Joined: 28 July 2006
He still remembered the day as if it were just yesterday. Every little detail, every little thought, and every little word---which is funny because he hadn't thought at that time that that very day would mark the greatest change in his life. He didn't know then that a simple, shy girl would hold so much value in his whole existence. How she would make a place for herself in his life'. and in his heart.
It was the spring of 1998, eleven years ago, that Jai Walia first set his eyes on Bani Dixit. He was twenty-four and she sixteen. His father, Uday Walia, was the top businessman in the city of Mumbai at the time and cherished the dream of having his son join him in the family business. Jai was in the midst of completing his business degree to satisfy his father's desire. It was a year into his MBA that he met his good friend, Daksh Dixit, who like him was also studying for his degree. They at first had been good friends who happened to be classmates, but after outings and time went by they became into the best of friends. Their personalities struck and they formed a quick bond. Some time later, Jai had the delight in meeting Daksh's wife, Anamika Dixit, called Annie for short. They were childhood sweethearts and married young. As in the case of Daksh, Jai got well with his friend's wife as well.
This though was a far away time before Jai even knew of the existence of a girl named Bani. It wasn't until two years into his friendship with Daksh that he actually met his younger sister. It was mere chance. And Jai often wonders that if he hadn't agreed into going to Daksh's home that day, he may have never met face to face with Bani Dixit at all'.
"Come on yaar, just take a look at me. I look horrible," Daksh had exclaimed to him that day. They were both in Jai's car, coming back straight from class, and since Jai was the driver, Daksh needed to persuade his friend into turning around. Jai, on the other hand, wasn't budging. They were already late as it was and his girlfriend, Roshini, would murder him if he delayed his arrival by anymore. It was her 23rd birthday party and was being held in the late afternoon since she and her family had an evening flight to catch to London.
Daksh: I mean, my shirt has stains on it, my jeans aren't even decent. Do you really want for me to look like a clown at the party? 'I thought that you are my best friend. (pouts)
Jai had grumbled back.
Jai: And I thought you are my best friend'yet here you are, trying to make me even more late than I already am for Rosh's party. She'll kill me. You know how much she stressed that it's important for me to be there for the past few weeks.
Daksh: I think she'd be understanding of the situation. I mean, it's showing up for the party that counts. Does it really matter when you get there?
Jai: (rolls his eyes) You don't take anything seriously, do you? 'Just imagine if it were Annie and you made it to her birthday party two hours later?
Daksh: (his turn to roll his eyes) Please, don't make it so drastic. We're only twenty minutes late. Besides, it won't take two hours for me to change my clothes.
Jai: Who do you wish to impress?'You're a married man. Annie would kill you if you were out to lure yourself some girls.
Daksh: She'd kill me and then you for even dragging me along to the party in the first place. 'And don't you want for your best friend to set a good image for you at the party?
In between driving, Jai switched his eyes to the left to catch a glimpse of his friend. And to his dismay, Daksh was right' he was a horrible sight. A person could spot those stains a thousand miles away. Unwillingly Jai sighed in defeat and immediately swiveled his car around to take a U-turn. He threw Daksh an annoyed look.
Jai: (muttering) This better be quick'.
Whereas Jai came from a wealthy background, his best friend did not. Daksh had always been a middle-class man, born and raised. So Jai didn't really know what to expect once he got to the Dixit residence. In the two years Jai was friends with Daksh, he never once had the opportunity of visiting his home. And he neither had Daksh over at his. It was just something they both had never done and didn't mention.
As he pulled up in the driveway like Daksh instructed him to do, Jai took out his key and stepped out from his car. He took a long look at the house before him' A cozy, decent sized white house with black shutters and a front porch. Jai softly smiled at the sight of it' Sure it was no way comparable to his, but it had a certain homey aura around it that he couldn't help but notice.
Daksh: You coming?
Jai turned over to look at his friend, who stared back at him with a strange look. He nodded his head and followed after him. He watched Daksh withdraw a set of keys from his pocket and begin in unlocking the door. Suddenly he heard him say'
Daksh: You should pray that Annie won't be home' Because if she is, we won't be just two hours late, but miss the entire damn party.
