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Ch11: Tug of War
Nakkusha walked up to his room with his tea late night. He was on the phone again. She kept the cup on the boulder and walked down. It has been a week since Dinky's wedding. During that week, he had been too engrossed with Meghna to think of anything else. He had pursued her with a single minded determination that had startled Meghna and burned nakkusha with envy. He did not discuss Meghna with nakkusha and she thanked god for that but she felt too restless when he was with meghna or when he was on the phone talking to her. She had tried not to catch their conversations on the phone but she still would hear some snippets which made little sense to her. They talked about things she hadn't even heard of. What was Tweeting and FB anyway? What was pubbing and disc? What is brunch? She wanted to ask him but hesitated to do so as he would then ask her where she had heard it and she didn't want him to think that she eavesdropped on them, which she didn't.
Kalawati didi was happy that he was interested in a girl she had chosen. She felt it would be ideal match. She never said it to nakku but nakku could make out that she approved of Meghna. Nakkusha had once asked her about meghna indirectly- didi, aapne to kaha tha…aapko apne bhai ke liye koi naukriwali ladki nahi chahiye hai na? phir ye meghna ji to doctor hai..unke tarah. Kalawati had answered her in a hesitating voice- nakku, dekh…ussey kya pasand hai kya nahi main nahi bata sakti..asal mein main khud nahi jaanti ki wo kya chahta hai..par jab usne meri passand ki sab ladkiyo ko naa keh diya to maine bas aakhri koshish ki..ab lag raha hai ki Dutta ko wo pasand hai…hum to bas millwa saktey hai..aagey to dono khud samajhdar hai.
Nakkusha snapped back to reality at Dutta's husky laughter. He was smoking again, she noticed and frowned. Now he didn't even bother hiding it in front of her. He barely registered her presence sometimes. She felt cheated and used in a way. Like she had been an amusement, a way to spend his time when he didn't have anything to do. She had known that all along, had told herself that all along but to see the proof of it was far more difficult. She turned to go away without disturbing him when he held her wrist and stopped her. He pulled her closer to him still laughing at something she was saying on the phone. Nakkusha tried to pull her wrist away from his when he looked at her sideways and frowned making her go still. Dutta spoke on the phone- accha meghna! Main dekhta hoon if I can fit in a few special classes for the BC Medical college. Sure! He listened to the voice on the other end- Well, the enticement is too much to resist. Noramlly I hate these kind of lectures especially when I am the lecturer. But…Hmm…Of course you have to take care of me..it's a given. He grinned looking at Nakkusha as if sharing a joke with her. Nakkusha looked back without flinching looking down at their clasped hands. Dutta followed her gaze and looked up at her asking with his eyes, what was the matter with her. Dutta- hmm..no no…I am here..just that…yeah…sure..But before I commit I would need an advance. Yup..you know the price….a date..tomorrow night..no? OK..hmm….sure…Goodnight. He switched the phone off and looked at nakkusha- Toh tu aaj bhi chup chap khisak rahi thi, haan? Nakkusha- main aapko disturb nahi karna chahti thi. Waise bhi aap log kuch kaam ki baatein kar rahe the..toh…Dutta finished for her- toh tune socha ki nikal leti hoon. Kyun? Main kissi se baat karoon toh tu do minute intezaar nahi kar sakti. Roz yunn chali jaati hai. Baat nahi karni to chai lane ki kya jarurat hai. Jamima ke haath bhejwa de, ek hi baat hai.
Nakkusha- main..main kya baat karoon…aap se kya baat karoon..mujhe..mujhe nahi paata.Dutta looked at her surprised- matlab? Nakku tujhe kabse mere sath baat karne ke liye topics ki kami honey lagi? Kuch baat hai jo tujhe pareshan kar rahi hai. Kya hua? Nakkusha looked at him with frustration and removed his hand from her wrist- koi baat nahi hai. jaruri nahi hai ki main har waqt barbarati rahoon..ya aapki baatein sunti rahoon..Dutta aapke aaney se pahele bhi meri koi zindagi thi…mujhe bhi koi kaam ho sakta hai…dinbhar aapke aagey picchey ghumne ke alwa..aap chute par hai..main nahi. Aapki chai rakhi hai. Cigarette peene se fursat mille to pee lijiye. She walked away without looking back at him as Dutta watched her go with questions in his eyes.
