NOTHING LIKE A HANDWRITTEN LETTER – IV
by Allwin Bright
“Is Professor Richard at home?”, I asked.
“Yes, he is. But, may I know who are you?”
“I am Praveen, one of his ex-students.”, I said.
“Jeez…. Praveeen! How on earth did I not recognize you? “.
“Dad!…its Praveen!!”, she called out.
It occurred to me now that the girl was Rhea, Richard sir’s daughter.
Rhea used to study in a boarding school when we were in college. She would come home once in a while for vacations. Rhea was her nickname. I did not know her real name yet.
“Come on in, Praveen.”
“My! You’ve changed a lot. And that french beard looks good on you!”
“Thank you, Rhea. I didn’t recognize you, either. You too have changed a LOT! By the way, when did you come home? Are you home for vacations?”
“Yes, I am on a month long vacation. Its only been three days since I’ve come home and Dad is in enough trouble already”, she said.
“Rhea! Where is my laptop? I can’t find it!!”.
I recognized the voice. It was Richard Sir’s.
“See? I told you. I think he did not hear the first time. He is getting old, you see.”
“Dad, a special guest has come! Please come downstairs to see who it is! Your laptop can wait!!”, she called out a little louder this time.
“Wait here, Praveen. I’ll get some coffee for you.”
“Rhea, its… its okay….I have had coffee just now…”
She interrupted me with a hand gesture, and went inside.
I waited in Richard Sir’s room. His room was the same, just like it was 5 years ago. The study table, books, fountain pen… There was a photo album on his table. I flipped through it. It had photos of the students from every batch, that graduated from college year after year. This got me curious.
Meanwhile, Professor Richard came downstairs.
“Good morning, sir!”.
The man’s face lit up.
“What a surprise!! When did you come Praveen”, he said.
“It hasn’t been long, Sir!”.
“So, how are you?”
“I am doing fine, Sir”.
“Rhea….”, Richard sir called out.
“Yes, Dad… Here I am”. The girl was back. She served coffee.
“I’m really glad that you take out time to pay me a visit every year”, he said, with his eyes lighting up, as he spoke.
“I can’t even think of not visiting your place. Had it not been for you, my life would have been such a mess. The very thought of it gives me goose bumps. My future, my career… Everything was at stake. I am who I am now, only because of you.”
“Come on, Praveen! It’s not as big a deal as you make it out to be. So, tell me how is your work going on?”
“Its good. Its actually fun”, I said.
“I am really happy for you, Praveen”. I could see that he was happy indeed. His face never lied.
“Again, I have only you to thank. Had it not not been for you, I would have ended up choosing……”
My cellphone interrupted.
I pressed the green button.
“Hello… Hey… I am Richard sir’s place. I ‘ll call you back”
“I am missing you…. when are you coming”, the voice on the other side said.
“I told you… I’ll call you back”.
“Who was that?”, said Rhea with a meaningful smile. She seemed very interested.
“A friend”, I said quickly.
“Is it a he or a she?”.
“Yes, its a girl. She works with me and we like each other. HAPPY?”, I quipped.
“I get it now. So here’s the real reason why you are enjoying work there”, Rhea laughed.
“Spare the poor boy Rhea.” Richard sir said.
I couldn’t help but chuckle.
“Shall I leave now sir? I had promised her to take her out for lunch today.”
“Yes Praveen, Please….Go ahead”
“Thank you sir”, I said, blushing.
I was about to leave.
“Praveen…. just a minute”, Richard sir called me back.
“Did you find about Karthik? Do you have any idea where he is?”
“Ohh I am sorry sir. Silly me… I forgot it completely. Yes sir… I found his address and I’ve invited him to the college reunion. My very purpose of coming here was to tell you about that. We’ll all meet this time.”
“I too hope to see him this time around”, said Richard sir longingly
“Don’t worry sir, he’ll definitely be coming to the college reunion.”, I reassured him.
I received another phone call. It was her again. “Shall I leave now sir. She’ll kill me if I get late. I hope you understand.”
“I completely understand. Go ahead…”
“Bye sir. See you at the college reunion.”
“And don’t forget to bring your girlfriend along with you.” Rhea said
“I will… I will…” Saying this, I bade them goodbye.
Late in the evening.
Richard sir was reading a book.
“Dad, may I ask you something?”, Rhea asked serving tea to her Dad.
“Every year students graduate. They get into a job. They meet up with you whenever they get time. Almost all your students are in constant touch with you. And I know that you love your students more than they love you, but what makes you inquire the whereabouts of Karthik all the time? Why do you hold a special place for him?”