ERUPT – XI

Reeta turned baffled. She was face to face with a woman of her age who was saying something that Reeta couldn’t hear in all the noise around her. She was scared that this woman was a worker for her husband’s political party and experienced a fight or flight moment. The lady could see the uncertainty in Reeta’s eyes and immediately showed her the ID around her neck. Reeta read it “Meenakshi Maan, Reporter and Journalist, Satyamev Jayate News”. Reeta let out a breath she didn’t even know she was holding.

Meenakshi held Reeta’s hand and took her away from the crowd, Reeta allowed herself to be steered, but her eyes were searching for Rex, still doubtful of his presence here. Meenakshi took Reeta to her car, and they both sat inside while Meenakshi drove her to a more deserted street and parked there.

She turned to Reeta, “Hello Ma’am, I am Meenakshi, I mean you no harm, in fact, I wanna help you but first you need to help me.”

Reeta gave her a perplexed look, “What can I do for you? Don’t you know I am mentally unstable!” She said the latter sentence with some bitterness.

“Ma’am we know how the media is portraying your image, and that is why I am here, I want people to see the truth, the whole truth, not just your hubby’s version or people’s viewpoint but your testimony too,” Meenakshi said in an empathetic voice.

“And why should I trust the media with my side of the story when they are the ones to assassinate my character and are all under the influence of my husband’s mighty shadow?” She confronted, Meenakshi gave her an apologetic look.

“Ma’am you can either choose to trust me or choose to send me away, but I promise you whatever you tell me will reach the people word to word. I am a woman too, and I believe there’s more to this episode than what has been told. Let truth reach out, talk to me as a friend, and if you don’t want me to tell another soul, I won’t.” Meenakshi said earnestly, and something in her tone was sincere enough for Reeta to believe her.

She let out a long breath and nodded, “Alright, I will tell you everything, but it shouldn’t be doctored.” Meenakshi nodded and drove Reeta to her studio.

Reeta was sitting in front of the camera, the crew had prepped her up, and she decided to go for it. Meenakshi sat in the chair opposite her, holding her hand, “Once the camera is rolling, you just need to answer my questions and think nothing else.” She said, and Reeta nodded.

She knew what she was going to say would be all over the news like wildfire by the evening and by tomorrow, Jay’s career as a politician would be finished. She asked herself if she was regretting her decision and the voice in her said ‘NO’. She has been silent for entirely too long, it was high time she spoke the truth, or it will suffocate her. Her inner self questioned her if this was her revenge on Jay, and the answer once again was ‘NO’. She was doing this to salvage her soul and body from his abuse.

That night Rex was sitting in front of his TV, watching the breaking news that had been on reruns for hours now, it was the only talk on every channel.

The lady he rescued at the beach had answered all his questions; she had vindicated herself. He was seeing it for the umpteenth time.

Meenakshi: Mrs Reeta Kapoor would you like to tell us about the events of the night you went missing from your home and rescued from a beach house?

Reeta: I wasn’t missing; I left home intentionally. I couldn’t take it anymore, it was suffocating me, and I needed to vent. Neither was I rescued from the beach house; I was safer there than my home, I was taken from there by force.

Meenakshi: What was suffocating you? What made you feel unsafe in your own home?

Reeta: I have been a victim. A victim of physical, mental and emotional abuse. And my tormentor was none other than my husband. I have been tolerating everything silently for years, but that night it just got too much for me, and I decided to leave.

Meenakshi: Are you saying that the soon to be Health Minister Jay Kapoor has been torturing you for years. These are grave accusations.

Reeta: Not just me, he has been unfair to his own country, his people, his values. He has been involved in several scams and crimes I know off. That is one of the reasons he wants people to think I am insane so that no one would believe me.

Meenakshi: Could you be more specific about the nature of these crimes and scams?

Reeta told her everything, everything she said was being telecasted.

Rex knew Jay Kapoor was finished. He looked at the screen, at the woman who was in shambles when he met her. She was showing great strength of character to say those things on television. She had risked everything, her marriage, her safety, her reputation and her character.

Meenakshi: One last question. You were taken from a beach house, and people are saying colourful things about you and the man over there. Would you shed some light on his identity?

Rex saw Reeta look up; he could see her struggling.

