Sinking

It was 2 am in the night when his phone rang.
‘Sudha..please..attend it’ he commanded, half asleep. The phone kept ringing.
‘Sudha?’
Sudha lay silent. And the truth dawned upon him.
He opened one eye and threw his hand on the bedside table to grab his spectacles.
‘He..hello?’
No one replied.
‘Helloo?’
‘Hellooo??’
He banged the phone and returned to his deep sleep.
It rained heavily the next day. It was Sunday and Sunday rain reminded him of her. She would prepare a hot cup of coffee for him while he read his favorite book. There was a comfort in her presence. Something magnificent about the silence. Only this time, the silence pinched him. He wished someone would prepare him a steamy cup of coffee just like Sudha did. With less milk and extra sugar. He wished he had thanked her for that cup.
‘Thankyou Sudha..’ he whispered.
She would have smiled. The same smile when she had served him tea for the first time in her maternal house. Oldage did many things to her but never dared to touch her smile.
The ringing phone disrupted his memories.
‘Hello. Col. Vimal Rai speaking.’
‘Helloo Vimal!’ said the jolly voice on the other end and he instantly knew who it was.
‘Col. Singh! How are you..’
‘I am good Vimal! My wife and I are throwing a party on our 25th anniversary day after! It would be a pleasure to have you there!’
‘Ofcourse! The 23rd you mean?’
‘Yes yes! Do bring Sudha along! My wife wishes to meet her!’
This part was the most arduous of all. Gathering the right words, repeating the incidence and hours of condolence.
‘Sudha..Sudha passed away four months back Singh’
‘Oh! We are..we are shocked Vimal..we are sorry..we couldn’t be there for you..’
‘That’s ok Singh..Will see you day after’
‘Sure! See you Vimal..’
Short and crisp. Just the way he wanted this conversation to be.
He immediately noted down the date and the event in his diary. Without Sudha, it was hard for him to remember things.
He returned to the balcony to drown in his thoughts. He took his chair along by lifting it. No screeching noises. As soon as he held the chair to sit, he found his fingers buried in dust.
Oh, how he hated dust. The mere sight of it would bring out his worst temper. Dust in His house was absolutely unacceptable!!
‘Sudhaaa!!!!’ he yelled.
Later, he cleaned the chair with his old pair of undergarment. He hated this task. Even the dust missed Sudha. She would keep the entire house as clean as a rich man’s boots. In that moment, he sighed and whispered..’Thankyou Sudha..’
The doorbell rang. Foola ushered herself inside the house. He wanted to complain about the untidy mess all around but he didn’t know how to. Talking to maids was too shallow to him and these were Sudha’s matters to handle. Her department. But, he had to survive.
‘Ahem..Foola ji..its been two days and I have observed that..that the house is very dirty..especially the corners..and the floor below the table..and the bathrooms’
Foola stood aghast. He had never said a word to her in five years. She was so scared that she swallowed her pan as it is.
Sahab..I I don’t clean bathrooms. Sudha Madam knew it…And I can’t bend too much..you see.. I am a patient of arthritis.. Sudha Madam..knew..I will clean the corners carefully..’
‘Hmm.’
Even the servants missed her.
He wore his favorite black suit for the party that night. Just the way Sudha would have liked it. She would have worn that red saree with golden borders. Once she was ready, nobody could believe it was Sudha. Not even him. She would look marvelous in those gold earrings he had once gifted her. She would compliment him while wearing the black bindi in front of the mirror.
‘Looking nice Vimal’
And he would smile proudly.
‘You look beautiful Sudha..’ he murmured as he stood there staring at the bindi stuck on the mirror.
The party was monotonous. Everybody thought of him as a poor pig and offered their sympathies because everybody loved Sudha. He wished she was around so that he could tell her how Mr Dubey’s son was hogging on food. That Fat Goblet. She would have giggled.
‘Vimal! You mustn’t say that!’
He locked the main door and changed his clothes. The bed desperately needed a new bedsheet. The yellow pillow begged for a new cover.
‘Vimal! Wait wait wait!’
‘What happened??’
‘Don’t you see how yellow it is? Let me change it.’
‘Not now Sudha..do it tomo..’
Even before he could complete, she would have snatched the pillow and changed the covers to shining white.
‘Now you may sleep’ she would smile with pride.
‘Goodnight Sudha..’ he chanted as he slept off.
The phone rang. He woke up in frustration. This time he knew there was no escape. He threw his hand on the bedside table and wore his spectacles.
‘He..lloo?’
‘Helloo?’
‘Hello Vimal’
Vimal was taken aback. He lost hold of all the words. Of language. Of senses.
‘Sudha.?’ he questioned.
‘Yes..how are you?’
‘Sudha?? Who is this???’
‘It is Sudha..calm down Vimal..’
It was her. He knew it. It was Sudha. Only her words had the power to silent his storm.
‘Am I dreaming??’
‘Maybe’ she smiled innocently.
‘How are you Sudha..?’
The leap of formality had never escaped. Even love couldn’t kill it.
‘I am fine Vimal’
‘I am happy to hear that..I missed you tonight..’
‘Did you?’
‘Yes..Mr Dubey’s son you remember?’
‘Oh yes! That sweet boy!’
‘He isn’t so sweet anymore. He has grown enormously fat and eats like a bear!’
‘Vimal! You mustn’t say that!’ she chuckled.
He was afraid the dream might come to an end. He didn’t want to lose this opportunity.
‘Sudha..I miss you..I miss your face..I miss your presence..’
‘I miss you too Vimal..I am always around you..’
‘No one cooks baingan ka bharta like you used to..’
‘I will cook it for you tomorrow’ she assured him.
‘How is Niketan?’ she asked.
‘Niketan is fine and so is Aditi..they returned to America last month itself’
‘Are they happy?’
‘Very much’
She breathed a sigh of relief.
‘I have to leave Vimal..I will see you tomorrow’
‘Sudha! Sudha!!! Sudha???’
‘Yes I am here!’
‘Oh.. I wanted to say.. That.. I wanted to say.. Thankyou Sudha..’
He heard her smile. The very same lovely smile when they had gone out for their first dinner.
‘I have been ringing the bell for the past half an hour Madam Ji!! I am worried! He usually opens the door in the first bell itself!! The milk! the newspaper..everything is kept outside!!’ said Foola frantically.
The neighbours ran to break his door.
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The Locked Hearts

