‘Anything and everything looks so beautiful on you, because you are just so beautiful.’ She remembered his words when she wore the same green silk saree for the first time for a family function.
“Harini.” She heard her mom’s voice outside. She smiled to herself. Jana’s family was coming home today. ‘Everything has to be at its best.’ She thought and took meticulous care.
“Harini.” Her mom’s voice was louder.
“Harini are you ready? We just have less than half an hour.” Anu spoke as she peeped inside her daughter’s room.
“Almost there mom.” Harini looked at her reflection in the mirror again. Her green saree was intact as she draped it tight with five pleats and pinning them all perfectly on her left shoulders. She looked below her eyes. The mascara which was smudged due to a monstrous sneeze was hidden now. Thanks to the second touch of the concealer.
“Don’t worry. When I spoke to them last week they told that they will be here around 10. It is just 9 A.M. Relax. They will be here. I have personally invited them several times and made sure everything is perfect. Just relax.” Harini heard her father assuring to her mom as she walked out of her room.
“Did you call him?” Anu asked.
“Yes Mom. Just now. He did not pick up though.” Harini tucked her hair behind her ears.
It was 11.10 A.M when Harini’s mom looked her mobile, distressed.
Harini pulled a chair and sat close to the window, which had a good view of the entrance. She craned her neck and almost stood up, for every little sound that came from outside, misinterpreting the sound to be their car’s.
“His parents are not picking up the call, too.” Anu let out a sigh.
“Harini , try Maapillai‘s number again.” Her dad ordered.
It was strange. Her mind drifted back to the fight they had last week. ‘Had he been avoiding me since that fight?’ She wondered.
Her mind drifted back to the night, when she fell asleep with wet eyes.
It was a couple of hours later, she woke up. Was it the mobile beep’s that woke her up or her instincts she wondered, when she saw an incoming text, the moment she opened her eyes.
“I am so sorry.” Read the text.
She sat up staring at his text for a long time.
“I neither need your apology nor those rude words.” She sent her gutted response.
“I know.” His response came in a jiffy.
She did not respond. He knew she was morose and taciturn.
“I am sorry baby; I shouldn’t have spoken that way.” His next prompt text popped up.
There was no reply; she just sat there, staring at her mobile. She let out a sigh to loosen her stiff shoulders.
“I feel like killing myself for being so harsh on you.” His next text came.
“Now stop bluffing.” She sent her reply.
She hated when someone used extreme emotions; Words like ‘kill’ or ‘die’ shook her emotionally. He knew that was his last weapon to surrender.
He called her. As she swiped the green arrow from left to right and took her mobile to her ears, she heard a series of smooches.
“Hey.” She spoke. He continued to smooch as if he never heard her.
“Jana.” She spoke into the mic as low as possible.
“I love you, I love you” She heard him say continuously.
“Jana, please.” She tried to speak.
“Not until you are going to accept my apology.” He started alternating a smooch and an ‘I love you.’
“Ok, Apology accepted.” She spoke in a stern tone.
“Hmm.” She mumbled.
Before he could utter a word, “And do you know how bad I felt when you started using words like ‘Kiss your feet.’?” she began speaking.
“I was wrong, I am sorry. I am so sorry my Love.” She heard him say.
“Hmmm.” She mumbled again, as she smiled. She heard a smile and sigh of relief too.
“’Kiss your feet’ was wrong. What else can I kiss?” he asked notoriously.
“Shush.” She widened her eyes. “Let us decide on the dates first, let those dates approach…” she was interrupted.
“Ohh. Can’t wait.” He replied.
“Hey, so things are confirmed right? You are coming in the first week, right?” She asked again.
“All set. We will be there on the first of March”
“Great.” She smiled.
There was a long silence.
“Ok. Go to sleep. We will talk tomorrow. Love you.” She tried to end the conversation.
“Love you too.” She heard him say and the line went dead.
As she played back the memory of the night, Harini thought hard about the conversations they had after that incident.
They hadn’t had many. Out of what they had, most of them were short. Few of them were even very formal. He refused to meet, in spite of her several reminders and insists. He convinced her that he was busy. She remembered asking him several times if he was still clinging onto what she spoke the other day. She made sure to apologize too. He assured that he was okay. She checked the texts he had sent her. He had even sent her an ‘I love you’ with a smooching emoji. That usually meant he was normal. She was the one who never attended the call when she was upset. He never did that. Most of the times, he would attend and continue the argument over phone.
