Sakhi's Laghukatha

Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

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It was one of those busy days at ER – Two MIs, one stroke and innumerable other patients. Peach was extremely tired and was looking at the clock for her shift to end and praying that there will not be any more cases. But as luck would have it, another case came in just as she was about to leave. She rolled her eyes and rushed to see her new patient.

There sat a very handsome man, with disheveled hair and visibly in pain. “Tall, dark and handsome”, Peach mentally noted and smiled to herself. It looked like he had fracture of the great toe with history of his heavy camera equipment falling on his foot. As she prepared his papers to be transferred to the relevant department and gave him some pain killers for immediate pain relief, she kept talking to him softly, explaining him the procedure and the next steps. As the drug effect started doing its magic, Joel started to take his surroundings in. He felt grateful to Peach and thanked her profusely as he was wheeled away to get his X-ray done. He was disappointed when he learned that he would next be consulted by an orthopedician and not by Peach.

Once home, Peach had hot dinner that her house help had prepared and flopped on the bed. She went into deep, dreamless sleep immediately. Next few days were as good or as bad as always. ER can be a maddening place. Peach was thinking of asking the hospital superintendent to shift her to some other ward. She mentally created a check list to be referred to later. As she cerebrally checked her list, she thought she saw Joel again, this time holding his tummy. She had to look again to check if she was dreaming. He came in a wheel chair as his foot still hurt and now, he was complaining of severe abdominal pain with diarrhea. He gave all the details of his medical condition and gave Peach a wide grin. Peach smile back, with a little confusion on her face. If he was so much in pain, why was he smiling as if he was a child in a candy store! Routine procedure followed, forms filled up and Joel sent for further work up out of ER. Next week, this happened again. This time Joel came up with sleeplessness and severe headache. Peach almost rolled her eyes at her patient but was cordial enough to do the needful.

Peach’s shift ended and she was dying to tell her best friend about this cute guy who kept coming to ER. She knew from his reports that Joel did not have any medical problem, except for the fracture for which he came for the first time! Peach and her friend giggled over dinner and Peach was teased endlessly. They felt that this was not the end of it and their feminine instincts came true. Joel appeared again, this time with complains of “heart ache” and Peach could not help but laugh at his dramatic presentation.

“You are getting creative”, said Peach to Joel in a teasing voice.

“Can’t help it. This is the only way to see you.”

“You mean you were faking all this while?” asked peach in mock horror.

He grinned sheepishly.

“Will you see me for coffee sometime?”

“Are you asking me out for a date?” she smile cutely

“Well, if you have an objection to that, let’s say I want to know you better, be friends. So, coffee?”

“Hmn… okay.”

“Saturday, 4 pm, Starbucks?”

“I work on Saturdays. Sunday?”

He thought for just a split second, mentally calculating something and said, “Done”.

“Do you still have heart ache? Shall I get the nurse to prepare for ECG?” winked Peach

With a loud laughter he excused himself out of ER. “Not very subtle,” thought Peach with a smile and rolling eyes at the same time. The nurse raised her eyebrows and asked her with a gesture, what was that about. Peach just shook her head and went about her work for the remaining of the evening. ER did not seem as busy after all.

One coffee meet led to another. Joel got to know Dr. Prachi was known by Peach among her friends and he loved the name. She was cute and chubby and super soft at heart, hence the name. He totally agreed! Both were busy professionals but took time out for each other. Joel traveled a lot for his photo shoots and Peach has weird working hours at the hospital. Peach made him laugh with her quirky medical stories and he loved listening to her. She brought the humane angle in his life that he felt lacked in his kind of work. He would not share too many details about his work with her but will not forget to video call her even if he had only a few minutes to spare or to ask for her picture just to see her or simply send a hello. When they met, which was not so often, it was magical.

It was almost a year that Joel had fractured his big toe. It was amazing how Peach had filled his life with colours and laughter and happiness. He wanted to take this relationship to the next level. Though they had pecked each other or held hands sometimes, Joel wanted more, and he had seen in Peach’s eyes that she wanted it too. Joel surprised her with flight tickets for a short get away with him during his shoot at Sri Lanka in a month’s time. He hoped that he had not read her emotions wrongly. She smiled, blushing profusely and letting him know that she will check if she can get her leaves cleared. Joel breathed with relief, he did not even realize that he was holding his breath.

