Sakhi's Laghukatha

Posts Tagged ‘Fiction

Mridula opened her eyes and saw his smiling face. She took a dyspnoeic breath and smiled contentedly. At last he had come.

She closed her eyes again and went back to the day he had entered her life. She remembered his first touch all too well. She was ecstatic every time he smiled at her. How she loved it when he came running to her and hugged her as if there was no tomorrow. Her world revolved around him. His choices became her choices; starting from his favourite food to the colours to the TV shows… everything! Even her clothes were decided by his choice.

But slowly and inevitably things started changing. Other people started getting more attention than her. She felt sidelined but smiled and tried to understand. She assured herself that it is just a phase and he will come back to her as he used to do earlier. Of course, he hugged her and kissed her before leaving home every morning but she missed his undivided attention. They no longer sat together and talked about his day or watched movies together with a bag full of popcorns. He did not have time to tell her each and every detail of his life any more. Most of his time at home was spent either on phone or on the computer. She tried learning computer for him too, but he laughed at her. The laugh was not a mockery, she told herself.

As if this was not enough, she sensed other girls in his life too. She tried to enquire about them nonchalantly but he would say they were just friends and she should not be paranoid about it. But she kept a check for any tell-tale signs. She found none. She increasingly felt insecure. More she tried to hold him, farther he went.

She remembered the last fight they had before he left home for good. She had found some gift in his drawer. She kept looking at it and as the time passed she became increasingly agitated. By the end of the day, when he came home she was livid with rage. She started shouting and calling him names. He was stumped, could not understand her reaction or the things she was saying. He tried to make her understand, tried to calm her, but she would not listen. She did not know when she started abusing him. She could see the shocked expression on his face and later the tears too. But she was unable to control herself. She just went on and on. He tried to hold her tight, a hug she was longing for so long. But this time it did nothing to calm her. In her heart she knew, what she was doing, what she was feeling was entirely wrong. And yet, she was unable to control herself. She did not know for how long she went on but somewhere she heard him say that he was sick of her insecurities and sick of her hold over him. He said he needed space. And then she heard a thud, he had closed the door after him.

He was gone, forever.

That was the last time she saw or heard of him. He never called her or reached out to her. She did not know how and where to look for him.

Today, after about ten years, at her death bed he had come back. At last, her son had come to take care of her. At last he will be all hers! With these thoughts, she opened her eyes again, smiled at him once more with all the love she had for him and her soul gently left her body.

What she did not know and would never know was that he was always around her. He stood by her with all his love and care. He diligently visited her in this asylum every single day. It was just that she could not recognize him.

It was a miracle that she could feel his presence and see him for last one time!

After-life

Posted on: May 25, 2010

She sat there on the window seat, looking out in the oblivion. Usually she loved watching the rain drops fall and loved the aroma generated when the parched earth soaked up all the tears of Gods. Today she did not even notice when the rain became fierce and when she got soaked in the torrential down pour.

She just sat there re-living each and every moment she had passed with Ankur. Those silly days of adolescence when she unnecessarily giggled at his stupid jokes were still fresh in her mind. How and when they became aware of each other as a man and a woman she never realized. Her skin had tingled at his first touch. Her every cell was on fire then. A small smile tentatively touched her lips. She involuntarily licked her lips as she remembered their first stolen kiss. They were scared of being caught and that made their first kiss even more thrilling. She remembered his ears going red when they saw each other the next day. He was shy and she loved teasing him.

A small tear trickled down her cheeks and a wistful smile came on her face.

She remembered their first love-making. They were both so naïve and clumsy but the thought of belonging to each other was overwhelming. How time flew! And with time their love too found new heights. They were considered to be the best couple on the campus.  And then slowly something started going wrong. They did not realize when the things they cherished so much, which were precious to them started getting mundane; when from lovers they became apathetic. With the end of the last year of the college their relationship came to an end too! Why and what went wrong she never knew.

How she missed him and their days together! But she never tried to contact him, neither did he. And life went on.

She looked at the crumpled letter in her laps and a sob broke through her, a sob which shook her very being. Now the tears came in bountiful and rain outside increased its pace, as if Gods too understood her turmoil. She tried to flatten the letter again with her wet hands and read those dreadful lines once again, hoping against hope that she might have misunderstood their meaning. It still read the same thing! She had lost Ankur once twenty years back, she lost him again, now for good. She will never see him again, not in this life. She never believed in “after-life”, now she wished there indeed was one.

