Thursday, 9 May 2019

Part 17: Unleashing What Remained Unsaid

"So what exactly did happen to my old cell?" Gappu asked fixing a temporary prepaid SIM into the new set they had obtained from an electronics store on the way.

"I'm planning its fate." Armaan offered, not very explicitly.

"You mean its fate post dismantling its parts, breaking its LCD and dropping it into a puddle?" Gappu listed absent mindedly. His departure from Malik Niwas was still settling in despite his attempt to push away the thoughts until later.

"Something like that." Armaan paused to shoot a quick side glance at Gappu then continued, "I haven't quite asked you have I, about your take on the Sai stadium?" Armaan quipped.

"Its a fair place. It does surprise me though how trivial the hype is for it, considering its a national stadium." Gappu replied technically speaking. Armaan smiled.



"No thats not what I was asking about at all. You'd think me capable of that much analysis after graduating from football city London's very best. I can make comparisons by the rule book too." Gappu frowned in thought.

"Well its a stadium like any other, I could say better if I saw a real match in there."

Armaan narrowed his eyes at him and nodded in self thought. As for most times, he did not explain himself. Gappu considered him for a moment but no more and went back to looking out of the window in brooding over the farewell, then at an attempt afresh to push thoughts of the same away. Armaan after a few moments turned on the radio station, it played in the local state language but neither of them cared; it was for both just the comfort of some noise to fill the silence. He toyed with his idea, and Gappu tried to focus on nothing until, after a mostly quiet and altogether uneventful 20 minute ride Armaan announced,

"Here we are then." Currently, Gappu looked up and focussed at the scene before him out of the windscreen.

"That's the stadium Armaan. You plan to walk with the baggage the rest of the way?"

"If you insist on residing in the grounds sure I can help you pull the bags."

"Huh?"

"Why would you want to tag the bags out here. Its the stadium Gaurav." He repeated the information quoting in the air. Gappu rolled his eyes at him- love was supposed to change people but this was tremendous. In less than a few hours of confession, Armaan had made a clumsy start to the day, been beaten hands down on the breakfast table, had remained lost in thoughts while supposedly sitting at work, and now the guy had taken to jesting around when Gappu was all but in a mood for it. To add to everything, he grinned in amusement at Gappu's irritation now.

"What's the joke?"

"There ain't any big boy. Get out of the car now, hurry up." Saying so Armaan got out of the driver's seat and stretched himself smiling. Gappu stared at him, then followed his order with no other option in mind.

"Just for records, the dorm is a couple of streets down. They have a park space, not like that matters in this city, but it will be lesser distance to carry the bags."

"Hmmm. I'll keep that in mind." Armaan said moving towards the stadium.

"I don't have practice today Armaan. Did you forget Wednesdays are off for us not Sundays."

"Sometimes I think I underestimate how much you can talk. Is it mandatory to come to football stadiums only for practice?" Gappu pondered over the casually put question in serious thought. Of course not. The stadium was a place you visited at every moment- of elation, of gloom, of victory, of doubt. It was more dear to him than his own bedroom.

"No," he stated

"Very well then, shall we?" And so he strode on ahead and Gappu after a fleeting moment of afterthought followed him.

They walked in over the ground at a pace of no hurry, Armaan quiet for his bit allowing Gappu to muse over any thoughts that may occur to him. After some minutes of silence when they stood somewhere close to the centre of the ground  he said in a voice which was casually keen.

"What do you see Gaurav?"

Gappu mused introspectively, if it was such an obvious question from Armaan the answer had to be just an opposite. He looked about him letting his eyes wander to the far ends of the stadium, in the process without realizing he took a full slow circle about his spot. Then he closed his eyes lightly trying to think what it could be that he was supposed to see- the grounds, the goal posts, the nets, the surrounding steps for seating,...the sky, the birds, the town visible in the far background over the boundry of the stadium itself...

"What was the last league your team won Gaurav?"

He heard Armaan's whisper through his thoughts and that distracted him from what he was trying to concentrate on. Instead his mind, readily deviated by the thought of game went back to memories of it. He remembered how close the match had been, he remembered the anguish at having been given a yellow card in the first half hour for a shove which had not been half as intentional, he remembered the gravity of the situation, and unconsciously he felt his muscles tighten right now as he remembered the stress of that hour. He would have sensed his heartbeats suddenly racing faster if he had paid them any attention as he remembered the latter part of the game, the ultimate tie in scores at the end of time with a goal to eah team, running a decision into penalty shoot outs...and then he remembered the winning shot. He had made it, the only one in that game much to the chagrin of the coach and team all through the match. He felt the relaxation seep in at the memory of that moment, then the exhileration at having been lifted off his feet by his charging team mates and the roaring of the crowd; it had been a home coming game and the last of the season gone by. As he opened his eyes slowly now he saw the empty field, the cheers of the ground were only a fading sound in his head, but a distinct smile played on his lips.