As the time of going to Sri Lanka neared, their chats got spicier. All these talks made Peach to think about her body. She stood in front of the mirror and found innumerable faults with herself. She was always on the chubbier side, not so sexy with the current definition of the body sizes and right now those love-handles did not look flattering at all. She was used to looking at imperfections in her daily work and knew that there is nothing called as a perfect body, but she also knew that in Joel’s line of work he met the most beautiful, chiseled, lithe ladies every day. Even if there was so much as an extra blemish, he would remove it in post-production of the shoot and here she was having ugly stretch marks. She tried to reason with herself – he loved her and that’s what matters the most, but at the back of her mind there was this growing storm that wanted to seize her sanity. She thought about Joel and he came across as “tall, dark and handsome” just as she remembered him from when she first saw him. Suddenly, she started feeling that she was not a match for him at all, not the way they looked together. They might be great as friends and even something more but definitely not as physical partners, she cannot match his league.

Just a couple of days before they were supposed to leave for their first holidays together, Peach broke off with Joel.

Joel did not know what hit him. Well, neither did Peach!

Mrinal inhaled deeply, she loved freshly baked cake aroma. She peeked from the transparent oven door and sniffed again. This one was his favourite, chocolate cake. She was sure he would love it. She smiled to herself. Today was their “friendship anniversary” and she wanted to surprise Saaras on their special day.

“How time flies…” Mrinal thought wistfully. It was two years since they first met at the contemporary painting exhibition. They hit off instantly. They were different and yet there was something special that bound them. After that first meeting they met again at a few more shows and their friendship deepened. For Mrinal he was a wave of fresh air. She loved listening to his ideas. It was not that she agreed to everything that he said but Saaras’ passion for art and culture drew her closer to him. She loved their good natured banter. Sometimes Mrinal’s husband too would join them but mainly he was happy to see his wife getting a friend with whom she could share her love for art, who understood her world of colours. Mrinal loved spending time with Saaras. There was something magical about their togetherness. It was difficult to give a name to their relationship. Friendship was the milder and more acceptable term. Though their feelings ran deeper than mere friendship, there was not even one instance where anyone can point fingers at them.

Mrinal was awakened from her reverie with a beep from oven indicating that the cake was ready. She took it out, looked at it and smiled again. She looked at the clock and rushed to get ready. She wanted to be at Saaras’ place before he was back from work. She wore a beautiful peacock blue saree, looked at herself in the mirror and was happy with what she saw. A small bindi between her brows made her babyish face look even more beautiful. There was no other make-up needed.

Saaras was already home when she reached and was surprised to see Mrinal. She enthusiastically wished him “Happy Friendship Anniversary” and smiled broadly. Saaras smile at her childish exuberance but he seemed miles away. Mrinal sensed that there was something wrong but shook the doubt out of her mind and went on gushing about how happy she was. She proudly showed the cake she had baked and went on to get the knife. She had even got candles for them to blow together. She set the cake on the table and called Saaras to cut it with her. Mrinal offered him a piece of cake out of her hand and hugged him with childlike ebullience.

Instead of his usual friendly hug, his arms tightened around her waist. He drew her closer and held tightly. Mrinal looked up into his eyes and was taken aback at the emotions that lurked there. She tried to wriggle out of his embrace. She freed herself and looked at Saaras with a questioning look, almost accusing him.

“What happened Saaras?” Mrinal asked more for herself than him.

Rather than answering her, he went and sat at the edge of sofa with his head in his palms. He looked miffed. Mrinal was surprised at his reaction and went to sit beside him. He got up with a jolt and looked at Mrinal again with unfathomable expressions.

“What happened Saaras?” Mrinal asked again, a little scared.

Something snapped in Saaras.

“What is all this Mrinal? You are a married woman. All these talks of friendship and platonic love are nothing but bullshit. This is nothing but lust. And when I hold you, you look at me as if I have committed some crime!” Saaras shouted.