The next morning kalawati called Dutta from the kitchen where nakkusha was grinding the spices for that days cooking. Nakkusha didn't own a grinder so she would always bring the spices from her kitchen to kala didi for blending. She would blend kalwati's spices together with hers. Kalawati raised her voice to be heard above the loud sound of the blender,"Dutta, wo sunaar ka phone aaya tha. Mere haar ka hook wo theek…" She looked at nakkusha who was still operating the noisy machine. She grimaced and called nakkusha,"nakku, bas bhi kar..meri baat to khatam hone de." Nakkusha switched off the machine and looked apologetically at didi and fidgeted with her duppatta. Kalawati shook her head at her odd behavior and continued,"haan to kya keh rahi thi main? Amm..haan, toh wo Jeweller keh raha tha ki mere haar ka clasp wo theek nahi kar pa raha tha..is liye usne ussey aapne bade bhai ki dukan mein bheja tha Raipur mein..parekh jewelers. Ab wo bann gaya hai. tere jamaidada to busy hai..aur maine aaj parvati ka vrat rakha hai. Raipur shaher bas ek ghanta dur hai. Tu jake le aa." Dutta- main? Par mujhe rasta kahan pata hai. Kalawati- arey highway 6 par bas 50-60 km dur hai..ek se dair ghanta bas..aur Raipur aatey hi wahan bazaar mein dukan hai..market ka naam aur dukan ka address mere paas hai..tu phone number bhi le le. Dikat ho to call kar lena.
Dutta thought for a second and then looked at nakkusha who was trying to avoid him at any cost since morning. He knew she was annoyed with him for ignoring her for last week but he had not done it on purpose. Meghna got time at night after dinner which unfortunately coincided with his night chats with nakkusha. He had believed that nakkusha would wait till he got off the phone but she had not. He missed her, missed their easy friendship, the comfort. Meghna was interesting and great to talk with, she was witty companion . Nakkusha was witty and intelligent too. But with Meghna , it was different. While nakkusha's wits made him pause and think with Meghna, he knew the drill and repartee. He knew how to proceed as her wits and comebacks were not unique. Then there was the fact that even though she was a physiotherapist and he a cardio surgeon they basically belonged to the same world and after weeks in this town he had began to miss his work a little. He missed the medical chats and discussions. He stilled called the hospital on regular basis and kept his secretary on her toes by asking her to keep him updated on his patients and cases. He talked to his team and chatted online and via emails. But all said and done these took only a few hours of his day.
He knew he had to make up to her, to nakkusha but was not sure what he was making up for or why. Dutta looked at kalawati- theek hai tai. Main le aunga. Kalawati- accha, ek kaam kar main charan singh ko bolti hoon. Wo tujhe drive karke le jayega. She turned to call the watchmen cum driver of their household when Dutta stopped her- koi jarurat nahi hai tai. Main khud drive kar loonga.. in fact, main car mein nahi jaa raha.. jamaidada ki engfeild hai na. uski chabbi do. Kalawati was stunned- dutta, pagal ho gaya hai. Tere jamaidada ne wo bike kai saalo se nahi chalayi. Kya pata kis haal mein hai. tu car le jaa. Dutta- tai, main jaunga toh engfeild mein hi jaunga. Chabbi? Kalawati muttered angrily as she wiped her hands on her sari and marched to her room to get the keys- jo mann ki baney wo kar. Koi suntan hi nahi. Ek kaam bolo to usmey bhi tai ko pareshaan kiye bina nahi chodega..jaa bike mein hi jaa. Meri chinta ki chinta hai tujhe.
Dutta called after her- aur aap rastey ki chinta mat karo main apna guide le jaunga. He walked towards nakkusha who had turned and started the blender as soon as kalwati was out of the kitchen. Dutta- tu jaake tayaar ho.. tu chal rahi hai mere saath. Nakkusha resolutely avoided him and pretended that she had not heard him. Dutta repeated himself twice before angrily pulling out the electricity source. She looked aghast at the cord in his hand while he smirked at her. Nakkusha- main kya meri jooti ki chauthi kil bhi na jayegi tumhare phatphatiya pe. Dutta- teri jooti ki chauthi kil bhi jayegi, teri jooti bhi aur jooti mein tera pair bhi…aur pair ke saath tub hi. Ab ye saara dramabaazi chod aur tayyar ho jaa. Mujhe intezaar karna passand nahi. Nakkusha pulled at the plug- nahi aungi. Mujhe didi ka bahut saara kaam karna hai. Dutta pulled back the cord- kab tak chupegi didi ki aar mein, kabhi to ayegi bhindi bazaar mein. Nakkusha tugged the cord again- bhindi banao tum tumhari pune ki billi ke saath. Mera pichcha chodo, akdoo hari sardu kahi ke. Dutta tugged back- meri billi ke saath hi to jaana hai. par pune waali nahi yahi rajnandgaon waali. Ye waali to billi auro ke samne meow karti hai aur chupke nauch deti hai. Nakkusha was baffled a little but she regained her balance and pinched him hard making him cry out and release the plug. She triumphantly twirled it once in front of his face and plugged it starting the blender and tapped the top of the cap throwing a haughty look at him while he rubbed the bruised spot.