What had happened? She bit her nails hard. That day was not the day to react. It was a day to rejoice. They were supposed to be there, together, to confirm the wedding, to confirm the future; the future which Harini had always been fascinating – Both of them, beautifully together.
What was wrong? She wondered. She tried to put the scrambled pieces of thoughts together. Was she missing something? She lost her patience.
“Harini.” Her mom’s voice shook her. “What are you thinking about? Did you dial his number?”
“Now.” She nodded and dialed his number.
For the first time in life, she dialed his number for the second time. She looked at the clock it was 12 Noon.
For the first time in life, she dialed his number for the 48th time. It was 5 P.M
Her parents had to eat lunch, as they had a big list of medicines to take, post meal. Her dad was 66 and Mom was 61. Harini was not in a mood to eat. Her empty stomach growled for few hours and then it began to churn.
There was no sign of Jana and his family.
“What happened, Harini?” They should have at least informed us. They might have had some emergency, which is fine, but, at least Jana should have had the courtesy to inform us.” For the first time in five years, she heard her dad complaining about Jana.
“Maapillai.” Harini’s mom corrected.
Her dad threw a ‘does-that-really-matter-now.’ look at his wife.
Harini’s head throbbed. Her mom made a cup of coffee for her.
Her dad sat beside her.
“I am not sure what went wrong.” Her voice broke.
Her mom placed a hand around her shoulders and rubbed it gently.
“Shall we visit their house?” Anu looked at Krishnan.
“No. Let us wait for them. We are not sure what their state is. Let us give it a day’s time. Let us wait for them to respond to all our calls and messages. Harini, If you don’t hear anything from Jana until tomorrow night, we will visit them the day after. “ Her father walked away.
“Why should there be a day’s time? Is he thinking about that ISO certification, which is still pending confirmation? The results were delayed and are supposed to be out tomorrow, right?” Her mom nudged.
Harini shook her head, gesturing a ‘No’. She had no idea what was going around. She sat there as she threw a void stare at the sofa’s armrest.
“Did he return your calls?” Harini’s dad asked the next evening.
She shook her head ‘No’.
“Okay. Let us see what had happened. Be ready by 9 in the morning, tomorrow. We will go there and check with them in person.” Her dad spoke out loud.
Krishnan should have been a happy man, by then, for his company was given the ISO 9001-2015 certification, but he seemed more concerned about his daughter.
He saw his daughter, walking back to her room.
Harini’s heart fretted. She locked the door behind her and sat on her bed. It was half past 9. She did not prefer to go there, before she could talk to him. Harini wanted to know what had happened, before she could meet him. She tried to call him. He was not picking up.
“One last time,” she spoke to herself as she opened the texting app.
His status was online. She was happy for a minuscule fragment of a second.
Her fingers ran over her mobile screen just to send a two letter word, ‘Hi.’
She stared at the screen. His status shifted from Online to ‘Last seen’; the next second her text reached him.
She was still in the texting app. He never came back. She kept scrolling the conversation page, in an attempt to refresh it. There was no response.
She bit her lip as the tension raised several folds.
Nothing could stress us more than an unusual happening, the causes of which are obscure.
She logged into her social networking site. She used the messenger there to send him a text. She was just trying to reach him by all means.
The messenger showed that he was active. It also showed that he read her text. He went offline, as soon as he could.
‘Why is he not responding?’ Her thoughts clouded and tears welled up.
She tried to call him again. He did not pick up. She bit her mobile casing not realizing that a piece of plastic had gotten into her mouth.
“Eww,” she spat when the plastic tasted bitter in her mouth.
She was muddled. She wanted to talk to him or at least hear something from him. Neither his voice nor his text reached her. Her back ached as she sat in the same position for a long time.
She stacked a few pillows against the backrest of the cot and leaned against with the force, strong enough for the cot to screech.
She stretched her hands to reach out to the laptop she had placed in the side table.
She could fall asleep with the mobile in her hands, but not with the laptop on her lap. She did not mind staying awake. All that she wanted was to hear from him.
She logged into her mail and she dropped an email, desperately trying to reach him. Her own tears blurred her vision.
‘Why is he doing this to me?’ She held her head. ‘He is avoiding you.’ Her assertive female instinct warned her. ‘Why should he?’ Her dolorous, innocent part of her mind, which was longing for an answer, asked her forlorn heart.