Looking at Mrinal’s mortified face, Saaras regained his senses. He swore under his breath and went to Mrinal, to hold her, to appease her, to ask for her forgiveness for his callousness. Once again she looked in Saaras’ eyes with her own moist ones. She got up and went out of his home, without looking back!

“If only you knew, how much I love you, Mrinal!” Saaras sighed longingly after her.

May be one day they will be together again, like old days… may be not!

When Zoe first kissed Shrey, he wrinkled his nose and immediately wiped it off. Looking at his expressions Zoe giggled and went to kiss him again. But this time Shrey was ready, he crawled away as fast as he could. Zoe followed him steadfastly. Looking at Shrey’s plight both the kids’ mothers burst out laughing. The innocent chase of turtle and rabbit, as they were known as, went on for years.

They weaved a cocoon around them and nobody was allowed to penetrate it. Once, Shrey picked up a fight for Zoe when one of their classmates made a pass at Zoe. Shrey beat the light out of him. But when Zoe went up to him with a smile, he gruffly told her to behave properly. And his tone was such that Zoe’s eyes brimmed with tears instantly. Looking at her crestfallen face, Shrey sighed and hugged her. She just shrugged his hands off and walked down to their school bus. She did not talk to him for the entire time till they reached home, but by evening all was well again. Tiff forgotten, Zoe and Shrey’s were playing tennis by evening. This was not an isolated incidence, but eventually Zoe would forget her anguish and they would be together again, as always. Zoe and Shrey became inseparable, two sides of one coin, always together but never seeing eye to eye.

However, as they grew up it was evident that how much ever they loved each other or cared for each other they were not cut out to be together. Zoe was bubbly and effervescent while Shrey was a thinker and loved to read. Zoe would go on chattering away her thoughts while Shrey would just nod or give monosyllabic answers.   It was difficult to know what went on in Shrey’s mind whereas Zoe was an open book. Shrey would like to keep to himself while Zoe constantly sought his company.  So much so that she would expect him to shop with her too! Their adolescence being at peak, things started changing, or say, Zoe started realizing how much she was imposing on Shrey. She realized he needed space. His gruff behavior started hurting her more; she started reading more into his monosyllabic answers and felt left out. There was a time when she would drag him out of his bed just to go on a long drive or go window shopping. Now, she felt embarrassed or sometimes insulted when he would just refuse to be with her. Shrey’s behavior was probably the same, but Zoe was growing up and her natural vanity wanted to be pampered.

All her grievances went up like a smoke in the air the day she came to know that he was going to US of A for higher studies. It was just for a few days that they were together and the thought of being alone filled her with dread. She could not think of her life without him. She went to see Shrey and could not hold herself back when she saw him packing. All the wonderful years of their childhood came to her like a flash. She just stood in the door way looking at her best friend. Shrey sensed someone in the room and turned around to see Zoe’s crestfallen face. She saw the same turmoil in his eyes and the hell broke loose. She just threw herself in his arms and he held her tight, as tight as he could. Both were crying openly now. They never had any friend other than each other all their lives and now the thought of being without each other was killing them.  They sat on the edge of his bed, holding each other’s hands, caressing softly. Words failed them but they were not needed today.

“You be good, rabbit! Don’t go on hopping here and there.” Shrey said softly.

“And you pick up some speed, turtle. Else you won’t be able to find any girl for yourself.” Zoe tried to make their mood light.

“I am not going there to chase after some stupid girls. I am going there to study, got it!”

With that the spell was broken and they laughed together. There were no promises made, none were needed!

Time flew by and life went on at both the ends. Whoever said, “Distance made hearts grow fonder” was proving to be wrong in this case. The good natured sparring turned to tiffs and finally heated flare ups. Increasingly the feeling of not belonging to each other started creeping in. The joy of being together was turning into a dread. Zoe was getting possessive about him, while Shrey was feeling suffocated with all the love and devotion. He hated to be answerable. Zoe tried to keep tab on his online life, Shrey hated it to core. The final blow to their friendship came on the New Year eve when Zoe called up Shrey to wish, and made a passing remark about some hot young man in the party.  A heated and hurtful argument followed, and how much ever they regret it later, the damage was done.

