Sunday, 16 October 2016

part 9 : A gypsy's fantacy (last chapter)

"I'll put your poison in my veins;
They say the best love is insane"

"Tell me more about her," she combed Armaan's hair back with her fingers.
Armaan was astonished at how light hearted he felt. He shouldn't have been. His grandmother was among the few people knew him so well, who had been there for him like a wall of steel in his difficult times. When his father had passed away, his grandmother, too, had lost a son, but she'd kept her grieve aside and helped Armaan take on all the responsibilities. His father's death after Atul's was enough to crumble him. He would've not for her.
He realized for how long he'd kept everything inside him. He had no one to tell, no one who understood him like her. The realization made him sad. He had very few people in his life he could call his own. And his mother and sister didn't make it to that list. Atul would've. Atul would've.
After a delicious dinner, where, to his amazement, he'd gobbled down a healthy amount of food, he'd bled his heart out to his grandmother out on the deck. All those stars had followed him and were bleeding with him in the night, or maybe, it was just his teary eyes making them shine brighter.
"You know how proud I am of all that I've achieved after my father left. How I am so protective of all my assets?" he put his head in her lap and continued.

"Take all that, every materialistic possession I've ever owned. Even my family. Take it all and put it on one side, and put Shilpa on the other and ask me to choose. I will choose her in a heartbeat, without a question. I'll choose her. She's beautiful. She's so beautiful granny, I can't tell you. And not that facial beauty. It's all her heart. Shilpa is not flawless. She's clumsy as hell and a little crazy too. Maybe those are the things I love most about her. She gets all these panic attacks and hides beneath tables. She keeps rats and birds as her pets. She's...she's." he tried to say more but his throat clogged up and he broke into tears.
He soaked her dress with his tears.
"I don't know what to do. I don't know what not to do. I think of her and I think of Atul. I want so bad to move on with her, to love her the way she wants me to but then I think of my brother and the way he died. Had the same thing happened to me, would've I wanted him to move on with the person who was responsible? How would've I felt? I want to feel guilty and I just..." he shook his head.
"Armaan, boy, you make no sense. You're forgetting I know you more than you know yourself. Do you remember when you and Atul were kids? You stole all his cars and when you both had a huge fight? You broke them all. They were his favorite cars. He never shared them with anyone. He sat for days planting new seeds in his garden like crazy, crying all night to his plants. And you felt so guilty afterwards but you couldn't tell him sorry just because your ego won't allow it. You've always been like that Armaan. And he too. He'd forgiven you. Easily. He himself had asked you to go with him to the shop to buy more. Keep yourself in his place now. Atul? The most amazing little boy I've ever known? Who loved everyone and everything? Who found all the good in the world? Keep yourself in his place? What do you think? You and I both know very well he would've forgiven Shilpa and Muskaan for what they did in an instant. He must've Armaan. He'd never hold a grudge against you for loving her. Does that even sound like Atul? Atul only knew how to bring things and people to life. Only knew how to love. And he would be hurt to think his brother would think so little of him.
"You know what I think? I think Atul would've loved Shilpa. I think Atul already loves Shilpa. I think he wants you to give life another chance. I think Atul's hurting because you're hurting. We both know it's not Atul stopping you, Armaan. I've watched you grow up, remember? I know all the good that resides inside you and all the bad. Armaan it's you whose stopping it from happening not Atul. I've seen the naughty grandson I had, who never stopped playing pranks on others turn into a man before his age. I've seen his childhood being snatched from him and a mountain of responsibility being shoved on him. I've seen that little boy curl around some corner of your heart and shut itself down. All the pain that you went through? It made you wiser, but it also made you mature before your age. Armaan, you always have been physically stronger but it was Atul who was mentally strong. I remember you being upset at little things. You always ended up crying up when something didn't go your way or you were hurt and didn't stop until Billy had you in his lap doing whatever it was to make you happy. Your tears were snatched from you at an early stage. Life hasn't been fair to you but that little boy you shut away somewhere? He never really died Armaan. He demands to be let out and grow up.
"I think the reason you were attracted to Shilpa was because she was all that you were denied of. You saw that lost boy in her. You saw flashes of him in her and she made you want to let him out, she made you realize that your life wasn't as normal as you perceived it to be. She was all that you've craved to be all your life. And you were scared. You were scared to love again, to let her give all that you've lost again back to you. And your heart? It seized the first excuse that came your way so it could build all these walls and distant itself from her and now you're holding onto these walls like life.
"Boy I'm not saying that you're head over heels in love with her. Had you been, making this decision won't have been this difficult. You would've been able to overcome all your insecurities. Armaan, and that's how it happens. Love isn't some magic potion that comes with a guarantee to work its magic in three days or thirty. Love is a bond that gets stronger only and only with time. You would always love her a little more tomorrow than you do today. Love grows like any of Atul's trees. Once the seeds are planted it takes proper nurturing and a lot of time for it to become a tree. But everyday that seed grows a little more, every day that baby plant grows a little more until it becomes a tree. I think you already love her. You're just holding yourself back from loving her to the point of oblivion. And fear never helps love. if you have to love then love with two things. Love with fearlessness and love with selflessness. Or not love at all."
"I know you've a lot of questions, Armaan but I won't answer all of them for you. You'll have to do that for yourself. But here's one from me. Fifty years from now where do you see yourself? Just ask yourself if wherever you are will be worth it without her in there? You lost your father and you lost Atul and someday you'll lose me and some other day you'll lose her too. You are afraid of loving someone and then losing them. I cannot tell you if you'll lose Shilpa in twenty years or twenty days. That's death and that's fate, you and I cannot help you but what I can tell you is that you'll be a fool if you let its fear take away those next twenty years or twenty days from you. It doesn't matter how long we have but what does is with whom we spend that. Atul didn't live for long but whatever days he had, they were well lived and he was well loved Armaan. And that's all that matters."
She sighed pulling up and leaving Armaan there to ponder everything.
He had a lot of growing up to do. And he had to start now.

