At the dawn of the next day Advay rang the doorbell of his home. Their family lived a little far away from the coast. An hour’s journey by the train and he was standing in front of their door.
“Finally! Come in, come in,” his father opened the door. He had woken up earlier to wait for the doorbell ring.
“Dad!” The two men hugged and then cried a little.
“It’s been so long.”
“Yeah dad, but this time I am staying for half a month!”
“Mm, alright. I just prepared food, fresh and hot. Wash up and come to eat.” Advay had caught the smell as soon as he had entered. He quickly set his luggage aside and walked in.
“Your mother is sleeping, don’t be loud!” Old Mr. Srnuta added behind him.
“Huh, I’d rather wash in the inner bathroom then!” Advay spoke and got a glare from his father. He continued towards the other bathroom.
When he settled to eat with his father, the sun was rising already. Their home was a cosy place in a semi urban area. His parents had thought of buying a bigger house and moving to the nearby city when he and Ansh grew up. But against their plans the two boys would not even stay with them for so long. Advay had joined the Force and left home at 10, while Ansh could not speak even at the age of four and so they sent him to the North Country for treatment and now the boy did not want to return. At 8 he could speak well, but he told them he wanted to join as an apprentice to his speech therapist, who was a musician. Eight more years have passed since then but Ansh kept learning all the instruments his teacher could teach.
The two boys only ever came for a few days’ visit. Mostly they saw that their schedules coincided. But this time it was not possible for Ansh to make it there.
The father and son sat at their dining table looking at the incredible view of the rising sun through the windows. Soft orange rays tinted their food a nice colour. It increased their appetite. Advay had already started talking of his life since he last visited home. He never got tired of talking, even if he had to tell the same things. The listener was different, but that might not even matter much to him.
Somewhere in the middle, his mother also had taken a seat with them and she served a fill herself and began to eat. “Hm, however great you make it to sound, it would be the best for you to leave all of that and come home and study somewhere around here.”
“Mom…” His mother had never once left a positive comment for the Force and anything that related to the Force. She had always seen it as some dark organization, a grave danger.
“Whatever, let’s talk about something else.” She cut him off.
His father soon started talking about some new market that has come up. He spoke a while longer. They did not land on the topic of the Force again. It was mostly about how the couple spent their days. His father ran a decent business of alloys. His mother’s maiden family also had a part in this business. It would not be wrong to say that they were loaded and even a little influential. That was how they could send Ansh to another country. It required both money and power.
However, when his father started out his business, he did not like much help. He had started very small, which gradually grew up and only then did he accept more money inflow from his in-laws.
This small town was where his mother had grown up when she was a child with her grandparents. She did not want to move away from here unless it was necessary. That was why they still lived here.
“It really feels lonely with just the two of us,” his father sighed.
Ever since he joined the Force, he would deliberately be lazy when he was home. For a child, the military training and fighting were not likeable. At least not until they got the hang of it.
As he grew up, he was decent at these, yet he continued to be lazy once home. To him this was just something associated with home. He was sleeping most of the time. He would also watch some TV, or irritate his mother, or help his father, and he would eat without a care every time. He simply did what he liked and did them how he liked.
If he was feeling motivated enough he would go for a walk in the woods nearby and drag his mother with him. Or he tried to paint the sceneries of the town under his aunt’s guidance. She was his father’s sister, a common visitor to their home and the frequency would increase once she caught sight of him. He did not like her very much and he was half sure it was his mother who just had told her about his visit.
Such a blissful time would not last long enough for anyone. Without Advay realizing, thirteen days were over.
He had to go back the next day. The next semester would start a day after.
Another semester started for the students of College of Administration and Diplomacy. Advay found his classroom for the first lecture and soon he found Sakhil. He walked and sat beside him.
“Hi Sakhil! When were you back?”
“Hi! Got back last night. You?”
“Hehe... I came back around 3 AM, so please repeat the class for me.”
“Heh, like that is new.”
