Karthik’s eyes were now fixed to a blue blinking light, the indication that his laptop was charging. A beep in his mobile startled him to the present. His tears had dried but the stains were there. Priya was the best and the most devastating thing that had happened to him. He stretched his arm to grab his mobile.
It was 3 A.M. He could not believe he had stayed up the whole night thinking his past.
There was a text from Amo.
He saw that, smiled at the name. How whole heartedly he had saved her name that way. He smiled and cried at the same time and kept his phone back, placing his hands on his head, as it throbbed.
But something struck him suddenly. He had not deleted or renamed her contact. Of course she was his Amo for his lifetime. But, Was it a text from Priya?, or my imagination is bringing her name in my mobile, Karthik thought. He felt a sudden rush of blood in his face. He grabbed the mobile as fast as he could. His hands trembled as he opened the message.
“Hi. Reached home safe?” read the text. She had sent it at 11.30 P.M
He was astonished. Why is she texting him now. What should he say, Should he ask her something? Ask how she was. Against her fair skin, dark circles around her eyes had grown bigger and deeper. He did not miss noticing her. He was urged to ask her how she was. He crumbled his temptation. He was not sure whether she would be awake now to respond to him. He wanted to maintain his text short.
“Yes, and you?”, he replied and locked his mobile.
It was yet another sleepless night for him.
Harini and Ashwin were waiting in cafeteria for Karthik.
“Hi Guys!”, Karthik exclaimed as he saw them.
He looked weak.
“Did you eat last night”, Harini shot her question.
“Yup. Mom made some dosa.”, Karthik smiled.
“If you smile, that does not mean you will tell the truth. You told me that Aunty had been in Trichy for a family wedding”, Ashwin stared.
Karthik was caught embarrassed.
“Karthik, I know it is difficult, but, past is past. Certain people break relationship and heart. Everything hurts, man. But please, leave that back. She is gone” Ashwin consoled Karthik. Karthik’s mind was stuck in the word ‘Gone’. Has she gone completely. Why did she text all of a sudden. Was it just because she saw him face to face and never spoke a word. Or is she trying to continue their relationship that ended and took away lots of Karthik’s happiness.
He replayed Priya’s text again in mind. How can one small sentence, revive all the feelings again? Karthik was confused.
“Karthik”, Ashwin shouted as he shook his shoulders.
“Hey, Sorry, where were we? “, Karthik asked.
“Oh my god”, Harini tapped her fingers on her forehead. She had neatly applied cherry red nail polish on her nails. He did not miss to note it.
“Guys, please stop it”, Harini interrupted his admiration. “Shall we get back to work. Priya won’t stop hurting you and you won’t stop getting hurt. This is not going to end at all. Or at least till you guys get married”, Harini spoke in haste.
“To each other?”, Ashwin giggled.
Karthik glared at him, Harini too.
As Karthik and Ashwin entered their cubicles, Ashwin asked, “Hey dude, you told me that you know a guy who cleans cars right? Give me his number da. “
“One sec”, Karthik touched his pockets.
He could not find his mobile. He immediately went to cafeteria to check if he had misplaced. It was not there. He called his number from Ashwin’s.
“Hello”, A familiar voice answered.
“Amma , You are back from Trichy?. Also my mobile is at home?”, Karthik asked.
“Yes dear. You had left it on your study table. I came and picket it up as it rang.”
“Ok Amma, Thank you”
That day was very long for Karthick. He was stuck in office until 3 AM. It was 4 AM when he finally reached home. His head pained as if it was about to burst. Aarti and parents were fast asleep. He went to his room, not in a mood to change his clothes, fell on bed landing his throbbing head against the soft pillow.
Soft fingers touched him. It was warm, it had wrinkles and he could feel them. Karthik was worried it might be the same night mare again. He shut his eyes tight. The hands slowly ran down his legs. He felt a smooth massage. Something sharp was pinching him now.
“No, leave me alone. You will kill me. Leave me “ Karthik shouted and woke up, panting heavily. The hands which he felt on his legs were the window curtains. He placed his hands on his chest and as if to pacify his fast beating heart. His mom moved in, wondering why her son’s voice was too loud.
“What happened Karthik?”
“Nothing Mom. Some wrong call. He disturbed me right in the morning , so shouted at him”
His mom crooked her eyebrows in worry.
“Karthik, are you ok?”, She came near her son and touched his forehead.
“I am normal, Mom”, Karthik smiled.
She kissed her son.
He hugged his mom. Her hug was warm. He felt as though he could throw away his bothering and sleep in his mom’s lap for forever.
She looked at her son worried.
“What mom?”Karthik asked
“When you called me yesterday morning from office, your mobile was running in low battery. I had kept it in charge in living room. Here it is”, She handed over his mobile.
Karthik bit his lip about the blunder he blabbered few minutes ago.
“Take care Son. Just a small piece of friendly advice. Dont worry anything mess with your happiness. Key to your happiness is with you. Do not put the key in others pocket, dear. No one is in charge of your happiness or sadness”. Mom smiled.
Karthik smiled back and got up. He felt better. He refreshed himself and took his mobile and unlocked his mobile.
