Teesha realised that Raj was insanely jealous of her though she couldn’t understand why and that was the reason why most of his anger was directed towards her and not Nisha. But anyways she couldn’t care less. She had her future, her life ahead to think about.

Once Teesha secured the admission, she accompanied by her father and sister left for Delhi to build a new life. All through the journey, she kept thinking about how hard she would work to realise all her dreams. Her dreams included making her father proud of her. She wanted to earn so much that he wouldn’t have to work at all. They reached Delhi after a long journey. Her father had made arrangements for them to stay with a distant relative for a few days till they got accommodation. Nisha joined her job, and Teesha entered college. Their relative managed to find a room for the two sisters and all three moved in there. Their father paid a few months rent in advance, help them settle in and then headed back with a promise to keep visiting them as often as he could.

Life moved on. Teesha loved her college, but soon the girls realised that they needed to supplement Nisha’s income. After paying for the rent and other expenses, they didn’t have much left. So Teesha started teaching the nearby kids. They lived in a neighbourhood where there were lots of parents who struggled to teach their children. They needed help, and since after college she had time, Teesha decided to help out. She figured that by doing that she could also earn and contribute towards the expenses. Starting by charging a nominal amount gradually her reputation spread and she had more and more people coming to her. She was a patient girl and also had a way with children. She loved teaching them, and they loved being with her. She had kids from the age of ten to sixteen who came to her, and she could teach all of them with equal ease and comfort. It reached a state where she started saving money. They could now afford small luxuries like going for a movie or taking an auto to travel. Both the girl felt liberated. They had never had this kind of freedom before. Many times Teesha offered to send some money home to her father, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He came to visit them whenever he could but advised them to keep their money with them. He knew that they sent it, the mother-son duo at home would squander it away.

As was perhaps meant to be, three years after they had moved to Delhi, Nisha fell in love with Rohan, a boy who worked with her. Since they were madly in love with each other, they wanted to get married as soon as possible, but there was a hitch. Rohan belonged to a different caste, and Teesha’s family was not ready to accept him. More than anyone else it was Raj and their mother who were dead against the match. Their mother, in fact, announced that she would break off all ties with the girls if Nisha insisted on marrying him. However, once again, their father stepped in to save the day. He gave his blessings, and after that, there was no stopping Nisha from getting married to the man of her dreams.

If Nisha’s marriage changed her life, it changed Teesha’s too in a big way. All of a sudden, she was all alone in the big city. All the years that she had lived in Delhi, she had never felt the need to make any friends as between her studies, tuitions and her sister she had never had the time to do that. But now there was no one to share anything with her. Once she was back from college and was done with the classes, she had nothing to do. There was only that much of TV that she could watch, that much of cooking that she could do but all alone it was no fun.

Though Nisha made it a point to visit her sister as often as she could, she couldn’t do that very often. Many weekends she invited her sister over to her place, but Teesha didn’t like going there very often as she felt that she was intruding into Nisha’s world. By now Teesha was pursuing her Master’s but thanks to her tuitions she didn’t need any financial help from anyone. She could manage very well. The only thing was that her life had become very lonely and she was on the lookout for company.

Into this loneliness walked in Varsha who happened to be her classmate. One day when Teesha was sitting on the pavement outside their college canteen, Varsha walked up to her and sat down next to her. She seemed to be nice and friendly, and soon the two got chatting. This became like a practice. Since they belonged to the same class, they would get free at the same time and so would get to spend a lot of time with each other. Soon Teesha found herself sharing her life story with her new friend. It wasn’t as though Varsha didn’t tell her about herself. Varsha shared that she belonged to Delhi and lived close to the college with her parents and a younger brother. Her father had his own shop of electrical appliances, and they seemed to be pretty comfortable financially.

Varsha was always dressed in good clothes, carried lovely bags and generally had money to spend in the canteen. Teesha also had money, but she could never spend it as easily as her friend. She worked hard to earn it so she couldn’t squander it just like that whereas Varsha had no such qualms which sometimes surprised Teesha. Initially, she felt that maybe her father had a lot and could afford to let her spend it the way she wanted to. However, whenever she visited her family, she never got that impression. Her parents always seemed hard-pressed for money, and her brother always wanted something or the other. Though the entire situation baffled her, she just ignored it.

