Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Part 5 : I See You!

Shilpa sat infront of the computer where the system was waiting for her voice command, she had switched it on half an hour ago but her mind just wasn't concentrating. She couldn't help but think about the previous week, the week after her almost accident in the rain. She pushed her hair back from her face and pulled her feet up on the chair and pondered over the events of the week.

True to his word Ammy had been with her each step of the way, not once did he leave her side. The first time she had stood outside on the sidewalk she had a death grip on Ammy's hand, she was so scared. Shilpa thought in amazement that Ammy hadn't done anything he had just stood beside her letting her take that step forward. His quiet presence had filled her with confidence, his strong hands that she had gripped so tightly had infused her with his strength.

Shilpa put her feet down and stood up making her way to the window staring outside with sightless eyes. Every day he had come to the house to walk with her to her workplace and back. He had even stopped with her at shops to get books or any other place she had wanted. The last couple of days he had stepped back giving her the feeling that she was out alone, once she had turned around and called out: Ammy?(trying to understand if he was going to be with her not)

Armaan had stepped up to her: I'm here!(said quietly)

She had sensed a disquiet in him but had not been able to understand it and before she could ask him what was wrong he had disappeared. It had been 4 days since she had met him last, after the week was up he had just stopped showing up. She had waited for him in the park but he never came she had wanted to go over at his place to make sure everything was alright but didn't.

Maasi had asked her why she was not going over to check on him she had avoided answering but in her heart knew the answer. In her heart she knew that even though they were friends there was a part of him that he kept separate from her, a life away from here that he didn't want to share with her. Understanding this she didn't know whether she was suppose to cross that line or not. So she stayed where she was waiting, coz if he wanted to come back he would come back.

Armaan stood in the doorway and stared at shilpa standing at the window for all intents and purposes looking outside. He often wondered where she went when she was this quiet what went behind those opaque eyes. It had been 4 days of staying away from her, of looking at her from afar. It had been harder than he had thought somehow meeting her talking to her everyday had become an integral part of his daily routine.

But he had stayed away not for himself but for shilpa for her to get her independence back to not be dependent on his presence. He might have never thought of it if it hadn't been the talk daija had with him.

He had walked home one day after seeing shilpa off home, where daija had been waiting for him.

Daija: where have you been Ammy? I haven't seen you at all for the last couple of days!

Ammy: daija! I've been with shilpa! (he then continued to fill her with the happenings of the week starting with the accident to her refusal to go out and his offer to help)

Daija had remained quiet while he had explained the situation to her and remained quiet once he finished but her eyes showed her worry.

Armaan: daija? Is something wrong?

Daija: I don't know ammy! It just worries me!

Armaan took daija's hand: tell me daija! Whats wrong?

Daija looked at him with worried eyes: I worry about shilpa! This week you've been with her, helping her get back on feet but what happens when you leave ammy?

Armaan felt a fist clench in his stomach, a question that he had been avoiding himself was put infront of him and he didn't know how to respond. Daija had looked at his face and understood, she left him to his thoughts. All night armaan had tossed the question around in his brain hoping for an answer. In the morning when he woke up after a fitful sleep the only thing he could come up with was that shilpa would have to manage when he left.

He took his breakfast and walked to shilpa's place to walk with her to her school. As he neared shilpa's house he saw her coming out of her house and closing the door behind her. She had her white cane in one hand her bag slung across her body as she made her way out of the gate and out on the street. She stood on the side walk waiting while across the street armaan stood not sure what he intended to do. Shilpa waited for 5-8 minutes and then checked for time her brow furrowed with a frown. She looked indecisive but then her hand tightened on the cane and she took a tentative step forward.

He could see the strain on her face as she started forward but stayed where he was not making a sound. When she was a good way ahead he started walking behind her not sure what he was doing. He kept out of her way letting her go ahead but not letting her be completely out of his sight. When she reached her school she stopped at the gate as if still waiting for him but armaan stayed quiet making her finally walk inside not knowing he was standing outside for her.

