Counting those days – One shot | Fiction

I’ve written so much fiction and posted it across so many portals over the years; I don’t even remember all my stories. Which is a shame because it seems like I had much more clarity of thought back then. I wrote this about 6 years ago 😮 (I know, I’m equally shocked) when I had the emotional range of a teaspoon and had major rose colored glasses on. I should really hunt down all my stories and upload them here. For a perspective check, if nothing else. Look at me, trying to be all mature at the age of 17 about things like love. Pfft. (I’m no better now btw)
Anyway, here it goes.
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2 months, 28 days, 7 hours and 20 minutes since he walked away, and I’m still counting.

I get into my car and start the engine, something that I do everyday. My body has coped with the fast pace of my life, and it has become more of a machine, that responds to orders quicker than emotions. Start the engine. Get the car into gear. Go back home. Eat. Sleep. Back to the hospital. Simple routine.

I don’t want to feel the rush of emotions in my heart, because it gives way to vulnerability,always. Vulnerability is one of my top 10 fears of all time. It gives others the power to control some or the other aspect of your life. A mechanical life maybe difficult to get used to, but in the long run, it’s better than feeling pain.

Then why am I still counting ? I don’t know, probably because it’s just another custom I follow in my daily routine. Probably because maths is my passion. Probably because I’ve lost my mental balance. My brain keeps giving me all sorts of reasons, but my heart always gives me one reason – I haven’t let go. I refuse to believe it.

2 months 28 days, 7 hours and 25 minutes.

It’s raining outside. It fails to stirr any emotions within me, haven’t I mentioned that I’m a robot ? Well, I am, and accepting this fact doesn’t stirr any emotion either.

I don’t blame him, he had to go, but back then when I was human, I did feel angry at him, at my fate. I did feel shattered, I did feel deperate to cling onto him as long as possible, but over the time, all those feelings have evaporated, and have left behind a fully functional robot.

“God Neeta, you look like hell. You need a break dude” said one of her colleagues and friend, Rohan Khanna.

She smiled, “No Rohan, I’m fine. Besides, Hospital hours don’t allo-“

“Let go Neeta..” he cut her off, staring at her intently.

She stared at him for a long moment and then lowered her gaze, “I’ve moved on, Rohan..I have”

Rohan slightly shook his head, “Don’t expect me to believe that. For how long will you be in denial ? Face it Neeta, running away from this fact is not courage”

He paused for a long moment, and then said, “Please Neeta, free yourself from this misery”. He patted her arm, warmly nodded at her and walked away.

My best friend Rohan thinks I’m in denial. I don’t understand why. I’m absolutely ok, and it’s high time he accepted that. I don’t need a break, hospital is the only place that helps me retain my sanity.

2 months, 28 days, 7 hours and 51 minutes.

I’ve reached my house, it’s still raining. Darn, I forgot my umbrella at the hospital. I jump out of my car and quickly lock it. Not long after I start walking towards my house, I see him.

He’s completely drenched, from head to toe, but he’s standing at my doorstep, waiting for me to come back. I’m standing in my place, transfixed. All the nuerons in my brain seem to stop functioning at once. All the rational commands stop overpowering my heart, I’m standing here like a statue, unable to move an inch.

He turns to look at me, and even though it’s raining, I could make out that he’s been crying. Involuntarily, my feet start taking me towards him. I don’t know whether I want to slap him or hug him, whether I’m esctatic or angry. I had said I don’t want to feel the rush of emotions, but right now, a huge tide of emotions is sweeping through every part of my body, overwhelming me to an extent that the heavy downpour seems non-existent.

We’re standing close now. He’s saying something, I’m not listening. All I can see is his face, and slowly, the walls that I had built around me start crumbling. I don’t want them to, but it’s as if a strong force is destroying them and my brain is too numb to do anything. The last wall cracks, and tears form in my eyes.

I manage to hear his last line, “Neeta..I-I’m sorry..I’m-“

I cut him off, trying hard to fight my tears, I say, “Shekhar, Can we talk..please ?”

He looks at me and nods. All the pent up emotions can wait. Although all I want to do at that moment is bury myself in his arms and allow myself to succumb to my feelings, but all that can wait. There are questions, and there are answers, there are misunderstandings, and there are solutions, and they need to be cleared before we can make space for emotions between us. Before I give in again, I need to talk with the man standing before me, and I know he understands.

We’re finally aware of the rain, and walk towards my house. I finally allow myself to be happy to see him.

Deep down, I’m hoping that I’ll get my happy ending, and that he’s back forever, because I’ve finally stopped counting, and the robot in me just stopped functioning.

Scenes that stay: Love Aaj Kal (Climax)

There are times you watch a film and one particular scene sticks with you for a very long time. It may be because it stumped you visually, had a catchy dialogue or moved you emotionally. With me, it’s mostly when a scene has emotional impact that it stays with me for years to come.

I am a movie buff. I love bollywood and I love watching films at any given point of time. I grew up on the cheesy 90’s flicks and unabashedly admit to watching films like Badshah, Yes boss, Biwi No.1 and even Ghar ho to aisa every single time they air on TV. I try not to miss a good release (and that excludes horrors like Happy New Year, Dilwale, Rowdy Rathore, Bodyguard etc) and catch every flick on the 70 mm screen. Even though I am not someone who cries during a film, I do feel moved or affected just as deeply and keep that emotion with me for a while.

