A Prayer Girl by Aditya Jhingan

A Prayer Girl by Aditya Jhingan is a pretty impressive story to read through. So much talent lies in budding writers in Thought Habitat Contest

An old woman and a boy are sitting on the veranda of a house and enjoying the rain. The Boy likes to see the rain droplets falling on the leaves, staying at it sometime and then fall. It exhibits the temporary nature of the life, in life, whether it’s good or bad it does not stick for too long. He asks an old woman whom he address as Amma, “What do you want me to become in life”? His grandmother puts her hand on his shoulder and says, “A good person”. He looks at her grandmother and hug her, suddenly a light flash with thundering he hugs her tightly and closes his eyes. When he opens his eyes, he finds himself hugging his pillow.

Aditya saw this dream many times in last few years. Actually, he is seeing lots of dreams these days. He sees strange people cursing him, abusing him, for a reason unknown to him. He sees the time it is 5:30 in the morning, again, he is awake before time. Now he will do what he does every day, lay in a bed and think of good times or mistakes which he made and regret about those mistakes. His teacher used to say in school that if one does what he loves he sleeps peacefully and wakes up cheerfully. But for Aditya this statement is farce, because he is doing what he loves, but leave peace he is not even happy. He always wanted to become a journalist, now he is a journalist, working in a renown portal has earned decent reputation in fewer years but there is something which keeps him awake, something which he is afraid to face.

After wasting time till 8 he got up and walked towards the window, to see outside. He sees every day hustle bustle of Mumbai, people getting ready for work, children waiting with their mom for school bus, vendors selling breakfast etc. Earlier, he used to find these activities convivial, but now he feels exhausted. If he doesn’t need money for survival he might never go out of his house. Sometimes he feels that is he becoming misanthropist? or maybe he just hates himself.

But there is something to which he looks forward to in the morning and that is to get a glimpse of “A prayer girl”. There is a girl who lives in a flat parallel to him in another building, from his window he can see her hall. There is a small temple in her hall where she prays every day at this time. Therefore, he calls him a prayer girl. Aditya feels relived looking at her, there is something in her which gives him solace and he comes to window every day to see her. Sometimes he has sensation that see looks at him and smiles. Whenever he feels so, he closes the window because of nervousness. He has gone through some bad relations in the past, but parting way with Pihu was very painful. He remembers the day as it is when Pihu told him that she said “Yes to him”.

Aditya and Pihu were walking back home, after having dinner. Aditya used to live with his friends at that time. Atmosphere was humid because of the rain in the evening, and road was empty except some cars going here and there which is empty with the standard of city who never stops. Aditya was happy to got a job in one of the best media firm, and telling her how he is going to rock? But Pihu was lost somewhere else. She was looking restless. Finally, Pihu spoke and said, “Adi I said Yes to him,” Aditya looks with astonishment towards Pihu and then smiled mischievously and said, “You need some new tricks, this one is very old,” and laughs. But Pihu does not laugh and walks ahead with straight face, Aditya gets bit tensed and ask her,” Pihu tell me you are kidding”.  Pihu says with straight face,” I hope I can tell you that but this time I am serious,” Aditya hands reached Pihu’s hand, he stopped her and said,” Why Pihu? and to whom that nerd from your class? What’s his name, Vaibhav? Pihu replies brusquely,” Yes, and that nerd who proposed me at least ten times, but how many times you proposed me, zero times and when I did you said, “I am not ready”. Perplexed Aditya laughed and said, “You are right Pihu, I never proposed you because we are very different person, anyway you will be happier with an engineer than a journalist. By the way how much package he got in the placement? I am sure more than me”? Pihu looks with an amazement towards Aditya and starts walking in opposite direction. Aditya did not stop him, why he doesn’t know? There are many Why’s in his life but he never tried to look for their answers maybe he knows the answers but never accepted them

Aditya comes back to present with his phone’s ringtone “Zinda hoon yar kaafi hai”. It’s his father’s call. He calls him every day at 8:30 AM another why whose answer he doesn’t have. Aditya’s father says, “Hello beta, Good morning, how are you? Aditya replies in his usual way, “Good Morning Papa, I am good, what about you? Aditya knows what he has to say next if this conversation stretches more. Aditya’s father says, “Aacha beta, I want to say,” Aditya interrupts him in between and tells,” Papa can I call you back later, I am getting late for the office”. His father laughs and says, “Ok, beta but I just want to say that, I read your story Yesterday. It was brilliant. From where you find all this story”. Aditya says with pain in his voice,” We don’t find stories Papa, we create them,” and hung up the phone.

