Small Town Girl

PART I

Episode 1

That reminds me of the day when I met him for the first time in my life. He seemed to be totally unlearned of my presence. He was well established and I was a novice trying to find ways to enter into his world. But he was then too big to notice me. After 5 years now, I am finding myself again into the same situation. He lives with me but I can’t feel his presence. He talks to me, helps me and gives me whatever I need except time.

I could recall when it was our first meet, I was very nervous. I was asked to meet him at a party and have a casual talk so that he allows me to show him my work. I had selected some photographs consulting my friends. One of my friend was a Media Journalist and because of him only I got this opportunity to come to this grand Party. Everybody looked so cool & confident except me. My friend had helped me in preparing my portfolio which I was carrying with me and I looked so odd and out of the league with the folder. Everyone was enjoying the Party and I was looking like an interviewee carrying her certificates. It was a big Book with Red cover page on which my name was nicely written with my best photograph ever clicked. Inside were my snaps arranged according to themes with some of them having added Photoshop effects to make them more attractive. I went to him but he was busy talking to someone over phone. I waited for him to finish. At last his cell left him alone for me. “Hi Rohit, I am Nikita Dwivedi. Aakash must have spoken to you regarding…..”. “Yes, he told me. You don’t have any experience, right?” what kind of a question was that . he already knew that otherwise why would I come to him for help? He was so rude. He could have asked me some other good formal questions like “How are you doing?” and all.

“Ya…….but I….”

“It’s OK I think we should meet in our office and let me see some of your work then we will decide, how to go about it. This week I am very busy so shall we meet next week?”

Wow what a meeting it was. No introduction , no hello hi, he didn’t even ask me to join him at the Party. Did I come here just to hear these 4 words “Meet me next week” I felt so pathetic and so exposed and so neglected and so small.

“Next week is fine with me”

“Ok! Then call me on Monday to confirm”

“OK, Thanks”

“Chalo then, enjoy the party, I will see you later”

Enjoy the party where I don’t even know the

“Ya sure, it was…”

Before I could blurt out those typical formal words he left. It was natural and not a big deal. He didn’t even speak to me much. He was a big MAN. But I don’t know why I felt so bad. Felt like I am non-existent.

I knew nobody there. My friend could not come because he went for a project to Delhi. Rohit Kapoor was only person I knew but he seems to be too busy to take care of that or rather too big to even bother about me. I thought if I should try talking to some stranger myself. But I was very nervous.

“Why are you nervous? Come on nobody knows you are a novice. You can bluff also. And even if you don’t, it’s OK. Just feel confident. Have drink and catch whoever you see is alone” were my own words from my own soul. “But there is no one alone here except me” was my reply. A small Town girl hailing from Nashik suddenly got an opportunity to come to a city like Mumbai, my dream city it was. I was an MBA student in my final year. We came to Mumbai for a Marketing project. We were 4 in total but here I was alone. They had asked me for a trip to Matheran but I refused because I wanted to attend this boring party so that I can speak this BIG guy who is nowhere to be seen. Huh, I felt like going back immediately but Aakash had asked me to stay and explore the opportunity to speak to big people in the Party.

I wanted to speak but first I needed a dose of confidence so I decided to go to washroom, my favorite spot at such places where you don’t know anybody.

I was trying to search for the washroom sign board. I was too shy to ask anyone. So many people were passing by but I didn’t dare to ask as if they all were going to eat me up. But the place was so huge that at last after roaming for around 12mins, I had to ask a girl. She showed left.

Fortunately, It was empty to my relief. The only good thing that happened to me till now. I confirmed by checking every door that nobody was there. I took a deep breath and blasted

“Oh NO! What’s happening to me? What am I doing? Last night I wasted almost 5 hrs singing for this party. So many plans. I will do this, do that will be stylish. Practiced so much to impress that BIG MAN. But now What? What? What? They wanted me to go with them. I would have enjoyed so much in Matheran but no I wanted to be professional, wanted to come to this party so that I can meet so many BIG people and will get so many opportunities, I will learn so much. Bullshit. You are a fool. Aakash…Oh! Aakash I am missing you so much. I wish you were here. I wish you would have cancelled your Delhi Trip for me. But why will he do that? Even he is not a close friend. We just met few months back on internet. I expressed my interest in photography and he was so nice to give me attention. Though initially he also took time to open up opportunities for me but he was so much better. Much better than this ROHIT…….BIG MAN….IDIOT…..Now what will I do. I want to ………” I heard some noise. I started preparing myself to leave the room. I held my bag with style and moved towards door. She came inside. The same girl who showed me way to this room. She smiled at me and I smiled back. Then I came out. “You fool, she smiled at you. Whoever she was. You had the opportunity to speak to her. Why didn’t you? Now, go back and speak to her” I scolded myself “No I won’t, what will she think about me…like desperate” “So what? Come on what will happen. At the most, she will ignore you. It’s your need not hers. Come on go” I was having a fight with myself. But at last my SELF won and I went back to the room. She was nowhere to be seen. Must be inside. I decided to wait.

When she came out, I looked at her in a strange way as if she stole my purse and I was waiting to catch her. “What?” She questioned. “I …I…I…nothing I was just new. I mean I wanted to speak to you”

Shit! I sounded so imbecile and so nervous.

“Yes, tell me what is it?”

Episode 2

“Hi, I am Nikita. I have a friend who is a photo journalist. He asked me to come here. Actually I am a struggling photographer” Struggling? What a bad introduction it was. “I mean I want to make a career in this field but I am too new so I …I…I may be I thought this party would help and Aakash also told me to …”

“Who is Aakash?”

“My friend, that photojournalist I talked about. He works in Star News”

“Photojournalist in star news. Aakash Mehra”

Oh No! I forgot his surname all of a sudden. But to be on safer side I said “Yes, same Aakash, and same Aakash. You know him”

That was a big risk taken but I had no other option.

“No. But I heard a lot about him. He is good”

I felt so confident now that my reference was so strong and famous. Wow.

“actually I don’t know anybody here and Aakash couldn’t come because of a project. I just know Rohit Kapoor. He is…”

“Ofcourse I know…who doesn’t know Rohit. So where is Rohit? Has he left the Party?”

“No. I mean I don’t know. We just met and then he got busy with his friends”

“friends? Rohit?It seems as if you really don’t know anything about him”

My confidence was again shattered

“Why did you say that” I asked in a diminished tone.

“He is one of the most unsocialistic people. I mean he prefers to be alone always. Never seen him with any friends. He is too much into his work and a very professional person. He is very good at his work and in fact very talented, more than anyone else but I don’t know some how I feel. By the way how do you know him? I mean must be some project!”

“No actually Aakash told me that he is very effective person in this field. So if I could get some guidance from him….”

“Guidance ..from Rohit. Aah! Don’t even think he would pay attention”

I was again flat. Now it appeared on my face also.

“Hey, don’t worry; He is close to Aakash so he may help you. But anyways if you want I can also make you meet some other people who may be ready to guide you.”

“Oh! Thanks. That would be great”

“I am Preeti Sharma. A Fashion Model. Come I will introduce you to Mr. Jindal. He is also a very good photographer. Just that he is not very rich because he was more into social work kind of things. But he can be a very good Mentor. “

Wow! It was at last such a relief. See! It was only one step ahead. I just needed to speak with someone or anyone. And I did it……..cool. My efforts will not go waste now. And it was worth leaving Matheran trip.

On our way out she inquired me about my family, education, ambitions and all.

“Hello JD, how are you?”

“Fine as usual. Tell me about you dear”. They hugged each other. A typical high society hug with a cheek kisses. I don’t know what they call it.

“Perfect. JD I want you to meet this young girl. She wants to be a photographer. She is studying MBA at GMI at Pune but she want to become photographer. It would be very nice if you could help her”

“Hello Young lady. How are you?”

“I am fine thank you. Nice to meet you” I extended my hand

“Nice to meet you too. Come . Come with me . we will sit, relax and talk”

We went to a corner in the hall where one sofa was kept. Some people were sitting and chatting there.

“So tell me more about you”

“ I am basically an Engineer and now doing my MBA in marketing but I am very fond of photography so I thought may be I should do something to…”

‘May be …you are not sure. Are you?”

“No. I mean I am sure I want to make my career in photography but…”

“No.no.no.no dear. There should not be any ifs and buts when you have passion for something. You managed to come here some how and tried to speak to people over here. That shows your passion. But I am very sorry, the way you are talking now shows that you are not confident about yourself. Am I right?”

“Upto some extent, yes. I am new to this field and do not have professional experience”

“Do you think everybody in here was a professional from the beginning?No dear . Everyone has to start somewhere. Nobody gets the opportunity himself. We have to search for it. And the tools we have are our passion and intelligence. If you dare to dream then dare to be passionate for them and have the courage to achieve them. You have very less time. I guess your college will be starting again soon. How much time do you have in Mumbai?”