Love Aaj Kal is a fairly good film. I liked it despite it’s flaws. I agreed with what it was trying to say – true love will find a way to come back to you; and once you have found your soulmate (for the lack of a better word) it is difficult to lead life with someone else or even alone; no matter how hard you try. Something will always be amiss. What takes the entire film a notch higher for me is the climax – Meera’s breakdown when Jai finally returns to her.

Pain, fear, relief, happiness – all rolled into one fine moment. I don’t know what it is about this 3 second scene that hits me hard every single time I watch it. It is deeply humanizing and shatters the glorified bollywood reunion of the hero-heroine where people clap as the heroine runs into the hero’s arms. You feel Meera’s pain as she tries to contain her emotions at his re-appearance. It is so brilliantly directed by Imtiaz Ali. It is these nuances that make him the master of the ‘romance’ genre. His films are more about discovering different facets of love than going through the motions of a formulaic film. Even though Socha Na Tha is his best film (After Tamasha, in my opinion) – this particular scene is somewhat of a masterstroke. The fact that she doesn’t breakdown in his arms like the typical heroine would is brilliant writing in it’s own right.

I didn’t look at Deepika the same way after this film. People usually credit the upswing in her career to Cocktail but this film showcased her talent long before. This scene and the one where Jai rants on her wedding day, while Meera stands there resolutely, are testament to her talent.

Special mention to Dooriyan – a song that never goes out of fashion for me. That song is magic.

Ever After

Naina flopped down on her berth, panting. She had almost missed her train once again. It was starting to become a pattern with her. Her friends said she would be awarded the Nobel Prize that day she made it anywhere on time.

She was travelling to Bangalore via Rajhdani Express for her cousin’s wedding. For some reason, she never enjoyed weddings. They always left her feeling morose. She supposed it was because they reminded her of the void in her own life..a void that had not been filled ever since her last relationship failed. Akash was the one for her, she believed it then and she believed it now. He understood her at a completely different level. However, what happened needed to be done despite and in spite of everything.

College was such a high in her life. It seemed a lifetime away now though, with reality having made it’s presence known. She had an amazing friend circle, and Akash was her friend before he became her boyfriend. All of them thought they would always be together. It had seemed so easy back then; to make promises of a lifetime and plan futures together. But the truth is that everything eventually meets it’s end, and life goes on.

“Madam, ticket please?”, a distant voice said, breaking her out of her reverie.

She looked up to see a paunchy TT looking at her with raised eyebrows. She opened her bag, took her phone out and showed him the M-Ticket along with her ID Proof. The TT stared at her for a second, then shook his head and muttered something like, “Today’s generation..”

She smiled as the memory of Akash mocking TTs in trains came back to her in a flash..

                                                                                      *

Nitin was an impatient person. He idly flicked through his playlist trying to find a good song while he waited for the train to move. He hated AC 3 tier. Whoever invented it deserved to be hanged. There was nothing worse than being suspended in a position in which you could not sit properly without getting your head hurt. Added to that was this extremely infuriating family in his compartment that simply did not shut up. The kids kept yelling, the mother was a very loud woman with loud make up, the father didn’t seem to care and his father kept dunking tobacco. Nitin was sandwiched between berths and this family. Literally.

Finally, he heard the final whistle and heaved a sigh of relief. The train started moving slowly. There was something about being in a moving train that calmed him down. He felt as though the hours that the journey lasted for, he didn’t need to live up to anyone’s expectations. He didn’t need to work towards something. He could just be himself and think about what he wanted.

Ever since college got over, his life had been a series of consecutive and quick steps. He didn’t get a chance to think about what he wanted to do, his family had already done that for him. He was to do an MBA in Finance whether or not he liked it. So he was now being shipped off to Bangalore to study in the Mount Carmel Institute of Management.

Swati always told him that Advertising was his field. She thought he would excel and do very well in it. He was creative and impulsive – a combination that had yielded very many interesting ideas. He had put up some great presentations in his classes as well.

She had had a lot of faith in him, despite the fact that he was temperamental and impatient. She always believed that he would get somewhere in his life. For some reason, when she left, Nitin lost his self-confidence too. He never realized how much of his strength came from her presence. After that, he never fought for what he believed in, and settled for what had already been planned for him.

He suddenly realized that the old man was trying to talk to him. He took his earphones off and said, “Sorry uncle, what did you say?”

“I said, are you also going to Bangalore?”

No, I’m going to hell, he thought, but said, “Yes Uncle, I am”

“Oh good, that’s nice. To meet family?”

“No, for my MBA”

“I see. That’s good. We are going to Bangalore to attend my sister’s daughter’s wedding. This generation is so modern, they select their partners on their own. But I like the groom, he earns well and does a good job. My sister is also happy…”

Nitin’s thoughts wandered away as the old man went on with his story. Indian train rides and random stranger conversations will always go hand in hand. I suppose my expression is not proof enough that I’m simply not interested.

He remembered when all four of them – Swati, Akash, Naina and himself had gone to Manali for a short trip. That train ride had been so memorable. Everything seemed fun, even the talkative families huddled around them. They chatted with random people and made random contacts. It was all so great. They played Antakshari with a family the whole way. It’s unbelievable how experiences can differ across situations. That was a train ride; this is a train ride too. But there was simply no comparison.

*

Akash smiled as he looked at a small girl trying to climb up the middle berth. It was 3 in the morning and he wasn’t sleepy at all, and neither, it seemed, was that girl. Her mother kept trying to get her to sleep but she simply wouldn’t lie down. Akash had been like that as a kid – hyper and restless all the time. His earliest memories were those of running down the aisles in planes and wreaking havoc in trains. As an adult too, he loved kids. He loved their innocence and honesty. People told him that he was quite the kid himself, so he never had any problem mingling with them.

