[DESPAIR was my first attempt at writing a short story, a fictional piece. It was sitting in my hard disk since mid 2008 and today, the 21st March 2013, I decided to share it]
On a ‘Not-so-typical’ Saturday in December 2005
I know she was worried. Standing next to my mom, I saw faint hint of tears in her eyes. Gently, she hugged me and said “beta be careful, ride safely. It’s already late”. Wrapping her in my arms, I replied, “Don’t worry Amma, it’s just six in the evening. I will reach Madikeri before nine. It will just be a short ride”. Still hugging and consoling her, I continued, “You take care of Appa and make sure he takes his medicines. I will be back tomorrow evening”. When I started my bike, mom looked into my eyes and unable to control her tears, she walked away and suddenly, I felt as if dad was looking through the window to wish me a safe journey. But it was only my senses. As his wheezing had turned worse in cold December nights, only in warm afternoons he slept with some respite. As I left home, he was still asleep.
It was not an ideal time for a long bike journey. The December evening was turning cold and the Sun was on his last leg of journey. As I entered Madikeri highway and opened the throttle, I felt cool breeze gush onto my face. All around, it was clear skies and in the distant horizon, I saw soft image of a raising moon.
It was last Wednesday that Nandini had called to invite me for her wedding. But for last three months, her impending marriage was the only thing that I kept churning in my thoughts. She knew, if she did not call, I would miss it. “I know you are worried but I want you to attend my wedding”. I did not reply, but she continued in her calm voice. “Hey, everyone from office will be around, but I was not sure of you. So, you are not missing it, okay? See you on Sunday”. I was sure she just wanted to get over with the formality. So I said, “Not to worry, I won’t miss it” and that’s when I heard a faint bye and then, a sudden click of a call getting cut.
I badly wanted to skip the wedding. But, with a strong self-deception, I was on my way to Madikeri. My mom was not happy with my decision and deep in my heart, I shared her feeling.
11 Months Back, on a Lazy Monday in January 2005
It was the first lazy Monday of 2005 and I was sitting in my cubicle checking mails. My inbox was full of Christmas and New Year wishes, and hardly any business mails. It was as if people did nothing in late December and early January, as if business had come to a complete standstill. Suddenly, I heard Rakesh, our Regional Head introducing a new team member. “Well friends, a New Year, a new beginning and to help us grow, today, Ms. Nandini is joining our team. Let’s wish her all the very best”. That’s when I stood up and saw her. She was shaking hands with Rakesh and smiling. To my surprise, it was her dress that suddenly caught my eyes – a pure black Salwaar with pale prints of white and pink designs. I thought “What an auspicious colour to start earning a livelihood” and quietly, chuckled at my own mockery.
It was almost a week and I was too tied-up to remember her. It was Friday, at the closing hours, and I was busy preparing for next day’s business presentation. Suddenly, I heard someone call my name. I looked up and saw her, Nandini. She was standing next to me, asking for some documents related our new customers. For the first time, I saw her face up-close and I was spellbound. There was no other word that could describe the reflection of her beauty in my mind. She had a perfect round face with a charming pink radiant glow, a slender snout and when she smiled, a flawless complimenting dimple. But what amazed me was her eyes; big, shimmering and confident.
Suddenly, aware of an intense gaze, I blabbered out “Yes Nandini, I will have it sent to you. Next time, you can call me on my extension, 107”. A thank you and a smile made my day.
Our first brief meeting had set the sparks flying. Just in couple of days, a casual good morning in person turned out to be exchanging on our mobiles. The pleasantries made way for long night chats on SMSes and one fine day, I called her. Right away, we realized we liked speaking to each other and in next one week, we had made inroads in to our busy lives. Soon, we both knew what we were, what we like and what we want out of our lives. In no time, we started meeting on weekends and importantly, enjoyed our company. And suddenly, without any hint of a realization, she was all over my senses. My emotions, my mood and the atmosphere around me started to get influenced by her. I started to care for her more than I ever did to anyone. I laughed when she smiled and felt miserable when she was sad. I became dull when her calls came late. I was there for her whenever she needed someone. I started to help her a bit more every day in office. I started to take life seriously and wanted to settle down. And predictably, I felt I was in love.
