When love is a game

humour

Way back in 1958, I was at the metallurgical town of Makeevka (in the erstwhile Soviet Union) as a trainee of Bhilai Steel Plant, along with other Indian engineers. There, we had the privilege of having Sofia as our interpreter during the course of our training. The loss of her parents in a freak road accident in Leningrad a month back had in no way marred the grace of this beautiful young lady, the very embodiment of zest for life, and gifted with an indomitable never-say-die attitude.

This charming lady, after duty hours, would teach us popular Russian dances to enable us to enjoy musical evenings that were organised for us with generous frequency at the well-maintained park near our hostel. No wonder that my roommate Sachdev (Dev) from UP fell head over heels in love with her. An easy-mixing and sportive chap, Dev never missed an opportunity to impress her, which the smart young lady was well aware of.

Come the Russian winter, the temperature sharply dipped to minus-30 degrees Celsius, exposing us to an entirely different experience. Donning our woollens, we came out to savour the feel of the snowflakes that came dancing down in profusion with celestial splendour, covering the entire landscape like a glittering snowy blanket. We never missed visiting the park and enjoying the dreamy ambience, albeit slipping and falling over sheets of solidified snow.

That memorable evening, Sofia had organised a winter dance session in the park where the lake, which was the main part of the landscape there, had frozen, becoming a gigantic sheet of ice. Explaining the hazards of accidentally stepping on the frozen lake, she urged us to keep away from its edge while dancing. It was then that our hero, Dev, found an opportunity to display his bravado.

He boasted that he was not scared of walking on the frozen lake and challenged Sofia to a bet, according to which the loser would give whatever the winner asked for, which was accepted by the ever-sportive Sofia.

As we eagerly watched, Dev started walking carefully, balancing himself over the swaying mass of ice. No sooner had he covered nearly 20 metres than we were suddenly shaken by a muffled cracking sound. The next instant, a chasm spanning the entire width of the lake appeared. To our horror, as more cracks started appearing like a spider web, Dev, caught in that deadly trap, began shouting for help.

As we watched helplessly, Sofia moved fast. Unmindful of the risk, she hopped over the maze of fissures like a rabbit and reached him, who clung to her as a drowning man would, till she manoeuvred him out to safety. As panic gradually gave way to cheer, we urged Sofia, the winner, to spell out her demand.

With a mischievous twinkle, she asked the still-recovering hero to announce what he had been trying to express to her all the while. Grabbing the godsend, our Romeo knelt before her and proposed, much to our delight.

The winner’s choice rendered both winners as they got married soon thereafter and settled down happily in Bhilai.

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