Armaan drew in a breath and looked at Shilpa who rested her head against the window pane, he had kept out of her way for the last 4 days. The first two days had gone without a hitch she got more confident and armaan tried to stay hidden. Once she had turned around as if sensing his presence and had directed her gaze where he was standing. For a second armaan thought that she could actually see him but her sightless eyes saw no one and nothing.

She had turned back and started walking and armaan had breathed a sigh of relief. He didn't why he was doing what he was doing, he had started walking behind her again when a car came speeding and almost bumped shilpa who had been about to cross the road. Shilpa had actually blanched her knuckles tightened over the handle of the cane as she still took a trembling step forward. Unable to take it any more armaan was about to step forward when some kids she knew came running and helped her cross the road.

Armaan closed his eyes and recalled the feel he had felt then, he had no words to describe it, he had never felt so helpless in his life. Unable to look any more he had turned and walked away, back to daija place and had holed up in his room over laptop. Now after two days of research and running around he had come up with a solution. How would shilpa react to it he was not sure but he was not going to back out. He was brought out of his reverie by shilpa's voice:

Shilpa: are you going to stand there all day without speaking?

Armaan for a second thought of not responding after being caught but came forward: how did you know I was standing here?

Shilpa cocked her head: I can smell that cigar on you from here! How many times do I have to tell you to quit smoking?

Armaan: can I come in?

Shilpa turned her back towards him and walked back to her chair and sat: would you like something to drink?

Armaan looked at her for a moment not speaking anything: you have every right to be angry with me!

Shilpa shook her head: I'm not angry! You don't have any obligation towards me Ammy! I understand that you needed some time away from all of this!

Armaan shook his head: no!(getting angry) you are wrong!

Shilpa smiled: actually I am not! Relax Ammy ! its not as if I had any claim on you! So you don't have to give me an explanation.

Armaan angry beyond words: damn you! But you do have a claim!(startling both of them with his declaration but armaan forged ahead not stopping to think what he had said) we are friends! Right? And friends have all the rights, they can get pissed when they don't care for what their friend is doing! So shilpa are you angry?

Shilpa had actually felt warmth spread through her the moment he had said she had all the claim on him. She had sat there and listened to his voice ring with sincerity and passion, hearing him speak she knew she could not stay angry with him: I'm not angry!  But I am hurt Ammy! You just disappeared without a word! Atleast you could've told me that you were leaving!

Armaan closed his eyes against the hurt he heard in her voice: I'm sorry! But I never left! And I was never far! I just wanted you to get back on your feet without me hovering around you.

Shilpa: but you were hovering round?

Armaan laughed: I was! And it was very hard to stay away! Harder than I had thought!

Shilpa asked very quietly: then why did you?

Armaan: b'coz  you needed to do it on your own like before! Second because I couldn't bear it!

Shilpa: what? What you couldn't bear?

Armaan: when you stumbled? When a person jostled you? I wanted to protect you! To give you a means to protect yourself!

Shilpa was touched by the emotion she heard in his voice: ammy! You can't protect me! No one can! (she stood up and took a tentative step towards him and then stopped)

Armaan gave a humorless smile: I know! But still I needed to do something! So I got you something!

Shilpa: you got something for me? What is it? Tell me na! But I don't need anything?

 Armaan smiled at her as he took a step towards her and stopped in the middle: show some patience! And you do need it!

Shilpa thoughtfully: I don't think so! Well I could do with a new set of eyes!

Armaan paused: are you trying to be funny?

Shilpa rolling her eyes: god! Now don't get on your high horse!

Armaan: you know! If you are going to act like this than i'm going to take it back!

Shilpa: that's very strict attitude!

Armaan smiling: take it or leave it!

 Shilpa stood there with a bemused expression on her face: ok show me!

Armaan: its outside! You'll have to come outside!

Shilpa walked up to armaan and stood beside him: so lead the way!

They walked outside armaan talking non stop: just keep your mind open! But if you are not comfortable I can always take it back! But I really think this is a great idea!

Shilpa couldn't help but laugh: Ammy! At least tell me what it is?

Armaan stepping out: we are almost there! You can make up your mind! Ok what do you hear?

Shilpa shook her head at his antics and then tilted her head focusing her eyes widening as she heard maasi's laughter accompanied by barking: Ammy? Is that a dog?

