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Radhika stared at the boys until they were out of sight. Then she turned back to Aisha. She might have expected a confused look, or a look that said what's wrong with the world now but the last thing she expected were the tears that filled up Aisha's eyes. Radhika's curiosity was weighing her heart, but she didn't ask. Instead, she put her hand on Aisha's shoulder. Aisha turned to her, surprised by her presence. She blinked once, twice and then opened her mouth to say something. When no words more than a mere 'ah' left her mouth, she turned away, lowering her eyes.
"I don't want to jump to conclusions, but I think that was
an act rather hard for you." Radhika said slowly.
"It wasn't an act." Aisha looked down t her almost empty cup of beer.
"Fool yourself." Radhika said with a shrug. She thought she had said enough for now and looked away at the party. She wasn't expecting Aisha to say anything, but was proven wrong once again when Aisha spoke up.
"If you speak a word to him, I will have your head." She said slowly.
"I abide by my words." Radhika grinned.
"Who uses that kind of words these days?" Aisha asked, frowning at the antiquated word.
"Just a bookie!" She replied with a smile. "Now come on, let the words be free!"
"Well, me, Neal and Raj were in same university here in
London." Aisha started. Radhika leaned in a bit closer, and ignored the
grammatical error in Aisha's sentence. "Neal had just moved during the first
year. But Raj and I were friends since middle school. We had been friends and
then best friends since we had met. And we eventually fell in love. It was all
by the book, you know? We couldn't help falling for each other. But we hadn't
Radhika was smiling by now. She wanted to ask her how they fell in love and what was it like to be in love, but kept quiet, knowing there isn't a happy ending here.
"By the end of our fourth year at University, we were sure
we wanted to spend the rest of life together. I was sure Raj was going to ask
me out for our last dance ceremony. That day, Raj had messaged me to meet him
at a park where we hanged out almost every weekend for music composition. I was
so happy, you know? I was all excited, dressing up, being at my best, getting
ready to leave. And then there was knock on the door. I thought it was Neal,
or maybe Jennifer, another friend. But it was Raj's dad. He had talked to me
only once before. Raj's mother had died in an accident when he was very young.
His father was always at work, overloading himself to forget his wife's loss. I
was surprised, no...shocked to find him there."
Aisha was speaking really fast by now, as if she couldn't wait to tell her what's wrong.
"He never talked to Raj, you know. Just when Raj asked for money and all. Raj never really mentioned his father, but he loved him. So when his dad asked me to do something for Raj, I couldn't say now. He...He asked me to forget Raj." Radhika gasped. Aisha looked at her, in her eye. "He asked me to say no to him because he didn't want a girl who had no Indian values as his son's wife. He wanted a pure Hindu blood."
"But that's wrong!" Radhika couldn't control her words. "How can he do that? You're Indian anyways!"
"My mom was catholic." Aisha whispered. Radhika sighed in understanding. There were things that were hard to understand in this world, and there were events too. But the hardest to understand of all were the minds of people. Radhika always wondered how they could function with such shallow desires and beliefs. But then again, she will be a hypocrite to think that way.
By the time they arrived at the hotel, Aisha's mascara was smudged and her make up was ruined. Radhika had to bring her to the hotel while she wobble and spoke in slurred, alcoholic language. She had downed three shots, and had only stopped when Radhika had stepped in and forced her out of the house party. Radhika couldn't help but wonder what the hell she had gotten herself into. Once she had put Aisha to bed, she went to sit by the pool, which was surprisingly vacant by now. She bought a coke from the wending machine and put her feet in the pool.
She had come to enjoy two weeks for herself. She was being shallow and selfish, she knew, but she also knew that if she didn't run away now, she will be stuck in this web. They were good people, of course, but she probably wasn't. She had a goal here, and it was to find herself. Not in a true way, just to find where she belongs.
Radhika was nine years old when she joined boarding school. She hated the first year. It was like hell for her. She used to come home during Diwali and other big festivals, but most of the year was spent at the hostel, in the dormitories and classes. It was only a year before she had found her home there. She started enjoying herself within those closed walls, and found herself happier besides her friends more than her family. She loved her family, and she knew they loved her too. They had sent her for better education, and she didn't blame them. But she was growing independent. She had learnt to make her own choices and find her own way through problems.
But then she returned home for the after college. She was twenty-two and had decided to join the university near her home and do two extra years of computer engineering. Near the end of her first year, her father had dragged her into a proposal. His old friend wanted her for his daughter. The family pressures and emotional blackmailing had frustrated so much; she had decided she needed a break. Her parents told her that marriage will make her responsible and help her establish her identity. Radhika had made it her goal to show them that she didn't need a man to make an identity. She was independent, smart, and warn herself her own house. She didn't need a wealthy, dowry-eater.
So she ran away to London. She had never been out of the country and the place she read about in books was a dream for her. All her favorite books were set in England, and she had found it extremely necessary to explore her imagination in real. But now if she didn't walk out of this hotel, she will be pulled deeper into this.
"Enjoying the stars, are we?"
Radhika jumped at Nikhil's voice. With a sly smile and glittering eyes, he walked towards her and sat down next to her. Instead of putting his feet in the water, he crossed them in Indian style.
"What are you doing here?" Radhika asked, sipping her soda.
"Is this a private property?" Nikhil asked, turning to her.
"It is, but not under my name." She replied. Nikhil grinned.
"Then I guess I have the right to remain silent." They laughed at the nonsensical conversation and unknowingly turned their eyes at the sky.
"Can you do me a favor?" Radhika asked after a moment of silence. Nikhil turned to her as a gesture for her to continue. "I still don't know much about this city. The tour I was going to join, it seems it will be no good now. Can you find me an affordable hotel for a week?"
"Why can't you just stay here?" Nikhil frowned but then instantly lowered his eyebrows. "Is it because I am leaving?"
Radhika shrugged with a shy smile. They both remained silent then. Radhika didn't dare ask if he would help her again.
"You can come with me." He said. He turned to her. "You came here to enjoy and see London, right? Come with me to Cornwall then. We can water-raft there. It's my first time as well.
"Water-raft?" Radhika raised her eyebrows. "I would love to,
"That isn't exactly why I came to London." She said.
"Then why?" He asked curiously. Radhika shook her head and looked away embarrassed. "Oh come on! Tell me!"
"To see the London and it's people. The old sites, buildings, and museums too maybe. They might not me interesting, but I want to see them once and decide for myself." She shrugged.
"Wow." He said, surprised by her strange wish. She didn't want to see it because she loved it. She wanted to see it because she didn't know how she felt about it yet.
"Well, yeah." She said finally. She raised her can to take a sip again when Nikhil snatched it out of her hands. "Hey! Get your own can!"
"Too lazy!" He said with a playful grin and she looked on as he took a sip. She frowned but smiled eventually. Though she didn't drink the coke again. Nikhil then leaned back and lay down on the cold floor. He put his left hand under his head and looked up at the sky, one feet lying straight while the other was bent at the knee.
They were silent again. And again, it was Nikhil who broke the silence.
"What is it like?" He asked. Radhika turned to him with a frown. She laid down next to him and stared up at the sky, just like him.
"What is what like?" She asked.
"Running away from home."
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Joined: 16 December 2009
Joined: 16 December 2009
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