“The kitchen is so quiet.”, Abhi raised his eyebrow.
“Yes. It is only take away orders in ‘Home away Home’. I just had two orders. They have come and collected.”
“Saba Anna has left for Chennai. I am not sure why, yesterday morning, he just told me he is having some work and he is taking his family and going to Chennai. He handed over the car keys to me.”
“Oh. Okay. Why do you look dull?”
“Abhi, to be honest, I have never been this way. “, she sighed, leaning against the oil pull out of the modular kitchen. Her dad made sure the modular kitchen was completely furnished before she moved in. Her dad did not support her dream directly, but he made sure, Harini was comfortable.
Abhi sat on the kitchen counter top, dangling his legs, His heel hitting the metal handle of the crockery segment in regular interval.
“What is there to worry about? Things will be fine.” , he assured , his face stolid.
His glaikit assurance failed to pacify her.
“Abhi, it is not that easy. My parents are tough to convince. Your parents should like me. My parents should like you.” , she paused. She thought about asking him about his parents. She also wanted to tell him about Sree.
The sound of the handle irritated her.
“Abhi, stop hitting it.”, she held her head. “The sound is irritating me.”
“Sorry”, he smiled. “By the way, what are we, 30+? to worry about marriage? I am in my mid-twenties and you in early twenties. We have a world of time.”
“No. My parents are very serious about my wedding. In fact, one of the proposals got too close. But I called it off in the last moment. “ She frowned.
“Really?”, he asked. She nodded.
“Abhi, I really feel I need to talk about our love to my parents.” She looked at him.
“We have just proposed. Do you really need to take things that far, so soon?”, Abhi winked.
“What did you just say? Abhi, are you swearing at me? “, her face reddened.
“Hey, calm down. That was just for fun.”
“Silly. Mr. Abhivadan. For your information. I am taking you, our relationship more serious than my life. I cannot imagine you going away. I hope you have understood. Dare to talk like this again.” her nostrils flared in fury.
Abhi hopped to the floor, to move closer. He tried to reach her. She moved away avoiding his touch. She pulled a chair and sat, facing away from him.
“Harini!” , he knelt down before her.
“I am so sorry. I should’ve been more careful. I just meddled with something delicate. I have caused the most exquisite kind of agony. I am so sorry dear.”
She did not turn. Abhi slowly moved away.
“Don’t play with my emotions.” She spoke under her breath.
“Harini, I knew I was wrong. I apologised for the same. But be careful with your choice of words. You don’t know what ‘playing with emotions’ actually means and I am NOT playing with your emotions.” he spoke, his voice squawky.
He sat on couch, hands on his cheeks. There was complete silence.
They sat still for more than ten minutes.
“I am leaving. Lock the door.” , he moved away closing the door behind him. Few minutes passed by.
Her anger had a point , but she realized, her words did not. Her comments were callous.
She wanted to talk to him. She was sure he might have gone. Over phone he told he had something for her. She had not asked what it was. She felt a little bad.
She strode towards the balcony, trying to search for his bike. It was not there. He was gone.
She opened her door,driven by a vague instinct.
He stood there leaning against the wall, smiling instantly at the click of her door knob.
“Abhi?”, she exclaimed, looking into his eyes, like a hungry pup, looking at its bowl of food.
“I know you will open the door.” He smiled.
“You were waiting for me?”
“Yes. I was mad at you, to be honest. But more that, I am madly in love with you.”, he grinned.
“Abhi, I….”she began.
“We will move in first.”, he reminded. As they sat, “Abhi, you know I have so many dreams. Out of all, you are the most important and the precious dream. I cannot afford to lose you. I cannot imagine a life without you. When I misunderstood your humour, for not having taken it as serious as I did, I was mad. I am sorry. “, she spoke, her voice shaky.
“Shhhh..shhh…shhhh….”, Abhi tried to calm her down. “I know and I am sorry. “he whispered , his voice hoarse, due to the weather.
She looked at him. “What?” he raised his eyebrows.
“You sound so normal. I thought we had a fight.”
“The beauty of any relationship is not to stay calm always or to have the same opinion always. There would be differences. There would be fights. But how quick a sorry and a smile can get us back to normality is the essence. “, He paused to smile.
“The bigger the fight, the sooner should be the apology.”, he continued.
She looked at him in awe.
“And, You know what the real beauty of a fight is? “, she asked. He shrugged his shoulder. “How casually we move on with the next conversation.” She smiled.
