Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Part 4 : I See You!

Armaan sat back on the park bench lounging with his legs stretched out and arms slung over the back of the bench. He had his head tilted back as he enjoyed the afternoon breeze with shilpa sitting beside him. At the thought of shilpa he couldn't help but smile she was a enigma to him its had been week since they had actually become friends, they had met everyday. If armaan was honest with himself he would have to admit that he actually looked forward to their meetings everyday.

All they did was talk, their conversations ranged over different topics from reading interests to movies and songs. Armaan shook his head in amusement as he recalled the discussion they had about the classic Wuthering Heights.

Armaan: I don't believe this!

Shilpa: seriously I'm telling you both of them should've been committed.

Armaan: you know you are talking about the famous characters of a classic

Shilpa: I don't get it why the book was liked so much. Both Heathcliff and Cathy are terrible people, how can such horrible people be the hero and heroine.

Armaan shook his head at the memory and smiled thinking that she had an opinion about everything. Literature aside she argued over music preference and food choice the most amazing argument they had was about Chinese food.

Shilpa: I hate Chinese!

Armaan: are we talking about the people or the food?

Shilpa frowned: of course the food! Why would I hate the people? What have they done to harm me?

Armaan with a tongue in his cheek: well they cook Chinese food! (grinning as shilpa laughed)

Shilpa: lame joke! But I really don't like Chinese food!

Armaan: how can you not like Chinese? Everyone like Chinese!

Shilpa: well I don't! I don't like the way it smells!(wrinkling her nose)

Armaan: you are so weird! So what do you like miss I don't like Chinese food b'coz it smells!

Shilpa: I like Italian! And pizza is my favorite food!(she said is with relish)

Armaan looked over at her at present sitting beside him while her fingers moved across the pages of the book she had open in her lap, reading brail. Armaan shifted towards her and sat watching different emotions play across her face. Watching shilpa read a book was an experience, she smiled, laughed and cried with the characters in the book. Watching her read was far more fun than reading the book itself, he enjoyed seeing the smile playing on her lips and feeling the contentment flow through him he sighed and put his head back and closed his eyes.

Shilpa stopped reading as she heard him sigh in contentment, her smile widening she closed the book and just sat there thinking about the past week. Her smile widened as thought of her talks with armaan which had been a complete surprise and delight to her. She would never have imagined that a guy would exist in the world who liked reading English classics. Even though they had different taste in books, music, and food it was fun talking with discussing the different view points.

When she had told him that she liked Italian food, he told her that he had actually visited the country. He had talked at a stretch about his travels and what he had seen painting a very vivid picture in her head. She liked listening to him talk as he always gave her some new insight to himself and to the world. Though he hardly talked about himself she could tell he was very passionate about his work and his family.

She never pressed him for details as she believed when he felt the need he'll tell her himself whatever he was not sharing. But that didn't stop him from questioning her, shilpa shook her head in amusement, he wanted to know everything about her. He was trying to satisfy his curiosity as he told her very openly.

Armaan: its just I've never met anyone like you!

Shilpa couldn't help herself and responded; and by that you mean my shining personality or the fact that you haven't met a blind person before.

There was a pause and then he replied: for me both are not mutually exclusive! You know you have a pleasant personality but the truth is being blind and your ability to deal with all this makes you much more attractive.

His honesty gave her a pause as did the compliment that he just paid her. She could hear the awe in his voice and it made her feel happy. Shilpa was brought back to the present as she felt something wet fall on her face. She touched her face and felt the moisture, she took a deep breath and inhaled the air smelling the rain that was going to start any second.

She put her stuff back in her bag and picked up her stick then stopped as an idea popped in her head. She put her stick back against the bench, she kicked of her chappal and barefoot took a couple of steps on the grass. She took another dozen steps enjoying the fell of the grass under her feet she turned around and called out: Ammy!

Armaan without opening his eyes: hmm!

Shilpa: so we are friends now?

Armaan opened one eye and looked at her standing in the middle of the ground: what are you doing there? (he looked at her bare feet and then back at her face)

Shilpa shook her head: answer the question!

Armaan giving it a thought: yes!

Shilpa clasping her hands: so friends do stuff for one another?

Armaan took in her clasped hands: what do you want?