Reeta: I met the man the first time that day. He was kind and helpful and took me in as a gesture of humanity. I was passed out on the beach from where he rescued me and took care of me. I know his name, but I won’t tell the world about him. The only thing people need to know is that in a few hours I spent at his place, I came to see a real man for the first time in my life. I wish, I so want Jay had been the man I always wanted him to be, but even so, the thought of cheating on him never came to my mind.

With these words, the interview ended, and the reporter came on the screen with several known faces for a debate.

“Can I get a cup of coffee, please?” Rex heard a voice and spun on the spot. It was Reeta standing on his doorstep, looking tired and forlorn. He opened the grill, and she stepped in.

ERUPT -VI

Rex stood there perplexed, looking down at the passed out woman who was turning into a nuisance with every passing minute. Maybe he had bitten on more than he can chew when he decided to rescue her from the beach. She seemed ungrateful and pretentious and not to mention insensitive. He leaned down and picked her up once again with an exasperated sigh and laid her on the sofa. He tried to rouse her by calling her, ‘Miss…’, several times but she won’t stir.

He lit a cigarette, wondering what to do with the unhinged damsel. She seemed wealthy, educated, sophisticated yet rogue, unruly and demented. He decided he didn’t want her to be in his home anymore; neither did he wanted her mess. He followed his instincts and called the cops.

The cops knew exactly who she was and told Rex to hold her there until they come to pick her up. The police were almost grateful someone tipped them off about the missing woman’s whereabouts as her powerful husband was making their lives a living hell since last night.

They had already been warned to find her by morning or face the consequences. They called Jay Kapoor at once and gave him the good news.

“Sir, we located your wife. She will be home within an hour.” The cop said on the call, relieved to have Jay Kapoor off his neck finally.

“Good, be as discreet as possible while handling this. I don’t want any mess at this time of my career at the hands of my wayward wife.” He said in a commanding voice and hung up.

Meanwhile, Rex smoked another cigarette, wondering who this woman was? The cops were more than happy to pick her up, and they told her to keep her safe until then, but they never mentioned who she was.

He put out his nicotine stick in an astray and emptied the full astray in the bin where he saw the remains of the broken mug lying at the base. He sighed and closed the bin. There goes his dead wife’s coffee mug, thanks to Miss Trouble.

“Hello again,” she said, and he turned to see the woman in the ruined little black dress sitting up on the sofa, pushing back her slovenly hair. He fixed her a piercing gaze.

Reeta could tell his earlier courtesy had vanished. He seemed stoic now. She swallowed and scratched her neck in embarrassment.

“Hello there, Miss….?” He let the question hang there in between them.

Reeta knew it was the time when she has to tell him the truth or let him think she’s a no-good miscreant. She chose the latter; the former option was absurd right now.

“Miss Gone!” She said, getting up from the sofa and extended her hand towards him. “Thank you for everything, I think I have been enough trouble, will leave you alone now to your birds.” She chipped in with a casual smile, a frail attempt to make an uneventful exit.

He didn’t take her hand and added, “How will you go? You have no money and no car; I think you need help with that. Let me get my car keys.” He played along.

Saying this he went out of the room and noiselessly locked it from outside, somehow his instincts told him she would make a run for it.

Reeta didn’t want a lift. As soon as the door closed, she tried to follow him out but found he had locked it shut. She panicked. Why would he lock her in? She attempted to open the door a few more times before she heard tyres screeching in front of the house, followed by voices.

She understood he had called the cops on her. No, she couldn’t go back. No more of that. She looked around the room and ran to the window overlooking the deck and opened it wide. She was about to jump out when a muscled arm held her wrist and handcuffed her. She turned to look at the cop and gave a shrill scream.

“How dare you!!!???”, She shouted, trying to get away, but the cop held her other hand even harder and cuffed it too.

“Let me goooo…” She cried as two men pulled her back into the room and outside.

Rex watched it in horror. She tried hard to break free crying, “Let me go; you will be sorry for this.” but the cops made her walk to the nearest cop car.

A light flashed and then another. Someone was clicking pictures. The cops looked around frantically for the source of the light while they dragged a resistant Reeta into the car and pushed her in, head first before locking the doors securely.

“Take her to him.”, The officer said to his junior, “I will look for the photographer.”

