Joined: 30 August 2005
"Allah Miyan what's wrong with everyone! Why are they so hell bent to annihilate my peace" Zoya exclaimed as she walked out of her institute. "You signed up for the programme Zoe, remember?" came in an exasperated reply and Zoe whipped back to see another girl staring down at her sternly. "Are you freaking kidding me? You never told me Bhopal would be an option" Zoya charged. "Well... I only made a suggestion; it's not my fault that Mr. Cornwell actually liked it" the girl replied in her defense. "You know I don't want to go there. I can't go there" resignation in her voice taking over. "Why? Are you afraid? Scared that you won't be able to resist the charms of your jahapanah?" the girl cocked her brow. "Wishful thinking!" Zoya shrugged to show indifference. "Why don't you accept it? I don't blame you, he's hot enough to melt the ice jacket on the poles" the girl said visibly drooling. "And crude enough to break anyone's heart!" Zoya scowled. "You are to be blamed too Ms. Farooqui" the girl haughtily replied. Zoya froze, "Aashu!" Zoya yelped and the girl sniggered seeing her reaction.
Aashu, Zoya's best friend and confidante, was very much aware of Zoya's feelings. She had read it in her eyes how much she longed for the man of her dreams, her Mr. Khan. Ofcourse Aashu herself had not met him, his family was hosting Zoya during her India visit, but had heard enough about him, infact learned something new about him every single day. And when she had snooped across Zoya's iPad to get the glimpse of the man, who held Zoya's heart captive, she was completely knocked out. The chiselled features, the firm jaw-line, the idyllic physique, the expressive eyes all made him more than just appealing... Wasn't it criminal to look so delectable? He was a Greek-God walking in the guise of a man, she was convinced... She remembered Zoya mentioning his 17th century ways but wondered if such a handsome hunk crossed her path, she wouldn't heck mind, if he deployed cave-man strategies! But then he was her best friend's love and she knew all Zoya needed was like one chance to let go of her bottled up feelings no matter what followed next.
"It's not easy Aashu" Zoya said in a dejected tone. "Look, Mr. Cornwell has already spoken to the professor at Bhopal University, there's no backing out now. He would not appreciate it." Aashu replied as a matter of fact. Zoya threw her head back wondering how she landed in this situation. If only she hadn't allowed Aashu to fill forms for her. "Didn't you tell me Bhopal has a bunch of picturesque locations? And I have surfed through to see the locales around; it will be unique and apt for our final photography project." Aashu chimed. "If only I had not trust you enough to sign the preferences you had filled in for us before signing the forms!" Zoya grumbled. "Don't be so difficult Zoe" Aashu coaxed. Zoya took in a deep breath, "You owe me big time for this!" she muttered and Aashu jumped in joy. The perk being, finally she would be able to see the charismatic Mr. Khan in person.
"I hope you have all your things in place" Anwar entered Zoya's room with a slightly miffed Zeenat in tow. "Haan Jiju... sab rakh liya" she smiled at them. "Zoya, I'm not happy with this" Zeenat said. "Aapi, please try and understand, last time when I went there, I was alone. Lekin is baar Aashu bhi mere saath hai, I don't want to hassle them by being their guest" Zoya said, her tone slightly bitter. Anwar frowned, "Is everything alright Zoya? Did anyone say anything to you during your stay last year?" he asked. "Nahi Jiju. Kisine kuch nahi kaha. Just that I don't want to be a burden on them. And the best part is we are getting accommodation at the university campus. It would be so exciting to explore the surroundings, wouldn't it?" Zoya tried to hide the disappointment in her tone. "Exactly why I don't want you to stay in dorm. Suna aapne... Do you think it will be safe for her to wander alone without any supervision?" Zeenat asked Anwar who laughed and assured his wife that Zoya would be fine. Zoya silently thanked the Almighty as her jiju convinced her sister to let her stay at the dorm... this was the only dispensation that cajoled her to go back... Yes she was going back... and she was going to run back home as soon as her project finishes... and she was going to avoid Mr. Khan at all cost!
"Zoe, I love it already!" Aashu excitedly commented collecting her luggage from the counter. "We haven't yet stepped out Aashu" Zoe replied not half as interested as she looked at the terminal, thinking if she could chicken out and take the next flight back! "Sochna bhi mat!" Aashu warned reading her thoughts. Zoya placed her bags on the trolley and huffed, pushing her way out of the airport. "ZOYA!" she turned her head when she heard her name being called. Surprise turned to shock when she saw Najma standing at a distance with Dilshad, staring down at her with finality. "Great!" was all she could mutter before Najma rushed to her and embraced her in a rib-crashing hug, a moment later she directed her towards the waiting car.
