Joined: 31 October 2008
Joined: 31 October 2008
Maya's yellow and pink teddy-bear key chain rang out in alarm as it crashed with the ground. She had locked and unlocked her drawer at least five times by then, debating and failing to decide if she should go home. It was past eight in the night. She was done with her tasks for the day and the only reason she was still in office sat three cubicles away, chatting away with someone who sounded like his team lead.
A sudden pat on her shoulder made her turn around. It was Sayanti, the best friend she had in office and in Pune. She seemed all set to leave, her blue jhola of a bag flung boldly over one shoulder.
"Planning to camp out in office tonight?" Sayanti giggled as she fiddled with the brand new tea coaster on the desk.
"Errm no, let's leave in a while... I was just glancing through these changes I made yesterday." She quickly hit a maximize on the Visual Studio screen in the taskbar but it stubbornly refused to open.
Sayanti cleared her throat. "He just left Maya. I saw him swipe out."
"But how could that be?" She was astounded. "He didn't even wish me goodbye!"
"Oh how tragic! Please accept my heartfelt sympathies." Sayanti settled down more comfortably on the table, controlling her laughter with difficulty.
"Shut up!" Maya slammed her drawer shut, picked up her bag and was out of the door before Sayanti had a chance to retort.
"Oh hey whirlwind!" Sayanti rushed inside the elevator a second before the doors closed. "Ok peace, peace. I know it's weird how he behaves these days. Like he didn't even bid Manav goodbye..."
Okay, so she knows how to rub some ice on my wounds. Gosh, look at how melodramatic she was getting! But on a serious note, Manav was Rishi's confidant, friend, agony uncle. If he was being distant with him as well, then his cold manner couldn't have been directed at her alone.
"What? Are you even listening?" Sayanti had to clap her hands and stamp her feet before Maya realized she was being spoken to.
"Course I am. Some goodbye bullshit. Like who cares when he comes and goes? Not me!"
Maya stared at Sayanti for a moment before looking away.
The main door to her apartment was open. Apartment was really overstating it; she lived with a handful of other girls on the second floor of this building called Aashirwad. It was a paying guest accommodation and the landlady - a quintessential Marathi woman - lived with her family downstairs.
Normally, Maya didn't have much to do with her flat mates. She liked keeping herself to herself and apart from her roommate, didn't talk much to any of them. She glanced askance at the open door as she made her way toward her room. From experience she knew that an open door indicated celebration. One of the girls had a promotion, had been shopping, had a friend come over or gotten engaged. Drat it, she hoped they would leave her alone this once. She felt too pissed off to be part of anyone else's happiness.
"Look Shweta..." She called out as she cautiously opened the door to her room. Last time there had been a birthday, everyone had been lurking behind her door to wet her with soap spray." It's your punishment for being late." Shweta had announced peremptorily when she had let out an indignant comment about how it wasn't her birthday she was late to. Tonight however, no one jumped out from the shadows. Her room lay quiet, dark and empty - the windowsill the brightest corner owing to the streetlight glowing loyally outside.
Damn, she thought. Now that she looked, all the rooms lay as quiet as hers. Everyone seemed to be out and she could look forward to more hours of loneliness before they condescended to return. Ironic how her half hearted prayers about wanting the room to herself were the only ones God decided to bring true that night.
Pune Mirror was a shred of content embellished with loads of fluff. Who cared what lady had been allegedly hypnotized into giving away her gold chain to a tramp or what according to so and so was the most happening shade of the summer?
But she read it nevertheless, primarily because he did. They would sit there for a while after lunch and flip through the pages together. Today though, he was sitting away and the world's biggest bore sat by her side in the guise of - oh well, no name taking. He was this 25 year old child and he happily popped bubbles on her phone as she desperately waited for Rishi to look up from his oh-so-interesting Pune Mirror.
Enter Payal. The princess in waiting who wanted the world at her feet. She firmly sat herself beside him and started airing her half baked opinions loudly.
"I always knew Rahul Gandhi is a good for nothing snob. Oh have you seen that absolutely delightful movie starring... Rishi, I am speaking to you!"
He then deigned to look up. Even had the audacity to smile. "Yes, you were saying? Oh about that movie...."
Huffily, Maya got up and walked back to her cubicle.
"You were the one who coded Branch Master weren't you?" Geetika looked at her with marble eyes as she neared her desk. Srinivas stood behind her, looking even more menacing than usual.
God, she hoped all was well with that module. She had worked hard on it and bugs were the last thing she needed today.
"Yes Ma'am." She replied meekly.
"Did the sample I showed you have session variables?"
A meek No Ma'am preceded a deep silence. Geetika went on about how futile this was and how non standard that was and how she was to correct the discrepancies as soon as she could. Srinivas of course relished in it all, always taking pleasure in anything that could bring her down.
