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Kashish was shopping for the college festival with her friends. It was their last year at college and perhaps her last year of fun, friends and freedom. Ignoring her gloomy thoughts Kashish picked up the huge box of sheets, charts and clothes, she had been pulled into decoration committee by her friend and now she was holding a big armload of stuff and couldn't even see where she was going. Then something most extraordinary of her 20 years of life happened. She slammed into someone hard, and fell down gracelessly in a tangle of sheets clothes and her own dupatta making a complete fool of herself garnished with her silly squeak. Kashish liked to believe she was graceful if not very beautiful or bold.. Now even that illusion got shattered.
"Oh, I am so sorry. So sorry I couldn't see where I was going.." Kashish spluttered as she straightened herself and pushed her silky hair out of her face. To her lack of luck she had bumped into a really good looking guy , who looked at her as if she was the curse of his life.
"It's not your fault. But I have to do this so don't shout ok?" he said standing straight and not even bothering to help her with her stuff or give her a hand up.
Before Kashish could ask what, the guy started shouting at her. At first bewildered and then highly embarrassed Kashish never thought about speaking back or not crying. No one in her life, even her father had shouted at her, much less raised their voice at her and now he…
"Stupid woman!! Are you mad?! Don't you have any brain?!! Walking around like that! You can't even watch where you are going. You stupid cow!!" the man continued to yell drawing stare of nearby people in the mall. Kashish wished the ground would open and swallow her at that moment. But no such luck, the man continued, "… cheap little nothing! Look at you behanji! Dressed like that! God how did you even enter this place! Deliberately bumping into guys. Disgusting!!" Kashish shrank into herself and wished hard to disappear. She looked down at her simple salwar kameez and tears fell down as the insulting man kicked the chart paper rolls and walked away.
She knew nobody dressed so conservatively these days.. but.. but…
"Kashish!!! Oh my god Kashish are you ok?!" her friends rushed over to her as they saw her sitting on the floor with her mess, tears streaming down her cheek. She had got separated for 1 minute and look what had happened to her.
"It's ok I am fine." Kashish managed with a hiccup. They didn't believe she was ok and Kashish tried to relate crying with a twisted ankle. But her friend knew her better and made her tell about the guys who had insulted her.
"Why that b#### you don't worry Kashish. If you see him just point him to us. We'll take care o him. How dare he!!" everyone helped Kashish and after a few more minutes of shopping they went to the food court. Kashish had no intention of getting all attention by telling her friends when she spotted the man with his friends, but she flinched involuntarily and tried to hide herself from him. Her friends more tuned to her reactions immediately noticed that something was off and then noticed a bunch of guys pointing and laughing at Kashish's direction. Kashish knew then that this was going to be the worst day of her adult life as her friends dragged her to the laughing bunch of 'yahoos' as one of her friend called them and demanded that he apologize to Kashish.
It all grew into a full scale heated debate as her friends collided and loudly argued with his friends. Hating herself for being a coward, at the same time Kashish hid behind her friends and peaked glances at the guy who was the root of problem.
By Kashish's standards he was handsome, more handsome than most of his friend and if he hadn't just insulted her, she would have thought he had a kind smile too. Right now he wasn't arguing or defending. He was looking for her and caught her dead when she was staring at him. Kashish felt as if some how he had physically stopped her from ducking back behind her friends back and hiding. No one had ever looked into her eyes like that. Slowly the guy got up and everyone quieted, he came forward towards Kashish as her friends parted to reveal her hiding figure.
"I am sorry miss. I didn't want to make you cry. It was very wrong of me. It was a silly bet. My friends told me I can never be a hard on a person and asked me to insult the next girl who walked out of the shop. It was silly bet and I should have never accepted it. I am extremely sorry. I hope you do forgive me." Kashish felt as if something was pressing against her lungs and realized she wasn't breathing. Taking big gulp of air, she looked around completely surprised and doubly embarrassed by such a sweet public apology. Even her friends were staring wide eyed.
"Well? So it's cool between us?" he asked when Kashish hadn't so much as blinked an eye. One of her friends nudged her and Kashish managed to nod. And then he smiled and oh my, what a smile. Kashish could feel all her friends falling for the guy in that single moment like bowling ball hitting all the pins in a perfect shot.
"Great! Hi, I am Akshay." He said extending his hand, widening his dazzling smile. Her friends wanted to pounce on that hand and pump it hard. For them he was handsomeness, charisma, great personality all rolled into one. For Kashish he was just another great looking guy who was setting her heart pitter patter. How many times had it happened? Someone had extended their hands for introduction and Kashish had shyly remained mum; not offering her clammy hands in return.. Too many times for her to remember.
"She's Kashish. She's really shy. I am.." one of her friends finally pounced on the hand and introduced everyone. Kashish didn't mind, she was just glad to be off the hook. After every one was introduced on both the sides, Akshay insisted on treating them all to lunch for his behavior and the stupid bet. One by one they all balked and agreed.. Bowling pins. All of them were bowling alley pins…
That was the first time they had lunch together. Kashish had expected the incident to be over.. But then one of the guys was a brother of one of the girl in her all girls college and he to invited with all his friends to their cultural fest and they all dinner together. At first Kashish didn't realize and neither noticed that while all the guys were trying to hit on her friends, Akshay wasn't one of them. He would crack jokes and join in but several times Kashish caught him staring at her.