She did not realize how long she sat there looking at the letter; it must be late since she saw only darkness from her window. She looked at the letter for one last time and got up with determination. It was now time to say final good bye to her childhood sweet heart, final burial of their love!

Just as she threw the pieces of the letter, she heard a click at the main door. She wiped her face, plastered a smile and went on to greet her husband.

Life really goes on… but she would now wait for the “after-life”.

Kesar peered at Tanish from behind her glasses. Every time he passed by her cubicle, her heart went into a somersault. She sighed!!

 “When will he notice me?” she thought. Love

She looked around her to check if anyone saw her ogling her boss and the effect he had on her. Every one was busy with work. She sighed again in relief and tried to concentrate on the rows and columns filled with numbers. Soon she forgot all about Tanish as she dived in balance sheets. She was the topper in university exams and loved playing with numbers. Since the day she joined A & A Fashion house as a trainee she was smitten by Tanish.

She tried hard not to show but it was difficult to turn a blind eye to her blushes. Tanish could see her puppy love for him and felt amused. She was cute, bubbly and a geek. He liked her name too… Kesar, saffron!! She was not beautiful in the conventional way but looked extremely attractive with her short cropped hair, a nose ring and black squarish glasses. She stood out with Kohl lined eyes, denims, long khadi kurtas, dangling earrings and floaters. But what caught his attention more was her youthful exuberance. Yet, he was acutely aware of the age difference between them. She was at least a decade younger to him, not that it would matter. But he was convinced that he was not romantic type, whatever that meant!

As the days passed Kesar got more opportunities to know Tanish. He was a tolerant boss and commanded respect. When late nights were inevitable at the office, he changed from hard, critical boss to understanding witty colleague. She noticed his exceptional managerial skills. She also noticed that though he was friendly with one and all, he never crossed limits and never allowed anyone else to enter his personal space. He kept people at bay without offending them. She was happy to know these tit-bits about him. She wanted to know more, much more. But this has to do, at least for now!

It was getting increasingly difficult for Tanish to work with Kesar without a stir of emotions. It was as if he was in his teens again. He loved her laughter, which he could not hear but see through the partition glass when she was engaged in some animated chatter with one of her colleagues. His heart would melt seeing her smile when she caught him staring at her through the glass panel. He would blush and feel embarrassed. He didn’t like when she was away.

Tanish tried to hide his feelings as did Kesar but it was as evident as sunlight. Only the two of them were blind and thought others were too! Love was in the air and it was palpable.

Valentine’s Day was around the corner and people were busy preparing for the office party for the V-day, as was the trend in A & A Fashion house since long. Tanish was in a dilemma whether to propose to Kesar or let the things be for some more time. But he decided to buy Kesar a gift, something he hadn’t done for anyone since he broke up with his first and last girlfriend when he was fifteen! He bought her an exquisite, hand embroidered maroon khadi silk kurta. He visualized her in it and was pleased at his selection. He knew she would look absolutely lovely in it. Now he just has to gather some courage to present it to her!

Finally, it was V-Day and Tanish got cold feet. He tried everything to avoid Kesar the whole day. He found a bouquet of red roses on his table when he came back from his so-called meeting. He knew it had to be Kesar, as no one in last 10 years had ever presented anything to him. He smiled in spite of himself. The silly grin was stuck on his face for long. He looked lovingly at the bouquet as he laid it on his bed while getting ready for the V-Day office party and smiled again. Suddenly he wanted to run to Kesar and hug her tight.

His eyes searched for Kesar amongst the crowd but she was nowhere to be seen. He waited for her but in vain. It was close to midnight, he realized she would not come. Suddenly the party looked drab. He wanted to call her but restrained himself thinking it might not be appropriate. He sighed and left the party early feeling dejected. As he approached his car he saw a lonely figure sitting on the bonnet. He strained his eyes and was shocked. On seeing him Kesar jumped down and ran towards him almost hugging him but checked herself just in time. She presented him with a big (though not as big as her smile!), heart shaped balloon and a small packet which contained Montblanc pen. He was so surprised to see her there, waiting for him that he went speechless.