He loved Bangalore as a city. He had grown up and done his schooling there. Some of his good friends still lived in Bangalore, and he had been wanting to pay them a visit for a while now. Since he had just left his job, he thought he wouldn’t find a better opportunity to go meet them.

He didn’t know how he sustained a year in his job, considering the fact that he was the most carefree and irresponsible person on earth. The world could be coming to an end and he would still want to talk about making a trip to Leh Ladhakh on a Harley Davidson. He was someone who lived in his own little world of fantasies. Reality was simply not for him. The only reason he took up that job was because his parents had been reiterating for quite a while that he was a useless son, and that he needed to do something in order to prove otherwise.

He had had plans once, back in college. But all of them included Naina. He never imagined that he would be left alone with nothing but fruitless plans. She was a huge support in his life. She stabilized him, gave him a sense of sanity. With her gone, things didn’t make sense anymore. In fact, his entire friend circle had made his life worthwhile. Their absence made him realize how much he had been counting on their presence. The memory of that day  still gave him shivers..

“I can’t do this, Akash. Not anymore”, said Naina, tears streaming down her face.

“Don’t do this, Naina, please. You know I need you in my life”, replied Akash in a trembling voice.

“Don’t you see, Akash? I don’t have a life of my own, I’m so busy managing yours! You need to grow up. Ever since Nitin and Swati broke up, you have been so invested in getting them and our friend circle back on track that you’ve forgotten about us. And this is just the last straw, Akash. I have been single handedly managing this relationship since the beginning”

“That is not true, Naina. You know-“

“Goodbye, Akash. I need to focus on my life now. I don’t want you in my life anymore”

If only he had stopped her. If only.

*

Swati woke up feeling disoriented. She never slept well in trains. She feared not waking up on time and missing her station, so she consciously slept light. She checked her watch, it was 6:20 in the morning. The train was scheduled to reach Bangalore at 6:40.

She sat up and stretched. One of the advantages of travelling in AC 2 tier was that you could sit properly. Sometimes she couldn’t help but feel glad that her parents weren’t too big on saving money like other households. She liked their financial setting – they spent almost as much as they earned. The present mattered more than the future, anyway. Mostly though, she was quite organized and saved money wherever she could. She liked making plans. They gave her a sense of comfort and predictability.

Swati did not like surprises, which is why her relationship with Nitin was a shocker, because he was possibly the most unpredictable person ever. He waltzed into her life and took it by storm within a matter of days. His ideas, beliefs, opinions and personality clashed so much with her own; but for some reason they also attracted her to him. They were a classic case of “opposites attract”.

He never paid much attention to her detailed plans about everything, and she never took his crazy ideas seriously either, but despite that they both had so much faith in each other. She still did not understand how that had happened.

But unlike fairytales, their relationship was not meant to be. It got harder and harder to sustain as time went by. Small squabbles turned into major fights and before they knew it, they had fallen out of love. One of their major fights culminated in them breaking up and deciding never to see each other’s faces. Their friends, Akash and Naina, tried to contain it and manage the damage, but nothing worked. Their break up led to the disintegration of their friend circle too.

By the time her anger had cooled off and she had begun to think clearly again, it was too late. Nitin had gone back to his hometown to live with his family, and her parents wanted her to help them out in their business. She regretted doing what she did. She didn’t know if their relationship could have lasted longer, but it shouldn’t have ended the way it did.

She was so deeply lost in her thoughts that she didn’t realize when the train stopped. Chaiwalas and Coolies rushed into the train to cater to the passengers. She quickly climbed down and started gathering her stuff. Her bua must have already reached the platform..

*

Akash was just beginning to enjoy the morning hustle bustle of the platform when he spotted her tying her hair. Naina was still very beautiful. He was transfixed on his spot because of shock. Is this how they were going to meet again after 2 years? Every unresolved emotion was coming to the surface..

Nitin was getting annoyed by a girl who blocking the doorway. She was trying to get her luggage out but was struggling a lot with it. Finally he said, “Mam could you please hurry! Everyone is waiting behind you!”

She turned around to face him. His jaw almost dropped. It was Swati. He could not believe she was actually standing in front of him. The girl he had fallen so deeply in love, the girl who drove up the wall..she was there, right in front of him. For a minute they just stared at each other, but then Swati broke the eye contact and stepped down from the train. Nitin remained rooted to his spot until a man shoved him in the back and said, “Please move, mister!”

Swati released the breath she had been holding. Nitin’s sudden reappearance had taken her aback her like nothing else. She didn’t want to confront him. Her heart was beating fast and she knew she was about to get a panic attack. She quickly picked up her bag and started walking fast towards the exit when she spotted someone else she had known – Akash. He was staring a girl tying her hair. It was Naina.

Nitin slowly walked towards the exit, lost in his thoughts. He had felt a rush of strong emotions when he saw her – anger, love, remembrance, pain, sadness, happiness – all at once. He suddenly bumped into a guy while walking aimlessly. He quickly said, “Sorry, sorry..I didn’t mean to-”

When he turned around, he received another shock. It was Akash.  At that moment, Naina too, noticed them. Her eyes widened in surprise. Between the tug of fight or flight, she always reacted by doing nothing. She stood there, speechless.