The junior officer got in the car and drove it away, but not before Rex could see Reeta crying bitterly in the back of the car like a trapped animal. Her state made him wonder if he had given a lamb to the wolf for sacrifice.

The senior officer came to Rex and shook hands with him, “Thank you so much, Sir, we have been on the lookout for ser since yesterday night. You have been a responsible citizen by helping the police; we are grateful for your help.” The cop said with a sincere smile and Rex merely nodded.

“Officer may I ask you a question?”, Rex said.

The officer avoided Rex’s gaze and nodded his head in a yes.

“Who was she? What has she done and where have you taken her?” Rex was blunt and point-blank.

The officer’s amicable smile faded and was replaced by a tight-lipped smirk.

“That’s three questions,” he said pointedly and added, “The less you know, the safer you are.” with these dark words the officer left in search of the man who was clicking pictures.

Rex found it to be disturbingly curious; he also felt a sense of wrongdoing. All night he tried to brush the guilt off and sleep but couldn’t. The woman was on his mind; he felt responsible somehow. Trying to get rid of those thoughts he got up early and picked up the newspaper from his doorstep.

All his questions were answered on the front page with huge headlines and coloured photographs.

DEEP WITHIN – XIII

It was the reunion of the Shah family that brought the winds of change in their household. They made the rule to have breakfasts and dinners together so that they all could stay connected, and there was no communication gap between them. It brought Vikram back to Shobana, made him realise that she can’t do it all alone, she needs him, his support. The frequent fights, the arguments, the rows of heated exchanges died down, and a healthy, happy atmosphere emerged in place of it. And the most significant change was in Punit, who had learned to be kind, yielding, humble. No more tantrums with the maid, no more lashing out at the driver.

He daily went to school and then to the academy for practice. His team was no more doubtful about his position as the captain; they all could see this new person emerging out of Punit who was full of team spirit and dexterity and leadership quality. No one was happier than Mr Sharma; he could see his team winning the cup this year only if Aman was not sitting on the sides and watching the practice instead of being out there on the field. Punit often went to Aman to seek his opinion; his counsel and Aman gave it to him without any regrets. He could see Sanjay and Punit working together well.

It was a week before the tournament; it was Punit’s’ birthday. And unlike every year, where his father threw him a massive party at some exotic destination and invited the rich and the famous of the society, this year Punit wanted a simple get together with his family and friends at his home.

He invited his friends, his cricket team, his coach to his home for the modest party. He even told Aman to bring Manan and Mudit along. By evening Aman was ready, wearing his best shirt and his brother Manan offered him his watch and perfume. Aman didn’t know what could one gift someone who had everything, but he couldn’t go empty-handed and bought a vintage pen from his savings as a gift. He reached Punit’s house and suddenly felt very uncomfortable upon seeing the sprawling mansion. He mustered courage and went inside; people were already gathered inside, and Punit welcomed Aman in with a hug when he saw him limping inside with his foot still in a cast.

“Happy Birthday!”, said Aman and presented his wrapped gift to Punit with a shy look.

Punit took it with a polite, “Thank You!” and unwrapped it then and there. Punits’ eyes went wide with happiness, “Whoaa! A vintage pen, I never had one, always used those with refills. How thoughtful Aman” said Punit and gave Aman a small hug. Aman felt relieved and felt at ease as he sat with all others, chatting away and laughing.

Punit got his wish on his birthday; he wanted his house to be filled with laughter and friends and love. A few minutes later, Punit’s’ mother laid the table along with the maid with trays of snacks and sweets and glasses of juices along with bowls of soups. The aroma was mouth-watering; everyone was drawn to the table at once when Mr Vikram Shah very proudly declared, “kids, all the delicacies today are made by my lovely wife who once again proved that women could manage work and home with perfection at the same time. Now! Dig In!” He said with a smile and everyone filled their plates with Cheese Cutlets and Potato Jackets and Sesame Fingers. Punit helped himself, but he didn’t miss the smile his mother gave his father.

Punit introduced Aman to Trisha and Aman couldn’t help but feel awed by her. She was just the opposite of what Punit was; she was minimalist, down to earth and soft-spoken. Her beauty was very different from what he thought about rich girls. She wore absolutely no makeup, and her dress was a conservative one. Trish herself was filling everyone’s plate over and over with food, and she made it a point that Aman didn’t have to get up from his seat, bringing him everything right there.

