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Joined: 06 December 2007
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The Fated Silver Lining
Silence… magnifies everything. Every feeling. Emotions. Thoughts. Actions. Decisions. Reactions. Yet, my mind seemed to have stopped working the moment I realized there was nothing left to be said and the endless deafening silence broke in between us. Long before I knew, the very still and heavy air filled my lungs, almost choking me. 'That's right', I thought as the growing burden of our relationship was sinking in. No time to play the blame game. We both were at fault. I wanted freedom. He wanted to commitment. I was never going to agree to be confined in his world and its boundaries. I was neither a rare bird to be locked in a cage nor a fancy show-piece for display. It was a wonder for us to make it so far and more surprising to even get together given the unapproachable differences in our values and preferences. 'That's right', the voice inside me continued, 'this was bound to occur some day and today shall be your lucky day. No more compromises and killing each little desire for this reckless love of yours'.
Surprisingly, none of my attempts at articulate reasoning consoled me or the very panic caused by my rapid beating heart.
Not once did I felt his eyes meet any part of my existence as we both sat spaces apart, surrounded by that same unbearable silence. Though, it was another thing that my stare was ceased on the ground beneath me. I was looking at nothing. The flashes seem to come once every few times I blinked. They were fresh in my memory, each one of them. Flashes of the two whole years spent together. 'Wasted with each other', I corrected myself.
I heard his footsteps taking long and definite leaps, striding towards the exit. The door shut hard and loud on his leave, just like his heart had turned cold on me and formed walls impossible to climb. His defiant scent still lingered in the room. "Nothing is absolutely certain. Not everything has a happy ending", I whispered the words of wisdom to myself. The impression of his strong willed and clear steps kept ringing in my ears. I sat in my place, unmoved for hours.
A well spent morning it was. I sighed heavily, breathing that same air filled with his cologne. What a way to start the day. Just imagining the possible length of the rest of the day left me with an unsettling feeling. Each slowly passing hour brought different memories of those same two years. I was tired. I was tired of being reminded of the mistakes I made again and again.
I sat uncomfortably in my chair and stared at empty space. After taking the day off from work, I still managed to keep my word and meet with this friend of mine.
"So any plans for summer outing far?" he asked.
"Nope," I gave my rather plain reply.
"Do you wanna go out then? Let's gather everyone from our circle and plan a picnic, huh?" I could feel his rising excitement.
I said nothing.
"Tell ya what, YOU can choose the place! I won't disagree, promise," he smiled and held out his hand for a pinky promise.
"We are not kids anymore, Armaan. Grow up, already," I was irritated. His smile and usual jolliness seemed to poke my temper. It was reminding of my own sad state of affairs—the eventful morning of this very same day. The more I looked at him smiling, the more it appeared to laugh at me and my failure of a relationship.
"Oh, I am sorry. I must have forgotten that you were a 60 year old trapped in a 25 year old body," he grinned at his sense of quick humour. But, it was not the first time I heard that line from him, though, instead of making me smile like before, it just set ablaze my anger.
I tried to hold it all in. I really did.
When he did not hear a reply back, he continued his nonsensical teasing as if oblivious to my silence, my ruined mood, or that quickly turning red face of mine: "Awe, I hope you won't tell on me".
I bit my lower lip as I ignored him and continued my attempt to bare it all without flaring up.
"Did you really mind it? Hey, you should be used to my jokes by now. Don't be so childish. Now, that I remember, you were always a spoilsport. Learn to play along sometimes, bud," Armaan looked more adamant on making this harsh day even more intolerable for me.
I gave him a sarcastic smile. His mouth closed before he could utter his next set of insults. He asked for it.
"Done having your share of fun, my dear friend? Or is there anything else you feel like saying? What more to expect from jerks like you. You are so self-absorbed and egoistic that you don't even notice the people around you, care about their feelings, let alone be more sensitive and pay heed to their moods. The very least you could do is be respectful, but you fail at even displaying the basic manners. I pity you!" all the built-up anguish inside me exploded like hot lava. I did not realize whatever I spewed out let alone know how coherent and prepared it all sounded. I have never fathomed myself say such words.
"Are you okay, Aarzo?" he said in a low voice to prevent more people from looking in addition to the ones who were already staring at us after witnessing me yell loudly. The caf was crowded and half of these people with nothing better to do were watching my melodramatic reaction for entertainment. I was unaware of all of it.
"Let's go out. We should not create a scene here," he tried cajoling me and took a hold of my hand. I yanked him away and pushed my chair to stand up.
"You think I want to stay anywhere near you right now? And mind you, I was not the one who asked for it", in a fit of anger, I picked up my half drank iced coffee and poured it over his head, "this was a useless drink just like this meeting. Have a good day with someone who is stupid enough to tolerate you".
I stormed outside still very much angry and quite disappointed at my so called friend who I have known for the last 20 years of my life. Agreed. We grew far apart in the last few years after that unexpected incident but it was also undeniable that we have been close once. We may not fully know about each other's personalities but the least I could ask of him was to be considerate. My impatience in waiting for the bus made me all the more frustrated. Why today of all days did I opt for public transport! Nothing seemed to work out….
The scorching sun almost burned my skin. It felt much closer to Earth than ever before. I felt drops of sweat sneakily slip away through my neatly washed hair. I was slowly getting soaked. The bus still did not arrive…
Suddenly, I felt someone lightly tap my shoulder, "I am sorry", came his voice. I knew at once it was him without even looking.
