Wednesday, 19 February 2020

part 7 : The Bookstore: An AR story(Last part)


She wasn't sure if getting formally introduced to each other was an ending to a fantastic anonymous journey or a beginning of a new adventure with a man named Armaan. Currently she was in that gray area where the stranger transformed to Armaan. But after last nights events, which was drinking coffee till they were thrown out of the cafe, she found out that there were very little things that were different between the man she knew all this while to Armaan. After coffee, they had parted for the night and he had promised her to meet at the book store next evening. Being Sunday, they were closing the store early and all the employees had already left. She lifted her head up when a cup of coffee and a muffin was placed in front of her. It was him, grinning at her. Even though she was expecting a visit from him, it still surprised her when he showed up.

"You had a busy day?"

"No, not really. But I did manage to finish Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman though." She said happily.

"So you are ready to move on." The statement was loaded and both of them knew that. She had had a session with her roommate the night before and had come up with a list of pros and cons regarding pursuing a relationship with him. It was irrational and illogical because she had already decided that she would. But perhaps her inane need for validating everything that she did had eventually won out and had made her work on that list. It wasn't surprising when the pros outnumbered cons and her roommate telling her 'I said so' in a sing-song voice. She blamed her insecurities holding her back from being open about her relationship with him. It took her a moment to realize that he was actually waiting for an answer. It was time.

"Yes." He smiled at her. She decided that she would definitely get used to that.

"There is something I need to tell you though." His face held apprehension. He continued the next moment.

"There was a reason why I never told you my name. In the beginning it wasn't necessary. I liked what we had and I knew that things were going to get better. But there was an unexpected turn of events which made me decide." She nodded her head. She appreciated his honesty. She wasn't sure what he was confessing but she sure hoped that it wasn't something dreadful.

"My name is, Armaan Mallik." He stared at her. She was waiting for him to continue but he didn't. There was something about the name. She felt a familiarity with that name. As if she had seen it somewhere and heard it somewhere quite recently. It took her few moments when realization dawned on her face.

"Mallik as in Mallik group of companies?" She questioned him. He nodded.

"Mallik as in my new business partner." It was a statement and not a question. He couldn't help but nod a positive response.

"For how long were you aware of this?" If the whole reason of him coming to this store in the first place was because of this business thing, then she was sure that her whole perception of him was going to change.

"You told me one day, remember?" She let out a breath that she didn't know she was holding. He continued.

"Please don't consider this as an act of pity. It's nothing like that."

"Then tell me what it like is then." Her tone was challenging but he didn't miss the underlying quiver in her voice.

"I have been working right out of college in our company. All my siblings are a part of that and it has always been a family thing. But that never meant that there was pressure on all of us or was it mandatory to take up a job in one of our companies. The life I led was exciting; there is no doubt about it. But when I retired for the day, I never felt satisfied with whatever I had been doing. I know, it sounds very self-centered but that's how it was." He looked disturbed. He continued his monologue.

"I told you once that this store, being with you felt like home. I wasn't lying that day. On that day it was simply a dream. But when you told me about the financial crisis, I had a plan to turn my dream into reality. You know what happened next. I wanted to come by and give you the good news myself. But I chickened out. Also, there were lots of formalities that I had to complete since I had decided to quit my job. So you see I did this elaborate planning for my own selfish reason only and you were never really in the picture." He hoped she would buy his story. Even if there was no financial crisis, he would still quit his job and join here as her employee. His siblings had teased him mercilessly. They were quite happy that their brother had finally found something and someone who held his interest for this while but still thought that giving up a career like his was a little erratic.

"You are the weirdest guy I ever met." She threw her hands in air and started munching on muffin. He was surprised at her reaction. He had expected an angst driven lecture and perhaps some water works too but her casual acceptance threw him off the loop.

"Huh?" He wasn't feeling particularly loquacious at the moment.

"There are plenty of bookstores in this town. If you really wanted to run a bookstore, you would have had your people purchase one for you or even built a new one." He smiled.

"That, I could have."

"But you didn't."