She gazed at the wall as she sat cross-legged in the dark. Shazia, her prison mate, had gone away to perform her daytime duty and there was no one around her. Her eyes switched from the walls to the bars and back to the walls. Needless to say, she was reviving the incident in her head once again. It had been an year and half, yet her memory denied to forget. She recalled the shrieks. The red dark blood on the floor. She kept calculating all the moments, kept joining the pieces of the puzzle, thinking of another way that could have saved her all the terror. No, she did not despise the bars. She did not despise her life. She deserved it. Only, she loathed the incident.

‘Sabina. Sabina? Sabina??!’ Shazia shook her. Sabina shivered as she gathered herself once again and noticed that Shazia Aunty was back.

‘Were you thinking about it again?? Haven’t I told you enough number of times that it is not going to change anything now! You have to Stop thinking about it and move on!! Allah will forgive you for whatever you have done! Think of what lies ahead of you!’

Sabina smiled and questioned.

‘You mean three more years of prison?’

‘Yes, that and what happens once you are out.’

‘I don’t want to go back. I will beg and stay here for longer.’

‘And you know that isn’t possible!’

Sabina turned her face towards the bars. Calculating over and over again. Shazia pitied this woman. She wished she could reach out to her but she didn’t know where to begin. She was told that this one was a murderer. She didn’t believe them until the day Sabina admitted it herself. Sabina was thin, tall and young when Shazia had seen her for the first time. She had the longest hair Shazia had ever seen and she looked half her age. But now, she was thinner and her beauty had withered somewhere inside the walls of the prison. Her hair were tied in a messy bun and her innocence had been chased away. All that remained of her was her deep hollow dark eyes.

‘It is time for your duty..the jailer asked me to call you’ said Shazia.

Sabina stood, stretched and left.

That night Shazia read the Namaz and laid down the tattered sheets for both. They lay beneath the rugs with their backs against each other, shivering because of the cold. They were given a blanket that hardly covered Sabina. Shazia was short so she curled herself to fit inside.