“I will be going back on 21st “

“Ok , then meet me in my office tomorrow at 5” He gave me his card.

We had a long chat and we discussed about our lives. I came know that Mr. Jindal was from a very poor family and was a painter. Since his childhood, he was very fond of pictures and wanted to learn about cameras and photography but because of less money, he could not afford this luxury. He struggled very hard and worked with a studio photographer to learn. He used to help make set ups in the studio and used to watch the photographers clicking pictures. At other times he used to paint. With his passion he learnt photography and started working as a photographer in the studio itself. Soon his potential was well known and he started making art films and documentaries.

Preeti was from a middle class family and always wanted to become a Model. She went against her family who never agreed to such a profession and came to Mumbai in search of work. Here she met Mr. Jindal in his studio and he made her portfolio. After a lot of struggle, she became a successful Model.

I got really motivated after listening to them. For them life was more difficult. I was much better that I got this opportunity to meet them at a very young age. Mr. Jindal promised me that he will help me in making entry into this field.

Episode 3

Next Morning I got up early.I was very excited to meet my first mentor. I read tips from photography book I had and also practiced taking some photographs of my friends. I didn’t want to appear fool in front of Mr. Jindal. It was around 3 O clk that I got a call from Mr. Jindal. He told me about a project he was going to do that day. It was a documentary on Indian Slums. He wanted me to come and see how they prepare documentaries. I promised to meet him at Sion at 4 O clk. That was my first opportunity to learn from someone experienced. I wore my best dress, put my Cam in my bag and ran. It was a brilliant opportunity for me and I was very excited. I called so many auto rickshaws but none was stopping. After about 10 mins of struggle near sakinaka, one auto stopped. “Sion” I asked him. He refused and went ahead. I was so pissed off. After so long I could get one auto and that too didn’t want to go. I waited another 10mins and still struggling. I felt really narked at these autowallas. It was my first day and I was already late. Just because these morons don’t want to take pains to attend their customers. I was feeling if I had a magical power, all the autos refusing me would be punctured with all 3 tires flat. I decided to take bus instead, though I had to walk a lot to the bus stop and the frequency of bus was very low. I never preferred to use bus while carrying my camera because they were always so crowdy that we have to hang on the door to get space. And in a bus which was made only for 30 people, atleast 100 people travel. I don’t understand why this Mumbai Municipal don’t increase number of busses or atleast allow a limited number of people in the bus. People appear like ants running for their food. But I had no choice but to go into the monsters cave.

While in bus or else I should say, hanging outside the door I was trying to save my camera from the other ants. At the same time I was worried about the time. I could not reach within 30mins and Mr. Jindal was very particular of time. The bus was moving so slow that I felt if I would run I would reach faster. Somehow I made entry inside bus but could not get a seat. It was already 4:00. I tried calling Mr. Jindal but my network also betrayed me. I reached at 4:30 pm at Sion. He had already begun his work.

“What time it is?” He asked

“I am sorry, actually there was lot of traffic and I………”

“I hate latecomers”

“Sorry Sir, I…”

“No excuses, I have already told you I don’t want any ifs and buts. I am really sorry but you have spoiled all my planning. I have lot of work to do. We will meet some other time. “

“I am really sorry sir. I will just ….”

“I said some other time. You may go now”

I felt very embarrassed and was very disappointed at this treatment. I went back and decided not to call him again. What does he think of himself? So what if he is successful but He is from Mumbai and he knows very well the problems of traffic here. He had a car. I didn’t. How can he be so…I don’t need him? I can do it myself. I will meet Rohit next week and will show him my work.

I tried him for more than a week but Rohit never picked up my call. I called Aakash. He was very busy but still he assured me that he will talk to Rohit. I waited for 2 more days but no response. All my enthusiasm and confidence was gone. What to do. Only 2 days left and still with no luck. I held my cam and started staring at it. I was feeling like my dream was going into water. I loved my cam and I was feeling very sad for it was not going to get any opportunity to show its potential.

“I am sorry dear . But I think I am not that lucky” I said to myself. Then I looked at my cell, picked it and started scrolling through my address book. “Mr. Jindal Photo” was the next number. My fingers were struggling in a fight between my mind and heart. I pressed call button and disconnected immediately I threw my cell on bed and closed my eyes. The only thing I could see was my dream. I picked up my cell again and dialed again and disconnected. I did it at least 5 times before I could make a final decision to call him saying “I need him not he”

“Hello!”

Episode 4

“Hello!”

“Hello, sir this is Nikita. We met the Party and then you called me at Sion to….”

“Yes, I remember. I am sorry dear but I don’t appreciate latecomers. If you still want to meet please meet me at BKC, Pizza Hut at 5 and this time please don’t be late. I have something special for you.”

“Thank you Sir. Thank you very much”

“Its OK just be ready with your camera and portfolio”

It was such a relief. He was ready to give me one more chance. He was not that bad I thought.

I got ready fast and this time reached early. I was roaming in BKC trying to click some good photographs which I could show. I clicked one bird against Sun with 2 small branches of the tree on either side of the sun. I clicked photograph of a child who was playing with a tyre. It was time to go to pizza Hut . I was roaming just near by. I was waiting at the Gate when He came. But Alas! He was not alone. Rohit was also with him. He looked so dashing that any girl could fall for him. I could not understand why he was so secluded. He was rich, intelligent and successful. What else does a girl need?

After a formal introduction, we went inside Pizza Hut. We chose a seat that was in corner with Rohit facing me. He was looking so handsome that I wished somebody could take Mr. Jindal away and I can chat with him alone.

“JD told me that you are going back to Pune this week itself”

“Ya , on Sunday”

“Then how do you plan to assist me in my projects?”

“Rohit, why don’t you first see her pics. If we can see any potential in her then may be we can work out something for her”

“You brought your portfolio”

“Yes” I gave him my Red Book.

They both were going through my book and commented on some of my pics. Rohit smiled at some and looked impressed at some. After a deep survey of my book , he closed it and gave it back to me.

“You have potential but you really need to work hard. I could have helped you but as you are going now…”

“Rohit, why don’t you give her some assignment at Pune. As she is living there , she will be able to work something out and after it is over we can meet her to see how much she understood”

“Ya, that’s a very good idea. In fact, I was also thinking on same lines.” A small wrinkle came to his forehead when he spoke. Oh my God! He looked so mature though he was just 4yrs older but experience speaks. He was from a very rich family and was always seen with camera since childhood. That was the reason why he could achieve so much at this age. I wish I could also have got such an opportunity at early age.

“Nikita, do one thing. Do a study of Indian Education system. We can start with Pune colleges. Click pictures of good colleges in Pune. Get inside them to click pictures of facilities inside like their computer labs, gyms, playground etc…”

“Ok so it will like a study. Any specific point you would like to bring attention on?”

“Yes, of course there should be a theme other than just a college picture. It should show our culture, come similarities in colleges like….related to education system. Facilities and other arrangements. You can also capture students and their emotions, various events. JD will help you in developing content. Prepare a good report and then we can meet again. If you need any guidance in between, you can call me or even meet in week ends.”

“You are so lucky girl. Life has made everything so simple for you. In our times we struggled so much even to get a camera in hand. Anyways so now that its decided, start working on it. How much time do you need to finish this?”

“Time..I really don’t know. This will be my first project. But as an estimate..1..month”

“1 month is too long. I am giving you 2 weeks. Meet me on 1st Sunday of next month” said Rohit.

“Is that OK with you? 14days?”

“OK” I said hesitatingly though I was not sure how will I manage. But I thought I will manage after all I am a management student.

That was the end of the meeting. I wished we could have some more time so that I could speak to Rohit but he was again too busy for me.

I went back to guest house which was arranged by one of my friend Rahul. His uncle was a very rich man and had an empty flat at sakinaka where we were staying for the project.

“Hi” Everyone shouted at the same time. They were waiting for the results of my meeting.

Episode 5

At last I reached Mumbai and as soon as I stepped out of bus I called Mr. Jindal. I told him I wanted to show him my report first. He agreed to meet me at same place in BKC where we discussed about this project.

He scanned through my report and suggested me some redressal. He also told me where points which were commendable, How to annonate my descriptions to make it more enticing. I was wondering why this guy was helping me so much. He didn’t even know me well. There are so many good people on this earth who are ready to help you but still why do all of us always cry?

After my meeting with Mr. Jindal, I went to Rohit’s office. He was again busy with his quotidian work and his secretary asked me to wait outside. After about 15mins , I was called in.

“Hi Nikita, please come in. Have a seat”

“Hi Rohit”

“So, ready ?”

“Yes, I showed him my report”

He went through my book with same curiosity as he had done in past. These guys were so established and did big projects still he was paying so much attention to my small project report. I was elated. He was a good man I thought. Extremely professional and it was true also.

