“Stop! Please!” Aaryan shrieked, sitting bolt upright. A glassful of cold water had splashed on his face.
“That was the last option, son!” Aaryan’s mother said. In her hand, she held up a glass which she had just emptied upon him.
“You could’ve simply nudged me up, mom” Aaryan protested, wiping off his drenched face with pillow cover.
“Simply wake you up? Is it?” she asked, rolling her eyes with a look of sarcasm, “Even when a horde of noisy alarm clocks cannot jolt you from your sturdy stupor! Aaryan, it is 9 a.m., an important day, lots of work and you are dozing off like free from all the worldly worries! I ask you!”
“Alright, alright,” Aaryan said in a resigned voice as he yawned widely.
“Either get ready within half-an-hour or bid goodbye to breakfast!” she scolded. Aaryan simply grimaced, his stomach rumbling with sudden hunger.
Lazily stretching his arms, he got off from his bed, put on his spectacles and stared at wall mirror. A tall, twenty-eight year old bespectacled finance manager, with disheveled curly hairs, chubby cheeks and rotund stomach occupying the entire mirror, stared back at him. Following the inevitable idiosyncrasy that no human could ever escape, Aaryan combed his hair with his fingers, exhaled deeply, flattened his stomach with all his might, held his chest high and allowed himself the smugly pleasure to admire his altered image for few seconds until his breath gave away and his belly protruded proudly out once more.
Anisha will again give me a piece of her mind, he thought eyeing his bulky figure with anxiety. Anisha – his fiancée, his love of life – always had a go on about Aaryan’s health and habits. Finally, after much coaxing, coercing and nagging, Aaryan had joined a gym. The first day had been pretty exciting with all the new ambience, sophisticated machines, colorful health drinks and encouraging instructors. Aaryan had found himself beaming with pleasure and thanking Anisha a million for this novelty-habit. However, the next day had greeted him with assault of muscle pains, agonizing aches, and all his beefed up motivation punctured into lethargy once again.
“Stay away from three old sticking buddies – Indiscipline, carelessness and laziness! I tell you. You’ll be happier.” Aaryan’s father would always reprimand.
“You’ve grown up, Aaryan,” his mother would attack him with her favorite sentence, “Now you are going to get married! It’s now or never!”
And then, Anisha would also add her share when they would sometimes argue – “Aaryan, you are my favorite and will always be. I am just asking you to adopt slight discipline in your life!”
Of course, Aaryan was an intelligent young man, having successfully secured a well paid job in a reputed company. But his three old sticking buddies had also secured him a well-earned, infamous reputation of a guy getting reprimands from his superiors at least three days a week!
Shaking off such thoughts, Aaryan envisioned the day that would unfold, and a benign smile etched on his lips. The day was very special: Anisha’s Birthday. He had already wished her exactly at midnight and they had planned to celebrate a quiet, romantic birthday at a restaurant. From days he had been planning to gift her something worth to remember, a token of love and appreciation. At last, after much discussion with his parents and friends, he had bought a precious, expensive diamond ring.
Yesterday, he had kept the ring in his office drawer (“Careless of you! You should’ve kept it in home!” his father had admonished); he would take leave from his office at evening and meet Anisha at a pre-decided restaurant. He sanguinely imagined himself happily sliding the ring onto her finger, with Anisha smiling her dimpled, engaging smile and tingling with sheer joy. The romanticized images made his spirits soar high in the world of dreams.
Aaryan shaved hurriedly, got ready, struggled hastily to look his best and breakfasted at a breakneck speed. Wearing the battered, unpolished shoes (“the way you do small things tells a lot about the way you will do the big ones!” his mother shouted after him), he set off for his office, dreaming about Anisha.
Aaryan reached his office (got an icy glare from his superior) and focused on completing the routine work. The mountainous pile of disordered files often made him irritated but not today. Of course the day was special, his mood buoyant. He glanced at the velvety black blazer that was wrapped around his chair in his chamber, which he would wear in evening. The blazer was old yet impressive. He usually wore it in official meetings and therefore kept it in the office itself. The blazer was also Anisha’s favorite. He reached for the drawer in his table where the ring was kept, but then stopped short as someone entered.
“Hey Aaryan! What’s up?” Manish, a colleague, asked Aaryan, “Looking cheerful today,”
“Anisha’s Birthday,” said Aaryan importantly.
“Oho! The special one!” Manish winked and punched him playfully, “This means a special gift!”
“Oh yeah,” Aaryan replied, thinking whether or not to tell Manish about the diamond ring.
“What’s the special gift you are offering to your soul mate to win her heart?” Manish whispered teasingly.
“Umm,” Aaryan bit back the temptation to reveal but then, out of excitement, told discreetly, “A diamond ring. But no need to crack this news, Manish” he added as Manish looked agog at this piece of information.
“Of course not…”
As Manish walked out of the chamber, Aaryan glanced at the locked drawer of his table and felt a wave of joyful Goosebumps. The ring was there, ready to perch itself on the beautiful finger of his beautiful fiancée just hours from now. Instinctively, he took out the keys from his pocket, reached for his drawer to have a look at it, but before he could do so, the door of his chamber opened.
“Aaryan,” Aryan’s superior, Mr. Gupta had stepped in, “Come in my chamber, right now. An urgent work needs to get completed.”
“Yes sir,” Aaryan obeyed and followed suit, glancing fondly at the drawer as he left his chamber.
Evening followed morning with quite haste. Aaryan, having completed the urgent work his boss had given, had his lunch. The day was passing fine, not a single reprimand from his superiors. Outside, the weather was breezy and soothing. He glanced at his watch- 4.30 p.m.