There were 3 texts and one missed call from Priya.
Text 1 – 7.00 AM
“Yes , I reached home safe. How are you. You have gone down so much and you look so weak. Are you keeping well ?”.
Text 2 – 10.00 AM
There was a call from Priya at 4.30 PM.
Text 3- 9.00 PM
“I know that I am taking too much advantage. You looked very weak last night. I just wanted to check on your health. Take care Karthik. You are gem of a person to feel sad that a stupid piece, that had left you behind without realizing your love. Bye. Good night”
Karthik had mixed emotions. He was blank , not knowing what to do. Was it just an inquiry about his wellbeing? If he replies and if the chat continues, can he stop his actual emotions and talk normally as if nothing has happened. Why is she reminding about the past. Karthik was in total chaos. He had not attended her call. He had not replied since one day. Some instinct in him asked him to ignore. It was unfair, Karthik thought.
He replied. “Sorry. I had left mob at home and went to office. Came back home only at 4. Ya , I am keeping myself going. I am fine”, read the text.
Few moments later, he received a message. It was from Ram.
“Karthik, since you had been working overnight yesterday, Please take a day off today. Let us meet tomorrow. Take care”, read the text. Karthik stretched his arms and arched his back as if to relax his muscles.
There was a call now. He lazily gazed at his mobile. He smirked as he thought whether it might be Ram calling him again asking him to come now. But the smirk slowly changed to puzzle and then to smile as he say the name calling him. Yes it was his Amo.
He controlled himself not to call her Amo.
“Amo”, he attended. He bit his lip.
“Karthik, Karthik, how are you”, She gasped. Her smooth sweet silky voice brushed his ears. He closed his eyes.
“Tell me, where to meet”, came out the next sentence from Karthik.
He had texted Harini and Ashwin that he is off, and that he had a surprise call from Priya and he was going to meet her.
They were seated opposite to each other in a restaurant. They had ordered food and now they had sometime for themselves. Priya had come in a blue salwar. 6 months after the break up had taken adverse effects on her too, Karthik thought.
She was crushing the hotel napkin with her fingers, the same slender fingers which Karthik loved to caress. She was tensed. She avoided eye contact. Guilt had overtaken her.
“How did you know I wanted to meet you?”, Priya broke the silence.
“I know you for 8 1/2 years. I can tell what your silence means. I can tell what your single breathe speaks. When you repeated my name twice, there was a desperate urge to meet me , I knew it and hence we are here”. Karthik replied.” So whats up, still with Nokia?”, Karthik continued as he sipped his juice.
“No, I quit my job , as I got married. I am now at home”, came in Priya’s reply.
Karthik’s face turned pink. Is she trying to play with my emotions, Karthik thought. He opened his mouth to ask her then why the hell did she call him. Before he could say anything, Priya continued.
“But, until he divorced me. Now in fact I am searching for a job”, Priya spoke, for first time looking into Karthik’s eyes.
“What?”, Karthik asked in confusion.
“Yes, immediately after our break up, I was so much angry on you that I asked my father to get me married. An alliance came through my Srini Uncle. A guy, named Arun, came with big profile settled in London. He looked smart. Appearances are deceptive. We got married and I flew to London with him. Within one month of my wedding, my father had incurred a major irreversible loss which had made him to be in debts for his lifetime. Arun was interested in inheriting my father’s property. Once he came to know that we were at loss, his attitude changed. He tortured me , yelling at me that we had cheated him. He even bet me. Once he even tried to hurt me”, Priya rolled her sleeves and showed a deep 3 inch knife mark on her left wrist. Her skinny arm looked pale. Without further delay, Priya continued. “My father had a heart attack. He stood the business loss. He could not fight the injustice that was happening to his daughter. Meanwhile he divorced me. I came back to Chennai. When my Uncle visited my dad in hospital, he was not able to hide the truth. He admitted that he did not like you and just because of that he had lied about the conversation happened. His single lie had tumbled my whole life.” Priya wiped her tears. How stupid I should have been to lose you just because someone lied. I had believed them more. I am paying for it, Priya thought.
“I am sorry for coming in to your life again. I thought I should never meet you again. I decided not to let you know about anything happened to me so far. But my bad, I saw you in Srinivas wedding. I could not stand how weak you looked. I knew it was because of me. I wanted to tell you that this hunk of junk was hasty and stupid enough to take the worst decision of life, hurting the purest heart and repaying for it, every moment in her life now and that you shall stop worrying about her and take care of your life”, Priya broke into tears.
Karthik was dumbstruck. He had been listening carefully. His Priya was weeping. He had no clue how to console her. It was like a dream. Ofcourse, a horror one.
Karthik paid the bill and both of them left the restaurant.
“Are you heading home or where shall I drop you?”, asked Karthik. Priya’s home was on the way only.
“Hmmm. No. I have to meet someone here nearby. I will take a leave Karthik”, Priya smiled. Her smile showed pain.
Karthik bade a bye and kick started his bike to his home. As he was heading home, while waiting in a signal, Karthik spotted Priya in a MTC Bus , travelling towards her home. Why did she lie then? Is she trying to avoid a bike ride with him, Karthik shrugged his shoulders as he thought.