Shilpa sheepishly: its just that I'm never allowed without anyone there looking out for me!

Armaan not sure what she was getting at looked at her standing in candy pink shalwar kameez looking very endearing: unless you tell me! I won't be able to help you!(a part of him dreaded to find out what she wanted from him but he told himself this was the time to find out)

Shilpa chewed at her lips: you can always say no! no pressure!

Armaan in a warning tone: Shilpa!

Shilpa: ok! Ok! Have u smelled the air?

Armaan looked at her as if she had taken leave of her senses: air?

Shilpa: yes! Can't u smell the rain?

Armaan looked at her incredulously: what has that got to do with anything?

Shilpa: well! I sort of wanted to ask you….(trailing of making armaan gnash his teeth)

Armaan: Shilpa if you don't speak in another second I swear I'm going!

Shilpa:no! no! don't go! Its going to rain and I wanted to ask you that would you mind terribly to stick around with me while I played in the rain.

Armaan wasn't sure if that was a trap or a joke: you want to play in the rain(making shilpa nod her head in affirmative) and you want me to stay with you!

Shilpa earnestly: you see I'm not allowed alone! As Maasi is never going to go out in the rain and she doesn't really trust the kids, she fears that I might slip and get hurt. So I wanted to ask you as you are my friend so as a favor to a friend will you stick around.

Armaan felt like Alice who had just gone down the rabbit hole even though he didn't know what the hell was happening he decided to enjoy himself: on one condition!

Shilpa: anything!(making armaan laugh and making Shilpa blush at her eagerness)

Armaan: I get to get wet too!

Shilpa laughed and twirled around in the grass her arms extended out: its going to be so much fun! Can't you see? Can't you feel it? its already started!

Armaan looked up and saw a light drizzle start making everything look as if under a mist. Slowly the rain started to fall faster the droplets getting bigger in size, making plopping sound as they hit the surface of the leaves and other things. Armaan closed his eyes and let the rain beat down on him, in seconds he was drenched but he didn't open his eyes and enjoyed the cool feel of the rain on his skin.

He heard shilpa's delighted laughter and opened his eyes to see her laughing as she held out her hands as if to collect the rain. She was soaked to the skin her feet were bare but she continued to jump into puddles of rain water making splashes. Looking at her obvious enjoyment armaan couldn't help but grin and walked up to her.

Armaan: it seems you are having fun all by yourself!

Shilpa was about answer when she heard kids running calling out her name: not any more!

She was surrounded with children of all age's and sizes. She played with them as if a kid herself, her joy in living every moment was infectious and without his even realizing Armaan also joined in with the kids. Shilpa stopped to catch her breath as she had been running around when she heard the children being called back by their mothers.

Amidst cries of no's and asking for more time they were hustled off leaving shilpa and armaan behind. Shilpa closed her eyes and listened to the rain fall hearing it make different sounds as it continued fall on different surfaces. Armaan looked at her standing there so still and approached her as he slicked his hair back from his face.

Shilpa hearing him approach: this was so much fun!

Armaan smiling: yes it was! But..

Shilpa: but?(prompting him)

Armaan: but you didn't play with me!

Shilpa laughed a full throated laugh: well we are still here and the rain is still falling.(saying that she jumped in the puddle splashing armaan) wanna play!

Armaan looked at her laughing face: now you've done it! Now who is gonna save you from me!

On a squeal shilpa turned to run but before she had  taken a few steps armaan grabbed her from behind lifting her off her feet. He swung her around making her laugh and squeal in mock horror as well in delight. Armaan had grabbed her from behind now in a move that defied logic he managed to twist her around so that they were face to face. Armaan lifted her higher so that she had to wrap an arm around his neck to keep her balance as he continued to twirl in the rain.

Tired of laughing shilpa leaned down and placed her head on armaan's and murmured: thank you!

Armaan couldn't remember the last time he had actually just let go of everything and had fun, he brought her down gently satisfied that she was actually stable he stepped back a step: no! thank you!

Shilpa smiled in response: you know! Some people believe that rain is the water of heaven's and it has curing power. Almost miraculous qualities in it!

Armaan: really! What about the sulphur rain and the carbon dioxide that is mixed in it?

Shilpa laughed a bit sadly: we are talking about people who are hoping for a miracle!

