“This is not going to work out”, I let out a sigh, as I rubbed my forehead.
He did not answer.
He sat still, looking at his own reflection in the table glass.
“Rajiv”, I called.
He looked up and quickly turned away to look at the abandoned table to the right of us.
“Law makers should not be law breakers.” he mumbled, still looking at the table.
“Can you please speak right onto my face?” I demanded.
“What do you want me to say?” he looked at me, almost losing his temper.
“Rajiv, there is no use shouting”, I snubbed back.
“What do you really want me to do now?” he demanded. “I am not ready to accept plan A, you have ruled out Plan B long back. I don’t have any other option in hand. So now you are ready to break our first condition and relationship as well”, he continued.
“Don’t blame me for breaking it; it is you who are backing out at the last moment.”
“But that is my situation. Why don’t you understand”, Rajiv’s words slowed down.
“But Rajiv, didn’t I explain my situation well, just right at the beginning? You assured you won’t back out, didn’t you? Do you think breaking everything and moving away is a cake walk for me?” I raised questions one on top of the other.
He was just shaking his head. Both of us knew, Rajiv did not have answers for my question. He banged the table. It wobbled for few seconds. I was set off in trepidation that we might be hurled out of the restaurant.
But, neither the restaurant table nor the staffs were of importance, at that point of time. Where is my life going? Rajiv was not giving any concrete answers. I just had one option; to break the relation and part ways. It was not working out.
“Hello!!” Rajiv’s voice brought my mind back to present.
“Rajiv, for one last time, let me ask you. “, I spoke, and asked him the most embarrassing questions I have been asking him in the recent past.
Rajiv was silent; the most discordant answer, he had been giving for my questions in the recent past.
I waited for him to answer. He sat still. I was looking at his face, the angelic face; His broad eyes, perfectly angled nose and his full lips. I bit my lips. I am going to miss him, badly than ever, I thought.
I was not sure what made me say so. But I did. “Rajiv. No use of talking on inconclusive things again and again. It just ends up in heated arguments and frustrations. Let us stop it; once for all.”
My eyes were moist. I looked at Rajiv. I know it was the hardest thing for him. He did not react. He just looked at me.
“I am sorry, for it was me, because of whom; you had taken such a decision. But both of us are helpless here. I am not sure what would I do without you. I am not sure whether to weep badly for missing you or throw something at your face for going away from me, leaving me alone in this world. You are taking everything away from me. You are taking away my happiness, my future, my love, above all my life.”
As he spoke, tears rolled down my cheeks. I fought them back. I did not want to cry. I searched for my handkerchief to at least hide my tears. As I kept digging my bag, he extended his.
“Use this. Let my kerchief at least do, what I am actually supposed to do.”
My tears blurred my vision. I was not able to get it from him. He held my hand and placed it on my palm. His hand trembled. He was not able to take our separation. His hands were warm. With his other hand, he slowly wiped my tears. I was sure, by now, his eyes would have been moist, too. His long fingers, which could actually cover my entire palm, gripped mine firmly. As he placed the hanky, he covered my palm with his fingers. His perfectly trimmed nails were extra pink as he pressed them to tighten the grip.
I was able to listen to his touch, yes exactly, you read it right. I could hear what his touch conveyed. His touch conveyed numerous things. First and foremost being “Do not go”. But unfortunately I did not follow. I dropped the hanky, grabbed my bag and strode away in tears, leaving him
Few months ago…………
(Wondering where Am I taking you to? It is a love story, to be more precise, story about the love I just broke in the above page. So practically I should take you all, to where exactly I met him for the very first time.)
Chapter 1 :
It was half past two. My stomach was growling. I was late for the lunch most of the days since I had meeting exactly at 1.30 every day. It was Deepthi’s turn, that day, to delay. Hema was ready and was just waiting for my call. I tried Deepthi’s desk number, it rang, but that Princess did not pick up. Deepthi’s desk was just few yards away from mine and I was impatient enough to peep, wondering what she was doing.
As I rose from my chair, I saw her talking to a guy. What was she doing there at her desk, without picking my call? I almost lost my patience. My hunger and anger had multiplied ten folds.
I walked towards her desk.