Next morning, As usual , Karthik met Harini in the cafeteria and headed to his cubicle. Ashwin was already seated in his system.
“Hey, dude, whats up?”, Karthik smiled.
“As usual. A day off does not change many things upside down, at least in professional life”, Ashwin snubbed Karthik.
Karthik did not expect this. He was about to tell something when his desk phone rang. He turned to attend it.
“Hey”, a new ping from Harini popped up in Ashwin’s system.
“Hi”, replied Ashwin.
“You sensed some change in Karthik? He was light and happy, when we met in cafeteria”
“Yes, his lost love is back. So you are happy about it?”
“What did you feel”
“Yes, then what am I supposed to tell. They will break up and part ways easily ,leaving behind guys in sorrow. As good friends we knew how he suffered. Now they easily get back, when they need something. There is a specific way address these types of women. I don’t even want to tell that. ”
“Hey, cool. Let us hope for best. Your asset is your cool nature. Don’t lose it J “
“Hmm ok Harini , brb”
“Sure, take care”, ended the chat.
As Ashwin was about to get back, Ram came behind and invited them for a group meeting.
Karthik and Ashwin joined Ram in a conference room. As they were discussing, Ram asked for a report which Karthik had left at his desk. As he came back to take it, He saw Ashwin’s system unlocked. As he went near to lock it, Harini’s chat caught his eyes. He locked Ashwin’s system and proceeded.
“Ok Guys, Thanks. I am actually leaving early today. Hope to see you after my vacation”, Ram stood up and left the conference room.
Ashwin stood up to leave, when Karthik blocked his way.
“Come to cafeteria , I need to talk to you” . He pulled Ashwin by his arm and went to cafeteria.
“Please make it quick. Have some urgent task. Ram has listed so many. Did you pay ears or were in your dream land”
“Ashwin stop it. Don’t get into my nerves.” Karthik raised his voice.
“Don’t shout. I do not want to be shouted at, by such an insane guy”
“Listen, I know you are angry because I met Priya. Her voice told me that she needed me”
“Oh, is it. Don’t you understand she is using you. See I don’t have any problem you meeting her again. But I am all concerned about you. Why the hell you don’t understand”
“Don’t ask me to understand. Pure love is always self-less. How do you know about pure self-less love. I am talking to someone who had never loved at all. Of course should be difficult for you. Only love can teach you value and respect for woman. You don’t know both ”, Karthik snubbed Ashwin, keeping the chat in his mind.
“What the hell. What did you just say?, that I don’t know about pure love and above all I have not loved? That I don’t respect and value woman? As if you knew. Idiot. I did have a wonderful love within me. You call a love pure when you had at least expressed your love and had a good relationship together for 8 years. What will you call a Love which I had kept buried in my heart , when I came to know she did not love me? What will you mean about respecting woman, when I risked everything to move away from her , just because her mere sight would disturb me and in turn disturb her? What will you mean about valuing woman, just me liking everything, cause she likes them?” Ashwin spoke in a single breadth. He blurted out the hidden truth, in the heat of the moment.
“Ashwin, you had a woman in your life? And you did not tell your love? ” Karthik asked, His anger mitigated.
“Yes, the one whom I loved for 2 years in my heart. The one whom I thought was my path of my future. The one whom I thought, for whom I can conquer the world. The one whom I thought, should experience only love and happiness. The one whom I left 7 years back, just because I should not meet her again. The one who was brought back to me and introduced by my best friend, of course you idiot, a year back that she was your closet friend, reviving all my feelings for her, but at the same time suppressing everything, just because I could not show it. Can you imagine the situation I had been through? I had to be with her all the time, every single move of her disturbing me, yet cannot show it or walk away. It was hell man, It was hell. I admired her nail color, dress, her accessories, her finger movements. But still could not express it”, Ashwin was in tears.
Karthik went near him, touched him and with a shock , he asked, “Harini?”.
Ashwin nodded “Yes”.
Chapter -10 :
Ashwin nodded “Yes” and started his narration.
“It was during My 11th std, my father underwent a major heart surgery. He was advised not to travel long distances in bike. Hence we shifted to an area which was just few minutes away from office. I had to travel 5 extra kilometers to school. My father’s health was the first priority of family. Everyone compromised on one thing or the other.
When we had been to our new house, there was a beautiful family right next door. The parents had been so supportive in arranging all the requirements. Their daughter was helping a lot too. Our family felt she was too helpful for her age. She was short and chubby.
“Your daughter is so sweet. What’s her name? ”, My mother asked.
“Thank you madam, her name is Harini”, came out the reply from the neighbor.
“So sweet”, My mom pinched her chubby cheeks. She smiled. I felt the smile was too attractive. I felt Harini was a very nice girl.
A year passed by. My dad recovered well. But he was still advised not to travel long distances. I was in 12th std now. Harini was very studious. Harini and I studied together. I developed a very strong attraction towards her. I did not express it, keeping my studies in mind. I trailed by 100 marks in my 12th and had to join a different college.
