“How am I looking, tell me, shona?” she asked her sister, Shristi, placing a delicate hair strand on her left ear.“You’re always pretty, Kriti di” Shristi smiled at her with braces.Kriti turned to her and praised her dressing sense as Shristi always chose their dresses.
As her sister finished her appraisal and bid her goodbye for a party, Shristi caught her reflection in the mirror. “We’re sisters, really?” she thought.
She ran her sun kissed palms on face circling her pink pimples that were witnessing teenage. She smiled at herself but found braces smiling back at her. Her big eyes hidden behind glasses felt wet. She controlled, echoed to her heart,” My beautiful day will come, I will make sure it comes” and went back to her books.
After a small conversation she stopped and said, “Mere Hindi achi nahi hai”. “I am not good at Hindi”.
He swallowed adjustments and replied,”It’s okay”.
But she sheepishly continued,”Bahut achi hai”. “Because I am very good at it”.
He laughter with relief and said, “Badhiya”.
And they continued.
“So you found her, Rishee?”,Anjali said to me with those days in her eyes.
“Who?”, I answered hiding the acknowledgment in my mind.
“Anjali 2.0”, she said in air taking sip of her favorite green apple vodka and I felt my lips tightening.
“So what about your nth breakup party here..” , I said bitterly and instantly grouted guilt.
“You know..I feel pity on you..”
I grinned waiting for the sharp words ahead.
“She will be your mirror showing you didn’t get me..”, she said and cried a laughter.
I knew nothing to do just to laugh with her.
“Can’t you stay for one more day..?”, she asked looking at him pleasingly.
” C’mon, don’t act like a child.. You’re a strong gal..!!”, He said walking back to room from the balcony.
“Yeah I am.. But I am also a girl who fears tomorrow..”
“I can’t stay…”, he said knowing he has nothing else to say.
” I should leave then..”, she answered with heavy but empty heart.
“I may fail”, she said morosely.
“C’mon, I will help you!”, he assured.
“I am afraid to cheat”
“Oho! Nothing would happen believe me”
“Yeah! I do”
“Write fast..!”, he commanded as the invigilator moved to the other aisle.
“Yea..trying..”, she said while writing with trembling fingers.
“Woah! It’s fun..I didn’t know I can cheat too”, she said gleefully and winked at him.
He laughed feeling confused how to take her away from her last said betraying words.
It’s a usual-fine working day. I was sticking onto the mode of my hectic office schedule. It’s quite boring, I know. Still I have to do it. While searching for a worksheet from my cabin, I had seen my cell vibrated and flashed, with an unknown number, on the adjacent table. I froze before picking up the call.
“Yes”, a female voice, that too who knows my name, was on the other side. My heart smiled.
Suddenly I coughed, though it was an unintentional response. I felt a little odd, not feeling nostalgic, when she, my ex-girlfriend, called at that moment.
“Shall we meet today evening?” She asked as if she wanted to meet me urgently.
I had a busy schedule ahead, but I replied with a ‘yes’ without going for a second thought. She dropped the call and it was then I realized what I told her— why should I meet her after ending up everything? Anyway, I decided to meet her in the evening like we, nope, like I said.
I called her back and asked at where we should meet. We agreed to meet up in a well-known coffee-house within the city at 6 o’ clock in the evening.
She was my high school sweetheart. We had a special tuning in between us which no one could deny in our school. I loved her sincerely, but she had an over doubtful nature that ate our relationship later, and then we both got separated because of the unequalled reason that we both admitted into different colleges in different cities. Since then we never contacted each other as our relationship didn’t end up on a sweet lovely tale. The day when we broke up finally was quite dramatic in life; I wanted to forget all those memories forever. I didn’t realise we have travelled a six-year journey to talk to each other again.
“Shall we leave now?”
My colleague, Sarthak, who didn’t know what was running in my mind, asked me. I came back to the present— sitting on my chair, regardless of caring about an hour just passed by.
“Oh yeah! I have to go to city today, Sarthak. Drop me at the bus stop”
“As you say, Sir” he fake smiled and left my cabin.
He dropped me at the bus stop like he said. I walked into the coffee-house, which was located nearer by, and sat somewhere on the corner for a table of two. I looked out through the glass of the coffee-house. Minutes passed. I had a sudden look through the time. It’s getting late. I looked out through the window, again. I saw her. I had instant goose bumps seeing her at a short distance. I failed to understand why.
