4. Setting it right!

….continued 
It felt like ages though it was a few minutes that passed by, nobody uttered a word, neither looked at each other. 

Saarthak’s world was already been upside down and still spinning, but Aman’s world had just begun collapsing. 
Without saying a word, he stood up to leave, but Aman held him by his arm still looking downwards. But there was something off about the hold. Saarthak stopped and turned around only to find a version of Aman that nobody ever knew except Vaahika. 
“I’m sorry! I’m so sorry for bringing this up to you. Maaf karde mujhe!” Saarthak sat down in front of Aman on his knees and hugged him. Aman’s face was flushed out, tears down on his cheek and he looked miserable. Obviously!
“Where is she?” Aman muffled in the hug, still crying like a baby wondering about the girl he loved more than he was capable of.
“I don’t know. Will find her. We will find her.” Saarthak consoled him.
It took Aman a while to recover from the weak moment, while Saarthak waited patiently.
“Tell me what exactly happened. More than that, I wish to know how come you got this letter from a psychiatrist who was treating Vaahi? The hell! Why was she undergoing a mental treatment?” Aman shot the top questions as soon as he caught his sanity in place.
“I wasn’t in London all these years!” Saarthak answered the question which wasn’t even asked.
Aman felt as if somebody had thrashed him with a burning hammer right in his face. He was terrified and more than anything, he felt cheated. 5 whole years.
“What the hell! Then, where were you?” Aman questioned him, his face shocked and heart sinking.
“Mumbai for a while and Delhi from the last 3 years.” Saarthak answered without a hint of guilt in his voice. While Aman was traveling all over India for work, Saarthak was in Delhi. The city they born and were brought up in. All these years when he thought his best friend is practicing psychiatry abroad, he was in the same town they both raised and resided in.
Even though, Aman had an intuition then and there that the further story will tear him apart but he sat there. After all, he wasn’t ready to lose his best friend and love of his life again.
He had to listen and let it sink in.

That was his only way out! Probably, meeting Kunal was the best thing that happened to him on the same day.
But what was the worst thing?
He was yet to know that!
©®Nisha Mishra.

4. Setting it right!

Present day.



For the first time in his life so far, Aman was driving smoothly without any haste in the vibes around or inside. He kept looking at Saarthak sleeping by his side once in a while and he knew in his heart, how much he had missed him. Seeing him after a 6 years’ time was such a pleasure.
After having met Kunal, he knew how badly he wanted to set things right. And this time, he was sure to do it.

It was 9 in the morning when they reached home. Aman tenderly put his hands on Saarthak’s arm to wake him and he woke up in a blink.

They stepped in the house few minutes after. Neena welcomed them with utter delight. 

Aman helped Saarthak with the luggage till his room and as soon as Saarthak entered the room, he crashed on the bed and drifted off to sleep. Aman settled his belongings in one corner of the room and closed the door behind him after switching off the lights. 

It was around 4 in the evening when Aman came back to the room with tea and some snacks to munch on, only to find Saarthak freshened up, changed to other clothes and sitting in the balcony armchair, smoking a cigarette.

“When did you wake up? Baahar aajaata! I thought you must be sleeping still.” Aman said, while putting the tray on the table.

Saarthak didn’t answer him. He quietly stood up, went back in the room, took his backpack and started fiddling inside it.

Aman looked confused and watched him. Saarthak walked up to Aman back and handed over a piece of paper to him.

Aman looked at him still confused but took the piece of paper and opened it carefully as it appeared a bit worn out and fragile. It read:
Greetings Saarthak,

I’m sorry for this but had to inform you about Vaahika’s disappearance. Though I tried to locate her but she’s nowhere to be found. She’s in a really bad shape with all the depression, amnesia and body allergies taking toll on her. I request you to come here and help me with this. Looking forward to hear from you and request you to try finding her as well.


Best.

Dr. Chandra.
Aman had every feeling all over his face. Pain, anger, sadness, confusion, helplessness, longing…but most of it had love.

He looked at Saarthak who was now standing still and quiet.
“Where was she?” The question remains unanswered.
…..to be continued.



©®Nisha Mishra

3. Mismatch, zigzag!

…continued

Aman came back to the apartment, locked the doorknob. Saarthak looked at him unsure about how he’s going to start a conversation. It was the first time ever that he felt uneasy around him.
Aman walked up to him and sat across him. No words came out of either mouths.

“Why wouldn’t you tell me? All this time I thought I am the one who’s making you meet her. I kept describing how special she was and you didn’t give it a sensible thought? Like, really? Why would you do that?” Finally Aman spoke up. The displeasure was all over his face, presence and tone.

“I had no idea things would turn out to be this way.” Saarthak’s tone was a mix of being upset and confusion.

“Shut the fuck up!” Aman blurted out rather angrily and for first time ever on none other than Saarthak.

Saarthak was now shocked and perplexed at the same time.

