Joined: 14 May 2012
A short story: Homecoming
Rishab was going back to his hometown . . . after thirteen very long years.
It felt . . ., hell, he didn't know what this feeling was. When that came to that, one might at least expect him to feel a little nostalgic, if not anything else. It wasn't everyday a man came back home after thirteen years. He ought to feel something, shouldn't he? Something other than this not in the moment kind of feeling, absently he rubbed a hand over his chest.
He took in his surroundings, impassively, making his way slowly through the throng. As he neared the exit, he looked over his shoulder once and stared at the scene before him. People, young, old, men, women, children, a few smiling, a rare one laughing, but mostly poker faced, crowded the platform.
Nine years ago, he'd stood right here, a duffle bag slung over his shoulder, another larger suitcase placed beside him and a heart full of dreams. That day the crowd hadn't been quite so loud, hell, the platform had been deserted but for a soul or two and it had been a considerably smaller platform than the one before him now.
That night, unlike this one, he'd been all tied up in nerves. So scared, he'd nearly balked at the thought of leaving, so excited, he'd wanted to run to the train instead of waiting for it, so sad, it might have been rocks stuffed in the bag instead of clothes for all the weight upon his shoulders, so happy, he'd all but felt his blood sing with it.
That boy, going through the rocky phase of maturing into a man, had felt so much he'd been swamped under conflicting emotions. And the man that boy had turned into, so much more at loss than the boy had ever been, felt so less he wasn't even scared of the lack of emotions.
As someone bumped into him, he resumed walking. There were a few taxis' lined up on the side of the road, he walked pass them. A driver or two called after him, inquiring if he wanted to be driven somewhere, he merely shook his head in reply.
He needed time, some more time before he faced the final hurdle. It had been tough enough deciding to come here, he wasn't sure he was ready to face it all just yet. He'd walk. It would give him an extra hour to himself, ample time to rethink his actions. He was even at this moment thinking of turning around and getting the hell away from here.
He hadn't come this far, to turn back.
He was starting to feel. Where he'd been vaguely detached as he'd stepped out of the train, he wasn't feeling aloof any longer. While the lack of feeling hadn't bothered him, this jittery feeling was bothering him big time. With every step he took, he absorbed the environs, the swirling roads, the rolling hills, the ever pleasant air and it was finally sinking in that he wasback. The nearer his destination got, the stronger the feeling of unease.
At sixteen, dreams had directed the boy away from this town. At twenty nine, with all those dreams realized, he was directionless.
He'd always been the wanderer, going from place to place, exploring and travelling around. He'd wanted to see the world, move around, get a feel of it. He'd wanted to taste life'all the flavors it had to offer.
He had done all that and more. He'd been all over the globe, got more than his share of feel, and tasted more flavors than he dared recount. Not all of it had been nice and clean. The world was as beautiful as it was ugly. So beautiful, it nearly hurt to see. So ugly, it simply hurt to know. He saw beautiful and knew the ugly firsthand.
But now, years of travel had worn him down. He'd seen enough, knew plenty. The beauty no longer captivated him; the ugly no longer shocked him. The need to discover the world, which had been so much a part of his boyhood, had dulled. Another need had taken its place'a need for stability.
And he was back, right where he'd started, in Dehradun.
He hadn't felt the least bit nostalgic just minutes ago, and now, nostalgia bogged down unto him.
He'd grown up in this small town nestled between hills. As a boy he'd run down the hills, chased after cows even as a few of them had chased after him. He'd climbed up pine trees and jumped windows and sprained ankles doing so. He'd screamed into the valley for the sheer heck of it, god, he'd done all that little boys do and given his mother palpitations more than occasionally.
Then he'd left it all behind, losing just as much as he gained. He didn't know if the gain had ever really compensated the loss. He'd lost his family, could anything compensate that? Sure, he'd gained a few friends along the way, friends he knew who'd stick by come what may. They'd formed a bond of sorts, he and his three friends.
He'd knocked Aryan down on Delhi Railway Station, accidentally of course. Then Aryan had knocked him down, and nothing about that had been accidental. They'd gotten into talking, both of them had been new to the town and both had wanted to gobble up everything about it. They'd explored together, lived together, gotten into trouble together.
It was getting into trouble that had thrown them into Kabir's path. He was the police superintendent's son whose car he and Aryan had tried to wire. The policeman hadn't turned them in rather he'd taken them to his place, fed them nice and good, then lectured them down. He'd found himself envious of the relation Kabir shared with his father. His own father had never spent much time talking with him. Sure, he'd told Rishab what was expected of him often enough, but beyond that, he hardly interacted with him. Kabir's father was everything his own hadn't been. Then a month later, he was trampled by a drunken truck driver.
Kabir, orphaned and lost, had taken away with them. For the next two years the three of them had just wandered, living on scrapes, flying by dreams.