Time flew by, and it was the time to cut the cake. Trisha had made it herself as she was into baking and was carrying it down the stairs. Everyone was huddled around the photo booth where Punit was clicking pictures, and no one noticed when Trisha twisted her ankle. The cake fell from her hands, she was about to fall the flight of stairs and hit her her head on the wall when Aman instinctively leapt from his chair and climbed the steps in a flash and caught her mid-fall.

Trisha’s cry for help caught everyone’s attention, and they ran to help her, but there she was, sitting on the plastered foot of a very guilty looking Aman who wouldn’t dare look up. Trisha’s father held her hand, and she awkwardly climbed down the stairs, feeling sorry for her cake but thanking Aman over and over again.

“It’s….it’s nothing, please.” He said feeling a little heroic

“Sorry, Bhai, I ruined your cake.”, she told Punit.

He hugged her, “Come on, Trish, I am happy that you are okay.”

Mr Sharma had a patronising look on his face as he asked Aman, “Would you climb down yourself or do you still need help?”, his tone was bordering on a tease.

Aman got up, and everyone clapped for him. They were all happy that he was not hurt after all, and that meant he would be playing in coming games. Punit was laughing along with Sanjay, and all the other team members were whistling and catcalling. It was an embarrassing moment for Aman, but he was happy nonetheless. His whole drama was for a purpose, and the purpose was solved. Mission Accomplished!

It was the first match, RLCA vs PCCI. They were in the dressing room. Mr Sharma was boosting everyone up one last time before the game.

“Punit, you are the Captain, I think you have made a great team and well-structured batting order. I am positive your fielding strategy and balling tactics would go a long way this time. But remember, the rules still apply, so no messing.” He said sternly, and Punit nodded without any rebellion in him.

“Sanjay you are the vice-captain. Remember if Punit is not there for any reason, you will lead your team. This is your chance Sanjay, show them what you have got and project your teamwork.” He told thumping Sanjay’s back, and he nodded with a smile and his hands in his pockets.

“Aman, you are our opening batsman, our star batsman. We are all counting on you. I know you will do your best and help us attain a score PCCI can’t chase. And yes, don’t get distracted by your fans in the stands.” He said with a smile, knowing full well Trisha would be there. Aman blushed and shook hands with Mr Sharma.

They all fell in line and rolled out on the field.

DEEP WITHIN – VII

“Can we talk?”

These three words had taken them both by surprise. Vikram and Shobhna haven’t ‘Talked’ in ages. The real, heartfelt, profound talk at least. All they had were monologues, meaningless prattle maintaining false intimacy at business dinners and company parties they hosted or attended as guests for the sake of public image.

But today was different, today he wasn’t the business magnate, and she wasn’t a woman trying to save her identity under the heavy burden of being the socialite wife of Mr Vikram Shah. Today they were merely a couple, parents who were desperately failing the capacity of parenthood. 

Mr Vikram Shah entered his home that day as a caring husband and a helpless father, and Shobhna greeted him like a loving wife and a concerned mother. They gave Punit what he wanted, not out of dread of his outbursts or of injuring his pseudo ego but out of one last, desperate attempt to put some sense of humility and modesty into their son. The son who assumed he was somehow entitled to all things he desired by default and was clouded enough by his wrong judgement to the limit of believing he deserved it on merit and virtue. 

Vikram was fretful that night; he gave Punit what he wanted, but he was questioning himself. Was I wrong in giving in to his demands? Will, it put a positive spin on his overbearing and domineering attitude? Where did I go wrong as a father in bringing him up? Maybe I should have sent him to a boarding school when he was still a kid; it would have kept him grounded and humble. Will he ever become the man I want him to be, the man who will be taking over my business empire after me, at least half of it? 

Shobhna, on the other hand, was thinking of a solution. How do I make Punit see others as equals and not undeserving obstacles? How should I teach him the value of being a self-made man rather than being a man of self-esteem? How should I bring him to understand the concept of healthy competition and sportsmanship? 

They both had another dilemma at their minds, about Aman. He must be knowing by now that the academy has changed its decision about captaincy, and he surely must be feeling dejected and victimised. This will sow seeds of enmity between Aman and Punit even deeper. They were both teenagers, and it was not an easy time on them. 