“Dekh, utna bhi bada issue nahi hai, that you require to shout.” Saarthak stood up, putting his hands gently on his shoulders, trying to calm Aman down.

Though it was a reflex but Aman was almost about to throw a punch in his face. Saarthak ducked but he couldn’t believe what might have happened had he didn’t.

Aman took a step back looking down at his feet, still raging but quiet.

“What? What did I do wrong? You’d hit me? Really? You would? Why? Tell me WHY?” Saarthak was bitter, angry and almost heartbroken.

“Because I am in love with her!” Aman shouted again. He looked at him for a second.

 

“What’s going on? What happened, Saarth?” Neena, Aman’s mother was shocked to see her son’s face flushed out of anger, that on someone who meant life to him.

“Auntie, please leave us alone for sometime. I got this!” Saarthak requested Neena with his ever polite tone and gesture and closed the door.

Saarthak couldn’t believe what could have happened had Aman not stopped. He was shattered.

For the first time ever he had never seen Aman like that…angry and loud. He didn’t even try to come out of his room after slamming the door on Saarthak’s face.

For some reasons he regretted the fact that he didn’t tell him about Vaahika earlier, even when he could have had easily done so.

Of course he liked Vaahika but Aman was in love with her.

“What was he supposed to do now?”

Saarthak walked down the street, reached home and slammed the door shut behind him and sat down on the floor. Hours passed by. Vaahika was everywhere like a witch… magical and full of mystery. He thought about Aman too. Aman had all the college girls drool over him, but never did he go after anyone or pursued anyone romantically, except for the harmless flirting here and there.

“Why Vaahika then?” He thought to himself. And then it struck him that obviously because she was different.

Something inside of him unsettled and before he knew a tear rolled down of his eyes, down his cheeks.

God knows when he fell asleep, amidst all of the troubled thoughts and feelings swirling around and within. He woke up to the continuous doorbell ringing. He checked his watch. It was 8 in the morning. He still had time to get ready for college.

Post last nights’ incident he wasn’t quite sure if it was Aman at his doorstep. The doorbell rang again. He got up and walked towards the door.

His jaw dropped at the sight.

“Good morning, sleepyhead!” Vaahika waved at him with a smile on her face.

“Why is she just so heart-melting gorgeous?” Saarthak thought while admiring the way she had put winged liner making her eyes stand out beautifully and the way her locks were tied in that messy bun.

“Though I ain’t a vampire but I guess entering into someone’s house without being invited in is a bad manner.” Vaahika said to Saarthak bringing him out of his head.

“Please come in.” Saarthak invited her in.
©®Nisha Mishra

3. Mismatch, zigzag!

“What are you doing here? No, wait! How on earth are you here?” Vaahika asked Saarthak as soon as she stepped in the house.
“Ahemm! I..” Saarthak was about to say something when Aman appeared in the hall interrupting him. “Oh my god! Look who’s showed up here!”

Vaahika turned towards him. There was a hug and Aman kind of lifted her up in it. Though Saarthak was not so sure but he saw Vaahika place a kiss on his cheek.

Something jolted him in his guts seeing that.

“Vaahika, Saarthak; Saarthak, Vaahika!” Aman introduced them to each other not knowing that they had already met before.

“Saarthak Sehgal!” Vaahika put a pat on Saarthak’s shoulder.

“Hain? When did he introduce himself?” Aman looked surprised evidently.

“Arre we have met already, even before I met you!” Vaahika told Aman, pinching his nose.

Hearing so, Aman’s face went blank. He shot a brief weird glance at Saarthak and gestured Vaahika to sit on the couch.

All of them sat. But Saarthak knew the glance he got. Aman was displeased. Why? He couldn’t understand. Vaahika freshened up, met Aman’s mother. Sweet as she was, she won over her heart in no time. Aman was also quite happy having her around. Only Saarthak felt a bit off about everything. Though he couldn’t stop adoring her all the while but he was not sure about Aman as yet.

Vaahika, however, untouched of any weirdness, kept talking to him on and off. 

It was about to 8 when she took everyone’s leave. Like a gentleman Aman walked her till the exit of society gate and sent her off placing the kiss back on her hands. 

Saarthak felt uneasy and uncomfortable seeing the moment pass from the apartment’s balcony. Is something going on between these two? He thought.

Who knew what was going to happen next? How he wished he had known…


…..to be continued 


©®Nisha Mishra 

2. Back Story

5 years ago…

Saarthak was pursuing psychology, then. It was his last year and last semester. He knew where he was going to go after that. His dad had already planned for everything.

London!

He was heading towards college gate, one day, when he saw her at a distance merrily dancing in the middle of the road with a group. She was drenched in sweat but gleaming nevertheless; so much that he neither could move ahead nor could take his eyes off her.

“Saaaarrthhh!” His batchmates were calling him louder now. He took one last glance at her and walked away.

“Who is she?”

The textbooks were there. Lectures were going on. His friends were there and yet he was thinking about her.

“Who was she?”