Everything was back to routine for the past one year. No musibat lurking around in his home to mess up things... no half-eaten pizzas or coke cans strewn around the rooms... No one barged into his room to knock out his brains... No stupid shayris to make him roll his eyes... no chitter-chatter on the dining table... no more experiments in kitchen... no criticisms for his disciplinary actions. How cool and serene is that, isn't it? He told himself again, just like he has been telling himself for the past one year, even as his eyes traced the pattern of a sole earring once again... the only remembrance! He sighed, knowing well that his peace was taken away when normalcy and routine returned to the household after the departure of a certain guest. She exited as a guest but blocked the permanent residency in his heart. Maybe he should have paid heed to that little voice in his brain when she was leaving. She left, but the dreams of what could have been didn't. She still haunted his thoughts... a sanctuary where he was privileged to hold her close. A knock on the door disturbed his thoughts and he closed his fingers around the earring, hiding it from Najma's view when she entered, "Bhaijaan, chaliye Ammi aapko breakfast ke liye bula rahi hai". He nodded his head, placed the earring back in his drawer and shut it. When he stepped out of the room, his eyes drifted to the unoccupied guestroom half expecting the door to fly open. Her presence he could so strongly feel, more so since the last night. He had returned home late to find the house submerged in darkness but the waft of air that hit him, screamed of her presence, but it was nothing new and as always he only sighed before going to his room and crashed on the bed. Coming back to present, he mentally smacked himself as a reminder that it's been a year and if she wished to return she would have! And if she hasn't returned that simply meant she didn't care... so neither would he! Setting his jaws firm, with his gaze still fixed on the door, he stepped towards the dining table but bumped straight into someone, who yelped and slipped to the floor knocking his breath out of surprise.
Dressed in pink jeans and white shirt, she was sprawled on the floor, with her hand on her butt. Irritated, she looked fiercely at him and cried, "Allah Miyan, Whats wrong with you Mr. Khan" and it was then that Asad realized that she was there for real and not a figment of his imagination. "Zoya..." Dilshad rushed to her aid as Zoya refused to take his extended hand and stood upright herself. "Are you fine Zoya? Asad kahan dhyan tha aapka?" Dilshad asked Asad and gave Zoya a look over. "I'm fine phoophi" Zoya stretched and groaned slightly before excusing to move back in her room. Asad blinked twice to make sure it wasn't a dream and just as he turned a notch to follow her, Dilshad nudged him towards the dining table.
"Perfect! Just perfect... isi ki kami thi!" Zoya grumbled to herself. "Kya hua? Kyun bad bada rahi hai?" Aashu asked walking out of the washroom. "Yeh sab na teri wajah se ho raha hai. Tujhe shauk tha na Bhopal aane ka" Zoya snapped. "Oh! Matlab face off ho gaya?" Aashu raised her brow and Zoya threw her an indignant glare. "Don't blame me... maine aapi se nahi kaha tha yahan phone karne ke liye" Aashu stated as a matter of fact. "I know that... just like I knew coming here was a very bad idea! Mr. Khan ka chehra dekh ker aa rahi hoon... aankhen aisi bana rakhi thi jaise bhoot dekh liya ho! Mann hi mann yehi soch rahe honge ki lo, musibat wapis aa gayi!" she ranted. "Tujhe bada pata hai unke mann ki baat ka!" Aashu teased, tongue in cheek. Zoya gave her a sickly sweet smile, "Shut up! And jaldi kar... I'm not interested to have a variety of taunts or disciplinary speeches for breakfast right on day 1". Aashu chuckled and the girls stepped out of their room.
"Ammi, Zoya? Yahan?" Asad asked as they waited for Zoya to walk in. Dilshad smiled fondly and was about to reply when Zoya walked in with Aashu in tow. After the greetings and intriductions, girls settled on their chairs while Asad desperately wished for Zoya to look at him once while he gauged the expressions on her face. Aashu who was seeing Asad for the first time, gawked at him. "Man! He's hot!" she whispered to Zoya who squinted her eyes to shut her up.