The guy, who was talking to her, turned to me in a reflex as though he heard the tread of my heels. He looked at me for a moment and turned to Deepthi. He had a good physique and sharp features; broad eyes, perfectly angled nose and full lips. I could make out why Deepthi ignored my calls. Her estrogen levels would have risen so high, that it, by now, would have been overflowing through her eyes.
“Looks like your hungry friend had arrived”, he uttered, attempting a sardonic smile.
I arched my brows in abhorrence. ‘Who the hell was he to comment on me?’, I thought.
Deepthi chortled, not at the joke, but more to convey that she had acknowledged his humor sense.
It was obvious for Deepthi to acknowledge a joke, just because it came from a tall Handsome guy, rather than to defend a five feet, a little oversized, above all a Girl. I did not speak a word to Deepthi. I was about to turn and leave, when I heard her voice.
“Harini “, she called me.
She stood up and signaled me to wait.
“Ok, I am leaving for lunch. Probably will mail you the details once I am back”, she smiled at him, waved him a bye and walked towards me.
Before I could utter a word, Hema spoke.
“Hey Dee, is that Rajiv from Operations team? “
“Yes, Mr. Rajivalochan”, Deepthi smiled with pride.
I took my mobile and texted my mom that we were heading for lunch.
“How come he, at your desk?”, Hema asked, to increase Deepthi’s pride and my irritation. By now we had arrived to our cafeteria. Since it was close to three, most of the chairs were empty. We chose a random table and started eating.
“How come..”, Hema tried to continue, while I signalled to stop.
“Girls, please give a break. What is the fuss about that guy?”, I asked, still looking greedily at the roti in my lunch box. My mother had meticulously wrapped each roti in a foil, for it to be soft for her daughter. I loved my mom, the most. The second thing which I loved the most, was her food. She was a cook beyond description.
“Hey you don’t know? He is Rajiv. He works in IT Operations team. He is so popular for his charisma. He once coordinated our office annual day ceremony and it was a huge hit. He is popular among girls for his looks and he is popular among guys for his bike. He owns as Harley Davidson “, as Deepthi paused to grab a spoonful of rice, Hema continued, “He is very brilliant too. Both of us report to same delivery manager and he once told us about Rajiv in a team meeting, that he had been securing only ‘A’ band(the highest grade which one can get for performance in our office) for the past three years. He is already a Project leader.”, her mouth gaped open.
It was too much information for me.
“Whatever. It does not bother me much.”, I shrugged my shoulders.
“You don’t seem to show much interest when it comes to guys”, Deepthi pointed out as if it was the first time. If there was a question Deepthi had been asking me every day for the past one year, it would probably be about my disinterest towards guys. It was a year since I joined the company. I passed out of college last year.
“Was she the same in school?”, she asked Hema.
Hema and I were best friends since school. If at all there were days, during which we never spent time together, it was our college days. We were re-united again in workplace. Deepthi and I became closer as both of us belonged to the same batch in office and were roommates for six months during our training period.
“Dee”, Hema rolled her eyes.
There was nothing that I hid from Hema. She knew why Guys and gossiping about Guys never interested me. It was all due to the bitter experiences, I had in the past.
Chapter 2 :
I was checking my mails on a lazy Monday morning. I had loads of tasks but no mood to proceed with any. Deepthi was coming late that day. I looked at my watch. I had worn a new one day. I love wrist watches. I smiled at it. It looked good on me. The watch showed 9.15.
My manager, Suresh, who was never spotted in office before 11.30 AM, was already busy seated in a conference room. There were few other managers too. My deliver manager, Nalini , who is the big boss of my manager, was there too. It appeared to be a cardinal meeting.
As I was still looking through the pellucid stripes of the glass door, to get a better picture, I was suddenly stopped, by a figure that stood in front of me. Before I could recognize who it was, he waved a Hi. “Hi, hungry friend”, he smiled.
I frowned. Before I could do or say anything, Rajiv hurried into the meeting room. It did not interest me anymore. I got back to my desk.
I started with few of my tasks. It was after an hour, the meeting ended. My manager was back to seat. We sat in the same bay. As I continued, I saw Nalini approaching my bay. She smiled at me and went straight to Suresh’s desk.