That chocolate brown complexion, those big sparkling eyes, the lively laughter, that cute nose and most of all, the feeling that she inspired in him. It was different, very different.

He shook his head and tried to get back to his thick books. Exams were approaching and here he was, having a crush on someone he didn’t even know.

Saarthak spotted her for the third time in the same week, near his college. “I say, enough of eye-stalking-a-stranger. Next time I see her, I am going to talk to her. Period.” He decided while the lectures were going on and he couldn’t concentrate on anything else except the Mystery girl.

Saarthak was 21 then, having a well-built, wide forehead, pitch black eyes, full lips and the best feature was his prominent nose. He was an ardent reader, an amazing sportsperson and a rational thinker.

However, Aman was the only person who knew him as someone totally different from what he was known to others. With Aman, Saarthak was nothing but a crack-head, who would do anything just as crazy as it can get and even when it can’t.

Aman Arora, a 21 year old, who had dimpled cheeks, sharp nose, brown eyes, perfectly shaped lips, arched thick eyebrows, a prominent forehead and an admirable athletic physique. However as a person, Aman was everything Saarthak wasn’t. He was introvert, a gym freak, and when people talked about the idea of creativity, Aman just knew one word and that was painting!

But, despite being opposites, Aman was Saarthak’s best friend. He wasn’t just a childhood friend, but a soul-mate; brother from another mother, to be aptly put. After all, they were together since kindergarten.

Whilst Saarthak was pursuing his Bachelor’s in psychology, Aman was pursuing his in Architecture and Interior Designing.

“Kya scene hai? Kidhar khoyaa hai? Khaanaa thuns le, varna baad me chillaaegaa ki main akele chatt kar gayaa sabkuchh. Saale dost hun tera, biwi nahi hun!” Aman said while eating, his mouth full of delicious curry and morsel of bread.

“You eat. I’ll go and have a fag.” Saarthak said and left in a blink of an eye even before Aman could react or reply.

It was 3 and he was standing at the exact place where he had spotted her thrice. He stood there repeating the mental-note in his head, waiting for her to show up again.

“But what am I going to say to her? How will I approach her?”

An hour went by but nobody arrived. It was about to 5 when people started exiting from the college gate and Saarthak was still there waiting for her, hoping that the mystery girl might show up again. Saarthak had just turned his view to the other side to see if she’s coming from that direction but found Aman standing in front of him instead, his eyebrows narrow, a confused look on his face.

“What’s happening with you, dude?” Aman asked Saarthak in his usual tone.

“Nothing. Let’s go home.” Saarthak replied without making an eye-contact, wryly.

Aman thought that Saarthak must be a little stressed out about his last semester and anxious about upcoming trip to London for further studies, hence he didn’t probe much so as to know why he is avoiding interaction and lying.

Years of friendship and understanding does that. You understand on your own what the other person needs without having them explain to you.

They went back home. That very evening, Aman had to leave town for his last semester project. He was busy, hence he couldn’t catch up with Saarthak after returning from college, neither did Saarthak ping him or drop by at his place.

Next day, Saarthak had a free lecture. Rather than going and grabbing something to eat at canteen he went out of college. He was lighting his cigarette, when he heard an unfamiliar voice.

“Bhaiya, do Marlboro advance dena. Thoda jaldi.” The girl said to the shopkeeper.

He looked at her while she was busy in fiddling money from her bag. Mystery girl! Because he was surprised to see her yet again, he didn’t realise that he was staring at a stranger and that too a girl.

The girl had noticed by now that a guy was gawking at her for no particular reason and waved her hands “Excuse me?”

“Uh-oh! You. Hi!” Saarthak couldn’t help stuttering.

The girl made a weird face, lit the cigarette and turned towards the direction of bus-stop totally avoiding the guy.

“Hey stop, listen!” Saarthak called out the girl from behind, stopping her from moving ahead. He had to stop her.

She stopped and turned towards the weirdo.

“Yes?” The girl asked him, without a hint of any expression on her face. But the tone was gentle.

“Who are you? I mean, I have seen you before as well but you’re not in this college, right? I mean, I know you are not. Do you live nearby or something? I have seen you dancing there. A few times. Who are you?” Saarthak put so many questions to a person he didn’t know, without even thinking as to what she’ll think or react like, in one breath. Restlessly. 

The girl stared at him for a minute and then burst out laughing. Saarthak now realised what he just did, looked around, back to his feet, and ground, simultaneously. Though he was thanking his stars that he didn’t get slapped or anything similarly harsh but he was still feeling uneasy.

“Why she’s laughing? Was it funny? Am I looking stupid?”

She crushed her cigarette beneath her shoes and extended her hand towards him.

“Hi, I am Vaahika! You?”  The girl introduced herself.

Saarthak shook hands with her and smiled. “Sweet girl, unusual name.” He thought, repeating the mystery girl’s name in his head. Vaahika.

“Saarthak Sehgal.” He introduced himself too.