“So what’s the dinner?” he asked, sniffing. “I hope that was casual enough.” he winked.
She took the small divan from the sofa and threw it at him. It hit his head and he pretended for a major blow.
“Thank God. He is unconscious. I wondered what would I do with just one serving of the pasta.”, she whispered loud enough for him to hear.
He faked a sudden conscious gain.
“Where am I? I heard someone say pasta. Is that ready?” he spoke, his eyes half open.
Both had a long laugh.
“Hey, now, on a serious note, can you please give me a copy of your Id proof, and the certificate they gave you in the competition. We should be submitting it by this week, so that they can verify and get gear up the procedures for your maiden magazine appearance.” He smiled.
“Sure, I am on it. But before that, my cousin is coming next week. You have to meet him. “Harini looked at Abhi.
“Oh. Sure.”, he kept his reply short.
“You would not like to know his name?” , she asked, in confusion.
“Hey, sorry. I was just thinking about the procedures.”
“Hmm , anyway. His name is Sree. He is coming from Noida. He will visit Chennai on 16th and will be here by 17th. We will meet him.” She smiled.
“Sure.”, he nodded, devising a plan as how to avoid the meeting.
“August 17th “, he thought. The date reminded him something else.
August 16 : 7.30 P.M Chennai international airport
Sree took his baggage from the conveyer, walking out of the domestic arrival. He wanted to meet his Mom and aunt. He knew his uncle would never like him. Sree would need to convince his mom someday. He had to face his uncle and aunt too.
He did not inform them he was coming.
He adjusted his shoulder back pack and entered.
As he stood at the door step, his aunt who heard his footsteps came fast approaching, he saw his mom too.
His Aunt’s eyes were reddened, filled with tears.
“Hey, Sree, my son, you have come at the right moment. Sorry it was your uncle…… “, his aunt’s next words came as a huge blow.
He dropped his baggage in shock.
“Does Harini know about it?”, he asked. “Yes. We already informed her.” his aunt replied.
He wanted to go back to Bangalore and meet Harini as soon as he could.
August 16: 10.30 PM : CMBT
Sree sat on the bus, drinking water. He was tired and hungry, which he did not mind. He waited for the bus to reach Bangalore.
August 17: 5:15 A.M Kempegowda Bus Station:
A pair of feet landed on the Majestic Bus station, which was situated opposite to Bangalore City Railway station.
Right at the same time, 284kms to the east, there was a pair of feet, which landed in CMBT, Chennai.
August 17: 5.45 PM Cunningham Road:
“Preetha, I saw your message only in the morning.”, Harini frowned as she dried her hair.
“I sent it around 11 PM yesterday. Don’t tell me you were asleep.”, she heard Preetha’s voice. Harini had put the phone on speakers. “You don’t even have a moment to share it with me, right? I need to know your updates only through social networking. I saw your status about winning the competition.”, she continued.
Harini heard her door bell ring. She wondered who it might be.
“Just a second, Preetha.”, Harini hurried to the door as she put the phone on mute. The phone was still on speakers.
“Sree!”, she almost shouted as he saw him.
“Come in.”, she smiled. “What a surprise!”, she exclaimed. “Just sit and relax, I will be back in few minutes.”
“Harini, are you still there? Or it is your Abhi knocking your door this early?”, Sree and Harini heard Preetha’s voice.
Harini realized the phone was still on speakers. She signalled Sree to sit, while she walked to her bedroom.
“Abhi?”, Sree asked to himself, loud enough for Harini to hear.
“I will tell you, just a moment.”, she whispered, running to her bedroom.
“Stupid, why do you have to shout? My cousin has come home.“, Harini gritted her teeth.
“Oh, yeah. I am a stupid. Of course, else why should I beg for some time and attention from you?”
“Preetha , please. You are my dearest friend and there is no doubt. No one can grab the time, attention, over all the love I have for you. Please don’t speak this way. It hurts.”
Preetha was silent. Harini guessed she was calming down.
“Ok, fine. But be careful about that strange guy. He is at the back of you for something fishy. I could sense it and don’t ditch me for him.”, Preetha warned.
Harini was not in a mood to argue with her and start all over again. “Ok.Sure.”, she kept her reply short. She had to tell Preetha about the love she had for Abhi. Well, before that, she had to tell it to Sree.
“Hey, who is that cousin, this early?”, asked Preetha.
