August 23 2016: 1 P.M
Harini turned towards the car. She expected him to throw a second look at her. He drove fast, skipping the glance.
Harini let out a sigh.
She felt embarrassed, standing there, expecting a guy to react better. She was disappointed. She thought for a moment, looking at the dog, which was now comfortably resting its snout on her arm. Neither the disappointment nor the embarrassment took over her. It did not make her sad.
‘Why should I? I am happy the way I Am.’, she thought.
It was obvious that she had created a weird impression. She had to answer her parents.
“It is pretty much a mess, isn’t it?” She asked her pet.
“No baby. You are not the reason. Off goes the jerk. Let’s get home.” She smiled.
As she placed him in the front basket and turned her accelerator, a thought struck her. She cannot take him home. She drove straight to her friend’s house. She sent a message to her friend that, she was on her way.
“Hi, Shruthi. Hi Aunt.” Harini smiled, as she entered.
“Come in dear. Shruthi told me you were coming with a puppy. So what did you actually feel about him?”
“Yes Aunt. He was abandoned today near Adyar. Look, he has got a collar. He looks healthy and vaccinated. I am not sure why those guys abandoned him.”
Harini saw her friend and her mother laughing.
“Child, by ‘Him’, I meant the groom you were about to meet today.”
“That was a big mess. He wanted to see me seated in a posh restaurant, with a melodious instrumental music in the back ground. Unfortunately I was standing in the pavement, trying to catch this guy’s master.” she paused to point at the dog.
“Dileep was totally upset, which was obvious in his face. He just drove back. “, Harini shrugged her shoulders. “I am not very sure, if he would have already called up my parents to tell about his rejection. My parents would just be mad, if I take this pup home. Can you please have him? I will take a picture of this guy and post it in Social networking sites, requesting for adoption. Can you please have him until then?” She smiled.
“Hey, Harini. You know how much we love dogs! Sure we will have him.” Shruthi smiled.
She clicked few pictures of him.
‘Upload successful ‘her mobile displayed.
As she pressed the button to bring her vehicle to life, Shruthi’s voice made her turn back.
“How come you are so happy? “ Shruthi asked as she could not crumble her curiosity.
“Ha ha. You should check with someone only when they are sad.“ Harini smiled.
“No, I mean, something like this..,” Shruthi was interrupted.
“Why should I be that sober face, tell me? I know there is something that is not happening to me. But why should that make me sad. Marriage is just a phase of life. Life does not end when a phase in it doesn’t happen or is delayed.” Harini paused to smile.
“I will never weep, confining myself to a small space, when there are million reasons to smile. It is hard. People around me, in that case, my own parents think I am crazy and careless about life. I know who I am. If crying and brooding alone can make me look serious, sorry, I can never be serious in life. People who smile are not the ones who do not have a problem. “She smiled.
“You either take crazy selfies with the dog, sticking your tongue out, just as he does or stand under a tree and preach about life. “ Shruthi smiled.
“Exactly! That is what I am talking about. Life is simple when you stop worrying.” Harini smiled, accelerating her vehicle.
Harini slightly pushed the door, which was left ajar. As she entered, she heard her mother’s voice.
“Dileep’s mom called me now. They are not interested in you.” her mom’s voice broke. “She is such a sweet person. She rejected this proposal in a very optimistic way. You should have been the one who had spoilt everything.”
“Mom, please listen. In a marriage, the couple can never have the same likes and dislikes. But how far we respect our partner’s likes makes it beautiful.” Harini spoke as she sat in the couch, turning on the television. “When he can’t understand that, how do you think we can live peacefully?”
“Enough Harini, I don’t want to hear anything from you. Hope you get serious someday at least.” Her mom was angry. Tears welled up in her eyes.
“There is something so funny with these old ladies. Before wedding it is always their daughters, who are wrong, and after wedding, daughters become good and it is always the daughter in law who is wrong. Funny, isn’t it?” Harini laughed.
Harini’s mom held her head. She quelled her urge to scold her crazy daughter.
“Harini, do you even get the point? Have you really lost your mind or enact so? You should understand what your priorities in life are. You can’t take everything in your hand. You should have had Dileep in your…,” her mom was interrupted by Harini.