"What do you see Gaurav?" Armaan repeated his question as he smiled wide having seen the play of expressions on Gappu's face in the past couple of minutes.

"I see a dream I wished for; and then I see myself living the dream every single moment I let it come true."

Armaan congratulated himself mentally. He had hoped just for this. Somewhere, in the responsibility of the task Chirag had assigned to Gappu the boy had forgotten the idea of the camp he was attending. His whole motive seemed accomplished at the confession last night and somehow the call in the morning from his coach, Armaan had figured, snatched away from him the chance to celebrate his success in leisure. So much that he forgot everything else, and even the idea of going in full throttle for the soccer camp seemed disappointing. Armaan had asked Gappu how disturned he had been at leaving Chicago and Gappu's answer had confirmed his analysis. And so he had brought him to the grounds.

Gappu continued to look straight ahead as the sky in a distance darkened to the end of monsoon clouds again; the sun was trying to peek through and some randomly victorious rays crisscrossed over the lighter background shades up closer in the sky just over and past the stadium boundries. They heard a distant rumbling thunder and Armaan said with a grin,

"Looks like your much dreaded rain will be gracing us again."

"I hope it does soon," turning to a slightly surprised Armaan he said, "Didn't you know? Its the best feeling in the world to be able to play football barefoot in a ground softened by a heavy downpour..." Armaan broke out laughing and Gappu smiled.

"I will believe you, if we can have your luggage tucked away safely in the dorm and come back in time to try the rain game under the pouring clouds."

"What are we waiting for then?" with that Gappu turned around to lead the way this time and Armaan saw in his stride no more reason to worry about him getting lonesome or homesick.

************************
He flipped through the pages hastily frowning hard, catching words he recognized here and there, at some places phrases, passages or whole pages were available for his perusal, but all of what he could read contained details either trivial or none at all. A potluck which had been smashing, a cheer leading costume their sorority had designed and won the runners up for, a night stroll down the London Bridge on the day she met him...he stopped his eyes at the words. HIM?

Quickly he scanned the page and this time the pang of disappointment felt sharper at having come so close to real information and still not quite made it. It was the same issue. Ridhima had a personal daily journal evidentally a few years old, it contained possibly more about her life than she would remember to recount if she narrated the years herself, it was lying around on display with a title on the spine an obvious catch. But did she let you conclude she was a fool? No, not so readily.

With a silent groan he saw words written in the alphabet like english but none familiar to be found in an Oxford. It was one of the European languages he guessed, most likely Spanish. But that was not an end, there were parts of the writing he altogether could not recongnize. She wrote her enteries in multiple languages, at least two more in addition to English, maybe there existed other alphabet here he wasn't even distinguishing. He flipped through some more pages; came back to a page he had passed as the bright red ink on the top of the page above the header margin caught his eye. Much to his relief it was English. It read,

"For all sad words of tongue and pen, The saddest are these, 'It might have been'....Whittier"...and then, much to his frustration the coded language beyond his comprehension it was again. He let out an impatient sigh and turned on to flip through once more and this once a small scrap fell out of the diary. Eager in expectation he bent down and picked it up, it was a pink colored sticky note and it read,

"I Love You ******..
I don't know of a time more right
I don't know if i'd get another chance
I don't know if i can keep it in me anymore..
I Love You ******..Always...US!"...He looked at the sticky and cursed, willing it to bare to him the one to whom she had addressed her confession so ardently, wondering if it was the name of that same man she had written in both the spots where she had not used english, instead her own differnet language, the one for which he could not even recognize the alphabet. At the bottom was scribbled a date and he stared at it in confusion. The note was dated for yesterday, he narrowed his eyes to make sure it was an '09 and nothing else; it was indeed and he wondered what he was to make of that.

*BBBRRRRR*

He most nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound from behind, almost half dropping the diary out of his hands in reaction and holding on to it securely just in time. Pushing it back into its spot hastily he turned around, half in fear of what might be half in an anticipation of the unknown and let out a breath of relief as he found himself to still be alone in the room. Then as the same buzzing sound spread through the silence of the room again he saw it, the source of the sound. It was a vibrating cell on the wooden top of the bedside stool, he moved forward intrigued.