"Shilpa," Muskaan had been standing at her door for last twenty minutes, watching Shilpa stare out from the window at nothing in particular for the last twenty minutes. She'd been trying to muster courage all morning. She'd been up the whole night and with Shilpa. She hadn't really woken up before morning. But she'd been restless and mumbling Armaan's name again and again.
She'd been too scared to face her all day then. That brought her to now. So here she was, watching Shilpa for the last twenty minutes but unable to say a word. Finally she mustered enough courage and stepped in.
Shilpa went still but didn't look at Muskaan.
"I know you're upset with me. Upset may be too small of a word. You must be mad at me. Hate me. You must want to hit me. To spit in my face or tell me to go to hell. And you've the right to feel all that. You have the right to never talk to me again or want to see my face again. I've been a shitty sister to you. A coward. What happened to me doesn't justify what I made myself into. What happened to me doesn't justify what I did to you. You're right. You were my sister. I let you believe and hurt for nine years and for that I'll never forgive myself. But it Shilpa it wasn't because I didn't love you enough or didn't deem you worthy, it was because I loved you too much and had hurt you too. I kept telling myself every morning that this would be the day I'm going to pour my guts out to you but then I looked at you and the way you smiled watching me. All you had was this hope, this relief that I'd forgotten everything and that you couldn't have been able to take it had I known. Shilpa my reasons are purely selfish. And somebody taught me that love demands to be selfless not selfish. Can you look past my flaws? I'm so tired of defending what have I become. I"
Shilpa was on Muskaan in an instant hugging her hard. Muskaan broke up into loud sobs too, unable to stand and both of them shifted to the floor, curling up against each other.
"You are my sister. I'm so sorry for all that I told you yesterday Muskaan. I was jealous. I realized I wasn't the saint I perceived myself to be. I was so jealous. Of you and Rahul, of the fact that you loved him more than me, of everything, of life in particular. And I was so hurt. I didn't mean any of it Muskaan. You are all I have. You and Rahul. You both are all I have."
"And Armaan,"
Shilpa pulled away shaking her head as more tears slipped down, "No. not Armaan. He doesn't love me Muskaan. He left me."
"Shilpa, how can you say that? He loves you. He-
"No. I asked him Muskaan. I told him I love him. I bared my heart to him. But he-he doesn't. He doesn't love me." Shilpa's frame wracked as more painful sobs poured out of her eyes.
"Shilpa, I'm so sorry." Muskaan pulled her back in her embrace, brushing her hair and rubbing her back.
"Everything's going to be all right Shilpa and you're wrong. I don't love Rahul more than you. I love Rahul as much as I love you. It is us against the world. You're as much his family as you're mine."
"Muskaan, it hurts so much. When would it all stop hurting? Haven't I paid enough penance for my sins?"
"Shilpa, you've done nothing wrong. It's just life isn't always fair to everyone. Some people get it all. Some people are so happy and others? They cannot hurt any less. But I know that you're strong. You're strong enough to take it and shove it back in the face. You're a fighter. Always have been."
Shilpa giggled and pulled back wiping at her tears, "Hey, you. When did you grow up so much?"
Muskaan smiled and hugged her again, "I don't know. I don't know."