"Leave me alone, Armaan. I really don't feel like talking right now, especially with you!" I replied blatantly and started walking ahead, sparing him no glances back.
He quickly caught up with me, "Aarzo, please listen to me". Instead, I began running as fast as I could. It felt good. As I crossed each shop, building, or sign board, it felt like I passed by all those troubling thoughts, the breakup, the disappointments and left them way behind me. I had no idea where I was heading but the route to my destination seemed to make me throw away all the burdens. Neither the sun nor the heat bothered me anymore. The fresh summer breeze whirled around me. It was refreshing.
Out of nowhere, someone took a hold of my hand, ceasing me to go any further. It was him again. I had forgotten all about it or that he was following me as he tried hard to keep up with my pace. "Are you crazy?" he asked panting heavily. That was quite like a rude awakening.
"I thought I told you to let me be," I said to hide even the slightest signs of guilt inside me. My cheeks flushed red with embarrassment but I ignored everything, "you can let go of my hand. I am not a kid!"
"Are you sure of that?" he asked in an aggravated tone. I shrugged carelessly and rolled my eyes. His grip grew firmer and he dragged me all the way back to his car. I did not protest either. At this point, it did not matter to me that we were just fighting or how insensitive he had been before...all I could look forward to was the ride in the comfy seats of his new convertible standing right before us. Maybe, my anger had cooled off after the impulsive run or I was just too tired for a fitting reaction. Or, perhaps, the heat had finally gotten me.
I closed my eyes and quietly felt the wind subtly blow. He was driving the car swiftly with much conscience. I had always liked that he was so careful whenever he drove.
"Just drop me off to my home," I told him with my eyes still resting under the strong rays of the sizzling sun.
"Do you want me to pull the shade?" he asked.
"No need. You still need to dry off that iced coffee from your hair," I said with an almost childish smirk.
"You shocked me today, madam. Everyone around must have thought I dumped you or something. It was truly embarrassing. Thank you for the early birthday present," he was pretending to be mad but I was glad that he was still able to joke about it. It only meant that he was not angry.
"Don't you think you deserved it?" I said with a straight face.
"You still dare to make fun out of it. Come to think of it, you have become very daring after dating Shamir. The whole decision of starting your relationship itself was quite brave, to be honest. I never thought you both…" I interrupted before he could say anymore, "It would be better if you don't comment so casually about my personal matters, please". I shot him a pleading glance and quickly turned to the other side. A lone tear stealthily escaped my eye. I shut my eyes tightly to prevent the welling up storm inside me flow carelessly. I missed him…. I did not imagine I could be so weakened by the mere hurdle of a breakup. The realization of my deep emotional investment in the relationship became more evident with each heavy breath I exhaled. It took moments before I finally let the feelings take over me. I cried bitterly and loudly. I felt the car jerk as he pushed the break, parking it in a corner.
"Aarzo? Hey, what's wrong? Why are you …" he worriedly asked.
I kept weeping.
"At least tell me if something is wrong, huh? You're scaring me here now," the concern in his tone grew.
"Just don't look at me please…don't …ask anything…please…I'm embarrassed as it is for crying like this in front of you….just look away…" I requested in my shuddered voice. He said nothing and quietly waited till I calmed down which took quite a while.
Heaving a long sigh, I exhaled the heavy and burdensome air out of my lungs. I peeked at his side to find him staring out of the window. He had pulled the top cover during this while to give me some privacy. I cursed myself for the umpteenth time for letting loose my weak side. My heart felt much lighter than before and I couldn't deny it.
I glanced at him again, very swiftly. But, this time I found him staring right back at me. His impatience to know my explanation was evident in his dark grey eyes.
Hastily, I left the momentary contact as I shifted my gaze to my hands and fiddled with the old stone ring in my hand.
"Do you need anything? Water? Juice?" he asked softly.
I was in fact thirsty but I adamantly cleared my dry throat since I didn't want to accept any favour, "No, thank you. And, umm, I am sorry. Don't mind me please. I'm just not myself today". I really wished he would ask no more…
"Am I allowed to ask what went wrong?"
And, he just did. Was I really expecting him to stay quiet…
"Are you sure?"
That's how the car ride went in silence…but, this lasted for less than 10 minutes.
"This isn't the direction to my place…don't you know the way?" I was compelled to speak up as I saw turning towards some route I never saw.
"You'll know soon…" that was all he said.
"What! Armaaan! Seriously, what the heck are you thinking right now…you better stop the car. I wanna get off," I was freaking out as he ignored my words as if I was nonexistent. We drove through several roads with no signs of civilization at either side, just some really tall green trees standing on pale grass.
"I'll jump off your car if you didn't say anything! You have 5 seconds to decide," I warned him.
"Didn't you want me to stay put and just shut up?!?" he said like he had been punished for no reason.
"I. Do. Not. Care. I'm counting: 5, 4, 3, 2," I gave him a long glance and thankfully he did speak up before I finished, "We are almost there. If you don't like the place, we'll go back," This was not comforting at all.
"Oh Gee, really Armaan? You for real?" I frustratingly sighed and slammed myself back on the seat. He had really driven me crazy today and I had no energy left to respond especially when he was in his stubborn mood.