“Mom, you wanted me to have Dileep in my hand?” asked Harini, as she took a generous bite of an apple.
“Oh God. I meant you should have had Dileep as your highest priority.”
Harini laughed. The paper, behind which her father was hiding his face, shook like a leaf. Harini was sure her father laughed, too.
Harini’s mom threw her hand up in the air and turned away.
Harini’s phone rang.
“Hello.”, she answered.
August 23 2016: 2 P.M
“Hello,” he answered.
“Good Afternoon. Am I talking to Mr. Raghuram?” A sweet voice came from the other end of the phone.
Raghu, was surprised by two things, the call and the greeting. Was it afternoon already? It was just as though he greeted Payal and Goutham and hit the bed. He had requested Goutham to buy a new sim for him and activate it, which Goutham had given him last night.
The call was to his India number.
“Hello,” the voice interrupted his thoughts.
“Hey, hi. Good afternoon. Please tell me. “ He replied.
“This is Deepa from ‘Surechoice’ consultancy. There are two companies which are interested in your profile. The interview location is in Chennai and the job location is in Chennai too. May I know if you are interested?” asked the voice in sweet and formal tone.
He was enthralled at the name of the city. ‘Sure I would love to!’He wanted to exclaim. He crumbled his enthusiasm and replied, “Hey, thanks for getting back real quick. Sure I would prefer that.”
“The interview is with Infoway which is scheduled this weekend. Are you fine with it?”
“I am fine.” he spoke while trying to calculate the number of days left for his flight ticket booking.
“Ok, Raghuram, thank you for the confirmation. I will forward your CV to the company. Please make sure you are available for the interview by 10.00 A.M. I will mail you the details. “
“Sure. Thank you. “He cut the call.
Raghu stretched his arms.
He slowly opened his room door and walked outisde. The house was silent.
Raghu’s stomach growled in hunger.
As he proceeded to the living room, he saw Goutham seated on the sofa.
“Hey , man.” Raghu exclaimed.
“Hey ,Raghu.” Goutham smiled.
“Was the room comfortable? Hope you got some rest.”
“Hey man I am still half asleep. A girl woke me up. “
“Dream? Get married soon!” Goutham winked.
“No. In real. Through a call. A girl from consultancy.” Raghu smiled and briefed about the schedule and his travel to Chennai.
“Hey where are the others?”
“Payal has gone for attending the jewelry making class. I will now go to bring Khanak from school, I was waiting for you to get up.”, Goutham smiled and walked into his room.
Raghu started to surf through some magazines, which were neatly arranged on the study table.
“Goutham beta.” Raghu heard a soft , old voice from outside. He dropped the magazine back on table to see who it was.
As he approached the door, an old lady in her early sixties stood there , looking out for Goutham.
Raghu felt his world freeze for a moment. He could not feel the ground beneath his legs.
Her old, grey eyes, caught him in its spell, though, her droopy eyelids , hid a little of her pupil.
He saw her lips move, but could not take his eyes off her eyes, hearing nothing of what she spoke.
She slowly took her left hand, to place on the door frame, for support.
He slowly turned his head in the direction of her hand. The veins bulged out of her wrinkled skin.
Driven by several emotions, not able to reason out anything, he caught her rising hand in midair.
Her wizened finger tips felt coarse against his smooth, young fingers. The warmth of her finger tips slowly made him feel the floor beneath his legs.
He stood there panting.
“Coming, Aunt.” Raghu shook his head and turned to the direction from where Goutham’s voice came.
As Goutham adjusted the collar of his newly worn t-shirt, he came to the door.
“Come in Aunt.” He smiled. Payal and Khanak came out of the lift at the same time.
“Hey, her class teacher called me. The school for kindergarden was closed early. So I collected her on my way back home.”, Payal spoke to Goutham as she smiled at Meera.
“Aunt, had lunch?”
“I wanted to check with Goutham, whether you came back, as you were late by ten minutes, than your usual time.”, Meera smiled.
“Thanks Aunt. “, she smiled, her smile reflecting the grateness in her heart.
“He..”, Meera, pointed to Raghu.
