“I have never seen any man with such shapely fingers, it’s almost feminine”. Prachi couldn’t take her eyes off Asif’s fingers , brushing them with her own in a slow manner of caressing.
“Shut up,will you?” Asif said softly with a faint blush appearing on his face. The kind of face which not everyone would consider typically striking , yet none would hesitate to call him handsome.
“If my fingers are feminine, then your mouth is anything but that. No fulsome upper lip at all,huh.” He said while trying to plant a kiss on Prachi’s lips, holding her face with both of his hands.
Asif’s rarely revealed playfulness was one of the many things which had Prachi hooked on to him. It was several months ago when their paths had crossed and even after so many meetings ,numerous lengthy conversations ,some of them even bordering on being arguments and such frequent love making ,the passion was still on the ascent , the urge never seemed to depart. She would never tire of gazing at his eyes ,where she always found love in the truest of forms , a kind of longing which urged her never to leave.
Asif’s lingering infatuation however was mostly emotional and intellectual. Prachi was very pretty with that slim dusky face , light brown eyes which were mostly as expressive as that of a classical dancer on stage and that perfect, absolutely sculpted , gifted nose. Yet it was her point of view on everything ,forever tinged with an unmissable sense of romance and fantasy, that he found irresistibly attractive.
He couldn’t blame her for that. Their first meeting itself ,which was actually more of an accident was such a contrived affair,that they could never thank their fate and their Gods, their respective Gods ,sufficiently. On a cold, windy January afternoon ,Asif had walked into a coffee shop, only to find a solitary empty seat. That, next to this beautiful young lady , who looked graceful ,to say the least , as she stared blankly into the window with a hot cup held with both palms, in that golden yellow saree ,draped in a manner which made it obvious of her acquired expertise in it. In contrast to his nature, Asif went and occupied that seat. He,who had always had a strange reluctance in such social scenarios where he would fish out every option other than being in close proximity with an unknown woman, however, went ahead and took the uncharacteristic step. What more, he could even have eye contact with her and keep a smiling face all through, instead of the grim, grave one which he carries around all the time. How could he manage that, he could never decipher. That kind of confidence had never dawned on him, never before, never since.
With the formal exchange of pleasantries started a chain of events ,which saw them drawn closer and closer to each other . It indeed was kismet,destiny,fate,good fortune. Such things didn’t only exist in the realm of stories,it was happening to them in everyday reality.
After one more long ,lingering kiss , Prachi started to get dressed . It was time for her to leave. Asif just kept staring at her . In all these months,they had never had a proper chat regarding their pasts. Maybe the present was just too blissful and neither wanted to jeopardise that.
Asif and Prachi didn’t mean to fall in love. But love happens when you least expect it. It creeps up suddenly. When someone needs attention, care, conversation, laughter and maybe even intimacy. Love doesn’t look at logic, or at backgrounds or for that matter, religion.
Prachi’s origins were from a very conservative South Indian family that went to a temple every Monday. Asif bought goats for his family every Eid. That said it all. Their paths would never have crossed if it hadn’t been for that fateful day. That day when he walked into the coffee shop. Prachi wondered if destiny chose our loved ones for us. Did we have any role to play at all?
She looked at her watch. Asif was late. They met every Thursday at five pm to catch up. Their conversation lasted for hours. Sometimes at the cafe, sometimes in his car, sometimes in places that she could never tell her friends about. They would never understand. And yet Asif made her happy.
Suddenly her phone beeped. He had sent a message. “On my way. Have something important to tell you.”
Prachi stared at it and realized she was beginning to have knots in her stomach, a strange feeling which had deserted her a long time ago. Thoughts flooded her mind. What did he want to tell her? I hope it’s not what I think. It’s too early for that.
The past has a capricious way of finding its way into the promising present and cloud the future. Asif had given in . The fact that he was a married man was getting too burdensome for him to hide anymore.
“This is us on the day of the wedding”. Asif showed a picture of a much younger him and his wife Shahreen dressed in bridal finery.”I have been married to her for the past six years. She is the daughter of a friend of my father and supposedly that was enough. I was never even asked, was only informed about that decision” .Asif kept on talking ,not having the courage to look her in the eye, all the while.
“Is she still as pretty as she looks in this photo”.Prachi asked.
“What”, Asif looked a little stunned.
She smiled,”I asked, is she still as pretty”
“Are you not disturbed to hear this?”, Asif was finally able to lift his eyes up from the tiny stain that was somehow left unattended on the table.