“Suresh, Sorry to disturb you”, she started.
“That is okay, Nalini, please take a chair”, Suresh pointed.
I could make out it was a protraction of the meeting that had just ceased.
“The escalation regarding Rajivalochan..”, as Nalini continued, my desk phone rang. It was Deepthi. As I was speaking to her, Nalini finished her pep talk and left.
From what I could hear from Nalini, was, it seemed Mr. Brilliant, as eulogized by my friends has got caught in an escalation.
Our trio met for lunch in cafeteria.
“You know something?” I started.
“Looks like someone has news”, Deepthi winked.
“Yes”, I exclaimed.
“The so called your super Brilliant guy, Mr. Rajivalochan is caught in an escalation. Geee..”, I shook my head happily.
“What? Oh my god. So sad. Buy why?”, Deepthi tried to speak. Hema tried to signal something which I ignored in an urge to explain Deepthi about the meeting.
“Around 9.30 in the morning, all the big bosses met, along with Mr. Rajivalochan. Looks like the escalation was discussed”, I could not suppress my juvenile excitement.
Though there was no direct reason for me to rejoice in his hurdle, I disliked him for mocking me. His humor made no sense. I fantasized having a score card in mind. He scored the first point by mocking me. It was my turn to mock and score, I thought. It never made any sense in any perception, yet I felt it was ok to do it.
It was when Hema pulled me by my arm, hard. She signaled for someone standing behind. It was Rajiv, who was standing behind. I was perturbed, when he smiled at me as though he was listening to me for the past few minutes. He walked towards his bay.
“Hey, Harini. I was trying to signal you that he was standing right behind us. You did not mind to take a look. And do you know? He did not get caught in one; rather he was the one who escalated. The meeting was how to resolve it. It looks like he is not ok with one of his Onsite co-ordinate. He requested for a team change. The meeting was just to decide on it“ , Hema spoke in a single breathe.
“He can opt for my team”, Deepthi sighed and shrugged her shoulders.
“He is already reporting to my delivery Manager only. He will be transferred to my team only”, Hema affirmed. The mucking around about the possibilities and all that palaver did not interest me. I felt awkward about what I did. I felt bad for bad mouthing about him. I continued my lunch in thorny silence.
We all got back to work, while I had no mood to. It was just the incident during lunch that kept lingering in my mind.
I was not sure what made me do so, but I opened my Official chat contacts and started searching for ‘Rajivalochan’ and to my surprise and good luck, there were only two contacts, while one of them was in Kolkata branch of my office.
I decided to talk to the Chennai Rajiv. I clicked on the name Rajivalochan Srinivasan.
With maximal ambivalence, I typed my first message to him.
Harini Lakshmi: “Hi Rajivalochan”
There was no reply for the next two minutes. The wait seemed interminable for me.
I was just sitting there staring at those two words I had sent. I cursed myself for my insanity. When I was about to switch to my work screen, he replied.
Rajivalochan Srinivasan: “Hello Lakshmi”
“You can call me Harini”, I replied. Did that really matter? Are we going to talk frequently, for him to address me correctly? I thought.
“OK. Sorry. Harini, Please tell me , How may I help you today?”, came his instant reply.
I was not sure what to tell. I fumbled for words. I felt happy, for it was not a phone conversation.
“I am sorry”, I replied after 4 minutes
“Sorry, I could not get you”, he replied.
“No, I am the one whom you met at Deepthi’s desk the other day. We met today near the meeting room too”, I managed to recall myself to Rajiv.
“Oh. The Hungry friend. So you are Hungry Harini J “, he replied.
He was getting into my nerves again. But I was there to apologize. I reminded myself not to lose my temper.
“Rajivalochan, I am so sorry about what happened in the cafeteria. I did not mean to deliberately talk about you. But sorry, that it had happened. I apologize. Kindly excuse.” I sent my text, after reading it several times.
I was tensed. Would he escalate it to higher management? Or would he have a grudge on me for this?, my mind raised so many questions.
There was no reply from him for the next two minutes. Those two minutes triggered my impatience much higher.
Finally he replied.
“Hey, that is okay. You need not be sorry J, my friend“ , he replied.