“Oh, Sorry! This is my family friend, Raghu. He landed from U.S today.”, he introduced. “Raghu, this is Meera Aunt. We have been neighbours since we moved in here as newly wed couples, six years ago. ”
Raghu shook his head weakly.
“Ok, Beta. I will talk to you later.”, Meera smiled and walked into her house.
“Who is she?”, Raghu, who spoke for the first time in the past ten minutes, asked Payal.
“She is Meera. As Goutham said, we know each other for the past six years. Her husband passed away a year ago. A very nice and pious woman. ”
“She is alone here? Her children?”, asked Raghu, the words flowing through his mouth involuntarily.
“She lost her son when he was six years old. They did not tell anything further about it. We understood it was quite a sensitive topic for them. We did not ask anything further, too. Please make sure even you don’t. “, Goutham gave a gentle pat on his friend’s back.
“I get a motherly…”, Raghu and Payal spoke in unison.
Raghu realized he was too aloud.
“Never mind. Were you telling something?” Raghu asked Payal.
“I was just telling that I often get reminded of a motherly love when she worries if I am late even by a minute or two. The way she checked with Goutham today.”Payal smiled.
Raghu nodded weakly.
“Come let’s eat.” Goutham called out. Raghu shook his head.
Raghu walked back into his room, thoughts struck to his past. He did not feel his stomach growling, anymore.
He shut the door behind his back. There was something in her eyes. There were million thoughts that ran through his mind.
He sat, hands on his head.
August 23 2016: 3 P.M
She sat, hands on her head.
“Come on, Aadvika, darling. It is ok.” Prachi, her friend consoled her.
“I cannot take it anymore, Prachi. Being mocked at, everyday, just because I dont have a kid yet, is… is so pathetic. Well, I just cant take it anymore,” Aadvika spoke, as she poked the spoon into her rice.
Aadvika had had a terrific tussle over taking in the words Manoj spoke, in the afternoon.
“Well, I would not ask you to ignore. I know how difficult it is,” Prachi spoke, as she tore a piece of roti.
“I myself, am so worried whether it would ever happen to me. I mean, motherhood. I want to become a mom. But , but my family, they just dont understand.” She shook her head.
“Why don’t you talk to your husband. ” Prachi rested her arm on the table, as she admonished Aadvika to call her husband.
“Why wait long? Just dial now and speak casually. Let him know how bad it is affecting you, even at your work.” Prachi suggested.
Aadvika dialed Manoj’s number. The lady in her sweet voice answered, ‘The AirPhone customer, you are trying to reach is not answering your call‘. ” She shook her head as she stabbed the red button.
“You see, they don’t have fixed timings for lunch and other stuff. He might be in a meeting.” Aadvika spoke out aloud.
“What and to whom you are trying to justify, Aadvika?” Parchi asked.
Aadvika stood up, to walk to the rest room, snatching her kercheif , off the table, in an attempt to conceal her tears.
Later that night, she made up her mind to talk to Manoj. Few of Manoj’s relative were there at home, for dinner, which kept her on the hop , the entire evening.
The clock showed 10 P.M. She peeped from the kitchen. Her mom-in-law had retired and her father-in-law was seated with his Laptop.
“Good night, Pa. Sleep soon” She smiled.
“Your soya curry was awesome dear. Rajma Chawal was excellent. God bless. ” He smiled.
“Thank you. ” She smiled back.
” Just don’t worry about anything. Everything will happen at the right time. Definition of a woman does not begin and end only when there is a life inside her womb. A woman is not charactieized by the number of lives she bears in her womb; rather by the number of people she holds in her heart, ” he continued.
She lowered her head, tears gushing down.
“Thank you.” She turned to walk towards her room.
The door was closed tight. Manoj should have turned on the AC, she thought. As she stepped in, the marble was cold against her feet. The lights were on, yet Manoj had rolled over to the farthest end of their King sized bed, wrapping himself with the quilt.
He was fast asleep.
She sat at the end of the bed, hands on chin. She thought she could speak to him. She was disappointed. Aadvika shook her head. She could do nothing. She sat there, locking and unlocking her mobile, waiting for the sleep to cradle her eyes.