Kalawati walked in with the keys-ye leh dekh chalti bhi hai ya nahi. Dutta took the keys and threw an evil look at nakkusha who had immediately stopped the blender again and was packing of the blended spices in jars. Dutta turned to kala trying to act shy- tai, wo..main..wo. kalawati looked at him questioningly- haan, bol kya? Dutta scratched his forehead and gave an embarrassed look at kala- wo tai…meghna ke liye gift lena hai..we are going on a date tomorrow. So mujhe gift lene ke liye second opinion chahiye..to main nakku ko le jaun. Kalawati's face stilled for a second as she looked at nakkusha. She felt torn as to what to do. For past few days nakkusha and dutta were growing apart as she had wanted. She had felt that this will make any hurt on nakkusha's part when Dutta left less but now she felt herself caught. Kalawati – dutta, kya jarurat hai? nakkusha ko kitna kaam hai..aur phir..Dutta looked disappointed- theek hai tai. Aapko agar aisa lagta hai ki main bekar hi nakku ka waqt barbaad ka raha hoon to…wo to main bas meghna ko kuch accha dena chahta tha. Kalawati saw the disappointment on his face. It was a good thing that he was thinking of meghna right? That means things were going good between them. But making nakkusha go will it be fair to her. She still felt that nakkusha might be in love with Dutta, maybe she was falling in love with him. She could still remember the pained look on her face at the holi incidence. But since then she had never seen anything on nakku's part, making her doubt what she saw. Dutta- tai? Kalawati gave up- nakkusha, tu jaa jaakey tayyar ho jaa. Dutta sambhal ke bike challana, highway hai. nakku ko bike ki adaat nahi. Aur..aur sham se pahele laut aana. Dutta grinned- thanks tai. Aye nakku sau ghantey mat lagana. Jaldi aana..main tab tak bike start karke check karta hoon. Nakkusha looked at him astounded as he left with a wink at her for getting his way. She turned to kalawati when he was gone- didi? Main…kya..Kalawati stopped her apologetically-nakku, main jaanti hoon. Par wo nahi manta tu jaanti hai na ussey. Nakkusha said sternly- Didi, aapka bhai aapka ladla ho sakta hai. par uski har cheez dukaan ka khillona to nahi ki usne maangi aur de di. Nakkusha walked away before kalawati could say anything. Kalawati closed her eyes as she knew she might have done an injustice to nakkusha but felt that somehow things were going out of her control.
Nakkusha sat on the back of the bike with her legs on one side and eyes closed tightly. She was holding the bar at the back so tight that her knuckles had turned white and she could not feel her hand anymore. Dutta could feel the tension in her. It was getting difficult to maneuver the bike with her sitting dangerously close to falling off. When a bike speed away. overtaking them very closely, his handle wavered. He braked the bike to a side of the highway and barked at her to get down. She got down half falling on the road and pressed her hands together. Dutta- tujhe bike pe baitna nahi aata to theek hai par khursi pe baitna to aata hai na? Waise hi baitna. Teri wajah se mera balance bigard raha hai.
Nakkusha shouted back at him- maine kaha tha mujhe jabardasti lane ko. Kaha tha naa mujhe bike pe nahi baitna..par nahi purey muhalley ke samne zor jabardasti se beetha ke le aaye..ab beech raastey lake ke data rahey hai..meghna ko hi le aatey uska tohfa lene..waise bhi ussey to aata hoga bike pe baitna. Badey shaher se jo hai. mujh gawar ko kyun laye saath. Dutta sighed and bit the insides of his mouth to stop himself from screaming at her. He noticed her hands were red and grabbed them- yeh kya hua? Nakkusha pulled back her hands- kuch nahi. Dutta looked up at the sky in frustration.
