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I Too Had a Love Story - Ravindra Singh

I Too Had a Love Story - Ravindra Singh

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only love... :(
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Published by: abhiawakes on Aug 31, 2010
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S:RlSBTJ l?UfU1SH~1tS &:. DrsnJIlUTOEl:S N-·16 C. R.

Park

New' Delhi 1'100]:9 $fjshtip'ublishe~rs@gm.[.(lom

firs.: pub[imed by Srishti Publishers & DisrdbuW,g in 2009' 11th impression, 2009

Copyr~g,h~ @. ~~fnde'JI' S]llgh~ 2009

Printed and bound in India

No: we']01'l't:' in this w'~'TlJ I:Jt'tf th,~ fott tf) chernb M,t fofk.Jtfonn o.flow:; Some are hom~ iUS-I M ,ap·tri~nce the abhrrviatwn of it.

DedicatC'd, to,

The 10vJo$ memory .of the gid whom. I loved, yeT cou ld DO mMfy.

felt jaaRt Ita ;m:r luuh disa hua fflfl.jh I:fI~ tujh( ,Jhoondttte dh(J(}nac(J.ttl "uu;/Jt! kh,~,ko pad by,a .. "

..... Anonymous ,~ .. .Orherwlse, ~, wou.ldn~t ha,ve come across an author lEt me;

.A,ckn(}tvledge1ne-nts

My, sincere thanks to the foJJow~ng people, fOr taking me ahead in the journey ofwridng m~~ book,

Khushi !s .. DaJ~ for reviewing ili~s 'book for the y.ery first time and he] ping me ~dl me first edit work,

P'flyanka Rathee, my ooUeaguc5 my good friend,. fot" being punctual at the 4: o'clock even i,ng eea at Udupi in our c.a:mplLlsl, where she used (0 pen down those beaJul[ifuL prose pieces. for this book.

Rldhima Acora~ my cutest and deaeest f.rieJt~ M·r bdn,g the kind 0'£ a reader wbo can b-e any writeis delight. For ahyays keeping U1Y spirirs up and showing me the berrer w~;ys to bring rhis book l,lp.

]Ja]£ }MJ!1 by s.omenPll:J

lJu-t. _n,i{lhu now (/;Jt'.t'a' <j'1.~i!lii\'l"" ~;"j.~:riJ''''''~-

':0' - ' , '-oil:i'.:ns.!i>.!") r'~!i:l'fJ,.

1,qu.ri.~ J1iltt} h,r!tll1.'flitIJ ,ime ,But marks -will t.dW,lftfJ 1'ffl1at~N

...-

/(e'!!ti:ess ()~ -'in, c().~fort.ablf:' be:tl

l,to!is n"J:tl turn tutd try to. s-ieep But fho~ghts dre ora/king my ~,d And haw fo117ttti a ,hult' JJel1)

T.he ja-st is jl:;ls!:Ji.'ng #j' sC(Jr;cbifJ.g light ked(Tt1J ,Jet1,rl~l me dpa.rt, breakin.g'me at tt;e seams Tt.M~, Mr/tut':S.s of nry' lifo :is more v:iti!Jle 'n. the dad~

And now' lam trJingt6 gim' 'ita' V()ic~ tn,in.g;to speak ""y heart

Reunion

I f(m,efflber '[h,e dare 'we~i: 4rh lvb!:Jt::h ,IOU . 1 was i [1 Kolksta and ~bou~ 1.10. reach H'3!p'P}is: heme - n bad been, vel r excited. ;a,I~, mornlng as ] was ~9~,rng 1!'0 see, O~Jr· g,;jIJn,g, of ,fom ~~e1t ~ ~ I rec }f(;'als. M[.er our engin~ri;ng~ rhis was the fiut rime when aU of IUS

Manprecr, Arnardeep, Happy and E - were g,oi[jJg to be: oo~d]I~"Jt.

IJuJ'Jiog 'our A.rst y'-c:::ar' in the bosrel, H:a,PPY and E were in different rooms 0,0 rhe 4,tIi OCG;1 o.f '[;ib.e Bwck~A bu~~di_ng;., 6~i~~g~o]]. 'lhie' ~Ql'[_1Jje IAOOJ~, 'we were ,acqUalDI,fl:lI]C1e!S but I nd'er w;;ulted to "nr-era:~'~ with him. I, didn't .'thinl~ h1m, 'a -gQod guf because of his, fondues's f.&! fl~'ts art1d rhe red on bis. m:ali.k ~it]!eet. :BlJlI:~ unfunu-rn,atdy; I W,1lS, la~ in gen:"n,Ulg: t ~d{ to the hosrel ,M, ~he 'b'eg~]l..ni[i'JJg, ,~.f I:'h_,<e secoed ,eM and ~~most ~-l tthe rooms W~fe' :~Lrea,~y allotted by theill)·, ], was no-~ left with any d\l(}~.oe other than ibecom~ing, H3!p'PY's ["(to,m,m,are. And. because U~ is, wei[~ ~hings c:han,s,ed,dr,a_l~lfiJ;t[~1l;lRy and, seen, 'we became the b~st of buddies The day our KUn ien ,"ws. Khedul~~], he h;Id be.em working: w:!Jtb TCS for .2 }f~;;U'S ~ndl, "V:;l~ enj:oying hi! ensiee ':project in lon/doLi;) , Happy MlS blessed' wid~ ~, heigh[ of 6' 1, ~~ ~ a good ,p,hyS!J,q~e and Sltu;_nning leoles, And H'~PPf ~~ 31w31]l}S happy~

:rvll~]j,pree['., 01~ MP :dJ$ 'we caJUed him, is ShO["Ir"'SUJtLU'e:(t fair and hed'[hy.

As 1 ha.;d ofiren been rhere, She l~ncw me 'weH. Per me. Ha:pp~i'$'hollS~, never meant too. Inany :fQrmJ"~[rbr;s- I. wss ba:vi ng SOIne water when she

, ~

[old, me rhar Happy was not al horne ·~U".uJ, his cell was swit~b6d off .

..,; ~f9\~~ And!.he a5k::e;d me riot H). be late," I murmured '00' m yself..

A li !Itle later there w~S' anlr,:, ... ~e.r. knock-on the ,dO-Glr. 'T got up ttD [11' my c:h~.r reo open It\ M l1131f'Py'$ ~.r,).ln. W,S]S .in rhe kitchen. 1 pulled, it 01pen t"{) sl1:(H.HS .of, ~'ab .. ,.; 'BiULrr.ra~a.;a,a,hhbh" r' Dude. .. Ye~Ji..,. :H uhaaaaaaaaa .. ,., C.HMaaaJaa~;1aaJ!:,or

No, ~~ 'I.\'f;!list:ft' Happy., .MI?' and l'UJft~£~e:p h,tcl ~ rFtiv.ocl"

Seeing yo ur ooUcge j'dendtS ilfrer duee, )ll"efl ns is Sf] cray ~'Dt~ ,~~t.ll1'g rhat .y1QU M"nt even, rea~,i'lle you are @!;t someone else's place where you should :dl,riW· some manners and b1e F oiliite. Then agRin~ rhe ve:ry pur'p08~ of rtb~s: itt'tin]DllW~S t\], recall our ·~o~ll.eg,e ,days and ~bj s Wil~i the p«fect start, WhHe 'we' [i),"'!lt~,de eurselves o[~m,fo.nalbI~ on ehe .. ~ofiID~t~ID' dl}¢dr.aw:mg:~ room! .hi P asked. about Happy's whereabouts,

,

"' L:'-];e~s UQlt on thtlJt· in bis, own hom,e:~ I. said :~oo·1ring at MF and we

laughed. ~s~in.

[10:[' ehe n~t haJf hour or. so, rhe three (;!If' us' D'iLU'wecl ~ l~ ugbed and made fun 'Of ~·acb. other wbu'~e eating ]'IlIll'ch made by HapWlYs m.oth,~r. '¥es~ we'&mntd nur l'n:1Jeal wlxiloul[ Htappy;'fhis 11ligh'l! :no.'ll souud doct'l"u:, b LII' ·we bad], genuimle fl~a.~Cifi - nob6dr could FlIedj,ot bis .al'fi¥.d~, se rhere was no poiol[ 1ft ,,~aci:[i.tg'.·

A Ii tde, Iater, 'l\bere was aoo;~h~l" knock H'~rpi$ m,urn· opened, the,

~~ I..l ~~, ~'L"fIn~. _i " e 'L.J·· 1.'

n-appy ueeeeeeeer: .!,YJa,' sneureu, .geIlttUlg up' ,~rorn rhe uwniLg CJ!lftU.

AilTl,~~d.~ep and .~, st~red ateach )Jifber", It seemed as if MP wtlS going, '~D. shed rears as hie. lUlgged H~p P'Y" We remembered how 1!he~e :gIJ1Y;S

, .

used tCii cry dl!l.r~g d:H~ if l~'.ng beoriJlg sessions, .whelll theh hF'~Li ns switched o.ff and their hearts ~:~atted. $peak[ng.- Jimnar.'deep ~!nd I used to

etil.j"Oy our CQlIre~ wh~le seeing ,theru. ~geujng~er:rjtL

We ali ~1tiQod 1.:1 P.' eo hug hint and as soon as that ·w,~S done, we OdKHinn;;ued our. hrrud1L Happy also j('U:Md. us" The FoGd. d1:8Jt' d~,y was very ~i:y. Ot maybe it was j~tst b-ecau{S~ 'we 'were h'l~.:ifig.hlocb, rogeJthe,r afier SQ long a'nd ib::lli1:: made it ~peciarl.

M~e.r [unc])) we .i11Q\~.d to a no ther fJ~.t; a ftw HQ ers ,8ihtJ,ve', .in. rille' same ht~ Ud'i~lg. :Thi£ wns the seco ud Bat wb.kh Happy~~ faJJ~ily pWQe(i,. and W~' ]"ne~n"n: fO\1· td:;J;dV€s· ~u],~ rri,etrlJds like us" We were J~uJ.gb~,ng- ar on€' Qr:rviP's.joke~,'wh.ile' ,moving in, ~ulcl were pr~!h.\abfr ~rjU ]:.'IJtughi]]g as wee ,ieU OJ) tbe g~ah.I eeuch in ~he dnlwj;n,~ rQcHt:LI]J- tipsiJe &awn-, leg:s on the couch ~ld.our torsos CH:l, tlte no O~, arms ,s'p,[e~d acro:5i5 i:'IiHd raei~g. :~he Iii;cili:r.IJgJ we made Ql~ I'S:elVO oQlmfott~hJe.

Nobo dy ~ld anyt:hblg for a :&l"Y' fi1J(:),meta;ts" ,And ~hefl ill t ~~,rnrt1fld a~~F.IJ,' with Happy'S big· Ja]ll;~gjl1. [ $ue&~ ,he ~neOlbcrtld SOlnre jnddlet1Jt in~~0t'l,\li~,g-~alll)L

That eveni ng~ d~.'\: fQU.f 9Jf us in chat flat were ht,1!:'i.d,ng' an, aJ11Zfl'ln~s ~j I"U"C. TfUll:irlJg abeur OUI.' pas:t and presenr, 1\Jbout those RQ ~~~"Q-:g.ood"," LQI~k~l1;g' girls In IreUege. AbOUlt the porn we used tQI 'waJ~h on Q.~J com purer, ,Abt})w:r fjilU; eX;tH~.D{~eniJ$S, abl'.b.ad ~]]d maffll]t ~~lle:l: :lthhlgS.

'~~So w.hich one dId y01J;~ Jjk~ more, EUNj!'P~' o;t dll; s.~re"'~t~ :HtJ)py a,,;;;l::::ed nl~~, geil:dng up.

"Europe, ~~ I ,f'epJ.~itd.j ;smin lying' aowiilJ ~tld l'Qo~iWilg alt ·the rcf;;~]jll.1.g,.

"'l1<l':.r11 ~;' A. ,j ,1;:, -

W't1Y:" ,nl['l~.t~le~p ,ilJ1f,ied. He·:;.'~.1~!ys iZLeeded ~(~'filld·,olut d1J~ 1'~mJ~OXlJ

behin,~ ,evreryrhj t1r@;' (d10~]l~, he IteV~1"' ~g;l~e ,~:U1.~J' reason for IlQI 11f',i,~fng us

where be '\Vent e'~ry .~ul])daJ1) du.ring' Qo~U' hrincl, d~y'S). .

~~E A ~" -~h 1 cl -

, urope .Y1~. ,i!]j, Olltil'[Oty. "JJ;" If: ~~1lig~,fI;Wts .. l:llJl1ige when :fClU l~a'Y~ one

,01.'1 Llif(J{ and move to ~n,odther .. The fOdd, rh:~ art ,and. i~u-,cfuitect~~f.C~ .. ri1bui'~:HW~rub]iiC sransperr, rhe scenic ,bea;uty; :e~'fytl~~lg).1S iU~t"itVOnderful ,I n Euro'p!65, jj l fried to ,explain"

~y{tiiU did l:I~Drt see all ilii8, in the USf'

"Some tbjJ.lgi5~ 1il~J:' pu:bJic trsnsport, tiJ[re .m,~t that good in compa risou [0 Europe. ¥ocu and yeflu r (;;8J r are the only qpd9fiS in. most of the: u~ tJt..::S"l' New Y.ijck b@~l!,g an exception. yo~~ W(liIDl:'it he~r as ltll,any hUlguages as yo,u gel. D:Q hes.r in Europe. I mean th~ US is dam,n, :~d'lJ!.a:nc:ed b U[ still, I \'"CHd~ p:r'~fe;[' ,Eur.~f e '[0 the Su:te;s. ~~

Am:ardee P' nodded a~d ~hjs [iJJl¢~nt h~s quesrions h,3J£Ii e[~~cl,

t< This ]3 the best llbwng' abeut IT ji[)bl5~ Am:arJ~, \"we ~t '[.0 Vl'S]1t difJitnernt p,J~ct.Sl which we ~evc{' d rea me c,f ,duri!t':IJ8' our oone,g,e dilJ:ysl ~~ M P' said to ~arde~p", ,AFt·tr c(l[1ege M~ t-Iapp', and I jO[UCO ]']' fitm~> while J!ifrt3:1fdee:jp joined rhe :L(plO jndlILt5H}". He h;;]d. never Hkcd the hardcore .sof~[e b1L!sll~esS.

'We were ,~lad t'O be p~,~her :illg;~~n" ~naUJ~ afte"l the. far~wd[ ,nJgbt i]!;l ooneg,e ~u~d \~~ 1'\(ptr 'traJIri~n,g' tdI.' ]W1Lll'S thar af~rnool"J!. w~ ~[C .platm i,bg an outing Foj[' tb€ evening when we realized how tired. ''We 'were and I'~ ow badly we noodled a 1 ~'tt~e res!;.... I den'r, rememb er 'which one of t:IS re:~~I, asleep F]rSl~ dl~;r; afier.ooot;r,

"~'\Xl~k:e up, yuu asses, I ~s=: alrt~r 6;_30" jj

Som,¢;:o.n~ ~~ stttr'll1gg~h:))g [0 ,gelt ~~S' OUt fJr;om tH;,U- UW pi a oJ cl:ream~ In. the bo~~t Am~'~ [deep W;;tS '~he first aJj.r:~~)ng us tc 'wake u,P ailltt,~ ~f ~;()'u rse, the ,p n~,y on¢. w Nw~ke UIp ~)i(h:e~. So Wfj knew that i..- wa~ ,fJiur eady,mQn:d~ ~Ama! rdecp,

~ . ~~ ,

Sd.U, ,bo,w em, $Omel:md:y d'lumping "YOllI dCFIl)[ to EFZit yd~v ~ll~r t)i bed be pl,eaJs;anit? We ,hUru,1Ul bdngs h,;tV1f such :iIJ, weird narure ,_ \-vltu],e ~leep 'we bare the pel'SOll 'wbo is t\ryi~1Jg.!to '~¥ us UJPh ~ur once: we are ~Wi'llkel we 'tend to ltrve ~hat same p,e~Ot1· beeause he d.id the lii~h[" [bing'" i~

~.

"

wU,at Amaro.ee<p was sucoesslul j 0 his elld~a.1i,'Ur. IE~:s 1.::0'0 in, [he evening,

'This; '-~S. the nut time Al't-iranjeep and M'P hRlcl\ come to rht: dty~ :5"0 we dedcl!ted. (.0 .eXpIOf!ll:· the .streers of !.CQLI~~,ra .. Porltu~atdy 'DUr: host p ossessed r"l,iVo bikes - .h is own Pulsar .3]n& his YCHJng,er bt:(j'(-her"s ~~]en~of. '~f;~ gqrt !eatEy and. 'pulled out Ehefbil~\5 foo.fll1. tJa·c garag,e, Mf 3J1d.l g.o'r 00 the. Sp.~efid(.~.tl' r~Ea,p'p¥ and j\J.n;ardeep on the Pulsar,

We crossed the :dveJr Hoogli, over rile' Vidya Sagar Setu, SbOtili~iing.fiJ[i!d ml:k~i og Jto eQ'ch other. Speed-breakers ttOLud.n~t b((;3.k: our speed :rb.ax. ,tv.~ning·. And \~~l~re we're we? On clcud munber nhre. Being. with yo~~ best b~iddies. ~frel ,gyCh:llong 'tinl,e is, ·ad! once} ·g;e:otLm,B'n;[{~j ~:l;Yd thl'iUing.

We went to the 'Vi,(;toria ~1'emo.dal, iill1d few o'rbc::t places, At times, 'we gorL down "(0 ha.~'f;; some trtlirajuice'" A( times, "We h(dJhed 'r(y enjoy

(

:KoJ u!~a'ls f~Jno~:s. s~iks' and ,~~t~. At ti mes!, we ~f '~O\~,tiI: b~CaJllfse

one p f us wanted ~t0, pee - whk:h iru[~ aJJL~d a chain- reacriorr a.il'lGll:g: the rest of U5.

We were at some place, enjoying ice-rea ]]1 0J1], earthen G::t.I,P,. when :\4J? asked~ ~~ When (].Q we-need to get b-.a,ck :b,Q,[1']ef! ~ I[ wa~'aJre3J111 0::.)0.

~~N,o worries, I ,have· the keys Eo r ih,e flax up5:m.irs. We tJU ~ ,'~nJ(

,

tinil ,e: we want, Ho,eruUy; 'We will ,tUilit mo~~ :1 i:lI. bcfbrfl", I ~~OO ~ ~~ H1tppy

$a id:l finjshin:g .hi~ ice-tea down to '~ba.l;l]J.s:r d fOp.,

~~1\nd where are we lo,Jng to 'be tDU, 'ib.,en t' Jim,a rdeep was coneerned, ,AJ1rl!:a+d~~p "fIJnd, hls ~.l ~OO IPM: dl~e:['.iag dnl~ I f!el11em:b;tl~d~ bliL'[ dtddlt ;b,r,j og ,it TO rrhe othe.rs' notice.

Plruppy .~J}~,kcd. at me and as]~ed wirth a smile, ~ShalI we g'o t,O rhe

• , ,'I, ,h

;~:;:un.e ,PJ!.;1ce.

~~'Obt Thar 'One" .. t" B~f~,[e MP~ dirt~r bl'ain~cd.b ~u["d~~t~n 'rhi nk~.ijg somedl&ag fJldlYJ t tried l~ clear rhe p ktul'e., ilj'G,er.u]enle.l!l! 'We d!,[-e :go~,og ro it V€1;{ cool place. nOWl' and 'I b~t beth of fO!L1. will ,f) nd it."" ~il

I was trying, re finis11 when MP became ,i mparienr and, cut :r.rl.e a fEl!'

.. Oh yes. li heard that 'Ch.:a,[bd.t'4'i!JijJ:qkli.j WBlS frolll We$.~ BengJ ~., So, are we. glly~ F hamning to" .. (~ Hi~ wick~d '~m]h~ and na,l(_ugh,ty',e:~rt:$' com pleted the' CJ, uestion,

"'¥OJ-lJ;:"c nuts, ~3 'Happy ~i3!.].d.~ laughing ..

"Dent [bifik roo. mu,ch~, MP. Just" .foUOiVli us," I 3J,&d,ed.

. Without reveali Ilg' ~ny more, 'we were b:.<lJ,:k (~~1 ou [" b~keB, dri v]n~ [0 our destination,

It wasn~t yet nljd~]:ght when ·we·[e~cbed [he..pl[.u~e., The air here W.;18 ;~ ,~~ u~c colder, Ar 6r~·q: glanCe ~I~ 109be_d as if we "Were j n the sl(~~n~, Then;' 'vas' Ol rtlJlli-.do~Y~!ll garag,e whj~h was shucrered, Some 'E1':udiS, were pad~~d :IJwts,id:.e;, Their drive1iS" 'Were- piT"obablJl 's]e~plilJg. 'lie p~ (ked, O:Uf bJkts heside one (ff the trucks ~w~& \V;a~,k,ecl, da t€tt~,gh a. small :S rreer '[0 rhe dgJu: of' rhe gar,a,ge" The plaee 'W!.~ h!1idly lit.snd une,rly s;len:[; 9Uf vtb~C['.S: and fOQtncps .rtJJg out ]Dudl}{ 'The M):Y nib: of insects added il'iQ' the: eednc~ t.)f the place, hlP heard a pack of dogs b,arklng SOrm(whcre nearby. ] don't .know ifhe ,!l'e~~i r he,ud them though.' Ma:yb~' JX was j U'S1t his plOOF h.t;·::!;,rt ~ b eari l1g lo lI:~.y;

~ S11hh _ Tn.~y "vin w:~b u'p~ ~1 ,sa~ d H~prY 'widl 'a '~1i11gier 'On ,his ~jp5. ~ r,.;'Who?·;j, Amsrdeep whlsp~C!d.

~~ Tbere ,atc, fH:;op4e sJeepil1:~ on ij"U!c; gu)u.md 'ahead, Wa~c]1 '~IJi,r $'te.p~ Ill' I~l.ap py .~~.id_

"Peoplel S~,e~p]ng on the 1"Oad.?1~ kna,[ldet-'p;~dQwed ,ZlD·Wli. They' 'were local fi~Jier.rnert" Som,e were Sh::e.[)lpg a;fIDd some were hu~g,":Qvt:r h'~om, home-made I ~ q;lJeUL,.

S !lddet!lly~ 'rn;e sceeer e.nd~.d in -, "EI: '\~(i iO de]] a.hanNLd. This \~-1',~~ a st~~,J&.as~t~ l ike structure ig.,o-biIJg ,clCn"llii";, and we C'~uhl ke~:u a duH s.~undJnn~ rhar @,f: water heJJri1t_g' a;g~j'nst· ~h.e shore'. W'e $cepped, on iLhj$ ldl;l!innd h;:a:~ .. ji],g

,

behind the j nscct-sonnds.

In a few seeoads; we' were :at OIl[' ~d:es,~h'i;a'~i:c"-o;

l'

IE Wi4S, '!tfu,e river Hcogli, and We were sra OC'td]ug :JJ:E its bar" Am,a:[deep'~s 3,1'H::1 ~iPs fear ~,LI Hied. into ddjght,

'L< Thi s is the UtlU1JdJ GJDl0HI' and, Erughr now~ we are in Howra.k This is ~~je poin t fr,!D m \\I,hen;: the ferty' i~keS" ¥OIU to ['he orher side: Ka]bt{f ci EYJ" Happy announced, POBjlrt:inrg across rhe ri ver,

In (i'(ir (:~ciJt;erneni~ we jumped onto the wooden h~.rbor~l~ke'jn:Yr.:nH'e'l' [l'om t~he cl'lluand. S (u ~G u.U:1.di.ng t~.is. !~~fbuF ('U Ihree ~~hlle~ ~S' rI:H~' l':lilW€f. in j ~St .r t'!rfe.et VI,eh}cI, ty, tIT" was' a. 'beilJ.ui~'j!§;Ld nJghi~ 'Vi,~ I.h the moon ,o,veri"ie"ad arid rhe stars sIki ning bF.igh'~. ,J\Jnd. beneath '[hj~ s.ky~ the f,'oUf ()(( u~.!'

w~, sat ,d,QI'iI'i/;Jli oesid(e one of ~ITle ghilJ11.[ aaehers in a corner of d~Cl:' h~~'!bot: Th~ r~viltr_1L',ml,ded ~Ugail15t: tt~]I~"(Q6[ breeze to meet the Ba, ofBenpt l[[f tbe. sileuce, rhesound .of W~,t;er h.i:tti~g cl1e harbor w~s £:.:fys'>t'al de,ifIi.li'" b n t~ l c other side ,of the ·f~.cver was K9.n(~rn. The, tall buikli.ng'S and, rhe dl<ij n o,f "[ifly~ Y'Q:ao'w 1.[gh~_s; rem inded me of [he 'New ''i£OIf,k: ~ky~me. BUi!: [hl~ "YI-;:l~:5 rn:~~ch b erter, j ust because I was 'with my ff~el1l.d~~ now,

" 'Wil~h G Ul~ ~trn-,,'5 wjde' lo,ple~! We bt'-e~uh,ed ,deep ao~l JO"il,gJ ,~nh;~~i[D"g rhe ftc:sh., d1iU" ah'l ~dm jnl[Cfxic~:6ed hr rhe beaui!:}" of fhlg< phlOe-, 'Th,a\'~ l-Ya$

r ,

when H apWiY spoke up.

~~.so ~~~ he ,a;s'k~d! ioolk~:m; 3Jt ,Anl~"rcl;eep.

OL\Vn;itt?L1 J\il"~n1Jee:p asked in r.er.tlnl~ not uodefs:'[anduinf~ H,~,p:rY~:s

~~Q 1 .- ,IL· i ..I' -'~~

<ju., )O'li,!;,r, I~ nus p,l~C~ t:uallUfHti

'*Oh~ 'Tl~j,$ !l1~,aJ_oo? .I cannot think of~, better place l'han lth]$. Thi~ is

~I .:11

nerJ"Y'tlll "

And, then, again, a coo] b\l ... eeze blew~ '€:L']1,bra,(lng U~L. We ~a;t"cl6:w!OC all: the harbor,

Thar 'l.~as 'WJl en the disc l1SS]O"n g,t;a rted, ,A serio I!:fe d iseussi Ci'lIl; a

discussion d1L1llIT, ~h~,ngod. my Ufe: .. h: star ted wir,~l an .. @dtc'r .~~ Set.

"So]" Ml~rdee'p 'asm::d r])!,t'l f"jrmt~, InQ,jfing .ffii!: Hl]~'p¥. ~''X;b~ a~~ Happy ~sl\red,~ f~j~ins ~h is thim.

"'"Wh:ae~, the next lrupertanc rh.i[]]~~f~ ,4j'fLl;;JJEdeep asked, .~ You, mean d i nniC:r'~ ~~ M,P jumped LrL

~'N of) i ]: ,aldan, the next iraporran [_ ehi t<J.g I n ,~i fe. S~h.oolit1,g ~, d(li,i.1l eo. &~gineedng -,cion .. e. G etr,~ ~g, a, good je b - done Goi,rr.tg, abroad - done. B ank balance - j n P,rt)g[l~ts. 'WhaT'Is tIl,€ n:,e~l: mi I esrone? ~

'":Ah! I t.now whar yo.u;re ltralkiQ_g ~;bgl1]E~'" H;aPiPY .ltodd~d. ~Ask him, ~ h e ~';;ijd ~ ,p04n:titlg his already r<'l!-u.s~r:;:d ddn rowards me.

Evoryon~ looked ;:U me,

"I do\n~~ kpow wh,als ~~il!J.g on in yo~]r Ufe and ful1.'1.i'~1 b Ltr my mO[ifl and d~~d ~~W ~go,h~g CE@lZY.' Tb~r<'.[1e airt[ me ]ike 'fOU wO.Jd.dn~rt: btliewe. Donr I III a l~c a good bachelor?" ], ~a id.

r , The 8f.W'-Y G.~ the same eVel'ywJle,tt'e~ w~ POQf bdCheJo!l:';s~" 1\4 P s ;;'l~d

r rying [a be fiulDY;.

'~I :tttrt seri.ous, MP/' Am~ f(1eep sa [d.

"'56, ba~ y'Q'fl or yntu~ f~mHy ,a:~ &Q m e ~h ~Illgt"" li asleed 11 e in"

cl No. My 1Hn~y is ]\:~t"la~G YOIlL:r'S:. Efi!:~'r :rr1~e f.~~ is' t.brartll one d~y; VV(! II have ro -.set~~le ,~JQwu. -willrh a l:~,t~.,a~H:I~~T. ,E-IOOi\q.- RC!iHg can we ~gl1! ore OUJi.' p3:1'e.~HS"; q'll~t~ons~ They too hlli~' expfA:,t;3Jil.tio,n~; wishes atl(~ .ate1!;ms Eoiii'

~

us ..

"' r ki ~()W w':hat rcr!1U mean !itJna;dJe~p., B~lt aJie r~u toally r,~,d'Y' to s pend yo IlU' wbole H~: W~dl someoner I m t:at!i,~ in our fouf' Jt::lI r;s at th"(! b08reJ '. there w\~t,e: ~o man y rimes '~liiih.en WIi;: had !fill adjust with each nthtr.". This one ",,,,'U! be fOf ~. Hferim,e,'"'.Happy s@Jjd.

'~But~ soeuer o.r later, w,/! ba~ to do rJlis" dghtt) Ml~rdeep asked, ~'\"V'hat if we just car-EY en a~:e w,ar 'we a:Jre'?" b/fP said,

~ ..

~ Then. i ma.ginc rm .. uself at rhe a'glt· ~)f 60~ Uvlling alone . Life isn't that e'flsy), f.rl~l' frie.lid.. h~ a j.ou.rne}~ . .And the be-sf w-ay to eomplere it hi. with a n f~-pat"t:[uet/~ Ama:rcieep said.

Thar tll.fighf l on the bank Qf ehe .ri~-'er~ rhefoul"" of us discussed th us is'S ue serio WJ.yl fOr'the nl\'j( tirne .. Mitt.ybe iit '~$ dl( nut rime we :fdt 'we were mature enough to uJk aO;6.u,t i'E~ So m any quesrions, .i &: :;tFi·d buts WeIDe raised and a1j~\t~L,~d between L]S. $er.. tnany 'views wf'te b~·Qu.ghlt: in and debarnd.. None of-u.s, was agn~J~t marri~.g~ bur we; wanted eo ,eXr~ I uate its, bendits... Ahl8Jr.'c!cep and I were quire oQ1.llvinQedl ~:b?,lLl[ the m;ltd'a_ge thiflJg. And this di,')Gu$s1afi made HapP¥ a.nd' M:P tbink abDut the mateer quite Slel'ious]y) f:\l\ert if it clidn"r convince rhem, (Which reminds H"U; of a slo gain, .1 lead on a T~~h i~t: lfJ'e~1;_ can't CO'Kiflltn.'c:t ht:.~ j,1;1;St confilS( ·her.ryr

~~ But then, ether tbwn:gs COme into [he p£C~[1 re. Love m,a.rr~:agt Q~ ~ti'rnl"lJg'e.d[ ilTI"B:1i.!'b.ge? Parents' choke or ours?" Ha .. ppy :s~jd.

"Now, '~h~t\~ a personal choice, BUi!:: given rh at· we ~ r~ lnd ependenr, I do,rn~'e 'rhhak our pareJl[s wii I. 0-bj«~ to our decision," Amardeep said.

Hap py kepr mum h~{:rrh~gd~];s.

~~ButA1nrur-dee.tJ~J©{)k.~if"Out ij,ves;, AJl ofus :0!teN.O·u:]]. Ifi&a.,1~ wodcing in .fir· .... awSir stares, The chance 'of HfiJdimg a ~0~ll:~.rn:ati~'~ in, fili$ c~~) ~~ quite ~~im .•. Mor-eo1VeI:l(. the .... ki~nJdS'-~f Jobs we n,a'\lit ,do:ulrgive Us d:~~e time eo h:lh':1"~i:t with differen,r ~'I!I~;p~e: .N']J,d. albovec>al.1 ~ none of us would J i~(; ro .mar!]l a gj.r:l chosen by Q~.U" pareJ.'u'$.; .ifI ;am"'oo,t wfon;g),~j, MP salrl,

~ I do n't know jf your last st~t"ement 1S valid Or nor, but the, resr is in you.[ b~,ods~» }\Kmud:eep fepl~ed.,

~~13u.t M'P' has .a point, lr:l"!luy case, I ~u]d. t]l~e [0 ptlJ:;i:tt_1{~, girl'of Iny choice, butfor the :~a~t ,o~1f,e year'n \\~ a.b'.[ca.d. and I d®~1~'rr It(Uow if .. in d~tie m~at couple of ~8iJ"S~ l'wiH be- in In (H,~, GfW'C'fl rhis .lfact] e I: Is qui()e .h~rd. .tOt me to lV,Ol1R- en QiJY marriage 'pb~[;i,,, }\n.d fO,.D' a person 1jke -me i'E~ .i rnpo;ssible to .5letd:E:, down with ~nYl~j.d. wl:~)Q is not Indian. FO.l·~t Indian,

she fu,a;s ;[0 be ~], Punj abi first 'of. all, ~ I said,

~~11'Ow (Htt you app1, feu' your job tJ(;c Info$;~~~' Amardeep asked, digressing [['0111, the ropk.

l answered, iii-rh~'OllPh some jqb~Vi1eb:si,te. i~

<. ,:0

"And :Happy; h6~ dud j~n14 ttr,an~ ·e.r money fr::0.m I....o,ndbn. to y(}.~~.[

parents?"

c'ThrolLugh rnyinterner ba.nJci.ll]g~ccm.!l.n'[. J~~s !CJJu]~ef<ls[) »he answered, "''S~e? The world is becoming incemet -1]a;'V\1.f~ l\rtd, giviltn Ibe facE that we all alit: rr .gmdftlates; 'ifruo are on the net ahn,osrt eve!l::yday;. why can't we use- rhis for' dre:lnarEi-0Jge thing [OO~~t;

"Allt': ._YOU '~~khtg about matrimonial ·weh:dtcs. like ShaJ.adj.('~m?» Happy asbd~

<'(Me tiley l'eru1Jy' !J~fll1l.~~ I dan'[[ th U 11k $0," M P p!...1. E £r.)(wa,ni b:~~ v.ew. '~To know jf a dish is ~ef OF salt:y; you ha:ve to taste it firsr, That's rhe Q.[Iiy w~f '[0 know th i ng,s. for sure) j! Am~lJideep answered,

~··OF belt('e.r yirr:y as-k ;;! .. person '",vh& hacs ~lr~(ld1' tasted k 'Wt1iy' rake ;$.

Ch@!fKe?l~ ·H,a·r;·~y ~:(1!i~'l\ ·rr.ryiQg·OO :[nal~e i.uI,:lIjugh~

"So Raamji, are you, {In any such w~hsirit,l -aslred. ~N:o r yet. Bt,ut Cn:l tb.inking 'Of j r. " . ~

When :!WI:, dld not ~a:~t m1th~~111'~ hoc' ~laimoo, "The best 'rhin,g about. t h~ s service is tha,t y,'!))u can go thro:um"l :!jiG many p~ofile8, w~d)olhJj'~ lea~ng y(~ t! r d~sk.. The 1il~efs ;are;good, enough.en pr.-ovide "y:Gl1.suira~]¢ maecbes And, you C;lltl interacr wi~h ~he ptrcSiOJU wbo interest )'DUt. . . .E.\I'ecy(la.i~1lg i S ~o syst-trna ~k; .. i\bovc a]~ ~ you. dO[I]j~1 nreed. IIfO~worir ab 0 III ( YOUI phy:sJa]

I . ~~

oCiU'[On •....

luna:rdeep· u113,£1,e some '~H~J;lirl.ufi.[s.~ whidl is proh,.tbJy 'lJ¥l]r'i-~ dkh(t:

II.: ve much to d.e;b'aL~,}il!bo~.L

· H mm . .. \'1dL. 1 dl]~1i[' kn: ,~ if [bis. thin.g is goi.n g, t,o work, but it is wa.nh gi~ ing a try. \"(fbo knows. .. r!; Even M.P "i.V'M convinced.

1 r was 1 = 30 AM. 0 ur ~nlpt~t stomachs rem i nded ou (' br~ ~ ns of .h.dt exisrence,

Arnardoep.said1 "It's quite late and I'm.damn htlngr}~, Let's ~t home."

An,d he sto od up S El'e[chlng his back,

"So who's the fhs( nnc?~' ,~:P asked ~ hi~t: 'Vie aU were dusting. our clothes.

"The firsr one eo marry? O~' fjrst one (0 ,rn,ake lr.11_s pit'o6~e on the we!br$ie.-?j(" H~pPJ~' asked, .lau.b~lng.

('B 1 1

o [If;l.

~] th.ink [his guy;" ,H~ppy pointed b~~ finger a' me, I dealt ]:{O(lW

w~ .

It was pro'b..ably 4::0'0 Mil?y rhe time '1~,1'~ had di!'1n~r and ,step,t . .J~di; after a long rime, we enjr)ye.d d:lJe kind ,~)f si.eeF . we used '::0 enjoy in C'W' hostel. T]laot day 'b xame one of the mosrmemorable days i~ 'our live~.

"Wle, spenrr, the next: da:rvi.~idng some Qf'rrh~. besr hiUlgouts in Kolkata, And we went again to the Launch Gha[} f'l the evening to ride 'the renry to (he orr~ler. s~de of file ·city. MUll believe refirE. me, being on rhe fefry was no less. amazing than boardlng the l1mni,c; ill ] '91.2. Being w~th 'your best fri'en& is. s~ttr:lplrwonderfu.l. We ate, d:raJ)&, talked and enjoyed CO the .fuUes E" ar a P u 6 ca]led. Som~ Place Else.

That Wa.5 rhe fast night of-r..he reunion trip.

AILduOt: of them C:H1.1e to dlrop me at How,r~:b Station and, once ~]gain the f:o ur of us .. hUgg~i j usr H.ke, we hed at H yderabsd Searion, on lhe l~s. t. d1\y of co]tege.

12

.... \'('\10IS going 'rp <;:fY fjr.s~?'§ MP asked. Bu~[ all of us 1aLLghed at rhar 't~upjd. and senti q.uesl'on ...

The train eJl10d me with in 6nal wh.~de. 1 got into [be carriage SiIl:d f'Iofood at the cloor, waving .[41 them 'aU as the rraiu ~ eft '[he platform. I l eached "Bhub~mes.~ ~he' next JndIo~r!Jg. e- 'har same morning, Amardeep .L t d l\-UJ boarded flights back to ·th(~~ r .r.espec~~ ve places. Soc . .o af~er~~Iar.dsJl

Happy also flew back [0 London,

TI!.~ee\ we~~ h:ilU'i J was in m,v

__.. "}.. ~

·ofn~~, jiti~t iwl~ on. aJ~}'fu ~th:~r. we~<~~,' :l-~~ c~~~ng o~.t~tb'¢ '·~h.9t~$r

dian: ~ h.ad 5~ot {;llt~~ d~ dtft~Frg Hie ,i:W~~ni/a~ :t~ip'. l:f:e e~aiJ&i rhem

I ,_Ii oiL '~I r J L:' J .' ~v':L, 'I .' '!::: I . ". 3'"",.::1'

.tGi us; nl¢.~ wh:iJi~~, i was fiQ.!mmg at r :n~m~· fn nl~' l:a~JD~: .t;Qb~,·X;j )lJOtJi~'

. 'h

an ad '~,ashi ng),ri~'t~~ J@p~ldl corner,

1 t \~& an ad fur a m at~im(j\~bj. si~:e~ - SJniadi ;Q@m. .,- wUh; ~ bea,ututul

. . .:... ..

. '[ '. '1'''1 ~o&' \: ;4~i- : m.:' E' h 1:;, .,ik

WI'- j,.~mJ..lnl'~Q':~!Ji',iOO'~~Dg !lQf ,_'~CTp:el'rt:t~ m:UfUl.

. . " ." r ..

D·;;' ~ i"" , "Jit.. 'I ;1- ..;:k~J1: ~!; 'L ~fi <. I'" it h 'h~:t.,;.J

~C'al, ;~~IQmr!'reni:1l~rn QtlEU.$'~~6~ ,,~!1.tiK9:!;![;l:e' .Il~1~pe'rilj~~l~ 9» t '~aitl~

~ ~ilfia~ [@pl.,.me 'WO t'lt~ 'we;~i'~::, W,~'~h.'r1w@' ~:~~,ltfllttr:9',ellab[~,d.~ I t;Jjck¢d

I'W ~:. " , 'h

i?H{!~ ~·t~"a['dl blV(o"h .~ ~\ Ijll, illo',/~hn.e] 1 was en. t'~e/r~ujt~pva~e' wiilIij ,mal),V-

'>.! ~ "",;:'" '''\ !~~ .. .. '":}' ' :;:::0: . b . <.J~

~m~njn~. pi:!tMsi>,",~W~~ $p.nr~ :amJoo,g rheJ'ft ;wrem.'.d~n'Ul .pt,~~, :and t

. 'W~W[~ ro~df'~~~them, ~J] but'. 'Bbt, h;e.:..fur,'e' I oou~ VJs1r the, ~ ,O'ne' I W~

"-;,. .;.."' ~ .. ~ .:

'n:fo:tqT!)ted fo' .t'~pi·,~tt::~',at 'tlae: weooite~, '\Yitliput~;lbkB j~·cQJ.la~~t hro~e>

r. r-; ... ~(Q... .. ..

:~ -=-,t$ ,i!':.~]' TJ ~'1! v - .. ,jJl - ..:;'1.:- . ~ •. - L J

:-.it':l1ffiU,gr.. ,miGfe.A'p'I"Olil S~,' re .l!:AAuer '~t oivs,r !'U]1;.:il1 to w.a~!.;;I,i.> toe" WHO' if:

,1:nOW[~:ro.lli.lIa~ to r~g~ret:: ~Otli~]~~

o _

, '1 ~d~dnk\:ha,f€' ,I,ucutli ~fir~:d:]a~. QQw; s0~ I IrFFlrOt,l!-~t ,~d ,.rer ,mrseU;

... (.---yo, ,~:: i5!11 .. .

a!n&cr€a'~'m'w: 'Ifi.'[ofile ir;)\tl the~:5it¢. 00( ~hk~,i~ wba.'~T'M@<n~Sia\vjn0.I~O ~Ha,p'pi'!?~

$ r < -, • ',.. IiJ' ,;r ",,~ ,,_';"

.&a~d\~ep,;ifJ!cl, ,M:11 WBerea~, j.trtw~~~~uaUt dir! bme:f.way ,rol!'o,~. T1¥QHh

" . ,~f . . .

prer ~W· &GeJS Qn· die~ results pa~. fO'];C~ ~~erTo .. nlacU,e,,· d'fu,j!' ~~1. ,m.Y~,lie€[~c.·

~.'b~dt~~ ~ \~b~d~ trric~0,1vriJ .E~oj~ct ~~llve~ 1~ ,:( ~Ij~erit:" -ti)e \¥'e~y_ 'tL~r

l' ....

t~~ _

. .. / =,_'1". . :::if '10) (1 a1 ~ . .

S:Orne~ri~e r~,glIrI~',saia ~1m~{li:e€ Ill\i$='w¢ru:=mr 'JtViQim,etl anu,,·~, '( " " " : wa""

~~«et' rWe' '~~(J o'ite) L<, •• ,.' c~m.il,~ ,a~.iqgJm,~'p~e.ll 11]. ifl~s' w~[ld.,~~·

,:I< ", , '-c '" i:, I~,;I' r:, 'ld~d a,. nice '£0. ~fiJ.sru~Uy~ fll~' .1',[0:;11 ~~ 'l~~ik5 'illw.!! tl.:rue. we~s;~~. l '~P . Oil .. ' , ","

phDtQgtat~:Ji and' 'aR~~ a/ny' e.&,et~Qk. w,hi6h <{l>~e~ '[0 lWd:e, ~)'~ , , :L~' ,:>],: ~~ .. ': _~ '~""A ~ ;Qi~;.-I:~ vJ\~~ m~~'~ 'Ih~' !5'¢a[:cl1i,n~l®?t me~ I IDahoi:fl!~g~t~

\!'\~i,iLiere<',liUiiJll'''~ iI:~.I:~""~ 'b'" 1.11:>,," . i!i,ai.w - . W"JJ ~ i!:i'

'~0~1~'j ~ n'~~d'h ni:v ptofcSsld.fi~. :u~ p.s. t~. ~he' U~; ~~ld. :l?u~',pd~~~be,~; )\frer

~.U /. _.Ii_"" .II? l~ .' .. Iv

~Ii)iotlrm:'~~ 'I"'~',~II:ii' (~,..chI.i'!k OtiC d~~' ..• re~!i ~~~( :a§llilil.bij!'. ~,y~" 6~:wrs :~ ~ck'~e'k, a,ttl alhra¢ ":f:l~~ jibj~, gkl~ ~n, nl:~ wd~~~r'€ a;o,(i i~] r. .~llil~

.Il~I~.. ~ I I ...

. \ . ..,}. .

H&eiiu:cl#.' hl!1'ft.cHl."

Th&«l(u16 'Jlage-,d!s~'WoJ oolne? q'ip,~undj9',c.. rJ;i"j~ ~umhu.

c-, <ir""'I'l':~ ;It, .. ~[ ........ ' ... ,"'. ·~:IL ... !li n.J.t~se~ c1Eiterht: Th~s.<\-~ ~iti~g:! B.,u,iif. ,[

0.( pr!l;}[] ~..:!, :L'Fhl.. ~',U I:I!!~Ql"",(lj Ul'l.' _. '.', .

~"iIlid ~~~ ~<1dt .~~~ m~~ nt.y~~fmmnbe£ljm "'~Y'~ ~Tw fi.red,

$,ri,!:i1 {tmong:~.!~bo"S,¢ ,Af~ '0,[' roj cdl'€'~e were, :'a.~ few" 'whe;~ f w~n'1ted, [Q.

wn:~~t. :Butbe~tI:.e t"~H,~.t(tdo; SO~ xQ.el\e C~le'aJ1:~afrbt~a~~g,:rnp[n,em.· ~ro. t#ktroJh~Q~~: R,re~[r 'u~,E®'] ]l~_; :~p':m;~ke ~~1£n,'~nt·'[o, the ~jte., Tll~r~

Apan: friO m Happy, AJmn:ameep rind M R nobody dse kue'W alOOur my

fO!rl::_ On til sw~e~ nOt eveDl Y 'piI~en:[-.ecaUi e rdUn','1 rh m rl at W

\VaS rhin~nl of Fr.tif:ill .~_d~d meall[-['-r,["'ng hOlF.IJet'S ne r, Th

_ omenr [hey fOlUlI_ eut, h~y wO'iIldd bring inpluu: feam 1teiir tqll . m ntanc II oce th~ 1 ~U1 [- - em I J~-5~ . How I h ~f~d rb [!

For rhe 1)~Xi[ f.ew do, .)'~, i Bot responses !rfO ~y r,cql1l1e5U:' ~vtlY dme I

op n d m in box: [heIIC '. " '. rhl . _. G ' . i'fI [Delle. WI 'I ""C" •. ' r of 1111

In -- e'~ ;t dj, Jd,-r ~ '!if [ong. Th~ . - ones ha 1 eel i ned. ~~ n faf.~ --est Gf th'em Ih~d, ignorroo me, Onl,y' a handful 9.(j'Ciept~d my re .. uesr bur.

s: II JL • d '0 I _II •• .rI. I • Th~ '. . d

hi III II null' ,1[ Jyl mer. J [l1.[1?,-.: ~_la!f UI nfl.,·. ~, , __ .. :U'~ ~s goo ,

for' nodiing'l " 1 ['0 d m,fsil£. AI ir was J raes 8.o~d nd L_ gtrh jn (h. world wouldllllIQW dt~Pl$!tlvlC!s at mel d. .. ' m-om:.Hill. pproac~ I rhem,

. d d~is is how Sha di .eem w'Cftt ~rom !ti,' b-pf.io'riJ~ w. the JoY{t'sr, ..

JtriC\l'~~. TIme passed Iby ~nd Iv" sl md the Ute once wn MO or wee wcebm• Idkki ng bl1uons on pll\o,flles dl- W~ terested m, i hUIlb ,; ehouc 1m u· h i~ecl'3f OD. Some mon: gi rls dJ . d i 11- d imcr. som, girls, I 1K,) i ned, A r~ ~nl«l (IJ in~e .' Clfml byr ' c,ir ~d·u.cal ~ on was mol: im.pf'Ci5jvt. - om]

I .. le - e. up'onmy,ce])'; alD ~O _td'w.ror~ r~SMSs. A.mup~.:ofmt:m ~r<:d, me: r~ mo~ ab,rood. hu'[ 'I was nOI pJili:i some o!tbC!iSj [ could

1\'0'( oonvlnoe (hat Ir d.i . .' f ,el. place ~ _ live in,

Duri,n. one of mysihDH) ofRci II(rips' [01 me US. I --jso h3pp. ned ro byy rhe reali" p1a lor a gid who bad~y 'WUl[eti w. r-affik 10 me. DalDn! .. ' ur ,of 'h~ d1tee Itmn r ,(Wftlth. women -n·,· .. .rh ,I, [; one'. kh I

~WJ)'I fClrg r) that eould m.ab 31al)d~"I, happen. il~l dli:S, worJd'I' me s~(_oifid w,- already ,0I1Iak:i1l,G, QlC' d'DI d~~n-s. l e buny !heinS' dl,1 the -jlitl \vh: rn I cough. d up 3{)OO '\i:"'~ [OJ .. never =or In wlJch. I Ion all iRfefe$[ in m '·wcbsj[C.

H.i I III Kh U~h[E I r '.: ived. lJIllr msp

1 'Ill my orher «lI ' UJ pIs ,eli! Me now'

i 1l.U WI. Ql.,})!'-1.006 f,,:' J8~ I 9" _ , ccUhnm - inbo~ dll h ' I he d;~ e- .c ,and. rime,

IIj, \I fl [I' .Jt··· S' I ~ 1'Ti,l"-'p'''"'n'''''''' wit.h ,3 . ient in the

'W 1. II II 1.oE' I:!fU .'.' ~ ,_ ~n· LII1IrC....... No..'" 11; ....

JS~ ] q uickny m~JL ell m n~,mc 0._ ,l'u:' prcn,~G! -.ro _ wh i. :h [ ha. G _ r -llLH't'prnnce Irh~ ~k b fOre ll~liIJB wh\h, the 100:ot ·til UlilJohilie number . ~d, 'll em,ail it J 'ro~~ D ',. '.'·'1 i_l_ ~,ply.

M· ., f . f~1

'. .111 moL· 0 a CiOlD. •

'~ ~ [~g you wn Modu::r W'n hlr.

I he vcrr' n~x' nllnlDfe'1 my cell fl.Hffiled tIU!' M,r"val of iii new n~, SJG,l.!'. m roo' .. cmpl.~,- my (ionfc

f~ min b __ ," U cmp~ert u· d

~. can wait tilt du:n.

J Ih~1I' A lish~fI . my .. U" I dtarued, h f" mwm '~r but only 3m ~ ~ had q,uj,cldy I~ll owsed thro,u,gh het, proGJe.

i •. ldlo! . ,aid rhe erh ~I ~[l: •.

!·lli! Th is ~~i Ravin. .

~ And ~: a I. Khushj ~ 'H ~hc ' __ lid ill ' ~ ~fU5 ~ DB: 'U _ rQollr..rJenr vol·:_ :_ • Y'up., learn [ fh~u: j n YO'Uf SM' '. . O£iTY I bp r you wal ti n b~u I w ' , n dl middle of an LDlpOrf nt eenference r.d[ wim, dlenr,"

i',; No probl en), Even I had some 5;[uf'f· to rom plete. "

, ,

(Jur conversation bega~1 form,a.lly bur, in no tlrne . .it becarne quire relaxed and !_lJ.fbi'm~1 when \'ireJoulld, our.some :;BlnUs~,fig rhings.

"I 1lCSJrn[ rJHH you Were DnFn. in the monrh ofFebtu,aty, ~,9',82," she said, 4'Ye~: 4r,n Fehru:.u'y., }\l:llydl.t tl;g,~ pecifld'~; I 'iil1rO'tid.e.r.,ed i (E' was sup posed i)~ recall ~om:er.hi.Lig.fro ill he. • .' profile. B~]t '{he ol1l1<}i'" ,rhlag I remem i)eted) then, WiltS that she lou ked bea,JutiFtul in her p·lcmre ,.

~'Yo u rrdght .It~1,ji'C' noticed Ih;lt 111}' year and. 111o.n ~'h of b~ rrh are rhe'

·'Oh yes! 22r>1i Februarj .... I had seen rhsr, H I uid,~ qU.kldy ru.~hiJ1g ro nly computer a 0& _'u.J"GHing dlfo u~h her IPtofl.le. ~l\nd )"Q'U were b Q,r.n in ,nLdd.abild ... ~~

III No .. I wasb C! rn In K.olkd.ta." My clad was in rhe defen:)c .s:.ervk'~ a n,d l when I was born, he Was poseed j n KoU{:Jj,ra and ~t:iiS sr.:1Ly,j ng d1L\et,r; wirh fiHuHy"~'

H R U > \j. .,;J b I· - ,~ ,. I'~ T i ~ .

. ". ea , r· . " ! .ou ~'on t .: ' e d eve [flkt .t sn outed, :attractJ.[lg mY' co-

workers' atrenrio 0.,

I:<tW.i' 'I. , , .. /;.',

WiL1~!l.~:::e

~YQlt gHes&f~ I said, hea.dlng to\V:a,rds, [.~~ stL1Jtff'-a~e ,a~e~.~ where I oo~.!Jld

tall<: [0 her \-v.i rhour disttu'b~.ng the :0 tfuers.,

~[Do,n,~t teH me yo U "Velie also ,born in" .. ;.)

But before she could corn f.}!!et~ her sentence, I ,sh(n'U.[ed8Jgaj_n~ ~'"¥es!,~ ""B ut, how· com etJ·

'~~Thaes' n"D:y ,mod.te:t's. native plaICe,. ~,

~A['1d I. do.n"t know why we screamed and la:l.:ugbed. at dd1ii f~,[.

Tho usands of people rn usr h~v€ been born in, the same year, the sarnt:' ,IU011th a,nd the $ihne ],,!ace .. gillfen. OUt countrys tt~ck.totoFd. Bu,[ dl~ \~:r' we reacted]

'·Yo [J know; there is oo£nething else' we have in com IUOn. - the. classical ruusie (!ling . .I learnt rhalI yo IJ1 ho1d ';]J degree in pJ.~.yin.g [h.e. sitar, ,;. I ~,.Ld..

"Yes, l\nd you ho~d. one in pJtJ.yimg rhe talita~ rimn ~ ~~

" r ndet: d. 1. learnc to P~,"ly ,j t £0.[ fOll[ yea.[ s. ln ,&cr ~ I ~lS never I! '1,1 t;f~rte(l ~ bur my dad ,fg.taed Jllil e to. " _ "

., '~$:rd l, yo 1:.1 l{[),Q:W what? Thas's t he en I,y reason why [ fel [ Jilte

. ;)

~ ~ 11l {an I.ng y,Cfc.i.

"Tm nor sure 1 understand, n .~ said $k~'W!.y.

''"The hobbv section in yO'kU." pro.f.ile said dl];at you phty [he ft~bltl.".

~ .

And VOUl' interest in classical rn usic was rhe om1y th.ing; [hat difFerel"JJci~Jted

v~ HI from rhe others and made me ke'] UI'l:'.e t~lbi~1i~ [0 you~ ~~ she da:ri.6ed,

Su rhae watS· i~~ A t~Jb,14 ~tm~kt:$ a gi.d, ',,~~nt to talk ,Q a ~uyl It was 1 f: n possible to understand gids,. but I felr like h ~.Hggj nrg _m,Y' .d~,J :l!.!li.d i I '1.1 ~ lk;.ng him feu fonci.ng me '00 learn the. tabla.

LI. EV'c::n. I go L my degree '0Jf[er 4 reus ~[ Prayaag "Universiry, A.nd"Vle 110 til. are in ;~b.E IT indusrrj,' she p ei nrr~cl. QUi[ more '~h~~ng15 we h-ad in

~ ·~.I'f!l:nn,O F.~.

l10il res!: You·worK wiih an I'I' cornpacyin Noida, if I' am nor Wf{l"n:gt' I asked, .. knowing rhatI wa~Jl";t wflon~. j\nd how could I be, when her ~ ~ I:Qrlle 'W~S in front of file?

I'Y~:Si 1 work wirh .,. 1~] me soraerhing, Mr· [dend~ S:1ll.y thait EhfQ£y.s

pc::ople a [t,;; s~u,dion;~s and, go. ad [ank-h~]d!~'t13,. [:8 that Iflil.e?)j '~Ar,e y!DU ·expecting me to '*cl,y Jnn:, ~[t du,t'r

She laughed..

That wa::s' III y H~st e:¥'e·_r c~lIn:did, rnlk wi rho a g,id i: h8Jdi'~ \ seen ~[. Om I hat call, ·we; ro uched b3i.:re. on v'<1Lrr.jO!JJS dling~.~ rr'be ,1.~.1tts;[ ,mb~.ititS 'li7W.e lt~tI. !}I~en, CfU~: b~s[ §r1end;S~, her Elril.:d]f~ rn) h.~~Hy) our 'QoUt::.S~' dayg.,. n1J.'IJ;Sii: ,t:nd other ~Te(!j:§ of interest.

• .oj·.So is yo ur family in Bh ubaneswar ro~):~

"No, my native place is a very small rown caned Burla; near

. Sambalpur, M·oU1 and dad live there, My brother ~,od I are ]n Bhuba neswsr, and 'we both 'IfVOrk. wi rh Info.sys. We st~.y in a ,r·en:ted Bar with two other roommares, and visit our' parents on alrernare weekends;, Burla is j U~ [" a nigh.t.s ride from Bbuhd:ne~r. n·

We ta&W for flea dram hour, I could feel my ad] phone hurning my ear, and. rhe cell's barrery was on irslasr legs And. even tho lLgh I wanted to keep {;;llUdng (0 her, I had to say~ "lj:§H~n! MY' :ba.ttel1' rns goi rtg in gtve' up SOOJl •. But i hope we: ate gc:iiil.g co stay' :~fl rouch,"

~ Your bau:eryt· she said, b.ugJ'rlinS ..

"l mean) my mobdcts. ~~ ]' St~ rted J a:ughin,g: too

'!'1Ju~t k[dd,ing. Burr ~. be,Hew; we'll ralk ;;'Ijg.a~,n. !~, Then she added, s u.d.deDJy~ "Bur before yo II hang liP~ you have 1[0 say one good thing.'l

'One good rh i ng? Now where on earth would. I fInd one good thing to ~ay~ 'Bet: I a watched a movie the day hefore and, tb~nJ.cin,g :gocl~ I repeated ';l line from it. v. BiJ,IJil ita; Silnfksh' bai It; k41 Ltfh'O,ttjitttn~ wdli gttll.f1; hft;ln RAIt(Jri pt f@t#Jf;~~ au~ ,"Itl jUlisi)'n se hathiy'fi.r·lthar£de,~g~" »

Then, J rook a deep br.e.:il,:~b<ll and waired .. ,. And .she burst ,i nto a big bUlgh.

J still think h: was a good li ne, Btu I dbn?r know what made her Jaugb, .A!~yho·w~, .I roo joined in her .Iaugluer; sc dlJ3.t ;she would nor think. me sntpi d or 14l1cking Q. sense of h um .. o r,

~~'OK! 1'0'11 bearing. rhe ftnaJ beeps fronl m r edt lit was really nice: talki ng to you, Khushi. BUll: w~ ~n't be able to tal k more, fhQugh r wan t to. ,iii

20

in reract ~ga:J 11. ; • ~ ~11.e: sai:d~ and touched my heart, somewhere, Her ,L n nocence and rhe cand1d way in. whIch she ral ked rc me bad [eft its mark on my m indo

~I C' '~~ I 'd'l!... .:« . 1: h ..

oee you, S,@IJ,· ! IlJC:LOIf'e' 11 Illr:lig Ill".

Thou nighr~ lying ,on my bed, I wenc' (Jv't:'j" rbe cenversarion t\!lgain and a~in" And '1 'w@,ndel':ed~ C~ u I.d I h a'vt been more humorous, just to impress her funhef? O'r W;lS rhe call ju:.'tt pe.rtec1rl, i~(: way h: should have he;en? And \VaS she '[hiu.ki n.~: abouc the cenversadon too, at that very moment, $iti'.trng somewhere In h .. er room,

1 don. t know WhY1 but I .fdt like caU~ng her up .ilgain ~nd ir was ,ha.rd eo C urb d1JJa[ 1U.r,g:e. :Bu.'[ I had [0 curb i[.II· beGl!~se I did :tl,Oil w~.n.f 110 mess (hi rugs 1.1 P'~ right in r:ne ,begln.l'ling~ by becoming a guy who bothers her ar 11: 30 in the night. "No iI> I s~id [C rn yself~ ]oudly, ,$w,i. reb ed off du~ l igh t and j urn ped inro bed.

Alone in fi1Y room, I was slnilin,g~ talking EO no body and there was this di ffe-rent sort of reeling within me. I slept, j L~$IC £0' d\at (be n ight would pass.and. a new day we uld corne wlt'en ] could .hear heli bcautik:~l

. .

voice once agp.1n,.

~ ~

The next .a::.y~ 1. wa ired. fer her call. ThtHJJgh we~d not decided rba[ $be was supposed to call ,m,f ~ nU~ I had, tbi:5, gnt~fedi:ng. that she wo uld, By ] O~O 0,) in the .offioe- 1 was getti n,g rt-~d~~_ 1. 'wranted, to hear her voice b LI.r ~ ,~L rhe .~~e ri mel' I '\Va nred b~r to call me 111'.

Happy had gi "I,i\e'fi me ·['his :s;u.cce~ .fund'a 'J 1'] the m.at,tel of g;~FJS: D'€.m/t fJ'Utke rJlem fl1!1 ~t 1'# (J.t"( g()ing crazy .n.for t/j,f"~; ju,st.gi.rtt' some ,fim~ and thiY will (;(NW#!' to you~

A( 11 ~,OO, I realized ,thaf ··Ha~py" 'WaS a roo! and I wen.'[' ahead :i:1nd

zt

SMSd her a "good mo:rnilil.g~;o., even Ehougl\ r~ was a Hittle iare f(H th:;u~! BLtl. .I did.n't receive ~.ny· reply 10 iily Si\1S and. began wondering who the u:~lL .rtlol \vas, . ,

And rhar day [ 'l1'aJs. also uncerrarn. SJHJ uM. J listen to lli.y h(~n or ·TI:j,Y b.nli,n.? BCHh of Ehc1n were pointing ',n, epposirc directions. My brain was telli~1g rny egO'1 '~1hat dot.:s- she- think of h!C~:~dt?" \Vhcrcasi m 1 heart :5 ril i wishec (0 hear her voice.

Call it tnY"~akne£s Of ill}' eJforr ro curb :11'!" ego _. a Iirrle later I djd what rny heart told sue _0 do and 1 dialed 1.1, r number,

~·Hey! I~·~,.I how arc yoU?l' Khushi picked ~lP the phD~!I~"

ILWhel1 wish ~.ng you a good. 1t10 rning the sen der al so exr~cr.s a sim ilar

response, I f:lnl. ~J.nt:,,~

L<'I Vi: as going to reply 011 rhe "vay to the office'; " ~! You mean Y.O~li,te still ar home?'

"Yc'ah, A{:tuaU), \1!i."C work in the -e frernoon shifr as '~~"e' have '[0 be' in sync with OU,[ UK,~b.ase;;d dienls. Hcr~ U1Y ,,~b;s outside, ,~ she said .rush 1.1].g· and saYlug 'bte" 'co 1,1Le,r rno.m. I could hear cbe' door'bd:ng dosed and her Lbj 1 to' her frien.ds i.~ the cab, A:f,u~:r she gor ill I ·w.enes~L1ned our ta.~ k,

·~SO ~vb-:rts,t'p? I asked her,

"Ami d,t was here this m""r"n,in~;!~ she said I' rt'rl·}""'''''''·b'''''''e,d ~l

v u .o;,~ ~ ,." <i~ [j... _" ... J. .• ~, .... ~ __ - .. [ '.er

[ H!:lJtlof'ting. a couple of names duti [lJg OU.r pl'elci,om Ciln,. hu r I eo uld hatdiy r,e:rl)e111~' who was who ~iinO'ng rhem.

~At;r£ i di ... (' I murmured, tr.ying ~o recall the !UHH e.

'~I have thr 'e SiHCE' and one brother .. Misha,di is d1C dd.es.r and lives ~ n Ludh Iana, She has a very sweer J .. i d, D~ta,ni who is ~~~rudrLng in 11 urser W Al1~i cit Is t] e second, and she; too j~, married, She Hv.~s in ,~: oida, an htr~~r-b~ d.rive fr9·ITl cur place, and works with a BFO. OecpLl1 my br:otilC'r is rwo .~·('~r.s' younger than me ana is wo.ddng with an MNC in As.')~nl,. They deal with oil wells at .d sruf _ And Neen ' is. [he ;"9ungest, my

. .:.2

... \ .... to:t little sis. !; she E'Ql ~l me about beT s1 bl~ngs' again, with no comp] ~ints ur' [uestions as to how I or~ot -abOllrt them so soon.

She continued <:o\n.d apart from thisJ mum and dad are with us, ,.\ nd it. YOUl ffamjly? [,~~S y~,tI r morn a l!J.d dad, )"0 u and, your yo unger I ).1"ofher. Tinku, who is illlcS\o a. softw-' H: engineer 'with llfosys} and h~s. ~llJice L~ in ~h,e .same blll.Hd].ng Z1JS' yours, .r;xccp~ he is <CHl rhe fi:l!~[ HOdf ,lnd yOI;!, on the ~econd., R~,ght-?'~

And that was a Sa~JU sla ~ [00 rny m emory. She remem br,;J~d eeeryrh [~ft .ib ur mv mOlily; All I could do 'liW3S las~ Hmm.v, lOon 10.;' and

'I ~

I.mgh.. B1J:1f I ~aug;hed alone,

· So, I W$..$ S:ayi~gl Amidi was here, [11;.$ morning, .J~,et completing I cr night-shH[ he carne to Fasidabad, She V,n .i(~~-·u:s: once in a '\:. eek or

This ca~li was all ~,bCHl( h,"r bm]iy. I carne to Jkn_ow about rwo more people - Davinder [iju, .Misha di's husband, nnd Pushkar Ami di's I u ts band, Pushkar and Am u d i used ro work in the sam e COr.t1p~~ It)!' and I ~l~~ happened to fall ,in love, whh:h '\'~S nor a good idea J.coord!il1,g t 'J, Khushi's tla.d.,. The hurdles rrhe:y had t& fJce were no,clitfet'eJllt fllQm ,amy I~'\ e S,fJo,ry in Bollywood movi es , .. Pushi~fJJ' 'QOfiles fn)m a Hindu (am ~]y whereas ,AlU[ di belongs to a Sikh, f~rndly, Pushkar is 0001 with boni]:r~,g , n(( no !l1..;V€'g while these t:hings are taboo in Khushi S huniJy. Btv', then, ,IS we Jearn fi'o[]] those same .I]'!i.(nr-'i,cs) Love; i]l.,~be e.nd~ wi IlLS 8JU the harrles. And, that is wI ae ha'P-PCJ1,OO here as well, AJI [he YOI1!ngscers in Khushi's :fiunily sua:::,e:ssfu~ly l-'O nvi I' coo '[heir dad tit; give his approval j ()r. file' marriage.

In dl~:r :iil;H~. Kl~ushi also n!l,en~iOfie(;l.that she used to leave her offir;'e around 9dO ar n,igh t and .reech her home 'by 11 :ttn, 'Wh idllJ mean [: rhat she wo Lild be awake for q uire a wh i tt: and I GoilLtld lc;a~1 her late ar nighr in: case I Edt the W';1;Y 1 bad '~he night before.

So that was how we started callin g each other, writing messages, c~.n ·MSh.ti n.g each other goodnight, But, ; n our in irial calls, we never f,·o.uchtd upon rh~ pUlpOse for which we had srarred inreracring - marriage,

BUl s he 1111 idared th is, one da.yi when I forwarded her an e-album of" 1ny pictures, v.·ith my fr1e.nds~ in Belgium.

