She sat down in front of the mirror. She was tired. It had been a day of attrition for her, similar to each one of the last two years. This was 25 November 2016, her 23rd birthday. Her friends had surrounded had wished her in the morning and in a few minutes there would be a knock at her door as her chums would have come to pick her up for a dinner to be duly paid by her. So, she looked in the mirror and looked into the eyes searching for something. She found nothing but hollowness. She was wearing a backless pink cocktail dress. She never liked the colour but had liked the design.
“Do you have a pink top?” asked the boy with a coy smile.
“No, I can’t remember one. Why?” answered Krishna.
“Nothing, just thought about something. Leave it. Nothing serious”
The foundation was set and the concealer was being applied. Her pimple marks had made an appearance again. She had always tried diligently to get rid of them but she had not been diligent enough.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Yes, go on.”
“Why do you use a concealer? Why do you want to hide them?”
“I have never used a concealer. It is just that on the UK tour they somehow disappeared”
There was a knock on her door. It must have been her roommate. She had just done some overtime to complete her pending work.
“There was a mail for you in the mailbox” she said handing an envelope to Krishna.
Krishna knew from who it was. This was to be the second and last mail to her from one of her friends from college. Rahul had always looked into life strangely. He had questioned the principles of the society, the need for everyone out there to put a mask. He did not follow any rule and lived his life like a nomad, did not have roots anywhere and did not let his heart taste the wonders of something for too long. He saw himself as a journeyman and to him being one did not allow him to stay somewhere for long. This is how he had lived his life. Correction ‘short life’.
“I am not going to come for the convocation. Will try to make it but not sure would be. Most probably not.”
“I would be going far away in some time”
“Taking a sanyas?”
“Yeah, sort of”
Krishna did not think the way Rahul was going to go. On 26 September 2014, just a couple of months before Krishna’s birthday, Rahul took his last breath. He had handed over two letters to his mother and asked them to post to Krishna.
She never knew why he did so. But then with Rahul her reasoning had always sounded unreasonable.
“Who kept the teddy in my wardrobe?” asked a somewhat grumpy Krishna on the phone.
“I did. I used the pipe outside your room to do it”
“This is not a time for jokes. Please tell me who was it”
“I did it. Believe me. What can I do to make you believe you I did it?”
Even if he had tried that day, Rahul would not have been able to reach Krishna’s room using the pipe outside her room. Rahul’s lungs had started to give up long ago. During the last semester, even reaching his room on the second floor had become an arduous task. Climbing up a pipe takes a lot more. Rahul could not have told anyone about his condition. Everyone around him had always been told and taught to keep a mask on. They were being conditioned to become exactly what they were told to look out for. So, Rahul put up a mask of his own. No one was told how debilitated he was and a smile was put on. Lies told and guarded like a fortress and an empire of happiness built on it.
But in September no one was there at his bedside, only the few faces he had always seen and always known were there. It was always going to be alone. Rahul had found this world a lonely place full of hollowness and vacuous thoughts looking to fill the vacuum. In his last few months he had given up on it. Been what he was and not some reflection of what others wanted him to be.
“You are a doggie. There is a way to talk and you don’t know it.” texted Krishna.
“Thanks a lot. Sorry can’t boost your ego” replied Rahul.
He could not match her standards now. He never could. Others would kowtow to her. He could not. So, this was it. A long friendship forgotten and ways departed from each other.
“Do you love me? I always thought you did” asked Krishna.
“No. Not really” said Rahul.
An awkward pause followed.
“You” it was Rahul’s turn now.
“No” said Krishna.
How could Rahul love someone with his dying lungs even if he wanted to? It would have been hara-kiri on the other person. Also, Rahul was not made to love. He was not like any other normal guy. He was an iconoclast. He questioned the authority and the applied logic behind it. Love was based on respect for people. Rahul only had respect for the right and for the truth.
The concealer was still in front of her. She looked into the mirror. The pimples were still there. She picked up some concealer and applied it. There was no one to go against her and tell not to do it. The rebel had died some two years ago. His letter remained the last memories. He never told her he liked the pattern of her pimples and that he thought they made her lips look better. He never did. He never had the courage to say so. When he did have the courage they had become unknowns to each other, two strangers not knowing each other.
It was this that hurt Rahul. He had tried to end it on a good note. But he could not. Still in his dying moments he found peace in the name of Krishna, the Hindu God his brother had always followed. He had requested everyone not to cry when he died. He did not cry himself as well. He went the same way he came.
Krishna still held the letter in her fidgety hands. She looked lonely. There were people at her door now, people calling her name and gifts in their hands. The letter from the dead man was kept in front of the mirror and the concealer hurriedly applied. She went off now and put a smile on.