Instantly Jai began to pray. They walked in as Daksh swung open the door and let them in. He led Jai to his house's guestroom and told him that he would be back in five minutes. Jai looked on at Daksh's retreating figure for a moment before seating himself down on one of the couches and staring at nothing but the thin air. He folded his hands together and unknowingly began to twiddle with his thumbs, having something to do in the silence of the lone room. He wondered whether Annie was home or not. If she were, then maybe he could have her as company. It was funny that once he was thinking of this, he heard a sudden tinkling sound come from somewhere. He looked up from his hands and turned to its direction. He heard it again' and could tell it was coming closer. It sounded like anklets. The first thought that came to his mind at that moment was that it was Anamika. But then he thought against it. She was a very modernized girl and he rarely ever saw her with any jewelry on. As he was in the trance of thinking, the approaching chiming came to a stop and Jai raised his eyes to take a look'
There she stood, flat-middle in the entranceway of the room, soaking in the radiance of youth. She had a skinny frame and looked no taller than 5'5". Her wavy black hair ended close to her waist and rested against the support of her back. She had an oval face, small cute nose, high cheekbones, and nicely shaped lips. Her skin was fair and he pondered whether she stayed indoors most of the time. It was her eyes though that captured his attention. Big honey brown doe-like eyes covered with long, curly eyelashes.
She was dressed simply, yet nicely in a pink chudiar with matching bangles, small jhumkes, and a tiny silver bindi adoring her forehead. In her small hands she held a thali with auspicious belongings.
He didn't know who looked more surprised than the other'. him or her. They both were clearly not expecting the other. Before he could even say anything, he watched her place the thali down on a table nearby and look around curiously before changing her attention back onto him, seeming stumped by something. Slowly a sweet smile played on her lips as she looked apologetic for reasons Jai did not know. He cleared his throat and decided to be polite'
Instead of hearing a "hello" in return, what Jai got was a silent "Namaste" greeting with her hands. Taken aback by this, Jai dumbly did the same. He saw with amusement as her smile turned into a laughing grin, but she held it back by biting down on her bottom lip. If Jai wasn't mistaken, he had thought she was trying not to laugh at him'.
"Alright, I'm ready' Let's go," he heard Daksh's voice announce as his feet ran down the fleet of stairs. He appeared by the doorway along with his sister and gave her a startled look.
Daksh: Oh, Pari, you're home? I thought you would have left for the mandir by now'
Both Jai and Daksh watched her shake her head in a negative and smile softly, silently indicating something to her older brother that Jai could not catch.
Daksh: Well, be safe. And don't stay there for too long.
She nodded her head, showing that she understood. Daksh caught the curious look on Jai's face and spoke, grabbing his focus.
Daksh: Jai' this is my baby sister, Bani. She's eight years my junior and goes to the girl's school just nearby here. ---(turning to Bani) And Bani, this is my very good friend, Jai ' He's studying for his MBA along with me. Won't you greet him?
Before Bani could even react, Jai cut in.
Jai: Er' we already met Daksh' But it's real nice to finally meet you Bani.
Bani simply smiled as a response.
Daksh: Pari, I've got to go to a friend's party. I'll be back in a few hours. Make sure Annie and Papa don't worry. I'll see you later. Bye. (smiles)
Again Bani nodded understandingly and gave her brother a farewell peck on the cheek before picking up her thali and leaving'. the tinkling of her bangles and anklets fading away. Jai, for some reason, couldn't keep his eyes off of the girl' Something about her intrigued him. Once Daksh and Jai got back to the car, he spoke in a rather offended tone'
Jai: You never told me you had a sister'
Daksh: Neither did you' I found out about Jigyasa just last year' Besides, we don't really talk about our families in the first place, do we?
He couldn't deny him because it was right. Along as not ever being at each other's homes, they also never discussed about their family life. It finally dawned upon Jai that his best friend had another life than just the one he knew and was a part of. One he never took the chance to know about. But he would change that. During the car drive to the birthday party, Jai had decided that he would learn more about his best friend's unknown inside life.
Jai: ' Your sister is very quiet.
He had commented at some point on their ride. He listened carefully as Daksh took a few moments to answer him back'.
Daksh: That she is'.
The next day when Jai suggested that they go over to Daksh's house after class instead of the regular cafe they went to, Daksh was unsurprisingly suspicious'.
