Thursday, 25 April 2019

Part 10 : Unleashing What Remained Unsaid

"Hey beautiful,

I write this sitting on an open terrace under the Indian sky. Can I call it that? I guess I can, they named an entire ocean after India, and everything in and around here is the Indian subcontinent. Why should the sky over this Malik Niwas be any less Indian right?

Anyways, teme sumthin, a memory, a moment, a scene which captures your heart completely? I had always assumed mine would remain witnessing live, Henry's first ever Arsenal goal at the Emirates two years ago against Ajax...a stadium marked by red and white erupting into a unanimous cheer at the shot...*sigh* It was a sight and I couldn't get enough of being there :) But now I know, much can alter in life, favorites can't be the hardest. Mine are begining to change...

I bet I have you wondering about a lot at the moment; one why this letter and not the usual email, two why such a sudden question...would you understand if I blamed it all on Armaan? :D Ok don't glare, I'll work on making this less ambiguous.



First the letter. He was writing one yesterday (I wanted to ask who it was for, would that have been too impertinent, I wonder...?), anyways so I asked him if he had one of Potter's delievery owls as well. It was either wasted humor, or he simply chose to ignore the joke. All he said was letters felt special in a way emails never could, it made another realize you were ready to go the extra mile for them. I wondered what it was he implied exactly, the man talks in riddles to say the least, but I listen to all he says anyways, this letter to you hence. Do you feel anymore special receiving it? Let me know then I'll write one to Minnie as well ;)

Alright unto next...the forever memories, it wasn't abrupt, just another 'being with Armaan' effect, he says things which make me think until long after. When I entered the city, it wasn't quite the way I had imagined it to be. No that has nothing to do with Armaan, I'm getting to him in a bit. It was the whole picture...my first sight of India. Well the first technically was from the plane and one of a kind, it was like the cotton white clouds parting to reveal a lush green as we descended slowly and it did not fail to catch me on, I don't remember having seen a green so striking. But my anticipation then was far overwhelming to take enough time and let it grow on me, I should have let it linger within, for what I saw after it wasn't the most pleasing sight to my eyes.

The international airport, or so it was meant to be, was least like any I've seen until itself, I named it an exception to the usual, one I couldn't bother about for long as Armaan found me almost right away. Massi what is it about him, I can't get myself to pin down? The uneasiness of the place was like engulfed by his hug, it felt so right, in that one moment I knew why I had not been skeptical about this trip. I almost concluded I had missed him in the past year, strangely so for how much do I know him anyways? How much does anyone know him anyways, hes that kind, its hard to be certain if what you know about him truly is. Oh well, there I go digressing from the point. You know what, I think of that morning again and I have to believe, had I seen the city before the airport, I would have possibly even held the latter in awe for its cleanliness and lack of chaos.

Its the rear of the rainy season I was informed, misinformed would be more like it. I think there's enough rain here to compete the wind and snow in all of Chicago and London even now. What less could I claim having sat through a drive all of 25 Kms which took us over 2 hours, not the scandulous jams I was warned about, no. Armaan said jams arent Kolkota's issue, Delhi Bombay fit that fame better...it was the flooding on the roads. Picture this - knee deep water, even waist high at places, people dressed well rolling up their lowers and wading through and many who weren't dressed much just pulling what Armaan told me was a ricker on bare shoulders with people sitting on it, across the high flooding water, the heat and humidity all around, and the cars incredulously still managing to make it through? Cars is not even the word I should be using here, its this yellow colored ancient looking thing on four wheels, a model that should adorn the old Detroit auto museums, the engine running it must be a monster. Its the local Kolkota cab, and the only thing more typical of this city I gather than the overused word 'dada'.

It was insane and I didn't know what to make of things. Armaan must have read through my head, anyone could have at that moment hes supposed to be a professional at this, he said I shouldn't be appalled its a common sight. He wore a serious look when he said this, but I could swear he was trying as hard to supress a grin as I was to supress my frown as I nodded. I had nothing to say back. There was enough going on in my head then, about what other common sights I was likely to encounter and he must have read me on that too cause he added, though I'm uncertain if he was talking to me or himself, that I should rest judgements until later, there would be much to change them, in many big ways. He shouldn't have bothered telling me that, an opinion was hard to avoid at that moment. But I have revisited what he said then several times already. I still maintain that he talks in riddles, but I'm begining to realize its because he wants you to unfold facts for yourself.