“Sree. My dad’s sister’s son. You have met him too, twice before. Hey fine. It is getting late. I will see you in office. “, Harini cut the call.
“So, Sorry Dear.”, Harini ran towards Sree. He held her head and smiled. Her hair strands were wet.
“That’s my crazy friend over phone. So tell me how are you?”, she asked. “This is the problem, when I have so much to tell you. First go and refresh yourself. “, she smiled.
“I had my morning tea. That is fine. What is with your friend? I guess she was angry.”
“That angry bird is unhappy with me. She feels, I spend less time with her, since Abhi came into my life.”, she paused.
“Abhi?”, Sree asked.
“I will tell it to you. Before that, did you go to Chennai?”
“Yes Harini , back home…”, he pulled her by her arm, making her sit. His face was dull and tensed.
“What happened there?”, she asked, her heart beat rising rapidly. “Is everyone doing well?”
Sree hung his head, how would he tell it to her. It might be a huge shock.
“All are good, happy and excited. But …” he paused.
“Sree come on, what’s wrong?”
“Can you apply for leave for the next couple of days? We might need to go to Chennai.”
“What happened, Sree?”, she asked , anxiety raising several folds.
“Is everything okay?”, she asked, her eyes trying to find the clue for Sree’s despair , in his face.
“Everyone is doing great, excited, happy and busy bustling about … “, Sree paused.
“About what?”, Harini asked in impatience.
“… about your wedding with Pawan which is going to happen on August 30.”
She sank into the couch, frantic with worry. Her hands wringing with sweat.
She was bewildered.
“How could it be?”, she spoke to herself, aloud.
Sree narrated all that happened back in Chennai.
“I looked at the house. It did not seem normal. There were certain things packed and ready. Your dad was discussing something over phone.
“Hey, Sree, my son, you have come at the right moment. Sorry it was your uncle…… “, your mom paused. My mom signalled her to speak low.
“…. Your uncle thought…” she started, when I heard your dad’s voice.
“Yes, I did not want to inform you. That is because, I very well know Harini and you would be in touch and she would have definitely told you. It is a must for youngsters to involve elders in their decisions. If you don’t, then you would be treated just as a guest and not as a family member.”, Harini’s dad snarled at his nephew.
“Ignore him. He is just a little tensed and worried about the wedding. Anyway you have come at the right moment. “, your mom smiled, wiping away her tears.
“Sree, come inside, son.” my mom ushered me in.
“Why are you crying?”, I asked, looking at your mom.
“The groom’s mom is unhappy with something. Harini’s dad is not ready to apologise. He does not realise that his Daughter’s life is more important than his ego. I was pleading him to apologise.”
“What is happening here?” , I asked them in confusion.
“Harini did not tell you?” , your mom asked me.
“Tell me about what?” , I was totally lost.
“ The wedding.”, my mom replied as cool as she could.
I was struck in utter shock.
“It was a miracle son. When they came home, we did not believe Harini was interested. They told us they will visit us along with their son.
In the meantime, we visited their house and Harini’s dad, through his friends, made sure that the groom and family were all good, and it was a safe family to get her married to.
Both the families liked each other. We were waiting only on Harini and Pawan to meet.
It was when, after a couple of weeks’ time, our son in law, Pawan, himself called us. We thought he was informing us about his visit. We actually planned for an engagement on August 30, if at all Harini accepted.
But to our surprise, he told us that he spoke to Harini. He himself was not sure what made Harini to say so. It looks like she had liked him a lot. I guess she was a little embarrassed to express her liking directly to us. She had asked Pawan to proceed with the wedding as soon as possible. Pawan and his family gave us an idea about fixing the wedding on engagement date itself. We felt so happy. We could not believe our own ears.
Harini’s dad was equally shocked. He wanted to confirm it once with his daughter. We called up Harini. I could not control my tears of joy. Her father asked her several times if she was the one who spoke to Pawan and was Pawan true. Only upon her confirmation, we started with the proceedings. In fact even I spoke about this to Harini. She was completely fine with everything.” “
“I took the next available bus and came here.” Sree looked at Harini as he completed speaking.
“Harini, what was all that? You told me everything was cancelled. Your parents are telling it was all done on your confirmation. I don’t understand. “ , Sree sat beside.
Harini could not imagine what was happening. Pawan had played the worst game, out smarting her.