Daksh: You want to come over to my house?
He questioned with surprise. Jai merely shrugged his shoulder nonchalantly.
Jai: Yeah, sure' Why not?
Daksh: You'd rather prefer to go to my house than the cafe? 'Why the sudden change?
Jai: No sudden change. I just feel like going someplace else than the cafe like we always do.
Daksh: Well, there are other places we can go, you know? Why don't we call Adi and meet up in the coffee shop. We haven't seen him in sometime anyways.
Aditya Bali, whom Jai is also very close with, is one of Jai's childhood friends. Once gaining Daksh's friendship, he introduced the two and was pleased that they hit it off well.
Jai: Er' I... I don't know' I feel like that's a little repetitive too.
Daksh: (raising a brow) Then where do you wanna go?
Jai: I'd like it if we just didn't go to any public places. I mean, we go out all of the time' Why don't we just sit and relax somewhere? And what better place than your own home?
Undoubtedly Daksh could tell something was fishy. Jai knew he could never pass anything by him. He was too smart of a man. He immediately gave up with his excuses and confessed what was on his mind. After narrating his thoughts, he watched Daksh wear a serious look on his face, as if taking his suggestion into consideration.
Daksh: I guess you're right' You and I are pretty private about our home life' I've got nothing to hide. So I don't mind taking you to my house'.
And thirty minutes later, Jai and Daksh arrived at his home. For some odd reason, Jai found himself hoping that Bani would be home. He felt that she would be the very first step in finding out about this different side to Daksh. And Daksh seems to keep her very close to his heart, if he isn't mistaken about the pet name "Pari".
Just as Daksh struggled in unlocking the locks, the front door flew open and Anamika stood before them wearing a warm smile on her face.
Annie: Jai, what a surprise! (exclaims)
Jai returned the smile. He was rather fond of his best friend's wife.
Jai: I hope not so much of a surprise and that you are willing to let me in.
Annie: Oh, of course not'not that much of a surprise! Come in! Just think of our home as yours too.
Jai: (sincerely) Thanks Annie.
Daksh: Kya Annie, you give Jai such a wonderful greeting but whenever it is me who comes home, you barely acknowledge me.
Annie: Oh Daksh, is that you? I didn't even see you there'. (playing a pretense of naivety)
She smirked at her husband who gave her a frown and followed after Jai and Annie into the house. Annie led them into the family room where she told them to relax and that she would make them some coffee since they are not tea drinking types. While Jai and Daksh immersed themselves into conversation, Jai discovered that he was growing rather comfortable in the environment of his friend's home and regretted never coming before. Then he heard the same familiar tinkling sound from the day before'
He turned his head and watched his friend's sister emerge out from the kitchen adjacent to the family room with a tray full of coffee in her hands and smile politely in his and Daksh's direction. She wore a cotton white chudair that fit her nicely and seemed every bit like an angel. She approached them at the couch and offered the cup of coffee to Jai first. Jai, a little transfixed by her presence, silently took it from her and murmured his thanks. She smiled beautifully as a reply, showing all of her straight pearl white teeth. She then gave her brother his and received an affectionate pat on the head.
Daksh: Thanks Pari'
Bani flashed him a kind smile. Annie's voice then was heard by them all as she screeched for Daksh's presence. Daksh placed his cup down on the table next to him and excused himself.
Daksh: (flustered) Pari, why don't you sit down and give Jai some company for a little bit while I go see quickly what it is that your Bhabhi wants.
Bani nodded her head. Jai wondered if she was always quiet like this or if it was simply by his presence and that she was shy. Daksh left him behind with his shy, quiet sister and nothing to say. He stared up at Bani from his sitting down position and found her mutely staring back at him as well. They both quickly averted their eyes and seemed self conscious of the silence existing between them. Jai then cleared his throat' A normal habit of his when stuck in an awkward position.
Jai: (politely) Please go ahead and sit down Bani' I don't want to make you uncomfortable in your own home.
She obediently listened to his request and sat down on the single chair sofa opposite him. He noted her anxiously wringing her hands and fiddling with her duputta. He rattled through his head for a moment to decide on what to say before gaining the courage to strike a conversation with his friend's sister'.
Jai: Your brother says you go to the school nearby' Uh, er' how's that going for you?