And now for an exhilarating evening! It’s show time! Thought Aaryan as he donned on the blazer and cleansed his shoes with a blank paper. He took the keys out from his pocket, reached for the drawer and unlocked it. A balloon of elation inflating inside him, he opened the drawer.
The balloon burst…
For one second, Aaryan’s hungry eyes scanned the drawer like a gold scavenger. Next second, a sudden panic pulsed inside him even as he let out an involuntary gasp. The ring was not there!
Where? What the – It can’t be – Heart thumping fast, his hands fumbled around the mundane things in the drawer – papers, pens, clips, staples – but the ring was nowhere. Impossible! Trepidation and tension attacking him, he searched the second drawer, the third one, under the table, in the shelf, among the mess of files but to no avail. The ring had vanished!
God help, God help! Please help! Aaryan kept pleading as if repeating the mantra would bring the ring back. He slumped on his chair, his hands on his head, his eyes closed, racking his brains. He was sure, absolutely certain that he had kept the ring in the drawer. So how can it simply evaporate? Aaryan cursed and then an unsettling answer dawned on him. Dread filled his mind. The ring was stolen.
Aaryan cursed himself, as he stood up and started pacing to and fro in his chamber. How could he be so negligent?! Why had he not listened to his parents and kept the expensive ring in his home? How could he be so woefully and abysmally stupid?
“Why?” he questioned himself with agitation, punching his head with his fist. But who could have stolen? The keys were with me!
Faces of everyone in office from peons, to staffs, to colleagues, to superiors flashed in his mind’s eyes, every face virtually stamped as “Suspect”. But he couldn’t help it; the damage was done. The unnerving reality stood in front of him, laughing at his misery. He could practically hear his parents and Anisha’s voice branding him with infamous titles.
Aaryan jumped as his phone rang- Anisha calling. For the first time, he felt a pang of guilt at seeing the name.
“Hello, Sweetheart!” with herculean effort, Aaryan managed to sound cheerful.
“Hi, honey,” the sweet voice replied, “I am leaving from my office now. Where are you?”
“Well, hmmm, I am leaving too. Meet you in half an hour,” Aaryan said, wiping off the sweat from his forehead.
“What about my surprise gift?” Anisha’s voice suggested she was bouncing with excitement. The question, however, was like a stab of knife to Aaryan.
“You don’t want me to ruin your surprise,” Aaryan replied.
“Okay, I can wait! Meet you soon. Don’t be late!” Anisha said and hung up.
Exactly how would Anisha react when she would know about the so called “surprise” turning into a “shock”, Aaryan did not want to think…
Hyperventilating, Aaryan reached the restaurant, holding a bouquet of roses. He took deep breaths to calm his nerves and forced himself to wear a smile. All the time, on his way to restaurant, he had been thinking of giving something else to Anisha’s but no ideas visited his disquiet mind. Of course, there would be cake and roses. But the gift…Aaryan could not think how to tell. He had not informed his parents, too.
And there was Anisha – looking radiant and beautiful as usual – waving at him with a dimple smile. The sight of her always made him buoyant and happy. But today, waves of guilt frequently assaulted him.
“Happy birthday, Anisha!” Aaryan chorused, offering the bouquet. “Oh…Lovely. Thank you, Aaryan,” Anisha trilled with joy. So the pleasantries and chitchatting went on with Aaryan trying his best to look and sound calm and happy. The cake was cut, the food and drinks were ordered, and whenever Anisha covertly broached the topic of her “Gift”, Aaryan somehow glossed over, changing the topic tactfully. But for how long he could escape? Finally-
“You know, Aaryan, I am patiently waiting to get surprised by my surprise gift!” Anisha implored, “Okay, see, I am closing my eyes. So you can proceed,”
“Wait, wait” Aaryan said, thinking wildly to improvise. “Okay, you sit here…please excuse me…coming from washroom. And then, your surprise gift.”
“Okay,” she agreed.
Now what? Aaryan thought, as he entered the washroom. I’ve to tell her. I can’t lie to Anisha! Okay you can do this. Go! Just blurt out the truth and just stay calm to whatever happens.
He hurriedly washed his face and unconsciously put his hand inside his blazer for handkerchief…and felt a hard small object…Aaryan stiffened as he pulled the object…Heavens goodness! He nearly shouted an electric current coursing through him as he watched, wide eyed. There, on his palm, was the small transparent ring case and inside the ring case was a diamond ring…something stirred in his memory and a staggering realization and truth hit him!
Now, he remembered…oh, how careless he was. Yesterday night, he had definitely put the ring case into his drawer. But before leaving the office, he had extricated the ring case to admire it, wore on the blazer and rehearsed alone in his chamber how he would present the gift to his beloved. And then, an urgent phone call had come from his boss’s chamber. While listening to his superior’s reprimands and chastises during the call, he had unconsciously and inadvertently put the ring case in the blazer’s pocket, hung the blazer around his chair, locked the drawer and rushed to his boss’s chamber. His mind had become so distracted while working late at night under his superior’s glare that he had forgotten this small act of sheer folly. And today, he had looked everywhere but not cared to look into the blazer’s pocket. Wild goose chase!
I am to blame. They were right! I have to be more alert and disciplined. Life has taught me a good lesson. Thought Aaryan, deeply moved and feeling an overwhelming desire to laugh at the bizarre turn of events.
“And now it’s high time to surprise Anisha by my surprise gift!” Aaryan whispered to himself walking towards Anisha, thanking the heavens, feeling relieved and different…