“I misinterpreted my mom’s tears of joy to be that of sorrow. Over phone, I could just make out that she was crying and hence the shaky voice. My dad asked me several times, if I really go with what Pawan had told them. I told him a yes, because I thought..”, she paused at the word thought.
That was the worst assumption she had ever made.
“… that was because, I thought Pawan called off the wedding.”, she held her head.
“Pawan called me up and told he called off the wedding. My stupidity, my bad, I believed in that stranger. My dad never told me the actual thing. I just thought….”, she paused again.
That was her second assumption.
‘If dad had not spoken directly, I should have asked, at the least. I should have mentioned about calling off, either directly or indirectly.’she thought.
“I just thought my dad, too, was confirming with me about calling off.”, she spoke, her voice shaky.
She could now recollect, why her mom insisted on being there on 20th. The part which she left unattended in one of the previous conversations, in attempt to save the glasses which were stacked; the way she just nodded to all that her mom told with a monotonous ‘hmmm’, losing her thoughts with Abhi and how would she make her parenst like him, few days back, made sense. That was when she had missed what her mom spoke.
“God!” she thought. She was in trouble. Communication gap and mammoth wrong assumptions, have led to huge chaos.
She covered her face. Sree moved closer.
“Harini, call it a day off in office. We will go to Chennai. We will try our best to set things straight.” he tried to console.
“Sree, I have to tell you much more. Stopping the wedding alone will not set things straight. Not just this one, But I shall never be interested in any other wedding, my parents would plan for me in the future.”, she paused.
‘Had she decided she does not need one?’Sree was intrigued.
“But, why?”, he asked, slowly.
“I am in love with a person, Sree. I met a month back. His name is Abhi, Abhivadan.”, she paused.
Sree felt blood rushing to his head. He could not know how red his face was. It came in as a huge blow.
He could not handle the distress. He did not wish for this. He did not try hard in getting a transfer, from his manager, just to bear shocks one after the other.
Something was terribly wrong with him. He was not sure why things did not work out for him.
He sat, panting heavily, as Harini slowly unfolded about Abhi and their relationship.
“I cannot afford to Miss Abhi in my life, Sree. Remember I asked you whether you will stand by me for all my decisions? It was for opening this up to my parents.”
As Harini ended her talk, she heard her door bell ring.
It was Preetha.
“Preetha…” , Harini called out. “Come in.”, she tried to smile.
She looked at Sree.
“This is Sree, my cousin. You have met twice before. Hope you remember him. “, Harini tried to introduce.
‘Remember?’, Preetha smiled to herself.
His tall frame, spiked hair, and that breath taking look, she could not forget him.
While his looks made the first impression on her, the more Harini spoke about him to Preetha, she fell for Sree slowly. The care he had for Harini though he was miles apart , impressed Preetha.
Preetha felt she needed that care, coupled with love, for a full lifetime, all for herself..
Sree sat with his hands on his head. His face reddened, he was not sure if it was anger. He rolled his eyes in exasperation. He was perturbed by the series of revelations. They had come to put a whammy on him.
He fought back tears. He expected years of his seclusion to end in the solace.
He desiderated nothing but Harini’s love. It seemed impossible now.
He thought he would clonk anything that came on his path towards his love. He never thought Harini herself would hurdle his path, bearing the love she had for someone else.
His eyes were moist.
“Sree, this is my friend, Preetha.” , Harini tried to introduce. She saw his tormented face.
“Sree, what happened?”
“ Harini, I need some time.”, Sree got up from the couch.
He walked towards the balcony, he rested his elbow on the balcony wall, hard enough for the coarse concrete to cast its impression.
‘What do I do now?’ , he wondered.
“Were you in love with Harini? “ ,he heard a voice behind.
Sree looked at her, blank. He was not sure why, in spite of she, being a stranger, he nodded.
Preetha was disappointed, but not shocked. She looked at him, he looked the same for her, charming and breath taking, his expressions a little distorted,she thought. That was fine for her, she believed she will get it straight.
“Sometimes, you just do everything and wait for something to happen. That moment when you realise it was never going to happen..” he paused , let out a sigh and banged the balcony grill.
They both heard Harini approaching.
“Sree”, she came close, “I can’t see you crying for me. Don’t worry.” she wiped away his tears.
‘You always assume wrong. Pawan , your parents, and now my tears’, Sree thought.
“Will you be by my side? Will you help me?”, she asked in a low tone.
Sree thought for a moment. He could not deny. It was his Harini. She needed him now. He thought how buoyant she stood for backing up her dreams.