Armaan couldn't keep his excitement in check: not just any dog! It's a guide dog!

Shilpa: but how?

Armaan: its not just any dog! Its trained! Trained especially to work as a guide to blind person!

Shilpa hesitated not sure and jolted when she heard the dog bark and the sound was very near her. Armaan saw her instinctive reaction: there is no need to feel scared! Why don't you meet him?

Shilpa: seriously?

Armaan: here let me introduce you two?

Shilpa: Ammy! Are you introducing me to a dog or to a person?

Armaan glanced at her and smiled: ok! Smarty pants! Come on here! Here meet Bogart!

Shilpa stood there not sure what to do, Armaan stepped closer to shilpa: hold out your hand! Let him smell you! That's his way of getting acquainted!

Shilpa: Ammy! If the dog ate up my hand I will kill you!

Armaan laughed: firstly, he's got a name Bogart! And second he's not going to eat your hand! Trust me!

Shilpa: and what sort of name is Bogart!

Armaan: well the owner was a Humphrey Bogart fan! Here let him smell you!

Before shilpa could prepare herself something wet and cold bumped her hand. She held still trying not to make any sudden move.

Armaan saw her standing stiffly: touch him! He won't bite! Give him a rub!(when she raised her hand but hesitated armaan grabbed her hand and placed it on the dog's head) come on give him a rub!

Shilpa moved her hand hesitantly feeling the softness of his fur, moving down to his side she heard the dog purr in pleasure. Going on instinct shilpa hunkered down beside the dog and gave him a full body rub, the dog unable to control his love turned and gave her face a lick. Shilpa squealed and tried to get back but bogart had other ideas, showing his absolute devotion he forged ahead knocking shilpa over and continued slathering her face with wet sloppy kisses.

Shilpa couldn't help herself and started to laugh: Ammy! Help!

Armaan pulled the dog back: sit! Sit bogart!

The dogged plopped his butt on the ground and sat there with his tail wagging while armaan pulled shilpa up to a sitting position.

Shilpa swiped a hand across her face: how am I going to deal with that?

Armaan grinning: we need to train him and you!

Shilpa: training? (groaning) uhuh! What do I get out of this?

Armaan: you get to move around with more security!

Shilpa: no! I'm not asking the benefits of having a guide dog! I meant as I have accepted your idea what do I get out of it! I should also gain something!

Armaan shook his head: spill it! What do you want?

Shilpa: you'll accept it!

Armaan amused: shilpa!

Shilpa: well how about you quit smoking!

Armaan: excuse me!

Shilpa: well its only fair! I've agreed to your idea! Now you agree to mine! As it is if you continue smoking you'll be killing me along with yourself!

Armaan: I've told you already that I'll try and quit smoking!

Shilpa: not good enough!

Armaan looked at the stubborn tilt of her chin: ok! Ok! Fine! I quit! Happy?

Shilpa held out her hand: give it to me! Hand it over!

Armaan: Shilpa! You are pushing it!

Shilpa: what? I accepted your gift on a condition that you give up smoking! Now I'm collecting!

Armaan: I said I quit! Don't you trust me!

Shilpa blew out a breath: ok! Fine! I'll take your word for it!

Armaan: thank you!

Shilpa: but I want you to remember one thing! Everytime you smoke! The smoke you inhale doesn't only harm you but when you exhale that smoke it harms me too! So not only are you killing yourself you are killing me too.

Armaan had gone still when she had uttered those words, it wasn't that no one  had ever preached to him about the dangers of smoking or told him to quit. In consciousness he had meant it everytime that he was going to quit smoking but he had always managed to fall off the wagon. But the idea of shilpa being harmed and that to because of him was not something he was comfortable with.

Shilpa could hear him standing quietly and smiled turning away but stopped as Ammy called out to her.

Armaan: Shilpa!(shilpa turned back to him and felt him approach her, he took his hand and placed a box in it)

Shilpa: what is it?

Armaan: my cigars!

Shilpa: but…

Armaan not letting her finish: I can be careless towards myself but not towards you! Never you! So from this day forward I won't touch it! So you keep it!


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