She simply looked at him blankly and Jai realized that that might have been a stupid question. He cursed in his mind before saying'
Jai: (nervous chuckle) What am I even saying' I' er... forget that. It was a stupid question' Of course every normal kid your age hates school. Right?
She shook her head in disagreement and Jai gave her a startled look.
Jai: So you don't hate it?
She nodded. Jai studied her for a moment before carrying the "conversation" on'
Jai: What is it about school that you like then?
She looked unsure for a second and a flick of hesitation formed on her face. He decided to prod her on, not wanting her to be shy with him or give her any reason to be so.
Jai: (encouragingly) You can tell me' I promise I won't laugh if you find it embarrassing' It's normal for kids to like school too' It's just that a majority of them don't. (ends with a light grin)
The corners of her mouth twitched and slowly a smile made its way onto her own mouth. She raised her hands and unexpectedly began to make gestures with them' Her one hand made a sweeping movement back and forth while the other drew a box in the air. Jai threw her a puzzled look that she caught. Her hands momentarily stilled in the air but moved once again as she drew a box and then began to make the sweeping motion in it' Jai couldn't help but grin a little at the sight. For a moment he felt like he was playing charades with her.
Jai: ' You like to draw?
She stopped moving her hands and nodded in approval. Jai's grin widened from being right.
Jai: ' Do you go to an art school then?
She excitedly nodded her head once more, seeming relieved and glad that he was able to understand her.
Jai: That's great then' I was never much into drawing' nor coloring'
Bani gave him a questioning look that he easily interpreted as, "Why is that?"
Jai: Could never keep in the lines'. (explaining with a friendly wink)
She covered her mouth with her hand and silently laughed into it. A color of pink also stained her cheeks, making them lovelier than they already were.
Jai: (smiling a little at her amusement with him) '. When did you first discover that you liked art?
Suddenly her soundless laughter stopped and she looked pained for a moment. Jai gazed at her with puzzlement as she struggled with her hands to explain. He focused hard on the motion of her hands but wasn't able to figure out what it was she was trying to say. She too seemed a little exasperated in not having him understand her. As much as he was enjoying this charade thing going on, he would rather find out straight away about Daksh's sister than playing games.
Jai: I don't know if it is me that is keeping you quiet' But I just want to say that there is no reason for you to be shy with me. I am hoping we can become friends '.I want you to know that you can talk to me' I would like for us to be comfortable with each other' I hope that's not too much of me to ask?'
Bani's hands dropped to her lap as her eyes stayed rooted onto Jai, deep in trance about something. She lowered her eyes down and tucked a strand of her hair that managed to get loose behind her ear. And exactly what Jai didn't want for to happen, happened. She began to grow uncomfortable. He instantly regretted for even opening his mouth, but before he could apologize, he heard Annie's voice come from behind'
Annie: No, Jai' it isn't too much of you to ask.
He hadn't seen her coming and so was taken by surprise. He watched her make her way in and sit down onto the armchair of the single sofa Bani was seated at. She tenderly placed her arm around her sister-in-law's shoulder and changed her eye's direction back to Jai'.
Annie: (finishing off) But the circumstances can't give you what you want'
Jai: (confused) What do you mean?
Annie gave Bani a side glance at this, as if seeking permission for something, but Bani's eyes stayed glued to the floor. She sighed and stroked Bani's hair while capturing her attention.
Annie: Why don't you go out to the garden, Bani? ' You can take your sketchbook with you if you'd like and draw for a little while' (suggesting sweetly)
Bani gave a faint smile in her sister-in-law's direction and briefly met Jai's curious eyes before willingly leaving her seat as well as the room'.
After she left, Annie turned back to look at Jai and continued on after a hesitant pause. Jai's eyes returned to her as well after following Ban's retreating figure'.
Annie: Jai ' Bani can't speak.
She stated calmly, yet her words seemed to echo in the silence of the room. It took Jai some time to process this before he dumbly responded'
Jai: What do you mean she can't speak?
