The Eucalyptus Grove Ch -11

During the practice sessions Sanjay and Ria became very close to one another. They grew to be best friends. Adila was growing restless and jealous so much so that she stopped talking to Ria. Ria was in a dilemma. She wanted both Adila and Sanjay. She made friends with the rest of the class too and they all liked her very much. She grew popular amongst her classmates, juniors, seniors and the teachers very quickly. She was very much adored and admired. Sanjay was the teachers’ blue eyed boy as well. By and by Adila started feeling very left out and lonely and her jealousy towards Ria grew to contempt. Ria made many attempts to talk to Adila and get her to mingle with the others, but Adila was a very stuck up girl. She soon earned a nickname in class as Miss Constipated. 

The sports day went off without a hitch. Adila never took part in any of the games and stayed home most of the time coming only for classes. Ria felt very bad for Adila and was debating if she should go and talk to her mother. She tried visiting Adila many a times at her house. Adila didn’t want to show her mother that she didn’t like Ria anymore, so though she let Ria come home, she was very cold and distant with her. Adila even hated the fact that her mother fussed over Ria so much. But she could not tell her mother that. What would her mother think of her? Naisha was so proud of her daughter that she was very matured for her age and a very good human at heart. She didn’t want to disappoint her mother. 

The work for the exhibition started soon after the sports day. The classes were reversed. Classes went on till 2 pm and from 2 to 4 pm everyone had to work on their projects. Sanjay and Ria had so much fun in theirs. She was the only girl in her group so the boys treated her like a goddess. Adila thought this was her time to outshine Ria but since she never had made friends with anyone else in class found it extremely difficult to make it through her work. 

One afternoon, Ria and Sameer were working on a painting of a volcano. They were using water colors. “Sanjay would you mind throwing out this dirty water and getting some fresh one?”, asked Ria. Sanjay picked up the dirty water filled with colors and walked out to get some fresh water. Adila was sitting near the door. She saw Sanjay walking towards the door from the corner of her eye and got up just as Sanjay walked close to her and bumped into him making it look like an accident. The color water fell all over Sanjay’s white shirt. Everyone gasped. Though Adila felt happy within her, she made a sorry face. “Oh sorry Sanjay, I didn’t see you coming. I am so sorry”, she said. 

“Hey, its ok don’t bother”, said Sanjay. She looked at him like a puppy. He patted her head and said, “Don’t bother girl, it’s just water colors, it’ll go away in a rinse”, and he walked out cheerfully. Adila was surprised. She thought he would get angry or yell at her and she could yell back at him and there would be a fight or something. But to her dismay there was nothing. 

Sanjay replaced the water and went back to rinse his shirt. Ria and Sameer were sitting on the floor coloring their chart paper. Adila decided she wanted to take stretch her leg and got up. She walked around the class seeing how the others were coming along. She slowly walked towards Ria and once again, as though it were an accident she kicked the bowl of water onto the chart paper. “Oops”, she said waiting for a reaction. 

Both Ria and Sameer were quiet for a while. They never took their eyes off the chart paper. They had painted a big mountain with some trees around it, the blue sky with some fluffy balls of clouds. The water had spilled across the mountain and the sky mixing up the colors. “I am so sorry I don’t know what’s gotten into me”, said Adila squatting beside the chart paper trying to clean it, but only smudging the colors all the more. 

Sameer grinned. “Now that looks like an eruption”, he said.

 “Thanks Ads”, said Ria. “We were actually wondering how do we make the lava flow. Hee hee this is swell”, she said patting Adila on the shoulder. Adila was again taken aback. She wanted to ruin things for Ria and it was acting in her favor. 

“Tell you what”, said Sameer to Ria. “We’ll cut out this mountain, and paint the trees, sky etc on another chart paper, and fix this on that, like a 3D image”

“You are so clever and artistic”, said Ria. Both of them got engrossed in their work again ignoring Adila who was still squatting near them. She slowly got up and went back to her work. 

After the day ended Ria’s group decided to go to the ice cream parlor. When the others heard it, they decided to join the group as well. the entire class went except for Adila. Anu asked Adila to join them just to be polite, but Adila turned down the offer and rode back home furiously. 

The ice cream parlor was just next to Adila’s father’s bakery. He saw his daughter’s classmates there but not his daughter. “Where’s Adila?”, he asked Ria. 

“She went back home uncle”, said Ria.

“Why didn’t she join you?”, he asked.

“She never does uncle”, said Anu before Ria could stop her. Ria respected Adila’s wishes about not wanting her parents to know what a jerk she was.

“What do you mean she never does?”, he asked. 

“Well, she never even talks to any of us. Not even to Ria anymore.”

Adila’s father looked at them puzzled and nodded. “The honey cakes are just out fresh and hot from the oven. It’ll go well with that vanilla ice cream”, he said. “Shall I get out some?”, he asked. Few of them went over to get their honey cakes. He made divine confectionaries. People flocked there till about one or two in the mornings. 