All the other prisoners had complained about the blanket size except Sabina. She accepted whatever she was given with utmost pleasure. Everybody knew, she liked being punished.

‘Sabina..’

‘Hmm’

‘It has been over an year..we know each other well..why don’t you tell me…what..’

‘Shazia Aunty..did you notice the dirt in the mess?’

‘Yess..’

‘We must clean it tomorrow..it is not good for our health’

‘Whose health you mean? Yours or ours? You aren’t one of us! You don’t even want to live. Why don’t you poison yourself?? If if you really want to die!’ whispered Shazia angrily.

Sabina was shocked. Shazia Aunty had never been so rude to her. Shazia continued.

‘You love this prison don’t you?? Just because you have to spend three more years here?? Think of me! I have to spend a lifetime here. A lifetime. Do you even know what that means?? I am here because I killed my own son. Yes. I murdered my own son. And I am proud of myself. Allah will never forgive me but I did what had to be done. I had given birth to a rakshas and I had to be the one to destroy it! He tortured my daughter-in-law everyday! Each and every day!! And she served him like a devoted wife. I tried everything to protect her but I failed each time..I had to kill my own son..you know..I had to save that girl..I had to kill him..I raised him to be a good man Sabina..I worked day and night to keep us alive..I sent him to school..I sent him to college..I loved him very much..his laughter when he was a child..his school uniform..his bat..his toys..but he is gone now..I killed him..and..he will never come back..never..because his mother killed hi..’

Shazia couldn’t go on anymore. She was sobbing silently. She stopped, struck when Sabina finally gave up her most treasured silence.

‘I killed my mother.’

Shazia did not ask any further.

‘Allah!! What are you saying??’

Almost suddenly, she lost all her love for Sabina. How could a daughter kill her mother? It was like her own son grabbing her throat and torturing her to death. She dreaded the thought itself.

‘Just like you killed your own son. I killed my mother. ‘

‘DO Not compare my son to a mother!! He was a heartless..’

‘My mother loved me very much..she was a maid but she never let me feel so..she gave me everything I needed..a doll..bangles..necklaces..earrings..clothes..frocks..everything a little girl wanted..she would work hard all day and sing lullabies to me at night..caressing my hair with her soft hands..she would sing..

Gudia Rani..Bitiya rani…

Parion ki nag….nagri se ik din

Rajkumar ji ayenge..

Meri Saboo ko lejayenge..’

Sabina was silent. But Shazia cried.

‘I never asked my mother how she afforded all of it..How could have I known? I was a child..I wanted everything the others had..and she would bring it to me the next day..you are all that I have Saboo, she would say..anything for you Saboo! And then, my wants turned into my demands..’

Sabina was witnessing it all in her memories. She still remembered the puppy toy she had seen at Malik’s house, where her mother worked.

‘Saboo give me some time..I will get it for you. I promise!’

‘No no no! I want it tomorrow! I want want want that toy tomorrow!!’

‘The very next day she brought me exactly the same toy I had seen in Malik’s house..I thought my mother was a magician..jadugar.. and jadugar could do anything..I loved her very much..’

She turned to face Shazia now. Looking her in the eye.

‘One day she returned home in a hurry. She asked me to pack all the clothes that I had and I did whatever I was told. I asked her why she wanted me to do that but she kept peeping outside the window, ignoring all my questions. She kept ordering me to collect everything that I like. Everything. I went to the other room to..to look for a bag..when she entered the room and locked it.’

Sabina was now inside the messy room. Facing her mother. She was now looking at that worried face. Those scared eyes haunted her once again.

‘Saboo..beta..don’t judge me please..listen to me.. I I had to do it for you..I wanted to give you all that I couldn’t have..they are coming for me..’

‘Mummy who is coming?? What is all this? Mummy please please tell me..I I can’t understand..’

‘Malik. Malik has sent his men after me..I was caught stealing Malkin’s bangles..the the police is coming for me Saboo..’

‘Steali…’

‘Yes Saboo..if if they catch me they will put me in a jail..Saboo I don’t want to go there..Saboo I don’t want to g..’

‘Mummy no one will take you! I won’t let them take you away..’

‘Saboo beta it is too late..you have to do something for me..will you?’

‘Yes yes mummy!! Tell me!’

