“Yaar, teach me soft and hard links whenever you are free. It's like science fiction going above my head”, worried Mihir, shrinking his eyes and yawning at young Alok. Sooraj shook his spectacles and nodded.
“Guys sure let's revise during the last hour today. Fathima ma’am is on leave today”, replied young Alok, in his soft voice.
“Revise?”, exclaimed Sooraj. “Yaar, it's apparently a revision for you. But, it's the first time we are studying the topic. Explain accordingly.”
“Yes yes, I understand. Don’t worry it's very easy. I will teach you guys within a span of five minutes”, added he, nodding along.
“Trust him, guys. None can be more considerate than Alok”, complimented a bossy female voice. The three guys turned to their rights to spot Tanya smiling widely at Alok.
“Hi!”, greeted junior Alok, getting up from his seat.
“Hi!”, she said, waving along.
Their eyes were interlocked for the next couple of moments.
Mihir patted Sooraj’s shoulders. “Yaar, how come they aren’t fighting today? Did the Sun forget to rise?”
“Yaar, no that's not the matter. How come it's not dark then?”, argued Sooraj, frowning and shaking his spectacles. Mihir bit his lips and hit his friend’s head.
“I was kidding!”, said he. They shrugged at each other.
Tanya and Alok were busy smiling at each other. He displayed a couple of teeth as the perfect line of mustache moved along with his lips. She moved her hair behind the ear.
“Can I sit with you?”, she asked, in a soft tone.
Mihir and Sooraj threw their mouths open at each other. “Yaar, some or the other magic has struck in their lives. Tanya always frowns and screws. By the way, her assistant…that Ranveer guy, where is he?”, asked the curious Sooraj, scanning through the entire class.
“Looks like he has not yet come to university or perhaps he is on leave”, guessed Mihir.
“Yes yes, sure”, agreed on Alok. He turned to his friends. He signaled them to sit on the empty bench right before theirs.
As they sat together on the last bench, Tanya commented, “Hereafter, both of us will be last bench toppers.” They chuckled at each other.
“Hey, you can’t do this. It needs talent”, pinpointed Mihir.
Sooraj frowned, adding, “That's what. Just because you sat on the last bench, it doesn’t mean you can title yourself as a last bench topper. Only our Alok can do it.”
“Guys, I haven’t come to fight here”, revealed Tanya, as tears accumulated in her eyes. Alok caught her hand. Her painful eyes looked into his confident ones. He shook his head.
“Chill. I will talk to them”, he comforted her.
“Wow! Our friend has never spoken for the sake of someone else to date. Yaar, something has suddenly popped up between the two. What say?”, opined Mihir, whispering to Sooraj.
The other classmates too had their eyes on Alok and Tanya. They wondered, gossiping,” What a pleasant surprise!... I never dreamt of seeing the roosters together...Where is her friend by the way? Exactly, those two always hang out like nail and skin..”
Ranveer tightened his fists. He frowned at Alok and Tanya from the first bench.
Tanya looked around at all eyes on the last bench. Some girls shrugged at her, voicing out what happened, in mute. Alok observed her neck swell as she swallowed her tears.
He stood up, announcing, “Guys, aren’t we all classmates?”
The class nodded at it.
“Why can't we sit with anyone we wish to? Should we necessarily create a big fuss about it?”
Their classmates shook their heads.
“It's indeed appreciable to mingle with everyone rather than sticking to a specific friend. Do you agree with me?”, he threw an open-ended question.
“Yes…of course…makes sense…true…”, responded his nosy listeners.
“Thank you for everything!”, whispered Tanya, as Alok sat back. He smiled and nodded at her.
“Everything?”, wondered Mihir.
Sooraj added, “There is something that Alok has been hiding for a few days. Let's ask him during our study time today.”
One evening, as Alok and Tanya, blushing at each other, walked together on the corridor, Ranveer hurried. “Tanya! Tanya!”, he called out. She turned back and frowned at him. As he neared her, Alok stood in front of her like a protective shield. He signed Ranveer to go away. Tanya's cheeks turned pink. She chuckled to herself at the fact that a guy was protecting her like a typical hero in films.