Dutta- accha theek hai. main tujhe batata hoon kaise baitna hai. dekh! Pahele apna left leg waha us rod par rakh ab apney haath mere kandhey par rakh ab aisey dusra pair upar se us taraf. She followed his instruction and arranged her kurta over her thighs modestly. She was so light that when she put her weight to cross over her other leg, he felt nothing. Dutta- ab theek hai? dar to nahi lag raha? Comforable? He could feel her nod. He turned his neck to look at her as she was reaching behind her to hold the rod at the back. Dutta released the handle and grabbed her hand and placed it on his shoulder. Dutta said softly- paas aakey bait to girne ka dar nahi lagega. She slipped a little closer. Dutta whispered- aur..She slipped some more. Dutta- aur. She slipped closer till he could feel her body pressed to his back. Dutta looked ahead straight- mujhe..matlab mujhe acchey se pakad ke bait. She placed her hands tentatively on his shoulders. Dutta picked them from his shoulders and brought them to his chest from under his arms like she was hugging him from behind. Dutta turned a little towards her- ok. She nodded. He kicked started the bike and drove away.
They reached the shop easily as it was quiet famous among the locals. Dutta showed the receipt and collected the box while nakkusha checked the contents to verify the work. Nakkusha asked dutta what he planned to give meghna. Dutta grinned- arey wo to tujhe lane ka bahana tha. Gift ke baarey mein to socha nahi. Nakkusha smiled- to kya hua. Ab yahan aaye hai to gift le lete hai. aapki date ke liye. Dutta- theek hai. ek shart hai. nakkusha- wo kya? Dutta- tujhe bhi mera ek gift lena hoga. Nakkusha shook her head- nahi, bikul nahi. Dutta shrugged- to uska gift bhi cancel. Nakkusha- aap har baat mein zidd kyun karte hai? nahi le sakti kaha na. Dutta growled- to mat le kaha na. tu legi to meghna ke liye gift lunga nahi to nahi. The saleman thinking it was a chance of major sale chipped in- le lo madam, aapke msiter itna zor de rahe hai. Nakkusha looked at the salesman shooked and stammered in confusion- n..na..nahi..ye..matlab. hum…Dutta- aapko beech mein bolne kisne kaha. Apne kaam se kaam rakhye. Nakkusha felt herself color deeply and she rushed out of the store. Dutta followed her out- nakku, aye nakku! tu itne jaldi kyu ghabra jaati hai. ussey bas galatfehmi hui thi hai na. toh kya hua? Nakkusha didn't answer and looked away. Dutta put his hand in his denim pockets and said,"accha chal! Hum kissi aur jagah jayenge,ok?" Nakkusha said softly,"yahan ek mall hai. wahan chale maine kabhi mall nahi dekha. Is liye. Wahan meghna ke liye bahut acchi cheese millengi." Dutta nodded and pulled her to the bike in the park.
They walked through the stores in the mall looking at the merchandise. Dutta hated shopping yet nakkusha's wide eyed excitement was too contagious. He began to enjoy showing her the different shops and felt contended to give her such happiness. She was bubbling with questions and curiosity. She was deeply offended by the prices and hissed loudly at him that had they used golden threads to weave the clothes as the saris were more expensive than her mother's gold earrings.
Nakkusha stoped at a gift shop window and looked at the display. She called dutta and pointed at the figurine of two people entwined together in embrace- ye meghna je eke liye. Dutta smiled- ok. Nakkusha was glad that he had let go of the nonsense about buying a gift for her. He went in to get the figurine while she looked around at the other items.
He came back with the packet in few minutes-Chal! bhook lagi hai? She nodded happily. He held her wrist and made his way towards the foodcourt. He asked her what she would like. She hesitated a moment and said she wanted to try thai food. He was surprised a little but didn't show. When the food came she looked carefully at all the dishes and leaned towards him to say conspiratorially- dutta, agar mujhe ye sab passand aaya to kya main cook se iska receipe poch sakti hoon? Dutta burst out laughing and promised her before the day was out she will know all about thai cooking, he'll make sure of it. She smiled at him thinking he will ask the cook about it for her. She dug into her ki krop noodles with a fork while dutta smiled indulgently and ate his rice.
