She never knew when her alarm went off. It was 6.30, when she woke up. She dressed herself fast and left for office.
The competition was just three days away.
Harini sat on the cafeteria squishing her cheeks in between her palm, enjoying her meal.
“What is with this competition and all about? You have been so much occupied with it.”, asked Preetha, as she poked into a big piece of watermelon.
“Yes. I am really hoping to win it. Abhi has been motivating me so much into it. ” Harini smiled.
“I don’t like that guy.”, Preetha blurted out.
“What is the problem with you? What did he really do to you?”
“I don’t know. Probably you don’t have time for me, as you did before and it is only after this guy came into your life.”, Preetha shrugged her shoulders.
“Hey, come on. Sorry if am not spending time with you. But, that is because ‘Home away Home’ got a little bigger.”
Preetha turned her head away. Harini leapt and turned her face towards her.
“You are the most important person in my life, Harini.”, Preetha spoke, her voice shaky.
“You too are, dear.”
“I can understand that it becomes difficult to spend time when responsibilities increases. I know we could never be the same, spending a lot of time, in the long run. Just say, once you get married, things will change. But somehow, I don’t like him.”Preetha shook her head.
“I really have not thought much about marriage yet. In fact, I am not even sure, who he is to me.”
“See. This is your problem. I told in general. I did not speak about marrying him. See where your mind relates.”, Preetha frowned.
“Hey, I am sorry.”, Harini smiled and pulled Preetha by arm.
“I am just concerned about you dear. Don’t chase your dream and lose yourself in it. I wish you could take some extra care.”
Preetha was emotional, in fact a lot, yet sweet. Harini knew it was where she had to stop.
Harini nodded, silently. She did not want to talk about this to Preetha further. It was clear she did not like Abhi. But that was not the case with Harini.
Sree saw the date twice. That was what his mobile showed as the current date.
Just a little more than couple of weeks, he thought. He sat on his bed, slowly going through his mobile gallery.
There were a lot of pictures of Harini and him. Most of it was taken in and around Chennai. It was surprising for him, how Harini could not feel it the same way as he did.
He was disheartened when the wedding was fixed. He was now a happy man. He knew Harini called it off. He smiled.
It was just a few days. He could slowly start telling her what she is to him. He wanted her to believe no one would ever take care of her more than him. He would safeguard her as the Apple of his eye; he already was.
Harini hadn’t known all these days. But now, it is the time to tell her. No one ever understood Harini better. He did; he will.
She was his future. Nothing restricted him from opening up right the next moment. But that was not what he wanted for. He wanted to look at her; her eyes; he wanted to freeze every minuscule reaction of hers in his mind as he unfolds his love for her.
He smiled at the mobile again. Few more days, he told himself.
The big day had arrived.
Abhi called her twice the previous night. He confirmed he would take her to the competition.
The contenders had to be there at 10 A.M. Abhi was there at her home at 7.30. He made sure there was no delay.
Harini was busy tying her hair into a pony tail.
“All set?” , he asked. She nodded. She looked tensed.
“Harini”, Abhi called slowly.
He came close, close enough to make her see herself in his eyes.
“What do you see in my eyes?” , he asked.
“My own self. “, she replied.
“That is good. Do you know what I see in your eyes?”
She shrugged her shoulders.
“Anxiety.”, he continued.
“Do you really know what I would like to see?” he paused for a minute and continued, “Determination.”
“Come”, he made her sit on her couch. He walked into the kitchen and walked out with a glass of water.
“Take a sip.” he handed over the glass.
“There is nothing to be anxious about. All that you should have in your mind, at this moment, is just the way to maneuver things at the competition. I know the result is huge; if you have a chance to get a column in the magazine, it is going to be great. But, on top of everything, I want you to be your own self. I want you to go and do your best. Go for it casually, as you would walk into your kitchen daily. I believe you can put up a spectacular show. There might be new things there compared to your kitchen. It is your first competition. Just remember, there is nothing that could stop you. If you feel you are cornered on all sides, there will be a new way; if there is none, create it. Do it your way. The rest is not in our hands. Whatever the result of the competition is going to be, I know my Harini will make me hold my head high and say, ‘She is the one.’ ” , he smiled.