“We have nothing to talk to a characterless betrayer who was close to ruining a sweet girl’s life. Better get lost”, whispered Alok.
Tanya spoke up, “Exactly, dude..” She shook her head, correcting, “Sorry never dude again…Ranveer.”
“I’m sorry. It's a misunderstanding. Alok has manipulated things to distance our pure friendship..”, Ranveer began to manage.
“Oh, please! Don’t insult the term friendship with your evil intentions”, argued Alok. Tanya smiled at him, noticing him raising his voice for her. “Remember that we have excused you only for the sake of your mom’s tears. Otherwise, you would have been behind bars long back. Don’t make us approach the university board”, warned Alok.
He caught Tanya’s hands and dragged her away. She blushed at him frowning and leaving the bad guy behind.
“Sexy!”, thought Dr.Alok, standing on the opposite corridor and chuckling at them. “Nisha medam, none can say that Alok beta is your foster son. He is a tiger like you when it comes to the matter of love”, compared the professor, controlling his blush and handing over a fifty-page xerox to two students.
“So, coming to your compiler codes, they are in C language. This is the last section of the lab…”, Ishitha went on, as she typed a few lines of code on her laptop; they showed up on the projected screen as she continued typing. “So, we start by importing this module…” The morning lab was the first hour.
“Where is Tanya? Any idea, guys? She is always on time…”, worried young Alok, staring at the door at least once every two seconds. Mihir patted his shoulders and nodded. He gestured for his friend to look down. He threw his jeans packet open. He signed for him to search inside.
As Sooraj giggled and closed his mouth, Alok shrugged. “Guys, I’m serious. Has she gone missing?...”
“I don’t know if she is missing or someone is missing her”, teased Mihir, giving in his right palm for a hifi with Sooraj.
“Oh, something something…”, Sooraj whispered. Alok blushed and looked away at the screen. He nodded at Ishitha ma'am, pretending to concentrate.
“How much will you act? Tell her…”, suggested Mihir. Sooraj chuckled with big eyes.
“Hey! What are you guys talking about? I have no idea…”, Alok opposed.
“Ooo, yaar. Don’t act like an infant in the incubator”, said Mihir.
“May I come in, ma’am?”, asked Tanya. Ishitha pointed at the wall clock behind.
“Why are you so late, Tanya? It has been fifteen minutes since the lab started…”
“Sorry, ma’am. I was struck in the traffic. I will be early hereon”, guaranteed Tanya.
May it be a second, a minute, an hour, a day, a week, a month, a year, a couple of years, or even throughout one's life, relishing the most beautiful feeling on Earth-the love, it still matters.
While most couples are almost near the silver jubilee of their wedding anniversary, Alok and Nisha are just about to begin their love life!
Love at any age is love. Why not a middle-aged love story?!
The professor gestured for her to come inside.
Tanya sighed. Alok waved with a wide grin at her.
Mihir dashed Sooraj. “See yaar, look at his face.”
Sooraj added,” It looks as if a thousand-volt pink bulb is glowing.” They chuckled as Tanya sat beside Alok. The four sat along the same row.
Alok and Tanya blushed at each other as the latter opened her notes. As she began jotting down her running notes, he rested his face on his left hand. He tilted his head. He blushed, staring at her. His eyes suddenly went over Dr.Alok blushing and nodding at him through the window glass. The researcher stood outside. He raised his eyebrows and chuckled at his lover's son.
“Ooo!”, exclaimed he, nodding and focusing back on Ishitha’s screen.
A while later, Ishitha let her batch for a ten-minute break. Mihir and Sooraj stopped coding on their desktops. Tanya too let her fingers free. Alok continued to practice. She chuckled, calling him the universal topper.
“Tanya, don’t be late again”, said Mihir.
Sooraj added, “Yes, our friend was badly asking for you.” He bulged his eyes, stood up from his seat, and spun his head restlessly, shouting, “Where is Tanya? Has someone kidnapped her?...”
“Oh, is it?”, enquired Tanya, bursting out a cute round of laughter at Alok.
Mihir joined his hands and bowed at her. “Please be early or else we will be late. Late Mihir and Late Sooraj. Alok will kill us, asking for you, over and over.”