"We ended our relationship today," I finally told him. I knew his eyes were now fixed on me as I awkwardly turned my face away. We were sitting on the warm bright green grass. There was a small pond of fresh water nearby and few ducklings were strolling without a care. It was a place secluded from the noisy city. We had been resting here for a while and just observing the beautiful scenery before I decided to speak up.
"Why?" he was a little curious but did not seem much surprised.
"Just like you said, we were not such a great match. There were too many issues. He was too assertive and I did not like being ruled over. I am my own person and I never wanted to just shut myself to only follow someone around," I elaborated as I keenly watched the little ducklings drink the pond water and play around in mud.
"I heard you were soon going to get engaged?" he speculated.
"Yeah, we would have been long ago if he agreed then. He wanted more time and he had other priorities. I also got busy with life after that. I guess that was a good thing otherwise it would have been much of a hassle to break the relationship," I felt more resentment as I spoke about him.
"Are you okay with it?" he was concerned.
"Maybe…I think I am," I replied uncertainly.
"Do you want me to help you guys patch up?" he asked out of the blue.
For a moment, I just stared at him with a confused look. I was taken aback by his response. "What?!?" I muttered.
"I am not repeating that. It was hard to say as it is," he nervously adjusted his hair.
I laughed. It was funny given our circumstances.
"Your mature side is quite entertaining," I said, still giggling.
"Forget I ever said that," he said awkwardly.
"At least, it's better than you proposing…" I said in a slip of tongue and regretted it right after. That was still a sensitive topic between us. It was the incident that drew us apart as friends. "I am sorry," I added and waited for him to talk or accept my apology.
After a long pause he said, "I didn't know you liked Shamir back then. Are you still not comfortable about that? Still angry?"
"No. I think you should be angry after the big fight we had over that. You just shouldn't have proposed in front of everyone and Shamir. I am sorry for whatever I told you then," I said recalling the change it brought in our friendship of years.
"Why are you apologizing? Didn't we have a long talk about it before we decided to become friends like before?" he said hesitantly.
"Don't we both know that never happened? It was not really possible to go back the way we were before. I felt uneasy whenever we met since we both were aware of what we felt," I stated it as a matter of fact.
"It is weird that we are talking about this after two years and with much ease. I didn't think we would be able to," he smiled and stretched out his hands in the air.
"Are you surprised?" I asked as I smiled back at him.
"Isn't it obvious?" he said laying himself back on the warm grass and resting on his folded arms. "But, to answer your question: yes, I am very much surprised," his smile grew deeper.
I took the same position as him at a little distance. "Me too!" I chuckled and closed my eyes for a quick nap. The sun was still up in the sky and the winds were much stronger and cooler. I could faintly hear the birds chirping and the distant sound of wind waves gushing pass by the tree leaves.
My gaze was fixed. These eyes seem to zoom in and out, periodically—they would narrow down to the very thin lines, even at the point of focusing on just each one of them that formed the unique print on each of the fingers. By this time, my mind recorded almost the very petty of details of his hand. His freely lying hand was almost touching mine and I tried to carefully lay the same way to avoid any movement. I did not apprehend when I woke up or how long I slept for. Without my knowledge, my finger lightly touched his. I did not dare to move. His hand felt very strong with just this slight contact.
"What are you doing?" came his sleepy voice. Before I could retreat or think of an excuse, he gripped my hand in mid air. It seemed like I was caught red handed doing something I shouldn't. I tried to escape his lingering gaze and moved back.
"Gosh, you can't keep your hands to yourself. Give others some space," I tried to divert his attention. The atmosphere was making me anxious the more I tried hiding earlier action. He let me go and I quickly stood up, rubbing the grass of my clothes.
"Oh my God! Is it 8 already?" I jumped in shock after reading the time off my watch.
"Just to let you know, I woke up way before you did," he told as he tied his shoe laces.
I heard him yet ignored to not let him see the faint blush on my cheeks. I looked up to notice a cloudy sky with the bright red sun now getting ready to set.
"Let's go!" he got up and swirled the car keys around his finger.
"Walk a little slower!" I yelled and ran to catch up. It was gradually getting darker.
"Drop me off to the radio station instead," I told as I fixed my face and hair.
"Why didn't you take a day off?" he asked looking ahead at the road.
"I just do one program a week just for the fun of it. I thought it may help take my mind off," I replied as I applied a light coat of kohl to hide the dark circles under my eyes.
Soon, we reached the destination and I rushed inside.
The last five minutes of my program's conclusion were usually used by me to give a message to the listeners. I fixed my spectacles as I read the last few lines from the planned script and then continued, "I hope you enjoyed the show. Today had been quite eventful for me with meaningful encounters. I learned a few things about myself and the people I know. I also realized that having one good friend beside you in times of need is a blessing. They have their own ways to cheer you when you're down or minimize your worries just by lending an ear to them. Thank you, Armaan".
As I walked out of the station, I heard his footsteps reaching nearer.
"I listened to your show," he grinned.
"Nothing to be so happy about. It was because I forgot to thank you before and why are you still here?" I looked at him quizzically.
"I went to get something to eat and came back to pick you up since it's already 10. No need to misunderstand," he winked.
"As if I was dying to misunderstand you…" I said defiantly. In an instant, my view blurred for a moment and my head throbbed with pain. I rubbed my eyes but my vision fizzled out more and more. Having no strength to stand anymore, I let my body loose and got ready to meet the ground.