My feeling for Harini had not changed over time. I felt as though it was an urge to live with Harini throughout. I was not sure what had made me take that decision. Was it her support during my father’s medical visits, or was it her responsibility in assisting my mom when we needed a support or was it her consoling words whenever I felt bad about change in environment, was it her beautiful smile and chubby, little fingers , that extended for friendship when I told that I left my friends back in my old area, was it her care to make me concentrate in my studies, I was not sure. There were million reasons within me that I wanted her. But it all depended only on one thing. She should understand and feel my love too. She was a very good friend of mine. But I was afraid whether I would ruin the friendship, just by telling her that I loved her.
It was towards the end of my first year of my college, one fine day, I mustered all my strength and made my mind to talk to her about my love for her. I bunked my second half and came home early. She used to return by 5. She was not home by that time. The flowers I had bought for her were slowly getting dried. It was around 7 o clock , I saw her rushing towards her home. Her face red and tear stained. Though I did not know why she was crying, I understood this was not the right time to tell my love for her. In the meantime my friend called me and told that we were in big trouble as we bunked our classes today. I had to go back to the college and set things straight. It was almost 9 when I came home. I came to know from my mom that Harini was still not home. I was not in a mood for dinner. I hit the bed, and was brooding how beautifully I had planned for an evening. I was not sure why it was ruined. A girl who might be home by 4 was not yet home. I was not sure what went wrong. I texted her asking her where she was and was she safe. There was no reply. It was almost 11 PM, I was still wide awake, head throbbing. I decided to go to the terrace. As I reached, to my utter surprise, I saw Harini standing there. I was not sure what she was doing there alone at that time.
“Harini”, I called softly.
She turned, her face blotted. It was just because she had been crying.
“What are you doing here?”, I asked
“Nothing just came up. Was in need of some serene time”.
“Guess I disturbed you”.
“No Ashwin, best friends know when the others are in trouble. You should have come up by that instinct only”
Her reply startled me. I was not sure whether to feel proud or sad at the words ‘best friend’.
“Best friends are also there to remove tears” I said, my face dull.
She almost broke into tears listening to me and she narrated how a close friend of hers has proposed a girl, and how she had felt less important before the new girl. She also told that her best friend, clarified all her confusions but still she was heartbroken that she owned only a part of him now.
As she completed with tears, I could sense two things. One , there was a guy closer to her than me , whom she values higher than anyone else. Two, she trusted and believed me so much to tell something involving the most valuable person of her life.
I made up my mind that night. A heart broken out of an intense relationship cannot be healed soon. I decided to wait for her heart to heal, but not at such close proximities. Her mere sight will disturb me. I might be prompted to express my love for her which might ruin our friendship. It was ok to miss her love rather than missing her completely. We vacated to new house in another month. It was far for my father. But I learnt driving and dropped him every day. There were many challenges, which I took , just for Harini, my Love. I did not want to disturb her. I was not at all in touch with her. I texted her rarely.
As years rolled by I completed my college and got placed here. Harini’s thought never faded away. The pain, that Harini was not with me slowly mitigated. It was when you told me that the next day your best friend was joining and the next morning you brought my Harini back to my life, reviving all the feelings I had for her. It was as though my love life that was paused 7 years ago, was resumed all over again.
I cannot choose between you two. If I cannot miss you, I had to be with her, Admiring her , loving her, yet remaining very calm , pretending as though nothing is happening within and around me. It was hell man. But still I opted for it. For my best friend, you. And now that idiot is abusing me”, Ashwin completed his narration, shaking off Karthik’s hands from his shoulders. He had not revealed to Karthik that Harini was in love with him(Karthik) . Harini had requested Ashwin not to reveal it to anybody, especially Karthik. Ashwin then thought that chances of meeting that guy were very slim. Fate plays its own games. The same guy had become his best friend now.
“Am So sorry”, Karthik apologized and shared Priya’s past, that she has not been, around seeking for help.
“Hey, Sorry to hear that. Forgive me da. I was bit rude on her”, Ashwin took the turn now.
“That’s ok, dude”, Karthik smiled. Both of them got back to work.
Karthik returned home at 11 PM that night. Somehow his conversation with Ashwin disturbed him. From what Ashwin had said, he could make out that it was due to him Ashwin’s day was spoilt. If he had proposed Priya another day, things would have changed. He was the one who broke Harini’s heart. It’s because of him, his friend stopped himself from expressing his love. Though not a direct cause, even in any minor form, he did not want to be a cause for tumbling his best friend’s life upside down. He was thinking on how he was going to work it out between them. He tapped his forehead with his fingers, when his mobile beeped.
It was a text from Harini.
“Hey dear, its Ashwin’s birthday this Sunday. What are we going to plan?”
Karthik’s face lit up. He already worked a plan in his head
“I have a surprise for you, that day” replied Karthik
“Sorry typo. Surprise for him* “Karthik corrected his text and smiled to himself.
September 13. It was Ashwin’s Birthday. Karthik and Ashwin met in beach. Karthik hugged and wished Ashwin. It was a beautiful evening. Karthik purposely asked Harini to reach late.