Aditya gets ready, and books a cab. While waiting for the cab he spots the girl standing opposite side of the road. She is the prayer girl whom he sees every day from his window. They never met but her face is visible from his window. Although, he is seeing her for the first time outside his house. She has a rectangular shaped face with big and deep eyes. Her broad forehead is in line with her not so chubby chicks. Her lower lip is bigger than the upper one and which is making her face look more rectangular. Her height is around 5.11 which is same as Aditya. She was looking like a communication manager of any big firm in her grey suit and black shirt. Short black heel was complementing her dress. Aditya felt that she is seeing him and smiling. For a moment he took his eyes off her, she laughed and took her eyes off too. Aditya realized that she is indeed looking at him and smiling. He looked towards her to smile back, but she is not there. He ran his eyes around to find that she is sitting in cab and in a moment, she vanished. Aditya stands there with a mix feeling of disappointment and happiness. He is feeling happy, hopeful, after a long time. He sits in the cab, lost in the thought of a prayer girl, with whom he will try to get in touch.

Aditya as usual reaches office on time.  His colleagues are surprised to see him happy, and in pleasant mood. He reaches his desk greets everyone and opens Instagram. He has never been very active on social media but in last few years he used social media well neigh negligibly. But how will he search her? He does not her name. He was thinking of ways to find her on social media, his tells him that boss in looking for him.

Aditya does not like his boss, every time he calls him, he feels depressed. He knocks on the boss office door and gets in. Aditya’s boss Ramesh is a middle age, bald man, with a cunningness written all over his face. His small eyes and big ears give him appearance of an alien. Ramesh indicates Aditya to sit and says, how are you my star? Aditya put a fake smile on his face and says,” I am good sir, what about you? Ramesh replies, “Aacha, listen there is one very good story which I got just now, I want you to write it asap”. Aditya apprehends that his boss wants him to write a sensational story based on anonymous source, without even verifying basic facts. Ramesh says, “Ok, so this story is of a prominent businessman who was caught red handed by police with a girl yesterday. They were enjoying in some shady hotel when police raided the place. You have to write the story on this”. Aditya nods and ask,” Who is this businessman?  Do we have any information about him? His boss laughs and replies, “Yes we got his name and details the details of the girl, along with her photo. I have sent you everything just now, check it whether you got it or not”.  Aditya takes out his phone to check and what he sees sends down chill in his spine. Color of his face changes and he is not able to utter a word. It is a photo of a prayer girl whom he sees every day. His boss sees him and asks, “What happen Adi, do you know this girl?” Aditya does not say anything, his boss repeats his question little louder this time. Aditya replies nervously, “NO, sir.” Boss nods and says, “Ok, then go and write” Aditya knows that his boss is a yes man, he doesn’t like to hear no neither he like to take anyone’s advice. But he still takes risk and says, “Sir, is source of this news is reliable? Because if it is fake it can have negative repercussions on someone’s life”? His boss looks at Aditya and says in a sarcastic manner, “Adi, I don’t pay you to teach me ethics of journalism. This news is going to get viral that’s way I want you to write it as soon as possible”. Aditya nods and comes out of his boss cabin.

It’s not that Aditya will be writing news without verifying source or fact for the first time. From the time he left the newspaper and joined this portal in pursuit of higher salary, on most of the day he has written this kind of news. He has almost forgotten when was the last time he goes on the field, collected facts, verified sources, done research and done a story, like he used to do in newspaper. Now what he does whole day is look for news on internet, research about it on internet, make something up and write a story. Earlier, he used to fill with pride by seeing his byline in newspaper now he feels despondent when he says story by his name. Every time he writes a made-up story, he regrets why he left a newspaper? Face of his editor comes in his mind who told him that he can earn more money in the news portal but person like him will never be satisfied working there.  Despite of his hatred he continued writing story but today, he is not able to. He does not why but his instinct is saying that this news is fake.

He cross checks the detail with social media account of the prayer girl whose name is Sakshi and it does not match with the details given by the boss. But he knows that there is no use of talking to his boss because he will still ask him to write a story and if anything goes wrong, he will ask him to write apology. This had happened few times in the past. Then, he thinks why is he caring so much for the girl whom he never met? He doesn’t know anything about her, she might be, but then he stops. Thought of her doing something like this scares her. He always convinces himself with some excuses when he does story like this but this time, he is not able to.