"Thats...from India," he whispered half afraid to hear himself as wording the name of that country brought back to life ghosts from his own past, with increasing uneasiness he recognized the code in the number was of Bengal. It vibrated once more in his hand before, with a half made up mind mostly uncertain about doing it, he clicked on the answer tab.

"Hey beautiful!" despite his own inner turmoil he clutched hard onto the cell cringing at the sound of that address for Ridhima as the voice on the other side spoke on, "Listen! I called to tell you to save this number. Its a new one since my other faithful set has been hijacked by your..."

"RIDHIMA NOOO!" he heard a new voice yelling in the background then a second's scuffle and muffled laughter and the new voice spoke again, much closer into the cell "Don't listen to him..." a slight pause ensued and he could hear the breathing of the person on the phone now, slightly heavier than usual, and then he heard it again, more at ease and husky with intent, "Ummmm...hey!" At that moment Vivek felt the cell grabbed out of his hands and he turned around to find Ridhima holding it to her ear without sparing him further immediate attention.

"Hi this is Ridhima, may I know who's calling?"

"That's one formal introduction honey, and dam my presumptious heart but I had hoped rather wistfully that my voice would need no naming..." She half gasped at his teasing whisper and half at the surprise of it being him on the phone, unattentively she fixed the lose strand of hair falling over her face consciously, looking at Vivek with a raw uncertain smile.

"Ar..."

"Armaan indeed!" he completed in delighted subservience at having been identified, his eyes on the door Gappu had closed behind himself. Armaan had snatched the phone before Gappu could reveal to Ridhima his juvenille whim over the cell phone and then Gappu after a feigned struggle to get possession of the cell again had in mock resignation moved towards the washroom making a convenient escape winking at him with a smile. "Ridhima?" Armaan said tentatively now not getting a response from her, was he the only one who had been desperate to talk to her again? With a pang of disappointment he mused she had not even recognized his voice? Perhaps her attention was diverted he justified.

Ridhima gave Vivek another awkward smile cursing him in her mind and moved away towards her closet speaking in a lower voice, "Hi!" Armaan smiled wide, whatever his doubts had been, each was dispelled by the emotion in her voice, it was just like his own. Running his hand through his hair blessing Gappu to have given him the moment in solitude he knew he was blushing like a boy first time in love. Well it was first time, there never would be a second.

"I...ummm we have a guest over and Di is waiting for dinner and..."

"How have you been?"

The several nuances not only to his character but even to his voice were a miracle, after that perky teaser he had now sounded like a solemn romantic who had long awaited for a word from his beloved. A surprise took hold of her expression as her mouth hung open from having been interrupted. BY HIM? She broke into a settling grin and for a moment she lifted the phone off her ear and gave it a strange look as if to make sure it was all real- the call, him, his voice...

"I...I missed you," she said without much thought to her words in her pleasant confusion at the change in Armaan overnight. He had opened the conversation with a flirtatious remark, and sounded completely at home with it, no trace of his usual hold back hesitance. And now he interrupted her on what they both knew was just a filler in the conversation lest they were to encounter any awkward conscious silence. He had not even picked on her unintentional cue and told her to go on with whatever guests or meal she claimed being busy with. No. He had forwarded the conversation indiacting his intent to persist with it and that transported her to  a sudden high.

Armaan felt his own heart soar at her candid acceptance. "How are you doing?" She asked breaking the spell at last and it shook him out of his reverie.

"Barely surviving." He said grinning, "Gaurav's been on this determined spree to embarass me at every possible chance today" She chuckled.

"At least someone knows better than to let you go easy." It was a silent second

"I hope he's not the only one holding on to me now." She blushed furiously, then determined to not be the whimpering girl in love she retorted.

"Did Calcutta see a sunrise from the west today? Or was it you who woke up on the wrong side of the bed?"

"Its Kolkota honey," he said emphasizing the name in its native pronounciation, "And you talk of waking up when I never went to sleep?"

"YOU DIDN'T?" Armaan was startled by the resounding of the words on both sides of the phone. Looking up he saw Gappu had returned.

"Return of the mighty," he mumbled, Ridhima smirked curiously, and then she heard Gappu's distinct voice from behind Armaan on the other side.

"Someone seems sour about seeing me back. If you're done Mr. Malik can I have a word with her?"

"Gappu's around?" Ridhima quipped from her end and Armaan frowned confused by the two talking together.

