Beside The Swimming Pool

By Shobha Diwakar

Nalini and Nalin studied together and were known as best friends. Their houses overlooked each other’s so that whenever they wished, a peeping crack in the window invited their attention, which no one ever noticed. They were merely classmates studying together at the same school, in the same class and it was obvious they would meet, talk, and ride together to school since the families knew each other. It was also a coincidence that they shared almost the same name. The family was unaware that these two young ones were deeply in love. Nothing could separate them and thus time dragged on.

It was a bright summer’s day with a cool, soft breeze blowing, cooling off the laziness of the scorching heat of the day. The flying birds in the clear blue sky seemed to enjoy the whistling breeze that helped to sail them across the sky, diving and rising to greet the clouds and teasing them of their undaunted glory. Nalini and Nalin were out for a ride towards the open space of the city where a scintillating swimming pool invited a number of people to take a dive into its cool waters and relax.

When the two reached the site a number of people who had gathered there for a pool party, greeted them thinking them also to be invitees.  Nalin was the first to state that they were not there to join the party, that they had come to breathe the soft fragrance of the cool, pool waters and spend time amongst the lush green environment.

They sat down by the pool and dangled their legs in the ripples before deciding to dive into it. Meanwhile, the party began with dance and music tearing the calm surroundings. The gaiety reached its peak when drinks were served and the young ones swooned in each other’s arms swinging and swaying to the beats of the roaring drums. Time slipped by and the partying lot seemed to have forgotten their duty to return home. Arjun, a sensible young boy halted the music and seeing some of the girls swooning decided it was time to end the party and start back homewards. However, no one was willing to listen to his appeal and the drums burst more ferociously than before, and the wild, wild dancing reached its peak as the night drew closer.

Nalini and Nalin were spectators to this rowdy lot but kept to themselves; now and then stealing an eye to their frivolous pranks. Young ones, addicted to the androids and easy porn sites tickled their imagination, as it did to those lost in themselves. A couple or two slipped away into the bushes while others drank concocted drinks, oblivious of themselves. By now, night covered the sky, the moon hid behind the clouds shedding darkness all round. The drummers slipped away unheeded, not wishing to witness the gaiety of the young restless ones and be a part of the crude conclusions.

A shriek rang out tearing the sudden serenity of the surroundings. The young ones drunk to the core lay scattered on the ground with no concern of their families. Nalini and Nalin were ready to quit the scene, as they too did not wish to witness the hideous sight. Though young, they were sensible and so hand in hand walked out of the place after they had enjoyed a cool swim and changed their outfits. Just then, they remembered that shriek they had heard and as they say ‘curiosity killed the cat,’ turned back thinking someone must be in need of help.

They retraced their steps towards the pool and halted. They could not understand from which side the sound had come. With a beating heart, they stood tense, when all of a sudden another groan caught their ears. It seemed to come from near the bushes where they had slyly spied a young couple disappear. Of course, being young themselves, a thrill went down their spine, but they did not take advantage of each other… but these drunken friends, what about them? With trembling feet, hand in hand they walked towards the bushes. They had no torch so they were careful not to tread on anyone or anything. As they stepped ahead, the groan again caught their ears. They stood rooted wondering what had happened to the two disappearing friends, when something touched their feet. They jumped up with a shriek wondering if a snake or some creepy reptile had frightened them. They clutched each other’s hands more tightly and waited a few seconds before they could faintly see in the dark. After what seemed  an eternity they felt a shivering  icy touch.  For a split second, they recoiled but did not lose their hold and together yelled, ‘who is there?’

For the first time the two realized, what it is to disobey one’s parents. Gathering up their strength together they shouted, ‘who is there?’ Once again, they waited for an answer but the hollow, deserted environment only seemed to echo the words. Drenched in perspiration and clenching their hands tighter than before, Nalin broke a branch of the nearby bush and proceeded on tiptoe. Suddenly his foot slipped and it seemed as though he was dropping into a deep trench when the agile Nalini pulled him up with all her strength. With beating hearts they tried to calm each other’s panic; just then the aching groan rudely caught their ears.

Nalini and Nalin were a fearless duo. They were school captains of their judo karate team and were well prepared for the worst. Notwithstanding, they were so wrapped up in their fleeting thoughts that they clean forgot that their mobiles had inbuilt batteries, which was safely lying in their backpacks! Nalin fished it out and the moment he switched it on, staggered. Catching Nalini by her hand pulled her aside to her dismay. Nalin motioned her not to utter a word and pointed towards a raised pile of sack behind which lay the couple that had disappeared behind the thick bushes.

Stealthily walking on tiptoe and not treading on dried sticks that could make a noise and warn the unsuspecting couple that someone was following them, the two reached the spot and were astounded to see that the girl was tied up and the boy lay unconscious a furlong away. The groans had come from the girl. Nalin and Nalini took immediate action. They first dialed the nearest police station and then their parents who were relieved to hear their voices; they too were going to lodge a complaint about their disappearance. In a nutshell but carefully Nalin narrated their encounter with the partying lot and urged them to rush to the spot.

Since this involved a detailed investigation, the police too had set off honking and deafening the ears. Reaching the spot, they circled it and saw some of the partying lot lying in a drunken state. They nudged them so that they got up, surprised to see themselves surrounded by the police, they could give no explanation about the reported incident. In the meantime, other parents who knew about the merry makings of their off spring also rushed to the outlandish pool. Nalini and Nalin were still somewhere in the bushes guarding the duo. The police soon traced them, and untied the girl and then saw that the boy had a wound on his head. Both were rushed to the hospital in the ambulance with their parents trailing behind them. Nalini and Nalin were applauded for their bravery.

Later, the story narrated was that when Rashmi and Narayan (the two young ones), entered the bushes they thought they heard some voices behind the pile of sack. The two stood tense but unfortunately, Rashmi’s phone rang and gave away their presence. Before they could run or cry for help, something hard hit Narayan and he fell flat on the thorny bush. All that he remembered was being pulled and dragged. Since Nalini had tried to struggle and free herself from their clutches, they hit her with something hard (that was the groan the two had heard), then she fell with a thud. All that she recollected was being trussed up as a log of wood because she tried to scream, and had struggled to free herself from their clutches. Nalin suddenly pointed towards the pile of sack and scratching his head hesitatingly blurted that there was something hidden beneath those heavy sacks

The  next moment the police investigated and found that beneath those heavy ugly sacks was hidden a big travelling bag. They opened it and were staggered to find a huge loot of gold ornaments. Their face broke in smiles as those that were robbed a month back were complaining that the police were not taking serious note of these robberies. Luckily, the loot was recovered but what about the thieves? Rashmi and Narayan gave them a coarse idea about the profile and the next day their photos were flashed in the morning papers. Nalini and Nalin were congratulated for their bravery and when the police awarded them, the parents also wished to give them a gift. They were surprised when the two acknowledged their love for each other and all that they wanted as a gift was each other’s company for the rest of their life.  Can you guess the parent’s reaction?

About the Author:  Dr. Shobha Diwakar lives in Jabalpur, India and retired as the head of English department at C.P. Mahila Mahavidhyalaya, Jabalpur. She has published many research papers, stories, poems and essays in national, international and online journals. She contributes regularly to writerslifeline and Indian Periodical. 

 

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