“There’s a studio nearby. I am a theatre artist. We practice there, mostly. And because this is the nearest bus stop to that particular place, you might have seen me with a group sometimes. And, about dancing in middle of the road? Well, I kinda enjoy it. Anything else I can help you with Mr Sehgal?” She answered all of the questions Saarthak had put, sweetly, and pulled his legs, simultaneously.

Saarthak couldn’t help but smile at her. She was absolutely sweet but her voice was even more.

“You study here?” She asked him pointing at the college.

Saarthak nodded. “Yeah! Pursuing psychology honours!”

Vaahika was about to say something when her phone rang. “Yeah, yeah! On my way already.” She said and disconnected the call.

She told Saarthak that she had to leave and she left the next minute. Watching her walk away, felt weird. He slowly walked back to college. He came back to his class but obviously couldn’t get her out of his head the whole time.

And why would not he? She was beautiful, effortlessly beautiful.

But he was puzzled at how she reacted. “How can someone be so cool?” He thought. He never had heard a name like that of hers. A thought clicked on his mind that probably she lied. And the theatre artist thing might also be a lie.

And then, he stopped at it. Theatre, studio, rehearsals. He can find out about it. That night, Saarthak couldn’t manage to doze off. There were so many things running on, in his mind. And most of all, even though he tried to push all of it away, her face and that voice would not leave him. That laughter was captivating.

“Hey.” Saarthak waved at Malhaar.

Malhaar waved back, walking towards him. Malhaar lived nearby college. Saarthak was aware that he must be knowing about the nearby locations better than anyone else. So, he approached him, as soon as he saw him.

From Malhaar he learnt that Vaahika didn’t lie about the studio, the previous day. There was a studio nearby. It was quite close to his college as well. He thought to go and visit the same. He wanted to see her, he knew.

He was halfway through his studies, assignments and case studies already. So skipping lectures and library time didn’t really trouble him. The very next day, he left from home for college but didn’t go to college.
He was on his feet, heading towards the studio, feeling ticklish inside. Probably, the idea of seeing her again was the reason or maybe he was just happy that she was so close to him to be reached out. It took him barely 8 minutes’ walk to reach the studio. Vibe Studio!


The studio was quite big and well structured. Though there were security guards at the entrance who let him in, post frisking, but they didn’t stop him or ask him about anything.

Strange! Saarthak thought.

Saarthak was trying to find where she could be practicing when he heard a lot of voices and singing happening. He moved in that direction, and ended up at a door. He put his hands to check if it was locked from inside, which luckily wasn’t.
 He got in. And there it was. A theatre which had a brilliantly decorated stage and there was a group of youngsters rehearsing on it. The acts were glorious. As nobody noticed him getting in, he took a seat and watched the practice going on. The play was about art being a medium through which a person finds peace. The playback voice was immensely amazing, deep and vibrant. 
Couple of hours later, when the rehearsing peeps decided to go and take a break, He was noticed by them. A guy came forward and approached Saarthak introducing himself to him, “Hey, hi! Vihaan Vats, here. May we know you?”

Saarthak introduced himself and told that he studies in the college nearby and heard about the studio. Being a psychology student, he thought to visit and explore more. Vihaan bought everything he said and smiled warmly. He even introduced him to the whole group.

“You people have a girl named Vaahika in your group, right?” Saarthak asked Vihaan when he was done meeting, shaking hands with everyone, smiling simultaneously.

“Oh! You know her? She did a voice-over for us; she’s not in our group. She left just yesterday. She doesn’t live here now, came here for the voice-over help, as we contacted her, few months ago.” Vihaan told Saarthak which almost shook him a little, pushing out all the happy thoughts he had a while ago.

“She’s not in Delhi? Where had she gone? Hell! Now what?” Saarthak thought while feeling as if somebody has emptied him and put on fire.

“Hey? What happened?” Vihaan asked him, shaking him out of his thoughts, tenderly.

“Ah! Nothing! She has an amazing voice.” Saarthak replied, hiding his uneasiness.

“Indeed! Come, eat with us!” Vihaan asked him to join for lunch, to which he politely refused and came out.

On his way back, he thought that probably that’s why she told him about the studio because she was leaving.

Damn! Why did not I ask her more? 

And then, he remembered that had she stayed for a while he obviously had. “Who called her?”

How would he find her? Why she is controlling his mind so much? Why he chose to skip college and go to her studio? There were so many questions in his mind rising, to which only she was the answer.

Darn! Chuck it! He told himself.

He went home and rang up Aman’s phone number.

“Bhaai, I miss you here!” Aman said rather loudly as soon as he picked up the call.

“Kaisa hai? How’s the project work going on? Bangalore is treating you well or not?” Saarthak asked him, in his usual calm and soothing tone.

“Arreh! Sabb badhiyaa. The organizer is superb. Kal raat hi aayi hai, quite an impressive personality. And, a very unusual name she has got! Vaahika!” Aman told Saarthak without having any idea of what has been going on with his best friend from the past few days.