That was a decade ago.

Fate brought them face to face again. Their eyes met and the world around them ceased to exist. They did not know how long they stood there, in that crowded room lost in their own world. After what felt like an eternity, Zoe noticed someone tug at her pallu, she looked down and Shrey’s eyes followed her gaze. A little girl looked up at her and Zoe smiled at her daughter. Little Zoe clung to her and shyly looking  at the man getting all her mother’s attention. Just then a little boy came bouncing and jumped into Shrey’s arms.  The boy looked at Little Zoe and asked his father,

“Dad, doesn’t she look like a rabbit!”

A happy, contended smile spread over their faces and the lost years fell by!

fiction_stamp2Kumud was excited about Achinta’s engagement. She and Achinta were friends ever since she could remember. She was a single child and so was Achinta. But they never missed having a sibling. They were like soul mates. “Bestest” friends, as Kumud likes to put it! Everyone was surprised when Kumud got married to Aunurag. It was assumed, even by their families, that Kumud and Achinta would marry. They rolled their eyes in unison on this assumption. Kumud easily moulded herself in her role as a wife. But Achinta always remained her best friend. Aunurag too accepted Achinta as a part of their family. So when Kumud called him about Achinta’s impending engagement Aunurag too smiled ear to ear. Kumud’s excitement was contagious.

As much as Kumud wanted to meet “the girl” before Achinta was officially fastened to her, she could not meet her till the day of engagement. When Kumud saw Achinta on the day of engagement clad in the traditional Bengali dress, standing tall and looking handsome than ever; her heart swell with love for her dearest friend. She almost ran to him and gave a bear hug. Both their families laughed at this childish display of affection. In all the merriment nobody noticed the shadow coming down on “the girl’s” face. Achinta introduced the two most important ladies of his life to each other. Kumud hugged Kakoli with equal enthusiasm and kept on chattering. In all her felicity, she did not notice that Kakoli was not sharing her exuberance.

*****

“Oye, what time are you coming for barbecue this Sunday?” enquired Kumud, as usual.

“Can’t, yaar. Kakoli is coming down for her shopping this weekend.”

“Aha… Dating-wating ‘n’ all, hun?” teased Kumud good-naturedly and both burst out laughing.

“Hey, why don’t you both come down once you are done shopping? I don’t think we will wind up party before 12. What say?”

“Let me see. I think we will be able to make it. Catch you on Sunday.”

*****

“Oye, sun yaar, I think we won’t be able to make it after all. Kakoli is having severe headache and she wants to turn in early since tomorrow early morning she has to go back to her place. Sorry buddy.”

“No problem… hopes she gets well soon. Hug her on my behalf”Kumud replied understandingly.

*****

This was two months back. In these two months Achinta’s visits to Kumud’s place reduced drastically. Their phone conversations, too, dipped. She complained about this to Aunurag, to which he just smiled and told her that it’s natural. She smiled a wistful smile. She hated Achinta’s absence, actual and virtual!

Kumud had expected to become friends with Kakoli too but Kakoli kept her at arm’s distance. There was this nagging feeling of unease when all four of them were together. The usual chatter and coziness were gone. Polite conversation took place of teasing. Achinta was the same when he was alone but the change was evident when the pair was together. He was not at home when he now came to their place.

As Achinta’s marriage date was neared a feeling of dread fell upon Kumud. She feared losing her best friend. She kept this feeling to herself but she knew in heart of her heart that it was inevitable. It was decided earlier that Kumud will be Achinta’s “best-woman” at his wedding. But that was before Kakoli came into picture. Now she was not so sure. Also Achinta had not mentioned it recently.

The duo came to invite Kumud and Aunurag for the wedding. The invitation was as formal as it can get. While handing over the card, Kumud’s and Achinta’s eyes held for a few seconds; Kumud’s eyes brimming with tears of losing her “bestest” friend, Achinta’s eyes brimming with silent apology.

fiction_stamp2This was her second trip to Tarkarli. As she was walking on the shore, she looked back on her footprints and wished the other pair was there too. The pair which was with hers that summer!