All four of them could not understand this extremely strange twist of fate. They had been on the same train, albeit different coaches, travelling to the same place. Naina, Akash, Swati and Nitin – four people who were inseparable in college, who could not imagine getting past one day without talking to each other, now stood in front of each other without having anything to say. 2 years was a long time, enough to create or heal distances. In their case, it seemed as though major distances had been created. All had been lost, except for some invaluable memories.

Swati was the first to make a move. Her Bua was waving at her. She walked past Naina without looking at her and kept walking. Nitin didn’t stop her. Not because he didn’t want to, but because he didn’t know how. He turned around and went in the opposite direction. This probably completed the circle of their relationship – they had come from opposite directions to be together, and they went in their opposite directions now that it was over.

Naina didn’t want to face Akash. Tears were threatening to fall down her cheeks. She was going to break down, but before he knew what had happened, she picked up her luggage and left. He was left staring at her retreating back, once again thinking – if only I could stop her. If only.

Fire & Ice

Finally uploading all stories I wrote for a portfolio.

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“I think I’m going to have to go see him”, said Smriti as she kept the phone down, “He’s in the hospital and it wouldn’t seem nice if we didn’t go”

“Well, okay..how long do you think it will take you to be back?”, I asked.

“By tomorrow morning, I think..do you think you’ll be able to manage?”

I shrugged and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine. Maybe I could go and have a cup of coffee at Vasant Vihar market complex or something”

Suneha Gupta was a simple girl. She liked simple things, and found joy in small achievements. She was a law student, and unlike many others who chose to do it out of compulsion or family pressure, she loved every bit of it. Being good at it came effortlessly to her. Even though she was a second year student at New Law College, Pune, she was more knowledgeable than most of the third year LLB students.

She was in Delhi to visit her friend of 4 years, Smriti. They were both together in school and were great friends. Unfortunately after school, Smriti chose to be in Delhi and Suneha went to Pune. But distance could not dilute their friendship. They continued to be in touch via mail, skype and ofcourse, whatsapp. They also visited each other a couple of times alternatively, and this time it was Suneha’s turn to be in Delhi.

“Okay, cool. You can even watch a movie if you like, you know. Just keep the house keys with you”, said Smriti.

“Arey don’t worry na. I’ll be fine. You go see your uncle. Afterall family is family, and swine flu is a pretty serious condition to be diagnosed with”

Smriti sighed, “Yes, I know…but I still feel bad about leaving you here. I mean, you’re only here for 3 days…”

“Smriti, it’s okay…really. It’s not like you’re going away for days, it’s just one night. I’ll manage just fine”, I said consolingly.

Smriti nodded and smiled, “Yep…so we’ll plan something nice for tomorrow once I’m back, okay?”

“Sure thing”, I replied with a smile.

A while later, Smriti left with her parents for Fortis Hospital, where her uncle had been admitted. I sat down on the sofa in the sitting room and turned on the television, thinking about what I could do. I wasn’t someone who could enjoy on my own, I always preferred company. Every time I had to face the prospect of having a good time alone, time would slow down. I sighed and looked at my watch, it was 7 pm in the evening. I can go and have a cup of coffeestroll a little and be back by 9.

With that thought in mind, I promptly turned the television off and went to fetch my bag and the house keys. I took one last look at myself in the mirror, walked out of the front door and locked it.

The Vasant Vihar market complex wasn’t too far from Smriti’s place. She lived in RK Puram, which was very close by, so I decided to simply walk. Walking was one of my favourite modes of introspection; it gave me a sense of purpose. A lot of things would go through my mind while walking – where I was headed towards in life, past mistakes, relationships, family, finance…the list was endless. I just wished I had as many answers as well.

Passion Tea had always been one of my favourite cafes to be in. Back when I was in Delhi, I hung out at the Saket branch quite often. The one in Vasant Vihar was bigger and more tasteful. I walked inside and found a secluded spot in one corner. It wasn’t too crowded today except of two couples enjoying their tea date and one guy smiling at his smart phone. I placed my order, caramel tea and honey almond cake, and settled down in a cosy armchair. Rummaging through my bag, I found a novel I had bought a while ago, so opened the marked page and started reading.

“The wife is a psychopath, you know…that’s the big mystery”, said a deep voice a while later.

I looked up from my book and saw the guy who was earlier smiling at his smart phone, smiling at me now. For a moment I was taken aback at this unexpected greeting, but then recovered and said, “So you’ve read this book?”

He nodded and said, “Yep, before the movie released actually”

“And why should I believe you? You could just be bluffing”

“Good point. That just depends on your judgement of people then”

“I guess it does”, I said.

“So do you think I’m bluffing?”

I looked at him for a moment and said, “I think I’ll reserve my judgement until later”

He chuckled and said, “Sure”, and after a moment’s pause, “So you like mystery novels?”

“Yes, they keep my brain active. I’m not much into drama or romance”

“Do you mind if I join you? we look weird talking from two tables apart, don’t we?”

I nodded and said, “Why not?”

He got up and walked over to where I was sitting. He’s quite confident, I thought spontaneously as I saw him walk towards me. His smile had a sort of laid back charm about it, and his appearance was casual yet classy. I smiled yet again as he sat down and said, “I’m Abhinav Singh, by the way”

“Suneha Gupta”

“Unusual name. So what do you do Suneha?”

“I’m a second year law student actually, at New law college, Pune. Here to visit a friend for a couple of days”

“Oh, sounds pretty challenging”, said Abhinav in an awed voice.

“Maybe, but I love studying law. I have the aptitude for it, so it never feels like I’m working too hard”, I said.