Tanya blushed at Alok whose pupils dilated at hers. She got up from her rolling chair. “Alok!”, called she, as she accidentally stepped on the wheels of the chair. She was about to slip and fall and he caught her by the waist. As he helped her stand erect, their eyes continued to hug each other.
“Looks like they have fallen for each other already”, Sooraj whispered to Mihir. “No more doubts! They are already in love”, he confirmed.
“Medam!”, exclaimed the excited Dr.Alok, flipping the pages pinned to a heavy file. He sat alone in his cabin dedicated to research. “Had tea?”, he enquired.
On the other hand, Nisha was busy packing her bag. She removed her ID stating ‘George Healthcare’ along with its ambulance and first-aid box-like logo. She raised her eyebrows at the little timepiece on her table. “It's already eight in the night and you are asking me about tea now? I had it four hours ago. I am leaving the office now. Are you still at the university?”
“Yes, Nisha medam. I too will leave in ten minutes. I was busy with my research projects here. So, had to stay…”, he dragged.
“Saar!”, screamed she, sitting inside her car and closing the door. “So, you didn’t have tea or coffee?”, asked she, in a louder voice.
“Actually, I had some snacks that you left for me when we had lunch but later I got busy with work…”, justified he.
“You and your actually-s. The canteen too must be closed at this hour. Why are you so reckless, Alok saar? Rats are dancing in my tummy due to the burst of thirst within you. First, drink a cup of tea in the hotel opposite RSU. If you skip another tea, I will sue you…”, she ordered.
“Aye, chill, Nisha medam. I will”, said he, wearing his bag and switching off the lights in the cabin.
As he descended the stairs, waving at some of the fellowship students, she went on, over the call, “Why are you burdening yourself? How do you think sacrificing a cup of tea will help you concentrate? In fact, a work demanding two hours will demand double the time when there is a lack of energy in the body…”
“Sexy! Nisha medam must have been a nutritionist instead…”, mocked he, chuckling along.
“Saar, stop it! It's not funny. Have your tea within the next fifteen minutes. Send me a photo of yourself drinking it over WhatsApp failing which I won't believe you. Bye!”, she said, hanging up. She drove her car, frowning and grumbling why Dr.Alok was over-duty-conscious.
A couple of minutes later, her mobile beeped with a new notification. She left the steering wheel in the midst of the traffic jam. She checked her phone only to smile at Dr.Alok sitting on the chair at a four-seater table and sipping his beverage.
“Sir, you are lucky to have such a caring wife”, commented the waiter, dressed in a khaki dress and handing the mobile back to the professor. “It's hard to keep love alive despite quite a span of years”, he highlighted. Dr.Alok nodded and blushed at him. He chuckled at the big red heart that Nisha replied to.
“The specialty of my love story with Nisha is the realization that our love has been living for more than two decades till date”, remarked Dr.Alok, concealing a fifty rupee note in the bill book.
The waiter clapped and blushed.
The professor blushed to himself, as he walked towards his car parked outside. He looked up at the snowy dark sky and smiled through his square glasses having white frame.
One afternoon, as the three guys and Tanya sat together for lunch, in their university canteen, young Alok was busy coding on a dark screen on his laptop. Tanya shook her head. She grabbed his Tupperware lunch box and fed him as he was engrossed in his work. Mihir and Sooraj pretended to ignore them. They murmured in each others’ ears how awkward they had been feeling.
“Didn’t you have?”, asked Alok, with his fingers still dancing on the flat keys and his eyes targeting like a laser on the screen.
“I finished. The lunch break too is going to finish. But, our prime minister is so busy!”, she commented, at which they chuckled at each other. “By the way, what are you working on?”
“Internship”, replied he.
“Great!”, she complimented, feeding the last spoon of veg pulao. She closed his box. “Which company?”, she enquired.
“George Healthcare. My mom is one of the partners and senior software engineers there”, he shared.
“Wow! My future mother-in-law is so intelligent. Hmmm!”, grumbled she, which Alok caught. He blushed at which she shook her head.
“I mean…”, she began. She coughed out. Mihir and Sooraj too chuckled at the way she intended to divert the conversation. “Can you help me to get an internship there next year? Healthcare is a cool domain to explore. I want to try it once...Shall I?”