"Hang on hon...Ridhima, I'm passing it to him." Gappu stuck his tongue inside to the cheek giving Armaan 'the look' as he took the phone and Armaan decided tried to ignore moving to the window pretending to check out the view.

"Hey massi...no not massi...whatever! How's it going?"

"Fantastic!..."

"Oooh!" Ridhima rolled her eyes. Even he knew?!

"I mean good. I have a friend over right now and we were about to begin..."

"RIDHIMAAAA..."

"There you go. That's Di Gappu. I better get going, but I'll call you back later alright?"

"Sure whenever. Any messages for...ahem ahem..." Ridhima heard his cheeky tone and would have given it back to him but she heard Vivek from rustling somewhere behind and then Anjali call out again. She dropped it for then.

"Alright I'm off, love you!"

"Nite beautiful!"

And she turned around as the phones clicked to end the call. Vivek was a few feet away from the closet, observing the wall again, and in her quick mind Ridhima analyzed he was still conveniently within earshot. Oh well, she thought, he does know about it now overhearing may actually sink the message in well. With a polite smile she walked towards him so they could move down for dinner before Anjali had to make another summon call.

**************************
"Dear M,

I went to her place for dinner tonight, as I had told you earlier I would. Too much to put in here now 'just for records'. For starters she is in love, with someone she claimes she has loved forever. I know neither his name, nor what he looks like, nothing about him at all; except that he is the man in the picture who needs to be taken care of. She may love him now, but she will not with time as she gets to know me I am certain. She did accept my friendship right away :) Often we can't distinguish between love and seeming love. It must be the latter for her, and I have nothing against anything in her past once we are together.

But that's is just a start. I came across her personal diary Muski, like her own personal daily log. And up that close you'd think I know more about that fellow than I'm claiming. I would, if only she had not writtten the dam thing in a multilingual style. I have decided, once we are together, I'll get her to translate it for me or perhaps, just so she won't get awkward about it, I'll learn the languages myself and then read it without making a mention. No intentions of hiding it but I feel like she may get all awkward, and anyways if I will know everything from her, just reading off minute details in a diary about the same wouldn't really be intruding...no no no...there is nothing like intruding between people in love. There should be no secrets...*guilty* I have learned my lessons long back.

So her diary did not reveal much. There were but two little writings which are still playing in my mind. One of them majorly makes me feel the guy she loves, if it was him all along, he is definitely not worth her. It was a quote which said something about things if they might have been, with an evident melancholy edge to it. I feel like something between them is not alright, and she admitted her family did not know about facts yet cause she awaits the right moment.

Oh well, you know how things become when there is a wait involved, or complications of conditions? Wasn't our case something similar...of course there was a big fact about how I did not see your importance in my life until I left you. You were my good luck charm, with you I gained control of everything I ever wanted and then the moment after I left Kolkota life took a downhill path. Mum Dad and I invested into a business in Europe and it was all a fraud scheme we got roped into. The scam was tremendous but we couldn't seek any legal help since we had our own past to hide. Then dad and Mum were killed by the same gang, I was lucky to have escaped to Chicago and for a while I had, only for cover and protection, feigned mental issues but they referred me to a clinic. I had to get out of the mess anything official was way too risky. So I escaped to Mexico. Its easy to carry on as an illegal immigrant there until you can work out your papers and be a legal resident. But now, all is in place, I am a legal resident in Mexico, Vivek Khanna (I couldn't give up on the first name but the last one was too risky to keep) and for these two months I am here in Chicago on business. And I believe it was in God's plan so Ridhima and I could meet that I returned to the city again.

Kolkota...*sigh* I miss those days. Oh and that takes me to the third thing honey. She got a call from Kolkota, later during the meal I learned her nephew is there for some football camp and it was his call. He is staying with some friends and I was craving to seek the details but the mention of that city got me prudent. The one thing I can't ever tell her about is my past and it would have been great to know where he was and stuff. If it had been some years ago I would have managed to have the boy live like a king, I'm certain where ever it is he lives right now is someone I must atleast have heard of. Its the city I grew up in after all...*sigh* now I'm getting all nostalgic. Oh and digressing again. What I had to tell you, and what has been irking the back of my mind is this voice I heard on the call. There were two of them, and I don't know which was her nephew but...one of them...it just troubles me for no reason I can pin down. I have this idea the guy was the one she loves, somewhere I just have an intuition about it and maybe that is whats troubling me deep down. I know I said I don't care about her having a past. But that's only once I know she is securely mine.