“Happy Valentine’s Day!” she chirped. Her exuberance was contagious and a small smile returned to Tanish’s lips. He remembered his own gift for her and handed over the packet to her.

“Happy Valentine’s Day to you too!” he said shyly. Unlike him she didn’t wait to open her gift and tore away the wrapping paper. She squeaked in delight at seeing the kurta and this time she didn’t restrain herself, she hugged him! Tanish’s arms went around her too. She felt so perfect in his embrace.

They smiled and looked into each other’s eyes as if asking, “What took you so long?” Hand in hand they walked towards his car and drove off into the moonlit night.

*****

I am asked time and again why my characters have romantic (!) feelings for the persons other than their spouces or partners. So I thought I should give my characters some chance to feel pure, sweet, unadulterated  romance. What better time than V-month. Please bear with me if you find it too mushy. But as I said earlier… love is in the air! 🙂  🙂

Wish you all a very Happy Valentine’s Day (Belated!!).

Loads of love,

Sakhi

true-story4

Names and certain incidences are changed to protect privacy!

“Papaaaaaaaaaaa…” Shree ran to her father to give him a bear hug as she saw him on the airport almost after a fortnight. She loved her father a lot but these days he was too busy with expansion of his business and was not able to give her much time. He kissed her on her forehead and hugged her tight. Oh, how he missed her! Shree was his only child and apple of his eyes. Shree filled him up with all that she had done in the past few days at school, about her friends and her win at State skating championship.

“Where’s mom?” Mohit asked her. He did not like that Shree had come to pick him up alone with the driver. He never trusted anyone with his daughter.

“Oh, mom was busy with some meeting, so I came alone. I couldn’t wait to meet you, papa!” His heart swelled with love for his daughter.

In a day or two at home, Mohit noticed some changes in his adolescent daughter. She was more chirpy than usual. She had some shyness on her face which wasn’t there earlier. Mohit disregarded these changes thinking that they were due to the transition of his little girl to the womanhood. Still, he made a mental note to talk about this to his wife. Just to be sure that there was no silly boy in his daughter’s life. BOY, was he paranoid!

But before he could dwell more on the matter he was on tour again and the whole issue was forgotten. But it struck him as odd when Shree did not come to pick him up on the airport this time. And as he noticed, the changes that were subtle earlier were pronounced now. Shree was lost all the time, spent more time in her room. Most striking was, her grades were below average, for the first time in her life. Mohit tried to talk to her but she refused that there was any problem. The heated argument ensued with Mohit striking her hard across her face, again, for the first time in her life! Tears of anger, tears of shame, tears of humiliation, tears of revenge slid down young Shree’s cheeks. She resolved to teach her father a lesson!

Mohit felt bad at losing his temper. He knew how futile it would be to deal with adolescent kids in such upper hand manners. He resolved to make it up to her the next day.

Mohit prepared Shree’s favourite breakfast, rosti and orange juice, and took the tray to her room. He was shell shocked not to find her but a note on her pillow. He collapsed on the bed reading his daughter’s life sentence to herself!

Malti found him sitting at the edge of Shree’s bed staring at the life size picture of their daughter with tears running down his face. He looked so haggard and lost that she had to shake him out of his trance. When she read the note Shree had left behind, Malti almost collapsed. A look of “What and when did so much go wrong” passed between them. They sat there, holding hands and crying over each others shoulders for their daughter.

When did Shree grow up so much! She was all of sixteen and fallen in love. Fallen in love with a sweeper! And she ran away with him to teach her father a lesson!

“God, why her?” Mohit kept repeating this again and again in his prayers.

“She is just a kid. She doesn’t even know how to boil water or who polishes her shoes. How will she survive? What if…”  There were thousands of questions pricking Shree’s parents.

Mohit and Malti tried their level best, with all the contacts they had, to find their daughter to no vail. Even the boy’s parents were taken into custody but they too did not know where the duo was. It was almost two months now that Shree had gone.  Everybody had given up hope, but Mohit. In his heart he knew he would find his daughter no matter what!

One day as he was returning from his office, he saw a young girl selling vegetables on the roadside. She, just a little, resembled his Shree… though this girl was in shambles, in tattered clothes and looked like she hasn’t eaten or taken bath in months. Mohit shook his head at how almost all girls of Shree’s age reminded him of his beloved child. Tears stung his eyes yet again.