Before Saarthak could say anything the phone call got disconnected and when he tried to call him again, it was out of reach.

Damn!

After trying several times, when he couldn’t get through, Saarthak put his phone aside and came out in the balcony of his room and lit a cigarette. Gazing at the sky full of stars, he thought everything that has been happening with him since few days.

Saarthak was 21, having a clean slate when people talked about love and relationship involvement. He never happened to get attracted to someone (read: anyone) because nobody inspired him to be. There were a lot of friends, good acquaintances but never a person whom he fell for or felt for.

But this mystery girl had him at one glance, and now this uneasiness. He was in Delhi and she, in Bangalore. The only way to find out more about her was Aman now. Hence, he decided to talk to him as soon as possible.

“When are you coming back?” Saarthak asked on phone, when Aman called him next morning.

“Day after tomorrow!”  Aman replied.

“Aur bataa, apni impressive organizer ke baare me?” Saarthak asked teasing, though praying in his heart.

“I’ll tell in detail after I come back. But, long story short, I have never met a girl quite like her.” Aman said, appreciating her.

Disconnecting the phone Saarthak thought that why he hesitated asking more about her. He even tried convincing himself that it’s mere infatuation happening and should be let gone.

Aman was back home after two days and he pinged Saarthak asking him to meet post dinner in the society lane.

They met and Aman was gleaming.

“So? Spill everything that I missed to experience.” Saarthak asked.

“Hahaa! The project instead of being a task was so much fun. God! Vaahika is amazing. Beautiful girl. There had not been a single evening when she didn’t make us dance, sing, mimic, run around and play silly games. People would get tired and she would bring hot coffee along with snacks, crack funny jokes, tickle and tease whoever she could find. And, best was the part, when she would give a big hug whenever someone felt low or finish their tasks at given time. Though, it is a little filmy to say, but her jhappis  were magical. I swear I have never come across a girl like her, so cheerful, enthusiastic and elegant. See!” Aman showed him the pictures he had of her. In all of them, she was either dancing or jumping or teasing and tickling people.

“Cute toh hai. Kya Hot bhi hai?” Saarthak winked at Aman.

Hearing which, Aman told him that she is going to be in Delhi soon to organize a fest and assured him that they both will meet her as soon as she arrives. 

“Tu khud bataayio milke mujhko baad me!” Aman replied.

A month passed by and one day while having lunch Aman’s phone rang up. Because it was an unknown number he couldn’t know who is calling.

He picked up the call and it was Vaahika on the other line.

On phone she told him that she’s going to arrive in Delhi the next day. He was happy hearing that and asked her if she needed to be picked up from airport.

“Naa! But yes, you text me your address on this number and I’ll come to meet you and handover the fest passes as well. Also, I want to have those tasty paraanthaas, you have bragged about, in Bangalore, that your mother makes.” Vaahika said.

“Arreh tu aa toh sahi. I’ll text you the address. See you soon, ladki!”  Aman replied, beaming 

Saarthak has been hearing the conversation while wrapping up the lunch. They talked about it, way back home and Aman told Saarthak that he should be staying at his place tomorrow if he wants to meet her to which he of course agreed.

Next day, post returning from college, Aman’s mother and Saarthak were preparing potato filled breads when the doorbell rang. Saarthak ran for it before Aman could.

He opened the door and there she was.

She had tied her hair in a messy bun, was wearing a salwaar-kurti, carrying a handbag on her shoulder and a folder in her hand.

Saarthak was beaming seeing her after so long but felt like yesterday. He smiled wide. However, Vaahika looked shocked.

“Hi! Long time, eh?” Saarthak said, extending his hands towards her.

“You?” Vaahika recognized Saarthak but was shocked to see him at Aman’s place, little did she know that this guy was the best friend of her friend.

“Yes! Me, Saarthak. Come on in, Vaahika! Don’t worry, you haven’t mistaken. It’s Aman’s place only.” She shook hands with him for the second time, but the reactions however reversed.

 ◦ 

©®Nisha Mishra 

1. A Random Talk.

Aman had come to station to escort his childhood friend, home. The train was supposed to arrive at 10 in the night. But due to some technical issues the train got delayed by 6 hours, that is, from 10 in the night to 4 o’clock in the morning. It wasn’t a pleasant surprise certainly. But, as they put it, SHIT HAPPENS!!
However, being one of the busiest and always traveling Architect, this phenomena was not a surprise for Aman!
It was 9:30 into the night. He still had to wait for another 6 and a half hour. Exhaling a deep breath, he went to look for an empty bench to sit on, as going home and coming back again in the morning didn’t make sense.

Experience pinch!

There wasn’t much crowd on the platform. Just a few coolies sitting by the side of the staircase and few shops on both sides of the bench, he was sitting on. Aman was busy with observing the ambience around, when someone tapped on his shoulder.

“Hi!” The guy said with a slight smile.

