THAT NIGHT (PART VI)
This is the 6th part of Lakshmi Raj Sharma's ghost story based in rural India. PLEASE SHARE!
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THAT NIGHT (Part VI)
The real problem began when Sonali, not only disregarded Pran Agnihotri’s love petitions but began to show an obvious interest in Manoj Singh Rathore, the sports star of her batch. Manoj was rough looking, definitely not handsome, but with a benevolent look on his face. He was like an open book that Sonali wanted to read with interest. Manoj had a lot of faith in me and shared everything with me, in a most excited manner. He never got to know that I too was not entirely out of the race. But when I discovered Pran’s passion for Sonali and Sonali’s increasing interest in Manoj, I decided to step out of the race. Being naturally inclined towards philosophy, I knew that one rarely had everything served on a platter. Very soon I realized that I only admired Sonali’s versatility; I never loved her. But the problem was still not over. There were still two men and only one woman. In order to have peace around me I needed only one of the men to be interested in her. Which one deserved her more? That was the question.
Manoj was noble like a very friendly Labrador who almost always responded to affection. How could he ignore the caressing remarks that Sonali made for his consumption? His simplicity and openness were disarming and his forthrightness was heroic. You knew exactly where you stood with him. Not so with Pran. Pran was a different breed of fish, slippery and difficult to catch or survey. The two were obviously opposite to each other and Sonali did not have to make much of an effort in her choice of Manoj. With Manoj she felt an expansion, an unfurling, of the soul; with Pran a contraction, a squeezing up. It was like going into a grand building, an edifice of gothic architecture, or, on the other hand, like entering a modern-day flat in which there was too much cramped in too closely and cleverly. Sonali made it a point never to miss a single football match in which Manoj was on the field. Her heart ached when someone snatched the ball from him and kept thumping till he was able to shoot a goal. She sometimes made her feelings so obvious that many of the people, who had come to watch the match, began to watch her instead. Pran was the leader of such people. He was, in fact, the one who could not bear this and he burned inside and felt worse and worse. Then one day he came to me and created a scene on the field.
‘You are our senior, Sanjeev, you have some responsibility for the peace and reputation of the Philosophy Department. But you are so absorbed in yourself that you hardly notice what’s going on around you.’
‘What’s the matter Pran? Did someone say something to you?’
‘Who will say anything to me? People are laughing at what is going on in our Department.’
‘What’s going on?’
‘Don’t pretend that you don’t know. Someone is fooling around with Sonali and you sit quietly watching everything? I thought you were interested in her, yourself!’
‘Speak out more clearly and stop making baseless allegations, Pran!’
‘Your favourite, that rustic Manoj, is on the point of eloping with your Sonali and you’re sitting patiently for the great event to take place?’
‘My Sonali? Elope? What’s wrong with you Pran?’
‘Yes, something is wrong with me. Everyone only finds me in the wrong. The rest of the world is innocent and free to do as they like.’
‘Stop using that language. You have no right to talk so irresponsibly about a girl. If someone said that for your sister, how would you feel, Pran?’
‘Sister? She must be your sister, she’s not mine.’
‘We’ve got to be responsible. Every individual has his or her own requirements . . . choices . . . and we’ve got to respect them, Pran.’
‘Disgusting! Now don’t go into one of your lectures on Existentialism! Only I have to respect everyone’s choice; no one needs to respect mine! That’s what you are trying to say Sanjeev, isn’t it?’
It was pointless trying to make him see sense. He just wouldn’t. Even I was disappointed to an extent due to the new affair that was developing, but I had my philosophical bent of mind to support me. Pran had no philosophical makeup to show him a way out. He was trapped in himself.