. LI noticed one pic with the descri ption - enjoy] ng fed wine in , pub, ~~ she said ..

'~()]l yes.~ char was nile of the happening evenings in Beiginm."

~IS boozer"

'. 0 you . oozer

"Hmm, , . reith .. Btu very rarely. Once In two or rhree moruhs or a' rimes six. Only Oil some occasions when I am wi til friellds and llhefJ insi$~ r give them company,' I answered. ccolly

1!i\~Zdt I don't know how you are going co react to this bur I alwayt

wanted a life-parrner who a bsrains from rbjs. ~~

And I asked In ysd.f, ISO, is she saying that she is goi n,g to look f<;rr somebody dse?~' ]' w,asoJOr sn re. Butt the one dling '1 was sure aJoou.r was, that.~ finally! we were disclU5ing marriage.

Shr; continued, "See, every person has some likes and dislikes". "When we r,aJk abo'llr marriage, if.s: about respecting each ether's .fediHgs.: .i£:S ab()UiI: tfust~ a fe.W' compromises aod much more. And if YOll are going. [0 be :m.y H:fC:-'Pafitne.r~ I sincerely urge you [0 choose a lif:'e W.itl1tDut alcohol,"

She was the first :among us to :say.: if you 4rt' goit1:g to .be 1'itJ ,~ . f't1rffl'ef.". And in her voice those wo,t'ds sounded so diff'e.r.eot, 80 mag,ic.al.

Andj ofcourse, it was. the magic of those WOJi'W \vhich overrode my consciousness and made me sayl HIls a gef!l.deman's promise, If you ~.D'~ going to be nly I]fe~'p·:if'[n:er) I witi not booze unless you. are comfQrrab~~

24

about it. And I mean it. D I didn't stop there bur con tinned; .. The reason I can do rhicS is because alcohol is not something I am addicted to" Arr. rhe same tlrne, I donr mink j [~S bad ro booze once in h IJ nd red d a ys ~ JUSt {Q gi \"L1! OOm p~ny to your be-sr friends. Even {ben, I have never crossed my Ii mitt and go r drunk corn pJ.etdy. StiU ~ ] f this beco.m es a problem, between me and my .1jfe.- parmer, I will gI tlldly absrain. !~

, .i\nd promises are meant to be kep(" .. ;, she rcitera.red- And! p,ro'bably) ~b e smiled too .

'l.\bsolurel.y.1<Ii The genrlemsn within me was srill talking, "Bur ehe dar you get [0 know me completely _- after six months! or ten, Of' in R vbe a y: ear" or .In,llybe more. rh an that. Then, if yo u [h! 11k [bat bocsing

. .

J.~ not at all a bad. case with me, you VillH have m aUow me to have a

dJ.i nk wi th .01 Y 'best friends~. BUI[! again ~ ] will never fo rce yo U 1[0 say

I ~.~ , ~1 r,

This was another landmark In our saga and, hencefOrdtj sbe fd[ r n nell be trer talki ng [0 me, And I felt good, jus [ bec~t~s.c. me felt good.

\X'aS the second, our of rhe three things (wealth, women, and I still '~'111. t rem em ber the [bird) [:hac could m3Jke anythj n g bappen in tb~:s:

W()J; ld, making me do this~ [ didn!t know then, andl I dc;n1J't know' now, The 0 rilly thing bothering me was, what w.ould l say ro H aplPY and MP when we. slat together with red wine, at our next reunion? ;IGuys, please beat' wi r11 me as [\oe stopped boozing 'because of it promise I m.ade to a Gi rl, whom J 've only talked [0' on the phone £Or :I week. Yc;s! only a

k F q .• 11. I. h" L [III h - .' - Ie. . ~'!i

wee " ar resser nrne ~.uan rne ye.ar~ W rcn we au rave spen:rr i[[oge[ller..

I' didn:~[ know~ then ~ j f that promise was g,ood or bad .fo:!!" me, But wl~in was definitely ,good. was '[he reuse and un.dersIandjn:g;.we ga.1ned . Al1& this was Jus.[ beginning .. 'It ms ~ tough call .... BlU [E1hen!. som:c~hjfig w~lhin me wanted her for a long, [long zime.. .. Forever,

25

closer

"Wh3't~ You h"vtn't talked to YOUf p;armts yet? ShonJfl~ You. p,i'o·m i~:ed, me yOl1~d do rhat b, [lOW, ~

If yo ~~. ~:[:t.:: wondering who. this ;i[1,,~W ,cbarJ.c<~er~ Shon-al' is ...., ils me, And ehe person shouting those qLl!.e.sdo.n.s ~('t ·me. IS; 111.)" Klurshi, Ye5.~ she

, ,

IS nune now.

'W[:: are in E'o~,. For rhe firsr eime, , . Sounds CEatZy?

50) did: it happ~n W'hltn we We.tie S,fflt(li1~g to.g.etber in ~{)J.k#? Of.e>o urse 1.10(,1 1 3.L11l a [bou~:andJ. m ilel$ aw~y fr-o.m. her. Wi! It wwc at font figh.t!

Det1J1itteFy not. We hllivelj~t even seen 'each oth er l~:et~

= The q uesrio ns .m.y- .frueiOJcl~ would ask me, md the answers I ~Ve them. ("rheJfe were rom~ dlto/ Ones roo, ·wl1r.~h I can ign6:r,e,.) BUt e~tyo'~lt/S ~,ast q uesrion WaS ,th~ same

Are)i01t~ t.-ra~;

I d'Ol1L~ knnoo r:)!QWw\\rr.N'. " ".

Indeed, belflg'ip. lb,'~.~' wkh a person you h~vt;'Jl~t even mer is <\ Ctaz.Jl o~hiog. An~ deciding EO' marr.y .that perso.n some da}r~, even 'Ch1Z~Ot, . N~l' hi my wi Me:st dreams had .I (h.otl,ghr my lQve~H.fe would be like thIs,. T.tJ

' ..... f.

ht,· h6,~,e$r ~ 1. had, ,I'leyer even dbil~glH e f any love- life,

Bur, now; I bad cl~i!J!Jllg;ed. a lot snd was 110 longer the p~pj(Hl I used lobe rill some time rTh§'Q"

A, lor of [hings, had ro~ag:e~;{, in me and around me, I had started slipping O~U' of correersations 'with. ,my hknds just co ,lgl\rf.;, hera call, I. l'~epi[ less and t~ked mL')I'~·,. My phQnc bm~ k-d, .my ,Mon'dlly- s,p'ena.ing L han; 1~8:'ving' th(; house rent itn i 1(3 bell~ m.d i~ 'r.:he race, I searred t'iLo'E'id.ng L uples; the way they ,'81( together ~n ~arde,nStl ,~),a:rlitd in ,~1,~n)d;: the way a ~i rl holds her h'O,wffie~,l,d.! OJl. a rnoto rh.~ k'e. n sraned ~''OrF,irig'abour rhe "how do J look" f'3lcto:r. Mr status on Orkut cha®Lgod f.roFrii. !si[[Lgh:~' toO 'committed'. She became the PJlS'.s:WDro to l1l'y $Ewtta'l inremer lDs .

• ~ u [ring in m.y o.ffi'C:e :aiont"·~ I used '00 stn-He, talking" fa ,rHlOody.

Love was in the air,

Ours WfLS such .~ dtff:etr-ent s ~tJ,:lI.'f" A 11 H cenuH'Y love $to'!)'! whose ~ (1 und ario n W~fS ,m odern-day g:adg;e ![xy. Thanks IO Graharn Bell [:'0 r

.'

j, nvenring relephones that he].p·ed me ralk to .beT) know bel' b(~tte1Y and

~.li.l~JU:f!~ fa:H in ,~.o~e' w.~[h. her. Tbanks mrh~ [ntetn:t;'t;< the 'World- 'Wide

~'

W"r.:: p. and sites like Shaadi.c011l, ihat ~,dp'e.d-- m,e fl ed net, I d ~.s1CQve[~.

myself to be a rrue Softv~~afe engjn~er 1n rlH~, hi-tech-leve .p"t~ ~~C+ ,Md w h ether 'this hind of J,(}"¥''V;;: W~~ good ot bad, W'3.:" no lo:nge~r ~ pelnr ro ponder - we were mlready ,j [fl it

( :orning back to the reasen ~be,:'!.¥as, ,s,ll 0 i.:! [img ;;jJ'~ m e~.

1 t Waf~ because I brolee ~1. promise, No, not ~he ooO'zlng:one. SOJne'thmg l'~~C,

Her ,Jim,;,i}'li knew' abour me since dUE £!1~st ~iiLU~, but [he case 'w,ftsn~1r ~ he same at my end, ,My f8JllBy did 'UCH' know :ibou,t her '~t, In :rnct~,

They didn~t even know that their son's profile was on some matrimonial site. N:i(m:ldl.~ she was concerned :abour this situation, Tha r tOO~ a.fr,er we had finaHy d.edded our desri n.y:

Her queries abour mi:§. matter were ,gfowin.g;. everyday. GI.iJJdu:ll.~ly! she st 3§ tOO. feding Ulficoil:1tfurtable· bee a use of this. Yay reason, Therefore, .a week. earlier, J had. promised her rhat I would ralk [0 my fami]r OIl'll the comi ng weekend. But unfor ~ IiJ n ~:E'tjyj I could not" because of rhe weekend exam at IMS. (1MS. Another interesring sitnil:ilrh;y between us was rh isM SA prepararion center, We bo[:h were pr:epa.lj'jng 'for M B~, ·and we had joined [he same crash-course in the same instirure in OUf respective dt:ies!)

!~1: 00 nld nOf (fave] to Burla last weekend because I had eo gi.ve, my

class-rest aJI fMS ~~' i said, ·trying to calm her, .

"Bur .rou promised me Shena n ••. !,jj My shouting lady turned. into an emotional one" She: killed me wi th that name, ,She loved IO ,aU me with dlfFer:.en.rr names and rhe best among them ~U 'was ShQtl.:it. And I loved the Vilay she used. to s'~:Y' k, W'1th such care and warm th,

"Tbi~ weekend I win~. fo.r ,S~fe. I don:1it haW! ad.'ly task more imp ertant than this one, ~.~ 1 told he'E.

And nil],. Shoninloni was happy again. :ShonJinoni. The name ,]' gav¢.' her, Ptlnj'abi .fof cuee and. sweet; the kmlnjne ·counterpart to Shan aJ.

The next weekend arrived and i was p;ankking·. Mer all ~ I was gOh1g ttl talk 1[10 my paret) rs about my marriage, This' W:aiS defin itdygoing' CQ 'be a, 'boh' t:rol':n the' 'bJ'll>e!1 for (h·em.

I was smart enough roo take my you.nger· brother, Tillku!. into eon fiden .. C:C the n 19h t be fore" we Jefr: t:or Burla, He ::d ready knew

lunr:dling was ,g,oing on between . me and. some; girl. My late night h-M~ hJd made tha't much clear" Bur he had . never. imagined that all ~ I ~ I ~, ~u.ned at a marr u menial site, Being his elder brother, F. did not \'lc.. hi In any option elCcep [ 1[0 be on ~r ddt: when I talked 00 mom. nul dad.

Si.m;:,e [he moment 'we arrived ar our home in BUI la, ,I was d.ohag; I if Iii ~ gi: thi ngs .. movin.g here and rherc, f11"fj n.g ~:o bring [he s,u'bjec[ UP" 1* yli ,~'_g [0 find j I!lSt 'the ,rig~1t moment, Bu 11: ] 'Was nor at ~,~. sure wh a.[ rhe II~"I ~,t~t moment was.

'I W~LS thin king too much, .MOf~ than ,my' brain could band]e. Should '-.!.)' it now] Or should l 'wal~ till the clo.c1C:s minure hand has c-o~ered I~I tt['cn mote minutesi But even. after]'r. had covered a hundred and fifry In ~mues~ I W~·Sc seill waiting,

I :.""'~ r)l (1 me I was :abo.UL~ to spill it Q!Lllt!l 15omet;b ~ n:g wou.ld. hap pctn: tin; t~ifpIu;_)n.e rang~ somebody knocked at the deer and, if norhing else, ~ II~' ~~ tu J~ id pressure cooker' s w histle d!'agged' my mom 'back i nto the l~;! ~ I ten, The one. moment when no such 'rhl ng, .h appened, I just 'C'Ould liU,.l tJ'I?,e.rl rny' mouth ..

! L She?s . going to (..:r.y this: rime, if I dol1tt dQ rhis, i~ I IfQ~d. mY8.df.

f\ frc(' ·1 unch.t I somehow gath~red enough 'C-OUf3:g:c to i~,iti~ltt,e. rhe ~ II ~.Ili:.Lcd conversation Even though T dtougbt ~t was 'q utee ~j~r-e to !1 I~ my parents how 1Libe.y mot and .married each uriler; I couLd ru£J![ f ~l i I ~ Ie of a berrer way to h~i:ng up 'rhe sub jeer.

~. Mumma, tel] rae one- thing a, How ,did you guys find e~(:h other and.

• ~I L~_j

lil'l,ll'id ~ ~ p m ar l'ytng~ I asked,

M .. G In and. dad looked :U each other, then at [ijC and smiled. Parents I r\~ xm art; and what we Qon':r know' is thar fht;y know w hat is going on ~II nur minds, They bald probahly read, v¢tty· (May~. wlti!t the mafqH,ee un ~11.y w..rC'h:cad. was displaying,

StiH ~ dil.q nar .Ii~Jj'~cd their 8tO r y, and rhe rno hi ent 'rh a t ·W.aS: OV'eL Mmnn.1L:l Qs'k:eit "So how is yo Il.i rs ger.d.fil g started?"

I wondered if' I &11 ould hide m y .&ce :i 11 rhe c ushions, or :say, ~.My· story ... ~ I dent have ~lly .. 1~ befofie my br~il1j, angrHy '[.old me, "Corne on ~ speak up ~ you r~·Cio1 !'~~

-And, £o~~r.t!natdy. g~.theril1g aU my sby cou.ra;_gejo 1 nar.~ated my slQry s"Ci f~.r~ 'I even showed them her picture. I M~ expecti ng a lor oEj [;;; ~nd burs from .. my parents, bLU: '~-Q my surprise nothing of that sort ba:p pened, Even Ti nku h.ad askc;.~ me m olc' q ues dOllS rhan my J:D.~.r:enrts. ~.skod!

.[\.j'l·6rri was h ~.pp:y 'because ~ :6 nR'Uy~ her SOH was th i.nJdng abeur marriage, .D:rcl was h.1rpiPY because the to ugh~st parr - i5ea:fchh:tg for a_ girl of h£& son:O~ ch-qke - \",'8]11;: O¥1:t.! He wars rel i:e~d) tho ngh ll\t tried w) 00 un . .d quite diplomatic, I wa'S'l:tap&y becm~~e) fjn~nYl I W'a'S able '[0 .ge~ this thins' ou t. 0 f .my b.ea.rt and p]~c:e' it in front of everybody. And Tinku, llc was observing ~'!le;rybodis reactions. He dO.;:s[1{t g.et .iuflu~.n.ced casay~ and thar's $t).m.e[1]Elg I both. .Hke and dislike.in him.

A 00 uple "0f ques rions ffrom ooth .n'U~Lttt and dad ~ whkh I an'Swetcd wifh_ccibllde.nQe:> anil thae was- it·" I Jl~d. never tllO.U.gbrt that this Itopgk_;est cf bUI-aJes:. would be ov·'e!r 8'0 g uicl:iIy.

But hefore" 'Wie i.ef~: £o·t Uhl!j~ran~t) on Su:t)dar~nlig].I:r.~ at the bus.

SWPl dad s~dd~ Li!:'We '!,vm anal.}'Zti thjs~ Ib·lL~.d·es g~);od that ~u. have become s:e.riOiU$ abour fOUl' .rr!~.Ii'·,da:ge:·"L

"No issues, r l..uuiet,u<Ll1d rOiL1.r. point," I ~~jd (0 him, Inside, dlOUgft~

1 . 'I' . ~ L' . ~! '·W.I'11 'D' _.J~n

was It lH1Jii:l.fig;..w no cares . ·~lU.i,

lvto nd ~]l mo rning, J. reaehed my -0 rher home In BhilJ.b. aneswar, SaeIdll,og au [ on illy bed, [' called Khush i. up.,.

[o;.M~$ii.01t1. accompli s].1edl' 1-1 .1 said, Wa ~ci]]g Ilt:f' up. Thoz-e nVD wDrdS" 0()nveyed everyrhlng ro he'f. And. 'WhiSt;[ did r get in. response! A fLJgi~ lade

of kisses. The 1~5i[ ones w'Cre real passionate. Thar was '[he .first time she kissed. me on ~,.h6fi,e;

~ Oh b0Y'~ So loud? :N'o one is ~ n1und,~ h.am]'.~ ~~ I asked.

She dicln:~t. answer my question bur saidl 1~1 fe;d lilse pulBng you. inro l.n.Y bed dgbt now and .1ci:5~i,L1g,J-'O u madly. H

"\Wow! .~he W8iS $.0 happ~ mad and oom:£o.r~~.blel .krlO\~,u.t~g that I bad H]l~ll r rold my farJilli]y about her.

Anoelrer milestone .ib. our IovC' storv was crossed, Berh I(}lj,r. fanlj~la

.' .

now knew about QUr af~ i I:'_ And! as usual, .I ~VM hapP7' becaiu$( ~ny

5 ho nimoni was h@J.ppr Bur, as m,~r s~:y,. "Love is- a bl end of' diffe1"l~n'f emotions," SO~[l' an evc.n.i.ng: came 'when I made her E:ry~ And then I cried because she ·w~:s ctying.\

r ( 'i,V3S another weekend and [. CW~ ~n B'uda~, sitting in the verandah I husy 'iiv]th my .R~ading Cornprehensior, -ltC~ seceion.Lwas annt?¥Ocl~ 1 H\ ving seated rather lbad.[y .in rn r sd.f-exam. 1 W~s. ab G'! ut '[0 -advanee to the .n;C~l;; pilS~age when she ealled.

I. 'HeJ~l 1, i. n T. said In a. depressed rone.

lj.Wh,a.l~ is my l)~by d.()i~gr""she ask~d: LJQ¥e.d ,{[ w}leB sh.e ~~d ~~dl that wav:. when she called me t'tbaby~~ in her cutest Vo..i·EE:+ I~ ~otln;ded, so

;{o,. ".

cariug, As if she had [:it'ken over all ehe .u:espbITSihj]ity .Q.f .1. ook i og afre.r

me,

~RC is screwing up your '~~by and. r ~m in a very bad mCfrtl.d.. ~ "Then t~lk to me for ~ w'hile and y(H(~~ be: ~J1J, a gQoiR .mt"M9·d

. ..,

'I ~l""'ln

""(!IiD. ,=-

"No des ['1' r Wf!j n t to s:t3Jft. a new rU.$ug.e a,nd score bC:in~'f 'iIh.is [i me, Only .rhat Vi.ti~l-ch~ngt IUY,H10od" CaUl. we r~d~{; ae n~ght ... ,. p~ease;?';

31

~. Hmm, ". O[,t, Se,~ you later, Bar ac leastsay one good thing before'

L' j~

uangl ng up.

Tn~re were S() m~ny th~n..~;s sp.ecrun.c to Khushi, the little things that 'were' im p orrant to her, Like this unique idea. of listening, to one good th1 rag, before 'we hung up. 1 liked h~ most of the ri me! unless I was too tired ro 'fh ink 'up {i;OJTB::'tning new and good for her.

"Kh ushi! Please u ndersrand, .My mind .i$n~[· working, I can~'[' rhi nk Qf ~.lnything &1]0d. at rhis moment, ['11 teU you rwo good things at nighr. Ok?j~

''';'O''k \1- t· k - - . ~

' •. '.! LOU. ;jl'C care',

"Byc.1i.!'

"Bye .nithi!1'::J> see you ~]~ she corrected me again.,

"Oh yes. See 100,'" and I hung up'] ,iCI U in .~. bad m Clod.

Hardly .1.; minutes had. passed when I heard. Iny cell-phone ringing

again, Ir 'was her.

'~N OW ",rn attj My voice was a little loud. ~~ Yon!.! kaow whY' I called yO\1 earli eri"

~J:O' L. ~ 'livn. ;:.,j I ". . . """",..-I

. ·nO. ~ u. ViI' ny. . . wa.s anna'lL."",.

~~ Because ]-t~s raining here .. And I fed like. holding your hands ,il[lJcl.(

dancing in the rain, ~~.

l'- Khushit" My 'Yoke Utw louder.

"Ok !Jaba! I'm sorry. See you later, if she said, in.fi·ocendy. .She was about to hangup when I fellt bad. about how I behaved an4

said i •• Hey wait, We' can. m[!k. for a while, I needed a break from dtis dam ned RC thing, I<)

And she was ,bappy ag..un.

In a. little while, the focus of OUE conversation ,changed. fmrn rain ~~, out promises and p[ iori ties. The things we, wanted to accept and ~h~

3·1

{I. i ngs we. wanted '00 give np~ for each other, No boozing until she was I'Hl]fona.btc, with ir, preparing mpdf for.s; 'Vegetarian environment (at I ~m~ [ at home) and a. few, orher things wen;: on. mr plate, And talking to Ii I ~ ~ ::iI nd m y furnj~y' in Pu~,j aibJ WM me' most. important task I put on her pJ .• re, (Her :&tnily spoke Hindi and. she was 'brought up in that ~~ 111 f)$p.here. \Vh.ereas) Illy ears b41ldiy wanted 00 bear the langu~g~ which.

'I Wjs broughr ilIP' on. ) None of our 'c~ttta.t'lons were forced upon each ~ i ~ I ~ ct, though, I r was ttl utual undeescanding, an aueltJJ.pt to. do the if:' st we could fo~ each other. After. aU; 'we W'ere supposed. roo li Vie regerber lnr the resr of our- B'Ves,

. l'har ~.venhlg. I $ked her mjacb.leVQiu.sJ.y~ ~~'H,ey~ Do ,you mind mUdng I~ I i 1,'Ufi ja.bi·? l never he.:ud. :yo'u .fllJ6]] hl g: m.y expectations, 01[' are: you !~ii:tg co ~f~r[ afi·e:r. om marr~a:~?'Jo],

iiA nd if I S8j,Y- I won't do rna_![ even :!lfref' OII..U· marriage, whart win 'you ! h II~;' she teased me and laughed, ~ imagined her jumping off her bed II ~~ I run ning ito the window '[0 catch a few raindrops,

.i' nl en ru take you back to YOi(J;,r home in Faridahad and leave you

-I ~~

! i~ re,

AU 8.h e said W"U] r.; S.h.om~ ....•. ~,I'to I could hear '([be rain fallin.g on the t1ji ~und outside her window. I re~m]zed wha[ I landed mp- saying. My I III e III P t at humor bald badly faned. I did hot WlOW' how t,~ rea(~; B<efo [~ I t II~i[d sa}" anythiFil.gl, she said, "Sbo.na, you carry on wi[n ilu~ r~agle· ...

• f' you la ter; ~1 And . she bun:g up very qu~e[]y - :something ~he never ~ Ii, L

~ rei I: ',,"ery uncomfortable, :ttta~~i ng th.~ \l-*ay t had reacted ra her I' rd~,irl:g. r could neither cell her tip to reU her thJJtr. I d~.d:n.~1[ mean w"hat

• b·' though r I meant, nor could. I concenrrare on my RC passages,. All ~i)! answers fOor the next passa:.@;e'\vtl'lc incoreecr.

I~ .. arer that cve·ni.pg~ around' 7:qO P.l.\.:I .. I r,(lde m.y bike to. the neatest

ATM to gel[ some cash for my ticket back to Bhubaneswsr. .lit SJ ,~r I d.ri1-2Iiog - the first rain of die season, Now I could imagine .how I felt whe n she had called me earlier, I go r 0 u t' of the queue i fICO III the ATM and dialed bel' number,

LI Hello]" she Sa t.d. He r voice was 81 aking"

:~ 'r""" L - L"~ I'd

.l'~ i U~.lU1- "5-:3.1_,,

"Yes) Shond}" ~hc promptly responded Then I heard a cb.oklnS rh which W.!lS e no ugh £(, r ;U;lJyone 1[0 real ize '[hal she wa~ cryi ng.

J coul d no [ say anyrh ~!ti g ro r (if nl0111 ent, d ur ing wh kh ),et ~ rolled down fnrrher. <~ He}" d.~,r! Pleasc..; Please don't (:ry. I" rra :stD ~ III fur having said those terri bl e words."

She- started sobbing lo udly and [ Ed t very ashamed for what I I. done L~O the girl who wanred to hold my' hands and dance wi "tEl rn the ra [11. 1 fel r as if I had committed the greatest sin - m,aldn ~~ II sweetest glrJ on carrh, who was only meane fill' rne, -cry~ HoV\.1 ctlll~ I have do ne rb ~ f~ I hit rhe "VJJJ J n fronr of me very hard, The _p ~f~ I II the queue looked. at rne, I moved down the street to where ![.Ir~t(, I no light,

"I am so <lor.ry~ Khushi, I am so sorry; Please don't cry hecat.J!....8c ~l~ r II stupid 111 ~$iI:,lke . ~

Silence.

"Talk to r uc dear" Say somerhing, Punisb rne bur, for C~o,d~s ., II talk to rn e ~ t} and with that I WCl S L~ rred crying,

ArTer a whlle $h~ l'IHtnaged. re say), ~~Sho11a3 yO'll haven'e cveen Lit me [0 rOUt b om C yet and you're r~]king of sending In e back, ~!F'

I Ier simple .. innocent question lefi me speechless, She was tG:rxilL was n-ying and [hot skywas crying wJrh us, It started falmillg' J-aeft,vill v. I r w.('~,k, YO\! Ji I;lS r n second t'o say char, .B LL r ] ~ in 03, ,gi.[I'l u .r W~ II I leaving fny t_]a:retbtS, my brother and sisrers, people wirh ~-fho.ri] ~ Ii I

11'1l·J my Hfe so raJ!. ft1r home, which holds so rn:::llil}' memories, ]usr ro I." i,_ on; e you rs, And yo u said rhat you 'W,U ~ ~ leave me, <'r.

'L I'm srupid, I'm terrible. I r'eJJly am," I ShOLLIe>c4 hi:r:ltlng a poole on rill' .Ii.~ ret l~ co rner, crying ]0 udlv in ch ail: rai n, not caring if any.boOd.y ~~aw' lilt.'. The clouds thundered. The rain came down hard and n:oby, And I kcp f: h itting the pole and cl'yi ng. Therem USI h a ve been sQ,m,edl.in.g \~ i n ng wi rh me, fo'f I had never cried rhae way.

And iI'S probably the nature of the fPfnl~ninc heart I'Q srop OThers j I ~ -m crying. S n $he did wha,f I should have done fo r her; She ,v] Fed lll'y ~f.1U first.

" Sh on a! Shona, , . P lease! 1 can hea f yu Ii.~ "~eying. Pl ~;CU:iC;;' don' r do t h at, 11~('~~~c_,; • See, fro. [~king (0 you. And no matter what, I am yours] hist 1~~jm'S and C:VCtl now I am with, YC)lL And LfyOl'l want" fQ see me hfll'IPPY; II d. ,~~C dour C[y~ tn)' dear, ~~ The broken he.1rt was c:omfo,n:lng the heart I I i.1 t 11 ad broke n it, She eve n m :a4,e me l.~ Ugll a li rtle, [a ter,

lhen 1 said, "I fed ,~Ol'1~y and I'm ashamed of myself fox .hurdrlg

~~

Y'it!.

.. S hona, do you know rhar, jus r like :lOUj IT [00 ~JU eo be with rn y I lI,i Itily for ever. But because of the wny our sociery and culture is, ] II LVc: '[0 I eave them ~H" .. And 1 'will do that, because I i11'l1 iu love with. \' L 1 ~ I and the pen~on 1 llGCC[ the 1]110.5 r for the rest of ~11 y li.fu~ to take care

~ . ~~

III me; is YOH •

.. '~ know rhar dear, I know ~h::u v>e['y well, I don't know ho,w' I Ian.ded ~ r II S~lr~ ng th at. I n ever feI r. i I: from tnt ,heatt. \"1:)U ,ha'-"1::' all the d gh r ro II~mlSh me."

.' J ).I.! nish m e,~u?" soh e asked in ~ eli te '1:01 ceo "Ye8.h_ lr can be anything," I said.

'LWhc:rt: are YOU~VI she asked, and I feh. her yoke gelling better,

,. -

"1 carne ('0 get SCHJle cash flO-In the ATM" I t's two blocks away,"

UAre there people at the ATM?'

~v ~ L~. -

rean, there .LS a long queue."

~L Go back to the ATM q ueue, !;i "W1ly?W)

,U J USI go there, Ies par [ of your punishmenr," ~Aldght/~ I said and went back. ~'yes. I am there. H L~Ok. Now give m e 6V'e kisses, ;;

I \Vh:;irc.?~

"Shona!" she said srern.ly, t<:Jllinding me rhar f could not back our, 1 had made her cry! and now I bad to do what she wanted, I steeled m ysdf and, ignoring the peeple around me, went ahead and gave her .fhrt lou:d. kisses over the p]lone. [ was the second last person in ~e

cueue and I ke l:'rI 'Ii" rrr h . d I~ - ,. id cot .. J!. •

;II . .' -f" ~ Y ea. tH;n~ ro J..VOJ contact WLUI rhe surprised

eyes wh ich were Star Lng ar me.

.l t was em barrassing, to sa}:!' the least, but she jus [ la ughed, And despite my embarrassrnenr, I was bappy Ito malee her laugh again.

A[ the. same time, I understood. a. gi.rl~s, situstien, the. sacrifices she

makes for the' man of her dream i:' 5b#i" ~ ""10 ve !:" beh i nd L. ' h

. ...,. ." l .... a ;Jo ""lIjh iloilo every1[~.u ng. s e

~ossessod so far in lifel 'EO embrace him and his f::utdly. I asked mYlldf no\v I wo u.ld have. Felt· if I was (0 leave my f.uni~y for her. Could I even think ~fl.eav.ii1g my f.amily?· How do girls do jr?'And~ more imponandYli why do onJy they haW! eo do it.? I didn5t have. any answers, in due 00 urs e of rime, Khushi .ta.u.,ght me several such less-ons. GraduaUy:~ shewas: dlaJlg~Ii.g me' and my mindser,

'1 hat eveni ng! I did no·t w·j rhdraw a"y cash because ehe next moment, I nctlced one of tny neighbors standing' in the ·qu'f:lU~. dgb[" ahead ofme. His face made it: dear ·that he had caught me .khsing my phone.

#lllI

it .h· ~iJnigh~ flie IttJt -Sam.r}~ .r( AUbU.t .. l.havt' comt. bark homt 4ftr watr!bing d mwie~ Khw;i RnilllMtJ: Il qU4J!'!tlin the afofflfJOh. II:IUI, b(C(1:we' I (tiU/Jrt: :tI(ln4 'ilDt ttdkiNg to /;t1l" I ,Wi!lIt to watch a mmiiej thinking it too-rdd 7killte me fiit,bemr. . 'It diJ w,o.t.

,Utu4'bk 10 Ittm4 i',4-,,] bmgh; 1 mU'hell tip in the mitltik o/rk night. Sht I(fh '¥ "!V citli with IIlaug •. i1kt:kt.ng me ,,(Iii", lhat 1 (bul~ln} rt¥lnel bJ my t'o1itP' w,.,t4_ -/ saUl woukl1Wt. Ju. tht fihl ()'IW to' :ltd,./! f:JJl&ing ngmM MJJmm'f;i ltnn; evm Ijoin Ullm:.hJr. wr~,nfJ Jeitgerf~Jing. Lam.; six fil~ S()tn'e:tJ;inf that' t!mdU~ fl!I.btm't.

~;'laJ .Ln's ft14Ju this (t,-uk.for WIt' i(e p~g~·lf we drr m,f4tJ•· ,at~,. '/hm UM- willJutw d:inntr in th, Jflme'pJa:t~~i no matf:6r what. Ewn if we hMl a umbk·fight: tlhu thy. ~ mily .,mt spetik tli tat'h· o.thtrj hut sittirtg .tdgethcr," .. tu~iti1.lgfo'· o.Ul'~: to hreak the: 71ri;f 6ite ofthll/Nff# ... " the inadvertent I/}uch &f()urhandJ fflI: we·,eClI." . all thil wilt ~)llm our #lngi!r.

U' ;i~. rsas ~,

lIt

It was the beginning; ofOc;t.ober ... almost three months' since w.e knew each other, I had talked to her entire fa~niJ.y· 'by' then, and she had

talked to m title. .

In faCt., she had broome a good friend of tn, mother Mumma al~'a}"S wanred ro have a. daUghtef 'Gradua]1YJ she started sharimg, her joys and sorrows with Khushi, She used to talk about my chi]dhood~ my MtU re, tn.y l:ukes and dislikes, rhe ubi ngs that made me angry. She also talked about her lire in this &m ity, a family in wh let:. men oumum herod

31

women by a ratio of 3~ 1 and where" unfortunately, [he m~,jo.':ritr dominated.

There were things ab out m.y mother which ] h~d ne .. 'Ve1' knov III ,e:~t i. cr, Bur Khusru(_ would rell me those thir:IJgs.. Like :ltt}~ other son, I also love rny mother, bur the problem L~ that '\:ve never know when we become pM.1t of-this. m:;l:~ . dominant so ciery, Khushi used to expb •. in: (0 file the naeure o,£.a woman and her expectatio 18 .. She used to rell me what] shoald do f~r her when 1 went back horne, on weekends. She used 'EO give nile tips" A[ ri mes, :;;;b(.; also used [0 shour ~,t me if I furgo'I tbea-n_, ~ ll!ad" one more reason 'ro. be happy then, For Kil'. hi understood the importance of relariocships, she knew the importance of f: ,m.lly ~nd. ho'w Ito Cafe fo1' it.

One more .r(;;'spon;sibilii:y rhar I ha . .J. g.h.·~n her was [9 neither C;][~ rae up af~er 10:00 I M~ nor talk [0 me- if at an I happened (0 (all her u~p after thar time, The' reason was rhar eh ~ Ci\T ~anl was do'sc and I wanted eo devote: 3~4 hours a. qay for prcpararion.

So" 'we took 11 'it"O'1rV:~ a.1 beit relucran dy.,

l~ HIl the. CAT is over, we will not mllt rq each o the 1:' ahe.r.' 1 O~OO

j) -, ,~ [ " .J

P ,rlvl ! . I sa u.

". .. And this rule win onJy' be f6.JJowed onweekdays, ~~ she' added her clause, reaso ~ ing thar an weekends 'i.\!·e have ~urp I U$ rime to 'prep~,re and d,idr.iir need [0 J.T.r~k-.e our Hve~ '[(n;~gher 5y nor ealking.ro each other,

01:1:. fJt:t.b-ff... N'o'i.v repe.Jt aft,er m reJ" r laid.

~~t 11 the name of C~od~ 1~ Ravin .. ." 1 r,a;us ·d for her ro repeat mJfter

me.

~I ti. rhe name of'God ,rn,Y Sl~0na and I " K11 ush i" • ' • ~~ And r fd,[ so gpod for. the "m y' S.hQ.L1;;I~ in her sraremens, Inside) I fe1 i Uke lciss.ing her one more rime for these small but wonder fu~ '[hlngs she often d id ,for me, Outside, I went ahead wid], my \Ii.OW~.

~ L ~

.~ '. , .rake ;ill ''''''Ow tna!: ...

~, - . ; utk¢ a yow rhar, , .

c ••• we V,f~ IJ moil: call each other en w"tekdars afr,er 10 :,00 ,F Ivi ~ unless there l$ some k' ad of ,enl!ergen.gt ... , .)

c '. ,. we win not call each other on. vleekd~ly. ~fre.t 10.:00 pm" unless (here is some kind o..f emccrgency .... and even if ,there hi D.JJ ,ernergenCj bur, somehow, I am nor able.ro sleep I will on~y call ynu for.)' rninures," she ad : ed another dause '0 rhe vow,

"\'qha~ :~ , this. .. , f' I asked, and ]au.gi1JocL N O( being able to held back .m,T ,~ov,c for her: '[ ki1iise~l her. On~ a:fte:r another, those ki&'«:s fl.', ··w all the w~y to her place, bYP~A';Sing so nl~t!Iy, mobile t01We:rS :run.d 5~U-d I i res.

Khushi made me en] OJ ever}!' mom en r ,of my l iIe: the go,od., the bad, rhe challenging, She madethem II sjmp~:r woude[{ul

The f rst week, it was qui re tough (0 a'b ide by OUI vow b ur, somehow, \ve InaI)~g.ed, "fhc rrurh was rh at, because of this VOl-V" the- urge 1[0 faJk 10 each. other, especi aUy afeer I OJ at' ni-gh[~ increased even. m ore - ~~ is human tendency to desin! what is prollihn'u::'d- AJ1!Q during our ,m.orl'1j~;}g calls ve re~Ji·.led that uight was swell, a b~aiutiful rime [0 talk t'O ~~ach other.

.1 ~raUot:ing at night used '~o be.' so' eomantic ned' she 9lsked in her cure. innocent voice one morning,

'·X n:~.is-~ them SQ much, T~\L4s d.ods,~oh makes me fee~ ]ike J'\fit struck. .Illy £00,[ 'wj[h, a.n axe, by misrske," I ~aidi

"N.." dear it's .nOt Hke vou've Sl.ruejk, }four root with au ~"t» she

- JU _ 1 ~ J __ .

started PoO,1 j,ciflf:., rhen suddenly shouted, ~ R'illth~.r. your ,WOt waured to [iek du.~ ;;1·l(e and, '!rvHHllgl'}7) )NJU jumped on l sharpened one, thai roo bare-fa o rt Nt()"I.1V' ,enjoy you.r wounds, ~~ She' was fw'm i,ng.,

B IL.1I1: nothi ~g could be done. Prom ises arc meant [10' be kept, and we hath 'knew "We b~d ro keep rhis 'OH,e.

SOlOn. The weekend night carne and. we \\ter,c desperate ro tan:. to each orher,

Night! Nighr is really a 'bea~It']fiJ~ rime [0 Ean 1l for '~Q.\ e-birds, Paren s are asleep b}r [hen .. ·Sihl:i.ngsi understand why rh,ey should nor disrurb vou, f\;txi Yo:lLl~ Holding your ceU phone, yo L1 are alone in ),CHlf bedroom l

, .

I)ring on your cozy 'bed in your SbOfU and.;;I. comformbl, T-s: hi rt, wj~rh

the ljgh ts diftl med. Which means, J 'QU are completely wirh the person yo U are miking to-

~~ Hi Shona," she said,

There was something .d,~ rfttent in her "hi \~ rh ~,t' night. So Itl.el'iling: passionate, something' Id, (udy ftilt before.

"Hi honey," 1 responded. ca]m~y, F!.~d we beg,an :[aU~~l1g; 1 remember how good v e £''It taJk~n,g [0 each ,nrh ~[at ni:ghit af~e.t su ~Qmlg~ thQugh il[ had ,iU5,( been a week, A Htde later, she 'ii~ . telling rne abo ur her f[-]enci 's e'ng,a:gerrL enr ;3J,Ii1I.djo in a short while; ~~h~ was calking about what our eng~lgelnen,[ would be. like.

"The en:gagement will be at our premises, ant! I wiU be \vea~in:g ,:iIJ sari rhar eve riI a,n:g_. You know, ,,,,hy? ·CO'l.' j look stunning hit a sari," she answered her quesri 0(1'1 befo1ie F ,eoutd"

«Aha, ... ·Ch,tllQ! in thar CJ£t::', I want EO see J11Y ShonimoJll in a sari that evening,"

I

"Ir will be one of the best even.lfligs {)If ,m,}" 1E&. I will be stand'n:g,

beside my fiancie ~t:rnid SO l1),any people, r can rouch you, held yOil.:~r hand in frQj:) i: of eVeI~o~e arnd nobody wi II say a nytb ingi ;. she sald,

LI'l am dy.~,n;g "eN: thar evening to come. Then I v m hold your hand. and we ~'iU dancc ro rhemusic, in fW1U of everybo ~y e I want mv friends {O be je~]ous because IT possess you. ~ 1 said dre~ming of dl~U d~y soon eo come,

'j\nd. in evt:rybody'£ p['es~'nce, O'lU'Ii!}l'!e'S wlU be [al.ki:ng to each orher,

40

Those unsaidwords: whkh win he he-a rd vet-y clearly by rh em _ Wh.e.n you win leek inll::O ray eyes, you win uuderSU1~d what 1 am fedi,ng!

I . - ;.

r tat ' v ery moment, ga'lJlng ar YO:l.l.

"And when 'tn(: people will he busy h.dpiiJ.g rhcrnselves to the food, rny eyes will ~, k. you W come upstairs [0 1.:h:e terrace. And I \V]]1 make my \\qy ro the $:tai:U:-CJSC and head upwards,"

"And ]]lY ey,es. wlll reli you to go on ahead, ~nd iH [he firsr o P p or E 1LI~.i'rJ', lwU:r soon escape, say~,l'llg i. have to !;O to washroom, jo' :-;h ~ said in rhar ,girlish m is('b ievous tone,

~'I will be Oil the rerr:aceb• standing just behind rh, ,tt(H)r where the st;.1 i rcase ['0 [he rer race ends,"

":Y(~IU will hear my :illlhl!€·~'S ::~~,.d ,my bangles [[lllJdjng 3$ ] e:::(MUe up rhe H:J.L['S (I';) rhe dark terrace, ' :sh~ said ~lo.wly;

: But } ru wont know that I am, standing behind d'e door. ' I whispered.

"f'li']jdli will push rbe door a.nd. go 5 [rll:igh~ ahe :i:~'1 l she too starred wh i spering,

• lr.r; moment you go two, sr.tps ;;Iihcad I will grnb you froml, behind.' I don'c lcru)'w what was hap, en i n.g to us. Was, i ( the frum Q f$pendj I' g rhose 'i~ce.k.Jl igptli, w~![hou'r ~a I,k I,ng {IO e,Jcl:m orher, (H' ~on::Ltthing. else?

o u csid,r;: ~ j t had s tarred f :lIJ,~ ni]1 g~ ~dldln g to the se nsa do n 0 f the j no menr, 1 co uld heal;' [he rai n. spatrcri n.g em. [he ,groillnd, and the cold breeze bJew open the windows an9 ~~me in 0 my room fha' naght.

L Shorn !*;: sb~ cried my name with pleasu re.

~A{l!d grabbing Y'ou ff'~m beh~nd., I "!.YiU 1:. ke you, <lind lock. you, in my .u'ms_)) T closed Jl1r ~~es" And .ITI a:rbo she did [he same when she said, ... Shonal J agah]',. very s1owJyl' fui I of love, taking a deep, b,~a - h..

"And \\I'i~h. ,my bald I wiii blin.g' y.o'l~r [ong ha~r in fto.rrrf y.1))Uf. left shoulder ~tnd. I will bring my' face y,e:r)~ 'dulse to ym.U' neck on rhe right,

'. 1

wlrr',h my other h.i!"n(l plaY1!ijg en r(lUf bare waist., ;,'-~

.I tried ~Q keep my em Qld ens in check because I did. not want [0 sc~r~ my sweerhean l.QO in uch, so e;.arly, SJliC c~idl1.~t ,say {l,A,ythi.l!l,g: for a while, bur OL~.[ breaths were ;j'gcHin~ louder, M:-y .... w,,'!" '1'';' .... ."",-''" 'n r. """, fi .... - di

, :!;; '0 ", 'IJ L~" '~''''''QA, \, '1'''' ,~~,:, ]_ t) um:, j ng

i nside me wi til pIt~s ure,

«Al'ld, th¢lj~,n' she f.lIlaU y &sk'C;d" I unde[~tood her .l:tUtc of mind, rhe ri p ples, dte. tro i:.lghs: ;1111d creas in. hel' heart, Bu~! J hove- all, 8 he wanted to enjoy dl~U mom err! wiTh, me,

~'n_d I answered her, ., j\nd rhct,1: 'YO u \vjn f~d my liplS beh i nd ylQ LU" r1.ghr earl 011 your n«k. ~~

.!" Mm rn, ~ sh,~ rnu [ntt! red, brea Rh,j !\I"'~ he;ruvil.y.

~~ I ;!IJJll fed.:i llIg sOlnetbing so d.ifkren E iIJ,tr '~his rnomen r, Are you?n 1 ;i4,slQed bel' ~ry ~~H~nd)t!.

I(,y l n, , '

. e~-, sorrier :nng V~[y d.]fferer.l t. \Wh~lr!f are yo U fucling?n

'~\X,!'lth fOIJ. in my arms, I am able to smell thecologne rhar yOl~ are wearing, you.r sweet H:!mi~njJ1e' fragrallce;" ] flteJ my' lips .ki,~$< Lug your Sh0 ulder and go~,ng down your bad,! Hoong t:h,ij: sJjgB,1fte,slt .~w.ea~ aclbe'r,ing· eo you, ,. J'J By tbis; rime, even ,m,:r voice had $t:;i,tr~l, shaking. 1 ,a13ked her, .~ TeU me} whar are yo\V .[{;e.iingr'

,;'t:r of:. 1 t> IL i' '

1 reer..; sne was sn'ugg~nug to cornplere her ~f.lFrr.'eOce and I cC!lJld

,~~dU h~ar her breath loud <In'Q cl>i.73f.

She: hesitated, I Vof:811tOO,;

S11e '''';J'::ii,~ breath i ng fastrr now, shJ.'j!e[·in_g. Her passionate voice was

, 'I" fr IL

SitUTI U ,a:rul.g me ' urrner,

'tN·ow fi1,r other Jtan'C1 is movingon your waist And then ... ~ I paused, ~~~ld. tb~'~~I' -; ~~~ ~he insisted 1 go on,

"And then j ~lU o,f a sudden ~ it h;B:s started raining," I brough t ~,h.e l'J i n (r,d M ourside Jny"winclow :~ nID our sweet dream .

~~M . ;'\ ~, -JI .L. .- - '~~~

.,. .mm.v, ru:iti rnen.v. ~

¥ery slowly, I wh ispcred, "And dl,en'l I have turned 10:\.1, rewards me" We are wer from rhe rain. I i1,l\D1 w~tth1~lg y~u in JOur. wet sari which is sticking to your body. I run :reeh1!: the raindrops f~ ning on your tBrdi:ef!Jd ~ running down~ yOllU' nose. an-d hanging On. YOUl" lips foD1i a 'wl-dJe before r urming fu rthe r down }'OJJf body. Serands of }'6 idJ: \I'WeE hair are gllJed 1'0 YOUl cheek,' ,

\Ji.nd rhen .. ,?;; She-started whisperi:~g ~_ga~J'~ .

"You are ItJ.Qking down, somewhere on m y shirr, roo shy 'to ,~<ook i nro my ey,e~,. I am F;:l[sing, '1Ol1J ,(h'i OJ' ro ,help you 10 ok i1'lW afld r~ad. my eyt:s w.b.kh are st;;u~ng ;jI}r Y01l:U,."

.LA. , . n,,, ','), d. " s, t" r o"h" __ e. _." n, " . to) she was hardly able to 8piL-ak·a filyt[IH)n~' ,1Ud. W;(!J~ losing h9- words,

(~'With OU[ h~",~* tilted ~li'gh,cly~,my Ups fe,el the rai,nd~t)lps :£;dcking to your ,~~ ps S:"L¥:lJ~~ ~owing them, funh,et tlis('_iQ'l,tt~ir~g '~:he sofcuess of your lips. ".:ll 1\_1] d ,m,~.'~ passionate hl:'il~· which I descrlbed (.10 ~1Jer lasted for q 1,.1 t te a while, That \~~3r1J, rhe first d me, I Fdt.l S[l:e ~now'ed me to C:fOS'.8.i :;il. few' bou ndaries. MillM apart fro',m e-ach odre',r! ~ ·f,d[ e-a,cb. and ever.y $11 iver of than: moment,

We werelost ] n each other when, £l1dde-:,n.ly~ she turned mischlcveus,

"H I n I d :Ii... ,; l-l L I k· .' c: "if I h b j['

, ey'" riBlJpte' own mere wi lU¢ ,)00. :L11g ror U$. ,1. ,.1L:<1!.W '1[0 ,1lUS'J;1:JlOl1e

.111Y parents come upstalrs, sea~,hing .for- me," she shouted.

I wonder how she LoJ.Jle.cted. her.· ene'rgr and, f!:]'O re tha ii that, how she remembered d1e fan. people in rhe f~ rain, 0l1. thar f.;;tke e:[Jjgag~me-n;t ni,ght (tho ugh i I: M,~ to come true, in it few Inol']t'~hs;)-

~rA~h! The people down rhere will be' happy witb eheir foodl/:' ] tried to co nvince her

j Nuh. .. please. Come On dear, now ope,ln.you.r arms \Vc have [,0 ~c)r ,uud change OUr,d(H~~le-05. Def'6rc they see us, sbe urged, laughing ar ~he virtual re.:AHry we WeI€ in.

''; Ok, But on one condition. i, ~~.mtd wllat's. rha ~ ~

';, I want 1!V see you whi lie you ch~utge.:»

., Oh. , .. bo. ' .. h«. ,. tMmhe ungli' kyt1. pa.kd4a~;, tUm; t-o,P~~'i(l' haaHJ prdrdtt(J

f"'''l.ht~ ho Z~it1~ f1tl.l.~t fl' /·-·';il~t""'''''J' .",.;-""';t tJ..".,,' n 'I; J." 'II.

"- , ,. J. r '&' ,~-, ,!'}n.L'!>J~r_..;n U"lI'f' r~~t/..~()J ~~'l~ ·WiiI:r.fl'e:(;L fne WJ.hl,iJ!

litde hlUgh,.

,~u ..l '

rittattl pt'l..kdnaf No just the hand, ,I Want to ho.ld aU of you!' J:

responded, I rried Ita 1(1 ot-,..,. co"ii'iI~"~J'l''''''''' L).o;.rt" bu she di dn llo "

• , .~..... L~1;'''' ....... ], ""'11.. ' .l!; ""-', t, fll: a ,lQ\V me, e\\refl

r.hough ,it \\.ras. vnly' make believe.

] 11 ar 11.1f~hil: "He: 0:)1 ""11'[' ''1; rit ... 1......... N' '.... " , , - IIC]' •

. , . b' 'll' .JIJ,!, .... ,r, ~1'1;, ...._. [,<1. L II.: , 'I •• i~~:r wasn IE nl~i!. n. ,gu,if'$:'!: ~'Il. waS'

close to ;SU oris€' 'hen we ,f! nally h Ll.ilJg up.

[ stared Qt Iny cell phone and r.isjng fi"O!l,~ rilly bed 1 walked ro rhe w,~ n&ow.: I noticed that [he rain had stopped by '[hen. I was ri red a~ huogrv 5:D I picked' liLp an apple 'ro' , m the k-'" d ~ ; .

• 'I P ,,' "'.. ~I:_~ "" :rk . I, .,.' '!... rtcnen an; ~ m,un,c~li:n~l on

1:rr1• I Iav dorwru OIn m' l' b ed Then J '"'u .... rt1I"" 0- , • 0]

, r>: , ;s,!..I"r .' l~ ...... I, • n """'~,~ . we.r ou.r ~onv:e'r,,)a!,~ 10 n, a~aln

OYer fill rhat bad happened ~ ewry' deta i l, '. '. I don:~t knew \ Jben. [ f~U aostee.p and started d,ream.ng".. .

--~~.

And wha' a night . t \Va~. L a bYPQthe6.ca[ kiss could give so IUUch II.k.l~u,re~ what would ,1, pracrical on.e be like! Lwondered. Then I Ir~u,d,ed. 1:0 call her lIL,P - re tease her for a[~ she ended up doing. the. ~ I i ~h I before,

he picked up the phone in her sleep and asked, "M.rn1- baby uth ,~~tt'? .

. , .

"/'bah ... You ru]j me whe n Y'Cin ralk so sweet. ~ ;'ltt:aUv?1--'

- _,

hI I ~ mn'l._."

"RuL I am .;sHU ~~eepy and want to return to my dreams again, she 111 ~ .

Mi.schiC\"'ousl,y~ I shoflllux:l at her. " S.leepr· li arn here to ''Ir'-rakt:. you uP'r I II yo 11 even remember \V]:H~t all Y'~'ll said [0 3. guy last n~gh.t? 1 ru Cilln, I wonder hO\-\I' you. COWId, be se open and hold, f"Oldn@ me, [0 say aU '111.1'1. You know; I was strugglb1g· ro g'er over the ernbau,assment:~ [ II. v' dl0Ug,hli} ou would CI-08S, aU the boundaries of shyn 5S, c[hm.caJ

.1 ~ ACS •• ."

I, had not yet SlIJl i s.~:I!I,d ,my speech willen she woke up' completely ,an,d 1." ~ L I ~t.it, back ar nil c'~ ~~Aaye-.-,ba:y,f., . h'dJf~ ,; e Yb'u). '!i!uyd How C'llUlnl.l1,g yOu I . ~ I n ~ Godl , H. r:o. u b9Y:5 are i,lJilke. lh.,' lines you said just now sbouJld I u~ ine actuaay. You seole fiT}' lines jus because r was s[~epy. You I II j n·iM" ~ all your boundaries and pu~,led me ro ['h,e other sid~ a.~ 'w~n. ~ ill ~w ("0 uld yO.iJ dOl -rh:nt You guys, p~a.y ~'10 smart with innocent g.i,:ds

I n

~ :li't: •.•

"I ~'C.yl~) I s~ i rlJ' interrupting, tqrj n.g co calm her down, But she kept in .Iike an ;[ pposition pa]['ty~s fep~~ ·~tnaLi\~e on NDT\ls B.ig figJ.u.

, . .. ,All }10 U g~l\yS ;;tIC J ~ke chameleons ~ ch::lLingi ng YOlU rolo! wh~ Illlll! Lwd ... You",,'"

1\ Ii1 d I was' tt-yi11:g ro recall whei e I h~d, heard about dl a!l!11.ej,!f0.j1Jl5,

Probably in Bi ol 0 gy. Was it some ki nd of flower which changed color at n~ght and returned to in ·ofjg~,:t):;il color in the morning] 1 :~h'l"J.k it lj,~S: soti1ted1j ng else. J wasn't drat good with .Bio.

Keep ing rhe d~a;,m,c'fcon a t baJy~ I tried to inrerrupt a,~.i ~.1~ "~.,llth:cha "ah'4'~ listen to me. K>'

,,. .. " And. only you. boys. want to ralk.l lke rhis, we girls neverv.. " 5th!! was 110r t~. rough yet.

~; l{,ey; Khush (- . ." 1 said, b LI rr ,~he was cOITlp:~et~ir igno.ri!lg rn e. ~~ ~. , And \-I'"QiLl know whA.t~ 1'\li V'O.~ bovs, = «, ~

.. 11'.1

"0' K E N'O' 'UG' H"~' I ' _j, &'\...70U Tr. ... ,~OW· '\\i'".rtJf··r "T' ''[;..T A"T l:.J" /Ii, '[ ~

" ,) .... " " , ,;" "S~}QilJtet:l.1 ... '1,',. 1'(£~:: y....Il. ,d\. 1" ).'l1'1..l .1 uiJ_",.F

AN HOUR u\sT,NIG~frT.I.s so PftECi,OUSTO ME::;,Ti~AT lAM REA,DY TO DfE A B'UNDRiED' ,DE_JtTI·'lS ro ENJOY THAT AG'AJ~ \VlTH. ¥Ol{) •.. AblD JU5T YO'U. ~~ TMs 'ri!ll.e~ d1!eJl~~Fd ~"VeTY' word loud. and clea r. 1 conrinued, M B;ecJ.!l.E.5le i [ was so sweet, so J6v~ng~, and so heaudfbL Aod I ~lfi so h alPP, rrh:u rOil, rrus L me _e110tigll ro aU6w me I[)O get So close [0 you~ And I wan [ [0 MW tlrar " ., I 10v(: you so much."

And s'~ (; melted Iike an ice-eseam ~ n SUfflFflet;.

or Stlr:..hhlt' Her iunocenr, L\f~et voieewss ,c:a:!nl, J:lO\-V.

~Ji-[i:~fh'lJi", I will wa~it fo'( OLU' en~gtm~.nt ;ev.et:)i'l)g ttl) come rrue this w,~y. JU~;t make sure fh~x -you: clon"c ,PU[ !D'[[ a lo r @f tipstl.dt. .. ~.,

if'Sl~Ut up ~ lJ she said !J:hvlv.

" ~ .-

AJI day I wai ted f01~ d~e ccnfirmariorr of ]1e~'w.h.kh wDu1d. ,hav~ been good; if it had been 'ait 'a no rher rime. Unfo,[':Ctlf!l atdy~ I go"~ the oonfj,rm~tl on am d. I had ro tdr her and' my fa.Lm Hy i..'OO!, r 'wDl)dere1l, if sht would be ll;'i!ip pir when S:~.'rt £olU'l,d out, 0.£ sad.

Still, 'without rhir.d.;~,n.{; a.ny furdt~r~ I called her ill' eocell her, ~!hen ,ile did JJ.O( plck, he:r pb'OneJ _[. g,~H' b~~k to 'rtl,y studies. Five minutes 1;1J~I~ 1 heard roy!ceU phoce ,ringing; I could see her name flashing on ! he screen

1 ph::;ked u p dre p h'Qfn~' and s ai d! ~ n: Hi, jt:tdtttJt£lll1.tJ.itfUt/" ve..rY' ~ o fL1JJo(icaUYJ wirh ~, sll1.a[l kiss,

("UL H-'~

n e _, " -e iL.

Da.lll.n~' II: W~ Ne.enJ1, her :rQun_ge:r sister, W,nat a bl under. \Vh~u \).i 1'0 u ld I say now? Sho'b.II.d. I Ea11t .0': should I jus [ dj'&con n,e-ct? I was 11~mlddng, With the Jundt of jn1age 1 had projected to her famil)~ that llrs ( Hac: would have been a shuck fOi sure.

'. ,

"How are yout~ 'Neeru asked me, b~'ea~i(lrg the silence.

(~U h. .. , I am JfiJ!l!t~. Hew are you?' And. how QOHf'lJC you eJ1led up fro m II r:1' edt ~ I asleed, scrarching 1"111 head and ,¥cUlcie-rin:g whether she I ~ ;-:Jj.:ln~~ heard nty' previous line b ecause of some magic or due to some j ~~ l ~ l fin the pho ne or the ne.t1¥brk.

~1 am fine, Ac[ually; Khushi \VU in, the washroom, and I was il!DOll:t to !.~ke·y.our. ~dl when iibe .rin,§;£l;:opped" So Idi:ah~cl: l:n.e missed-cal] .llumlJ;er_ \'O'clt here-she is, back in clll& room. A..J~d now she is suuggting W.i'~b, me w snatch b~r geU,phome" .. '-; and her voice faded into [he ~;:lIdrgr'l)1l1lldL'

~~il1C!ill y~ K11~,J;shi .sai.d~ ~ H tJ.a~'" .• £. ilieUiD ~ ~~ d~efending. herself fnlm: her ~iSl'et.'5 pu nChA;:4. N'~CitU \~FAAt"(~d to tdk itiQ me, fin.d ]t was prohably the Ii In ly rim e when I felt lH1oo,mfortable taHcirng to . her, hJst. because of the \' ;;lY' the caU ;'jra.r.~ed.

"Hey, thalJ.k God. rO~L1 carne," Lsaid to her.,

<, ~hQn~, eft min:Utt:,~; ~ll},e paused with d1fl'[ senrenee ttl hear ~o,t'!J.~ed~!b:ig 'wb ich N eeru was trying ro tell bel' at the other end. Tl~~ H ekm.i~u"i! I \~.sted. for f]:y.e minutes and I t~aH>zecl bo:w '\\!,trong I W:!IJS, to .rhink. of ~d)y

111;},gl-(.

, \Vhat?'" Khushi shouted .. amu sed, and laughed. crazily,

c ,I; "Ut1'; jadnr~ Necru shouted .fro,m behind and joi ned her Sl!i:tei:!l:

I~ ughter"

c"OH MY G,O'D j ~> I thought fec]j llg v,err e'm.b:;1 rrassed,

But Khushi didnt come to, Iny defense, Ra'iher • she joined her sisrer in celebrating rhae momenr,

I':r""..~ I~~ T 'I I ~~H I" 1· 1"L'd .,f:" t. _j d ~

l.J-;;:I;mn:. Ji tnougnr, , et ~tt esister fa ,~, ro me as ~,i: ' 11t:: di nt

hear an;lthit),g and look at her now, Giris! • I now remembered 'i~hat a

,

rharneleon ~\I'"3S, and rhoughr the .an:tlo:g,y . uired girls even bcttcr-- -

dley cna n,ge colors so [as .

So that was how I became :t joke -Foir the two sisters,

I almost fm~ [ the n..-aSOI1 I had called h ,~~ when "Khushj carne back ~r last! taking a bn:o;l;k from her 1~11ILIgl'iLC'rii;",

·~l':I!!·a It., '. '. Tell me ]lOW. SI-·es go ne '[0. anorher room."

"Your sister is so cunning. She behaved as if she: did not heal an yth i ng, "

"'Aftt:r all, she's mw sister]"

L -

"Now I Won~t be able [0 ,hu:e her {Of the next fc;:"l.1i.' drays,,'"

"Oh come on! AJr~r· all Y9U are her HJ'U~ and such rhings keep ha.p:pcnlng ben, een j'~j'u and. saali."

~·'But the nexr rime [ Wont begin with romantic lines, unless I

. ~. . ~ h ,1'

nl!!u~e sure ~ [S 'yOU O:~. pnoue, '

". Ok habdj now tell file. \l/h at 'were yrou :_gO] n,~ to :s;a}l?.i·

. '

After a smal I pause I said in. a si iJgIe go, , 'I need W ,go (0 [be U for fiv¢ weeks, for my project, 'j;

, 'X'b(u:? ~~ Act!J1a].J} It was more like, "';'w -I":{~A- T???:?? ~' A single word wieh a thousand {hQughr.;~ rttnl1i£~g rhro ugh it, aU in dlf[er;t.nt direcriens,

-~--- - --

'\x/It)' ,0 stu:.!denly?H she asked irnpati'e:;nrly,

i'li knew that [his t11j mg was in the pipeline. But I 'was try] I.lg to avert i L for the CAT [P." ,: ovember, There ,U&Jll.~t any esca poe f[,OH1, this now"

Ll B lit, , , you can n ·ak;e ~ y high prior j ty CXC!.1S~; rlghr?~~

"Hmrn. .. Bur irs' going' £:0 marrer for lny career C'00·~ dear, Listen, PI ase don't ge~ angr~T. ~ rhis point, [ , t1l a, little confused, <i bour how I '\ivi ~ 1 do 't~~ is, ] mean, leav i ng die IMS d;:i$$e~~ [11,(::: .mock-rest,s .1 n,~~'ci

~'IMS, mock-tests, career .. " YOrt~ remember ~"I!Crythlilgj hut what ,1bt"Hl me? Bus,"" ill our oft-ice, career and I. '. IS. classes, We have nor even .., I ~ 11 e ach other yee. Ou rs is such ~ d i fFer~nt seory .. _ And ,flJ),\\r yo ~ t' re .. :1)' ing .yo t~ all re gG~ng 'EO the S!l:~,(~S ••. , ~I She was .~boru~ 1r0 cr.y.

ILH B I 1L ~. ",_Ii.. :15

, ey .. , U![ .nave ~ome tnwng ro cneer yrO IJJ. up.

'L\Y/har is i '[?"

, I will be boardingmy plane frD1r:t1 New Delhi, I 11 take a day~s leave ~o rhar I can spend an entiee d.;:y with yo u, W~e~]1 finally be seeing each odie]"! Isn'[ that sOB1i,etb]ug· to cheer up abour?"

Even I k:new th~1!' it 'lvaS:,Ll]~t. the P eEreCt l~·a.Y. to ,rbeef her Lip ..... sp. e!lfldin~ ~~ ~~ 'en tire day -wirh her and then leaving the ,CQlUI!J,U:y for rn Of12 than a 11101ldl. BUT the 'fact rhas we WOLJlld. ge[ to' spend an ~ntire day wirrb , .. ch 0 ther ,gave 50]n~, co nf,Gn to, our hca rts. it was not as if-we had al'lf option ot.l1,er rh~n ,ea!cdywaid~g for rhar day 00 ;It['h·''c and th~" t"[·yiug: ro make it lase ;;:..,S lo\og as j, ye~rr_

Wh~ r W,:;lJS su ~:p.rising] rho,ugb, was d~,al ~J1. bfflcia ~! on-si re trip w~s t:;i v~ ng us rhe Oprpo rru ni tty to see: each od~ er fo:r the vety fI,ut. time. At times, ..,. -I';; wondered bow busy our life was: ruunicg limn offiGe to [MS! from, career to flunily~ but with no time to see rile person 'W1Ih who In, we were going to spend the rest of 0 u[, 11 ves,

,F,,~ry pas~,ung ,dar 'iN,as marked, And as- t imc paJS~d! 0 tar fedings golf

49

stronger, The exd rement was Increasing, both} in rhe mind and in the hear t ... And :6nally~ '[he day arrived when w,e met eachorhe - for the ver.y first time.

#,#

It ka .hot, ~tic-ky SUI"l'@:Y ti/tem(Jon. w.~ aN wtl/lChing th't same movie on our u-leWiom: ShlJ in Fdridalmti; L in B~btines.Wttr. AnJ 1 am ,r/n.iHd ,thu

, ~-~!b

b-e;;t1;tlSt .she sens me [{hi SMS, '«fling m' 'to WI1.K!i it.

In' th~ mwje;; flit hmi(it!: is JHlt_l!ing &t- iNtll ,,,flu btlving (I; hig fight 1JI1,~th ho h.ubby.,

At t/7is W11 JNomen/, Khwki..mlls ,,,,e. Ill·. Anri pnJ~ng I1mt!! in tlMt wo»JIUIJ sb().'t1~ l'.dtm~ un~taM ~ J.~ sa-fl:;. «You /mew: whot! Ij:t.Mnt!d4y 1 am SI) anl7J tlmt I W1Jht to run lIWtlJ'.!mm ,,,u. .. iust Jo. a .stmpk 't'hing .. a »

J Jtm t s~J' llnjthing" bu.tibe continu.(s.

~Simp9 run. to: me Ilnti Il1l1' m« a'tight h·Uf; IU} mAtter .bow »mdi' 1 ,hit

I .

JD1i Ihm, .But filM' mC' a ~rml' tight Img; DfJn} ~ a WD,rtl lml' h:oid m.t ~n

,!O,UT ilr1fMfor ,lum#imt ... ,~ II liftle .Ia~ help'fn'r in '~1iFllclii1fl my , ~; Bolo karogt 1M!D

5·0

Foce to Face

It wa-s 2 :.3<) in the a.frel'flOOl\ and I was on aWl a irbus from Bhubtaneswar to Delhi I p':f$(, row, win.dow sear, 1 just love gcrti ng window sears,

With roy official laptop on my lap~ I 'wasJl~t wodldng excra hours and making ]nfr proud of me, Rathe.r~ I was going through her pictures which '1 ~d managed [0 downIo-ad ar rhe ve.ry last minute before leaving

for the air.porro

On V? computer screen Gazing at her picturt

I fo~nJ mpel{folting' with, the riu'ng iJeights

Falling in Love with her

CouMn~t 1"€sis.t saying -1 wve rO'f/.

