Anup was sitting alone at a corner table waiting for his friends. He looked at his watch, it was already 4. They were supposed to meet at 3:15, but there was no sign of them. A beautiful bird outside the window caught his attention, he began looking at it with great intent. Anup was startled when he heard someone banging on his table.  He saw his friends Samarth and Kapil standing near him.

Anger was rising on Anup’s face. When he was about to say something, “I know you are mad at us for not coming early. We are sorry for making you wait,” apologized Kapil. “You call this late? This is called having no time sense” Anup bellowed. “Come on man!! You can’t be mad at us for a silly thing. We are meeting after two years,” said Samarth.

Anup, Samarth and Kapil were best friends during college days. They were planning their reunion for many months. It was delayed many times owing to their busy schedules. Finally they zeroed on a convenient date and decided to meet at the ‘Sunshine Cafe’ near their college.

When his anger receded, Anup greeted them and asked them to sit. “So guys, how is work?” he asked them. “Please don’t speak about work at least today. When someone asks me about work, I remember my boss Mr. Motulal” remarked Samarth. “What? Your boss name is Motulal?” asked Anup. “No, his real name is Kishanlal. I call him Motulal. He has a protruding belly. Whenever he talks to me, his saliva falls all over my face. I started carrying two handkerchiefs because of him”. Both Anup and Kapil laughed at this in unison. “I too hate work and I badly miss my college days.” said Kapil sadly. “College days were the best. Do you remember the time when we told some juniors that we were lecturers and asked them to greet us?” asked Anup. “Yeah, you should have seen the look on their faces. Remember, once Dubey Sir had caught us. But he was a sweet chap, he let us off” said Kapil.

“Who can forget about the tasty chicken kebabs in the college canteen?” asked Anup.

“They used to serve one for Rs 50/- per piece. But we used to sneak an extra one when Salim chacha was away” said Kapil.

“Hey guys, let’s go to our college. It’s hardly five minutes from here” quipped Samarth. “Okay, but let’s eat something and go, no?” suggested Kapil. The other two agreed with him and ordered ice-cream for themselves. After finishing their ice-cream, they set off towards their college.

Excellence College of Engineering was situated in Nagarakola Village and was surrounded by Mandara hills. There were two security guards on either side of the entrance. The guards saluted them and let them in. The Ganesha temple was situated at the center of college campus. They touched their forehead as a mark of devotion. There was a small ornamental garden on one side of the temple. At the other side, you would find a pathway with garden arch that led to the main college building. The main building had three exits. One of the exits led to the bus-stand, second one towards the college library and the last led to the cafeteria. If you walked straight, you would find the college auditorium. Behind the auditorium, there was a way that led to a park. The trio named it as “Lovers’ point”.

“Hey! Remember how we used to make weird noises to scare the couples sitting here at night” said Anup. There were standing at the entrance of the park.

“The funniest thing was when we had scared Shankar and his girlfriend. He even started chanting mantras loudly. When we started laughing hearing him, he and his girlfriend ran away,” said Kapil between his laughs. They spent some time at the park reminiscing their college days.

“Prakash uncle’s hotel is nearby. Let’s meet him,” told Samarth. Prakash Variar ran a small hotel close to their college. He was known for his generosity and was a favorite among the students. They reached the hotel. ‘Hotel Surya’ was a restaurant situated at the ground floor of a dilapidated building. The place was old with plaster coming off from its walls. There was a glass rack to store fried items at the entrance of the hotel.  A small table was present at the side were Mr. Prakash sat. Above him, there was a small rosewood shrine with an idol of Goddess Lakshmi and other deities.  Samarth’s eyes looked at the corner. At the corner, there was a broken TV; the tables and chairs for customers were situated in front of it. The place was empty except for few people. “Too bad the TV is broken. Me along with the guys from 1st, 2nd and 3rd floor gents’ hostel used to assemble here to watch cricket as we didn’t have a TV there. The hotel would reverberate with our cheers and laughter. Prakash uncle even served free snacks during cricket matches” said a nostalgic Samarth. Prakash Variar just entered the hotel carrying a small plastic bag. “Namaste Prakash Uncle!” the three of them greeted him.  “Hello! Good to see you guys after a long time” he responded. Prakash Variar was a slender man in his early 60s.  He took the flowers from his bag, placed them near the idols and folded his hands. He asked the three of them to sit. “Even after two years you and the hotel have not changed a bit,” said Samarth. Prakash laughed at his and told “Same goes for you guys”. Samarth looked at the TV and asked “Prakash Uncle, why didn’t you replace the TV? How long has it been in this condition?” “Business is bit slow these days owing to the new 3 star restaurant nearby. I don’t have enough money to replace the TV. ” smiled Prakash sadly. When he saw some people entering the restaurant, he went away to take their orders. “I feel bad for Prakash Uncle. He’s such a nice fellow; he had even lent me money and refused when I offered to return it.” said Kapil. “Uncle had once paid my rent when I was broke. I’m sure he might have helped many other students too.” mentioned Anup. “We should do something for him guys” added Samarth. “But what can we do?” asked Kapil. “We can gift him a new LCD TV” suggested Anup. “I don’t have so much money to contribute. There is still two weeks for salary day” said Samarth. Kapil nods agreeing with him. “Neither of us has money, but we can convince other people to donate money for this cause. I’m sure most of them will agree” added Kapil. “That’s a great idea, man” admitted Anup. “The WhatsApp group of the boy’s hostel is still there. I’ll post the message in the group” said Samarth excitedly.