By morning she had come up with the perfect solution, one that would make Punit see that privileges come at a cost and there are no free lunches in life, would bring justice and fairness to Aman and would reintroduce Vikram to his son Punit.

On the other hand, there was a joyful atmosphere in Aman’s household. He read the final list of the team members playing for RPCA and smiled to see he was Vice-Captain while Punit was appointed captain once again. He knew why, he knew money, power and influence go a long way and who could deny the son of the trustee. Manan thumped his back and congratulated him, but Mudit couldn’t resist asking Aman if he wasn’t enraged.

“I am not enraged bro, but I am concerned. I want RPCA to bring the cup home this time and am hoping against hope that Punit would play with his head on his shoulders this time. If we can do that, I am a happy man.”

The next day they were all called by Mr Sharma for their first net practice at the academy as the tournaments weren’t far. He told them to make rounds of the ground for a warm-up and called Aman aside to talk. Punit saw this and smirked before running off with the others. 

“Aman, I know you are a sensible boy, and I owe you an apology. I shouldn’t have given you high hopes when I couldn’t make it happen for you.” Mr Sharma’s eyes were downcast.

“Please, Sir, you are my mentor, you don’t need to apologise to me for anything. Whatever I am, I am because of you, your guidance. I know you too have specific protocols to follow and if you believe in my capabilities, then I would do good as vice-captain also. I would make you proud.” Aman said with a smile.

Mr Sharma thumped Aman’s back and nodded in tacit understanding. Aman ran away to catch up with the others. Aman crossed Punit while running and heard him murmur “Loser”. Aman ran faster and put enough distance between himself and Punit. 

After than run they all lined up in front of the coach and he announced the team. He was standing with a mic at a raised podium, “And one last thing…” He said,

“This year our trustees have added certain…” Mr Sharma paused to find the right word, “Clause to the rules and regulations as to make sure all the players are treated fairly and the everyone plays in the best interest of the team keeping personal scores aside.”

There was a murmur in the players, each one wondering what these clauses are.

Mr Sharma’s voice came back over the mic, “These are as follows:

  1. Like football this time in cricket too every player would be given two yellow cards for foul play, and a third foul would mean a red card that is suspension for three upcoming matches. 
  2. Any bullying, swagger or ruffian behaviour among team members off the field will be treated and dealt severely.
  3. If any player tries to be self-centred and performs an individualistic play, he will be permanently barred from the team. 

That will be all. Start the practice. Punit, Aman, you two are openers so better get synchronised.”

All the players went to the field among whispers and murmurs, and both Aman and Punit knew it was about the new protocols, all of which were explicitly fashioned to restraint Punit’s ego.

MY HEART WILL GO ON…

Meera was a dusky, beautiful and introvert girl from a conservative family who was a fresher in Engg college when Manan saw her and fell for her head over heels, not wasting any time to woo her, win her heart, propose to her and persuade her to say yes with his charming looks and flamboyant ways in a way that she fell deeply in love with him.

The four years of college went by in a flurry as good times pass in a blink of an eye but they were the most beautiful four years of Meera’s life as her love and cared for Manan only kept growing manifolds with each passing day and she almost became a shadow to Manan, a point she marked by setting her ringtone to her favourite song “Tu jahaan jahaan chalega, Mera Saaya Saath Hoga…”, something she often hummed for him as she was an old school girl who loved old Hindi movie songs.

They both got placed in different jobs, in different cities and went their ways with promises to stay in touch and meet often but as luck would have it, on the first day of his new job, Manan met Kalandi, an outgoing, stunning fashionista who was a ball of energy and a complete contrast to Meera and Manan couldn’t help but get swept off his feet by her outspoken and candid personality and soon forgot about Meera.

He tried to keep things normal with Meera for first few months but she was quick to sense the change in his words and his tones and Manan knew he wouldn’t be able to hide his disinterest in Meera for long and one fateful day he broke the news of having met Kalandi to Meera who was crestfallen and devastated but keeping her dignity intact hung up the call in tears, never to call Manan again who was indeed quite relieved to have the burden off his chest.