“Ye..ah. Hello!” Aman turned to the guy who was carrying a bag on his right shoulder and bottle of water in left hand, with a confused look on his face.

“You mind if I sit here?” The guy asked Aman pointing towards the unoccupied space on the bench.

“Uh-huh! No no. Please sit!” Aman said shifting to one side of the bench, with a slight smile still on.

“Hi! My name is Kunal. Kunal Devgan!” The guy introduced himself to Aman, and stretched out his hand towards him, post sitting down.

“Aman Arora” He shook it.


“So? Why here so late?” Kunal initiated a small talk.

“Waiting for a friend. You?” Aman replied almost instantly.

“Wandering around.” Kunal replied leaning back on the bench, his eyes closed, voice soft.

“You are kidding, right?” Aman thought Kunal was fooling him around.

“See, I am here because my friend is coming back from far off after so long, having completed his studies. You must be here for some reason too, right? Pick up someone? Board a train?” Aman replied, clarifying himself with the question he put. After all, it wasn’t a bad idea to talk when one had enough time.

“Being a wanderer doesn’t count as a ‘reason’?” Kunal asked Aman, still leaned back, his eyes closed, but lips curved upwards.
Aman was perplexed now. He thought Kunal must be drunk, or high on drugs or just simply be someone who doesn’t talk to strangers. Aman turned his face, got up and was about to leave the bench to find a place to sit somewhere else.

“Mind talking?” Kunal smiled at him and asked in a friendly tone.

“I thought you are trying to rest. That’s why I was just leaving.” Aman sat down yet again.

“Yeah? Is it? Or you thought that I might be high on drugs or drunk or just simply be disinterested to have a small talk? Huh?” Kunal asked him, with a straight face, without any expression, except for the raised eyebrows.
Aman could feel his mouth open and eyes widen with surprise and confusion, after what he just heard Kunal say. Kunal burst out laughing aloud, seeing Aman so surprised.

“No my friend, I can’t read minds. I am just a normal person. I just guessed it. Relax!” Kunal said, gesturing with his hands, with a smile.


“What the..” He was more shocked now.

In a couple of minutes there was eye-widening, forehead-shrinking, head shaking and they laughed out together.

“I actually am a little impressed by the timing of your sarcasm.” Aman said while drinking water after realizing how Kunal had him confused and shocked simultaneously without even trying.

“Haha! So, now that you are impressed. How about talking for a while, which ofcourse won’t be a ‘while’ since you’re here till 4 in the morning, right?” Kunal asked him, smilingly.

“Not really.” Aman understood how he figured out the time he was going  to stay at the station.

“So, what do you do?” Kunal asked Aman.

“I am an architect and a photographer. What about you?” Aman replied and asked Kunal.

“Wanderer.” Kunal replied.

“You talk weird, man!”  Aman made a face, this time.

“Do you?” Kunal questioned Aman almost instantly.

“Do I what? Talk weird? I talk limited, mostly less.” Aman said while lighting a cigarette.

“Do you live?” Kunal asked him.

“Excuse me? What do you think, I am dead?”  Aman replied with an annoyed expression this time. His forehead was getting wrinkles now. In his head he kicked himself for thinking to talk to Kunal in the first place.

“I didn’t say that.” Kunal replied softly. “Lost or something?”

“Huh? Nah, I am not.” Aman slapped himself in his head.

“So, what else? Tell me more?” Kunal asked.

“Life’s good. Architecture, photography, family, friends and love of my life, keeps me occupied.” Aman replied, this time with a wide smile on his face.

“Sounds pretty good.” Kunal said, winked and smiled.

The next hour passed by, in the history-talk of their respective lives. Aman belonged to higher-middle class family, whereas Kunal belonged to a middle-class one. Both of them went to convent schools.

The weird feeling Aman was having around Kunal faded away within a couple of hours. It was 12, when they decided to go, grab some tea or coffee and resume talking.

“One should love life to the core. I do. Do you?” Kunal told and asked him.

“Indeed. Though it does screw up at times, but it still is lovely.” Aman smiled, not realizing that this time, Kunal was looking at him, all plain-faced.

“Bhaai, no offence! Look, you love life and it is indeed brilliant. But then, everybody loves their own lives. I didn’t say that life is not beautiful but life screws over sometimes and it’s something even you’ll not deny.” Aman clarified himself.

“Oh yeah! Is it? Well, life doesn’t screw up itself, we do. Life is blamed by us for what is done by us, in the first place.” Kunal ‘red-lined’ the explanation, given by Aman.

“Mere bhaai, it’s because nobody always know what’s right and wrong. We all are humans after all. Hota hai, chill!” Aman replied with an easy expression, lighting a cigarette.

“Who decides what’s right and wrong? You are into parameter-game, as well? I am not. Fact is there’s nothing right and wrong. Yes, we are all humans who behave like puppets. Hota nahi hai, mere bhaai, jaanke kiya jaata hai.” Kunal wasn’t weird, he was just straight-forward and sorted. And, Aman found himself appreciating that about him.