She looked at him, carefully listening to all that his lips spoke and all that his eyes did not speak. When the last time was, when someone had encouraged her to do what she loved, she wondered.
The word “My Harini”, which, flew from his mouth was a serendipitous surprise for Harini. Am I his? She thought.
“All Set?”, Abhi asked her again.
She replied a “Yes.”, with determination. Nothing could boost her like his mere presence.
She locked the house and walked fast.
As she took the seat, Abhi ignited the car engine.
“Can you please turn on the map?”, he asked Harini. She nodded and directed him.
As they drove for fifteen minutes, Harini told him that they had to go straight for the next 1.5 kms and then a right.
As he looked straight through storm of vehicles, Harini looked at him. She was not sure how long she had been looking at him. She came back to her senses, when Abhi turned to look at her.
“Don’t look at me.”, he spoke.
She was startled. “But why?”, she thought.
“It is difficult to drive.”, he smiled. “So where are we, we are supposed to take a right, is it the coming one?”, Abhi asked pointing to the next right.
“Oops.”, Harini said it loud. “We have missed the right.” She said, in panic. Abhi slowed the car, trying to reverse it. As he saw there was a no-parking sign behind, he reversed the car. He applied the brake, when he felt the car hit something, followed by a loud thud.
“Oh my God.”, Abhi banged the steering.
“What happened?”, Harini asked in panic. “I hit a vehicle that was parked behind. It had a ‘no-parking’ sign. So I just watched out for moving vehicles.”, he shook his head.
“I am sorry. I should have told you about the right well ahead.”, Harini replied.
“That is ok. Just be seated here. I will be right back.” Abhi came out of the car, to check on the vehicle. It was a bike. The damage was not bad. In fact his car had bigger scratches. The bike’s mud guard was bent and there were few dents.
The area people had gathered. The bike’s owner, who was standing at the nearby shop, rushed to the scene and started inspecting his bike.
Abhi looked at his watch. It was already 8.30 A.M.
“Sorry Sir.”, he apologized.
“Sorry for what? Park your vehicle there.”, the bike’s owner showed a corner. “You are not moving until you fix It.” the guy snarled pointing to his bike.
Abhi looked at his watch and the brawny arms of the guy. He decided to tackle with the former.
He looked at his watch again. They had less than an hour to reach there. The bike could never be fixed within that, he thought.
Harini peeped out, trying to see what was happening.
“Saaar, bitbidi saaar!”, she heard him say. She saw him pleading to the guy. She felt sorry for him. She bit her lip and shook her head.
He spoke few more words mixing kannada and English, every time showing his watch. He was doing it for her, she realized.
All of a sudden she saw Abhi plunging 3 thousand rupee notes in his hands. He came rushing towards the car.
“Guess it is not late. We will still make it in time.”, Abhi smiled. She looked at him, astonished.
“Those damages were not worth three thousand bucks.” She spoke in dismay.
“That is ok. I really do not want to goad you into more hassle.”
She looked at him stunned.
“At this moment it is just the competition that is important.” he continued as she still looked at him.
“Madam, let us not miss the right this time.”, he smiled.
The completion commenced at 10 A.M. Abhi stood beside the cooking station, where Harini began her work.
To the contestants’ surprise, in the first round of the competition, they had to cook the same dish, which they had uploaded.
They would be judged and the five, most impressive dishes, moved on to the second round. The cumulative score was considered for deciding the winner.
Harini almost bent half her height, probing her head into the chopping board.
Abhi smiled at her.
He was looking at her, chopping the herbs for her flavored rice.
He loved her, more than he thought he would. He let out a sigh.
Half an hour flew in a jiffy.
It was in the last Thirty minutes, Abhi noticed that Harini was speaking to the organizer. He saw her face turning grim. He sensed something was wrong. His mind raced, as what it could be. He checked her cooking dock. All elements were in place. It looked as though, plating was the only thing left to do.
“What else could it be?”, he wondered. “With only plating left, what is she checking with him?”, he forced his mind to think hard. “Plating; Presentation; plating…”, his mind raced, and then it struck him. “Plate…”, he remembered. She used a peculiar plate. He could not remember the name. “… That should be missing here.”, he nodded his head as he spoke to himself.
He met her fret filled eyes.
He did not want her to lose her sangfroid.
He smiled and nodded his head in aplomb. She smiled back, as if she got the Assurance his smile gave.