Sometimes I believe if you were with me we would still be the same well off powerful family. Sometimes I actually think that's what my love for you is about...the security you brought for with you I was always in control, the boss. With Ridhima I want the same. Yes I guess that's it. With you I know my life would have been all comfortable, with Ridhima I feel an attraction, the more she evades me the more I feel drawn to her. The need to have her is much greater than it was ever for you, cause you came to me quite easily, maybe it was that age. If it was you now, or Ridhima at that age it could have been a reversal. Oh well...oops...I have a call, get back to you later M.

So long...no love and hugs et al now, I'm saving for R!

Vivek..."

*****************************
Ridhima sat on her chair revolving in slow continuous circles, deep in thought. Her eyes waited for each revolution to complete so she could look at the wall of memories over and over again. But that was only a thought somewhere in the unknowing recesses of her head. The primary emphasis of her mind, was a mesh of many confusing little bits trying to be linked together. She had after the call, in her hyper mode, gone about with the meal and the chores that followed with spirits suddenly elevated. Which spelt disaster for all those around her. For it had been claimed by those who knew her even just about to be typical of her, and had always been, to be hit by attacks of clumsiness in extremes of moods.

Fact was that she would yeild to emotions so readily that they would devour her entire attention, in the process, anything else she was occupied with in that time would become a secondary concern and something she would deal with absent mindedly offering it less than half of her head worth. And so she was found knocking things off if she, instead of walking right into them which was also a possibilty that could not be ruled out, walked past them instead; things would slip out of her hands without being too many to carry, she would address people by names which were never their to begin with; if she was asked to do a favor she would go out to do it and return either having completely forgotten that a mention of it had been made or coming back sheepishly and asking for a repetition...once, in her own head of having spent a wonderful evening shopping, she had readily taken a ride offered by friends deserting her own car in the park lot as it 'slipped her mind' that she had driven to the mall herself.

Today had been no different. She had missed out on the conversation at the dining table more times than she could care to remember, and then in moments when to make up she had tried to participate she had come up with random exclaimations which had no correlation to the existing talk at all; she had put tea leaves in to the coffee maker when Anjali asked her to set it up, and had informed Anjali five times that Gappu had called just in case she had 'forgotten to make a mention' until Anjali asked said, in a no more amusement, that her recorder was stuck and she needed a change of track now. That had embarassed her enough to remmeber it thereon and Atul had given her some support by claiming it was because of how much she was missing Gappu.

Yes, even in that unobserving self occupied state she had not missed Vivek giving her keen looks but she was too cheerful with the evening, had actually in some moments been kinder to him than she could have expected herself to be if it had been another usual evening. She had not even admonished him for having taken her call without permission, although he had offered his reason anyways, claiming that he intended to tell the person that he was handing it to her since it was long ringing and she had not been in the room.

That had been a mistake of course she thought ruefully. Long after he was gone, and all was cleaned and wrapped up, just as she was retiring for the night Anjali had summoned her for a last cup of coffee. And then she had spoken her mind, much as Ridhima could have guessed and had guessed earlier, about Vivek and her. Just before Ridhima could start to protest Anjali had pleaded her to remain silent and hear her out. She had said that the dinner had been mostly an innocent idea and a good chance to have observed, that occuring to her only after Vivek had called. That he was keen beyond casual interest was visible effortlessly, but, Anjali had claimed, she had, contrary to her expectation, found Ridhima being far more interactive and in the best of moods all evening and that had made her think. She had said she wanted to assume nothing by herself, and also hoped that Ridhima would be just as honest as she was being. Ridhima had taken her time in silence, not very long and then she had confessed there was something she wanted to discuss with Anjali, who had immediately brightened up.

"But its not Vivek I want to talk about Di," she had informed, "And he will never be a part of the talk we are having right now. I have no soft corners for him, never will." Anjali, though visibly confused, had been patient and that had given Ridhima great relief. "Its someone I have known for about 6 years now, and never made much of a mention about. Its someone I long ago fell in love with, but only in the last few days have I come any closer to him the way I would have hoped much earlier." She had paused again and then holding onto Anjali's hand she had said most earnestly, "Di, I trust you for wanting my happiness in whatever way is best according to me, and I want you to know that I care just as much about you, and Jeej. I know you would wish for me to settle down soon, and believe me I want it just as much, but somethings take their time and for this one thing time is a price I stopped worrying about long ago. I love him Di, and he loves me too, just as much. But like I said we have come to terms with things only in the last few days and I think we both need time."