It was already three months since our first meeting and that’s when I decided to share my feelings with her. Every moment, I felt the same emotions in her sparkling eyes and gentle words. I could sense she wanted to tell something that I was eager to listen, but every time she tried, she stopped herself at that last crucial moment. She was hesitant.
With yearend account calculations and tallies, it was during much dreaded March that life in office turned into hectic and anxious levels. Even working on weekends became a necessity. We both had met only twice that month and whenever we spoke over phone, our tone was depressing. One fine day, we decided to take a much needed break from chaotic midweek work schedule and meet over for a dinner. Instead of sitting opposite, for the first time, I sat next to her and it was comforting. When I gave her flowers and chocolates, her eyes were sparkling with unknown anticipation. I could feel she was thrilled and it was encouraging.
In the middle of the dinner, I opened up and told how much I loved her. Slowly, as she started to share her feelings for me, I felt an incredible sense of joy overtake my mind. It was as if she waited for an opportunity. She liked me as much as I liked her. She missed me as much as I missed her. And she loved me as much as I loved her.
We both were in love and the world seemed not important anymore.
Next four months, life appeared to be flying; we were in our own dream world and everything appeared to be perfectly believable. Day after day, week after week, my feelings for her were deepening. I missed her even when she was in the same office. I could just listen to her voice or see her go past smiling, and every time, I missed that incredible feeling of holding her hands and sharing that exact moment. My entire world revolved around her. I started to feel that there was no life for me without her. She was my life and that’s where it was suppose to end, with her.
It was in early September that she came back after visiting her parents and started to look not in her usual self. That’s when she sounded depressed. And that’s when my dream world crumbled.
Her marriage was fixed with a distant relative and it was to happen in December. “There is no way we could convince my parents. Let’s just be good friends” she said. And that’s all we could do.
Back to ‘Not-so-typical’ Saturday in December 2005
A blaring horn from an overtaking car brought me back to my senses. I had already crossed Kushalanagar and from here, it was a short drive to Madikeri. The cool December evening had turned into a dark freezing night and as I started to climb up the steep narrow winding road amidst coffee estates, my heart started to pound. Even in such bitter cold, my palms started to sweat and eyes went moist. I tried hard to forget Nandini, but she kept coming back to my mind. After all, it was her wedding I was going to attend. The more I thought of her, the more the tears kept rolling. I could feel my mind go numb. There was nothing I could do. There was no one I could share my life with. I felt lost. I felt alone.
Up ahead, I saw a car overtaking a slow moving truck. He was passing his car headlights and signaling me to slowdown. Clearly, he wanted some space to go past. I could see and sense it, but that’s when I opened my bike’s throttle. Every second, I was increasing speed and getting closer to the car. Even in that frozen moment, I heard the desperate blaring horn and saw the blazing headlights draw closer, get much wider and turn immensely brighter. The next second, horns were blaring, breaks were screeching and I was completely blinded by the dazzling lights. Exactly at that moment, my bike hit the car and I was hurled over the hood onto the windshield, and then flung over and thrown down behind the car.
Faintly, as unraveling in a dream, I heard anxious screams, car doors being slammed and people running towards me. I could smell petrol and burnt tires. Someone was trying to feed me water. A lady was asking somebody to call an ambulance. I could hear a child cry. I heard, may be a truck driver tell in Hindi “bachna mushkil hai” and a voice answered and agreed, adding that my head was bleeding. Slowly, I opened my eyes and saw couple of faces asking me questions that I could not understand. Behind them on the clear sky, partly hidden by their faces, the moon was shining in an intense white glow. Immediately, I felt a slight pain behind my neck and gradually, with every beat, my heart started to skip its rhythmic thump. Little by little, the faces, the moon, the smell and all the noises started to fade. In such dazed state, as the last puffs of air started to wrestle in my lungs, I sensed water gurgle out of my mouth. Then, with a feeling of heavenly contentment, I went blank.