Search This Blog

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Jalna- A beautiful hamlet in the lap of the Himalayas

"...a mountain, especially Himalaya, especially Everest, is land's attempt to metamorphose into sky; it is grounded in flight, the earth mutated--nearly--into air, and become, in the true sense, exalted." -Salman Rushdie
Himalayas appear like the stairway to heaven. The great snow-capped mountains fill you with reverence and you feel small enough to extinguish your ego. The soul changing experience is accompanied by so much beauty that you want to tear yourself apart to small pieces which can linger on to the bewitching surroundings forever.
We had visited a number of hill stations situated in the Himalayas like Munshiyari, Mukhteswar, chaukori, kausani and many others. Although they are all very beautiful and refreshing, they have been exploited commercially quite a bit. The most virgin of all these hillstations was a small hamlet in the district of Almora named Jalna.
My In-laws are very fond of the himalayas and have visited several beautiful hill stations. On one such trip they discovered Jalna, the small village then quite unknown to most tourists. A mesmerizing valley covered with fir, oaks, birch and blue pines interspersed with bright pink rhododendrons had captured my mother-in-law's heart. She had called me one morning after returning back from the trip and had insisted on my visiting the place at least once. At that time I had never thought that I would visit Jalna without her. After her accidental death, we had all plunged into an unfathomable grief. As time went by the pain never decreased but became more tolerable. After a long pause in our lives, me, my husband and my father-in-law decided to visit Jalna as was my mother-in-law's wish.
It was the month of December and it had snowed everywhere. The valley looked as if it had wrapped a white shawl all over itself. The sky was clear and strikingly blue. Though winters are very cold, the visibility of the Himalayan peaks is much better because of the absence of clouds unlike monsoons.
We stayed in a small hotel called Elphinstone Himalayan Resort which had wooden floors and classic fire places in the rooms. The balcony of our room faced the Trishul, group of three Himalayan peaks that appear like the weapon of Lord Shiva.
In the mornings the golden rays of sunlight would penetrate the windows filtered through the trees surrounding the resort and covering the snow-white valley.
After having a cup of hot ginger tea we would leave for a relaxing stroll in the neighborhood. Everyday we would discover something new. The first day I saw a very big dilapidated house which was supposed to be of the landlord or Zamindar of the area. After the abolition of Zamindari, slowly the following generations had found jobs elsewhere and had left Jalna and their ancestral property. But the house looked very mysterious to me and the fact that it had been standing there for ages as a spectator of history made me dive into the world of imagination.
I was woken up from my reverie when my father-in-law called me to a small shop nearby to have tea with him. As happens in most small villages, the men had little work to do especially in the winter months when it was not time for agriculture. Young and old, men of all ages were sitting there huddled together and chatting over hot tea and Pakoras, a delicious Indian snack. When I asked them about the story of the Zamindar's house, they said that now for several years nobody had come to live in the house. For decades the descendants had stopped living there and now even the short visits had stopped. One of the old men, wearing an artificial set of teeth told me an amazing story about the people living in that house. Though his words came out as half whistles through the gaps between his gums and improperly adjusted teeth, I could still make out the story. He said that the Zamindar was not a very kind man and exploited the people of the village. He had a son who was very good-hearted and was also very intelligent. He had studied abroad and wanted to start his independent business. He was not interested in the ancestral property. The Zamindar was already very upset about the abolition of Zamindari and the denial of his son to look after the inheritance made him extremely sad. To top it all, the son had fallen in love with a village girl and wanted to marry her. The Zamindar being a snobbish arrogant man, extremely conscious of his status and caste refused to let his son marry the girl. The son didn't listen to him and insisted on marrying the girl. The infuriated Zamindar asked the son to leave the house and never come back again. The Zamindar's wife being a mother, couldn't bear the separation of her son and died within a few days of their son's departure. After a long secluded eventless life, the Zamindar died leaving all his property to his son. The son never appeared but years later the granddaughter came to visit the house.
I was engrossed in the story when I heard our national anthem. I looked up and saw that many kids in their uniforms were standing under the glowing sun and singing. Three teachers were also standing by their side. Then my eyes fell on a nearby building and the board on top of it which read 'Government Primary School'. The teachers told me that during winters it is very cold inside the building so they take classes outside. The kids were now sitting quietly on the ground and had taken out their books ready for the class.
I did not disturb them further and went back to the resort to have our lunch. The next day we went to explore the bountiful nature around us. We found a spectacular view point and clicked several photographs of the semicircular snow-capped range of mountains surrounding the valley.
While returning back we found the KMVN lodge which is the Kumaon government tourist lodge, which had recently opened. Some part of it was still under construction. As the day started ending, the sunlight became more and more diffuse. The blue sky turned into a blend of orange and red. The Himalayan peaks started glowing like fire when the slant sun rays fell on them.
We had Aloo Parathas for dinner which was delicious and thereafter we lighted the fireplace. There was an easy-chair beside the fireplace and just like in an old story book I sat on the chair and started reading my favorite novel. The only thing missing was probably a smoking pipe and then the picture would be complete. 