She had come to this coastal place, for the first time, a couple of years ago for a conference. And she had instantly fallen in love with the unexplored beauty and meditative sea waves of this “not-heard-of” place.

*****

After a long session on “New trends in antibio therapy” Koyal went and sat on a boat parked in the sand just outside her cottage. There was nobody around and the waves had soothing effect on her nerves. She was startled when she heard somebody call out her name, her pen name!

“Cuckoo!”

She was surprised as to who might know her pen-name here!

A handsome young man was coming towards her and was waving frantically. She waved back, more out of courtesy than recognition.

“Hey Cuckoo!”

He had a broad grin on his childlike face, as if he had discovered some treasure.

“Guess, who am I?” asked the young man with a twinkle in his eyes. She was at a loss but her sharp brain was already at work.

“Sameer?”

“How did you do that? How did you recognize me?” There was utter disbelief on Sameer’s face since neither had ever met nor seen each other’s pictures.

“Nobody except you in blogsphere knew where I was!” She smiled, as always. After all she was known as “Dr. Smiley” in blogsphere, wasn’t she!

“What are you doing here? She still couldn’t believe that Sameer was standing in front of her.

“I came to meet you. Aren’t you happy?” Koyal didn’t know how to respond. Of course she was happy… but wasn’t able to fathom why Sameer would come such a long way to meet her. They had become best of friends, online! Offline… they had their own lives, and neither had tried to trespass into that territory for so many years. It was an untold rule. So why now? She smiled again to his question. And saw the reciprocation on Sameer’s face.

It was awkward initially for both of them to talk face to face. The chat lingo no longer worked. But they WERE friends, so after the initial hiccup, they just went on … chatting away to glory. The hand-in-hand seashore walks gave heady feeling to Koyal. It was long since she felt this way for anybody. Neither of them realized where those four days went. The conference was already gone for a toss.

It was their last evening together. The mood was pensive. They sat on the white, sun-kissed sand sipping fenny looking at the setting sun on the horizon. Somehow the words failed the two chatterboxes. Fenny, sunset, waves and solitude was proving to be a dangerous cocktail. Sameer was scared to offend his friend. He kissed lightly, tentatively on Koyal’s lips and looked in her eyes. He could see the burning desire in those charcoal black eyes. The resultant fire would have been unstoppable had Sameer’s mobile not rang. The spell was broken. *****

*****

She pondered over the evening even now and she knew she wanted Sameer at that very point. Wanted with all her heart and body but thank God for the mobile. It saved her from doing something which she would have regretted later. Or probably Sameer would have! She was married and she was at least a decade senior to him. She couldn’t do that to him…just couldn’t.

Yet, she missed him besides her…

fiction_stamp2“Come on, yaar! I think when one is older the need of a spouse is even more. Be it a man or a woman.” Pankti remembered her own words when she had vehemently defended elderly remarriage among her group.

“What if, God forbid, your father was to do the same? What will be your reaction then? Pankti, it is one thing to talk about something and other when you actually have to follow it!” Krish had argued.

“No, I will always be at my dad’s side if he chooses to remarry after my mother!” She had replied strongly. The discussion went on and ended without a consensus. That was about two decades ago.

Pankti had never, ever thought that she would have to take such a decision in her life. The only difference was that the decision was to be taken for her mother instead of father. Why call it a decision? Her mother had given her a choice… a choice for her mother’s life!

Of course, Pankti was not averse to the idea. Or was she?

Why, then, since she has heard of it is she so upset?

Were her debates and the talks of (elderly) remarriage just empty talks? No. And, anyways, who was talking about marriage here? They just have decided to stay together, a few days at her mom’s place and a few days at “his” place.

“Then what’s your problem?” She asked herself.

Though she was still not comfortable with the whole idea, she had agreed to meet with “the man” whom her mother thought was a “very nice person” and “she would love to meet him”!

As the duo approached him, pankti was increasingly feeling nervous. She looked at her mother and could make out that she too was not in her usual chirpy mood. Pankti went into a kind of a shock when she met Mr. Shah.  He was not at all what she had conjured up in her mind. He was a slight man with a pleasant personality and slowly she became comfortable in his company.