She was carelessly walking towards the coffee-house. She loved that. She entered in. She looked around and saw me sitting there. Her black hair hardly touched her shoulders which reminded me of our fights over her frequent haircuts. I preferred her to have long hair, but she always revolted to agree upon with the wish I had. My perfect slim gal had lost weight, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t want her to enter the coffee-house. I feared of losing to glare at her. But everything has its end.
“Hello, Sakshi” though I longed to ask our usual queries: “How are you, my love?”
She greeted happily and I smiled, too. I adored her light floral top with blue jeans. There’s time when she used to choose whatever I wore. I always loved her taste. Her lips were getting wet quickly as she drank her coffee. I knew which coffee it was. After all, some things about human never changes.
“How am I looking today?”
I laughed at such silly query from her. It’s her patent question whenever we used to meet.
She shyly smiled.
We talked so much, literally so much. Every time she smiled I tried to find an answer to an unknown query, she had in her sad eyes.
“Tell me! How’re you? How is everything going on with you? How’s life? How’s your girlfriend?”
“Umm…I don’t have one” I retorted. Being after 6 long years, still I couldn’t find another mate for me.
She laughed, “You haven’t changed, Mr. Shy Sachin.. Remember? Even in our case I was the one who striked a conversation. I smiled back at her and we continued talking about everything from Indian politics to her favourite holiday spots. It’s when we’re about to leave she said “I just have a month here”
“I mean, a month with you,” She replied, so casually, like asking me which color to wear.
“Oh.. I see”
“You must include me in your schedule now. At least for this month,”
She smiled as she said it. I felt confused twofold. But I was sure that I couldn’t say no.
After that day, every 6 o’clock in the evening I was with her. I noticed that her eyes got more glittered, like earlier before, with time. I observed her dark circles below her eyes. Everyday– “How am I looking today?”– was her first query. I didn’t give an objection against my usual answer; I reluctantly said she was beautiful. She got a bob haircut. I didn’t say anything. I just wanted to be with her.
By the end of the month she suffered from sickness. I took 14 days leave from my office schedules. My friends were shocked as I had never taken such a long vacation. I started visiting where she lived. When I entered her flat for the very first time, I thought I had entered a hospital because of the smell prevailing there. But I stayed silent.
I felt odd with her growing sickness. There’s no sign of improvement in her. Slowly, we stopped going out, instead we stayed at her house.
I asked her one night when she leaned on my shoulder and was reading our favourite book, The Great Gatsby, for me.
“Are you alright, love?” I asked her, but she had already fallen asleep. I stayed together with her that night. It’s our first night together.
When I brought tea to her room, she asked me again “Am I looking beautiful?”
She had just risen up from her bed. Her hair was all messed up. Her loose tee showed her weary neck bone. Her eyes had swallowed although she took a proper sleep but I found peace in her presence. And I said “yes”. Tears were shedding from me. I hid my feelings inside.
I felt like she’s hiding her pain from me, too. I helped her to get to the washroom. She looked too weak and old. I wanted to cry but she smiled like she used to during our old school days. That afternoon she told me about her mom’s accident and death. I realised, while spending time with her, I almost forgotten to ask everything about her family. She cried in my embrace. I was sad for her mother but felt good as she’s in my arms.
Her mother had raised Sakshi on her own. Her father was our family friend and a martyr who died when Sakshi was studying in fourth standard. I have always respected her mother. The way she supported Sakshi to conquer her vision to become an architect was appreciable. It’s my first time to see a parent to know her child dream even before she had witnessed it.
It’s fourth day of a new month. After dressing up I left home to meet her. As she opened the door, I felt embarrassed. She’s awfully beautiful today. She wore a grey color lightly shimmered dress. I looked at her face. Little makeup had done magic. She looked like an angel– exactly an angel.
“Do I look beautiful today?”
“You’re my angel”
Her weakened legs were caged in high heels. She couldn’t walk properly. Hence, I carried her inside. I loved the way from her door to room. It’s a lifetime in some moments for us. We made love. When we’re about to sleep she gave me a box. I insisted to open it but she asked me to do it in morning.
She never woke up. My girl took her last breathes in my arms. When I took her to hospital doctor told me about her prolonged cancer. My heart already knew it though she never told me and I didn’t ever ask. I didn’t want to die before her.
