Joined: 23 August 2009
She held her breath before raising her hand to knock on the door. She could remember hesitating earlier when she came to meet him, but it used to be usually because she could not figure out what to say or rather how to say. Today, the problem was to stop all the unnecessary words from tumbling out. She had never underestimated the effect his presence had on her. She had quickly shed her hesitancy and poured out her every confusion to this man who had a wonderful way of setting things right. Well, not exactly setting things right because he himself had to go through a lot bad business he could not sort his way out through. But she did acquire a new perspective when she talked to him. He opened out new roads to her and left it up to her to make the choice. And she was proud of the fact that her choices had mostly made him proud.
She was brought out of the reverie by clicking of fingers and looked up to see him smiling. She ignored the fact that even his smile was a bit different now as he stood aside to let her in. This was not his room, just a temporary arrangement. Yet it had his feel all over it. She could see a cup of half drunk coffee on the table resting next to a neatly folded newspaper. A jacket was spread on the back of the chair. She could almost picture him coming inside, tired and tossing it aside before flopping down himself. All of this more relieving than she could have imagined.
She turned around to look at him. He was closing the door now with his good hand, keeping the injured one still. Pain shot through her as she recalled that memory and she closed her eyes for a moment before opening them again. He was still there, eyeing her quizzically. And perhaps he guessed that her words had died in her mouth because he spoke in an encouraging voice.
"Care for some coffee, Cadet Singh?"
She smiled and nodded but before she could offer to brew it her herself, he was already at the table, pouring her a mug. She was seated opposite to her in a few moments as old days and he sat across surveying her with his bright eyes. She broke the eye contact, unable to hold it any longer. She bowed her head and sipped on the coffee, her hands trembling a bit. Perhaps the hot taste in her mouth was the proof that he really was back. He leaned in a little in his usual style and spoke in an uncertain voice.
"Are you upset about something Naina? No, let me rephrase that. Are you upset with me?"
She did not look up as a single tear dropped from her eyes and landed on her lap. Her voice was steady when she spoke.
"Can I be upset with you, Sir?"
He knew that the question deliberately had a double meaning. It was perhaps a question he had asked himself daily. Was he even allowed to think that way? He knew the answer to that. And could he actually stop it? He did not want to answer that one. He had been welcomed with zeal and happiness as he had stepped back into his world with dignity. But she had stood in a corner, gazing at him as he talked, her expression unfathomable. He had found himself unable to walk to her and shake her hand as he had done with everyone else. It seemed that the few months had expanded between them, creating a vacuum they could not cross.
He knew he had some answers to give. It was completely illogical as to why he should answer his own student or rather ex student. But he found himself bound in the condition and he did not want to break away.
"Yes, I think you can be. As you are right now. I am sorry if I have hurt you."
"You could have sent a word'" she was quivering now and he resisted the temptation to take her into his arms.
"What difference would that make, seeing as I could not have met you anyways?"
She registered the words as they sank in, spreading a warm feeling. Did he mean he wanted to meet her? She looked up into his eyes. He had his closed expression almost back in place as he smiled and got up to pace around. She took a deep breath and said, "How are you?"
"As you can see, I am alive. And I think that is a big achievement isn't it?"
Jokes again, she mused. Perfect refuge. She had to learn that one from him, how to spin the conversation his way.
She chuckled a little before he spoke again.
"How have you been? I was not really in touch with what was going on so I think I need a little briefing up before we can start with anything."
"Everything is fine' now." she said as she finished the coffee. "I don't really want to talk about that right now." She explained as he looked at her with surprise. He could see signs of change.
"Alright' but..never mind." He turned around, facing away from her. She could see that he was wounded and scarred now. More broken and vulnerable than she had ever seen him. He was trying so hard to cope up, to get back to work but the loneliness wouldn't let him. For the first time, she saw cracks in his demeanor as he struggled to pull his faade back on.