But as he went a few blocks ahead something struck him. No, this girl has to be Shree… the resemblance was too much to be a coincidence. He asked his driver to take a u-turn, he wanted to be sure! He approached the vendor with caution. If it was Shree, he did not want her to lose her again.

He could not believe his eyes when he looked at the girl from such close quarters. His daughter had lost substantial amount of weight, once shiny black hair looked like end of a broom with filth in them. Her once lacquered nails were brittle with dirt underneath, lips were chapped and skin was now dirty and listless! Mohit fought inner battle not to break down with pain in full public view.

“Shree…” he called her tentatively. Their eyes met. Something flickered in Shree’s eyes, hope may be! Without a word father-daughter climbed in the car. Mohit held his daughter’s hand tightly, never to let go again.

He saw shame, humiliation, fear and many such nameless emotions in his daughter’s eyes and gritted his teeth. He vowed to ruin the boy’s life. But that can wait… till his daughter is brought back to life!!!

fiction_stamp2There she was! He ran after her, was about to tap on her shoulder but she vanished into the thin air. He was baffled, he frantically searched for her but she was no where to be seen. It was as if she was playing “Catch me if you can” game with him. He was desperate to see her face, but she eluded him. He could spot her from distance but as soon as he reached just near her she would disappear. He tried to call after her but his voice failed him. He fell down on his knees in that dark alley and watched his dream girl float away.

He woke up with a start… looked around and smiled to himself, shaking his head. He had this dreams since a long time. He never understood the context. His dream always ended up with that girl floating away. There was some lyrical mystery surrounding her. Sometimes he found himself reciting some verses for her in his dreams. Most of the times he didn’t remember but sometimes he did and he would write it down immediate after waking up. He had now a handsome collection of these poems. In his dreams she would, too, leave her diary at various places for him to read. She wrote such beautiful prose. If only he could see her face once! He sighed and got up to get ready for his job.

As he was blog hopping one day he came across this blog whose author, he found, had the same style of writing as his “dream girl”. He read post after post and got hooked to it. He tried to find out about this anonymous writer through “about page” but came up with almost nothing. The things mentioned in there were non-committal. He waited for her (he was sure it was HER!) new post thirstily, as if his life depended on it. Over a period of time he could manage to develop a good rapport with the author but she was still eluded him. How much ever he tried, she would not allow him to know her in real life. She now became his obsession. He would check her blog every half an hour to see if she had replied to his comments or if she had published a new post. He would become agitated or depressed if she did not reply to his comments. He would feel on top of the world if she so much as put a smiley as a reply to his comments.

Things started changing when more and more people started visiting the “unknown blog” and “she” would reply to all of her commenters with the same gusto. He started feeling jealous. He started feeling left out. He felt as if his world was coming apart….

I am not sure how to end this story. Can you guys help?

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.

Dream

Posted on: September 22, 2009

fiction_stamp2First day at Leelapur, an interior hamlet in Utter Pradesh, was like a rude shock for Kahan. Till now he had read about hunger and destitute in books, but never was he in such close quarters with either. He was to serve as an intern in this village for three months. He was allotted a room besides the so-called dispensary. The room was almost the size of his bathroom at home. There was a wrought iron bed in the corner and the mattress did not look too inviting. Now he wasn’t even sure of safe drinking water either.

“Sir, would you like to rest today and start seeing patients tomorrow?” Dukhiya, the attendant, asked half expecting Kahan to run away from this place as soon as possible.

Kahan looked around and did not find any incentive to stay back in the room.

“Come, we will see how many patients are there!” replied Kahan.

“Only a couple of them as there is no doctor for about six months now. The nurse is managing with whatever he has.”

Kahan nodded somberly. He was too overwhelmed by his surrounding to say anything else. As they started towards dispensary, Dukhiya started filling him in about the village and its people. But his conversance did not prepare Kahan for what he was to see in the coming three months.

“Tell me something, why is your name “Dukhiya?” asked Kahan to feel a bit lighter.

“I am told that when I was a baby I used to cry a lot and always had a frown on my face, hence the name.” answered Dukhiya with a grin. Kahan noticed missing incisors. Dukhiya was a slight man with a slouch. His face was weather beaten and lined deeply. Later during his stay he observed that most of the adults in this village looked prematurely aged and had deeply lined faces at very young age.