He approached the organizer, checking with him, if he can bring it now. The organizer, who did not expect this to happen, had to accept Abhi’s idea and he let him buy one for her.
Abhi checked his watch. He had 27 minutes left. He can never think about the car which he has parked. Taking his car out will cost him more than 15 minutes.
He thought quickly.
He used his map to identify the shop where the plate was available. The shop was 15 minutes away by walk.
He took an auto. The shop keeper took a lot of time to locate the plate and much more time to bill. Abhi checked his watch. He had only 10 more minutes. He rushed the auto driver to go as fast as he could. Traffic jams and red signals caused him few more minutes.
‘Bengaluru traffic!’, he sighed.
Harini had only two minutes left when the wooden plate was handed over to her. Abhi stood there panting, wiping the sweat off his face. Harini looked at his face as she placed the sizzler plate on the stove top.
Few of his hair strands stuck to his forehead; his shirt well soused with sweat.
She had troubled him way too much, she thought.
She noticed that the time was ticking away. She had only few seconds left. Harini removed the plate off the stove. She knew it was not hot enough to sizzle.
As she carefully plated the rice, the aroma did not rise as it did at home. Her face reddened.
Abhi, from a distance, could sense that, definitely there was a problem. He could neither hear the sound nor smell the aroma.
He cursed himself. He should have been faster. He hid his disappointment. He worried whether it would cost her some points. He was petrified to think that the deciding scores were cumulative.
Had he been quicker, he could have brought the plate earlier.
“3,2,1. Your time is up. Wow. That was an enthralling cooking, isn’t it?” , The organizer spoke, marking the end of the first round.
The contestants were called one by one for the taste test.
“We really appreciate your effort. The plate should have been hotter to spread the flavor across the dish. You see the cabbage leaves, they are still raw, which implies there was no heat and without heat, it is just a plate of few independent dishes, put together. Unfortunately, heat is the binding element here.”, judges pointed at Harini’s plate.
“But, nevertheless to say, every dish in this plate tastes amazing. I love the potato wedges, they are still crisp, finely roasted. We really understand the amount of techniques that has gone into this one plate of food. You either win this competition or not, but, you will definitely make it big in the food industry.”, they added.
She made sure not to show her emotions. It would in turn hurt Abhi. She knew it well. She wanted to be sensible and wise.
The taste test was over. The organizer came up with the mic again.
“Thank you all for the wonderful cooking. There were five dishes which impressed our panel of judges. And nevertheless to say, the makers of those five dishes would be competing in the second and the final round, to win the cash prize of 5000 rupees, a free one year subscription of our new magazine Flavours and an opportunity to own and write a column in every edition.” , he completed his announcement, eliciting the contestants with an extra zap to win the competition.
One of the judges took over the mic, calling the names, entering the final round.
“The first person to enter the finals is, Ms. “, he paused in an attempt to build the suspense.
“The first person to enter the finals is, Ms. “, he paused in an attempt to build the suspense.
“Ms. Deepika. Your score will be up soon. Now you can step forward.” The judge signaled her to move. A lady in her late twenties swaggered with a grin.
Abhi looked at Harini, who fixed her eyes at the dais. She stood there biting her lower lips. She turned in a reflex to look at Abhi, who was standing hands tied at the back. He blinked his eyes and nodded, assuring her a million things. She fluttered her eyelids and smiled back, as if she got everything he assured.
“ …. And that is why Mr.Prakash, you are the second to enter the finals. “ They heard the judges say.
Abhi tried to hide his disappointment. He wanted her to make it up. He was confident about her cooking, but he was worried that, the delay he caused might put her down.
“She gave us a platter.” The judge stopped. Abhi’s eyes beamed with bliss. “ the flavoured rice and the potato wedges .. whoa.. it was an experience tasting your dish and that is why Ms.Harini, you are the third to walk into the second round.” Abhi clapped as hard as he could. Harini moved forward amidst the sound of cheer. She turned to look at him, who gave her a thumb up.
The fourth and the fifth contestants were two middle aged women.
The finals began after a short interim.
Abhi was waiting for the ten minute interval.
Harini came running to him.
“I don’t have enough words to thank you. I could not imagine a dish without the plate.”, she spoke looking into his eyes.