‘Take it.’

She remembered herself holding it. The sharp edges.

‘What is this..’

‘You have to cut here..’

‘I I can’t do it Mummy!! What are you saying!!! I can’t live without you!! We can run please please let us go..let us hurry!..’

‘Saboo I have given you everything you asked for..do it.. I don’t have time..I dont want to go beta..to that dark dark jail..’

The sound of the knock echoed in her ears.

‘They are here Saboo!!! Do it Saboo! do it!!’

‘Where will I go without you Mummy? What will I do! Please mummy please..’

‘Do it my child and run! Run and run and run..go as far as possible..far from here..I will always be with you..who who am I?’

‘Mummy plea..’

‘Who am I??’

‘Jadugar..’

‘Yess..I will always love you my Saboo beta..’

The knock turned into thunders.

‘Saboo here..cut here..’

She could see the wrist of her mother. Her red bangles. The sound of the jingling bangles. And the painful sound of her mother as they pulled her by her hair. By the time they dragged her out, she was dead.

The Police took her away instead, accused of stealing and killing her mother.

She whispered.

‘Shazia aunty..I loved my mother very much..she had taught me that stealing was bad..very bad..she knew it..she did it for me..and I killed her..she she wasn’t a thief..they were wrong Shazia aunty…she was.. she was a Jadugar..’

Sabina wept uncontrollably that night with her head laid in Shazia’s lap. Shazia couldn’t sleep that night. What had Allah done to this child, she thought.

Shazia had never sung lullabies for Kabir. But that night, she sang. That night, a woman sang. That night, a mother sang.

‘Gudia Rani.. Bitiya rani..

Pariyoon ki Nagri se ik din

Rajkumar ji ayenge…

Meri Sabina ko le jayenge….’

 And Saboo slept in peace.

 

The Black Sparkle

The silence and discomfort in the car disturbed little Anya. She wanted to ask but she was afraid she might ask the wrong question. She missed her chirpy sister awfully. The bantam clutched her sister’s hand trying to express what she felt.

Prasanna did not respond. She lay still and looked at the raindrops as they fell on the car window, all lost. She stared at her faded reflection on the car window as rain washed it away. She saw her black eyes. She saw her black mark. She saw the pain. The devil that wouldn’t stay inside for long. The devil that controlled her now. The heart-piercing pain. The conversation rang in her ears like a doorbell, reminding her of her disability.

‘Prasanna, you don’t have to feel bad..look you are the most beautiful girl..but I I just don’t love you anymore..look you know that I have truly cared for you..I still do! You are my best friend and you will always be..but this love thing it ..it is not for me you know..listen..please please say something’

She walked away. She had not only lost her love in his words but also her friend. Her childhood friend. She had lost her support. Her life. Her world.

‘Prasanna, don’t listen to them! Let them make fun of you! When I grow up, I will beat them all!’ he would say as she cleaned her nose from his handkerchief.

‘Now who is going to clean that!?’

She would smile.

 

‘P for Prasanna. P for Pig’ , he would mock her.

‘D for Daksh. D for Dragon’

‘Hahaha Dragon?? I thought Dog’

‘See! you already know what you are’

 

‘You have to keep balling while I bat’

‘What about my batting?’

‘Good girls only ball. Are you a good girl or not?’

She would frown.

 

‘Prasanna, will you make this file for me!

‘Nop’

‘Pleaseee’

‘Nop’

‘Please!’

‘Nop’

‘Chocolate?’

She beamed.

He was in all her moments. In all her memories. It thundered outside. And something shook inside. She knew she would lose many people in her life but she didn’t worry too much because Daksh was always by her side.

‘Why the hell did you yell at her?!!!’

‘Because she was flirting with you!!’

‘So??’

‘I don’t know. I didn’t like it.’

‘Prasanna, you Pig! You are Crazy!’

‘I know. Icecream?’

She winked.

 

She took off her shoes as she entered her room.

A lifeless soul.

No one ever would accept her the way she is. No one would ever fight for her. No one would ever accept the darkness on her face. No one would love her the way he did. No one would protect her the way he did.

She looked at the mirror.  At the ugly reflection. They would recite stories about Cinderella, Snow white and Rapunzel..and all she would think of was Daksh. It was never about how beautiful the princess was. It was never about how the princess met her prince. It was never about happy endings. It was all about him and her. It was all about Daksh.