‘Is there even a valid reason to cry?’ The thoughtful Harini asked. ‘He had turned down the most important day. We had been looking forward for it so eagerly. While turning down is something bad, he is not responding. I am worried, I am being deluded. Can’t you just see? It is as though he is just trying to switch from one communication means to another, if he is finding me on the same app or if one of my texts reaches him.” Her baffled mind shot an irrefutable justification.
‘Hi Jana, I don’t know what has happened, but I believe there must be something that is stopping you..’ She typed. She erased a few words and re-framed the sentence.
‘Hi Jana. I don’t know what has happened, but I believe there is a reason behind this dormant behavior of yours. I am not going to talk about anything else, except one thing. What happened dear? If there is anything I could help, please let me know. I just want to hear your voice, just a few words. Hope you read this. I am crying here Jana, crying silently, and not knowing what is happening. I love you. Talk to me soon. Tell me what has happened to you. I will be there for you.’
She re-read the texts several times before sending it. She sent the same thing in almost all available texting services.
She closed the laptop and placed beside. She looked at her mobile, as she lowered her head to lie down.
She curled her body into a fetus position, staring at the reflection of the garage light through her windows. She was perplexed.
Few hours later, Harini tried hard to open her heavy eyelids. Her mobile showed ten minutes past 6. She had a new message. Her heartbeat doubled. She swiftly dragged down the notification panel in her mobile and touched the text.
‘What happened? What do you want to happen in my life? I am not dead for you to cry continuously. I am still alive. I hope you are happy with that. I do not know what else I should be telling you. Stop asking me what happened. You can put an end to your curiosity. Turn it off and stay calm. Patience is a virtue. I really hope you understand.’
There was another text a couple of minutes later
‘ BTW, Thanks for trying to help me. You can never help someone if you don’t understand what is going on with them.
She burst into terrible tears. She could not remember when the last time she had cried so hard.
She sat there, hands covering her face, not able to fathom out the reason behind his harsh words. She read the text which she had sent him last night, trying to understand what was wrong there, to cause such a furious reaction. There was none, at least for her eyes.
She was lost. She cried as she saw the mobile.
She was angry. She never lost her temper usually. She gritted her teeth, as she stabbed the keys in her mobile to reply him.
‘You need not sarcastically thank some stupid dumb headed fool, who cannot understand you.’ She threw her mobile on her bed. It fell on the floor with a bounce on the bed.
She heard the knock outside. She got up swiftly from her bed, gathered the scattered pieces of her mobile and assembled them quickly, as she walked towards the door.
“Have you brushed?” Her mom asked.
“Two minutes.” She excused herself.
“We need not visit them dad.” She spoke to her dad, twenty minutes later.
“Did he contact you?” Her dad asked.
She nodded, her thoughts drifting to his reply.
“What happened? Why didn’t they turn up?” Her dad asked, as he moved forward a little towards his daughter.
“I asked for the same thing.” Her distraught mind spoke to her.
“And then?” Her mom asked, after which she realized she had spoken aloud.
“He had gone on a sudden trip to Mumbai.” She lied and cooked up her own stories of how his dad’s brother met with a minor road accident here, for which his parents had to act quickly and they were busy with hospital and other formalities
“Still they could have told us. Do we seem like morons who cannot understand an emergency?” Her mom spoke in between her narration.
She thought for a while, she did not have an answer for that question.
“They thought it was a bad news which should not reach our ears as we were expecting them for the wedding talk.”
Her dad shook her head. It was a gesture of dubiety.
Had he lost belief in my words or Jana, she wondered blinking her eyes.
Her words were not true and she knew it, but the latter? Her mind raced.
She knew it was a chaos. She did not want that to continue. More than her own self, she valued Jana and the relationship with him. She nodded as if she knew what her next attempt was.
Harini adjusted the peach colored stud she wore, that complemented her salwar color. Jana took her to her favorite fashion outlet and gifted her that beautiful dress for her previous birthday.
Harini felt, it was the best idea to wear one of his’ gifts, as she was meeting him after a trifling misunderstanding. She shot a final glance in the rear view mirror, before she got down. She walked straight into the showroom.
The blank cheque her dad had given her was safe inside her hand bag.
“Anything between 40-60L will do.” Her dad told her in the morning.
“What Color?” She had asked.
“That is your choice.” Her dad shrugged his shoulders. “This is just for the purpose of converting liquid cash into an asset. Anything of your choice will do.”
“Are you going to ask him why he didn’t turn up? “ Her mother asked.