Four days later:

"So what's the matter with you?"
Armaan looked up from where he was sitting in the corn field and stared at the girl standing before him. She had an eyebrow raised and one hand resting at her hip and not for the obviousness of it he would've thought she was twenty instead of 9-10.
He raised a brow back and they were inundated in a stupid brows raising competition until she smiled and sat beside him.
"You don't look that bad from close. Though your nose still looks like somebody pasted you face front on some wall for days. It is that flat, dude."
Armaan laughed and it stunned him. He hadn't heard his own laughter in days.
"Ahh, my nose. Yeah, most probably, that must've been what had happened to it. I knew I was born without a flaw otherwise."
"You're a shitty map of flaws, dude. But anyway, I'm mini and right now my life ain't shitty as you so you can tell me whatever's bothering you."
Armaan looked down at her in amazement. She had a bob cut and she was wearing this pathetically cute tweetie shirt.
He still didn't know what it was with girls and tweeties.
Weren't big lips guys thing?
"How do you know something's bothering me?" he extended an arm back and relaxed.
"You've been watching all those kids play with this puppy dog gone horror look on your face. You looked like some besotted fool. Totally disgusting."
Armaan laughed again, "You don't really have a filter on that mouth of yours do you?"
"Nope. So tell me. What is it? A girl? Another girl?"
"Not really. It's not her. It's just me in particular."
"You in particular?" she was confused now.
"In my ignorance I've hurt more people than I can count. It's just love hasn't been particularly nice to me. And I'm not sure if I'm ready for more. It's just very complicated. I came here to cry to my granny but she handed me back my delusional ass like the rock chick she is."
She laughed, "Yeah that she is. She's like the hottest Granny aka hitler aka teacher I've ever seen."
"Yeah. I thought she'd let me moan and whine but she told me that I'm a jerk and I should start owning up to my actions. It's just I don't think I'm ready to do that."
"So you're afraid of loving because you think it'll hurt you? Is that what you're saying?"
"I don't know," he groaned, "Nine years ago my brother passed away in an accident. I loved him."
"I'm sorry."
"Days back I got to know she was somehow responsible for it."
To Armaan's surprise, he ended up laughing at the nonchalant way she was replying.
"Though it wasn't her who was responsible. It was her sister. And she...she had gone through a huge turmoil that night. I just kept telling myself that she was elder, she could've just owned up to it. In truth it was my stubbornness that refused to leave after it waited nine years to get to know the culprit. Shilpa wasn't at fault. Nor was Muskaan. Sometimes life is simply unfair. I don't know what I want, Minnie. I can't see her hurt and I'm the one who has been hurting her the most."
"Listen, dude. I don't know you but I think you elders make life very complicated. You just get into the root of everything and get tangled in all this mess. You forget that life is true in its basic essence. Like us. We children aren't that complicated. Take my boyfriend for example. He pissed me off in the morning by getting me all these roses. And I just totally hate roses but he's been telling me sorry ever since and though I'm trying to act all bitchy I just love him. And both of us know that. So go to her and tell her you love her. Let her help you because you obviously need her help."
Armaan laughed, "You, you tiny little thing have a boyfriend?"
She nodded giving him a smirk, "and I'm a way better girlfriend than you."
"I ain't no girlfriend missy."
"But you're sitting here and whining like one."
When Armaan had no answer to that she grinned and winked at him.
"You know what cornfield girlfriend? The more you'll sit here and ponder the what' you'll miss all that what could have been' with her. So just go. Go and tell her that she is one lucky bitch cos she's got a really pretty girlfriend with a not so pretty nose but that's totally okay."
Armaan smiled and playfully pushed her, "I think you're in love with my nose."