“You think, It never occurred to me.” Prachi took his hand in hers. With a childlike wink on her face ,she said “It’s not your fault. See we are intelligent women, we have this incredible gift. It doesn’t take us long to size up a man , emotionally ” She heaved a sigh .”Let’s go for a drive”.
As they left the traffic behind, the sun was about to set and the skies were bathed in glorious twilight. Asif had been silent all the while, his gaze fixed at the road ahead, his body stiff, his eyes pensive.
Prachi looked relatively relaxed. ”You still didn’t answer my question”
“Ok, Not that I understand ,how it matters,but yes,age hasn’t chipped away at her beauty at all”. Asif said in a mocking tone.
“Ok calm down now, I had spotted that wedding ring on that very first day and subsequently, the unusual white patch of skin ,whenever you had purposefully taken it off, before coming to meet me.” Prachi made it sound as if it was just a matter of fact. The city lights had imparted an unusually angelic glow to her face.
Asif took his car aside and stopped it. It had rained that afternoon. The fields after a fresh fill of the downpour were swaying happily to the cool evening breeze .
“I want to let that stillborn marriage ,that relationship which could never carve a place in our respective hearts, be history. I want to be with you. There is no place that I would rather be ,than your warm embrace. Your smile, your quirky notions, the way you enjoy those silly cartoons, the fragrance you exude,when you come out of the shower, the sweetness of your kiss,that excited look on your face when you show those moves on the dance fl..”
She put her hand on his mouth, but he was far from done.
“I know my blabbering isn’t making much sense here. But I love you Prachi .I love you for the thousands of tiny bits of awesomeness that you have inside you. Marry me Prachi ”. He had never felt that desperate, that helpless in his life ever. But for once he shut his thoughts and let his emotions get the better of him.
She kissed him on his cheek. leaving behind a faint impression of her light mauve lipstick on his unshaven face.
“I wish it were that simple. I wish I could wake up to find you by my side everyday. I wish I could make you smile more.” She was trying to wipe that lip mark with a wet tissue.
“But why .I am sure Shahreen will understand. Besides we have never been that close to cause any comfort or pain to each other. I will try to convince your parents .I know this religion thing will mess up everyone ,but I will try my best, we will, won’t we?” He was suddenly feeling lighter, infused with a great amount of confidence and energy.
“I had hoped, you never bring this up ,but sadly I knew you will . My parents, my South Indian Hindu, conservative family values will not bother you a bit, believe you me. My family lives in a remote village of Karnataka and I haven’t visited them in years. They actually don’t want me to.
They thought I was working here as a sales executive. But once they got a whiff of the truth, the only thing that we have shared is distance . The truth that I am an escort, yup that’s what I am. I drive around with wealthy people for money and let them have the pleasures of my proximity. I have no particular sob story to justify it and even if I had,I would not bother telling it to anybody, not even you. Well, this is my sin and I am unapologetic about it. “
“This is not true, you are just playing one of your stupid tricks again” Asif was shaking now .
“No Asif, it’s all true. I have been around with many men, but never seen a bigger fool than you. How could you never notice that I was talking to so many different people on the phone, everytime. How could you be so naïve to believe whatever lie I told you as an excuse for not spending , even a single night with you?” Prachi couldn’t help sound agitated amid her hopeless efforts to stay calm.
Not fighting those tears anymore , Prachi went on “But I always felt ,you were different and never wanted to cheat you. Just never had the courage to break apart that small, joyful, perfect world that we, only we were a part of. I will get down now ”. She opened the door without giving another glance at him.
Asif was speechless .Yet hateful thoughts kept inundating his mind. He wanted to punish this woman for how she had betrayed him. She was filthy, disgusting yet why did she still look so beautiful.”It’s just that I am such an emotional , desperate wreck right now. Let her rot in hell, if she can ever find a place there “ He drove past her , carelessly splashing a gush of rainwater onto her saree.
“The Coffee Place”that very unimaginatively named café that was where Prachi used to visit, wore an unusually desolate look that Thursday. She was there sitting all alone on her usual table looking out the window to the street outside bathing in another bout of the monsoon rains,there were only a couple of sleepy customers in the other tables. Suddenly she sprang up from her chair,her face awash with an innocent beam . It was Asif ,standing on the middle of that road in front , drenched in a white shirt . With a dishevelled mop of her and a wide smile on his well contoured bright face , he signalled her to join him.