“Mom, The main reason I am going to be there is to buy a car. Probably I might ask him. We had spoken over phone mom. Everything is fine. They will come here soon.” She lied.
She slowly got back to her senses when the indicator in the lift buzzed. She had reached second floor.
She pushed the door gently and walked in. The fragrance that came from the centralized air conditioner was soothing. She inhaled deeply and took a seat beside the iron book shelf. She grabbed one of the monthly issue of a magazine, in which the car, she was about to buy was declared as the ‘Car of the Month’.
She flipped the pages, her mind flipped through the conversation she had with Rithu.
“I was shell shocked when you told me he turned down the visit. Are you sure you are going to make your move first?” Rithu’s anxiety reflected in her voice.
“Of course Rithu. I just can’t wait. I am just concerned that the increase in the time gap might deepen the gap in our relationship. I have to save my relationship. It is for ‘Us’. There is no ‘Me’ or ‘Him’. I will do anything to save my relationship.” She was confident.
“Okay, what are you going to do?” Rithu asked.
She thought for a while, after which her dad’s investment suggestion popped up in her mind.
“Let me meet him in disguise of buying a car.”Harini exclaimed to Rithu. “By that way my parents can’t deny. I can justify that I am going there just for the car.” She continued.
“Sounds like a plan. All the best.” Rithu cut the call.
“How may I help you?” A sweet voice distracted her from her train of thoughts.
Harini came to the reality with a startle.
“Uhhh.” Harini stammered before she could gather herself.
“Would you like to see some models?” The saleswoman asked.
“Well, Yeah. I am here for that. Before that, I just want to talk to your manager.” Harini smiled with a pride. ‘He might be an austere manager here, but, to me he is the cute, little loveliest thing.’ She thought. How well her disappointment had mitigated, she wondered. It was for him.
She saw the girl walking towards his room.
She almost forgot everything, why she was there, the way he did not turn up, the way he refused to reason it out or his harsh words. She sat there, eagerly for the door to open and for him to show up, with millions of butterflies in her stomach, as if it was their first meet.
He came out and to her surprise he looked thin. His unshaven beard told her something.
It was almost three weeks, since she had seen him.
He approached fast.
“Why are you here?” he glared, his nostrils flaring.
She turned back in a reflex, to check if he was talking to someone else. No one was found.
“Don’t show up without prior information.” His words added more misery.
She looked at the marbles below.
“Jana, can we go to your room?” She asked looking around with the pair of embarrassment stricken eyes.
As they walked into his room, Harini waited for the automatic door to close tightly behind her and then she began.
“Jana, what is with you?” She almost reached him to touch his cheek.
He pushed back his chair. “People could see us.”
She fought the tears.
“You realize that only now? People could have heard us, or at least they would have made out you were shouting at me.” She was still looking at him.
“What do you want me to do?” He loosened his shoulders and stretched his fingers in air.
“Why are you so rude, Jana? What did I do to you?”
“Why, what, when, how.. Just stop your investigation.”
“Do you think this is an investigation?”
“See, there is another question.” He rubbed his forehead.
“I ask, because I want to know.”
“What do you want to know?”
“This is your problem, Harini. All that you want is just answer. CONCRETE ANSWER. Just concrete answer, right? When you ask something, the next moment you need an answer for it.” He raised his voice.
“Don’t shout at me.”
“I am not shouting. I am just trying to make you understand. I think it is just not possible.” He shook his head.
It was the same pair of lips that had told that she was the most understanding person on earth.
“Jana, haven’t I understood you in the past? Why can’t you just let me know what your problem is?”
“Harini.” He spoke in between his teeth. He sighed and looked away, placing his hands on his forehead.
“You don’t even want to look at me?”
He dropped his hands, still looking away.
“You did not even ask me, for what I was here for. When I asked you, ‘What is with you?’, I did not ask anything about what had happened between us in the past. I just meant this sudden weight loss and that beard. I walked in here today, as if there had been no yesterday. I thought it was a new day, forgetting and forgiving whatever had happened in the last couple of weeks, but you… ” She paused, fixing her gaze at him.
He sat tight lipped, reluctant to acknowledge the pause by looking at her.
She swallowed hard, fighting her tears.
“You don’t have even a minute to feel bad for me, right? What have I become to you , Jana?”
“If you think a Sorry can help you, then I am sorry.” He uttered shooting an unimpassioned look at her.
“No one had made me feel special, as you did. No one had insulted me, as you do now. You are an extremist Jana. Be it in losing your temper or apologizing or loving me or hurting me. I will never forget that grudging apology.” She spat the words on his face and strode out, missing to notice a pair of eyes, watching her.