Its been five days now, and that first impression seems to have worn off its rigidity. Its the same city, the same yellow cabs with scary looking drivers who never greet me, instead they squabble in broken english over cash which couldn't equal a handful of dollar bills, the same street hawkers in completely despicable state who chase me half way down the street bargaining over goodies I couldn't care less about, the same flooding the same filth the same chaos and...the same of everything there could be to not like about a place; theres but one difference. I'm starting to like being a part of the mess!

Did you know Armaan has a sister, Muskaan? Rhyming sibling names he said are commonplace in India. Well they aren't real siblings, she is a cousin, but she must mean more than life to him...and to Rahul, her husband. In several ways she reminds me of you, not letting the men she loves live in peace :D and I adore her more so for that! Guess thats me...I love the trouble girls, you, Minnie and now its her. I mean she fights with Rahul to no end thats fine, Rahul fights back...but she gets hot headed with Armaan? Why does she even bother herself in arguing with him I wonder, the guy just submits to whatever it may be that she demands.

And me? I'm surprised she hasn't already shown up here stalking me and interrupted this letter.She killed my good boy image the very first day, we are the official Tom and Jerry of the Malik Niwas. Rahul says hes happy I'm there to share the load of her fighting fits with him, Armaan just shakes his head off at us and Daadu, he has this loving aura about him, for once I feel I missed being in a joint family all these years. Him, Muski, Armaan, and Rahul, I can't say who makes more than the others Malik Niwas my ideal Indian home. It isn't strange therefore that when Armaan introduced me to his kaka and kaki, Muskaan's parents two days ago upon their return from a week long Kali Ma puja I had a hard time keeping myself from asking him if she was adopted, SHES NOTHING AT ALL LIKE THEM. I mean I can't seem to adore her enough, and them I prefer to keep out of this letter. Perhaps it was the other way around, maybe kaka kaki are the adopted ones in the family, could it be?

Anyways I got this constant feeling when I met Armaan the first time last year and few times after that, about a charm he possesses unknowingly. I know now, its from Daadu. I asked Armaan if it would be a good idea to suggest him to get remarried, Mrs. Douglus from the florist shop and him would make quite a couple. He laughed thinking I was joking but then he realized I meant it and looked suddenly grave. Marriages are a one time affair for Indians, remarriage is out of norms was all he said and left the room.

Now that is one thing I don't like about him. Most of what he says reintroduces life to me, and then he comes up with one of these aimless obligatory statements, they are such a contradiction to the man he is. Why does he bother himself with them? They sound like vacant words coming out of him almost like hes trying to convince himself about that more than me. It makes me wonder...perhaps he is in love and wants to remarry himself but can't courtsey his so called norm? Could a societal rule govern life to the extent of taking the happiness out of it? More like should it be allowed to?

Anyways, I can't believe I drifted away from my talk of the city yet again, but its the love of this house, the family I'm with, Armaan's family, I wish you were here beautiful, although I fear the plight of us guys if Muski and you were to ever pair up as a team. I told Rahul about you, and Ritu di, and he laughed off saying with Muski added to the team you girls could feature for a remake of the Charlie's angels series- I think I agree!

I said it massi, I'm starting to fall in love with being here in this home, and with this city, where the shimmers in the night sky are more from the stars than the street lighting and skyscrapers, where the flow of an alien language feels personal when strangers address me as 'dada', where the smile on a face would mean a good meal and not a good deal, where football is football indeed and not soccer. The beauty of this city truly lies in the eyes of the beholder, when Armaan first said that I didn't believe him but he said I would and I do now, and when I told him this he just smiled at me. Then I told him I would love to come here with Minnie once, and he laughed this time saying he had wished the same while in Cambridge for him and...he didn't get to telling me who, cause he stopped there and remembered abruptly an important pending work. Mysterious him, I can never predict how he will react to what and why. Did he have a girlfriend in Cambridge? I think I will ask Chirag...

