One Request by Tharini Pande

Smita poured her third cup of coffee and wandered back to the oversized window she had cozied up to all morning. Raindrops slammed against the glass frantically showing no mercy to what came its way. And just as suddenly as the downpour had started, it passed giving way to shimmering clouds. Smita couldn’t help but think of how suddenly her life too had spiraled into a storm.

“Maybe I should shut down the business for a while,” she said as Praveen walked in. “And you shouldn’t waste more time here.”

He plopped himself next to his best friend. “You are the best event planner there is,” he said giving her hand a tight squeeze. “We have to believe in the rainbow after the storm, remember?” He always had a way of making her smile.

“Is that car pulling into our office?” whispered Smita. The driver of the car stepped out to open the door for an elderly gentleman. “It’s Mr. Mehra!” they both shouted in synch almost spilling their coffee. Mr. Mehra was the owner of a popular chain of hotels. But was most well-known for his philanthropy work in supporting the education of under privileged mothers all over the country. Smita ran her hands over her dress trying to smooth out the creases. “Do I look okay?” she asked anxiously. Praveen nodded while popping a mint in his mouth hoping to drown any hint of his morning coffee.

“Good morning, Mr. Mehra and welcome to Being Smitten!” exclaimed Smita. “Thank you, thank you.” said Mr. Mehra with a smile and walked straight towards the sofa. “I have a business proposal,” he started right away. “I am hosting a lunch event to recognize the efforts of several outstanding academic personnel and I would like your company to organize the event.” “Ofcourse, Mr. Mehra. We would be honored.” said Smita ready with her pen and paper. “Good.” continued Mr. Mehra. “This is important to me which is why I am here in person.”

He pulled out a check book and scribbled several digits on it before handing the piece of paper over to Praveen. That’s a lot of trailing zeroes thought Praveen trying to contain his excitement. “This is the advance,” said Mr. Mehra standing up. “My office will be in touch to work out the details.”

“You will not be disappointed,” said Smita and after an exchange of handshakes, they walked their new acquaintance out. “Let me get that for you,” said Praveen as he reached for the car door. The driver was already in position ensuring no time was lost.

Just as they were about to leave, Mr. Mehra rolled down his window. “Before I forget,” he started, “I do have a request. I hear unfortunately that there is a sudden surge of HIV cases in the city. Please make sure that nobody involved with organizing this event is one of those.” And just like that, with a nod, he rolled up his window.

As the car slowly pulled away, Praveen clenched his fist crushing the tiny piece of paper in it. He turned around to look at his friend who just three months ago was told that she was HIV positive. Her only mistake had been to donate blood in a clinic on the other side of town.

Smita braved a smile as her eyes welled up. “It doesn’t matter how educated one is,” sighed Praveen in a low voice. “Some people will always remain ignorant.” He held her close, hoping his silent tears would wash away her pain.

About the Author

Having grown up in Africa and parts of Asia, Tharini is familiar with the stigma and discrimination that exists even today towards those with HIV. In a time where technology and medical sciences are soaring, it is unfortunate we fail to combat this. Tharini story aims to show that even the most educated of us can prove to be ignorant towards human needs and plight.

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