"Aarzo!" he called out my name. I gradually opened my eyes to find him waving his hand at me.
"What happened?" I asked in my broken voice.
"You fainted, missy! Did you eat anything at all the whole day?" he sounded worried. He hurriedly unwrapped a sandwich and placed it in my hand and a bottle of juice in the other hand.
"It must be because I'm anemic. My blood pressure doesn't take too long to go down. Thank you for the food," I explained as we ate.
"Armaan, thank you and I'm sorry to cause you so much trouble today. You have always been a great friend," I talked as we got off, "Good bye". I bid my hand and walked towards my home.
"Aarzo!", I stopped as he called out, "I know its not the right time to say something like this, but I don't think I'll get so much courage again. My feelings are still the same for you. They have not change. Even if you don't feel the same, just know that I'm here for you as a friend. I won't make you feel burdened by it. Just like today, I want to be the friend you can be with when you need someone to lean on". His attempted to smile but in vain. It was visible that he was sad. It did matter to him that we did not feel the same way. I held out my hand for a friendly shake. Instead, he grabbed it and pulled me into a hug…it felt too close for comfort. I liked hugs. I may have hugged an uncountable bunch of people a million times already, but this seemed too close. I could hear two heart beats; one being mine and the other being his. They seemed to both to compete at first, striving to thump faster by the second. Then, they quietly settled and made peace. It was a harmonious feeling, as if they both were synchronized to beat together. Together, they made a much clear sound that was more than ever persistent to stay in my ears. I felt light headed, wanting to slip into deep sleep. My hold grew lighter and these eyes closed as his cold breath tingled my ear. I felt my lips curl up a faint smile before my exhausted body let itself loose and my wandering soul finally decided on the place it wanted to stay beside. I was at peace.
Maybe, just maybe, it was not such a bad day despite it being so emotionally draining. Every cloud has a silver lining and this was probably just a glimpse to what the future had in store for me.
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Joined: 06 December 2007
One Summer Day with Geet
A/N: * I don't own Maan or Geet's characters*
She woke up on the twenty-first of June, she smiled remembering the past year of her life. On this day June 21, she and her best friend had gotten married. Maan Singh Khurana her best friend since high school, was lying next to her. "Wait a minute… where is he?" Geet wondered as she looked around at their empty room. So she got up and made her way towards the kitchen. There he was, her handsome hubby, making breakfast for them. "What are you doing?" she asked. "Making my beautiful wife breakfast," he answered as he reached for her with a bottle of syrup in his hand. "Oh, no you don't!!! I'm going to take a shower!," Geet yelled as she ran away from him and his bottle of syrup. After Geet finished taking her shower, she hurried to get into her, well, Maan's favorite sari, a beautiful plum-colored sari with silver work on it with a hot blouse. As she made her way downstairs, she made sure to bring her hair to the front over her shoulder so that her hubby could see her back, that was covered only by a thin strap. "Now where is he?" As Geet walked into the kitchen she saw her breakfast on the island, but no Maan. She was about to leave the kitchen when she saw a note tucked underneath the plate with an orchid.
You are looking beautiful in that sari. I want to make today special, but for that I have to leave you for a bit. Be back in a while. Miss me.
With all my heart and love,
As she read the note, she became misty-eyed. Me never failed to amaze her. Even after a year of marriage, he came up with the best surprises. For example on her birthday, April 5, he had booked a yacht and took her out for a midnight swim; afterwards, they had gotten on the boat and after that …
Well, if her husband was the king of surprises then she was the queen. She had a surprise for him that was sure to make this day ever more special. Now all she had to do was wait for tonight.
It was nine o'clock, and she was still waiting for Maan. His "while" had turned into twelve hours of waiting. She was starting to get worried. Maan never went anywhere without telling her; not because she wanted to know, but because he couldn't stay away from her. As she thought of him, a smile appeared on her face. Slowly that smile turned into laughter as she felt him trying to creep up on her. As she turned around to face him, he put his hands over her…eyes, silly. "Maan, yeh kya kar rahe ho?" she said as a blindfold replaced his hands.
He carried her to his car and gently lowered her onto the passenger's seat. He came around, got in the car, and started driving. "Maan, where are we going?" "You'll know when we get there" replied Maan, finally stopping the car. Before she could say anything, Maan came around and picked her up and started walking again. While Maan was carrying Geet towards "Destination Unknown," Geet was worrying about… [Don't worry, you'll find out soon enough]. Maan started slowing down his steps; and Geet could hear the roar of the ocean, and smell the sea air.
Maan finally opened her blindfold, and led her towards the white canopy set up on the beach.
"Happy Anniversary!" "I'm pregnant." They exclaimed at the same time…
A beautiful end to a long day.
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Joined: 06 December 2007
They say sometimes the slightest things can have the largest effects in life. Somewhat like the butterfly effect, where the gentle flutter of a butterfly's wing can make or break a storm. Like that one harmless touch. Or like that one meaningless glance. The idea might sound romantic but when you're living through it, it doesn't feel that way. In fact it feels like the entire universe is conspiring to plot against you. Throwing in your way, as many hurdles as possible and trying to mess with your brain at the same time, but at the end of it all you realize that maybe it was meant to be.
As I type these words, I look over to sleeping form next to me. My husband, the father of my son, snores slightly. He can be a pretty deep sleeper. I can't help but smile as I watch him. There was nothing great about the first time we met. Our parents had arranged the meeting.