Oki, I should wrap this up beautiful, I just so wanted to share it all with you. The hapiness of being here, I'm so glad I came and happier still to be with Armaan and his family. Miss you alot and wish you were here too. I know we haven't managed to talk much on the phone yet, its just the floods affected the local Telephonic service office of this zone. But Armaan will get me a cell soon, it will be active within 24 hours of that. I will email you the number details and also my plan to move to the dorm, I'm considering staying here an extra week, Daadu insists and to be honest I don't want it otherwise. In fact I will call you soon, missing mum and pa as well...and Minnie...

PS: My current favorite sight is the sky above me, I decided it deserves to be called the Indian sky!

Falling in love,
yours forever,

Gappu :)

*********************
Chirag sat leaning backwards on his chair as he swirled it in light slow circles. He had just finished reading a scanned copy of the letter Gappu emailed him saying he had posted the original to Ridzi and he couldn't help but marvel at the boy. He had in such a subtle way encapsulated the Armaan essence into his letter, it appeared like he talked of everything and everyone more than him, and yet all started and ended at Armaan. If it was making him, Chirag reminisce his times with Ammy so much, he didn't have to think twice to figure out its impact on Ridhima.

Chirag now felt reassured about having chosen Gappu for the task, he was a natural at this, perhaps cause he, like Chirag was not hving to put any effort into portraying things, he felt the bonds just as strongly, especially so now that he was among them, and with Armaan. He had stated in words something Chirag had always felt, the quiet charm of Armaan which worked its way through the people who came to know him. And Chirag knew, why despite glaring differences of characters they had been such close friends, and why despite having gotten so much from life in the last one year he had felt a gap. Armaan was not and had never been the hard to miss in a crowd guy, he wasn't loud nor was his persona over bearing, yet how accustomed his quiet presence Chirag had become was evident only after he left. And more than ever Chirag felt he could relate to how Ridhima must exactly feel.

Sighing he picked up the printed copy and looked at it again. Suddenly it struck him...Muskaan and Rahul...Armaan was not a talking guy, and his family was a topic he left unbroached as far as possible. But somewhere Chirag remembered having heard from him of Muskaan's marriage, and not in the recent past, it seemed like something he had heard of in Grad school. Ages ago from now, and yet, was his memory completely deceiving him or had the name mentioned then not been Rahul at all? He frowned sitting there in deep concentration now, trying to remember but it refused to come back...and the more it eluded him, the more he was inclined to believe the name had been something else...but what?

********************
She walked into the house with her mind as preoccupied as it had been since morning after she received Gappu's letter. Unable to rest her running thoughts and concentrate on her work she had left the office early claiming a half day leave. The 'special impact of a letter' had hit her indeed she had to tell Gappu she thought with grim sarcasm. And now she was back home, just in time for tea she realized as the aroma of the beverage reached her from the kitchen. A subdued apetite and no inclination to get into a tea time chat right then she decided to get to her room quietly before being noticed, but it certainly wasn't her day.

"Ridzi you back home early today?" She stopped in her steps hearing anji's voice groaning in her mind and bracing herself for an inevitable dialogue.

"Just this head ache Di, it was getting to be a pain and I couldn't stay and do the charts anymore so I took the remainder of the day off." Turning back she started to move to her room again, unlucky still.

"Head ache? Hang on then have some food, I trust you skipped breakfast again thanks to my night shift and God knows what lunch was like. Your ill timed meals can result in nothing better than head aches Ridzi. When will you grow up to take care of yourself?"

Saying so she left without waiting to hear a no. Ridhima sighed, complying to the instruction she knew would save her much more trouble than avoiding it would, and so she sat down at the table after dumping her bag on the couch besides. "...his hug, it felt so right..." ; "...a charm he possesses unknowingly"; "Did he have a girlfriend in Cambridge?..."; "...perhaps he is in love and wants to remarry..."...Ridhima shut her eyes tight gripping her head in her hands firmly. She had to shut all this out of her mind, the lines from the letter and his presence in them, the thoughts of him...She jerked up feeling the cool touch of fingertips other than her own on her forehead then relaxed as she saw Anjali massaging it gently.

"Have it..." she commanded pointing to the food lying before her and Ridhima obeyed breaking a bite of the parantha. "Thanks Di," she mumbled through the chewing.