I opened the box. It’s our house she dreamed of. Her note read “I kept my promise to grow old with you”.
Today, the first day after I had left my hostel. I don’t feel good. I miss my hostel as well as college. You know, on the day of our farewell, many of my friends cried but I didn’t. Then, on the hostel farewell, too– my friends were crying, but I didn’t. My heart was heavy, hence my eyes challenged to brim with tears, too. Yea! I didn’t cry. I was feeling so nostalgic about why I was not crying even when I was so sad. So, I consoled them and waited for my upcoming days to unburden my heart and mind for missing what I had been through all these 4 years of my college life.
Hastily, time passed and my last day at hostel came. Somehow, I woke up around seven in the morning which was quite unusual as we had slept around 3 am on the night before. And in my entire hostel life I have never woke up at that early hour excluding exam times and I haven’t ever tried to do the same. For aspiring Indian Engineers like me, exams are one night show. I stood from my bed and withdrew the curtains from big-three-joined-together windows of my room. My room’s windows are seriously one of the best amenities– that a hostel room has been provided with— available for a not-so-comfortable stay we had there for valuable four years. Peeking out through that small window was always awesome and whenever it rained, my god, it’s exactly a heaven as the cold breeze ventilated our room so properly, still with a dirty tone. For the very last time, I looked outside through that window. My heart stiffened. Sun had just risen up. I felt relieved, though I knew how it’s turning out to be after a couple of hours after all it’s peak summer month in city like Delhi. I stood there for some more time. People were having their morning walks, talking to each other, and enjoying the soothing meek sun rays falling on them. I sensed that the coolness of breeze conveyed a little more emotional attachment with what I had been through at that moment. It had rained last night.
After few minutes of enjoying weather, along with adamant expression of breeze, tears kissed my cheeks for the first time in this memorable month— maybe the worst one ever in my life. Suddenly, I couldn’t control the feelings I had inside and it ended up shedding of tears. I started crying like a three or four-year old child. Pragya, my junior as well as the one who stayed next to my room, sleeping with my roommate on bed, woke up and squinted towards me. I sat beside her. I continued crying. Yes, we three shared the same room for the past few weeks although only two persons are allowed stay together as per hostel policies; but we did so with a trifling reason of using one cooler together and its high hostel fee. However, we kept it as a secret from our Hitler warden. Her eyes were wet, too. We already have made a special bond in between us within ten months. She calls me “mommy”, I don’t know why, maybe because of my habit of giving advises and telling who should do what and when. I gazed at her and reel of thousands of memories of togetherness– with tea in winters, our late night talks, preparing dinner together and a lot more– ran through my mind. My wailing increased. She groaned, “Mommyyy… Can’t you stay for one more day.. Please..”. I thought on it but my dad was all set to come that afternoon. I couldn’t change my plan on the last moment. “I can’t.. Pragya..” And I continued crying.
“Viditi, please thodi der mei royei.. Bhut needh aa rahi h abhi… Pakka tujhe sambhalugi phir..”
“Viditi, Can we cry later? I feel so sleepy right now and I promise to comfort you then”
My childish roommate, Gargi, said. She said it with so much innocence and purity in emotions for her love to sleep at anytime. Pragya and I laughed for her required feedback. She realised what she had just said and she laughed too. I observed her face while sleeping and felt happy, I don’t know why, but I felt happy. Maybe because of the contented smile and satisfaction she carries for her life. Maybe because she lived in the present moment which asked her to sleep, unlike me who was crying for what I’m going to miss, my past. I ran my hand on her forehead and she smiled innocently.
“Let’s sleep, Pragya”, again as a mommy I directed her to join Gargi in her sleep along with me. And we three slept accepting the present moment and not worrying about what would hit us after a few hours.
“Dadddyy….eeeee…” she giggled while unwrapping her gift
He watched and adored the happiness in his seven year old daughter
“Why did you always wrap everything you give her, Beta?”her grandmother asked her son, Rishi
“Because I know she likes this way..”
Rishi replied, thinking of his wife who used to ask him to always gift her books wrapped properly with a message for her.
She: “I don’t love you… don’t ask the same question…”
He: “But why??…… Aren’t we…… So what’s it? ..Tell me….”
She: ” Please… why are you complicating things?.. Go now… you’re getting late..”
After two hours…
She: “You’re so irresponsible….. Why didn’t you call me??… I was so worried…. Where are you?”
