Well, I think it’s high time for another post, don’t you think? So, here I am!
Okay, so basically, with this post, I’m hoping to accomplish two different things.
One : Get rid of one of my littering short story drafts.
Two : Write a new post.
There you have it! This is going to be my first short story! Choosing from my unfinished drafts was going to be the most difficult part. But, I guess writing it is going to be that much harder. I hope you’ll like the story anyway!
Happily Ever After with a Twist
The first warning bell sounded ominously at 8:35 am on a Monday morning. I was walking past the University Office. Wishing I had wings on my feet, and cursing the six buildings I would have to cross to reach my class, I broke into a run. My breaths came out as clouds of mist in the crispy-cold air.
‘Beta Arjun, I swear I will kill you if I miss class today,’ I swore silently.
Arjun was my roommate and he had a very weak stomach for alcohol. His alternate drunken-swagger speeches and retching sounds had kept me from sleeping the previous night. And since my attendance percentage had reached its limit, there I was, hopelessly winking the sleep out of my eyes and running towards class.
I reached the Civil Engineering Department and took the stairs two steps at a time, and where I could manage it, three at a time. The second bell rang over my head. I placed my sweaty palm on the newel post and swung my body around at every landing.
“It’s alright, it’s alright, I’m here, I’m here!”
Without thinking, I made a loud announcement as I arrived at the door of my class. The clang of the final bell was lost in the laughter from my classmates.
“That is enough.” Professor Senon’s quiet voice broke the loud hoot and silence was instantly restored. He waved me to my seat and turned back to the blackboard.
It was an amphitheatre-style classroom and I had to hide my embarrassed face at every step I climbed. Finally reaching an empty table, I plopped down my bag and placed my hot forehead on the cool tabletop.
“Good morning, students. Yesterday was our introductory session on Beams and Lintels. So, today I will be going into the topic in detail….”
Professor ‘Unstoppable’ Senon started his unstoppable droning. I tuned him out. His expression of mild annoyance a few minutes ago was actually an unusual phenomenon.
Professor Senon usually made his entry a calculated two minutes before the bell, and if the class hadn’t been scheduled as the first one of the day, he paced back and forth across the doorway until the previously presiding teacher left. His exit was also similar, exactly two minutes after the ending bell. He spoke to nothingness and made copious notes on the blackboard which the people on the first row of the class fervently copied onto thick notebooks. His list of eccentricities was endless.
All the lost sleep caught up to me and I was glassy-eyed asleep within seconds. After Professor Senon left, I shuffled out of the class like a zombie.
‘Coffee, coffee, coffee,’ chanted my brain as I made my way to the Coffee Room on the second floor.
The line in the Coffee Room was tediously slow, numbing my brain in the process. I was parched, dead-on-my-feet, and dangerously low on sugar. Shuffling slowly to the beginning of the queue, I felt someone elbow me out of the line and edge in. Bleary eyes not co-operating, I took a large dollop of will to mentally pinch myself awake then.
All I could see was this rippling waterfall of dark-chocolate hair and could hear a short, barking laugh. It was a girl. I tapped her on the shoulder to have her spin around, almost whipping me in the face with her huge mass of hair.
“I was in the line first,” I stated robotically.
She smiled wide, showing her pearly teeth.
“Yeah, my friend was here before you,” she literally trilled. The friend in question turned around and pulled his eyebrows together in a frown.
The caffeine-deprivation had not given me the miraculous phenomenon of courtesy.
“He can get his bloody coffee, and you can go to the back of the line, if you please,” I finished somewhat icily.
She blinked twice in those round, dark eyes of hers.
“I don’t think so. I think I’ll just stay right here.”
She spoke each word carefully as if talking to a child and turned back around to chat with her friend.
And that, that scene was the beginning of my downfall. You could also call it uprise. It depends on who you ask. I am Pavan Deshpande. And this, this is the story of how my life changed.
Six weeks later
“You never listen to what I say, Pavan.”
Sitaara’s arms were crossed and her lips set in a hard line. That was always a bad sign.
“What have I done now, ma’am?” Sarcasm dripped in my voice. I’d never been more angry in my life. Nothing is ever good enough for this damn woman. I struggled to compose myself as I looked at her, but I failed miserably.
“EVERYTHING you do is pathetic, you know that?” she yelled at my face.
“Yeah, well, you’re not unpathetic yourself, Tara!”
“At least I don’t suck at every single thing, you loser! And learn some grammar, for God’s sake!”
This is the way most of our fights began and ended. There was never a limiting point to them. They began with both of us angry and ended with both of us angry, avoiding the topic of the fight henceforth. You could imagine that we’d had a pile of stuff which was untouchable in our conversations.
Sitaara Mittal was the bane of my existence since that silly cutting-the-queue incident. She dogged my senses and ruined my days. After all of the nonsense subsides, she’d always end up saying, “I so love the way you love me, Pav. I don’t ever want to fight again. I’m sorry!” and wink those shimmering irises at me, and in that moment, I wouldn’t want anything different from that.
The way she cared about animals she found hungry on the street, the way her eyes glittered with unshed tears as we watched romantic movies, and the way she scolded her mother on the phone for ignoring her diabetes medication, all of it was so sweet to behold. But, the way she kept ignoring my warnings about walking on the street at night, the way she criticized my clothing, and the way she squandered her pocket money on her undeserving friends.. I wished I could throttle her into sanity when these happened.
Seven months later
My mind was swaying between two thoughts.
‘Should I tell Tara?’ and ‘Should I not tell her?’
‘If I tell her, she’ll yell, and she really hates whenever I do this,’ and ‘If I don’t tell her, I’ll feel bad, and she hates it when she finds out later.’