“You are back so soon?!” exclaimed her mom.
“Yes mom, my darling told me that the car I had decided is not a suitable one for us. I was too lazy to go in search for a new one. So I just chit chatted and came home.” She winked.
She felt it was easier to put up a fake smile, rather than giving the real reason for her sorrow.
“So you forgot about the money altogether? My dear, we are making a turnover of around 2.5 crores a month. You should not invest a lot of time wondering how to handle such small amounts,” her dad spoke as he walked into the kitchen.
“See, that is why I don’t reveal too much truth. Now look what this guy has to stay.” She leant against the strong arms of her dad. The warmth of her dad’s shoulder made her feel tears. She was in need of a shoulder to cry out loud, yet, she decided to stay astute. Tears rushed up in her eyes. All of a sudden she felt, her heart was pumping sorrow instead of blood. She bit her lips and swallowed hard to push down her tears. When her mom caught a glimpse of her, she pouted her lips and winked at her mom, trying to act crazy.
“My God.” Her dad sighed.
“Harini….” She heard her mom speak, while she was already out of the kitchen.
“I will take care of the money dad, and Mom, I know you called for me eating. I had my lunch.” She raised her voice as she ascended the spiral steps that led to her room.
She was glad that her parents misconstrued her misery as her negligence. She let her room door close and her tears fall.
“Rithu, I want you to help me with something.” Harini began and spoke continuously for the next few minutes, explaining Rithu, what she wanted.
“If you want to invest in one of the best plan with good returns, you can probably walk into any of our branches. There are so many advisors there who would help you.”Rithu suggested, after coming to know that Harini was interested in investing a sum of 40 Lakhs.
Harini could have searched herself. There were so many options and suggestions available over the internet. She was too pre-occupied with what was happening around. She could not ask her father too. She wanted to wrap the investment as soon as she could. A ready advice was the one she was expecting and Rithu did not fail her.
She went in and asked for Venkatesh, the manager.
“Hi, I am Harini. Mr. Krishnan’s daughter.” She tried to introduce.
“Come in, Mam.” He ushered her into her cabin. The digital clock in his office showed the time in big display. The date was shown as 4th of March in smaller display. She was happy she was able to get the investment done before the end of financial year.
“We would be happy to serve you.” He smiled.
She smiled back as formally as she could.
He dialed a number in the intercom. “Bharath, could you please come to my desk.” Venky replaced the receiver, smiling at Harini.
A tall well-built man walked in.
“Bharath, She is Harini. She wants to invest a sum of 40 Lakhs with us. Can you please take her to one of our advisors?”
“Sure.” Bharath smiled politely. Being a boss is great, she thought. Her thoughts drifted to Jana. She tried to control her heavy breathing.
“Which of our senior advisor is free?” asked Venky.
“Neetu and Umesh are attending our clients. Roopak has left early today. Sathyaswaroop is free.”
“Oh I see.” Venkatesh exclaimed.
“He can’t handle this.” Bharath shrugged his shoulders. “He had been struggling with just few thousands of..” Venkatesh stopped, making sure not to reveal too much about his employee in front of the customer.
“Let us give him a chance.” Venkatesh assured.
“Ms. Harini, please meet Mr. Sathya – Our senior advisor. He is seated third in the right side. Bharath will accompany you.”
Harini walked out and headed to the third desk.
“Sathya.” Bharath called and waited for the guy at the desk to look up.
“She is Harini. She is here to invest a huge sum with us. Please advise her accordingly and get it done.” He gave a series of instructions and walked away.
As Harini sat at the desk, she eyed him for a long time, her look steady and intent.
She missed to notice how Sathya was struggling with the pamphlets that were placed on his desk.
“Madam, can you look at this?” he handed over a pamphlet. She felt he could hear him all the day. There was something in his voice.
She shifted her gaze from his face to the pamphlet. She nodded to most of what he spoke, without listening.
“Shall we go with this Plan 3-C9.5 Investment structure?” Sathya asked.
She nodded weakly, gesturing a ‘Yes’. She was still looking at his facial expressions, unassertive of what caught her attention.
She shot an inquisitive look at his face. Her eyes widenend. Her face reddened.
“Fix that.” She spoke for the first time. She gathered all the papers and walked straight to the manager room.
“Madam, if you are not fine, we can discuss a different plan.” Sathya tried to halt the woman who was now speeding away from him.