“But, you cannot change that, can you?”  It was more of a question than anything else.

“I don’t want to. Why would I change anything? No, correction, who am I to change anything? But, I can atleast be a bit honest to myself if nothing more and else. I can do that, isn’t it? So I am.” Kunal said.

“You do have spunk.”  Aman wowed.

“I don’t. I just have a clear head. Plus, I am out of ‘blame-game-thing’. That stinks, you know?” Kunal sighed but it was more of a relieved one than exhausted.

“I don’t judge. But that doesn’t mean I can stop people all around to do the same. I don’t need that. Nobody does. People just never realize that and choose to crib. Yeah, agreed, sometimes there are situations where we feel locked up, directionless, useless, everything dark and bad. But, then again, ‘there’s always a way out’.” Kunal went on saying without even a second thought to let it all out in front of someone he knew not much about.

“There’s always a ‘but’ too.” Aman laughed a little.

“Like I said, it’s still a choice. See, you just chose!” Kunaal shook his head, however smilingly.

“You should be a saint.” Aman slapped on Kunal’s back.

“It has been a long time that I made a choice over life and suffering. I wanted to live, hence, I am. Suffering is still there but then I tell myself that I have to detach myself before it starts rotting me in a way that it gets beyond mending. I smile at everything. I still am, if you can notice, because that is all I have with me. I just have this one chance of living life. One life, my life.” Kunal said stressing on the word Life, and Aman noticed the honesty in his eyes.

Meanwhile, when Kunal was saying so many things about life and living, Aman was thinking about his own. Everything he thought he owned, every person he has had ever known, all those 22 years that he has had went through, living, crying, laughing, swearing etc. He never quite thought this way, the way Kunal was making him think now.

“Aman?” Kunal shook him out of his daze of thoughts.

“Uh! Yeah, yeah!” Aman came out of his head, totally moved.

“I am not saying that I am right or you are wrong or anything of that sort. I am  just saying that we make choices. All of us. So, when things go wrong we blame life. No point doing that.” Kunal looked at Aman for a miniscule second and then looked ahead of him. It was 2 already. It was strange of Aman to say these things to anyone let alone Kunal.

“Ah! Talking about my life, it was a roller-coaster ride all throughout, this far. I was molested and tortured by my tutor when I was 8. My parents died in a bomb blast. They ranted upon me for being an average scorer while I was in school. I was an orphan by the time I entered high school.. I was beaten to a pulp by senior section in the convent hostel when I was 15 for hurting their ego. The girl I fallen in love with and still love is, I don’t know where. I still am here. Wandering, interacting with people, smiling, living and wishing to die peacefully.” Kunal’s smile was still as radiant as it was when he saw him for the first time!

Aman saw he had stitch-marks on his left eyebrow, his earlobe had a cut-mark on it, too as if it had been injured in some accident. His life must have been a little rough, it was visible, but he was untouched of any harshness over himself.

“I am sorry!” Aman actually meant it.

“Arreh! Chill. I am not sorry for anything, don’t you be, either. I am a normal human being too. I breath, eat, cry, laugh, sigh, blink, think, drink, smoke and I feel everything just as much as any other person can. There are times when I feel like, as if, I am as good as being dead, but that fades away in minutes. I can’t and don’t want to stop living. I have had and I want to keep up with LIFE through everything, always. I have nothing to call my own, but now who wants to own anything? Atleast I know I don’t. To add, I just have this urge of living and smiling as much as I am capable of. The capability only magnifies every other day!” This sort of optimistic viewpoint to be heard was first-time experience in life for Aman.

“Kya hua?” Kunal asked Aman, when he saw him all lost in some other world except for the observant eyes. “How can he be so forgiving after going through so much?” Aman was wondering, troubled.

Kunal looked at Aman understanding his state of mind and smiled softly. He asked him to roll his palm into a fist. Aman did. Further, Kunal asked him to tighten his fist as much as he could and not ease out. He did the same, while Kunal only smiled. For a fine five minutes, Aman tightened his fist and let go off the grip when he couldn’t hold it any longer.

Blood immediately rushed in a flashing second and his palm-face turned reddish. He sighed. It felt good. He looked at Kunal and found him grinning this time. He smiled back.

“Kuchh samajh aayaa?” Kunal asked, grinning.

“What was there to be understood?” Aman thought, feeling stumped.

“Yaar! What? I tightened my palm into a fist as you asked me to. I did as much as I could and I let go when it begun hurting me. I simply let go as I couldn’t control it. Isme samajhne jaisa kya thaa?” Aman shook his head.

“I told you!” Kunal grinned hard.

Aman was about to say something but stopped before letting a word out. Of course he got it. It was so clear.

One: You cannot control things, even if you think you own them, let alone people.

Two:  When you try controlling something too much, too hard, you end up hurting yourself the worst way both ignorantly and knowingly. Irony!