Tht m.adntn adtid

~n 'the pi(;turt Hlid it' too

o ur ~ng the ].0 U,rney~ I gave plenty of reasons 1:0 me air boseesses and my fdlQW prassengers [0 think thar ,hef:f: was something wrolil$ with me, OF:i to be precise, witb my brai n .. 'When. you see a guy tal k.i n,g to his laptop, ar rimes looking outside at the' clouds'l smiling, then lOQkin;g

51

ar the screen ~~gapn -a nd ~mlUn g' one more rim t - Y1Q U canno t 'be bi~,m~dl fur feding that hh; top fl,C){)f might be vacant,

1 rernem bet' rhe disC:6ruJo rt 0 f the air hostess w,ht"o' sbe caught: me ;5111 ilin:g .at ,my lap (~P '1,~:h lle she ~'as, ddjY~i,hg thee' $<l.fe.:~"y demo. She rrobablrh~~H:ed me because the demo was supposed to he il'iJ ~ync ,,1tfh ~he. annourrcemcm by her coUeaglle) ~nd ~11.e 'W;;lS ~aggil1g .he-hind:.. :e;U[ who ii~~od. her to flOclls on, m.e? E did,ntt ..

r f you ask ru'e why I was b.llJlsk)J,ung ~n{~ sm! ~ i n:g~ I ,ha;d pJ/e..L11y;bF ans,w'c,tlfs fl))r that, ,r.n joy]ug' dH; candies (served by dlc S~HTI!e 1\1,[ hosress), I ~~ fecru,~ing how Khwhi gave me a call lase ,f!!igil[ ~$ the .Il1&i1.Y,!'e hand just ,~,nO''''''''ed past J2:fH) ,i:\1YI ,~wud W1!: entered the f1:rn 11linlne~'f ~ :riIew day - totl::l.y,

"¥Olt are going Ut:;], ceme [,0. me- to(brYYYY~ 1'.1' she shouted

;~ 0'11, Bt)yJ ,~ HID, go,i ng crnzzzyyyyym~' I :;ILl ~o shou ~e!CL j urn p~,ng (11 Iny balcony, sri [[lUg rhe calm mid ... igh t.

1 gw=ss. ] woke up sorne of mY' ne-jgh bOI'S1 and dj[sttu:bed 8ofiilecwHo were about to ()~~rID. A couple of srreer (~~ c~lm,e~'llt::ef[h~ d3..f,k~ amd .stane~~, hauJci 11.~.art 1~~. 1- ,n!~.hed 'bad, ~n lEO :m.y- rcorn when I ~,W the. Hgb~ turn ~)n in ;a Few fl'ats ~n, the hlivHding De1([ lio mine,

Laughing :en l~~t n,~ghes. events aocl. still en jOY~flg t!l Y caridi~$ [ .Fe('(~,Uecte.d how ~o'nfl~s;ed I 'wa~ '~'flr:a,t ,mo:rn~n~~ 0lt)'l,']ut wh~,t to we~f. ,I pulled.out evti:1thing.From, 01Y closer that m,i[lij;,!'ling a,nd tried i.1[ ~JJ ~n fl)tlrc of the m irror, I 'took. almosr 'an h,ou.r r.0 decide and, '![,h~~) ;rha,ng.e& a gaiJj j ust h~.fo[e IT Jeft f'Qr[ rhe o,ffl.ce .. T]~M!' fU;Ll,ny ~h.Lu~.g}s- ~h~:[ I ended u p wear i.mg rh~ () nly shj n which W.a~H'~ i railed (a1o.ITh~ W1e1:h dark d¢11 im)"

Everylr,h i~ng' I d]d t~har d,ay~ I rn'ard~ <1L mess q{ And ·w]] ile I locJ~\t:d' these me men ts, every now .~ nd then , weird thol(Jgh~s '\¥Q[:ik~, ,p'p,p MUG u1y·head:-

52

1f/httf ifsbe jsn"~ aJ, I.M'llUf:ifot &'1dhe appttl£n ~'n he;' pitf:t.t'l,ft'1:[ ~lrhdt ifsh:e' /(;J;1Jgm in'fi tiny w.eir" Wiry.?

\,11fjat ~fshe limy:!?

- :and ,mal::llY or.be.r sl~,t:h '~boughts pI1i,~,N~d b,~d,c: '~nd, seek .1 n my J11 ind ~

un ri I I ltr.i.:;J~~y ~s]l:e:d myself the big: quesncn,

Do yotl love her; Rav.in':

1. [01 r shh,! Of co urse It was to 0 Jette to'. be asking [his: .. !rYes'~ ] do. Of course I QO>¢» 1 said to nly.seH~,

\x"dL ('0 be hcnesr ~ I JlCtliJUy fQ,w~& m r51e~f ro &ay it. I dou't knew \~'ilY 1 was a liule ·ap'pi~he[i1sive. n.U(! gooicl.or bad, the truth was. dl.at:

I ~ ~;~ r ryi ng her WJJS my independent decision, one [hJl{ :[ had arr ived at w i thour any lund of pressur.e from, my £Unay Of ftom her:

~o, to sfl~enoe those 'weird,' tbou,g_'bts ~ I pulled out ~ oew&,pap:e r nOjrl i I~L' ~:rlt:;tU rack in front o:fmy seat: But I W~ll]dJ1U:t concentrate on [he IllrW5p~lpet either. There \~W3 3" d~.ffc.i:tnt kind of c::-;.dr£n1Ient.ln me which ~,.I,~' sending !UP 4 clam ;iIT,$i,de me, )$h~tk1n:g, me a bit ~t times. 1 don't k IUW Wh~'E kind 'of ,fear ~'[ was ..

l'he nerve usness and ill1~~ie1r]f nn~]n:[ I ~ ,g,oi~:g. to rhe ]CQ every 20 111,~,tUHm~s, I became a peeing machine. Ir llalJ~lp'{:n$ rc everyone .... O~[' III m{':m.'c it? And I was sure :tthar the kid on d}.e la.sif. !l"'ea,t was ,cc,unting rhe u uuuber of times-I passed, by bim .. I pr~U"nd'ed ~Q ,ignore hi[u when he:

II~ rH:d whisperi ng • n his m IVi't1/S ear, Of course be 'W;lIS tellin-g :her abo IJJf I i ~ " ~ noticed 'hi;S' hand ,po,iJ,]dng ;a t me, 'wh~~h his mom puUed bad{.l ,UI i I~ng:,

~ ~i nall y at 5; 00 in rhe eveni I1g~ the pI ~n~ lan.ded at Delhi :clJ.n.d ~ ~ i I ehed on, m y ,In~b]]e -co~~p,I,'elod,~ igflQd org ehe .capla.ih 's, command I II ,I to do so befOin~ .in~mn~iO]~iL Whul~ d-lt pJ~n;e WaJS takiQ1g CIJ, U. ~ turn I U1 d~c U.l\t1.'i,VUV; J looked our. of [he ,~findQw d)~ see'~.f there 'was any gid

,

Iwi~l,g to ... vards IUy plane' ~. i'r could be h~d (Nowj 1 ~tQR.d_eJ' h_ow I

'~,3'

.... '

could have been so siUV' ;;t~ W expec[ visitors on rfi;e runway, J

]' W~l;S tr1i!l,rHl 1[0 cal! her up but fOE 50 m ~ 1-''''''''' ., ,"1 m v ~r~i·;1 p-t,. - '1-

r c> ." "..... ......:o.;:Ii ~, ,.~ j L ..... JL ,HOllie l[iQt~l :,

not adapt Lrsclf to the roaming ZOne. I kept -t:rying~, CU[~fHg' ,my p~9H:e and the nerwnrk. .I k:epr tryin.g and l~,e:pt fi]a~ngn

A fe,' minu res late);') .I was <5t311.dfng ~:I: rhe b'.J.,gg,~ge d:ahn sec riou,

'wJ.! r~.Jlg·· .fo IT' Uj'V hl~("~JE"Tr- t' ,,,,,": "Ii "'1I";~t,,.:.,, n I. if- ni-~y e1w"".;:- ~"',' _, f

, • _ .I, ;=;fY_~'o"" ' I,J .. U,~"U .."..; ,iD''I.IU_ IIW_ . { .... ,j. 'il;'!f.L.e .nC[ on tne-eonlleyct.f

bd r, rhey were J oo,kiU,g' fo~; sornerhi ng el ~r;;l F~L tb er someen« else, He~'t

and. there ... I was JQo.ku~~g at Cvef-Y gi.rl, and ]Jc-el'ing at the crowd. s-r""u'lding --Ol:jr£~,de which was vi~ibIe t!trou:gh, d-I1>e g6~t~s wall,

Then 1 So1·'V N~,Y' fed bag. g·f]dj ng :m.~[',([.s me on rhe bel r, B ur befGr~

it OOH ~d te~ch ,tt!!i:,;" sh:~ reached me, '

On nrty ph one,

My cd] ,*va~ w'Oddn~ new 8.lnd. f. hea.ni the ,r.iJlg;.. I~ Kh.u:5h~, '~alJ.j_ng~ ~~ j t said, I t©nk h.er. {'aU"

"'H" .1,1

"cyr.

L'I"":jev; :l<I

. .'l";'

.s Uea.l.CC.

~IS!l). -.<IC l\nd I turned ~)ad:-:.; f~cin~rtbe t"x]t"

5,4

"'Wh~~ [ did you. ,m.lS'$t·

,,",

I, lv1 Y 1 11 ggfIJg,e , I star ~~d. ltaJk.iIlg '[0 you. and I m issed it. ~ii.

I l Jh-oh. ~~ She paused while I k1ep.t Illy eyes On rhe (o:t"l!'vey'O-r belt, I lit' n she spoke ~g8J t I'll I'I·Otn r. :!LsI;;: )~O'~I, 00 m.e rh i tl,Sr~

II \,1 J1. ,.:, ~Jj. 'JiV 1;1.[:,

"Are vou nervous?'

"I I ow do YD'll k[1ow~';

,. HL':::ca US-Ie _ , • r;:\tt: n ~ a m," she' confessed, Then she said, "Okl 17e 111:pe,

",I !,L[ are you l,vt.;·a:rJng tod~yf'"

"Olive-green sh ir t aild dark-blue j~ns:. 'Yo t~,r ~~ "() h TIl¥, God!~~

"\Wh at h a:p P e,IT!.e.cH ~ J 'dtO'll!ght she d iclrli!: Ul~'E the co]or 1 was 'wear in~;, I II I ooks g'oold 0 lit me. ~~

.. -~ It' b . -.] ·b ["

No~ no, t s nor aoout geou. Of . an.

II l am also 'wear in.g- olive-green and b,hl,e Jeans. '"

\ 'oi ncidenccs seemed .aJ!wa),l's to 'be fQ]~owing us. O'U.t birthplace ~ die ~ a ~ i ) j] th ~ ,th~ -y,eat; QL'If interest ill music, our career, IN_[S. And n,ow~ she I II~ i ~~h e~ 'We, were we~r1ng [h~l~ daly.

1·AnT8l'l.ingr We 'are defiilltdr m~de fo.r each ether, Hey! .M,Y- fugg~ge i'l! LO ming to rne O'i!:ga 11). I'm go i ng tG' pklt it up and COJlLlt~ .. o urside io '[W'O III inures, S-r::e ya! ~~

I made :mJ< way rhn,:m:gh '(he- '~r~oJtel.l quell£! to get fUr b:Th~ aHld loalcU ng Ii ou ill [loHey~ 1 w,:d~e& :mw--aJd~ the re:.tit. The ~f1ptop was still hangin.g .11~ m y si1ou£d.e.r.

Fil1!,~Hy' at'bQul to see her, 1 was anxious, sJiivedl[]g' ~ii1.d my hearr \'VItS hca dagtast. Every' feminine. voice frO,,f[l t~le~r.Qw~l ,$~em~dI: to be hers. Q, }f co urse, I WM try1].~g to. behave as if I ~!I}1:l rd,ax;ed and oo,OL

~L Relax, .. Relax. _. Relax, Take a deep Inca th]~' I (old. myself And the next rhirrg E knQ\Vj. I was already. outside,

There were a. lor of people in fronr. of. me, waiting fOJ[ thei r d6\il!r ones. Some cab drivers bold] ng up nameplates fer their bO:5S'Cs, These Wiit~ a lor of shouting and noi se frQ,m rhe u',affic.

Then, for some reason, I ,topped moving' fOfW'3.Ul and rurned te1t.

And there she "vas!

rv1y 'ill~gel n11 bea:u:t:ifnl, one.

Her .~mHe which [1[,100 [0 OWfJroC Uly se:~,~~, I'har dlilHng hesitario in her, ~nd in me, Her jOI.]Jg:i unriedhairrhat fe~l UpUR her eyes With~i] ~ of wind. Her hand movi.ng across her face1 "3l1tLQ mO\f~ng her hair behind h-e;r (",ft ear, Her. ~ef[ ear. and. the giLtter"ng silver ear'rin~ she '\V3.S we'..RFhM} Her bt.''a,uti, u.1 face, which mesmerized me. And ,i n thar green, off--'sh01J.klet top and jeans, her body appeared so perfect, ~p YOlHlg,_ so poised. She;~ OO;;:! r~sma:r.ic, I 'rv21sn~t ablere rake ny (..~$ oJf~eJ . .R~.t'het~ 1 wanted [0 ~ at her £ro:m, rop eo bo~rr.ui:L" \:erY s~o.W:j,.r - 'wh ~ch J :iI.(;."tli~Uy did,

"This is her," I rold n"1y~d( [;'ShJ; is mine. ~

That was. a wonderfbl m,o;m.enr'~ hi,cb.J have re-lived ~g;Hin and ag;aotn~ reeal~]Rg thar fh·u ~f~ght..

l ~N,~~"'"f:d tcrl,~'"o:iJd!1i :he.l" wirh a smile, .:dnlost fOl"ge~dng ~r tro]le;v'. And in a :few se-conds~ there I was, rightin ff011'U of he r a foot" ~pa.n~ s.~iU· hQt 3b]e to fa kc rny ~,ze off her,

"Hej," r said, o,fferElg nly !]ght hand fOF" a sbake:, "Hi," she responded, poHle]y and i11 such. an dc::g~:~u· w Yi '[0 Llchi:qg :ITIJ'!~ ro,r. the first rime 'with [ha.iI: haJl1,d shame. {D~d y()~~, hear what I '.ij,~id~ 'TI,M::' first rime wetouched ... It 'Was Mag;~C'~iI!)

------------- - . - -_ --

Aad rer eves, .. , So beautiful! 'There was sornethjng,' peclal h , ~ h. HI!

. .

Something which didn\ let me look away., I W'JJ rnted. 'to hear whsn ~ h-y

we re [em ng [TIe. The feding, [hie U' urh of (he momen r, the" .. the .,' I do n't know wbar it W'J,S,.

J looketl .. and my ryes wt"n' !ttuek on you

I lried to mao« the black in rJu:1r;lj bur thwy 2 ert' s.t-;t,u:k tike-.glue

l@okirlg fit .YfJti'fOl~ real, I noticedyour e}(fS That's exactlV wl}ere}iJ'o u'r entire [;!ilt.Jty lie;

-' ,

So uenui'ilf. ~(J _honea.t, so beliu(,tifi.~l. so d«p

~ ~

Wttih e glint t?/ light) S011U' tuzt!fghtineS;J diel (reep

Firui:h'lg my atea!'l fo.~f,n·11g true

Iple,~df'd my shiW1',cing lipt to. IJring o ut rhe w()nh ! j]ad !upt_!in".y.0u

There were Sf) nUU1Y rJ~t ~J to _ily

1 ca» t'CtrIonkr uon« of th~cm ,Jt al!

ButJo l d@rlt lose iPith dN1.t, lao. things r.Jllly t.i!'i!I~j'~ lAVa)." •

.~ .. '. And this i~ m,r sister Neetll and he is. Girlsh - her !Desir J11fJd only f{~'~nd!~" sh broke illy ga'te and thoughts to introduce file (0 ~:V d other people. I' wondered ho!l!.v I didn'r notice th~nl .st~nd[_ug beside us. \"Vas:

I so' lost In ,he~'~ U:RdbubredlYI I \VJLS"

I S'((,kL hello to b oth .0 f them J' cracking some j:o,kts: ~~ e:a~c tbe sweet p ress ure which Kh ~s:hi ffiud I were fediu.g. Th en we 'm.oVf,d OUI of (he exit Ch,311Hl,d towards rhe p:arki~g k»1C in search of tme cab. these guys had co ne [0 rhe airport in" ,:;hu.shi Was LOO $hy to walk with file and she joiued Neeru and Gi,rlSlh in lAoking for the CRJb. I DoHc)woo at a di:s:tanGe,. with ,m:y HoUq;r. ,My oofid~1!~o,n 'Wa8JlJ~ d'~fferent from her,

;:;:.--.

.1<1

I wrote her ~. very' shan SMS-thr.::n~ i!you are beaiuifull"

The hO,f momenc I S<iI,W her oon11n.g towards me :6l'0l11 the other side. qt me exit, 100 king at someth j'ng on her oeM phone, .pIobably L~dlng, my SMS,

When she. u:~.:: hed me she' srn iled,

~~-T-l i r. t id

nanxs, SfU:: sat i,

~I love rhis, W.h.a[eVeI :[;5' happenEn,g. The excitement, the Jnxie~~ AI1J.d seeing you ~ , I said,

A11d i'1 her sh rness· she turned 3way~ her haj r faUin,g across her 'eyes ~l_gai~l,. Her complete arrention was upon me, yer she \~fJS u. i.n~ to escape my gaze.

'; Hey: Am I making sense'? 0 r am I bei n.g stupid?" I asked, She laughed and II rned back ID, ill e. She, had ';jj lot ,of '~ell;h,

~LN'o you're m~king sense, acfUJUy. [t~~ the same with me l' she s<l,icl," smiling,

Soon, Neeru and {:;lrisb, appeared, poinring ~l[ .the cab which was coming rewards us. it h:carnc clear rhat I was. expected (0 step into 'the; cab fi.rsl[;,_ and because of this I p,aD,kk,td.

\Vhere. should I sit? I 'ask~d ·myS'elf. In ehe back, with her? Slut 'W'~U'l,l J,qob:, goo~ jf [ §;it- berween (be [WO sisters, pushing'(;ii['lsh to the front? Should I sit .~nJ~~ont~ thcn? .. Or ~·hou:~d. I si'l: ,i n me bialek, bU.E' on the left W.h:ll Gir]sh. in rhe middle 'and Khushl ar the dgttu ... A,J1d her sister w~tbr the driver? No. N'o, \"(that ft messl So many permutations fH1}el combinarions '[0 be soh·cd, in ([I.. second ,. Ir was beyond '[he abili ties of mv br,i:lJin. Better SJt up· frone, , thouzhr. Ir was the easiest solution.

,. " iT

k1ld in haste and.::;lJ a rm I got in beside (he driver..~Yo. u foo.l. 'What--:i~s

I . IL 'I, f ~'w..'~. J::d" , . b IL· d b 'd [ ')~I

S .1e. ':gOHlg to tl HnJ.~ ,0· ~ 'yQU r : .l!ly QJL ,n. t yousit betun j: .. esu e nen my

not-so-talented brain shoured at me the \'ely' uexr second .. Damn! ' was s.crewiog up things ,:vidh I11Y s'~upidi.'[y. I wassiering apan fr¢,rn 111)' own girlfriend,

'Barely a rninure bt~'I" ] gO[ a call on fll}' cell. Mom calling ..

'~Sl-w.i.r. She asked me: to eall bel: lIhe momenr I landed. in Delh L I

f, 1'1 .J! k ·I~ ~II "H. ""M I "

orgo r ill lUn'1W'6tIL as i tOO' tne can, 7.ti'ttlijt. 1':,i,WlUna, } us ( came

out of the airport," I said before she asked me anyfh~ng,

..: L ill c: N ~1· 'Il h '.:.j

I xnew yo U W ilvrg,e t, . C'W' ltie~ me, ,~ . f:: sa m

~: TeU file? \J7hatt' la;s~ed~ '[oough i knew she probably had hundred quesrioos for UlI];'~~ aboue Kl'llJshi, which 1. eouldn I:: answer because I 'W::!~ wieh rhem in rhe cab,

But she didn'r ask me all ribose qucltiO]lS.U:st one, 'whkh su mma.r ired, rIl.U 0 f them rr So, are YOILL nappy:t

.; Oh Mom ~ 1 am,.. 1 ail1 ver y happy" I repli ed qu:it:ti.y,l.'oo·:k:E ng o urside the window,

t: Good ... I jusr warned ~~I know mat. I know yo u won't want to talk to me ar rhis moment So you ,guys enjoy a,n,d '!il.f>f will taUt [·ater. }\Jright?"

,. Hi~Inji Mu m rna, thg£ft hfti, I will call you. later, Bye" 1~

\Y/e were now ,(J,n . o it' way 'to the hot:el) w:hi.ch I w'as. to move inro f.or sHghdy more th;fiJi' a. d3y befo.re ,[ 1eft for rhe US.. r had 1110 id~a 'where this ho tel. was nor ciJJd rhe cab drivel". I(l:rliUbL andGirish said dley did. bur borh WC[~ ,p-oi,ndng in opposite dir!ecclons. In other words no One h a!L1. ill d U.~·. l3!lJIt we moved ahead th ~ n kD ng we~cl . .sOOl1 ask so',mcbod'y about the precise location.

\Xlhar an evening that wa:.sJ I was si ning· beside the d fi\l'~r and beh ind me was my sweerhea r:c, wid]. N eeru in the m i,d'd~(e and G]r!sh on he r.tigh t, TIlle song selection on rhe radio seemed to b t; cxc:~prionally ~ood -rha,r, day ~ romanric $[J,I'1I.gs' 'm.:a:r Kh.u;shi and I could rei'aliCe to _. and we

-~a.t h~B:~.n.ing [0 them w,imou( saying Jnyt'hing, but' smiling within.

These moments of silence. 0 nIl" add6d tor the beau ty (:rf rhe sOOga" r 'tried. to .. see her in the resrview m i !t.row. but~ every IIi me, I'd ,0 n ~y and Girj~h.~s f~Jl1oy !aGe ~nl~ he w(fyld raise rus~~ebl'ows, mecking ~~

Soon, howeven our .formal. d'e.m.e;iJl.norg.:ve way '[0 :;a more C:;~St~Jll~ OL1e and we S'r~u:red talking abour e~ch other, at limes pulling each ,()the!'~s teg~ recaJ.~ ill;g, some. stupid incidents ~Ut of the bJ L1e ~uld spici og them up as We narrated tb.e.111'I. Khu~h •. became a n. ~uY' targ.et for bo~h N ~IJ :'i no Gi.tlt1h a Em cl they rn imk.ked. her embarrassment lLhat .da.ry:.- be'Off .Eed~lg me, We w.e'~ :~houdl'"lIg and pal·ty.i!t1g -].r~. tbiC' .cab wirth dl€ pa:(wi~~

and, the pasm.r.ie:s they had brought.

~'Ytt<;b l:J~ iadA; Ydtd~tt Iti ~(tJlt$l ie.~» G·lti;SJl said offe.ri.i,g me thte h~ ,of paseries,

W~ were .in a, j pUr rnood amid.. a,eh1hlg to '~boe deHghtj it Sll~noo dr.izzlin:g outside, Shouting, LatlghlJJlgj- going crazy to those pe];n~Y numbers, we were .har.'!,iing a gab. time ill the cab. On ;';1:' fe,w occasicns ·seG~tJy, she pi nched me fr'CI{fiO behind, and I JUSt terved rhat,

For In'dr~ tha&!i. an hour nlld. a half! we hunted for my Aotej, '~11 [he srree ts of D:clhi And ~ more t.h an ~'ulybod.f (,e~en me) j[(h.R.];$Jh~ ''Iii as concerned abo u t this, .. Ac®.rd.l.ng ro her, .I was 'r.i,,~ed fr,~~ [~y J'!lJI lJ.r.ney a n d need ~cd some res Il:~, b'U'~ I W'O ndered w h:y I (,U'd.~'lt f-e el that. W~ly ..

[t w:as;;jJJ.I1lolu:td 7: 3,e in the evening lvbe;n we fia'3t,Lly reached. ~·:h~.Qm~~tb Din ho (Jet in Ibe ~ilCj oi~y 0 f th.e QlvtUlb .Mbla r jr t:h;anb to the cfl"aiW:aliJs and p4ig.~ wtzllM. W~ ~m' entered the botd .~nd ~ ~t '~he r.leception~J ('he;dlJeGi ,oU'1: fll.V bookil1(r.

. ~ ~

'~'1~orn l[O. 3(n .. .rl,a:,~ ~~~~ sir., The. hoy win b([ng, YOUl' Ill!:gga~c Ul, ~I' £lli~.d a l1:l,an will:h 111 ,h ~Jg:~ :m(Hjs~a.ch·e, ~H ·~he· t'e,cepilion COJlJFtJ.(ltT.

'J\h~ght/' I s;J.kli ;J;nd. we all. beade-d, towa:rds- 3tH.", evc::r.yo,ne fQIIl0\¥.i~ng l1rle'"

N - - d· G~""~ sh ",., .. .p.~ r~ ~~,-: AO' J[C each otl'ttieil' itri whisoers when Khushi

Irn u ,~J'l' .. H 1"'1 """'-b.L'!;., ,.,~.fI;!.!&J. e .It"

~ ~ ~ une rhi ng to .me.> very po~itdy -

,i (::.n. vo u ·walk·(l. ]itd~ dQ~r? 'lou'v,e left me heh1ndl.·~

~ .

~. .t· I ,- ~. 11 "'Hhy· p. eoele sav th:i.ll: sirls are &r more UlruUlittt than

(~ If I ( " l'C;;ll i i'Zb,.:L.",. . r ' ~. u

'[ c 'o.J, ",..,,;;..,1· ier l'".;o;a'Vj,ng her on m'C- baJckl~e~lIt of the cab and

IIN'(. w1i$ ':iI: .. HJ: . '"~ ..... ~~ .. _u •• , ~' '. ,

II -.U f- . . ~T'ii"" A,Iffi,.J: ku're •. a~[ain. I'was waHd'[j:p: ~.I.o,ne~ leavinz her

I Ibl'l~ tHe ronE "-"eI.,n.... fi!!,l[ll.L.... • i;;J' , ;::, _ 9'

II ~ ~ i nd .. [ star red F micID ~lg~ not ~!tfiLo:wil1Lg he,w to bandle SllLCb $lhua:[~d:n:s.

b c - j ,r A Ii" the f~ •. st tim e. It '"reshe[ in ,t he sd1Jnol of romance.

.M~, . L ovtrteno J'I!..lI:1l. ~~.... ~!L .:I,IJ L,!; ,_.i'or.. U '. ~ '-':,

"·t

h I~ ~ f1 dt! P·~.e;1Se; hdp me, ~t I m ~~u:,tl:red and dif!c.:;fj;:J,e:rau:d"

11.1 . d· ser t ... ~ me "n,d: said, CLr~·(QW~~.;tre not alone, You have a

""II 1 C Cilffi,e :" '00'.... . v: ,Ul.'u ""~ L.· . • J--

l I ~ i I ~ yo ur 1 i fe. SQ ~t'3:lk b:es~de her,"

n U - d 'L'I ~ ':'- 'l""""',.-u and Gi.risb: sm i Led naIJ,l;O''hti['v.

II~' lulL ~iol' ....... "'-'''-"''' .. a r:

Il '\~j me they leave !J:lS alene fO'f a whiLe?'i»'- I rhoughr. A'tH. how CD uld

IIII v. II r;.jilJ.I· 111 y r_h:oiught5~ They' l~.'C'r!t ·foUow'in:,g Ul.i.~.

t'!J'1 . '. ~ ., 3<-' 0·,1 I' 0 p,ened the deer IQ ·111 ¥ room and we :aU went llni.

"I"'~' ,,"KIC 13.1:. • .. . •

I :Il~' room ~\vAS we~ij lit, A .srtkfiU table, w.u·ih ~. telephone and a .Flower

, .. , . ehe •. ",~.n, be J1lr Nice bed-sheers .. There Wati a ~enholn~

I , I ~' pr:i;U:atlng :,I"",!l·'f1N<..'·· · .... Ui)". . ~ r .

h - '__J .. ' :~dn'l:'~ beside elleTV ser, across' f&cau.th~, beds.Agiant

.~IH L! Irv aniLli. a , ' [10,'.. .. . .

. ". . L " .. , I'~ in fmnt of us "Ij,~h ith reflected ille: enti re' reom,

h~111 1m o.n t""l:.e n'lll c ,. . • , ---

III' ~! il~~ ~ fl p; rhose ['iN0 beds ~.od a cb1!Pho.~ rd near [he entrance, Beside

~

I ~~ 'I ~ 1 ~ rror, there :w~s a door 1:'0 '~he' w_a~h room.

I ~ 1 ~nn:l " , .' This is good ~ n 1 anuounced.

'.'11) 1 ,I~ I~V. -,~ "Hmm _'~ f:IL~,", 'F'I~on'.I,e surroundina me murmured.

ioCiL'li 1 .LUP J . ~,~~ " ••• J!h .. ,F'L..) r - '1;:1

! •. I ( .. , ~ ~]"i, .:o'faned hi1!l. :!!H.JtVey' 9iF dn>e !'OOlm; ~n ~1r~d ng e~e~'J dl~ ng rutd

II ~!, ~ 1" 1 ~ [,I.) . .Il ~l'" .

i lill~l~ m~ the g'Ood an,d. tb~ b,~d, .

I' I ~ '! l.,~ 11 kS G; rish j'~ T said., when he hJJ.d fl nis hed,. (~Anyti li1!i!'j t'Ji he

I ~ .11 ~wiedg,ed.

\.l 1· . d·· '~ 'to.", n'I'.;:! ...ii- [·0 .... ,t:k hljulust OB'e ·m ote ('1!llLesti~n - m.So \t,{,h,etl

hi l ·f 'ilJif -n° 1. J, ~ ... "",~ .• ~""a .. a,..1, ' 'r ' . -, '1! .

1ft yO! ~ goi.ng 'W [ea,~e ll$ aionc; for hedy,e~is '$:a~~eJ~ ~ml[eJ.d.; I jtr~t k~'f

6l

mum, hpping .m.y cye~ 'fy.~Hld do dle ulkjrug, .A_no Neeru- fl'fH uaderstnod t~lat th~y should, bette,r. leave 'Us alone for a. whi~-·., ~whispered eo OjI' isiJ aud 1 don.~t know 'WfttJ. t 'Was ffi:a.king the tJliilet rhem look at each other and smile. I hoped th,t;1'Were nUL ~olkin:g· abo In-e.

uWe are go,un'~ ro a n,~ad'Y place ro have sornerhing, I_f y'tH.l ~gu want, 'i;Yie can g:tt san1(;thll];~ for yon," G "f ish $.'R~d} r.L':t;o:ving fc(),w'an~.iS I doot 'wi th N ecru.

'''; 'N I ~ f-it d-·'" -II' ,. ~~ 'U\V.l I - 'j, ,-

,: o, rn S'EU ;:.Fe,,~ JJ. :S~liU" - -' wnw" AI! 1~il: ~ I th{:t:Hght,

I·G.iri~b~ if we need. semerhing, I will ca~f .you up" .Ati<~: tJlre'c{lJ1\:e Neeru,. ,Don)t leaveher alene, airj!,gnltt K1:H:~$h; said, f,p-etdn;g I[~.e· .... ' "J ~'l ~" b ettie planed, OJ] the rable.

~~Yes~ 1 w;jl, You d(jI~it 'Wo;rr% By (be: w,ay" ies' 8:30. 1'10'1rV. We ~QlIl leave Dielhi: by ShOO so th'~'L we ClU reach FaJ..]:i~a::ba~ by abuut 1 j)}J:]

liV)" ~I _(

.-~v e.re a~.re:lJu.y I are, 'YO ~~. know nar)1

~·Yeah. B·ut d.o,nt- wc~"rii."Yb '~r.,;~, will m ~lla,gei n said :K1'lfUS'Jli. ':'Aldght. See ya,. ~

,~'l.'cl fina]ly ['h,~ left die: room and I H.Jd[t: a deep breath to. f!d:a~,

J went and ,~ocked ;rh,t;' do Or wj)J k; ,KhtJ$\~ ~ ~ tooa~ ~ last slip of water I(;(iffl '~h,~ bci'i1de. She- notlced.me doing rh~x and 3n:dJ.ed..; then she ke,~ IS. borde on the tabri.e ~,nd my l~p~~p hag ott!. the c4ab:. Lstepped betWo~h rhe two b~d.s and sat on the Jd! one. She: came in and m:~~t: on the l'th~

. ... ;f.L1

one ~ just in fn~nt oJ ID,e. We w~·[f :ro-getber~ j'Lt~t rhe 'rwo of us, 0llA

sm Ii es described ,G,Ut· mood.

. Th.o]:~ moment seemed [0, be a beautiful d.t,eam., \~"e 'w-a.Ilr.ed: W and live th at' mornenr forever. The p!tT30Il" wi th whOHt I was go~~

~~."Ielld the rest of n~y IH\~ was right;:-i~1I. fltQ.:r.n ofme, I' could look into her hCJJ'U:lifu1. ey:t;$~ I (.':;Q~ld !!lo!llch hctl fed her, Th-e de11:&b:r of rhar ,mOme.nt· hncl both of us sp;r;:Ubound .. Word~ ~re un necessary; I stared. at her foil' ,:~, 101"1g time, ,i\.nd ·';.;i~'lJe',t.t she could not handle ray, gazi:'.~ she loo,ked. at ~ h-e ,grQu ud ~ her 1u,ck. ri llting down and srra nds of her beau tlful. ha Ir falling in fr\()nr of her Sllo~ddel~: covering h~f dgbr cheek .atl1.d, .ear,

And rhe silence in '[he room persisred, ~Hd there 'we W~Ie ~ ,ntacUy. ,_ n love. SlIHl not believing that, fin;8;Uy, we had seen eAch etber, S'dH nerVO'tiS-,. :sd ~ I 'i,iV"Og),dJer.litl1g what to sa:y.

Gatbedng her Goul'ag;...::'! she looked up~ into my ey~:s, {wt..i:ch were st i ~ i focused 00. her) and mov.ing: her hai r behind het car ~~l n,~ S.]~e ;1-'5 ked, «Safor mein kat t;tideif' to na'h:;~ "'Mif'

Comi ng as ~ did, met more dUlIl five miraites of ~.:!irCE'!L,~e) that queseiou ,;;;oulill.de~d hjJa~-i()·~$. I c reminded us b ad}, of rhe o,t~ .Boll~od. movies ~ n which (he heroi fie' \\'f(H~l.d ask her bda,,~d:~ ~!\Su)"~·tJt' ji, t1dp-lie sdfitil' me£f~ e, •• ~, and all thar, ttefor.e she coald seemy te-.tct[Ol1.j. she understood '!/,vhat a .~lLup]d ahd. ~tet'eotyp.jGU q uesrion i t wras~ a ~d we looked at each n~het and .L~.tl;ghed and b)!.rlghed; ·fiiJ]in.g upon OILUr respeerive beds. But that .question also became a.L1 ice breaker and we both. relaxed,

1. Ha ,baha hal: Y:~ahJ' I mean, ~tihi ko1,' l:akle~f tI:ahi hti i, J> I $i1L]cl.~ geuing Hp.

"I <1J,n SIO ,~tupidl ;, .~he sajd! :d~pp]n,!SJ1,e.r< f~)relu~ad.,

""N ah j you're net, You, are.. . beautiful," .I s'Q:"i,& ,calmlYj look,jug ioro her eyt$..

And I don~t kuOt¥ w,[iI.;U gav:e,.lue the· courage to raise my righ,[ h·:iUl.a [,ow~1ids hel"~ to reach her f~lee" My' f.in.g,e.rs first tQuch.'ed her dH~;d~ ~be ~nlddle fin:ger fitst~ '~hien. [he fb-st f1ng'~t an~ then .::-.'il t;r them ~ he] plfD.g: her i"L;ai.r behind her-ear, That human touch'was in,erodible. Fe:el1.~lg\.;tny

- <

Hngers. on her 'tacej -she: d,cSled. her ,eyes and I Edt her b['c~:ih.i:Dlg~hea.v.ar·

noW. J watched her. Her J~add~~,~iO.k~n,g M.,ce;., the lif:~'J:e~ on fie~- fo["C::h~df ap pearing and VilllishilriJg. Her curved .eyda.sbes-. .fJ.~r Cute 1iJ05!!, :H,e sof[ li ps, w~ich. I very g,end.y eubbed my (hum b on, and. she sttlLrreci shaki~l,g~ her ayes srill, closed and. her Jl@:~ld1i gri P.P'~,u,g the. be~",",sh:etT ver}' tiglu .. ,M',7 eyes were the silenr observers to rhis moment 'we bcnh were in. .M y r:rl'ind was h.Y'pQ,'o ri'4ed 1iIJid Sn:gel;S were s~iU ·[.ry;Uf]~ tit) understand the b~a.ntifu[ f~]oe.bef6.['e n;u:, Occasionally, I fdt her 'Wi:'ilWlll breath hre~.ld[]g on In y cold finger$;".

.My oo,ngdo usuess asked me wher.b.e,F' "'1.#n:at was happening 'wa~ ~J and then it answered hs~lf = r 'was no [)4re~ mjn~:; She was real, Sh~ Jt'!m~ with. me - De:~p inside, I fd r so ~a~'isf~~dl so b]essed t'h~~ th~ In~m,~n [ when my ~ ngd was .in f.JfDnt ~.f Tr.M:: h,~.d flnaUy arrived,

We were lost, Losr in each other,

"Shonimoni, H I 'wn lspered in her ears, ,d 1:(:r.I1d y'J ge;ttin~ dose' to he-II vq~y dose. She was 6 d i ~ breathing heav.ly atlJd co uldnr sc.a.y H n¥rhi~~, ~rThis .US·.8.. won de t-f tid mcmeut, I eaal'!L bel i eve this, You are wi,tb me ... / ] moved alrnos r to her bed.

'3:09~~Hd» she smud. 'lliil·d, RI~Ib:~ed mY' ~a;ilij"

10 a wJ.1Hoe ~ vay slo'wtYi she opened her. eyes and looked at rae ;anti $milJd. She .~~ $0 h~ppy~, SO ddi:g,h~ed. ro have me so dose. to b:Gt" .AnJ she kept Jooking at me in that w.ay; .00.[ £m m (';; time,

Raising her eypbr;{J'Ws ,sHghdy and st~ U ~rol11]l:g, she asked. me! ~'1~11 me, bew. you. ate' fuL'd~rlig. at rhis il1sitan,[~ "~ieh m(~e!~

r. :put lillY' arms around h,~.j!" :and bidng her ear, I said, tL.Don~f ~csk me, I \¥ofi~t be.a,1&k to de-8(:J~b(:' it,;r just wanr rIO "$ay one l:hil1?,. ." Thea1, ! 'w'b1$pe:reu .l.r1 J\,e,r ~~:~:rl ~~ I fun madly ,i n l6wl;:; with you, ~ With t7iliu.~.t{(~ [ rested my chin OXl her ShDuk~ei:.

"I .~O~YD'LI roo, ~~ sbt s:aJd and. moved.her :~ng'crs. aU the wa f :~,m . 01Y fOFean~,s). to rhewrisr, then '~be: ,palm and fiil~:~,Y JKU.to the spaces be:'t~1r(en

fi I ~g'C'[s. At that momenr, r fdil: 80 t~'rn.plt~. I. r~lhed how} iuse like , \ih,~ 'roo wanted. ito Iive that n"loMtinU as if l~ should never end ..

I ~ I I ~ ~ ~'ld her in .m.y arms for SOF.Ll:e time. Fro rn r he romantic movies I III j ~ ~(·l·i1 'rill then, I lt1J;l~' rhar ho~dl~ g y~ll.it b elovedi n 'yl~Hl r ai.-,ro.S ·~h~,~ i I ~~~'L ich a dif¥erelu reding, B ur tbat it WQ'ldd be so> lnagileal! 1 never II i \~, • h} U nderseand ::i!n& believe certain tm ng~ YOU, .~~a1ie 'L'O experience 11 ~t ~ ~ ~, A n.d. .l ave is one S ueh [hing" Hmmm. _., Ntllt:llil y~ l!r~ S' not a thi .• ~g ..

I ij !" : ~ 101 mo re Than thar,

~ . t" were speechless a.g'3 il~,) jU5t fedj ng each orher, Btl [: who needed 'I' ~ I~ Il~~ Silence was t..dldng 'at ~tS besr,

11'11'11 threatening the ,~i~tn·,e·, ahcrrber rhoaght crept ][:J.'I1'0 my heart, II ~ ~ ~ a sudd en !. _ a, Should 1. kiss .~e:r? And, wiTh rhar, the battle between

I ~ \ I ~ lfa It and mind srarred.

I 'l can: Yes, i\1.i.n.d:: No.

Heart: ~~hy aCH:? This is such a PC.lk.cit moment, I [.hink I s.l~()[dd. (\4ind:· What if &.lfl,c doesn't feet good. abott~ .it t' iU~,ejt aH.~ '[his is; J L IS[ ro~u first d~~e1'

'1-1 ea rr: Bu.l wU'f I ~ell: ~ l)],mnel1Jtt like thls . .agai~l·~ TO'in100.rro:w, her entire bm By w~ i I. "be :arQu:n.d. us, No rime, then, And. rhe JJeX:t day :I have to take my. fl"ig,h r, I should tiLve. a chance il'~gi.u now. .. ,

~!fl.nd.: d.la,noe?" Firsr, lock into the mirror ~nd ask youJ'.sdf j f yGHil can do rhis in ehe first da;y itsel R

H ear t: Stop tbat nonsense. 1 Am ~ol,t}g ahea,cd. Mirid: Good ]'w:)c.

". leart ~ Thanks ; .. 'i'

~ ;fl' [ld· H,~v' ~1·t a ~~.

.·V~ . ~ ~~. __

H"" . 'i'"'f'. ~.lo·w· w1....-; j·t ~ _I~a.~ ~Il E~!· .' " rM,U'L I.

Mil:1!d;, ~e '¥OU ._;Mn,FCttElbie): ~f:a;V' ht;:;..1i9H W,a,DJ r~·. tise(.""Oc~""'''''''!S''!«

• ~ r ... »~ ... "L'- ... ... }'.' -.-. •• '

:arsil:. '" '. ::r,~, hd'q'$j "IX{)g, Im,ow"

r..: J.~. -: ...

~ow; t~l~' hllpp~)J~ '~o m'e,.mo~to£' the ;~~me'. Som,e;t'~me85' r h~r.t~t "'SU,dn~ ,me"41iaJE!,. ~,d;:,ih~tl: wll,r~'ijlr ,bearI.t ~bvax~~:wJn-s,,·

t~ 1b;ff~q.AJQ,n~[! ~ just [$lloi:'d1at.

I'"blWg>cll;~'~' my~lun~ "virJi,':a d~.~p b~eamf'ind, '[ur,ned"'hir """,,,' ~,..":.~ ~8~.d~I;;rncl;. We :llDw:'~re.f.rdhg;~~b;~t~e4t.~Mj·, ',. h¢i~ her·J:l:a~ ':We~' on :my"·,sholi~(!I€i'~" ]' Xo6.l~~~(~t ifilto.,h~r~we~

.. ~ ~ '.

I g;f({~{jjt4~e! J;opkeillrrit!ghidn~, hif q;fi 1 'f(J;4l h.~~ 1 do. 't#~'1!"gt.'

And>.! ti()"''thnnj~ mID' r'Juitl 'W¥tl1

. IF-;.r''

.'

I WM p,n~p3J.re·d. ttf feel ~:Homethin;p1 fQr; rb"e"V.e'w hrst d,me"ja ,m}t'H(e, .... :'~ ~",,",""'"

, . ~.: "'"} . _. .. _._.

l.,w"Q n~t [Ie _, m y lu~a.r:,1:be.8JU'~ at r.h~:t moment, W!ere, f:a'S~'t.r

SplJQrit'a~l-(~t ~lJ,Jjj~,FeI;rnrj. lloolted tOto' J:u;:,r eyes ~n.a, drew.close,

>

Igttlllj,~J.-htr..· ,Lo{1ked~tr,t(if:lxt~tntIJ ,,'Dr. ~ W:iHJ'4,¥wink:. l ti~UJ Jier c/O!e

My lips ''lnPJ~e~ but".tbii time no.A:tw.ftllrJ

. . .~

llilJt''PJeen ldi things

Anit c.ti()~ iJle#~ . .j~ ,rh!OWIl. ~j

'~l' .it'W~8. gQ.iag to' b.~.,~}t :fi~r ,eWr ,~S$~,~ .. ,

'1} "'"-t .. :niti;h.i;'

Bwt. ' .. a'ow ~;hate 'th'fn~~l!d:"i)ju.-i But £~;ttfhaJ,',ro, i,ri~~,ht~[ie a.Dd~jrMb; ppiyibrg-~i-,i!;,.c311ed. her edl'Th~>,riNgttQll¢ sJi~,~~.er~a:.mY'U!tdpl~' ~'~: '~fb,t:e: ~I,~ .,-:;;~:~;;"-.,.,.,.. s: ~._,-;:'l'!I

J- ••• ;,.~ ~..

:L_...... H ;I,_,",.,.,,j[ 'b'."'£:;:'~· ." .. ~, ld attsweT

I~ ... , ,'.- -..,,,. siL. P 'Uf"iiu:ed 1[0 al1!'$.'W'~ 'li:he ·talJ:[~ ..r.U;[tJ[ t ,~.u:)!r.e~ .s!l.1!e· cou . ,_.... .' '.

I~,II I~'·>~,.;-' l"l~ :I(~~'" _' '-~ ..... -... '~'. _.... . ...... - --..;- ~...... ~ ".I. • ..

th~j. ,r,;an; slh:J<toke4~~~. ~ffitt;VtJ6f£.

t"O':"h - - roo jl~ .1f t~'" llf, \j;'~·I,_,,}.;.l'_,i1r~~ ~[~W ~s!:r&d~ {ACt;" she> $c.~eatlH~:d) arid;

.~ .' , nr'lV ~ . WJ;, ~,..: oj 7. l"""!f; '. ,l",,"I, fl;, -:;;::. ~,,' ~ _. 'S.~" '"'">' ~ ,.

,

~.: !'~l1Cihed tv teP-:b¢t~ C<iU pfiorte.,-

i' h?s, Gii[sh~'~~'~h~$a:~d~ p,~sslnR,the' ,~~iWa:blJ[~t¢ou~

'wrK1He' Bh:~, 'w~s rnlkinB~ lltf G~fjs.h1 l>mUafscd ~~ .th~; I&~~, 1ft ,to~l iU~r~,a};o' w@:n;di¢tr[1~ 'at' 'Gbi~i"i~~r sense' $f tim,illS' M.rOw 00lUt~:· h~¢ be ;~Q

1-~~;1'kt'[:?- :I wras:~f~ming .ill~hik;.

" .

·An tb.e wBil~~, ~b:"W ~bn~.i[Ut~d ''i~irllhfh'a!~ ca]] ~

.' ":.

!(I t.r "- .1.. ',1;' ';<'> };;u:t4n ~1~~t1",

:...

~~¥c::ah:~ 1 ~nQ)V wt haw'. ~D ~e~~~)' Sbe ~lJli!fn:o~~ he", '~'¢k "~~ 1'ne ~ndI

~f~ll1\!i!~~ftow,~s fb~,.ca.O~r' 'Vfbi,cll w~~'. [~(l~~d,' #rn~ i~a¢,.

";N (); 'we. ,d~n~t ·~ri,~[ -, aTI;~K~n_gi tp': ea;t-':~" ;S~e.lQuJred b~tJ;t, .~~ ~~ct 'and'

~~,~.sh~:red. 'witb.~~~, '9'tb'ki l"lil1~ tll '~1f me J.f l ,~~, ~~l~&.1"f.i ,

"Yes- GithJl~ jusi ft~e m6re .1~.']rin.t;I:tes. ,1'd,llt(~ S~e< ~lefiqb..6,:t a~d II ulder;i::chea lltr' fis'.[,

Ill, A . ]' j,,,"",, guO' btilia":' I said Wtle we: 'wji]~;mai~(l-{e\~<(> ~nd ,~h~ JQol~at.

rl~\ ... :. K .. lI!''''>Ti~''''' e- . \ ~. ~ ~ -; - ,"' .~ 0;.

l'UW~ll!s .. t~e m1:f~:r.

i'ti' ih At " ..... 'Ji;i. ,.~ ,!!~, ~ -l)e

~IYeath \-v~:'WlU,b:e 'iteoc,in i;.f'l~cMl.dnU!te~.i"" ~f~~~t~,~ye :nt9~, < nn~,~;-

(A:1nll,e t~ me, -diS(:o.nnect~~~~d~,e; ,ci'd[ Sne-'~~ ;pa.ni:~,'ii :iU 0.f~ ,~u~ti~~ '~~Sh6['hl~ (ha~e·.1lJD ].eSIv,"e;. I am g;et~ing J$!II,e" Mom,"' ro1llf,tt 'b~: ~oo:u~ m:5

,.:.' [I '--... ~

"H '!!~ il.'l!lu; .

.. ~ H ..,..,.cni;;!,~II!t"l:,,~llil~ Jjt!in~f"W6,1'~ yo.lll!,l,e on -~nne:. Wl.L'eI-e,,"a~c. H'¢~I?".l

. ~.l~rl'->".I.JIL!I!!. o!J J"U, 'a" ~ j? '\ J!:~ ~

!ij,nd··GtL'",i~h..? l ;fi~d,··t~~mfbrt.h~ an.di. more:itnpo~fan'rl~, T~:o;x(.Ln~~~Sh:

I::~~e .. ,fhp' chat'had jnst "!lQW breen .. bunllin,gJp.,m~.,

~ . ~

!~At Lh~"tec~,d~[n:J'~ )s~.e:.~~,red.

<

'm~Ok. Ai~d l,g:lreS.£'rOU.gl~YS 'will ,~~ going by 'rhe SUllie cab/~' I '. ~([i~g, ~p ftolliJ( the ,b~ ana. uk,iit,g a, SfP, e.f'w~'tte.r ft'~m' tli~ b~ff:..

L"""'f",,'1 - elV- .. :uc .. e

~CYe-s,,~ t~~ ~:.tl~le Gabjo': .she ~a.itt getting ~lP' :indo movjng towards:

~,lr~,qt 'ag·ai,~. '

oTher( h~ ~d~~plio'.rH; rang; 9.gair.i ';~n~l' -aga~:n" It was. Gifisb~,:J .... ,~ :.: .... ~ '""'" up 'd;te 'can 'dd~ :dg~.

j Hey;,I:g~,css yo.'l~ shGo.idJ'l'lllf'ry up., If has star.ted. 'Jia~ninJ' ~s:aln~ ~ld._

Though I }1;a,!'e(i bJrm, at' that moment, I srUI $aid[~ '~'1'es. .. jl~st a "S( ~0,.ltf~ We ar'e cpm,i,ng d~wn. $ke~YQl!Jl '~here,,~'

W~, were aboue eo leave tfun:: room') w.ht1!n: she: sa.t-e3m~ ~ne 'lYlme. ','5hi:ti I f'o~,~r this~l~ -she 5aid~ t®ok4ng, ~l!' tbe, bi,g' p.1asdG wb i'ifuh' ~ eeru h:ll!d left. a._Jt the. entrsnce 110, the 'taum .•

Slie ,q,."dc,lciy,pk:ke.d d1~'m_'Ij,p' and'/$.ajct "Shona, tlliij':]sIor YQU.,ii NWhat is d~(~S?~~

I did ~:at slie i$~ed A .bfue7'S[r~:p.oa '&l'iirr' :wi~~ha ,P3i~ ;t\'~~tD:'i'I~'. 1~4 ~6 ,ti~~ Q'n~~ ~b~ek wid~ wh~~'e ,s.tl'~~~s': in tile mldHle~ tbe

~ ~ . ~ ~

~(~l .. ook)lJ;e4·1 w.:u ~"p.]~ii:~e&., It, ;g,ir,~ bo.Urg,k~ '$~~~dl~f'iC' .fo""t" me, ~ ,.

.. c _" :- ei ~

Khushw b6lJ)~rt "8,Glnething 'f~~'nle. A4d I 8uddch1r- ,reea:116d, ~:, . -c.

£. rn' ,

,m:anagets.'UDRl JD'r il).f'I.lct ~o:~,l used w>se¢,,-,.at tin;JJ!esl-, in :sJl'~ .~.~ ~Js"~~m~

mdlrdl/e'~:u wil!r.fesj ~ho were 5clecti.~.g: shirts. f@;( rh.~,~ l{eft' g~a.,- _""'·~~'JI.,,"r;r~t'i"',. ,~[[:' dlose t.Jnin~ were bappernin:g [,0 me niJl'w". New til1j:n~, . ~llHpn-t::t;1

tflitl'~! ;~~a!Jl~ifur '[~1{np;,' , , .

~F'Q\[ me!" I :al~.k.ed her.

"'!'JIi,._'L.._ p. " 1. - t: ,il- dri .,~ 'h- ":~..J

B~iO. O~ ~Qa-t l;iitt' cao ,_J I(V~l! $'.: e t~r~ tQ '~~~~JtU!.

~,~Re~U}rt'~ou ~d'~~ ,al{-ab with ijim 't,oo?'~ I 'f¢.l~sed he;r bGc.k~, ~:~hut 'U.p)~; sibe C.elp0nQea: wirh a, &.m.i~ 'but he~ era wn:red m(!;

'6'8

_,' . ;>cL

.mung"

"~Oi1:yes. Let~s',AO'j,~' m"s~i~! df,o.'p~p~ng th~ibox,'q.n the ~~, '~h,ind::':~e nd ~t)ep'ping ont'of the r.~om. This time I ;made, sure ~o' w'ilk besideher~ add ~b~:~(i;ltttaw~~ged., ~~~,t witli ber mistruevous.,smjle;.

\Ve-'weJ'~ 31>.rJut,~,r~ath th~~(reGf'ptioll,whe.llJ 90rlddQt (\~lntrdl·myseJ£' JJ1Y ,more', anq l3!~~d ber) ~W1l" .te: yritu lC'ttving Kb:'u>§~'H DO,111,~ go, .. ,;

• • y

Please, ~ An:d til"r speech pau.sed thet.e"j a~ong witih m.y; feo{K

SJie s,t-Op- 'nf'd, dt'~fe, a1S ~i~, ~!nd,rheLd m,'Il lia;nd in beu' 'an.'d &--aiti, ~[J'-USit

.. ~ .. ~ -c ," .... ,.. ~ I...·,·

n couple 'of A)Ql1.~~S;'~p,cl I w@n!t ha¥t 'oo'~~,ve JifOU thi:i. ~y,; I win be aU,

~/'I01U.s'" no There W:as ,Si_o.._mllu:hc lcve in 'wbo:se 'we,rds ,as'.i' frre,.1'1n npw onls'h~ WAS going ro rake, care '{:lI:f'm.'t': m:reveJ'.

·'1- 'L~ '1 r . .11

'~:IJ~W,. ,!L: S31Y.,_

-'. Th

B~ck aJt" rh~ ~t:![prion, W~ mer IN'eel'U' ;aln.d. Girish ilg:dn. - I ';,:61 we.~:

',:' Tt:',L ,_'IL: • hit..;· 1l' ..:;il _ " .,' b , h

lry'f ng [0 teas~, n;n~SJ'll .'wU:: t(~eJr .iJr;a~' a,nd ~,p,m';e;ss~o:nSl -, l!Ili ~ . e ~as.,

j • .,:'....." ..:J'~:: 'h . if ' '''n° di , . -I:

~"i)[-"mell'lg~ 'ma,na!!.-rng: everrUlILulg wn!l:, e:r'®Lfqp~e ,~m,~u;:~,· ~!Jilc:S~'1l8 c[i~m~

'wball: :d:ae..y; 'w~t,~d 'tp hear, We',a,H, s-wod, ili:~i€ fO~' a £'eWo' UillE'iU;td he;t(utc

~~ , " " '1.,.3:::'''_,_1::', ' L.. • "..:,'1,/ ' - .. 11 ~ ~: ~:.I: h h - <I

fn(:y went, to :r.ntlr, ean Wl,iII~wJ"W.~cf1 p\~!K:e\!l, O:tlifSw"e r:~, I DIE"

It ~va~\drtn!lh)jR.so: Tli.'1 gQlf. ~eated, \an~, '(he~ abo ~.t~,,- l:'~e,y' were le-aving ',~nd, ,m.y ~ 'W~ ,~aRgwiDJ,g' m. I,4frwind-o\'!t f~ont 'whi~, she' ~ v.ia:ri,n:g flq' ,m~. 'I aLmOSt ~~'n Int~' ,d,~e:, m~~e' 9~~tli¢ road [1) ,c:a1flt1'r a lilst 'gHnil¥,e"Of h~r ~6o:r~t]je ,aar; 1Jl,en'the cab ito'Ok :a,t' fight 1[fUl",A at, the end ?f cht $lree>t:~and $!1¢ dirsaHP~:a,lledi

D. ~i..: I 1, ,JlI"& ~ll·" 'k- • JL... 'd- 1 '~~,",.J ' , 1 ,I"",,. nut VU'! , ,]~j.J ~Iie,·,~]gc.!f",mn S'Jlli.o:wer an_, oo~ ~IP' at: {,.It: s~)'~

h '~~~ 1:.:, t, ' J'.. If:: ,,'

''t ,,:,nllO!llt§i t]~,e .l~~vt::~:ty~ll;'m:tm,ent. ,

That· cla::v did no r end there, rh(nlg~.l

A k'"W m i nutes ,~ a cer, I was ill my HJQU1. busy per fottnin.g my vic[oty dance and. singing the lines rJipehftt lltlS/;a., pt.:"hlrz kh1~mam". ' Jus [ Iike in rhe nJIO"i.('~ I placed na,y left roOt On the bed.. and jumped hack on rhe ground to- my I!'i,ghr, ]n dciw: rno (ion. The Oi11"l d:i,fferen"e beitlg~ r.n.~ ! a:n.di.ng: was no r successful an:~ 1, broke the gb~s. of W~~ eel' placed be:sicte d~n::'r\ "

Sh arre red gl ass (1.0, rhe floor . And sil ence., e

St'allding alone, in f!"r(~l11.t ofthe mirror lscolded fllY renecl',~On, F.<;S~e' wll at )'I'CU, have donf"rl~

The vel"y nexr mOfli,t!'mt, [.rllY reflecrion smiled a~1d1.1mLir,mured~!~·na)'a P1tttf.r h_ai, naJIt. imtihaan;'~

I was out of control, won lC[lng how I could tell the world that I was rho happiest man on rh~ planet at th~u J;ll.Onl:t:nt; The feelings with i n rn e lctlt'(,e straining [0 come out, itnd I don' r ,know wrhcth,ter I was miLLmg to' handle rhem, or cel.~b,,['a.'[in,g th:em, in rhe ben possible vnt.y.

F.in~~,~,y; 1 ,grab bed m,?, cell a,g,aJ n t'Ol. give her ,~t, call and tell her, olIYc u. are damn bti3JiEltjfi.]j. You..are so perfect.". 1 am so. .Iucky, .. ~~ I went on and Of.l~:nd. she heard all rhar with a smile ..

She Was stjl~ in d'!l:~t (;ab Cll1& I could hear g~ ggUng voices around her, 1\1 I sbe said "vas]' 1J\Jld vice versa. I 'have so rn ucla. t.o ;S1iJylC bur lust ,c:lIit, You kno''''1 nil. ~

'We talked for a \?t!ry sho rt while and then ] ordered my dinner which . arrived in anorher [0 minutes, By 10:3,0· I had eaten and the ienbo)~ carne ito my room to coJJect rhe di nner plates. and bowls,

"How W~tS the .food, sill:'?~ he a~l~d."

Did I .["e~Uy notice the 'w~e? Forgt::t the taste, did r even know what

70

I.~~,"i 1 had eareni All I 00 ul d rh ink of WaS her face, r}l.e '\\fi:jJY i'E: appeared II 11 I pulled her in my ar,m~l h~l e.yes and her fnLgraJflce wh ich sdll III I sisted in my bu::atlh,

Hur I answered, ~~IOh fte$., 1~ WJs. ;g)oo.d.. ~

II . gathered [he plares and left 111)" HJOl1i.

~y 1 J~30~ I sdU couldnr sleep, though l was tired, 1 was hung over j II~ ~Dmething'~o dHfere.ru; for [he Hnt rime. 1 Was celebrating dle spirit I~'I ~t'i'ng in ,~ov.e. Everything around-me appean~'jd, beau'c~JuJ because the I Ilh rhing running rhrough lt1y miud was beautiful,

";~Wt!:: roo was going through 30ro,(:f!.:h.in:g similar, I Iearnr when she ·U('d me ar ian . And 'we talked £'01 a. long rime candidly: confessing IIIII f.C:l. rs, descri bing the d~J)u~hu, llowi,ng in our in ind when '\¥'f',j, saw u II t) rher aJt the aiepo ttl when I sat o:n' [he frOtl:[ Sle;];JL, le~ving, her

1'1 l1.i tId, when I locked the door ot my room froiu ~n.side DIl~ Ne 'Ill I'll il '. ;irish had lefr, when. I pulled her in n1y arms; our happiness, rhc j'l he. Ll3. in which 'f e . rill were. I don~[ remember when cxacclYl w,' II 11M ..

I h,r next morning, I WaS w~i.nng £01[' Gi['~sjl. 1Klt:l,US'hi had called ie .lp II ,,11 me rhae G,iris~l would be coming to Delhi For ~Q~lle wo;~k ,~n..d i t d d p ick ,m.e up On his way back ro _Pa.rida.b.ad,,, I was gotin.g to meet II~r ~ f~rr.tay 'e:-tCept h,~ dad wQo was in Punjab, taking p(IJJr~ in SrJDrui.'; 11_~'3 QU$. ~'tft t at a gurudwara there,

Whilel waired Jfor him, I spent my tirnc . 1,0 Lng some ptiCu~]a[ tb,tng.·. ~ i.il~l:L ng' i 11 front .of the ~'J!1inor I pl~acticed. . ines wbich I mlglu ba.,"tre '00 ~' in fm nt of her fu.m.Hy in diffe.rent ~h'Uatit~n1ll., [ '~ranJt·td my fu(,;l:d

~.. .

I ~ ressions lJ1C[ body'language to. 1rn:ale a good irop\fesdono :l he'f mOl ity.

:I. rehearsed. $l0IUe common lines:

71

,[<l i\'iC(. no 1 111,. pMoCnt:s' ViQ.[ilt ha,vt· '~n.y i$st,,~~ I f 5]i~ carries on w[d::i career :a:fte'f .rll,utia,_g'fi;" I n fatt~ ,E· am m ar'EYi mg ber h¢Ca,ll~9c' she l,S' '~i oriented ~rl H (With a b.rhUallt U:5(: of 'the; '~~n:ds'i.)

oc [',LI"}] not sure if wel ~ ,m·(l~e n~I(,th SQ soon bur, yes! the pl~M flu,ere.,ll (Wit~, con~derrl.(e.J

"!'Qb res), r: can {look til my work-related trips abroad I JearAIC ~o u knew, II ,Il'dght net he: as delicious as what she call. p.rep~.n~.}' :611J.'~ i serves h;~ pu.rpo.se, ~ (With. J :5;IIlL][e,,)

ru1Ld so on,

It was ] <0 :001\1\11. To k.iJ1 some mote rime, r moved, ,out to rhe E was nervous 3ga1fl. as I ,~efr Illy room, The, nerve usness of f.acit1i.g maii1iy' new p eoplc at OJ]~C:\€ i In the 10 tlnge~ J g]a.niOed throu:g~ th ,n'e,-vs[p,aJper ,~u{d had ~ cup of t.e~; w£lic.h W;lIJ!i nly 60['1 breakfast, [, ' .

fedin.g h ungr;r:.aT" a~.t hw; excired "and ~h:r~! ~ cd" .A, few min ures larer, my cell. phone :beeped,. Ir wa~ an S.~1$ fr('U1i hd

G;iirish wl b dele by 1 0" 1 ;."

B ready ~ ~;d 'G uttl Luk a ft;'~· Ius fro m now u: U b :djm CfJ.n_g ur WouJ.d be:' in hlt~~. :,~)

.As seen as I read her ,m~SJJge~ ,H, new num her B,ashed, on my ceJI screen; ~r"h~:lj time, itwss "G,it;i~h 'caj]EHg me outside" I 'lj,ukkly ",,",' ', ... ~~,,,,,, .....

my teaiti put the newspaper back in the rack ~ncl: iJE d~,e horel,

Soon! I waS in his Qu.alis. Ob,~itn.l.sly! his dad W;;;Ji8: a, big, IRan. Oi~ \'1':a f to Fa ridaba,d ~ he, ke!p t tdli ng n~ti ,~bo,ut, his: d~d ~ wh~ had he~.ffiIj MLA, some YeRlt:s b:1tc.k. He :ooe_pt ralking abcur his Investments in '

,i "L i'i. jJ -I it- ~. " , .JL ~~ u, ~~ Ill; "- ·~.!II

t:m.Jljr;:-: ana HIi. snares, J'!<]Jf(i[ ,. l,i;.JSp~ [leplCy111g '¥,lilU .o.L{~ yeaJdl ani.J[

rc;-aUylO - [MJt .r~a!]r lis'tenin:g '~o his b,jg:taJk /\1], that was ~,oin;g' I.

m Y iT.'1:~ nd. at th~~:r p~~,n.t ·was. ,hi£l\-ij,r ,tth ~n.g.5 'I,;;'!IOiUJl,d p'~n out in ,the" couple of hours, I had flI,t.1fe't been to any' [tIi-~a;W5, '{Hi then' wrid~ ~.Ic.l"'c,!I.,"'.

7.1

n( our tda,tll!i~'~, Ir was always, the boys :f:tuJ~iiy wbQ went eo tbe girl's, llhn here, ~hirtg~ were so d.iff.eJlemm, 1. was ~JjU ~1(J.,Oe.

So ilrJ ~nr 'rhoughts gOlng through ,[]'ilY mind ...

1 sm all ,alone" Dtl:JWU"l! I t:l{}j;j/'t etJ£'.fJ belicw' 14tt-f lloi.tJg ~'hisJ' g;f!~':ng to I)i:sit my i."~IIi'W!,

I J'h{!t.7.td SO'l;fRJ rn.til:u;pl:., A 't8fj;(j h:Ji61t" t.:,i~en. Sh£t.(No, c#iu'IL. ,A '''t'spolnl§~:,bie pe~'if1JrJ tifflO' UJill ktqJ. mf.;.iJ' ,Kil1tf,hi V:e,ry happy folt' flit "Sot o/b.ry lifl~

Wh~'~ will her, ~,m(! ,be- Imt( ,B~Ig.f.~ than n~iitt;t:f'

is. anybad., g,fJing to IUk mlt'my so'.w;¥J! Sh().,u/:d J 11~1 ~ flw "l.()J:'(g th(}~f#N1.ds to the figure.?

'Th,e:Y' htuJe,~ biK snr too alli ! naw ju.cs,'(:,tj bike ,_ no!t. etJe,rJ a Pulsar. at "hat.,

"" ... 'I'h l' .!I';;'ll 1 ~ G' . ~.

iji..- ~ Sl.t lap peJ1]eu, ,: as {ecu,. .U"1£[1",

," ~N;[) ~ ·n(h J1 0 thing~~) I S"~dj ~~nde,rlnR if he li:JJ~~, In. y ~h()ug,hts. J< Ii-ey~ Hey~ ,Ai,j¥t bi" fy,t)ta ,1,4 iJ<" hu;' mocked my co:nd'itiro,n_

·'\Yh~,t do you rnean, aisa /})i.!fi,Ott1. hat.'r .I. <isk\!d re rude filLy res Eless~le.~s" ,L Ku.th rhlJJ.ia~~' he gaj'l!:l 'W] rh a SU1l ile andpur ,000iOl ~ornc music ...

Afrer almose 3:0. he u t~ '!.~(f, reach({dl 0 ur des(",j,H"ifari .. UJt.. On rhe W'ay~ ff. ~ ~411~ I,gl':tr a pi l"lt:ap,p.Je c.-ake fo,[ ihen'l fi~~n ill. c~'ll~eCl i,~ rnru-y' In raJddab.(IJd ~ w~. ich G,i r i8h said was O:t111C of the besr in their. C~lY.