"Who is it?" Anjali had asked with a soft pat on Ridhima's cheek and a warm smile on her lips and Ridhima had, despite the strong urge to do contrary said, "I need time to tell you that too. Can you just trust me with some time?" Anjali had taken a few moments of thought and then had nodded her consent. And as Ridhima hugged her for this she had known what this meant to her sister.

And she knew it well. Ridhima sighed. What had kept her from revealing Armaan's name she thought for the umpteenth time in her mind. It wasn't exactly what she had claimed. She knew whether she took time or not her decision about who was the man in her life had long ago been determined. Did she then, not trust Armaan enough yet, or did she fear he would let her go? No, it wasn't that she was trying to console herself, but this time everything about him, about them was different. No it wasn't about him, or about her fear that he would let her go. It was something else. And then, having gone about in circles for a while she slowly paused her chair, unconsciously to a point from where her eyes fell onto the wall again. She stared at them without looking really for a long moment before she got up from her chair to take a closer look. Even so her focus was not on the pictures, instead for a strange reason she thought about Vivek's observation of them. And then it came back to her, the thought which had made her uneasy before she had taken the call.

The thought which doubted her reason to have waited for Armaan all these years. Suddenly feeling cold she rubbed her shoulders for warmth. Then she moved to the window which overlooked the downtown. She had loved him yes, ardently and unceasingly. But could she deny that there had been moments in her life she had asked herself why? There had been guys and proposals who had, at least in her logical mind, urged her to think over and move on. But she had, at the end of every reasonable argument given in to staying the same way. She had believed inside that it was him and...whether she admitted or not, that he would come back. How would he, the rebelling part of her had asked her, since she had known he was married and no more details, even then the relenting mind inside had with feeble reasoning decided to hold steady onto her faith.

But why had she waited for him? He was the only guy in her life, who had, despite her obvious love, never visibly reciprocated for real. Now she knew facts, and that was a very different picture. Having accepted their relationship now wasn't under any sympathy or bias. It was because she found his love worthy in every way. But what about the past years, specially the last after Lovely's death when he had just walked off? There had been no reason then had there? But she had still waited upon him, for sometime with an intention for the rest just because she had forgotten to live without that wait.

Ridhima lowered herself sitting against the wall. Had it been just the love which was so deep? Or was it...Could it have been the fact that he had been so hard to come by? It could never be the only reason, not even the dominant one, but could it have been a reason at all? If it was, Ridhima felt extremely uncomfortable thinking about it. She did not want to think that her wait even if for an insignificant bit had been a whim in the least. Running her hand through her hair she wondered if she had not been able to tell Anjali everything because of some underlying confusion about her own love at the back of her mind?

She had to talk to someone she realized, and right away. Maybe not about this for now, for she could not think of ever being able to word this thought before a living soul no matter what. Hell she couldn't even word it out to herself if she really thought of it. She just had to talk to someone and get herself into a steadier mind before she got back to this. She ran the names of possible people, rulling out Armaan as the first option, talking to him now would only mess her head more, and what if, just in case, what if she blurted out something she never intended too? No...Ritu, Chirag, Di...Gappu...yes...quickly she scrambled up from her spot and got hold of her cell dialing the number right away.

**************************
He moved out of the shower drying his hair humming some tune he could never have been certain to have even existed. Maybe its something from they were playing on that local radio station he thought rolling eyes at himself and his losing sanity with every passing minute. Gappu and he had played the one on one match, with the rain honoring them when they were 15 minutes into the game. It had been awsome fun, and Armaan was relaxed in everyway about the boy being back his own self now. Back home the first thing he had done was to get himself a decent warm shower and then perhaps he could finally have some lunch, he felt ravenously hungry. Just before he moved out of the room he picked up the precious cell phone, he wasn't letting it alone for every minute that was possible, of course taking it in for the shower was one of the exceptions! He grinned smacking his head at the crazy thoughts and then wondered looking at the time is it was too late to make a call?...Just incase she was awake, or maybe he could wake her up and...

"Buy yourself some sense dude. She has work to go to tomorrow and you want to wake her up when its..." he calculated the hour compensating for the gap, "About 3 in the night...morning I mean...Bad idea...very bad idea. But what if she is awake?" He thought for a second, "Nah...if she was awake wouldn't she just call me herself?" Frowning he missed the last step and then barely managed falling back to his balance. "Back to your senses dude, please" he reprimanded himself.