“I see. Your report is very good though it needs some changes but for a novice like you , I think it was a great attempt.”

“Thank you Rohit”

“I am OK if you want to assist me in my work”

“Oh! Sure that would be great”

“What about your college?”

“I am in final semester and it will be getting over by March end. After that I will be able to join you”

“Good but before that, I want you to finish this project. How many days are you here?”

“I can be here for this whole week”

“Great then you will be with me for this week .Then when you go back I want you to finish the Pune Region colleges. You have got to do some more work. By the time you join me officially, a part of project would be done and then we will start rest of the regions in Maharashtra to finish it. You search out for best colleges in Maharashtra in each category and then after you join me, start working on them”

“So it is going to be big”

“Definitely, I don’t do small projects. You had lunch?”

“No , I just came from Bandra”. His office was in Charni Road which is around 45 mins from Bandra

“You went to Mr. Jindal before coming here?”

“ya, actually….”

“Its OK, I was expecting that. Anyways if you don’t mind we can have lunch together”

“Sure, why will I mind? In fact that would be great. We will be able to know more about each other.”

“Know about each other? You want to know more about me?”

“Ya..I mean”

“Why?”

I was quiet. What kind of question was that? He is my boss now. Of course I would like to know about him.

Before I could think about framing my answer, he got up and asked me to accompany him. We went to a Hotel which appeared like a typical Richie Rich’s Food Destination. It was out of my reach to even think about going there. But this time it was Rohit who was treating me so I need not have that small Town worry. He will pay and he will take care of me. Door Keeper opened the door and welcomed us. The interior was amazing. There were candle lights on every table. The spacious dining room features wood-paneled walls lit with electric chandeliers, beveled glass, and tables set with fine linen. The roofs were typically of the hip roof type, with small gables.. There was a stage where a DJ performed.The tables were made of antque bronze. It appeared so cozy that adrenaline went through my nerves with excitement. I had entered into such a place for the first time in my life. But I couldn’t show that in front of Rohit. We chose a 2 seater table at the corner where an acquarium was kept.

“Liked the place?”

“Ya, it is great”

“It’s my favourite Restaurant” He told.

A waiter came with 2 Menu cards, one for him and one for me.

When I read I realized, it only served drinks

“So what would you like to have?” He asked

“I don’t drink”

“You don’t! Really” I nodded.”OK then order some juice or something” He gave me the Menu.

There was no juice, only cocktails. Suddenly that greatness for the restraurant that rushed an adrenaline in me was gone. What a restaurant, no juice, Like only drinkers come here. I didn’t want to have any mocktail. I had it once and it tasted very bad. But I didn’t want to appear like a fool so I ordered Cool Milano. God knows what that was but definitely not my choice. He ordered “Absolut” Vodka.

“So, tell me something about yourself. I know you want to know more about me but before that I would like to know you, like your family, interests. Hope you don’t mind?”

“No of course not” I told him about my Mom who was a home maker and My Dad who was an Engineer. I also told him about my sister who was then doing her engineering in computer Science. We discussed mostly about my life, ambitions, and my friends. He never told me anything about him but somehow I started feeling very safe with him. He had a good sense of humor. He was very intelligent and understanding. After a long discussion or rather enquiry when it was his turn to tell his story, we were almost finished with our lunch and he said he will be telling me all that later.

Episode 6

We went to a spot at Malabar Hills. The site from the place was amazingly cool. In fact, it is the highest point in the city center, with a height of 50 meters, presenting an eye-catching view of the county that sprawls at the foothills. The region nearby is known as Malabar Hill and it is counted amongst the elite residential areas of Bombay. We could see the whole Mumbai immersed in a green panorama.

He taught me some skills there like various types of lenses, about telephotos, panorama etc. He also told me some photography related rules like “rule of Third” which is the basis for learning photography skills. He was really very adept at everything he did. He held the camera as if it was structured to fit into his fingers, the way he navigated through the menu to explain concepts, it appeared as if he has made it all.

In just one week, he taught me a lot and I was feeling much more confident now. At the same time we came close to each other while discussing about our lives, our dreams while we met. Though initially I thought he was very proud, but now that I have spent more time with him , I came to understand him. He was not that bad. The only concern was that he was a perfectionist and also expected the same from others which created an environment of tension. I am not a perfectionist but knowing him I always gave my best whenever with him. I was silently thankful to Mr. Jindal , without him it was almost impossible to get Rohit’s attention.

We went to different places in and out of Mumbai to capture different types of pictures. He told me about different types of picture categories and their nitty gritties which I needed to keep in mind while taking pictures. We used to start early morning at 5 O Clk and went to different places in his limousine. Every day spent with him was like a dream come true and he was so considerate and nice every time.

I remember one day, we went to Hills near Panvel. There was a village called Wadorli Village near Panvel at around 65 kms from Mumbai. It is characterised by hills and green farms on all sides and quiet surroundings. It comes alive in monsoon with 15 waterfalls in the hills. We had to climb the Mountain. The site was really beautiful and gave a lot of energy. I felt like running down the hill with him, I looked him with excitement and realized he also felt the same way I did. He liked adventure but he never got anybody to share this with him.

He held my hand and we started running up the hill on the other side which was much taller. I was trying to climb fast but it was difficult to keep his pace. Suddenly a boulder got in my way and I almost slipped. He hurried to catch me from falling. I closed my eyes and when I opened them, I saw he was holding me. He was looking into my eyes. A moment I had longed for. That was wonderful. His eyes were blue and I could see a deep ocean in them. I was lost in that ocean and wanted to remain their forever. I wished he also felt the same way. Everything was calm as if the whole world had halted for some time. I could not hear anything other than his heartbeat and could not see anything other than his deep blue eyes. It was like spell from a cupid which attacked both of us and we were flying above in the sky. I wanted that moment to last forever but suddenly one sound broke the spell. His cell rang as usual. He looked at his pocket with disgust as if he also didn’t want this interruption.

“Hello!”

“Yes Mr. Abhinav tell me. Is there is anything urgent?”

“OK then I will speak to you later. Bye”

He disconnected his phone and looked at me. I was waiting for him to say something nice and romantic. He looked confused, looking here and there as if he didn’t know what to say.

After a long pause he said “so, you are going back on Sunday”

“Yes” I confirmed him

“Can you not stay with me for some more days?” I was surprised at this blunt offer.

“I mean…..if you can stay in Mumbai for some more time, I have got a project to work on and If you don’t mind, I can take you with me to sites” He elaborated

Obviously , I didn’t mind at all but I had classes to attend and soon there were my exams starting. But I was ready to compromise some more days for him. I thought I will make up for these moments by studying late at night. But how could I admit so easily that I also wanted to be with him. It was in such an imbroglio that I couldn’t even murmur a word but I definitely wanted to stay with him.

He came close to me held my hands with both of his hands. My breath stopped and heart started pounding heavily.

“I ….I ….I…” He murmured. He wanted to say something I wanted to hear. Suddenly one more ring and the spell was broken again.

“Shit!” He shook his cell badly with disgust.

“Ya , tell me what is it now?”

“To hell with the project “He took his cell away from his ear and murmured

“Ya, please go ahead” He disconnected.

He came to me again and explained “See, we got a big project to work and I have to go to Australia on Monday. This will last for at least 1 month. So, I guess we will meet after your exams”

Oh! What a pity. I could see sadness in his eyes for we had to split. I liked that sadness coz it was for me. What a romantic moment it was and this project, coudn’t it wait for one more week?

“We have to go now. I need to make some arrangements for the project” after a pause he said “We will meet at dinner tonight. I will pick you up at 7 O Clock” he smiled

I smiled back with a relief.

We walked down. I was lost in thoughts. He was going away from me for 1 month. What if he changes his mind? What if he met some other girl, better than me? What if he …” Oops! I slipped again and he held me again. The moment again lasted for a few minutes.

“Do you have a habit of falling?” I recoiled. “Don’t make it a habit. Today I am here to hold you. Tomorrow if you fall, who will hold you?” He pulled me close and looked into my eyes. I was very nervous and shy. He held me closer. He was so close that I could feel his breath. I could see a slight smile on his face. That was unbelievable; a BIG MAN was holding me in his arms.

“I wish I could take you with me” He murmured

I smiled and looked down.

“I am going to Australia for a month”

“Any project lined up?” I was back in present

“Yes, I will be leaving tomorrow’ He said

When it was first time, he wanted me to go with him when it was not possible but today when I am married to him it was so difficult to expect it out of him.

He sensed my sadness and came to me. I was sitting on sofa with head down. He held my hands and said “I am sorry” I looked at him with tears in my eyes. He wiped my tears and said “I love you” words that I heard after a long time.

“Can I come with you”

“Sure” He smiled

We hugged each other. I was so happy, I got him back.