"Here we are. l.-!Ill~l_.t~4" aapkr:"l stl"Surtidlj" :wLid, Gkl\i ~h.", ,4 Boy! This is i r," I Mlid to ,m,vse1f:

73

.1 took a deep breath and go [ down frOttl the: vehicle ~~.in,d looked i:a~ the white-colored house in fl'on'E o.f J!1~, Then I' opened the h:~~.{.~ g:a're and walked. in" There were a .f,gw plants, with .Aovitrs b1ossom;i ng~ .un them. A r~,~.e&. veranda, 11 aU o.f w.l] ich was covered wi rh a shed. I Modred: on rhe door in front 0.1 me, whileCirish carne af~l'Ei' locld,ng hb cat,

Somebody opened the door and . .1 was excited to. see wbo it. W~1S, go1 ng, to be,

Her rrmm. In a \fiery s ~ n1pie and decent suir, r .... ro makeup at g:]~ si in ply a ktt.J'a Ln. her ~: ~ght h~lLU1L.a - She app eared. as sin, pIe as rny m om .. She sm .• Ired when she opened the door 11:0 welcome me in ..

!"'S~1t Sri .Akal.,'~ .[ said and bent ttm;vn to touch her feet.

,"' StU Sri Akal beta ji~ ~,. she said .k~$$ihg my £0 rehead,

BeT morn was cld.ighted. in see me .. Fina,U¥~ I was in (1r(),nt ofh(;f g~.

Shewas seeing; £01' rhe fil'-~~ rime, d~e'p'e-f~o,[Ij, \c,\ih,() \~~ ~iD1lg to take b~i b~J oved daughrcr a~"ay from her" And ·in those eye£ were so m a fly cxpcctaticns, so m;~ny1)OI)!Cenu; ~.l~d so much hope (0.[ ,b·er- d:aug~cet,

Sbe welcomed me ~ PtO tbe dra wii'irg room. G irish followed m:,~:.~ rouching her fe~t.

<, fjaith'fJ vefd.,~' she s,~dd to ~O'th of 'LI~.

Wbae we made ourselves cnFnrormbilel sh~ asked me if I. wns w~ll .and if !1\Ly jm~rfley had. been, c-o.~rt;F'o.riC::lJ.ble" Then she went out @f dl,€

, • " j~. ~)OII;. f. 1. I .. , !. >;I Tji t b~ , 'i!l l' 1 ~ _'I!:

I~OUl~ s ~ly] ng :4'I",iaJ1'1 (:Ia':!- a6-l'1'J~: ,flayt~ ~J:([r'0·1L').a Co ,~:y; sne went ~o t te ,n tcnen,

Bad~. In th~ draW1rlJg DJOf'n1 I w~s aJdapti.ng eo .my wOll~ld-b~ J/Ilf,Ur>tili~ I lUred the' aJt~b]ei'JJ[:{~ of rh,e. re oni: th:e sof'll allld thecha iss-sur rQ'lluThdil~~ rbe ce'n~e.r-t~b]e at one end of the room, the TV Set at the O;Pl]O~i.fe e.rld.~ in a' movable cabiner d1L3.'[ had ~ loe of oth~cE" 5t'1.,uff on .its she1v€s

..... .. .

deoo.ra;:[h~e pl"ces~_ including small, ~owe['r miniatures 90. the l~.pp~r I,~fr! qi, toy~t'J,dn on the ~'igh.t (pos~iblf D:tad:~); dlle money-plant in one corner, b erween rhe sofas and ch a]n; a. CHIil!.:p]e -o.f be8!'~dfljjj paintings aft

111(' wall with the signarures of '~hei r makers ''It ib,e. bottom -ri she, The l ~ ue in front of me was b ~fI~ almcsc a me rer long, and dep icred the hflaraatof a Prince, 'who wa') .:),[1 :h'b hors".~\ wirh hls bride being carried I n a ,doli JJld. (~, ~' people pla.ying the slMi;'f.I.a£,

L, H.O'l.-V are yOUJ 1{~ding:? 1'1, Gir,isb whispered frmll '[he' other end. of the ~~ )fa, having his share of fbn. in all '[bat W~8 h@J_P pening,

1.1'1 doi ~ ,! I J' d b _L

am .' ,e,lng 1 me, :r W:I:lJspere. ;iliffi,

r-, Goo d," he s.I11Hed."

A LL [de 1 ater , somebody carne into the room. Ii ~ed~t~j ful gid in a I i gh'E greelll rop and. black denim, wi th a tray j n hel! hand, Cal' .rying ~~]l·E-ddnk.s. i'r~ bt",Juri~u]ty carved g1asses" lit was Neeru, The day Ue:fOl'lf, I i'l ad not noticed how' bea:J11.dfui she W;J~,. Bur bow' could I, whea her I,!,; II more bea.'!LI.rifu! sister ~S in front or me. j-\nyv~,y~ 1 'W~U; happy with one more tho t i:g~~ t, or 11 c~J;i.d6,i I Saali 'tOO., n

So, this is how ~ i[ starred, \Wi th cold drinks and a w hol e lor of snacks .. ~i,~-r fruh~~ ~.nd. sweets. Neeltu and her- mom J,oin1ng us: wirrllJ, rheir chit~ ha~I ,_ Quesricns lrom her morn: Ho'w was .my f'am ill' dDin:g back .i.itl. tli;j$~~.? For biOW long W'd$ I fjiGj.l~g atb:f'oa.di .And .m.any' more ... At dmes~ ~ h e Ealke:d. :abou:tt their fami]j;, wh id~ means th~~u I gD [ 'Ito- l\;nn,w' once ! IHHe" rhe rhin& 1 aJ:~.~_~y .kBlie\\~L

Deepuwas in.Assam, working with an MNC, PIIL~S'h:br ,~ll,d }\mEl£. (n, k.a, Ami ,dr) WoOl.! hi b~ here in ]1 ali at~ hour Q,G. ,~Q L

A1reaJ,d.y~ rhere were so ,l:'l".iJ,flny similarities between K11ushi and. me.

And, now~ I saw so nlany sim.ibLEirieg ~etW,ee1_l G1l.U f~unajes [11)0,,, Bol1.l were rel~1gious-lrdn:d.ed. and believed. j u .simple living. Her m:()Lhh~rl' ~n • \(h ~nd e~e~~y aspect, appeared just like l111 mother,

,As ' ..... vc '~~~ke~L I occa.,jO-Il~]~y kept [aisiog [~1Y eyebrows looking a'[ N..,,:(:~l.'u~ -sU(';·~cly' a§ki~g her about b.0:r elder sjs,t(;:r"~ 'whel~b.ou~s,

"Have P atience, She is rg·et4:illg ready. Sifj'ttttpke ii>¥! fji~~' she replied

75

snd .I:it ughed am: me, Then she brought me a P a Ire ,. "Take one S(I;mo.sll. ~ i, Hi:ttl?ifi beta, If) :tJa;'~ her mom insisted,

And this continued •

~~oq H" ~""'" "',;. .... "" - .. 1-- '" I')

- - I~. I ~ -;.": ~...,rm.,,- ....... ,s,llCW,;:,·.

l-Thanb.'"

"Try this aeloa hh~ji{l.'· "No, please, I'm stuffed."

:'No, no. ". Take some, Alri~.ht~ tq~ this d!Jokla then. You wjH ]pve

. "

it.

~'A" .. a. .. , ah~ght., B~t: dl[S is the las . one"

~cAf9!1 t1.rtp to knell le hi naJJi nlhl! he. ". tel) tfJl M" '"',

.- JVtl.h in. , please, Thanks, lJ$" bas. baa/This .~;S, roo mueh, ," "

Wi rh so much, I feared cons tiparion and, if nor thar, defin] [dy loose

. m.o[bon$~

Almost [wenty minuses p assed and there was still no sign of the ,ghi] I had come there fOI. B,ack. in that ro am the :four of 'Us were laikin§' (6 each other, At eimes Neeru and Gi['1~h were snli-ling ar each m:l'JJer-.

T~H~O all of a ~i,,1Jddt'n~.a voice fffivded :IlrOIl1l Inside, n _-. ,·e.~nnU.lUUH." ~~L(), ho'g-rri miJtaar mabaf4(}.i, ~ Neeru aid, getting up fr'Om. her d'T;ai~ a :J!d, gOhlM C,(), Khu .hi,

Momenes later J heard LWQ ditTeren ~ £O~",Ttstef,.!;; approa, hi og tLJ,S. There s;h e Wj,]S •. My angel ina l~:vishing suie PfFlLk ktlmtUlt~ sk/.I ~j~ut: ,pyj'l.clmi'and 11 blended ,11uru'J..i wieh milly.shiny stones m:a!dt.lg U,it1l::W!ji{ lines 01:1 it. Hie r hair" long and. saky, G lessy 1~ p.~ and. those gn neidng ~( nngs.

Sl 1 L d . d "d "H"'I~;

le oo~e' ar. ft'l.'e '3!n. s~u ':. ' , .L.

'tI Ii ~tl 1 responded WJl[h a smile, am azed at h.IOW beauri f~1 ~ she .~,ool~ed, There was a dtf£e:r~'ilt kind ofhesitation between U$ now, to talk t@

76

~.Il t rher in .front 0 f everybody. Still, 'we went ahead, With her ,eyes she ssked ll~w she .klol't)ed.

J\ I I I said, "You.look arnazi ng, 1-1

.. I hank you) she said and joine,d us.

, he £JI rj-:--llf]t in front ofrne, She really' 10 0 ked so bc~,u(~fuJ in Indian-

~ .

,L r, .1 wished eve rvbody- in that ~Qust W,f]I uld vani sh for :a .CQ~·D,p'''e of

I,nur:.:, so rh~~ ~ could keep, s:f1aring at her ehar 'W&Y,

\Ve .aU sta rted ralking, Et1't:ry 110\fI :JI;nd [hen sbe W'aS ad] IISdn g- her

I smni which kepr ~~~(~.l1g down her 'righ.t sl!:ou[der;, On her morn's I IIIi j, t noel she picked up a few cashews.I rom. d e dry-&ih:u.irrs bowl, leaving 1III d;}f)',k!a and. rMgt;dJIt! 'becaus-e '~hey would mess her Ups-tick. At rimes, I ~ ~ (" ~ coked ar me '@Jnd notieed how [ WM ~cok~n8 ,a;'1: her 'wi ill everyone 1411) und and she sil ~n tty begg'ed me eo rrulre my eyes off her. B'lLH' men wa~ always he men.

-16 .break her spell on me she .. rareed tall-:lng to. me . •. \Vha~ rime is your fI.igh-r tomorrowi"

.. 7: 3.U in the rnoming, l~

I! SO you'l] h,ijlt'ife [0 leave th n;. ho~e1 at. ~I'OU 11 ~ 4;'~O, ~ben~»

'} 'i: 1 l~

'LYe~h" li l.av,e to w~ L~.e LIp ear Y' WWO·,f'r'mv.

And we aU kept talking.for ~ while .. I was much more comfortable I I,l then, apa [t :fto:~u. rh f~a:!J' of being o.ffun:d more fOod i C] ri b wanted ~ ~ ~ I eave, He had j usa risen fro m the 00 ueh ·W]ll(;.:O '"fie heard a ,a:r arriving II'L' the ggf[,C.

I Hey! Am i. di aa gilyi;'»- . eeru almost '3 In,g '[hal: rushing to rhe door

au ~ peepin,g OU[.

(, f\lld Pusbkar? '( wanred to eonf rm the arrival of anorher 01 ale [00,

,~ Unite $i1:rt!h hi te. {trL-Ji hd1'tgi;; J-5 G i;d~,b said"

And few seconds 1~~Eerl- b(Hn Pushkar and .. }\n;d di came in, wiping

thei r she es on the door-m ~L Everyone stood up to welcome rhem, ~Jil if they were rhe ones. nOr whom. W,e ~U had assembled, S~~,ing rhem j l.og9t up too,

;~ wo:w~ Such a. war In welcome :fur' rhe second son -in- law of th:e hatL~~ Hn!l-m.,. I'm the nexr, 'Jo'ugb, competition, ·dLld.el~~ I rho'ug,ht eo m.~df.

In her bb,~k top and. blue d.enirfl, Ami di looked liLt.;.e a professional, 21 ~r cery~tny lady. Her denim ';"V~l'S in rhe .1.~t.'Cn~ 'weird fa;,~hj.{H1.. - _d)c on e in which girl~. would fold Llp their jean ~/ I.egs a few .~ nches ~ba'1,\':e 'cbe~f' ankles, ShOW~.l1g the Ugh'r:p inner color of 'dl,e denim ,. I dCi'n~r kn,Ow wha t's so e~r.::i~j ng about i r. We guys used I[Q.) do tha r w~.i 1(' p~:~y:lfij,g soccer in mud, 1rJ. OUt' school da·~·. Her g1f1S'S!le-s had-a styH~h .fra.m e, and she had a di ffi:I·~H t s t}i'Je .0 f tyu ng her hair at the back-> of course, a m odern 'cne,

A1toge~het ~ Am i di appeared a ~~Yol Yo~'" girl,

Ii v; Yo! Yo!" gl.d~ ,il11l our term means. __ a"." .a.:. Yo,! Yo! kLnd df ght The thing wJ:~ich I IH<.td lrld~T in her w~~t~e .red ::Iru:~ white ban§1lf~

coverin B: both her h<ll nds, 'Of ecru [See; [hey revealed rhar she g:ot married rha:t yo)"~ ·year. Acco.rd.i o~ to cussorn; these b an~et· St:.l!.yed. 0. n [he hatn]8s of a newly-married gid fbr almost a yea'!',.

-:.

Pushkar ap.p'e~.red v:ery ~~;]mpJe to ~!le.

Mrer ;s.haking hands ~]~d ~flying "hi" and "hello," ever-yhody' s~rd~ down en the ~o'~$ and chairs. Conversatien .sta rted ag~il'L

{~.sb how are yoO'l:V ~ llavin?;" Pu~hk~.f ~sked"

~~ I : am fine, .. rh~.ri ~'i' i-]O'w ate .YOJU guys do] ng·(j, I as.k,ed~ 1ook~'n_g a~ botth DE them,

"P ten}, t'oGd. And how are YQur parents and brother back them~ .AIl~] di a~l~ed., this eime ..

"They are tlo1ng. welt -" I replied Wi'Ell a sm ile, .And. SQ· we conrinued Our chitchat on various '~opic@":: my ,of:Ike.! the'~['

78

I !~fi~~~ J(husofs ()ffice; die dJf'ferrent places wevisited, which was a ch~!LQCC l,fl·r rne ~'O hoast' about my nips ab.ro~l.d:~ DeU}!] t~ffi(:~ CAT~ the next I ndian Idol and wh at nor ..

And j yes, tMte was ~ second round. nf Sbad;:s· and ~ ofcourse, 1 had to Irctp the flew' arrivals compa ny. I. fd E: like: 1.",,'"1;£ gu.u ng to exp ~od~;

Mea.fiwl1i~,e~ 'Gi(~sn ~( ~no.lthe( CLlU on. his cell and, the way he ,vu'Shod. mu ro his. Qualls, we were sure it was bjs,- dad., All r .oould ~tlr' to hirn W:;us "thanks" ._ for helping In~, reach this place .and, more hnp.orr.{J;_n:d;y, lr or being. the only other 1'l1311 v .. rith rn,~ t amo og those lad~es '[i11 Push kar ~I rrived, He left.

The conversarion reii!Jlly warmed up in a while, and ([ did.lil~r·rnke nne ~ ven half an hour to l"(;;;IJ]U tbat F·us,h.kar wa..~ a cool dude". FIe ~:p'pe:a~ed In be ve['Y'''_p[:act1caL l\ud. rhe entire 'fem3~e union Itep:i[ hoacS[i.ng abuut Ius greatest ,lsse'( ~

.. Pata h(Ji~ Jij'u heth"!~t .achd'ftt. khaantt baJuu:tie haif},., ¥1~ has lear nr the ,I rt of coo ~~ ~ ng/;t .s:;-~.i d. Neeru .pt.e;.udh~,. as if her j i ju 'i,1i,;''4lS gO[tlJg to pr.ese.l.n ,I uurhe r cookery shaw on. Star lP.~ us, BUI; well, tl!. guy w·hQ OO~J~ kB"dy j.~ ! od, kqows ho "reV to ga_1:olsh various dishes ~.nd .how to phl!ct the forks, ,u.'Ld ~poo,oS'"an rhe dining t'aible ,u~a.,~n~am guy-for ~~-~9~1b, of th~ gir~s on this planer. (In .&et"V.n1 sure irs the same @D other planets coo. ~. if ! I~ Lete' ar,r: :g)r:~s 0 r~. ~her.m.,J

N eeruhad j ust ini tia..~·ed this tQP]0 and it di'dn"[' l~ke even a 00 uple i)f minutes for -Pushkar's gre1.it hobby- co becO'.rtl:~ ~l. threat .fOr ~'tN': - ~<l1 ushi's mom Ilhre'A'l' me a bouncer, ClEtttl ~I kha.arffl bttn4 ieff JiQ~~)) she asked poIi[dy and, ufifoUUll.'atdy~ with much expectation.

Silence, The sQun,[ of someone grinding cashew lDemr:~e[iJ, >rhe.i'· r~cd~f ~_ou1d. be heard,

tverYOfll;e ~~a,s w:~&d n g feu: .my res ponse, It was :JS if~. whiie fc]tQlII.r1ng :~tt India - Pakistan cricket match on rrlJle ~jQ.~ they h9Jg just heard that

79

Tendulk@f had h~t the bf!itl' bigh In. the rut and 'were waiting fu,i" du!! cOmm'c:nt·arEO:r ro revC'a!t if it wa.<i; !'i .. ,sbr;;,lQf' a 'Ca;rt.l;,J~~,

Slat j ng ~1'f. the bubbles in, Iny gbrss of 'C[Jkt,~' ] though.t! ~I N f,J'W the next que$ti:~o,n, you will ;;l~k me i~ 'WH[ you, be able to iren her n(:/wlr ~fI,mif,e£t Or, 'Do ye!'U sl.i'!g? A:rl'j; Much gad Ke' :;'Hnt1o ~at Se€~ Tktb ~~ W:~·'u.t happens when you, CO,.h"iJie 'to such place~, 'w1th'(!j,ut "!Oil~r piumrs. The 0fhe~r p;jji,r~y njt:5 '~(:f'~,ljdate Y(H;! en clif;fu'rent pi:infoEnlS so caudid.1YI

J • ,~

r~ nn Y0i.l GU1JlO r S';t Y' no to eve.ry quesn t)lL

r rried 1i0 come [[]J with some ~IDS~l:' i [0 oJl:ing ~J my-oeU phone ~nd 'whiling that it would ring so rhar I could escape [he quesdo n.~ whd:~h 1 was ~oing to faa" But dle damned gadge [ was mean [ [0 r jng only ~t rhe worst '!:i] mes-- ,~ike '[he eveB~ng betore, with the kiss d1JJI,IT cou ltd h'8ille been - hur never 'when, 1 needed 1'[ rhe mosr,

~UE1qtJ~y~ ~w~1JOWblg J, feM.t' times in H1;Y nervousness, I went at1J~ld. and tDj,d, them what they' wanted to hear.

~~l\b ~ Urn rn , :'. ycs~ I C8;n. W id~ n1JIO~( of the rhi Hgs~ Lam kind of 0iK~ Bu t I m,il~~e' good. pn"rtt~~i;h,lts:, .. IJ

I "~l:ad.n;[ e:ven c:,~'m,plle~et:l'l wh,eu her sweet 'and innocent mo[bel'~. ddig~lted. by n1J.r~'HT81Vel~ acsk,ed me, ~~ Ka~lt; /tr{:<u:}l $~ pa~1tntl:Je?~

t'N l"· cl "l~ 'tV] UII I "i]-o:_J ~ ~'~. ~ b 1:"

,,," ow nus is ee 0: rnu ",1,[ We!,U,~ ~liUn, it actua ~ly S"aI.y rnar, , 'lut n~;a't,

Whi'tT I was, thinki~g ~u.1d I wondered iFT w~s' ~uPP.Q~:e,d.tb recite a menu 1i:tn:. ]jk-e Pappu uncle frm,iQ d.u::' Punj:~.b ~ d.h;tb~: :;u'r Bud,~,.

P.nu~ itriitert3dtJJgJy~ the next ~n~.men[ I had :.l smile on my :&itt 0 .I ~i.

,

amused at ~he kind of ~lU~ifU~oI1S belng put to a so:ftw,m.re eugineer, I lle-vel r110 ~.lg1'r nd be f8Jd i1g such, (In ~.taerr,i,ew~ .not e\-'erIJ. in, ,my \:vei n:~~c drear.ns. I Wa£ h<l]"p''pY tllat~ fQl- a chang,e~\ r w~s. being ask:ed suc:h dlf&:[(~,n.t qll,es.t~On.fj, I told. nlysdf; '~'These' w:ere no I[ b~Kd !l] Icle:s do,m but. t.·xddng

~ ... o!"~ 'il) .... ..-nir!o :fr'11l'0"!,1"'Io",," ~ !n,.J, 0' ....... '_. ~']'" ~.d 'i->,

I!,;~ ~ ~,~d:o !JJ~ 1~"""';!Li!.[J,tA~ ... .l" QI&.J.i!( .. U '~~~ all' l'io.ii"'L·:· I~I

~ ;J'J'.' '7'J><,_ 0- ccaslonally ~(}:bh',i: he and m(J()i'i Ie'e bhi in 'the \-V] flt.ers. H

r. I v~~,ti''''' ~[;" . '. .;') , ,

! \Vo"'ir1 Ravin, d ~,flI~~ g~wd. Willen d kt. you Iearn all [his'?:~ Pushkar

l ~d i He seemed '(0 be quit~ interes eed

A 1 -l ,I;J 'I",,~ m "':W· . ~ 1..''''''''1 '~ 'O'L.' " ., ';111 Bd¢!'iUl?11 fo r ,e1'''''i'b t mo nrhs. 1: 1 ived

n '11 1;1, [O];U !U..". ' :U!k~" l ""'.o:LO.J;, Ct'" > !T.l

, I W re alone and had ~O cool~ for mysdf.. B efO!fe that~ I never d~~.d ~,fiy.

,f. £', " L~ ~)

Ul king. N eces::dry if; rhe 11llj (net 01 ~nV¢flUOtL) you rtI"~IQW" ••

1'" .;" crl"" .. '", ,-;f"C,-"k"'" 'b-fll i ... ,o,r'iI the table. I told. [henll the story of

~\.cep]ng filly 6 , • .0-,]0 'W' , V "'- K ~, , .•

I'" _ -.11 V in t ~""" 1,0; IV"g"""".,lI. '~:r:~";.ere I wanted !POl make a mixed-veg dish, 111"r J i rSI U~) . U 1111 .... iI1irul ... tLIJ.""'~" I' n IL~ -

k_ . d_'. d -p in(r-"'~i1""Ji·j'l~tU "lI hot nnol, of S'rJk:v:. colored ''rV8],re.r in \vh:~cb

ntu cnc eo [J ,F',,!i.o r<'l1'·'~ "'0 "" J'"'''~ ,1" ,'}:

Vtr ~ctabl~ were ~,'~lm:t1f[hlgt Some of [h,lem were 50 ,0 vet- bQ~led, rh~

. ... J ;,..; h·, I~ '~'''''~:e and seul~d down at the botttom.,

III r n'L(1 ,u~I ....... ' ,Ii," ",~, ",. ". .'

An.d.! as was e~'~q~~tjecl ~ 'e'Vlerybacl.ylaJughed ~E 0';;1.1 One of l1i1r 'Co~(Jker:y ,I lOW., }A:v Kh'!i,I,shL, witha 1li!',ol.1tbfhl of s(}n-:.d.rb1kr W.M ttying' lI))j . 1 - '1,.. ..... "'d 'I- ack h- er J,...,., ~J··tef Pu~,h kar I a Ii4 ~~ ed loudly Sind ruJjID"~ ost

'" \ ~ me 10'''E'.·~ ,t.I'~" .. '. ilJt<'1l. I.';., , .... l .... !UJ.t;I~~ - n -, SJ-l -

I I,~ p ped It is hands" It fdt good.

!'i. ' . .J. .' it ".' .r, ~,.:" 2- "0, t\ PM No one realized how m u/Il:h time had

t)r.ll!U... 510011,~ ,~, ~",(~~ ," . 'lj. . . e " .

~~ ClSSOO - cr, a[ least, I did:D~t.

"Lunch is Fe~ld:y~XI Neeru, 'an(l:!J!Lmrnd..

By nO'IN·i h3J.d. made a litd.e sp~e iu '[!l1tf tummy fur rhe 7'ifljt~a ,which,

~"""l . i· it-':~ "'L t, Cl,:J .,..,;r., -l p '~or m e She knew 1~ was my [avo.dee;

I!~ l.U sn.L D U ~Ui ,~.~,i:ll.U ,!-U-<'I;JLL-..- , . , - " .. .,

We ~1! r.n.oved, '(O'\:ra['Qs '~he dil1.tn~l u~~1e!, pH[[ed ()U~ [be chairs and sat, And s.he sat rigb'[ in front 0 f me, 1 was h?oki.n,g, .:it~ 'my :[il til,.~ re W~fel l hiuking, ~~A, fe'w months l~u::,e][1 we wW be ha"lt'i ng our lunch, din ne r

. . h :I.';':

;:L11d bre1Lkf~s~ t~gelIh~~' andJ" [h'a;~ ['0.'0 ~ in [ , c same lnare.

Amused w.'r:h we same' thppgb:r~ I, opened du: I1d, of the bow] 111

f[on:r ,me.

~';N' .' '.- .~.. '. '.,1:. "" "'ai~,i: i'l. 'i;li~ ·Ai, [ulci'[iLtlll"'some' :5,{{lad. The dinirllg'

".'e:reru" yon .a1l.:50 oo,m, ..... ~ "' ~,,~, ,i1.!L,~! I]; Q ~ ..,. - !;il

t:able W~;S full 'of v~ri.~o us d ~di:e~: ,pf1nt~t;, rait:n, i;Ul1fJ() gobhii S3J;ard~ -a ,rioe bOi;W ~OlliLg whh a c~se.._oole of chfi'tptltm '~.nd roy &v'Or,~I;e rajm~ .. The

8'1

,'OOGm'!5N.

- - ... _ "':;

~v.erY.9~ <It th(t.,~~rlin,g ~a1lJ,~::~~: hli piig:d~~sd#.e:~r3.lld $~icli,'c.!'i ,,.It:t'iioQII 'nr:msl-nN the' ,food.' ''S61ff 1 w~~ tt~ing·:,te, ~~ ·~,.~itVlft-'~"iSh>GQ\I] ft-8m.' I,

t". ... _.' B .- -' )'! ~.. };jJ ..... ;.:. -.. ",,_ - .. ~ • ~ ~j~L:: ~- -' ~~,t)J "r..... ,. I

0irher~< 'end ~.f' t~e :(ab,[,€'J vlneti :Kh u~Kt ~~~~J?ped m¢ -~tI ~silci<n~dy , '

'!..: ", '..:-. :-. ~. • • .. ~ ~ _' • ;:.;; •• '\ .

~W~it~ I wUl rt)se,[, 'j~:(>

," ) 11:"~

~ke",pi~~etl9P' rhe .·~p'q~rt~ h1: \Q.b\: ll~ff-d:,:&\ji:J.~wJr.g:~~ JO :~~e 'olhet. '~t'~~Jne:.~trh('n! ~~ pJaucl,~S'ome~saiad on.. In)" plale},'~~rl(t-a$~(!

t:. ~, .. ->l'- '.' ~,

I~ .chht"it1'Hi i)l ,~ice;'»~'

... -r~ t~Ir'- ~ - ~

I ~Jlub~\lo r;lfr ril:~' cirin:O' ..sweetKea~tl who: was 'l!itd~lttv;_'~FJt~¢, '"

... ..... ~ ..- ~"'...- ~:-. ... . p. ~.-

~Y' ~~:ch. I was: tlmiintlg;]~uld,e~. ma~be even OUtSide~ :and: till My "l!Yj;I!"ll_

"'.' >" ~~',~:~ ,,~'~ ~ . ->.<',- .' . ."' ~'.>,' .-"~,

1 a~~~,d heri' ,~~u w.uK] dV!laysr~nIre esre of me ti'l7W's ~~~o"'. ,Rti~~r. '

J ... .~f-

~'~{rtu~P;fl.t:tj; ,~t:,1ijcl{ . ~be;;-a~,n·~,!!u~[!{:e~,,~u:.~ing h~~ 151"0'~~'~ l\.u:tt WilD ~+s 'mingtt ithc1f? Hc!~ a~l¢.·'<awd~·'loYj!, fqf"nl,e.· had .

fiUed ltle: .. SrjJJ 1 r .sartt '~~: .. ~. '. t . 'CJjgJ#fltti:;~'

"WtdlJlem: ~eautffulllilQ.d_g:ih~ 6p~&i<dl~ '~~S$¢.rdIe '~~01!!~"''':1~ili!i"-~J ·r~,~,.!IJ"""""!l.":!

Eve~vone'wel1~:alhead: wid ..... t'i:JJe lUf~.t1i, .. tlle:mdwMt'l h~d 'f.~ kO~·i£hos.~ :a.nxtoU&.~s.'Were ex,~cdn'g: a- r,~sPJ~~m~ l1-o,m me, ' '·I~.Ai'lr.jIIoI'

• ..):" _ ~ "1..:.

up 'iliITftO. h1@~ th:armtQ~: ~~ 3;ncl:told :h:erjll~y~ ~hat she nad~ m'~:i!na

, ,

fOrJ': mt. ~S'K~ 'sRilled, 0Chd. £le1it- sO ~t'isf.ted. vr:dhl;:'if .sh'tt. no:dGed tbit'E thad

•• .. -. .,.. 10 ... .. ~ ....' • .,."" •

IH1.~.';J.;;o.we& down. to ~he"a~pt~Jia~.t.®'l1 of!tbd h.!IJnm an,a, tb~'p~p.le who

" "'I \0 .-; .......... '\; ~",

il~,:~d IH'~B'~rei~, ]\~,;' I ~li~ l~WMqW:~f~e.tl'tO Olr6e:-wnenii"r>c w.er.eJrhlQlugh.

~,',vla~ ~ili 'paclmd"w:i~h d:eUd,t:m.,~ fGo.d~ p,udd~i.n~ an,d!'fiul~ ~'d~sseitlJ\ £OJ \\lh.ich I .s~mggled tiO m~ke S"Pl'lle B'p~(e lri om1 t'[~m1LqnyJ~.

(:Onve~:s,a~dGfI resumed 'at ~. s'(llroi, ill1l6: ,chahs :~gaJ.~:f4.,~T!rj$ 'l;Lme"i t' ~ i-~'V'Cl1Ved· ~um,'8f,rv~, g:o;e,a jok,c.$.! PQor 1l~kpS'~, anrd foi{es' wJi[6~' <'W~~ rro't i ~ ~ ke~. '~'Lt . ~n:~ EY6H .her ,mQme~ w~ l;~1£!;tdrlid:gv .itJQ ~d'l ~d~l~lg W'¥t~~ pS' )'in ~l;flgS(el"§ •. }\n<if~ at, ~im'~~;l 1 o.od<;.e'd~~· d~[f~ren;t, ~miJ.,~, ,AT imnG, «Wfi.i:t.h. uh~~ ~~'I!. dn h~r' lj,6Jj" bUrt i.n h e:r ~'!(~~ A <smi'[;e~wh~'ci\t '1t:)~4~' d13,! ,~b~

-rJ!!cW ~.~~ . J' ' "~ •• J;".~" .. ~ yi~ ~!, ..... .. ~.' . JY

~'h~'ughfl \\~i~:WM~ ~Y:r; A~~m~:~cw;h,i,t11 oow~~l~d ,th;a!tj:!iP'On},sihe~allid,

he;: ~ rt:.'P~'ted 'uq Shi:~Jt(;r oc.ra~ghm t;Q m'~: rO~!:~7 Fe-Sit'~~f ~er nee. 1& ~_mlI]¢ \¥h,if;~h W,aJSc 'b~~~Qg m,e and '.lteJi~ ;&t;ai b.l',i~t4'utu~~~ ,!\nil OO1ne:wMre~, ~H~!ld!;,:ih:aJt'sn'dl~ also, wb.]~pe'~ In. m1c.e~[r; .t;Irro.~ltd~fftiro: JJ;Wt hc:-3.rtt~ .' Wld:~, he~ I win be ,gi~v~ntt~~ m:f,,'healf~,~I~. t:ar,~:~o~lie"'~, ... ;M.~~y'J

,k ~S~ 4: .. ©1t;, oek in ~br~" '~'1:ening; Wh¢ll-'·we ba:d, 'a ., ~[:up:,of) 'rea, ~We'!>~~ ~n-e;njng t},O{di~~ a'ncl\ t.~ :l~5;.--rest of [h"'In,cll(i' no.r. dd:tlJili v t.;ea. '~~s,!'" PQ .p~e i n tha;t'$[u~reC 'fim;ilf$ dIiQ~~' ~a. Stra~,Ja:m]lr ~ '~h):t~$ wh~r Rusll~ und rt~el"

,M(\at1\Q:hi1e~ ·:'Ktw.dti 'w~nlt m,l~l~r~,[Oom ~~ ~he ~ery ,tt~~'~mb,M~n~ J \~lS ~l$;ton·lshed., to see. ba!t?SM:S nb ,IlfY ~(illr. Wo,rnl1~trh(g: w~~r ,m~ did,. '1Ih'1,t~ f!~ad ~he iIniJ.Ss~~

I'[~d sh:e cano~, ',me' !)P"

i ,~u~tOO ~,S" if.1JEo·~ one, of my: ·ro[l~B~ ·fl.ieil~> ;Q;naj· taU~ibg~{~ Eh~{ ~DI.legc~t1-]elild of.ml~ne~ l WeJ1'~ Qudnrp die 'Ytj;'·~u~.u:la~,,~h4 ,fm\m.j~s; ~r.;~es~~

,,~ '-"=". !~'!('1lt1L~'"" ;;;);. ~· .... ·I]r· . f' .. ·· ).l~

,~1j,rrn~ili:\.:a;s[if~i h~r:f . Vr- .. :m~et:¢iltt(:),1Q.u I~ )~g ~m.~,

HBatb,roc;m~~::m,e f¢phed.~

;!In ! J@() had a la' e itt.lTi ~

.,

~!\!Q'ow! W'hat are you doing there., ",?' I asked rrtis1Chiev(lI'usJy..,

4" Shu[ up! No'ltv listen to rne," she saJid_. IfY,! [L.g to expJ.~in sIOJiu:i~ to me,

M-cl .. fOJ" the, Jler~t minute! this. is wh~l[ 1 said:

"WL. :;;;.; . ~lat'lri

., Btl t 8!J)',e y.o u sure YUll wi u be ~;b]e to do eh is?:<I' ""YesI ):res!, I mean wlU W'E be. ~b.re ~'Q;.,.?'*

"Oh B I I "b J" .

. ·1 'oy.. emu' e rev this. You hnre.such gjIJ~. I would love '

chis." .

'~rhriUiog. Btu:·,~hat [f we ... ge( 'caughttt' "Neeruj She will bdj) u.s.? 'Gre:~d Your lirrle sister reeks yaar~n I\Jright, done, Le.t!S' do this in half an hour, You (01.n CJU ,m,V" ~3

,rigll't no,,,. ~ · .

Tb:ri lled and anxirU"'~.s be,~ use of her (I mean mY' ,coUe~e fr,j'egffP call, I returned to the ,d[·3.'vitin,g room, E'ifel:ych~n)g ~~ tile same thrett the environ ment .. :rhe talk and the p~ople,~ bur all of a: ~lidden I ... ""'''nlH .... ~

h . -

,t, .e nm e 'to. pw q~i:ck~y. I was excited about' the pl an (i.v.h~d].

involved ,':,eeruj thar Khushi and I had just discussed, .[ !repl'

if we 00 uld really do ii t. .

4.-10 PlW

'To put our plan into action, Vie were wt-lJjr~ng for Pwhkar and Ai11i di departure,

Evcrv now and rhen one of:' h'" ''''''''i,I, ilL j 1'1 l 1

'. I . . , ,". ,~,,,,,' ,"'- 11.',,", f."i"VWlUU. I!O'QiK at rne \V,tH' .C~.OQJ;{ 'Ii)'.f' a

I lsrwatch. That and -a, few quicr mements made them teaHxe du:y r I' '. gening late. Atild ...

Uingo~

l~i LShkall" got ~ -:m.d ~d, lQo.:kiJtg at J\mj ill, ~ r dUn!( we are g~rung late, ~

Hearing rhar, Neeru looked 3it me "Itvith her n"tin~kll~:ng eyes and. I

II.~ k~d at l(jhwb.i. The three of us.were ready For action,

4:12 PM

I All ill mal r ~1[lve to lcavt roo~: IMS ~ I") Neeru saidfl i ike a kid, whc doesnt f', llv warn [0 de, $om,(:rtbim:i!I' .

.J' ' e

'·l[\..fS?-? 'Now? Bu:r you don~t have classes in [he evenirq; 1ia?~' her

II [her a:.~kecl.

.. There is a doub E'~darifica:t'io-.n session rod,ay. KhIL~sh.i.~'~o b'fl.S,;ilL claJss~. k he,,..,:'

"You also. have to- go?'~ Mumma asked KI.'llli.hi.

"Class to t ai, but I won't go. if you dCJf:J.;~ want me to ~, Khushi tcpt.ied,. Meanwhile, I iru;shed, in 'w~th, ,my ]h1L'e8~ ~", 0, no, I rhiuk you should

~;ll ahe:=t.d with Y0ii.u· d:;ll .. ~:5·. EYrC[l I h.ave [a Jeinte $Q'O n. ,A feW' mi nures ~ KLcl~! one of m.y college fri'e[ila~ '!tum D'e][1j leaUed Up' iUlI.d he W~tw.~ 1[0 xee me J cant ignore him,

P ushkar asked, "How will you girls go 'dben? Do you. 1trvaltlJt file ro I rop }.Ou? ;

Khushi :r.eplic,d ,~,mln-ed[atd.y; rr. N01 Pk~shk~J. You guys go ah~d, IMS i~ 1 n :1 totally oppol~i'red,i.rocti9n frorn 'W~ere iou, are goiJlg:. Wt wH[ rrl ru}ta;ge. !~.

4 .. 15 PM

Things w'e .e going as ,pel' plan when Pushkar :;tsj{ed me, "Ravin, hQ.~7 ~l'J iH yo Ll g,o baCk to Delbi?'

"Oh, I had called up a caJib. I 'th ink i ~?~ f[herrC!l 0 ueside," ,I answered him. ''ii~-:aJking cowards the door and ~ ook ~l!l:g ou:t 1!~ (:~nftrm.

looking 31: her 'j,iSVCfS'! Ami dj said, ~~Wdl ~ In, that case ~ Ravin can drop '1-01;;1: at' ],MS;; l(~ on ,his "'Way~ ~

And this ,\J"'~S what "lj~e ~ !'1t,ed. '00 hear.

Anil j tii lO(iilred :11" me aJ1ld :1 ptete.n,ried rrh:~u J: dk~:n,~f. kn:f:t'l)(\', ~Oh~ I.1\t1;s will be faJHing on my wa y? In that else r can a1'1Q p you ." I [1L].r1~t:d rewards her 5.t$re[~. [r "V"'4;~ gell:cing hard to conrrol ().tit smiles, ,r;spedaU¥ 'whet~ everyth ~ ng, ',V':3;S. gQ,i rIg ::-I,S planned,

I'yt)u, won't have any problem rUl?;' 'N eel' u asked,

.And in .rny heart, :1 said, 'L'G~;)Jne oni Do [~jr avN:do i [; dumbo, 'r.> A.J~udl.

I said, "0 h come on! Whar problem can I have, in g~ving a Ufr- to It;'I.~a gcn~oUl:S 1a.clies?, The pleasure 'will he mi ne." I looked. at e¥ery«:'odJ"all1j;d

,

smiled,

Khushi rushed ro he-L" room.and (~nlJC back in ten rainures, h~lll!,m,g chang(;d, She laake,a smnn ing in her black to P and white denim. She started n,tovlngJr,om one room '[0 ana rher in search of her sandals, Stm bU~1 'with her dressing up, she did nl,t notice me,

1-;, Chttlol Ier me show yo U. our room ~ ~ N,oeru ~]d a.l1d led, me ro h.~~ room, which sbe $.lban~d, with Kh:l)s!l~. ,At ~he door, she g,estur~d vi,iiih 11,.:::'f arm, "This is our.room," I:"[lak'~]lg Iu.y,eyes, go Ertan rigbiE to ,I,ef[ ..

\Vhile she talked about the di.fferen:t thing$ pr.e:sen [ in her ro em, I }V:M 'busY' seeing £onletning else, M:y eyes fdl on the h~d. when:: diH:ms: l~1t}r some U:ti,bJg so artenrion-grabbing, so £asdniil,[~,n-lg. The pink and $~y.. blue fiiU11:")I rhai,'t m r J ~dy ,h~.d, tal{eJ'~ Qrf h¢.ule'U iii. f~iJ' rni n ures back~ ,W~ lying 9,il'her: bed, inside 0 ur .. , It "vas s'F',r,~ad: upon r.lic:' su.d~ce of rhe ~ea covering half'O.f ir, I donj[ Itunw why i!l' W~ ·[0 e~dl~l4g for rui,~ to. giit7)~ci:~ [he clothes 'which stre hriJ,d. been: wearil1gc '[he etlt1cfe day j n ,fro nt ('J,f me,

'.E$pecia~lyj turn 00, inside turned out. 0.11 'rooy~ The [~er ir'ball:~ ml nU1t¢s before~ she was in them and they 'were adhre.I'1ng 1:'0 her bod.y was sendb~i!:g waves of :fu:n:tasy' Jhrou;~ m,'~" .t\ c.taZj;'"i chimed. and warm fed,! ng:,~ d!J:~r

II Ml r still were ca..r,rying h.et f.ragr:liUlce in rhem, .ien '~bo$.e' wrinkles, in rhe ~ I ~ V(:;·;~ d s of the sri tches that were l!J.OW visible, ln that sweet wetness on I h,' ~ ~ nderarms, 1 wishe,d, I could [Quell thC111!, fed [hem" breathe rhem, I ~ I" I, r\'e.eru no ~ been tht:'n:;;y I would ldlefln1t'C,~y ncr. have beert able to

III f ~ m'ysel f..

~,~ tn, I had to end my f~![jiffiSy 1ftJl.d ~ook ar ",..:h at: Neeru 'wa~ $how~,ng II h" 0 n her different ~~:ldves, her bo [J,k~ ~ her com purer ;U:ll~ the [e:H of i.(, U)O,t)l" I "vas sdJl :~.$'[.eri!i.og [0 Neetli,~ ~vh'en' Khushi cam,c in, looking ! I U 115. Silt was now [.e~tl'~ wi cb her sandals on,

~ 'he moment bef eyes fell on the bed ~ she 'qu iddy' YIJ.slf:ed. ro g~tab 1 [ I I lothes,

~I S,b 1 d ~~ she softly mucrcred, re:ve~rfD:g IJJer shylll'~s. ar [h~ .favor she h •• ~ UllCO r.J.~dQous;~f done- for !U~. 5he ,[hen rook 'them to the- oothl~~,rn ~ I etc she probably hm:t~ them hdlind rhe do'tj;~,:, ~he ~ho Lf,gbJt I was IHII'Y ~~ibl1g 'EO Neeru bur, ftom rhe corner of my eyes, ,[ noticed, what 11," ~; ho ughr I did r(t notice,

.?() 1') J; _if

~,.~ . r .{!'".l

Uy nOW we were JJ the doer, ~:~,most don,t: with Quii' nnaJgt:)ocl.b~e5 . to ~" ybodj~, Pusl:;bka.r and, Ami di ,got in 'weir ear, I reached MlnnWli'l!':lIJ~~ ~ ~! ; t nd she P ur hri: han(h on tny,beact [ said ~hr:d~f I w;olJlld. see, her 'after ~ I ,~1'Il e back f~-o,m, the US. She wish.ed" m~' a h:;}"p'pY J oU1!ney.

,I~ hushi, N'if;~ru, and, I rhen l1"],ll,ae a n1d\!:e rtG.~'i.r~rds rny ,C.1,b" The' f¢en:~$ ,III 'J LHO rv with ~,o">: us WM at irs p- ._. eakr,henl when 'we found ou rselves ~nt

, "

1,1 w I ;~st srep of O'JH mission, Our hnmodJa.re ,~e:!l:[1n'Jli.1rion W~~ the IMS

( r I ! I ,~, r, whete 'we wo 1I.11d, drop Neeru who wo LJl]d auered a!l'llll~fgchecl'U ~ed, l ~ ~ in an. L! ~"llk.lJJ()wn baeeh. jU'ul Kbush~ wouJd. no! sli:,ep 'out of the ca:b ,I ~ I:~~: 'WQ uld. be wirh m,e fOll' me rest" l1'f the evening - without Ietri Qg ~ i' t ~ 'iu'nHy know- That WiolS QI!JE. pian,

~~'t'IJ rhen, so:rn~'[hing happened the \rt!F-y moment we· got hi~o our

Cal~ratui locked the ~.Qot;s ~ a oof!l.[i.nge'l:lcy we h'adfi.~t eve it dio sbour, let ~dofle fllariJ.ned fa,r.

AJH 0,£ {l' sudden ,K1Insb.r~: ,mother' remembered rhat she had to ~' ehe dai fr. fff.)m where s1~c '~~~~ed eo get m il kl ,e1:~:l'" evenlng~, for the ho me, I r would soon close down and, wi rh no 0 ne le.ft in the h.ot!~ would he' a 'problem tb,t her. And, unfDfttb1'l1illely~ [ fbuIl,l(~. O,]~ t cl1iil. besides I MS I' the d~ ~ ry also fell on nl]Jl route.

MtJh _ _ _ ah ... ,. "V.". hl'es ... ·w,e' .... Wrt wiH drop be!t'

, I I J

sta tnmered, 1 .. Giolldng :aiE Neer u and rue, h~r ~?t:s .fuB @f questiil}]1S: whi,ch neirher of ~J£ had an aJ.D1SWet.

'1 he plan for her es[".l,p e "V'~ rh 111e was I1Il)W'· da~.gfi ng' 0 u a b I. bridge, and \W didn'"[ have an,' idea wha:[" ,\-rf;t$ going. EO happen I_;li~l(~ .. AU we w,[: r~ wo:nde:r,i.rn,§, ~a:!): .eQuId. we ge'i1 11'W,~y' 'wi·tn id How " wl!:'uild It take fp.r rhe [ruth '[;0 com c out? cWo ~'~]d \'ilf.; fi:a 1"(1 ro pile -en more 1]c5 to co nceal '[he 11.1"15 r lie~ TheJ1L, Khush i wh ispered in. in y ,~-all'1 mal;;ing sure ,i1e.t .m.odl,er, didn't notice, . ..lThe .tlah·y will come 'hef9~C I MS. :Dc)n.'1: W0'r.~Y. V.j We wOl:lld be ba4 on ~f'ack af~er r~u~ d;!:l:lr:y., Or so ${tO'm~".

Kh ushi ,star~ed explaining tbe" route ~o the dr,uveF .. , Ar times ~ I ~,Il-a.l:s. explaining. 11L1;@r~ than '"Jie'ct~saql,; ta[ki.ng 'rOG m ueh .. 1 W.3!S, not SUlie • it was bell:' nervo usness ~her mosher \\~~~ 'whh u:s!)©,,[' her ,e;' ~n:Drulen {the pll~1LI1 00 uld :St.~] ~ 'work oU"~1}, \Wharrev'el' ir was, ir was ,(Raking- .n10' liule conscious arEa I wish ed that moment would S;O'Oll paS's. No, $.( t:n-S~l@.I~; guy would wanr his f~w re' morher-in-law to see hint asa pe.n()11 . der5ej'l.led her ~H1Ld rau off with 11ef da-ugli.ter qn the very first nay,

'BM!E Khushi. ~. I d(J;l1~t know wha:t W<l~' wtoug wi rh h,e['. s.~}e",vas .. ,oCIIJ.Ii1UlIl:;ilo'A; a lot. "fa lkin g; to 'ihe d[h"'C~! ,t"~l.ki og to, Mum.rna, l[~lI~n~ to ever .. T~l1<in;g) ,explaiJraing, Exp'l~in i ng,~ ul1ting.

,A1L1d. w~th so m Udl eN:,r.~,a[lrut]on:~ the dri1!fl"er .got lirrle confused ......... ·.,,'.u, ..... ,

['Bdcd up Re$Jtilng' 'Nee.f.u, wh®, w.as S.i.U.L!],g on the frDnt seat, I~MattlJi tIJ ~t{ti'j' ,til,k jat1ygngi . .A,~r a;ap kd:han takj'drJtJgt'.r Delhi itlkt

And then [he blunder happened,

ivf y excited, talkative, nervous Khushi forgot! for a second. the alibi weld, been building u,p~ for. the lasr houe an d said, before Neeru had a L I ~ auce to :;iLfi;S;Wet.'i H iVfthin b.J'JitiyytlJ )'e.n to' 1M S pi! hit u:tfi:r ia.fl.~i.. ~~

,~

Before she eoukl understand 'wh:at she bad done, her rJ.'101Ih6l.';" tapped

Ilt,L' shoulder and ,a:sl~et1, .:t Ye to JMS:p~ hi' 'W-fli:i1'jt1Jegi itl$tWJ,b? 1~fJUy kabitdn Ii earn« htJi fir! Of 00 urse her morher's rad~ r bad become very aerive, uying to understand whar was .lllltppe·.U1Y1IDg.

I. Gayi bhains patini mrirf;» I heard N eeru t5~ar to hessdf w ~dl1Q ur

h L' L_ L M . 'j ~[r:l-~- e:k." p~

i~, I Kl]lg J..}";:·tCI'l" t' :y ~[CS8mn :S~lii.;~ ~ rJl.cn,y .;lItI;l.t.~

An.d Khn_!,5h~.

Khushi bit her c6ngue, .real~z~rlJg the mess she hact cr·e;1tled. :She rook .1, i HJthe.r na me - a friend she was gQ'~ ng In meet ,[J rs r, ;\,'10 rha t she could ~ u k.e her no res .. , But her mother ha;ci ~J reOOJI smelled something' fi.8hy ~~I Ld she ]molred Ml'E:N'ee,[u and . asked, ('N'ee[lll. Whals ,h,~p,pe]},a,ng~~;

And Neeru, h,elp~.ng h.eJ!.' elder sister our of the mess, replied, "Mumma, she 11:JS" iID ,§;',et her maths notes fr-om a fffiefld! nl'S["~

At that moment, rhe CiTh.ib ;runi,wcil atthe dailY where rrhei [: . rnother was to ha[ r .. t[tl s 1L1.['e' she wanted to :say 3. lid r of :th[!1;_g~ to he~' daugh ters, :'i.pedJlHy '[he elder one bur, because of JUy prese!]1ce 1 :she only said,

~I .." 'b, _.L IL . , "T'!.. .1. ~'" "l)i~

Corne ',au·.II.[Offi'C on. nme, ,.;[ J1,~R. fltU~

"linnnji. Yes,! MlLmfllla/~ 'dlf; fen';a.~es, .1[':1 the tab rep]iecL And I bid I\oodbye lIO their mother fQl" the [~]5[, titlfle.

As soon as S\he l~tr a;nd tbe c~b tn0,'V'td (jJn.,~ N et:[t~. and I both r~~.ed~ .~ W,ha:t the hell dkl. rou do I,? '

Kht!.s.hi Iooit,ed down and. .said, <"!l'SO[ty~ ~~ r Hire ~ kid 'whose paten rs :h~~ye clu~hr him bre~king a 'w~n~cilio'w with b L5; 'm"j,d~!Z~ balL

'~Mttnt' m'arifJ bache ha1J'~'1.. .. 10 bhi' nctal" Neeru said.

Stilt all o.f us were relieved by the: narrow ,escape. 131.]:[ tt·wa>s~ not-an e~Gape. Parents k[\'l)w their children SiD well, They Jl~ve spent mUGih

. ,

m.ore tim~: d.lan us in. rhis world .. nd, of CDUt£:e] .. ~f ar .o!JI ag·e' we tbwt~.k

'We at? smart, Ehen at their age rhey are SJ1~.ancf. Her mother had understood vel'Y ,,\leU cllat her elder daugbter-Vl:a~ clc.6nitelynot be;adw.mg rewards IT.MS bTJ': '$CJ rneplaoe else. But that's the ·bc~.tl.[}' ofa mot11ees .il eart, Sbe allowed her ro go, wid ~.r) ur letri ng bet know d~~l.it sh¢ l~[f':Le;rv where her daLJ;ght,ex '1;.\!1lI.S .goi~]~g·.

Back in the cab. Neeru':.uld. I were hilu.ghin;g .m_rr, Khushi's gre~~ w(~r.ll[. ]. fiQticed. rhe driver's snll~il1lg, face In the rearview mirror, He h;aJ. ~q: ngu.I1',ed.out "'i.~hat 'we were up to, In another ]i'Vle minutes, ~ .f,ea(he'cl IMS" "V:~ I,e:re N ecru gOt dowm ..

oN p~ b b· 'f·' 1:J· I Jl J d

A)ye~ . ye ,~a l'V'["i . L[ .; W;;tli/dlJ llly .lalI .

'~B I.J h R

. ., yc,~ee~ sne s,c:a:ng ill ner sweetest voice ;;II nd reminded me i III Brin~

rne ;ft. ton of chocolates fror.L1L the US _ P'.t

«1 \-V'iUy for sure, j~ I i~epUed,

She then ~~~aU.jedl tdwa.n!i~ hey deS'~j nacisn and we moved 'mw,liIJFds: ours ~. the hoeel I was .srt~}lirtg in, in .Dah~. This pan of the p.i.{l:El 'e1,r,e,n Neeru. d.idl1i.~t know abour .. Jill she ww;,'): rokl by her sister ~s that we were ·going to watch a movi e. A d.o1Lllt.l~e"'(JO$~.!

K.h(JJshi~ a~iit\~wuclIL.ed ,ffi:y heaJ.n wi rh tbis,. I was happy seei og h,~tf exd.te~nel1t and sathf~],ctjfm. ma~tdting mine, My love had o:}()k6d .Jp"a Silury to spend rtime:'!j"d'~h Iller .pd.Dl,e:e ch;al·.m.i.n~ (Ol~ ye~l. ] 'Was giv~n rhar t] de bY' fi1.y p:f~ ncess, that eveni ~lgl;" I appreciated her gut~ and ltei ~\~rim.nglleS,i\; c.q hew]'fu, me, Mr.er aJl she was rhc one whe J [·ed. and

pLanned d1.lngs, The' '~Pige[·ll.ess in her; to spcFl,d, a. few mcme lil0lnerQrS with· me, -an ~venil1g ... ,. The t1."lltf she shaweid. in me d~t<H day created a!.~ ~,Intangib[e bo,nd be:tweell"Otu' h.e;u:rs.

90

.1 turned towards her. aQ.d $~lW rhat beautiful irmocear face gtowing: wit h hap piness, I was si rr'r~n[r by .her side and it was J a~e he! ng: in a I i~,UHiful dream. Yes~ l know '\'",r]uJ W~~ happcrt~n'g was all real, Yer, it w,~~ se magical, Even I1'lt.e air that surrounded us in~ the c~b W~$ d,~ fl~:rent! 'I Ielt great and. was glad d·un she was mine and I was with. bel"; And, :,:!J·t i I ~ ar po'i:tli'~ of rime, I .~le\!\el1' Irn,ew< she Vi.r~];S. going to giv{; me the best he Uti' ~ ~~. my Hf.e,;

t\! a, bout 6: 00 ]PM that even i iJg~ we reached :~il:y hotel. :Befor.e ,,~e got j l~l''''''·ll~ .1 asked rhe ~bdrive.f' to be. back. by' 7:: .30 so that I. ee ul.dl drop 1.1(1 t .h 0 me by 8::·4 j or so, f\ct,urdhtg VO ehe p'l:~:~ j her class at IMS W,J;5 to ~.u ( till 8: 30 that even i ng'.

\"Walking up the staircase of the' hotd I fd t ~ dj flttent ted u.ng. I .fou.t!i.d.

III vs:df a.mung a. different section of my friends i Friends ,it'!1ho possessed : I. 1;~ r~.friend~ wi th whom '[hey ,hung out in their cars, rook rhei'it.l OUt to (! i nne r~ 0[' m".L;aybe to a disco or a mo¥i,c;:". M;a:yhe their gi trLfriend$ had. ItO 1 i~ to their mmilie;;sf too, just Ul~e' mine ... I doJ'~~'c :kl]JJi,,,1;t why'I n,evel~ ~ek[ that W;:.1;,Y earlrer, Khushi h~d been in my Bfe nar a-couple of lUOO'cilS by I hen; J3,~lt I gu:.e-s~ her pr:e.sel~ce in. fro1}I ofme was, lnilrung JTJ7l!e see rL1ysdf i n th~t oC.:;ia.% fjf my .fr.iend~. AJ.1(~ '00 be honest, seeing. mpdf in ·~h~.l tHtego [y was exci ~ing. Wirtb her .u n m r Hf~, the wo.dcl. appeared so good t ~) TI'1.:e.

\~j1ruldng tJ~!g' thett wt,t.ea:ched.oo(:)m. 301 once again, I ~.lnlnd!.ed. o~er f ~l[re key.s of the room to her - I wanted her to Dpen tily re OIn"

\t;~e entered arid. I switched on the .1 i"..!h'I, My r),i)n~"N was a litrle

~ ~~ ~

il~ess'yj \\cf.fd'i m~fi.y tbing.s dumped OlU the be.d.·~ the eU1Lptr water borde1

n T;,s']-I1.i:r[~ .rt_"l!y cell 'pbo11Je~$ cbarg.~r and hands-free set all t3ln;gl,ed. up \'Ii lth each ether, rhe bed sheet half on the bed and halfJo.n the .floor':flJJil.d

91

f .cc. .. ·11 l •.

some G , my O:l.lf.fCl~t~_.. I!..mr 1JQI -Sir)" j m po.r.tan t dccumenrs u ndernearh

pillow

'" SGlTY f:O [" this mess: 1 tho (J;gh( rhe ho eel people wo uld do thlst'~ I

sa±d,~ ntbb]J1.g m_y hand behind my ne(k . -

She smiled, pf\fJhab~·y ·recanj.n~ ~()W T use<i "~ boasr ,.~ .. -':i Ii' I"" ,.£.Jf.

,}' ~ ., u' "' " ....... .-...::>~. I,.hg,'I< was ;iii,. JJl'l;ar

and. dd.:y guy. She could now see that with her own eres·,

"I' U 'be b~ck In. tt. m ~ n U t:~,;\ ~ r said a~n_d went t,o the w:aSIT!1:)9 m W ~' rny tired and oily face.

W"heJ:ll I (adi1fle OU t, mto O'l three mj:n'!!:1 tes J~['-':"t 'if .... .",,,"'!' "'", .... 'M· ·tlL.·" , :1 ~ h

~ ~", om. ",".,~ ,~ ~,~~ n -:J'1W'.1 It: [i] I ng w: lL~

P ~eas(;d 111·e ]m,:me-n.sdy, My rOOUl h~,,J, been d.d:"~d L'~,p in, dHJ-Se M:W

mrnu.teS, From mV bed, rhe' thin'O's had. i'~"'II'''J:''"'''d- .. ",. "".'b· • , .:, I.

. "., .'.. I v ~ , "' - _ .... " .... ~.!J, ,11. .... , ~~"-:) ,~leu pr,c'P~;[ PJact$~

The T",,~htr t H1 the closee, the dr"~":a""" '"r''''''' r .. p" " ,~ . .J '"" .. nd n ~ . l besi .j ,t-

, - -,~", 00""'11. on ~ ~I>" "~-u.w . :1:'" ~aooc .eS:I'!..lI:e' me

neo.n (.h,e TV set, lhe enl,pI~Y ware.r..,bo.ule '; il th.e d.~i[b~n.) the ~,ffi.!pisl papers, all pHed t.lJ.p on. the labile beside 'the br;:-cL.

And who did, cl::ta~ ~ 'Of CXJIl,Lf~e; it '\V'J.~ she real Ii tat. and tidv " . '0. • " •. ,. e,

, . ". ~.. ;.! p:;;u;on. III

that [0 I,) l11.

'WCl1Wr Now d1a(iS whar bei .... ,'i? wiri ..... '" !i"!l "."1 .':" 'llc j l"; t: .. '~

··~o· .... L.I ,,;L 'i;'~.n t~., ,reJrt: t ]L8:: .10]'" rae ',.,,~ery

fifc~t rime, ~Th]s is what i~ callecl .,,·',. s. .f'Io'¥i,a,..,,-'~L. !MO'U'dl TL,.:::+ .... ,.~I .. < _ 1- ' ,

h . 6- ~~M. . b "'~~d' ". II;ll;4 "'" ~f'''i..!!Uf, UoJo ~"-' .• '"mS]:S 'h'l1!Y we .&ee.,J?

. ' .e~iJP~~ . 'en . lil{ .. houses, bu~ 1j,10JtleID, make homes," A_lld ,n.(rw. ~I

had fOlUJ done such woman, '

Ajitd~ ]~~e~lJ~ we were ~:u,tdncr an '~h"", bed u·.·"'h """, .. .C'""..",,,. I-I"", .. .I," '~ ._ I

0, ." k l!; ..... ' !U. ~ n ~ ~, V'U>IJ l1b:. ... u M ~:Llle C:u ,·aWl ne

lhetw,t:(l1 the rwc beds. OJ1. tn;v i~JP"""ln 'i'ii><h- "'U""'I,""" W",,~·~L·I'; "'lg"'" .0].. .j' .. ~

" . . 1 ~!U,r ""f~ ,"""""-""' ' '~IIlU1n,", <1 'bJI:ance :YJ!!:JiUO

in which, r: had P" er fotm:-ed som '" ~[~m,e "illr .... , lit· .. " .; ,." " i" . I' ,j"" , .1 t"~. = 'L'

• " ~,' ....... .Il , , "',~v..! ¥'I' <:!L;;' -a c~~ un a. , DC5U va . u~

8JJt Inf(}$~" She \l'ifdl; So excited (0 see me cl~ulcing and ,kept s~y,i n.g rhi;l~ ]r she bapptrted· i[O ~,e'r 011 DOiilltd at" Fnfy~, we' win FH~rfO!:ITl ~og.ethcr at r11f

llexr culltu['.lI Ineer. With '{hrult :f~lju'e"~n'iQ' ~P''''" ... 1'~ i , 'I" i ... ll~· -. -, ·~iI. "

" . 8'lI ' <ii, i ~~ . .1' ~ .l!!L"' h p _'" lOO.K~h.~ ,;;(IT HAe

laptop's Sc:rttn, .And I kJ;pt [ooki,ng:-aJt heD: .. ;

j anT S~j I! no t SUl'f" Wh:iH w,ves.so b'~~'L. ~'~fu' . ~ "'b" .... ["I r· ... l,-;,..,. '·d :h. f' h" . trJ

, ",:,~Il.~.Il •. !L 0;1;. 'V u.~ La .... $~',~ v. .. ,~r. neCK ...

u,[],de.r Jll~JJth h~.r ~:ar, riD v~'L,,; ..... il"il i""",t.', n r;,J~'Q' e~. -, ,; . .J.'

~ '~~,!Ul."..!t~ ~,.I. .... ", ,!Lv ,~~, o;J!"nng· was Ul":iJfW1.ng my

i II It;! nrion ] seared at heir neck atld I stased ar i'l some more. Her ~eJJ.uty w,,' S rrapping .fUr senses. J\nd. WD''iJy seJ1SeS were f[~e:cing every secend, '~h C W$L,s, ,s.dU W9Jchin'g rhat video when I carne 'm::ry' close to. her.neck II irtrd, wi thlC)'ii.i.( U.[ite'Jriog a S¥11~e" l_hi1~gc~ Lkissed her there,

[ did not.see her expre;s;si011l rhen, as 1: 'YI:a.~ seill feeli.ng her neck and ~ ,I ~ e sweet' smell 6f her bo dy~ This h:appened in no rime :;u,nd shewas not Ii II ·a to nd.u'[io~l w l~~eaCIL ei ther, When she gained. her. senses in a wh ae}

~ If; tesjJbu·ded by raising her f:iRC-e, lretri ng me get 'to her neck, benearh ~'Cf chin. ~nd I Went ahead, k.isEing e~d~ and ,e\rery' cell of hers, Our ~ ~'e:s were closed, I gtabb edt hefT in ~y arms, fat ~ er arms sri f.fCr.~l,ng- ~\d ~. rip ping tisgh dy the corner -0 f Iny shin, her; YO]Ot; expressing whar she I' .lr

S be al ~.o.!}t: left h,l~rsel f in In Y" h~ nds, I leaned en ,hel a bit. and s.h~ 1~·:Lned. 011 [he' bed, our fee r ,s.dU tQud'i,hlg [he WOlJri~, She crossed Iier 11 a nds aIO und 1ny· n~ir:k. and ~lly bands w'elTt· s tlPpO.r·~lI~g her b,o,dy" ~ ~ ogeilie·,r we' were s ~ ~d.Ulg dC)WID j ~elLy s~nglJi;; second. The: ki~es ai:kd p,r~'Ssi.ofl~![e hu~ c[1),(~6nue~. ~ill ¥'l1c:: ,feU on dw bed. .

.S uddenly, r remembered gJO lhedl; n~: 'iI! en come 1 n a 3c:OO ['ij:Q.; jiust a ~ ;,t1gl.;; second," I wh]~~~recl in her ear. Her ~yes ',verfC- sril i. closed. An:d 1 went ~[ud ch~d 1Uld. dOIlJ!ble- h}ck~d [he [~O!01aIT!;1:. I ~i,rch.'ed oW '~li'liI.f IUOnl~3' hrig'h.c l~~:gl~t '@J11'd. $w.i.lched lJ'[f:L~ th:e washrooms llgh( all~)wjng ]t u~ illuminate our 100m so~,~y: I did, thar for fll reason which 1 dJ~d. j'l'O~ I ~A ~ h,er - :me:nTU)r]~ fwo,m. '~, l11J.ovhe l~¢n;: l~o,dletfi1'll.g rrn;] in whkh 3 h i,d:dJe,EIJ l ;a:rner..a in ,21:, hotd ,roOfi1 ~ptutcd. aCQuple"

Th.en I ,came bJicl>::. to be·,f. 13tH h.er ~e.1 welle Tilot d0.s~d 'HlrmQ['~. S~ir: w~s s[aring "8\'~ fn_,e ~. ! Vii,·aJ.ked towtud.s her. H'oJdi~"Jlg her' 'hail d.s in mh~,c:

I slto Od. by h.-ell ar.iJd lookecliTh'tt:D tkte-- depth of tr.ter elfGs- JlUjJ~.~· f@[" th~ first [i..l11.c ~ I tIlO riJf:ed s:Olned1io,g diff~t(:fit in 'Eh;eFU' 1 S,8J.\\f ~ gi,rJ in who®(; he;ur

tear had entered. Then 1 realised what caused 1 r, The innocent g~~.~ whom I saw ,_ n those ,eye'iS:~ '\V,aS afraid of bcing'WiIh a ,gU,y. especially 00 his, bed, in a dosed room, double-locked, ¥,i·hieb W'aS not even Hit pf.Qpef1~ bur iUu111,inaIed by (1, dim ~~lt seeping io·f1:'01'11 the w~:sl1U:Qom~~ orcn door. She did nor 8ay qJJ,l~ythil1g! 'but I $l'W ~ry'1thl ng' that Was ~oiE'lig rh ['C}ugh hr;r m i,(iJd. at th'~:c i [tst~n~ .