She liked visiting them because it was a change for her. It felt good to be with people, laugh, chat and have a good time. On top of that, Varsha’s mother was really fond of her and made it a point to feed her with her favourite dishes whenever she visited. So not only did Teesha get good food but she didn’t have to cook it herself, which was a big relief for her. Moreover, it had been almost five years since she had left home and she missed it. She had gone back once, but the visit had been extremely unpleasant thanks to her favourite brother. After that, she had decided that she would never go back. All the same, she longed for love and belongingness, which in a way she got from Varsha’s family.

Life was happy, but not for too long. Tragedy struck. One day when their father was walking back home from work he had a massive heart attack and before help could arrive he collapsed on the road and died. Teesha accompanied by Nisha, and her husband went home to be with the family but could only stay there for two days. She realised that now with her biggest supporter not there any longer Raj would try to stop her from going back and she had no intentions of complying with his wishes. The moment it occurred to her, she decided to flee. She told Nisha about it, and she too left with her. This marked the end of her relationship with her family. Once back in Delhi she was lonelier than ever before. Though her father had been far away and had been in a different city, he had still been around. She knew she could call him any time she wanted, speak to him, have him visit her whenever she wanted. And now he wasn’t there. He was gone forever. She missed him terribly. Somewhere she also missed the fact that she had no home of her own. She envied her sister, who had her home, her family whereas she was all alone. The result was she started depending more and more on Varsha who also spared no effort to be there for her.

She encouraged her to go out, meet people and be happy. Nisha also on our part tried her best to cheer her up, but she was restrained by her work and family. By now she had had her first child, so she did not have a lot of time to spare.

Varsha introduced Teesha to many of her friends who all came across as friendly and nice people. But one thing that Teesha could not understand was how they all though from modest backgrounds, had so much money. She loved being with them but what she didn’t like was their late-night parties. The parties were all about smoking and drinking, neither of which she liked. Sometimes some of the people Varsha introduced her to seemed to be a bit shady and gave her the creeps. When she shared her fears with her friend, she laughed them off and told her that if she wanted to become big in life, she had to get over these small-town fears and concerns. She needed to become more modern and advanced in her thinking, but something about all this did not sit well with Teesha, so she started avoiding these parties. She was ok to meet Varsha in college during the day but not in the evenings. Also, the late nights affected her studies and work, and she could not afford that to happen, but Varsha, not one to give up would insist on Teesha going with her to such parties.

It was one such party which proved all of her Teesha’s apprehensions correct. Varsha had been talking about it for days, how it would be great place to meet different people and  also have a good time. Though Teesha had not shown much interest and had tried to avoid accompanying Varsha eventually she had succumbed to the pressure. How she regretted it!!

The moment she walked in she felt that there was something not right about the place, about the people. She couldn’t put a finger to it but could feel the vibes which made her uncomfortable. They had been late getting there and by the time they reached the party was already in full swing. People were swaying to the music, which was loud and jarring. Everyone seemed to be drunk out of their minds. Girls were falling into the arms of just about anyone and everyone who obviously were taking full advantage of the situation. Teesha had never been to such a place before, and  her initial reaction was of shock and disgust. It was evident that this was more than a casual get together. She turned to talk to Varsha, but Varsha wasn’t there. She had vanished after depositing her near the dance floor. Teesha’s eyes were looking for her, but with so many people and the dim lighting, it was impossible to recognise anyone. And then she saw her!! At first, she couldn’t quite believe her eyes, but then after getting close, she realised that it was Varsha who dressed in almost nothing was dancing in the arms of a sleazy looking man who seemed to be much older than her. He too was drunk and was touching and feeling Varsha all over. What was shocking was Varsha’s acceptance of this behaviour. She, in fact, seemed to be encouraging it.

Teesha was shocked. It wasn’t something that she could have imagined. She had always considered Varsha to be a happy-go-lucky but a decent girl who loved her parents and family. Yes, she spent more money than she could but …. That is when a bell went off in Teesha’s head….Was that the reason why Varsha has so much money, so many expensive things which obviously her parents could not afford to buy for her? Was her need for the good things of life so pressing that she could resort to all that? But it was apparent and not only that she could do more!! While Teesha’s head was bursting with all this, she saw Varsha walking away, stumbling [being a more apt description] with that sleazy man obviously to get a room. That is when the whole thing, the reality of her friend and her life dawned on her. It left her in a state of disgust, anger and shock.