I was not sure how to interpret his reply. Has he really taken it so lightly or is he pretending, I thought.
“Thank you.”, I replied and closed the conversation.
I was almost 9 PM, I was walking back home from where my office bus dropped me. I was tired and hungry. My hunger not just reminded food, but also Rajiv. “Hungry Harini”, I smiled to myself.
As I was fast approaching, I saw the same red Santro leaving my home. My paternal Aunt and uncle would have come home, I guessed. Not again, I sighed to myself.
As I entered my home, my mother was reading her favorite spiritual books. She heard my footsteps and turned around. She welcomed me with a warm smile. It felt great to see her. It felt awesome to see her smile. Was their visit pleasant enough to smile, I wondered. She had smiled through so many remorseful events in her life. She is stronger than the strongest woman I know.
As we had dinner together, I forced myself to check on the guests.
“Why were they here, all of a sudden?” I asked.
“You saw them?”
“Yes, I saw the car leaving our home.”
She stretched her hand from the dining table to the letter holder that hung in bright maroon color. She pulled out an envelope that looked like an invitation.
“Pavithra is getting married. They came here to invite us.”, she showed the invitation.
Murali and Family, read the ‘To’ column.
It was incredible how two words can irritate and upset me at the same time. I sat there hands on my forehead. My mom patted my shoulders gently. She knew what was going on.
“Why can’t they write your name? ; Lakshmi and Family; what does that cost them? Are they trying to prove they are innocent by writing this? As if they don’t know where this guy is?” I tapped the invitation hard, where the name ‘Murali’ was written. “They provoked him against us, didn’t they?”, I raised my voice.
“Harini, he is your father”, my mother stopped me.
“Of course he is.”, I was panting.
“It is ok, dear. Leave it. Nothing is going to change.”
I ate in complete silence after that. We were in our bed when I turned towards my mom. She smiled at me and touched my cheeks.
“Didn’t we decide to get out of it, once for all? People will keep reminding you dear. Stop them. Not literally, but in your mind. Don’t allow their words to go through your mind and then to your heart. “, she spoke softly.
I slowly moved closer to her, hugged her and rested my head against her chest. I was not sure when I fell asleep.
Couple of days later, It was a fine afternoon, I was walking back to my desk after my lunch. I was scrolling my Facebook home page in my mobile. There were few updates from friends. But none of it caught my attention. As I raised my head, something else did. It was the fact that my entire team was missing. All the chairs were empty. Did I miss a meeting schedule?, I hurried to my desk, to unlock my computer and check my mail.
No, there were no meeting invites. But, where were they, I wondered. All of a sudden, my team mate Aruna, who sped from the meeting room, came to me.
“Hey, Harini, Suresh had called for an emergency meeting. Nalini is there too. Quick, come and join.”, she urged.
Post lunch, It was too much information for my mind to process.
I just followed Aruna into the meeting hall. I planned to excuse myself to Suresh and Nalini for joining them late. As I entered the meeting room, the person standing beside Suresh, made me feel dizzy. It was Rajiv. I had no clue what was he doing there. Had he complained about me? But does it really bother them so much, for delivery manager herself to come down and punish me, I wondered.
“Excuse me, Suresh”, I tried to gather words.
“Come in Harini”, he signalled to take a chair. “We were about to wind this up”, Suresh laughed. Few of my team mates, too. “By the way, we gathered here to welcome Mr. Rajiv. He will be joining our team as the Project lead.”, my head turned automatically to Rajiv. He smiled. The meeting ended and I came back to my seat.
Deepthi had pinged me where I was. Our trio always had a group chat running.
“Hey girls, you know something? Rajiv has joined my team L , I guess I am gone. ”
“Hey, come on. There is nothing to worry, by this time he would have forgotten that incident.”, Hema consoled me.
Before I could discuss further on this, my team lead Aruna , started following up on the various tasks, that were on my plate. It was a busy day for me. I wanted it to end soon. I took the office cab to reach home. It was almost 10, when I reached home. As I was about to enter, I saw a text from unknown number.
“Hi, reached home safe?”, it read.
“May I know who is this?”, I replied.
