The university campus was in complete harmonization with the natural surroundings her town has been famous for. Koena who had herself being a nature lover had always felt a sense of greater peace and tranquility whenever she visited this place. She had often walked to the university campus from her college, while studying for her graduate school at the college, which was situated next to the university campus. The library situated in the campus, the theosophical study centre, the auditorium were all wonders of modern architecture placed in a serene atmosphere of greens and deeper woods. She was always  fascinated by the sight of long beds of well maintained flowering plants, beds of different kinds of rose and well manicured green grass lawns spread all over the university grounds . All the other  architectural marvels built by the modern builders  made her think that it must be the most gothic yet contemporary university campus in the entire world.

The windows of the class rooms of the building blocks offering study curriculums in different streams opened into these lawns of greenery. The view has always been giving a feeling to the students “as if fresh air of knowledge and enlightenment traveled through these openings, to take in the entire World in its embrace,” thought Koena. The water pool at the theosophical study centre and the floating fountains spraying cool waters fanned from out of the water pool sprayed around the refreshingly cool breeze even in the intense summer heat. She loved walking on the raised side pavements of the pool, absorbing the chilled water spray of the fountains on her face. Most of the students would sit idle on these pavements with feet dangling into the waters and their time to them will seem to float away. Rather many a times they would wish the moment to stand still, so that they could take in as much of the fresh water’s fragrance and its cooling effects. No one had ever wanted to go away from this divine bliss.

The pedagogues simply fell in love with the university Library.  Books written by the authors from all corners of the World pertaining to millions of Titles and subject matters were available here to the students’ community for their usage.  The nice smell emanating from the papers of these books will give her a different high even though she had never had a chance to read much of these titles so far.

The extended and huge reading halls surrounded by the four walls of these book shelves were ever inviting for the reader students. The reading’ desks fitted in the library with their comfortable sitting arrangements was ever inviting. The arch of the lights thrown by the reading lamps fitted into the reader’s desk offered privacy of personal reading yet the semicircle shadows formed by the lights of these lamps virtually extended into the domains of the person sitting on the other side of the desk.

“I wish I could spend long hours reading in this library,” she had often said to herself.

‘I will be open to do so now. I however wonder if I shall be able to read all the authors’, poets, playwrights, thinkers and the philosophers whose books and works are enlisted in the library”.

The construction of the building that housed the student welfare center next door perplexed her.

“How such a spectacular structure could be built on the earth. It was round and round almost a perfect circle moving upward towards the skies with its seven storeys built on each other”. She believed “it is in complete perfection pointing towards Heavens as if praying to God to deliver all kinds of happiness to the place where young people come to spend some of their leisure time.”

The delicacies offered at the coffee house (situated inside the building of the student   welfare centre) tasted to have been cooked with the additional recipes of extra love, affection and tender care. The food available here had a flavor so delicious compared to any other foodstuff in the entire World.

“You could drink cups and cups of tea and coffee, wolf down Dosa, Idli or even Chana bhaturas and still feel voracious and ravenous asking for some more helping. A student who would always be short of funds could treat him or herself royally even with the availability of very humble cash on his or her person”.

The aroma of freshly grounded coffee beans filled her nostrils for many days to come, after each visit. The awareness that she will be able to savor all the delicacies for next two years on everyday basis filled her mind with a blissful pleasure. She recalled her mother mentioning to her “only the elite, the best and the select few and the ones who are blessed with a good fortune manage to get admission in to this university”.

Koena walked to the building housing the department of English literature. She was clutching admission forms in her hands muttering silent prayers, ‘Please God! Be merciful! Please help me! I must get admitted to this study course. I must get enrolled in this university come what may God! I know for once you will do this for me”. Some other students who were passing by her heard her mutterings, stopped for a while, looked at her and smiled. They too could feel similar apprehensions and tension within the silent domains of their hearts.

The Dean of the department of English literature who was the head of the committee of admissions looked at her from behind his thick glasses, “Young lady are you sure you want to study English literature. It is a very daunting task. You will have to undertake hard scholarship to understand the language and then the mind set of foreign authors from an alien cultural point of view; about whom you know nothing about”.