While she was still coming to terms with this reality, she felt a pair of hands trying to grab her. When she turned, she saw the hands belonged to a man who she had seen with Varsha at another party some time ago. The man was stinking of alcohol and was pulling her into his arms. The more she resisted, the more forceful he became. She didn’t know what to do. She felt trapped and totally helpless. She was panicking and though she wanted to scream, she couldn’t. She was so terrified; it was as though her throat had got choked, and no sound could come out of it. She was paralysed with fear. But then before the fear could take over her completely, she came back to her senses. She realised that she needed to escape from there as quickly as possible. But how?? That was a million-dollar question. She had come with Varsha in a friend’s car and was in an unfamiliar part of the city. She hadn’t ever been there before. The man was not letting her go and was trying to drag her with him.

She knew that she had to escape. Though terrified, she somehow summoned up the courage to push the man away as hard as she could. Since people around were all lost in their worlds, no one noticed her action. Her pushing made the man fall down, and before he could get up, she grabbed the chance and fled. Since she couldn’t think of where to go, she rushed into the bathroom. Once inside, she locked the door and looked around her. There was no one there. She heaved a sigh of relief, splashed some cold water on her face and tried to think of a way out. She knew that she had to get out of the place as quickly as possible. But how? And then it struck her!!

She could book a cab and go back home in it. Though the thought of taking a cab at that time of the night[ it was well past midnight!!] terrified her, she knew she had no choice. She had to escape before Varsha, or that man noticed her absence. And then she got this idea. Though late she could call up Nisha and keep talking to her all through the drive back home. That way the cab driver would know that someone knew about her whereabouts and hopefully would not try and do anything. But it was past midnight and she didn’t know if Nisha would be awake. What if Rohan picked up the phone? What would she say to him? But once again, her rational self took over. She was her sister, she was living alone and so could have a reason to call her sister. So with her heart in her mouth, she called and luckily it was Nisha who answered. Without much ado, she quickly explained the entire situation to her sister, who though shocked and livid decided to put her feelings on hold and help Teesha in getting back home.

Teesha booked the cab and shared the details with Nisha. Nisha went to the bathroom, and the two sisters started talking to each other. It was probably one of the longest nights of their lives, and the journey seemed never-ending. Though both were equally scared, they tried to calm each other down. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Teesha reached home. Both heaved a sigh of relief. Teesha unlocked the door. Her hands were shaking; her legs were like jelly about to give way. She entered and quickly locked the door. She felt as though someone had followed her all the way back. Nisha comforted her and told her that it was all ok. She told her to go off to sleep.

But sleep alluded Teesha for the most part of that night. After she had been able to get over the fear, her thoughts went to Varsha and her parents. She shuddered to think of how Varsha’s parents would react if they ever got to know about what their daughter was up to. Her mother’s sweet, gentle face kept swimming in front of Teesha’s eyes. She kept thinking about the whole thing. Were material things so important that one had to resort to such means to get them? Well, it did seem that way in the case of Varsha. Finally, sleep came. The last thought that came to her mind was that despite everything she had been fortunate to get out of the situation without any harm. She thanked her stars.

Next day being a Sunday Teesha woke up late. Though still quite shaken up she went about her day. She spoke to Nisha a few times who advised her to stay away from Varsha and her friends. Teesha had already decided to do that. She had now unravelled the mystery behind her friend’s lavish lifestyle and didn’t want to be a part of it. She was happy to be alone rather than having such friends. She decided that she wouldn’t say anything to Varsha but would quietly step back. However, she wasn’t the only one with that intention. It seemed even Varsha had no desire to interact with her any longer. The next day when they saw each other, they both looked the other way. All of a sudden from being bum-chums, they had become like strangers to each other, but this suited Teesha. Neither did she want to give any explanation or ask for one.

Soon it was time for their final exams, and Teesha as always wanted to do very well. She put her heart and soul into her studies, and so had no time for anyone or anything. But then a strange thing happened. She began to notice that it wasn’t only Varsha who was ignoring her. Her other classmates too seemed to be avoiding her. Though she had never been very friendly there had been an element of friendliness which now seemed missing, she tried talking to a few of them, but the conversation could not go beyond a few perfunctory things. It all puzzled her.

