It started raining cats and dogs. The wind had gone berserk. Though I had an umbrella, I had other accompaniments as well. Handling the bags, now heavy with the vegetables and fruits, I was none less than an acrobat. I could not carry the show on, right in the middle of the street at the market. Getting the rickshaw was a matter of luck and lady luck was hiding under covers.
I thus decided to take shelter under the shade extending from the shop that was closed for business. Few others already had the same wise thought and I joined the company of strangers.
Once I was comfortable at my prized dry piece of land, I looked around. One man caught my attention. He was holding a small pocket diary and was turning its pages back and forth. It was accompanied with some occasional affirmative nods and some rejections on his face. He was murmuring to himself as well. On a closer look, I thought he was Chandresh, my classmate from pre-primary days.
‘It could well be the case of mistaken identity’, I reflected as I was well above fifty now and did not remember having met Chandresh after matriculation. ‘No harm in checking out’, prodded another me. Giving in to the temptation of reminiscing the olden days, I decided to strike the conversation.
“Hello. Are you by any chance Chandresh?”, I enquired in a hesitant tone.
Looking up, with a trace of annoyance in his eyes, he said, “Yes. But who are you?”
“Guess me if you can?”, I said with the smile on my face.
Putting his hands down, he gave me a closer look. “Are you Vishwanath, the dimpled boy?”, he sought to know.
The discovery of the friend at the unexpected corner was enough to usher in the wave of excitement. Keeping the bags down, I gave him a tight hug. And he reciprocated! Holding him by his shoulder after the initial emotional outburst, I said, “You haven’t changed much Chandresh”
“So do you”
“You still carry the little pocket diary, as you did in school days”
“Old habits don’t die”
“I remember, you would record the number of goals, you had scored against the opponent team in the match of football, in your pocket diary”
“You have quite a good memory, Vishwanath”
“Old habit…hahaha! On a serious note, I am curious as to what you might have in your diary now”
“Nothing special”, he replied and I could see the twinkle in his eyes disappearing fast.
“Hope I have not stirred the hornet nest”
“Nothing like that” he said with his head hung low. After a pregnant pause, he sighed. “No harm in sharing with you actually”, he continued. “I have failed so many times yet I feel some day I will succeed. With every passing month, however my dream appears distant. I am standing at the fragile end of my hope. I am sure ‘the end’ of it is around the corner. I will have to unceremoniously bury my dream soon”
“It might be easy for me to say, but I know that no matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true”, I said, trying to infuse the hope.
“Hope is the psalm of life”, he added.
“What are you trying to achieve so desperately?”, I quizzed him.
“I harboured the dream of visiting Las Vegas”
“Las Vegas?” Surprised was the least that I was when I heard it!
“Yes, the gambler’s paradise, Las Vegas!”
“And what would you do there?” was my short sighted, dumb extempore doubt!
“Gamble what else?” he replied in the same plain tone.
“What it has to do with the diary?”
“Vishwanath, I cherish a grand dream for which I have not enough means”
Stepping back a little, I could smell that he was debt ridden. I did not wish to be in his diary as another lender. Chandresh however did not notice the change in my stance. Lost in his thoughts, he continued, “Every Sunday, I buy Maharashtra State Lottery tickets with the hope that I will hit the jackpot. I record the date and the price of the ticket in this diary”. With that, he handed the diary to me.
Stupefied by the disclosure, I turned few of the diary pages. I could see nothing but the high stakes in the diary and the odds stacked against the cherished dream in my friend’s eyes!