"No I didn't. You bought only half of this store knowing that I would come as a part of package deal. You have a very twisted of showing people that you care about them." He outright laughed at her.

"Get used to it." He was feeling free of the entire dilemma that he had faced for the past few weeks.

"I am not sure if I can, I find your weirdness rather amusing. But I do find your honesty quite catching." He sobered at that. She continued.

"I didn't mean it as an insult. But really, in all our previous conversations, you have been quite truthful, weren't you?"

"I was. I was honest with you on the first day because I had absolutely nothing to lose. So being honest was easy."

"Being honest is always easy." He smiled and nodded at the underlying plea in her statement.

"I have read pages and pages of articles talking about truth and honesty, but no one really talks about the price of being honest. Being honest need not be being truthful. If I tell you that I lied to you yesterday, then I am being honest. But being truthful is much difficult and the price is much costlier than one would expect. In the given social construct, one cannot be truthful. I do not agree that it is possible to utter the truth and expect that being truthful is the greatest virtue. If a man cannot empathize for another man, be it by lying or by deceit, then no amount of truth could bear the cost of comfort."

"I agree there is a price for being honest, but don't you think there is a price for being dishonest too? You can give a moment of comfort by being dishonest but that can also turn into a lifetime of discomfort. Don't you think so?"

"It's a probable outcome."

"But I guess you are right. In everyone's life a time comes when we need to make a choice; to be honest or to be a good friend. I have chosen to be a good friend most of the times." They fell into companionable silence.

"Are you happy about the choices that you have made?" He asked her.

"I know that I made the right choice when I opened the door for you on that rainy evening. I was contemplating between hiding in stock room and calling cops."

"Calling cops? You thought I was a stalker or something?'

"Yes." She laughed at the memory. It seemed like a fairytale. She voiced it.

"Did you ever get the feeling that whatever we had and had been going through is some kind of a modern fairytale?"

"A poor beautiful girl who has everything to lose meets a handsome rich guy and then there are fireworks. After ups and downs, tears and laughter, they are finally together. After that they obviously lead their life happily ever after." He didn't bother to hide sarcasm in his voice. She rolled her eyes and started locking up the store for the day. They had decided to take a stroll and since being Sunday, she had closed the store quite early. After walking for few minutes in silence, she continued the conversation.

"Almost every story would seem like a fairytale if you have the right perspective. Fairy tales take a shot at relationships that are complementary; the ones where opposite attract."

"No two people are similar in this world. So technically, every pair is made up of opposite people."

"I meant opposite in terms of social construct. As in one of them being rich and the other stark opposite?"

"That's a little prejudiced point of view." She stared at him. He looked quite happy. He also looked as if he was making up lines just to argue with her. And she was fine with it as far as they were in rational boundaries. He was playing devil's advocate just to annoy her. She actually found herself enjoying immensely.

"The best part about fairy tales is that they have happy endings."

"Fairy tales also ends with an assumption that the prince and the princess are going to be happily ever after."

"Every relationship has that assumption, isn't it?" He smiled at her gently.

"Yes, they do. Do you know why?" She shook her head. Even if she had some idea, she wanted to listen to what he had to say.

"Because that's what makes them going. People run behind the illusion of being happy in the future that they forget what they have in their present. We cannot blame them for that because they are doing everything they can in the present to keep their future secure and happy. But how can future be strong when present in which they are living has too many cracks and flaws?" She thought about it for moment.

"So what's your plan?"

"There is no plan and that's the plan."

"Go with the flow?"

"Yes. Isn't it better to be honest with each other and live our present fully rather than planning and working for a future which might never exist?"

"I like this plan." She grinned at him.

"Say, there is this one thing that I really like about fairy tales though." She raised an eyebrow at that.

"The prince and princess kiss in the end." She could feel a smile growing on her face mimicking his.

"And since you mentioned earlier that what we have is some sort of a modern fairytale, I think we should continue the tradition."

When they came up for air, she found his eyes sparkling.

"I think we have a good shot at happily ever after." She laughed and nodded her acknowledgment.

And perhaps, they did live happily ever after.


Alright! This is the end of the week and the series. I hope you enjoyed it.


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