“Alright, where’s Saakshi?”
“My goddess sister? She said she’ll come back next week.” Hearing that Advay had a twitch in his eye. Sure, she was a goddess after all. So she would be able to manage the course even by skipping the first week.
“She is amazing,” Advay admitted.
Soon the class quietened down. A professor had come in, a woman with white hair that symbolized her wisdom. “Good morning folks. This is your first day of your new semester and I am sure you all have already taken note of the courses you have…”
The professor started speaking. The lecture went on and Advay did not feel like it was his first day anymore. Why do these people dump so much information like this? It’d be breaking his head if he tried to concentrate any longer. He leaned on his desk to compensate for his sleepiness.
Before he closed his eyes completely, he caught Sakhil’s disdain and gave a weak smile. His lips moved silently saying, ‘just explain to me later.’
At 11 something Advay woke up to the noise. It was a break. He went out and washed his face with cold water and returned.
“I feel so better now…” he mumbled to himself.
“Next class should not bore you so much, it seems to be an activity.”
“I was tired, not bored.”
“Right, I said it should not tire you as much,” Sakhil laughed at him.
After the break was over, a rather young professor walked into the class. He had thick brows and a sharp nose. He started off by introductions and the class felt leisure. His name was Oliver Logan.
“So this semester each of you will have to visit an orphanage or an old-age home. Every Saturday would be an off-class day to facilitate this. You will spend time with the people there and understand their lives. To have come here, all of you are privileged enough. You have been wealthy enough or have been greatly educated until this point. That’s the reason why you must know the feelings of the abandoned people.
“There is more to this. You will study the surroundings in those places and come up with solutions that would make their lives easier. Then, negotiate with their management of the things they would do further for their people. The next step would be to negotiate those costs with the university’s finance management.
“So, this activity or I would say, community service in a way, is what will determine how much determination you have and how truly perseverant you are. Let me warn you, do not take this lightly. Now this will continue for your next semester as well. This time every week, you are going to have to submit your report.
“This report does not have to be academic at all and I do not demand elaborate essays either. I will accept anything that you write as long as it is reasonable. It will have to contain your observations, experience or you can write your conversations as a dialogue, whatever way you can think of.
“Alright, that’s all I have for you today. Are there any questions?”
Prof. Logan knew that these youngsters were not expecting the course to have something like this. Their faces were filled with gloom and astonishment. He gloated at them secretly.
Every year, many students were made professionals in their respective fields. But those belonging to this department had never been as successful as the other departments. The number of students ending up in their department was also low due to this fear. Knowingly or not, 38 students joined their program. He wondered which students would be the part that could not pass through him.
“Professor! Will this be group work?” A girl raised her voice.
“Well, how do you prefer it to be?” Prof. Logan sported his ever so kind smile at the female student. He would not let her pass, perhaps.
“Anything works for me sir,” she quickly said. Of course they were all clever people.
“Then, your team will have only one person,” the professor’s smile was as kind as ever, as if granting the student her wish.
The female student was speechless.
“Are there any more candidates who would like to work on their own?” he asked, as though taunting.
After a few moments of silence, he continued. “Alright, you can form your own teams. They can have one or two or three members each. But keep in mind that the evaluation will be done on the individual efforts.”
“Professor, what if there are no improvements to be made at the place?” another student asked. It was a guy this time.
“Are you trying to say that there is a heaven in this world? Be sure to show me when you find one!”
Listening to the professor until this point, all the students had formed a consensus. He was their devil Logan, who would love to suck their blood for an entire year.
“Sir, are we to choose the place within this district?”
“Not at all, I accept your services anywhere in this world.” The kind smile never left his face.
Though he said that, it was obvious they could not go beyond the district. After all they had to attend their classes. And it was definitely not possible to step into the other countries. Some students doubted if all this was some form of humour which they are not capable of comprehending.
The class was nearing the end. “Alright then. Your task for next week is to propose your team and your chosen place.” And the professor left the class with a smile that said, ‘waiting to meet you again.’