“Hey, dude, we are actually planning for a surprise, which could be arranged only after bringing here. Why don’t you wait in a distance?. We will call you once ready”, Karthik urged Ashwin to move as Harini could come anytime.
As Ashwin moved, Harini was fast approaching. She was wearing a polka dot top and a light blue jean. She wore beautiful danglers, which hit her cheeks every time she struggled to walk in beach mud. Ashwin could not take his eyes off her. Harini , too saw Ashwin and waved a “Hi”, she almost shook hands in air, wishing him a Happy birthday.
“H…i..” Harini panted after the long walk
“Hi”, Karthik smiled.
“What’s the surprise , idiot?”
“Wait wait.. It’s not going to be a surprise for Ashwin alone. It is going to be a surprise for you too”
“Huh?” Harini lost her patience.
“And, I am not going to give it to you, I am going to tell you”, Karthik grinned
“Oh god, what is it?”
“To know about that you have to travel back 7 long years. There was a cute chubby girl called Harini. There was a smart boy called Ashwin. They met for the first time when Ashwin relocated to Harini’s neighbourhood ….”, Karthik started and narrated the entire flashback Ashwin had told him.
Harini gave so many expressions as he narrated. There were many ifs and Buts initially from her. But as Karthik proceeded , she almost froze in shock. She fixed her gaze to the sea waves that was struggling to reach the shore. Whenever it did, it withdrew itself. Her eyes were filled with tears. As Karthik completed and turned to look at Harini , she was gone.
She strode towards Ashwin’s direction. She started running now. Karthik never expected Harini to react immediately. He felt happy that she liked it. She is now running towards her Love , Karthik thought. As Karthik’s thought brought him smile, he heared a slapping noise. Karthik turned in bewilderment.
Ashwin was standing there with his hands on his cheeks. Harini had slapped him.
Karthik approached them fast. Ashwin was frozen with shock. As Karthik neared, Harini caught Ashwin’s shirt and shook it.
“Why didn’t you tell this to me much earlier”, Harini shouted on top of her lungs.
Ashwin was still in shock.
“That guy, that stupid guy out there , when I soulfully tried to tell him that I wanted him, he used some stupid complex words ‘ I love you, but I am not in love with you’ etc . I really felt I was just a mommy material as he calls. I had even wondered whether any guy would even love me and marry me. Why did you take so long and that too why did not you tell me by yourself.”, Harini was in tears now.
“I had missed to recognize someone who had been living for me patiently and silently for 7 long years. There were so many times I had expressed how much I miss Karthik, right in front of you. Your expressions and feelings had not changed. How much it should have hurt you. I had hurt you so much, I am sorry, I am sorry”, Harini bursted into violent tears in Ashwin’s shoudlers. She was now leaning against him.
The scene had confused Karthik. He was now almost running towards them.
“Your friend is coming. Don’t talk about your feelings for him”, Ashwin warned Harini.
Ashwin touched Harini’s shoulders, probably for the very first time , in an attempt to move her away.
“What happened” , Karthik gasped.
Ashwin raised his thumb and smiled.
Harini, as she wiped her tears off, turned towards Karthik’s voice. Karthik hugged Harini.
“So happy for you my sweetheart. Let your life be all happy “, Karthik spoke in true emotion.
Ashwin was still not out of the mental shock .It was as though everything had happened in jiffy. He could not believe Harini had accepted his love. Has she really? He wondered.
“So did you tell him those?’, Karthik asked Harini as if he read Ashwin’s mind.
“What?”, Happy birthday?”, Harini grinned.
“Hmm. Yes. And only for that I had been waiting with rewards”, Ashwin spoke in sarcasm as he touched his cheeks.
“Am so sorry”, Harini hung her head in guilt.
“Come on, that’s ok dear”, Ashwin bent almost half of his height trying to see her face.
“Enough of drama. Now time for those words”, Karthik demanded.
“Ok, Ok”. Harini cleared her throat.
Ashwin placed his hands on his heart, as though begging for love.
With all smiles and blush, she looked into Ashwin’s eyes and said “I love you”.
The trio were all smiling, nevertheless to say Karthik , being the happiest.
“Hey guys, enjoy your evening. I will see you tomorrow”, Karthik shouted and ran. Karthik felt so light and happy after a very long time. He wanted to share this moment with Priya.
He took his mobile and dialed her number. Before the call could get connected he wondered would it be the right time. He cut the call and sent her a text, that read just a ‘Hi’. He waited for her reply. He spent two hours in beach. It was almost 10 PM when he reached home. He thought of giving a try. He dialed Priya’s number. It was switched off. He sent her a text, asking her to reply once she sees it and dozed off. His mind’s most wanted, peaceful sleep cradled his eyes.
He was awakened by some mumbling outside. Karthik’s dad had bought a horoscope which came through his colleague and it had matched perfectly with Aarthi’s. Karthik’s mom and dad were busily discussing the happy news. Karthik tried hard to open his eyes. It was 5 minutes past 10. His mobile showed three texts. One was from Ashwin , thanking him for everything. Karthik smiled reading it. His smile faded away as he read the other two. It was the ‘Undelivered’ service reply for both the texts he had sent to Priya last night. He sat on his bed, looking at his mobile.