After lunch he took her to crosswords and bought her a huge edition of international cru sine recipe book by a famous chef. She shook her head refusing to take it but he paid for it nevertheless and said it would be useless for him as he didn't cook but now that he bought it at least she should use it. Dutta- dekh nakku, simple funda hai. Tu khana banna aur mujhe khilla. Is tarah to ye gift nahi hua na. issey mera faida hai, hai na. It was a silly logic but she loved the book and couldn't hide her excitement and temptation to try out some of the dishes.
On their way back, nakkusha was exhausted by all the excitement. She sat pressed against his back holding him from behind as he had shown her in the morning. The wind whipped her hair and made her already wild hair to run free in disarray. Without realizing it her head lolled down on his shoulder as she fell half asleep leaning on him.
Dutta could feel every soft counter of her body on his back. She moved her hand slowly up his chest in sleep making his body jerk in attention. He slowed down a little not wanting the journey to end. Each bump and hole on the road he felt through his body. It became a lesson in endurance as she slept on unaware of his predicament. He kept his hand on hers holding to its place on his chest where his heart was playing a crazy tempo. When he realized where his thoughts were leading and about whom he jerked back to reality and accelerated to reach home fast.
Nakkusha realized she had slept through the road. She also realized that if they entered her town and locality together on bike like this it would literally be the talk of the town. She asked him to stop right outside the entrance of the town and got down. She then climbed back again in a decent side saddle style as in the morning while leaving and sat as far away from him as possible holding the seat rod by one hand and clutching the packets with the other.
He braked in front of her house. The sun was setting in the horizon. She looked at him as he looked back at her. Something felt different but she couldn't point out what it was. His gaze made her feel uncomfortable. She wanted to thank him but felt tongue-tied. She gathered her courage to thank him for her gift when Kalawati came out of her house.
"Aaa gaye tum log, thank God! Chal nakku mere saath. Jaldi tayyar ho jaa. Dutta tu jara nakku ke ghar mein jaake bait..tere jamaidada aur nishikant babu bhi andar baithey hai mehmaano ke saath..tu bhi jara bait ke unhe entertain kar tab tak main nakku ko tayyar kar ke lati hoon." Dutta nakku looked at her surprised. Nakkusha mumbled- tayyar matlab? Dutta-tai, kai zaala? Kaun aaya hai? what's up? Nakku ko kis liye tayyar karna hai?
Kalawati lovingly caressed nakkusha wind-blown hair and smiled- dutta, meri chotti si nakkusha ko dekhne ladke waale aaye hain..toh tayyar naa karoon meri guddiya ko?
………..To be continued
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Absolutely loved both updates though I must confess my reservations about Meghna as I, naturally, disliked the intrusion that she represents in Nakusha's quiet yet very complicated little world. But then, I had to reason myself and agree with your take on the story if we want any groW*H in Dutta's tangled emotions and what I would term an almost unconscious insensitivity towards life in general.
I remember mentioning in one of my first comments that it will take a lot and probably a dose of the earthy yet endearing logic of a girl like Nakusha, devoid of all the trapping of the mod city girl to snap Dutta out of his blas attitude towards women, life and his own being. And that phase when both would be thrown wide apart will prove decisive for both Dutta and Nakusha will come to the realisation that they stand to lose everything that they can possibly cherish in this lifetime by not acknowledging what is definitely this incredible "kashish" which seems to draw them together despite themselves as signified by this innocent yet insidious attempt by Nakusha to get so close to Dutta during the ride to Raipur (Was it the right town).
And that figurine that Dutta purchased is never going to Meghna, am I right or am I assuming too much. You know Shilpita, as much as Imp. Perfections (at least the last two chapters) may sound cliched as one can sense a feeling of deja-vu, I love it. I would not like to make any reference to our own DSP and Nakusha from our now defunct, decapitated and cheating LTL(2), your FF has given lots of solace and made me believe that it is better to appreciate the simple love stories that life throws at us, as having to extricate oneself from the emotional mess that our favourite jodis leave on TV is extremely painful.
Also, I find it very positive that you are throwing the "dekhai" of Nakusha so early on as it would enable both our lovebirds who may not realise it or refuse to accept the fact they are already so possessive about each other. I can't foresee the character of this Bittu guy yet but I feel that he may turn out to be a good human being who values seerat rather than surat (not sure about the mother though......so I hope that there are no nasty surprises in store).
So do we get to see the fireworks from now on. Dutta knows that something very imperceptible yet so blatant transpired between him and Nakusha today...I just pray that he does not take an eternity to open up now.
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