He was reminded of “colour streaked” hair of young ladies of his city when he saw “flag sign” of malnutrition in the kids here. For one it was fashion, for other it was an aftermath of privation! Day after day Kahan saw and felt despair. Basic amenities were luxury here.  He felt helpless when he could not give injection to many of the children because there was no muscle mass to poke needle into. He was a theist but looking around now, his faith in God was quivering.

*****

“Sir, sir….” shouted Dukhiya knocking at Kahan’s door. Kahan got up from his slumber with a start. He heard dread in Dukhiya’s voice.

“What could it be at this hour!” wondered Kahan looking at his watch. It showed 2 am.

“What is it? Why do you look so alarmed?” asked Kahan while still trying to get oriented to his wakeful state.

“Come sir, come fast, Bijuri is bleeding profusely.”

This was not the first emergency since he came to this village two and half months back, but he had never seen Dukhiya dismayed before. They almost ran to the consulting room. He saw a thin young woman sitting on the floor with her head bowed and her chaperone was crying and cursing profusely. He assumed that they were a mother-daughter duo. As it turned out, the daughter, Bijuri, was a widow since she was sixteen and presently she was brought here as she had miscarried. That explained the cursing. Bijuri did not look up nor did she say anything. It was difficult to tell from her demeanour what was she feeling and it was equally difficult to gauge her age, but she looked to be in her twenties.. With the treatment done he was requested to keep the matter to himself. He reassured them as he sent the duo home.

Feeling numb, Kahan dragged himself to his room and tried to sleep.

He dreamt of a young girl wearing floral pink and yellow frock running around in the field with a balloon in her hand, her unruly hair bouncing with each gallop. He hears her laughter. She runs into a boy and they both hold hands and play some more. The boy is called away leaving behind the girl alone. A small tear trickles down her chubby cheek. She looks around to play with somebody but found herself alone. Suddenly the little girl is whisked away by a lot of skinny and ravenous people. The girl starts wailing and the whole universe is filled with her cry. Kahan wants to snatch her away from the mob but his hands can’t reach her. He sees her being dragged away. Then he sees her again at his clinic, with her head bowed and bleeding. He sees the blood all over the floor. He wipes and wipes but the blood won’t go away. She sits there in the pool of blood looking at Kahan. Kahan frantically tries to stop the bleeding. Bleeding stops. She smiles at him, a rueful smile and walks away. Kahan runs behind her, to find her, to protect her, to tell her that life is much more than what she has found it to be. He runs and runs through the narrow lanes and fields to catch her, frantically looking for her. She slips away. Then he sees her again, on the other end of the field standing under a sandalwood tree. He could smell the perfume. He breathes deeply to fill his being with the aroma. He gingerly takes the steps towards the girl. He reaches the sandalwood tree and looks around for her. His head collides with something hanging from the tree. There he finds her finally, hanging by the twine, a small smile playing on her lips. But this is not the same girl who had come to his clinic. This is the girl with the balloons in her hands…the nine year old girl! Suddenly the mob appears and starts pelting the girl’s dead body with stones.

Kahan wakes up drenched in his own sweat!

fiction_stamp2Roshan collapsed on the bed on hearing what she just heard. She didn’t know what went wrong. How could he do this! She kept staring in the oblivion. Her head throbbed badly.

“Oh my God! What happened Roshan? Are you alright?” her mother almost screamed when she saw her daughter sitting at the edge of the bed lost and looking like she had seen a ghost.

It was then Roshan realized that her face was wet with her tears… tears of anger, tears of shame, tears of helplessness! “Hun?” she said as if coming out of a trance. “Nothing mom, nothing.” She did not want to say anything about the incident, not to anybody, especially her mother. She stormed out of the room.

Roshan wanted to go somewhere where she can find some peace. But peace will come to those who are peaceful at heart and her heart was in shreds at the moment.

She took her bike and zoomed on the highways where traffic was less and she could speed away. As if, the blowing winds would take away the hurt and shame along with them. If only it was that easy to unburden one self! She did not want to go home but it was almost twelve and she realized her mom would be worried. She had forgotten to carry her mobile in haste. She dreaded going home, to see him, to look into those eyes which she used to adore, where she found nothing but love for her.

