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An Instant Embrace, Rathi in Turmoil





Rathi was born into a very traditional family where adhering to the dos and don’ts was of paramount importance.  Her father a priest in the temple never allowed Rathi to dress up as her friends do. Rathi never wore jeans and a

T-shirt or short skirts and tops. So Rathi always felt like an under-confident girl in her college. She used to drape herself in a saree or a half saree and at home she assisted her father with the pooja like churning the sandal paste, plucking the flowers from the garden, and keeping the pooja room immaculate.  She also helped her mother with household chores.  


In college, she kept to herself as a reserved girl and she would interact and share her innermost feelings with her only fast friend Deepa,. Rathi,s non-participation in college and feeling of inferiority compared to her peers lowered her self-esteem. But her classmates recognised Rathi’s worth. Although she dressed simply, her inherent beauty attracted many admirers, yet her reserved demeanour deterred any approach from boys. Remarkably, Rathi excelled academically, consistently ranking at the top of her class.


 Once Rathi and Deepa decided to watch a Kannada play in a nearby theatre.  They bought online tickets and the play was scheduled to start at 7.30 with all viewers seated by 7.15.   On the day of the event, Rathi was in the theatre waiting for Deepa anxiously in the corridor. It was 7. PM.  Numerous calls to Deepa with no response made her more anxious.  With the clock ticking, uncertainty clouded her mind. Should she go in or go home?


 Lost in her thoughts Rathi stood there and it was about 7.13 when Amogh, the most talented and vibrant handsome boy in the college came closer to her and without any hesitation, instantly hugged her. For Rathi, it was a surprise and a shock. Some onlookers watched them.  “ Hey Rathi, you here what are you doing? Come Let's get in as the gates will be closed in no time”. Amogh leads her into the theatre. Rathi speechless and dumb-struck, followed Amogh into the theatre and they sat next to each other on the pushback seats. 


Rathi was so terrified she could not relax. The embrace in public was going in loops in her head. Though Amogh was trying to comfort her, she was perturbed. Her hands were sweating. a few drops of sweat were dripping from the forehead.  The play started but she could not see anything on the stage, she was overwhelmed and drowned deeply in her thoughts. As she could not focus, she quietly slipped out of her seat and made her way to the exit. 


The cool breeze outside, while she awaited for the auto rickshaw comforted her to a little extent. Her face looked serious as if something happened that shouldn’t have happened. In the auto too, she was feeling shy and embarrassed. She was still thinking how many people around would have stared at them during the public hug...And with a kind of guilt and anxiousness she reached home. 


Upon arriving home, Rathi's mother, Avanti, sensed her daughter's distress. She knew that everything was not alright with her daughter. She said, Come Rathi,, sit down”, Avanti hugged her daughter, “Hey what happened to you? Wait I will get some water, eat something, have a dolo and just go to bed.

 

“Amma”, Rathi wailed


Tenderly, Avanti offered Rathi water, food, and a painkiller, encouraging her to rest. Rathi consumed the food and retreated to her room upstairs, collapsing onto her bed. Despite the physical exhaustion, her mind continued to replay the embarrassing scene, the drumbeat of anxiety growing louder with each passing moment. Clutching her pillow tightly, Rathi couldn't contain the tears that welled up in her eyes, a silent testament to the turmoil within her soul. 

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