Fighting alone was not new to her. She needed him now. He wanted to be there for her.
“Sure.” he replied, his answer bringing a ray of hope to both Harini and Preetha.
“You told me he works in Netway, right ?”, Sree asked. Harini nodded.
“Let me go and meet him, but before that, I need to get some details about him, kind of a check. My colleague’s brother is a HR in the same company, in Mumbai though. I will try to get some official records about that guy.”
The three of them sat in silence, awaiting Sree’s mobile to ring.
The mobile quivered in Sree’s hands, culminating the trio’s silence.
“Really?” , they heard Sree speak.
“Oh, ok, sure.” He ended the call.
“It looks like the Mumbai HR cannot locate such an employee. He is asking me to go and check with the Bengaluru office.”, Sree shook his head.
Harini looked at him, her expressions still.
“I will go to his office. “, Sree rose from the chair. “I will come with you too.” Preetha joined him.
“Take our car”,Harini handed over the keys.
She tried to call Abhi, his mobile was switched off.
August 17: 1 PM
‘I never expected him to act so promptly, in spite of being heartbroken’ she thought. The more proactive he was, the sooner he would find Abhi. Once everything goes fine between Abhi and Harini, she could slowly talk to Sree, Preetha thought.
Sree rushed before the light turned red, his bad, he missed it by a fraction of second.
“Sometimes you never know what was your mistake, things does not seems to happen.”, he banged the steering is disappointment. The car honked loud.
“Sree, I can imagine how hard it is for you. But it is better to let certain things go, however close they were to us. Harini had just looked at you as a good friend. It is better you be the same to her. I am not asking you to loathe her, but just treat her the same way she treats you. I am not asking you to ignore Harini, but ignore the pain she is causing you, though it is unintentional. “
“Sometimes it is always good to let certain things go off, however good they are, so that we have more space in our life for better things.” , she smiled at him.
He nodded, slowly, pondering on everything Preetha spoke, few moments ago.
“Sorry sir, there is no one in the name of Abhivadan. “ , the Bengaluru HR replied. Sree and Preetha met him in the cafeteria. They were not allowed further, as they did not work there.
“Sir, He is from Vasanth Nagar. Can you please try checking again?”
“Mr. Sreenivas, as per our company policies, we cannot reveal anything about our employees. Sunil , from Mumbai , requested and hence I did this much. As per our records, we do not have anyone named Abhivadan working here. That is it. I am really sorry for not being a great help. But this is all I can do.” He replied.
Sree left, with no clue, wondering who and where Abhi was. How would he look?, he thought for a second.
As they rode back, Preetha smiled , an idea popping up.
“Sree, there is a service apartment, adjacent to the French embassy in Vasanth Nagar. We can go there and check . We may or may not find Abhi, but we definitely can find someone working in Netway.” She smiled. Sree felt it was a good idea.
“Sree, it is getting late for me. I need to go. “Preetha smiled.
“I can drop you. Just tell me where to go. “ , Sree asked for a courtesy.
“No problem, it is just a stone away.”, she replied.
As she got down and closed the door, she heard Sree’s voice.
“That was a nice conversation. Thank you. I felt much better. Sorry if I had dumped my despair on you.”
“Not at all. It is my pleasure. Sometimes, more than the actual solution, a pair of ears to listen will make you feel better.” She smiled.
As he slowly raised the window, he found her face disappear and his face’s reflection, coming up. Her face, which he saw through the glass and his reflection which he saw in the glass, merged into one.
August 18: 7.00 AM
“He has deceived you.” Preetha tried to surmise that something was wrong, after the clueless previous night.
Preetha came to Harini’s house the next morning.
“He does not hold any identity. There is no such employee in his name in Netway. “ Sree added in anger.
Preetha and Sree made sense. He was never affirmative when she asked him about his parents. He refused to meet Sree. He did not express any interest in meeting her friends or relatives. He had not taken her to any of his friends or relatives too. But his charm and charisma never gave any room for incertitude. ‘Has his love been fallacious too?’ the mere thought bewildered her.
Harini could have been dubious about their words, but she could not mistrust him or his love. Such was his love for her.
“What are we going to do now?”, Preetha asked.
Preetha’s voice, broke Harini’s chain of thoughts.
“Call him again.” Sree’s voice got louder.
Harini stabbed her phone with her finger tips to dial his number. All that she could hear was a recorded voice.