“Hey Hungry friend, don’t have the habit of saving Leads’ numbers ;)?” came the reply.
I was confounded. How did Rajiv get my number, above all how did he know I was staying late?
“Sorry for not storing your number. I just reached home safe in office cab. Thanks for checking”, I replied
“Hey, that is okay. And don’t be so formal. I thought, off work, we were friends J “, came in the next text.
I was intrigued never like before. I wanted to stop my thoughts and conversation, at least for that moment.
“Sure, Good night”, I replied
“Good night”, came the response, I locked my mobile and walked in, to call it a day.
“Angela Morris and Scott Steve would be visiting us by first week of next month. They would be working from here for a week’s time”, my manager continued to avidly narrate us the on the plan of the onsite visit. My managers from U.S were coming to India office. They do it generally to meet their counterparts in person.
I was busy drawing a stick man, a bird, an eye and a tree. By the time I completed another stick man, I thought I should no a little. “Rajiv and Aruna would be taking care of organizing the whole itinerary.”, he completed his talk.
“There is an onsite visit in my team”, I told the girls, when we met for lunch.
“Hey, then you would be taken for a team lunch on a week day and a team outing on a weekend. Wow”, Deepthi exclaimed.
“Rajiv would be a part of the organizing team. Am I right?” , Hema raised her eyebrow and smiled.
“Yes, my PL and TL would do it”, I acknowledged Hema’s guess and her excitement for guessing it right.
“Life works in so many mysterious ways. Did you even guess in your wildest dream, that he would join in your team and churn your stomach further? ; That you would address him with respect? “, Deepthi gave a wry smile, as Deepthi and Hema gave a high-five.
“So what is your mom telling about Rahul? “, it was my turn to embarrass Deepthi. Deepthi and Rahul were in a relationship for 2 years. Deepthi’s family had not approved their relationship.
“Why don’t we discuss a topic of mutual interest?” Hema, the pacifier pitched in. We made faces at her, just to break into laughter.
Later that day, when my tasks were piled up, I was really exhausted. It was for two consecutive days, I had been availing the office cab. I knew I would strike a hat trick that day.
As I was engrossed into diligent coding, I saw Rajiv at my desk.
“Hi.”, he smiled.
I was not sure why he was there. Is he going to pile more tasks for me, I wondered.
“Hi.”, I replied.
“Can you check what’s wrong with your friend?”, he asked.
I rose from my seat in panic and peeped into Deepthi’s cabin. It was all normal.
“No, Not Deepthi. To your right.”, he pointed his finger. I looked at that direction. I could not spot anything unusual.
“Sorry, I meant left.” He smiled sarcastically.
“Everything is normal. May I know why I am supposed to do all this?”, I tried to be polite.
“This is how you should take care of you when you are busy. You never know how long your neck and body had been in the same position. This exercise will help you 😉 “, came the reply.
I was not sure how to take this conversation. Why was he worried about me? I am after all a team member for him. Everyone else in the team was busy. Had he been doing the same to them? ; If not why me? I wondered. I got back to work, just to get back home as soon as I could.
It was already 8.15 P.M. The last bus was at 8.30 P.M. My office was in 8th floor. Even If I had started the next second, I should be running to catch the bus. As I neared the lift, I saw Rajiv. He smiled at me, as though he had been waiting for me. We entered the lift. The guy, who had been standing there, had smoked. The unpleasant odor filled the lift cabin. I could not suppress a cough. I saw Rajiv, pressing the 7th floor button. What does he has to do in 7th floor?, I thought. Does that really bother me? I thought the next second.
As the lift halted in 7th floor, he signalled me to get down.
“This is the floor. Please get down”, he ordered.
I threw a weird look at him. What is he trying to do? I was not sure, though I obliged. As the lift door closed, he pressed the down button. I almost lost my temper.
“Rajiv, I would miss my bus. May I know why you asked me to get down, when we had nothing to do?”
“That is because you were not comfortable in there. The odor was suffocating you. I was not comfortable seeing you that way. Hence.” He smiled.
The lift arrived by the time, he completed. I smiled to myself. He interpreted my discomfort. For the very first time, I looked at him for a second glance and fixed my gaze. To my surprise he looked back, smiling and raising his eyebrow, gesturing “What?”