“That’s good to know. You hardly come across people who love what they do nowadays. Passionate people are hard to find”

“True. No one has any distinct personality. Everyone is a copy of a copy of a copy”

“Wow, that’s deep. Which film?”, said Abhinav with a chortle.

I grinned in response and said, “Fight Club. So what do you do?”

“I’m a third year journalism student at JNU”

“Wow, really? That’s great. I have this notion in my head that journalism students are really smart”

“Well, we are…there’s absolutely no doubt about that”, said Abhinav with a smirk.

“Is that confidence or narcissism?”, I asked with a grin.

“A mixture of both, I would say”

“Hmm, I like your honesty”

“Thankyou, miss. So…do you like Delhi as a place?”

“I do, actually. I may not like the people but I like the place”

“I agree with you on that completely. Have you ever had a chance to explore it at night?”

“Not really. I mean, I used be home by 8 max when I was here so I never really got a chance to go clubbing and all…”

“No I don’t mean clubbing. I mean really exploring the city at night, you know, just driving around to places and just spending time there. There’s really nothing quite like it. Delhi at night is magical”, he paused for a moment and then said, “You wanna come with me today?”

My eyes widened in surprise, followed by an incredulous chuckle, “You can’t be serious! I mean, we hardly know each other – ”

“Well this is the best way to get to know each other”, Abhinav said, interrupting her, “C’mon, what’s really stopping you? Just call your friend and tell her you’ll be back by 11”

“It’s not that. She’s not at home, actually. It’s just -”

“Well then that’s great, isn’t it? You’re not answerable to anyone today except yourself”, he said, his eyes shining with glee.

I stared at him in disbelief. I had just met this stranger half an hour ago, and now it seemed as though he was inviting me out on a date. I had always been taught never to trust unknown people, never to take risks or do anything that you weren’t 100% sure about. I had grown up evaluating the risk factor in every situation before venturing into it. My life so far had been carefully planned and meticulously executed. Would it make a difference if, for once, I listened to my gut instead of my brain?

Pushing all doubts aside, I said, “Where are we going?”

He clapped his hands together and grinned broadly, “Now that’s more like it. How about…India Gate? It’s great when it’s not that crowded. Plus you get the world’s best tea at around 11 there”

His excitement is infectious, I thought to myself. He was the type of person who could be very hard to say no to. Besides, I had never done something like this ever before. I grinned in spite of myself and said, “Sounds good. It’s only 8 right now though, what are we going to do until then?”

“Well we’re going to sit and chat here of course. We’ll leave at around 10:30, what say?”

“Okay, good. That’s done then”

“Yep. So tell me about yourself. What do you like to do?”

It was quite surprising how easy it was to talk to Abhinav. I didn’t know if it was because our wavelengths matched or because he was an outgoing person in general, but I felt like I had known him for years. He loved travelling, and especially adventure sports. He explained to me in detail his experiences with rafting, bungee jumping, paragliding and even sky diving. I listened to him with rapt attention, I had never known someone who acted on 9 out of 10 impulses. He had made his mistakes, but he had no regrets.

I told him about my life as a kid, how my parents had always been overprotective of me, how I made less but long lasting friends, how I always hated mingling with the “bigda hua” crowd in school. The most exciting thing that I had ever done was bunk school with my friends once and gone to watch a film. It had given me a panic attack like no other. I had never attempted a bunk ever again in my life. Abhinav genuinely seemed interested in what I had to say, and unlike many others, didn’t judge me for who I was.

Hours passed swiftly and before we knew it, it was half past ten. Abhinav tapped his watch and said, “We should make a move now, don’t you think?”

“We should…it’ll get too late otherwise”, I replied as we got up.

When we walked into the parking lot, I expected to see a sedan like Chevrolet or Honda city, but instead I found myself walking towards an old Alto. Somehow Abhinav’s grand personality had given me the impression that he must own an expensive car. That, however, was not true, and I was impressed to know that he didn’t care much about latest automobiles. As we settled down in the car, I said, “Do you mind if I play my songs?”

“Go ahead.  Just as long as they’re not EDM or rock music, I’m fine with just about anything”

I grinned and said, “Don’t worry, I’m not a big fan either. My stuff is mostly Bollywood”

I put on my favourite song as he started the car. I couldn’t help but recall my father’s words – Beta, never let someone you don’t trust drive the car…but for the first time in my life, I wasn’t going to let those words overpower my heart. I was thoroughly enjoying not knowing the outcome of a situation for once. Besides, Abhinav was a pretty good driver from what I could see. He didn’t seem like one of those people who learnt how to drive with friends. The fact that he wore his seat belt proved that.

We listened to all sorts of songs ranging from AR Rahman to Ravi Kishen as we drove towards India Gate. I rolled down my window and poked my head out. The first rush of air was so exhilarating that it made me light headed. This is what being high feels like, I thought. Fear, that had dominated my life and decisions for the most part, seemed like a stranger right now. I knew this was transient, but I also knew that it would take a while for any other moment to top this one.

We finally reached India Gate at around 11. It wasn’t as crowded or as noisy as it is in the evening. There were less people around, less hustle bustle and less vendors. It looked beautiful masked in golden light, under the dark sky. Mostly people were quietly strolling down the path, having tea or buying ice cream. Of course, there were some drunk people around showing off in their BMWs, but that didn’t really matter. I felt safe with Abhinav. We bought two cups of tea, chai, as Abhinav liked to call it and settled down on the footpath to watch the traffic drive past. For almost 15 minutes we didn’t say a word to each other. It was oddly calming, just sitting there and watching the world go about its business. For the first time, I wasn’t thinking about anything.

