Maharshi’s brilliant academic credentials in engineering had fetched him jobs at multiple international locations, but he decided not to leave India. Instead, he drove 500 miles to join as a senior secondary school teacher in a newly settled beach town. As he entered his new cottage, he thought he had finally found the peace and quiet he had been looking for. As a gay individual, he had faced his fair share of discrimination in the city and was tired of the constant noise and chaos.

The new place was tranquil yet with all the elements of vibrance and fun. However, he found himself feeling lonely and isolated. He did not have any friends in the town, and he was too scared to venture out to try and make new ones. His only companions were the books he read in his spare time. He also wrote stories and poems for catharsis, baked cakes, and grilled fish on Sundays. On other days, he used to go to the theatre or tried his hands at mobile photography after school.

One evening, while sauntering on the beach, Maharshi saw a scrappy-looking dog sitting near an anchored boat. The dog was scrawny, with matted fur and pensive eyes, but there was something about him that drew Maharshi in. He approached the dog heedfully, and to his surprise, the dog did not run away.

Maharshi soon learned that the dog had been abandoned by his previous owner and had been living on the beach for weeks. He could not bear the thought of leaving the poor creature alone, so he decided to take him in. He christened the dog Sunshine and took him to the vet to get him checked out. The vet confirmed that Sunshine was malnourished and needed a lot of care. Maharshi was determined to give him a second chance.

As Maharshi nursed Sunshine back to health, he found himself becoming more and more attached to the four-footed. It had been eons that Maharshi did not feel unaccompanied. Sunshine was a constant companion, following his master around the house and snuggling up with him on the couch.

Maharshi and Sunshine spent their days exploring the town and transcending miles and miles on the sand. Maharshi felt elated as he watched Sunshine grow healthier and happier. As their bond grew stronger, Maharshi found himself becoming more confident and outgoing. He started to volunteer at the local ‘Sea Flora-fauna Conservation Center’ and even started a book club at the school where he taught. Their friendship helped them both heal from their pasts and find happiness in the present. And in each other, they had found the true meaning of companionship and love. Maharshi started to bring Sunshine with him to the school where he taught, and the students could not get enough of the friendly quadruped. They would pet him during lunch breaks and after class, and some students even sought permission from Maharshi to take Sunshine for walks.

One day, Maharshi noticed a group of students from his school picking on another student. He quickly intervened and put a stop to the bullying. The student who had been targeted, a shy boy named Pratham, was grateful for Maharshi’s intervention and thanked him for his kindness.

Over the next few weeks, Maharshi started to notice Pratham sitting alone at lunchtime, so he invited him to join his book club. At first, Pratham was hesitant, but eventually, he started to open up and share his thoughts on diverse topics, ranging from the sea to the salt and from gravity to pottery making. As their friendship grew, Maharshi confided in Pratham about his struggles with loneliness, society’s non-acceptance of him as a member of the LGBT community, and how Sunshine had helped him through it. Pratham, who had also been feeling lonely and isolated, was inspired by Maharshi’s tale. Pertinently, Pratham told Maharshi that he wanted to be a story writer. Maharshi had always loved writing too. He knew that there were many talented young writers in the school. So, he started planning a story-writing competition. He coordinated with the school administration and personnel from Zorba Books for the event. The judges declared Pratham’s story about a ‘gay engineer-turned-school teacher’s journey and his newfound friendship with a dog’ as the best literary piece on the competition day. The Zorba Books decided to bestow the tag of ‘the most promising author’ to Pratham on their website. Tears rolled down the cheeks of the guru and the student.

Years have rolled. These days, Maharshi and his four-footed comrade often spend time watching the sunset together on the beach. Today, both have gone to the local fish market in the early morning. Pratham is in London for his post-doctoral studies. Yesterday, he was awarded the International Literary Prize for his fifth novel on the plight of climate migrants. Pratham’s flight shall be landing in an hour’s time. Grilled Pomfret is on the menu for the three!

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Uttar Pradesh