When by chance they happened to meet once again a restaurant a few days later he singled her out and asked her if she was still mad
"Kashish, I apologized in front f the whole mall. Why can't you forgive? Do you really think I am not sorry?"
"I forgive you! I.. don't know what you are talking about." Kashish stuttered at the sudden question. Somehow she had ended up sitting at the end of her booth against the wall and he was right next to her. Her friend in front of her was making moon eyes with a guy next to her. There was no escape.
"Then why are you so deliberately cold towards me? Why do you avoid talking even looking at me?" Akshay asked in such a hurt voice, that Kashish felt instantly guilty for not making efforts at being more friendly.
"I am sorry it seemed that way.. It want intentional. What I mean is.. I.. I … I mean.." Kashish sputtered to explain, when finally her friend helped her out.
"What she means is that she is like that to all the guys… she doesn't take interest coz… Kashish has strict family and she isn't planning on heart ache." Kashish blushed as all her life lay open for everyone to read… She won't make a boyfriend coz she was too afraid… How pathetic could she really get?
"Well we can be friends, can't we? Do your parents have issues with that too? I just liked you so wanted to know your better nothing more Kashish. I swear." Akshay said sincerely. And Kashish took a deep breath to calm down her jangling nerve. No handsome guy had ever made so much effort to befriend her. Despite warning bells in her brain Kashish couldn't help feel elated.
"No.. I don't think they would. I mean.. I just don't want them disappointed with me after they had allowed me to enter college. I don't want to do anything to hurt them." Oh great! Not she had told everyone her sob story.
Her friends helpful as ever told everyone how her father didn't think she needed to study after 12th , as girls in their family don't have to work for living and how she had begged to enter college and also the fact that she would probably be married to a stranger within an year. Everyone looked quite shocked at her but Akshay took it in his stride and joked about dancing at her wedding if he would finally make friends with him. Kashish managed to smile felt herself fall a little for the guy. Nothing damaging.
Those two were the word she kept repeating to herself every time she met him again, sometimes in a group sometimes alone. When her friends teased, she would say 'he's just a friend' a friend and repeat the words mentally.. She kept repeating until one evening he proposed and Kashish said yes before she could even repeat those words in her brain. How could she not? Akshay was considerate, gentle, fun and so nice to her. Despite of her shy awkwardness in his presence, he never criticized her manner or clothing. He didn't even complain when she refused to hold hands in public if they walked together. He was the sweetest thing that could have happened to her, how could she say no?
Things could have become bad, but Kashish realized that Akshay had devil's charm and luck upon him. By accident her family found out about her and Akshay, they were ofcourse furious. Kashish hadn't dared to go out of her room where her father had sent her after giving her a furious look. She had been sure her college days were over, she would never graduate or see Akshay again. Perhaps her father would marry her off within the next month, but that night itself Akshay came over to her house managed to charm everyone. Kashish had watched the whole thing disbelievingly from behind closed curtains as he had a long talk with her father. Apparently Akshay wasn't just a guy. He was guy from good rich old family based in Illyria, cape Town, America. He was here apprenticing under his distant uncle and he had told his family about me unofficially. Once he got back there he was going to make things official. He also told my father that he wouldn't meet me again without his permission on only in public place and how fruitful this match would be for both families.
Truth be told, Kashish had never thought that far or about how 'fruitful' their match was. She had simply lost her heart to the guy who had worked hard on stealing it. To her astonishment her father had said he would think about it and then later given them permission to meet but only in groups and in public places. For the first time Kashish believed her father wasn't as strict as she had thought him to be.
But he was, she realized the day her college got over, he demanded Akshay make things official now or she couldn't meet him anymore. Akshay had shrugged, given her one of his dazzling smiles and said he was going back to America to settle things. He had gone and not returned in person or her calls. At first Kashish couldn't understand. She panicked over his safety and everything else, then when her father told her furiously that he had been just amusing himself with her. Kashish went against her father for the first time. She wouldn't believe him and sincerely felt something was wrong with Akshay. She asked her friends and they all thought her father was right. But Kashish discovered the stubborn streak she had that day as she cried over her love.
Deciding to go to Illyria herself to find what was wrong, Kashish hatched the most daring scheme. Her friends couldn't believe she had it in her to lie and connive like that. Kashish herself couldn't. Her limb shook and her palms sweated the whole time as her father talked to her friend's brother who pretended to be Akshay on the phone. He insisted that she come and see what life in Illyria was like. If she was comfortable are not there. They couldn't make it official if she couldn't adjust there. Luckily she had a distant cousin Ridhima who lived there and worked as a local reporter. Somehow after much cajoling and a Mount Everest of lies Kashish left home for a place where she had done nothing but spill tears.
Unlike her friends and family back at home, Ridhima was something else. She was strong, independent, opinioned and she knew who Akshay really was. She wasn't a fool like all of them and she didn't treat Kashish with kid gloves when she told him that Akshay was scumbag. But she was kind too, she delivered the blow hard but was ready with the first aid kit. She wouldn't let Kashish slide into depression; chocolates, movies, songs.. Stupid banter.. Even though Akshay had broken heart, Ridhima was determined to piece it all back together.
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