Armaan: how desperate are they?

Shilpa: for some people there is nothing but to hope for a miracle!

Armaan looked at her with dawning understanding but didn't apologize: I'm guessing we are talking about you!

Shilpa: this was before I found out something better about rain!

Armaan intrigued: and what is that?

Shilpa smiled: if you close your eyes and listen to the rain I can almost make out shapes. When the rain strikes against different surfaces it gives off different sounds for different shapes and sizes.

Armaan stepped closer: tell me! What do you see? when you close your eyes, what do you see?

Shilpa closed her eyes: clear blue sky! Birds flying! Flowers blooming on the side of the road!

Armaan: what else?

Shilpa: some shapes and images which at times become fuzzy!(shilpa shook her head) I had fun today!

Armaan smiled: me too! But I think its time we head back!

Shilpa: fine! But on one condition! We go home having fun!

Armaan: what do you have in mind?(he started walking with her towards where her things were lying)

He waited as she retrieved her things and they started making their way outside the park. Shilpa slung her back across her body and carried her chappals in her hand and armaan waited  for her to respond.

Shilpa: you ready?

Armaan: for what?

Shilpa: lets run through the rain!

Armaan: what? Have you gone nuts?(but he was smiling)

Shilpa feeling free as a bird: maybe I am! But I'm having so much fun and I don't want it to end so soon! So Ammy plz! Plz! Plz!(she tilted her head and clasping her hands under her chin)

Armaan laughed: you are worse than a kid! Ok! Lets do it!

Shilpa felt armaan tug her hand as they started to run down the street, shilpa couldn't help the hysterical laughetr from bubbling up her throat. Her laughter rang out in the nearly empty streets as their feet made slapping sounds as they ran.

Shilpa felt the chappals slip out of her hand and fall somewhere she called out: Ammy my chaapal!

Armaan stopped and saw her chappal had fallen on the sidewalk they had just left as they stood in the middle of the road.

Armaan: I'll get it you keep walking straight an d wait for me on the sidewalk!

Shilpa turned to go, armaan picked up the chappal and looked up just as a horn honked, panic screaming through him he yelled: Shilpa stop!

Shilpa immediately halted the car passing by her narrowly missing her. Shilpa turned back and called out: that was close!

Armaan: stop talking and walk!

Shilpa laughing turned back and started walking when armaan took a step off the sidewalk and saw a truck careening towards shilpa. Instinctively armaan called out her name: Shilpa!

Shilpa stopped in mid step tilting her head slightly as if listening not sure why he had called out her name. Armaan knew there was no way the truch driver was going to stop he dropped the chappals and ran towards shilpa.

A confused shilpa stood caught between the lights of the coming truck, she could hear the sound of the truck nut was not sure what she was suppose to do, why had armaan called out her name.

Shilpa: Ammy!

Armaan reached her just in time just as the truck came up, armaan grabbed shilpa and pushed her to the sidewalk. They both fell armaan kept his arms around her rolling her so that they cleared the path of the truck. Armaan lay there for a second thanking his stars for making it he quickly got up his arm hurt where he had landed on the sidewalk.

Shilpa lay stunned on the ground she was not sure what had happened, she felt armaan get up and pull her up to a sitting position.

Armaan: hey you alright?

Shilpa just nodded, she got up with armaan's help while armaan quickly retrieved her chappals.

Armaan: comeon! Lets go home!

Shilpa took a step and winced and realized that she had scraped her knee. Staying quiet she managed to trudge along with armaan as they reached an intersection a horn honked startling her.

Armaan: ok! Lets cross! (he took a step forward and then stopped as shilpa hadn't moved) Shilpa!

Shilpa shook her head: I just need a second!(as armaan waited shilpa stood there with her arms wrapped around herself) I'm trying!(her voice shook) I can't seem to move!

Armaan looked at her closely and saw her death grip on her arms, another car passed followed by another horn making her jump. Armaan's jaw tightened at her apparent distress he walked back to her: hold this!(he placed her chappals in her hand)

Shilpa her voice shaking: where are you going?

Armaan: we are going home! (he scooped her up in his arms, shilpa gasped but held on to him, once sure that she had settled securely armaan started walking)

In a couple of minutes they were standing outside shilpa's house it opened to reveal a very worried looking Maasi.

