This post is a part of 24-day Marathon fiction called Yaariyan.
The frequent passing of commentaries and peppy nature of Niket when he is along with his gang intrigues Ruhi. How can college friends be so close to each other? Abhinav catches up with Ruhi and she is not able to contain the question in her mind – she goes ahead and asks it. Abhinav explains that along with doing same course in college, they also stayed together in the same PG. That’s where the major part of bonding happened – over Counter Strike.
Arpit’s parents had arranged for a rented place for four in Sion. Two of them were Arpit’s relatives and their seniors in VJTI. Arpit and I knew each other since school days and we moved into the PG together. Niket and Madhu were staying at their relatives’ place. After two years, the seniors graduated and left Mumbai for further studies. Niket and Madhu joined us in the second room; it was time they moved out of their relatives’. So that’s how we spent the last two years of college together. ‘What about Swami?’, she asked. ‘Swami joined the gang at end of year one when we had gone for an industrial visit (which had nothing to do with any industries) and we saved him from getting ragged. He stayed in the hostel in the college campus, but would frequently be at home for the majority of time he wasn’t studying.
Together we did a lot of mischief and were often called as backbenchers. Niket remained unbeatable in carrom till the end of fourth year; Madhu was a typical businessman – often doing small assignments for money. Arpit was free and happy, the way I’ve never seen him be later’. Realising Ruhi had touched a nerve, she changed the topic.
The heat has burned Niket’s skin – his decision to wear half sleeve t shirt inspite of the heat was incorrect. As he applied UV protection on it, it burned further. Same was the case with many others who had not covered their neck with gaiters. He sits down in the shade to get some rest from the sun.
Shobana is walking behind, alone, enjoying every bit of Kashmir’s bounty. She is carrying her own backpack and humming songs of the movie Highway. As she passes by Niket, she gives him some home-made ointment to apply on the burnt skin, but the damage is already done.
The paths are narrow but beautiful; often passing nearby to various small rivulets. Karan dips his hands and washes his face in every rivulet – it is pure and tasteless. These rivulets are made by the melting snow on the top of the mountains.
Kanishka, Raunak, Chris and Sara are walking with pace – descending quickly is an art; it is risky too as one wrong rock on which you place your foot, you’ll tumble like Jack from the poem Jack and Jill.
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