“Hi bhOndOO!”, an enthusiastic greeting from Shami.
bhOndOO was pleasantly surprised, “Hi! Looking very happy?”.
“Ya, my mother is coming today.”.
“Oh! That’s wonderful. How long will she be here?”.
“She will be going back day-after-tomorrow.”.
“That is nice. You will get enough time together then.”.
bhOndOO continued checking his emails. Suddenly, a thought struck him. He turned to Shami and,
“What time is Auntie coming?”.
“Her train arrives at Yeswantpur Railway Station at 15:00.”.
“Oh! Just after an hour!”, bhOndOO exclaimed looking at his watch.
“Ya! I am meeting her after three months.”, Shami was in jubilant mode.
bhOndOO gathered courage and finally, “So, … Are you going alone to the station?”.
Shami’s enthusiasm witnessed a sudden break. She understood bhOndOO’s question. She first looked down, then at bhOndOO, and with very sorry eyes, replied, “Gullu is coming with me to receive her.”.
“Oh! No problem. I was just being… Good that you are taking someone there… Good…”, and bhOndOO smiled, looking at Shami. Shami smiled back trying to hide her feeling bad.
For the next half-an-hour, there was no exchange of words between them. Shami showed that she was reading some blog and bhOndOO showed that he was checking Orkut scrapbook. bhOndOO understood that Shami felt bad. He wanted to cheer her up, but did not know how.
Gullu entered the Computing Lab, “Shami, shall we leave?”.
“Yes.”, came a cold reply.
bhOndOO noticed that Gullu was wearing new clothes, was clean-shaved, and — actually, was looking smart. Shami logged out, got up from the chair, and took her bag.
Shami looked down and started walking behind Gullu. bhOndOO felt bad to see her this way. He wanted to say something, but was not finding proper words. Finally, he managed from behind, “Gullu, you are looking nice today.”.
All of them got surprised to hear that — Gullu, Shami and bhOndOO himself.
“Thanks.”, Gullu said, not particularly in a tone suggesting gratitude.
bhOndOO looked at Shami. Shami smiled. bhOndOO felt lighter. He softened his voice, “Tell Auntie that I will meet her during dinner.”.
“Sure.”, and Shami left the lab in a happy mood.
bhOndOO reached the mess for dinner at 19:30. There was hardly anybody, let alone Shami and Auntie. bhOndOO was also clean-shaved, was wearing washed clothes and looking at least sober. He settled in a corner and for lack of anything else, started thinking.
Shami was really happy today. It would have been nice had I went with her. Gullu created the problem. He seems to be trying to impress Auntie. I should do something. When they come, I will behave properly.
bhOndOO thought of calling Shami, but stopped himself saying that it was too early. At 20:00, the mess was almost full. bhOndOO, this time listening to himself, called up Shami.
“Hello, this is bhOndOO.”.
“Hi. When will you be coming to the mess?”.
Shami realized from the word coming that bhOndOO was already waiting for them. With an apologetic tone, she said, “Actually, Gullu is taking us out for dinner.”.
bhOndOO was struck with terror, anger and surprise. He suddenly started feeling that he was left alone in the world. He could not utter a single word.
“Would you like to join us for dinner?”, Shami understood bhOndOO’s silence.
“No, you people go ahead. Bye.”.
Sitting in the mess corner, bhOndOO felt like crying. His voice was choked. He came back to his room without eating and slept.
The next day, bhOndOO did not leave the hostel. He had early breakfast. After taking bath, he went for early lunch. bhOndOO glanced around, but did not find Shami, Auntie or Gullu in the mess. He felt like calling Shami, but decided against.
Post-lunch, he came to the department. While entering the Computing Lab, he checked who all were present and was disappointed to see both Shami and Gullu missing. He typed pine -i and checked his mail. His eyes glistened to see a mail from Shami.
We (Mother, Gullu and I) are going to Forum mall. If you can join us, please come to the department at 10:00. We will have lunch outside and will probably return by evening and have dinner in the mess. If you cannot come, let’s meet over dinner.
I am not able to reach you on mobile.
bhOndOO checked his watch: 13:00. He sighed. Then, he thought about the mail from Shami and felt better. At least, she considers me. Will meet Auntie during dinner. Till then, I can do some work. He started conducting his experiments on Pointer Analysis, skipped snacks, and returned to the mess for dinner.
At 20:00, while bhOndOO was waiting for Shami and Auntie, he received a call.
“Hello bhOndOO. We are very sorry, but we are not coming to the mess. Mother is very tired and we had heavy snacks. She wishes to sleep. Please don’t mind.”.
bhOndOO was heart-broken. He felt very bad, but showed otherwise, “No, no. No problem at all.”.
“bhOndOO, Mother has asked whether you can come to drop her to the railway station tomorrow?”.
“Oh, sure. I will come. What time do we have to start?”.
“The train is at 08:00. We should start by 07:15.”.
“Okay, I will be there outside your hostel at 07:15.”.
“bhOndOO, don’t feel bad.”.
“You don’t feel bad. I am fine.”, and then to make Shami feel better, bhOndOO added, “By chance, I am not able to get up so early, just give me a call.”.
Shami smiled and replied, “Sure. See you tomorrow.”.
bhOndOO felt lighter. He finished dinner, went to his room and slept. While he was dreaming about him getting married to Shami and about receiving blessings from his in-laws, Gullu arived and started shooting with his rifle. One bullet entered bhOndOO’s heart and bhOndOO woke up — to see his mobile blowing the alarm. He switched off the alarm and sat for a few seconds in the bed controlling his pulse.
I must do something today. Gullu must have forced heavy snacks on them yesterday. Shami and Auntie are not responsible. He must have tried to impress Auntie in many ways and he will be there at the railway station today also. I need to be careful. Gullu, main aa raha hoon!
With a firm mind, bhOndOO got up, and at 07:00, he was ready to leave. He reached Shami’s hostel to see the three of them waiting. bhOndOO looked at Gullu. Gullu had a mocking smile on his face, as if saying, “I have won the battle.”.
They hired two autos — one occupied by Shami and her mother, and the other occupied by, ahem, Gullu and bhOndOO. When they got down at the railway station, Gullu jumped down and went to the other auto to pay for Shami and Auntie. bhOndOO had to pay for him and Gullu.
The train was ready on the platform and Auntie had half an hour to go. Gullu enthusiastically kept all the luggage properly under her seat. They were chatting in the bogie when Auntie saw a book-shop on the platform.
“I will check whether there are any good novels at the book-store.”.
Now there was a problem. Somebody should accompany her. Shami could not leave the place because she had to look at the luggage. Gullu wouldn’t go, because he wanted to get the precious time with Shami. bhOndOO also wanted that, but our b-O-n-d thought something and said, “Okay, I will come with you.”. Gullu was overjoyed.
At the book-store, while Auntie was glancing over the books, bhOndOO enquired, “How is Uncle’s health now?”.
“After the attack, we were really scared. But he is taking regular exercise and medicines.”, Auntie replied.
“That is good. You should also take regular exercise, Auntie.”, bhOndOO — who had never managed to be regular in exercising for more than three days — said.
“I am not worried about myself. I am worried about Shami though. Is she studying properly?”.
“Auntie, what do you mean! She is our topper!”.
Auntie smiled, proudly, and continued, “It is good that you all are there with her. Please take care of my child.”.
bhOndOO looked at the train window: Gullu had a wicked smile. bhOndOO’s eyes sparkled. He replied, deriving the wicked smile from Gullu, “Don’t worry, Auntie. As long as Gullu is there with her, she will not have any problems. You must have seen it in the last two days. He takes care of her — like an elder brother.”.