Everyone around Ved was excited about the awards ceremony. Ved was sure that he will win the first prize in singing. And, he is not thinking about that.

While everyone around him is waiting for the awards ceremony with anticipation, Ved is waiting for the ceremony to get over so that he can talk to Kusum.

He recollected their dialogue the day before the ceremony.

“Kusum. We need to talk about our relationship. Can we talk about it now?”, asked Ved.

Kusum looked seriously into his eyes and wanted to avoid this topic at any cost.

She started, “You know how tired I am and anxious about tomorrow’s competition. I want to win the first prize in dancing at any cost. Let us talk about this after the competition tomorrow. No, wait. We’ll talk about this after the awards ceremony in the evening.”

Ved was silent and hated himself for not demanding an answer then and there.

Everyone in the college believed that Ved and Kusum were seeing each other and were madly in love. However, the truth is that they have been the best of friends for nearly two years. The friendship started fading the day Ved proposed his love to Kusum in the third year.

Though she did not reject his proposal, she asked him for some more time. First, she asked for a month. Then, she asked for three months as semester exams were approaching. Finally, they are in the last leg of their graduation and Ved is still waiting to hear an answer from Kusum.

Kusum wanted to say No to him. But, she could not think of a day without him and his friendship. Only Kusum and Shilpa knew about this. Though Shilpa has long ago advised Kusum to break this relationship, Kusum could not even think of it and life beyond it. At the same time, she could not imagine marrying Ved and living with him.

An hour before the awards ceremony, Ved was summoned by his professor to help his juniors arrange things behind the stage. So, he was helping his juniors silently with anticipation about what lies in the evening. Though he was confident that Kusum would fall in his arms with happiness, he also feared the opposite might become true.

Just then, he overheard a conversation between Kusum and Shilpa.

“If you think you cannot live without him, you must accept his love and live happily with him. He is attractive and talented. What else do you need?” said Shilpa.

Ved was happy to hear what Kusum thought about him.

“I know. But, I am not able to imagine living the rest of my life with him. I want him to be a part of my life. But, we are not worth it to be together.” lamented Kusum.

Ved is devastated.

“What do you mean by that? You speak in riddles. Would you please come out of your romantic novel gibberish?” asked Shilpa.

“It is not about him. It is about his talent. He needs to work harder to get recognition and lead the way. I don’t want him to start celebrating love and goof up his wonderful career. Did you hear him listening this morning? He can be a rockstar with that voice. He has a long way to go as a singer. And, that will not happen if I accept his love. He already told me that he will give up everything for me and consider some small time job as our parents would not agree for this inter-caste marriage. I want him. But, I don’t want to be the reason to kill his career. So, I have decided to move on and say no to him. I’ll be glad alone like this wherever I am as long as he is successful.”

Shilpa is silent and Ved is awestruck. He immediately leaves the place and moves away from the auditorium.

As the awards ceremony began, everyone waited for all the other awards except singing. They knew for sure that Ved would win this award for the fourth time in a row. He had won all singing awards in major competitions across all colleges and ceremonies in the last three years. He had the track record of winning 24 awards in a single year. All this was announced when he was called on the stage.

Kishoreji, the leading music director of the film industry, was called upon the stage to give the award to Ved.

Kishoreji noticed that Ved is not at all excited about the 25th award that he received.

As Ved prepared to leave the podium, Kishoreji requested him to stop saying that he wanted to make an announcement.

“I heard Ved singing this morning. I don’t have words to praise. And, I don’t want to praise him and leave the dias. I announce here, in front of the student community, that Ved is the lead singer for my next film. I felt strongly this morning that his voice will suit the musical that I am planning on the life of a rockband in those days. And, not just that, I promise to have him on one song at least for the next ten films for which I will make music.”, announced Kishoreji.

The audience gave a big round of applause. Ved was elated, confused, and could not believe his luck.

After the ceremony and dinner, Kusum avoided Ved completely. She thought that he would be happy with his achievement and would not think about the proposal.

However, as people left, Kusum also planned to leave. She was feeling comfortable that Ved was not to be seen.

Ved waited for her at the entrance of the auditorium and caught hold of her there.

Even before Ved could ask anything, Kusum blurted out, “No.”

Ved was relaxed. He answered, ” I would not ask why. But, I have something to tell you. I have changed my plans. If you say no, I’ll give up all the offers that I got today and move away from this city to some God forsaken place. This is because I got the offers only after knowing how much you care for my future than I ever did. So, it says that you are lucky for me. So, my career will reach new heights if you are there with me.”

Kusum is bewildered,”So, you heard me talking about this to Shilpa?”

“Yes. I did. Now, you tell me the answer.”, quipped Ved.

She flung into his arms and cried inconsolably for nearly ten minutes.

They walked together towards a brighter future together.