I remember thinking that he was attractive. I also remember he wasn't really impressed with me. In the five minutes that our parents had left us alone, he'd frankly told me that he loved someone else, and I didn't fit his description of someone he wanted to marry. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hurt, but I gave him credit for being honest, unlike the other boys I'd met who had talked sweetly to me, given me hope, then crushed that hope later with just one call of rejection.
This story isn't about the day we first met, though. It was the day we almost didn't meet again.
You see I missed my train. I never miss my train. I pride myself on being punctual. In fact most of the time I arrive at any place five minutes earlier. I don't like being late, and I certainly didn't like missing my train, but what I got in place of the missed train was much better; because if I hadn't missed that train, maybe I wouldn't have ended up here. Before I confuse you any further, let me start at the beginning of that day we almost didn't meet.
My morning started out pretty simple. I woke up early, and made tea for myself and my parents. It was seven and I knew my mom would be back from the temple soon. My mother wasn't religious by any means. This new phase in her life was just recent, and I knew the main purpose of her prayers was me. She prayed I would get married soon, and, as she put it, "ease the biggest burden of her life". Of course I wasn't the "burden" she was referring to but rather "my marriage". She didn't want to hurt my feelings.
Parents do that so easily sometimes. They can completely trample on your feelings then make you feel guilty about being hurt for their insensitivity. Luckily for me, my dad, who understood me better than my mother, made up for my mother's indiscretions.
My mother walked in just as I finished heating some parathas for breakfast. She walked towards the dining table, sighing deeply. She purposely dragged the chair out with the scraping noise to attract attention. Then sat down, and sighed louder. This was her usual routine. The longer I ignored her, the louder her sighs became. Usually my father was the one who came and put her out of her misery, I was resigned to rolling my eyes as I poured tea into the cups.
On cue my father appeared, and noticing my mother's sighs, asked her what happened.
"Do you know who I ran into?" She looked at my father as the answer should have been obvious. My father looked at me, and I just shrugged. He grabbed the tray of breakfast from my hand and I smiled gratefully.
"Mrs. Rastogi." My mother continued when she got no response.
I didn't know who Mrs. Rastogi was, and I made the mistake of asking my mom, as I sat down for breakfast. She looked like I'd just asked her the most ridiculous question.
"Mrs. Rastogi is the second sister of the lady we met at Mr. Parekh's party when we went last December."
"Oh that Mrs. Rastogi?" I said sarcastically. My father hid his smile behind his teacup. My mom as always didn't catch my sarcasm.
"Seriously Shaadi, I don't know where your head is sometimes." She shook her head at my assumed ignorance.
Yes, you heard right. My mom named me Shaadi. My mom thought it was unique, and I think it has Persian origins, but other than that for me it was nothing than a curse. As a kid I thought it was cool, even when I figured out what it meant, till it became the brunt of jokes in school. Then I hated it, let's just say I tired quickly of explaining my name to people. It for certain didn't help my marital status.
"She was telling me she found twin boys for her twin daughters, and their marriage is next month. Can you believe that?"
"No, mom I don't." I said having nothing better to say. If I didn't say anything, she would know I was trying to ignore her, and that would lead to other discussions that I didn't have time for.
"I mean, I'm just trying to find one good boy for my daughter, and she found twins for her twin daughters. What am I doing wrong?" She looked at me pointedly, which meant that she knew it had something to do with me rather than her boy finding skills.
"Shaili, we'll find a good boy when the time is right. Our Shaadi will find a good boy that deserves her one day." He squeezed my shoulder for comfort as he said this.
"You don't understand Aditya. She's not getting any younger, and all her friends from school are married."
Did I mention my name was also the product of my mother and father's name? I think my mother may have invented the trend of putting couple names together; fortunately couple names stuck for the couple and didn't carry to their kids. Unfortunately for me, it did.
I should have reminded my mom that the "friends" she talked of were actually her friends' daughters, who didn't really know me or care for me.
"That reminds me, the Shivrajs are coming for dinner tonight. I heard her son just returned from London after doing his MBA and is in town looking for a bride. So I invited them for dinner before the Guptas could." She smiled like she'd won the biggest prize. I didn't share her enthusiasm. "Do come home early tonight, please?"
I looked at my father, who shot me a sympathetic glance. I know I make my mother sound like a huge villainess lording over me, but I knew she meant well. She had her faults, but it didn't mean I loved her any less. The reason I didn't debate her quest to get me married was because of her health. I knew having me as a daughter wasn't easy, but her recent obsession with my marriage came also from the fact that she'd just recovered from a health scare. Realizing life's vulnerabilities had made my mother obsess over seeing me married before life threw her another curve ball.
"Sure, Maa. Anything else?"
"Before you head out to work can you get me some strawberries and dates from the store?"
I looked at her and sighed. "Maa, I can't."
"Why not? It's only ten minutes away. I'm not asking you to give me your liver or anything."
I would rather have preferred if she'd asked me for a liver instead, for two reasons - One, because it would have been a better excuse, for being late to work; Two, because strawberries and dates suggested that my mom was getting desperate enough to cook her infamous cake, which then she would pawn off as my handiwork to supposedly win the heart of my maybe future husband.
My father offered to get it from the store, and my mom shot me a dirty look.