"I love you is all that you can't say..." Panicking at the ringtone lest someone heard it and realized about Gappu's cell he fumbled to silence the ringing cell, and then was surprised for a second before he smiled his widest seeing her name flash on the LCD.

"Wow! That's a hell of a long life you've got sweetheart. Was just debating whether I should call you or not at this late hour."

"Ar...Armaan?" He heard the doubt in her voice and frowned.

"Alright, now I admit I'm genuinely hurt. That's second time in a few random hours that you have doubts recognizing my voice Ridhima."

"No I...no you, how come I can never get Gappu on the phone when I call him. Have you like hijacked his cell forever?"

"Ridhima!" he exclaimed with a slight anguish, "now you butchered my ego as well. You never had the intention of calling me in the first place?" He paused then said, "And yes, although it doesn't seem to delight you at all, this cell is now with me. I got Gappu a new one and...hang on you never saved the number?"

"I can't unless you guys inform me about it right?" Armaan was puzzled for more reasons than one. For one she was sounding not alright, or was it just him? No, if nothing else there was a definite restless edge to her voice. And two, of course they ahd informed her about the number.

"Ridhima that's the number we called you from earlier in the evening and I recall distinctly Gappu telling you to save it before I took the phone from him."

"Before you...hang on...oh I get it now..."

"And would you enlighten me a bit?" He said in an amused soft tone at her self talking habit. It was so typical of her.

"I didn't actually answer the phone myself to begin with, it was my friend. He answered to inform that I wasn't there and that he would pass it on but I entered the room meanwile and I think I answered just about when you started talking or somewhere close."

"Some relief. That's why you asked me who was calling." Armaan chuckled and Ridhima gave a small smile, her mind still occupied. "So who was this friend over for dinner? Anyone I know?" Armaan asked pouring his curry onto the rice as he put the cell onto speaker mode.

"Vivek. Its this guy I met..."

"WHAT?"

"What?"

"I'm sorry. What did you say the name was again. I was on speaker, think I misheard."

"VIVEK." she stated louder, in case he was still on speaker. When he didn't respond she said tentatively, "Armaan?"

"Vivek who?" He did not sound pleased at all. In fact if Ridhima was to be honest, he sounded like he was holding on with great constrain to keep his voice flat.

"Vivek my friend." she said puzzled.

"I mean what's his last name?"

"His...ummmm...I can't remember. Its like i know at the back of my head but just isn't coming to me at the moment...I think..."

"Ridhima?" He sounded distinctly stern now. "He is your friend and you don't know his last name?"

"Armaan he isn't friend like...not a close friend. Just a ran-into-at-the-mall kind of aquaintance." She was starting to worry now. This was not like Armaan. Why he was literally interrogating her. Was there some possibility that he knew about Vivek's posed interest in her? Actually even if he did, it wasn't like him to react this wasy. 

"And you invite a ran-into-at-the-mall kind of friend over for dinner?" He was sounding lesser in control now, and incredulous at the same time. Clearly the over night change in him was multi dimensional.

"Armaan what are you getting to?"

"I...Ridhima...you really can't remember his last name?"

"No I'm lying." she paused then she said in a softer voice, "Armaan are you..." she paused again then suddenly she giggled at the idea which baffled him completely.

"You're laughing?"

"Yeh...I..." she laughed some more at how unbelieving he sounded. "Gosh Armaan you sound like a 16 year old jealous and possessive boyfriend now. If I didn't run away in 6 years I'd think you could finally place some trust in me?" She said all of it in a lighter tone, the sudden laughing having calmed her own nerves at least for the bit. But Armaan felt guilty immediately.

"No I'm...I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that at all. Its just...no nothing. I'm crazy. And famished...and sleep deprived...ignore me if you can." He finished off in a soft imploring whisper.

"Yeh its hard to get mad at you anyways when you suddenly outrightly admit your mistake and that with reasons as valid. Sleep deprived and crazy I understand, why are you famished honey?" Armaan broke into a wide smile at her addressing him so. It was definitely the first time she had, just perhaps she may have during his confessing call last night, but then he was too overwhelmed to recall. In his sane moments he knew it was the first time. On a silly whim, he was taking to them more than he ever before had, he looked at the watch to see the exact time. 2:37PM.

"Armaan?" He came out of his thoughts at her voice again.

"Huh? I...I was out with Gaurav to drop him to the dorm and all that."

"Oh he moved already?"

"Unfortunately he had to. The coach called in today morning."

"Oh. Was he upset?" He heard her concern and decided to not detail it out since all was well now.