And now, she was the evil of her own story.

The tears finally found their way out. They were falling like crackers on her black birth mark. For the first time, she wanted to cut off her skin. She hated the face that stared back at her. She hated her fate for mocking her.

 

‘What is this?’

‘Birthmark’

‘It isn’t really a mark… It is all over your left cheek..’

‘I know’

‘I am sorrry..I..’

‘It’s Ok.’

‘Umm..I am Daksh..’

‘Prasanna’

 

She turned her face to the mirror immediately. She saw something sparkle. She could swear it sparkled. It did!

This mark..it was the reminiscence of her true friends, her first lover, her life. This was a part of her. She was born with it. She had learnt to live with it. She had learnt to get noticed. She didn’t want to part away from it. She didn’t want to part away from all of it.

She begged the gods to bring him back. She begged for mercy. She had accepted her destiny..she never asked for a change..only him.

Anya knocked the door. Prasanna wiped her tears.

‘Come in’

‘Ana Didi..are you ok?’

‘Hmm’ she smiled.

‘I learnt a new poem in school..can I recite?’

‘Err..yes’

Anya jumped on the bed and began her action rhyme.

‘Machli jal ki rani haii

Jiwan uska pani haiii

Hath lagaoge toh dar jayegiii..

Hath lagaoge toh dar jayegiiii..

B..hath lagaoke toh dar’

‘Bahar nikaloge toh mar jayegi’, completed Prasanna.

‘Yes!! Yes!!! Bahar Nikaloge toh marrr jayegiiii!’

She climbed down the stage and asked ‘Ana Didi you are forgetting something!’

Prasanna kissed her goodnight and escorted her out of the room.

‘Didii!’

She didn’t answer.

She reached her phone and called him. It kept ringing. He did not pick up. She called again. He did not pick up.

 

‘What was so urgent?? I was in the washroom and you called me ten times!!!’ stormed Prasanna.

‘I wanted to talk’

‘Very funny!’

‘What were you doing in the washroom?’

‘What kind of a question is that? Girl stuff. None of your business’

‘Ooooohhhhhhhh’

‘Shutup Daksh!!’

‘What stuff?’

‘Nothing!’

‘What nothing?’

‘Daksh Arora!! I will keep the phone if you ask me AGAIN’

He would laugh.

 

She held the pills in her hand and wondered if she was strong enough to do it. She had to. There was nothing to live for anymore.

 

Just then, Daksh pushed away the door.

‘Happpyyy Birthdaaaay Prasannaa!’

Her parents, her friends and all her relatives barged inside her room.

Some dropped kisses, some hugged and she lay quiet and startled.

Her eyes only searched for him.

 

And finally, it was his turn to wish.

‘I called you..’

‘Someone had to plan this surprise party? And invite your infinite number of relatives. Right?’

‘You didn’t have to do all this..I am not fine..’

‘Haha I know you Pig!’

‘I am serious Daksh..’

‘Serious?? About what??’

‘About what you said yesterday..’

She dropped a tear. She didn’t want her relatives to notice but they didn’t matter. None of it mattered without him.

‘Oh shit!! I was joking you idiot!! I had to keep you away to plan all this!! So I had to do something!! That’s it!I thought you’d guess!’

‘What…’

‘I love you Ana..’, he whispered and wiped her tears making sure no one noticed.

‘Say it again..’

‘I love you pig. Once more?’

‘Yes..’

‘I am going to yell this time if that’s okay with your relatives?’

‘Noo’

She chuckled and thanked the Gods because he did exist.

The Barakhamba Road Metro Station

Image

 

The crowd gulped her and pushed her to the men’s compartment. She frowned. She wasn’t the kind who would boldly ask for a seat but this time she wanted her right. She asked the poor Jat chap to vacate the corner ‘Ladies seat’ only to be stared by all the men in the compartment like she had just stabbed somebody.

Err.. What is that freak exactly looking at? she thought. You never know men and their intentions these days.

