She chose her cleanest piece of clothing to wear. It was a festival afterall and she wanted to celebrate with everyone else. When she stepped into the street, a speeding car drove by splashing dirty water on her. A tear fell down her cheek. The poor had no right to celebrate.
    No, poor not as in wealth, but poor as in love. She did not have any family. Her parents had left her in the orphanage when she was just a toddler.
    It was all around fifteen years ago. Now, a teen girl of 17, she had just been splashed by a car. The tears continuously trickled down her cheeks. The skies seemed darker than ever. All the excitement needed to wait another year.
    She couldn’t go and enjoy the festival of ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ in a dirty dress. What will people think of her?
    Better stay inside than outside in such circumstances!
    She was just going to turn back when a voice nearby startled her. The voice belonged to Chaitanya. He was talking to his pal, Rohan.
    “I think I have a bit of crush on Chitrangada!” he spoke shyly.
    What seemed like an amusing tone to her, Rohan said, “Really? That namby-pamby Chitrangada!”
    He started laughing loudly. She had stopped feeling bad whenever someone called her namby-pamby because it was a common joke and she didn’t hate it as much as she once used to.
    Chaitanya and Rohan were also orphans, just like her, but they lived in the boys’ building of the orphanage.
    The whole conversation was taking place on the other side of the dividing wall and thus, she couldn’t see their faces.
    Chaitanya also laughed nervously and then the sound of approaching footsteps could be heard. They were coming out!
    Without thinking, Chitrangada ran at her full speed and hid behind the garbage bin. Out of the corner of her eye, she watched them breathlessly.
    Oh heck! They were coming in the same direction.
    In her haste, Chitrangada had ran in the same direction, the festival’s main ground was situated. Having no other alternative left now, she slowly got up and pretended to be dusting off some foreign material from her dress.
    She was trying hard not to meet their gaze and constantly kept on hoping that they would just walk by, without taking any notice of her.
    Sadly, that was not the part of destiny.
    As soon as the guys saw her, they immediately rushed towards her. Rohan spoke first, “Halo Chitrangada! You suddenly popped out of nowhere.” He gave a sideways malicious grin to Chaitanya and began laughing at his own unmatched silly humour. Twenty-five seconds later, he spoke again, “And see, what a mess you have made of your dress there.”
    He burst out laughing once again. Chaitanya, who was not as much loquacious as his friend, asked in a soothing voice, “Well, what happened?”
    Rather unwillingly, Chitrangada narrated the events which occurred a few minutes ago. Tears flowed down freely as she spoke.
    Rohan had stopped laughing and he was also trying to comfort her, along with his friend.
    All of a sudden, Chaitanya stood up from the bench they were all sitting on and said, “I’ll be back within five minutes. Don’t go anywhere!”
    And off he went, running down the street towards their orphanage. Meanwhile, Rohan and Chitrangada sat there in silence.
    About four minutes later, Chaitanya returned with a package in his hand. It was a lehenga, a beautiful and expensive one. Much more showy and sophisticated than Chitrangada’s formerly clean dress. Rohan gaped at him, shocked, and his jaw dropped down.
    “How did you get hold of such kind of thing?” he demanded.
    Chaitanya laughed embarrassingly and said, “Nevermind.”
    Chitrangada accepted the beautiful and exquisite gift gratefully. Taking her leave for a few minutes, she went to the restroom nearby and changed into her new dress. As she came back outside, she was glad to see that the guys were still waiting for her.
    Chaitanya was staring at her with wide eyes but when she raised her eyebrows towards him, he shook his head and said guiltily, “No, nothing.”
    All the three of them, walked to the festival’s main ground together.
    Chitrangada didn’t have any friends of her own so she was contented to follow the boys wherever they went.
    Firstly, the trio roamed around and visited the various stalls and shops assigned to merchants or salesmen for the fare. They also played a-minute-to-win-it games for some time.
    Since, Chaitanya didn’t have any ready cash with him, both Chitrangada and Rohan spent their valuable pocket money for him. It was a festival afterall. An event to rejoice together. No discrimination, no selfishness and no hate!
    Then, they went to pay their respects to Lord Ganesh. A magnificent sight! A sight you can’t get out of your mind for a long long time. A sight which induces peace into your inner-self. A sight, worth more than a thousand gallons of gold!
    As they came outside again, Rohan suddenly remembered that he should go and take sweets (prasad) for other kids of the orphanage too, who were not able to come due to personal reasons.
    Chaitanya asked him if he needed a helping hand, but Rohan refused in his characteristic offhand style, “I am stronger than a hundred of Chaitanyas combined. 101 are not needed!”
    He went back inside laughing heartily. Chaitanya was also laughing. Chitrangada couldn’t help feeling happy and sad at the same time.
    She was happy for the guys and the bond they shared with each other but at the same time she was feeling sad for her own self. Why didn’t she have a best friend too? But yet, Chaitanya had given her such an invaluable dress. She was thoroughly confused with her own feelings. Now, she felt special!
    She was still sunk in her thoughts when Chaitanya asked her meditatively, “This is your last year in the orphanage, if I am not wrong?”
    “Yes, right!” she replied vigorously, “And it must be your 2nd (last)?”
    “Yes, yes!” he replied with equal force. “Any plans for the future?”
   “I think I’ll apply for a job in a fashion store. I like wearing different dresses, you see.”
   “Yeah good choice. Guess what I am planning to do.”
   She shrugged, “How am I supposed to know?”
   “To become the owner of the shop which hires you,” he spoke amusingly.
   Both of them laughed together for the next few seconds. Chitrangada was very happy to see this funny side of Chaitanya too. She liked him more and more with every passing moment they spent together.
   Just then, Rohan returned to them with a big packet of sweets in his right hand. Indeed, he was strong.
   “Come fast!” he said and kept on walking. Both of them followed his lead and walked a little behind.
   The conversation kept on shifting from one topic to another, until they found themselves at the door of the orphanage.
   Rohan went inside immediately to distribute the sweets among the children whereas Chaitanya remained behind to exchange a few last words with Chitrangada before saying good night.
   “I had been saving money from some time to buy this lehenga for you. Yes, I bought it for you and I was planning to give it to you on your birthday, a few days ago. But back then, I didn’t have the courage that I have today. Luckily, the opportunity also presented itself just at the right moment.”
   Chitrangada was nearly paralysed and couldn’t manage to utter a word out of her mouth. So he continued, “And if I would’ve given away such an expensive thing in public eye, it must have raised eyes and as you’ll understand, I didn’t want that.”
   Without waiting for her reply, he started walking towards the boys’ unit. Suddenly,

He turned around and said, “I hope you know,
You’re beautiful, have you ever been told?”
She’s a little shy
As he walks away, she slowly breaks a smile
The skies are blue, haven’t been for a while!

– Anmol Agarwal


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