Ashok professionally was as a Hindi lecturer at a government high school but was well known for his poetry. He was also known for his dedication, generosity and simplistic qualities. He had great interest in writing poems and would write poems when ever he got spare time. Sometimes he would be so involved in writing that he would unknowingly skip his meals. There was something different about him. His fellow lecturers just admired his passion towards writing poems and sometimes were a bit concerned about his health. Nonetheless he was more active than anyone else.
The school’s morning assembly concluded with Ashok’s poems. The students, lecturers and the whole village listened to his words with great interest; perplexed later on by his insight on things that are so trivial yet so relevant to their lives. His poems reflected positivity, hope and love.
Ashok would sit in the library for hours after the school. The headmaster adored him and had specially organized a spot for him in the library. A place quieter from the rest, with a table, chair, pen stand and pile of sheets. The chair facing towards the window which opened to the lake that reflected the rays of the setting sun. Watching Ashok sitting on the chair, staring at the open window and putting his ideas on the paper made the headmaster walk out of the school with exuberance.
His fellow lecturers where not able to understand his motivation. Some would say he suffered a great loss when he was young and some would say he faced betrayal from the girl he loved and that is the reason for him not being married; but it was not clear to anyone. This was always a topic of curiosity and discussed among the staff.
Smitha had recently moved to the village. Young, beautiful and full of life. She liked to interact with people and always interested to listen. Previously she worked as accountant for a bank and now was being appointed as a temporary accountant for the school in place of Ms. Verma, who had taken the maternity leave for couple of months.
Smitha’s dressing sense was very modern and yet appropriate for the workplace. By seeing her anyone could say that she loved to dress up. On the first day she introduced herself to everyone during the lunch time. She personally spoke with everyone. The male staff members where elated by her presence, which made the female staff somewhat muddled. And then there was Ashok sitting away from everyone, staring the paper and twirling his pen. Smitha looked at him, wondering who he was. Patil observed her and spoke out with great urgence, “He is Ashok, our Hindi lecturer and a poet”. “Poet !, that is interesting”, Smitha said with curiosity.
Next day Smitha had prepared a south indian savory for the staff members. The savory was so delicious that everyone were praising Smitha for her cooking skills and wanted more of it. Smitha acknowledged their praises and thanked them for trying her recipe. Ashok walked in the room and Patil shouted out loud, “Hey, Ashok is here. Come Ashok you should try this savory made by Smitha. It is mouthwatering”. Ashok, looked at Smitha with a smile and turned towards Patil and said, “No I am not hungry and I have some work”. Patil mockingly, “We all know what work you have to do”. All started giggling.
Ashok sat in his usual spot, a bit far from everyone. Smitha walked to him, with a plate of savory and held it in from of him. Ashok, “I am really not hungry”. Smitha insisting, “Just try a little”. Ashok felt uncomfortable, Smitha sensed it and placed the plate near his table and said to taste it when he feels like.
By the time Smitha was done with the lunch, Ashok had already left the table. Smitha went and saw the plate to be untouched. Smitha held the plate with a feeling of dejection, Patil grabbed the plate from her and began to eat. With his mouth stuffed with food, he mumbled “Don’t you mind of his behaviour, he is a very nice person. Just too much attached with his poetry, see you later Smitha”.
Days passed, she saw Ashok every time sitting at the same spot completely involved with his writing. It was not that he was rude, he spoke when others initiated the conversation. But he spoke less all the time. Smitha spoke with him, sometimes got to know about his past. And much to her surprise, she found out no tragic events associate with him.
She became restless day by day; even after knowing about him she felt discomfort. Her mind was trapped with the feelings of anger, sadness and forgiveness. One morning she went to the school with all this baggage of thoughts. She wanted to speak with Ashok first thing in the morning. But he was already in the class. She came back to her desk and started her daily work.
Ashok did not show up for the lunch, Smitha was once again grief-stricken. She enquired about Ashok. Ms. Tripathi replied, “He was summoned by the headmaster, this might be regarding the cultural festival that is next week. Most of the events are organized by Ashok, the cultural festival carried out last year was the best I have ever seen. Ashok dazzled the crowd with his poetry”
Patil, “Yes, it was very good”.
Ms. Tripathi, “But you can talk to him after the school, he stays in the library for a while”
Smitha, “Is it, that is good to hear”
After the school, Smitha gathered all her things and went straight towards the library. The library was at the end of the corridor. She moved swiftly. She held herself back as she approached near the library door and moved inside hesitant, unsure of what she was going to encounter.
Inside, at the corner of the hall, she saw Ashok with his eyes closed, leaning back over the chair with his arms held each other in front of his chest. He was sitting in front of a wide opened window. The sun rays were falling over his face, which seemed to have decided to settle over his skin. His face was lit up with some kind of unexplainable radiance, his closed eyes summed up to all calmness in the world.
Smitha for the first time felt thoughtless, total silence of mind. Her feeling towards Ashok turned into something unexplainable but very real. She strolled closer and stood near him. Ashok opens his eyes, his eyes were sparkling with liveliness. He showed no sign of surprise seeing her as though he knew she will come.
Smitha, placed her hand on his forehead and kissed his lips gently. Then she stepped back, sat on the table staring at him. Ashok with a meek smile, continued looking the sunset.