Manan married Kalandi, had a blissful honeymoon in Greece and returned to start his new life with the women of his dreams but the thought of Meera and what he did to her never left him, it was eating him up from inside but he drowned the inner voice of his soul in living a buzzing and high life with Kalandi who knew nothing about Meera and Manan nor bothered to tell her about his affair with Meera neither ever tried to know what became of Meera.

A couple of months later Kalandi fell ill as was admitted to the hospital where she recovered within a week and was discharged soon, but she was no more the same girl whom he married, intact she was becoming more and more like Meera with each passing day and that made Manan restless to the limits that he tried to enquire about Meera finally But was only met with dead ends.

A week later Manan was sitting in a cab on his way to office, already troubled by Kalindi’s behaviour, when he picked a discarded newspaper from the next seat and started reading it when his eyes habitually fell on the obituary section, and him was shocked to see Meera’s obituary who committed suicide a fortnight ago, Manan was overcome by nausea and immediately called Kalandi but the phone fell from his hand on hearing her new caller tune that rang in his ears….

“Tu agar udaas hoga, To udaas hongi Main bhi…
Nazar Aaj ya na aau, Tere paas hongi Main bhi…
Tu Kahin bhi Jaa rahega, Mera saaya saath hoga…
Tu jahaan jahaan chalega, Mera saath saath hoga…”

(Should you ever become sad, then it will make me sad too because I desire to share your sorrow,
Whether you see me or not, I will always stand by you,
Wherever you live where you stay, I will always follow you; I can’t let you feel alone.
Wherever you go my essence shall follow you…)

AN UNEXPECTED ENCOUNTER – XII

It was a Sunday at last. Radha slept in till late, and Pragya was up and about like a paradox. Radha smiled; she knew why. Sunday meant Pragya’s boyfriend Samay, will come to spend the day with her. He was an army officer and drove all the way from place to Pragya’s place religiously on Sundays.

Radha buried her face in her fluffy pillow and called out to Pragya, “He’s coming?”

Pragya, who was brushing her frizzy hair straight said, “Yesss!”, Radha could hear her happiness in her voice. The seductive smell of her alluring perfume permeated the bedroom’s air.

Radha chuckled and tossed in her bed; she lay facing Pragya, witnessing the glow in her face. What was it about this man that made her so ecstatic, that made her wait desperately for Sundays? All her new dresses, new shoes, new makeup was saved for Sundays. She meticulously planned for Sundays, painstakingly shortlisting the things she wanted to try with Samay. She emancipated a radiant luminosity of love for the next six days until Sunday. ‘Can the presence of a man make so much difference in one’s life?’ she questioned herself and got the answer from within, ‘No, it wasn’t the presence of a man, it was the presence of love.’

Pragya checked her wristwatch, and just then the doorbell rang, she rushed to answer it. Radha heard Samay’s voice boom in the corridor and then all she heard was Pragya talk nonstop like a chatterbox. A few minutes later, Pragya appeared in the bedroom, bouncing with excitement. She held Radha by her shoulder and made her sit.

“Rads Rads Rads, I have something to ask you,” Pragya said brimming with charged energy.

Radha pushed her hair out of her eyes and tied them in a ponytail. “What is it, mad mademoiselle?” she asked.

Pragya softly slapped Radha’s cheeks to shrug the sleep from her eyes and Radha screeched. “I need this apartment to myself till night; Samay just surprised me,” Pragya said flashing a gold pendant in her chain, “It is exactly one year since we met, I forgot, but he remembered. I wanna do something special for him too, I wanna prepare Samay an awesome romantic candlelit dinner,” Pragya announced.

“What?” Radha asked startled, “and where will I go?” she asked.

Pragya made a cute puppy face, “Please Babe, just for today. Dekh, you have only been shuttling between work and home for months now. You need to go out and have some fresh air” She cringed her nose and joined her hands like a good disciple.

Radha huffed and sighed. “Theek hai. FINE!!!” she said, getting up from bed, “but you will reimburse all my bills.” Radha made her way to the washroom, and Pragya jumped on her back, hugged her from behind and kissed her cheek, “Thank you, Babe, Thank you so much, you are a Lifesaver.”

A few minutes later she heard the main door shut close and she knew Pragya and Samay were gone. She filled the tub, adding bath salts to the water and lowered herself in the water, having a long leisurely bath. Later she made herself a heavy brunch and then decided to pamper herself to a massage and some facial. Her favourite spa was overcrowded, but she managed to get a spot with her beautician. The massage was relaxing and soothing, rubbing the stress and fatigue out of her tension points. But she ended up spending more than she intended in the salon, a trick her beautician often played on her by coaxing her into Detan Face Mask.