He was now worried, as what happened to Priya. As she told him, has she left him once again? Karthik thought. He was left with no option, rather than calling her parents.
Karthik called Priya’s mom and dad. They did not answer his calls. In another few days, he visited Priya’s house directly. It was locked. Their neighbor had informed that they had relocated to a new place, which they were not aware of.
Karthik took his mobile and dialed the number which he thought; he would not dial for his life time.
September 19 – Saturday.
He made sure, Priya left her house.
He was waiting at the doorstep pressing the doorbell. Priya’s mother opened the door.
She was startled to see Karthik.
“Karthik?”, she exclaimed.
“Yes Aunty, Is uncle at home?”, he asked.
“No Karthik. He has gone for work.”
“Job? I heard from Priya that he was not well”
“Come in, Son. Enough of all the injustice we did for you. Taking to you at the doorstep , treating you like a stranger is the last thing we could do to you.”
“Aunty , please”, Karthik stopped her.
She ushered him in.
“Aunty, why did uncle find a job, when he is not well?’,Karthik asked as he sipped the water.
“He is not ok to burden his daughter more. Because of haste, her life is ruined now. “, Aunty broke as she told this.
Karthik did not know how to console her.
“Aunty, can you please do me a favour”, Karthik asked and in next few minutes he got the neccessary things and left Priya’s home.
Karthik was back to Chennai the same day. His house was all excited.
Seems the new proposal for Aarthi was taking good shape.
“Karthik, the groom’s parents are so good. They did not leave any work for us. They are so impressed with Aarthi’s photo and her horoscope. They are coming home tomorrow”, his mother spoke in bliss and excitement.
Aarthi was in her tracks after her morning workout. She had retained the ‘I don’t know’ anything face as they were talking.
“Show him the Groom’s photo”, Karthik’s dad , ordered his wife. “Here it is”, his mom extended the photograph. It was a pic taken with River Thames in the background.
Karthik’s face froze as he saw the photo. He immediately threw it on the table and shouted.
“This cheat, he is already married. How dare they cheat. Stop all this proceeding . Let me check what is going on.” and dialed a number in his mobile.
“Hello Karthik”, answered a familiar female voice.
“Can you please hand over the phone to your husband?”, Karthik asked in fury.
“Hello”, a guy answered now.
“How dare you cheat”, Karthik shouted. The entire family saw him in utter shock.
“How dare you cheat. You were already married. Aparnaa is my team mate. It’s a betrayal for both Aparnaa and my Sister”, Karthik shouted.
“Excuse me, please wait. Are you Aarthi’s brother? “ asked the voice politely on the other end.
“Sir, the alliance is for my brother Srivats. I am Srinivas, as you mentioned Aparnaa’s husband. We are identical twins. “
“I know you cannot believe. Tomorrow both of us shall be there at your home. “, Srinivas replied
There was a long silence.
“See you tomorrow Sir, we can sort out the confusions then”, Srinivas replied and the line went dead.
There were three audiences before him, in complete confusion. As Karthik played back the phone conversation, all three of them laughed.
Ashwin found it funny too, but unlike Harini, who was still holding her stomach and trying hard to control her laughter. The trio met in a restaurant.
“How dare you cheat?”, she imitated in Karthik’s tone.
Ashwin and Harini gave a High-five. Ashwin was still holding Harini’s hand after the high five. It caught Karthik’s eye. He gazed at it for a moment and came back to real world when Ashwin patted him on his shoulders.
“Said something?” Karthik asked.
“Just called you man, nothing else. I am planning to talk about my love at home.”
“Yes”, Harini added. “We are planning to make both the parents meet and talk about it. I just thought we can keep things straight from the beginning. I feel you need to be there, Karthik, to support me. You had been with me through everything. This is such an important event of my life. I want you to be there.”
Harini was holding Karthik’s hands now. Karthik could not deny. He told that he will be there.
September 20 – Sunday
Karthik’s house was busy bustling about the groom’s visit. Harini had come home early , helping Aarthi with her make-up and dressing. Karthik was busy re-arranging furniture to accommodate the guests. Harini’s mom and Karthik’s Aunt had come home too. The three ladies were busy in kitchen. The calling bell rang. Whole family froze as they were not yet done with their works. The groom’s family were early by 2 hours.
Karthik opened the door.
“Hmmmm, great smell. Rava kesari and Aloo bonda?”, Ashwin sniffed and entered the house. Pushing Karthik to a side , he went directly to the kitchen.
“Aunty, wow!. The entire house is filled with the aroma of ghee and Spicy Aloo “, told Ashwin as he was staring at the Aloo bondas. He extended his hand to grab a few while Karthik pulled him back.
“Hey man, you gave us all a heart attack. We thought it was the groom”. Karthik punched Aswin in his stomach.
Harini came out of Aarthi’s room , hearing Ashwin’s voice.