Annie: ' Bani lost her voice in an accident that took place seven years back. Unfortunately, it was the same accident that she and Daksh lost their mother in. ' Bani and her mother were both coming back from her grandparent's house when their car met into a terrible crash. Kiran Mummyji lost her life in that accident and Bani lost the will to speak after witnessing her mother's death. '. After many examinations, the doctors confirmed that she was impacted greatly from the incident and couldn't speak because of her fear and the heavy loss from her mother's death'We all tried to encourage her to speak many times'and still do'but it all went to vain . ' She is still scarred by the events of her mother's death' We don't know what it is that she saw or the details of the accident'but whatever it was, it affects her to this day'. It took some time for all of us to get used to the change in Bani and pick up on learning sign language since that is the only way she can communicate with us now.
Jai sat in the brood silence, taking in the newly acquired information he received. It all started to make sense'her quiet nature, the nods, and the hand gestures. It wasn't because she was shy' she couldn't speak. He began to feel like an idiot. Here he was, trying to encourage her to speak with him, when she didn't have that power in her, a will that she lost to do with her mother's death.
Jai: I' I'm sorry' I didn't know'
He found himself apologizing to her. A soft smile adored Annie's face while she looked at him with kind eyes.
Annie: You shouldn't feel sorry and Bani wouldn't want you to be. You didn't know '. What happened to her perhaps was for a reason. You are not to be blamed for her condition nor should you pity for the state she is in.
Jai: Still, I should have asked' I shouldn't have been assuming things that weren't true' Forgive me.
"It's alright Jai' How could you have known?... Don't beat yourself up for it," Daksh spoke up out of nowhere. Jai located him at the entranceway, staring at him with a faint smile. He walked into the room, joining his friend and wife.
Daksh: It's actually my fault. I should have told you about Bani's condition but I purposely didn't'. I-I didn't want you to treat her any differently like other people we've come across. Nor did I want to make Bani uncomfortable by me making her state aware to other people. But I know you' you're a good man and also my best friend. Still, I was a little afraid of your reaction and behavior regarding Bani.
Jai stood up from the couch, standing before his friend. He placed a hand on Daksh's shoulder and met his gaze.
Jai: Daksh, yaar' How could you even think like this? It doesn't matter to me if your sister can't speak' Just because she can't doesn't make her any less than everyone else' I would treat her like I treat anyone else'. No special treatment involved. ' I just wish you would have confided in me about this instead of making me seem like a fool.
Daksh: (smiling) And I'm sorry for that' From now on, I'll try and be more open' I now know that there is no need for me to keep anything from you' You're a good friend, Jai'.
Jai smiled along with his friend and gave him a little pompous look.
Jai: That I am'
Together Daksh and Jai chuckled as well as Annie who stood up from her seat and joined them. The sound of bangles moving drew Jai's attention over to the entranceway of the room, where he caught the image of her standing half hidden behind the wall and peering silently into the room. Daksh and Annie followed his gaze of direction and also spotted her nearby, who became startled with everyone's sudden attention shifting to her and guiltily revealed herself.
Annie: (taken aback) Bani'. Tum gaye nahi? (trans: Bani' you didn't leave?)
Bani shook her head while her eyes remained down on the ground. After a moment they rise and Jai watched as she expressed something to her sister-in-law. Annie waited patiently while reading her gestures. A light smile tugged on her lips as she turned to look at Jai.
Annie: Jai' Bani says that you are a very nice person and that she is glad her Daksh Bhaiya has a friend like you.
Jai's eyes fell onto her and saw her stand shyly in front of him while her hands fiddled with her duputta. He grinned in Bani's direction and slowly walked forward, approaching her by the entranceway.
Jai: You don't have to use Annie or your brother to communicate with me' I'd prefer if you expressed what you feel to me instead. I may not be able to get what you mean right away' but I will surely learn to understand.
Her silent eyes stared up at him in slight wonder and slowly her face lit up on his words as a soft smile played on her lips. She nodded her head enthusiastically and Jai couldn't help but chuckle a little at her. He brought out a hand, extending it forward and asked'
Her eyes went down to his outstretched hand and back up to meet his own gray ones. Letting her duputta loose, she shyly placed her own hand into his and shook it'.
The following 6 member(s) liked the above post:
static_chaos23, smashy, piyushi, ixray, alicia212, Isa_de,
Joined: 04 March 2009
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That was good dear I really loved it. Poor Bani she cant speak, oh well lets see what happens next?
Joined: 04 August 2006
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Joined: 08 April 2008
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