“Come on. Just forget about all that. I was scared, it might put you down. Thank goodness. You were just awesome, my beautiful chef.” , he smiled.
Eight minutes were already up.
“It is time for the final phase off.” , Abhi and Harini turned simultaneously as they heard the organizer speak.
She nodded and walked fast towards the cooking station. She suddenly stopped. She came running to Abhi.
“Look at the board. I need to have a strategy to move two positions up. I will strive and do all I can. You know for what? Not for the prize amount, not for the column in the magazine, not for home away home, not for my passion, not for me, but …. “She paused and touched his shoulders. His shirt was still damp out of sweat. The moisture stuck to her fingers. She showed him her fingers “… but for this. For you , for all your selfless travail. I will win this. I will win it for you.” She ran, her pony tail dancing to the rhythm of her run.
The ingredients were numbered beforehand and were placed in front. The contestants randomly picked a piece of paper and were asked not to open it. Once the judges gave a green signal, he contestants opened the paper to get to know the number. Harini had got number four and it was a musk melon. Abhi did not know what she had in mind. All that he could see was an undaunted and pertinacious Harini at work. She ran to the oven to place the baking pan in.
Harini decided to make a savory musk melon soufflé.
When there was half an hour left, the test batch which Harini had placed in the oven was ready. She took it out and inserted a skewer. It was done. She tried to unmold it in a plate. She dehydrated the muskmelon skin and powdered it for dusting over the top. As she unmolded it, her mouth fell agape.
She could not believe her eyes.
She found the soufflé to crumble and fall. Harini was disappointed. She let out a sigh. She did not have time to prepare another batter. Her decision to make eggless soufflé did not work. It did not hold its shape.
It was not working out. She just had twenty five minutes. It was the exact amount of time the soufflé took to bake. She thought hard. She saw Abhi, who stood clueless, why she was all distorted. She looked at him.
She shook her head.
Abhi could sense something was not working; but he did not know what it was.
All that he did was, to cup his hand around his mouth and shout “Go Harini. You can do it.”
She heard him. She made up her mind not to give up. She wanted to put things together. She wanted to win this for him.
She did not waste further time. She mind raced.
She looked at him. He smiled. “Just Go for it!”, she read his lips. She looked at the crumbled soufflé.
“If you feel you are cornered on all sides, there will be a new way; if there is none, create it”, his voice lingered in her head.
She nodded to herself, as though she brought back the tenacity.
She was trying to find a way, find a corner to overcome, while still looking at the ramekin.
She smiled as if something flashed. He was happy to see her smile.
She worked quickly. It was a good sign, he thought.
She grabbed few coffee mugs and poured her batter into it and stuffed them into the oven. The dehydrated skin powder was sitting on the cooking bench undisturbed.
Harini sliced the fruit and dressed the slices with a musk melon, raisin and herb jus. When it came down to less than five minutes, she took out the coffee mugs from the oven.
She carefully placed them on a plate, placed a spoon and fork beside. She meticulously sifted the skin powder on top. Abhi craned his neck to get a better picture.
He was not sure why she had to dust on top of the spoon. As he watched, she slowly took off the spoon and fork, which left an artistic impression of the fork, in white, the color of the plate and the surrounding, in bright orange dust.
Harini looked down at her plate. She made sure not to take out the soufflé off her baking dish. It got deconstructed only when removed off the ramekin. Her idea was to bake it in a dish, with which she could serve. She chose the coffee mug.
She smiled, few feet away Abhi smiled too.
Harini looked at the board. Deepika topped the list with 27 on 30, while Prakash trailed by two points. He stood second with 25. Harini scored 23, followed by Malini and Aruna with 22 and 21 respectively.
“4 points.” she reminded herself.
The final cooking was over. It was time for the taste test.
Prakash’s dish scored a 23, making a total of 48.
Aruna and Malini scored a 21 each, making 43 and 42 respectively.
The next to the taste test was Harini. She walked, holding her plate.
The judges were completely impressed with her dish. They applauded her creativity.
“Excellent.”, she heard the judges say in unison.
“There is nothing big we could say about this dish, except that it Is food heaven.”, once of the judges appreciated her. “I love the idea of serving it in a coffee mug. It hides the crumbly texture.”, another judge laughed.