The circular gentle movement on her temples was certainly helping her nerves calm down, perhaps letting those who love you help out wasn't such a bad idea after all. And when exactly had she started shunning away from the care of those around her anyways, wasn't that one thing she totally despised because Armaan...She sighed, not him again. Anjali did not miss her reactions. Sitting down on the chair next to her now she said,

"What is it Ridzi? You seem more affected than just by a mere head ache. Something you want to tell me?"

Ridhima looked down at her food. She had debated more often than not of telling Anji about Armaan, the answer was always the same, there was nothing to tell her anymore. As before she found herself shaking her head. Then she said looking up with a thought.

"Di Gappu mailed his cell number yesterday, Ar...Armaan got him one. He said it would be active within 24 hours and then he would call us. The phone service has been disrupted due to the rains in their region so..." She didn't complete as Anjali jumped up towards the cordless and bringing it back she said expectantly,

"Lets try calling him ourselves, maybe its active now? I haven't talked to him except a brief exchange twice since he left Ridzi, I'm missing him so much." Ridhima thought for a moment, then smiled lightly nodding her head getting up she pulled out her cell from her pocket and searched for the number she had saved.

**********************
It was close to 5AM when Armaan woke up, as usual for his morning jog. He set the alarm each night, but it never had to ring, he would wake up minutes before the actual hour somehow. He told himself it was a regulation his body had adapted itself to, but somewhere he knew it was because a peaceful sleep had not been his in years now. Getting out of the covers he yawned then walked towards Gappu's room. The morning jog had held more purpose fo him this week than the usual, as Gappu would accompany him for it making the hour long session full of lively chatter. He wasn't a talkative one Armaan knew but then neither was Armaan, it was just the comfort level they shared, and had since their first encounter at th florist.

Entering the room he smiled shaking his head at the way his sheets were scattered all over the bed covering everything except him, the pillows, one under his arm, and the other on the floor were just as reflective of how not still he was when he slept. And like each morning of the week that had gone by he was yet again sleeping with his head opposite to the bed post. Muski had seen him a few mornings ago that way and declared he practiced football even in his dreams. She added her sympathy for a woman who would eventually have to share a bed with...Gappu had not let her speak further chasing her as she ran round and round the table.

It had been one of those scenes the house was getting accustomed to witnessing and Armaan grinned now thinking of it. Then moving up closer to the bed he was going to shake the boy awake when he saw Gappu smiling in his sleep. He stopped his hand midair and pulled it back crossing his arms across his chest stood there watching him. His cheerful grin faded into a wistful look as he thought of the resemblance of that smile with hers. Its had the same lingering sense of an everlasting content...just like Ridhima's...He was brought out of his reverie as he felt a vibration under his foot, taken by surprise he jerked his foot off the spot and saw Gappu's new cell phone lying there. Rolling his eyes he bent to pick it up and then realized it was still vibrating, in fact it was an incoming call, an international number. No name, he must have not yet saved the numbers Armaan thought. It could be his mum, or pa or Minnie or...the cell kept buzzing, hesitantly Armaan clicked the answer button.

"Gappu!...mumma here bachu, how are you?...Gappu?" Armaan was going to answer when he heard another voice...

"Di?..." It was her voice. "Gime the phone I think the call got cut unanswered...I told you its an early hour he must be out for his practice or perhaps still asleep and..." ....

"Hush Ridzi..." He heard the other voice, and then he realized it must be on the speaker. "Hellooo? Gappu u there? answer mumma na betu"

Trying hard though he was Armaan could not bring himself to reply back. At the sound of her voice, Ridhima's voice, not in his head but for real...he felt zapped. It had been over a year, and hearing it this moment...

"Di, gime the phone I'll try again, I'm certain it got disconnected..." and he heard the call click to an end. It came crashing upon him in that instant, more than it had in the past whole year how much he had missed her, his body refused to react to his rising emotions and he stood numb...for several seconds until the vibration of the cell in his hand jerked him again. This time he reacted faster, and the other way.

"Gaurav?...Gaurav wake up...Gauravvv, " A groggy looking Gappu peeked at him with half closed eyes, frowning slightly now perhaps not pleased to be disrupted from his happy dream. Armaan pulled his hand and put the vibrating cell in it,

"Its a call from your home, common get up and talk to Ridh...your family I mean..."