~~SL W b- id d- ~ :~ I: • - ,;j, ",(I. l ~ 'L ~,(I'j [ _J

nona. ;,' s e S~l-_,) ~nc_, J ge1l1fJ!y wmspered :,;ss )~1!.~J: and P ~eC1

rn y h~n.d upon her Hps" nor ~It~ ~Giw.ing her tc sp eak, 'I rau rn,:~,. palin across her ft:u:ehe~ and ve:'cy gtnltlr closed her eyes OIKe more, Hly H,~1J;ger~ .flQ'~ling on her eyelashes. Then l said '~O: her, verysoft]_y~ ~[¥i?!U know Whlli'I1'!. ]: \~ .. ~n'r: do anything which OUl' conscience and values. do'n~1 aUo,w: I just can't, For the simple reason that I ]ov,e YO~,L~., I IHlo,\'II m.y 1 i m] ts a ["lid. I P ro l'l1J.J se n Q,tbi:n g 'wi 1 [ h (t,P pen (,0 In ~ [.;:e yO'~1 fe¢ 1 uncomfortable, n.(nh~!:ii g: thar you, wil l[lCg!l:J~:J; bl!.'~e[[, I priem) j~~ .,._. Just 'b~ with me j [1 this moment," And. my angel, w[~,'p'p~d me ,I n her u~~ 1) l.J ling' :tt1~~ closer roo her.

~'C'h I~' L - '1'1 d "- 'I, l ,If[' .• ~~ll -

:d :O,[iI:a.., £1,[I<i::: Ci::IL1 e ,IUY,fl;am,e W.IIIJil ;5U,c;U EHl'XtWl1", ,Cf'fif:' '}i!'OU. se ~"W'}"

much, for eve:ryrhi:r.iJg you do fo][ me." 1 De'lt her hands cra:wJ ing on my back, Her feru' had, diSiffipp-eal'€;"4. and.she was oeL~~~'b,~a-~il;:JJg ha~lng. ID~§fl he"); arms"

I was l1'i ng ,P'itftjy en ebe bed ~~ ud P~l[tly en her,., She was beanni;ng m.iscpiev:01J~ ;;II.n,d 1. 'l.~~' nO d1.ffe,r,en'r.. Nreirbf:ir Of.l~~ knew ~~~,hen the viff~ (n, tn,t7 ! a._P-l.:'O]' seopped, 'BtU [he moment I realized '~bJSI 'vitho'll~:t ,~,er nb-dd,ng~ .1 ran ,my ,filyoru!Ie soundtrack's p[ruyIisr. 011 1ny J;:.:qptop at a i.QV« volume, add]n,~, to the romantic. ambience of the I!(.J 10 m,

[?erytb.ing 'W:~ J usr perfecr - ~, ~im]y ]j_~ room, H;ght it" usic ,rll.!!.[iJ,[(;!l'l,g in the' b~,ck,g['ound9 n'~ bed $h,c~~,~ and~ ih,:c aOl'd r.

] blew 'I/J pOoP her ere-s~ '\f'bi~h, made her' l~h,es"gq 9EJWn fi!J,r.cherJ ge.n:rly do:sing her eyes" Th~t ~s;p Qf air n1ovod on her [olrehe:ll!rl. froCHn, leff

r i ghG back t-!:21, h er: C'~! d~(!n ha'r c~tl1! nO~iCJ nt''ahlng an irreguiar fig~ll'e ~ ~,Il her. cheeks, SCi'oJ1i D1:g betw,eeFil, het lip$ a[]Jd, dd] ng her ch in from w here it slid down to her neck a,[id W@iS, lost 1 n, the air between us, She opened her e:.y.e~ .again, I touched her nose wi.rh, m ine afljrzt 'which ]' r L ibbed l:'[ ~ga:in~'1[ hers 1 JU£:I:: lUre ·rn.oyb~(.s de '~O rhelr h~a,l;iI.ti.fM ~,' ba bies to ~1;;;;P!'~'S~,tb.eil' ~ove" Sire; ~,OO~ was. a beautiful b~br. My' 'b~lby; She smiled wlrh rha t mischlevous shyness,

V:']1<l[ iIL, he)],tuifid ill OTrl.~nl[ ehar Wgj~r. }\nd~ ,l,l CQU rse, 1 had '00 make it OIL memorable one and, how could. thaf 'be w,i'd~,Olut a, kis~? And that's '!hllly; in no time; ,li thou,fJhr of s-o l,;!l;IOOY '[~1i~ '[0 makeir aJ, pr::r,fect kis~ ... I'll do tl1i~" .. , rn d,~ that .. " I will embrace her this \Y:ay~ hiD,id bel lace rhat way.". and, :[b,em .. ,. So much pb.Dning: for a kiss, A~1Ift, then, I wen t fo1" it,

$0011! 4JU.r faces Welte close [0 eaeh nr.J.,~lj'_ sl~ghd:r rral~M at opposite ,I! I,gl.e~s ~ Q ur warm breaths fJUftng '0 n each other's Ii ps. MX' lips: [0 uon,ei] l1.er.~, I kissed her, ,Ai.ld. I ·id$.scd ,Iltcr again.

I do n'r remember when I closed my eyes and I was lost': In. her. That tn ometrt 'was a heaven thalr I ki1e'1,i'i,!" wr the fint time in mj'~] Fe. I n that inoment, r fOrgCtf. e-v'ezydi:~ngl) forgot 'ev~iything 1r11mit 1. ll·u.d, 'planned a II (1 '!IV,lD inures back, F6rgar even r.he.:f'act th:~t 'E had, phiLo ned somerhing, II :O~l§d·t that [,hie next day I was ~.o leave this ,rounny. ,PqrgQt' ,1111 job; die (....,\T exam, M,r.g',ot my f~]eod~, ~:nd. my fumal-y; Fo.r,g.ening everyrl1.i.ng-. I ~ ~\!'ed. thar one memeot. ' .. The besr hour of 0'iIJ'V :~ Ire.

• oJ· ,-

I i k),i':l"r- run1J,en; ber whether '1 op~ned fily eye:s first~, or $.he did, Bu,! 'Wl~

1 1~" L L l-

were ,aO-K1ng rnro o(:.~c~i 0 mer s ~~ s:

I was stHl lyiIDlg on het., She timH~d ~ r smiled,

IGsS'ing [OJ forel~ead. one more time, she said, '1:: loveyou sooeoccooee much ~ Shona ."

And 1 rubbed my. nose a.gJ~I:1rst her .. , one more time and repeated, ul love you so .£0 so so much, sweerhesrt.'

~'e had been so bl~SY whh our romanG~ that we' fo.rg,ot 1[0 look a t ~hc rime, 'We had asked rhe 'Cah driver to be there at the horel entrauce b}1 7:j{). The wall dock in, f.r.o,r~,~ of rne said if w~~ 8:30.

U h ~oh! Do vo II know what rime it ,~$,1"J' I asked, verv casua1J.v

. ' T"

SIll} iling.

She immediaeelv looked ar [he clock, And {"her) she screamed, iil:j'

" ~

Ii ke the wav she dId the dav before.

.. "

·'E· I~~ H-· "I "TH:rn,'TY' ,H)':oJ-

"'-J ",' 11'\. '. , • •

And with, rhat she 'got u P from, '[be bed, panicked, r ushed here.and there gu.bbing her belongings, her cell her purse'~ her sar~dal ~ .. " and lot 1110t(!. I switched '011 the lighrs () help her.

She then rushed 'to. the washrocm, splashed a ].i[de waiter on .. net face, used rhe :!j,pJ.r.c t'o:well.lj;:;;lLIlgLn~ behind ehe &oQr~ putted: a co.mlb 'ou of her purse. go't heer hair done, pulled QtU: a lipstick and d~.ll,bltd·h iJ) her lips,

\'Xf.aif2>hing her, I wondered how m:och lipstick [had s\'\raUowe:.1

I larughed a'[ in yself without say t [i g ;an} thing. As she was ,~e' . d,ng, .il'IE-9.ftW 1 picked. LIP' her purse. ~1'BQy! Seems Hk,e a magical purse. So. r ...... ""~lIia things are ccmin [l out of ,u ~ - comb, lipstick, hanky, ". Ler mese ,j P.,li.'ii'II1UIl! else .i 5 left i II thi " l] I said b.lI.ghing.

"~', nd (It rhar 'very moment, she' slapped. sn}\'I'h~fid: whidll Vilas tryi.IJg unz:"}J '~br:: ptlLtse. 1~B-ad ruarmersl A boy' should l~e!V'er. check, a gj{lTeS purse," ~BHt, 'why? Do y-OU girls ca.r.ry bombs in your pursesr' I-said h ...... o;, ........

,,6

II cl ver, Even at .my office, they- have appoin te' 1 J .lady at the ga. re to I" h cck '[he P lUSCS of aU the gi!t"l~. r wonder wha[ fu nny things i:Jb'C1.~e. girls ... llow her. ,i 11 their .p. W·:S~S •• , [h~y smile lecking at her and then she:

miles back-at rhem," I laughed at my joke. bu.~ she didn~t;

She was worrk:d abo~ ,r, getring late, I noticed rher and, parking, rttl}' I r ish laLllgh(.(~r somewhere, tried '[0 oo]1$(J,I,i'; her. 'l,v'ith a smile, ~ t's :ok~ J. ,I 't u ihi, Relax, We"~ 1 reach yo ill' pb~ be-fore 1,0 :OD PM. :DoJJ1~t worry

~k,U·_.1~ .

\'(/eari ~JJg her sandals, she s~id, "Shena, if we dotltt: r-each. on. tinJl t: and I II r find- out ar horne, J.UI. I'Il be: in bjg trouble,"

Se-eing bee in this srace 1 went dose to her-and pur 01Y hands on her II~ ju~de['s" "Khush L Everyth i ng is goim:g 'to be fine. N Q matter v(hat Illl WOJ,l~t be ]11 any u'Ouble. I prom i se, WiiU :yo U HUS:[' 1'11 C no~ji' ID

Pil II d'y a5ked. her,

And '~ery innocently she 'nodded her head,

, . nll~e a deep brearh, have a sip o.f water and we will move OUI,"" A few minures larer we. were in [he back-sear of our cab,

J, [Jj,{;(t);'(t~ back [JO Faridabad, ft"ol'i':t where we ~"a.nl].,e~ ~Kh ILl hi ,~a.td to. ~h, Ji'.iver~ in haste;

rrll rr as we Iound our' when we came OUI[ of [be horel it 1~ d rained 1\' i I}' during, [be pa . t hO~L~. 'Vater was fl ush i Ilg down fron'll ill:te con» "IS j I! I ~ roofs of ['J.ea.rb~f bui[dings~ nurrUfig down pipes f~rn various floors I ~ I L~ common gro ~I nd, Manboles O~1, the roads were ,oFen to le~ r'be l ,'II, m ula ted water on the streets drain, OU'['.,

)[1 J r cab s tarred fioHing,

I .I ~ u:Jya', how .long ... vii[ it take~" ht: -a.sked the dti\;-'et.

I/o.." i.leA -, .

, II() e 'j n~lnn 511 k'f{!;lJ ',~radan?-. Bahti_~' ball.rir/;' hu.i hai. Bm'd4UY road

1- ~·"dn'n ja't~~ j~d .taga; bo. "

rhc thoughr of ~ possible '[raffle jam worried her ~~ r1~e mO:r" '.' She

looked a C. me, And I cold her t~ relax, "I am there with yo u, righ t?' So why-are VO'Q wo. rried] We U reach on time."

_ ~

Hearing ,rn.y '[one, the cit iver top n~JJHred dn.ar[ he she u[~l no r SC8]f:e her" III fact, he added, "~,Madaml ,glMbraan.e w/l,(lli 1(J, ltvi htutt h~' :nahtn Juti, Hun; pahun'ch i"t.f~..,enge:'~

Bur soon Vi,F:e found ourselves in trouble. ,About' 1 )' minutes. from ''1ny. hotel we go r stuck in, a tr~ffic jam ~ probabl y the bi ggcs.t I have ever seen j l:l mv life. There were' hundreds of cars. in front o,f us ~ r ~ m sure. A,

~ ,

horrlb1e jam, Wa:rer rushed, O'ytr, the roads l-owt:lrds the d.[~~hlls_ F)j,'iCrythU~g

out there was wer, 'b,e shops We're dosing;, [heir wee sh utters Vi;l'ere' rolling down .. The ens, h~g and small struggled '[0 .Bnd their w;a:y None of the vd:cides on that road. stayed irrline .. ,Ev:eryone:wa..-;; on ther': ow-n~ findlng a little spa.c:e .for themselves .. cornpeung wi rh each 'Qdrer because of which no one was ~ble to move ahead, Vi11~[ a messl

~-.A '[JiUC.k'S epginc' has failed to SI~:U'iI:, h~lf' a kiloinet~' ahead," we heard, when ()U~ d.d.y(:·{ rolled his window down, Hearing this, almost e'!,N!ryone switched off rhe,j r engines, Inside 0 ur cab, the mercury .of J? an U,C and, helplessness w~s rising.

flalf an .hour ;)!;£tel"" the most IN\Ofld,e.tfllJ time to gether in. m y h:o:~~ room" 'lfe- ",ere now en wring. J._, phase fuU of ",:nldety and despair, ,\Vi~ me W.iS a g1,rt who had jj,ed to her ,fuIUj]y and, .man~tgcd to escape w~di me. Ap"'., art frOJTI her o,ffice".<h~, had never staved om: so j;:;vt¢ at anv orher

~ I

place, But rhar d~W' ~!l,e' was 1]] another stare and [he g:u.y she had pmt

all her trust j n (of 00 urse, me) '~f~:s. nut fami I iar wi rh rhe city: .AJlid time. .. Time \VJ..S runn ing .~t in 11 y ,¥ds~t watch, hut tuood stagnant when 1 gl::ilfice-d 3![ '[he [raffle around us, Fifteet.l m inures passed aniJ, our cab did not move an inch.. ItWOlu]t~, he wr9fig to say that I was ne pa nicking, But I was aware of m r rcsponslhiliries, .1 was responsible ror ,Khusb],lS s~fe[}'~,

.Evel1.[uaJ1y" .0 ur cab ddv'Cf' also :s¥Ii~clJ,ed off the cib,~s engine which

98

I ai sed rhe already hjg.l:l.l.eve1s of aJn~iem:y within UlS ,s,IrHI. higher. Somehow, & running engine in. ,a: u:a(H,c jam seill 'appears more hopeful than a i,'l.lvi[ched=off pElle. Of course, it's @jU p.s.ychological, but) unfortunarely, II 111Jde an impact on both of us"

}\u d since ~1L ~e'l'er j: ttit :r-ain , h,u it po '111"5 - Khusbfs ce p,h.on~ ,'; 3J reed ri f.lg] ng.

She looked .a t JIiLe j n fear, I looked ar my. warch, It. was close EO 9: 00 PJvL

i~v'Q'hlt if,iis ~1h.lm,m,a~8, phQn(;t" she asked, worried and all I could :.,;~} ~. as, ._ Fi rst see \\f,h:ij)~S . ~ m ng. 1,

She opened her pl1rSf: and bread')!cd adi,gh of tel kt '1;1 knk. God.~ It s Neeru."

She pH~ the phone Ol'JJ speaker, C]e-aring her ducal' and recovering

Ibt:.r sttClllgfo f'i,1I1.1'hLch sh~ lo~t'whC.u she heard The riug), she said, LLN'e,efL1,,"

·'\"'i?here are you~ _ ,aa:"r?~ Neeru asked.

~" "I'/. y 1 . f'P.' ~~

- J.{[(fr! 'W'S. re sruc 'i:, U1 a tra ,!I.1C Jam.

"'B ~ ,. 1C~· d 1, d onl ;:.~~

-u r. ~l'OU re in. r-an , a~a, on' r '114-

Ll.H:{ldn ,balla ... We vlcilt ~:(~' $:ee' a movie, Mt-anj1i.¥ba~ it rained heavily

and all 'the water on rhe road has caused a, ~l'a.fhc jam and, ,1Ic'rc SUlek ~

·17: ,«It hai bu t come horne quic.ldy. I have reached L10me and ha ,~. tv,td Mumm a, 'I!'h"~t ycn,i r, doubt da$S got delayed and you'll reach here" ttl .anorher 20~30 minutes,

"Thanks. ''Xfe~l''e j ust ".,rai:~illgJor '~hiiJi. jam' W cl ear, I ~11_ he home soon" ».

Khushi said and hung up,

20 30 mio1.U;ts~? ~ obodv could drive to Faridabad dll.a'ir fast even if

. ~ .,. . ..

the roads were c'Ompl,e;:ldy en'lpty. Even Khushi knew that,

"Shena, I'm ,fet-l.ing very tense," she said, her vcioe scalf 00 ~nd. SO!(. 'B ttl. obviously weH be tense, Srill, .I said] "I know dear, ,BUI[ we'

should. not lose p~1;-;~t:Jl'L:_' ,I~ the WOfi:SJ ease, we'll reach yenoir 'U,,"'iI1'I~"'" litclle late, :rl:g,hd' :[)lbn:t WK:H:qt" If fh8J.'E. happens, ,li win expt~j'n ·evel'Jifhi ~o'. Mumma i, ,Th.t~k h4N:'<~ I tried to console her, r~l$lDg m'y ,h~ ~d 1110ve her lH.:;ad close r~, rnt ·(}O r.ba~ S'.i'lf{::' ceuld rest on :my ~ho1i.'i]dSf"'

Th.e nexr ,n1~)'rnH!nrt: we noticed. the naffie' mo~l~g: ahead f~~m 0 comet (ff the toad. Like everynne else ~ 0 ur driver started the "r".'", '~:t::;I,~,!!,'a,;, f9H{lw~:d d'u:l h~r.d. of rhe vehicles. ,A m.y of hop e bdgbt~ned our

In a while our dl.river :g;JJye U~ a i'eaoson to bolster our smile. ,(A'Sfi:Jdib ~~}iatj4flyefj't/; til~'(:t1a,m $", jam kh,~/igaJ'4' bai- Bft$ '$h' bfld'!" tNJrdcr fJ'f):S.S .

J' 'DL' /.'. ifn, h it:,,~ .. I'l

/;~tn·. i-1',n.r:l~g :_~aJ m_-t:I!'~-; rJtJ,'f<...

He was ref~uing ce rhe Delhi -Hsryana border wb,~ch we S[~, ~" ~Ji18U crossed in ana rher :2 0 J]1 Inutes. B,ut our destinadon w~ s [i~l moi

a~y,

Her be:~d WiI,S still !_l,n, ['o;y ShiOll.,~~~t amrl J kept 't~jking' to he~ ~~ to divert .h 1;;-[ rui neiL She WaS movi fl,g her .fing-eF~: On Ill'y palm, d~aW~1 lrll;J:ginary lines; phyi.ng lih::e a leid, Wh'c;:n she reached l11.y third OI!;JI " Ullt. .... she started ,pb.ying wirh dH~' ~i,ng: I "vas wearing, It was an llnusu~, ~l

- .

with ehree irnersecting s1]v:e.r ci l'clf:S~ j !L1:H like the Olym pJJC Gi!f.d~,

~len she asked me about thar rll'llg, I wok it as an OpPGE£uuiruy divert her ffCF1'n the panic,o,r the moment :and ,staIited redin.:g her ~I.it story 8J,bout my ring wh ich became as. m:¥s~,e'&i~til.S H the L{)~iffi ",0{ Ri~tgs.

~A'~ah~ ~~ 1 eai cL as if sh,e had ste]?:p'od on ~, b:~oke'fl limb.

~,'\v.lil - h J~'I(I n. n d ., h ~. d c: ,I

w na[ ~,ppeH!eM,. sae :i1Sit~e .'.:to raLsul;g .. ' er nea , rrom ,MY'.\]'cI]JCjIUIl).'Ju.ou

~.

(4,.~'OthJ:ll~~» IT r;cp]itJd very ~3diy. tliTn.irig' my he~t'd ["0 the Qtber

loo,ki~J,g' cursl de the cal·l~ 'wl ndo"lN';

S urprised by my reaction, sbe. did. nor say {ilJil:yd1 ~ ng :btU; ~kecl mi~ \'@' speak. And I did, sayi~~ ~'I knew, someday I WLH;dd b a~ ,1\':o

b 1 " ~~

}i'Ou. a 011lt t 11$ •• ,",

lO'O

1 1~II}i statement raised ni!;;;[ ~yeb["ow15 and she ,u,n$i$~ed"] eell her • ~ I u ng" I kept: 10o!cin:g; out of dle W,U,(ii.~o:w -and she ikep E' a,s,kin.g me 11 \!L ~Il the st.ory behind llt.'f&taa{) ne Shoua a a I, Tell me please., ",.;.;

I \. m'i killlng time. The! c;ruh was -SJPe-e:d~n.g shead And ih~ttg:hm were I ~ I IIII i ~~ thro'I;Jgl'ij, ,he~' m indl about the ~nystery ring on, 1n)1' ddf~' finger. [II t' so I bees use r appeared, so reluctant to ifell her,

I, hnna '[ell rue nit; _ •• Itya btttt't h~i/~ sb,li:, again asked, surning (lilY fao:

~ ~ I1I1 ij II S her tVl rh her b~Jlcl

It ~ hushi _ . , ., IT' said, ]oQld:F.ilg ax kef."

I 1- , ;:~~

_]1.1m" ~."

,\ I t ~ OS,l a yesr h'il!c'k~ before l met, you. , . BefQre I met yo~. ,', ,. ] mean, i • II ~~ [ike ... One 'Olay~ a ~eatf~,!ftd 'gJd put th]1l ',ring on Jny fin~r', .. » IIIII i urned ,j\v,ay avoiding: her ey'e,s 4l1:]d, l,~oking outside rhe cab-a~rujl,.- 1,,1 ~t' nee ...

-, lit- W~tS srill ,I i stc II) hllg~ aU eaES-- DO I:g,-e E'd]~g com p~,etdy that we I ~~, J;~cti.ngl,~'~e.,

I (~r king 0 U,![ 01 [he call I condnued, ~! I 'a[ "'WaY'S VIlaHlbed [,,0 E~U yo'u III~I ~ hur.«. hut never got a chance, {or] didn'~t1:rrllDW how y-ou'w,m, ,ttd II "I 'I ~ all this, 'l

~ I' ~ir eyes \¥CU~ sfarjrJ1g at me wi ~h so m:a.n.y questioas.

r ~ ',11Ie next second, he;~ cell phone JrmJ.llg. It was Neeru atilr!11n!, silJ.ying hn w [heir mom w~s 'ge·~dF.l,:@; restless. and rhe filer dlat~ l~y ,nolw1 8,he II U· ~v 'wen enough, that Rhu~h! ha,d DO r been '[0 FNrS ~:~~:r somewhere ~ with me She also said Irfu:ax 'ir Wa~, fJliniogch,ettvily in n,r1dab~d.

~ I~ I ;:~] 1 tllar iQ:ntsJ.li [old her. was; 'to manage the ,s~1t nation somehow, I II heE: tbgt l a111 stuck in r))e' raif~,'" SW~~t Nceru ~18' 'b-ouncln~: [£k~

I :1,J,.ude between her mother allq her s:~s:fer. This is rhe ,&rt-e: ofbe~h],g~ hi YOt.Hlg¢Si!: In the h:n1liiy .-' eVe1.'y.OlllJe tends tic) .pll1s.h y~u, ~ro~! nd,

I I, 'he moment ~he: bung !Up ;sh,e returned r.ry the e®.liJ ier. ropio.

.Jlld not cm,npll:;!t,e her Jjn~' bm:- p,a.u~bd, tt1Jen, (lil1d. tl~' " - , , s:

, . ,~ere. lit wa1;:i::J, r

till II III her morn. '

,II' re~ .. trned to het. face. S.he was shruicing. Patting d~e shoulder

~ rver she zestured him 1'10' mur 'j d' I" h '

., ;;!I',;;j, , ..... ,_'.11 '1J..1':~~~derl'f:ra 1Q.,an(l~~[" l",

_ _ _,' _. , ,II.. a .unger Otl

II h i ,~ me to smr silenr, Thc~l she Pll[ 11;(;1- celJ 0.0 spealb;;,l" . . ,

, t 16, . , ,~gatn. I r

I I ~ led bard re 'convince heJI' mom 'th,[l t she w.~' " ,"II lI"'h ,r." ,

, s :5TJ!u :;Il ( .1J.Y:I:.::5 I stnck

r:.:A. girl. g~Pire YOtt thi:s't' she ask,edJ looking ar Ihe ring and then al That wssn't her on~.y question], r.hough. There was a fl1s]~tade.:! read JU~. And.) kept beariag around the bush, This went eu for sam minures when she finaUy a:!5h.ed, me, pulBng"my hand over ~H~['

'~S" d id • I l' hi c.:,!!1

swea 'On me, ... t a gl['~ ;),',[:p {]IS on YOu,r- rmgerr

So 11111ch expectarion ill l-l~':f eyes .. Expocurkm, rhar 1 :shOH. (l. [he truth, .And also rhe expectation rhat my answer should he Li I:, '0 ~ which 'w«)uJd have m can [ dl},;}lt 01 Y ~[lirire story was a lie m onlv t(:! .scare he 1[_ B I:] [ b reaki ng hee :rec.OJnd clipetudon~ 1. nodded head, acknowledging that H she heard l;lj,x~tl} true,

I;i,in-drop silence. , .

The environmenr mside rhe cab now was much .JUOIe tense, '~,rnJ1Ic jams, reach.iJ:Lg home lare, st~l1d,ing before her mother to !l'er lie, ;;.11 of thl s ~ P P eared so m in uscule ill N:n:~ [ of [his gbn!C The girl, who was In 11'1 y arms 5,0 passionately an he ur ago~, was I facing sueb a differ,e ne tr Lull. 1 expecred her to' she U( at: me, 'OCr :¥:e me, ce do somerhing before] fold her, A.nd, li wanted this [0 cenri fur a few more miles.

l~nd I was. doi ng rhat for a reason The mere time I CO'lsl,lmoo lesser' she would have worried abo lit rca hi.ng home so laNe. Jrr -already 1 0:00 PM~

B 11[ 'when, thar sweet and IJUW cent h,ejlj.rt so bbed, when the first carne out of those beatt ~fud e;res~ 1 had [0 bre~l[ the :mys!t[ery; to uld I sec her crying?

"Hey Sho.nlrnoni. ' .. Listen '1[,0 me, ~ And.I rock her ~:n. J11[1' arm, said, "All, rhar yQtl he"Bl.:rd was true; hut in cli. l)olaftly diffr:;:F~rli[ aSJ?ecr, have to Kl1.o\,V the complete sto r.y, • "T~~l me then, .... she said rnb'lDirll.g her e,y"Cla.iSll, luke a,kld.~ her me again.

1.(12

iiL

in the rain, 1. (k~n~t know how suca~ufw, she ,vas .. It W'a5 .gcning.difHc~h £o.r bet ro hide the rrurh, The last tiling &h~ ~o.Jd, her rn(nn was not, tnc) w~ny as her entire 'batch was with he! flfn~r '~'~'3i,ch borh ofdl'lem j-U~Ag: up.

AI!, my,effort '0 divert her atrentiou to somediing else ,' .. irh my .[jn,g S[;OT"y crashed in. a minuee, Wh;[e she kClli[ hell.' 001 back in h~l· :plJ.rSl t t.hee ch'i,v'er tu rned the radiQ 6ljl a_gIDJ1Ji; ac a low volume,

By rhen we '~"er.t on Mathura 'Roa:d:t lIea;.ciillg eowards her :h,ome:. in P;arida,bad.

1~ J3haiYJa~ how much mot~ ti mer" she asked the dr,ivel'" But the dri ver d ~d nor respond and ,[ sensed :5om'E:thin:g was very wrong,

$.

A ,aever"·cll-din'g 'p(l't)~ of ~:~e-t" wasin ft,or,r of us, M,ering, everyrh i ng en dle ,g,rou,n,d. The r'J1a.d had disappeared and even the divide.r W!:.l'S submerged, QUI" cab was, evennow, running on watee-covered road, E.veryl S:E irtlg[e minuce the water level, WM i[H;;reasillg~ :r,eachiJTj::g a[m .. o$." a. tOOIt. The Cli(prit was Faridabad's fabu['ol1;s dI:1IJinage syseem,

There were itio. street lights on rhsr road, 01 ~rrrher'e were, dte}7 wtf~ ,OUiI; of order .. ] n that P~)O,~ of water, there were ·,ra.r.icHJ;S; ve'h i,des ' 'to move 'ahead] inch b;f' i.adJ.. I D' the headHgh~s 'Of our cab I sa w ",-' .-~~,~.;: in. the wifII,te.r.. c<lJnY1J'l:;g ieaYes ~JLl1d 5.tem~ of small creepers ·~l1id -;;'ireed~ be-:adng against the bodies 'Of the vehicles stuck j n . rhe spare, The was sdU going ~hea&~ ar a slower ~pe~-od. 'We.. 'we-r,e motv1ng: ; ntee .1

'water now and, ~n.aUy~ the d~br.e'r said he couldn't g.o ahead ;)·S(Jhifj, choti gdiJ·J'i hatJl fmgin~ mii/'Il. paa~i chala jd4)'tg:tl.'. Hl:t.m ·tt~tr (Mg~ n jaa .54kif!', ~

l tried ro persuade hirn to .go head b!.!H' he l ·as; a:,d:Hna'['li'~ and I go [ t~~dous. t[Bh.aiyy-a, Is vakt#tl~ men:tdimtl!ftg bttJlo,t )'ntlda kha-rt1A"b !'J() raha 'I ti; aur ~{{.(f" fit se mntne yft k~ naa.. .: I said to him} losing ,IUY 'I, nriencc, when l<husru held nl'JJY wrisc s.tQJppljjg me from &aying .. any 'I~ . reo She :kn,c.w we did nor hav,c:: JIlV option 'but to St,UYLVe on the:

~

II ~ ri ver's rno 0 d .. So I (.-Ium:ge:d In,y tome and t,okl him I n a ge...odef,nan]y

W:1Y. .~ Bh'tu)f!fd~ mu_#~r- :d1 inhe ghdr tdJ Ihth'()4f,,~hltAn~ hal. Aa! please I Ulfl.t:v cbldte raho. Apr .aflpki cab kBaratl.b h'Ui to jn J;J;,i. khdt'i_·ha hoga uo -nJfi.t n de dU1'~ga., "'

\X'i(h my plearliu;g.. i!l)tnehb\ ' ~e a:g{e~ [0 move ah ead, He d.IiOW • he cab fL.-H'· her hue the go.ing was very dow.

it WaS. 10:30 .no·w' 1 knew 'dl~~ our. situation was sense, andI was hk~ and dred of beJog tense.

O'tH' cab '1,: as stuck in r.hat messy pool when, all of a, sud~en, '€ll uock I. rssed us on QUI lifE. I ;s.~w rhose' gl:JJfl[ whedl:s chl.iJrning the water like ,l turbine, .ge . nerating big waves 'of wsrer, I v...'US tryinrg [,0 show Khushi rhose circular.waves, ¥.11Me ,drcu,mfe:r1€nee was ex,"po'fl'endaHy rising from my left eo her fig.~1t. ~,hen~ I f-d:! my $oc"ks getdng wet i.n.5ide my, shoes"

"WTI. ,~L C I ~'~" " J:l:lliI !,l.J~~' llJ,C~~ ••

The dirty .~raler on. the i'oiilJd. was now seeping into 0 HI' cab. Ware[': water and n1U~~ water .. , £veTIf!,ivl1ere. Buhbling sounds came from undu the ·cab~ doers, Ou t feet were dipped in, water, ] ike tea bagS' i u a. GUp of

,~ Shitr, ." $CJ tl)ucb. 'w'~er?'~ s~e sc£eamed,

WTe (look. off GLJ.r shocs·.:Illn.d.lined. our legs up ,on me seats, .reh· to' h().,ntt h£ 'tmz n the driver said ,.

l\t that time, 'we were not 'i,reJ'y f:3:~ fro!t.u .her house ,. '00 a norrn al da(t it \\<,0 ukl hav.e been a R 5. -rn i nute drive, But .$\~ ,clk in LHac disaster, .11: was hard- eo predict how long Ir would (,a&:e,

G,raduallYt ~fu: ''1lJe:W cJUrS~dE our cab was getting evenw~fse" One b one, al mese all of ehe vd~ icles ,~fOP'pett moving. Their engines t-ook [hell" Iasr breaths and failed, [0 searr agai n, I ~-a w p~~p]e gru~l1,g out: ' their cars and pushing them fro,m. behind, in 0. rder t~], get rhem lO·n! [0 that pool. It '1;V1l.S a complete mess. People. with their trousers rolled up 'EO' their knees, ban;;.foo,~, 0 uc of their vehicles, were shouting at f;'~lch other' rUt varieu s ~1:aSOiIJS ~d for no. reason, Some of them h~d ~n taken .off their shirts,

The few~ who were srill behind rhe steering.wheel, were sn"t.Eg§]]~8 bard. [0 drive. a nd constantly cursin,g t:(lch other, especially th aUIolk.ksha.""r~UJtlllas" ",Ttt~e' baap Itt s4:(lak halt' "tib,,," s(JtJlq pe't'che-htit.r:; U Atljl seri maa Ill. , . j~ Th~ were g.e:rti ng trlOO 6,ght"$J 1ea:ving. behind the.i r d ead autos,

Back in the cab 'OUi( minds were tense and tired: of rile events o.rdic last [?VO hours Lookingat her then, E found her hands joined and ey,fS closed. She was praying [0 God. She waS\'CJ11 scared, And maybe h~ prBfyer:rlWle being heard. Maybe rhar was 'Nhy our small cab was still movl t~,g ahead in the water when almost all rhe smal ~ Can: crt tha t f!q3.d b~lul broken, down.

Meenwhile she gor a.riotber. caU frem her morher, who W;'oAS, .o,(tw more hlLniQu~ and more worried, AllJd. when she.said tharshe had'lca]]~ up Khusbi's CO'l sin (wh.o :a.1$O lived in Faridabad) EO go to ~MS, ;jIjllcl bring her home, we ,had, to reveal the' trnrh.

~l L,:' . d . II..· n. '1:."1 I.' id t·;'l..,.f

3~i'tg:a , ,eep oreaui ,['U"JfUEfn ~]. ,~ '"1f"lUfnma.~ mai,~ IMS mein ,1.iWJj.h,

J:»ttl]" Main .R;av£n ke SiltJ.~h hun" ,. sh~al'iJ ss. .I tl.'n'1. J()~ry k.i ~.,tdin~ lillpi,o jh'O(}t bola .. ~1

I held her hand in' .m.).' hapd. "We 'wen! both scared of whar M,~ mother s reactio 1 would be.

ruld It'::b.ushi told me, afrer rhe caU l' d~ a t'~ surprisingly, her, ~'Q7rh'tf:

106

~ laxed when she heard dioe rrnth, ,Maybe she choughr I."hat her daughter \'II.l,!j whll: S.6,m,OOifD.e sile Ithough[' she wtdd rrusr, The-city 'was ncr s.afe I rrr women; c.s;p eci.0J][ y ar nigl-l't" when the Sa'V.S!geiii of ,th~ ci ty came 0 ut ~j't leir dens and did all ,m~lnrf:r oral. So} mayb«, her mother felr some. 4 mfort kaowiil,g I was \".;;tb Khushi,

: U t the "rrurh" w told her on ~be .pho"~e was stUl a. b31,I.f~'f.nnh.. \~7hen asked 'where W'e- had been t1]l then, Khushi Iro~d her what she

ld '[x '~M .

I ~ ~ I , ~'eeru.... . lunrn:a,.... 'i,1i,i'e' ~vent t'O ~,I!.'.ch ill 111 ovi e.. .AJn& when we

I ,"He QU[~' ·ilL, had rained gO much rhere w· .... 'Ir~~" ;",~,"''''rt'''li.Uh . . ..A

- " , .... "'.... ,_-. ~"F.·L~.~![;J. ' .... 1;' .... _ i .r~ ,ere" anu

dllt:D~ rhe tra.ffi(d~m., ."

\1',11ilc she was conviecing h[t:{ mom, she srole a mOj}l.1eJl'[ til whisper 11:1 my' ears) f'i We head been to' see' l!/htnfJdhhl#~ ~]I[gh r?"

, And I ~m1.if:d her '£Olf r:hi s veJY reason, The Wiat she had the guts to ~,dtc aJ~ sorrs ot'rlsks to make me feel i!i.appv~ romakc me enjoy that day ,f'my rUe with hcf., and. EO endure Slco.l,dil1gs fn;>.m her fa,m,ilv for that ...

I r:~l'r blessed. to have her in 1l1'V li&., .

,

a nee that ,confe.s$lon~c~l ended we ,feh relaxed, as jfw,e ',had gQ'f a ~. '~gh E Qff our hearrs,

\-'(Ie had J"USt taken a: l",·J?t turn t'r. ' rer h h

.... iL!. uu. u,; enrer .er street w 'en our cab

"ddc;;nJy d]!l"ed to the leEr. The three of U~ s~jd. down IiO\\-~ rds ow Jeff

,HId, our hands O"F'!"I ,bi<>'d our sears [in '~'n'~ t . keer t, di . iI

. . 15; "" ,.... , , .. , .",.. t,;:;,' , • j.li, .:.;, '.0 . eep OUr uo., res Up'l'1gl'lil!"

M re water t~bed ~Pi There Was now ~lhow:·ha1f~ foot of W,BJ,'[er in the Lr ,I b. a ur shoes were fJ,oarin,g somewhere 'Lt1sicie,

D'uJ:" tHred. (ib failed Ir'O JIlfJlID'¥e ahead no matter how m uch Ith~ ·drjve.r

L ' ,d,c.tated. The ldt iront~whed, seemed u) be stuck in a porh ~e. In order ~O' move ahead, rhe driver asked me to, push rhe cab fcorn behind. Su I j um ped e LUI;: ,j uta the puddle, I t f~rt j USi!: ~ik:e j umping .inro the -hallow end of a ~·!.'lidm lui ng pool except, in a ;fi,w],mtn.ir.tg pool. the \V!tCl' I.~ not so dltty and ~'Ou are no l';' in YOlU: J eans ~l1d shirt"

H}7

I stood barefcot in that pudd]e; ,My £ee'c touched .51:0.;]11 stones with sJl~up edg·es a ncl some b~Jsby snmff' wh ich Juigh.r have: be,e.l1 . veeds 6r So.lnc nnaUl' warery insects. Iii; 'lr-VJ.S a H,ttle SCfl'fY. 'The water eame 'Ill,p . m:y fli.igh . Even (cUillg, u'p dl.e jeans 00· lIlY' ~Iees did r(~[ serve it_n ptupose. 1 went behmd the cab: The dl'~veI ~~S SEn~ acceleraring h A~"''''' ~nd. Khudli .keP't ~nylng.j "~Sh'{ma",. Sllm,bhflal ke, ." Dhyaal'l se. M

I pushed (he cab hard, bUT nothing happened,

W Sa;/) ib .a« r jo,r se. _! ., i'J SI.lO ured du: drive r Eronl hlsid.,e. o F course, he W&S sJhcuting and talki ng '[0 1')1 e ... But [ Was LOlSt ib

~houg:h'rs ....

i was. supposed to catch rn::f' fUgln in SiK hou rs, l sbould have back in mj horel foam 1.11 Ddhl GiIDng a neap so tha~ I could w~ .

by -4 ::O~ Alvf and go to [he airperr, BUf [ V~$ far aw _ y) sttJl~·~ on a I'

in a d~.ffe'tf'nit ~h:y; in wer jeans, a w~r~hin and, perhaps, wet u-, U',1 lell:~we11 '~OO; &randing in (l never- endj I ~ g dirty pond, pushing a cab [0 tak~ gtdfr:~el11f.t back to her home.

To be hJJDe.S[, I b .. rd no bopes of-1I.1fJJa.ki[1g i[ 1[0 tbe airpoTt ln 'morning. Of course [he trip to rhe Sl~~tes was lmporranr and, .fmf ca:rdllin,'g r.h~ H~ght a fe\:r hours fro,En. now' wa;s importaru, and foll' E,eU1.n]~t)g to rhe ho.te.l.ir.rDelhi was ill:llpOnant bur, above ~U. to' ~(Jtflle 'Wa5. tbe most ].iJl1:po.l~·t3Ult

·~hi:b (I;u~'ilJr $f __ , A' shou te~ [h.e driv-;er Clu·e more time, F~.naUf we were Sllcce~~fui. in :g~rti ng, me cab QUi:. '1 observed ., wh.o had turned ;iU"O'UOid in her sear ~Uld.,~ lool{i~lg at me, beea

sigh af rdi~t:

The deprh of water QI:1J. the: srreet ahead W:i1IJS ·rerd~n:g. Going dun ~rnn,U cab did not look ~ i Ice .J. goo d decisio n . ar all, f.\foor. a h.ra]nsr.orming; we ~ndl1d.ed dj:;u rest €If the distance COIl.;~~,d '

t,ro~itd, by rickshaw, Beea use' of irs big wheels it rickshaw seen

lhe only viable oprien. So [ walked. do'W:il. [he road srlll barefoot, to nnd,~ rickshaw, ,t~d I h.£11pp1ened to find one) 'with l'lILUm difflcuhy~ but the ricksb~PN·~wtdld~did nor agree '(0 drive 011l thar flooded streer. ·~.en. he finaUy did. ag~'~, it was because I pald him ten rimes the' normal I;'iue ~u:icl~ ,lut:[ roo, ill advance, Nly neeessi (y was. 11 is. op po nun •. ry.

1 $ ~'C on the fid~sha;w' 3J1d; go it back to fht: cab. I noticed blood 0 IU m.y li~1t fo.m: - I bad acur on my right roe. B'ut rhe!l'e were ome:.ii' '[hing;;. to WO rry about, Back ar the cab, I asked. the driver to w-ait for rut till I ~ ~biTU': back aff)c[' drop.ping her bome, I rook hJS cell number and gave I [rn mine,

Khushi SOl out of-the csb and sat IOU th.'e ricksh~w. She was: SC) ~ij:'I1.'ocked I )~ ~ 'erything ,[hall:: was happening rhsr she forgo! ro "eil: het .s~f.1l.~al·s I lid it 1['0 ok me a few minutes eo find "([10m. (S,e"u'ching, for your I iI friend 5 foo rwear in cll.e hack ofa car, your ha nds ru pped in ::t diuy I ! I ~[~ ~ of warer , .. W~o say'S Iove Is ahilil'lllYS a pleasan r e'xptd~nof'.) ~

I.he water 'level on chi· street 'was the hi.gh~5[: a-n.d I \'. arned the 'Iii' l(shaw \~"aUa.'i [1 Bh'(i:,iya }taJutan JMr.!.Ja.rad dhyatt.J1. s.~ .,;" ; The. wheels of Ilhr rickshaw were almost submerged in the. water and, -at rimes, me ~ , r was spl.as:h~' !l,g a~ our feet. The rickshaw puller's t'highs moved in Uld, OUT of the ',\~t!e·.r en rhe road as he paddled strenucusly; "But 'we

I ft 4· en aking p;rog.tt',ess and, in another .5 mi r.UA!teSJ' 'Our JO,Uflfli.ty was golng I. lul

A nd wi rb that: would end OUE' 'OdnS C1oger.h er, :5c'IJ close '[0 each ~lthc::r • ~ long rhar day. In tbL :~.ex( fe:w n:dn ures I Was goil i:g to see her for I II I r IS [ rim c, hefo[',e I left che. co,u.n try. M] d3lis was j'1j}]lfLHing dllt,o.ug:l~ In ruinds.

I~ lid rhat instant mrned into ';iUl erne ... tional, to:tl1.anrit 11il'ornt'.!'fI.t..

I I her than our. tdcbhat)i\-f" there was no vehicle in tha t d~s~ned. srreer ~ I II~ "I.-\lI·i th W~.B~.:I:" •. Subrn.eT'g·eci. ,:rhe. entire street ap pea [[ed, so cleoolru~~, A

djfEer,ellJ kind of silence prevailed illl~':~e Ioudest noise was the ch I •

of rhe \v:;}XC( ftn.l.n· dl~ wheels of Otr rldsha\iifv.. Tihe In 0 on . in . ehe above saw us rogerher, in rhat h;iill'~tilIlle) atTempting to get our of~

OU1" care for each orher, She wa ~ iteil:!:g her head on m y 5Jl0LL!dJ.er~ h. bands were .~n 111)" rap .. \,X/irh .my rJ~~J.n .u';Qund_ her shoulder I ... 0 .... _. supporting her as the r" ckshaw Jl1ad;is W}lY on the uneven road, j n my 0 (her balld .I was holding he: uadals,

T~kin,g her sandals :tro m n1lJY hand t~ .. dlQPping rhem on ehe foo~i1est o.f-che ricksh3l¥" she held H1JY hand. trrlsa;.id~ "Shonal Ourlove ~to:ry SO difte'l'en.· _ .. lsnt Jt ~1]'

"The lYfW we found each other; I! esaid,

"The w~ we kepr t:~lki ng art d' ~IDne a.r:u:~ chaning nor the p~r

t'r_'!IlI:l" m ''''''ih, .. )L ,,_ " r add ed

J"O"'!"!.,- ... .!"~,.Ill!.f ~ .. ~.. ~ .~'Ij" " I ~;." 01.

L< The way l,.ve feU. in love withe 1..1[ ~itn seeing each other, n "The way W~ finally m et and S.ptll the emire day. l~

,Of.A- . nd the ... ~,.....v 9_·;je '] .'....... "~'oW" ,~ ..

,,_lLIJ -L..II.!i..i- "'1'11'4); ilf'il .• ~~~ . .IL~ .

Indeed, everything was sc diffe~l.abO'L~t Our love :5'[o:r}~~ "Can I say soor'ledllin.gl rol.u.~h:HK! 'Yes~, - she said 'wit~ such warm t~,

~,). am ghtd that such a n.ight C;;ld'lf1.t !l(a~~' I iJe. Yo],.!. know why'? .AIle!::

!:J'U:U;' Inku'ti~g.e) sltti.ng eogerher on -Ol:fle,r.raoe on beautiful n1ght'sJ .~t1 will recal I Eh~~1i hard rim e £0 many l!rri$.,. r fed. so good thall: I am 8lhlo to get you back to your- p~ace;" I S(l~,

She pulled ill} hand towards her ~ kissed. ir, "Now, CUi I s~y SOELfl et'hin.gri s'h~'~~d [Ir:be.

, ~~ -H ·iL.I"·~

II n10.:.1.",. l.>es,

1

-L I am so fOfH.l.nare (0 have Y0U in m, hfe" The w-ay you take c I u t: I partt,,(,t ,tIl c, krv~ n~·i,;;;,. I Know' 0 ur relationship does no [' w() rds li ke "'thanI€ }1'QU~l and J» sorry" but there IS ol1,e ,dlin,g whicl Illd toda.r _and 'WOEl rny heart, for which I,c~njt help dianking you,. Pi used. rot a t1i,,·bi~,~ and 'rh eu ;s,aicl~ I~Sh~lU I tell you what lc wast

,L I~J "

:-J.mn1,

~ 1. reaUy wanted [0 t.hank you for rhose beautiful words roll wh.isi IIII ITIy ~jl r, ln, your room, That YDU "'10 ~hldfl:iE do ~\n~f'~hing rJ.~1 r cerise ,llid. nat pe·f:Enit. YCH-'] ',~on H1Y heart one 1110re time when. you 'pllro~ I 1 e rhar there would be nothing that I did nor ~.ike~ nothing lh ! 'gre£ later. Far a, gi It hose words mean a I at and I 1 rn g1ad r~;)l I J H;JU, I IOVle YOU so much bUI[,. IDDre than rhat, I re·s.pec[ you :fOf

I

H

t'L)U ar~,

S he opeilJcd ~her heart to me, In th~u l11Joo.F).l.igh I:~ .sirrin~ besid 1m that I.'Ick~l1'ay .. ~ saiJing. in, that pool of water I realized ho v b h \~,~r.ls:.l\lia;vbc that's: why her. eyes gar wet and happiness droppe

~ ,

~ leT eyelashes,

~ I love you She na .. " Alw-ay,s; be lvith 'Ole' ~ n good times and ] L1. ~ ust the :'!.¥a}' yo u :tlre J!10W~~' she said.

:<1 premise," 1 said, Wi-phlg. her rears,

~ '{P'

o ur rem an dC;I- Il'loon.iighr .s..."lf~u·i ended whe'nr 'w,e reached her born the gal.re "I(i!.tefC .Nceru and her mother. VlJh.o~ aJref breathing a $i~ relief on seej~g hC:'r daughter, walke.d back 1.n,sicle ._h:owiog her m ,)l-, angeL

\Y/e goll: down and 1 asked the d~8.ha'!r.V·~ WJ!lla to wait it)!!: 5 min At ehe .g.~te I asked Neeru, ~LWl1:~'t'~s her mood!"

In

'"TiU now she W<lS w,~.H' ried, bur now k's [line tor her [-0 shGI'i," Bur: she wonjt say much because you're heJ .. e ., Neeru replied,

LL Cha/~ I'll take care of that, Bur hey1 Thank you S!O[)QOOOOO mu for hdp~ng us so lii!,'~

And [hit' three of us marched in, wllrh me 111 fy,onr.

1 saw Mumma sltting in, rile dr8.w,rng H.JoOtl1. \X'ith.Qut ca.:ring fh~t wer jeans were spoiling their catpe'[] I wen:~ (,13 her.just [il<e any ' ..... .."....,n_ In this, \,,"odd would, have fdr, she too \t;~ S Jngl":y. Withour sa}ii';ng 'V( rd. oo herj I 10 crk-:d down in ([Qnr of her:. Yes, ] was on rnv knet:s

fio.o,[ of 'I::n.y future mother-in-law, looking in her eyes. yre:ry pc) ;,r:.dy I told her, "l('h~J shi ,Iii k(J'},· gttlt£ liahihai ~'s mei». Ye pliu?- 1'J.l r« tIM'- And Y'~)'Li can punish me .(Q[' rhae," (And I sajd ro tll'¥S I "Please do i r f~S't'l I have 1[0 catch In} p~ a ne in a f~w hou.r s. ~~}

Stand.ing at the doer, both rhe sisters too ked. ;it.r me, I dent ... ",~ .. "","..",.. what they- thought. \XI~s 1. brave. or stupid' I did now wanr Kl~.ushl' keep answering her mother's questions afl'el nly departure so I trie·~ SO,~'[ things out: as fut as possll le, while I was 'present . .I did ~·,h,a.Jr 'I 'would 5:J1J-egl1ard her.

The next moment, Mumma, hdped me ge[ up and said.], «. ,p)1t1.'flt' kiln} hu "(UI;. l!;li,e itn1.' rhinta I)'t)ti bai isltL Th_(JdI!Y ,Ji U1 'PtJein r;,'!i4:~ jaa~ta h'tJ,: i$Nt" pdma se a:aplu gh~t .. _ » She melted in$ide~ thinking ,aJb~ her beloved dllUgh ter . .All mothers are so C motional, even mine 1<s.

Sh,e ,flnrhe.r s~id ,[hat we could ,hav,e t(~,.kl her rhe rrurh and then in [he evening, She w'ouldn~[ have .'iiaid no. C"of CC!U1"SC~ ·he lilj,rO~Jd have ~aid no for i'v1urltltthhai~ but what about Ddhit' ll\r~s SIal, (a k!-lO,,'-'dU ro rnys:d()

Welt 'rhu's nO'QI{ 1 handled the situation bad . .;::· at her place, '~ hen checked my watch next, ie WM D1;idnight and I had (0 kE:¥e for .bF"-"I.l"IL, crossing [he sam e ,pool ofwater, r[he same brawls and. the same 'r-J' I 0·. l~ClIr;~r..

'I ~,2

,In' same 'w'l.[;e~:y car. '1 ime was srill l'wl!IJing out and, ~f e:verythin~ 1 m v \~dt I .... " .. olJld be fit In.dir.a GMldh •. ~nt'erna:tlOnaJ.Atlp(}r[ in another II h iurs.

I .n: armos phii;Ft:: at her plaee was much 1- etter now, I walked dOW11 I j 11~,c:: bathroom, badly need,~,ng to pee. elf course, bd,ng ;,[1 those wet 'i'~ foi almost IrWO haul'S and surrounded bywarer an,d more water, it ~ ~ uily natural.

A lltde later, back at the main gar.e] a11 the Three ladies waved nre .1 ,dbYf:, Bur J 'i,\'ita\red [0 dl .. 1'! one sundi"ng ohead o.f evef.}-1Jod.y. r f~l'r so fW~'f'tH' ag3~n. I was wRvin'g to the gi.d wirh whom 1 spent rhe lo:n:gest ~ of my Hfcj [he: gid 'with 'WhO,M 1 enjoyed the besr hour of nli.Y life.

I ~l,d. r kepr ~.ooicing ,alt h~r rlU My rickshaw rook a left rurn an,d. the I ~Jred our ofJny :field of vis i 0.11 JO!r( , from, furs"

lu ;1 short while, 'I was b~ek in rhe c~b.! Tb:c water level on road 'had.

I,"Ul" down and the conditions were benet now '\\'ie dHn'[ have. 1:00. IIJ~"Ll\y problem .. , goin,g bade The uaffk was ii~gligibjle by then [h9Ugh, I Hm S::HV a hew dead vehicles on either side of the road.

F, ';er~r 15-2.0' fllintne;s~. Khush~ lttp'[ caU~ng me on my 1110bHe to l ~1''"Lk if cve17t}w~,ng was:.:fin~. She tJild me she was our of her wee atdre ,I fl( ~ was jying ~ n her cure l1I.ighr dress on her CO'LY bed, I loved ir when h ... said thar, It: feb Uk,e' bdng 'w~'rh he! aga]n, We C:OWdI(t ralk t'OG '1~~~lg though, as 111y oell :rho.llle~§ haae['y vas dying.

I as.l:e:d. (he dri,vt.:f: [0 sw~tch 0.11 '[be radio, ~.nting 1]0 eelebrate 'the vi ~t:ory of dlt: my ~]'rj pc'o,·habl}~ one of rite memorable victories of ,m:y hr~ Slrciag beside rhe driver I puUed, back my seatrostretch my ac~ing~ wet legs, 1~ppi~1g m}~ Ieee (and the ]njufied [oe) ,gendy to the .I~I $,ie" ! lnoked in the rcarview min-ocl" on :my left and I ssw a rcf1ectiol;L.".

A. reflection 0'£ the ! ~,gh.t:s ~ of thoSie vehicles suuggling in mt:· ~ tatel I , reflection of the momem when. s.he was [,c:s,dng.he'~ head Cut .D.ly'shQul ~ •

1

ill the ri cksha w~ 3. re.fiet:don of the time I was pus bing the cab, of ~JJ.H~ .frc],[Jj,ll her home w hi ch 'we were roo scared to _pick up I' A re.flf~%_~.LJO"lt. of rh at p<;dlxt kiss .L]1. Ro6n1 No, 30 1] ~h at evening,

And, \lva.t,cbing those reflecrioas, l smiJed a nd dosed my eyes, ..

cr Ohl .M LUll ma, ri • She is so perfect!"

I W,:1LLS at rheairpor the last person in the long qUA:;u,e heading iti)w.ar the B rltish A.h a, ~·lt,et:rn,ifial, l was s:rHlggLing wirh the laptop .11ln~jn 011 .fn1' shoulder, pusbhlg the trolley wi{1h the same hand and raJ.k411 (0 .1\1 Y 01:0111 and dad on rn r cell, Ourside, it was still dawn. The su would rise in a few min'U:n:s;. And I was damn, sheepy" B·~~t dille ·c.old shower .~ n the ho rei h,elpt.a me wake rup.; J\~nd ro P ush me inm drm shower \ I;;lS Khushi who woke 111e U) at 4":00 i\M sharp,

Back in my. hometown, mom and dad were anxious ro know whJ!l happened .. D'ad.see.rn.ed.to be enjo).ln.g Illy anecdotes much beu,eiffman his morning news, otherwise he a .ne:veT a!&1.r. mom to put uly.caU .0.11 tiJ:ae speaker wh]];e he hatd liis: morn]~g rea. HQiW is h,e~ &n~ i~y.~ How <.~ h Mu~n.ma? What did ·eve·~ro·n~ say? W!~at is, their house lik~r And. dl craaiest question was m:y mom~~; 'Whar did you . have fb . r lunch 1Ib~ttl

. .

(Gr,H1 Lunchr)

- Her fa:mHy is ..... eaJ~.y .n.l ceo ] mel: her mother, her ddrcr sister Ahil~ di and .A.m.i di\; husband .IJbgh.bF.. _H,er young~j sister Neeru ~S :aliso there, Her .m{ m is JUST Hll::e you" I lit ed .each one orf Eh~ti]. ·KJ1Us.i'!fj 1J :a vel'Y nice gi d. 1v um m a . .. And I am ,,"ery' happy," I sa ld after wh~ch

"'-.1- . id !A~lf h b!j

rviurn rna sal'!" .,~ yo u are ':a.r.pr~ we are r apPro

And. the h<1:pp·i.rE:T d\tcy were, rbe more [hey questionedme, Ir to'Ok 111e aJ~~inOSt half an hour to answer all rheir queries before I b~da them

I 'i "odbye and they wished me a. hap.p~Jl jOUf[ley.

Afrer a lirtle whil,e.~.1 fe~t like caiJing lIDer. Though 1. knew she would I K~ sleeping, \xrh,ae f dept .in peii~ fQJ!" three hou tiS "j n my hotel room ~ ~I,le was ehecking heir cell's clock every no. " and tbttn so that she could w' ke me up on time. Now h was her [urn to sleep in pe!!!J.ce, Still, I dtaled h r number, Because in another couple of b6Uf.5] T wouldn't be 1 ble [0 call her up.

I hesrd her complete ri rig:, bur did :tlJo'~ gel" to hear her voice,

D isappointed, r ~~ i.pped lilly phone bock in my p~!l:kct and moved

~ '-'ad P[eop~e were shoving their t'tO,llcys with one hand rheir passport I nd. tickers in the other, Some were "enjoying the music ~.Qlw.ll1ig out-of IIJH::l.r .iP-od·. Indian !ices:> non-Indian &'!D:;:$.; The white kiids srocd dlenJ 1." 11 '[he queue ~ hold ing their parents' hands, The rest of the i irrle OD!JlCS III nning hrere aDd rhere, shouting, pha~vlng.~ were ali Indian,

I V' as, ar the X~:ray scanner, waiting for my ballggag,e to 'Slide OUE., \11 .. he.n I heard fny eel I rm nglng, It \VJS her,

~~ {}th ggyd me/a INiby. .. ?".

.1 Hm rJ,1 _ , • ~~ Al\l;d in her warm, sJeep}}" .&-i~a'iIY voice she was .lIUS'si.ng·m c~ Ilrt~ bably with her eyes half.:.openJ- srill rired, H'earing the sweetness rof II t.' r voice, E im ~gi ned waking up next 'E'O her, on the same bed, seme

"

IIIOrl11.Ulg.

CI~~dl1g her .throar, she then .'1:t:;tt[(;xi talking '[0 me . I.vi}' que m;: kepe moving and W~ kept t~.lki.ng.

.At the b~gg~g.e check-in secei CHl) she was still wi ~~r: m.e. A[ tbe ].rn,mi~r31.t:ilon desk, S~.1U~ was still wkh me,

.J;\[ the securiry check gateway~ the offi,c-:rals separated her from. rnc, ~ 'he.y asked. me [Q swirch off the cell phone befOre the check .. Bur the 111,o.n:1Le:nt R was throu;gh ,with ir, she W~$ wj t~. me again, I bQ;.illy W:;l.Il1:ttd II.~ talk m her, I btd [:y. needed her and I wanred to film away 6·o.m. 'rhe"

~ 15

airport stra !.ghr back to her, Ac[uruiy) I felt: like mUI'yJ:Rg h,er dre.rn rhercJ was so JU!Jch with her far thos.e one and halfhours that], even ,OQ.'[lC:e rhe th i nl and fIJ]:~l·anno.unueniLent~, m e':1l:nl'~ ,(;or me, 'The' words. were:

.. , , . Boarding , -light No. BAl.82 [0 New'YO,l,k, please I~pOft at ' ,No" 2.~' I know my next sratcrn ent will he hard, to believe, but ,thIs ,is ,J\.Iiles :a:wa.y fr,mu me, lyLng, on her. bed in ~, di.fferent dry:!; she II e~:rd . name be,jng announced (wm~ch I had ntis ed, cl-u)ugibt the speaJkef

was righ;[ above me), thr~i.lgh Illy cell phone. Unbelievable, ,is.fJi~r ,~t

"Shena, I think it's for you," she, paflkk,ed.

'~\Xfh~t?~

"Thar ennouncemenr, I thi:n.lk i'it~ fo'[ yon.lL]I' .... she im.olJ],ttd 1Qo<li.l>l_'li11t .... .' J UHf a second. "l 'r patrcd rhe bade of a white-skinned man in frcml!: of me Ii

U S fl~g' on his T~shi[' (', ~~ 'WudOd. mt'n611tfiin me whm:ji't, they we" ,/orr I ,QQrJ/( know 'w~ry bur 'E:J1k.]ft'g to ,gO"~ tend's to change- 'my 1\I'Oh;, you. mean the JHt calli t~ ~eah.!a' ~ Some Ravi n to ,"'ew j~Q.rlc . For fucks sake, why are p~op~~

rime at tht:: airpor [? - I

,Am dI l{ep t lookin g ,j tHO. 11 is eyes wi th " 'nge,r but di~nt $ay '311 y t ,OJ course, the fr;u.:~Jt WaS mine,

"That's me," J. sald f1~m[y.~ get£tlng cic ser (0 hi$Ja.cf\ -'1?'~u r-Ol~ I hey-,,,, "hanks h.l, l,et'[ing me know that it 'was me."

-

ffis face Was so m cth,m ng to 'be seen, Pale Mayh~- fOI 's...

remembered that ]~;e "v:a.$~ll on ,his land bur mine, But b~£ote ,h staJrt~pol,ogi'li!:llgJ ] rushed to IGaitIC no, 2.

lUi

, the call, Khushi was- still wa:i~~ri,g for Illy .rc-5ponse';

1\11 't t, what hap pencdncxr at Ehe gate wa~' surprlsing.

I, KJ I~.l shi I'll CI1bU yeu b~,c1: in a wh ile," I. said and discon necred the II "lri! I ['tying ILO understand whae happened .

~ '11 .. security h~.dy at the door had taken illy boa.rdiog _pass- swiped ie I j ll~ n,~h gadger whi h. punched at .single word" in bold red letters, on I 1-, VALl D" Sh.e '[bell ret ~:Il'o.OO it to ro e wi rh a sm ile on her :face" I ~ I t I ·d n.t. the P~S$ and c:.hen. ar her fu·ce a 1M~ w<:m,delt'eci ~ New what the ~ III W:'lS ·rh.i~? Thie.n! she: narched it backfrolu me and rore ]~' into 'MO I • I ,stytishly~ and. dropp ed rhern Inro th!e!, dustbin beside her desk

~ W';i ~ corn ple'[-e}~ puzzled, Did they find som,c; drugs: in nly hagsAgt:?

I L II] , oS IU l,.!ggi~ diarnondsi Or n~il.y be ,8, ,h,8J;frI-ci-g,r,'cnade? J esusl I ~IIIIII rvcn know what grenades ]ook,l]ke,

I, l ~ ~g;' {he restlessness 0In. roy face rhe jady.- Flna]ly revealed what was

I • ulaci . , '!.l': ~ Lv, L

1I1gr.at auons, sm xo 1 ere QI;Jr ,u1..lCKY passenger, IOU wont ee

\11 II. n~; in Economy, but in the- Business dass_ ~~

i I' II,. ~~ smile, she handed me a ·Bu8.]neu dass bO'8;Id.~lllg"',pass and.

I j I III " roo JTI.Ove a~ad to the plane, The rese olf the .p opularion, rhe I II I i '- nOJny class one's who "were iifi'acie to waitt j use becau~~ of filehen allowed [0 fol[ow.

h II' :~ surprise!

~ ~ ~il'n1,(~l it~' l~,ret~ [ ~-'j,t;\:5 in the plane and Kbus.h i. was with me ag~j n, I II ~~lir ;tbou! f'Q'Y g,oa~ luck and she 'plOU1JfUly sald, "Because I m in II ~I~t. ol1~.y good tMngs: w'Hll~appen. to You,"

Hong [0 her r saw the "S~,me p'asscnge'l passieg by ~ the one III j II ~ US Rag on his T'shin. 1 wa v:ed to l~hn sarcaseical ~y. and he ~~IIr.:~ld tg economy dJE:5, as ifhle hadn,~t·se.en me. Bur. I knew he

Thiny minutes kate:r; the plane W~~· good. ro t~kc off, B,y then, one or the air-hostesses had aln~ad¥ ~QI,d l'l;1;C~ 'tw!,c:e~ [0 sw:1'Etl~, (l,t( ill:"l,Y ffro~)J~, B[J,t] WlS like, ~'Who cares?" I W~~ still busy with rtly romance on th~ phO,ne.

'When the plane was Om, the rUJ:Uwa.'Y~ the ail" hostess pleaded w~dii '1;:n(! l.,gain to $WL't'Ch: off fil\y cell. 1. am sure she.must have wondered ~o allowed, m,e" into rhe B.USi,UH::S;5 Class. I was be.h,aving like a .scheol kif) whon1 reachers tend to C01l1.p;fJJ re ~Q a dog~$" ta n ~ no rnatrer how _YOU" t~. Jt can never be SJ[',r.i1L~ghr"

This .tinlel rh.ough.~ [ ~t:~tured. her '[0 come closer and ~tdred iter.

"Have }''Ott ~vcr ~,~ien in IO'ifd?" I whispered in. her ears,

~'\Xfh"Z4.~l'; She to ok a ~f.e'p back

"On '[he 0~hef end is my git.Jfirk~dl WhO'ID r wl'~ ~ ,m,arry SOt1E'l!,E: 4ayr: [ won't" be seeing her W r ,:;I, lol~g dm r;: ;'Lnd these ;it[e the few; fin~l rnornen!t~ hEr{~'H:-e I I,ea ve this C~ u.nttr~ And in rhese m o rnenes she Wltl1~lts [0 be ,,¥irn me .. ShaH I tdl her rb at it, ~~ea'Uti ~til ai r hostess is corn l'nandi,ng me Hot

'Ik h - ~~

to ta to' 'CK?

She $'m,iteci, ~'r .me .and wear. a-wa:}~~ And (n a few seconds she l'f:tni;'n,ed with aJ, ran glass of Juice- and some cookies, Helping me 'w;~h rhe b~aok.ct! especially covering [t1>,:- mobile and. the haud8""ft-e:~ wires, she wht~pt:,r~l! ~!"EnJ oy :rOUil.; moments w~:th th~; Ii;!>

i\nd of course I e:n,joyod rtly moments with Khushi, She kept ~""., "",""'" .... '''''.

Inc and I was bidding her g,oodhye before the network @iQi' d[~oo]]jnec)te\ct

The plane roek off.

Aw': ·-0' . 'V , ',', J-~

ier

. '. ,"

.'-1

OftjJ ,One

I rt':111 ember well I r was S~U ll.rday even i liSl arou ud 7; 30 PM ~ when I ! 'I i ccked in te rny hurd. ,AI the reccpd t}n] wh ile making '[he p ~x:men:E wirh a ~¥ [m'vc,l,e['s' cheques, I made sur~ mY' room had an internet I cnnecricn,

The beUboy helped me up Ito [lilY room ui], ~he tJ:[St f1~Q;r. ] h~fid.ed lwei' a d6[!a!l.' I~,H~ '~U hhn" then enaered 'my t'QCThl:m; leaving m,y bla~,g'€ 'ar "h e door j [SeJ K and r u:d)ed 1; C), open ~ll,y iap:tQP ~g and ,go ObJ-j rie ar IJ nee: 1 [,agged inro 'Y~ho©l mt'-S.~r;:l:llge[; ¥~S· ~ rhar W'dS the very firsr d~,i:n;g J did..

It 'wa:s cady rn orn] ng in India iUlet Lknf:W she WQuld 'be wai ting fur me,

Nuli she .[blUy was"

We~d decided earlier dl;iU thd~ WA!] the time we would, be en d1~1![. [hough, because Id expected a ~hQtre.r j'OUl'Fle:yi ,n was ~,mewll~t late" And JJrer tnt; eigbr hour journey from ,Dclh i 00' Heathrow, [he three

hours in transit, the eigbt hou.r~ from Heathrow to New Yo,rk and me .2 hOI:1r.S) by cab, frQID New York. '[Dr She~,1:,onj l was severely. jledagg,e:Zi.