The whole department of Administration and Diplomacy had turned gloomy for the past one week. It was already Sunday and the next day they had to talk to Prof. Logan about their proposals. Saakshi had come back an hour ago and met the boys for lunch.
"Well, we three can be a team," Sakhil said to Advay. Saakshi was sitting beside them and was not bothered much.
"Yesterday I already toured the Second Urban area. Why don't we go there?" Advay insisted on an orphanage that he had set his mind on. Yesterday he had asked Sakhil to join him. But Sakhil had not shown interest.
“Sure, wherever... big sister can save us.”
“Didn’t you just tell me grades will be given for individual performance?”
“I’ll do whatever you tell me anyway!” Sakhil was as usual thankful for having such an amazing elder sister.
The class was silent as one team after another told their teams and their chosen places. Soon it was our trio’s turn.
“Prof. Logan, sorry I couldn’t make it to your first class.” Saakshi started.
“No problem. But do not repeat.” Perhaps this is one of those extremely rare times when Prof. Logan was truly kind.
“Our team has Sakhil Khatri, Advay Srnuta and myself, Saakshi Khatri and we want to take up Blue Angels Orphanage from the Second Urban.”
“Did you say a Srnuta?”
“Yes, professor. That’s him.” She pointed to Advay.
“Oh, I see! Well, drop him and you are good to go.”
What did he ever do? Advay was completely bewildered and so were the Khatris.
“Sir, would you please reconsider?” Saakshi asked quickly.
“Alright, sir. I won’t be in their team.” Advay said. There really was not much room to discuss with this man.
“And you won’t be a part of any other’s team either!” Mr. Logan added cheerfully, smiling so deep that a dimple appeared on his left cheek. But that only served to creep out the whole class.
“But sir, may I ask why?”
“One, two people are more than enough for that orphanage. Two, because you are Srnuta!!!” Advay’s eye started twitching since this man asked his friends to drop him out for whatever grave crime he committed.
The professor did not laugh but his antics weren’t any less to laughter. He patted Advay twice on his shoulder as if pepping him up. “I’ll give you some compensation. I will choose the place for you myself! How about that?”
“S-Sure sir, thank you.” Advay could only give a stiff smile now.
“The White River Orphanage in the First Urban.”
“Meet me after class.”
After the class Advay followed the professor into his cabin. He entered and the door softly shut behind.
“So, Advay Srnuta, the Force has sent you here and don’t you think you should take this course more seriously? Why would you want to have others help you like that?”
“That-” He tried to explain that his intention was nowhere near that, but he wasn’t given a chance.
“I saw your grades last semester. They… were not up to the mark.” This time the professor’s voice was a little louder. He still had his smile but his eyes conveyed his sternness.
“Sir, I-” He wanted to tell him that he had done his best. In fact, he had proven to be an above average student last semester. Once again he was cut off.
“Don’t talk before I finish.”
And the room fell silent. The professor frowned slightly.
“I finished. Now you say what you want to.”
“Sir, I tried very much last semester and it was really hard. I do not have as much reading experience as the other students…”
“Alright, take a look around.”
“What?” Advay was really confused with the sudden change of context.
“See the books in this room? I have almost every book that’s taught in this university.”
Okay, should I say something, Advay wondered.
“Now all of these are yours! Get enough reading experience.” Advay’s shoulders drooped. His mood plummeted. Had they been in another situation, he might have kicked the man in the gut by now.
“Is there anything else?”
“Bad behaviour. Mental instability.”
Advay pursed his lips stiffly in response. All he did was neglect an addressal to the man.
“Okay, okay. Go and enjoy your next class for now,” Prof. Logan smiled kindly again and he even waved to Advay.
Advay thankfully walked out. Huh, it seemed like some teachers actually knew of the Force and him. But that didn’t seem to make things easy for him. How come?
Advay let those thoughts still away and continued with his day.