Manoj was not sure , what time it was. He was awakened by the warmth of her breathe against his bare shoulders.
He slowly turned towards her.
Few of her hair strands had fell on her forehead. Her pink, plump lips against her fair skin looked beautiful. He felt bad for not apologizing to her last night. He had a bad day at office, last evening, after facing a couple of escalation meetings. He could not make time for her in the night too. He felt bad for not replying to her call, which he missed.
‘I should have slept like a log by the time she had completed her work.’ He thought.
He moved closer, wrapping his hands around her. She reacted to his touch. She placed her slender fingers on his chest and cuddled.
He kissed her forehead. She brushed her nose tip against his chest. He lifted her face towards him. She kissed his cheeks. He kissed her in her ears and whispered, “I love you.”
“Love you too.” She replied, her eyes still closed.
” I am sorry Ajju.” He spoke a little louder than the previous time.
“Hmmm. Apology accepted. ” She smiled.
She suddenly opened her eyes in surprise. “What did you just say?” She asked.
“I said I am sorry.” He replied.
“No, after that.”
“When was the last time, you called me so, Dukku? Do you even remember?” she asked.
That was how they addressed each other, during the early stages of their romantic relationship. Aadvika felt much closer and confident when he addressed her ‘Ajju.’ . According to her, it reflected his good mood and loads of love he had for her. She loved to address him, ‘Dukku’.
“Why such a name?”, he would ask her.
“I dont know , probably, according to me, that is how a mom would call her son , lovingly. I would love you and care for you, more than what a mom is to a new born.”, she would smile and reply.
Well, that was eight years ago.
“Tell me, when was it ?” She demanded, resting her head on his chest.
She could hear his heartbeat.
” I am afraid we are missing some beautiful and irreversible moments between us, just because life stresses us out. ” she spoke, breaking the silence.
He was speechless. She was true.
“Sorry dear. Work -life balance, anxiety about our future and few more things are just stressing me out, “he spoke as he sat on the bed.
“Let us take a break, probably a meal together, outside. How about a dinner?” She suggested.
“Nice idea, let me think..”
“Why not today?” She interrupted Manoj, abruptly, unable to stifle her ardency.
“Ok. I will book the table for two. Can you come to Fort around 7 P.M? We shall leave from there.” He smiled.
“Sounds great.” She grinned.
Fourteen hours fifty four minutes later, they were seated, in a restaurant.
They had ordered for a soup and a starter.
“So, how was your day?” Aadvika smiled as she saw Manoj, typing something in his mobile.
He placed his mobile on the table and looked at her. “Yeah. It was ok. Had to reschedule few meetings.”, he smiled.
“Hey, Manoj.”, he suddenly felt a soft pat on his shoulders.
“Naresh? Hey buddy, how are you?”, Manoj rose from his chair , smiling at his college mate.
“Am Good, Thanks. How are you? Aadvika, how are you?”, he smiled.
“Am fine, Naresh.”, she smiled back.
“Hey, Suchi. “, Naresh signaled to a woman who was walking slowly towards him. She was accompanied by a cute little boy, who looked like a tinier form of Naresh.
“Suchi , This is Mr and Mrs Manoj, my college friends.”, he smiled.
Suchi greeted them both.
Manoj looked at the cute boy. Aadvika caught Manoj’s eyes and the expressions.
Aadvika was not able to take her eyes off the lady’s growing tummy.
“We are expecting our second child this December.”, Naresh spoke as if he understood Aadvika’s stare.
The waiter approached fast to Manoj’s table.
Naresh bade a bye and took his seat, in the farthest table of the row.
“Your soup , Sir.”, the waiter served.
Manoj and Aadvika sat in silence. As the waiter moved, Manoj took the seasoning bottle and sprinkled some pepper, he let out a sigh and shook the bottle hard.
“Dukku, you are putting too much pepper into it.”, Aadvika warned.
Manoj placed the bottle back, not bothering to reply Aadvika.
He skimmed the top most layer of the soup and sipped few drops in.
“Oh, my.”, he threw a disgusting expression. “Hell with it. That was salt.” , he pushed the soup bowl away from him.
Aadvika placed the spoon back into her bowl. She was sure he was upset.