"Hope you girls slept well?" Dilshad asked as Najma served them tea. "I did Phoophi but Zoe was tossing and turning the whole night" Aashu was quick to reply. Zoya kicked her under the table wiping out the smile on Aashu's face. "Zoya, is it true? Are you alright?" Dilshad asked, concerned laced in her words. Zoya smiled at her warmly, "I'm fine Phoophi, don't listen to her. But really, I think it will be too much for you. I mean... I don't want to add to your stress. Aashu and I can stay at the dorm and I promise to drop by." Zoya said again, a pair of eyes turned hard and his jaws clasped tighter. "Zoya! Didn't we have this discussion last night?" an exasperated Dilshad said. "Zoya, mujhe toh lagta hai aap hi humare saath nahi rehna chahti. Tabhi yeh bahane baar baar bana rahi hain!" Najma complained. "Arre nahi tamatar, you are getting me wrong." Zoya tried to placate her. "Phir kya baat hai? Aap aur apki friend yahan rahoge toh kisi ko kya problem hogi? Kya yeh ghar aapka nahi hai?" Najma asked. A sad smile played on Zoya's lips as she replied, "I'm a guest here Tamatar and it's just that I'm trying to keep to my limits" Aashu squeezed Zoya's hand in a comforting manner. Both Dilshad and Najma shared a confused glance while hurt etched over Asad's face. "Zoya, why are you saying this? Asad, tum hi is se kaho na, ki iske yahan rehne se humme koi problem nahi hai" Dilshad intervened asking Asad to help her but just as Asad opened his mouth to say something, Zoya said with a huge grin, "Theek hai Phoophi... If you insist... aapki baat main kaise taal sakti hoon?" Dilshad smiled at her and with that Zoya settled the matter there, not giving Asad an opportunity to speak. He was not oblivious to her ignorance towards him and it only added to his annoyance. When he felt he might blow a fuse, he excused himself but Dilshad stopped him and asked him to drop the girls at the university. "No Phoophi... We'll manage" Zoya blurted out at once and somewhere Aashu snickered in the background. Asad who himself was gonna decline now gave a curt reply, "Ms. Farooki, I don't want any mishaps on the streets of Bhopal. I would rather have you come along with me." And not giving her a chance to protest he walked out and Aashu offered to get the cameras and bags leaving Zoya no other option but to follow Mr. Khan outside.
Asad waited outside for Zoya to join. He was still dazed and taken aback by her sudden appearance. He wanted to know and wished she would answer it all by herself and just then her voice cut through his thoughts, "I know you don't like my presence here but I was helpless, yesterday when we landed here, Phoophi and tamatar were there waiting to get me here. They wouldn't listen but don't worry I'm not here for long. I'm here for only a week's time" she clarified. "Ms. Farooqui, I didn't mean to..." Asad began but Zoya raised her hand asking him to stop, "Don't worry I won't be a nuisance here for you and I promise to stick to my confines. If you still wish, I can shift to the dorm, just let me know if you would be comfortable that way. I'll convince phoophi", she gulped a lump in her throat and turned away. Before Asad could say anything, Aashu walked in with their apparatus. The tension between them was thick and Aashu attuned to her environment could sense it all. Asad dropped the girls to the university and offered them to pick them up on his route back home.
"Ammi is Zoya and her friend home?" Asad asked over the phone in the evening. "Nahi, Zoya called in to inform that they'll be home by 8. Asad now don't be tough. It'll only be an hour past your curfew hour" Dilshad said over the phone. Shouldering his bruised ego, he left the university premises to return home.
"He's an absolute eye-candy Zoe. Why didn't we wait for him in the campus?" Aashu whined. "Aashu... you know I'm on a mission, Mission Ignore Mr. Khan" Zoya affirmed satisfied with herself. "Grr... Why am I being dragged on this ludicrous mission?" Aashu grumbled as she sipped on her coffee. "You know I just realized, like both of you share similar taste in coffee, Zoya said pointing Aashu's black and bitter drink, I share similar sentiments for you two" Zoya said appearing thoughtful. Aashu raised her brow, "Meaning?" Zoya smiled at her, "I could kill you both" as she finished her voice turned sinister shutting Aashu up in an instant.
They reached home during dinner time and that she spent laughing and chatting around with Najma, Dilshad and Aashu; and yet again giving no heed to Asad's presence at all.
Couple of days passed and Zoya stayed aloof. She kept her distance, left early so he didn't even had a chance to meet her at the breakfast table. He only saw her at the dinner time and then too she did everything she could to avoid any sort of conversation with him. He was running on the last bit straw of his patience. As night fell, he lay on his bed, desperately trying to sleep but his thoughts were clouded by her. He was amazed as he realized her hold on him.
He had heard time heals... and believed that as life rolled on, it made one forget the deepest of their woes. His own father's betrayal had altered his personality to such an extent that he had denied life to offer him his share of happiness. He barricaded himself, drew back into his cocoon building concrete invisible walls around him that shielded him from the world outside shunning anyone a chance to peek through it to see the real him... thereby blocking hurt, ache, treachery, and... Love! But this was until the crack of dawn tore open the thickest blanket of darkness, shred by shred, against his will by none other than the girl he tagged as 'misfit' for his life and family. He thought she was a misfit even as she had started etching a unique place for herself in his heart. If she was a misfit, the iron man in him was involuntarily changing, remolding himself to fit her in. Her annoying habits were making him smile and he had started to smile more often than ever... he fought with his feelings until it became awfully complicated and his heart packed away all the musings of his rational mind and threw it right out of the window. After shunning her, disregarding her, insulting her, hurting her innumerable times, he conceded to come to terms with her and himself. He had begun to revel in her presence, allow himself to playback tricks at her, anticipating a few quiet moments with her, indulging her and making her smile... and yet refusing to acknowledge that he was irrevocably in love with her.