Monday, 5 December 2016

An Unassuming Chat

Monday mornings are usually very dull. They bring with themselves the displeasure of knowing that the weekend is over and a whole week is up ahead. However this Monday morning was quite different. The AT&T guy came to install the internet connection in my apartment. He was early and knocked at the door several times while I was deep in sleep. By the time I had opened the door, he had realized that I was sleeping. I was partly apologetic for the delay in opening the door and partly apprehensive about the boredom of sitting through the installation process, when I saw the sunny smile on the person's face. It made me feel happy in an inexplicable way. As soon as he entered he started talking. He broke the ice by cracking a joke on spotting a mock connection on the wall of my living room and soon before I knew I was having a nice chat with him.
He was from Philippines and lived here in San Diego with his family, which consisted of his mother, his brother, his wife and two children. He was very fond of his kids and kept on talking about how they watch a lot of cartoons and play a lot of games without any interruption from the internet connection. Though it was a kind of advertisement, I did not feel like I was sitting through a soap commercial. After asking me if I was from India, he told me about one of his friends who was also from India and had a garment business. Soon we landed upon the discussion of joint family versus nuclear family. He told me that Filipinos like to stay together with all relatives under one roof. They have big houses and like to keep household help. This was in particular very similar to Indian society, though now due to the fast life of most people things have changed. People settle wherever they get jobs which are most often than not, far away from their native place. He confessed that the house he lives here is small but still all his family members like to stay together. He almost complained that his American neighbors think that they live together because of poverty and that they are quite insensitive to their way of life. In a moment's flash of ego he also said that back in Philippines, they are quite well to do and have a good living with few domestic servants.
Soon the discussion rolled over to the topic of marriage. He informed me that he was married to a Mexican lady whom he met at a friend's birthday party. His mother did not approve of the match. She had always visualized a Filipino daughter-in-law, but now was trying hard to reconcile with the Mexican replacement. I thought to myself that somethings remain same across geographical locations and cultural as well as linguistic variations, the affinity towards your own kind and the fear of the unknown. In fact, in India there are places where even inter-caste marriage is a big taboo and the topic of marriage between people belonging to two different states lead to blockbuster movies and bestseller novels just because of the surprise element.
I made him some coffee and then started talking about religion. He was born a catholic christian, but was quite areligious. I told him that I was religious but did not believe in rituals. He poured his heart out about how he was reprimanded for asking simple innocent questions about God and verses of the Bible when he was a kid. He confessed that the sour experiences of childhood led him to become areligious and that he doesn't regret his thoughts. I told him that all religions are good but the followers and priests make things ugly by imposing their thoughts on others, mostly to satisfy their ego or ulterior motives including monetary gains.
When the installation was complete and he was about to leave I actually felt sad that the chat was over and I had to get back to work. That day the whole time in my laboratory, my thoughts kept returning back to the diversity of topics we talked about in the morning. It was indeed very unassuming and interesting.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Religion of human is HUMANITY