Episode 7

“ you remember that day in Panvel”

“Yes, of course how can I ever forget”

“I can never forget that dinner” I smiled

I had wasted almost an hour but still undecided what should I wear . I was falling short of time and I had to get ready for he will be there in an hour. I chose a red skirt with white top which was given by my sister on my last birthday. She said I looked pretty in it. I was ready by the time he was on the Gate. He started honking the horn and I hurried towards the staircase.

He was waiting near a black Audi which looked so grand that I couldn’t believe that I am going on date with a man driving such a grand car. While going towards car, he looked at me as if he was scanning me, which got me nervous. He opened the door for me and stretched his hand for me to enter. A typical high-class way of wooing ladies.

“You are looking pretty’ He said immediately after entering inside.

“thank you” I smiled

We were quiet for almost 30mins while he was driving and I was shying. I was waiting for him to speak and maybe him too.

“Why are you dressed so nicely. We are not going to any party!”

“Ah! I thought…”

“What? “ He shook his head

“I hope you didn’t think we were going on a date! Hmm”

“No…not that” I gave a hesitating smile. Inside I was bubbling and wanted to hit him on his head. How can he treat me like that. First he said those romantic things and now…. Was he playing with my emotions. Idiot. My shyness turned into anger and I did not want to speak to him any more.

He was smiling . I could see that and this was first time when I hated his smile. It was mocking, irritating as if he has won a deal to fool me. I started looking towards the window.

After around 15mins we reached a place called The Hotel Grande. It again looked grand but I was not much impressed because he did not speak to me after that and I was feeling like a fool wasting her time around this BIG HAUGHTY MAN. I hated him. He parked his car and got down. As expected , he opened the door for me and extended his hand. I didn’t take his hand with anger and stood up on my own. He recoiled his hand with same irritating smile on his face. I looked at him with anger.

“Let’s go” That stupid smile goes again.

The interior was really nice but I didn’t want to appreciate or even see that. He chose a table at the corner as usual. I don’t understand his love for corner and now that he is cornering me also, I hated that corner.

“I don’t want to sit here” I complained.

“Why? What happened . Anything wrong”

“Ya, its too much in corner” I said

Every one looked at me because the chosen point was really very good. There was a Sofa made of strong glass with nice cozy pillows in combination of red and cream. There was a table again made of glass with beautiful curvy design. A big aroma candle was kept on beautiful tray on the table. A small vase of pink flowers was kept on a side stool. The wall was decorated with loads of grey bells which gave it an ethnic look. It was a very quiet and peaceful corner specially made for romantic dinners.

“What kind of place would you like mam” asked one of the attenders.

“Its OK, we will sit here” I wanted to sit there but Rohit objected

“No show us some better place which …”

“I said we will sit here” I said controlling my anger

“You are sure?”

“Yes”

As soon as I sat ,all lights went off except 4 tubes with diffierent colors making the place look exotic. There was a glass window on the side from where you can see a small artificial waterfall with various colorful lights making it look very beautiful. Now I was confused first he said those romantic things, then he made my fun by saying it was not a date and now this beautiful place. What was he up to? I was just thinking when I heard some music. 4 guys in Black suits were standing with different musical instruments including guitar, violin, mouth organ and flute. They started playing a romantic melody. Was it there usual ritual to greet their customers? It can’t be . Why will they spend so much just for a couple coming to them for dinner? Or was it free with the place we had chosen? Or was it customized on Rohit’s request? I looked at Rohit with all these questions in my eyes.

He smiled again

“What?”

He gave a confused gesture.

“What’s all this? Why are we here?”

“For dinner I guess”

“Just for that? Why didn’t you choose some ch..I mean some normal spot”

“what do you mean by normal spot?”

“I mean like last time just a hotel and not with these ro…..a ..special arrangements”

he laughed this time and held my hands again “Because I wanted to make this night special for you.” I was quiet

“Coz this is a date” He confirmed

He then held his hand towards me and asked “Would you like to dance with me?”

“Here?” He nodded

“But so many …..”

He stood up and sat before me with bent knees

“The only girl on this earth whose mere presence defines the serene beauty will not be in front of me for 1 month. Can I have the privilege to have a dance with you and have closer look of this beautiful lady.”

“What was that? Was it a proposal for signing an advertizing deal?”

“No………. for a dance” He said hesitatingly

“That was so …so so unromantic”

He looked sad at my response. I held his hand and said “ It was a nice attempt . Surely I will dance with you”

He became so nervous . He was always best in anything he did but this time…

“So whats up? Are you like serious about whatever you said or you are just you know….”

“Just what?…….Do you mean I am doing time pass with you?”

“May be” I nodded

“You know something, whatever you said now……….it hurt me. But don’t worry I will not hurt you” He was angry but he subdued his anger.

”I can understand that we know each other for hardly 2 weeks and this is a very short span to gain some one’s trust. But please do not spoil this evening because I want to make this night special for you. Tomorrow we will be separating. I know that will be just for 1 month but for that 1 month I will not be able to see you.”

Oh no! I really hurt him.

“I didn’t mean to…..”

“Its OK, its OK, lets forget what happened just now. Lets be together and enjoy this night.”

He held my hand and spun me. He was smiling again and I was enthralled. That was so sweet , he ignored my inconsideration. We danced for a very long and he never mentioned about it again.

He told me that he was a person who was always best in every field he entered which made others jealous of him and he never had true friends. Everyone knew him as a very egoistic person who is very proud for he has achieved so much at a very young age. He said that he has always worn a mask in front of everybody to hide his true self from of this world. But I was the only person with whom he was himself again. I made him feel safe and homely. He said that I have never thought the same way for him like others did but appreciated and accepted his friendship.

Though I had been thinking the same way like others did initially but now I could see the pain in his eyes while he was telling me all this. I was so touched when he opened himself to me. He trusted me so much. I could never imagine a person like him telling me those things about his life which were never disclosed to anyone before. For some time he looked sad but then his smile was back and he asked me to close my eyes and imagine the thing I wanted most desperately at that point of time. I closed my eyes and the only face that appeared was his. What was that ? I was confused. Was that love? No its just a week. How can it be love. Its just the effect of this night , this arrangement and the way he is talking.

“What did you see?”

I looked at him with a puzzling countenance. He got it . He could read it in my eyes but I could not express that . I Thought it was too fast and I flicked away from him. How could I do this. How can I express myself so openly in front of him and so easily. But he also did the same thing. He exposed himself to me today. But he may be lying. Maybe he just…No his eyes would have told otherwise. I think he was true. But how can I ? I was so confused and I wanted to get out of this traumatic situation. I didn’t want to answer his question.

“So, what would you like to have for the dinner lady?” He was the one who always broke the spell.

“a…anything” I looked down.

“What about this ?” There was a big cake decorated nicely with a combination of pink and white.

“Cake?”

“Yes cake. You don’t like it?’

‘Yes, of course I love it but how do you…….hmm of course you know that but I am surprised you remember that”

‘Oh! How can I forget something about you. In fact I know everything you said to me or not said . Everything you like or not like and….”

“really? Ok then may I check whether…”

“Oh! So you wanna test me. Ok , I am ready but on one condition”

“Condition?”

“Yes condition, you have do whatever I ask you to do”

“OK, accepted”

“Sure? Remember I never failed in any test.”

“Really but I think you failed just a few minutes back while making a propo….”

“Ok…Ok….lets begin, 5 questions only”

“5, its too less”

“6”

“8”

“OOOKK” He nodded.

Episode 8

“Nervous?”

“No way , shoot”

“What is my sister’s name?”

“Riya, that was simple. You talk so much about her”

“Ok! Then who is my favourite actress”

“Umm let me guess….Madhuri Dixit”

“Was that a guess”

“what do you think?”

“right, ok which is my favourite sport?”

“Sport?..hey that is cheating , you never talked about spo……………..hmm let me take a wild guess, it is badminton. Right”

“but I never mentioned. How do you…”

“guess, a wild guess”

“My favourite pass time”

“chatting with your friends”

“OK, then…”

“this is 5th “

“Ya 5th, my Dad’s full name”

“What , that is cheating how can you…I mean”

“No no no we didn’t keep any conditions for the type of question”

“Ok! Trying to be smart OK let me tell it is Harsh Dwivedi”

“Ha ….how do you know that?”

“I saw your resume and my memory is good enough”

“But why?”

“Oh! Come on I am a professional. Do you think I gave you a project without knowing about you. I searched for your profile on internet and found your resume”

“Oh! So Mr. professional now tell me something which you can never find in any website….ok tell me when is Mom’s birthday”

“Hey, that is something impossible to guess. You cannot do this to me . How can I know you Mom’s B’day. No…not done you have to change your question .come on …next”

‘No no no……..you have to answer this question only “

“That’s cheating”

“Well..that means you accept your………..”