But how could he accept it... after all those hateful words, memories of tough childhood, Fear of hurting her, fear of being left alone, all mounting his need to shoo her away. But as they say, just like a river, no one can decide the course of love. It carves its own ways cutting through the toughest of barriers. If you try to put a dam on it, the feelings will only rise till it becomes impossible for one to hold it in. He realized it... but sadly a little too late. The onset of realization came in when she announced her will to depart and much to his own predicament he didn't find the words that could have stopped her. Like a fool, he let her walk away even as her eyes screamed for him to stop her... claim her! Deep inside, he knew all he needed to do was ask her stop... he knew he had that authority being the bearer of her heart yet his ego and insecurities got the better of him and he once again ended up hurting her and himself in the process. Yes, that day the Asad Ahmed Khan did the worst mistake of his life by not telling a certain Ms. Zoya Farooqui about how he felt. What followed after was a year of agony... she shattered his barriers and he stayed in rambles, pinning for her in her absence. He cursed himself each day for not trusting himself and her enough to take that leap of faith. He made a pact with himself to forget her and get back to the routine of his life but it was only easier said than done. The fact was that nothing was same as before. She fit into the puzzle of his life ever to effortlessly to complete it and going back to routine without her was like going back to his incomplete days.
Twice he mustered up the courage to call her and speak to her but she refused to speak to him at all. The updates he received from Najma and his Ammi told him that she had resumed life from where she left it back home. No, she wasn't getting married, thanks heavens for that but she started some course in photography immediately after she returned. He remembered how thrilled Najma was at this piece of news and he had only rolled his eyes and his irritation had only flared with the information that she had made her intentions of not coming back clear to Najma. All said and done, she seemed to be doing fine without him... how you would explain that even though she called his home every alternate day not once she bothered to spare a word for him. It was like she didn't know him at all. And if she wanted to act strangers so would he. He won't go to fetch her or call her anymore. Like a sadist, he would burn himself in agony but will not approach her. At least that's what he had promised to himself. But everything toppled the moment he saw her again. Earlier, she never ignored him... instead she was only ever so keen to hassle him even when he wished to be left alone. He remembered how jealous she was when Tanu was around him... the fun she had at his expense. Oh how he wished to experience it all... once more!
Just then, he heard a knock on his door. He looked at the time and frowned wondering who could be at this hour. Alarmed, he quickly reached the door and was only taken aback to see Aashu standing in front of him with her arms crossed in front of her chest. "Aap? Is waqt?" he queried, his eyes darting towards Zoya's door. "Listen, if I disturbed your sleep, I care two hoots... but I guess I would hate it to let you sleep peacefully while Zoe is pondering over things she wish to run away from in the garden!" she completely ignored the baffled look on Asad's face and continued, "I'm sick and tired of this hide and seek game that you guys play! Have you ever heard about talking and sorting out issues? High school guys are faster than you, Mr. Khan!" Ashu huffed while Asad blinked twice to understand what was she talking about. "Excuse me?" he interjected. "Can't believe you guys are being so dumb to just let each other go? How can you Mr. Khan? I agree she herself acted dumb and is still acting one, but I fail to understand how could you just let her walk away?" Aashu was clearly miffed. "I'm failing to understand you Ms. Aashu" he said crossly. Aashu threw him an indignant glare, "What! Don't behave as if you don't feel a thing for Zoe! I have seen it in your eyes Mr. Khan... It's the same pain that I have seen in Zoe's eyes ever since she has returned from India. Never a day goes when she doesn't mention you. It hurts her to even think of you yet most of the times she's lost in the memories that concern you! You might be a hunk, but I hate you for what you have done to my Zoe!" she brandished him. Asad was stunned with the revelation. Somewhere he knew that Zoya loved him but hearing it out from her friend gave him a different thrill. It was like someone had slowly started filling colours in his black and white life. "Zoya has been thinking about me? Are you sure?" he asked foolishly and regretted the minute he asked so. Aashu dangerously squinted her eyes at him, "I have been with her for the past decade, Mr. Khan! And have risked my friendship with Zoe to bring her to you coz I really feel you guys deserve a chance and you dare to ask me if I am sure? It's because of you that she never wanted to come back. Do you realize what all I had to do to get her here? I had to beg with Mr. Cornwell to let us come to India and then trick Zoe to get her to convince to come back and talk Aapi into believing that dorm won't be safe for us... and you! Do you realize she'll murder me if she finds out?" Aashu finished.
"And you are so dead Aashu!" Zoya's voice called out from behind her, startling both Aashu and Asad. Aashu gradually turned back to see an enraged Zoya standing at some distance behind her.
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