Maasi gasped: Shilpa! What happened?

Shilpa was beyond words at the moment, armaan walked in: Maasi ji! Shilpa is fine! She just took a little tumble! So she has got a scraped knee and is drenched to the bone! So if you'll tell me where to put her you can get her changed into something dry.

Maasi: to the back! The room on right! I'm right behind you!

Armaan followed instructions and entered the room and went straight to the bathroom. Once there he put her down and made her sit on the bathroom seat. Shilpa sat there shivering as she heard taps being turned and water filling the tub.

Armaan opend the hot water tap and waited for the tub to fill with hot water. Maasi rushed into the bathroom with a nod towards her armaan to shilpa: I'll see you tomorrow!

Shilpa: Ammy! Thanks!

Armaan smiled: don't mention it (and walked out shutting the door behind him)

Just as he was shutting the door he heard Maasi say: so that was your Ammy!

Armaan couldn't help but smile at the comment and left for home. At home he let daija fuss about him and enjoyed the pampering he got. The next day he waited for shilpa in their usual spot in the park  but she didn't show up. Wondering if her class was running late he made it to the school and asked about Shilpa there where he was informed that she had called in sick today.

Worried that she had been sick and he had not known he almost ran to her place. Halfway through he realized what he was doing and slowed himself down purposely. He stopped at a flower shop and bought some bright flowers and finally landed on shilpa's doorstep.

He started to knock but found the door open so walked in, worried that something was wrong he followed the strain voices that he could hear coming from the rooms at the back. His fear escalated as he realized it was Shilpa's room his mind conjuring her  lying on her death bed as he quickly made his way to the room and pushed open the door and stopped.

Shilpa sat in the middle of her bed with her knees drawn up under her chin while Maasi sat beside her with her back to the door.

Maasi: shilpa! You can't hide here! You know you have to go out! The sooner you go the quicker you'll get over the fear!

Shilpa tilted her head so that her face was shielded from his view: I don't know maasi! But I feel like as if I have just turned blind! I just didn't know! I shudder to think what would've happened if Ammy had not been with me! I would've walked straight into the on coming truck!

Maasi combing her hair back from her face: but you weren't! Ammy was there! Plus the reason you were taken unawares was b'coz you were not paying attention. That's why it's a basic traffic rule for both blind and for people with sight to cross the road while paying attention.

Shilpa: I don't know maasi!

Armaan couldn't bear to see her looking defeated and spoke up: well I know! As long as I am with you nothing bad is going to happen!

Shilpa: Ammy!(completely taken unawares) what are you doing here?

Armaan: I told you we will meet today! When you didn't show up to the park I decided to come and pay you a visit(leaving out the part of how worried he had been)

Shilpa: so how much did you hear(coming directly to the point)

Armaan: everything! And I agree with maasi ji!

Shilpa: but I'm scared!

Armaan took a deep breath: Shilpa! I know I can never completely understand how you feel! How vulnerable you must feel with everything that has happened but remember the first time you venture out, you felt the same fear then. But you overcame it and you have been so good at doing stuff on your own on not being dependent on anyone don't let this one incident change the way you lived your life so far.

Shilpa: I know ! but I feel so shaky! I don't know how to do it!

Armaan: don't! lets just try! I'll be with you all the time! We'll do it one step at a time!

Shilpa: I don't know Ammy!

Armaan: just say you'll try! Comeon! We're friends right? Will I ever let you do something that isn't good for you?(holding out his hand) I'm holding out my hand shilpa! Say you'll give it a try and grab my hand!

Shilpa's lips trembled, she bit into it to make it stop and then shoring up courage lifted her hand towards him, armaan grabbed it and squeezed: promise me!(shilpa voice shook) you won't let go!

Armaan: not till you are ready!

Shilpa: ok!

Armaan: so lets go!(shilpa blanched) ok bad idea! We'll do it tomorrow morning! Give you enough time to mentally prepare yourself!

Shilpa: yes! Tomorrow morning is good! Ammy! Thanks!

Armaan reached out and gave her hair a tweak making her smile: don't mention it!

Armaan looked back and saw maasi looking at both of them speculatively but gave him a warm smile as saw his look. Armaan smiled back and turned to shilpa: so till morning!

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