The three of them waited impatiently for a reply. No one had responded to the message even after an hour. Dejected, Samarth pushed his phone aside on the table. After some time, they were alerted by the notification ringtone. Samarth grabbed his phone to check. “Guys, twenty two people have agreed!” he replied jubilantly. “Including us there will be 25 people to contribute. So if each of us pitch 1000Rs we can buy a LCD TV of 25000Rs” said Kapil. They high-fived each other on this. “We can surprise Prakash Uncle tomorrow. I have a plan, listen” said Anup.

Next day, they went to ‘Hotel Surya’ in the afternoon. When Prakash was about to retire for his siesta, they stopped him. “Uncle, can you please allow us to look after the restaurant for today?” asked Kapil and Anup. “No, you don’t have to trouble yourselves. Karim will look after the hotel” assured Prakash. “Please uncle, we have nothing to do. Let Karim chacha also rest. We’ll take care of the hotel” pleaded Anup. After a lot of persuasion, he agreed to it. Kapil called Samarth and asked, “Did you receive the payment from others?” “Yes, everyone has paid through Paytm. I will be back with the TV after 45 minutes. You guys clean the place” said Samarth and disconnected the call.

“Come on, let’s get to work. We have to clean the place soon before Prakash Uncle arrives” said Kapil. The two of them picked up brooms and swept the floor. They saw cob-webs on the ceiling. “We have to clean those too” Anup said, pointing towards it. “I can’t see a rag anywhere to clean them” tells Kapil. “Your hair is quite long, we can use it as a duster. You just have to stand on a table and whip your hair back and forth” says Anup sheepishly. “Oh please! You are jealous of my hair” said Kapil, flaunting his silky black shoulder length hair. “Look, there is an old orange rag. We can use it” added Anup. They clean the cob-webs in turns. The dust gave a tingling sensation in Kapil’s nose. He sneezes on Anup.  “Dude, you could have warned me at least” said Anup, wiping his face with a handkerchief. “You make a good hanky” replied Kapil goofily. The call on Samarths phone interrupts them. He puts it on speaker mode. “Guys, hope you are done with everything. I’ll come in 5 minutes” replied Samarth and hangs up.

Samarth arrived along with some more people for installation. “Hurry! Both of you go and keep a watch outside to see whether Prakash Uncle is coming or not. Don’t allow him to come from the front door, bring him from the backdoor” instructed Samarth.

Anup and Kapil waited outside for the arrival of Prakash Variar. When they saw him come from a distance they run towards him. “Uncle! Don’t go from this way” told Kapil. “But, why?” asked Prakash. When Kapil fumbled around, searching for reasons, Anup continued “A tree has fallen. It’s very difficult to go from there. We were waiting here to warn you. Let’s go from the backdoor.” “I can’t see any tree from here,” he said, looking straight. “If both of you are here, then who is looking after the restaurant?” Prakash asked with a serious tone in his voice. “Samarth is looking after the hotel. You need not worry, uncle” Kapil said, steering him towards the other route.

Anup, Kapil and Prakash reached the backdoor. The backdoor was opened by someone from inside. “Surprise!” the people in the hotel shouted in unison. Prakash saw a brand new LCD mounted in front of him. “This is a gift from us” told Samarth, showing the TV and other people who had turned up. “It must have been expensive. I can’t accept this” said Prakash in an emotional voice. “No, uncle, consider this as our repayment towards your acts of kindness towards us” replied Anup. “Ok, if you guys are done with your speeches, let’s take a selfie” said Kapil taking his phone from his pocket. After other people had gone, Prakash uncle added, “I want something else in addition to this.” “What do you want uncle?” the three of them asked him, perplexed. “Promise me that the next time you visit me, you guys will come along with your wives” he smiled. “Yeah, sure” the trio replied after breaking into a laugh. They took his leave and exited the hotel.

“It really feels nice being a part of a good deed” said a satisfied Samarth. “Yeah, you should have seen Prakash Uncle, he was so happy” replied Kapil. “By the way, when are you guys leaving?” asked Anup. “We are going tomorrow afternoon by train” answered Samarth sadly. “Happy journey guys and arrive in time for your trains” smiled Anup. Kapil whacked Anup playfully on the head.  The three of them held imaginary glasses and raised a toast “To life” “To happiness”. “And to friendship” added Samarth.

Creative writer, poet, blogger. For me, reading is happiness and writing is therapy.

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