But th os !l;;, t::vve:my {our ho LUS of not bd!'J:@; able ro talk to, her overrede everything else

Sl e waS delighted IO see me: anUne, And so was I. Burher ddjg.h was gl".e~t'tt:t' which is why. she: wrote so many ~nessa;ge8 in a f(aCtlAn 6 second;

{-iryfJ- . , . Shena. , .you; am, llo.-u) r u ... , weN did' u rredch.

Hoso uJaJJ'(}urjfJt/~'ne:il When, 11,1;e ylJu now? YOt~dere?

BUZZ

And I didnr reply; j ust a$ked her, 1;I'~Did U miss ll1e? J "Soooooo t.tiu.ch dear .. And You". ?)'

"Hmmm. ". 1 "NHl Jet Y[JU know but first switch oil j our $-1,e-Jll!ll:«l',rt

_'IL II_. ",

and accep~r U I,e voice cnar .reques["

I 'mid. her ~etyth.ing abour .Illy [ourney - th.'e .flights.. the ['I , . passengers and ~O'W I missed her amid ev'iel'YihJ.['[Lg., Sbe rold l.ille,

she spent her.entire.day without l~kil1g to! rue, ;Even, her fatni}y re

I· · u f

bow much she' '~la-; - missing .me, Hesriag eacb ot: lEI:.S voice a. ~e.r

- . 'to - d.' "I~ co il-.... 'i i't _:1, ~Jl:lCF T" ''-L' ~ h~ d :n,e¥(;:t blilpnened. in the: n:.:l:"l'E'<I5I.l

en J ire : .Iay· 1'1 '!!Ii''> iJ''.,J ~." L "" iL1ill 0' H ~ !'!... r

months. '. W-r; kep [ r~U::ing f{)f a lo[1Jg t~ m c aM j I: W3!:5 only when.

cl.ec.1!licJrry weJ1:1[' off in FaJJiid.~b3id and her Ul?S~ ron, .ga;~e up -tha;t

-fin'any bade goodb-ye" .

\Vhich was when I realized. that I sho uld take off ,m,_y shoes (. '¥VaS ,\~~~u',illg since '[he day before), sho'U.ld bdng jn~ At'~~ag:e ( 'WaS s'tj]J in ~hc;t gallery) into m y room and rhar, ,i n the haste to tid~ her, I had lefc my w'aUe't at' the lOC~t~Qn

t)flY Three

III V!;f;;J.S a Monday (O'GIM - 01.1 God'9 res Mondayi), ,M:y,first da.y ~ r t ,~uy I I i eli t's office.

~ n .ehe office_; I ,fils£. met \'~ irh all. 1'ny c.uileag,ues from Infosys wh(_)~d u rived onsite bcFoflLi me ,_ SOme old faces and some new, In forei_gp, I U rds, we' India ns always rend to look for ,£eHo'w Indians ,first And I ill, pro udly, on~ sucb Indian"

1 n rhe next f6v hOU'fS! m Y project rn :lnager inrroduced me to -our IIrJ1E aJli1.d vice versa More than their. f.31ces·. I was rryln:g to remember Ill' \' a_r co the cJ:fetleria.) ro the, conference ["0.0[115 and, of Course to. '[be

I LJ'oorn ..

V 'xy soon" I ~.$' occupied whb [I1Y wolL My wee kdatj1'S, passed i,ra, I ,.' oft1ce, wD.ltJdng along' W~th lIly client, meeting w~rh, d'Mferen'f 11.lt ·holders,. ,b,ff3.ho['II; calls and enjoying diiFe'te[!Jf. lunches in the 1"1 eria, In the evenings I used ~IT) go back ["0 my hotel and sn dy fot I, . "AT, Often) I LIKcl to, cook my dinner too. r 4) be hone ct. there

I ~ nothing to cook. lj'LIS t heated r.he, frozen eatables, )

]~nt~ no matter '~iha['~ d:Fd, she was a:lw~ys no. my mind,

II missed her in my US days and she missed rne in her indian lit's. Shit: missed me in. mcr Indian days and I missed her. tn ~1.y US

I ~ l . Life wasn [' roo easy.. 'We cou Idntt call each: other 'whe nJt:Ve~' we i 11,[:'d, Tw"~,Ce .~ day]' we were on dt.~:[: my III or nings, after I wol-we up ~i.1 hc;,fore she went to bed; ,my nights! before :I. sJlt::pt and ~bfrei· she I ~ up"

r I ~,e:7Jen;

were on char, jusr Hke any' other day) and ~he asked rne to ,do II~ I I, h i,ng special fo~' her,

I IIItH1R ~ .I 'want you to ,. r,f.i~e me an emai I every da.y, befol'~ YOi.!1 sleep,

121

. ,~

rn ~ 58 yo[)'~~,.

Bur, hreaki11g her sweer especratiou I replied, "Hmm.,; I will b'" Bur I don't know if I can do it. aflLer such hectic clays. OfHce'; {JAT. chats dinner .. , there is so much, you, know,"

I said that not because I didn!'( want to write me emails ~ lau~ bct~\E ] wanted to give he'r a be~uudf~d su rpr.i S~,

I wrore a dialY for her. Somehow, l bdieved that handwritten words. C'lf.ry much mo meaning and much more feeling in rhern. They have ,~ spcci

soruerhing ther can'r be conveyed in .sterile, elecrroni mails.J did:n. tell her a,beut: it, bur ae ~he end of e .... ~ery daY1' I starred W,U'l[i:ng m fe.dings fe r her. in a diary E ach and evet''f p::ige described how missed hetl what ~H .I wanted to do h~d she been with tnt', wro small "\,'1JUCS ';~)I her, And her half-sketched picru ,e which 1 drew while thinkal1,g of her, but left incomplete when I realized I was POQ r artist.

D~y 1i:wiv:e' ~"t wars l: Friday (TG ~ ,-l-haDk Go-d- h!~ F[[~d..'1yU. In. [he \%les:rJ fhutd 0,( the week Is a gO()~ day. Offi,d:ally it Is a workiue dav but, IJjnom~i'an

!::II ,

i t's any[hin~ but a wo,rJking ililY. r ho bJgh.! because we were our di~nt

vendor; our vreekenm started 00[1 trom Fr.ida}if' evenings.

Enjo.ying . these evenings, we used to hang o In in bunches .a~ r discotheq ues, p ~~ bs, eating join 1:5 and bow'U III g alleys, 0 [ we. wo . drive down to the nearest c11L)' hcsring a dr.jj movie show, An Mfln:n{ilbhai "V~$ r U~l ning in the U S thi:::ate"(S too, maki~g me recall ma troubled ,miI1.d. tc,n!~,ef .~ ~ght.

W:ed«nd.", onsice, were ~lvm~;ys fitn. Bur '[here was -sorneeh i ng dif6e.r' 'reJ' :lm'

122

IhLS time.e-l had. m fa,ce. rhis CllUt"S(lon front people wl~b whom I enjoyed In} wr:;d<enm during rny past nips.

~~ Bu.1L yo ILl used to boo.r~J' r~:ght~ So w~ath:~:p P en,eo 1JlOW;~]~

I wanted [0 tell :thtrn rhe huth bu ' d.rdn,~'[. Th.e reason being, in ~.y

arlier Uie {[ fil,e~l'l before I fell. in 10, e) I used to give: rhem gyd.anf> ~, 'l1in,g them guys should not durl;iiflgC' themselves ,for gitl~. 'How could I 'I ell rhem that I'd. 'I,eft my OCC9Jsi,Q nal Iiq uor for[' a gi d? So I ·had. [0 give l hem mice !f'C:3.Sr.J ns,

And ru tell you what, h'~ bard [0 give falto reasons, for two. reasons" First, there's tremendous pressure. f(OID Iri,ends, especially when they- are rorally drunk and starr ~rwca,dng on each orber's n am e to make yo·u drink. And second ~ ru yOW]} will i iIl'gness 110 booze,

But r di~n't.

And. I was happy rha 1: J kepr my. prom i . e ['0 her,

LDrly Thirty

One morning - lr W.t3 probably' nine o~dodi - ~ '\VtJlS in 1:ilJ1Y o:ffl,~ and signed i~lto ,1n,Y' messenger. A~ ].;~S\I:aJ] she had l,~f;t a' voice ,message ['0' make Illy dia:y., By now, 1 h:!ld ~ plt'tuy of"rhern in mY' voice message' list ... .. he:y' \~~f.t all so sweet th-a.t I never fd.[ Hke ddetio§ any of rhem. But then wbel~ [he mre:sS'21.,ge box $o'r fUU:t Thad te take 1~p [he dHE.c'lLd( [ask of choosing, wl1.ich one "tfj') dele te, There was on e· w:li1ieh .I could never delete, rho ug~1-. for it w'a..~· rhe cutest of all, I n ir, she was 'ch]]d is~lly ai:lg[y at me because 1. did.n't come onli e one d:ar Ind was yeJllillg ar me despite ha'V'lng a (old,

I Wilts. ta king, ,all of&'hor,e C;J;J1, 'taUdfig t,D ~ny project team back in ] nd ia, ¥."benh I saw '[hat she h3(1. come on i i tile.

123

To whieh I ,repHi,;dt \~~.t11 011c hand p,utd ng the, SJH!i;.d~a~'pho,ru~ on murc, til am ,runrril1g busy .. , YQd1] have.to W<~Ml for a while, ~

The: next minute, my' clienr ,ma.~,13gel' ,gta.bb'cd, me fol),[ n ,r,.ufferenf" meeting in auether conferenee rOOm. Thac ,d:ay I kept f U;.~h~fl:f;1 EIQ~ one Jntletit:ig to another, SO[TflJe days 'ate Jj lee thar :ill~,d this was '(,hat khl~ of day. At [w~d"V!G.! noon} I entered dl<e ca£et~r]~ aiong 'with. flly' dt~t-s' for lUl~bch and it was tl~ci1 that I remembered ~ she 'W.a~ w~it1:ng. tor me,

Damn!

I rushed had tOli~)~ room and ta, my: laptop where I ch~cl;~I, -the numerous messages me hwiiefr',. The. Iasr one read, ;r,: KAb attPgc Shot:l~". ". T. have: ro show y'0U S101n~[~.~ ng. III

J cbeeked ]:[)j, ~hl1,e.~t~lmp,; S.hE:' wrote thaa an hour b~ck" I feli!: b ad ~ rnaki ng her wah for M~! £0[' so m,~]iy hours, W®':rking in d,~ alrel'UQQll . S"h.i,fr,~ geni ng back 1:lt ll :'00 in the' ni,tlht and d\~iJl\"i.r~i[~~g tor rue fi;)([ the,la.~"t 3, hours, L. Sh,e must have been so r.ir,tit So £~!eepy. Whmr d.itd. she want to show me] Had she §Qne'~ 'W~as she :~l;dc~p? Her sta..tu.~ 0,1.1 t[~ nltSSenge,[ appl~~§ecLdl]i,(D1 anr,

]' ql1liooJ ffshed ,H'l'}l' c~~miug cam ,from r.rry w~Hct and d~:alod b~ number, Afrel" a. few' rings it g'Olt disconnected, I 'MS trying once ,~9ite wh~'fi,. ~UI,dd~rilrl her ·m,es;s::a.gt,fhtsbed on my [t1J.ptop's, screen, '~W'M i YOu:? 'R u onl incf~

Lcuickl IL k b .. .1 ""V' jl .l~ 'If

I q u]. '. ,jl gif],t on rne '.' ,ey ·(}~nl,. 'res CLeaJ;; . .[ wrore,

'HWh"· r. -'. .""'1'0:; 1lJ!',...''- ,,~~

., ~e w ...... ~,' '"1 'I..I!l,;~"""

~'M so sO 00 8!O.r..ry dear I am b~d. I' ,m,~lde you '~t rot so long .. "J.

Act:naUy;' sin;Wf1 ~1.e.rllin~· I am.Hulnrng So bliL~r.h.ere~ .[ ,co,mp,l.e~!Blyf:l')rg~t that YGU were online 'W"Ejj I'dh~rf'or me" ,At Je1:1!SiE" I ~hotl]'d h~vt rol~. y~~ thar 1 mjg11.Lt ![I,O:r(" be able rOo ~U-l11 up"".' n

"This h<1J],P'pffiS someri meso ,I can understand, ~~ Sh~ didott shour ~il me,

..; Sri II u know.., B u.!r. hey, ". I cannot ~it, £G,t ~lhat thIng y~ u w;;rnted to. show me, Tell me w.b;;u dt:iL~ was, n

L-I Can you show that '[0 me no"'l,;v'? r' J ~S'k:ed her a~i.n"

- 'I: ~~

And she replied, '''Yes" , .. here cemes rhe flnLQ'l1;e:. Check YO'i;;~r-emilJ1JJ,

,[ r<:Jte.~hed rn yo rnf~ll b(j~ and a ftcsn ~:'Jl,:ii~ frol[iJ:Jj, h,er arrived in lit wIth a sl~b Jeer 1LD!l.e that read: '1" A.ad, then carne ano rher: 2. ,rul!d then" 3l' 4" 5 ~ 6~ 7, 8 and, 9'"

'N ine b-e-s-e-a ~u,~ r- i-f-u -1 pho wg;r~phs, of her,

Am~J1JYd ;aJld spd~.bmil1d, by b1CJ' bea.ltty~ I kept slM'lng ~1J.[ these p'ic[!).l[~~~ Wh:hou,t an~t doubt~ those were her best pierures, Tbtey had a m ~gk;al effect an me. In that 'moment, 1 ;s,tIu_ggled 'with two 'd).i,ngs,; fi,rf5~i ,my un,\riH]n~'Pe~~ to take my eyes off ;jJjfiY one picture and, second, the tagerne{l""$ to 3{5~ the 0 rhers ,(!Jt the same time"

Wh~,r a sweet surprise she' had gi1lfei1i. me, My heaet was, 0]1 cloud nine know1ng rhst this beauty WH mine, and when, beauty o:v,er.r.ld~s YDil~r b~ainj, yDll donlt know 'what: (0 Sa;;!l; yOU! ,go numh w,itn plc~ure" Thc'~l [(~aH:ZDilJg that beer. inn.60ent heart bad .sactifiooci a nighe~ ~loep w:;dd,ng rO'f me, 1 fl. naUy' 'typed~ ~~~Jie;" &l,g~l. ". beeeuse tb,~t's w.lw~r ion look iik,e in those picrures, Thank you so much-dear, fnl' such a" sweet

. '"

surp1\]~e 'f -

Simil'l.h:;i!;neOliS~~ her n~es~age ::flash,ed. (U1N lny screen, HA,c;hchi I~g flthi

- ~'II· ;"j~ bts nit nur:ir.li? ~,o.u want to $:;11 SE)i,nletnJ.ng~ -

:~ 13t1h"ull I 'WO!ij,~:r 'be ~ble to find better wD~'d:s: than what ram feelIng.

- . "'II' ~1

Or rna:rb~ r 'W.l - • '.

And b efore I C'oldd cOlmp]ere Jut ~ine~ I he~id, the do or Oif m y f£liO fill open~fig; fb1fowed by' ~'QDt8t~pS, I turned h1i:ck Irwas my fi1'<in~:geT.'who was on th~ phorue wirh someone alUJd w~~'gaU~ng me .for a:110l'~'H:~r q:iilt~ meering" I be,~~-d his ,p:;updion :fu~i' two mirnrres, ]F whi¢h [ m~n;~gle,~ to say goo(~,b're' to her;

~~ I aJl.11 srill in a heaul"i.ful shock," was my last m.eSS3Jge. I di dn't cat lunch that a.ftern.ocm ... The teast f'Or my (yts sa tidled 1l1¥C ~i,M.Oget-

That da.y- onwards, one of her J?~;C1:Uf\~ ~ the.only one wirh -a elOiSe'" up of hers ~ bec8! me Ul.y deskr,a:pfs \vaUp~p[oc;

,D;{{1~ ,Ror:f]-Fiv,e

I boarded to. Y plane b'ad~ to India ...

1.2fl

~ .

Return

. "

It ·WM almost m idnigh[ when I g01 off~.t Dd hI a ~~PQfl'" As ;$OO~ as I was OIL'Lt of the jInmigr~.'[llio.l!l channe], I switched on ,Iny Inrli~t cell phone, fu?ld F. ealled 'wy mom be,folre' ~flYlbQdy else, like she: '~r}Hl,ted ~ to ler her kn(t~l thar her, son -was h~~k afl(1 was absolutd}r fine. She too ~,~s, expecring my call, and tl'JJ~;es why she couldnt sleep unbm~5 are like thfiJ!t}. I spoke [n her fer ai, f~w mifrl~~t~s and had.c' her ~oo-dniJght. Then I' ~nO\"ecl. re she catn;~r0!l' belt t~ pi~k' my lugl;~l!~,e~

A,~ tbe exit g~,il!e~, .r. booked a ca,b (0 Euiilub,ad,.

No) :[ ."i1(.utb~[ he~,din,grt,o~a,rd,l$ her bur to, a hqitcl she. had booked fur me, We learnt (~o·m Q ur, pas IE m~ s'take,1 ~;ha t 'co,mm uri Ilg be€"i1£ell Euidabad and, Delhi could he more rhan ~ :~ i rrle prQb~em,~ti,It" So 'i.'Vhy not book ~. horel in; Ffl:I;jjd,~.b;;Rd iueiff

1: ~vasiQ rhe cab Wll~fi ij. f~w~ S1v~Ss:maJde.a d1~~P e~tt;ry In my m~age box . .AJI of.[bem were ,from KJrusm,: The rropmo.s:t ene read·':

Ur ho'rd is be eked. G ~ rue a call 'wen \'\011 1a nd.

.... --

(;O'~U\L~t'ry~ ,i I l1})e-an. our ,CQuntry., ]lr:s'·~Jjc.5. a: djJfe·ten.t'~ingi -00 yOW' beloved aft,er:. a loog dru!e;; ':Everything ar()!u~d;. YDU •· .. '1 " .... , .......

. " . ~ .. .

loveiy. . E"t'eJ:ybeautLflil, '~11ing bri llgs' a SJl1~l,~· eo your .face. Every hour, .

~ . ~ .

'h' :1 ~ f' ,."' IL • L .s: "'Ill; _'ti.

tl:.f' .!~;!l, .9: Y01:.U al1J~l-eo/ mcreases.as :![,f],¢. tune :~t:rorc: YCliLfd .see ',e:l:l)cn

ot.her decreas<!s.

.... ~. ..

L called het:. 'Up" ,La.lt¢r:~ she.told me whar she did: .seei~g' her favorite ~am!e .on. th¢ 4~sF?laj. of .be.f· pbone .arrer .so long, she he'l~Lher' hand, ~e ~let he~r~,~ ~rn]]ed~ ,c:losed: her' J~yt~!: thanked ~(]od) t,Q,o··k; a ,deep' bre.a'r:nj o:ppntid h,e!"ey~s. "and .pidke:d"'l~.P ~he p'~'o\l1e£

·{.i'lI~ir,i!p-Ui1Hltlll]ii!]~ .She jll,m.,pedJ,Qu,d!;y on. the grolllP_&.

. - ..:.:.

4~H" h H' .1) '!! ~I h h J ~'h'" ..

-, :a a, ,.~ .,e'~ .. OOQOi1)o.gg~ . was appy to, 'ear :H~Ji. ,cra1.Y'· H ~ jusr

lU~J!. a~kil~.

~I h . . ., ~. . ba 1-:' ',~~

. am. SID ,:5'0' so . ap'py :YOlll re ··aCK::'

:!(.'S·' ~ l':!

se-am J.,

A,nd 1We wel~t .(ta~y.·Sbt)..utitlg. ~_ia~gbiog, St~gin,g ... ]fh~[. wU how

h .~. p'y' "''''''e ""[.-.:> ""~

. a,~ 1 :."'. , . .,., .... ·'O M .....

. '... ./

-:' .

.I .he:a;m h_cf:",j~i.i(gm,~rrjJ)' arQ!i~~;~ her ho~se~ ]euirig't¥e,r;ybc5dy: ..

I'! ~ r',· .' ~~- :if -!.l . lL e I;' .~t;... h"'.-;j~·· . . . .

fE[~la'[ '·WU :OO:CK'+ ,!tlni~: rOUU[;I!·-roo,Ul Iaml,en~,·eac ,:anu·rey.enr; l::adv: m.

• '. • ~ .. • • _. .r' .'.1:-' .. it' ".... • ..&:-.. < ...!II /";", ~ ~ I~ - -

,fu)l[se tal·ked ... ro me,

!'.Oaq· is-sillee.pirtg;, ® maybe, yoq Wilf lle' ~lkiog to· Him, tOfno;r.r~~ ~he-·S:a1~1..

... Iow ", ..

Wen) we~ ~~p~' mll~llig~ till I r,~>a~bed my' . horel, ·OfoolJ.1.r.se! .there, .. ~."- .• "n~:!.{I:eaS'pl1 w'4,v we: $Jh~uld~t~~ ddi!lg" ·'tIi~(i GMcin~ ffie,'~J"~itjf..frtsA*:m!1il~

. ..,. ~ . .... ... ~J;l1 " .: .. , ... :,. .~ ... '~~LI D

: hel!,. I ,e~p]~t~ed ·~~.em t~ .tb~ diiver' o-f.m.y cab;,.

Magp'ic."1~o~e¥ all. Madf~~.f~,J{c"a~ ~ ipJt. d~sdrtaiIGn for"L, ',," ~'l!':"(~JU;J:Q::'I(I.,j I~w~ nO.ttha:~ g~od:~a hot·~t bij,fsli.e·bid'boqked.it be~;>allS·e In(fs;t n.··( r·.;,' 1 rnll

.§oo}i ~~e!s, III ~~e city '?l~T:~ ruli,~(it w~ the'lUafti~e~s'e:rusoit u' ~t:bb~)J aind~ ::dle·re·· jmportau~j~,.:i"t was 'the' nl!arcsr to her' .plape.,

._ '. . ..

- ,;;;:.

'fIht my v;"'~y '00 Magp~¢.,~ 'we 'wer,e p.assiJ~~: tijrQl·ug:n ~fht;f' c"ut~~r.t( 'Of rhe cizy a.nd. omy cell W,3)S &e'luie:n;rJr J~.*i:Jng; irs: netW9~k ~oo,veta!(.~ ana I di'5J~e4 h¢l'nnltibe.r a~:aJiJ1 ,ana a~[n. B~foli'e giving ot;it rofo:p'J~tely;. the iMe~od~ /playeu: li:~d~ .flnd seek on .m, m.'Qha~~ screen f~({ ~a- while. 1"

. . .

~'m~tl'O:w, m3Jl:a~d t~~·e·n.d. Mel' ';an sM:S~

W!J1 {'ll£1:I once 1 .~'(;h ho.,t,e'l.

To. ·w:bid~ sj)e.J':~fdied·

NO' : .... 1;d·r M.' (·· .. :DD':· .,' ....... : ... ', .

.:1 .• ~.~u..,','L:; ·~.;,MQ.MENT

fl·,R' GNG. :i·rX'>E!N rJp~bO":nIJl~

..' ~~ .. " "~. '~ V~""·~.. ~~~.~.~llYi~

FJN~TP@RGlltP

. . ".

'(Vi 'II I j<i U' . !L.k.·";1.; ~ .,Ji' . ,'. .'.

¥.:'\~]~l ·ur. ~~~[ ~~~ ~anl~el;;l!~ ·.Half an hllr)'u! ]atce1r, -as I .was Ml(!JclciAg me

d06J: of rnv !;oo.m hi'ilie;iioret .[ c;alled']je~~ 'We '~.~ b~ ~n ''';L "". A~~'l"""n''''''

J.:" (, ..~." I - --,,-.~. J .... ;p ~.~ ~. ,..~o- U;lll.i r,l~lv';l~

when L moved jJll(k'the da1.k·robm,~ .

. ~

';'Ok! ~ow on Wu~ ~rgb~' hand!" tJiefe:. is" .a_'8Y/j tdibo'i~:~:TJre· Ut'St ott~ is-the Jig:~~/~ me~~d: .. A:nd I"\'(:onijt!t~, wJ~y stie~'was httS~fU.cciog ,m"Cr

. ~

The t¢'bmwas~ooid~ l1it·~~. ~on~ndltherewas,a beauui'w, lf~~

in rhe: ,'1

~. • " 'I!r :1!"4:itOm ..

J;~[N"J;ig~'[;6Ifmx,i,elJ ,phpn~·~,sCteen., I swltroe·d'0,!:l the ,lights .6.'il~

to.on{- and, what tame J1_ex.t' was 'f . ,sjy,e~' ,s~r.:pdse.~ .

j~oH'·m¥ >G'OOI~

'> •• ~ • ,'- ~ •• " ...•

I, ':f!';~ .. '" . ,I: ~ »rs: L ". L d . h' .~,

. n -J;f'ln,[ 01; -, m,. was':!-~:~nl [IDe 'wit,' '[WO' b,euqUf~. 0:£ r1_?~I .. arb~g

'~~t4~an~u~ on: ~~'>ott~ ~flhero ~And~tlq '~ad ~ a,Wtil.(il~Hne h.j\C:~ ~ni

";1 mrS$itd, vo:u se mnch.~~(t.., .

I~---' .. I :-.. ~

~p'a['~ itQ[)l:. ·ffiils,·it'here:r·was. a tissue paper:' ptek::in,g~ ,out.~,frem,.)tin~t'.r m~,. ~ClU~~~;n;§, .. : Fr~,Jn,:~ a~~~·~ 1 :coli~d noiU ~d it, ':I:nur I nOJlq,~a ,th,~ ·mt~]f"QQa/hn9.~s~~ tlflt~1 Up' on' It ~f:a -l~ywe1y' a:~n~ gi£t ·o~ l~~

Wii.;~ t, J> ·jl ... t1:.C > . .

ruen s 1.'4 ~$Jl t ~or~rfH~·.,

While yo« were garitA l_fealiied ho. ~ badt, .1 PttUI:(_lJou fl'r ·m,se:?f J .io r;e IOU :Ut' m':1;lciJ..

"Llove 'You so .m ucb dear, ;.>. was the; ~wee[ reaction ~o f my .1u.ddng hean" I j nh~aJ.,ed the scent of her kiss '~Hl that tissue and Idssed. it. She bltard me doi,n,g, tl1-alt. [ 1;Va11ttJd. bel' 'to hear,

The n,e:~t moment, someone knocked 'at ·,my door

j~'\1i",ML ; • )i' I' 1 d'

w ~:.o 1& ICi l1.:aS ~'e . ;

.:'Is--:' ~lb "'jl. _ 'I

'~L ~. Or1 came t!i.~I~ r-ep~~~

"Two minutes dear, therlC is som .. e one at the door, I{j .1 told l(l~,u$kF]

~nd, qpen,ed rh~ door.

HSJ~. I have gD~ waJ~.r ['61. YQu.:1a ""OK,,'~

He carne in. wi th a bottl e of Bisleri a no . :an' upside-down gbts:s. ·He kept it beside l1il,Y b~a and, f~~ln th~ c:or,lU;:1'. af hjs. ey(;~> he .noriced . aU rhat 'l,vaf$ lying on it;; These irlbw'C[\5" dl~1L, nore, h1:aybe he .saw the lcls~ t.oo.+ He sro.ilOO to himself fu[· a f~t\~.'i:;:dOf'i.. of ~ ;sl1;300t1d. a:rui 'ttheNj, ren~,ul~d to his 6Gn~,Jl1 ~r;m,euJQ,n['. W1:ti1e go1n.:g b:~ik~ he: .no!:! deed @ balf-fill,!'i;'~ g~ass covered "'\~ rh a lid, al(~H&;: wiith another boule ,or~V'a~ef';

~~Ob )\OlJ have .alreaJy got 'wa1j'er~j,

!f!lThaE's,n.o[ mine, You can fake it ii.li.w~y/ 'F said,

As 1 ,said, tha:~, I he~u:d her voice [.rom, ~he· cell-phone, $ht~ was SllmJtil~g

it ('1- 'I s'''ro'if:] HifM' D" ~ 1 ~ '_iL. he sl ;,

pJ):~!O:n;a;, •. ' ," ·.1~' , " 1 : " • ..'(lI.rH, et ,~,nrn' touch [ e &:il.:~S ' •••

'~R[lt(Or T shouted ~U ~he boy"

And hearing the in.[~iryoftba;~ '~!llUKO,,'~ be' rr9Z¢'j j[~$E Hl~e a smtue'.

At 1.~) [he next moment, he was ab-c:f~ .. i.lr [0 tr~p it '[illlO,C an.d I ga.ved,.hi:m. H~ looked ar HU;; Ctttiol;]:sly;, E~'n.f vi~tlt sure why she. hacl·~.d. lne:we; do ('h~t"

I cold him" ~~ I'll] ail good, y~)U (an l,~av'(,::. ') Confused, hI(: ld1t '[be n'O em:

Clos i,n_g the ciao!. frofn inside, I asked he~ wby she reacted that '!,way; ''0 I walflJ'~ yq U to dj$cO'~eE tb:3t rO'lJ]ne~f! ~~ ~e' s~kL Sbe W;;1:iY ·caln~. again,. Whi~e. I was wondering what she meJln~l she Mited me, "Aren't' you

d.lirsty? ~~

~J

.tMa ybe, ~~ I said, .rem ov.i og· the ,I id eoveri llg rhle g~~s ~ulld J ifdr.ug it. Then r heard her ~ayi1'l~ &'¥QU 'CaI.1L have '[be water ,which :I [ef~ 111

~~

your room,

I W{lS ~Dbourto t@,ll.;e' a sip when ]. tealh:tld th,at her Si"Neet' surprises were 'SdU corning, My heart was smn.ung with the ,deHghls ir was reC'i4bfm~'., T,biiert were :p~tch,es. of her l~p:SI,~ck on. tlte circumference of rhat g[El$s. HaJ,vi'ng' s:i pped some fJ,:f dll;s ware.l~ she l':!Jan 1eft tile .D'\~SlL ,fa] m~. Wh~ it s~:eedu:ard

"You ate such.a darling, ~~ I_'~drni'i,dy s.alllg~ en joying rhe water, .drhtidng it exact~y ,fr.oJn [he. Sp0t wbe'&:e she bad pressed her ,lips.

'OUI conversarle n turned EICJ man tile: and we kept ~lki tJ1g Q,f b(.'{jjl!L~ifid rh ings ,£101[' ,quite' a kutg_ d~~H! ..

,~ th j,rnh ,j t WrlJS eround 2~ 00 ANt when .... ve fi:t1J~Uy separated .. I .nllad~ her sleep, afrer which, F went ~U'l& showered, The J @lsi shower, I hffd ~,~ke,[l ''!1M :d'.iil't'y l~om.['.s b\il!dcj in the US.

Later rhmJt ru,,~hil~, an m y bed, surrounded b:~f' those b eauri flJ I roses, ~I wrote herh,~ l'fle~s~ge:

S17W@W tf:J.fjJC 45 days h"Y p/M@' btt:6is.l;,idUJs/ offtw brs m see tt dgain is killing .}'""n',f. Go.f)·d n#f? A71~'i;

'~b ~

UF1l,fbfnln;arely~ rhe ne:~~ merning wa~n~t (it pleasant one.

Jiet lag~i c.hat]g:e of\~atheri 'rbe"iiVeaifhu~s~ at1:€t zrJong jOlllll':n~.y and m~

"L L . , . _",I'1 broi 'lIaln,,, me down 'U] rr}j a cord", I was $o~ezj:~;rr! had ,ill

rug~]tt ~UcQ"'il;VCt ~ ~~1, ,IL vl!.U&..... "u ", T~,.I!.Il, 'J<~' • , • iQ,

b d ij.. b . '. d' - ih do.,-i:,.':·'h:~ th '-0'·""" In 0,,...1-,.,'[ W:f"Il'.d,~, I wfl:.Y.'"co.tnLl,I!e'cd~

. a .' t~ea:~<'tc ,If: an· , ;fit"", ."....;..vu~ flo-, lI. . 'IlL~,. iJ"., dl,= -!o-' ~ "~,

screwed Up,

In that unpleasant condition, I WaS: tu riling left and r,i:ght, :squee~ng

, , k

[h~ bouq uers which I h a:d ~ren em b,rad,ng In. my sleep. Ii[ roo' " me a

tong '\\-f.hHe to, flnall Yl ope.:n, my e.ye'.~ rom p,I;etc&y~

Them. I noticed her SM5" ,_. Wilt be d~f'J at 11 ~

It W~, quarter t,O' teo in my "~fi.ucfi.,

,Dan1R! I wanted EO l~epAy uki,ng beE ro ~On1le: a ]jt~[e Jall\e'f. ']j:![I;{:, I' did rlt'. Ra tber, gad,~,efjng all my e.llergy~ I got read-r- I took ';3; warm ~h()wer this time" I Wm.;5 slow in. everything; I W~£ doing. And all th~,1r

• "., ," . ...1 ...• W",· "JII 'if t bet .. bv l'[L."" 1t"1=mC she comes

was ru rutl:U1g U1 111Y mma was: '.,,]:1,.11. g:e( ,e:ltre~'T ~!I;,~'!;" 'I.- .. ~... . ,

he:r,e?

.By eleven, I '~$ th r'()'tl,gh with Hly br,ealdas( and she called me u,p tl~ SiliY that she Vilas. gping to be lare, She w,o,uJld be: at my place in the n,e:~~ half tin ho ur,

~~OK~ ~ I said. I kep~' tbe ,c311" shoH because I d]dh\tc '~'lt beJ! ('I@ norice Jl1Y conditian, 1 was still sneez;illi1Jg and coughing. i\nd".\jD'~iOeOin~

, d'!".,...., li.e";; be~',p~ """1l" .jj 'gl'o:'!i'ri!'i1"' ~J,l'-Ilu:tl inside 111 v .skuR, 'Th€; headacbe '~

ooem,e '_,.' 'LOW' Q .... , <r-L'~J,!,~~ '1";, itlf- ",,:,,_o;. "U . l'

kiU[ng me" 'r E.arely gel: ben~hiJ~he'$" but '~bat was one FaJ,~ d~y . juse fn(J,

1, 1 ~

: IL'I:C{"

, "'h '"'~ m

,]?'Q[' the lllex.t hall! ';B:H houri weird rhings w~t~ run n~ng. t, l'()U~., ", 'Y'

brain,

~~ ,D~,m,i1JDld 1 h:a~ to come clown, wi1:h a ,cold tad~y:~ ef aJ] dilYS~. 'With rE11~ ruuning ,[~:9£;'le and a kavy~ d:lObed voice, .:mtde..~i.[e~ to :tcis.s b'te'f

again a,fret fony-H.cv.t d :i!J.y.s' go'~' erushed, I had been waiting ro,[' such :J. l{)'~lg rime and dle next day I was W f.l:y ba,d( to Bhubat!.eswar. MQl'eoYer~ ] was not. ,'j1L.1J['e when T 'WJQ uld S~~ her next'.

~~ WfUL1: if i .sdU, kiss ,hu~;~ I was still ~~]kjng, to myseLf. That One wish was debating wiith the germs of ·coLd in rne But fh.er.t~ in the eviening~ I hau '00 be aJ[ her place, 'Nthat rf her :£uully ,(UJ1dced.)1:er s:i;:]eezJng a~nd (";uughing, J I!1S:E llkc;' m,e? W<:n;1 ld Ihey 6g[u'e aut how I ~r~n.sre:lr,red ll'i!J1 virus to rheir claLLgh:~et? (Yes~ l kn'o\V'1 at times I think tCD much.)

~ ut she reached thf:·.b oW and s*v.e' me ,a missed c~]j ~ iU'l:,en:'tR]l'tiltJJl mJ vweltd tho Ught~L I r !.l$boo CUll' ol my fOO:f!1" ee receive her, AJIld... ar last, ~.fitJ' th~e long one and ':;t, .haiJ months of bei.n~ aparirjL W'C were standing in f1ii'ont of each Olthel'.

She W:;'tS we.ij![·jri~ a, nice w.ldiIJ'e tc,~ bl!:.lC denim (a peill"foct H~l. !II, H,ght shade of :g1'08Sy Hp.~fklc an,a sm.am ,e:lnings. Hf.f hai r was u(Jj!iii~~, rhe !) reeze sG~tne'ilng it across her fac-e.

,M y beautitul was In flont of m,e ~ her $.~eezing handsome,

Her bJ (fSbes ;run,d, smaes revealed Jlt)W' ddigJu~d she wars; (0 ~' m,e,.

SJu-;' Sfiljl~d and her eyes revealed her smJ,dsf.a(]don of 'b~~ng; W] tb ,m~. .t~H ~ 0" Anen w]~hin me I Vf3$ ri:~] :happ}) ,exc~it,ed aJfid, nervous,

fL,H~, ~~ I said, ,giving' J1.f.:t a :~,rn,al], (ox' ,Blaybe the SHt3J]]~t) h ~._(g!, I did, rl1 at wid .. the Fear of adieu mtotici.n,gl' t'bDugll, there Was no f)l~e, !OuiGskle'. There wa,rs: a Jl['d~ h~$ira:ti'OlQ in 'Ilh:e inltial m1()mellJ(s" h happens, y~'H Ib ~ 01i.¥, •• Ao,~ wi th, rli'at- J<"H],~ iii she~eaJ.i~~ my ,cQDd.JiioO,!'1I, immediaJtdy;,

~·C()ld bUll J.)'ll.i·tJ¥(mhi?~'l. ~he Hke~ rn~$lIDg hel' eyebIlQW,S'", 1~'Nfih". ,;, re$ j~u a Utl1:"le fhln~'~ J answered as jf I '\¥,8):s. fl.ne,.

~'.B'U!,r. - ~ ~~ And .she k~pr ·lookir.iJg :;H: me, try] ii,g 'fa. ,hdp. m e ~~¥QtU, Walnt

-~. t II ' .'*< -- . ~ .• J'Ii'Ti - _J'; .... Jn ;":I )~~ h~ . aLee ~}U,m.... i~~iL",",,,- . .,.,~

"No, .. .u no, ]ts' rOkay~ .dear" I wlU h~ aJfi,gl~:['''_I'' Just becarse of .th~ ·1 U sn ate Cb-adg~; But I 'W~]] be fl.1]e'SQiQil. 'N'ow shall 'we move ]11, @~. "'!f~

w~ g~·i.ng rc stand here for rhe rest .Q f the' da:yf" 1. said ri

The WO[:Fj' on her face. tllfiled. inro.a little smile. (A fake one -, sh was still we rried .)

We 'wtlfl:[:" II:(~' my room, She said I sheuld ha\!ie .9OI;ne tea in Ol':d:er-' ro hei P my cold, so I oIde[ed a cup of i t for myse·lf and ·at ~o~ drink to,1! h~H·. (NQ'budy i.E] her f~mjly drinks tea, remember? Srran.ge ,family.)

Her phrskal presence. in .front of me aft~.r such a long rime W~ making me conscious.I do,n'·,_ltuo.\II,F why, at times, I get into that mod,e. A.nd in rhese bhlJDk (ODd irions I ,1'llitways need some eime to giCit, jnto cOirn.folrt zone, Bur. ehe ,feeling inside me was good. TO' sec n>t:l'l' iJO' s~ beside her, touch her agaiu.. '," But ... all. '[hi,s. without inhaling ller flagrance. (Blocked I'HJ1SeS C~-,,~t smell.) BUI that shorr t,e~,-tkne (rnyresrime ~ nd. her ~,f[ ~ru-j nk time) helped rt1'e .fed. beuer, p,:hysi(;aLly, Jllolwmg me rime' to become C{'HIII£O-ri~bh~ in her company.

A few" min ures I ater, 1 was relling her the sto ries of [11 y onshe triR d~scus.s:ing offid~l things. laughing at s(upidones;.\l!I"t,lli.ch1ng·me pi(1!tl!f~ , I had taken in. th .. e U S, on my ] ~:Ptop,. I n no time, on rhar gian . bed, e were ]yiug 0..0. 'our stomachs.. uexr rt-c)c each other, our feelt paJ~idhn',f ,~n the ail' above US~ our han. ds underneath our chins and our eyes on dle screen of the laptop, \Ve were watch ~;~ g d~ .. ose short 111.0\i'i~s I had ~.bQt on m y trip, And beside IU s, were 'those' :flo ' ers with which I slepr d ~ ·m.ght befo,[,e~ her notes and the tissue c~.r.t.yin,g her kiss" simp ri nr whlch was nO'W making her shy. She was at:~ing as if she ne'Vef no ticed thal[ f:l~1 m.y bed,

\"(1'lth my cold, I didn'[ fed like roaming around [he malls ,~r Faridabad, so we had to cancelh r p]an_.Ra{h~r~ we stili.ye:d back 1n,'0; 'r roc r.L'J; ,. We discussed some irn po rr.an'L ~hiHgS. Like; when should ~W' parents meeri \Vhl:~l't time 'will it be geed for us [0 get: marriedr W'h~·r, should we settle dawn after' m.:;t.['fi.age~ taking. our c'a-f~ctS; i..nto

. consi"cit:.f,ation f

And T remem ber '\1\1"(::]1, GJr.1l. rha E lasr quesdon she qu ickly responded, "lr .sh'O'llld be Delhi."

,. B LI't" Iilhy not Bhu bancswa rt I cal ml y revolted back

And I ike a fi~'e-ylear-(}kt kid, die answered, ftd I of i nnccence, M, II; w t U I r.: hard [or me [0 Iive &r a\vay from m}~ Mumma, W

Stroking her forehead and hair I said, "We will bring 'your morn for , d . ..

r()'u~ in ~ .. O\Vl'}f;.

And we. laughed,

During QUE co nversarion ~hat day.. we tool\;: a lJ-tur.n ro dis. uss our respective r~St>., OUf college jjfe our 5£hO'oJ fr'i~nd~ and eu .f~ml,~y. lhe sweet mern ories and. th·e hard times, AnlJ Oil. one 0 CC~U~]O u, she ! urst inro te:~u"'.., She happened (0 recall some thlngs' :,n her Efe .... vihicb ~hc could n"ever share with ~nyone else but rne, Takingher in my arms, .1 wiped her tears, She s:.1.id she f,i;; t rd1cved a.:~t:,er sha:ring ~hru'[ with me, ,md she made me promise that 1. would never rell it to aull~'OlU!" f'\nd 1 ~t~.Hl~'ises, " Promises are meant to' be kept,

I held he r h -ad on my shoulder, rubbing her back getJ.d~·, drying her rn oisr t..-yes,. She j'el r good and rested in J11 y arms for qui te some

rirne .

In order to change her mood I started relling her some jokes, just to comfort her. And when ! saw that sm ile I'enuning ro her face L said! ,. Hmm. , .. So let U 5 set: whaeI hsve E;'OI fl"ODl '[he 'US for m y dC::U'~5t ,': , "

i" Sachhif"

"Muc~ k ;; ~. I :-t,aid. and j.tnnp'ed. oue of fiTy' b edt to un 10k m.- bag .. She .ilso foHo\\,t-d file ~]Itt while .1 was opeuh g it, she srood behind me, i oo.king OVeF ITIy shoulder, I q ~1·cl\dY' recal led SiOl111cthing, ,and LUH:tJt.~d hack. 0 sa ~1 1< Gil J5 are not ~]JoliVe,d to. ~tat~ ~!'\ g'U.)r"S~ bags, l'

She laughed, but fo.ught back eo stand There- tl,nd. cheek tHy ba_g along with me. S.~dng· the b~,g polyrhene bag I rook our, her smile

.

And 1 p tinned, out's. purple top wirh short' sleeves, r::i.'long ,""lith. a

marching .f.H]~U:el colored skir r,

1~"WO'w~ j; she stared. at the dress open -:moH.tJJ,e;d ~ "This is n\1\e~()m,~!~

(Girl's love surprises. N~~' )

"No [ yet,~" t said" (j'FoI" ~t to b-e really ~,1ii¥etome, it needs t,n be on 'l'iQ_~; Wear lr and showme,' , I I}oin~e(t (0 the: washroom ~ :wh,e~ she could :80 and change. C~1f.,['ying a smile and tha,'r: dress' she walk.ed. f1J'way;

Back in thtat, reo m, Lcrossed WJ:y fr.n:gers, I h~d, never. bought ail yth:i~~ of,th.a'1I sort ~ ever, .rr6l iU'ily'r~d. l .d.id.n~t h~v.e a. sister, ncr d,[d. 1. have. 'a~ pti~)[' ~11f:ri~U'!IJd, ~1'Eb,whon~ I eould havi;;: lea,tn~ kl:~n:~e(hing' a.t~u,'[ b!t,.y1]!L-'lJ ,doth~s for gil'-ks;.

A Few mlnutes ,I,{l'tef! l heard the wasJlrOt~n1!, d':lO~' g.eui'Fl,:g Lmlod,£:~,.

She po pped, her ,h~acl out ,fLr.s~ and adcect ~~ Sb1lfl I 00 me o uri'"

~-, Ij'l;e~$e) .. I 11.01 dy.~ n~:ii li said.

'[>; 1 2· ~ - -» r.1~e ;C' .... ~'I,'"': ... ..,.d·" ~ ero,i'e ,comj_nJt- '©.ut., AJlJd '[h:en! sb.,~ was

, OIl I,; • I •• I' J r e I ::;1 r~ _ ~~il,I:!L1'U- . ~ ~ '..- Ql

pleasure, Sbe '~Dt')lt.ed st~'~ ttl"JJ l1,g: in J:ny gi'~:t.

~'D' - " C' - - ~ tl~

J.,lH~~a:-!L'F[~ Jl~Jc~U'P,~,.

And, suddenly) 'I turned ,roy·. ,g,aoze fli:way' Hum, hell':" '['hi!ll~hg fh::l!.I~$oy lookilJif:r~t ll~tr rha.:t wa¥ shoil;l:]il1'1'ot' hdn,g her bad lnck, Bur Il'heru~.1 ,~!Oo~ed 'J:i;: h,t::J1' ag~in - 1 Cf) y~~dn~~: ~i$t;

That 'eop ,fll1.d' the tlkirt .suJiled. her b'rmlJ( .Sg: welt ,as U tlley had, 'biih nlaJde ju£~ .for bet 1~ W~S surprlsed and~ saen:dy~,' [ 'cong!anJb,m~, il!-Y'S¢Jf. E~f), s.h.e w~s ~JI);! rprised and, pt(lbab~y; dlltlls why she said, ~~ nmrer ki,)iC'fr" you i>[!L1IQW' me so well .:rJ

"Th -'I • . h' :~ d- . I -, h i.,' a ,U'_ t_iful bo d v,'.· - Ii 0 e 'w-n

- > -a~t: 'I;J.'--';(; $$ •• ,", Of, ~'(Hi; , .s:as,y ,eT u 1;I, I

L om.pJetLl1,e.ruing the dress .. Looking':JJ'E beFs~lfln 'Ebe mirror ofm y ,~D'O,it'h :dte said ~~I look. my best in this dress, 'This is the best one I w'm, have in my 'wardrobe: U

-rt . !j

, nen prorE} LS~ me,

"'W· :",r.L.~ ~ ~~

_ UiiI)!;;

L<'T,h<lJ,~ rh is O:I:i1,e win o.nty hr: worn by you :and FlO '~H1e else.. , Not 1: 'lien Y0'ij[~ sisters. I want to see' rll is OJl~y OJl you."

"I - oJ-"-- ~~

, prOU1ilSe-. .

And 'W,~'dl th.~Jt p£(),m i . se ~lh~- realized '~bat she 'was g~rt~ng: [ate. ] heJp'~d her pack her gLfis in a ,p(,..,~ymene b~ aJwr 'whk-h,'~he ht~gg~d me' 3J[[& ~j~ id, ~~li$ berillHd hi'll)t:'~:[!J"g with ')fOrU. ;ii·ftt:r ~d l(:HlI_;g~)~

~'S- t ,..

. : ':a[n[e· 11e~!~'-.

l\t th~' do Q r $h~ ~pb~ I ned the WThy tOI veach her borne n I 'was to vis~:t 11 er rn,mli y ~,g~j n.

~',DOl1Jlt be late," She :said and, waved me ,gobd.~bye and left"

~'. PCP

f was 'w~~1dn;g ,down to her place In th,e eveniag. I d1'ink: I '~.s two !~ I,od~ ~way' fro:en. h~" hq U8~ w\h~n: I ~~M'" two pl':O~p],e 'w~1~[n;g in: ,m,Y' dkecdo[r.[. O'Ot 'Wti a[J(iI~l'r tbree ¥e~t$ 6ldl, and hQ]djn~T.his hand m1i;' at

... l -. .... ~ .

man of about s:ixt.y. 1 rh.'!'3ugh~ I ltn~ ·w,h,o they were·,

Seelllg me, fhe~.o~~, Juan balted,..

The, ]i.'~de hiid. ~r~,eld ~o pu~n him along, '~Ch'afof 'Ice C\rG;anl~j! 'he sere arned. The PO:(}f .l~id ,tt,kd, hl~ I~,ett bu~ faUe4.

1 looked ar the person ~n fronr of mie aJ.nU Ehe ,old maJn ralsed hh r:inger, a fe\\' lines appeared on his: forehe:n],: H~,V!.g~$ wo.Eld~dl1,,~' '~f[ W:aJ~ II.ell" guesc.fer t'he evening

Bu t b f.::fore: l),e: oo'~'ilid' )pe~l~, 1. said", >o;~ I' thlnk I am coming. :[0 'jUjU!1'

1.37

:~:~u~, ~:o:~ ;;,~~, rta1,!!'Jrn;::

'11. Ht,mnj.i. ~! ':r smUed· '~nd toudie:dl H~s feet~

:.:

~6 ~'a.~ ,i~hwbi.s ·,cia:d;. arJid·~(be Jci.& was. Dinan, who

.. . .,. .

ru::~rrt4fatMr- ita. the:? nearest iee-cream- p;."IJ,do.1':~

' .. -;. .

B;I!,t, now;, the 'cure -kid ,~lela, .my lund "~Hl,d' s:houred 011· the

~sk~n~. me .f~i4'rf.l!'J(h.usfjl: mtttui Ne j(}~t..bjj'" •.. hain.-:. .. ;- fldp bO'41ti?i

I bent ·do:w~ 34d; k~~d llJ~~&hiLaU bQ hds~i .~~y.i~g~ ·loI·.Haba,,· .:: hm»J":

S.bb.il ,lie fotg~t~ alt ~b@utrh~ It:~''l<<eJiri i,~~ s~r~d 'p'uUi ~g.7it!i1 :1IieJ'ft'nWQJ hi~~hdUS~· .. _AII.'I'h.~ Yihl~~!;" h~ ;~P[ sh¢4Png" .i'~a~ '~., ..

I - • • I

('t~'i$rA(J l:ahi"jjn.~;. ',' A40" Aa'o,,':t;t

Y./. . . ..., «.: ': :.-" -.'

He i:ep€ p"il~)~~~~~d¥, Iit~l1er1.~. theh: Jiiiljlise',' In ,n9-'J~!h.tle·,

. ~

t:Oy;$'~lf ~d],r~p~~d~,~' Uy-'1QI'u;tr~JI N'eeru '~nt( Mlslia ~i (~a.'~'s """"1'" ilhJD:

. . .

E:~e.frb_ody \;·~~,J-:a.llg~ ~11g a.1: ·~h.e· :w~Y' Da·a.n ~s d r~.g:ghlg me. ;~. 's:Jip .

'n,~'~' ~!l~e:r~ bu~.of '~a:aris ~rtf. to :,gll',eet eV,t-.,[~,VJ;~, .

~fe,~~~ W~\ a~1 ~tde.d dOwn' in dn: Jr.a'!(in~' ·~"oom.i Khu:;h:i~s' d:ad

. .. . ~. a 'r

: ~s~;r~~ an,~ had joiraJ~d. U$.. '

Th.e. quesdo.g5,.~$ttrted:~ Th!k1nfi; of ho~~s-vnu

" ~ ~ ~ s: • ~ .... .. -; ,. '~y'r

'eVenm:bhla:'f'j.s;.,fl_ne ~.~p,e$.,

. . .::~~:~o} p.. .~~ Ib-l~:.. .

,t\h,q \l.j;i~~~rbt:~g·~etn/an :tnuma~d 'to\,m-a.ke· my .... ~~.~ ..

,d:ie.m. 'M~a[tlw~¥]e,~'&hushi. ro;o''S'f1~e~rid

X· x Frr·~.

Tile roilnds.p;f ~n~d{~ s~art.'e,~. e~cdy'-rillft: ]isc tim~. Pf k W'a,s het a,ad~~~or~. 'I:_r~[~~e4" tp most. 'He~~~'~,'!IYjQ8:~ 11'1' •• ~~'u .... '.L·';:H!.ld,I, "wl~t' exac:fl, 1. ,ena, ·.~'e1~g: ,,~ 'sof~~~!oe: }~1s1n:eer.. It.( c(!Llt~~ n.....-;''I..'-.l''!I C','0'w:5, .e~]a~'hlng·~:afrus.~us.,ed;:JQY·:~~~·~s an :~ngin:~~~ 1'~ th1t:': '·~d·J~n .. Ai~

~I' ." "<I ~), ...' •

~ ~1l1, . tesSr.Vf:4, •

-e-, :-"t!'." ~.

.Khll~hi~, '~tI.rn'~<vH~· abo,' ~I~ ab~ut: his lI;n:~n:ib;[ d:a,ugh' ~~~~, in~l~W's, tht:ir family an~·,tI1~r p',r,of~~stQ'Jls,.~th9u.gh:;{ ,1a)€W f'verfFhing',i"n ·de.ra,il)rt

. . .. .-

:I won'd~·md.wJUl,'~ t'i~.:pui.[1QSe. ~~;.l: ~Ue(f f~' .~,~~~. wI#ch,.'a,,8VYS, WQQld-~ £3l~her.~in~la~ .3,S~, lxil1:flj ~Y6JU ate.~ing IeO .~arry ~¥'(l~ugptt:.t. B4l\\']U Y(n~JJe~3bf.e ~~p',Rrirt~, ~m]l~~~~l~ wh~t;~ I ~f£swe~~)~'-ln~' mi,rrd, M f~~ink~ br m,apriage!~J 'wj~ only ntk~. ~aJr.; ~augh·tet ajpng witl; rne, The rest olyq?! fa~~]~' ~~:,~i11'~ave '00' .mi1na;~on your '~'w:n.; l~'

·~ti.t2'- Jo:k~s t.!}~i't~ I fouad :he:r. 4"~ul ['rQ',' ~l!,>" a, 'I?'\!~l ~,e'nfib.le and

unde(Jit~Rd.Jitg :p~n. l J1~d ii.s, Jle~mn:a~io/·,~,t ,well.. .

W~·all ~e~e waitillg i~r I?gep~l~O~]h(sh~~lbtedle~) 'loVili.a ~,d.ljvi:ng: ,~)~clfllQp.l~~", ¥1t;~Ol~Lat,w~NfFttj,q,g' ]'~RaLdFilt and:'::~~~)'~,ca]nf:i~~him u.~:. ;:1,lH~~.IPJ;ltfb:~w f:at h~~"'~ fJ:Oim . .hln;~c.

L1ti)~a~D '~s,'~iiJ;J~u~tq thi~ ~fl'aV9:jtjf '~u:r"oon:v~[:[~tlC?l, .~~~.t'f~'~~ ~fi~~heEl-~ UJta~~~g ;e\rc7~~o;d~ ~3~gh w]'tn b.i's ,~hlldisH p-l~mk:s. H~: \v&s' OJ1,~ y ~l~,p w'he.n~ Ba-d:d.eJlly~: be reaceed 'ID'"a,.cae:s hem aDd .. r ushe"Ft.Ql·rbe door. ~t·was <,Deepu,,',Min~l.te'.$ lare..J'/.he-'pJ.L1.ie~t. Deepl hno the~ dlnll\ving fOOMJ -jll$~ Jlk¢ heMad h.r.oy;ght me. I sho()~ htl·n,~:~.il':h ]!)eepn ani1J~~~;.

, . II....·

j~i~ed~,'us'"' . ~

Be mem·e{ltt\:he 1!h.e;.m.ost'ro.buL$,t.p¢~:som .. in their: ~nt1(ire fruniJY;'witll a widc€?lmm-~ '!ll'{lm mcuildeB and af~IPijw[~ p'Jl~q~~ ,:a~,.~~.da,nl' \vith'~Qme: oU W<en~ ih~ ~a:.n 'ana Jiad,.oome 15:.& ~n ,~C#i:day; So J:l!O~;' [rain mr1lib- tlit;',~Q~i&ad~n "s.bl~tU J~jhij~

The evening at thci r horne passed quite we~ I. By rhen I had mel the p~>gp],e whcau '1 d.id:n'·[ see the last time - her dad, Deep DJ. Misha d..i and cute Daan, I was happy that l was g~.9Jjg to ee parr of a nice fa01n: -, (An.d. I aSSLUll - _ they were happy tool)

By 9:30! .1 '\ as an set to leave for .my hotel.

~~ I thinlc I she uld ill ~'k::e a move befoJT'e I g,~t: '000 late," I said to tFl~ people around me, bur especially bel" Dad,

LL Hmm, . _ 'Yesl ~u. .are ::JJ.t .3: new pl;l1:ce. Ir's better ]f you, reach yam botel w.eU in. d me; Deepu will drop yo. u," he s:JJ.1.d looking at Deepu whom Daan was P unchine, the Vl,rav be: had seen his h:vQ~h:e ~

, i!:l, ,,,

figheers doing,

After a short '\V~) i le, Deepu l~~a~' ;Han;in:g; his car and I was b'idd~nrg

- .111 D Lli ~ ~'M -l. ,,, s.: . ~- ~ . :liA" .~~

lev:e1~(m.e gou-u :1re-. ·,~~Jl.K-ep'[ i!Hl.Oll~~ng), '. UjiJ'&. w'n~Jat$.rul, ,fldt •. ,' - lrl'i~li:it

bbi jallna' hait AHld before he could ,mail~e ~, scene; 'l~]s: IDQtbcT :a.Uowe~ him to get In ehe car"

Am icl all d.1J]S, I looked at I{_hushi] silently ,itsking her if· be roo could CO me. And 1 rhink Mum rna noticed. my ]OO~:l:. May'be that's 'why slr~ told KJJl.IJ.sbi.l, ~'ll~ b:hi :Jll~tb "tMein Chd'i jtJ.'a ... ; l~

Her dad was p['orbab'~y g.oing' to u tru:,;;;:rf'lLl.p[ her, bur l dlan@i,ed,~.m~ topic as soon ;5.1. heard her i'l'loi:her gJ~rlng her a gree.n sign,iiI. ]0. a. ~ho.. f whi[.e~·-'~t; were in '~b~ ~'aclb·sejJt of the car, DaJ~!t11 kept shuffling ,pla:~ between her and. me, In those lasr minutes :0.£ being tdlgrtther~ we ~1f'1d, ha:nd$ h:11~ ,diddt ~~]k much, Soon we were gO] ng. 00· be apart a:gJ.in~ fer an uncertain amoum Oif time.

'We reached Magpie a bit. too q ui'd~b~"t .~od it ' :Va:£; time '['0 say,goo(U1rt·, in t: h" '::"1' ~ k D .a 'I!.. ,J" h ,. lr h _~Ct .. LJ 'e~p-u carne out Oil r e ear ana tile rook .:a;ans na . nc U1 'lIS • .t s ~IO~

hands wirh hirn :and ga"{t:,a, :id;ss 'EO Daan, ,~ho, ,~s-ked me when .l 'wo!liJkl come ~;g@J.un~ aad [O]~[ .Il'JHf rhar I sholl.1l& not fDtget to g;el:: cllocobu:es-.-fo:l' hun,

140

NO\!l was the turn of my "sweerheaJft. She stood beside the car. 1

1 1,_- .r : h .- h ,~t d· hi h .

.oouea m ner 'eye:s:. - ,t)( ~r-e expressing rue same ile· ·IUflgs,.W, JC" rnrne

were, .She; (~UU,~ ;.l[.DId sreed risht in f--ron.~ of me, I -co.'[d!dn~l say ,anything' but smiled, nd~y.. Thar U.fH~ moment, she didnt CQI·e about Deepu's presence but kept Iocking into tny eyes. 'raking Daan l.n~'iid.e the car, Deepu scarted [he vehicle to-let his sister know they were supposed to get back,

:She ~.grl!t').r,ed. that '['00 and came closer- to me and. said, '~.I want 00, be yours,}. forever,

'~you are.m inc. A [i tdf: more rJ:l~n.. forever- :,. I said.

Aud 'we h'U.~ged each otherthis I[JlH~ withour carlng abour the 'vQ~Jd around 'I::I;~.

Then she S,8JiI:: in the cu. I :~~F·t w:a,\r~.~g. eo ~ler -rjU rhe car tu.rned.. out of rhe hotel's gat.e.

Badlt:, .i Q . BibubalJ]!t:swarj HEe ':~:Qt b~,d I~l-u. tile, ~;;u:m e fr~dt:, 0 fflJDel ]?,honJe calls 1[0 her, ,gyll:!J!l~ phone ~U$. to ber! CAT' p reparation, phone calls t,~! her, But what was d'Kcf'e;~:u:this rime was d.laiE I had. starred relating her voice to her appcaJ.faJl1lJ;'t:'" b~l" b~d.y [an.gjUag:e., [lee fragnhl1ce"

Days passed and OUI' desire '~O be toged,te.r ,It-eplt increas ins v/{~t\h each day;

I ~ was D.i:wallj and, in the ev:e~i~]}~, our end~c; 'l"Cra maa, w~';: .~hb:1in,: with the sparkle of dryas and candles and crackers .. Wi'd'l one h~Ad~ I .. vas shooring everytlaing ha.pp~,;_(]En.g ~,·my .pl .. ace wirh my camera: in the other. h~Ul:dl]. I was' carrying .my cell, talking to Khushi, \ile were telling each otber aboue '[be armoephere arr our respective places, Tlre phones; on both sides-were £h[~m.in·g thf.QIIJLgh differen.t hands, Firsr, if

]4·1

was me '~Ud.11;g ro her, then my i::n OlD. and her, then her I'nOJn ~ nd . me; ,tben my mom andhers, rt:h'E:n she. aJ:n,d .I ag~iI1Lj rlren 111 e and hc',r. $.1s,wr. " . he, she, she; me. '",' eve!l'ybod_y., HUE eaJ,ch. ene of them [:!,'l;,etrt~o,n,td rhis! S11e 'would be ce lebrari ng her next Diwali ~;5 pau o'f oU.r. f~Lln ay;

A rew m{)'re dl~y:s 'Of our life passed,

LH;-e renuned .to' its: best ~£tle:r.:\:oi~ were released frOll'1 (JIJ t .... F(}W of ,1Ji~; ~akln.g EO oe~:cb orher after 1 O~ 00 PM, on "ved(day~. Ya~ Cl'\,",r \,~':'ojl.~ Cfv;eJti It wen t well £CH: both of us. 1(E' ... ~ry(nle' has .t~~,e ,right to say ,I~ It: W~.[l'f 'wen~ ~ C~:U rhe resules ~J1e our!) Bur -re~ ~ rhe completion of eKr 1l1:afl(,~~:d. th~ b~gci nn ing of nul' 'best da~. ''{tdt a:C[ uaHy i [ was night\s. D~'C'c'mb~, Ja nuary W.in'rrer. Cold n igb,n ~ bla I1k.ets and, wrapped in those wn t.m b~."::~Elker.5;. our cell phones and US.,.(1 '~f:U Yo u - winter 1:S the lID 05$ rQJln,atlt¥ time, }\nd s'@ ;].[e'f>'IJ,lny d.;iI:,y~",Ai'i)rJ .. '. and, . "and~ ~iiit a mi rn..u~e" sum,lner:

Ct1!O! {\m ,] gettil1g som,eEJ'i~'ng wrong,~ O~['l- l"]'},a(yb~\ ir's tba~' e,*J:Y season bri ngs a dH'fererrE ·Hav:o r if YO!ll.'are "l!1l love,}

One night, ir was 12: 1 0 ,.v.\4 and ,v:e h,tIJ.iUeft die fe'at 2;006 bebiQ:dk an d. ~2.0o.7 ~S" 10m inures youn~ .fOE us. Despite the oyef'~'~l1ldttl ttl.'epOO nee ,net'W"O'r~ ·S\)HU:;f.O\V we were ~L~lo,ng the hJ;i;a'Y' 0 nes 00 g.et conn.ecrecL.,' Of.CIlJUlse:, we bad to, [fY' a lullniRc'fld !~m,~ ro call ea'~ 0 c~~r.

.,.

Sh(;: W1!IJj rhe fiX:H 0 fie to l"eflCh me and. do you. know wll,M 11Le.r. fiJ,.;st 'words vle're? N,()~ she dridJ(t wis11 me .a h;a.p.liJj:" new yea,r. ¥ns:~e~&, she shourt,~d. ,,;;,."irh happh1e~1 ,NSho:[It:i!/J W:e ate g.e1tting m,{'iJuled '['his year. 2![l[ll]

.. '

Ti me and. '.ilg'at~n} {aU .these littic·thJ ngs (wb.l~!h" FOr me, were big tbings) she diJ, would make nL],t) feeL m,(rre and ,m,ore,; tbat I wo uld neves be 'abl!e to live withoue l1Lel.

('Yes! \'f:J'c wHl ma rry rh L~ rear and then Wil::~jJ live. tog~the'r. H'~J;if~ .J··~~l' 'LdIL,

new }'Iletlf~ tJ.earl WI$ne' , ner,

~:A.. very happy' new ye~~ to yOUi[oo.'~

. ,

N~tw'O,r.k oongessicn '[bat nighf did nor allow U~ to talk ill ucla; Sti Ilj

: ..

we were satisfied eJ1LCH]gh. And 'W~ fdt m@Jt~ }!L~st ~ i ke us, there r[JJli$t~

hsve been so ,m.any couples d1ipg to' ·taJk to each other, \jljho knows, rn ayIH:: some ~Hno.n,g them were goj nK to get married me. same year ... ;'

Appa:rendYl ,my love &ro~y overrode ,I,ny friendship, This should not :h,a;¥'t been d~.e case. But) rhis \c'VAS - the case, iUtrer a, long rhine, ,i [; was A~n~! [deep who C!CI nnected Happy; MP and me wid] an e- mail. 'Ilr~ his e.-,m ail) he bar~ ~aie:n.;;1 screenshoc of ~lP;s and ffly p.roF1le on Sh~adi,.o)m". His Hr-£t :i.U'~I .. renricn was to mack am,:us for she exaggenLlI:ll:d .iufQ[',matinn we had ,provided. about o][useil~$, 'OIl '[his ~~neb3i[e. SooGuwdly; he w.J.[1red to know .if d~is .websire n:Jppened TO ,"vQJ'k feu us,

Later, rhar even ill:g! all fouri &f uLS' g'O~. tQgethrJ en a chat conference, flappy;: Raam ji, so finaHy u ,caUrgh~ these a*""~~'~i(~~e$ haattl1 'G,~cd'

~ .... 1L

,v1U ..

Ama:fcieep.::' Ha h~ ha .. ,they were plaN-ling sm;art], ~rv~tbout [e~dilg' us knuw llYfh:ing .

Amardeep: N,QW speak up u two. W{t,[ hv u managed 'liO gr ti U !lOW?'

Ra'llbl~ fr u h~' senrd'led.,our p,m1i[e~ dell tll.w:::1y u ~~~ wud be' ,havi,ng one. Bataa ,:y,.lal:ey'?

.A.:r,[j,Jrdt:~p: . If I wiU, have, I 'wQ~~t hide it. N'DW dcnft:: cb~uJ~ . the tp pic, MP ycu rell,

Happy: Ycah,~ M,P [dl U5,. - • bow nlanJ' 'tUl n~)'".V'?!'??>,?~?

, ,.

MlP~ ,Ar~ y~~.t'. _~~'[C wa~ :to[tlg' dmi; b~k., Nothj'~g' 5e,rlOUS. I ~rrtfljDd~y ch~d{ it" JiKlrt'V ,~f day~.,

Am ardeep: Adlh;a:i: Thal~ w~,r your C!lJi);dvlt:r p~~'Cntage en rh~s site

{as ];[ S~)J)'ws) is 9Bo.Jb J ,. .