"I'll go get it, Baba. It's not a big deal."
Unfortunately there was a huge crowd at the store, and by the time I had left for work, I was already late, and I'd missed my train.
So there I was standing, helplessly watching the back of the now quickly disappearing train, the train I was supposed to be on, when I met him, again.
His name was Karan. Karan, was working as a civil engineer in some reputed firm (this I remembered from the bio-data my mother had recited to me).
When I saw him, I stared, because at first his face felt familiar, then because; well, because he was attractive that he drew your attention. It had been the same way when I'd first met him, three days ago. The fact that he'd rejected me didn't take away from his looks, and it shouldn't have been a surprise that he was already attached to someone.
He seemed to notice my stare and turned towards me. I looked away, distracting myself by trying to calculate when I'd reach work now that I missed my train. I made a mental list of all the tasks that I had to do. I'd made it halfway to my list when his voice broke into my thoughts.
I closed my eyes. He remembered me, much worse, he remembered my name. I turned around and smiled. "Hi, Karan."
"I knew it was you. How come you didn't come and say hi?" He asked me, looking at me with his eyebrows raised as if we were friends. We weren't. The last time we'd met it had been awkward. I'd done nothing but embarrass myself, and didn't want to remember anything about that day.
"I was just waiting for the next train." I said simply and turned away deciding whether I should take the bus or just spend the extra bucks and take a taxi.
He followed me. "Are you avoiding me? Are you mad I rejected you?"
I turned around surprised. "Why would I be mad, we barely know each other."
"I beg to differ. I know a lot about you." He smiled at me. "You work in an advertising agency. You enjoy cooking and reading in your spare time. You're not fond of sports, except for swimming. Shall I go on?"
I sighed, and shook my head. My mom had narrated that all to him the day he'd come over to our house. "Look I '"
"Do you ever smile?" He interrupted, throwing me off. I didn't respond, because I didn't know how to. "Can I drop you off?" He continued, disregarding my silence. "You were heading off to work, right?"
I nodded then realized he might think that I was accepting his offer, so I tried to explain, but he'd already started walking in the opposite direction, so I just followed.
"Don't you have somewhere else to be?" I asked once we reached the car.
"Actually I was waiting to pick up my girlfriend. I was going to take her to meet my parents, today."
"And'?" I wondered why he was offering to drive me to work if he had someone to meet. "Won't you miss your girlfriend?"
"She's not coming. Don't worry. It's nothing serious. She missed her train too. She said she'll catch the next one in, so I have two or three hours to spare." He opened the car door for me, and I got in.
"What about your work?" I asked once he got in the car.
"I called off sick today. I'm planning on spending most of my day with Anita, my girlfriend." He smiled at me and started the car.
I didn't smile back, wondering when was the last time I'd called in sick to work.
The drive to my workplace was mostly quiet, and not because he didn't try but rather my one word responses didn't leave room for much conversation.
When we reached I turned to say thanks but he seemed to be staring at something ahead of him. I followed his gaze and saw my one of my coworkers standing in front of the building. He wasn't standing alone though. His girlfriend was with him, and neither of them had any qualms about showing their affections in a public place.
I frowned and turned to Karan and saw he was frowning too, but his unlike mine, didn't hold any disgust. It mirrored confusion, surprise and maybe a little hurt.
"Karan?" I reached out to touch him, and he jumped. Then realizing it was only me, he looked apologetic.
"Sorry, I was distracted."
"I just wanted to thank you for dropping me off to work."
"Yeah, no problem." He waved his hand, but his mind was distracted, and he didn't even look at me. I myself just shrugged in response, and then let myself out. I walked towards my workplace, but risked one glance in Karan's direction before I headed up. He was already gone.
At work since I was late, I'd missed my meeting, which also meant that I'd missed the news that my co-worker, the one who'd just taken a twenty minute break to spend time with his girlfriend, the one who didn't even commit to half the work that I had to do, had been promoted to the new post. The new post that I'd been hoping for, and praying for, which would have meant a great pay increase for me had ended up to the most laziest person in our department, and only because he'd managed to charm my boss out of her pants ( I mean this figuratively even though the water cooler gossip would suggest otherwise).
Of course when I talked to my boss about the promotion, she said I didn't have enough commitment, and how could I be considered for a promotion when I couldn't show up on time. I looked at her, and then for some reason I snapped. It wasn't like I meant to snap but this morning had just been building up like that. It had been like a roller coaster, slowly rising, wheels clashing against the metal, inching away at your resolve till you reached the top, getting more antsy and nervous by the second. Then when it finally happens it's all a quick rush and then you're done.
I don't remember what I said, but I remember I yelled at my boss, surprising her and myself. Then I remember quitting and walking off, not even bothering to clear out my desk.
Had I over-reacted? Probably. Was I going to go back and apologize? Probably not, and I didn't.
I had been so frustrated, that I didn't think about walking out. What consequences I would have to face or what it would mean. Maybe it was tired of being rejected marriage wise that being rejected job wise had become too much to handle. Regardless of the reason or cause, I found myself at the same place I'd been dropped off by Karan, half an hour later. The only difference was that I was jobless now.
I wondered if I should head home. Then thought about explaining to my mom why I was home early. It was an unpleasant thought. Not only was I unmarried, now I was jobless too. I could just picture my mom throwing her hands up in the air and wailing to the Gods for being straddled with a daughter like me. I figured I'd save the Gods some wailing so I didn't head home.