“He is not reachable even now.”, Harini’s voice broke.
“You met him recently?” Preetha asked.
“Yes, the previous week. To give the documents to be handed over to the magazine”, Harini answered weakly.
“What the hell?”, Sree looked at Harini, pouting.
“He hasn’t taken away, just those papers, but everything; my love; my Future.” Harini broke into tears.
Sree looked at her tear stained eyes. Harini had never cried. Or at least he had not seen her this way. He felt he could take her in her Arms and comfort her.
“This guy Abhi is getting into my nerves. Where the hell is he?”, he shouted.
“I could not find anybody knowing him, in his locality.”, he continued. “I just have one option in hand. I have given my number to the security. As per his info, if he finds a guy, who works in Netway, staying the apartment, he will contact me.” , he continued, this time his voice feeble.
“Sree, even if you know any small information, do not delay. Please make sure you meet Abhi.”, Preetha added.
Preetha wanted things to go fine in between Abhi and Harini.
She wanted Sree.
“Harini, dont worry.”, Sree tried to console Harini, breaking Preetha’s chain of thoughts.
“Sree, Preetha, I believe in Abhi. More than him, I believe in his love. I know nothing can wrong. I am going to go to office today, I am going to apply for leave. Let me see what is happening in my life.”, she looked determined.
“Sree, have this set of keys, in case you need.” , she continued, handing over the house keys. “Preetha, are you coming to office with me?” , she asked.
Preetha, whose jaw dropped at her friend’s staggering attitude, nodded.
“How come so confident?, Preetha asked as they descended the stairs.
Harini closed her eyes for a moment, taking a deep breath. All that she remembered was his smile, deep golden eyes and his face,”I did not want to be in between you and your dream.”, ” Yes I was mad at you, but more than that, I am madly in love with you.”, she saw his face, his voice lingering .
She dallied down the stairs, long enough to recollect him.
“No, he could not be wrong.”, she spoke, trying to fight back the tears, within her eyes, which had already reached the corner of lips.
August 18: 3.30 PM
Sree received a call from the Service apartment Security that the resident who was working in Netway was back home.
Harini’s life and safety were jeopardized. Sree wanted to find some clue. He had to find Abhi, to cease the disorientated situation.
Deep inside his mind, he still had a small wish. He coveted Harini’s love. He was not selfish, but at the same time, he was not able to let a strange guy bulldoze the secret orchard of his love.
August 18: 5.30 PM:
Sree had called Harini around 3.40 PM , that he was on the way to the service apartment.
Harini tried his number for the fourth time. It was still not reachable. Did he meet Abhi?, she wondered.
She did not have time to meet Preetha in office. She wound things up, to cover for her absence. She applied leave for the rest of the week.
She informed Preetha that she was leaving.
She took her mobile , trying to post in the ‘Home away home’ messaging group, tears blurring her vision. She had to inform people that due to personal emergency, the restaurant will be closed for next few days.
He has driven her from nowhere to where she was. Her first glorious step towards her dream, the magazine; he was not with her to celebrate.
She missed Abhi. She was not worried about his false identity, she believed in him, but she was wondering where he was. She wanted to know he was fine. She wanted to hear his voice. She wanted him to come back to her.
Was she in imminent danger of losing him?, her panic-striken eyes locked itself to the cloudy evening sky.
She gathered her things, she gathered herself too. She had to head back home. She should first know where Sree was.
She tried Sree’s number several times, before reaching home. The call never got connected.
August 18: 8.15 PM
Harini could not wait anymore. She was worried about Sree. He left home around 3.40. She did not hear anything from him since then.
She needed to take an action. It was Abhi in the beginning and Sree, then.
What was happening?, she wondered. Where were they all going? Who was behind all this? , A million of questions came up in her mind.
She had no mood to cook, she could not eat anything.
It was around 9 PM, she heard her door bell ring.
“Can you imagine what have you done?”, a frenzied Preetha entered.
She could not stand the fact that Sree was not reachable. She felt her relationship with him, slowly grow. She could not imagine, losing him.
“Preetha, come in”, Harini swallowed hard.
“Harini, do you really know what is happening around you? “
“Preetha I am trying to make it out, but am helpless.”
“Harini, do you really understand what I mean? Do you know where Sree is?”
“I don’t know Preetha. But I am trying hard to find out.”
“How? By sitting here under the roof, relaxed and happy?”