A mere sight of a happy family had spoiled his mood. She felt guilty, she was not able to build one for him.
Aadvika spoke in a sad tone.
“I will try my best to give you a child and all the lost happiness and peace. Please enjoy your meal.”, she squeezed his hand, tears brimming.
He looked at her, astonished. He placed his hands on hers.
” I know what was running in your mind.” She smiled.
August 25 2016: 4 P.M
“I know what is running in your mind.” She smiled.
Harini turned to Sai in a reflex.
“You are staring at that girls toe, looking at her toe ring. Am I right? Look at her Harini. She should be only twenty two or twenty three years of age. Fortunately she is married.”Sai smiled again.
“What?” Harini almost spat the raspberry mojito, in an attempt to control the laughter.
“Sai, one of the world’s super power countries, United States of America stays behind in time, when compared to most of the other countries which are less powerful than it. Does that mean U.S.A is slower? No. Each of us works in our own time zone. If she is married at the age of 22 and if I am single at the age of 28, it is not my problem. No one is superior, no one is inferior. “Harini raised an eyebrow.
“The teal color nail shade is not going good against her skin tone. Plus her nail shade is not complimenting her pink dress. I was just looking at that. You really thought I was staring at the toe ring?”, Harini smiled, as she sat comfortably, resting her back against the cushion.
“Ok, Madam. I got you wrong. But when are you going to get things right?”, Sai asked.
It was couple of days since Dileep had rejected her. Sai called Harini the same day to know what had happened. Harini wanted the heat of the rejection to die. She thought it would be wise to meet Sai some time later that week.
Her mobile blinked. There was an email from Turtle conservancy. ‘It should be regarding the turtle walk which is organized from Neelangarai. ‘ Harini thought.
“Harini, I am talking to you.” Sai’s words probed through her ears.
“I am listening Sai. Just give me a minute. I need to send a note to SSNTC regarding this turtle walk.”
“Harini, don’t overdo as if the entire Nation is on your shoulders.”
Harini placed her mobile on the table.
“Sai, it is not about the Nation. It is about the poor turtles and tortoises. We collect their eggs, place them safe on seashore also guide them back to sea. It is done..,” Harini saw Sai losing interest in what was said.
“Just chuck it. You tell me.”Harini folded her hands across her chest.
“Harini, when are you going to take life seriously? “
“Sai, I will tell you my problem. Unfortunately, I did not love anybody till date and fortunately, none of the guys fell in love with me. I know my marriage is getting delayed. But, there should be a guy, who is born for me. He will definitely come to me or at least call me. “ Harini winked.
Her mobile rang. It was an unknown number.
“Hi, I am Raghu. Am I talking to Harini? ” The voice asked.
“Ya. Please tell me.” She answered.
“This is regarding the Labrador cross puppy adoption…,” as she heard him speak, Sai’s voice intruded.
“Whom are you talking to? What is it about?”
“Shush Sai. Please. I will tell you.”
“Yes, Mr..,” Harini paused.
“Yes, Mr.Raghu. Please tell me.”
“I would love to adopt the pup. Can you please let me know further details?” Spoke the voice.
The next few minutes of conversation mainly proceeded with the details of the puppy, his physical condition and various other details.
“When can I come to collect him?” Raghu asked.
She raised her eyebrows as if it struck her. It was definitely not fair to make him get the puppy from Shruthi. She had already been so helpful. Harini did not like troubling her further.
“I shall come to meet you. I will give you the puppy in person.”
“Oh, that makes it easy for me.”
“Could you please share the time, venue and your identity, please? ”
“Coffee shop, The Big Mall. Blue shirt. 11.30 AM- tomorrow.”
“Thank you. See you tomorrow.” The conversation ended.
“Haven’t you got rid of that puppy yet?” Sai muttered under her breathe, the next moment Harini took her phone off her ears.
Harini shook her head.
“You are way too annoying Harini.”
“Sai, don’t be so rude. What did I do?”
“That’s the problem Harini. You never do anything,” Sai paused. “, useful. Come let us go.” She continued as she stood up.
Harini twitched her lips, as she tossed the vehicle key from her left hand to the right.
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