“Why can’t each day be like this?”, I asked, breaking the silence.

“It can be, you need to decide for it to be”, he replied, looking directly into my eyes.

“What if it’s not that simple?”

“It is, actually…just eliminate the things that don’t matter”

I didn’t have any reply. He made it all sound so easy, so natural. Being here was a very inconsequential thing for him, but for me, it took a whole lot of strength.

We sat there until 12 am, mostly in silence but sharing some sparse thoughts in between. We were as different as fire and ice, but surprisingly gelled extremely well with each other. We were both doors to different worlds for each other, a world neither had been exposed to before.

At 12:15 am, I checked my watch and gasped, “Shit! It’s 12:15 am! I was supposed to be at home by 11:30 pm. I think we should leave”

He looked at her and said softly, “C’mon, let’s stay here for another half an hour…your friend’s not at home anyway”

Despite the temptation of his company, I lightly shook my head and said, “No, sorry Abhinav, but I really should get back. I want to spend more time here but it’s getting too late”

He sighed and said, “Alright then”

We drove back in silence, enjoying the music and the wind rushing in through the open windows. I could not have imagined 4 hours ago that I would be having the best experience of my life today. In fact, I had never imagined I would get a taste of a world beyond my own anytime in my life. I was quite overwhelmed by how this attractive stranger had waltzed into my day unexpectedly and made an ordinary day, extra ordinary. I couldn’t help but wish that I could have more days this with him.

“So…”, said Abhinav as he parked outside Smriti’s place in RK Puram.

“So..”, I said, smiling, “It was really nice meeting you, Abhinav. Thanks for this experience”

He smiled and said, “Likewise, Suneha. You’re a very interesting person, I really enjoyed spending time with you”

Maybe I should give him my number, I thought as I started to take my phone out from her bag, “Hey we should keep in -”

At that moment, though, Abhinav’s phone rang. He looked at the screen and smiled widely. Picking up the phone, he said, “Hey baby…how are you? No I was just with a friend right now, we went to India Gate to have chai…”

 

Almost in Love – Short story

I’m in the process of uploading some of the old stories that I had written long time back. I hope they aren’t rubbish.

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He gulped down another shot of vodka. It burned his insides as he felt the strong liquor going down into his stomach. He signalled the barman to re-fill his glass, his hand trembling and vision fading in and out of haze. The barman stared at him for a couple of moments, and then, he mustered up his courage and said, “Sir, I think you’ve had enough. You should go back ho-”

The man cut him off impatiently and said, “Just do as I say. I’m paying y-you right? So cut the crap..and refill my glass” He faultered as he spoke, words blurring into each other, making it difficult for the barman to make a distinction between two different words. But he heard that he had been asked to do his job without retaliating. He nodded softly and turned around to prepare his drink.

On the other hand, the man felt his brain blacking out. He suddenly felt weak, his vision now completely askew, he percieved everything to be two in number. He felt drained and tired, and closed his eyes, hoping that his head would stop spinning like a spinning top. He slowly laid his head on the bar table and closed his eyes once again. He saw her…
Not long before he had envisaged the woman he loved in his mind, he heard a voice.

“Wake up, Anupam !” That was certainly not the voice of the girl he was dreaming about. He heard the voice again, this time, even louder and clear, “For god’s sake Anupam, Wake up !”
He reluctantly opened his eyes, through his still blurry vision, he saw the outline of a girl standing next to him, trying to wake him up. Inspite of his distorted vision, he could recogise the familiar touch of the girl. It was Mitali. His best friend. It was always the same. He would get drunk on Saturdays and she would rescue him from the miserable and embarrassing state he always landed himself in. He felt her slap him lightly on the head. He groaned as he massaged his head gently, “What was that for ?”

“For screwing up my saturday night once again” she replied through clenched teeth. It was pretty much clear that she had grown sick and tired of his habit. He felt sorry for her too, but he had never asked her to rescue him in the first place. She was free to leave him on his own. He wouldn’t mind, but something always brought her to him…he always wondered what it was that made her worry about him.
“You passed out again, and here I am again, rescuing you from this shitpot…again” she finished with a sigh. Anupam was way to dizzy to even listen to her rant, leave alone comprehend it. He was weak and tired, and all he wanted was to lie down and sleep. He felt himself descend into oblivion once again. And all was black.

He woke up, rubbing the back of his head to ease the tormenting pain in his head. He resolved that he would never drink ever again in his life. He failed to consider his past record of such resolutions. It must have been his 100000000th resolution, and yet he ended up getting drunk in the same bar every saturday. He looked around. He was in his house, for sure. And he had no doubts that Mitali had brought him here. Who else ? She is the only one who gives a damn about my existence, he thought as he got and walked towards the bathroom.

Anupam had not been so sombre 1 year back. Infact, he had been the happiest man alive. He had everything – success, wife,a kid and everything else that constituted a perfect life. Until one fatal day, all of it met an untimely end. Radhika, his wife of 2 years, had been travelling to her parent’s place with their kid, Ashna. Their plane crashed on it’s way to Bhopal. No one survived.
It had taken precisely 6 months for Anupam to accept this truth. But looking at his post-acceptance state, one would agree to the fact that he was way better when he was in denial. Atleast he ate. Atleast he slept. Atleast he didn’t drink. Atleast he lived..even if in a false expectation. Anupam’s life had become miserable. His life had shattered and no one except one was their to pick the pieces up – Mitali. She had been his friend since they were only little children. Inspite of enrolling into different colleges after passing out, they mantained contact.