Instead I caught a bus and went to my favorite place, the park by the riverside. It had been a frequent hang out as a kid, with my dad and mom (when she hadn't been marriage crazy). It still served as my haven as an adult. I'd sit by the bench near the river and wash away all the rejections of life and just stare at the still and calm water.
Today though, even my haven wasn't my own. With the way things had been going so far, how I dare assume that I would be able to sit and enjoy the breeze while tuning the world out. After all I didn't lay a claim on nature anyways.
I was about to walk away when I noticed the person who was invading my haven was none other than Karan himself, which put me at an indecision because I didn't know whether it was appropriate to walk away or walk up to him. To anyone else looking I might have looked funny, pacing a little, but finally deciding I had nothing better to do and considering he'd offered me a ride, I walked up to him.
I stood next to him for two whole minutes hoping he would notice and initiate the conversation because I could find nothing in my bank of idle chit chat.
"You know you look odd just standing there." He spoke up finally, turning towards me. "Are you always this awkward around people or do I just inspire that in you?"
I sat down next to him, but still didn't say anything, staring at my palms wishing word would appear on them.
"Are you stalking me?" He asked me.
My eyes opened wide and I looked at him. Why would he think I was stalking him? Then considering I had run into him twice that day I realized how it might have appeared. Not to mention that the first time I'd tried to shirk away from him like being caught doing something and the second time even though I'd approached him, I hadn't made myself look anything less than a stalker.
"If you seriously want to marry me that much then we'll do it. We'll get married. Let's elope, though. In that manner we will have no hassles of family, costs and all the other details." He said looking completely serious that I was taken aback. Was the guy who'd rejected me a few days back offering marriage? Was I stuck in a crazy dream?
His serious face though lasted for all of about ten seconds before he started laughing. He was joking. Of course he was. He had a girlfriend. When I didn't share his mirth, he stopped laughing and became serious again.
"You really don't know how to smile or laugh, do you?"
That was the second time he'd mentioned it to me, and I took offense.
"I know how to smile." I said, my defenses rising again.
He seemed a little surprised that I said anything, but he recovered pretty quickly. "I thought you weren't going to talk at all. You don't talk much either."
"I talk." I said simply.
"You said all of two words the day I came to your house." He looked at me to see if I was going to protest, but he was right. He'd actually done most of the talking in the few minutes that we had talked and I'd just nodded here and there. I actually didn't even remember smiling. The whole meeting potential grooms had become a tiresome routine that I'd become accustomed to quiet gestures. I hadn't even known that I'd stopped talking eventually. I had basically given up trying.
"You weren't even trying." He continued when I didn't protest. "Even when I said I loved someone else, all you really said was 'oh'. Your eyes are another matter, though."
I blinked, and looked at him curious.
"Your eyes talk a lot. They say a whole lot of what you don't say. Your eyes were the ones that made me feel like a jerk that day. I shouldn't have said that to your face that day."
I looked away. I didn't know my eyes spoke, and if they did I didn't want them telling him, a stranger, anything. "You were being honest." I supplied.
"I could have been nicer to you about it. I hurt you that day didn't I?" He asked. I could feel his eyes on me, but I was afraid to look at him. He had hurt me, but not more so than anyone else. I'd been rejected many times, but it still hurt every time.
"I've been rejected before. It's not a big deal." I replied.
"Don't do that." The slight anger in his voice surprised me and I was forced to look at him.
"The whole 'it doesn't matter' spiel. Why do you do that? If it hurts you say it hurts. If you're angry, you should have the right to be angry. If you want to cry then cry. Why lie to yourself and others that you're okay?"
"What does it matter to you? I didn't ask you for your opinion. I didn't ask you to marry me or not marry me. You're the one who was the jerk, so why are you getting angry at me?" I snapped again. I apparently was on a snapping spree.
I expected him to get angry again, but instead he smiled. "So you admit I was a jerk then."
I clasped my hand in front of my face. I had called him a jerk.
"Don't worry. Besides it feels better in than out right?"
I didn't say anything. I was confused. Had he really been angry or had he been baiting me all along. I didn't like the feeling regardless, so I got up from there before I lost any more of my sanity for the day. He grabbed my hand, though, not letting me go.
"Why did you come here?" He looked at me curiously, one brow raised in question.
I thought about asking him the same question but didn't voice my question. Instead I lied, "I didn't feel like going to work today."
He didn't seem to buy it but didn't probe. "You hungry?" He asked me.
I shook my head but my stomach suggested otherwise. I grabbed my stomach embarrassed then wondered how I could be hungry, considering I'd eaten just a while ago. Looking at my watch told me how wrong I was. It was already late in the afternoon. It was almost six hours since I'd last eaten. Then I realized something else.
"Your girlfriend." I said out loud, remembering he was supposed to be spending the day with his girlfriend.
"Anita?" His expression changed, and he looked surprised for a second. "What about her?"
"Weren't you supposed to pick her up a while ago? At the train station?"
"Uh, yeah, that'" He bit his lip. "She got delayed, so I have more time. She might not get here till later in the evening. For now, let's worried about getting us fed. I don't know about you but I get grouchy when I'm hungry."
I felt like he'd avoided my question, but just nodded in agreement. I smiled as he rushed to rise, grabbing me with him, since he was still holding onto my hand. He looked at me and stopped.