“No, I don’t , can I have some time”

“take 5mins”

He started playing with his cell phone and after exactly five minutes I stopped him and took away his cell.

“15th Dec”

“What, how did you…………”

“Well, I am an expert”

“Tell me how did…”

“No no no that was not under agreement”

“agreement?”

“yes, agreement”

“but..”

“next, 6th question”

“What was my dream job when I was young?”

“Whats that…………..you want to become a photographer”

“Nope , wrong”

“Why you don’t want to become photographer?”

“I want to but today not when I was….”

“So you mean you are not young today. You have grown old, haan?”

“No , I mean…see I said..”

“No you said when you were young, you didn’t specify the age”

“But I said when I WAS young”

“Yes you were young yesterday , and the day before and the week before and you had the same ambition…you wanted to become a photographer ..you didn’t specify age that means when you say “WAS” that means till yesterday and till yesterday you were…” He was not letting me speak

“OK …OK…OK” I shouted

“Next….”

I was confused what to ask. He so intelligently answered every question and now I had to ….No..not so easily , I have to frame a difficult question. What can it be ….something he can not know anyway………

You have only 5mins out of which 1min is already gone. And you have to agree because you also gave me only five minutes and it is done ……now 4.5 mins…..4 mins…

“OK …OK”

I closed my eyes

“Time’s up, 7th question ready? Come on…tick tick 1…2..3…4..5…6.7.8..9..”

“What is my pet name? Oops! That was simple”

“Yes, that was very simple NIKI, ha ha…yes I won”

“Not yet , last question is still remaining, now tell me what I am thinking right now”

“hmm, what are you thinking….umm….you are thinking that you don’t want to lose so this time you are asking me the toughest question and I will not be able to answer and so you will be the winner”

“NO”

“Then are you thinking that I will win because you have asked me an easy question and you want me to win so that I can ask you to do anything I want and you want to see what.”

“No I didn’t “

“Then definitely you are thinking that I will lose because if you are not thinking that way then it is obvious that you are thinking the other way and which means that if you want me to win then I lose but actually I did not lose because you didn’t want me to lose but you want me to win…” He was again playing the same trick

“Ok ,…OK”

“Ok…you said OK, that means you accept my victory and that means you lose. Yes, I won I won and now I can ask for my prize , right” He was jumping and seeing him so happy was very unusual so I kept quiet and just smiled. I was ready for whatever he asks and I trusted him for he will not ask anything which is not sober.

“So my dear, ready for my prize” I nodded

“One fine day of yours ,only you and me whole day together” he said

That was so romantic, “Done” I agreed with a smile. I was feeling like hitting myself for doubting him. He was so pure, so romantic, so………………

I wish I did not fell for his pranks that day and today. I was doing the same thing again. He came to me after all that ignorance and I forgave him. We were holding each other tight. May be this was again a new beginning. May be he realized his mistake. Or may be I was still under a wrong impression. I don’t know what was going to happen next but definitely life was giving me another chance to get him back. May be it was my mistake somewhere or even if it was him, I still had a chance to correct everything.

We started packing bags. I messaged my boss that I was going on leave without consideration of losing my job for being AWL. In fact I wanted to lose it and wanted to explore my interests.

While packing my cell phone rang. It was Smita

“Hi, How are you my sweety pie?”

“Fine, how….”

“You know something, I am so excited. I am going on date with Rajiv today. You remember the day when Rohit was going to pick you for an outing. He told you to come at 7 and you started jumping at 4. You really troubled me so much…what to wear …red, pink, green Oh my God, you had tried at least 50 dresses before you finalized one. Any ways now I am going to take revenge. I am confused about ………………” and she went on non-stop.

“Wear Red one that looks pretty on you” I suggested

I remembered the day, I had already wasted so much time. He was on Gate while I was still getting ready. He started honking his horn. Smita wished me luck and I went to him. Like the day of our first date , he was waiting near his Audi.

“Hi”

He smiled and opened the door for me.

“Where are we going?”

“Do you trust me?”

“Of course, what kind of…..”

“Then don’t ask just sit and enjoy. I will make this day memorable for your life”

That was getting too fast. Though we had been continuously chatting all these 45 days when he was in Australia not missing even a single day. He used to tell me about Australia and his project and we used to discuss our daily lives. There wasn’t a single day when he didn’t say that he miss me. He once told me about a girl who was modeling for his project. He was teasing me by …..

I was taken aback by his sudden audacity to hold my hand. He looked at me and said “Tum se mil ke aisa lagaa tumse mil ke aarma hue pure dil ke…, you are the only girl on this earth, who touched my heart in such a way that I lost myself for some time, who made me realize that I am more than just a businessman, with you I feel at home. NIki, you may be just a girl for others but for me you are special, very special.”

I smiled.

“Just right there…stop” he clicked my photo.

It was a long drive and the whole journey was wonderful. We were talking like children, speaking about our childhood , our dreams. And there were wonderful sceneries in the way . We clicked so many photographs, we played , we danced on road something crazy which was not expected out of him. Then we halted at a bridge. He got down and held me in his arms.

“What are you doing?”

“Shh” He took me to the bridge and left me on top of it.

“How is it?”

“Wow, amazing” At first I was afraid but then I knew that I was in safe hands. There was a cool breeze blowing on top of a spring which was pure blue. There were rocks on both the sides and with sweet flowers surrounding them. The spring was ending into a fall and it all looked so beautiful with chirping sound of birds and the pleasing sound of flowing water. I wanted to go down and enjoy the fun of nature with Rohit. While I was enjoying myself Rohit clicked my pics capturing every emotion of mine as I spoke.

Suddenly a thought came to my mind “You know what I am thinking”

“What?” He asked

Episode 9

I felt the breeze . I wanted to go down and wanted to experience the same coldness of the water which the air touching my heart was feeling.

“No..no..get down …come on” He pulled me down

“But I want to go there. Just imagine what if it gives so much pleasure just by looking at it, How will the experience be if we…”

“No way..are you crazy. Come on lets go from here” He held my hand and started pushing me towards car.

“No, I want to go there” I shouted and flicked his hand. Before he could do something, I started running and he came after me. The way down was full of boulders but I was enjoying that. I went on running liked a haughty child and he was trying to save me from falling like a caring parent. We were almost at the bottom when I slipped again and he held me again.

Then was a long silence between us. The only sound playing was that of a breeze. I fell into the deep blue ocean of his eyes again. He came closer and closer and closer. I pushed him away and went to the water. I started throwing water on him and he joined me in the game. We laughed like children, we played like them. It was a very rare side of his soul which one can see only when he was with me. He used to go back to his childhood with me. At other times he was very mature and disciplined.

It was almost 12 when we realized that we were late and both drenched. We did not have any extra cloths so we could not even sit back in the car. Fortunately sun had started beaming which could save us from cold.

“All because of you. Now what will we do? How will we go further in these clothes?”

“Don’t worry we will wait here till we get dry and enjoy the sun tan”

“Great and what about food? Are you not hungry?”

“Don’t tell me that you haven’t brought anything for the journey” Of course he had brought . It was a long journey.

He opened the Boot of his car and took out some cold drinks, wafers, cakes and hamburgers. “Wow fully prepared. Give I am so hungry” I snatched a hamburger from him.

He was smiling while I was behaving as if I did not have food for days.

“Come on ,have it . “

That was the best food at the best time I have ever had. We sat on bridge with all food stuff.

“Hey what a picnic yaar. Snacks cold drink with cold breeze near a beautiful river and …”

“ We are alone. Nobody is watching us”

“a.. and that too in between the road. Now only thing missing is..”

“Music” We said together and started laughing.

He brought his Laptop which he always used to carry. Stylish, black in color and with loads of features. He was not only crazy for photography but also he was tech savvy. He had the latest watch, latest Music player, Latest laptop. In fact he had a small gadget narrator which spoke for him in conferences he did not want to attend. He used to write everything on his laptop and connect his pocket narrator which spoke in his voice.

“Where is my gift?”

“Gift?”

“Don’t tell me that you haven’t brought anything for me from Australia”

“I have come. What else do you need?”

I kept quiet while he was smiling.

After a long time he broke the silence.

‘Hey, what happened? You wanted something. You should have told me , I would have brought it for you. “

I didn’t speak a word.

“Ok! What do you want?” He said smiling

“I don’t want anything” I said

“Sure. Don’t ask anything afterwards”

“You are saying as if you can give me anything I want”

“Any doubt?”

“Sure, I can ask you anything then” I went close to him.

“Try it” He came closer.

Episode 10

“Ok, then can you stand on top of your car just now and sing for me?”

“What! That’s crazy”

“That’s it” I started looking at the riverside. After some time I realized there was complete silence. When I looked back, he was standing on top of the car. Just couldn’t believe my eyes. He was actually doing that crazy thing for me.

“Oeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee” He shouted like tarzan. It was so funny I started laughing and he was monkeying around on his car. I took my camera and shot his video” What a lovely man he was. He could do anything to make me laugh. But now that we were so close he didn’t seem to even bother whether I smile or not.

I went to him while he was packing his bag. I silently stood before him.

“What happened ? You need something?”

“Yes” I said “ I need you. Can you come back to me?”

“What are you saying Niki. I just booked 2 tickets for Australia and now you are talking”

“Yes you did but when I asked”

“Oh! Come on now don’t start again please. I have lot of work to do before we leave and I cant waste my time for these silly arguments of yours”

“Silly argument. So now I have become silly. But earlier you used to love that silly childishness of mine. “

“Please Niki, now its different.”

“Why , why is it different? Because we are married. Right so life changes after marriage. Fine , I agree everybody says that live changes but people. People don’t change and you have changed Rohit. You don’t seem to bother about me any more and then you expect me to stay calm and not fight with you. For how long this will go? How long can I live with you like a machine which doesn’t speak. How long can I handle this negligence ? Are you listening? I am asking you. You don’t even bother to look at me while I am speaking . Rohit” I pulled his hand

“What do you want? What do what from me damn it! This big bungalow, you favourite car. This decoration and everything, everything damn it, I did everything for you so that you don’t have any problem but a wonderful life and I am working so that we can afford this lifestyle”

“Is money solution to every problem. Is that the only thing I want from life? No its not money. It is YOU . You have..“

“I know what are starting now” He shouted

“You will now say that I have changed. Every time every time damn it! You do this and then you start crying . Then I have to calm down. All you want is to beat me. You want to dominate me. Listen Niki, if you want me to listen to every bullshit you talk then I am sorry” He folded his hands with anger “I cant do it every time”

“I don’t want to be…”

“shut up! “ He looked very tense. May be this was not the right time to talk. I should have chosen some different time to get his attention. Already it is so difficult even when he is free and today he was really busy. Why do this happen to me every time. He always blames me and then its not him but me who has to bow down. But I do it because I love him. He always thinks in terms of win-lose. I wish some one could make him understand that marriage is not a game where you have to fight with your life partner.

I had heard so much about love before meeting him. Love is beautiful. Love brings life. Its brings the good in you . They told stories , wonderful stories. Why didn’t they tell that this love has one more feature. All its blessings are temporary. Why didn’t they tell that in love you have to make compromises? Why didn’t they tell that after you give up to a guy, he changes. We heard that in love people have to make compromises. Why didn’t they tell that after some time in love , only this compromise remains and love is lost. I could no longer argue so I quit and went inside.

He got early and got ready for flight. He didn’t even bother to ask me if I was ready. He didn’t wake me up. There was a time when we were married. I used to wake him up every morning before starting my ablutions but today.

“Get ready. We have to leave within an hour”

“I am not going”

“Bullshit! Why didn’t you tell me before?” He said irritatingly

“why didn’t I tell before? You don’t want to know why I don’t want to go?

“I know already but I don’t want to spoil my day that’s why I am not asking you. What will you tell dear. You will put all the blame on me and will try to make me realise3 that I am wrong. Not every time Niki. I will not listen to all your bullshit. So please don’t argue. You are free to do whatever you want to do. You want to come with me, come. If not its fine with me”

“I will go with you even if you don’t want to because I want to give relationship one more chance”

“One chance. Nothing is gonna change till you change yourself and that my dear is not possible”

There was a day when I never had to make any attempt but he was always there for me whenever I needed him. No matter how I hurt him but he never left me like this. Why is he doing this to me today. I just cant believe that he is the same guy who could do anything to make me smile when I was upset.

I was very upset for my Cat flubber, who died last night. Its was normal as he was very old but I was very icky for her. I had spent so much time playing with her that she had become a part of my life and it was impossible to even imagine her absence. But now she was gone. I wont be able to play with her or even see her any more.

I was very upset. I came to his room and sat there in total silence. For the day we had made plans for outing but looking at my face Rohit understood that was not the right time. So he cancelled the trip but at the same time he wanted to cheer me up for which he wanted me to go out with him so that I feel better. He wanted to speak to me but I was very quiet.

“Why are you not answering the door” I heard the bell ringing 3 times.

He looked at me and kept quiet. I should have felt a sense of surprise why he was doing that but because of stupid condition of my mind it was not working. I stood up with anger to answer the door.

I opened it. There was no one over there. I went out and looked here and there. Still no one. Suddenly something hit my leg. When I looked down, there was a small box decorated in pink with small green letters saying “For my special one” I picked it up and went inside.

“What is that?” Rohit asked

“I don’t know, some one left it on your door” I gave it to him.

“Open it” He said

“Why should I open it? Its for you from some one special” I threw it on the bed and sat away from him. He lookef at me and smiled

“Why are you smiling? Who’s the girl who sent you this?”

“My girl friend”

“Girl friend?”

Episode 11

“Yes, why? You have never met her ?”

Now that was too much. He had a girl friend and he didn’t tell me. He flirted with me and I had

Kind of started loving and now after all this he is telling me he has a girlfriend.

“she lives in USA but we have not been talking for a very long time. We had a fight but now after so many days she suddenly remembers me and wants to come back. She is in Mumbai now a days and she send such keepsakes every day. I don’t open them”

“Is she beautiful?”

“What is it to with beauty. She betrayed me when I wanted to marry he and when I proposed her and now..”

“You proposed her?”

“Yes, I did”

“I am going” I was smashed

“why? We had a plan to go out”

“Yes we had but now I am not going anywhere. I am very sad for flubber. Why don’t you enjoy with X today may after spending some time with her , you also feel like patching up”

“Yes, I guess you are right . I shouldn’t be so rude to her for whatever happened. It was not only her mistake but ….” Tears almost fell from my eyes when he held my hand

“I want you to open this”

“Why”

“Open it, for me please” He pleaded. I didn’t want to but I could not even blame him. He never said he loves me. It was me who went crazy for him. He is a good man, kind hearted and that is why he helped me. Who am I otherwise. Why should he love. I had taken him for granted. But then why did he made me feel that way.

“Oh my God!” I cried with happiness and looked at him.

“I don’t believe this .. O my baby . it is so cute.” I started playing with its nose. It was a white kitten with black faded spots on its body. The spots were not regular but just few here and there and there was a tinge of grey on its white body

“meow” she mowed as it touched its nose tenderly. “That was chho chweet. So that means you were lying . There is no girl friend, right? I knew I knew that “

“Oh really, you knew that’s why you were jealous”

“Jealous, who, me? No way. Why should I be jealous?”

“that’s what I want to know . Why are you “ He came close to me “ Jealous.”

“Why did you cry” He whispered gently in my left ear. “I didn’t “ I declined nervously

“Really” He came closer and wrapped his arms around me bringing me closer and closer

“I…” I pushed him slightly away and started looking down with confusion. I was very happy from inside for he cared for me but at the same time I was very shy for I didn’t want him to know about my feelings

“Any why are you not looking up” He pulled me with a jerk

“Tell me, why are not looking into my eyes. “ I looked at him . I could see some naughty thoughts were were going on in his mind. He came closer to kiss me but before he could fulfill his wish, I pushed him so hard that he almost fell on the bed and I took the kitten and ran towards the door. He came after me. We ran around in the room like children. At last he caught hold of me and held me in his arms. He took me to the balcony of his house and put me on the grill of the balcony

“No, please I will fall. Please get me down. She will fall” I was more worried about the kitten I was holding

“Get you down . OK but on one condition” He smiled “ You have to give me a kiss on..” He touched his lips with his finger

“Ok Ok but you have to close your eyes” I said

 

PART II

Episode 12

He closed his eyes with pleasure. I brought the kitty closer to his lips and she shouted “Meeeeeaaaaaoooooooow”

“What the..I will kill you” He screamed. I jumped down from the wall and ran towards the staircase as he opened his eyes. He ran after me. I slipped and he held me in his arms as usual. He was holding me so swiftly like a child and his hands touching me so gently that I felt I was once again in heaven. I wanted to be there forever. He looked so handsome that I wanted to …But then I thought it was too early for all this. He may ask but I should take any such stupid initiative. He has not even proposed me officially yet.

Those moments had become so rare now. In fact I have never seen any romantic moments in last 1 year. I some times couldn’t believe he was the same guy. As if some one has conspired against us and replaced him to take revenge. I wish I could get the same Rohit back again.

He was still upset. Though I didn’t feel any mistake from my side but I had to do something before he disappears from my life totally. So I decided to do something to calm him down. He was busy with his portfolios and pictures. Scanning through the documents he was arranging them in a file He was going to carry to his client for discussion. I went near to him , he didn’t speak or even looked at me. I held him from back and started crying. Initially he resisted but then when he realized that I was really upset he held me tight in his arms. That was the first time I cried so heavily in front of him . I was now very hopeful of the journey ahead. May be I was wrong . May be he had not gone so far as I thought . May be we still have chance with each other. May be we still love each other.