Gappu frowned harder first at Armaan and then at the source of vibration in his palm, and then jumped up as realization hit him. Armaan pulled himself back up and stood straight as Gappu was suddenly wide awake and excited,

"MAA!, "

He screamed into the phone and Armaan was almost startled at the volume, swiftly he moved to the door and shut it close lest the whole house woke up to the morning excitement. Turning back he heard him saying,

"Its amazing Ma, I totally love it, you're the best best best to have let me come..." he paused while a muffled voice was all Armaan could hear outside the cell, "Oh come on Ma, it must have just got active over the night or I would have called you before, of course I miss you don't get mad at me...actually go ahead and yell at me if you want, I've kinda missed that too..." his excitement was contagious, and despite his lack of reaction from moments ago Armaan smiled...

"Maaaasiiii..." the smile faded slightly as he swallowed hearing Gappu go on..."Yeh yeh oki...no massi, not my fault ya, if you growing older so much faster than me, "

He chuckled and Armaan just stood absorbing the scene. He had been so close to actually talking to her after a year of not hearing her voice and he had let go of the chance, now he felt the urge to snatch the cell out of Gappu's hands but he knew even if he went as far as that he would not manage to talk to her just like minutes ago, and so he stood his spot holding his breath unknwoingly.

"Yeh what's new about that you love killing my sleep all the time, its just 5AM. Relax beautiful you think too much, I'm gona wake up no one Armaan shut the door and...huh? Yeh he's here infact he woke me up to answer the call, hang on you talk to him yourself here go..."

Saying so he jumped out of his bed to hand the phone to an unbelieving Armaan who just looked back wide eyed but before he could refuse and excuse himself from the room the phone was in his hands. It couldn't be happening a second time in less thn 10 minutes he thought to himself, for once in his life realizing what it meant to feel like your heart would burst with the pressure on it, perhaps this was the onset of a stroke, he almost prayed for one so he would collapse before having to talk to her. Lowering his head to hide the tumult of emotions in his eyes and raising the phone to his ear he whispered in a voice he couldn't have recognized as his own,

"Hello?" he waited for what seemed like an eternity until he realized what the sound on the other side implied, it was a long tone, the call had been cut. Sighing deeply he felt in the same second a gush of rising relief and sinking disappointment. Looking up he somehow managed to face Gappu and say,

"I think it got disconnected. I am going to go change into my tracks, do you still want to come along or stay on and talk to...your family?" He was surprised at how almost calm his voice had sounded, Gappu however frowned slightly, then smiling again the next instant he said,

"Oh no I'll come, but would it be fine if we left 10 minutes later than usual?" Armaan nodded and left the room as he saw Gappu pressing the digits on his cell, undoubtedly calling back, and this time he didn't want to be caught.

********************
"It got disconnected Di, " she lied not meeting her sister's eye concentrating on her cell as if trying to find the cause and pretending to re-dial. Why the hell had she cut the call, now God knew what he was going to think of her. Did she care? SHe admitted reluctantly there was nothing she cared more about, much as she would like to deny the acceptance. In her head she cursed Gappu for having done this so suddenly, and then wished and prayed that it would ave appeared like the call really got cut. Even though she had more sense than to wish for it be assumed so.

The cell in her hand rung again, and she looked at it for a quick moment before having to click the answer button since Anjali stood right by her. As she heard Gappu on the other end, she half let out a sigh, of rising relief and sinking disappointment. The battle of emotions was charging again, had she wished for it to be him? She had, but she wished just as much that she had not...

********************
Gappu glanced at Armaan across the breakfast table. The jog for the first time in a week had been a quieter affair, and Gappu had let it remain so. The early morning call incident had just been plain coincidence, but it seemed like the events were acting in his favor, he had only played his chance well. He believed neither Ridhima nor Armaan about the accidental cutting of the call, he knew one of them had done it delibrately and it only strengthened his resolve to make the next move more fool proof! For now he was cheerful about this unexpectedly faithful turn of events and had allowed  Armaan his thinking time, he needed lots of that, and would need even more in the days to come.

"Can you pass me the butter Dada?" Muskaan's voice interrupted his chain of congratulatory thoughts, and on an impulse coming out of his high spirits he pulled the butter out of Armaan's reach giving Muski a cheeky look. She rolled her eyes at him and making a face she said,

"Dam this kid, are u ever planning to grow up...like in the next few seconds? Stop fooling around and pass me the butter..."