"One." He announced.
I looked at him confused but all he did was shake his head and didn't explain then took me with him. I had no choice but to follow him.
Lunch was different. I actually enjoyed myself. I don't think I'd met someone who I'd found it that easy to talk to or listen to. Karan was just likeable.
I smiled again as he narrated something about his mom, and he smiled back.
"Two" He said holding his fingers up. I looked at him confused again. "You're smiling," is all he said.
"It's easy with you." I found myself saying then bit my lip.
"Thanks. I don't think anyone has said that before about me."
"What I meant is that'."
"Can't you just let me enjoy my compliment? Do you have to explain and ruin it?" He interrupted.
I laughed. "Sorry." I held my ears.
"Three." He said.
"Would you stop doing that?" I said, blushing as I realize that he was counting every time I smiled.
"Just wanted to check that it was a regular thing or whether it was a once in a blue moon situation."
"I told you I know how to smile." I said growing uncomfortable, turning even redder by the minute.
"You're pretty, you know, when you smile." He said looking serious.
Compliments weren't my strong suit. They made me really uncomfortable. I waved my hand and looked away. "Right. Tell that to the twenty five people who rejected me." I know it made me sound pretty pathetic that I knew how many times I'd been rejected.
"Was I the twenty fifth?" He asked gently, as if testing if I was serious.
"Actually you were the twenty third." I said then pasted a smile on my face. "I'm kidding."
He didn't buy it though. "You're serious. I really was the twenty third, wasn't I?" He took my hand in his.
I laughed uncomfortably, "I'm meeting twenty sixth tonight." I intended it as a joke but it didn't come out as one. He removed his hands from mine, and I pulled mine back.
"I really should go." I rose suddenly. "It's getting late." Suddenly I wasn't comfortable. The fact that I'd actually revealed so much made me feel vulnerable and pathetic. I grabbed my purse and ran.
He didn't come after me, which should have made me happy, but it disappointed me. Then again why I had I expected him to follow him. He'd barely known me for a few hours. I walked to the nearest bus stop and wrapped my arms around myself, trying to infuse some warmth because I suddenly felt cold.
As I waited for the bus, I realized I didn't want to meet anyone any longer. I was tired, and hurt from being paraded around like that. I had forgone my pride for my mother and I couldn't do it any longer.
I delayed going home, till I knew I couldn't stay away from it any longer. I mentally prepared myself, but when I walked in, I was surprised to see that my house was quiet. There were no guests.
My mom greeted me on the door and hugged me. I was confused. I hugged her back, and saw my father standing behind her. He smiled at me and winked at me. I was getting worried now. Maybe I had walked into the wrong house.
"Don't say anything. He's waiting for you in the balcony."
If I was confused before, I was clueless now. "Maa, Baba, I'"
My mother quieted me before I could say anything then took me to the balcony. She gently pushed me in, and I got another surprise. Karan, the same Karan I'd left at the restaurant stood in front of me. I turned to look at my mother but she'd already disappeared, closing the balcony door behind her.
He took my hand and guided me to stand in front of him. "Uh this must be strange."
"I asked your parents for your hand in marriage."
"I'uh'you're joking, right? I'm supposed to laugh here?"
"No. Shaadi, I'm actually serious. This might seem sudden but I like you."
"You have'" I tried to speak, but couldn't form proper words.
"You're fun and serious at the same time, and I like spending time with you."
"You have'" I tried again but failed.
"I'm not asking you to say yes to marriage, right away, but I'd like to know you more." He paused for a minute then added. "The girl that I saw out of your office today was my girlfriend. My ex-girlfriend."
"I'm not asking you to go out with me because my girlfriend is cheating on me. I'm not asking'" He sighed. "There is no way for me to say this properly, and I'm not saying I suddenly have feelings for you. I mean I'm not sure. I know you said that I'm easy to get along with, but honestly, you're the only one who's ever felt that way about me."
"So you're saying you'd be interested in going out with me?"
"What I'm saying is that I don't want you to meet a Mr. Twenty Six. I don't know what I feel right now, but I definitely know I don't want you to meet Mr. Twenty Six or Twenty Seven. I'd rather count your smiles, and see you smile for the hundredth time then for you to be hurt for the any number of times."
"I don't have a job."
"Huh?" He looked confused.
"Since we're'uh'I don't know, I just thought you should know that I quit my job, today. So you know what you're getting into."
He laughed as I looked uncomfortable. "That's a deal breaker then." He pulled me close and hugged me. "I have another confession. I love your name." He whispered my name in my ear. I couldn't help but smile. The way he said my name made it sound beautiful.
"Four." He said then laughed again.
We didn't get married right away, though. After all we hadn't fallen in love at first sight, and he'd just got out of a relationship so it wouldn't have had made any sense to jump into a marriage based on one day. The more we got to know each other, though, the more we fell in love with each other. I smiled more often, and Karan eventually stopped counting.
"You know you look kind of scary smiling to yourself like that." Karan stirred beside me. "Shouldn't you be sleeping?" I smiled at him. I was married to the man who loved me as much as I loved him.
I turned my laptop off, and placed it on the night stand next to me. I turned off the lights and snuggled underneath the covers. He wrapped his arms around my waist and pulled me closer. As I fell asleep I couldn't help but wonder what would have happened if I hadn't missed my train that day.
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