14,)

.Q.~.~ . ..; •. - H< ~ . J-. G', .. ch I 'n 1~ 1\U1. .a.o~la 1::11." .' 'in~..." ~. ll •.•

.A.];1.')·~rdl¢ep ~ Y d hell are u .131!JJ..gf11tlg so- .m.uch Ravin ~ U rell .. "WAil :~(Y

u got?

Ravh)j~ \"\!d li 1 h ~.vec got sO.Hlethlug"

M:iD ,. G' .... ·r· ~l:rl'h" r~>.~~) »~

JL~, . v ~ ,(')' .. JJ<iLIL. " , , .•••••

:Happy: WnoJn'~

Ravin: Her name is' Khus:~ i,

. . - . ~ -

.~u.d,eep.: ]I u s:e:r]ous.? Ravinr D~m t:u 8t:J~ GUS.

'[,;,.i .... ·['j;ny' H' ~'l H·iI..i~ UUU';u' U''''"." """' u 1;"'. U H";i:io d .... ,,...~· ~ .. I'i'I'HIE... ..".',

.~ llIRi,lF"t i " I!';'['!II I' •• I [I, !LJ.I..' IL!a. c I· I~~.~~. L~J.!II .~ 6'Lflu'L. .a u, .. ~l!,:i,!,r;; Ii;- e ~le' g~Cl~

itM un.HI t! ~~ ~~ ~H !:! ~ Tb]s .golula be 'f\+=*!< in .u.DjJX~fe~·dng. Everybody: Leave '~!ilS, text ch(ll!; and. turn your .he:adphon¢.$ ·0 N. 'We gOl1rJJ3. ]iii;&e~l 'h) ~~d':s sro'Jlf riglu: now.

And, fh,[ rhc next lhaU hO,![Uf1 I ha,d co :nt'l,t tate m,y- so-far story to ·rhcrn ..

The conversarson.ended witha celebrauon of [(,]iud. noises, best wh:l~es' atl.d tbe promise to ma_k.e 'lrh.eJI'J. all u[lk: eo l).er $JQ)~n ..

8~~ .J arri.u'3J'y;. .200?"

My nct-so-good-looki oK hAJl"ILlSe ,W.RS hJoking better '[hi3lJ! mor.f[~.n:g.

And why ;Hot? T.h-e· fil'5i: "lNnuJd.-be In-laws ef ~hat .hpu~'e were (Q~oom~ that d:"r:li.y ~ k~bush; ~~ mom ~,nd ckd.,

U~),d,erstillill..din~ rhe f~ct 'rhaJiI: my .lvlum .. llla could.n'.~1t rravelin winters: because of her· asthma, rIley had agreed. ~'O come ~Qw.n· ro our pl~e;,

I ~:S there 'itt Sam !)ca:~·Pt~t .sil:~tuo,n 'EO n~ceivt them, The train ~Htlv.oo on dm.e. ::il od I could ,e~£ily' 1ft:ac~ d~erll In ~hti' ·~towd.~ getring down at [he ~~~t:~on. r touched thei r fuet~ we~oomed. ~hem· and picked up ·the,k

144

bag.s~. On our ~y bsck .f~om. t[klJ~ SE:;fi.d,o~!I1~· 1 showed. them certain landmarks in my :0; m<!ll I: hometowa, Thelongest dfutJl'- .Hir.akttd.- built on the d'vier MBJla.n",dL Her Mum ma was astonished whel). '"I '[old her that h'~ ·i.8 ki]O:iJlilcf:rt[$ .long., To which s,~l,e mischievously replied hy boa~dng' abot~t. f~L{: mH':iakra. Nangal da:f~ (ttire 'hj,gbest one) w.h,kb :s41e . bad. seen,

f1y 12 :.30 that :ilJi'etfl(iO:t]. we reached home, Her 'p~renrs werewelcomed 1)}' mine, Boeh the moms Ml:d borh the, dads wel~" happy to fin~y see .~JC:h 'il)'~h-cr, \Vd l, .L r:l our- OOl~ntf}ii. seeing ['he '1bo}1' .and. ~F], .is O~1Je of the

•. '~iL·· 'b h';

most unperraut sm'p~ ttl tne enure .m.~urug.e precess, ut 'tttuiif ·_;m"pp~h~SS

OOrt1t'S 1:121· rhe paren'[.S· when [hey lll~g each o:~hef with those Si:tll iJing fu"ces. I rhiak [his bolsters d:t~i~r rrusr. :ilJ{lJd. (X'JJ1;A.\&e!rli~ in ,e:~i.h. Oit.~¢[~,s ·b.rtd~Y'~ aUowin.g· rhem $0 go ahe~ld 'W'ith this, thing [:3 1100. :Frl:.ur~;!l:~·" I ~:li.~ I ,d'@ll'bt d:ibl.1t [h~ reo1Uy [nul tUS yo~.LH1~:ter$ one .btl udred peroent.

Bur an!i''INa'Y~ '~he;:: ·f6lk~ got.1 nnOl.IUCM [,0 each other .. Except £0,[ TiE1.kU~ who W"aS in Bht~,b:altIJS~t f,or .n! s weekend support at 1"'1 i s o.mee~ .r.h·ey h~d seen my ell tire fiunily.

We al (, then ;iJ1oved ~Q' the gl!l~[ raom 'where her ~::;i.l'·e~HU were '[0 s ta:r, They' ~i ~~d ,~~ ur .p~.oce~ '~ped:al1y her m~(HIl~ who noticed. the g!lJava and rhe iJ;.Pf~1j;.~ [[.~~ .in. OULr chl!J.rr;jrard. And Ebi~ dine it was me' who boasted, !~ See, '~HU' tree is bigg-el: than ~~US" ~~ .A.rid everyhudr la~Jlghe~"

·~l.iJe tile'" enJoyed thei~ lemon squash, my mO[iQ r~ltj(iii100. to her kitchen ~ $11:te: WaS very busy. In. a short white ~l].ey were gi'¥cn 89,m,iLl€

I

p.ri'l,!,@q~ 'to get oorn.fouabl~ in [b~ new pljlJ.oe~ .tJGlat a 'bi (Co' and. t~l~~ a shower, 'We all then n,et ffit lunch,

Of ~'OUIi':ij~' it h~d. to he ~O(Jd •. A:nd 1:1r ms, ~j:tu~UYlm.ne o.f Thee bese b,;nlldlOQ[l g:at!iL.etj.ogs- a:[ my place ._ a g'Qod :rtrlN::tnl~ good. people, gfJod. OOJ1y~tsildo.n. and ~H c:h:~:r ft)[· a good ]~urp(1cge,; AJOil~ with. tbe rneal, 'tb~ ddi~i~y' 'pet'lp,.I~ went down, m .. emory lane, recanin~g' marriages im. rheLr.

,I '

'pe.dod. :i!Jrrud ooro.p~d.n.:g it with dlle pre.senr srs~em" Nld.· 1 wondered .ifi

40 years later, 1 WD~ m.ld be recalling rhe prf".~e:n Ii: marriage system .O~ maybe, who knows, m~u!l+ag,e nligbt not even exist by then .. ,

Apart fr'l). rn that, rhere were, a lot (},f thin§S the.y discussed: '~he current society, m ~ rid-sees, [he. generation .. gap fundas ~[1I.d, aU that. And I :h.a,d to i1Jgroc 'whh.- whatever they said! rho ugh [here were a lor of tbin~s- ] would have revolted against". BUI[ [hen" 1:1111 I wa.s: bothered ~lbQut 'was .Iny marriage to their daughrer, So I podded ITty head to. whatever 't~~}r said abo ur our ) .. nUJlg genc(:n1():o,~~ fa]1in:gs. But [h~ nkl~,d.ly [h,ey el1~c:l Ol~ a h-CJJP py fio're~ saying thar we ate [he bdglu: fi:m.:tre of rr hi s COUJU!''Y. (lilld I .$3' d to l'nyseU ~§ Oh ~ dlat.1K yQli SQ, much, foU::sl I am, hO[l]ore~l,'~')

Being iii good. child T gave the required, privacy to the parents ~ rhal: ,tthey cou:Ldr d iscuss what 'they' h~.d. CCH:ne 1[01 ·d.iSCUiSS. :1: went Olt:ll~ ro the veranda and. [y~ugr on a ~CO( u.mdenleath the j{lfl~t~1~ rrce, I C..lillUed heE up,

l~·H,e\"'vi."~·!, ~

_, J I ~~_;!'~ rs ,t

. "Hif E,n iiiiiij iiiiill ti i l'~

~Wha('$ u.p rherej" she asked,

"Th 1 1:1' 11' d

ae s cy; .u. al]~~'fe,,,

"Shur up:~ B,,~~av H4a •. ~IQWS fiiL'y' ~n;Qrfi? Is-she fil1~'?' :~K(JnuJal hat.; At least ask file how J am A,[s·~:!n

~Nothin~ts goin,g to happen to y.'Or"'~~ YOl!lU alw~ys be fin .. because .I'rn lID your Hfe/~ she replied sweetly.) rf:u:n.lLgh I w'ondClied, - dl,.drn~~, ·~h.c same :a:pp:~y to her mother as wc;:;n~

~yo.ur. mom is doirtg 'lery good (lu:r hattn YOIU" d~ld is also fin~/{ I ad.ded [hat raunt to make ht:r realize th~t she should. h~~u e asked ~~ut her d~d too. Burt she always said. she is her reorn's daugluer :f],rs'E. ". ,H~r dearest daught~:r.

·Th~n. I told her ail!. rhar had hafP~rled.~ so .far]' at n1y place aQd ~he=: agenda fo.[' rhe rest of the: evening, M·eallwh.iJ,e .• therewas ~, l~yr.t 0

lau.gi'l,ti:;;[' ftom inside and 1 th.ough~ l, &ho.uJd go back ~nd. cheek on th~. things b!r::ing d.iStCU5·~r:d. We hung up and 1 went bat it: in.

I~ left them alone '[Q plan my m~.rriage bur, damn! the old fo~k-5 were crackir g jokes, reaJl]l'l'g the fu.t l.I1y things ] used 'EO do when r w ~$ a kid." ~1iy do p~.renr.s have to.' ,r.ev,e.:d, L1U those embarrasslng secrets to o t:b·e.rs? ] ms. not the o~1.i,y kid in the wo.d.d. to suek his thumb in h IS sleep] 'W'h~u~~s the :b~g' deal~

B·ue a.fi1'\,,'ay •. i

We made a. p~an. fo[' the ~ning - a visit t9 Hlrakud.· dam, Mo'n) wanted IO ;5:t:ay back hom. CO! because of 1,1eI h)e~ leh a:a'd ro i~.tke 'Ga!e o f other ho:us~hohFi, chores, mosr impm'[EandYj clin ner; I wanted 110 S _" _~' back \V· rh 'mum but .Bile; W~D ed me to be widl1 them, lr \.1.lat'S: jil1 st 3 matter of hal r an haw or so 'and ~ ",vI01lJJ.d, be back, m,e.sa' d,

5,0 (Il'h,¢[' an hom~\5: ,O:!l.,p, and. evening rea, we went a.h,e~d. with th~ plan; As 0 LU' destination W~ amy th ree kiksmeters fro-ul our hcus. l' ~ Ir didn't take us fllW;;il dtne and \\l\r,; r.eaih.ed there in ren minuses,

We parked 9'Uf vehicles and th;cn C.m In bed the /n:-wahar Mi'nnat ~o ((h:e rallest bu§lid~J1g rhere) whi.cl W~ built to [ree'p vigin. W~ Wti~J; almost .I ~ 0 feer above the 'ground and, from dU~rt:~ the .'ca('(;ilnlQot a r~3 of [he dam appeared acin . best'." On OUI right w;a'S, dl.e·g],ant struct U:e the dam _, 't11.{J~e hcrvcrin:$ pulleys, the. n~i$e of (he tur'bi ile: . .oom] ng from some place ftilr bem:v ~ the [big "ivuet t.eS~EVC.U.['- behind l.''he wall l'l~ t-he tr.;vhl!1m.r..i,es. of v'hUe.!' ,ol.dWaat~DLg and passing by: 00:1 town ~oW".:U'. I. the east, 0',[1 ·Out left 'Was the scenic hutito.fl~ \\,j(11 hal:fof d1J.e burub sun. above it, !:reattflig a. mesmeri lmg:'~ unset gli1ng ns a h,[n'~ to'Ll'1teri;l the commou lint: 'b~"t\N'ee:m [be sky a!li).d.[ilt: v!'faJ~e:.r..

V~['Y s~·o a, pur, rl,1L3J.dO'~·i,fS perthocl. in, '[he i>c]n:gt:x- ~h~ow of the 'to ' were fading, The sun 'Y3S bildd!~:ng g:OGd.bye fur t'he day. ,i\udi li:br stood. dliO$e ~.i1en:t islands, big and snlaU~..far a~d near, in db:e'11lj' es and

147

miles oJ warer, wair:i.ng :f{:~r the l1']g]It-crealIJ.res to C.O.f&:lC 0 ur and ["~]C' them. Birds were fl}ring back.to-their homes and" from. that rower, .~ 'could see. the ]]gha in our'town coming on. Ever.Y0r:JJe. 'there appl"'eCiated the bea UIY" -of the pl-;ice,

I was happy I .had hrought Khushi~$ n10lT.IJ. and dadl there, f121'JJd. ~ remember very' well whae her .M,ilj mma said. ~~·wnen. Khushi comes here, bring her to this place .. She'll love ir," And hex dad said, ~~]t·,w({;S; J similar, spel lbinding, scenic view 'which made me write a poemn w.h n E passed, rhro u,gh the Kh,a. ndala Hn]~ on the Pill IiIJC; ... MU[il1.ba.r e.x'pre~~way •.

1'I· .... .dII'L._ 1· "

"n.Jl.~:I;.iI,· ,J,IaYe ]; ne same lLJ.r.ge ,nOW.

That was so g.ood to hear. I do1!ll.~f know if hewrote ,a!fiy'p~Jm 00, it o\£' t10~. But flu;},," di,cln~t know; ciU rhen, {haJJ!' mv SI1Ll~U town, BurJa.) ]~Hj

, ~.

sudl be<lu,ty· in its lap. Jti1Jd.ll on r.hat ,UOte! we were on our wflly b~u::k

home, the serting sun coloring US w.irh h:s hues' and thanking me ~~g:uestS~ for their visit to this-naunal heaven ..

We were back at a;toUR( 8;00 PM;t-a. litrle be;:fcH:e dinner. f\ud: rh~~ 1'8 when p eOiPAe tlc(uaJly St3 reed d ~SlCtllSsi.ng the purpose ·,for ~rh.k:h Kh wh.i~· pa[~'nts were here u Mcl~ bei !l.g: a good l.o.ver~boy~ I was updaring .ff.1l' beloved about the proceedings au 'QU~~ premises .. Mom.e.::n:ts later.:, when ". joined r.h .. f: di':scu~ion 'we all arrived at a common decidQn.

The i:1n,g-:Geremony"was to be h.eld iti:m Fadd j,JJbad~ on 14rb Febn .f!J.1rj1 .2007.

Khushi ~nd I b3Jd chosen th ls date lOlJg' 3.gn· ... She .h~d ~~jd 8h,e W'anted '00 celebrate ,th i.s. Va1~n['lne~ Day wh'_h her t1~1f}ce.· (t;he .fiJ.ILI,;u:e rne), wher.~rns :tJJ1ry stand was f.h·ar I wanted: Ito cdeb:f:ilJtc, .'["n~s d.ay wim. m.y'girJfriend (the current she}; SO' we beth ~gr.'eed. t9 excl1,t1~ge' our rings Q~ 't'n¢ evening of 14~.L Feb~u~ry~ For the fir,t l)a_lf.of the clay 'She w.o,t1k~ be roy ,gi[~fr]end. and lOt' the later haUl"! would be: her fiance. Such a simple sohrrion, no?

.After that~ we bad. our dinner, .and then l~el" parents "vent to their 1'(0111) qwte happ.ily: MY'paren:lis and I bad ~ bdefd.i.scuss.i"on, planning 'orne: of th .. e tb~l!Jgs at a personal level, espedaU,.· for ~he· enga~.efit which 'was a monrh later,

#/#f,

Sbe ls diffo~nJly hnJ;pJ' tiO~ Jt teDnl1 fflt wants t¥J mit mt<Ycf!.m~mng:. At!d' J'a'tIJ' ~dJ-king ~ ·\11b.¥s!'"Bttt~tle u tIl/ti;:ng her 'rWR:t tim.,. J !wilr Ii""f turlnllg th~ p,aiH tif ntw:spa:pe$ .X'lJ:e¥J; ilR.~ .~fak~ up «.

~Sh(j}tidjJ A:n"4 titer d, ~'(}mmr. of s-ikne:r she 1ft/dJ;., ~~t!lr pmm..it,e. t(;}: me: ah?Uf th4t fit;~t1tg £lJi11:g. -e-e ."

«',tel" •

nm:m ...

',./ ~QaUt m ir6t)fJU fl;ct jrlJ1'lt t.htft1lromisl!~ -',

'~Whatl~i~/}r a ~U6n:cent .. 1 mn:ntJ fi.~ .ute Ofl.t.'t'tJ't:tJ~l~x-f B!Jd> ;,,;/1 }.~

a. ~ '. I:"~) IIr,- H_~ fii!(;f;.J r~f,i,"'1

bttp'lY- l: ~g.t¥m ~e#t .me !i~lintJ?~~$J1.ttl'er- "pg!~.

"'IN:: rap~ t.Y~~ ifJl! ~u",'.pr;Qmtf;t foi'. rho. :Pitt :S&ffl $~.~~. ,fm j,Iire. a It:DhD I' uton~ ~r1J you {jtJtJ~ ",

J.40u't th.at1- U:ll; {)tilly rectspn ihl.4tuk {;el" .ni~. ~7le ~ .surrtJj.t/jk·tfu! {),tt:lJ. te'MtJR?'~

.Mis'k'lMltS~.JJ;;. ptU.e"k/s t-nlJ wb.(i!irtna-h. SIJ~ .. tl,itrIs @\~'t,(ln rwtir-kpm .the JU~w9:i$Pft~w:h;ch ,~i-bDS t1:~ Wfri.'t."W;JJI)~;tw£· rff.pifats_ {Jj11n;'ttd;tLtko.lx~J inrttkt. It alia sap' 'tim, it ,t;pt.?--pll! can m 'c.. their r6mfl.'fJ"ti· 'tltJ,!tn.nl/;S" J/terfiilJ with OF ~J:,f)f dJamp~gnf;"

J Am jNtiti:~. I

S#ri'1aJE,1 'fI r:t!,e:e.t y~ {Qf·l,irJ·itJg ",yIJur. p,r.()fmiH_' to' we, ti:1J M,f .tkt" J .fIsk,

}t)l.tl; ;t() bved:k i'1; .. t. '

'} Jj .. ~ . .i..""~~ ~I... I ::1_ ,F ~J! l t~·

iii" aD,,"];; SH]'a1'~1mfng,llm' sm'Ul:.. ~h{l1'n~'e~ing nice-tlW:lW this.

149

She says ~'lt~, b.Un it long ti"~.for~u., D.'~ l~u fl(l'like"'t:~i~ingll ~}itb )1(}.u t frif:uds ron:~gJJtt ~

. .,..~iI' n J. ..... ~~

'1»11jr? .;~ '1 ~'

\ ·a).a .. ; ~l£ no.t, /:(n1.ight. ; 1.tIm !nughJn\. '1 am: glad tJUtr...laU

jltltti~ me Pl.fiow this pr(j~n:~t'.and J.t»n hllppier that;l 'f:o~14 .k~$J! J I otlbl. &(J.QZ"e; m ~rdr!rt~'gi~it: l:(}m1J.a.l~ t~1 wy/iiilNd£, M~d:Ae We r:I:CX~ 'm, tvant m(,'t()~ /I.wittl;" abu·.tfj.· Jiirtk'-with them, J - "i~ n(f bU!n'J& U,l.,fj\WII

Sh . 'm» Jkf~:h ,SQ', cotJr/O:rlA'ok wllh my /PSi .lint.. ##:#

n ...

It W(I!:s., l~rki~y afternoon and as usual, 1 called her up before' h:Hld~, had to rell her hat \V~ h~ .. d made our reservations a:l1d abo when weill be ~tr.iV'.~ ~.g in h~]' place . .A'i1 cll'w-at:Lted to know what ·;;dl was happel i at their end. Aau~nWl I :tlread~!"·ha:d :I n idea: sei ~ 1- all 1[-- I. ,;:i,['\". ~,L i - - . ·IL..

J 'J . . . .. .. .."...." ~ 1iJ.; 'Ill; [iIi .... ~"'"' II,.U "n,jlts, lr.erd~

I~' ~

'[0 our e,D~g:argemen[ were :50 b~~1):rtHu] that we: ldl'ir~d ee r~Jk about

again a :1I.d. ag.~~n. ] t happens with everyone" no?

. .

; H~'Y!. Hi ~ nl) C ure hall·y.1-'

"Listen. I l'1.iv.e. comolered mv 'nex'E task D:O·'i.. Wr' ·1!,.1 ... ·~3' . .,; C'.)'i·. ". n

:Ii:"" ,/ .,., " ...... . .... n",~·",,,", ;=i". \!, OUI .••.

But she iC~~(:;Cfni:prtt!d 11'1e to say; «A'~J' wair, I'll tell you .aboll:u:, .01 rask," Sh~' seemed very.excired a.i1[t, of CO urse, oonlpj.f:~d1 igno . ed wha I ~ '~$ say! og.,. She "\1$' very happy~ I mean she is j1J~suany happy; hut rha al terneon she was- ,diffi:re.mldy .happ,.

I heard her jump ·offl'ter Ii}e~l onto rhe .Hf!leQr.

«l'G ive. me a S~;C~) n·d. j} she said and, started singin.g: to herself: LtI; ftt,. , , la/ala .. '. .&1 lit

! \Vt ird ;>1 I - IL ..... '1,.. 1- - - J,(" II

wef. _ ]0 • UIOUi!Y"' t ant( wanea . tor ncr Q<~lC .'~~COI1.dl to complete,

"t k! Do you 'know \v~13i[ I halve done]" she '.lsked. in bel' cutest voice,

I. ~ ~ 'N ,.,.... II ~~

~, ~n'1nl ". '., ,.10 • .J;,.e - me .

I' 1 have j use paint - d SCHue flO\'r"el' vases -, .;;i\Jiiu. S01)).e candle POIt$I' you II ,)\\-1' the kind?' B-o·'i;/\!l-sll~ .. ped earthen pots which wiU 'be fined wirh I ".r~ and. fresh rose f) erals and a ft,~ small, lighted candles' w]H be jl~~.~dtig on the surface."

.. 'Wo,v[ Bu t what are you goi rig to de with Ithis.t~

.' Arey {,·udtlhuJ We ww~[ place lLhem on rhe podium where we wiU b e ·h~~n.gLngOtlU· ~illlg.~. that evening. To add anaesrhetic touch and. sweet

hI' r~tnce to the SlJ .. .it{; undin.gs, U

"h. ,. Wow! N10e .par! tbi~ wi It be awesome."

Then sh e ga[: bLll:!ily ~ga~n. P['(jibaJhly working aI-aha om. [ho-se candle i iHS.

"Atkcha.:Jl -.is.),~n. Lhave made [he res~IvauonS·.~"'·] tr.ied. again. to tdl 11t't.

.. \'(.'6\v~ "'You know whiLt~ I have made an awesorae design on ir, ll[s. ~ I .(:) king ;go. 0. d .... , lls iooki.mg .80 .. be8.\~.lrdfld!;>1(

I don't know what bad It~ppened to i~er." She ·wa.5 .Lomplerdy igl'10il'lng' I'~.~ and enjoylng. her preparation for her co~ge.ment evefii!~g. She was M.t~g1ng' she was brugh.ing more tnflin j evt:r heard her, she: thou.!h~· very(hi~g around her was so bca;tlt1:~lilj

'£(1'. ,. La la ... La la. '" Le« .....

"H.'eyyyyyfY YQUJ mow lVh.:il!~'~ T1-u~ entire.menu ~s 9dt;C(,ecl .. \fes! I've

,I one '~h ar, And dad has gi.ven the order accordingly. E:ve'.qf[hing ]8; ~ l '1 n:hased :ii1l.part flTlnl small accessories, I ··~"i.rm !buy tb.e:ro tomorrow i, And she kept Ilan:-:ad:ng he,r en Ilir·e list, 'what she WaS go1ng. to buy and

wear 011. {h.e. ,eng-otllgel.1ffiCnt., .

~1:Arq. deluh~' we}.; J"tltitJge. In thar fIrst look, 'll ralee YCHll" breath ~ll~l"ay; 1(1'

151

, she. star~¢~ lllm"pinj,~ nd smgingc agahlf this dm~ ·a.t a. nigher ~:~,_"'_"" ilftrbat~:haRPefl.i~·~t'lr.;ll~y~1it~ I heard heJr .moth:et Hk. " "~Shes gO.Jl€"'mad.,!~ 1 h.eiHd JNIger.Y: ~

,,~:~, ~u~llij Shtda~prt ]~u~i~1,g: 9J~dl dj~ClrJi,~ ~~4~~ lwb]mHl;~1 :~ ~m/gb1tfg" C;Ja~y;,,",., €-@:l" ••• oo.z:~.. three .ll'~tj;~ E~!G~G~'~~Jj~9

:r 3.:-1""";: 1'":", F"~ 1.~, l' ~..{~.

:~!!I~-!i ~:U"\'F- ... :~~.Ui!I!.~~a.iI'

.Anti tllen .. , l tnin~she lJna.d.e. her motHer:. ~)lnce wl\t!h' her, """":', ~'~"'on'"' cra~~ The m;-a&dtss. ef ~ei·lJi.g' .:iu love., " .. HJe.r af~a·m .. ~o,min,g tr . ~ry 'pa,S".siil~~daJ'" . ~ $11, 'w~~,' qn ~l:OIJ:~-,lID]~le.

JtU of~,·;sl.[dJ.&e.t'1i~, "her ,tnQd~er'tQok: tne' phone till '[;,ark 110' n"H~ ,

... e-: •

~"M~ aa\ught-C'!.~$ gOJile clonl;pter:e.ty m,a:.d tt)d.:ay,.',:. ;nbe~.s

Ja:u:_glThjng anL'm'o~f.Ilt~:.g", Sh.e~~, (5'O}~a¥,~~ 'I ve ~~a:nJed,'wor(ring ...

:. ~~ .-" "'"

,1L.<:': 'I.~ ~ ...

... gU,CfJ io .. 1i i.

'~~Wben YDU were getrirng, ~m,~.f.ded: fOtt. mnst hav-e fedt- the ~-a·trKG'!C;;"':f 'be~;cd :Kh;uSh1 ,s]j013itj~:g: 'lrl·t,he ba~~'@J~I.Hl.d; 'her:.wlice fi'd1Jn-?:'~W'aY , sne'. ~s gol.h.gAJiUC'~f ~:e: mpm:.

'~~Did, .~'U !'te-ad1l l1¢"ltinnoo.ellt '~lThd wor.ri,ea mo:thet\'~~

. .

:NH'm\ilL~ ~But N[~mm~~ too~Y<':1 ifk~~~ 'd_lli~~na ~.:n' ~ttO~:

. " . ' ~

,dot:ft WUT~, Jp.s,tl~~h~r. enjl~y ·m~, "prep3r-~'t~omi~

. h" b I'C.· ~rr.. ". it.-. • ",' _. ,- • .,." - i'a I~ .... :-.J·

:Fr0.1tf net mbt~er. ,~a.l!ln~~:t)!UL: '~n:l~, ~~n~ r:n,r0rrn_pg;,. s e ,"~

[wing '0',,0 ·H~.t dl~~l$·.fDf' that.evenin~ ~ell' ntr~' i.l"nd, the'fl k,er .~''''' ""',W.JI~:I'I Jl,er~. ba'n",g[es",r Slle had:' IlO]) e¥e.1l, eaten b.r,~~k&'S.t lfr:be.r ~dtfim.'ert~~ " pi"o'ning hru hands "\V.Ci(e d(p~~iJ1~tllt·, ~~~:t sh~was 3JP]?lyin.g· fL', """/".,'~,,-,,g....,.

,. - ,.11, , '1 j lop:; P' "....:j.,I!-'

~~:::Iint[,~al::lt w' •• ,c <.;!I....,i

r » r. ~ ~

II~' 'wash so ~~S[ i~ [h.e '.~tl)pi]irOna,fol h~i'r en,pg~m,eJl.t -tb~( '~;h¢·',p.i!Qb:a~J

r ' [. rhe n:e'rSo,n~",·1i~:m5"iJl.e~~.as ~t:ing,",en:M~ [o!

.: ... -:E.:": ........ .-:..:\ i"r .. _ '{'. -;. .. _

1 len 'm y e'itt~"l?rihre.ss :tff her \'lQ~1 .. B~ ~be.fo[e lli :lKu,trg up'! l (:Ct hr nu~ r'htel" ki1J:o.w~a&,QiIlll' .l'~~'[lo,ris~a,t!dl·fb,~ rjJ»,e ~Herit ~~d' f$e anivi'l1& 1I'~r F~idab~,.', &i1ll:h~'a:r.d lPt~s"i~~i.. ~',Eil. " . ~Lll ... '. 1j;t"a(l4A~, .. ~?

t'~s·~_l~,gli'Dwstre'Wa~hafld.IiRg~~1 dim" ~n oneB:;mdj I ~~ 1'1ruggHI~;g tt,~ get.e~~~ehl~~'(g~ oompled~~,1fOr ~~ . .rI~remoJli}1'~~life W~ .H,t"w~d, u~;, '~o1i~~J4p;' dlci~a',~ ,~allii~g a~ii ,phlnBi):1~~<~]], ,~g4Iie~!

? ~~'. ~1J.. ~ :-. • "

.~he~ute:s~~Uf~,n'g clodltlS afuj) ]~wtb~ .. A,nd .. *-ID,~p'in:g; fjlr ~~I tM

fo!!Jd&CdJalloow~ ~H:h~~ '-lIVn.ith, w~':th~,.bi,~~sc neJld;at~ Ol£. a1~~ I ~~ I'ht~d: r wa~ .fil.tSt~~te,d. "CJn l1h~;· orhss ,kand! ~,ush~ was It"anEi]ing:1I ~fu~s .so e~l~ La'q~hin~ kidajag,~ e.njD;~~ng: ~ch ... ,anc;], 'f'veI¥--seOOH:

t· ~ . ,

l~l{[n.tfi~~, ,~ppb~;g ~;t{YiJtg,>ev~blhS Qnjaoe,mote' t~m,e~~1 ~mvfu!

her fqt 13~in~~o :rq]OO[-e-a, ~m,id. alL !t'b!~o~ .~ilid: t l€1yeq he:r :fjjt: tb~ V{t}' reason .

. ~

,ppne wj:[b,. :m)~ J.ui~di,~ ~do,n~ in 't-h,¢, f~od·ict;.!.\1!];t of ~Y ,o8i\ie '~bllt; :~fterriben~, J W,;jS, ~]n~g:Hirfg~~ie.c~J1~g']~-I ~Q~~da., 1 ,f~[t ll~ipr &r' h~F ;lnd ~~ ~eJ~.~~r, h'~vll\grb~t" llkmy Ufe.t

Kh:usb~\~ 61~~,~t'tife 'wu~6:"simp,l~J ~. f~tiJ:d~\U .... ' ~ilie:WmutdJ~o, 1M

""I~"";"e. ~ ... N~'" ~ 10

;1 nd. ernJ@y ~]"~ mqm~nr of ijer 1~f~" :Spe,: ~l si~i~,g~. ~~'I}Fi~r wiUi' ~lr:?]' ""1"Sl ~h]",,·Ir,·when, ~)m WJsJi 'm-\~~~~. in 'dn~, f,~\nl+ JtiI$t ,cl6~~ '1;E~-y~

L ... i!!u-;if. '~Hk" oI';"-;;'~""~ 7" . ..., ~',

11.1'O'1t;len,t l~s VeUf ha;"n,r~'lne:lS. ~ ~It~ W~~ ,~p<j):rect 'whdi .. Ji~·· sii4

• ;.<'..' -e ~ -t;' . -;- r r?.. ) .. ~

cn@~m'ents;~ ll}afri81ges), l@.~ (~~ '~~e PIhG:isel;ftt1ft~' ..;._~ic~e:.lJt

- .• "j;"-''=' _.. ;.- .. " - . ., ... .. ,,_,..

one-rime iOo-ca:s~om~·Th~t'efure.!. 'they' «~e~~re.alollS.. You~ha'"ft ,tQ~\tblttt

~

~he,m. ·.too. lh~'~ 1;P mai€(: tIle-m memora~]_e.

, ,'"" ~ .., ~f", ~

Th.i nkrngc> of all dl ls w-en I :wiln~ed, JJO ~:ct i.Z;~~ Yeal 11 '".~.~;

en~agement;,j~ L~a.ia .L,o· my~e:Jf ~n. ~lteme1l.1, •. And, ~wiclll lUI: 5~'~

~\!:.at~"·[~c;mtnod 'to. ~~1)tffice.w oom,le(e th~ leEtova '. ~brei wens o<:h' ,[e~::ve' •

..., - - -. - ~-;- -

J SUed·in .my leave fOl'm~ Fot rhe next 2 weeles, on rn.y computer, In rhe <Creason" section of tht: fQ I'm ~ 1 wrote, ., It's my engagemend My it~H l,w.on1t be reachable for JJ:n.y cede 'fi.~e_g 0[' eese ,r,epnr~si but 'ol'.il:r f.or :yo.m

.J • L ~I

go au ,\V.l3.nC:S.

L.atK~1- [hat night, I was fuenn,,~ this excitem e~l t ,ct,ea.~i ng 'W{!. yes 1]1 me.

Soon. 1. wo uld be engug]ed i I would be caJ ~ed, f\:(i.m,ebodYs fi::ane:e. 11~ freed.o,m of being wirh my frien ds an d. ~,ta.dng ~:~ other g~d~ m.~.y be gone. That one d.ng, which I w<.n;~'M. SOf).n be wearing 011 my finger, wOlL~jd stop all iucorn ing traffic of oth)~[' gb-1~. My. bachelorhood 'was going to expi,r,e :3'0 on .. "

Wou[d I enjoy my life go~n~, £orward~ [ust [he ~y F d1d dU n.ow?: r djd. ... l~t 1t::now: Bu t I wanted tha~ rl ng on m ,~.rlge!!.'", F. co uldnt wait tthy longer I did 1'1!I kIl(r'~'! rhe ,hnu r,(: bl~t, y(.$~ I wa;n.u~d 00 ,m~:H'ry' K.l"jju~tu, 1 wa_s.d:yiug to. AU of~, ~uddkp~ I wanted ITO have her wirh me. I wall-teed 6) sta re at her, kiss her, love he!", Ri pples of [0 m:;(n~(j; were n1aki:ng troughs RD.d cresrs in rhe "Ocean of ,my heart, I called her up' ..

The moment she pj.cbed up the phone I :saidJ I!.I '~h.ink. I 'W'f)]']]:10 to

i~ 1 .:.;

matte owe to' you.

··Hl':J1fl11? Haha, Yo~trc: ,n:ut~. I am ,jj\ iny' office and }clave h.i.gl]rJP,r]'41l~Th" defect:s, re be :ass:igDled for cl¢:su re," s11e ~mwe'ired. WI t~. a. na!il.ghry bu,gh,

A fi;w' ~¥,~~ks 'black. site had moved to ,~ 'U S pr.ojoct:ml,d 'was: '\!"O~]¢il1g ,nEgh.<t-ih ~ fes I knew that b:UI .I Vila~ so lost in liny rhoughts, 1 ~~}':( taJUdng, ,! • " .• ,Arnd I' wan t '[.0 dose In y e,yes :,H1td fuel YO'ln ~ce whh iJzy

fl' ),1

_.mgers., ..

"'<H'e.y! Shona .. , Listen," she 1¥aS .s:tj~~ hli'ughlngl 'crying to ~'!I,aJ'1L my thC)ught: pro,(@s.

~ . ". Ju),d then 11"lJy fin:g~~l'\S:;. . ; »

"Listen dear! Plcaaeeccceceece, I understand yo iUi.t mood. But, 11,1~vt some very \-lIsen t ta$b.l i~ S~l,e SiBJd ge~,dYl' so rr1).~u I would no I: get bu ~.

~~s·: "',.,:" k , ' . "d· f- It·s jj I : ·,4_

Cre\-V wor ~ ~(:U!W . eJl~CIl ) sailJL.

«I love; YCHJ dea t, &u t th i~ Is rn y 1~'L daty -aJif. 0ffic-e., hef0.r.,e I rake leave.

Don't you W'a..l1t me to cnmplete :.:.H my wG.:H'k here so r'[HUb" I can enjoy

... ~~

III Y own enga:gem.t'3t~

Tbis ,us ht )V>,-' she al~.Jf$ made me [l1j nk and, bre !LIght me back to rea lity.

"Hm mm , .. " I said, to 111:'[ her know 1 undersea ad but. s t~ 11 j was disappointed,

~~J promise, ] will wake yoq. 'Up SIlt .;"fOUnd, ,&v'e ~.n, rhe morr'l,iJlg, ~s SOQ,n as I reach horne," she q uickly sajd to comfort me,

, '

·~,v: L_ e W""h )j!

WaKtt: me tlI.p at nve, . . y;

~~ Mmm .. ". M3y'be r'1[ want 'to ft::d your fingers 00 my faa ... w ~~Got;cba! Rnjoyworlcing. l)

~~i'~nj(J:r Y-Olif. ~J,eep he{o,re ~n erotic mor,fIi~ins, See rOil ar fi'~;)" She l'r'[s$ed me and returned 1[0 her "high-priority defecrs".

Half' asleep, I reached for my cd~ underne ath filLy' piUow: F['OID. the J~nt, 1ight coming in '[h.[io'Ug~ 'the curtains, 1 oo1Jld make, out it was mor Kling, I checked tlbe dnll(; on die screen of my phone, I t was 6: 30 Ai'yf·,

1 remembered RAiLU~h~ was supposed to caU rne 'Why didn't she caU~ Did . she ff'IJH aileep~ Seill in ["hie mood to C:urnj[iJite"la~t ~li~hl'S Inter fJl:p'fed .~O ~1\!'·e,rs~.'tio.n ~ J dia ~od her 1'1 ~ rnbe r, ! was 8t~n under my bi.anke-t: on that cbiUy rtl;QEni~g .• fa r :iii. Jon,g~. r(Ht)],,arnt!.1t .ch Jt~ I r~J r on 111 y hands-Iree and closed .n-rty q~ befoi.'~ 1 ell re red a. 'world of romance wirh her,

Her phone kept ,ringing b ur she didn;:r pick it up.

155

~1 WOl1~t let you sleep -,d'eM, ~~ I m urmured to myself and l"0dIalc& To my' $I,.itptise I heard a matle voice. '4' Hello?" The \~O,U{:c W<iS' hnaflh'ing heavily.

~''X!!~o. is ~h is t 1 asked, sudd,el11y awake. f,!(i" . 1· ,~

'.Ins 1",

I could make Quit he W1lJ~ ,rushing somewhere, There were ,FtO¥~$ JJ{HJ,tlt.l him.

;; ',' 1 i"L7L I' ,.~ 11~::-iI

"Why do y-ou· nave Niu~ 11.S ce '~

I ~~e. di,do't anSW!~T bUiI: handed the cell [)D. someone else

~I H n ~ ,1 ld - '11._ .. - I· . ." -

. ,I le~:LO" :)a~' _, anon l'el mate VOlet::,

- - - 1 ~ Wt L 'VIL 'I:..." ~~~ I ~:.J1

"\iQhat'$ up, yo-nrf AU ),Gi'U pe~,p. ,~;, inere 1$ ·.l~_i1aSH[,. ,~S~":tM

anxiously; d11'O'l,wing ofF the b],:;'{nh:~c

.~ Ravin i we are rushing '[0 the leU'. Khushi mer wi rh ~11, a~ci.dem:w..ft

The U expected

"W- H-A- i-?,' $ome!l.in.g srruck .Illy hea r t, I ji ~lmF ed, off MY' bed., '1tCCI~'ENT?» I rechecked ..

~"Whih:! coming back fl'Qm, pffi.ce~ her cab mer '~itb. ,£iJfl accident. .. 1~ MY' heanbeers inc rea sed, P~ushku ,tbt:n rushed off to sec someone, p.r:olh~bly' ~, d~}¢lO~ and pa:s~ed that ,~n back t() ,Gi ri~h,

~~ Gh·jsh. tell me the rr uth. w.h.at has happened (a. h.elr? Is she 011 right?"» 'He was silent,

~'C' 1,- I G d -II ,. ~b- - ,i!'; ?-~' [b- d 11... -~ 'If ~::J

.;j,r:iti:::aK up,,, '.' ~ ~ IUam,t.n]'l),"~, one ts nne n..{l. ",fL.'OUU ~_ !ill: ,!!,II:m. ~ O)'!J.II~

fud ,rny £ee~ &h.ak.~.I1~, iod,[lg; thd.~ .grip OH ground, An;a I starred ~uS'hing here: and there in mv ,ro om"

'"

'~w· '-"L .J .. ~ - d ~- L_ ,,~~

.. JlJiat uO you mean you., on i[ R.:UG:W.

,

He an~wen;d .~!Q;fdy, '!li The cab g~'f hi t by \510 me gjant truck, The

driver" .. the driver .. ,. be" .. ,-1"

'"f.Whillt bappelled?>'~ (>

t-[ _a, _.jj '-h ,~

He .(litu, en t ~e ~p()it.

.

Ii'Oh God!'1 That scared ~he,hd]_ out (];,fm,e" !.1'GiirLdL For he_a~Dls sallre: '"

... ell Il Kh h· PI G· "Ie. Pl -';0

ILg me about . ·,i[e~. t. ',ea5'e .... ',m,r::USJl1 " ." :,. ease"."

~~K,bu:sh~, ,L:S- in the, lCU.;, The d,o.G'rol'~:S haven'c conflrmed 8;nyd'a.ing,

She has s uffet~d a lot ,o,:t blood loss, ' .. , "

I started sereami ng;

"W~s- rhere anY9ht: else in the cab]" T fun-be:!" asked.

I ('v ho was si ; 'I' dl' . B [;:',

res, One more gU:Y1 W" 0 was ~n;ung neX:t [0 tne ,inver, 'k[t ne ~s

fln.e. He. h~s go~t!en WIlle minor scrarches, The C~J '!"vas oom1?]~~ Sln,J.~:~:H;'(I. from rhe right side, leading 'to the' ,fatal injuries to the d:d ;, r on tbe f~oot ~nd, Khushi 'who was sJu~ng ~.~Sf. behind the driver," Gijtfl! replied,

Mom,tilts buer; Pushkar r't;u~,n]~...q, and comforted me, S3'.y~ ng tra:a l the doctors, were ~U'lJg: care of her and rhq ,fel'[ d'.lJey would be' abbj,~ to get the sb,!lJ,a:~~cn under 'CIl) rrnoL

;')\11 o"f us are hcn!~ 'Ra:vi:n., Doni panic. She \lj,riU be al righf ~ Th siocror"t;; are posit1'vc. I have juse ralked to them."

~Yes, Pushkar, She. will be fine" I am $LU~ she will be, She. h-aJ ro 'be't

"

I whispen~.d,~ 1,:H"aying dta:r my words 'W'Ould <::'~,[[:Jl,e true,

"Listen, I wi U call y:o u up ~OJJ.r:l to update Y{)lLl on her c:,ortJcii!l;jIQin.

Right now 1. have to :go and check out her medieines snd other t"h~~-#l~ '" ~·¥e;;a.b .. ". ye;lJ.a .. ; ya .. '. You [ust go ahead 1!,,,,ith wh~ {'S, f\';q,uire4. I i~[ ...

Illl ~iL fot your c~]lL 1iJ·

.Ba,ck in n1y roorn, 1 W~J5: $criB in shock, wonacring: If all that .,.vis!ml or J~lst ~L r.L~ght[uare' ~ nd dl'a t when I woke 'L],p I WQitl1d find KilU:S:h[ wa - 'wd~,!,

Bur, unforrunarelv, .it was: rea],

..

:n felt suffoc~,'t,ed.. I was my,i,ng to breathe 1 ~ ~s m uch air as p08's.iijl~. I opened al~ the windQ"vs~ [rying to' make contact w,idl rhe 'WOdd, ~lJJBjdif lily home. 1 was alone in my ho use ,t.\ndthat ,~:t:i.[il-)I:,e shock "V~l8 teJJ:lrrnl me ~]JJtt it~ ,my loaeliness, 1 cillUGd up my par.e.n~s bu[ di.:510011~Rd rhe call before anyone '[OQ1, ,j r, w():,nderitrlg hqw to give them ,dill: l"'l~~;,s ...

wanted ro get a gtl'~, OIl ,myleJf 'flf~t. SQ ,many fea rs crowded ttl y mlnd, J d.id.6"t [{nOW what "ItO dOll $0 ~ rijjsh~d [fJ '[he other ,['0>0 m, ro m y wl;}.rshlp'~ place, Wb:h my' hands j o med, r said co G\(.iJd, '~NQl "<.'Don~'r. make these bad dio1ugbnt(iti1me UtIJe:, Please ,GodL Not l::lJer. PLEj\.SE,,'~

Later that .rfiolnillg~ I aiU ed .iuy rnnlHy to tell them .. , They did ,1.10 r beHev,~ wbjl[ they' heard fl~,fjt! bHt '[ater he~'ped me, sa~~)ng she ,~11 be fin'C. I te I cit them I was ~~lQg '~a h001.;: the n~r available f1l1~:t_ ~o·t the rest ,()f ~he day, 1 kepr ·C;lin ing· ,~ler f~.mi~r members, I W:~$ restless. 1: g(H !lly Bight conhrmed,

Before the ,dg_y ended, "l wrote an SMS alld. fnrward~d. it ro aU :my

friends who were ~l~D LU [D :illt(eod my ring cerern.ony. '

Frirmil;sj Mw-e i!i bfj'd netss.

,Khu.shi hll'f 'fnet"UJitb'tl12' act:iJerl-'~' a~d ~¥!~'Ytbhr.g ~:lse j.tftru.h pO:5tp.r.nu:d..

The ,n.ext. mo:rJ.li~'lg~ I ~Oil: l~'p ,f.lr.-om. ,11[lY hedh3Jit around 6: 310 '1&}~Ugbl ill, ,lilJa:rl been awalce since ;':0 [}~ StrIlg~~;,n'g '[0 get Kid of all bad rho Ug~\l.tE. .

I w-e;jj],[ 1j6Jr my d:~~~e~) ,nr~,tn~cA it at.l!cl~ rl ~I~n~ wlth roy palms ~o~n edl3lEld e:¥es dOSE:,d,; r bowed m r· h,eaJd in fronr of Gli:uru N mJ.n,ak?.w picrure wbtt._h I ,~tept on the fi±"S[ shellf. In my bean. I uttered, '"' Heal her VIC! unds: ,~cl Elulle lief well, . ,"' JP ],ea;s-e! I l':1'':IJO'w vou can do that. j~

I ii' ~

.I. smod rhere for. ~ while, A 'j l.ltt~( larer, 1 Op~Il~d. ~ly' eyl@$~ loo.bredt I(_'U,~ ~u:),d. wa],kt'lcl aw~y~ i.e;a'¥~og the closot door open.. 10n ["lilY \val! I'o the barhroom, I halted lEO. see my~~If in the mirror beside mJt' con:lfut;c[' ra ble, 1. looked scared ,a n,d p~~,c:! A ~~a( was sriU 0]] t~ly' [ighr eye~a~l~" ,~ wi ped ]'[ off ~n-td~ '~ki tl§; a deep breadl, an,d ~J~.triV,i,g, en a,' ~[~ smile, [ said to the mirror, ~~Yo,!J!.[- sweerhear [ will be air.~:ghc. She:: i;) sueh a S~(

. ,

girl God cannot be so cruel that :B,~j 11 harm n.er an}" ,tu ore. ~~ rhac [0 m:ysdf; I rushed to tile b~u:hroom as I was gerdn,g l~te~~dc flight.

Bv 7~30 I was dU"OlUth wirh ,my 'bath. There was 'an hour lep[ £@.t

Ii ~ n

to geT ready 'Whatev,er [ was d.oing', there were nVQ n~nl,e8 ahv~ ffiyli ps.~,Vi'Kh ll,uhj KI' and "God",

I went to (he closet .. picked up nfJY prmyet book and then sat 0'0 cot with ,rny Icgs crossed, For the nexr 1'0 111in'iH" s, I pm,red wjth.u~m devetlon and. CQDce-.n'['taL10ln" There was pin-drop silence in my . In ,rny p]-a yer; I agaln begged. God ro sa\rc in y Kh wh~ and gc::'[ her eu dang,er. With '[his, I bowed iIll)' he~l& in fronr of rhe prayer bi}o wrapped It in irs bag and !rep'~ it back In the closer with utmost !EIDe Sa,ring m y prayer every [110r ning had been ,m:v da.iJy routine since oo~eg and. 'p.rob'a.Jb~y, today~ r was. sub("On:!i~dnu~l} demandlng the renuhs It) m.y,pl'aye.rs.

I did not fcd like ha,v.t ng bl'lf:d,kfast .. How CC) uld I~ when. m y. 'bd,'o~d W2~~ unconscious in the I C:U'?' I skipped ir and ,i,etr 601' the airport,

OUi'Si,de, the bright 05 un was wi s.h.ing' good mornl ng to Bl1 UbaAe,S'i'llar, An.d I w~ desperate ita get some good news abour I<hus.hi ,Ev\e~y no:w ;l:Qd then) I \~~~S checldng my' cell for ally rn issec call or SMS. Euly 0.,t] Sunday; the toads were oat crov;.d,ed, :r ,haIled an a.utO-r[t.bJl~'w au"

"

wirhour b~l.g~inifig for dIe flrnt time in my Hte~, . got in. wirh 1ny :a1JrQ hag.

'~W,hen:?,~1 asked the 'auto-ricks:haw dr,i,\-"!f;.("

'·~ir'p orC ,~

By 9;.3"0 1 was at' the: rufPOtt. I: ,gcrt .Illy bag checked in. There, were, sti[l SO]'Ot 20 .minutes left 'before my Aig~J.J o01!.dd. nor feS~t caU1ngll,p someone In f:uiidabad to'ge~ an updaee 0111 KJlu::shrs cOl1duk[!ll" 1 dialed hernumber, Someone picked up the phon.e.

- - =

r6G

"Hello, ~j saida £:eir~in]lle voice,

, [ I" 1..'{~ h di l' B'II'r' n ,fo",,_'~ 1 could r oD.r",{i'op· ... ,l- "'-'.:Jo [he voices of everyone In

. 1. IV.U.s . ',a,.' ' 1.. .~,... c"-nf¥ ,-', L ............. ~,u ~, _

• U hl' tr: "I

U U:5 _ rs ram I. y,

. .~~

.. L:Il: . n.":" vin How are vous

.L.-~, ~ I'\al I! ~

, f' .'L h irali"

'L1 am Ok didi. how arc you?",A,_nd any updare rom tne ,rup]£a ';,

"The doctors have not attended ro her [his morning, They'll

II [1obabJy,gi "e an. update by eleven, ~~

1 was ger;Ei.n,g restless nor kno:win,g, Khushi's ,conditio,n"

, ·(iisi1a di then asked, 'LWhen wa~ you he reaching herei"

LfRig~; . :n()W I'm at the airport and my aigln IS going '00 depart' i~ a f .\~r micures, So probably by one In the alt,e:rnoon. , . I ,till nk the .secunty I k I', . .' . ...! 'I' 'l iiJ h' .ave to hana u .. n, 1j,Wi~j see y. ·011 t.!uy, s when I reach.

'nte ;~ . las .s(~l'[el;.!l ,~ll , ,'-<1 'I' ' .. '0111J!.i;;! ·r"v. , ...,_ , . ,f;;i'.

rhcre."

. '11 ll B 1~

HYe$~ yes, YO'll go on. Reach here safdy and then we Wi ta. ~.'ye.

"Bve," I said and went to the security check"

~ ~ .

., ' '-:L , " '~fi··~ .. .. ·'t (tv. --'g to cheer mvself

A lirtie latel:~ 1 'Wa$ In rue au:c,-ra [~ on my ~ea s ~ J ,n . . . J

'·.IL ·'1. t: rt L~;" I 'DlO'[' "" window-se ... t But, in no time, '1 was

up ~Ji,;'H'n [Ie lLaC '~fl.FJ.'L, 0', a .. '1 (]v .. a .... ,a '. .'

worried again. I was 105[: in a series, ""f ·thDughts., whena beautiful hand offered me some candies,

"lVhlY I aft.er YOhlL some ~Dl.'dies, sift} the air hostess asked,

_,11 !~

H N 0. thanks ..

Even her ~ovdyJace-ooulcl. not get rnero s~y yr.:s. M'aybe because 'no

:]; b 'r. 1 "'-"" "lI,.:;o m ~j' ')W~ Kl.1USru- And at

one ~ppean~u. ~s, . eal:tU.IlU ro M~, a.nYI~101'''':j.it"" I r .. , ',"" , . . ~. ~'. ~ ,

that very moment, a eheughr flashed thro'!L1igh n1y bra.wn.: "Once yo III Ian in .to-vel t:h.[~gs. Ukt, external beauty; appard ~.f[d so oei become

.. 1~

u mmporrsnr.

'The rho ught :5 urpr,i;$ed, me, '1 'woDd.et'e~, jf' tb~~ was 'wha\t ~ call rhe mag,ie of he.ing ~n lov:~.

161

~git'i~ G'cd ,ca~"ftO't be .so: cruel t~j 't-i,e!'Jf a,'~rt:n her an~r m-ore.:~ ...., •. I""i"! M:ri; [)h~Jt to, my,sclf~ I' rushe.'ft, te, ·u;h~ barhreorn .as :1 ;;was g;etttil1g' ·l;aJle' .,..' 'iiill''''':''/l

Hlght; " "'

B'F' 7'~;.~O I ~~S :chr.-gu;gh widfu. ~rty bal:~~ 'The!rer w~s, an hour Jefc'+"~ Itiihm

~ • • .. ' J' ~)

to ,gGiI; l''e'i.=Ild" Wha;tev;elt~ 1- was: down~'~ there were t:wo names :i1IJlVlnV"~

,I- ...... ,"

my llps: ;~:Kh,ILl~hi.~ a"oo "God",

J went to the closet, picked up~.,mr pnly.er hook ,a;ncl. '~h1!w '''''.: I' .... ' ...... £1''''''''''''. cot wIth my I~ crossed, fli,:u"dle, ne:« 'I () minutes, I pr~yed mt'b::ll

,

'ae~cion 'a;llld (,i(ntoe;tiiftat~OH, 'l'h~~~ '~a.s :p]n-:drDpfs:ileJ~~ iJj~'~r ~f€lm

l~'uny pra¥:e~, ]' ~iaJtr begged G&~ OO~'\~~~ m¥ Khlil$hi ~tla "gether. ''H!"' ~~~,.". 113:ncr,el~" W~rb thj~~. l 'bo1ililetl ,mv' JThe~d tri, ,ft.Q[])"i: ~f '[he n[:£~'I".:

-.IB' . I :. .v ": ._.; :-. • .;; • ~ v - r. f;.. ....

wmp~"e~.it ]1'[ its, bag [rut kept' ~r 'lba~k)ri: ~.I1e"i~'Ci.~ wi~th ,u~]no$t S'aying :my2p~~F eve'tr.y m,01?nLllg; Imcl Qe~r)r,my~~ity rqu{j D,e ,'5i~~:e 'CoQ.' I'J~

. ~ -- , ,,- .

and, p['~bably~ tod~1; J: was 'SlLlb.o~tt:1'~eiQ~sJy dtMlindiifJJ§ -rhc::; lTe$b]~W'

" ~

my ptay~,fs ..

I did' no t fed ]ike h,avilim b:rea~1'ias;t'. H'ow' :colilij 1, w}~eil, m'f' ",,,,,',1; ...... ,"-''''''' wa~ 1l;Uloons.ci~(N;l$Jl1,',1!he ICY,? t sW,PP(K1r it and, left for !'he ~.rp~ort:"

,Out:sj,c;]jf:) ,[be brI,gh~IT ,s~ml ~ wi:ii~~ g~od, rnotntng'~o ' Al¥d I W"Q& dtee5pe~~te' to get ~(mecg()o:ei news about ~mhi. E~'ryr and' ,th~n! L was ah~n~ m,w"cdl ~or an¥ .m]lS~d caU'O't S-MSt "b 'af]~~.JO( Bund~~ tht, roa,ds 'were' iHJt Cl€rwded.. ,1, h~'ru~oo' ~]·t'~lU't0-d(Jl[sha~v

~~Wfie'~f'~~aSl(o~ tliE aU~@:JdCldhiw df~~~r~

KA~ 'j,~,

mr_pol'C.,

Br ~i3Q/i'wai!S' 'aL'll t~e lil'porl\ 1 gat :111% ba,g{dl~dJ:n~ Thtl~~ still ~Q,me' 20 minu~ left 'be!~Jj't ,my flit~bt, I Vcou[d notOr~sbt ,caUing .

-, - 1- , .::11 ' 'I;,'.~,:;;II :. ,-, iTt. .'~ ,',. ' "

someone In Pa:(lU3:U<1iP. ~~) ~J 'an update (~\ll KnWbl"s,·oon~:l'fljJ]'n, I;(,!Ie ~HU~~

]j,er' [)umhet~ ,So.mJeQ11e:~p.]ckOO, up tb~, pb,O]le;,

-~

-c-c,

]15161

~IHi~ Mjiha,dJ;~~ By ,nQW J 'CQt.!Jd (~OOWii:~ lbe;''YOl~ .o;fe.vet,ydn¢ iil,

I{h~Jshf~' fa~l~V,"

~fHL~ Rav.hl.. 'H~a:~' a.~ y.'~U?ji

"1 ,Jm Ok ·dl~H~ how' are you':? And ~qy update from, the- hospiral]" "The ~9~~Q,~S 'h.a:~. "~t01,t a~r.tJ~J1d~d; t'O her- ch.iJ ~mJ;),(.n~,og~ The-ylU

probah y gi~ ail "t1pd~tt br~Jcv¢n .. ~l

'I, W'Te, ,~rR",i,'- p- '1i'~:1ii' ..... e\"" 1i'Iiil:"!i:[- ~':'L' •. r.l' ,1llJ1Ct 'Khrn)~hi~;['; ,c:""'nd~d,@J;f'i"

, ~~},,~~II."'~ n;o. ~~ii:I. -""'-J U",::, - =: ,;i.'?''''~·c "~Y ,- _,i!I :ii! '~"-' '!o " - ,~.I!'

"Mi~Jia di" d)jen, adie;~~ ~Wb>;brwjm~ ~GIU1 'be J'e,a"d]i[)mh~reip'

~r~ht 1'l(tW, rm 'a,~ thed!:p~)rt ,3ud.riiY Hjgh.~ it. gotJing t:Q dep'~Ii {)1" a

:;.. , , . . . . . ~

f~'miulit.t$. S~,~rp:~bil~IY~r 6n~ ~n, ~ ,~lit~~oonr<J" 1~b1~l~ the &ec!tlli~y'

che(:,k h~ 's~:a~t:e-4, r:J~,11~¥e_'~ ~ahig;"[~lP' 'WIl.l~eJ{q,w;;g,Ur~~/~~le'j}l:J'l~~¢~'

h ~,

~_~,e.t~ •

~'Yesr~~',~ YG:~1r gp~ Qn,. Re~~ .;h~e s:~{eJlt afi~ ~hejtl "~e witt ~U.[. 'Dte..~' "Bye," 1,swJd, ~,nd w,~~,t to d:u}'~~ctidlty ,dl~d~.

A little la:wr~.I ~ in'the 'aircrnt~ 00 my seat~ '1;~ng ,to,weer' ~yse[f up 'wid~ rhe. 6J.c4f ,~h"a'(;.. I pt .a w1ndow",se;lt. 'But, run 119 ·t~m'e:; I .'w.~ wp['E:ie~ la:g,~nj.. J w~ lWltid'a ,ser~~s Qf:tmitiii~,tsj wl1~.~"'"4 ~~~l~l'~ifyl~fl4 bffe~~<:Jrie som,,~:':!.3~dies-.

,'il;.1f . :ii.:. _.L,~ u ,!r;."tO '~-JJ,.a :IUQIi"

,?, 't'~. -; . ' , " .

~lt:el} her ]!l¥e!jt face :tG')uk~~,Qofl:' get: l~~tD s:3:~y~s~~..NtJ~ybe hec~ ,nb

one a,~eared as i~~utiftlJ: ~'O me, aJnyrnar,e~, as, m;r ow.n-.'Khw'hi' . .And, ,all:' ~tha'f' v~q' m~~A~~, a: mot~gbt ,a~shed ,mroughmy> 'b,~aJ.R:' j~nce' )'Ulif~n l~ );P'lf:ef '~lfings~ like ~,a;;ria~ 'bea!\];v~ 1l!,;p~tel and, 80' (In be~ome

-"'"

Cu:d mR!)i'-![:abiC~ ~

'Tht tthnu;g~t s~~]),rj$Cd, me, Ll~~1'(),hder.Ga ~jf jt.Ht~ was waat we~~aU~m~ m~g.t oFbitJilg in, w,~,~~

16::1

Wha:itev;er. it was ~ but a t 'f~h:at time I was S urc about one thi[]g - thf\,r I did no I: Ii ke 11' }"self ,hI rhis mood at .aU" I mean, j'USI tile day before, .I W~ so happy to see my blazer, her e·n~gt·me.n.f. ring and her sari, Loek ar me 11.0'l-Jj,f. ~'Hey Ravin! You have ~'O gt/~ OIl[ of Ibis mood. This ,i;a ~b.5101u rely nor yo U, 1} I said [Q 11lyseiJ.

By now, [he aircraft, the-passengers and those air hostesses ,r,r;e~e an In [he air. I looked outside rhe window, observing d'JJe whi~e d ou ds and those birds wepassed by:~ a few seconds bade I wonde red h:o'w ,loCL§; ic would have takee me te g.o 'to Faddab~d. .for w.eekt:pd dates with Khushil i·f J were .3. bird ... 1 had almost lost mys!r;lf itl those Ilap.p)l.'~ho.ughu;~ when the fat t~.dr slceing beside me :!lJ.s~e·d me [0 shutter the. v.4.11J.,o,w because of 'tht' scorching sun; I do.iiiJ.l kllOW' bow' the :5 un f3.yS could have rD].3Jc.iC. her skin ~,ny darker, )Jut .tn:f\iVaYi I was not in dle mood for an argurn.enr nd I did what she wanted,

It was time for lunch now; 1 reaUzed, this. when I saw the fuod []!'ol~e.1 in the aisle'. But I w~$nlt: .feeBEI·~' bungry_ ]' W!il.~ very' sad, wonderi mg 00w 8!..Hib a day had curne. And, a~ rhe same mo.m,enr.j I. knew that if 1 d~ <i'e~J on rhese ,tb()ugb:[S~ rbe jO.'I!J.rney would be very hard forme. 1 made I!I! I roy mind to have at least a i5an~widj; and drive n~y . mind aW"'~}.!: fr~'ffl rhose bad d1Jough.~, "Think ~f something hn-etf.s~ing or .tiuln;y; O'h~ Ho,w abeue p~,at::t~li:ng a.seqln.~.ce of b'i't1f!l!'l1. ~re'p~ for rbe eIlLg~'f.jl,~.I1l,¢n(1 11 ighd ~~ I S411d o.m yself Then had to add, '~'Which_ will fl.O>W 'b postponed by' a few rnon rhs ... ~~

By l'b.Of'IW·, the .foodA["o~ley ~.s, ~·etHie me ..

<. EX!cH5'e me, :5it! '\X'h~~ r wo uld lOU i~l.;;;:e ·W ha¥t~ fo,t lunch ?1i irhe. air

hostess asked" ..

162

. 'J(QU d9n~t want to h~.ve lunch?" She was surprised, "This is ,my 1 tl1' Ch fo'[ t,,?aar·l·

;'(lk. Veg or non-veg, s,.r?", Sh~ smiled,

wow~ This d me that sm ile appeared good to' me

~LyOu. wonr 'be serving file b()th~t i"l I asked her as soon as she completed her q uestien.

She looked .j;~t rhe food on he'!' rrclley, <:. titd~ flustered,! probably' counting eosee ifshe could :sp~re nVQ"

~~ :H.ey I was licl&dillg. Give me a. "lfeg sandwich," I ~aid.~ ,i nterrupting he·f.

She again smiled and served me the sandwich and Coke. I f,o'JJ;ed myself to GOIme Out of that gloomy- mood.

"""VI' 11-;'1: ·1" - ," J,_ "j ; jI' ~d- Ilf.·T- . h

\vow. narsrm e ~s pre qnnuc,r;u", 1. ro,f" myse.ti. ' .e next moment

I had this weird urge '(0 (;:ho:k out her name ug. ], dent AA()W why:> bur I fdt fh~,r she \iil;P~~ a Punjabi mo. But before I cc utd do thar, she had go ue p) r:b.e row behind me, I nied ro stand up a bit and turn d ~ rack: to look; but th~r.t I noticed cii}, It [he fit lady heside me was s dng. ar me. ~ as. if she h.ad IG1]lg,ht a g~y in bet' t)dgll.b~j:boridi l~ldtking passes. 3l1~ he t di1u.ught,t;:r.

(W'I.r. M' does: ~ii l[ ..... 1L t.: - II"~ LLA ..J

rou " en are . O§,S-" N]USln:l .ulwa:ys U~(] I[() s~lf [Q me, '[Thu.- "O!J

are going. [0 marry one of them [IO?" was my n~piy ev,ery time.) I $!It back on .my seat wirh a, Ht~e dES~ppo..u.~l:Elnent an,d had. my s~n«i~d.~. and coke,

I 0,u1y :rlea! ized I had f~ne!n. a:sl,(;tp when; the armounccment woke me up: "Ladies and gentlemen, we are "ailbou[ m land aeDelhi :a1r,--: orrc i.n"a shor while."

:I became very al],XiCHlS. ~glffiin, re~caUing the purpose for which I 'was ~.t~rvdi~l~ A.I itrle lfvtlet,. 'I wen rl d. be seelUrlg: Khushi in [he lieU. I raised the ·wjndo\v~s .sburrer [<? have a l~ok at the ~i~ew ourssde. lr was dd'zzll~ng,

- ... _

Al I, of a sudden, 1 fd r ~, b] t cold.. 'NCH due to the weather, but because ofl"ny nervousness and anxi"co/ about her condition.

At I: 45 ~ fotry-6v('~ m,i nutes late' due [G bad. weather, the plU1C' Lm.dM. In .fi:fieen. mi nutes I ,m,anagea. to' collecr 1n y air- hag and W~~$ ()'u,tr;1de the ,C1IIpon" At a distance, s;,rnid, dle CW1iVd, in .frollt' of,m,e; I .%iIW D'i$C:'l~H.J aJITd J iju W1l'V'] ng to me, r w~'vc(l back and moved towards them. MeaD'Whi!,e~ I switched. on :Eny mobile an{_l saw same' missed c~[~S', rt~Mn Deepu,

"How are yO:~tr~ Deepu asked, ,shaking,~n'1 ha~d.

uI am fine. How ~uE'~ yo'u and any updare .en K~lU~hrs pl'e;S;en{ condition ?!~ I asked, with my fillgers crossed,

He then gavt: me an update, Wi,[Jl some medical terms that ~e_ new to lUC. B ur, somehow, tbey d.id, no t m ake .me fed goo d. 1 tht'JiJJ asked hifll if "file overall sitnation w~s. bener ,than ye.st~:Kd,a y.

"Hmm. .. ;~ Deepu was 'C'~ng,vo fratne,bis next senrence, 1:· ~~fiweu;:sooed ,the .s:i~iktatiQr.i!'"