She had expected and anticipated any such kind of questioning and interview. She composed herself weighed the question for a while and answered ‘English is not an unfamiliar language for an Indian Sir. We have been reading, listening and understanding and living this language all our life. We Indians have been reading the British history and its literature for past four hundred years.  English has been a language of the elite in India yet its literary pursuits have been a part of our culture for so many generations. It cannot be called a foreign language any more.  In fact this language and its literature has become an inseparable identity of many of us who rather find it difficult to understand and speak the native language. It is though sad but true. I am sure I will have no difficulty in understanding the mindsets of Chaucer, Henry Fielding, Shakespeare, or even Virginia Wolf”. She deliberately mentioned names ranging from the list of ancient authors to the modern fiction writers. She noticed it had the positive impact on the admission committee. The Dean replied,” Wonderful young lady you seem to be familiar with all of them. We like your confidence and the response. You can deposit your fee at the fee counter within the required time. Please accept our congratulations”, Koena was to learn later that the same gentle man was also acting as the Head of the department of English literature.

5

Kumar family treated themselves to a big feast of home cooked delicacies for their meals in the evening. Koena noticed the bright smile on her parents’ face and vowed to her self, “I will always try to keep their glowing   beam alive and will never attempt any task that takes this wonderful delight of their progeny’s achievement, away from my parent’s lives”.

“Just think about your elder sister’s feat. How well she is confident to do for herself in her life.  You must follow in her foot steps” her mother was addressing her brother from within the kitchen as she was preparing some flavorsome dish for them to go along with the evening dinner. She called out to Koena in a noisy tone aloud enough to be heard by the young lad “You must discipline your brother now whom you have spoilt and turned into a monster of a brat by doting on him all the times. He has been keeping himself busy doing nothing all through the day.  I believe the reading of the books and your brother Munna are poles apart. It is high time you took care of his reading habits too”.

Munna threw a mock boxing shot towards their mother and booed towards the direction of kitchen. He got up from the chair he was sitting in, in a display of false defiance and mocking rage of showing unacceptance of their mother’s statement towards his reading habits and walked towards the door leading out of the house. Koena gently pushed her brother back into his place.

“Come on Munna she is just showing her maternal instinct and anxiety about you”.

“I do not like her telling me to try to be like my elder sister.  Why should I imitate what you keep on doing with your life style?  I am of the opinion that every one has to live his or her own life and lead it the way one wants to. if you are good at studies I too have excelled in many other things e.g. Sports and the street games etc’, so why is it always necessary that I am compared to your standards”, he looked at her through his dripping eyes and threw another boxing gesture into the air.

Koena knew her brother was too strong willed. He will always take his own decisions to progress in life. So much so that except for the school outfit which was more or less a forced choice on him every day in the morning, all other of his clothes were always bought strictly to his choice .She remembered the tantrums he had thrown when she had bought a polo neck T – shirt for him on his birthday last year, “How can you decide what I‘d   like to wear.  In case you had wanted to gift me anything on my birthday you must take me along with you to pick up a gift of my own choice. You did not even find out from me if I really liked this color that you have selected for me or not. I beg to be excused to wear this peace of rag.  You can keep it for your use”.

Her mother had to take him back to the shop from where they had purchased the T-shirt for him and she got the polo neck exchanged for the outfit of his choice. There after they will always insist on his accompanying them for every time they went shopping.

”Do you think this will look good on me?” even their mother will ask his expert opinion every time she tried a new dress on her.  When Koena’s wardrobe piece was purchased, he would immediately ask her to try it out so that he could give his so thought valuable advice on female clothing. “You will one day become the great fashion designer. Then you will get plenty of models taking your opinion. Please spare us the torture of your monkey business at present”, Koena would try to shed him off every time his tantrums became intolerable.

She wished she could be like her younger sibling, head strong, confident and determined.

One day Koena noticed that Munna had been supporting a small pencil thin moustache on his face for last few days.  He was entering into teens. “Let me check if these moustaches you have been putting on your upper lip are phony or these are the real ones”. She had pinched the small hair growth on his upper lips between her two fingers. “I hope you are not using an eyebrow pencil to fake them”, that incensed him to the extent that he started bullying her. She ran up the staircases to save her from his small blows and locked herself in the sleeping room.

“That will bring you down to your knees when you sleep all alone and the demons will come to attack you in the dark.  a witch has been hunting for you all along, I will tell her that she can take you away now that you are a good for nothing brother”. She knew he was afraid of going into the dark even at this age.

He was banging at her door pleading, “Please open the door sister! I promise I will not beat you say any thing to you. I am feeling heavy-eyed and I want to go to bed”.