Then they'd met Ethan, saved him from some thugs who had been holding a knife to his throat. He was older than them by four years. He had been handling his family business, Dawson Groups, for three years then. Family obligations had weighed Ethan down, and no matter how strongly he had wanted to break free, he couldn't. So, he'd found an escape through them. He couldn't accompany them in their adventures, not in person, but he made them voice every adventure word by word.
He'd helped them forge a living that for once wasn't on the wrong side of the law. It was him who'd first mentioned that they write about their exploits, and then he'd gotten them published using every connection at his disposal.
The first book had fared well, much more so then either of the men had expected. From then on, there had been no turning back for Rishab and the other men. If he were the emotional sorts, he would say they'd become each other's family'Kabir, Aryan, Ethan, and he.
But somewhere deep down, the loss of his family'the one he'd voluntarily forsaken',left him feeling just a little empty. Along with that deep rooted sense of loss, also lingered the knowledge that one step was all it would take to fill in the void, to have his family back.
If not for that knowledge, he wouldn't be standing outside the house right now. He stared at the brick house, painted snow white, snuggled between Pine trees. It looked the same as always, just as pristine, as strong and as fascinating. It had housed generations of Kundras', withstood seasons after season, year after year and yet it retained its allure well.
The house hadn't changed. He couldn't say much for its occupants. Rishab was shit scared.
He'd come all this way, hadn't he? Just a few more steps, he could take them. He told himself he could do it. But even so, his legs felt frozen in place, unable to go ahead or away. He kept staring.
It was a voice that broke his reverie.
"I'll be back tomorrow." Her voice, he shifted on his feet.
Then he saw her. "Bye" A woman walked through the door. Unconsciously, Rishab moved behind a tree. He watched her. She was smiling as she walked through the front yard, her hazels sparkled with life. She'd tied back her hair, ruthlessly taming the wild curls, though a few wayward ones managed to spring free and fall onto her temple. She was dressed in denims and a sweater'green sweater. He couldn't help but smile, her obsession with green hadn't changed.
She stumbled and he nearly ran to her, holding himself back only as a man, he hadn't ever seen before, held her by the waist, breaking her fall.
She smiled at the man. Seeing that smile made Rishab uneasy, thought he couldn't for his life pin point just why. She was shaking her head as the man leaned over to say something in her ear. Then she was walking away as the man went back inside the house.
He stared after her until she drove out of sight in a green Micra.
In all the years he'd been away, he'd thought of her many times, thought of her and smiled. But never once had he allowed himself the liberty to let himself see her as a part of his future.
She was prettier than she'd been at fifteen. And damned if the innocence had dimmed even slightly'it was just as apparent and strong as it had been all those years back. He'd expected to see her here. Hell, he hadn't expected. He'd known she'd be here. This town was a part of her'her haven she used to call it.
He'd bet she was into some wedding business. Weddings had always fascinated her. Perhaps in much the same way as travelling had fascinated him. It felt nice, seeing her after thirteen years. Then why wasn't the knot in his stomach easing? Why was he so uneasy?
Had he not been so deep in thought he would have felt the presence behind him and braced himself.
"Rishab" Some whispered.
He found himself face to face with Vishal Kundra'his father.
Father and son stared at each other in silence. Neither spoke, for neither knew what to say. The son who'd been too damned stubborn to do what was asked of him, the father who was too damned proud to accept he'd been wrong in forcing his will on his son.
"Good evening'"Rishab swallowed, the word Papa was on his tongue, he just couldn't voice it. "Sir"
Sir. The first words he hears from his son in thirteen years and he calls his sir. Where had he gone so wrong? Vishal wanted to ask his son, but he didn't, he wouldn't. "Evening"
Again the biting silence settled.
Rishab wanted to run his fingers through his hair, he just couldn't think of anything to fill in the silence.
"Dad I was wondering if I could'"
A girl, pixie faced, tall and willowy came into view. She stopped as her eyes fell upon him. He didn't have to be told who the girl was. He'd recognize those big brown eyes anywhere'Jiya, his baby sister. When he'd left town, she'd been a child at eleven. She was'what'twenty-four now. He had a hard time believing his baby sister could have grown so much in those years and she'd grown up pretty well.
"You came" the big brown eyes watered.
"How could I not?" However not? He'd just returned from a meeting with his editors, concerning the latest book, when he'd checked his voice mail. There had been only one'by Jiya. His baby sister had started by saying she wasn't sure if she should have been calling him, but she couldn't stop herself. She'd wanted to contact him way earlier, and she would have, she'd said, had she the nerve to defy her father. She'd said she didn't want to upset papa, but she just had to call him. She was getting married, and she wanted the brother who'd been her pony when papa hadn't allowed her to climb atop a real horse to be there on her big day.
How could he have refused? His baby sister, married? God, had really so much time went by?
"Can I get a hug please? It's been too long" She smiled through the tears even as she stepped into his waiting arms. He felt her tears soak into his shirt and had he been the emotional sort, his own eyes would have damn near watered.
Chapter One Page One
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