To her surprise and Abhi’s ecstasy, she scored a score of 27 on 30.
She made total of 50 on 60. She turned back, looking at Deepika’s dish. She was the last to the taste test.
The judges were impressed with her dish too. She scored a 8 from the first two judges.
Harini’s heart beat rose rapidly. She could hear it herself. She closed her eyes.
Abhi tried to calculate hard. Deepika has to score 6 or below for Harini to win.
“That was a good cooking and that is why, I scored your dish, 8.”, the third judge in the panel, smiled.
“So 27 and 24, makes it 51. You are still leading in the score board, winning in this competition. Congratulations. ” , the judges smiled.
Deepika was over joyed. She had won the competition. People, who accompanied her, came running to her.
Abhi walked towards Harini. He felt he should be by her side. He smiled at her. He found few drops of tears rushing out of her eyes.
She let out a sigh. She looked at Abhi. She had failed him. He wanted her to win this competition to get the opportunity for owning a column in the Flavours magazine.
“I let you down. I am sorry.”
“First of all; there is nothing to regret. If at all you are sorry, be for yourself. “, he paused. The tear drop escaped her lower lash and fell onto her cheeks. She hid it with her finger.
“You did a great job. As I told you, I will hold my head high and say, you were the one who gave the best dish to score the highest in the final round. “ Abhi spoke placing his hands around her shoulders. The touch was comforting. She needed one. Abhi knew it.
“The dish was shola, right.” Abhi asked in a low tone.
“No. Soufflé”, she smiled.
“That’s what I want.” he replied. She looked at him crooking her brows. “No, not the soufflé, I meant the smile.”, he raised his eyebrow.
The organizer took over the mic and congratulated Deepika. As he was about to end the recap, of what Deepika won, something he spoke, caught everybody’s attention.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I have an important announcement to make.”, he paused.
“Ms. Harini , we apologize, for not having the sizzler plate with us. We all know it was a last minute panic. There is a special request from the judges, to us. In spite of trailing behind by four points, you made it to the runner up position, with the highest score in your second round. As per the points table, though you are the runner up, the judges wanted to hand over a special prize to you.” He paused.
Harini looked at Abhi. He patted her gently on her shoulders and asked her to listen to the organizer.
“You win the ‘Special Award’ for today, a runner up trophy and an opportunity to own a column in the Flavors magazine, every fortnight. As per the competition norm, we cannot give you the prize money or the free subscription. Hence this special award.“, he smiled wide, inviting Harini and Deepika to the dais.
Harini looked at Abhi with glee and solemn gratitude.
Abhi looked away, hiding his tears of joy, while his lips curled up in a triumphant smile. He wanted her to win, more than anybody.
They sat close, looking at wide spread Chinnapanhalli lake.
It was his idea to drive to the lake which was almost more than half hour travel from the newspaper office.
Earlier that evening, “How do you want to celebrate this moment ?” asked Abhi,as they walked back to car parking, after the competition.
“Take me somewhere. I need to talk to you.” She replied. He drove her to the lake. It was walker’s paradise.
“This is wonderful.” She exclaimed as they reached. The wide spread water and the rich flora and fauna captivated her.
“This is a hidden gem. Only the residents nearby know about it. Though the timings are limited, it is one of the best places to deify nature. “ Abhi extolled.
There they sat, close to each other. She looked at the trophy, which glinted in the evening light.
Abhi turned to look at her. She looked beautiful against the reddish orange horizon.
She let out a sigh.
“Well, where do I begin?” , she shook her head, fumbling for words. “Thank you so much.”, she exclaimed.
“This is the fifth time. If you had to thank me, you could have done that over there. I thought you had something else in mind.” Abhi cracked the ice.
She sat in hesitance. She was not sure where to begin.
“Abhi, I did not imagine even in my weirdest dream that I would sit with a guy amidst the sound of water, fumbling for words.” She paused. He looked at her.
‘Those two golden eyes are making me go crazy.’ She thought, turning her head away.
“I thought about this, for so long. You … “she let out a sigh. She took a deep breath looking at the water.
“I know.” he replied, as though he heard her mind.
“What?”, she asked.
“I know. You are fumbling for words. Words are not necessary when your eyes say it all.“ he smiled. She turned to him in a reflex. He moved closer to her.