"Ummm...yeh. He said he would miss me much more than he ever misses you!"

"Hah! Stay happy if that gives your ego any boost, I know who he misses more without your telling me." She retorted to his teaser.

"Yeh well we all build misconceptions contrary to facts to keep ourselves happy, You're allowed your share of them!...But why were you him calling right now?"

"You mean why wasn't I calling you instead?" She grabbed her chance teasing him this time. He made a face at the food before him then said in a grudgingly admitting low voice.

"Yeh well...But then why do you care to miss me since I'm handling that part of the relationship for Her Highness." She broke out laughing inevitably, then said in between her giggles.

"I can't believe its you saying all this Armaan. Something is so definitely not right with you." She declared and he grinned reading her point.

"I'm in love sweetheart. And that is no normal state of mind, did no one ever inform you?"

"You just did. I'll remember from now." Then pausing she said on an urge, "I'm missing you Armaan."  I wish you were here. She did not word her last thought. Somehow she knew it wasn't the right moment to say it. Besides if she knew him at all, he would know it anyways. Armaan Thought for a moment then said,

"Did you think about a trip to Calcutta?"

"KOLKOTA..." she said reminding him of his own correction then added in a serious response, "You really meant it when you asked me to come?"

"You think there was anything I was not serious about last night honey?"

"No...I guess not." she paused then said, "I'll think about it." And a part of her mind was already working at ideas of how to make it possible. Then she spoke again, "Alright its really late now. I should get some sleep if I want to work at all. I messed up enough at office today." She heard him chuckle and before she could ask why he spoke as if having read her mind.

"I see it wasn't very different for either of us in that case. I haven't got a single paper sorted out for work..." He paused then added in a deep in love whisper, "God knows what you've done to my sane head, it refuses to obey anymore." She blushed and wondered yet again how great the difference in him was from anytime before. Even at Cambridge, it had always been obvious hints from him, never anything more. Even when she had craved for more from his side he had kept himself at a proper distance, never crossing the line. To know this side of him now, it was arousing in her a plethora of emotions and feelings and she knew no way of dealing with them in a controlling way.

"I love you Armaan," she whispered still in her thoughts.

"I love you too honey. And maybe, much as I hate to play by sense, in many ways I guess its good I've lost my sane head, but you should probably sleep. I'll call you tomorrow...sometime...whatever time you want me to." She smiled deep. He loved her immensely, even a simple caring remark from him like that made her feel pampered and special, if only he was here she would hold on to him tight and not let him go.

"Good night," she whispered and he could hear her surfacing emotions. "Call me whenever you think I'm missing you. I'm sure you'll know!" With that she cut the call and he rest his own on the table, smiling at his now cold food in a daze. In a small part of his head which was still capable of thinking he remembered her words when she told him she was missing him. Twice in the day. He would have to see her soon. She said she would think about Kolkota. Did it have to be her who thought at all? Maybe he should go instead. And meet her. Her family. This had to become a concrete something soon now they had both waited enough. And it would give him a chance to know all those around her, her life, her work, her friends...And that reminded him of Vivek again.

He frowned immediately. Then draining a glass of water he thought, maybe he was over reacting. Vivek was by no means an uncommon name. Why did he have to think it was him. And why would he still have the same name. No, it was just the bias in his head he told himself eating the rice mechanically. But a small voice inside his head refused to be totally subdued. He could have asked her if the last name was Grewal? Or even Khanna which had been his last feigned name as he remembered from a few years ago. But then she was obviously not taking his questioning well, and that wasn't quite her fault. Maybe he should tell her next time why he had reacted to the name. Or maybe still, he should leave this unless he ever found that it was the same...He cringed at the thought of him anywhere close to her. No, it would not him. Furiously he dug into his rice without realizing. Maybe it was a better idea that he went to Chicago?

****************************
She sat smiling to herself after having cut the call. Why had she ever thought talking to him would mess her head. It had not, not in the least. Infact as she talked to him she had felt reassured about everything, his love, her love...her wait for him. Nothing about a relationship as beautiful could ever have been whimsical. It had been all natural and pure. It had been something meant to be or they would have never come this far. Life had thrown the chances their way because that's how things had to be. And that's why, there had to be no reason for why she waited. Somethings happened in life without a complete explaination to them because they were things which were destined so. This was one of them. They were destined to be...forever.

Reassured and at peace comepletely she said her quick end of the day prayer and hit the bed. A smile plying on her lips...

*****************************
NJ

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