When you stay in a country where most people follow one religion, you have the freedom and pleasure of harboring prejudices against people following other religions. According to me this is one of the major reasons of hatred and war across the globe. But when you have to mingle with people out in the world, trust me, it is a very difficult task to alienate people based on their religions. I had previously read that great people like Rabindranath Tagore always professed about one world without any divisions, but now I feel it more based on my personal experiences.
I am a born Hindu. Although I was never a big fan of any religious rituals, I had a liking for my religion. Though I have many good friends who were muslims specially my PHD junior, who is an amazing person, I sometimes had anti-secular feelings on listening to terrorist attacks majorly conducted by Islamic people. What I forgot is that it is the bad people who tarnish the name of the religion by justifying their evil deeds based on their understanding of the religious teachings.
When I shifted to San Diego, California, for my postdoctoral training, I was almost forced to shake away any preconceived ideas I had about other religions by the kindness and friendly behavior of my co-workers. Every time you move to a new place, you are a stranger and you try to adjust and fit-in. Then you meet new people who become your initial acquaintances who make you feel comfortable and not a stranger anymore. With time some of these acquaintances become your friends and transform the foreign place into your home. I also felt the same way when I first moved to San Diego, but the journey towards the growing familiarity towards the place has been both interesting and loving.
After a few months of living here, I now do not really understand the rationale of religious distinctions. My supervisor who is an eminent scientist and almost a father-figure is a Jew. My colleague and one of my very first friends who helped me a lot when it was most needed is a muslim. He helped me to move-in to my new apartment, guided me through all the new things in a foreign country which I would be clueless without him, and also took me to visit the nearby tourist spots taking time out of his busy schedule.  My immediate senior and co-worker is a Russian orthodox christian who gave me my first bed, my first coffee-maker and a thousand other things and has taken care of me almost like my mom to make it easy for me to settle down in the new circumstances. One day she brought me fresh grapes and I started eating them without washing. She had informed me that the grapes were unwashed, but I didn't listen to her and kept on eating them. Next day she actually washed the grapes for me to eat and ever since she always washes the fruits before offering me. I do not remember when I was pampered so much.
The lady whom I respect like my mother and love like my good friend is an American catholic christian. She works as a human resource personnel in my office. She has, without showing any feelings of displeasure, driven me to my office from my home and back everyday. She has taken me to shopping after work even when she takes an hour to reach her home. She has taken care of all my initial needs of banking, renting an apartment, my social security affiliation and several other things. She was the one who picked me up from the airport when I first landed here. I can never forget that day. I was very tired and my luggage wheels had broken and one of the luggage had not reached. She comforted me and took charge of the whole situation by going to the airport staff for filing the complaint against the late arrival and damage incurred to my suitcases. She also brought me food anticipating that I must me hungry which I was. Without her I would be baffled and would never have done things as efficiently as she did. That day and every day afterwards she was so polite and kind to me that I never felt I was away from my family.
I really believe with my heart and soul that being good and humane is the only religion people should follow. I am eternally indebted to all the people who have made my life easier and comfortable. To judge a person based on religion is a fallacy indeed.

Sunday, 6 November 2016

La Jolla cove

It was a cloudy sunday morning. I was in my veranda having my black coffee. I looked at the palm trees near my apartment swaying in the rhythm of the mild breeze. Generally San Diego has hot afternoons but the cool overcast morning suggested otherwise. I thought that today was definitely a day to go out to the beach. I called up my friend and we planned to go to the La Jolla cove.

The La Jolla cove is a small sheltered bay of the pacific ocean surrounded by cliffs at La Jolla, San Diego. When we reached there it had already started drizzling. We walked to the park near the cove. It was very relaxing as the breeze was cool and soothing. The view of the vast stretch of blue water with intermittent waves of green water from the cliffs was stunning. There were stairs down the cliff to reach the beach. The sand was damp and gritty with rocks scattered here and there. I had to remove my sandals as the rocks were slippery and I twisted my ankle more than once. The sand below my feet and the splashes of water from the waves hitting the rocks felt heavenly.
La Jolla Cove beach

Scripps park

Since it was sunday, many people had come to visit the area. It seemed to be a popular picnic spot as groups of teenage students and families could be seen in the Scripps park engrossed in joyful conversations and playful activities. Me and my friend were sitting on one of the rocks when I saw a father with two kids paying. One of the kids was on his shoulders and the other was holding his hand.