‘Oh My god!’ Sathya sighed. He raised his hand to stop the woman who was pacing swiftly. Bharath told him, her name, but, he forgot that too.
Sathya saw a deep discussion that went inside the manager’s room. He sighed. When he was assiduous in pointing out all the features, his clients wanted him to be crisp. When he stuck to the point, his clients wanted an elaborate explanation. ‘This time it was the latter.’ he thought to himself.
As she walked out of the bank, Sathya saw Bharath and Venky walking towards him.
“Oh God! No.” Sathya spoke out loud.
“What have you done, Sathya?” asked Venky.
That evening, after informing her dad, she locked herself in her room and plugged in the laptop charger and turned the device on.
She was looking for something serious, when her phone rang.
“Hey Harini , how did it go?” asked Rithu. Harini was still looking at her screen. “It was good Rithu. It was a timely help. Thank you.” Harini replied.
As Rithu was speaking, Harini tried to stop her in between. “Hey, do you know how to create a profile in matrimony site? Is it too tedious?” Harini asked.
“Huh, Not much. Just a bunch of info.”
“Ok, please stay online while I create one.”
“Hey, but why?”Rithu was shocked.
“Just a moment. I am almost done. ” Harini replied.
“Harini, what happened? What are you going to do with an ID?” as Rithu spoke, Harini cut her short.
“Hey Rithu, before you hang up, Can we meet tomorrow? I need to talk a lot.” Harini asked, after several minutes of surfing.
“Sure!” She heard her friend say. “Thanks dear, buh bye.” Harini cut the call.
‘Why was she in a mixed feeling?’ She wondered.
Jana’s thoughts overtook her. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“Sathya!” Radha exclaimed as he walked in. The evening had set in completely. The sky was dark.
He turned towards her.
“Sathya, we have got a reply to your profile. It looks like the girl is interested. I spoke to her parents. They are ok with the meeting.”Radha looked at Sathya’s face.
Radha showed him the laptop. She had kept the girl’s photo and profile ready. Sathya looked at the laptop.
Sathya looked at the profile picture. It was familiar.
“Please go ahead and meet her in the coffee shop this Sunday.”
“You mean the coming Sunday? Day After tomorrow?”
“Yes, just a day left.” Radha smiled.
He turned to her and smiled. “Ok, let me meet”.
Rithu saw the despaired Harini in front of her. They decided to meet for lunch. Harini delayed and they were there at 2.30 P.M.
The waiters were removing the heat chafing dishes off the buffet burner, as the lunch buffet ended.
A glass board shimmered in bright lights, highlighting the day’s special menu.
Under the date, which was written as 5th of March , there were a series of the day’s special menu.
Devil potato, dragon baby corn and honey chilli cauliflower topped the list.
Rithu saw Harini doodling in the menu card with her finger tip, with her thoughts struck somewhere.
“Just make it two fried rice.” Rithu saw the waiter leaving. “One devil potato too.“ Rithu called out to the moving waiter, unable to crumble her potato craving.
She turned towards Harini and snatched the menu card off Harini’s hand, folded it and placed it on the table.
“Harini , what is wrong?” Rithu asked.
“Where do I begin Rithu. I met Jana in person. He spoke, most of what I never wanted to hear.” Harini circled her eyes with her finger tips in despondency.
Rithu extended her hand to reach Harini’s shoulders and gave a gentle pat.
“It should be okay.” Rithu tried to convince. Rithu saw Harini’s eye glistening with tears.
“Chuck it, now what about the matrimony suddenly?” Rithu thought a different topic will help.
Harini raised her eyes to meet Rithu’s. “That was .. act…” Harini fumbled for words when something behind Rithu’s back caught her attention. She fixed her gaze behind Rithu. Rithu turned her head to see what was happening behind her.
“Jana.” Harini mumbled. Rithu searched in panic, when all that she could see was one of the waiters talking to the restaurant manager.
“Sir, the customer left his mobile. He was seated in table 34.” Rithu heard the waiter’s voice.
“Jana’s mobile.” Tears kissed Harini’s cheeks.
“From this point, I can’t even guess what the model it is. How are you so sure that it his mobile?” Rithu asked.
“The casing. That was my gift. The Letter H, he wrote it by himself. I am so sure, it is his mobile.” Harini paused as she got up. She decided to get the mobile.
It was almost 30 months ago.It was on Jana’s birthday.