"Yeah, dude. Totally. Seen nothing more lovely in the world." She rolled her eyes.
"Where did you get that deep, tiny?"
"It's Minnie!"
"It's all the same," he grinned.
"What's your name?"
"Okay, Armaan listen. It may sound harsh but you're not the only one out there with a shitty life. Yeah life's been unfair to you but life, really, isn't much different from a Ferris wheel. It takes you round and round and you think you're the only one, not realizing that there are hundreds of other people riding the same shit as you, but reacting differently. You can actually sit in a too yellowy cornfield with bugs probably and moan for the rest of your life or you could not waste another minute of that what could have been' and actually realize how much better life gets when you simply let it be. You can't help what happens that's fate. But you can make a difference with the choices you make. So choose wisely."
Armaan watched her stand up and walk back from where she came. A boy came and hugged her tightly and after a while she hugged him back, both of them laughing and holding hands as he told her some fascinating tale.
Armaan laughed and made his way back to the chalet.
"So what was Minnie telling you?"
Armaan snapped out of his thoughts and stared at his grandmother. "What?"
"Minne," she pointed out at the cornfield, "what did she tell you?"
"more or less what you did. She made me realize what a f**king fool I am."
"No surprises there."
"I don't know granny!" he slammed his fist on the table in frustration, "I don't know why am I holding onto my fear. I just, I just can't seem to let it go. I can't seem to make more room for pain. To open your heart to someone and have it crushed?"
"What did she tell you Armaan?"
He wrinkled his brows in confusion, "Minne?"
"Yeah, what did she say?"
You can't help what happens that's fate. But you can make a difference with the choices you make. So choose wisely.
"She told me that in all our what if and what this and that' we waste all the what could have beens' we could've had. That every moment I spent away from Shilpa is a moment wasted. She told me that we can't change what fate has planned but we can make a difference with what choices we have."
His granny stepped forward and smiled, "Do you see that boy Armaan?"
Armaan looked out at Minnie and her boyfriend.
"He's just ten years old and Minnie? She's just nine." Armaan turned his eyes back to his grandmother, confused.
"Do you see the way he isn't leaving her hand? His eyes are full of love and concern?"
Armaan returned his eyes to Minne and her boyfriend who was now bent over helping her sit and saying something to make her smile.
"She's dying Armaan. Minnie is suffering from Leukemia. Her chances aren't that good. But is that scaring him away? Or her? Do you see the love he has for her? They're just ten year old kids Armaan. But they've made their choice. And it's a good choice Armaan. It's a really good choice. You always ask me why won't I leave this house and come and live with you. It is because your grandfather spent his life pulling penny by penny together to build this house for me. We'd come here for our first honeymoon. I'd been in love with this place and forty years later? He'd fulfilled my wish of living here. So what if he's not here anymore? So what that his memories are everywhere? So what some nights I miss him more than the others or there's no one to tell me how much my tea sucks? This home? This place? Everything reminds me of all the times when he was, of all those memories we created together. And I love him Armaan. I love him more today than I did yesterday. And I would never trade these memories for anything, even if you tell me it'll hurt me more. The good is simply that good."
She patted his shoulder and walked in.
Armaan felt everything around him revolve until his breaths were heavy and he fell to the floor.
He watched Minnie pout her lips at the boy and him kiss her cheek.
He smiled.
A tear slipped from his eye then another then another.
She was his everything.
And just like that he couldn't fight it anymore.
It crashed upon him, it crushed down the walls he'd build around him and they came down with a loud bang that rang in his ears.
He loved her.
He loved her.
Armaan loved her.