We got ready soon and the driver was waiting for us on the door. The International Airport was very busy as usual. Everyone was in hurry with trollies full of big luggage bags and children playing with the trollies , enjoying and looked very excited. I wished I could be a child again. Life was so easy and full of beauty when I was young. No fear, no responsibilities . We understood only one meaning of life and that was to have fun. Study, play, eat and sleep. No work , no tension. I remember one day when I was just 12 years old. I was playing with my friends in my garden and Mom was busy cooking for our dinner. Dad was yet to come from Office. Riya was very young and very shy at that time. She was very afraid of darkness and of ghost stories. She was sitting on the tank in our garden playing with her new doll given by Dad on her last birthday.

While playing I suddenly got an idea to scare her off. I looked at her she looked so innocent and I was congratulating myself from inside for such a wonderful idea and wanted to see her reaction so much when she would be scared. I called Snehal, my best friend at that time. Now I don’t even know her whereabouts. I whispered my plan in her ears and she was convinced about my idea.

We inside to make a foundation for execution of our plan. We searched for a long rope which I could find in our backyard near our old cooler. We tied the Chair in Riya’s room to the rope in such a way that it was not visible . We tied it at the corner and inserted it from below the door of her room such that even if she closes the room the rope will still be intact. We coloured the rope in brown which was the color of her chair for camouflage. Then we collected some pebbles in a glass and put the glass on the table . We tied 2 fine threads tightly to the glass and the other ends were left loose . After dinner we requested Mom to allow Snehal to stay with me for the night as it was very late. Riya had a habit of taking all her toys and keeping them in her small house every night. She used to sing for them so that they sleep before she went to sleep. It was so funny for a 9 year old. While she was singing lories for her so called children, me and Snehal hid inside her room with me and her both wearing black tops and white skirt. I wore a cap while mumma has made for me to save me from cold and I gave one more to Snehal.

Then she peacefully came singing and went to sleep. She used to keep one dog and always slept with it. I used to sleep with her along with the dog but today as my friend had come she knew I was sleeping in a different room. She was sleeping so peacefully as if some fairy was singing for her and she was lying on the mattress of flower . May be she was happy for I was not their with her today. I had a habit of waking till late doing something and I never switched off the lights for her no matter how loud she whines. That night she nicely switched off the lights and went to sleep. But she was not aware of the dreaded moment which we were going to give her and spoil her whole. Now I think I was so unfair but that time it appeared like an achievement to us.

Suddenly she woke up with a jerk on a loud bang of the door.

“Who’s there? Niki? Snehal? Who is on the door? “ She was scared now as she was so much assured that she was alone in the room . Then who banged the door. She got up , switched on the lights and we hid behind the curtains with one thread in her hand and the other in my hand. I was also holding the rope tied to the chair. She went to the door and tried to open it. Some one had closed it but it was obviously not her but some other crooked fellows

“Who closed the door” She asked herself . I never close the door, she may have thought.

She opened it and starting searching for us. Now she was sure that some one was inside and who else could she expect other than me. She kept searching but we stood silent holding our breathes so that she couldn’t catch us. The only light which was on was too dim to catch the slight trembling of the curtain. She was stupid enough to not turn on the Tube light. She stood near the bed with a scary face.

“Don’t do this to me Niki. I am really scared. Niki…Niki” She started moving a bit away from bed. Suddenly she heard a slight screeching of the chair’s leg which was moving. Obviously it was not moving on its own but I was pulling the rope tied to it. I moved it slightly and then stopped, again moved it more and stopped. I did it four times and scared the hell out of Riya. She was about to run than Snehal closed the door with a bang and Riya shouted . She ran back to the bed and hid inside the blanket. Our parents could not hear all this because My Mom was busy cleaning the Kitchen and Dad was watching a day night OD match. Our TV was in the drawing room near the corner from where the kitchen started so Mom could also hear the shouting TV and not Riya’s screaming. Then suddenly every thing was clam again . We waited for her to clam down and come out of the blanket. She waited for some more minutes and then opened the blanket slightly. She looked here and there. Nothing was moving She checked the chair . It was still, not moving any more. She opened the blanket and was about to get up that suddenly she heard a slight noise again. This time it was the glass filled with pebbles which was trembling. It trembled slightly. Then trembled more, then some more and then started trembling very noisily. We both were shaking it hard from both the sides . Riya got up and started shouting on top of her voice “ Mumma ..Mumma Mumma”

We got scared if Mom comes , I will be punished. We got up and went to her . Snehal Put her hand on her mouth and I closed her eyes. She started crying badly. It was so mean of me for a sister. She almost got a heart attack when I spoke “Riya Riya stop , stop. Its me its me…NIki..Niki your sister” Soon she realized it was me. She looked at me with anger.

“You are so bad you are so unfair…I hate you “ She starting hitting me , crying at the same time. Snehal pulled her back. She bit Snehal and Snehal left her. She ran and opened the door. Before I could realize what happened she was gone

“You stupid! Why did you leave her. Now she will go to Mom and tell everything”

“She bit me”

“You are such an………” I ran to stop her from going to Mom but when I reached she was already there with Mom cring in her arms

“What happened Beta? Why are you crying ? Tell me. Look at me” She looked up with huge tears in her eyes. But she was choked with fear and was not able to speak properly

“Mom ..she …and her…I I was so …”

“Mom “ I shouted. Riya looked at me angrily not speaking.

“So its you again. Niki, She is your younger sister. How could you?What have you done to her? “

“Nothing Mom . I didn’t do…”

“Don’t try to fool me. I know its you . It is always you. When will you grow up Niki. Start behan=ving like an elder sister. Just look at her. She is crying. She is so scared….” And She went on for almost 30mins. I was looking down like a guilty in court.

I was always so unfair and so rude to her but now she was my only friend. Though I never call more than once in a week after Rohit came in my life, she was always the one who called me. Though I always scared her, blackmailed her, tortured her for every small thing, now that she knows I am in trouble she calls me daily without fail. I looked at the screen of my cell where her number was flashing in big letter “ DARPOK calling” the name I gave her on that day and she was always teased whenever I called her that. One of my fingers was on the call button . I wanted to speak to her so much. I wanted to say sorry for everything . I wanted to say how much I love and care for her. Though I never said but I still love her the most. A tear ran through my eyes. I wiped it with my napkin. It went unnoticed by Rohit’s eyes. He was too busy in his magazine to notice it. I dialed DARPOK. “The number you have called is busy. Please stay on the line or call later. Aapne jo……….” I disconnected. I was sitting with my husband, the Man whom I loved so much, still I was so alone. One more tear went down my eyes. Still unnoticed. I wiped it off. Before the 3rd one can come, my cell rang. It was Riya ofcourse.

“Hi Di, how are you?”

“Fine” I said with a sigh

“What happened Di? You are OK? Where are you?”

“I am going to Australia”

“Australia! Wow! That’s great . That means everything sorted out. You and Jiju are together again.” She sounded so excited at a thought of my problems getting solved

“I am sorry” I said

“Sorry, for what?”

“For everything. I always troubled you so much, always scared you, blackmailed you, teased you”

“Oh come on Di. As if I have never troubled you. Remember how badly we used to fight . Mumma used to…”

“Yes, we fought but now my life itself has become a fight”

“Come on di . Why are you saying that? What happened ? Is everything alright between…”

“Seems to be …I mean, I don’t know. Its OK now but I don’t know for how long” I said with a sigh

Rohit realized I was talking about our relationship. Atlast he noticed. He turned his eyes towards me but I didn’t look at him. He ignored my sigh and went back to his magazine. May be the girls posing on the magazine looked more gamine than a crying girl who was fed up of her life. I felt like pulling the magazine and tearing it off but I controlled myself.

“Di please don’t say that. Be optimistic. Everything will be alright .Just give him one more chance. And whatever happens after that I will still be there with you. Always there for you. You know di that you are the most special person of my life”

Those were the words I had heard earlier also but not from Riya’s but some one else’s mouth

Episode 13

When he said that I thought it was true. He had looked straight into my eyes and accepted that He loved me. He had proposed me on the day when I almost lost my Dad. He was Hospitalized and was in ICU. He had met with an accident. He was better then but I was still worried and scared for I went through such a bad experience when I heard that he had an accident . Mom was home and Riya was in school at that time. People at the site had dialed me as it was the last number he phoned on. I got panicky when I heard the news and immediately called Mom. He was with me at that time. I started crying badly. He calmed me and we rushed to the Hospital.

Mom was sitting beside Dad and I was with Rohit . Mom had asked me to stay with him.