“Preetha, this is the limit. Do I really seem happy and relaxed to you? “
“You don’t talk about limits. You are so selfish; endangering other’s life for your wishes.”
“Sree made his move for me. Where does selfishness come in here, Preetha?”
“You have unnecessarily involved Sree in this. I am not sure where he is. I am really worried.”
“Preetha, I know him better than you. I am equally, in fact much more worried.”
“What do you know about him? What do you know about anybody?- when you can’t even get your boyfriend’s identity correct.”
The words hit Harini harsh. She fumbled for words to defend herself. She fought back her tears. There is nothing more hurting that not knowing anything about someone whom she loved more than her life.
She did not want to cry.
“You do not know him, because you did not love him. You wanted to chase your dream. Nothing else mattered to you. You came here hurting your parents. When you found a guy you forgot about me. You were attracted to him, just because, he would help you. It was all conditional Harini. It was not love; that is why it did not last long. And now Abhivadan is gone. He has taken away Sree too. How many more are you going to trouble, in the name of dream? If it is your dream, you have to chase it. Don’t invite people to run for you, or run along. If you cannot run alone, drop the dream. Don’t drag people into it.”, Preetha blurted out in between short breaths.
“Preetha, do you really mean what you are trying to tell?”
“Harini, I don’t have time for any emotional words. I have whole lot to do. I am going to go to the police for lodging a complaint. “
“Preetha, I will talk to my dad and seek his help. I will explain him. Please don’t be hasty.”
“I can’t wait anymore.”
And before Harini could utter another word, Preetha slammed the door behind and walked out.
Harini could not imagine she would hear all of what was spoken. She was her best friend ; wasn’t she? What had made her speak so much? Did she really mean all that she spoke?
Harini sat in the dark, covering her face, breaking in to tears.
She did not know how long it had been. The sudden vibration in her mobile jarred her into the reality. She rushed to it.
There was a text from an unknown number. She opened it, breathing heavily.
The clock in her mobile showed 11.17 P.M
The text message slowly loaded.
“The two important men, in your life, are now mine. You do not have any other option baby. Hope to see you soon.- Pawan”
Harini dropped the phone, petrified, sweat beads covering all over her body.
She could understand what Pawan meant by ‘men’ . ‘Abhi, Sree’ , she murmured.
She sat there , confused and lost.
What was happening to her life?, she wondered.
So many things had happened just in the past two days.
Her best friend called her an oppurtunist.
Her parents had been planning so many things which were never clear for her.
Her dearest person was missing in the search of her life.
Her love of life; She did not know where he was. She did not know who he was. She did not know if he was in charge of the accusations Sree and Preetha raised about him.
On top of everything, the guy with whom her wedding was fixed in just a few days, had sent her the text which had scared the bejesus out of her.
August 19: 2.00 A.M
She sat in murkiness of the night, bursting into hysterical tears , with an uncanny feeling that she was being deceived.
“Most of the times I don’t understand the cooking terms, But All that I understood was the love you had, which got conveyed through your cooking. I love you Harini.”, She recollected his words , gasping for air, in between her sobs.
‘What would I do next?’, her mind raced. She thought for a second.
She nodded, as if it struck her.
She waited all alone, for the east to brighten, not being aware of the unexpected guest at her doorway the next morning.
August 19: 5.00 A.M
The alarm which usually goes off in the morning, to wake her up for her shift, did not ring that day.
Preetha , was wide awake, to turn off her alarm well before it rang. She sat on the bed cross legged.
As she stood up, the first thing that caught her eyes was the coffee mug, the one Harini gifted for her previous birthday.
“To the world’s bestest” read the mug, bearing a crazy selfie of Harini and Preetha.
She sat back on her bed, lost in deep thoughts.
She remembered asking Sree not to hesitate even if he gets a small information about Abhi. She was the one who was selfish to gain Sree’s love. She was the one who sent him. It was because of her , he was missing.
As she thought deeply, she realized, none of it was Harini’s fault.
She decided to apologize to Harini for being harsh. She remembered Harini applying leave for the rest of the week. She thought she should meet her in the morning.
August 19: 7.00 A.M
She was disappointed to knock the locked door.
‘Where is she?’Preetha wondered staring at Harini’s door.
“Āke elliruvaḷu?” She enquired the security, where Harini was.