However, it wasn’t long before the real reason revealed itself to her. One day she was sitting in the library when Pooja, a classmate of hers, came up to her. She pulled a chair and sat down next to Teesha. It made no sense, but Teesha waited to see what it was all about. Pooja told her that she wanted to have a word with her. Teesha shut the book that she had been reading and looked up.

Pooja asked her,’ Do you know why people are avoiding you and not talking to you?’

Teesha nodded her head.

Pooja went on to say; Your dear friend is responsible for this.’

Pooja looked up questioningly. Pooja told her that Varsha had gone and told people that  not only did Teesha live alone but  she was friendly with some shady characters. They visited her at all odd hours and since there was no one to check her she was going about her life in a manner that no decent person would want to. She had gone on to say that the moment she had got to know about this, she had decided to break all ties with her. With tears in her eyes, she had told them that it had broken her heart to do that, but there was no way that she could associate herself with someone like Teesha who had no shame.

This sharing with a few friends had led to all kinds of rumours about Teesha on the campus. Her reputation had been torn to shreds, and people  now looked down upon her, all thanks to Varsha.

To say that Teesha was shocked would be an understatement. She couldn’t believe that her so-called friend had accused her of what she herself was doing. How unfair and disloyal she could be!

She was angry as hell and wanted to confront her. Her immediate reaction was to go to Varsha’s house and tell her parents about all her nefarious activities. But then something stopped her. What would she get out of that? Wouldn’t it make the situation murky and ugly?

She even though of confronting her but then decided against that also. Being the balanced person that she was, she decided to wait till the next morning to see if she still wanted to do something drastic.

Sure enough the next day though she still wanted to talk to Varsha but not in an angry or accusing manner. The night had given her time to rationalise her thoughts and understand why Varsha was doing what she was. Teesha figured that behind all of Varsha’s actions was her desire to protect herself by directing people’s attention towards Teesha. She realised that Varsha was doing all that out of fear. She was scared about what could happen to her if her parent s got to know about her actions. She was trying to ensure that no way could the finger ever be pointed at her. Teesha felt sorry for her former friend. So the next day when she saw her she walked up to her and told her that she wanted to have a word with her.

Varsha, of course, didn’t want to have anything to do with her. But Teesha managed to persuade her and took her to a corner. She sat her down and told her that she knew about all that she had been saying behind her back but rather than getting angry, she told her that she understood why she was doing that. She looked her in the eye and told her that though she disapproved of Varsha’s actions, she was not going to tell anyone about them. Her secret was safe with her. She also explained her reasons for not telling anyone.

She said,’ I know if I open my mouth your parents will get to know and I don’t want them to get hurt. They have been more than parents to me, and I don’t want to see them getting hurt”.

Having said what she wanted to, she walked away, leaving Varsha gaping at her back. Varsha, not even in the wildest of her dreams could have imagined such a reaction from Teesha. She had expected her to get angry, shout at her, but nothing like that had happened. Teesha had remained her calm self throughout the conversation.

After this interaction, Varsha stopped maligning Teesha and started minding her own business. Teesha got back to her preparation for the forthcoming exams and put the unpleasant though terrifying experience behind her. Her focus was on doing as well as possible in the exams. All her hard work paid off, and she topped the university. The superb performance ensured that she was picked up by a reputed bank which offered her a fantastic package. It was like the fulfilment of all her dreams. She was finally going to be in an independent girl, independent in every possible way.

Her life changed drastically after this. She no longer had to give tuitions to support herself. She earned an amount which her family could not have ever imagined. Within six months of joining, she was able to move into a small apartment on rent. She could afford to buy a car. Work took her to different parts of the country and very soon to different parts of the world. All her dreams had come true, but she had worked hard for that. She could afford to buy things which at one point she could have only dreamt about.

Despite all her anger and grudges, she sent money to her mother every month to make her life easier. Her brothers had got married but hadn’t changed. They still lived largely off what their mother had. Raj, in particular, had gone from bad to worse. From being useless, he had become an alcoholic too adding to his family’s woes. But for her mother, the sun still shone out of him. Certain things never change.

It has been five years since Teesha started working. She has risen in her job and is today managing one of the branches. She has pretty much everything that she ever wanted to save for one thing. She doesn’t have her father, the one person who would have been the happiest at her achievements. He would have been so proud. But alas…

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