To avoid the uncomfortable looks she decided to dig into her book. Her text books never spared time for novels to overtake. Novels had been classified as ‘wastage of time’ by her parents. Nonetheless, metro route to college was her time to waste. Her very own personal time. Sometimes she wished that the recorded message wouldn’t go on for so long. Hindi announcement followed by English, then repeat. She needed a silent place where she could be alone with her thoughts. She had always imagined a place with green pastures..beautiful flowers..an old huge tree and a good book. That’s it. Solitude was a blessing to her. Relatives and their expectations had already taken a toll of her. Her life and her thoughts were all about carefully weaving a plot that could make her parents proud and happy. Not that she regretted it; deep within she just wanted more from life. A little more.

She looked at the digital screen to check the station. She had boarded the metro at Kirti Nagar and her destination was far away. She drowned back into her ‘Danielle Steel’.

Aditi was stubborn, practical and a die-hard romantic. She always loved the way Steel would talk about romance with sophistication..about gentlemen..about elite classes..their mannerisms..just everything. She had fallen in love time after time but only with Steel’s characters. Sometimes she would even weep when one of her lover died only to find the next one in a different book.

She turned the page and looked up at the screen to check again if she had reached any closer and got distracted by a charming young boy staring at the door. She immediately gave away that glance fearing she might get caught. She still noticed him from the corner of her eye. He was tall, lean and carried an unshaven look that could sweep any girl off her feet.

Aditya was in a hurry when he climbed the metro. He knew he’d miss the first fifteen minutes of the movie and was regretting it already. Not that he was interested, the thought of his complaining friends and their ‘always late’ looks irritated him to the core. He looked at the door to see his reflection and do his hair. He moved his hands left and right to set the spikes in position. While doing so, he noticed a girl staring at him. He immediately pretended like he was just checking the weather outside.

She was reading a pink colored ugly-looking classic book. Ah.. Fairy tale kinds..whatever, he thought.

Aditya wasn’t a flirt. Truth be told, he wasn’t even interested in girls. No, he wasn’t gay but Boy’s school and mechanical engineering had done a great job in keeping him away from girls. Far away. Cars and rock music remained to be the first love of his life. He was smart and had managed to do well for himself. He believed that relationships were a waste of time and bro love was all that mattered.

But something about this girl intrigued him..she looked simple, fair, long haired, not sexy…just innocent..

And then he looked at those unwaxed hands. Disaster. He turned away.

‘Agla station Barakhamba road hai. Kripya darwazon se hatkar khade hon’,  the speaker announced. Aditi picked her bag and unoccupied the seat.

‘Excuse me, will you be getting down at this station?’ a melodious voice questioned him.

He turned. A young short girl with huge black eyes stared right back at him like someone was peeping into his naked soul.

He freezed. It was her. The pink book girl.

‘I need to get down..’ Aditi repeated wondering what was wrong with him.

‘ Err yeah I have to get down here’ he replied.

 

‘You are late’ Diksha whispered as he sat down next to her in the theatre.

‘I am sorry.. You know I was..’

‘Ya ok whatever. Now just watch’. She turned to look at the movie screen. He had met Diksha in college and she was the closest he had ever been to a girl. She was the only girl in his ‘gang’ and never did it occur to them that she was a ‘girl’. She was supercool and understanding unlike other girls. She wasn’t very intelligent but not dumb either. She was blessed with a great sense of humor and acted as a handy guide when guys had issues with girls.

‘And why were you late?’ she asked as they walked back to the metro station after finishing the movie.

‘ Umm.. I just got stuck up with Mom’s work’

Such a liar he was.

‘Mama’s boy!’ she chuckled. Oh, he could do with that.

‘Will you join us tomorrow?’ she asked.

‘Yeah? Where?’

‘Oh! We forgot to tell you! It is ‘Sahil’s Birthday’ you know?’

‘Shit. Yeaa.. I’ll be there’. He avoided her looks. Girls man. He would rather check Facebook than burden the tiny brain by remembering all the birth dates.

‘Cool. Will see you here. IF only you aren’t late’ she said sternly.

‘ You ARE going to wait for me. Now stop acting like a bitch. Will you?’ he giggled as he pulled out the rubber band of her horse-tail like pony. His favourite revenge afterall.

‘I am going to KILL YOU Aditya Arora!!’