“Why did she ask me to stay with you? Is there anything…”

“Don’t worry, everything will be alright. She asked you to stay back because you are a kid. She doesn’t want you to panic”

“Kid. I am not a kid anymore” I looked at him furiously.”I am grown up and take care of my parents”

I stood up and looked inside the ICU from Window. It was not because I was but because in ICU only one person is allowed at a time and Mom was more required there. Still he said that. What does he think of himself. What is he trying to prove. I am a kid. I am not grown up enough for him to…then why did he…

He put one hand on my left shoulder and turned me toward him.

“Look at me “ I nodded with dis content

“Please” I was still stubborn

“Ok! I am sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I just said that to calm you “

“Its Ok , I know you didn’t mean to hurt me” I cried again and sat , still crying and crying harder.

“I thought I will loose him. It was such a horrible site. My Dad with blood all around. I was so scared that I will never see him again. Chhotu still don’t know anything . Mom asked me to keep quiet. She is very sensitive but if I don’t then. How can I do this? What if something had happened to Dad. Are we not taking away even a last chance to see her Dad from her. What if they didn’t call me but Mom directly . I would have never known. May be Mom felt the same way and didn’t tell me. What if he…I I I could be enjoying somewhere and here my was ..fighting with ” I continued non stop.

“Shh..shh…shh…calm down everything will be alright. He will be all right”

“It feels so bad and lonely when some one leaves you. Will you…” I wanted to ask him the right question at a very wrong time. How selfish I was . Here my Dad was critical and I was thinking about my future with Rohit. I scolded myself for my stupidity. Will it be OK if I loose my Dad and Rohit marries me. What a **** I am . What am I thinking. Whats wrong . Am I a fool. I was fighting myself from inside.

“Don’t worry I will never ever leave you” I looked at him with a question mark on my face.

“I..I love you” He sensed it

“What ..How can you ..I mean this is such wrong time . I cannot even feel happy that you proposed me. Coudnt you do it some other time?”

“Oh! I am so sorry. Lets consider it cancelled . Null and void . I will propose you some other time. Just delete whatever I said from your mind. I will propose you later in a very special way”

“delete ? Hey it is not a photograph that you can delete from your camera” I smiled. Actually that was the right time. It was such a sensitive moments when I was feeling that fear of loosing someone including him. With his acceptance I felt a sense of relief that I have one more person in my life. Some one I can trust . Some one who will be there for me in hard times. Some one who can be a shoulder for my tears in weak times. It was a time when he was holding me in my weakness and today is the time when he has become my weakness.

Some one I cannot live happily . some one whom I cannot leave even when my brain says so . Some one sitting on front of me still makes me feel that lonliness which never felt before. The last call for our flight took his attention and he put down his magazine at last. We were going through the airlines formalities and I was there like an idiot who was doing everything asked physically just like a computer but was mentally not there. I was missing my Mom so much. I just wanted to lleave all this and go back to Mom and sleep on her lap. I could just not believe that a person could change so much. My hands were feeling so weak as if they had no energy. I was trying to read a magazine but for almost an hour I did not turn a page. There was a couple playing on the beach in one advertisement.

That reminded me of the day when we went to Aksa beach . Just me and him. We were all alone in the beach except some chaat walas. We had a coconut each and some pani puri. While eating the puri I looked at the beach . It was so immaculate, so calm , so heavenly and I was feeling so wonderful from inside. A beach so beautiful, and I was alone there with my boy friend who loved me so much. We were having fun. I wanted to expand my hands and fly on the sea with him. I ate the last puri and looked at the sea again. I closed my eyes and sighed. I inhaled the freshness of the breeze and my ears absorbed the sound of the sea waves. It was so cool, so heavenly as if I was meeting GOD. I opened my eyes after some time only to look at the sweetest face in my life smiling at me . I felt so good and lovely. I smiled and ran towards the sea. Rohit came after me. We went inside the waves and started playing with the running water. We played , we sang , we rolled , we swimmed and …Ops! That was my first kiss and it was heavenly . I feld so weak in my knees. We were wet in the middle of waves and he was holding me so close . He looked into my eyes . They were so penetrating that for a second I felt a slight fear for we were alone and I was afraid if something goes wrong. Though he had proposed me but till now his idea about marriage was not clear so I didn’t want to make any mistake. He pulled me close and closer and closer. My heart started pounding heavily and my legs went weak. I wanted to leave myself to him. I closed my eyes. I could feel his breathe . His lips touched mine slightly , then pressed , pressed more . My heart almost came to my throat and I was breathing heavy. He opened his lips slightly and kissed mine from every side. It was long and deep. I wanted to feel it forever but suddenly a strong wave touched us and we were floated towards the beach. I opened my eyes and pushed him back . I was breathing heavy and a tear went through my eyes. I ran towards the sand crying for my stupidity. How could I do that. How could I trust him so much. He didn’t even proposed me for marriage and I was allowing him to… “ Its OK dear. It was just a kiss nothing else” I told myself “ But If I didn’t stopped it could have ended in something more. But actually we were on beach in open . How could he do this in open. What if somebody sees us. What if my parents come to know about this. It would be so embarrassing for them. I sensed my restlessness .

“ I am sorry” He said. I looked at him and hugged him with tears in my eyes

“Don’t worry. You can trust me. I will never ever leave you my dear”

We were in each other’s arms for a very long time.

“What would you like to have for the lunch Mam?” The Air hostess asked

“One veg sandwich” I replied.

Why do people dream? And why do they always break. I looked at Rohit, his eyes were closed. The same eyes I was crazy for . Now they rarely open to see me. I wished he would talk to me but he seems totally uninterested.

It was a 14hrs journey and through out the journey we didn’t speak at all . That was one of the most difficult situation for me when I was giving this relationship one more chance without any hope even after I wanting to quit forever.

We landed at the airport at around 7 O Clk in the Morning. One person was waiting for us with a tag on which it was nicely written “ Rohit Kapoor”

“Welcome to Australia Sir. The Van is ready for you. We have arranged for a Motel near the shooting venue. So there will be less travelling involved as per your request sir.”

The buildings were huge and the sky clear and fresh. There were people jogging all around on the footpaths. They looked so fresh and tensionless. They were exchanging greeting with each other while passing through the lane. It was a big city but no rush like Mumbai. Mumbai what we call a city of dreams in India. I would rather call it “ A city of broken dreams” because you find lots of opportunities to get yourself busy in life there but you don’t get your own people anywhere. As if they are born just to earn and do business . Nobody is bothered about relationships. People sharing same building don’t even know who is living next door. They interact with world so frequently over the internet but when it comes to people living nearby or friends from office or college they don’t even bother to remember them or even sometimes recognize them. I don’t know about the city I was in but it looked more lively and people friendly than Mumbai. People call India as a place where your destination interms of peace and love but where do you find love in India . You only find people fighting with each other for petty things. It is so rare when people share greetings with each other without any mal-intentions or expectations. You find good people only when you have a lot to give them. Ya there are people who care for you inspite of odds which includeds your parents, siblings and your friends but they are so rare. You leave your parents and friends for your dreams and then you end up doing nothing, getting a hole of lonliness in your heart. I want to ask people living in Mumbai “Is the money and career only things you want in life?” Isn’t like more than just getting material things of your choice in you house. They travel every day fioghtinh with each other for place, for deals and what not . I feel half the life spent in Mumbai is a story of fighting people and out of the rest 50% goes into travelling and office. You get only a few hours for yourself and that too goes waste in my case with a hubby like him. I felt like hitting him in his head and ask him “ Where are you ? For God’s sake come back.come back to me” But it was too late for this question also.

Soon we reached our destination. It was a big hotel fully covered with glass blue in color . interior was cool and romantic. But whts the use even this interior can not change whats happening between us. It was just like another dream of enjoying the moment but which would break very soon.

We entered a large room with a big sliding window which was covering one side of the Drawing room. We could see the open sky from the window as the apartment was on 30th floor. The interior was decorated in a combination of Blue and white. With curtains colored in a with a white one between two blue curtains. There was a big vase in blue clay with fresh multicolored flowers. With the ambience I was happy thought the person I was going to share the room with was not happy with me and not in any mood to make me happy either. I thought though not sure but may be this thoughtful place can bring us together. Hopes and hopes and hopes. Those are the only things now left in my life as far as my marriage is concerned. Rohit went to freshen up and told me before going to washroom “ Tommorow I have to start the shoot and have to reach at there at 6 o clk for morning shoot.” He actually meant that he doesn’t have time for me so have dinner and go to sleep .

“can I come with you” I asked

He gave me a scornful look as if I asked him the permission for bombing in Australia. Why was it so difficult . He did not say anything because logically he had no excuse to refuse me but in his heart yes he had and that was….no place for you my dear in my heart so coming with me is out of question. Before he could enter the washroom, I gave one more try

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