“What did you expect, idiot!!” She reprimanded herself. “He is supposed to be 65 years old, about your mother’s age.”

But his grey cells were nowhere near 65 years… he was a jovial man and well versed too. Slowly Pankti relaxed and forgot how apprehensive she was before coming here. And she looked at her mother, her smile was worth anything.

Later that night when she was thinking about Mahadeve i.e. Mr. Shah, she realized that she never had any problem with her mother being friends or more with anybody. But she was afraid of how the other person might turn out to be. It was as if she was thinking about her child’s matrimony and not her mother’s!

Today when she endorsed their friendship with a smile she truly felt she had become her mother’s mother!! 🙂

His eyes turned into saucers when he saw her for the first time. And when he saw what she was offering him, he was on cloud nine. He simply loved candy-floss! But the moment she kissed him on his cheek he wiped it clean.

Kush didn’t like girls kissing him, yet! In his entire life of nine years he had allowed only his mother to cuddle him and kiss him. He loved being held by her. Oh, how he loved it! But it was more than a year now since she did any such thing. He blamed himself for being naughty and requested God often to send his mother back. He promised him he would behave himself and never, ever upset his mother. But God never listened to him. Now it was only him and daddy. And daddy too had changed since mom went away. He rarely smiled and was keeping himself busy all the time. Though he played with him and also told him stories at night, Kush’s young brain analyzed that his father was also missing his mother the way he did!

But for the last couple of months, daddy had started smiling more often. Yesterday he even whistled while making him the breakfast. Kush felt good. He missed his mother but he wanted his daddy to be happy, very happy!

Daddy said that one of his friends was coming home for dinner tonight and so he had to complete his homework earlier. Kush loved guests. And the attention they showered on him.

And true to that this sweet aunty got him candy floss. He loved candy floss, but that I have already mentioned earlier.

She seemed to be sweet and talked and laughed a lot. And daddy, too, was laughing a lot. It’s been so long ago that daddy had laughed like this that Kush didn’t even remember.

He sat there with them eating his candy floss and sulking. Usually he would not sit with his daddy’s guests for long. But today he refused to budge. He didn’t know why he was suddenly feeling so low and why his eyes were brimming with tears.

“That Lady”‘s visits became more frequent and Kush started feeling alienated. His temper tantrums increased. Daddy was at lost. He didn’t realize what was wrong with Kush suddenly. He was getting worried. He tried to talk to Kush, he tried everything possible but it seemed as if Kush had shut doors. When Kush didn’t light up while watching “The power rangers”, daddy couldn’t take it any more.

“Kush, I want to have a talk with you, a man to man talk. Can I trust you?” daddy asked.

“Man to man?” Kush looked at his father, a bit confused, but intrigued. This was the first real response daddy got from Kush in weeks. He got strength to go on further.

“I am in a dilemma. And I need advice from you. I think you are the only person who can help me.”

Kush didn’t know what to say but he was all ears now and felt very important as his father thought him to be his confidante. He looked at daddy intently and urged him to go on.

“You know Jui, the friend of mine!”

Kush got tensed at the mention of “That lady”. Daddy felt the reaction and was now doubly sure about the problem. He had hit the bull’s eye.

“I am thinking whether I should continue my friendship with her. I do like her company but… you know, I am not really sure. She is a girl, you see!”

Kush’s face lit up. Daddy felt a tug at heart.

“I like her a lot and she seems to be the best friend I had in a long time. But I am not very sure. What do you say?”

Kush was in a dilemma now. He had not anticipated this.

“I think you are the only person whom I can talk to and can rely on the opinion. Do think and tell me.”

With that daddy bade good night with a peck on his forehead.

Kush’s little heart went into topsy-turvy. He sat there for a long time and thought “hard”, as hard as a nine year old could think.

But before he went for the sleep he had made the decision.

After a long time Kush slept with a big smile on his face.

Related post:

Remarriage and Indian Society


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Sakhi's Laghukatha by Sakhi (aka Dr. Dhara Shah) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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