“The four letter ingredient is LOVE. you had cooked with love for me.” He whispered in her ears, looking directly into her eyes. She was not able to behold the warmth emanated from his eyes.
“Abhi!, you knew it? Did you hear it that day?” , Harini was effusing about the fact that he had heard her the other day.
He found her smile fading away and her expressions turning hard.
“When you heard it that day, why did not you reciprocate? Can you imagine how it had hurt me? I understood you had an emergency. But you could have told me after that.”, she frowned.
“I could have, Harini. But I chose not to. Please don’t have your face grim.”, he smiled and continued his talk.
“I chose not to because, I did not want to distract you. I wanted you to win the competition at any cost. If we had spoken about it prior, I am pretty sure you would have just spent a lot of time thinking about me, about our relationship and what not? ” He paused.
She did not look convinced.
“I did not want to stand in between you and your dream. I wanted you to win this more than anyone else.”
She turned towards him in a reflex. She did not think about it in this perceptive.
“The love you told me was, just the icing on the cake. You thought you expressed your love , for the first time the other day. But it was just the icing. You had been building that beautiful cake of love, extemporaneously. You made me hear it that day, but you made me realize it long back. The love in your heart came through your words that day. But it reached me through your cooking long back. “
“Your eyes and the delicious food on your plate, conveyed it all, even when you said nothing at all.”
“Abhi.” She called in a low tone.
She looked still. “Abhi, how could you interpret all of this?”
“Are we dealing with Math or Physics, to interpret? This was what we felt in and about each other. “
She thought she was there to talk. But he had felt it all. But how, she wondered.
“Your eyes…”he started to talk, answering her silent question.
“Your eyes Harini; Your eyes said it all. The moment I saw them, I knew you were mine. To be more precise, those eyes made me long for you. I wanted to be your vision. The vision your eyes saw today and the visionary your eyes wanted to see tomorrow. “ He spoke fixing his gaze on the pebbles.
“Abhi, to be more practical, I don’t match your charm. I am short, stout …. “
“Harini stop. “, she heard his voice; a little sterner than the usual.
“Harini, we are not born measuring the size of our heart. Short or long, we have it for ourselves, it beats for us, every second, reminding that we are alive. You are such a thing to me. You are the one who reminds me the purpose to stay alive.” he paused.
Harini did not expect this coming.
“I wish I could say more such aesthetic, flowery words. But, to be honest, I enjoyed watching you. The Apron which fell much longer than your knees, the way you think you are too tall for the kitchen counter and bend half your height, the way you stick your pink , cute little tongue slightly out, when you engross yourself much into cooking, The way you handled your kitchen. “
He paused to smile.
“I love the way you chase your dream. You did not care about how stained your apron was; you wanted your food to look good. You did not mind tying your hair into a French bun, to make sure the food was hygienic. Your looks, your preferences, took the back seat. You strode, as if nothing could abate your crusading zeal. ”, he paused again to grab a short breath.
She looked at him, her eyes moist.
“I just hope, I could join you in that journey. To hold your hands and walk along, Not to guide you, but just to stay in accord with your dreams, as a solemn troth and as a vow to fortify you, as a source of solace, to succor you.”
He looked at her blank. He had said it all.
“It is all in your hands.”, he told, looking at her eyes. The tear drop that ran down her cheeks came from her eyes, carrying the emotions from her heart.
“You perceived the most imperceptible; you heard the most inaudible; you envisaged the most indiscernible; you felt the impalpable; you cherished the inappreciable. If all these could not make sense to me even now, what else would? I love you Abhi.” Tears of joy ran down her cheeks.
Abhi held her hands, within his and sat in silence for few seconds.
He suddenly looked at her. She was looking at the water. She slowly turned towards him.
“You can. “, he nodded, as if he knew it.
She slowly moved closer, as if she understood what he meant.
She moved further close, resting her head on his shoulders.
“You knew I wanted to?”
“Your eyes.”, he smiled, resting his head on hers’.
He slowly closed his eyes, her hands within his, her head on his shoulders, her thoughts in his mind, her love in his heart, the sound of the wind caressing the water, on his ears.
He had won.
“Can you report in Bengaluru office on 18th? I know it is a short notice. But since it is just a couple of days in advance, I thought I can ask you to.” , His manager asked him.
Sree had to think about it.