“Give me your mobile.” Harini stood leaning against Jana’s bike. Jana shrugged his shoulders and handed over his mobile to her.
She revealed the gift she was hiding behind her back.
“A mobile casing!” Jana smiled.
“Not just a casing. Look what it is. A superman casing.” Harini showed the casing to Jana.
“You are my superman.” she moved closer to him, as she fitted his mobile in the casing.
“It is awesome.” Jana held Harini’s hand. He looked at the new casing for a few seconds. He smiled as he dug into his bag.
“What are you searching for?”Harini asked. He took out a permanent marker out of his bag.
He looked at the letter ‘S’ in yellow color, inscribed in the center of the superman’s chest. He opened the marker’s cap and meticulously wrote the letter ‘H’ in the center of the letter ‘S’.
“H for Harini. Always in this man’s heart.” He pointed to his heart with his right hand, the rear end of the marker casting its impression on his t-shirt.
“Not just a man. My superman.” She smiled at him, as she gently placed her head on his left shoulders.
That was almost year ago. The memories were still fresh in Harini’s mind. She recollected those as she walked towards the waiter. ‘Can I tell that is my husband’s phone? No, Uh.. Boy friend? No No, My Lover? Ok Better let me stick onto friend.’ Harini decided in her mind.
As she was few inches away from the waiter, “That is my friend’s phone..” The waiter heard a voice.
Harini and the waiter turned to the direction from where the voice was coming.
Harini was shocked to look at a young girl, almost of her age, dressed in a simple jean and tee.
“We left just a few minutes ago. As I was about to start the car, he told me that he had left the phone inside.” She extended her hands to the waiter, signaling him to hand over the mobile. The waiter hesitated for a moment.
Harini was listening to the girl in utter shock.
“If you don’t believe me, you can check the reservation list. I had reserved a table for two in my name. Also, we sat in the center table there,” the girl pointed to the table from where the waiter took the mobile phone.
“May I know your name please?” asked the restaurant manager as he scrolled through the reservation list.
“Amsa and Jana.” Harini heard the girl say. The name was oddly familiar.
“Full name , please.” The manager asked.
“Amsadhwani and Jannarthan.” The girl smiled. The manager nodded and the waiter handed over the phone to her.
“Amsadhwani.” The name echoed inside Harini‘s mind. This was not the first time she was hearing the name. All of a sudden Harini felt things falling into place. She stood there panting.
It was almost three years ago, they were celebrating the day on which their parents met and gave their acceptance. Harini’s cousins and his freinds demanded a treat after which they gathered at Harini’s house’s roof top.
Harini’s first cousin stood in the center as she ordered the crowd to form a circle. There were 12 of them.
“Thank you so much Harini and Jana for the sumptuous treat. Now it’s time to burn some calories. Yes, it is the game time. Yayyyy!! ” She shouted. “We are going to play the popular, ‘Never have I ever’ game.” She grinned.
Harini hit her head. “Shruthi, when are you going to leave out all these kinder garden games?” She sighed.
“Don’t listen to that female. All eyes on me. Let me tell you the rules. This is slightly different from the original.” Shruthi began. “I have all your names written and have the pieces of paper in that box. As we are seated, we can begin the game. I will be the host. I will pick up one chit from the box and will read out the name aloud. He/She should come to the center and stand beside me. I will then say ‘Never have I ever’ followed by some fun filled activity, which the person might or might have done. If you had never done it, you are safe. If it is otherwise, you have to give a small gist about it. That is all about this game. One last thing, since we do not know most of us, I might get some help from your friends, to pull your legs. ” Shruthi raised her eyebrow, waiting for the crowd to react.
“Looks like fun!” Most of them shouted and they began the game.
“Kiran.” Shruthi called out, taking out the first chit. One of Jana’s School friends stood up and came to the center.
Shruthi smiled. Jana called Shruthi and whispered secretly into her ears.
“Ok.Ok.” Shruthi came back to the center. “Never have I ever stalked a girl in Social networking site.” Shruthi smiled.
“Jana, you!” He gritted his teeth.
He then turned to the rest of them and replied. “I have.”
“Gist!” Few of them shouted.
“She was my sister’s friend. She looked cute. So I sent her a friend request. She did not accept. So I used to visit her profile daily, to check her updates. ” Kiran ran to his place with the relief of completing his task.
The game went on and Shruthi opened a chit to read Jana’s name.
Jana, who was standing in the middle, scratched his head.
Kiran came running to Shruthi. Shruthi smiled and winked at Harini as she got the question in her mind.
