Well, what seems to be so petty and mean in hindsight, used to look like a grief of Himalayan proportions then. But I still was aware of the triviality of all this and would never reveal my real feelings to anyone. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t even condone myself for being envious of those who were so dear to me. The realization that Mohan was immensely dear to me dawned upon me like a bolt from the blue. I was envious of Bhaskar because he was closer to Mohan than me. Now I was jealous of Mohan because a girl, who indeed mattered very little to me, was becoming closer still to Mohan. What mattered to me the most was Mohan and not Nirupama. I could sense that Bhaskar too had become envious of Mohan, but he never gave himself away. At any rate he always liked to be a follower and disciple of Mohan rather than a rival. Instead of wondering at the leadership skills of some people, I often wondered at the faculty of some people who would be happy to be led, and in reality they comprise a very large chunk of humanity. I was too egoistic to be led by anyone and was not endowed with the qualities of a leader. What an eerie personality I had!
Within a couple of weeks after the excursion, everybody had forgotten about it, and thankfully nobody tried to ask me what had bothered me on that day. Perhaps, nobody cared but thinking so would have hurt me more. Therefore I myself made all efforts to avoid any discussion of the trip.
But this peace of mind was not to last for long. On a Sunday, when Vijay and I were having our breakfast in the hostel canteen, Bhaskar came to have his second cup of tea and cigarette. I was surprised that he was alone, for Mohan always accompanied him. When he settled across our table with a cup of tea, I asked him, “Where is Mohan brother? As far as I know he has not left for his village.”
“Oh he left at eight in the morning. I asked him where he headed. But in reply just smiled and said he would let me know when he comes back.”
“He must have gone to meet his younger brother who is studying in the college,” Vijay suggested.
“I don’t think so. He would have taken me along if he were to meet his brother. He has never been so secretive before,” Bhaskar replied. There was some hurt in his eyes.
“He must have gone with some girl, like Harsha does sometimes.”
“He does not have any girlfriends. He used to be in love with a girl when he was in pre-university college. She was the daughter of a doctor, working as medical officer with the government, in the town where he was studying. She too loved him dearly. But very soon, her parents came to know about this and her father took a transfer to Kolar. That is when he drank his first glass of beer. Thereafter, he hasn’t had any girlfriends,” Bhaskar replied thoughtfully.
“Now you think he is in love once again?” I asked him cautiously. I could gather from the expression on his face that he was thinking the same.
“No. But I am not sure,” he said and took a sip of tea with a slurring sound.
After we had our breakfast, Bhaskar came to our room. Since it was a Sunday, we had hardly anything to do. Since all of used the services of the washerman, like others in the hostel we did not need to wash our clothes. I would have liked to go to the city and just loaf around in the bazaar till it was time to have lunch. But Bhaskar would not go without Mohan. He had become so dependent on Mohan that it was very hard on him spending time on a holiday without him. He just spread himself on Vijay’s bed, staring at the roof.
After a long and unbearable silence, Vijay said, “What to do today? Shall we go to the library?”
“Mama, since when have you started visiting the library?” Bhaskar asked.
“Since I realized that I won’t be able to get my master’s if I continue to laze in your company,” Vijay replied with mock sarcasm.
“Ah, you are already old enough to be a grand father. What are you going to do with your master’s?” Bhaskar winked at me.
Vijay would be usually irked by the references to his age. It certainly was unfair, for he was only a couple of years older than Bhaskar and others. But he was in cheerful mood and he let that go.
“Let us go to Modern theatre,” I intervened.
“Sounds ok,” Bhaskar said after a quiet deliberation. Vijay rose from the chair to dress up.
Those days the Modern cinema house was the only one theatre in Dharwad showing English movies and it was notorious in some dubious ways. Not even a ten percent of its seats used to be occupied for any show. It was a place used by clandestine lovers, drunkards, petty thieves and pickpockets, so it was said although I never noticed any of these in the balcony where we used to go. The movie was to start at 12 and luckily we reached in time. I remember nothing of the movie we watched, not even its title. At about 1.30 p.m., we all agreed that enough was enough and walked out of the theatre.
I wanted to have a drink or two but Bhaskar would not agree. Vijay too said it was all right having a drink in the evening, but in the afternoon, it was improper. I sighed in agreement. We ate our lunch in a small eatery.
When we go back to the hostel, Mohan had just returned and stood at the edge of the lawns smoking hard. He always pulled at his cigarette very hard, as if he was smoking grass. I didn’t know then how grass is smoked by the way. He was gazing at the valley where a few sheep and a couple of cattle were grazing. Bhaskar almost ran towards him as though he had not seen him for ages.
Just as I approached Mohan, I heard him saying, “Brother, I have done it. I had taken her to the Neersagar Lake. There were other couples also there in the woods surrounding the lake. Total privacy and a magnificent opportunity. She willingly cooperated.”