Three: Letting go is the best choice but we only make it after getting hurt more by ourselves than that of others.

How simple these things were to be understood, and how fool one made out of themselves all their lives thinking that they have to rule everything and they will soon.

Aman was moved.

Kunal tapped on his shoulder. “Yeah! I understood what you were trying to make me. It’s weird but true.” Aman said, and saw kunal nodding in agreement.

“But, you know what? Practically, it is not possible to stay in check all time. I mean, people cannot behave all sane, everytime. Take my example. I talk less, but there are people with whom I talk like hell. I am very calm and composed all the time, but even I go mad at myself and others, sometimes.” Aman tried explaining something which always disturbed him amidst just anything.

“Life is a circle. No matter, how far we go and run fast, there’s nothing that can satisfy the restlessness inside, unless we confront ourselves. I did. I am no saint. It took me a lot of time and so many efforts to do so. Eventually, I helped myself to pull through. Why? Because I chose to fight it, to let go and when I was done, I was at peace.” Kunal smiled and exhaled a long relieving breath. Aman smiled back at him.

It was 2 already. The darkness was fading away and dawn was peeping in. Kunal asked Aman if he liked sunsets or not. He nodded. Kunal asked him to specify what exactly he liked about Sunrises.

“The colors, effect in the sky is always a good thing to admire while sitting somewhere alone. What about you?” Aman asked back.

Kunal laughed. “I admire the same, so serene of a sight, to witness. Life circle is the same. Things go down to rise up eventually, over and over again.” He added.

“True! You think way too much, don’t you think?” Aman asked.

“Mah life, Mah choice, mahn!” Kunal said in fake accent and they laughed out yet again.

“So? You really are a wanderer?” Aman asked to know about him more.

“I write actually. Learning dance styles too nowadays. That is about leisure activities. Else, when you talk about working I am a software engineer who also holds a diploma in architecture and interior designing.” Kunal told him.

Aman almost dropped his jaw when Kunal further added that he is a passionate photographer and a born painter. His eyes were shimmering with appreciation and amazement towards Kunal.

“You are so bloody awesome!” Aman could feel his heart swelling and eyes sparkling. He was feeling so proud. He even thought, if they had been girls he would have hugged him a hundred times by now.

Kunal smiled.

“What do you write? Stories? The way you talk, seems like you are one hell of a brilliant writer, brother!” Aman said cheerily slappin’ on Kunal’s back.

“Poetry.” Kunal replied.

“WOW! Perfect! I want to read it. No, wait, I am going to read it.” Aman thumped up and was visibly glad. “Life is literally very good.”

“I told you!” Kunal said. They high-fived and got up.

It was almost about to 4. Numbers and e-mail addresses were exchanged. They got up and took their way towards exit. Both of them knew, the few hours that passed by, they discussed about ‘life’ where Aman was the pragmatic view-point having one and Kunal being philosophical perception. Aman had a life which is considered and looked at as a ‘normal’ or ‘ideal’ life. But was it one?

Aman hugged him for the time and talking while they exited. Kunal smiled in return. “See you soon, mate.”  Aman smiled, shook hands, put a pat on his shoulders and bid him bye.

The night, the whole talk, Kunal changed something in him. Aman wanted to live a little better now than he has had. He wanted to smile more warmly. He witnessed the sunrise feeling at his best.

It was 4:10 when he reached back at the platform to find his friend Saarthak already there. They hugged each other and taking the luggage, headed towards the exit. Both of them got into the car, but before putting his hands on steering and accelerating the car into action, he texted up Kunal which said:

“I am going to read your book for sure, comes what may. And yes, answer to your question is I’ll be trying to live better than I ever had so far. Take care, Bhaai! Milte hain dubaara jaldi.”

He smiled, put his phone in pocket and drove away.
©®Nisha Mishra

PROLOGUE

Saarthak woke up with a jerk soaked in sweat only to realize that he saw something which has already happened. Though it was not anymore an unusual thing but even then it brought the same uneasiness down his guts, up his mind. 

It was 2. He sat on his berth. It had been 10 months he saw her or heard from her. He just didn’t know what to do except missing her.

Although Dr Chandra tried to track her down but Vaahika couldn’t be found. 

He took out his wallet and pulled out a piece of jewellery. It was a broken anklet with bells still intact on it.

The train arrived at 4 at the station where he was supposed to be de-boarding. Aman was waiting for him already and he recognised him as soon as he stepped outside the train.

After 6 years, seeing each other was indeed a eye-soothing, heart-warming and soul refreshing experience. They hugged each other and Aman escorted him home. Throughout the drive, nobody said a word. Saarthak took a nap, and Aman continued with the drive and humming along the music.

But what’s gonna happen wasn’t something either of them knew yet!

Though Saarthak had a slight idea of how he’s going to freak Aman out with everything but then what was the other option anyway?

He had an experience of hiding things from Aman already and obviously he didn’t want to mess anything again. 

to be continued