‘But if she yells, you’ll yell too, and then you’ll have a fight,’ and ‘But if she finds out later, she’s gonna yell even more.’
It was the worst day ever. Such a simple thing, and it had evoked so much drama in myself. I couldn’t be afraid of her reaction forever, could I?
I sighed heavily. She turned around with an inquiring raise of her eyebrows.
“We have to talk, Tara.”
The seven months with each other had been beautiful, but they had not been bliss. It was not the best idea to place two ferocious wildcats into the same cage, or in our terms, we were simply too different, too clashy, and getting on each other’s nerves for the simplest of reasons.
Yes, I still thought her the prettiest girl I’d ever met, and I loved all those things about her which I’d admired from the beginning. She cared about me and loved me still. But, this was for the best. We both knew so. After all, what relationship lasted when the participants did not get along at all?
Eight years later
The cold air blast made my eyes water. I’d just stepped out of the cab and was walking towards the entrance of the Delhi airport. February chills were always pleasant here.
I was travelling to Bengaluru to attend Arjun’s wedding. Five years ago we’d graduated and promised each other to stay in touch. The only call I’d received from him since then had been this invitation four weeks ago. I didn’t mind going despite that discourtesy because it was also going to be a reunion of our batch. I was quite excited to see how everyone had changed over the years. But what I didn’t know was that the reunion would begin much ahead of time; right in the line at the airline counter.
I was almost sure it was she. She was of the same height, and I spied the same long, dark mass of hair. It was also the same pale sandy complexion. Curiosity had my eyes glued to her. And then a minute later, when she turned, she proved me right.
It was Tara. My mind scrambled to get out of the line and hide behind people. I hadn’t even known she was living in Delhi as well. We’d broken up just before college ended, almost six years ago. All the piled up conversation about our differences had left no actual conversations available for us, and we’d ended it on mutual terms. But, to see her again, now?
It seemed so impossibly cruel, and I cursed Arjun and his stupid wedding partly for it. What do I do?
I was pretty confused. She was at the head of the line, and a few minutes later, walked out of it, with her boarding pass in her hand. I ducked a little behind a tall guy in front of me, and peeked at her carefully.
My jaw dropped in a second. Her other hand was resting on the shoulder of a little boy, who looked to be about three years old. She was rapidly talking to him with a little animated look on her face. Her features hadn’t changed much, just a different hairstyle, and a nose stud winked merrily there.
Her boy walked with a spring on his feet and nodded happily at what she said. They took their seats a few feet away from where I stood in line. I was still bewildered about how she’d gotten married and had a child so soon after college. I have no idea how I got through the line that day. Ten minutes later, I was poised to get out of the line with my boarding pass. God, this is the worst thing, I thought.
I walked right into her line of sight, and suddenly, the little boy dashed off from his seat, and she looked up to call him back.
“Gautam! Kahaan jaa rahe ho?” she called out. Gautam ran right up to me, and stopped. Something clicked in his eyes, like recognition. And I was astonished. Sitaara had gathered up her carry-on luggage and ran up to him. Spotting me, she skidded to a halt.
“Pavan? Oh my God! It’s been ages! Gautam, do you remember Pavan Uncle?” she trilled with the same voice as on the day I’d first met her.
“What do you mean, he remembers Pavan Uncle?” I stage-whispered while blinking confusedly at Gautam.
“Oh, I’ve shown him pictures of you,” she whispered back.
Suddenly, as if he’d recalled his manners, Gautam put out his hand for a shake, and tremulously said, “Hello, Uncle.”
That one nervous look brought the dark eyes he’d inherited from Sitaara to focus, and I fell hard for the kid in a second. I brought myself to my knees and shook the whole of his little arm.
I grinned wide then. That day, I learned Tara’s story. She’d graduated and gone to her hometown with a job offer for a reputed IT company. Her parents were offered a good match for her, the groom worked with the central government here in Delhi. They were married then and she moved to Delhi. Her work had been curtailed when Gautam came and she’s been on a break since. I heard all about her loving in-laws and husband Ram.
I had had my insides churning when I saw her on the line before. All that initial embarrassment at meeting an ex-girlfriend, that too after she’s married and a mother, faded off completely as she spoke. She talked of old times as beautiful, funny stories of the past. And fondly remembered all our fights, and narrated them to her boy. Gautam was a darling child, he laughed at all the right places. She fussed over him a lot.
To my surprise, I felt normal. Any weird feeling I might have got, I never did get it. We boarded the flight together, and had a marvellous time in Bangalore. It got me thinking.
There were going to be awkward meetings throughout life, it would have been even more so if I’d been tugging a wife along by then. Then, I thought of all those years in the past when meeting ex-lovers was considered taboo, and men especially took extreme pains in hiding the stories of their love life.
But, this, this is the 21st century. People fell in love and committed themselves to relationships much more easily than they did years ago. They were much more individualistic and particular about their lives than before, and were bound to discard love interests after closer scrutiny. And of course, people were going to be running into their forgotten pasts around every corner. It was of no use to be scrambling around on eggshells about it. The fondness and magic will just be re-interpreted as a sweet memory. All Sitaara had been to me.. I now thought of it as a story, in which I’d had the time of my life.
Looking at her, struggling under the weight of a comfortably sleeping Gautam, I’d felt happy for how her life had turned out. As I dropped her off with her luggage at her home, I thought to myself, “All was well.”
Let me know in the comments!
PS : I know my November 1st post for NaNoWriMo is due, but this draft was sitting in here for ages.
PPS : Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!
PPPS : Will be back in two days with my official NaNo kickoff!