“ Nānu tiḷiyalu illa” , I don’t know, he replied. “Nānu beḷigge tanna nōḍalilla”, I didn’t see her from morning, he continued. She would not have left for office. Where was she? Preetha’s mind raced. She took her mobile to call her. Her instinct threatened Preetha, that Harini might not be reachable. “Where were people going for the past few days?”, she shook her head, to wither the wrong intuition. To her ecstasy, Harini’s mobile rang. Too soon, her joy faded away as she did not pick up. Preetha decided to wait for some time.
August 19: 7.40 A.M – Kempegowda Bus Station:
Her mobile rang for the fifth time, as she sat in the bus, heading to Chennai. “If you want to chase your dream, run alone.”, she heard Preetha’s voice. The idea of going to Chennai and talking to her parents, beamed through Harini’s mind, the previous night. She booked the seat in the next available bus. As she walked out of her apartment, she saw her neighbor. Harini thought she could inform someone at the least. Harini told her neighbor about her Chennai visit and headed to the Bus stand. She did not pick up the call. She did not want anyone to know where she was. She was moving forward, to get things done, for her.
August 19: 2.00 P.M: CMBT Chennai:
The bright sun light hit her face, as Harini stepped on to the bustling bus stand of Chennai. It looked less crowded, comparatively, as it was a weekday afternoon.
She squinted her eyes, which were already bulged due to sleepless night and incessant whimper.
She walked towards the main road, dragging her brief case. As she reached the entrance, the cab she had booked had arrived.
“Drop enga madam“, What is the drop location, Madam?, the driver asked.
“Nungambakkam”, she replied, looking out at the bright sky. She let out a sigh. The car started to move, Harini still wondering, what Chennai had in store for her.
Harini paid the sum, got out of the car and shut the car door. She looked at her Two-storey house that looked bright, as the new paint shone in the afternoon sun.
There were more than three cars parked, which meant her relatives were there. As she approached the door, she saw the scented floral hangings, which hit her forehead. It was cold and soft.
Her house had got ready for her wedding, while she had not.
She knocked the door and waited. No one turned up. She heard a lot of noise inside. She pressed the calling bell switch hard and it rang aloud.
The door knob clicked and her mom exclaimed in surprise.
“Harini?, dear, you are here today? What a surprise my sweetheart. Come in.”, she ushered.
“Have you forgotten everything? Harini drop your bags here and wash your legs in the pipe outside. Vinodhini, get the Aarthi plate ready.”, her grandma interrupted.
“What is it?”, her father approached.
“Harini, is here. We were expecting her tomorrow right. Your daughter has surprised us.”, her mom smiled at her dad.
“What happened, Harini? Why didn’t you inform us before?”, asked her dad.
“Everything need not be asked right at the door step.” , her grandma cut her son short.
Vinodhini came with a plate that had dark orange sacred water in it, with camphor lit in the center.
Vinodhini and Sree’s mom stood left and right to Harini to move the plate, in circles, across Harini’s face.
She looked at her aunt. ‘What would she tell if her Aunt asks about Sree?’, she wondered.
Vinodhini took the plate and ran to the entrance, to pour the liquid at the center of the big Rangoli.
“Come in”, her Grandma held Harini by her hand and made her sit.
She touched her cheeks.
“What happened dear?”
“Nothing Paati. It is just the travel.”, she pretended to smile. Harini was surprised that her Aunt did not ask her about Sree.
“Hey, Harini!”, Vino, came running to her. Suji joined them too.
“You guys are here?”
“Of course, the entire family is celebrating. The first wedding in our family right.” , Sujitha smiled.
“Someone was not happy for sharing their photograph. But is in such a hurry to marry.”, she heard Vivek’s voice from behind.
“Hey!”, she let out an exhausted sigh.
“But you really have to tell me how could all this happen? I mean How did you like him, just with a conversation over phone?” , Vivek shrugged his shoulders.
Harini shook her head. How would she explain it to them? That she was there to stop the wedding.
“Hey, you are useless. I told you long back it is a girl’s thing. You can never understand. All that you can do is drool over Deepika Padukone. “, Vonidhini snubbed him.
“Not everybody from Bangalore are Deepika. What say Harini? ”, Vivek winked at Harini.
“Vicky, please.”, she stood up to leave. She took her baggage and headed towards her room.
“Harini, Vasanth nagar is near your locality?”, Suji’s voice stopped her.
She turned in a reflex. She nodded, perplexed.
“It seems, a guy in mid-twenties, working in SJM towers had met with an accident. I assumed you must know the area, so just like that, I thought I could ask. “, Suji replied.
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