They were walking in and out of the water. Taking their example I too went into the water and stood their taking in the bliss of the sight. There was a huge rocky surface in the water where several cormorants were sitting. The father was pointing at the cormorants and telling the kids how these birds hunt fish from the ocean.
The cormorants

I sat down on one of the rocks and stretched my limbs in order to relax when my friend called out to me. I had not realized that it had started raining quite heavily by now. We ran back to the cliff and stood below one of the pine trees which was tilted and had been used to add to the aesthetics of the scripps park. Soon the rain stopped and we walked along the cove and reached the area where there were a few sea lions calling out and playing among themselves.
The tilted pine tree
Sea lions
I went down to take a few snapshots of the sea lions. I was trying hard to capture them in a selfie but alas couldn't do much justice to the photograph. A very nice gentleman who was observing the sea lions himself offered to click a picture of me with the sea lions. My friend had not come down to the shore as he was afraid of the high waves. Thanks to the kind person for a beautiful snapshot of me with the sea lions. That area was designated for various sea and water activities like snorkeling, kayaking etc. It was quite crowded there and the sea lions were calling out and jumping in and out of the water excitedly as if trying to please the spectators.
Right across the snorkeling area was another cliff where I could find many brown pelicans huddled together. Other than the cormorants and pelicans, there were also sea gulls visiting the shores. As a zoology graduate I had developed a taste for ornithology and La Jolla cove was certainly a treat.
Brown pelicans
I was very excited to observe the different birds when my eyes fell on the La Jolla caves.
Me and my friend went to the entrance of the La Jolla caves where there was a ticket counter for a trip to the caves. The water is calm and very safe for kayaking and other activities. However we did not go for any of the activities. There is an underwater park enriched with wildlife like the sea lions, seals and various varieties of fishes which is an important tourist attraction. The caves were unusual rocky formations inside the cliffs. They were quite huge and dark. and very different from the ones I had visited before. Kayaking inside the caves would definitely be quite adventurous.
La Jolla caves
Not only is the area abundant in natural beauty but at the same time the narrow streets along the cliffs beside the ocean is swarming with many small cafeterias and shops offering little delights. The streets are laid out of concrete blocks and looked very much like the small streets in many european cities.

It had stopped raining and we went inside a small cafe to have some hot drinks. It was cold and the breeze had chilled me to the bone. We had some hot chocolate which was delicious and went out to explore more. As we were walking down the street we found a national geographic gallery. After such a wonderful day the glimpse of beautiful pictures captured from various places on earth including some little explored regions was like icing on cake.
The next day one of my colleagues told me that La Jolla means 'the jewel' in spanish. I thought to myself that the name couldn't suit better.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

