The next day, only eight girls arrived. Perhaps the thought of injury had intimidated them. Viraj sighed. This is what always happened. People backed out without trying. If he got even one of these girls to shoot, it'd be an achievement.
"This is Coach Shekhar. He will be helping us out in training." Viraj announced. "As promised, today, we shoot."
The girls took position. One by one Shekhar and Viraj corrected their stance. The idea was to see who could maintain the correct position after being instructed.
It was Nisha's turn. She held up her rifle. Shekhar moved up behind her to bring it up to the right level. He slightly straightened her up by placing his palm on the small of her back. Then he tried to focus from Nisha's rifle, so he could show her how to aim correctly. Just as he placed his palm over Nisha's to steady her rifle for the final time, her hand went limp. She hastily extracted her hand and ran away.
"What the hell!" Shekhar exclaimed.
Viraj followed Nisha, only to be stopped by a certain Gayathri. "Oh my my Viraj! How are girls like her going to shoot? So weak, unfocused... Let it be."
"Buaji is right, Viraj. We can't invest our energy on girls like these. Not now, at least." Shekhar echoed.
"Shekhar don't you see that she has some issues? Some mental block? Come on... you're a psychologist... You should know. " Viraj argued. He looked around, wondering how Nisha was.
"I do know Viraj. That's why I'm saying. She can be trained in the long run. But we need to win at the upcoming state championship. We don't have enough time to counsel and convince her. You know these things take time. Psyches can't be repaired so soon." Shekhar calmly explained.
"Things can change in a moment, Shekhar." Viraj coldly replied, before stalking off to find Nisha.
Viraj searched for Nisha all over the Lakshya grounds and in the main building, but she was nowhere to be found. Resigned, he settled on a bench beneath the cassia tree in one corner of the grounds. He gazed at the ongoing training session on the other end of the ground.
Suddenly yellow cassia petals blew down, almost in a shower. The sudden shower of petals surprised Viraj, considering the lack of wind. He looked up. There she was leaning against the tree, straddling a branch, high up. He walked over to her side of the tree. She stared out blankly, taking no cognizance of Viraj.
"Come down right now!" Viraj ordered, jerking Nisha to her senses. Again, without much thought, she made a move to execute his command. There was one problem though, she hadn't paid attention to the height while climbing the tree. Now, the height had all her attention. She looked at Viraj and then at the ground. Maybe if the ground was at your level I could get down. She tried to find something to hold on to, but to no avail. She looked at Viraj again. "I can't come down Sir."
Viraj slapped his forehead. "Yes you can. Here." He held out his arms to help her down. She didn't budge. "Miss Trisha!"
"Nisha, sir, Nisha." She corrected, forgetting that she was stuck on a tree for a moment.
"So, Miss Nisha. Are you planning to build a nest on that tree?" Viraj asked.
Nisha's lips twitched. "No, Sir."
"Then come down!" Viraj nearly shouted.
"How?" She asked. Viraj stared at her half angry, half amused.
Finally he pulled the bench he had been sitting on a few moments ago. Positioning it beneath her, he said, "Try and swing down, then use the bench."
Nisha contemplated for a moment, before following his instructions. When she finally stepped down from the bench, Viraj crossed his arms and narrowed his eyes. "Explain."
Nisha lowered her head. What do I explain? That Shekhar Sir's touch felt like molestation to me? That I am paranoid? That my fear of men gets the better of me?
"Talk." Viraj snapped.
She sniffed lightly. "Sorry Sir." She murmured.
Viraj's expression softened. "Sit." He said, calmly.
She obeyed. He sat next to her. She cringed. He shifted away slightly.
"Talk." He repeated, more sweetly this time.
"I'm scared of men." Nisha said simply, looking away. Not that you haven't already guessed...
"What do you intend to do about it?" Viraj queried.
Nisha looked at him in surprise. After a moment's hesitation, she shrugged.
"You're seventeen, Miss..." He pretended to recall her name. "Nisha." This drew a smile from her. "You have too long to live, to spend the rest of your life in fear."
Tell my fear that. Easy to say. Nisha constantly stared at the grass.
"Look into the person's eyes when you are speaking to him. It shows confidence." Viraj told her.
"I am not feeling confident. How can I show it?" Nisha countered.
Viraj looked stumped for a moment. Then he said, "Let's work on that."
Nisha looked at him disbelievingly. You're not kicking me out? You're probably as crazy as me. But wait, your craziness is justified. Mine isn't. Is it?
"Do you still want to shoot?" Viraj asked. The other students had left by then. Not unnoticed by Viraj, none of their bullets had managed to even touch the boss, forget about hitting bull's eye.
He picked up his own rifle and took position. "Observe carefully and follow." He instructed.
He turned to observe her. Stepping closer he placed his palm a centimetre away from her back. She straightened up. Walking around he estimated whether the rifle was angled correctly. "Fire."
She pulled the trigger. She missed bull's eye by a hairline. That's good. I'm good! She turned to Viraj to confirm her assessment.
"It's a start." He affirmed.
I know what it feels like when a child has no one to turn to. No one deserves that. A simple tug can do wonders when one reaches a standstill. If our butler could care enough to show me the way, why can't I do the same for my student?
She is my student, already. She learns. She obeys. She is willing to trust.
She is like a cassia tree-Vibrant and blooming, even in the hot summer. Yet just like the cassia she is delicate.
It is as if she is being forced to grow up. People say that everyone has to. I don't believe it.
Innocence should be protected, retained and if possible restored.
A/N- Red=Nisha's thoughts.
Blue=Viraj's postcard to his mother.