She knew her parents were not like other couples. She knew her mom had withdrawn from sansaar very early in her married life, a couple of year after Roshan’s birth. She was like a hermit staying with them just for the sake of it. Roshan was now old enough to understand the sexual need of a person. Had she come to know that her father had a relationship, in real sense, with another woman, she would have understood completely. He deserved to be happy. The happiness he did not get from his wedded wife; happiness to be able to come home to a smiling face, happiness to share silly jokes, happiness to hug someone after a long fight, happiness just to feel that he is needed! She understood it all too well! But she could not understand her father’s sexual exploitation of a fifteen year old maid; a girl who was at least seven years younger to his own daughter! She could not understand how the girl too was so casual about it so as to talk about this affaire with her friend, as if saying, “This is what our lives are all about!” Why she did not tell any of this to her parents or was she happy about it? Was it money?

Her mind swarmed with too many questions; questions that would not be answered!

Not only had she lost her mentor but her belief in basic decency, graciousness of being human! She hoped that someday she would be able to pick up the broken glasses of faith and mend them. Even then, the cracks would still be visible and the pieces would still bear the blood from her shredded heart.

fiction_stamp2“There she is!” A big smile spread over Aagam’s face when he spotted Vaidehi.

Vaidehi was a new student in his class who had joined recently. She was a very quiet girl and had a sweet smile for every one. Initially he found her weird as she was very different from the rest of them. She never wore jeans or skirts or tees unlike his other friends. She never came with them for an outing or never hung out with them after the college was over. But she was with them through out the day and was an easy person to get along with. She never cribbed or never gossiped. He tried to ask her out a couple of times but she politely refused. His charm was lost on her!

Presently he saw her and was feeling happy as it was his birthday and he wanted to invite her to the party he was throwing in the evening. All his friends were going to come.

“Hey, Vaidehi, ruk yaar!”

Arey, aaj to Aagam saheb subah subah college aa gaye!! Kya baat hai janaab?” She teased him good naturedly.

Theek hai, theek hai, jyaada has ne ki zaroorat nahi hai! Haan to mein kya kehne aya tha? Dekh tere chakkar me, mein bhool hi gaya! Arey haan, sun aaj shaam ko party hai aur tujhe aana hai… koi bahaana nahi chahiye, samajhi!”

“Party?”

“It’s my birthday today, so wish me, sweetie!”

“Cut the crap, Aaagam. Tujhe kitni baar bataya hai ki mujhse aise baat na kiya kar! Anyway, many happy returns of the day. But I won’t be able to come to the party. Sorry yaar!” She saw his face darkening with disappointment.

“But hey, we will have a blast here in the canteen.” She didn’t want him to feel so bad, especially today, as it was his birthday.

Yaar teri problem kya hai? Sab hi to aa rahe hai. It’s not as if I am calling you alone and taking you to some god-forsaken place, dammit!” He was really upset and felt the kind of disappointment he couldn’t explain even to himself.

He strode off, livid with anger. Vaidehi stood there looking at his back. She wanted to call him, to tell him the reasons but she knew she belonged to a different world and he can never be a part of it. She was grateful for even been allowed to get back to acaedemics. She sighed and went to the class. The whole day Aagam’s disappointed face floated in front of her eyes. Her heart went out for him. She went home early; she wasn’t able to concentrate, anyway!

Aagam didn’t talk to her for a couple of days. Didn’t even tell her how the party went when she asked. She knew that Aagam was not his usual self since their last conversation. She couldn’t afford to care about it. But care, she did!

Days  passed and everything between Vaidehi and Aagam settled back to normal. As normal as it can be between two adults who are attracted towards each other and are not allowed to acknowledge it. Aagam tried twice after his birthday to say something more to Vaidehi but her face told him not to venture in the territory which might be laden with explosives. After that he never tried.

He  didn’t understand Vaidehi’s attitude though. She didn’t want more and yet he saw her anxious face when he was being playful with other girls of their group. She would get upset if he didn’t meet her at least once a day or was absent from college without telling her beforehand. She was a puzzle to him. But he had resigned to the fate and had accepted to be her friend or whatever they were.