 He gets up and goes to washroom. He stands in front of the mirror. He realizes how rude his face has become; he used to be very cute earlier. He does not recognize himself; he is not the same Aditya who entered the field of Journalism to bring change, to ask questions, to becomes voice of the voiceless. That Aditya died, when he quit the Newspaper’s job. The person who is standing in front of mirror is someone else who is here to earn money. Then Aditya decides to do what he has done most time in his life, to give up. He decides one more time to not fight, not try to change the circumstances, but changes according to them.

He comes out of the washroom goes to his desk and write an article on alleged sex scandal of a business man with a girl. He makes some facts, add some flavor, and prepares a good sensational story. He does not mention neither businessman nor girl directly, but gives enough hint so that anyone who knows them will be able to identify. He publishes a blur photo of a girl, which is enough to reveal her identity. He thinks for a second before pressing the send button but then he sends it.

 Just as he clicks the button, something happens and his computer gets shut down. He calls an IT guy and go to boss office to confirm whether he got the story or not.

He never felt like this before writing any story. He feels like a criminal who commits crime in a heat of the moment, but cries after realizing that he destroyed his life. He stops in between, comes back to his desk, pick his bag, message his boss that he is not feeling well and leaves the office.

Aditya sits at his window with old monk and sees towards the flat of Sakshi. He knows his name but he still like calling him prayer girl. It’s late night and light of her flat is off. He has been drinking from the time he came back to office. Aditya feels that today he put the final nail in the coffin of his goodness. He will never become the good person his grandmother wants him to be. There is no going back from here. He cries and hope that somehow, he gets a chance to correct all this mess and kept crying till he falls asleep.

When he opens his eyes, he feels like unconscious. It’s like his mind is sleeping but his body wants to be awake. He sees the time on the clock it’s already 8.00 AM. Sunrays are falling on his face he gets up and look towards the prayer girls flat. But today she is not doing prayer but instead she is standing on the table with rope around his neck. She looks at Aditya, smiles and hang herself. Aditya is numb, he is trying to move but he can’t. He is crying but is not able to wipe his tears, he put all his strength to move, then he starts screaming and wakes up.

One more bad dream. Aditya is drenched in sweat and sunlight falling directly on his body making him more uncomfortable. But he is relieved that it was a dream. He sees time in the clock it’s 8.00 AM. He gets up hurriedly and look towards Prayer girls flat. She is not there, he feels sick. Thinking of his dream coming true horrifies him. Aditya’s phone rings, his heartbeat is running faster than bolt ran in Beijing Olympics. It is his boss call; first thought came in his mind that he might ask him to write an apology. Prayer girl is still not there, he starts wearing his T-shirt and jeans and picks his boss call. Ramesh says, “Good morning Adi, how is your health now”? Aditya replies is haste, “Good, Sir”. Prayer girl is still not there. Aditya is ready to run but stops after listening his boss. Ramesh said, “Adi, we were not able to publish that story yesterday, because of system failure in our office. Aditya is alleviated to hear this and looks towards girls flat but she is still not there. His boss says, “Aditya came office early, we will publish it today”.

Aditya takes a deep breath and reply, “We will not publish it Sir”. Boss replies angrily,” What why? You know I can fire you from job for saying no to me”. Aditya replies, “I quit sir, and I assure you publishing that story will have negative consequence on you and your portal”. So, please take your decision wisely”. Aditya cuts the phone and fall on his couch and relaxes.  He gets up to see the prayer girl who is still not there.

He gets little worried but then she appears. She is looking in rush today but for Aditya time has stopped. Adventurers choose unknown, tough, unexplored paths for the view. View which is raw, which is not see by many. Aditya’s journey has nothing less the adventurer and view in front of him will be normal for many but for him its surreal. Aditya sees her every but today is something different. Today he is not fearful but hopeful. After long time, he is proud of himself. He promises to himself that this time he will complete this journey. Prayer girls looks at him and smiles, he smiles back and waves hand at her. She responds in same manner and Aditya gets his second chance.

Ain’t it a good read? Good job, Aditya! We have one more story on the loop. In the meantime, read the masterpiece written by Poonam Pawar.

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