“Never have I ever had a first love.” Shruthi smiled
“Woooo.” her cousins exclaimed unanimously.
“Silence. Jana sir, please.” Shruthi smiled notoriously.
Harini smiled. She knew what the answer was. He had once told her about the love he had for a girl in his eleventh standard.
“I have.” He replied. Few of his friends whistled.
“And now for the gist.” Shruthi reminded.
“It was a girl in my school. She was my first love. Of course, single sided love. The girl did not return my love, when I tried to talk to her indirectly about it. I was heartbroken at first and then wondered whether it was a serious love or just attraction. As his life moved on, I slowly forgot the craze and love I had for her.” He paused, as he felt the question had revived his ten year old story in ten seconds.
“Name.” The group demanded.
He slowly uttered her name and swallowed hard. There were sweat beads all over his forehead.
That was the first time Harini heard the girl’s name.
“What?” Most of her cousins looked at Harini, while few of Jana’s friends clapped for his bravery.
“I knew it was coming, Chill guys. Just relax. He had told me about it. I just forgot her name or I guess he did not tell me her name.” she spoke as she walked towards Jana.
She picked up her dupatta and wiped the sweat off his forehead.
“It is ok dear.” She smiled.
“Awwwww!” The women in the group exclaimed together.
“I am sorry.” He repented. “Don’t be.” Harini smiled. “It was just infatuation. It is not worth the hype.” Harini winked.
“You took it so easily?” One of Jana’s friends asked.
“Of course yes. You will know the value of something only if you had, had it once and lost it. When it comes to you for the second time, you will be more cautious than ever, not to lose it.” Harini paused to smile. “Jana assured me that she would not appear again and even if she does, he would not give a damn about it.” Harini smiled at Jana.
“Absolutely. No one else matters except my Harini. She is my everything. I forgot the past incidents. She is my present and she will be my future.” Jana held Harini close to him.
“Wow!!!!! Beautiful. Touchwood.” Harini’s first cousin spoke and the group proceeded with the game.
Rithu’s warm hands brought Harini to the present.
“All those harsh words and evasion from me were for his first love? He snubbed me for another woman?” Harini spoke as tears rolled down. Rithu pulled her by her arm.
“Let us go. Dont cry Harini. We are being watched. Come let us go.” She pulled her.
Harini followed Rithu, her thoughts stuck with his words.
She walked, ignoring the stone that hit her little toe.
“Harini is my present. She will be my future.” His voice echoed. He had betrayed her. As they travelled back, her mind drifted through series of emotion, breaking down into terrible tears.
Rithu could not make out what was going on. She knew Harini was in turmoil. Rithu did not question her.
Harini hid her tears and ran into her room.
She was shocked how vexation and angst hit her mind at the same time. She shut her eyes in anguish.
‘All of a sudden I feel like a beggar, running behind him for his attention, when he was happily avoiding me for her.’ She spoke to herself, aloud, few drops of her tears glided through her soft lips into her mouth as her lips moved.
Her tears tasted salty. Her life tasted bitter.
The sky did not fall down, for her to cry terribly. Her love and her belief were shattered into numerous pieces, when she heard Amsa briefing about their lunch date to the waiter.
The moment she came to know that he had chosen another woman over her, her heart broke.
She nodded her head in fury, as if something ran in her mind.
She took her mobile and unlocked it.
Her fingers automatically went to the phone’s dialler to call him.
‘No.’ She shook her head.
She opened her texting app.
‘Amsadhwani.’ She sent the text.
Few miles away, Jana was in a panic.
“Are you sure it was Harini?”
“Yes. I guess the same girl. “Amsa spoke as she pointed to a photo in Jana’s mobile. “I was busy talking to the waiter, so I did not note her face clearly, but she stood in utter shock as she watched me talk.”
“Oh, No. I need to talk to her immediately. I could refrain from justifying myself only until she knew that you are back. I need to talk to her now.” He bit his lip as he shook his head.
It was when his mobile beeped.
“Oh my god. Its Harini.” He dialed her number immediately.
He was reminded of her sweet voice.
“Har..” he began, but her stern voice cut him short.
“I want to talk to you. Let us meet tomorrow in the coffee shop.”
“Harini, Just a seco..”
“Everything else tommrrow. See you tomorrow. I hope you won’t let me down the second time. Meet me, If I still mean a little to you. ” Her curt reply reached his ears.
There was a long silence. The line went dead.
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