It was third day today that Vaidehi hadn’t turned up for the classes. It was unlike her. Aagam was getting agitated but he didn’t have a choice but to wait for her to come. None of their friends had her mobile number or landline number. She never gave it to them. When she did not come for another two days, Aagam asked Kusum to ask about Vaidehi’s address at the administrative office.

When Kusum and Aagam reached at the given address they were in for a shock. Not only it was one of the posh areas but the bungalow was sprawled over at least 20,000 sq. feet area. They looked at each other and wondered whether they should go inside. They decided to check about the whole issue since now their curiosity was heightened. When the guards were satisfied about them, they were taken into the house.

They were taken to Vaidehi’s quarter and a bomb fell upon Aagam when he saw her. She was wearing complete white as if she was a widow. One of the females there called Vaidehi and she looked at them with a blank face as if she did not recognize them. But as her eyes fell on Aagam, she started crying, softly at first. Aagam and Kusum were dumb struck at the flurry of activity going on around them. One of the ladies told them that Vaidehi lost her husband a few days back. He committed suicide!

Husband?

Suicide?

Nausea rose up in Aagam’s throat; he turned around and almost ran out of the house.

A few days later, somebody showed him an old newspaper clipping: “Impotence being the reason behind the suicide of the leading entrepreneur’s only son…”

fiction_stamp2Aakriti felt so agitated that Aakaash was going to be at the conference. It had been 15 years since she had seen him. 15 years since they had spoken. Since she had told him that her life was to be tied to another. It was her parents’ decision, steeped in tradition. She had hoped that Aakaash would protest – that he would fight for her. But her had just sat there with his mouth hanging open. She had waited for him to call. Hoped. And then the hope faded away. Perhaps her mother had been right – perhaps Aakaash had jut seen her as some minor amusement to pass the time – but not to marry.

But she had accepted her fate as graciously as she could. Until she discovered that her husband did not want her at all. His parents had arranged the marriage and even waived any dowry requirements, to keep a cover on their respectabilility and the fact that their son preferred men. He was gay and saw this arranged marriage as yet another rejection by his parents. He resented Aakriti, not because he had a problem with her specifically, but because of what she represented in his life. Her parents had been so thrilled that they did not have to worry about the dowry. It was something that had weighed on them for so many years, since the birth of their daughter.

So Aakriti threw herself into her work. It was her only solace. Her only outlet and escape from the realities of her personal life. And at first it worked. Her colleagues treated her with the respect due a woman, ostensibly successful in her professional and personal life. But as the years passed, and she continued to live the lie to protect her parents from the truth, to keep the facade of respectibility, it became hareder to cope with the questions of when she was going to have a baby – something she wanted so much – of her in-laws’ taunts about her barren womb, even though they knew the truth about their son. Aakriti hardened herself. If she was gruff with people at the outset, then they would not ask questions that she didn’t want to face, let alone answer.

So now, all these years later, she dressed carefully as she prepared to meet Aakaash, her one true love again. And yet as she applied her lipstick so carefully, she saw the harsh lines on her face. In place of laugh lines, there were frown lines. In place of smooth skin across high cheek bones, there was blotchy, loose skin that gathered in folds across her jowls and neck. Her face showed the ravages of so many years of trying not to care. It could not be turned back now.

And then she saw Aakaash at the conference. She felt herself light up as she observed him. She hoped to make at least the connection of friendship, after all these years. And she felt her internal light dim as his eyes moved towards her and then passed over her in complete lack of recognition. When his eyes returned to her, she saw him trying to place her and then the shock as he recognised that it was her, Aakriti. She was about to go up to him when he hurriedly excused himself and fled from the room. And she realised that he didn’t really want to see her at all.

The realisation was like a rock on her heart. And yet, she composed herself once again and found strength in her work as she had so often before. When she had her work, she didn’t need anybody and they could not hurt her in any way. She ignored Aakaash for the rest of the conference because to talk to him would be too painful. Not just for the love she had lost 15 years ago, but also for his rejection now. And she knew that her mother had been right all those years ago – Aakaash had never thought of Aakriti seriously – she had just been his play thing for a little while. And now she was finally free of all the romantic illusion that she had created for herself – and she could throw herself completely into her work.

———————————-

This work is by a dear reader. She wrote this as a comment but I thought it deserved to be a full post. Thanks sioneve! 🙂


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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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