 

‘Men’s compartment wasnt that bad an idea. I got a seat and that’s all that matters. It is worth the risk’ Aditi thought as she stepped into the zombie zone the next day.

She went around looking for a corner seat reserved for ladies.

‘What!!The same guy?’ she thought. Only this time he looked cuter than yesterday. He was wearing a branded black T-shirt and a pair of blue jeans. He was listening to songs and playing those ‘fighting game’ on his mobile. He was tapping his mobile repeatedly to kill the enemy and making funny faces while doing so.

‘Thankgod. No Candy Crush. Atleast someone on this planet wasn’t addicted to it’ she wondered.

She thought if she should ask him to vacate but decided against it. She just stood there watching and took out the same book to read.

Aditya noticed an unwaxed hand holding the pillar towards his right. Now that was hard to ignore. Is this unwaxed look a new trend with girls? Because it sucks.

And then he saw the same Pink-book girl. What a coincidence!! .

He wondered if India’s population had been dwindling. God, we really need that. Never in his life had he seen the same man twice in a compartment, forget a girl that too the very next day!!

 

Aditi smiled. No, she wasn’t smiling at him. She sighed when the protagonist finally met her lover.

Aditya noticed. She was so engrossed in the book that it made him curious to know what exactly was this book about.

He read the title. ‘Kaleidoscope’. Blessed with a spectacular memory he knew what exactly a kaleidoscope was.

‘Game lost!’ The mobile screen flashed.

‘Shait’

Play again.

Aditi was distracted all of a sudden. She felt a touch. No, it wasn’t a crowdy compartment. Her sixth sense said something else. She was brave but not used to something like this. She was scared to even look at the man who dared. She felt it again. Oh no no no. God please god please make it stop make it stop, she begged.

Again.

Again.

Her face went pale. Her nerves turned cold. In a split second, she had no control over her mind. She wasn’t reading any more. She wanted to run but her feet felt numb. She was gazing at the boy sitting right in front of her as if begging for help.

Aditya was confused.

‘Why is she looking at me like that? Oh man.. Crying seriously??’

She was helplessly looking at him, scared like an infant with tears trickling down her cheeks.

She felt it again.

‘Please stop it god.. Please..’ she whispered.

Only this time Aditya heard. He sensed something was wrong.

‘Hey..err.. Do you need help..?’ he murmured. Oh man. Why me! I am not good with girls! Forget crying girls!!!

She nodded. She tried to point at the sick man standing behind her by rolling her eyes. He just couldn’t understand. But something inside urged him to help her .To bring this innocent out of her misery. To reach out to her. The gates opened and he had no clue as to why he grabbed her hand and guarded her out of the metro.

‘Listen whatsup!! Why the hell were you crying??’ he asked her at the platform.

She wasn’t used to rude men. Her father had always been polite to her. And she couldn’t hold back her tears anymore.

He looked at her and decided to choose his words wisely this time.  She looked like a child. What class must she be in?

‘Hey listen up..is is everything ok?’ he lowered down his voice.

‘Yes..’ replied the sugary voiced. It was hard to ignore those hair’s’ on her hands.

‘What happened? Should we get going??’

‘No..I’ll manage..thankyou.. I didn’t know what to do.. It’s just..it’s all fault..my father had asked me not to travel in the men’s compartment and I ignored..and this this man..he he..touched and he..’

This time she was uncontrollable. To him, it was embarrassing. Every single passing soul looked ashamed of him as if he was the one who made her cry. People just can’t mind their own bloody business.

‘Seriously!!’ he laughed.

‘I mean I thought someone died!! You could have just slapped that bastard! And you were crying like a baby!!? I mean ok it is uncool..whatever but you kind of freaked me out!!’

She had read about gentlemen and she knew that this stupid man wasn’t one. He was one emotionless piece of shit. She gave him a disgusted look and ran away from the platform.

‘Listen!! I didn’t mea..’ he yelled but he had managed to attract ample attention by then and chose to grab the next metro.

 

‘Diksha calling’ flashed the mobile screen.

‘Yaya I am just five minutes away!! No no no. Trust me. Five minutes. Cake? What cake? Noone asked me get that!! You didn’t! Ok ok. We’ll do something about it. ‘

Furious Diksha cut the call.

