Charu wait," Mani called out and both of them went behind her.

“Please don’t attempt anything rash," said Mani panting after a quick sprint. “Don’t do something when you are angry. You have done enough already in the last 24 hours for you to be enshrined in the college’s history books," Mani said and chuckled.

You men can never understand the pains of harassment that every girl goes through. For you it is a nuisance, for me it is survival.

“I hate your jokes," said Charu, “You are the worst friend ever," she said and circled her arm around his neck.

“I know," Mani replied.

They walked together briefly at a steady pace and Hari followed them.

They reached a parking bench that was wrapped around a huge tree. Tens of pearly white flowers with deep yellow pink core were in full bloom and their intoxicating scent wafted along in the breeze.

“I miss my home," Hari reminisced. “I love the fragrance of these flowers. I spent many fearful days under this tree and she was my only refuge"

Mani pressed Hari’s shoulder to silence him.

“What fearful days? What happened?" Charu shot back quick.

Hari looked away and remained silent.

“Hari’s nappy issues can wait," Mani interjected.

Charu wasn’t convinced but did not protest.

“Can we worry about your drama for now?" spoke Mani and looked sternly at Charu.

“I would strongly advise you to stay low for the moment," Mani insisted.

“You don’t understand do you? You men can never understand the pains of harassment that every girl goes through. For you it is a nuisance, for me it is survival. I have been dealing with this nonsense every day in different degrees," Charu replied angrily.

“I want to kill every man, boy everyone, including you. Just plain disgusting," she paused.

Hari stared at her from a distance. Mani and Charu were sitting on the bench next to each other.

“I feel exploited, like I have been raped and left nude in the middle of the road for everyone to mock and tease," she said and cried. “I have never felt so lonely and vulnerable like this ever," she continued.

She leaned on Mani’s shoulder and locked her fingers with his. Mani patiently sat next to her and there was silence with her intermittent sniffles. Mani looked at Hari from the corner of his eyes who seemed anxious.

“Hari come sit with us," said Mani. After some initial resistance he joined them.

“All of us have gone through unfair situations in life and at many times we have reacted rather childishly with less forethought and understanding of the consequences. My unsuccessful attempt to commit suicide, thankfully is a case in point," Mani said.

“Much of our problems can be negated by killing our impulsive and reflexive responses. Aren’t our responses mostly to fight? Inflicting pain on ourselves with the hope that our pain will hurt the other is plain stupid. People just don’t care. We know this, probably that’s why it hurts us so much," Mani said.

“See, I don’t subscribe to suicide or hurting oneself. It is cowardice. But if you are threatened with injustice it is important to give it back. We have to hurt the person who inflicted pain upon us. There is nothing noble in ‘ahimsa’. “I don’t believe in Gandhi or Christ. I have increasingly started to believe that non-violence is futile, maybe even against nature. I believe people want to hurt others or they constantly look for ways to get back at others who have hurt them," Charu replied.

“So when does this stop?" Mani questioned.

“Well life is a struggle, the fight goes on," Charu said.

“Let me rephrase the question. What is the purpose of life?" Mani asked.

“To fight against injustice," Charu answered.

“Alright. Could it also be a pursuit to improve the quality of life for ourselves and the community at large?" Mani wondered.

Hari attacked the stranger like a clumsy street dog against a starved kitten with aggression and anger. The stranger started bleeding and cried for help.

Charu did not respond.

Mani continued, “And does fighting for injustice also mean restoring peace, which is so paramount for people to work, eat, feel satisfied and pursue their dreams?"

“In the fight to hurt each other we forget why we had started the fight in the first place. It is important for both the parties to stop and introspect on how it all began."

“Let us not forget the purpose, which is to live. It is important to fight but peace and a purposeful life is the goal. Sometimes giving up the fight is also a solution," Mani said.

“So if I get abused as a child by a much older adult, according to your logic, I should shut-up, forget as if nothing happened and to top it all off forgive the bastard too?" Hari intervened with a scowl.

Mani did not expect this sudden outburst from Hari.

Charu grew suspicious, Hari, is there something that’s troubling you? Mani do you know what he is talking?" she said and walked towards him.

“I am fine. I just think all your problems and philosophies are very pseudo and hypocritical. My father would call all this intellectual masturbation; anyways continue. You guys deserve each other," retorted Hari.

Charu and Mani were dumbfounded and stared at Hari in silence. They were shocked by his abruptness.

Hari did not wait for their response. He walked towards a narrow lane that adjoined the cafeteria’s outer wall. The lane was dingy and rotten vegetables overflowed from cheap polythene bags. The exhaust fans protruding from the kitchen were gushing out hot oily air at deafening speeds.

Hari looked agitated, anxious and nervous. He felt angry that Mani could have a connection with someone else besides him.

“Why should he?" he wondered, “I feel left out when he is with her."

“Are they having an affair? But he is gay. Is he bisexual?"

“Doesn’t she have any decency? Why is she so close to him?"

“Does she love him? No, can’t be; she is so full of herself. She only loves herself. I feel irritated that Mani doesn’t see that she is using him."

“I have seen a lot of girls who treat boys like disposable napkins."

“But does he have his brain between his thighs? Isn’t he the one with answers to all the secrets of the universe?"

Hari’s brooding was interrupted when his roving eyes chanced upon some graffiti on the side wall. The street art was abstract but with striking details. The centre piece was a flabby potbellied man sitting on a black seat, completely naked but for his socks and shoes. His genitals were much bigger in proportion to his body. Both his hands were comfortably placed on his thighs in a yoga mudra posture.

But he did not have a head or a neck. The cut above his chest looked surgical with no traces of blood.

The male figure was flanked by two large female faces with prominent noses and lips. Both pairs of eyes remained closed.

Hari’s eyes were fixated at the graffiti. His thought train on Charu and Mani was magically derailed by the naked headless man.

“Can a man think without his head?" Hari said softly.

“I can feel the sorrow and loneliness in his body," he mused and bent towards the figure to closely examine the details.

“Dude that’s a painting, the cock is not real, wanna suck mine instead?" a loud brash voice came from behind. The stranger seemed amused at his verbal abuse that he pushed it further with a smack on Hari’s head.

Hari was completely taken aback by the stranger’s cussing. In a sudden reflex, Hari slapped the slender lean person with such aggression that he fell backwards on a heap of rotten filth. Hari in a fit of rage threw himself on the stranger and continued thrashing and slapping him. Hari’s weight was no match for the stranger’s miserly frame.

Hari wailed and shouted, “I will kill you! I will kill you! I will kill you!" repeatedly, completely consumed in hysteria.

Hari attacked the stranger like a clumsy street dog against a starved kitten with aggression and anger. The stranger started bleeding and cried for help.

Mani and Charu grew worried of Hari’s rants and the strange cries for help. They followed the noise and ran towards the lane.

Hari now started screaming angrily with drool spraying on his prey. The lean man looked terrified at the fiery eyes of his attacker. Both of them had rolled into the filth and were drenched in muck and waste.

“Hari! Stop it! What are you doing?" Charu and Mani yelled at Hari. They tried to pull him from the tussle.

The stranger ran as soon as he got a window. “Fuck you faggot,’ he shouted back before he ran right into the main road.

Charu and Mani settled Hari on a bench nearby. He still murmured and fumed.

“It’s okay, it’s okay," said Mani and hugged him. Charu comforted Hari’s back. Charu and Mani exchanged anxious glances.

A lone crow from a distant tree interrupted the uneasy silence that had engulfed them.