He: “hmm….. Still you don’t love me..”
“Love, you can refuse to say it but can’t refuse to accept it” -emile
* Hostel; Room 223 *
“I am nervous, Aashi..”, I said to Roohi, my roommate for two years in my three years of this degree, while going through the notes again and again.
“Are you out of your flipping mind.. It’s just an all-around good company.. A lot more to come soon.. Quit worrying about the interview too much?”, Aashi said irritatedly.
“Yeah… still”, I responded.
“By the way, Is your interview in this room?”
“My god.. Nothing.. Go and get ready.. We must be on time.. and please don’t take an hour to bath… please”
“Yeah.. I will try”
We both chuckled awkwardly.
*Second Floor common washrooms*
“Turn on to some soft music, please”, Aashi said to me while combing her hair in the mirror.
“Shut up! It’s my cell.. my music.. Close your ears if you bear a problem.. And for the god sake, I don’t want any of your pranks today”, I said and went into the bathroom.
“Yeah… because I am not boring like you”
I spread out the tap and baffled for the cold water. I spread Dettol everywhere, around the corners of the floor, on my stool and in my water just to make certain I was bug free. I am terribly obsessed with hygiene. Then, I started to bath. It’s always good when cold water gives you goosebumps and you feel you can’t breathe. I enjoyed my music reverberating in the whole washroom and my soap bubbles on my skin. “She must have left”, I recalled to myself as I couldn’t hear Aashi babbling around.
After making sure, I was the cleanest person on Earth. I got ready to leave the bathroom. I unlatched it and tried to open it. “Wait.. What’s this… no.. She can’t do this today… no.. not today at least”. The door didn’t open. It’s locked from the outside. My heart was pounding so loud as I thought everyone out there could discover it. “Yeah.. Anyone out there.. yes..”
“Anyone there?”, I wailed.
Meanwhile, my music was singing like nothing has happened. Oh! The cell is non-living. “Oh yea! Cell!”. I quickly turned off the music and called her.
I called her again.
My hand trembled as I decided whom to call next. I was terribly scrolling down in my cell when I heard some footsteps. My eyes got lightened with hope.
“Hey! I am locked here..”
“Middle one”, I said as I always preferred that bathroom.
I tapped my foot on the floor while she opened it for me.
“Thank you……”, I said while going towards my room. Though, I wanted to embrace her, kiss and say thank her as much as I can. But, not to forget, I was short of time.
“Where I have to sign?”, I asked Ma’am holding the attendance sheet.
“I am sorry”, I didn’t know what else to say.
“I doubt your choice”, she sounded out so simply looking at me. I have known that placement coordinator since the maiden year of my college. She was the most arrogant lady who used to frighten students. So, I overheard her and quietly marked my attendance.
“Slot Four”, I read the interview schedule and finally my stressed muscles in the brain got relaxed.
“Shit!!!”, Aashi cried when she looked at me.
“I am sorry…. I forgot… I was about to open it when Amit called.. Are you okay?”, she cried further.
“Yeah”, I steered.
“I am sorry”
“Please… I didn’t do it intentionally..”
“It’s all right.. C’mon.. I know you.. Though I would have killed you if I have got the first slot of interviewees”, I said, interrupting her, “Which slot?”
“Seventh”, she said, and we both laughed as she hated waiting.
When my turn came, I went inside the interview board room for attending my very first job related interview in life.
Most of the sluggish queries they asked me made to stick onto my creativity levels; I didn’t pay much attention to what I was answering, however I was so confident while speaking to the other party.
“Are you really willing to be a part of our company?”, one among the heads of the company enquired me at the end.
“Actually, I’m not that willing to be a part of your company from most of the queries you asked me. I knew the puffs I’ve blown so indubitably for many among them. I couldn’t offer you the 100% of the potential I’ve in me through the works I’ll have to do. However, I would try my level best to make use of the incorruptible potential I’ve in me. I’ll firmly take your deal if you’re perfectly fine with the take you’d on me”, I answered.
“Being so frank, we’re not o.k. with you! But we should articulate that you’re the 6th candidate who got admitted in our fellowship. Congratulations! I wish we could provide you a safer atmosphere and facilities to operate in our troupe and build use of the maximum potential in young Indian people like you.”
“Thank you very much for your esteemed feedback, Sir! Thank you”
Yet another late day’s funky ending…