Gappu shook his head grinning wider while the rest on the table gave them both a look, sighed and got back to food.

"Gaurav? GIME THE BUTTER!" she said trying to sound angry. He broke out laughing and winked at Rahul who grinning himself said,

"Magic word sweetheart, you gota say PLEASE gime the butter Gaurav jeee..."

They hi fived. Armaan looked up from his plate at each one of the three in turn and got up from the table abruptly drawing the attention of everyone towards himself. Ignoring them he walked to the refrigerator and then walked back a moment later with an extra slab of butter on a small plate, and put it before Muski before removing his own plate from the table less than half empty. He would have walked away but Daadu spoke up,

"Armaan..." he stopped and turned around already begining to regret his momentary impulse. "Daadu I...," he gave them a quick look and said, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it like that. Just this case I'm handling its been playing up my mind. I...ummmm...I need to get back to it."

Mumbling the words like half processed thoughts he moved away, certain of nothing except the fact that he wanted time alone. Gappu felt a pang of guilt, true he was trying to make things sprout back up, but perhaps he was being too hard and too fast? Now for a baseless prank he had agitated him to leave a half eaten meal. The other three on the table sensed his discomfort as he now concentrated on the food on his plate the cheeky grin wiped off and replaced with a thoughtful expression.

"Ahem ahem..." Daadu cleared his throat drawing attention from everyone except Gappu who continued to look at his plate. "Rahul did you know ideal couples have names which fit well together?" he said tentatively. This time Gappu looked up, curious as to where this topic had suddenly cropped up from. Daadu gave himself a small smile. Then as the three pairs of eyes looked expectant waiting for explanation, he pointed to the morning paper lying by his side.

"Its an article I just read. It states that how often close friends, dear siblings, couples in love claim that their bonding is determined by the stars, the creidt cordial sun signs for the strength of relations. The writer brings to light a new connectivity factor in recent times - names. The sound of names together, their meanings, the essence and the level of correlation. Say for example..."

Daadu paused then pointing towards Rahul and Muskaan he said,

"Your names together sound well, Rahul and Muskaan...so you survive as a couple, but the meanings, Muskaan a smile and Rahul the efficient one...theres absolutely no interlink...hence the constant bickering..."

Daadu paused as Gappu chuckled despite himself at the thought behind this analysis. Muski made a face at him and then groaned speaking,

"Daaaadu...don't make up stuff. Rahul and I love each other, names can do nothing."

She finished with a smug satisfaction facing Rahul who gave her a curious look with raised eyebrows to tease her, and succeeded in doing just that as she frowned while the other three laughed.

"I'm making up nothing here Muski, see how Rahul and Gaurav get along just fine, and they've only just met?...efficiency and pride are coordinated traits, hence the bonding, and a similar one between Armaan and you, a desire and a smile, one a consequnece of the other, wouldn't you agree?"

Muskaan shrugged in reluctantance then spoke, "What about Chirag and Armaan?..."

Rahul answered thinking as he spoke, "Chirag the lamp...and a desire...like a ray of hope from Chirag the lamp to fulfill an Armaan, the desire!"...

Gappu narrowed his eyes at the plausible connection, then smiled to himself as he thought of how the meaning was coming true...Muski sat back with a pondering look crossing her arms across her chest, then spoke up on a sudden idea, "Chirag and Ritu...?" certain this time she had caught an exception. Gappu broke out laughing, "I don't know the meanings, but there could be no link there forever. It is a case purely of oppisites attract the two of them have nothing in common whatsoever."

"Neither do the names, Ritu means a season, cant link it to a lamp..." Daadu said.

"Um not surprised at all Daadu, they are ideally poles apart, just somehow in love!" Gappu replied, still chuckling at the thought of them. Then tentatively he spoke but with obvious hesitance,

"What about Minnie, I mean...Armaan's niece, shes...a friend of mine, I was just..." He paused a slight red creeping into his cheeks as Daadu gathering the obvious from his reaction spoke trying to hide his smile,

"Minnie is a loving memory, often of a person close to our heart who could fill us with a sense of pride...theres a definite fit here." Gappu beamed, then getting conscious as everyone smiled back knowingly he looked into his plate again.