"Shilpa, are you sure you wanna do this?" Shilpa stared at her reflection in the mirror.
She was a bride. At least she was dressed as one.
Bride's heavy dress? Check.
Bride's heavy jewelry that was literally suffocating? Check.
Too much makeup? Check.
But she didn't feel like one.
Hollow eyes? Check.
Dry lips? Check.
No smiles? Check.
No glow? Check.
Looking like shit? Check.
"I'm sure Muskaan."
"Shilpa, there still is time. It's not like he can force you on gunpoint. This is suicide Shilpa. Insane."
"I'm not doing it because I'm trying to forget Armaan. I'm doing it for dad. This one last sacrifice and then I'm done. I'll make Modhi's life hell!"
"Shilpa, you're not making sense. I can ask Rahul, we'll just runaway."
Shilpa laughed, no. Armaan had probably filed their divorce papers. He'd left her that night and disappeared from her life. It hurt so much every day. He didn't love her.
"This is so heavy. I can't breathe. Can we just get over this shit asap?"
Muskaan looked unsure. Rahul had disappeared half an hour ago saying he'd some work then came back way too smug like he'd won the world cup. Idiot! Muskaan thought.
"Ready Shilpa? Rahul asked way too chirpily. Muskaan shot daggers at him but he ignored her.
"Yeah. Whatever. Let's get this done with. I can't wait for my suhaag raat!" Shilpa rolled her eyes.
"Neither can I." Rahul mused and Muskaan coughed and Shilpa threw a lipstick at him.
"Go to hell Raaahoool."
"Hell wouldn't be this interesting."
"Shutup, Rahul. Shilpa, think again. You sure?"
Shilpa thought of the moment she'd asked Armaan if he loved her and closed her eyes.
She reopened them gulping all the pain he'd given her back.

Shilpa and Abhimanyu had only been seated together when a line of police men barged inside the hall and took covers in a round circle. Everyone stopped. Shilpa stared at them in confusion and Abhimanyu stared at his father.
"Excuse me? What do you want?" his father stepped out.
"We came to arrest you and your son."
"What the hell?"
"He," the inspector pointed at a confused Abhimanyu, "has committed a crime along with you."
"What? What crime? I'm getting married officer. Not that I don't consider it a crime but I don't think it should be me going to jail. Take her!" he pointed at Shilpa.
He and everyone in the hall went silent, watching Shilpa with large fearful eyes.
The inspector laughed.
"What did he do between?" Shilpa raised a brow.
"He's trying to marry and already married woman. It is illegal."
"Oh okay...WHAT?" Abhimanyu glared at Shilpa, startled. All eyes on the hall turned on Shilpa who gulped.
"Ermm, I was married. Not anymore. We divorced."
"No, ma'am. You aren't. It's your husband only. He filed the report."
"What?" now it was Shilpa's turn to go shocked.
 "Whatever the hell you think you're doing wifey? I don't think your marriage to him is permissible since you're already married to me."
Shilpa gulped as Armaan stepped behind from the officer. All breath wooshed out of her.
Armaan was here.
Armaan was here!
And he was smiling like the very devil.
He was smiling such a bright smile she almost lost her balance.
"But, but the divorce papers?"
"Oh, that of course." He muttered walking forward then throwing the papers in the holy fire. Shilpa watched with her mouth agape.
"Armaan?" she breathed out.
"What the hell is happening here?" Abhimanyu's father came forward, looking angry.
Armaan looked at him and gave him one of his trademark intimidating smiles.
"Ask what is not happening here? Your son's wedding. Congratulations, Mr. Modhi."
Shilpa couldn't understand what brought this new cheekiness in Armaan. She wanted to extend her hand and check him for fever.
Did fever make you go insane though?