 

That night he thought about the pink-book girl. What was the title.. Oh yes, Kaleidoscope. He searched the internet for its plot and he wondered if people actually had time to read that stuff. Suddenly, he felt guilty for treating her like that. Beer was doing its magic. He could have been more polite..that poor scared girl needed help and he made her cry..and there was this sudden desire to see her..Meet her and tell her..that he was around and everything will be okay..

 

It was 1 pm when Aditya woke up to Diksha’s call.

‘How’s the hangover?’

‘Bad I guess’

‘Hmm. Pop in a medicine and call me when you feel better. Okay?’

‘Yeah bye’

‘Bye’

 

He remembered meeting her at the same time both the days. What if she takes the same route everyday?

This girl wouldn’t escape his mind unless he apologized. He checked the time. Shit. One hour. He hurried to the bathroom, took a shower, wore his favourite shirt, combed his hair and smiled at the reflection. Crazy.

He kept peeping into the ladies coach throughout the journey; travelled till the Barakhamba metro station, however, found no trace of her.

Right. So nice of you Universe. You owe me one more chance.

Unfortunately, didn’t find one. He left disappointed.

 

Time and a pinch of weed eroded all her memories.

 

But a month later, he saw her again. At the platform. Barakhamba Road Station. There she stood waiting for the metro to arrive. Reading a yellow-colored ugly looking book.

He rushed towards her.

‘Hey hi!’

She recognized him within a fraction of second. He was cute.

‘Listen.. I know I was rude and I have been looking for you.. And I.. I wanted to say sorry’

She blushed. Looking for me? She wasn’t expecting him after such a long time. She had almost forgotten about the incident. And he was cute!

‘It is okay..’ she smiled.

‘Really? Thankgod!.. You know you need to be brave?’

‘I know’ she giggled. He said it with such conviction, she couldn’t resist her laughter.

‘What’s so funny?’

‘Umm nothing’

‘Anyway. My name is Aditya and yours?’

‘Aditi’. Her magical voice silenced his heart and fled his soul.

‘So Aditi..do you have a fascination with ugly looking books?’

 

Rain.

Image

‘Mam, I dont have a big house..’ Pinki fumbled.
I smiled.
‘It is ok..’

And I entered a small dark house with one room and one kitchen. I saw an old man preparing friendship bands using beads..a woman cooking in the kitchen and two young little boys running after each other.
‘Mam ghar toh bikhra huya hai..’
‘It’s ok..lets begin’
And the small room welcomed us..
A young girl brought tea for us. One of her brother curiously peeped inside the room.
‘Idhar aa. Ye meri mam hain.. Inhe Goodevening bolo!’
‘Goodeveg..’ And he ran away.
Pinki is my learner at an NGO and has to pass the English Board exam. She asked me if I could help her and I went to her house to teach her. 

She whispered..’mam.. It is very important for me to pass.. These Gali people talk.. I dont want my parents to feel ashamed..I have to become my family support.. Please help me. I can think.. But I just can’t write it in English..’

It took me back to my first class when Pinki had proudly said ‘ I want to success in life Mam’

After writing two articles and one formal letter her mother came in to inform me that it had started raining. It was 7 already and I felt that I should leave.
Her mother took an umbrella and was reluctant to drop me back home. With the ‘Vistas’ English book in hand and a promise to help Pinki pass, I left that place.
‘Mam mai toh unpad gawar hoon..jo din maine dekhe hain mai nahi chahti inko dekhne padhe.. Sab kuch karti hoon ki bas ye kuch ban jayen..’
In moments like these..you want to say so many things but words fall short and silence refuses to flee.
‘Hmm’ was all I could manage.
‘Aap kaise vapas jaoge aunty..?’
‘Aree meri chinta mat karo..mere bache ghar pahonch jaye bas.. Ek phone kar dena pahonchte hi beta..’
‘Ji’
‘Ramji aaj hi itni barish karni thi..’
She kept on adjusting the umbrella at all possible angles so that no raindrop touches me.

It was my heart that was touched.

So Close.

I always knew that the flaming desire would grow and catch hold of me. Own me.

I always knew that turning my back to fate would only make me face it. Drown me.

And the universe conspired to bring me close to a place where I always wanted to be. I was flying. Like a free little bird.

shubhikapur