Three hours later she was back home and decided to go for shopping, a movie, dinner and have some ME time. She picked her handbag, her wallet, her phone, and set out to her favourite mall, The Ambience Mall.

She roamed in hallways lined with hundreds of different stores, teeming with teenagers in ripped jeans and overpriced tees. She had no list in mind and was window shopping when she came across a mobile store and decided to check for a new mobile for herself, the one she had was severely outdated. The man behind the counter was determined to make a sale as he showed her an array of newly launched mobiles when a man came and stood next to her, looking at the display of phones. She was standing face to face with none other than Dr Akash Verma. She took in a sharp breath and excused herself from the shop. The salesman gave Akash a hidden look of contempt as if it was his fault he lost Radha’a sale. Radha was halfway down the corridor when he heard someone call her name.

“Miss….excuse me Miss, Miss Radha, here please.” She stopped in her tracks and saw Akash calling after her. He ran to her, “I need to speak to you.” he rushed.

“But I don’t wanna speak to you, besides,” she looked at her watch, “I am getting late for somewhere.” She lied.

“Just a few minutes, just one coffee, Please, I am requesting.”, he said and Radha sensed a desperate earnestness in his voice. She nodded with a sombre look. They descended the escalators to CCD and ordered two Mochaccinos.

Radha leaned forward, folded her arms on the table and asked, “So what is it you wanna talk about, what can I do for you?”

Akash gave a furtive look to the crowd around; it was apparent he was feeling conscious of himself.

He began, “I just wanna tell you that though I know you think I am an unworthy son and a good for nothing human being, I was bound by the choices life gave me.”

“Oh? Like deserting, your old father or…maybe like coming back to check on him years later?” her tone acidic.

“I went to the US, yes, that was years ago. I got a job in the USA; it was a dream come true for me. There was no one to take care of my father here, so I put him in one of the best old age homes and used to send money regularly. I met Rachel there and fell in love with her, married her, became a US citizen, and we had three children. She didn’t want my father to join us in the USA, neither she wanted my children to visit India. I did everything to make her happy, but six months ago she divorced me and…” he choked before continuing, “and the custody of all my three children went to her, all I am left with are visitation rights.” he rubbed his eyes with his handkerchief, and a waitstaff brought their coffee.

“I felt the pain of a father, the pain of separation and instantly repented the wrong I did to my father. I flew to India to apologise to him, take him back with me. But now I know absolution doesn’t come easy. It will take time and patience to earn his trust and his love once again.” He finished. There was silence as they both finished their coffee. He paid the bill, and they got up to leave.

Radha picked up her handbag and said, “I am sorry, but I shouldn’t have been so judgemental, you have had your share of problems, you know what best you could do, I have no right to arbitrate. Hope you are successful in your mission.” With these words, she extended her hand and Akash shook it.

Radha was walking away when a sudden urge came over her, and she turned, “I have two passes for a movie, would you like to come?” The words were out of her mouth before she could contain them. Akash looked abashed, but he was smiling all the same.

“I would love that, besides I have nothing to do till I go to meet Dad again tomorrow morning,” he said and followed her to the theatre in the mall. Radha couldn’t believe her stupidity; she was never this reckless, always prudent, vigilant, then what made her so whimsical today she wondered. The next three hours went in a blink of an eye. The movie was value for money and Akash was a great company. Radha couldn’t help but feel relaxed and comfortable in his company. He insisted on getting popcorn and soft drinks in the interval, and she felt like this was their routine.

Radha felt Akash needed a break too; he needed a break from all the guilt and stress of his life. He was feasting on her company like a man starving for air, talking nonstop.
“I would have shown you pictures of my kids, but my phone got stolen.” He said.

Radha swallowed, ” Actually, I too need to buy a new phone, shall we?” She offered another impulsive decision.

He nodded, and they went back to the same store where they met, and both ended up buying Oneplus Seven. Akash opened his Google Drive and showed her his family pictures. He had beautiful children, and each picture screamed of his love for his kids. She told him about her life, her work, her childhood, about Pragya, sharing things with him didn’t feel unnatural, though the voice in her head kept repeating, ‘He’s a stranger.’ but for once she let her heart rule over her head.