The incurable romantic

My colleague says that I am an incurable romantic. I am guilty to the core. Romance has always been a bestseller for ages because of people like me. Romantic dramas where the hero professes undying love to his heroine has always been my favorite. Blue skies, scarlet roses, streets covered with brown dry leaves while taking a stroll in a golden autumn evening, fragrance of tea and wet soil after the first rains sitting in my veranda, sound of the wind through the leaves of the palm trees, has always inspired romantic thoughts in me.
It may seem absurd but I am sure there are people who will agree with me when I say that there is an inexplicable satisfaction when you cry your heart out on watching emotional scenes of unrequited love. There are two scenes in the movie 'The holiday' where Kate Winslet as Iris describes the feelings which a person goes through when he or she is madly in love with somebody, knowing that the person they are in love with do not reciprocate their feelings, they go through the hell and bliss of rejection and hope of love again and again as if stuck in a vicious circle. While watching those scenes each and every word has pricked my heart and I have never been able to stop my tears whenever I have watched this movie.
The colors on Hilary Swank named Holly in 'PS I love you' when Gerry or Gerard Butler first sees her with the background scenery of the national park and the way she turns around and says I am lost is one of the most romantic scenes of the movie. 'Gone with the wind' is another movie which portrays love in a rosy way although between two imperfect people.
In 'You've got mail', the most romantic scene is not the one where Meg Ryan comes to know that the guy whom she used to write mails is the same as Tom Hanks, but the scene just before the last scene. She has fallen for the guy who has thrown her out of business and she has hated him from the first day she had known him. The confusion caused by the realization of Meg Ryan that she is in love with the hard headed businessman in spite of herself, all the time thinking that she is in love with the guy she used to write mails to, is a very touching scene. The expression on her face when she rejects Tom Hanks thinking that she has already committed to her pen friend and will not be able to accept the love of the man she never realized till then that she had fallen head over heels in love with, is remarkable.
But my best romantic moment is one that happened in real life. When me and my husband were sitting in the hotel balcony looking at the snow-capped mountains in the intense cold, sipping red wine with the stars gazing down at us from the clear night sky, he said that he has always found profound beauty in the laps of Himalayas and now it has become even more special because of my presence. I had never thought men capable of such romantic feelings and to have found it in the man I love, I felt myself the luckiest woman on earth.
Yesterday I saw a couple during my morning walk. They did not seem romantic as they were walking at a distance from each other as if walking was a routine activity and were not even talking. In our community the walking path is lined with bougainvillea trees. So most of the times the whole path is covered with the white and pink bougainvilleas, especially in the mornings. Also it had rained the other night and the tree leaves and branches were wet and still water was dripping from them. I saw that the man all of a sudden moved close towards one of the trees and shook it so that the water drops fall on the lady. She squeaked and looked with an indignant expression towards the man, most probably her husband and said in a serious tone not to act childish. The husband returned back as gravely as possible, 'No, you are right, it doesn't suit my age' and then all of a sudden plucked a bougainvillea from one of the tree branches and offered the flower to the lady. She looked up at him in astonishment and he quickly kissed her cheek. She was so embarrassed that she started looking here and there to make sure nobody had seen. Her eyes fell on me. She was blushing and trying to repress the guilty smile.
Love is a beautiful feeling and I think I am capable of experiencing romance even in the most ordinary circumstances. Although I may seem an incurable romantic, but according to me romance is everywhere, maybe sometimes hidden but nonetheless always present.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Beauty of Yosemite

I visited Yosemite just after my marriage in 2013 and the beauty of the place has captured my heart ever since. It could be that Yosemite felt so amazing because it was my honeymoon, but the fact remains that it is rich in bio-diversity with lakes, mountains, glaciers, granite cliffs, giant sequoia trees and several other scenic attractions. Yosemite National Park located in the central eastern part of California is one of the most picturesque spots of United States visited by millions of tourists and has been the world heritage site since 1984.
We stayed in America's best value inn near Yosemite south gate which is an affordable and convenient place to stay for tourists. We had our car, so we drove to the national park everyday to explore the various parts of it. The park is huge and has several spectacular sceneries, so the three days were worth spending here.
Yosemite consists of a valley that extends up to the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains whose terrain is majorly composed of granite. The granite gives the cliffs the bold look with the sharpness of its edges quite eye-catching. Among them El Capitan is one such cliff which has been quite popular among rock climbers. However I liked the Half Dome more which is a naturally formed granite dome around 5000 feet above the Yosemite valley floor because of its unique shape. 
Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

 I had visited several hill stations situated in the lap of the mighty Himalayas. The snow peaks are of course the stunners but I had never seen such a remarkable shape among the peaks as that of the Half Dome. It looked similar to the face of a lady with a veil covering her head.
The other extraordinary feature of the Yosemite valley is the high density of water falls and clear water streams. Among them the Yosemite falls are the tallest falls in North America. I remember sitting on one of the rocks and watching the falls cut through the granite cliffs for hours together. The lush greenery and the rays of the sun penetrating through the leaves falling on the water and making it sparkle is a sight worth capturing. These wildly romantic views are one of the many reasons that photographers come flocking to Yosemite for creating their very own natural masterpiece. 

