Love blossoms at odd times in unusual places. Swapna, the college beauty, and Sailesh were physiology students and their love began in the lab while working with the frogs. – @Siliconeer #Siliconeer #Fiction #DrRaghavendraRao #Literature
The frog had to be clamped, electrodes attached to the thigh muscle and electrically stimulated. The resulting muscle contracture was recorded on a special paper, usually it was a simple experiment. No sweat.
Swapna’s frog had other plans that day. Before she could clamp the amphibian, it jumped off the table and started to hop around the lab.
“My frog, my frog,” Swapna shouted.
All the medical students stopped their work because such an event rarely happened, moreover, it was fun. They watched the frog darting hither and thither escaping even the attempts made by the lab technicians. “Jump, Jump,” the students encouraged the frog.
When a damsel got distressed, a hero always showed up. Sailesh grew up in a village and was experienced in catching escaped chicken. He knew the technique, which was to look away from the animal as if he were not interested, and when the bird dropped its guard, sidestep like a crab and grab the quarry. Sailesh stood silently in a corner and waited motionless. After making another circle in the lab when the amphibian hopped nearby, Sailesh threw his handkerchief on the frog. Blindfolded, it stopped. Sailesh picked up the frog and gingerly handed it to Swapna as if offering her a beautiful rose.
“Thank you, Sailesh.” Swapna grabbed the frog and the handkerchief and returned a jasmine-white smile. The students and technicians clapped.
Hearing the commotion, I came into the lab. I was an assistant professor for about 30 years in the physiology department at Kurnool Medical School in India. Everyone froze as I entered.
“What’s going on here? Go back to your seats and finish the assignments for the day.”
The students obliged.
Later the chief tech told me what had happened in the lab.
Often at evenings, I went to nearby Lakshmi Narayan temple on the banks of Tungabhadra River. I saw Swapna and Sailesh a couple of times, side by side, praying in front of God’s idols with half closed eyes, perhaps to watch what the other was doing. Afterwards they relaxed gossiping on the sand dunes of the nearby river while sharing the coconut pieces offered by the temple priest.
“Soon they’ll marry,” I thought.
That June, I retired. My daughter, Aniska, living in Brooklyn, New York, sponsored me and I moved there to help to raise her daughter. Before I realized, six years went by.
One day I received an invitation from the Medical School at Kurnool regarding a Golden Jubilee celebration. I was curious to meet my classmates and visit the physiology department. I attended the celebration and thoroughly enjoyed the event. That evening I walked through the halls of the medical school remembering the pleasant and not so pleasant events that I had experienced during the long years I worked there. Finally I entered the physiology department.
“Jagannath Sir, Namaste,” someone called me. I turned around.
It was Swapna. Clad in a blue Mysore silk sari with a golden swan border and a matching blouse, she approached me with her trademark smile. “Sir, do you recognize me?”
“Of course. Sorry, your bobbed hair threw me off for a second. Swapna, please, don’t call me ‘Sir’. ‘Dr. Jagannath or Mr. Jagannath’ will do.”
“I can’t change, Sir. Once a teacher, you’re always a teacher and a student should respect you. I’m an assistant professor here and doing well. I appreciate your encouragement and support. I learned a lot from you.”
“Thanks, Swapna.” I was a little hesitant but asked anyway. “How is your classmate, Sailesh?”
“Oh, don’t mention his name, Sir. He’s a jerk. During my final-year summer vacation I went to my native village. During that time, he met a girl from the U.S., spoke to her parents, and married her, just like that. He is there now, an opportunistic chameleon.”
“I’m sorry to hear this.”
“It was a blessing in disguise, Jagannath Sir. I realized that true love is beyond beauty, positions or possessions. I’m lucky. I married a gentleman, Santhosh.”
“Do I know him?”
“Perhaps. He was, and still is, a technician in the animal house here, in charge of frogs. He is kind, you must see the way he tends to the frogs. He fills the huge tank with water from a nearby pond and makes sure the water is maintained at the proper temperature and oxygenation. He periodically plants aquatic vegetation to make the water as natural as possible. He buys the choicest worms and crickets to feed them. We have the fattest frogs among all the medical schools in the state.”
“Fattest and the fastest hopping frogs, I think.”
Swapna laughed. “Oh, you still remember the incident?”
“Sorry to interrupt you, Swapna, you were telling me about your husband.”
“Yes, he is such an interesting person. You may not believe it, but he calls the frogs by their individual names, such as, Jumping Jack, Water Baby, and Rebecca, like you have names for your dogs. I thought a man who loves animals so much, will love me too. It proved to be true.”
“You’re right, Swapna. You can’t put a value on love and affection; only people who don’t get it, know what they’re missing. You’re indeed lucky. Any children?”
Swapna picked up a photo from her purse and gave it to me. It was of a beautiful, smiling, one year old girl with a pink dress and a tiara looking like a princess.
“Lovely. What’s her name?”
“Santhosh likes frogs and the baby is indeed a princess for us. We named her Tiana, like from the Disney movie.”