She had a feeling this would be waiting for her. She got up from the plush chair and walked to him. He was standing facing the window and perhaps did not hear her approach. She placed a hand on his shoulder and caught him off guard. He turned around swiftly and she gently wrapped her arms around him. He was unresponsive for a few moments before lightly caressing her waist, placing his head on her shoulder.
"There is no reason for you to break down like this." She whispered as she ran her hand in his hair. She had always had great expectations from him, placing him on a pedestal high above her. And perhaps that was the reason she was unable to accept a lot of things. But all of them faded into oblivion as she held him in her comforting hold.
He was the one to break off and she held his hand to lead him back to the chair. He sat down and closed his eyes, tossing his head back.
"I have never felt so' pointless in all my life. I had never had a lot of friends or any relatives except him. And now, to realize that all of it was so fake, so conditional makes me feel incompetent. I was never as strong as people projected me to be. I always needed somebody in my life to be a reason for me to fight. Now I realize that I was so wrong, living that way. Because today, I feel shallow like there are large hollow spaced inside me, threatening to consume me up."
She remained silent because she knew he would continue. He kept breathing deeply for a while before speaking again.
"The fact is Naina that I am alone now. Completely alone and orphaned."
"Do you really think your integrity and self respect are disintegrated just because someone did not turn out to be what you thought they are?"
He opened his eyes and looked at her in amazement. She was the last person he expected to retort back like that.
"He was not just some person. He was my father."
"I agree with that. But do you think that this one man can actually make you lifeless without even doing anything? You should feel lucky that you did not end up doing something wrong for him."
"So what do you expect me to do? forget last 2 and a half decades of my life I have spent trusting and loving him? Its my second nature to confide in everything I have in my life to him. He has a big hand in what I am today. I owe my existence to this man Naina even if we are not related by blood."
"Nobody owes anything to anyone. It is a way of nature for all of us to be connected so that we can co exist. The fact that we think like this is only because we want to remain in and emotional state. You have received an emotional support from him, which is sadly no longer there. But you still exist; you came back and I am sure you will be given back your position. You cannot actually wither away as much as you want to, Sir. And after all these years, I know that you can never be sure that your most beloved person can be there for you the next moment you need them. I have spent some of my life's most wonderful moments with you and even when you were gone, I knew that nobody could take those memories away. So same way, value what you have shared with him because perhaps if he had died or something like that, that's all you would be left with. Life has a royal way of screwing all of us when we least expect it, isn't it?"
He smiled a bit and said, "From where have you learnt speaking that stuff, Naina?"
She laughed and said, "I just want you to know that you can always talk to me. And I am there for you if you want to go mountain climbing in the middle of the night any day."
"Would you be there if I want to go for dinner outside this mess?" He mentally crossed his fingers as she looked smiled. Was this acceptance of what they both secretly shared?
"Yes.." she replied after a moment. "I am a vegetarian, by the way."
"I will keep that in mind." He said playfully as she took his leave. He knew her words could not make his father a good person or get him back his rightful prestige.
They were two broken and bruised people who had been thrown together by wildest of chance. At one point, they were the reason for each other's misery and yet they had discovered solace in each other's existence. Every sweet moment they had shared was laced with bitter reality. Nothing was ever alright in their lives as they struggles endlessly to achieve what lay beyond their line of sight. But they both knew the pain of losing and the joy of feel of cherishing another human with a pure heart. And perhaps it was this very thing that kept them going.
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Great One shot...Superb
Naina is overwhelmed with emotions on having her Rajveer Sir back. She feels excited when she comes to see him.
Raj on the other hand is trying his best to maintain his composure even though he has broken down both emotionally and physically.
He is hurt that Lalaji had betrayed him so badly when he had trusted him the most. He was like a father to him.
Naina understands his condition and tries to restore his faith in himself. She wants him to regain his strength confidence once again.
You have narrated both of their feelings beautifully.
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