After that incident, Mitali supported him in every way possible. She was always there when he needed a shoulder to cry on. She stayed up till late in the nights just to listen to him crib and cry, and never complained. And now that he was indulging himself into alcohol, she was visibly concerned. She kept telling him that alcohol was only a temporary escape, and he needed to overcome his grief, not run away from it. He genuinely appreciated her concern and tried to move on, but failed each time.

But Mitali never stopped trying. Although she was sick and tired of his awful habit, she knew she would never give up on him. Because she loved him. It was a simple fact. And she realized it not long after Anupam finally accepted that his family had indeed, been torn apart. She felt her heart break each time he wept. She wished she could do something to ease his pain, infact, she was ready to take it on herself if it took away his suffering, but all of it was in vain.  She tried to tell him that she loved many times, but each time she tried, it seemed as of her mouth zipped itself tightly whenever he was infront of her. She was scared of losing the friendship they shared. But it was also a burden on her heart, she knew that if she didn’t tell him about her feelings anytime soon, her heart might literally explode.

After hours of introspection, she decided that she had to confront him and confess her feelings. She no longer could bear that burden on her heart. She might lose her frienship in the bargain, but she was willing to take that risk.

Anupam opened the door to his flat and entered, with two bags of grocery hooked on his fingers. He slowly walked inside and placed them in the kitchen. He turned around and saw Mitali standing right behind him. Her sudden presence caught him off guard and a surprised expression formed on his face, “Hey Mitali, What are you doing here ?” He asked her, moving away from her to retreive a bottle of water from the fridge. She shifted nervously in her place and said, “Anupam, I needed to talk to you..and I had spare keys to your flat, so I decided to pay you a visit..”

He smiled at her, “Ok…What’s wrong ?” He enquired, moving slightly closer to her. She glanced at him and saw the casual expression he was looking at her with. It only increased her nervousness, “Nothing’s wrong…” She began, at a loss for the right words, “I just…I think that I…Anupam I..” She was fidgiting with her fingers, trying to think of what to say. He stared at her confusedly, “Mitali..are you ok ?” He asked her with concern in his voice.
Mitali nodded slightly and took a deep breath,now or never, “Anupam, I’m in love with you”

She had said it. She had finally confessed her feelings to Anupam. Her heart was thumping so loudly in her chest, that she could catch it’s rythm. She was taking deep, heavy breaths, trying to calm her nerves. His expression was completely blank. She could not deduce any possible feeling from his face. His lack of reaction was beginning to make her feel that she had made the wrong move, and now she was going to lose his friendship forever. A feeling of disappointment arose within her, and instantly she felt tears sting her eyes.
After quite a few long and silent moments, his face broke into a wide smile. A genuine smile, that actually radiated happiness. She stared at him for a long moment, and then looked into his eyes, and for a fleeting moment she thought as if she saw ‘love’ in his eyes…for her.

Without responding, Anupam stepped forward and embraced her in a warm hug. This hug was different from the ‘friendly’ ones they often shared, this hug, unlike others, made her feel safe and content. She felt as if she was finally home.
And she knew, that Anupam may not have fallen completely in love with her, but he did feel a deep emotional connection with her that ran deeper than just friendship or a casual crush. He was still healing, and she didn’t want to force him into anything. So she decided that she would not give up on him this time either, and she would wait for him to come to her.

The ties between had not crumbled, infact they had strengthened, as now Mitali was in love with Anupam, and Anupam was almost in love with her.

Binge Living

Hair roughly tied back in a loose bun and mascara running down her cheeks, Swati looked around the room. The state of her house reflected her inner state – broken. Her life was empty. She had nothing.

Her mind suddenly started reeling back in her past. The only good years of her childhood were the years she spent with her parents. When she was 5, they died in a car accident. They were both driving under influence (DUI), something that Swati was completely unaware of. Alcoholism lived in her house – day in and day out. Her thoughts shifted to the time spent in an orphanage. Those were probably the worst years of her life. She preferred not to recall them, so her mind sped through those memories and paused at one day. The day she ran away from the orphanage.

While she was in the orphanage, Swati had discovered a deep love for music – that was perhaps the only good thing to have happened to her in that place. Her love and passion for music drove her to construct a plan to run away. She knew she had to learn music.

A small bittersweet smile touched upon her lips as she recalled the wild times she spent outside the orphanage – Struggle for work, money and survival, small and petty jobs, endless drinking and endless music. She finally managed to collect enough money to enroll in a music academy.

Music academy. Her mind stopped there. From there on, it was as if she had had a re-birth. That she wasn’t Swati Gupta. She looked around her house once again, and this time she noticed the broken photo frames.

Armaan came into her life when she stepped into that academy. They hit it off almost instantly and before she knew it, they were in love. Swati could speed past 20 years of her life, but each moment that she spent with Armaan was engraved in her mind like a tattoo. She knew that he was the one. Still did.

After graduating from the academy, Armaan, Swati and a two of their common friends decided to form an Indian pop band. That was the highest of all the highs – their band. Her world was full of music, lyrics, tunes, notes, instruments, voices..everything music. Their band was an instant success. They were on the top for 5 straight years. But as they say, nothing lasts forever. And then Swati Gupta became Swati Gupta once again.