Yosemite falls

There are two rivers that cross the valley, Toulumne and Merced.  It is difficult to tell the color of the water. It's a certain shade of blue mixed with the deep and light green colors of the shadows of the trees around the rivers.
Toulumne river

Merced river

On the Merced, there is a beautiful perennial waterfall, the vernal falls which flows all through the year unlike its ephemeral companions. The vernal falls are quite clearly visible from the glacier point which gets its name from the abundance of glacial materials found here.
Vernal falls
A strenuous but picturesque trail leads to the mesmerizing viewpoint which is closed during the winter months because of the slippery snow accumulation. There are many such beautiful trails which are not that strenuous and are great for observing wildlife and for breathing in the fresh air mingled with the sweet smell of pines.
Along with the natural beauty there is a museum which tells about the history of the American Indians who used to live in this area for thousands of years. The evidence about their life ways and culture majorly comes from the archeological evidences and oral histories passed down through generations. Earlier Yosemite valley was called Ahwahnee meaning 'gaping mouth like place' and the inhabitants came to be called as Ahwahnees. Behind the Yosemite museum is a reconstructed Indian village of Ahwahnee.
During the California gold rush in the mid-nineteenth century there was an influx of many non-Indian miners who settled in this region and caused the local population to deplete. The ruthless search for gold lead to the killing of thousands of native people of Yosemite.
One of the foreign settlers called Galen Clark discovered the Mariposa grove in Wawona, an Indian encampment in the now south western part of the park. The giant sequoia trees in the Mariposa grove are surely a tourist's delight. They are very tall around 60 meters in height and have a formidable structure. I had heard about these trees and throughout my visit to the park me and my husband made wild guesses as to which trees could be those giant ones. There were blue oaks and grey pines everywhere and some of them were also huge trees. But when I first saw the giant sequoia my mouth remained wide open with astonishment for a few minutes to say the least. Among them the most famous was the tunnel tree which had a carriage wide tunnel cut through it. It was 69 meters tall and 27 meters wide and very popular with the tourists. We were no different. Both of us clicked several selfies standing around and inside the tree. There were other giant sequoias that had interesting names like the 'Grizzly Giant'.
Tunnel Tree

Grizzly Giant
The widespread coniferous forest of the park is also an important habitat for a wide variety of wildlife. We were lucky enough to spot quite a few like the golden-mantled ground squirrel and coyote. There are many more like the grizzly bear, Sierra Nevada red fox, bobcats and many species of birds and reptiles, some of which are rare sightings.

We had visited the park in the summers, so I cannot describe its beauty during the winters. However the bookstore in the Yosemiti Valley visitor center had some beautiful picture postcards and books with amazing views of the snow covered cliffs of Yosemiti. While returning back I felt refreshed but at the same time a little sad to leave behind such magnificent surroundings. Even today sometimes when I close my eyes I imagine myself strolling in the beautiful green meadows of Yosemite.

Friday, 21 October 2016

The confession of love continued..