"Armaan?" Shilpa waved her hand in front of him, "Tell me how many fingers are these."
Rahul snickered behind her.
Muskaan smacked him.
"Shashank what the hell is this? We had an agreement! I'm not going to leave you! I'll expose you and your daughter!"
Armaan cut him with the wave of his hand.
"Listen dude, Atul was my brother. Atul Malik? Remember? the guy your truck driver had mercilessly driven over nine years ago?"
All color left his face.
"What are you saying?" he spurted. Shilpa and Muskaan were shocked. Muskaan held Shilpa for support all of a sudden.
"Yuvraaj!" Armaan didn't move his eyes away from Modhi who looked like he'll piss his pants any moment.
Yuvraaj came out of the crowd and smirked at Modhi.
Yuvraaj tossed papers in his face.
"It's Atul's post mortem report. The original report. The one you hid. Which also explains a lot of things. Like how did a car manage to hit him so hard that his arm pulled out of his socket or his face was ruined. A truck however? Explains a lot."
"Those were truck tire marks too on his arm and shoulders."
"How does that prove I'd anything to do with it?" Modhi retorted.
"Good question, too. Yuvraaj."
Yuvraaj moved forward and smiled way too pleasantly. "I had Dr. Shubhankar tapped. The first time he called you he told you I was blackmailing him to expose Shilpa, so, naturally I thought it was Shilpa who was responsible. However, I hadn't told my detective to pull the tapping off and two days ago he called you again, telling you if something happens to him he'll take you down with him and tell Shashank everything too. everything being that it was one of your truck drivers that had made the mistake and called you and that also explains why you came to the spot after Muskaan and Shilpa and were too happy to put all the blame on them. Their car had merely hit the truck too. And you used that to your full advantage. Clever Mr. Modhi. Real smooth. You made him load his truck with more weight than was allowed and he lost control. You are responsible for Atul's death."
Shilpa sank down with shock.
She hadn't killed Atul.
Muskaan followed.
Everything spun around her and she held her head.
"Oh my God! Oh my God! Oh my God!" she watched as Yuvraaj gave all the proofs to the officer. She got on her knees and stood up and glared at Modhi.
"You son of a bitch!" she roared, "All that while I thought you were helping us! I didn't even wait for a moment to think what you were doing there or how without any surprise you told us you'll handle everything. You'd been so f**king composed. You knew! You knew. All these years I though."
"I'm going to kill him," Rahul stepped forward but Armaan shook his head.
"No. Don't get your hands filthy. Let the police take care of him. He has additional corruption and blackmailing charges on him. Let's not forget bribing. He's gonna be in jail for a long vacation."
Everyone expected Abhimanyu to protest or stop it or get angry but the only thing he said was, "That means I don't have to marry Shilpa anymore?"
Armaan looked at him then punched him hard.
Everyone gasped.
"What the hell was that for Malik?" he held his face.
"That was for touching her on the engagement party. She's my wife you asshole. Like hell will you marry her."
"Dude, I've got no interest in her. You keep her. She's totally crazy. I'm in love with someone else."
Shilpa gaped at him then smacked him hard, too.
"What the hell was that for now?" he yelled.
"That was calling me crazy you f**king, cowardly, stupid, idiot!"
Armaan laughed and pulled her close.
He kissed her right there in front of everyone.
Before she could say a word he pulled her in his arms and whispered, "What was it about gypsies kidnapping their bride? I've brought a whole force with me. Let's see who'll stop me." He kissed her nose and she burst into giggles.
"And Shilpa?"
"I love you."
She gasped then stared deeply into his eyes, "Armaan," she hitched in a breath.
"I knew it way before Yuvraaj told me that it wasn't you responsible. I realized it way before. And I don't care Shilpa. I simply simply don't care. I love you and I know, I know. Atul would've loved you too. he would've loved you so much. And I know I have his blessings. Even had you been responsible. He would've given us his blessings."
"Armaan," her throat clogged up.
"I've hurt you so much Shilpa. I promise you I'm going to spend the rest of my life making it up to you."
Tears slipped down her eyes, and he kissed one away, "And I'm going to make sure all your tears now are ones of happiness. I'm at your service for life. Just no poetry, please. I suck at that shit."
She laughed and hugged him.
"Take me home."
He smiled, his dimple deepening and he walked off the stage, making his way through the mass of people and just before they'd reached the end a loud round of applause followed them behind.
"I'm hoping this fits your gypsy's fantasy. I literally hate public affection," he teased her.
Shilpa laughed and smacked his arm.
"Armaan wait!" he looked at her confused and let her stand up.
She marched back to Abhimanyu and pulled off her jewelry and smacked him in the face.
"For the last time Shilpa! What was that for?"
"Who on Earth do you make such heavy shit for? Saale mere double weight kit toh teri jewelry hai! Shaadi karni hai ke gala ghott ke maarna hai? RAKH APNI JEWELRY AND AND BHAAR MEIN JAAO!"
She turned around and ran back into Armaan's arms.
And this is how it went.
With Rahul rolling onto the floor with laughter.
Muskaan checking the weight of the jewelry.
Abhimanyu holding his face.
Yuvraaj handing Modhi to the police.
Shashank crying tears of joy.
Shilpa and Armaan?
Living a gypsy's fantasy.
Starting a new life.
Falling in love a little bit more.


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