There she is, the girl from the upper apartment. She’s leaving for college, I suppose. I see her every day when I’m cleaning the stairs and the parking lot. She smiles and says “Hi” and sometimes asks after me and my family. We’re nearly the same age.

She’s wearing a maroon frilled shirt and beige trouser-pants. She’s looking pretty! How wonderful all her clothes are! Such nice colours and patterns and always of a size that fits her! I wish I had such flattering clothes. I always have to wear someone else’s discarded stuff; pale, faded and mostly of a loose fit. She’s just walked past me. Wow! How fragrant her perfume is! The lingering smell of jasmine fills my nostrils. Why hasn’t she greeted me today though? Surely she ought to be in a good mood, seeing as she’s dressed so well! I gaze at her as she’s walking towards her scooter and I notice that her eyes are red and there are tear tracks on her cheeks. What’s the matter with her, I wonder… Should I ask her? No, she might not like it. I’m just a cleaner after all. She would think I’m being unnecessarily nosy. I’d better mind my own business and get on with my sweeping.

She’s still standing near her scooter. She’s fidgeting with the key. She hasn’t tied her scarf. This isn’t like her. Usually she drives straight off at a brisk speed. She looks upset. Something is definitely wrong. I think I should ask her. She has comforted me once or twice when I was sad, after all. I walk towards her. She looks up and hastily wipes off the tears that have come to her eyes again. She turns towards the scooter and makes as though to take it off its stand. Her hands are shaking.

“Is everything ok?” I ask her.

“Yes,” she says.

“Are you not feeling well then?” I enquire with concern.

“No, no! I’m alright,” she responds.

“You’re looking very nice today! You’ll get a lot of compliments from your classmates!” I say, trying to make her feel better.

“As if I care!” she snaps.

She seems to have reached breaking point. She tries to stop the tears from flowing, but in vain.

“I hate the University! I hate my course! I hate my life!” she says, sobbing.

I don’t know what to say to this. How could she possibly hate her life?! What exactly does she find hateful about it? My educational qualification is that I’ve passed the matriculation examination. The principal at the Municipal Corporation’s school insisted that I complete my education till the school level at least because I was a bright student. My parents were totally against the idea. My father being unemployed, they wanted me to quit school after Std. 7 and start earning. Those three years of high school I had to endure their taunts and jeers even though I was doing part time cleaning jobs. This girl, on the other hand, has had it so easy! She has a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. Her parents let her choose her own field of study. She’s now doing Master’s in the University. No one pressurizes her to take up work. She’s got no tiresome responsibilities. Her parents love her and give her all the freedom that she wants. If I was in her place, I would be thankful to God for giving me such bountiful happiness!

“You were so excited when you’d procured an admission for the course you’re pursuing! How come you hate it now?” I question.

She doesn’t answer for a minute or two. I wonder whether I’ve taken liberties, talking to her like that.

“I don’t exactly hate the course. But I’m not passionate about it, the way I am about writing. And I’m definitely not very good at the subjects I’m learning! I should have become a writer! That is my true calling,” she says.

I’m now very much taken aback. She completed Bachelor’s with a Distinction. How could she possibly say she’s not good at what she’s doing? And how many people in this world are totally doing something they’re passionate about? Very, very few people are that lucky. I want to become a doctor. I really like to take care of people and to lessen their suffering. Destiny, however, has not favoured me quite so much. So should I cry and curse my fate? A lot of people have to settle for whatever comes their way. She, however, can become an IT professional and pursue her hobby side by side! How fortunate is she! Honestly, I can’t quite understand what this silly girl’s problem is!

“My classmates are all brilliant! The professors are amazing! The level is high and the work challenging! It’s amazing! But I don’t think I fit there! I just want to quit this course!” she goes on, intent on getting things off her chest.

I see! She’s developed an inferiority complex because she’s faced a few setbacks. I’m smiling to myself, thinking how funny it is that despite her having had more formal education than me, I am far more worldly wise! Just a few obstacles in her path and she gets this upset! How will she face the tougher challenges that life will definitely throw at her in the future? I mean, I do understand that failure does make a person nervous and overwhelmed. But that doesn’t mean you should run away from your problems! In fact the more you run away from them, the more they come back and haunt you! I am proud of myself for having completed my education up to Std. 10 despite all odds. It really boosted my confidence and instilled the belief in me that I can get what I want by putting in efforts and being consistent. She’s never had it rough, that’s why she doesn’t know how to handle hard times.

“Everything will be alright! Just trust yourself. I’m sure you’ll be able to overcome these bad times!” I console her.

“Hmm… Thank you! That does make me feel better!” she says, smiling weakly. I smile back.

“I’d better go back home and wash my face! This look doesn’t go with my outfit does it?!” she says grinning ruefully.

“No it doesn’t!” I say, laughing.

“Oh by the way, congratulations on your engagement! Ganesh is a nice guy. He’ll make a good husband!” she says.

“Thank you!” I reply, blushing.

She’s right about the last part! My parents, of course, decided to get me married off without my consent. Unknowingly, for once they’ve done something good for me. Ganesh is a mechanic at the garage. He’s doing a certificate course in Automobile Engineering from the Government College. He values education and has agreed to let me take up a vocational course in nursing.  I know my dreams may not be fulfilled in entirety but I now have hopes for a brighter future than I’d anticipated!


This is my post in response to this week’s Writing Challenge!