It took her an hour to work her way through all the changes mentioned. Being shouted at for mistakes wasn't what affected her most, though of course it had a role. What was worse was she missed her shoulder to cry on. R was the one she would narrate the tiniest details about her day to and he would laugh about it, just listen or change the topic. But at the end of it all, she always felt better. Happier.
She remembered the time she had been upset about an argument at home. They were all out for a birthday treat and though she was trying her best to look and act normal, he had sensed something was wrong. She had denied and she had smiled but he hadn't left her side even once all through the party. And she couldn't not feel happy about the fact that he cared.
She opened the office messenger. It wouldn't harm to send a quick hi across.
M: Lots of work?
And there wasn't more.
He would always - always - ask a counter question. Did she have work? What was she doing? Anything worked. But now, a foul smelling 'Yes' of a conversation stopper.
She closed the message window.
Okay, she fumed. She had lots of work as well. She shut down the whole hideous messenger all together.
"It isn't my fault Sayanti! You know how things used to be. He literally avoids me now!" Maya screamed into the phone, looking around desperately for stress balls.
"But Maya, he's like that with everybody now. I don't care, Manav doesn't care, why do you?"
"I care because -" She breathed in hard. "So what do you want to say? I am going to finish off in cinema style - I care because I am in love with him?"
Sayanti paused before replying. "Why are you so opposed to the idea?"
"Because it's impossible Sayu. Such things don't happen in real life. Besides, this isn't some age to fall in puppy love. I mean it's so-"
"It's so what?" Sayanti shook her head in vexation. "No matter how clichd it sounds Maya, love doesn't come planned. Why don't you accept it?"
"Yes, I intend to."
"No kidding really?" Sayanti's voice came back to her all energized, the prospect of an office romance between two of her colleagues decidedly appealing to her.
"Totally. I accept that I am utterly bitterly sleepy. So good night."
Rishi cornered her the next morning after tea break. "What's going on with you?"
She gasped. How - what - how did he find out? Sayanti couldn't have been telling tales...
"I mean, whenever I talk to you, I don't even get an objective response..."
Objective response? She almost giggled. Only he could think of such a wordy manner of framing a question. She cleared her throat.
"Response is beyond the question, Rishi. When do we even talk anymore these days?"
It was his turn to look surprised. "We don't? You mean I don't?"
"Who else? You seem intent on avoiding me at all costs..." She hung her head, choosing not to continue further.
"Gosh are you insane?" He looked genuinely distressed. "Why would I do that?"
Maya decided to walk back to office. This conversation was treading dangerous waters. He stopped her from walking away.
"No please tell me, when have I ever avoided you?"
"Okay you haven't." She suddenly looked right into his eyes. "It's me who's misinterpreting it all."
He stared back confused and she looked away. So much for fighting over who was avoiding whom.
Over the next few days, Maya was convinced she was going nuts.
She had never known herself to be capable of such fierce jealousy and absurd insecurity. Insecurity for God sake? She detested the very word!
She hated it when Payal wandered around him, talking about this and that. She hated it when someone stole into the time he earlier used to give her alone. At times, even when he was with Sayanti and probably discussing work, she wished he could be with her.
Rishi was walking with Manav a little way ahead of Sayanti and her. It was their daily walk to lunch and they had lurked behind owing to Sayanti's new umbrella cum sun guard. The sun seemed too hot, the wind or its absence too pronounced. Hadn't Goa been much hotter? Her mind chided her. Hush she said to her mind, Goa had been a different world...
Lush green trees and quaint, old worldly cottages had transported her into the world of dreams the moment they had set foot in Goa. She hadn't been able to believe her stars when the trip had been arranged in the first place. They worked in different projects in office - different departments to be precise - and there was no way she could go with him on his department's outing. Sayanti wasn't with her either and neither was Manav. Her department's picnic promised fun enough to make space for a formal little travelogue later in her diary. She didn't look forward to it much. But some strange little quirk of fate had made all the women in her team drop out from their trip and her boss had been thoughtful enough to ask her to not miss her share of fun owing to someone else's personal reasons. And here she was, in Goa, with the people she liked best in Pune.
She didn't read much into the time they spent together. The walks on the beach elated her, but she attributed that to the coolness of the water and the serenity of the moonlight. The festive cruise enthralled her; she thought it had something to do with the wild music that played. She didn't realize how she always tried to get the seat next to him at lunch, be the one to serve him what he needed at dinner. She didn't notice how his smile lit up her day and his blues spoilt hers.
He was smiling now. The water had descended, the sun high up in the sky. Taraangan - the mess they had lunch at - stood firmly in the background. She automatically smiled back, glad of the twinkle she caught in his eye.