“Of course, I am a groom too. You can check with Harini if you want”, Ashwin told loudly, pointing to Harini who was approaching.
“Hey Idiot, shhhh , Mom is there”, Harini whispered.
“Oh, my mom-in-law, Aunty.. “ Ashwin shouted.
“This guy has gone nuts”, told Harini, and shut Ashwin’s mouth. The mere sight disturbed Karthik. He was not sure why.
The Calling bell rang again. This time It was the groom and his family. The house was picture perfect now. So was Aarti. The guests were ushered in. As said over phone, Srinivas and Srivats had come. They had few differences in person, which was not obvious in photograph. Karthik apologized for the misconception. Everyone had a good laugh. Karthik and Srivats hugged each other.
The guests sat and Aarthi was brought to the living room. The groom’s family liked her a lot. Aarthi and Srivats spoke to each other and expressed their liking.
As they were munching on the snacks and sweets, Srivats’ father told that they wanted to do the wedding before year end. The wedding was almost fixed.
The evening ended well. Karthik was restoring home back to its normal form. Harini came near and said softly “I am planning to talk to my parents next weekend. Please be there dear. I need you”, she looked into his eyes. “Sure, Anything for my Kiddo” Karthik smiled.
It was a long day for the entire family. Karthik hit the bed at 11 PM. There were so many things running in his mind. His sister’s wedding, Harini’s request, Priya’s disappearance. He just pressed a pause button for his thoughts and played his sleep mode on.
Karthik and Harini were now standing in Harini’s house terrace. They had opened up the Love topic and it all ended well. Ashwin and his parents were down. Harini and Karthik were standing close to each other. Harini was in her saree. Her saree pleats were touching Karthik’s arm. The feel was new to him. Harini was casually looking at the sky.
“Harini”, Karthik called softly.
“Yes, dear”, she smiled.
“If I had not met Priya first and had I not proposed her, would you have accepted to marry me?”
Karthik raised the most sensitive question in a casual tone. Harini was startled. She looked at him in shock. Eyes wide open.
“Yes or No?”, demanded Karthik.
“But, why now. That’s over. Remember the night you took me out and cleared my mind? I wept the whole night to Ashwin. But I slowly came out. It was when I was completely normal, I came to know about Ashwin’s love.”
Karthik was resting his left hand on the terrace wall. The wall was wet due to dew drops.Karthik slowly turned his head towards Harini.
“Tell me, if I had not proposed her, you would have wished to marry me, right?”
“Karthik, I dont think it’s the right time to discuss this”
“Means, you are trying to tell you are getting a new life , your own life and I cannot own you?”
“Karthik, are you drunk?”
“Then why do you talk like this.”
“Harini, I am just confused. I feel my life is not going anywhere. I thought I found my Love, but she left me. She came into my life again. I thought she will stay. Now she has disappeared again. Some have problem finding love. I think I am having problem, staying in love”
Harini felt sad for him. She moved closer and took his right hand in hers. She looked at him directly into his eyes.
“Karthik, I will always be there for you. As a mother, as a kid, you name it Karthik. You name how do you want me in your life, I will be there.”
“Everything, Harini. I want you in my life as everything.”
“Karthik, i understand you. But you could have told this much before. If you had wished, you could have remained silent about Ashwin’s love for me. Why did you tell that to me? It’s only because of that we are here now.”
“Harini, only after you and Ashwin started your love journey, I felt you were taken away. Probably how you had felt when I proposed Priya.”
“Karthik , but….”
“Harini, I need you”
“Karthik”, Harini was looking at him with grace, “Poor you. You are confused”. She cupped his face in her hands. She moved closer. Karthik held her face close and tried to place a kiss on her forehead. The dampness of the wall caused his hands to slip, his lips moved down, and he accidently planted a kiss on her lips. Harini froze in shock, his grip was too strong to move away.
Karthik and Harini were startled by a voice. It was Ashwin’s.
“What the hell is going on here?” Ashwin shouted.
“No, Actually…”, Harini tried to speak but she was stopped by Ashwin.
“Hell with you guys. I knew how close you were. I had seen you hugging each other too. But this one, this is atrocious. Harini, do you think it is fine to kiss another guy having your lover beside?”
“I am going down and calling off the wedding”, Ashwin took two steps at a time and walked down.
Karthik followed him in panic. He did not notice the pipeline running below his legs. He tripped and fell down, his face hitting the cold concrete.
Karthik was awakened by a voice. All that he could remember was falling down. When he opened his eyes, it was bright outside. He was not sure how many days had passed by.
“Karthik”, a familiar voice called him.
“Hmmm”, Karthik mumbled.
“Karthik, get up son, you had fallen off the bed. Get up and lay yourself straight”, told his mom.
“Bed? So am I in hospital”, he asked as he climbed the bed.
“No, son. You are home. Safe and sound”, Karthik’s mom told as she touched his forehead.
“The same nightmare again?”, asked his mom.
Karthik was puzzled. “Karthik, what happened?”
Karthik searched for his mobile. It showed the date as 21st September and time as 8:35 AM. He was confused. The dream was so real. He could not believe it.