Ria mounted on her cycle to go back home. Sanjay came up beside her. “Ria, we’ve run out of chart paper”, he said. “Oh, ok let’s go and buy some now”, she said. They cycled together to the stationary shop and bought the chart paper and few other things they would require for the project.

“Listen, Sameer had an idea”, she said .

“What?”, asked Sanjay.

She told him about Sameer’s idea. “But why would you want to do that? Haven’t we finished our painting already?”, he asked.

She told him about what Adila had done. She didn’t want to hurt Adila since it was an accident, and so they made it look like it had worked in their favor. 

“It wasn’t an accident Ria”, said Sanjay. “She did that out of spite. Tell you what. Let her do what she wants, we’ll be sweeter than ever to her. She is expecting us to fight with her or shout at her when she does something stupid like this, we won’t. She is expecting us to go behind her and fuss over her and try and get her into our gang, we won’t. We won’t involve her in anything, we won’t be mean to her either. If she comes to us for anything we’ll be sweet to her like nothing ever happened.”

“Sounds ok to me”, said Ria.

They were cycling around the township whiling away time when Ria stopped. They were outside the township boundary wall. Neither of them had any recollection as to how they reached there. There was a long road ahead of them sloping downwards. 

“I’ve always loved to ride the bike downhill”, said Sanjay.

“Yeah but now is not the time. We’re already late”, said Ria. “You think our parents will worry?”, he asked. “Yeah”, said Ria. “Come on, you can say you were hanging out with friends”, said Sanjay.

“What if we never find our way back?”, asked Ria.

“Scaredy cat”, said Sanjay.

Ria looked at him thinking hard.

“Oh come one we’ll just see where this road leads and then if there’s nothing as far as the eye can see then we’ll turn back promise. Just once down this slope”, he said. Ria debated. “Yeah ok, but just for ten minutes alright?”, she said.

“Yeppieee”, cried Sanjay and cycled ahead of her. She rode behind him and then they sped down the sloping road. “Wheeeeee” cried Sanjay and Ria laughed. The road wound by itself and suddenly stopped in front of a huge eucalyptus grove. “What is that?”, asked Ria

“I don’t know. Want to go and have a look?”, he asked. “Some other day”, said Ria and turned to go. Sanjay didn’t argue and let her have her way.

“Tomorrow?”, he asked catching up on her.

“We’ll see”, she smiled. They just followed the road and it took them directly to an opening in the boundary wall which anyone could have easily missed. Sanjay looked back at the opening and decided to keep a track of the path in case they had to come there again.

“I think it would be fun to go there sometime”, he said. “Yeah I think so too. What day is tomorrow?”, she asked. “Friday”, he said. “Ok we’ll go there on Saturday”, she said. She too was itching to know what was there in that grove. She loved adventures.

“Yeah good idea”, he said.

“I’ll get my mother to pack us a little picnic and we’ll go there”, she said. He smiled in approval.

Ria reached home to find a tiny envelope waiting for her. She opened it and to her surprise saw a poem 
A best friend sees you

When you are invisible to the world

A best friend helps you

When your life is all twisted and twirled

A best friend teaches you 

To laugh at your strife

A best friend teaches you 

The meaning of life

A best friend shamelessly takes

Advantage of everything you own

A best friend never

Ever leaves you alone

A best friend never knows

Ego or pride

A best friend waits for you

For hours on the roadside

No matter how far

She’s just a call away

Ready to listen to 

Anything you say

A best friend is beyond

Any relationship you see

And you were the best thing

That happened to me !

– Adila Naaz
Ria read it twice trying to figure out what was Adila trying to say. She put it away in her study table and went about doing her homework and had dinner and went to bed.

Next morning she forgot all about it and went to school the normal way. Adila was waiting for her. Ria sat beside Adila like she always did but ignored her like Sanjay had asked her to. Adila didn’t say a word to her. Classes went on normally and finally it was the project period. Everyone got out their things and started working on their respective projects. Sanjay was in a very playful mood and somehow the group couldn’t finish the day’s work. Sameer told him and Ria off and asked them to do their part of the work at home and get it finished by Monday. 

After school was over, Sanjay asked Ria if she’d like to come over to his house to do the project. “Why don’t you come to my house for a change?”, said Ria. He thought over it for a couple of minutes and then agreed to it.

Sanjay was given a royal treatment at Ria’s house and he felt very embarrassed about the way his parents had treated Ria. But they were like that to all his girlfriends. They didn’t mind the boys but somehow they never liked him bringing girls home. They had fun doing the project together and to their surprise they could even concentrate better this ways.

“I think we ought to do our homework this ways too and even study for our exams together, we seem to be doing a good job”, said Sanjay. 

“Yeah sounds good to me”, said Ria.

They finished their work just before dinner. “So, I’ll see you tomorrow as planned”, said Sanjay.

“Where would you like me to meet you?”, asked Ria.

“By the bakery”, he said.

“Alright I’ll be there by ten ok. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

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