They had dinner in a Mexican restaurant and chatted about their hobbies over tacos and burritos. She came to know that apart from being an Orthopedic, he was also a sketch artist and loved to sketch whenever he had free time on his hands. He showed her some of his sketches and Radha was amazed to see he had drawn Meena Kumari and Madhu Bala instead of Madonna. The night was coming to a close, but Radha didn’t want this day to come to an end. She was having a very good time after a very long time. They had the grand finale with Sundaes and boarded a cab to Akash’s hotel. He got down when and Radha saw his back recede in the hotel.

“Take me to Green Palms apartments please,” she told the cab driver as the cool night breeze caressed her face. The song on the radio made her smile with her eyes closed, lulling her to sleep.

“Chup tum raho chup hum rahe
Chup tum raho chup hum rahe
Khamoshi ko khamoshi se
Zindagi ko zindagi se baat karne do
Chup tum raho chup hum rahe
Chup tum raho chup hum rahe
Khamoshi ko khamoshi se
Zindagi ko zindagi se baat karne do
Chup tum raho chup hum rahe
Chup tum raho”

ONE FOR ALL

Not all of us are givers, but when it comes to giving advice, we are all full of wisdom and exhibit a willingness to share our two pence. On a funny note, you get the maximum numbers of advice when you are unwell, from your mother to your neighbour, everyone will give you advice, even your Rickshawala. But above all these bits of advice is one more advice that says, “Listen to all, but trust only a few.”

So here are my five advice, follow only if your heart allows.

One for Health.

“Drink lots of water.” Water is the elixir of life. It lubricates joints, helps form saliva and mucus, delivers oxygen throughout the body, boosts skin health, regulates body temperature, streamlines the digestive system, maintains body temperature, prevents kidney damage, and and and…saves you from a bad hangover. The best part I like is that it can be consumed in forms of yummy juices, delicious coconut water and other lovely drinks.

One for wealth.

“Always be a good steward of your wealth.” You may significantly have a secondary income apart from your principal salary but if you don’t manage your wealth well then you will be a pauper one day or other. However slim the possibility might seem, but there is always a chance you might lose your job, your business goes in loss, or your services are terminated. In such times you shouldn’t get into a hand to mouth situation or even worse than that. To make sure always invest in something that gives you a regular income, learn to save money before spending and be a good manager of your wealth. Do not be greedy but save for the time of trouble.  

One for Love

“When in love, just give, give and give.” I know it sounds very filmy and very preachy, but it will solve most of the problems you have concerning love. When love enters our life, it comes with passion, expectations, desires and happiness. But have you ever thought we want more from the one we love and think less about what we are doing for him/her? What they will give you isn’t in your hands, but what you will provide them with is in your control. Give them your time, your companionship, your care, your counsel. Just imagine if everyone follows this simple rule, no one will be left needing and wanting, everyone will give, and in turn, everyone will get.

One for Happiness.

“Don’t share all your secrets.” Most of have someone we trust more than ourselves. We have complete faith in them, and thus we share everything, A to Z with them. But beware friends. Know that you will feel ditched and cheated by that very same person at least once in your lifetime. Today they are your best friend, or sister or lover, but tomorrow they might have moved away from you, estranged from you, fought with you. Even a small misunderstanding can turn friends into enemies, and that one time, you will regret sharing your deepest secret with them. So be on your guard and keep your deepest secrets with yourself and carry them to your grave.

One for Life

“This too shall pass.” In this one life, we go through many bright patches and many dark phases, but the truth is, they are just phases, spots, they will pass. Time never remains the same for anyone. It changes because change is the only thing constant, and we should embrace these two truths as soon as possible. Only then we will be able to evolve with ever-changing times. So whenever you are happy to look in the mirror and say out loud, “This too shall pass,” and whenever you are sad to look in the mirror and say out loud, “This too shall pass.” I promise you, this mantra will keep you rooted when you are floating in the air, and it will keep you uprooted when you will think you can’t stand life anymore. 

So I have done my share of advising. Now the ball is in your court. Go ahead and live healthily, live happily, live wealthy, live content and never regret.

Bonjour