Armaan had a drinking problem. His drinking increased when early success struck them. With each passing concert, his addiction became worse. When the media sniffed this, the tabloid papers went into a frenzy. It created a rift between their band members. And just as they had shot up to fame in 5 seconds, they were pulled down in 2.5.

Swati stood up for Armaan wherever necessary. They moved in together. Lack of music was like lack of air. Armaan indulged himself into alcohol, and it increased her resentment. Not long after their fall from grace, she discovered that she was addicted to music and the audience. Her craving to play the guitar just once again increased day by day. To get rid of the anxiety, she played in small bars and restaurants. One day, when things got too out of hand, she confronted Armaan. Their fight culminated in them breaking up.

Her mind zapped back to the present. Words from that conversation still echoed in her brain.

“I can’t do this anymore Armaan”

“Then don’t”

“You really mean that?”

6 months. It had been 6 months. She moved out and found another flat. With Armaan gone, she was completely hollow from inside. She tried to get her mind away from him by working endlessly, but it didn’t work. Each day was like a restricted breath. When it got too much to handle, she turned to the only way she could find – drugs.

They opened a new world for her – momentary happiness. It was like flying in heaven for those few moments. She forgot all about her failure, and about Armaan for those few moments. It was like being back to her mother’s welcoming arms. Her dependency increased everyday, to the point that she was working only to be able to buy enough for one day. She had no permanent house, and moved from one flat to the other as frequently as changing clothes. Her previous cleanliness ‘freak’ attitude had been turned into complete disregard of her surroundings. She lost her appetite, wore the same clothes for numerous days, stopped caring for her health and her veins were beginning to weaken.

But she kept using. She didn’t know what had become of her life. ‘Living’ was now an alien word. Slowly and gradually, her world started revolving around drugs, and one day, she had no work. And now, she was here.

She blinked fresh tears and looked down at the syringe. The only object that offered her some solace. Without thinking, she shot it up her arm and closed her eyes.

She was in a vast white room. She was wearing nothing except of a small necklace, with a guitar in her hand. A smile adorned her face as she started playing. In the distance, she could hear a melodious voice singing. Turning around, she saw that it was Armaan, and he too, was smiling at her.

But his face faded into nothingness as the immediate euphoric rush ended. She felt herself slipping into a state of drowsiness. Armaan’s smiling face still lingered in her mind. Suddenly, she doubled over and vomited out blood. Her pupils began to dilate and her temperature suddenly dropped. She lifted her shivering hands and saw that they were blue. Weakness took over her and she began to lean sideways towards the ground. As her head touched the ground, her breathing became shallow.

Her mind once again sped past all memories, and the last thought before she closed her eyes was of Armaan waiting for her in the white room with his arms open.

 

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Armaan tried to control his shivering hands as he ran then through his hair. Being put into a rehab was nothing short of hell. 3 days in this place – and he already wanted to end his life. The withdrawal symptoms were getting too much to handle. It seemed as though he had run into a dead end, and there was no way out.

He got up from his bed and started pacing to ease the anxiety. After Swati left, he had nothing left in life worth living for. He lived off his previous earning and occasionally sang when he ran out of funds. His day began with a can of beer and ended with whisky. It was not until he rammed into an old lady while drunk driving that the police put him in a rehab.

His heart craved for her presence every day. He knew he had ruined their relationship, but Swati’s sudden break down hadn’t helped his already guilt ridden conscious. It wasn’t something he could help – he was addicted. He tried to find her countless number of times, but never managed to find her. She kept moving from one place to the other. At times, he didn’t realize when his tears started getting mixed with alcohol. He tried and tried until he stopped controlling alcohol and alcohol started controlling him.

“Armaan”

He heard an angelic voice coming from the window. He turned to see Swati standing there, smiling at him. He couldn’t believe what he saw, “Swati?”

She just widened her smile and nodded. He was still shocked, he asked again, “Swati?”

He slowly walked towards her. Tears brimmed in his eyes as he outstretched his hand to touch her cheek. She leaned into his touch and said, “I can’t live without you Armaan”

“Neither can I”, said Armaan in a voice full of raw emotion.

But then she slowly moving backward towards the window. Armaan began to shake his head, “Swati, don’t leave me again, please, please, Swati..” tears were now freely rolling down his cheeks. His outstretched arm still lingered in the air as he tried to stop her. With horror, he realized that Swati was too close to the window and might slip.

“No Swati, no, stop!”, he yelled, but to no avail. In the wink of an eye, Swati slipped, the smile on her face still intact.

“NO!”, the scream left Armaan’s throat before he knew it. The door to his room burst open and his roommate came rushing to him. Turning a frantic Armaan around by the shoulders, he said “Armaan! What happened? Are you okay?”

“Anuj, Anuj, Swati was here. She-She fell down. We need to go down. I have to save her. She was here. I-”

“Armaan…Armaan!”, shouted Anuj when he kept on rambling, “Listen. There’s no one here. You were hallucinating”, he started rubbing Armaan’s arms, and said softly, “It happens. Okay? Hallucination is common amongst alcohol withdrawals”

Armaan, too dazed and shocked to respond, just mumbled, “B-But I saw h-her..How..”, and trailed off. Anuj’s heart broke at the sight of his roommate. He was not just an addict, he was shattered. Hollow.

Seeing that Armaan was in no state to think properly, he softly said, “C’mon, we need to attend the evening meeting”. He didn’t know whether he heard it or not, he simply held his hand and pulled him towards the door.

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Feedback will be highly appreciated. I’d written this long time back, and recently came across it again when I was browsing through my documents. Used to be an avid writer before.