“Amma, I am fine. Office and few other things are stressing me. I will be ok ma. You don’t worry.” Karthick put on a weak smile.
“Son, you are important to us. If you feel like, we can visit a doctor to sort it out”
“Ma, no. I am perfectly fine”
“Ok, take care”, his mom left the room. Wrinkles in her face have grown, since her son’s break up. He was not normal. Neither was she.
Karthik was confused as why he dreamed this way. Was it an indication for something to happen in the future or was it the reflection of the slightest possessive that he had been feeling recently, whenever Harini and Ashwin were close. Whatever might be the cause, I shall not ruin my best friend and my Harini’s life, Karthik thought.
Karthik took his mobile and dialled Ashwin’s number. Ashwin and Harini had bunked office and were out on a date.
They were seated in a restaurant, for breakfast. They had a huge plan. Morning to a mall, movie in the afternoon and beach late in the evening, and Karthik had promised to join them in the beach.
Ashwin’s phone rang as he was about to grab a big bite of his dosa.
“Hey, dude, Good morning”, Ashwin called out.
“Ashwin, listen. Just tell me a yes or no for my questions”
“What happened dude?”
“Just Answer me”.
“Ok, go ahead”, Ashwin’s face changed. Harini was now worried.
“Did I meet you anywhere after Srivats had come home.”
“How come man, It was just last night. We all went home. You had promised Harini that you will be there for the talk at home. And then we planned for bunking office today, We texted you the same. You replied, which was the last message from you. Now you are calling. That’s it.”
Karthik was relieved. “Ok, Ashwin. Where are you now”
“Stay there, I am coming. Don’t go. Wait. I will be there in sometime”
Ashwin completed his 3rd dosa and Harini completed her 300th peep.
Karthik finally reached the restaurant.
“Guys, I am sorry.”
“What’s with you , Karthik”, demanded Harini. “Look how you are, panting and sweating.”, she spoke as she adjusted his hair which was shuffled from wearing helmet.
For the first time in his life, he stopped Harini touching him. Harini gave a puzzled look. So was Ashwin.
“Guys, I am first of all sorry for making you wait. Can I borrow two hours of your time?”, Karthik asked.
They all thought in unison that Mahabalipuram might be the best place. Karthik and Ashwin drove. They reached Mahabalipuram, settled in the shadow of a huge sculpture.
“Karthik, what happened?”, Harini asked him now.
“Ashwin, I do not want to beat around the bush here. Let me put it straight. You know about me and Harini. How we were to each other.All….”
Karthik was interrupted by Ashwin as he raised his hand signaling him to stop.
“Are. Not were. It should have been how we are, man. “
Karthik smiled. Harini too.
“I do not want my relationship with her , to disturb your love life after marriage in any form”
“I do not want you to change the your relationship with her after my marriage, by any means”
Karthik and Ashwin spoke in unison.
“We rock”, Ashwin hugged Karthik.
“No Ashwin, it is not easy. You are my best friend and she is my lovely kiddo. Your happiness should never be disturbed. “
“Karthik, I had been loving her for more than seven years. Did you know then? But you were close to each other, right? Even when my love for Harini was one sided, I was taking your relationship with her in the right sense. You expect me to mistake it now? Until the day I met you guys, I thought a guy can love a girl only in one way, as his lover, and then wife. But you were the one who taught me that there are so many forms of pure love which a guy and a girl can share. Your love for her was selfless man. You did not expect anything from her. Nothing can be so pure as your love for her Karthik”, Ashwin spoke in true emotion.
“No man. Mine is not selfless, but yours is. We never knew how much it would have hurt you to see us close.”
“No, Karthik, seeing you close did not hurt me. Being beside Harini, loving her more than anything in this world and still suppressing all the feelings I had for her, was hurting me badly.
“Karthik, do You know , we had spoken to each other about this”, Harini spoke for the first time in the past ten minutes. “You know what did he tell me? ‘Loving you means, not just loving you as a person alone,but loving all the other things which you love. If I say I love you, I eventually mean I love Karthik, which eventually means, I love and respect the relationship you have for each other, because more than you , you love Karthik and more than him you love your relationship’. I was dumbstruck. Ashwin was at his best in understanding. He loves me, he believes me, his belief on you is much more, Karthik. Ashwin is beyond compare. The way he loves me, the way he cares for me , the way he cares for my relationship with you is priceless. This is making me fall for him more and more by every passing day. ” Harini spoke and was looking still at Karthik. Karthik turned towards Ashwin. Now Harini and Karthik were looking at Ashwin.
“Mahabalipuram’s history is written on my face?” Ashwin threw few grains of sand on Karthik and Harini’s face. The trio laughed. Karthik laughed in relief. He was almost in tears. He hugged Ashwin.
“if it is between a guy and a girl, love might be the purest. But between two guys, Friendship is the purest”, Ashwin smiled.
Ashwin and Harini continued their itinerary while Karthik left for office.
Later that day Karthik texted Ashwin that he could not join them as he had some urgent task to be completed by end of the day . As he typed the message to Ashwin, he took his bag, and hovered his card over the sensor, it turned green and he left out of the office.
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