Vinod never denied anything. But he also did not suffice an affirmative answer to Soumi. He was surprised by Soumi's question and instead of giving an answer asked her why she entertained such an idea in her head. Soumi told Vinod about the different instances and the strange feeling she had about there being a connection between Latika and Vinod. But Vinod only said that Latika was different, a little weird and he was sure that Latika didn't have any such feelings. After saying so, Vinod went on talking about the picnic and other things and totally avoided being caught up in a similar discussion any further.
Soumi had studied hard for the exams not by choice but because she was almost forced by Latika. What else can a friend of a topper do other than prepare seriously for exams. Soumi stayed back at Latika's home for joint preparations. Latika's mother would prepare coffee and delicious pakodas for them and her sister would provide the comic relief after the mundane hours. One day after school, Soumi went directly to Latika's house to find out why she had not come to school. Her sister opened the door and ushered her inside. While she was waiting for Latika, her sister appeared again and informed her that Latika was asleep. She told Soumi that Latika was not feeling well since morning and probably would have gone off to sleep just then. Since both Soumi and Latika's sister were good friends they started talking about school, teachers, how Latika is too serious for her age etc. All of a sudden she told Soumi that Vinod is a good guy and that Latika liked him from the first day she met him. Soumi was taken aback. Seeing her disbelief, Latika's sister asked Soumi to keep it a secret, but also commented that romance can make the most boring person on earth interesting and what her sister needed was a little romance in her life badly.
The day of their first exam was Latika's birthday. Soumi had bought a pale green scarf with small red flowers painted on it for her. She waited for the exam to end eagerly. Then caught hold of her friend and pulled her to a corner to give her the gift which she had taken so much time to choose. Latika was very happy to see the scarf and had wrapped it around her neck to show Soumi how it suited her. She asked Soumi how she looked, but there was no answer. She then looked towards Soumi to see why she was not paying attention. Soumi's attention was diverted on seeing Vinod approaching Latika. Vinod gifted Latika a fancy pen which Soumi was sure would have cost Vinod a month's pocket money. At first Latika felt a little awkward but then she accepted the gift with a broad smile. The next day, Latika brought the pen for her exam and showed it to Vinod.
Now Soumi summoned her courage once again and asked both of them, of course separately, whether they liked each other. Again the answer was 'no'. It was negative from both sides this time but both of them were smiling while giving that absolutely false answer.
On asking again and again, Latika gave an indignant look towards Soumi and in a rough voice said that she was not a stupid romantic like Soumi and wouldn't dream of unrealistic emotions. Soumi was a little upset. Latika on seeing Soumi sad, pressed her hands in an affectionate way and said that she couldn't expect Vinod to like her. She said, "I am not attractive like the other girls and fact is that I have a tomboyish look. I do not entertain such illusions. I am practical and happy."
Soumi decided to play cupid. She was now quite sure that Latika and Vinod liked each other and she was determined to make them confess their feelings. She understood that Latika is hiding her fear of rejection behind her cold exterior and Soumi agreed with Latika's elder sister that she really needed some romance in her life. Since everything is fair in love and war, Soumi told a few lies mixed with a few truths to Latika that how Vinod always talks about her in her absence and has also noticed her beautiful eyes. To Vinod she again used the same tactic and also divulged some secrets saying that Latika liked the pen he gifted, a lot and also that she had liked him from the day she had joined this school.
Slowly but steadily Soumi's plan was working out. Latika and Vinod had started talking to each other now quite often. They also shared lunch and sometimes could be seen sitting together in the library. But still they did not declare their feelings to each other or to Soumi.
Soumi could only take solace in the fact that now both had become good friends. As the school days were now coming to an end Soumi thought to herself that after all she is not cupid. On the day of school farewell, everybody had dressed up in the best attire. Soumi had specially bought an off-white kurta and light pink palazzos for the occasion and Latika had bought a bracelet to wear with her light blue salwar kameez. When they reached school, the teacher announced a special program arranged by the junior batch of students. Latika was looking here and there as if she was searching somebody. Soumi asked her twice whom or what was she searching. But Latika just nodded. Sometimes, Soumi thought that even if Latika was her friend she could never understand what was going on in her head.
All of a sudden Soumi realized that Vinod was not around and probably Latika was searching him. Soumi went out of the auditorium where the performances were going on to find Vinod. She looked everywhere but in vain and when she was returning back she was stunned to see Vinod sitting on one of his knees and offering a bunch of scarlet roses to Latika.
Soumi could never forget that face. The expression of ardent love had made him look transformed to a grown-up man from a teenager boy. Latika's eyes had become soft and wet. She was blushing and was looking like the shy girl who didn't know how to react on being proposed for the first time. Her voice failed her. She couldn't find any words. Vinod said that he had liked her from the first instant he had set eyes on her. He had liked her eyes, the way she talked, her short trimmed hair and everything about her. He pushed the flowers into her hand and while holding her hands told her that falling in love with her was so easy that he never realized when exactly he had started loving her.
Latika was dumbstruck. She replied after a long silence that she never knew love was so beautiful. She hugged Vinod and acknowledged her feelings. Later the three of them went to an ice-cream parlor to celebrate and of course they paid for their very own cupid's ice-cream without whom there would have been no confession of their long-repressed love.