“Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so you shall become. Your vision is the promise of what you shall one day be; your ideal is the prophecy of what you shall at last unveil.”
Maker Farm. Madh Island, Mumbai.
There were crazy lights, deafening music and people having fun all around her, but in spite of all of this, she felt alone. All alone. Her knee-length white dress was a little wet around the edges now that she had been sitting for quite some time right by the swimming pool, with her knees hanging in the water, waiting for her brother to return, who had asked her to stay by the pool for him, over an hour ago, and had kept her waiting, again.
Her brother had vanished in the crowd, following the girl he had been pursuing for months, even though everyone knew she was dating someone already.
“Typical of Mastishk.” thought Drishika. “He thinks he can get away with those lame jokes, his boyish charm and that stupid goatee (which God knows why the girls in our college think is “hot”. She thinks the name’s not a misfit at all; “Goat”-ee indeed). His mind reading games won’t save him from a good punch on the face from Manya’s boyfriend!”
“….and that’s Dhanu. The most beautiful constellation, which is in fact, my star sign…aaaand just to show off, Sagittarius has the maximum number of stars, you know why? It’s because it’s right at the centre of the earth, you know Dhanu na?” Mastishk was obsessed with the stars. Stars which he thought had written his destiny.
Mastishk and Manya were sitting on the railing of the farm house terrace.
“Oh God, he’s been blabbering about all this constellation shit ever since we came up here. He’s not even asking whether I’m actually interested in his Bhrigu Shastra nonsense or not.” thought Manya.
“Oh I’m so sorry, I’m such an idiot, blabbering about all this. I didn’t even ask you if you’re interested.” said Mastishk. Manya smiled, “No no, it’s alright, don’t apologize.”
“Anyway,” Mastishk shifted closer to her, “what’s your star sign, Maya?”
“Leo.” said Manya.
“Oh Leo! I just knew it! You’re a Leo, I’m Sagittarius. A lioness…and a hunter…”
“Hey, Drishika!” Someone called out her name. It was Rohit, showing off his “8 pack abs” to lure wannabe, bikini-clad bimbos into the swimming pool. “Why don’t you come join us?” he said. He had been pursuing her for months now, in spite of having a girlfriend. Drishika hated guys like him the most. He treated all his other girlfriends like those “use-and-throw” pens he borrowed form her during History classes, and now she’s his next target. Guys like him do not respect women. Yes, he was hot, which gave him easy access to the fawning adoration of some women; but, he was a jerk. Yes, she was kind and friendly, which is probably why people generally assumed that she’s available, but she wasn’t one of those bimbos.
As politely as possible Drishika said, “No thanks, I’m just waiting for my brother so we can go back home. He asked me to wait here.”
“Hey Rohit! Come here na!” Rohit’s girlfriend was calling him.
“Okay then, see you later.”
Drishika caught Rohit’s girlfriend staring at her—her eyes full of envy. She had good reason to. Rohit didn’t like Drishika without a reason. She was very pretty after all; in fact, Drishika Kashyap was easily the prettiest girl in college. Her slim waist, buttery skin and straight dark hair that fell into her dark-brown eyes in a spiky fringe, (and every other feature which made her look like an exact replica of her mother in her younger years; “which is quite annoying to be honest”, thought Drishika, “people never stop comparing me to mom!”), were the cause of all the idiotic grins she got from the boys of the History Department, and also, the glares she got from their girlfriends.
Drishika averted her eyes from Rohit’s girlfriend’s, and checked her reflection in the pool. She fixed her fringes.
And then, her eyes, her dark brown eyeballs, went a misty white, and it wasn’t her reflection she was seeing anymore. She saw her brother getting punched by someone.
When her eyes were normal again, she could feel her energy ebbing away, but she ran to find her brother, because she knew…what she had seen would come true.
“Incidently, my name is Manya.” The look on Mastishk’s face was priceless. Manya controlled the urge to laugh out loud, as Mastishk thought of a witty retort.
“Haan haan, I knew that. But I think it should be Maya….Maya, like, illusion maya? Maya, whose heart is a mystery to those who seek it.” said Mastishk. Manya smiled. He could hear what she was thinking. “Stop blabbering you fool, and just kiss me fast.” She looked at him meaningfully and bit her lower lip. They came closer. Inches away from his face, Manya thought, “C’mon, just get it over with before Dhruv comes here.”