He nodded readily. “Yes yes, mail me a copy of your resume. I will speak to my mom. Let's do our summer internship there. However, you will have to attend an interview as well. The recommendation isn’t the only part of the procedure…”
As Tanya nodded happily, Sooraj and Mihir grumbled, “He declined to recommend us. But, see now…”
“Yaar, I too would have declined you in my uncle’s company. What do you know?”, mocked Sooraj. Mihir slammed his forehead. He looked up at the ceiling and pitied himself. “Thank you, god, for blessing me with these two caring friends. Ayyo!”
Sooraj and Alok shared a hit on their palms for a hifi.
One Sunday morning, young Alok massaged his head with the white towel, as he came out of the washroom. He blushed to see Tanya’s name on his phone’s screen. He grabbed it.
“Hello!”, said he, leaning on the wall behind.
“Hi!”, said she, lying on her bed, elsewhere in her flat. She asked, “Are you free today?”
“A bit of learning is pending. Why, what happened?”, he enquired.
“Oh, is it?...”
“No, tell me. What's the matter?”
“I thought if we can meet somewhere today…only if you are free.”
Tanya rolled once and blushed widely. She closed her eyes and showed a thumbs-up to herself in the dressing mirror in front of her. “Subway, Nehru Place Metro station?”, she shrieked.
“Aye!”, he chuckled. He gave out a long and deep sigh.
“Oops! Aren’t you happy with the place?”
“Nah, let's go somewhere else. I will tell you about a cool place… Are you fine with a movie?”
“Yeah!”, she exclaimed, with her fair cheeks turning pinker.
“PhoneBoot?”, asked he. “It has good reviews on bookmymovie.com as well.”
“Sure!”, she agreed.
“I will book two tickets and share the screenshot with you on WhatsApp.”
That afternoon, around two, she waited for him near the Shopper's stop in a four-storeyed mall. She waved at him dialing her from the entrance. He entered after the guard scrutinized him with a handy detector and pointed the temperature detector closer to his hand.
“Finally!”, she exclaimed, hugging him. As she closed her eyes, he blushed, hugging her back. They released each other. They headed towards the escalators. They made their way through the faint yellow lights in the movie theater.
“Ouch!”, cried she, stumbling on a step.
“Careful!”, exclaimed he, worrying and catching her right on time. They were lost in each others’ eyes.
“Arey! Move. The line isn’t moving. The movie will start soon…”, argued the others standing behind them. He released her. He caught her hand and walked her up the steps. She blushed at his hand tightening hers as if she were a kindergarten girl child. She spotted seat numbers eleven to twenty in a middle row.
“We are here”, they discovered, in chorus. He blushed, extending his hand for her to go first. She nodded and walked step by step along the narrow path. He followed her. She caught the seats in the front for support.
They sat close to each other. A worker dressed in blue and with a red cap offered a tray having popcorn and a cola bottle. As she pushed a handful of popcorn into her mouth, they swallowed their fears at the shutting doors and windows of the opening scene. A short mustached guy in a lungi opened his cupboard as he murmured the romantic ‘Tujhe Dekha Toh…’ song.
“Help!”, cried he, in a screechy voice, as a lady with white eyes and in a white gown yelled popping out of the smartphone on his cot.
“Aah!”, exclaimed Tanya, closing her eyes and resting her head on Alok’s shoulders. She shrank her eyes as the ghost caught the character’s collar and demanded, in Bengali, that she wanted to meet Dr.Kaurav Ghosh.
“It's so damn scary”, Tanya commented, resting her face on young Alok’s chest. He was lost in her timid eyes. The scene where the character woke up, in the middle of the night, only to spot a skeleton beside him on the bed, freaked the entire audience. The theatre was filled with screams from all corners. Tanya lost her cool and hugged Alok.
“How come you are not scared?...”, she asked. “Share a few tips with me as well.”
“It's not like a horror movie to me. I am in love”, revealed he, blushing along. Her hair brushed his face as she turned back at him. Her cheeks turned like the pink petal of dahlia.
While Nisha medam is the best for Dr.Alok, is Tanya junior Alok's heart?
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