I 1i:he.n (B.dU1G,wledged .J ijl k~,;S presence, This W';jJj5 the flr.st!; rime I ~r,~s

seeing birr.t."

t<rThis is our elder ",t jtl,t {J ~~r H introduced me, ,!~ Si";.t Sri Aka'; ~j I said.and sbook his hand."

j~ li i:reli:e~e the Highr. :g,~t l~tet he said,

wVesJ because ,ar-tIlLs wlea!:~h!t,i[., •• they wanted lLU .. to enjoy the scenic 'be:,a_ ury of p-dhi from up there," I p0111 ted, '[Qw<l;Jt\ds. the ~ky ~1~[:n; fi smile, tryIng to make. everyolne a, little tclaxe'cl.

\~e 1ll;(:Jti: lnr.Q a" C3,b" .o'elbi was quire cblLl.y aud.I wanred ttY ted '(1hc: cold S,O, I 'EQ(j;,k offtJ:lrj@J~[~ It mok us mote rhan an hour ro t'(:.acli>t'le

164

IJUS piral in. Faridabad, The cab driver hdi us @if the entrance and drove ! I ~ the ,P 3,r.ld ng lo r"

We went into the h0spifal aihd. took the dev,ator to tile 21~~ HooI'. A~ I W~lt gen]l1_g do£ier eo her; my fea r '~_$ increasing. ~H'1d ,I S[~ti' red shaldn g IL b i i: '. Llooked at the differe!l~i f~,ce\S ,j n, the 'deva tor and their expressions ~\; hid, told their' h,J1P:py~ and SJd, stories. 0111. the second RQOf, the elevator ~~~)Of. opened,

S rep pi Qg OU!.I 1 saw Pu~hkaT coming towards .nl;~,!, I hugged him, Ht:fore 1-1.C::: couid 'l$k;- an.y!thing abour fllY journey ~nd me, ,I aslred. hi~, ~~bou.l, her condition,

"' The doctors h~e updated me abour her condi tio.n a ferw' ,m Ln,ut,e~ I uck," Push.lirar said" ,1,ooki.l1,g -:a t all of us,

(o;'~'ha'( kind df uffi?d;ate~!, Ten m,er~' I asked,

I~ She is still unconscious bll,1r"t her ,cQfi~li [,UG 11 is a liule better since I ~ 1,1 }tt':l j llg~ though she is 110ii: yet cQ,ru."pJetely out 0 f' d~ f1.g;~i 'They' ar-e II~ :,L:I:l,Fi.i i ng to ope rare , on her .f.ucn.~ol!:ed jaw and eh ~ ghs' in a .day Or '1:\'.-1'0.. r\'p~j rt .frQtm that: there arc some bl~od clots.in SOJhe section of her bruin, ~ hu u.gh th'iZ'Jf~'I!'~ no t tht!lt cr itical and a re ,i.ikd~l' t.o h eal tilYOllgh, II ~ t:dj,cadol1,,'~'

,

'~II ~,r t:ied,

'rhOiJrgh, we knew ["hat Pl~hka.r. has told us e)l'el1,t'hing E~ dQt:tDts I ~.~( l. told him, we kept ~t1g. him more qyest~ons, ho;p:J1'.i.'g dl~rc a~ Ieasr rm'lethi',~iC 'W'f.H.~ I,d b~ more pesirive,

Me:lowhl~e~ ther'e' W3S anYan119iu]1,cerne~,lt on r.h~E ~.~'~).r for all of us w~ 10. were \vi~hQur, leU p;asses. to go (-0 ~he ,grOUIld floor .M the .1l:1J.ee~illn:g II In e ws s over, Every' cyc.nJng,I' be ween :5- ~30 and. 6:'{l O~ one: cr two ~,ll~~~p.~,t {ro'm the patienrs' f:1m,i.lies' were ~~nowcd t,o visit, Lleoked b~i0k ~ 111' see where d;l;£S. annonuceruenr came from.

here 1 saw a door 'Wirlfl the letters I C UI engraved on ir, Intensbe Care Unit. Th,~ meaning of the acronym made me shiver; A raw {~a.f passed thro ugh me. This Wit,\:; the first t.llue in ,nlY lire 1 was standing in front of ' an leu door, thbr1'klng about rhe :person on. ~he. other- side ~-nd what she ID'e(liil r '[0 me and nly Uk.

W G'od, please, ~ I said staring q1l'f rhose be Id. letters.

'I rried [0 look in frool the lirde glass window embedded in t'b~t doc ....

"The parh cu rhe 1':1g]1.f side leads to her bed, Bed nurn ber 5;/"" a

perso. u s tandi.ng behind. me said ..

I looked hack,

HTb,~$ is, S usan e, ') Deepu satd ~~nd, i utroduced U$. .. l o h yes, Khushi used ro ralk about you. ~

1<JI ush ~ and .$u ,a nr were. ~ u me' same college find he used t~) rrear hiu Hke hls own sister.

Amid our inrroducrions, there Vilas a second announcement bid.di'~ us Ito vacate rhe EeU floor, It was dl."Cided. that Susanc would ;stay 'b,ack U IJ1j rae .h(n~,pita:1 fh~H evening and we all would gD home. ,A~ ,night, ~,.nt;: of us. \vo1!'~d. come back 'to replace Susant,

At 6: 15 'IP',M'~ wr.!, re,ac:h.'ed home, '] he door VltLS open and J: w,;Jts dl~ iil!st person to: enter, !:anying my airbsg on. roy sbou]de.1~. While. ~l1,[eftiL~ ~h,e drawing L-oom I saw' Khush ~s m um, Sbe seemed to. be vc ry wcrrk .' _ a mother whose C lad was fi gh ting the rnosr crucial battle of her lite. Keeping my bag· on the y.or~lod) l went to ,her ro touch her f6e:c a~ld; ~e hugged me Uke her 'own .son.,

1 whi;spered -in her ears, '~.Evelydl·]l1tg vim be fine~ ~bso.l.ul[ely 11,nt

'~ .o_"" .. J._ ~:'_l. ,"_

~U!I!rJ~ .. J-:Jir .. ~n. .

"Yes" NQw~ [hat you have COnIlJe, she' wiu be fin.e;~! me said paning HII W ba c. ~ with affe,cdo~'l,

;Vfe;.l,pwhilel I saw M,i~ha di and Ami ,ciL I mer them, answering

I ~,I~ir questions ~~Ol,:ltfit~{ has::;~c-fj\ce j'~'1j.1[ncy; We S~f on the so.fas: and hai.rs in, tb.{:: drawing rOOM. A lhtle larer, her dad carne in floJl1. the, u he r room, I gOJ, up [0 eouch his fee t ~ nd he roo, inq uired 1 f .nily II I 1..1 rney h ad been fine.

".;xle: then sat (U~lCuS$ing' 'w'n_atcwI had happened dutjn,g rh,e last two b ys. He 'W~5 descJ'ibi,n.Ji; [he proba b]e cond i dCi'ti:i' ] n whi:ch the ccidenr hud taken place, Amid our. discussions, there were moments c:.f ~ong' i h:: flees -Ii nd deep hreaahs wliich w,e all were :[rying [0 break, wlrh o ur II I usltive words

I then saw N eeru oomiug 0 ut of the kieehen with some "water an,,a I L:'.J on a r.ray;, ... Look ar her face: and rhe grief which has ,tc::;_pl aced her '1,. eer smile," I thought (0 myself She carne and placed. the 'CUp',~ 01 II~,' table in fi'Ofl[ of LIS" She was about [0 leave without E~kln.g to rn t::, 1i'i'h~n F said, ~I[ij~ Nceru. '

··H ~n H . ~'I'i

.. ello, . ow il:r.e ~ou ~

lL I am fine. And how' about yo tl?·'~

,. ram. ff.ne ~OO,'~ she' said, pkldn~ up the used g1a~5ies and silently returning to tbe Id[che.n,

.. She s ten] bly sad," Mumma said [0 .Iue,

.:ii d ~

"I ca u u naerstan ,;

\Xfe concinued talki!:llS fo,t a little wh~le'i aft,'f which ,everyone got liusy with [h~ir. respective tasks, I eh '.0. -aw, Irtle.Daan HIJ1Lnin.g our of II h 0 rher room with h is (j0'Y'~~, He r~q)gnjwd me inDjmed'iateJy and,

. l k dl ~LV i • :)ll

i Im1~ng Ito lTI!C:1 neasxec . :IOU'Ve. come a..g;3ln,

~~Yes" I have oQO,[11e to see y.ou~ de:olnr,:f,' I ail:. \t\le.rled,~ [~J(i I:'lg hirn in J,11y urns,

167

~L\"Xf11at have yo u gpt fo,r m e:~~' 1. was expecting 'th is question, ~~W~en'li I haw' chocolares for y'o u sweerhea re. BtL t 'you win get them you give me 10 kisses," I said, geridy pressing hJ3 sweet cheeks, He did not say.: nything, bur starred kissing rne and.counriug, which I handed him h is chocolates, He was so happj rhar he n,~,shed

.1-1 is mother to show her,

L1 N,eve:r fOl':gel[ to. get chocclares for ,0 aaa," wa;::; Kh us h i' s SW(!! comma I'],d for JHC. She kept remi nding me ~Jf . ueh swee t and c~rln tasks. which had somu.di. importance in her l'f4;:.

\Y/e had our dinner ","it '9:000 rhar nighr, after \' hieh we w re discussin who would 'be m,e rwo persons. going' (0 smy i.n tb~ hospital for' ' , night; Every male member in the' .Fanta" was willing to 'be the'ljle '~lJ]ld I counted myself ptU'f of 'this: fal1111y roo,

~~you might. be tired, ;.:IJ'~t~;r YOIJ.f }ouni.e')~ So better you, resr hel1e

I, I". d '~.

nome, Da s· 1(~, TO me,

"'No I rn fine. Ivly j'ourn't:} was hardly 3 haul's. '" ."

I badly wan red to go. eo the h(JlSpitat I want,cd 'to be as don: ' possi b~,e to her, B:~I ~ then, a lirrle later) Dad 6[100 Iy decided 'Ghat ~I' U and Jij~ '\V(HJld go to the hospital and I should remain at horne thar night, Pushkar .h", d. fa go to his effice to co.mplel'e some work

:1 ~s disappoinred, I ba,dfy wanted '[0 see he! But now, I h~

11 t . n I' , .,...'lL,. • 1.. "1.

spen,!c. anomer sleep ess nl~,I.I wrtnoue :seeing ner,

AI 11 :.30 I wars in. bed, u ~ Kh ush i~s 1'00111" AJone~ I was loo£d[lg he ~ud, (here at rhe rh ,i figs, j rt ber room ft~d. trying iOQ recollect \¥ha; sJJs ~ . o tell me al our rhem dl'Lting our conversations. The computer {Jill rn rig,lit~ her closer on '[he' left ;!lAd the s'[ore,-["oo:m, attached to rb S roem fuJ[ of 'books. The disappei ntment of no r bel ng ~ble to make i r to n hospit~l tba~: .ni:g'hI was reduced a Hale by' ,the dlought [hat]' 'm.s,-.; in to spend tha~ night in 'her room, on the bed, where she used to. A,eep.

168

\Vith allrhese :rhOiUJgbf~ in mind, r do riI~( rem ember when I rei I asleep. [ must h a ve .dept for ::Ii, .few hours, The nexr ri me ] woke u.p, there was i~, little noise corning .our of the attached barhroom. 'The lig rts in the: morn had been .switched off and there was' a h.~ank;tt covering me from: houlder to toe. I checked In,t cell t,o see '[he rime. fit 'was 5,::00 M-1,.

Somebody rhen swi tched on (he i igbt in the' bathroom . I tri,.;d to figure out what ~hi3:t sound was, Soon, I reaJj"liea dl~;t ir was the tal,po W:l~et t:dling ill rlie ern pty~ giant rub iI1l, rhc barbroom.

~o\.h~ Sbe used. to tell me this, J.> I thought wirh a lirrle excitemenr.

Kh ushi used to lieU me about thrs ir ri[a.'ring thing in most of our '~g,Oad. morning calls,

'Corn pJ.~tdy awake now] smiled, remern bed rag her narratioo, How well she had described this moment, wbich was 30 pai l1iUl for ~ pet.B.(J[] who w8lnr!edi '£Q ~h:.e'p. i\j,}d jUS[ ]Ike she' had tOI] d me; her rnother came

~ u t of the bathroom and tl rned the gr een n~ght Iarnp on be Fo.te.lea ving the room. I Feh as if I had won .scme championship for ,kng'"iV']ng) in advance, wh~t wo ~,mJd happen, How well IT knew ,nty .l<hu.5hi, I. rho M gnt; We were lin ad€; .fOJ?: eaeh other .. '.

I coveted ]1\ Y' ,fa.a wirh the blanker, tryi·ng [0. e.!i!C~ Pit; thar greenish li gh t and the s - und of 'Water fall; n.g 111 the [ub.

(~J-' 1 H d-

esus; OW '~_O~ she beae this ~~'e:fJ7 morning?" I wondered and

.c~ cur back to sleep,

~ ~

'[b'e next: nl01L.F11ng, " woke Up' atO,unci ,eigiu and saw Mumma in the ~ rb,er room; !trying to wake her d~'h!ghters up every tea m inuees

I went up t~ her and said, ~,; Good mornl f.iI,g31 Mt::uJinma.~;

~~ G d . :J_ .. ~~ I. .

'I~HJ 1110['Iu.ng, fJe.:ta-p! sne replied, "Look a~ rhern, 'd:u.ey are so

~~zy: j She' pointed ae them, with a little .fn~scr~.t]on. and a sJnUe'~ r~ :sa~ne rime ,.

l' looked at where she' was po iii. dug· and saw Ami di tlnd Mi.sl}.:t d' fighting. fOf rhe common blanket In th lr sleep. I fid.~ pity fO:if' rlte'p' blanker which "iI1il3.S being puUed here and (here '$0 often, The .. and feel; corning out of [he blanket at odd angles, P osed ques1t ',01 I abo ur their sleepi ng: posture which were hard 1.'0 answer, at ~east fo me. Am id [his H gh{ for the blanker, ~'. eeru was ·very calrrri in her s1acoJ Norhiog was borherlng' her, aoc even her .mother's '~l~e~up !;. U '\V'H"ching: them \ irh a smile, I waS, atbout 'to ~:o [0 rhe barhroom w'h

~ 1 'I. ~

n S~lW' (" little hand OOJuLo.g OU( of Neeru s ',(llog 1'1(,''1][;

I~ Hey] Who"g ili~~r I said in. a. ~et voice, UyifTlg to U ncover ~[ II Da.a~1J 'who w •. s sandwi.ched in between his 'ftJdmis'. He klr~kOO. so \'t$ sweet in hill' sleep rhaI I. (J.),u~d. not reslst giving him a ~o~ d.nl<?fIDll II kiss, Th ... fou.r of them sle ~'ping 0'11 thac bed appeared so good. to. fl_ ..

, ooking ar [hem, 1 realized how l'n uch they loved each Olt:h.'er and· ~; '0

close-knit this fam.ily ''NUS,

"To'I.Jcbw00d./J [ ~flid in. my h,ea!i:'["

1 was amazed at: 'Ehe morning in this house being so gfm~. AI when Khttsbi·\vo.'U~.d be back here .It v .. ill be SiMp:ly aw(!~orne" ,I wislw ·I could seen see ~n the ·siblings·i l rhls -, hous "I .deepiRg)n rbe;ltllum

w.ay·,

By 9. ~ 20 I .~s: ready and rhrcugh 'W'1tb n"'b.y morning pF.ay.e:~.s", ~. h U comins OHt ~,f 111V room 1 saw Neeru and Ami ai. iu the kitch.en,

:0 ..

wanted to crack a little joke rhen, recalling the morning's s;~gh[" B

checked my. e.~f] fKla.ybe because of the thoughts o,f.Khushi~s condi .

r u n~1111'g in everyone's mind and mine, or [he silence th~l'~ pe.rV3td~ home. ~l,d :tf.i.HlI rtb~'l either, ~ben because of D~d~s. serious p!tee"~ the dining eahie.

170

I~ \Vle 4:l.U; getting lao for the hos pi tal, \~ljly is- me b re a..kfast' no [. t c ad y yct?~' 'D ad asked the [rem ales of the ho use, IOQ!dng ~H '(he kitchen ,1~Hll.r,

\X!e had ro reach rhe husp.it~I and send Jiju 3JJld .. Deepu, who had II xn there al~ night, back: horne,

No one ~)lr Mumma dared so :;'t('L!w'c.r the luestion, "It's almost June," she said.

And in .1 shorr whi~e, breakfssr MtS served, Dad c~U(;:d me to' lofn.

Ilim arH1J of course, I did ~ccnrdi~Iy., We rook nearly twent},r minutes , have OUl. break&sl[ a.oct ar ten, \Yt. ~¢N:- fo [. the hospital. o- ou t '\vay suddenly, I had dH-: same :feel~hg th~t J had the day before when, tOl' Ii lie f,rSt rime, I Was .t;;:nteij:~g the k ' .. , ·wishing to see her.

Soc n, we were in .rhe ho ~pi'[~ I. 0 If] the leu flo or, I SftW Deepu ha1f~ ,~sleep JJ1 a corner ch ir in 'd:u:: h~]1.! Dij'iJd 'itod I went $.t1':ll.gh [ m ,h i.1'U,.

,( Hey Deep u~ ~~ I said placing m r hand 00[1 his shoulde f.

He. 'W lIre up '~"j rh a sra rt and looked lI.p. I Ie was tired and I CoO uld

-e the sleep In. h~~ eyl~.:'

c Hi, ; he Sl<1id. geuing up fr,om l~ j 5 sear,

,r. Did. ehe ·d.oC[O.li.5 see her rh.s. rnorril ng~n Dad asked him,

"Yes, ther saw her. In face, a litrle wh i I r! (lis,a ~ they ealked [0' me and ~.Iid that they"vj 1 be going fOl aCT scan by noon. "rhey want to check the preren[ st~hl$ of the blood clers 'n Didl~S brain. I,

·M.eanwhile; Jijlu. joined our converssrion. H e had gone to s= 'a. waver bottle fr.o[11 the shop in '[he hcsphal ca.m,.p'us. [ie'too got ~n update· horn Deepu, j\ little 1.~:te'JI, Dad aJ~~d. both of (bern to go back home so [hat they could ht vehreakfasr and rake SOlJ1C rest. But Jiju insisted on staying there for a Vi;·.h~le) with US~ He ~usp(;ctcd that the doctors ~nighr be taking JKJ1.ush] for rhe CT scan ,Spon and '[hen " e too (:0 uld see, her, 5,0 he sr~aye.d b%ICK;,. \,\~.~[~jJe Deepu [,eFt f'Or hOl:nr~ ~ n his car, Deep u was

]]1

definitely not going to test, as there was imporranr work at horne u) be: completed,

Tlrc three o:f us occupied vacant ~h~.&rf:j in di.fiere,l1t rows on dlaft Hoo {" I scarted looking ar ~he peo ple around me - some .~d(:""tping~ 'some talking to thd;r dear Ones on thei r mobi les, son e chanting p~'aye.rs a[~" a few wiping [heir tears, Deep i.n their ey,e was a feat which they' ~ ¢1f!(; ~.gh:r.ing against .. There·w.a: chl.$. men in the air, pe,eulia.r to e''!!ery hospiw ]]1 this ![jmln'[:~y: In fron( of us was the IC~U door which was scaring me an &wfullot.

111 the dgh t corner of th]s: floor there '\VaS ~ TV set! air a heighr. SGurne India versus Sri Lanka series was on, w.idl the volume almost zero, A few } oungsters were fOUaW,E ng the maJ:cb b I::JO[,t; a lady dem a nded W see the r.e'pe.fL:C, telecast of a S'lkt.S-.J1.dh.u. ;w.edal, which .$I~~ ,bad mi~;s~dr [a~{ night Accor.ding to the person. ~inrin.g J1elo(l: ee m,~~. this.] ady 'was: q.u "'tc happy 'W&'lY JS her famher-in-b,"_1i/ W~H; being; discharged ftom the _[Ieu in a few hours, The. moment she heard this news front her doctor, ~h: discovered v¥1":I.y to celeb '-,a te by watching reruns 'Of her fat'Vorit,e sOaJ:p.

So much 1;,\~' happen htg around me, Eve',ry five minures, th e elevate r door opened in order to nash our arilld r:ai{e ,i n d ~ ffe rentpeople. N~u~~ and. ward boys wheeled parients o ~1 trolleys :1;0 di«cr~ot roo ms au ith o rher side of the .I C'U doc "" . F r,eq uent aft nou nCeID·~.n ts called f( r artendancs I[U meet their respecrive doctors and, "ovid) e:VeI)7 C~]t the concerned persoos rushed [0 the leu in. hopeand fe~u:.

Th i~ 'ttra~ :i i1 altogerhcr new atmosphere for me CF~ .p!robably; Wr e,retryotlrf' en [his Aoo.r. 111(: doctors on the other side of the ICU· d91lJJf seemed ] ike Gods to us and rhe ga rekeeper at rhe fi.n~;J[ance;, ~beir rnessenger .. And '~.s.[ hlte Ii temple, We were supposed. ro remove ,e'lrlfl shoes at rhe door before moving in .. , A,i:. tim es, r,:&. e Sa me door 0 fle[~ecl fl'Oll'1 the orher side: 3.11:([ we saw people C(J,I!ll,~,ng 0 u ~~ some smi~~]lIl.g; some :;l,b out to burst into rears,

17 . ..;

Pinally, ·there ¥i~'~ an announcemenr fOlL us too. ;, Bed no. 3. Attendants of Khushi ~ pl ease cpm.e· ~ n, ~~

Tb1:s. '!,¥as eno ~h [0 send ,my be;;llli: racing. Despire the swear. on .DIy ~oreb~~~ all of",} sudden I fek"el(rilen1e~~y cold inside. 1 starred br,ea,ihing hc~vay. I knew me rime ~lad come whr;;n 1 was going [0 ~ee siOnu:~dtiJlg ",·hicll would disturb me, [looked ar Dad and jiju and '[hen the throe of '1.$ rushed. towards the dcor, By no·w· none of us bad seen her and 1 don~r. klllOW what was happening ro rhem, btu I. was shaking. I f'd [' J~ jn~s hand OIi ITly shou~de'r trying ro oo.gtlfion me as we approached the door,

"'Y.e~, ~ Dad sa~d ro the gatekeeper,

(Co G o. to the Cf-Scan room 0 ri the gtvun· floo[,,, The nurses have taken her there' fo'~ the scan.' the g.,l[ekeepe.r' told us.

We r ushed t01.¥:lt·r,d:s the- elevator, The door was abe ut '~O close wh,en we squeezed O'ILIJ r.o;ehle:s, iri At the ground, a!OoJr~ ~uuide '~he dev,;r[or door! I as:ked the guard .for directions to the C'f-Scan ronrn, Busy ';J;.,l'ch l)LS. cell phone he poinred rhe way. l was running with: Dad and Jiju r rylng to catch up.. I passed by many rOOfl1S on. th is .f:lij)O r and .RnaUy reached t he zone where I saw a beard which read ,,,; CT Scan i :, The erurance to- thiszone was a: gfHl-likc srructnre behind which there was .l r-e<;;ep tion 00 lin ter,

~ Yes: one of the. ladi~ ar the .roce'p ~ion asked me.

cc H"IS rhe l~--Sc-an ~o.f rhe parient named ](Jlushm srarted?" 1 asked h~{! tying my shoelace which had «mille undone ,vh ile I was. ru.n.~l~n.g ..

She gh. need at the last entries ~:n her rh iclc .reg~s:ter. Me~~wh~~~e:t I l ur ned. back roO SC'i!: Dad and J j j u, who were still four h]ock.s away [ro111 this room.

;, Can you see that stretcher inside, beh1nd that green c Ltrt;!l~n? Th ,[IS YOUA P atien r and. the CT;,.$can is about to :5 mrt in a shorr ,¥h~]e~ n she ~ al d ~ poill"litfng towards ehe (1 -Scan roo 111.

173

~(W.hr.t. are vo u and _ .. Y/' she tr led to ask me bur, be:fore she ~!l)l1M

, ~ ~

complete her q UfStiOP-S) ,my f~t ~.Uttved ,m:o<'~ing" tQ~{;3,tjSi tha,t stretcller.

J\U of a s udden I W'aiS calm. I fdt -evetyd:dftg aJ§.ound, me W';;l.S f1~eeri~! OS, if ti,m,e was ,sio:w:i ng dO'WJl1 ev:ety' second, The voices around milt .,gl't"W dim, in. m.y cars, r was .seeing people ~r,ound me .and rbci[: ,1l!;cdom lMu was net able, En hear them at. all ]: c'o,ttl)d: ~ee' the reception lady behlE1d. rne still asking so many questions and proh],biting rrJj~ fi-Qn~, g'Oin~~.inJ b;u't T \V:ajS not able' eo un~~su:nd he:r and I lttpt '..,.~[k[ng '[O'w.a;f:id,s. fhr gre~n cu;rrru:u'n. w]thou"~ ,eVf:fl: bHnkiin;g, A.~ the -clout;, the 'ward borr ~tf;,N. ~ stop ,q~e~.possjbJy ~t 'd'lJe recepeionlse's oonunOOfld,. I dO:!~~1[: reIl1ern~ his f~e' and what h~d, happened to hkm; but there was sD.rn~;clhrm~ SlOllitiiJ~thing because of wltic.h he tcHJ,t. his' hands off m,e th:e very· ~'. lTr()looen'[, .Maybe it was my le~fS" &lEng on his .hands ' .. "

And, . finaU)i;, I WH :n;t~lldjrlg beside her,

Se,eing her, l:lly he'flI,rt m,e]te!d. ins],d,r,e me. Never 1[1 my 'Wi~UC 1"Ji].ghtm ~j"'e could T have seen her this way .. M y sweetheart, my lJdiUiSh[ 'wa~ l:rn, :rron.t of me and. her bodY' revealed whar sbe !had. gQn:e ~h~'gl!il~~ MO:5r of he I body w~s coveeed 'with a white tredl sbee'l. Her ~fI{lo'tnl face had ·~n'lff'e[1'id.·hs:o man:y ir:tJ uries, There ~e ~".j,.(}~(l eiors ~ft· RU ~olh;o dgJn eye" There. ~r~' ·.s!C~u.s~, bi,g,. ~tnd small, CHi her en A tbd;;;;k ventil arer tube ran down {het"- UQSie.· Met bEokcn j ~~ tern p ori[i~y fix~d. wi tb band,~ges,. The so fi' s;kj n of'heL" fi~ t ~~m th~ marks of so ~llt~lny injections that it h:ad. turned, biue.. I" {;;(t~la multi p,j e rubes of, dlffi:len 1:: d[.am eters pie[~! Xi,S djj fferent p~8Jlrt~ b o,dr. On ]H~I 'bed! she V!."'<lS su.r.rOUlld.edl. by var i'~lug medlcal equi:rJ:m:en

~

j ncluding ~1. ven d.~ ~1l;ri fl' ;a S mall monitor to read [he he~J[!t-he'~i-l:,

'(~lXygen:-cyhndJ0]" ,e~I~~J1..s.h)n. ,~.nd medici ne b~gs. wilh inj ocrk.~~~ ~ed.icin-e.1D th'C'Jn., And there were these OQW!;sta.liJt bee:~ .froro,

" ~

vent]J.;ru:to't,

I sa'~ h~r han~,; c\1,min_g' out f~o-tIT Ulllcite[ rhe b~d ~:he:e[· all: rny ~.~~c..

t74

rouched her It1rde fil:1!ger very ~ndy:. 111 resperue} ·1 felt heir beaUi:'~.fui .fingers cl'aw]ing 0]1 ~lly pahn and, wi£h that, I suddenly hd.d· her h'find and started ,c~ryj ng~ iedn:~; miY' dearest bearing that pain aU alone,

I fel~ a ha.nd ,an .m,y~'shouI:der ~.g~i[f:L. Re,g,;l.in:~n,g' :m:y' senses, ] looked! back t{), .$~e: Jiju S:taFu!hfl!g' behind .rne I,.() old m._g' ,~rt h~'F. Dad approached herfrom rhe other side and Was obserVing her~v~dl :L({'l(4,~n.d: w,~.rmth1fil, his 'eyes. Indeed, ies hard. for a father [9 see, his daugh["~~ bJeatbi]]:g wi tho the, help of a SUPF,.o[t :sy$terll,. AD..d there .], was, still h('}l(~~i~& ,he't hand. The three of 'LLS~ st8JliL.ming beside our de-ar Khushl, were 'pr;a:y~:og hard; with ~lJ 0 ur heart ~nd soul.

~r,\~e'h~~, tc(~{ l~,ke h~,f ,for 'the s.can/' a-ftmi.Qin~~'ic;c broke the .sa.e.tlOe in rhar reom. She was !the· nur6-;(: 'who 'waS in iha~e and had b~en ta :g,et rile CT scan :~m,a(:bhme readv,

She e3Jn~d the ward hoy 31 the entrance for help and wheel,ed the; stretcher to [he SGlJl.U1.~r. It was a gi.'~Ul t, white .. colored, "vh:ed-Hke structure w_;hkb I had seen €arlier onJy in some movies, 1 WaS :&:'~l~iE1g ~ P prehensive,

""H 1 Ii... • _C, 'L ~I )~ J ·d . J ...:11 "

._' , e p me :1,10, smn ner to "'it te scanner, i lJ:!Z' nurse S~:U " H1 fit ,OU:'LIi, ~~CC

','1,/ h ae ~s~~mb[fJJl$ the vt'nd[iljlto![ tube,

\~re -all hdp,ed.in shifting ,i,le'l uo,m, the ,s'[reoc·i1,~I. 1. was 'stand U1S on her Jm along w~~h tbe nurse, Dt@Jci and Ji)u were a:r the ether $~de. .ne ward fu 9jf 'HllO' C:~Ul!1'e, ~JJd srood beside 'I:.I~ In o-rclel' Ito nft bet. We ai~ ·w;e::re' at o ur p'6£~.6ons~ ~U'[ I 'C:Quklfli't urid~JII~J["andl hG'w we w'ot.:t]d, ~ihi& Jte-: wl rh all tbe cqud l? miT,frn.t a rlJ;d vado us tubes ~Wt,;j,dled '[0 h~r badly ~ ~1 j IJtt~~ bod}! e -,

""N,Cil''W'lt] 'i the: n ll.l rse saki~ con1:jnaJ1Ld]u1Jg all o\f!l~ to lift her,

AU ,han&s were at wark rhat moment, Thol!1agh, ,~)8Jdl, jlj'u.a'nd, ] teo~{ utmost C~l£e in 'ITransterdf'lJ.:g: her tfJI the scan ner, 'toe nurse did not seem careful enough ~o me. Sb~ lif:~€d. her fr'O;m the. stretcher without ,~i,~iag

17';;:

,! - _,!'

anY' suppoet to her neck and, moreover the "i.V:!l.y she gripped her han was d~f1n i:re:iy Hot '['igh t.

(~l he saline rube has come our, ~ the \~faJ,rd. 'boy said ..

I jumpeuand caught hold of that tube 'co g,! 'l'"e it to the nurse as S~OI1 ru possible so rhar .I.~e could fix Ir • Bur the [1.1JfSe appeared '['06 l~iy IL do thar,

"Please fj x that rhing, H rsr, t:> I said '('0 her, "Relax, sir, Evt·rrd~.y 'we handle !ll8ilh·r paeienrs, Dent WQ,rTr~ said, a rrcgandy,

Yes,: and rhar's W]lY you bave·becorne so callous,"} said sllen "

Khushi had srarted showing some. mevement in her-hands, wlli" 1 was gradruaUy uncr.clsing., maybe because of the pain, In a lurle 'ji~l~ rl .sJBJ:: was 1irera[1r ~:h::aki.ng: her haDcl~f to S'e'E rid of the. needles .piieqro m her hand, Se~:i ng her, I p ft11Jid{c;1 lt1.d asked The 1'l.'!LI rse to .do sornethi n

IA She is in a: sub- XH scious state where everybody reacts this W, I , N orhing new," she answ ered, corn pletely ign.o.ring my panic,

Maybe not. fOI be[~ bur ir was defiDitd.y new lOll' IDe. Lwas not! ~M '[(1. SC~.ra.d. seeing my better e- half in ~bat state. I. was gerrf]ng. frL]SOTJ&lted by the nurse's behavior bur I knew wew.e& (tot in a .. position to do t1!.11.f:1ih1' which migh t add eo {J'Ur .miseries, I stood be. i:de Khushi, h.o]din~, h hands ill l11.[nC ill order ro prevent' her 'from :raking;'ol:l' the silin~ . [1 venrilarer tubes,

~l\paf.iI: ,rro,m }'I';QU, ~Jybod.y· can leave tbi~ n)C~JtL ~ ~~ the IDJ,u.rsd _pa.ur:uing .::1JI 11;'16.

',\lVhy?'~ 1 asked her in a gentle t(l.pe

"'We are gP'[fig, to begin the SCaLn and usually Vi~e; allow aue,I'i.,a;~l ~5 ~ stay onl y if we need th ern. I need 'yOU to hold. her .h~ ads rthrou~ the' SO~:Fl or' she lu,i,ght take o.fF her saline needle," she ·e)r.p:ba~.f1ledL

Dad, ji j u and '(he ward boy [eft the room. 11)e nurse closed the

)76

III In i nside a nd gao ve rue a. sleeveless jacket, to p rorece me froJ!u the ray~ I II ~1 n i n.g oWL of 'chat giant white ;,'Vhee.l, 1 rhi.n k, She then 'went inside 'I ~ I ~~ con rrol room '00 operate ·tbe machine, Back in this room ~ I was

~ i uling, holding my h·l.oved~s: :hands~ looking at her fsce, M:y heart I I I ,lili~i IJg w i eh Go d, ~'A.Jlyth-ingj bQt noe her,"

t : radually li fdc, the strength 'with which sh ewas uyin,.g to shake her ~ i II'L Is. It was g'e'td~llg d i F6.'c:ul t £\o,r me to hold her fir,mly wiih"')iUt hurd.n.g I I. N'Q 0 ue 'Wa.s a['()u:nd. us, I steeled mysel£ to held. her il:lgh.l..

A~Hj I started calking to het,

, I i ~"! ;' dear. ! am so -!!lorry .if 1. MU ilt Hi ng )"'(J!l~ bur' rhrs .ES for your

,",

I I,d. r am do~ng this because I want }r.qu to gf:t v.,rd~ seen, I ,tn, d.,b,ing

~j,< I • .ause you are rhe best thing rhar ever hrwpp-t:rt.ed I: .' me a:nd I

• ~JI"II:'f 'wa n t to see ehar going away from mt b~c~u~ 1 sim ply cannot II u u ~ I~. (} r ltV! ng wirho ur yo U. COl'11€ back to me, please. Open 10 ur ~re,5 I III ~cc~ vo ur Shena is, here for you, ~

,.'

I [,tJld,i.ng her hands in m ine, I benr down to whisper in her ears,

I I HI r. Fight for Inc, :FOIl' all of us .. And I premise yefill) we will provide \ I ur t he best hos piral, the best doctors, (hie best idl1,r;didnc and 'the bese

I 1(,

1(4).r rest of (he fe\,f minutes, 11~'ep'i seeing her f~.c.e.

I ,I • nv hile, ih.€ nurse c me ti n from. '[he control [(J(HU lconilnning I I I~ [h·e scan was done. r realized rhae [he sound coming from the I ~ I'~ ~ 1 i ne wasn"~ there an ymo.re. She opened the d.oot a.nd [ .saw Dad ~ 1.1 I Iii U SJt~ Ildl.rn.g: outside, looki ng at me"

\Xtidl the help of the: ward boy; we then 5.».ifi:oo het; hack. to the I11I ~ .h,"l". This time, I took care to ;shifE the saline pouch, the urine bag Ill! ventilator along: with her. I. didn~[[ w nt: a,nybody [6 make-any I' ii, k this time. Afit,er sh] ~Hng her bock: [0 the stretcher, [he ward III y ''!I,i'h~ded her our Cit~be scan room. We 000 were walking along wid1

1.77

rhcm .. Back l'[ the entrance, I saw the reception lw:;!yaga.ln,'i J,ooki&rg: me, "Lam sorry," 1 said and passed by her. On the 'way back to 'me. ' , we I1lUSC:: took a dU.1'el'ent route - an. ele'9",.l:~of thar led [0 the rcu ' entrance W,f:1!$ pr.Qhibl[ed. We stood d ere, Sle~'lng·thenll taking her aw

I joined my palms, praying to God to t~k,e care of her and luak;e hd :8(:iI: well soon, Then we returned [0 the TeU a,ttcnd.[l.tH: -halJ! 'Mck, the same chairs, amid the same crowd, b~anng similar announcemen

A little larcr, J;.ju left ,for. horne after Dad. insisted dtatE he g;o aJ.Ud,'OK some: rest, Dad and 1 spent the rest 0 fthe rime ]]1 tbe hQSp1'~al, ' e n 0 1J1' chairl confined ITO the atl~endant-hiI],

Whatever I had seen in the ,p,flsr ~r hours was· ,Oashin:g tb,ro'~§k . brain. Her faoe! be,[ hands and flly one-sided conversstion wi~h her.

HD~d she recognize nly voke:? '. 'hi..~&lJe' hear m'e'talking [0 she WaJlI[ to ~ay somethi n,g, to m,e?'~ These were the queS<tiow' [ asking l.l]~df ag,ain and ~g;tiJl. Per hours, I ~llfuggjed ',\ritJh ehese qu(,)t;tid. and b ad thoughts at one end, and p,ra yers a Did hopes at. the orhec

It W~,$ 3,: 00 PM, when Plu:hkar arrived ~n: the [iU)SPlI(a} with :;t 'ft'llli h box. Lrner him while ll\jl~$ coming OUr', o.f the restmom and, up.(k=il~ him an!J ut to daj.if! CT.:.Scan.

-ee So did th e do,tors talk ab.oJut [he reports .ILOO?'~ he' atSked.

"Nor jee, They JiJ:dglu~ d.rlfuri!"ig the evenili.1Jg counseling h)Qurs.~l~ I ~a~d. "Hmm ... :r th,~,ught so, By rhe wt.y!, li have gCH' Iunch for ~n ...:...: .A:W:

Dad and me, j~ he said,

([], think it 'wo uld be better to send Dad back .home, 5.'0 d~'a:t:.h.e c h,~'te his lunch o:unf'O!t'folbly there aJf.lJd, resta lirrle. lie seems ·t:e· tired .. ,,....

178

"Thars :f1ne. ru 'be here w]th you,,~l

\~e then moved towards dlJt arrendanr-hall,

DcspiEe,' Dad's rdU'CiUIJIH:e" we succeeded il1i s.'endlng hj m bac~· ,hmm

I had Il~.y lunch af[er that. For dlC next few bours} PbJ.sill{1l r ~ lld ~ .. '11 f~' mlking (0 each other, about out, ot.n(:e, ,fam,i]y 'and friends. ,Ant~ nLU:

'"",Ill ... tU1UCSi1L

J"l was 5 :,:) 0 in the e 'e.n.ing when we sa w Deep u corn ing ·0 OJ of dlt t' ~eV~UOf. The visiting hours had sml"~d and I lMe:w be, was here to see ~]' ~ sister, Be sa! beside us! .,alkil'lg about the 1 ~rde problem with his . J r and th;;~,'[ 1 [ needed. servicing, D a(~ Il'~d. alfl('.:(ljdy told :him. about the, m crning's CT Sea n,

\Vhe!J:1, our rurn Was announced, we ~s:l'tod, him to go ahead to ~hc leu. :Bad{, in til;e'banl Pushkar and I were worried about the C'T-Scan

eport, 0 ur eyes were glued to the Ie u door, 'w.ai6ng fo.'.( Deep u 1);0 come Q1..'lt widl som~ upthl[e f[(un [he doctors, ,t\nJ.:i neady ·i1Jree[ I minuses 'I ~ ter, 'we $"a·W I1J.im ro,ming our" We got U'.P' from 'OUI:' sean, ~J~d we nr eo him,

"The donors sa) that the blood clots arc still. ,p~r$igting. in dicti·s brain. Hue rhe good [hin~ Is, char they have no[ worsened," he said before we could ~sk. bjIDJ;'

~~ '. 'm]" 1 ~.~] d

, ..... n~;r· ~ II""g' ., ""#>o~ '~"~ffl·,...'r_, ;1".... L'ir"'.f'IIur

n j"', . ~iAIA - !.... ~ ....... _.. _ 'II'll i9.J! I,L'!.,;,.'. 'J :tIv. K..Il.I.JWI ·r. ...... il

<~'Ncdl.it~g as such, She ;,$ 111 a subconscious state and. ,mo'V~ng I··u hands <JJod lregs',,'n

We ~~O.O d. ncar dULl: lCU' dloQ[' t~r. ~, while lefoKe we lvallcedt back tp our sears, where 'we sat fOE anorher hour or SQ" M.ea.nwhHe~ Dad c..1.lLe~ ~ ti P D'ee])~li1 on ~l is edt He' wanted me to- come back hQrn: .. Though I was not 'wiUing to Ieave '[he .hospital~ [he frequent: announcernems finaUy m ade me leave. ,Accordl ng (0 the ai1nOUi'lLCem,ents ~ ,only t~e. arrendsnts havi,ng IC:U passes were al[Ol-"iN,~d ro st3lY back an rhis ficor and r'h,e checking was abo ur eo begjn. We jU8.U" bad [1i,VO pM:;la~s with us 2il.m! one uf us larul to leave, t did .~ot' ftei.like ~skimg dthet Pushkar or :Deep'll 00 do :50 .and so I ~gr.ood to gP,

179

- -- "_ - ..... 1

'I'll drop YOlll home," Dcepu said ..

'~O K," I s-a.id lookin~ ar h.~ m and Pm~111{av

~t'[-lialre some rca at horn e· and rel ax lil bi . YO'LI~ve been here

.' ". 14 I} hl id · t ld

mormng, usnkar 531; , ~ paUJ!.ng.111}' snout, era

"I wUt See you larer,"

"Se'E: you."

Wha,e going' down in the elevator, I was 8Js.kin.g rnysel f - and God. ' He could answer me - when she via~. going ro open her ~es and talk r me 'When would J hear the dOClI:D,f;' say that she is. out of da:It,fl:

When 'will rhings be alrigbt for all of us a.gain~ I begged God EO. ralkt me and answ Jf Illy q UC::'Sl'J0 ns,

()'IlCC at the ground floor, we ca rn e. OUIl of ,the hospi ral, It w~S"'I~(ilId outside. Deep u was. Slaying SlOJne'th' fig to me which r igHOi"Od, suucJ~ i Ii lny one-sided convers aden with G CH]_ Looking down a t the read, losr in my thoughts, I walked QUI of the hospital. exir fo1lowing' .Deepu~~ .foQ:ts:teps"

"That's our CJr, (j"flet there, Deepu pointed.

Wil:hQut resp~)ndin.g~ Lfollowed him and got in rhe Car. M r sHel:t~c was obtru ive, But then. sow ething happe.ilted in tha.E CaJ'r, wh ich .made me red good ijlnd hrok~ my s~h:·n.c.e., The mom enr he sear ted the elliV.ne J

-,

rhe m usie $}~,~eln turned on ~nd dU2: paused SQ.n .. g Q,Di:Lirinued.;,

~'I am gouna 'wake up; , . Ir's not m.y rime IQ gn , ... I guess I ""HI ,die. another day .. , ~

1 h ea rd. the wCI:I;d~ v;e.['Y deal i!".l.y~ comi~.lg out of rhe m usic ~st~m in his Cal that ni ghc Making mysel f comfortable on. the seat now .1 was v,lonqering if-this. was jusr another song' or if it was 'G,od hims·df ·!trying ro make rny' conversation rwo-sided, or if dlis was Khu.shi somehow conv~!llg,vhaJl: she VV'S[' ted [00 [d~, rue '\vnerl. I was holding, her hands ill mine .. I drodt know what it 'was bur, those ~~ rics were more rhan just

1St)

\ltL rds. Or maybe .~,I is human [,endenc.y ro choose s()merhing which j-ti,\'LS the n1~ir.num c"G'mFoiit.

"Amen," I- 'lrv1shed in ["[1I.y heart a.nd, teel]ug a little better, starred

~::II Hong to Deepu,

\);Ie reached ]1Jome and! ;;lifter a while Deepu was abeuc eo leave when )qJ;d. asked him ''\0 have d~nner .first! 50 that he didn~t have to come I .LC:'k agRln. In rhe living· room 1 S:J1W J]ju and Daan pl:lliy"ing '~~fith cad1 nd~er" Seeing mel Neeru prepared some tell £or both J]ju and r;ne.;·Po.i!

he next h3!'~f ·ar.~ hour. the entire i&utf1ily W~lS 1n the Hving-rooul. 1 h..at ~1!ghIt '\v,e hed our dllu1J.e.r ~:r around nine, aft,er ·wh.ich Deepu left [0'[ rne hospital, .I w-anued to go hack. to tbe hospital w:1tb him, hut I kn~ .~ us ant was gol ng to ~(:(:om.paL~'D.y him there fOI the .night. Mo rOO ve I, so In-eo n .. e at home m~J1,d.oned th at Susant 'l,f.l'ou.ldi be t[a:vdin:g, [0 Chandigarh co morrow and would te['~In afteJ: two or three days. 1 d'l.Q'l,;~g'h:[ I'd repla . ce him 011 chose successive Jlig11t.'). Pushkar was supposed [0 le~ve for his offi.c:e that night for some ilnpOIita"tll: calls,

I spell r. rhar n.i:g,h t in her room ag~'~ n, on her bed. Before do~]ng my eyes 11"ecoUecEed: 1']j10mC[iJ,~ frona . our hapP'j< days and prayed. tn rGod to heal her And so another d.ar in 11"1 y ~ t fe passed in prayers, hope and

anxiety

The nexr ·day was preuy 111UiCh like the pJi:·e\.'Ii,O·US one.Dad. Jl]lil~. and I were 3:( the ht)spiml by lO~30 J\1vt,. Deepu rold LIlS ib<nn the d.o.c[ors?: pL~.n to 0 P(;§.1l te 0 u her .thigh s and. j ~'\V '([hat,. very d;]_y; ,.l\C.(o~d.b,ng 'W' them, she-was in a better condition O.t)i'I;· ~.~ld thns they were goin;g ahead -w~th rhe SlU';g€ty" We were as:llu~jr& [0 replace ~ [aw-plare- 3:f the bosp:i'rni ba.nk as the: docrors were go.i n.g [0 use erne wh]Je operntil~l];~o I]. her -ja'\c". MOf1eoV(;£s we had. '[0 arrange fum: blood do nors fo·r rep'lrl;~tnenl

as approxi.mately :fo:ur units of blood w;as gOl'ng: ito l:te used for [ opemeion,

I dicl.[l~t know abo ut this b]ood~,replaeeillent pdrnrciple ertr~[et; Dad [cQld JXH~ that whenever ~ b~.o)(l-d' ;u.ni:t 1~ used 'fQt' a. patient, d~~ ~"3 me amount has ~(J.- be replaced by rhe artendanrs of the patient, US1;i:aJ~y

f

within t¥llcl1ty',~fQI.H' hours, 1"1: WM nor about g~td ng some C€.[,tifje,d 'MoQld

fJ!om a blood hank - wha;~ w~ needed 'was p'~~}ple who '#0 uld do oaf(! dle1r. blood in Ithj~ hospital's blood, donation center,

~ So 'we are now slL~ppose-d. to searclr f.~'njj.[ donors 'v['Jlose blo a d WO:IJDpl

, ,- . ~l· , bl J1" t s ~ )"

are A,+ and are wu 111£ to' ~"l,fe<:w; " .oOY. HJi tne next ~nty~.Ii:o<u~ .1'iJ-~[,:g.

I asked D aiL .I. !i.new that, in. her entire f:am,ay; only her Dad W~S' A:t and eV~fy0[,ne else 'was ,0+, even me,

~~ NO~I fO,l :rep[i&te!1:Lm'tl dGRO[ll ean be ,of ~U!J.Y' bloc d gr::n:;~:p,!, The oIDly coadldon is ih.'iivt an equivslenr-uumhcr of unirs needs to be dO,n;mted" And we ~.!,re~dy 11.;1. 11'e a [ranged rhe d.Oll0t:s.~ r Deepu druriHcd,

!"\X!1~,Q are. dlteyt' ], ~:sil~"

"Two of SlusaneS dose' fdc:n-ds) rhe; admin ~rom 'Kh.wbts oO,nlp~itW'1f

- -"

and.me."

~E!!FW I Call. be a. donoJf. 'W~' [C~:~, ~ one of Sus~ol s f1dends te :sq, back," I said.

"'][verybody is here by now and \'Ie"s:b.ould jlMUdously ,~Jre p~~on3 &'011'1 'QU.l· .f.u"flily w donare bk~©d" There can be wo["'s[",c~Sie'~"et}arlo\S, ru'1'Y 11l0m~'~ where 'we !U§gh~ ,nOI[ ~ncl. cnh~~ to donate blood on dme. ,Rel1l1eml')e.£~J~t .j1D'LI dOlrli,~l'te·.b16od IID,% you can~r. ho·f. the. nest 3 monclu"wH.e IHLd. a point, I just 'wjm&l, d,-La[ the worst-case scenarios would not arrive,

~~ 1 'wi It go 'with Su~a~l.s £r lends to the blo,o d hal.lk 8JDd 3fre:r C~,1J.t:u: I willl!!3iV"e for horne" NoOrtd. to ll"J:ve some fuc(:rd he£IJ,re donating blood .j~ he said. ~1]1ld. w'tnn: .off.

,~1.y [cell. P hone .rang! dlj~n" I looked at TIlly watri:;h while taldng th~

LtH from my pocker, It was 11 :00 (ltlq I kQicW this: was morn's call, She \!! ~l[td,d dng ,me it"vl,~e- ¢"veTyda.y to ge:[ an '!J..pd~,~e ;;a:hotu -0 ur discusslons wi rh the doctors -e-

~~S!i.t Sri Ak~l!; Mum ma, n 1 ,'taid.~ m.ovfm:ig· QU~ of the crowded ·han. :~ Stf't Sri Aklit.'l £eta". I=ICt.w' are :ro'u?~j

~"I am, fine How is, your 'lJ.,adcJJ,ch(;'~ ltny JTd.~d?:]a

· Irs the S-iit:tTl-e 1it~ 'before, It becomes rroublesome a,(: clmes, bur I am rm ne. A~:iy ~~._pdJ:1J.r.e IOn Kh.ush?s c::ondh;i,'on.t~

I [old he.1: -:ab 0 ut die do ctors decision 00 operare on Khushi to cl~r .t L1d [he blood replenlslunent 'thing. She expressed concern . .a1iDot].t the operation and 1 n~ed U) '0[t~fon her, sayirl.g it was because Khn;si1l;~'~ herter today that the; doctors Ql'J'tl]d take' thbi decision, As [-I!s:~at. she also as~cd me about 'Kh:Msbi1's mother and resr 0,£ the £It.td;Iy.. B(:fon;:' h ulg41g up, she consoled me, 1I}i ~]wa:n-;, ~~.yil],g d~ac Cipd i~ .. ~r[i:o [ '~r.ul \;VQ IN I:d tak~ care of he r,

V.Y'c;:'ab ~ I know site '!i~",~ U be- Hne.. You t~l<:e care a.D1.d. I wj']l c~B Y1)]'liI l~g'f!LLIl in. rhe evening." \Vh:h that, I h un,g up and moved b~ck 00, rn:e .u.r,e.n'd:ar~ [-:h~1 rq [,0 ~{lre Dad. -:IDJnd. J] jilllL,

c'1~h~' are: going to start [he operation at 1 :],O/~ Dsd cold me,

'[ &0 '¥ifi~ need to do, any1'h ~_n.~ ,t!is~: for- the operadon, apart IrQ,m !the .dooQ.t,s ~ iiJ1d 't1'l,e J a'w~p]a't,e :Ff;pia6(:f.ltlJendn 1 ashd,~

"'J. asked 'but, ~.ocordh!J.,g '[0 [[he docrors, we: don'irllttcl. to dO aJ;n.yt1tiL~nE elsie at OlU~ end."

The '~Jpetaj~'~ox~, 'lbeg~ I] -I)·,tIl. ti me ~ that ~'k~'.rn'o on, ] was told tbat i r 1I,\~j5 ~:ol:rt!,g '~:D r.:.l~:l;: ~t least d:u:ee- hl(]ry~,!, We :,:IiU 'ii,iefe now sie-ri ng in a diffu~fl'[ w:a:idng~haJM '0111 the l,'' t1.0CH: of rbre bu]ldJng~ In .fron[r. w.~:s; @J. d()i),1I," wltl «'OT~' 'w;F'i~:cetl on it and. a, red bttlb a~b;Qve it 'W'h ircb WaS swltched ~!n"

The atrii~e[Jl and ehe chiU were'lliraCK in me aod. [ thiolk:' k was ith~ same with ,;;]JU of us" We' 'were sca1l"ceiy talldng. S[rancied. be~~ ,f@~

183

....

and hope, pacing IJ,P and down the wairing-hall, T,!nH! stood still Minutes passed like hours, hO!J.H's Jike days, And 'all ak:m,g" there our feats, and h.opesj battling with each orhcr, winning and lo~]ng ~ dlffi"re.tlrt moments.

I stood at me :win,do\ l, warciling the tlr:ilffk outside and. th e '~~e;a w:hich was chan-g,ing drastically; AU ofa sudden it was .g.ening d.a.r Black clouds hovered in the skies of~ Faridabnd. It m,S go.! ng [0 '-!til he~v]jy; ~ vras still looking through ehe window Wbe;i1. my pho!~e..f.llj It-was Happy I picked tiP hi~ call,

~~H' j H )'

e ' ~r~.' appy veer.

. Mev! I Iow is mv brorher dcine a nd ~10W 1:5 mv bbabih.i nCfwt~

r' ~ 91 I

-..-.; They are opera'ti l:lg on, dltf: fractunts m her [hlg~U and j aw.. h'~$' 8? to- ta k/t 'f.\lliJ'O more hours."

~LBu,'[ when I I asu. called, you said the docto rs were not gOillhg I ope ate on her so soon?"

'Yes, but tbi .. morning they said d~.ai[ she 'Ii'(a~ iu a beuer condiilt"o

to !be o~pe;~ated now;"

"That means. she is improving."

ell hope. S:Q. I just want to see her well )~r:uir ~ I said 10 ·a low V'Qr,i:@e;; "Ob, come on, buddr·, She l~ going: to be 'aJJso,hudy nne. S.ee,

ha~ shown some iJnprove~nen[f~' [hat's 'why '('he doctors have gOrut"L'IIi t~ ... ~~, wj.1th the operation, I~s jIUs:[ a matter of time and W"'e ·w.ili be'dam'cin u.ogemeE to the bca:tS of bhtl..~t.r~, at 'YOlU engagem ent ... 'W~lat ,S'ayr H tried to. cousole me and make-me fed be[~e,r ..

, '·Y~~.Jl,}) I said, "I j usc need her so bad~}'·... 'every damn t'h.oILJ:g!u . $baking me inside and .. ,. YOlt know how nladly I .I.o~ her .. I fad loody ill d:L'ls crowd jl,J,SI: because I ::un not aWe. to calk ro her .. i!·

~f_[ know dear, Bur rake this as ~ chaHc~nge, ~i~ a rest, ~na I W yOIL[ win co-me Q'U,r, of it with flJ.y.ing: colors, J I1s1: think of the :f5oc~,

which is going [0 come afrel" this hard rime, when she win open her tiyfS and. talk to 'you .. j~

I wished every single len-e.r· of w·h~t J:U! said would conic erue, no rnar re r what, I was about to ask. him something when, aU of a sudden, . started ~osing his voice, I couJd see warer spl:;rshing on the window, a lew inches frommy nose, In no time, iii: had startedraining heavHy and. .11 I could sny was, L< I can't hear' 'jlOl). e e e , Ir's raining hfavl~}""! ~~ '~efo[~, theI ~ ho ne .S()J1; disconnected,

J looked OUt ,~.f the window eo see po lipJre Mushing jl1t-o tile hospital

jlr to theirvehicles, Sed n,g. that rain, all of a. sudden I had this 'wlbe~;ilit=aib-]c II, :~e to ,h.,ear her voice. She used (.0 enjoy the rains wh~ie. ~king ro me u nd, maybe because ,o\f 'chat, I 000 had' developed a romantic te]1d~fKy Ilril.J raj k to' her when ].~ rained. I r \M[fJJ1j ;.1, ]Dm,g rime since J bad last heard I U.':,j!' voi ce and 1. badly wan ted to hear my be.jav·edt voi ce again,

I ran OLI'[S,~&e in that heavy' rain. I searched £o.r ct 'cyber cafe and ~~l tidied 1:J.1Y urge by listening to the voice messagt."S. she left for me wh i le I was abroad,

1 was 'compi,ejtiely drenched fftc).I:·~:'8; outside, t\nd. [['om, inside.

Otl.i! e.v,ef1:'in:~j~t:i,i:'ke' att}l' W.i1~ trI~'in~ liJm:jlk;p.1J/tmq,fj;!tc:r ~tJ.~'th11JY

f~i~,ru:ktlt m}':olfir:e.i. be-tilib. (:l~p~, ' . .

,Kh~i iJ€fviJtg ~ mf;$id_r(1~{/S,. wttn,'ting m'e ~ cldl'htrF.. T}.,e1J.d'id:~e .. ~ r, r cell,piro.Ne·,iI .JfJW. 1!~~' ·4tn nor t:ttll~n;g JJ_4r b#(k. I am' ftz,sj playing. my wne. In' it ,coup!;' ul mon,'#bs .thwe ~.v q j',> ~tJ.oAe" M'U~Mt· in b{fp~'i.~ nh u6ah~a.r~ ,~l Ilfjft fira(.1:i~' .~hartl.,"fo)" it:

M1_:pk8?nt! pi~for tIJctJAJ.i1t~i: ~me~ 1 ~!tfJ_~~j.

I

. She ~atfs aga~;Ji..14ml!in~J_ r4f4.~~\'1t. cap ,tJj'f/I.c.'(it~:

185

~OJ

rtWhy ann! you p;cking'u! ~·p·hDne:?n.

·1,a:t1.~:p'r~ctic:i~.,;g:dttJ.f.iker. roo: JaloU) thatlllrn htMJ playi'tig tit thi<Jtimt 1'rl&~~'Jon~' haVp tim't .for' me? Ne« rom fi7Je mlnu:tcs? ~

'Whwhi, pl~ld C'a~' we t4tk idt'Cf( They lfII_-are· 'tJNtitingfo'" m} "Shot ... "".(Jj b"e. n

~ ,.

1 keep. ,my ce,il:plumefor,iJ<tVl1;Jfi(Jm, ,the:r.nook", ,q,iile 4n~i res« ~m'e1J,f(I,':lI'IJlI

An A au.r Mf:ffi, aft~,~ wi1nlln, tne¥rtck q/tiJ'l' MJ_' g4m'(, I p ·btld 'ii.1!,kk .IdH)I~e.

Tbne ti d m~s~llg.r i1J it. Fmm ,"$r;,

N,rnhing changed. f'Vli!n after four. daysl thin,s :I[,emain,ed rhe smne her unconsciousness, the' doctors' inability 'to S'8J.y ~!rn:rth.ing Idefmi our renrs~ '0 ur pn',yf'fS; 'an,d 01'1 [ teers,

Time and again" we 'irverea:slring the doctors it 'we needed to iRk(! seoond 'Opinion en her treatment, If-we oo~'u.M g:et: lle:1!' n:e:.u;:t}d W~Uei~flI!~m else bc;.:iol'e it was too late'" 13 ue th'e.y were non-commrrta].

With each p~s~n,g d-ay~ her batele 'with. death was ,~c:;n.b.lg.;ru d.~ffi,ouh:" C.o;nst-a.ndy bei,ug on ~he vendlator, she gOf pneumon:~a hings were '~acking b]ood. She starred b~eoding som.le\:v.hoere ins~!dlC intestine. She had aJr!eadr been g,i, en t~:n units, of'blood but her'&!li blood pressure clJdmtt g~in. ~n, sustenance,

,r; might be: bf1:PPJI .2 HMn d t(Jur-mft.m~n.tp hi sam'e.r/Pj u ~kt ,b .sarli tL'en u might wi$/tJ 2 t!k .2 me Ilt I mig/1t 'l~().t 6' ,(lhk 2 dtJ so,

IIII'

,

, ]

~. . e- ~ _,

lS,(j

The threat of the worst changed me. All of a sudden, I Hatted, 'hoe! i tVlng, in all kind}5, of super:s,dd.oncS ~nd myths. Had anyone rcld me ~ . Pick lci"fJ' a few pebbles from rhe road (iI,nd. eat them. I r 'will save her, - -I. 'vol~~,d have done r'htu too, I. was: so desperate to make her vrdl tha,c I l-¥.J.S ready [0 do. anyrhing. Any~.h.ing. W,i~bout a second [.bought.

The mental burdenI was carryin.g ~ we ill were car.rying ~ 'was just WG 111 uch, \Vaitiog~ ho ping for some good news, which \, ,e did not get, Instead the bad news, d~~ new miseries kept p.m,ng on. r c()u~,d even f(¢1 rn}7 hel fl"~cs:s:ness and frustr:atio n leading to a" mental breakdown. And ir was liard to ~ray positive and not JellS!:::' :01y 0001 and pscience .

Later that evening, [he doctors permitted {1S 'to rake a second Orpin'~ on f - r her rrearment, Which m a me thalt th~v fe,h~ dler could nor do un ore, Her co nd,itio~l was deeeriors dng,.

We all nude up our mind. 'l\POJiO Hospital was our last medical hope.

Moving a. patient who '\ as so serious was go,ing to be the roughest 'par. t of her treatmen t. Taking her. our fio m [he a tID osphere of a protected J CU' mum the open air full of 'bacreda and viruses then her t ransit fr.om E ridab~d to Delhi in arJr!, am bu ~ ;i!;uce i ruun ing ~Hn,id the busiest t[;1f6c - aU thJs invohtccl' &0 much risk. Even the thought of it, grJJ.ve me jitters . .L~ s;ng:~e ,~Jlisrnkr; ,,'o·uJ:d lead 00 d]:S,a.s.,t'e-~. Bu,[" y.~ had no other ah:e,l1"n~u:iv'c,

The next da~1; "'!Nt: all 'were. ge~r.ed up for d).e big rask, I remem b cr well; i[.. 'was Afi1.hf,tvi;~)~Y:f1n!1,· a nd, in illL}T heart, I had this fe,ding that '"ye nll were going ro do. well on th:~'~ auspicious d~]y,

But far;e kept tfru'e:a,ten.~ng us r.i rne and a.[f~Io, 'We 'Vltl.e ~bou:t 't@ rJ,ke her OUf of me hospiral when her dad W;;J.-$ asked to do something, We: were gJ'!/cn a s-et .0,[ documents ee be signed ina rhc ~ ~sr one ","'US (I discla illH~:t" which read:

I

H.'~""'L. , ... ' ~ d.~ - . " . d~ "i " "- ", • 'b . "

' 11. J]I'~ P a nent S con In 0]1, is sen ous au i IE 11$ enure rransi nen rs ,~Ul;:,

done on rhe wish of pat~"en.'[~ f0JITt [[y. In case of ally fuu,ther drun. which m,aylF.rt:,],y no [: lead UQ the death of the patient, the hasp tal, wi U not be held respe nsi ble , ~~

Her ,futbe&: 15h;u~d that p.apc[" and we carne Out a [ret mak log me entire p~yH~~Dti

hi rhe mH::X:r 11'81£ an hour, we were on [he road. ,Every single' minute involved extreme C<"lJ:Ll~jQn" Thrcughour, I liepL"sa~~,ng God's n:am~ in :rny heart, h was the fir.,sit time I 11 ad been in an ambu lance, Bd,lng .irn~an smb L:i lance is So d,u.ffel'elm~ f,orn bei ng on the road, w~I'E,ch:in~; an ambulance. I: never llullew ir 'was so, frigh ten,~J1g. The siren kept tDl'tm]'\]ng me, EverytJ",[ng \c\'a1t g,D-lUg fin~~ still, e1rt;!J1 nuw. 311d rhen, li kept asJ.cing the' docrcr w,]th ~I s. And,.. every time, h~~' fC~PO[]S5l(;:) 'wa~c pO'sid¥e.;

,F~$,,~~ng those. ,h)rry'-Hve- minutes -oJ resrlessness, we .:finally re-a:d:fed Apollo, They irnmediarely wok her to [be lieU and. we were a.d~ed: ro cornplere rhe fo.irmal~tie;5" Ir rook us almost art, hour- afret whi~d] w-c' were ~~:owecl to see hee just once. I WiTh8 rhe last person IW' lea V~ dIe' ICU'. I stood [here in front of a new doctor who 'was. going '['0 hm!1ZJ;d~¢ :bet case. He was the senior- IIUJSt p~r.sCU1L eJm.id all those people ]]1 'wh~t~ ~.p[qn;s: and. his '~ejUTI g,ot busy studying the M PJ, and~ ,X"",Raf;s:. I w,an~ed rc ralk to h I in. Bur 'when he appeared ,I n frm.u of me, "waiting foE.' ,[I']']J,e to 5ay SOi]le,tn i I'i,g~ E rl$~t 'CQl~ ld til!;) t,

'~\-W,b.~'t h<li'fi,p'errM,d?l~ ~]ie' as~(:d'j\ pl~cij)g liis, ~~atIJd 'O[]; my ~J~(nddi~ s

I looked down, [lying 1'0 speak,

~~ SOfi~ \~bat happehed~ ~~ He raised in.y chin"

"Can rou-$;iIi,vo her ftk md'~~ W~_3 aLII could s:a-y before [ears randG.i~u. m r lfi1;ce.

"That's what we alw';1l}'s n-y to do her,e. Don't worry; things will get betrer, You" take Gl re of yOi.l[g~-]-E \"Ve will cake care of her. ~~

Som ebody called h im '~ulJd he gCH bu~y Jj;_g~ia~ ~todyi ng. her re.p'Q,t'TS" T carne out 0 f. the leU. The toughesr J ob of [~le d~r was over. She was ~Httes3fnll.y adm i trcd in her 11e'W h ospi [at There was a fee~~:i.ng of vic tory snd ft, new ra.y of hope \~f;,d~,i.n our hearts.

La'D~J that n.ight,~ '~~Iklng to her morn, D'3Ld.:sai-d~ "She is now' in safur

I d-~) aanc 'so

That w:~K~"'du_;; fits[" nigh["£::i.noe her accident t-vb~n I slepr a 1.irt1e beuer,

(~11) • .1 h .' b":')", I " .... 1-., rj~

D ut you saio :5-' -,e, w-as· g,C,1'i1.:I1g EO ',ie 'fl.[n~ !l..t"

~. See, gend,t:,mJ::t!i., don't 1()'Se your calm, W¢ c:aJt~L promisa you file

?, 'fl"l • b ~~

moon. \",e are trymg our .' 'est,

The nexc evening, ]: wss t:,~Jke Fl.g 1;0' the d,OC(,OfS. They "vv(::J'e saying 1[~.1 at her cond itton was de terio[';a[l1:1;g becau se of. tbe- ,fall in hel'c plateler count, Su;dd~~11;A rhifl~s appeaeed "v:eljl difrti'~1J:[ from whar 'we' b:a:d, planned, "0"bail: wr::: :h~d, hoped aud e.xF~~~d,

lMe1"~ in the .lIIJi.i. iddl e of ~b,e r'ii,~ gh:t~ gn.-aJ~rm,~-beU .r~l1g ~\!',h.'6n il;h~ -didctor~

- - «, ' 'L. d' .J bl .;] rJi

told U\S, 'Her IJiO W l1eelJl's-l!JJ()<U,.

'LBlood~' Aga1n~)~ I ~s~ked.

~'l~h is rime, we need plarelets to be- ]n,'fr;ctcd into her body~ Thdr level has f~]]eD 'l,~ay bel ow Ih~ cx]:)lect'ed ,,1'>

'~We can get thaue frOn'l the blood bank, r-lgh[r'~ hex dad asked, "These cells d,on't las; fOi: ffi1o.re:rha.n rou.ir to $.[X hours, s~ tbey c~IL~:i~t

-, .

be stored ill a blood ba nk, Wie need people who "Can donate plasma

cells 1io her, ~~

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