Mastishk pulled back, alarmed. “Dhruv must be looking for you right? I think we should go down now.”
“How the hell do you know that?!”
“Manya!” Dhruv was coming towards them, his nostrils fuming, his ugly face red with anger, his biceps ready to crush Mastishk.
“Hey Dhruv, woah man, solid body you’ve made. I’ll just leave haan.” Mastishk tried to escape.
“Not so fast, Mastishk Kashyap.”, said Dhruv.
“You idiot, didn’t you know Dhruv’s a boxer?” said Rohan.
“I swear I didn’t know dude!” said Mastishk, while Drishika pressed an ice bag below his left eye.
“What didn’t you know, Tish? That Dhruv’s a boxer, or that Manya is Dhruv’s girlfriend?” teased Drishika.
“Please Drish, hit me if you have to okay? Just don’t taunt me now!”
“Hit you? Why will I hit you? We will get hit when we get back home anyway, thanks to you.” said Drishika.
“Do you know what time it is?! 12 o’clock was our deadline, now it’s 12:30! Plus your swollen face. Mom is totally gonna freak out, you know that? Summer camp? Cancelled.”
Gulistaan Colony, Lucknow.
She broke the mirror with her fist. Her hand, covered with shards of glass, was bleeding.
“Stop it, Di! Just stop, please! Please Di, open the door! Don’t be stupid, Di, please open the door!…” her brother wouldn’t stop banging the door and shouting unless she opened it. She sighed.
She looked at her bleeding hand and closed her eyes. The tiny pieces of glass dropped off and the tiny cuts in her hand disappeared. She cured herself; back to normal, without a scratch.
“Di, please open the door, Di! Please! Di!” She opened the door.
“What is it, Armaan?” she asked.
“Papa wants to speak to you. He’s calling you downstairs…” Armaan looked into the room. “…What have you done, Di? You broke the mirror again?!”
“Oh God, shush Armaan. C’mon now, come with me.” She closed the door and they went down the stairs.
“…so you want to join the army too….like your bhaiya?”
Armaan interrupted their conversation. “Yes, Papa! And when I told her that you won’t let her join the army, she started fighting with me!”
“Mmhmm, Armaan!” his mother called him.
“But Mamma, I was just…” protested Armaan.
“Chup, come here” . He went and sat beside her on the couch. “You shouldn’t intervene when elders are talking okay?” His mother shushed him to silence.
Her father spoke to her again. But she was determined. She stood there, silently. Her face rigid, trying her best to control her anger.
“Asmin Bharadwaj, you’re growing up now…you should learn to keep your temper in control….anger doesn’t do anyone any good.”
“Papa she’s spoilt, and that’s because of all of you! You’ve never scolded her!” Her bhaiya wasn’t helping her anger issues though.
“Oh really, and what about you then?” Asmin began.
“Asmin, Ashwin, stop it!” Their father stopped another round of futile argument.
“Look Asmin, it’s…it’s not that easy. You’ll have to go through many hardships for this. I’ve been training your brother since he was a child, tab jaake he’s passed the entrance test.” Her father had been trying his best to change her mind.
“Then why can’t you help me, Papa? Train me.” said Asmin.
“Are you mad? You won’t be able to do it!” said Ashwin.
“Why won’t I be able to? I’m physically fit, I’m faster than you Ashwin bhaiya. And I’ve won every chess match against you, Papa. Then why can’t I? Even I want to join the army Papa, it’s…no…” protested Asmin.
“Asmin, just because I lose to make you happy, doesn’t mean the others will. It’s a different reality altogether there. Please listen to me, nahi hoga tumse, you can’t.” Her father tried to reason with her again.
“So you won’t allow Di to join the army?” asked a sad-faced Armaan.
“Just because I’m a girl, right? This is so unfair, Papa!” Asmin, overcome with anger, ran up to the terrace, ignoring her mother calling after her.
Asmin ran up to the terrace and hit the door open. She had to find a way out of this. She had to do something to get what she wanted. She had to….
Before thinking of what the consequences would be, having faith on her powers of healing, she ran across the terrace and jumped off the railing. She landed on solid concrete, with blood gushing out of the left side of her forehead.
“Asmin!” Ashwin shouted and ran towards her unconscious body.