He had to revisit all of his plans. He would be happier to meet Harini the sooner. But he had to cogitate about his Chennai trip.
“Sure, but I would need day-off for a couple of days. 16th and 17th . “
“I can take care of that.”
“Ok. Thanks. In that case, I think I will be able to make it, Madhan.“, he replied.
“Thanks for taking it up, Sree. “, his manager smiled.
He could not wait telling it to her.
“I am good Mom.” , She replied.
“I recently won in a competition. I will be posting in a food magazine, by one of the leading national newspapers. “
She was not sure if her mom listened.
“No. We are not interested. “, she heard her say. She was not sure if it was for her.
“Sorry Harini, a salesperson was at our doorstep. You were telling something about a newspaper. What was that?” her mom tried to ask.
“Uhhh. Nothing mom. “ Harini let out a sigh.
“Harini, regarding your wedding… “ her mom started to speak. Harini could sense something new was coming up. Her thoughts were stuck with Abhi. How would she introduce him, to her parents? Will they accept him?
They had not understood her decisions. On top of it, she had assured her dad, she would not decide herself on her wedding. When would she tell her parents about Abhi? They were acting quickly. She had to be wise and fast at the same time.
“Hmmmm.” She replied to her mom’s talks without listening to her.
“Harini, are you with me?” , she heard her mom’s voice, loud enough to shake her off her thoughts.
“Yes mom. “
“We will be expecting you on 20th. “
“Sure mom I will be there.”
“Ok Harini take care.” , she hung up.
The thoughts made her jittery.
She lay awake on her bed rolling over from one side to another.
Sleepless nights, dreamy days, she had never been that way. It was new.
She never worried about things, she knew she could either make it or break it. So far she had made it all; but so far, it had involved only her.
She was now, somewhere in-between making and breaking. To make it, she wanted her parents to believe and accept. To break it, no, she should be kidding herself, by thinking about breaking it. The mere thought of breaking it terrified her.
She could neither take it easy, as she could not afford to lose Abhi; nor take it too hard, because she believed, if something was hers, no one can take it away from her.
She had been taking things as they came up. She did not brood on them. She could not be the same way with her love life.
She had fought for her decisions before. But this one was new. She knew she could not hide it long. She had to broach about it someday to her parents and she knew that fine day was not long.
Harini sat in office, doing a HAZOP study of the process equipment. She had a lecture on the heterogeneous and multiphase reaction engineering, to be presented.
She found it difficult to concentrate. She felt she needed to talk to him.
She dialled his number.
“Sree!, How are you?” , she exclaimed.
“I am good sweetu. How are you?” he asked. What else would make his day, if not her voice?
“Sweetu , I have so much to tell. First of it, my transfer is advanced. “ , he continued, not waiting for her to transfer.
“Hey, that’s good to hear. When are you coming here? “ she asked.
“I am going on a road trip to Coorg on 13, 14,15, as a part of my farewell treat. I will go to Chennai on 16th and will be there on 17th. I will have to join the Bengaluru office on 18th.
“That’s too many dates to remember. Looks like you are having the itinerary ready in mind?”
“I have been waiting for it for so long. I cannot afford to forget.”
Harini smiled. She could not tell anything now. She understood he was excited. She thought she will wait.
“Sree, I have lots to tell you. I need you here. “
He was happy to hear it. She needed him. It was a good sign, he thought.
“Sure, we will talk sweetu. That is why I am coming there.” He spoke.
“Ok dear. Take care. See you soon. Keep me posted.” , she replied.
“Ok, dear, buh bye.”, he tried to cut as he heard Harini’s voice.
“Sree!, just a sec.”
“Hey, I am still on line, tell me.”
“Sree, whatever it is going to take, whatever my father might say, will you be by my side for my decisions? ”, she asked. She had never expected a lot of favours from him. But she felt she needed him now. She needed a support to talk about Abhi.
“You should not be asking it Harini. You should believe it.”
“Sorry Sree. I believe in you. “
“That’s good. I will be there for you; to stand by your side, always, whatever may Come. Keep calm.”, he smiled.
He could hear Harini’s smile.
She hung up the call, imagining all that she had to tell Sree, about Abhi.
Sree cut the call, imagining all that Harini would listen from him about her, especially how she had been making him feel.
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