She enjoyed his innocent pleas “You promise you will not bang me”, said Koena.

“Then why do you pull at my moustache, it hearts me. What if I tug at your ponytail like hair then only you will realize how it pains”.

“He is such a poor little soul brother of mine”, thought Koena and opened the door for him “oh! Come on in you mousy little coward.  I know you are afraid of the dark. Believe you me some day the ghosts of the dark will eat you up’, she huddled him inside and gave a gentle shove to him. She laughed it out when he cried for his mother again.

“See mom sister is teasing me, and pulling at my moustache”, he had complained.

She became conscious that her brother Munna had attained his manhood when during an evening hour he was not permitted by her mother to join Koena in their resting bed.

“You will sleep separately into another folding bed   tonight”, her mother had ordered him. “You will bring another makeshift cot into Koena’s room, and from now onwards you have to learn to sleep on your own.  Who knows you may have to go to boarding school in near future”, that made him cry and throw around his usual bad temper.

“I will not go to any boarding house, nor will I ever sleep separately, I get so scared sleeping alone and if some ghost eats me up at night you are the only one who will shed tears and miss me in the morning”, he jumped into the bed with his sister but their mother’s unyielding looks made him change his mind and he quietly covered his face with the sheets spread on the new bed. He pretended to have fallen asleep, whereas Koena knew that the instant their mother will go out of the room he will jump back into her bed in no time.  He had never slept alone. But he did nothing of the sort that night. Koena heard his snores in a short time.

She could understand in the morning only the reason for which her mother had insisted on his sleeping all alone in a separate bed. Their mother always used to wash the family laundry while both the kids helped her hang them on the clothesline for drying. Munna had not given his underclothes for wash after finishing his ritual of bath the next morning. He instead had done the washing of his clothes himself and put them out for drying on the clothesline in the backyard of the house. He felt embarrassed when she asked him “hey young man since when have you become your own washer man and if it is so please do me some favor you can clean my clothes also for me”; she had thrown the dirty laundry towards him.

“Young men have to wash their soiled dress themselves when they grow up” her mother had replied instead.

Koena was completely perplexed.  She recalled when she too had grown up. It was very painful for her. She thought she had been hurt while riding a bicycle.  She had asked for some medicine of her mother. Her mother took her into the bedroom and locked it from inside.  She explained to her about the hormones and the gradual growth process of the development of a female anatomy. Her mother later on rushed her to the lady gynecologist doctor for her physical check up.

A few days later Koena and all other members of her family had travelled together with some of their other relatives to their native place in the distant village. Many of the religious rituals and ceremony were held at the family temple situated in the village. Her father had organized a big feast in their village where almost every one from their community had been extended invitation by them to partake the community feast with them. She wondered if Munna too will have to go through the similar ritual. She looked forward to visiting the village temple deity once again. She was happy that a big feast will be organized this time also as Munna too was growing up the way she had grown.

She asked her mother, “Will we be visiting the family temple to celebrate.  My little brother Munna has also grown up now. You remember you had organized a trip to family deity when I had grown up.  Mom! And can I call over some of my friends to accompany us to the family deity’s abode. Most of my friends have been looking forward to enjoy the community meal that follows thereafter the festivities are over”?

Her mother did not understand the meaning of the request made by Koena by the book immediately but when she did comprehend, she asked her daughter to shut up. “You dare not discuss this subject with any one of your friends nor should you inquire from your brother any thing about this.  He will feel very embarrassed”, her mother had told her.  “It is better that you remain quite about the whole affair of your brother’s growing up. There is no need for you to brag and discuss the attainment of youth by your younger brother amongst your friends”. But Koena could notice some kind of mischievous glee and satisfactory smile on her mother’s face. She was very keen to find out the reason for such astounding glee in her parent’s mind.

She was too shied to have asked her mother for further details. “May be a day will come when I will understand all this business of growing up”, Koena   had said to herself.

A few days later one of her classmates explained to her the reason as to why she had been forbidden to discuss this affair with anyone.

“Only girls have to endure such rituals and not the boys. A Boy turning into man is not such a big affair after all”.

“I wished Munna had remained a small little kid all his life.  I love his warmth and nearness while we play and sleep together. It gives me too a sense of oneness and protection”. Koena said to herself and then generously reassured herself warmly ‘But I will ever remain his elder sister”.

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