Could what Sayanti had said possibly be true?
She woke up one morning to a rainy, overcast sky. The sun seemed deep immersed in slumber and too comfortable to pay a visit. The tendrils that crept up her window lay waiting in anticipation. The first monsoon rains!
Maya jumped out of bed in glee. She adored rain. The way raindrops danced about in the air and tingled her skin on touch. The way the clouds darkened the sky and made a lovely candlelit evening out of an otherwise ordinary day.
Where had the summer gone?
In work, in late nights, in her books.
And undoubtedly, in him.
She had tried the denial path - course I don't love him.
She had tried the avoidance path - do I know him?
She had tried the modest path - he sure can't think the same.
She had done it all. A stray rain drop fell on her nose as she leaned over to shut the window. Maya, now try the truth.
The wind outside howled. Oops, she thought. She hoped it wouldn't blow the clouds away.
She put on her favourite red dress and wore matching red earrings. If it rained today, she promised, she would tell him her feelings.
The wind howled some more.
The office seemed mystic, even romantic. Only a few lights were on here and there and elite, over worked heads pored over some module or the other. Maya smiled. She hadn't ever expected to land up in an IT company amongst software geeks. She had always been the quiet, literary types. Sometimes she still felt like a misfit but she usually managed to work her way through obstacles. Hard work, she had realized, was what always kept you afloat.
She looked over toward his cubicle. Empty. She hoped the rain hadn't delayed his bus. Patience, my girl. It isn't raining yet.
When he finally arrived, she couldn't go beyond a simple greeting. Heaps of work had been passed on by her TL and she had to submit the same by the evening. But she couldn't help noticing his unnatural buoyancy, his extra cheerfulness. Was he too going through what she felt? Was the romance of the impending rain driving him crazy as well?
Somebody's ringtone sung the tune of an old Hindi classic - a song they both cherished. Ordinarily, she would have made a silent comment about how people should keep their phones silent in office. Today she smiled. She could feel all the butterflies and trumpets that were conventionally associated with love...they played a mad orchestra in her heart.
She had never known she could fall in love. Weird old workaholic that she was.
She had never known she would even accept the same.
And, to top it all, she had no idea how wide her smile could be. She knew now, now that she saw him walking toward her.
"Beautiful weather isn't it?" He declared with a grin as he took a chair beside her.
"Um yes, stunning." Did he hear her catch her breath?
"And you are sitting here - coding! - when the whole world's enjoying."
She checked in the page she was working on. "No, I am done with it."
"Just in time!"
She looked at him quizzically as she extended a hand to lock her drawer. He caught her hand before she could turn the key.
"I said no more work." He announced with absolute authority.
Trying not to let her goose bumps show, she withdrew her hand hesitatingly and turned the key.
"Alright alright. I was locking the drawer."
"So all said and done. Let's go now. I came to pick you up."
"Where are we going?" She glanced out once more, like she had done a dozen times that day. The pavement twelve stories below didn't look dry, she could see cars stuck in traffic, umbrellas lending the air a vibrancy of colours. It was raining!
"It's raining!" She declared happily.
"Yes. So don't worry, I will borrow Sayanti's umbrella." He grinned as he noted her confusion.
"You know Rishi," she began, "I wanted to tell you something." You can say it Maya. For all you know, he feels the same way.
"I can guess. I have to say something too."
This was surreal. Would she really be spared the nervousness of accepting her love? Would he declare it first?
"What?" She almost whispered.
"The menu Maya!"
Bonkers was he? What menu was this?
"Who will fix the menu for the event?" He went on. "I have to make it grand considering how much I have gorged on everyone's parties..."
"I didn't get you..."
"Oh you don't know do you?" He hit her lightly on the head. "You have been in love with that computer screen all day. I am talking of my treat Maya. I managed to get through BARC...I am leaving tomorrow."
BARC. Bhabha Atomic Research Centre. He had asked her to appear for the exam as well but she hadn't, considering the MBA that was queued up in her to-do list.
He was talking about how he wouldn't be able to serve the notice period and how excited he was about this new venture.
The office walls suddenly seemed a harder shade of concrete. The rain seemed more of a downpour - traffic blocking, menacing and sadistic!
Tomorrow onwards, she would have no qualms about him not talking to her as much as usual. She wouldn't fret about umbrellas over lunch.
"Hey? Where are you lost?" He waved a hand in front of her eyes. "And what did you want to say to me?"
She looked up. And smiled.
Joined: 18 June 2009
Joined: 05 February 2009
BollyCurry Screen Writer
Joined: 19 May 2008
Joined: 31 October 2008
Joined: 31 October 2008
Joined: 29 May 2009
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|Married to a Murderer - short story||meghavi||11||1334||11 November 2007 at 12:54am