"A Lovely Desire...Dada and Baudi...it was almost...perfect..." Muski said in a low wistful voice. Gappu looked up at her for a moment then said in a solemn voice,

"Perhaps...but I know about this absolute perfect..."

"Daadu did the post come in for today yet? I was expecting a..."

Armaan stopped midway realizing he had interrupted a chatting session as everyone turned to look at him.

"Did I...like interrupt something here? I'm sorry I'll go check myself and..." Gappu cut him off.

"You did, but don't worry its about you."

Armaan looked at him with slight curiosity, and so did all others as they turned back to face him again. Gappu spoke in a casual voice,

"Daadu explained how name matching affects human bonding and this one example only just struck me. It is of these two I know who met each other after several years of no information of the other, and yet the bonding they shared was incredible, the gap of few years seemed to vanish in the moment they met like it had never been..." Pausing he looked up at Armaan and spoke slowly with a delibrate emphasis, "Armaan and Ridhima...a desire to love...perfect fit ain't it Armaan?"

******************
Still stuck deep in several chaotic thoughts Ridhima grabbed her coat and decided to go for a walk after dinner, on the pretext of need for fresh air. Fresh and cold, bitterly cold infact she realized within minutes of walking out. The wind chill was certainly below freezing, but in a way she was almost willing to have her senses go numb, if only it would cease the rush of emotions she had been feling all day. First she had received the letter, it had made her smile wide and deep, until the moment she read it; that had not gone off quite as well. She was less troubled by how much every bit of the letter reminded her of Armaan, and more so by the realization that her initial happiness at seeing the letter had been less cause it came from Gappu and more at the expectation of hearing about Armaan.

It had been that, the hope to feel some connection again, and that made her helplessly furious within herself. It was inevitably true that every extreme emotion she felt anymore was always in some way linked to him, no matter how desperately she wanted to rid herself of the lingering want of him she had inside. The problem was simple, she did not know which of the two was harder for her, living with the memories of him or the efforts to ward them off.

And then the call. She cursed herself mentally yet again for having cut it just like that. Had she wanted to talk to him instead? Perhaps yes, and yet definitely not. Then why was it wrong for her to have cut it? Because it was wrong she told herself, now he has every valid reason to wonder what it is that you feel for him, and if or not you do at all. She clenched her fists thinking of what a fool she must have appeared to him, not just that but an escapist. And al that when she had been now, for a year building a non reacting shield about herself. How could she have given herself away with the mere hint of his presence? Would it ever change for her, she wondered cursing in her head again.

*Honk*

The sudden sound of the horn jerked her out of her thoughts and she realized she was crossing the road when the signal wasn't white for her to cross yet. In the process she had walked without realization before a possibly speeding car which now honked at her. Unable to see the driver past the glare from the headlights she just mouthed a hurried sorry and ran to the other side cursing out loud this time, herself first then the thoughts of him.

Running her fingers to fix the lose strands of hair she now looked around herself. Without any intentions to do so, she had walked to the lonely side of the Lake shore drive. From general awareness she knew it wasn't the best place to be in with the onset of this mounting pitch dark night. Bracing herself she snuggled into her coat and crossing her arms she rubbed with each hand the opposite shoulder, simultaneously hastening her steps with a now prudent eye on the look out for anything unusual.

She did not have to wait long, there it was she figured after several minutes of noticing a car which seemed to be stalking her. She broke into a light trot, It wasn't that far, her home close to Lincoln street but the little distance wasn't the best place to have walked, if only she had paid more attention to where she was going. Turning around ever so slightly hoping she wasn't making it obvious, she observed the car had picked up pace as well, and that offered no solace. It was a quick moment decision and she now broke into an unambiguous run, she was about 2 blocks away and it wasn't like she couldn't make...or so she thought until the car drove right by her and slowed down then to match her running steps.

"Excuse me Miss..." She would have never turned to face him, sticking to her evergreen 'IGNORE THEM' ideology, but for the fact that she knew she had heard the voice before, and so she turned abruptly towards him. HIM? Her eyes widened in shock at the sight of him as she remembered their last encounter. If there could have been room for any doubt about his identity he cleared it the next moment.

"Perhaps you don't remember me. We met at Chang's the other day, I'm Vivek Khanna...once again!" he spoke with a smile.

********************

NJ

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