“You don’t smoke?”, I asked, not sure how relevant it was.
“No.”, he smiled. “And not just that, I am a man of Ethics. As my name states.” he pressed his lips tight and smiled.
It looked cute.
“Your name?”, I asked, as I did not know what it has to do with one’s character.
“Rajivalochan is Lord Rama’s name. My favorite God.” he smiled. I smiled back involuntarily. The lift was already in ground floor. I bade a bye and walked fast to catch the bus.
“Aruna would be out for a week from tomorrow, due to personal emergency”, the next day, Rajiv was speaking to Suresh, as he stood beside his desk.
“Sorry about the short notice Suresh. But I have to”, apologized Aruna.
“That is fine. Please make sure you hand over all pending tasks and ensure there are no slippages”, Suresh reminded.
“Thank you Suresh, Thanks Rajiv”, Aruna left my cubicle.
“Anything else, Rajiv?”, asked Suresh.
“As Aruna would be off for a long time, I need someone’s help in organizing the onsite Visit.”, Rajiv’s sudden reminder, made Suresh think hard. He suddenly turned towards me.
“Why don’t you involve Harini in this? It will be a good opportunity for her to learn too.”, Suresh suggested.
I strived hard not to show any reaction. I just wore a tight lip smile.
Later that day, Rajiv smiled as he stopped by my desk. Before I could react, he pulled a chair and got closer.
“Hi”, he began. I glowered at him suspiciously. Is he creating opportunities to meet and talk? Is he interested in me? I thought.
“Regarding the Onsite plan, would like to discuss with you. We will have to start the preparations from tomorrow. We have only couple of days for the visit. “
“Sure, please let me know, what should I do.”, I tried to sound compatible. He started listing down the to-do items.
I kept nodding my head, to appear as though I listened. But I actually did not. It never felt easy when he was around. I was not sure why. I had so many questions in my mind about him. The way he took the cafeteria incident easily, the way he insisted in being informal with him, the way he smiled at me whenever he saw me, the way he spoke about taking care of my health at times of hectic work above all the previous night’s lift incident. It all stirred up wrong thoughts in me. I kept wondering why he was doing it to me. The more I pondered on these questions, the more his thoughts lingered in my mind; the thoughts which I should never give room to.
“Out of what we have listed here, the two crucial things are conveyance and stay”, Rajiv was continuing. “How shall we split it?”, he inquired.
I was not at all with him right from the beginning. I stammered.
“That’s ok. I guess you can take up the conveyance part. Please help to get the cab arranged. Sorry to urge you. We need the cab driver’s confirmation by tomorrow.” I tried to listen. He added few more things. My mind did not register them. “Bye”, he smiled and left.
The next morning was darker than usual. It was hard to see such kind of a climate. It looked as the though the darker clouds were about to burst anytime. We had to go to one of our office branches to get a form signed for the visit. My manager could have moved it easily. But he wanted us to do. He wanted me to co-ordinate the same, while I was completely unaware of the procedures.
I informed the girls that I would not be joining for lunch.
“Are you going on a date with him?”, Hema pulled my legs.
“Wow, Project lead and team member as lovers, great combo”, Deepthi took the turn to pull my arms, nose, ears and my long plaits.
“No use talking to you idiots”, I closed the chat window.
Before I could take my wallet and move, I found Rajiv at my desk, waiting for me. I was shocked.
“Come let us go”, he smiled.
Oh my God, I rubbed my forehead. I remember Deepthi boasting about his branded bike. I even forgot which brand it was. I could not imagine myself in a two wheeler. I held my fist tight.
“Shall we move?”, he broke my thoughts.
“Yes”, I nodded and we started walking.
“Please wait here, I will bring the vehicle out”, he spoke as we neared the parking.
I waited for seven long minutes. I restlessly had an impatient eye on my watch and the approaching bikes. As I mumbled a song and tapped my mobile casing in exact rhythm, I heard a loud honk of a car. I grew louder. As I turned my head with my face grimace towards the direction of the sound, my expressions frozen and I sensed them change automatically. It was Rajiv in a white Baleno.
He stopped the car, came out and opened the back door for me. I gazed in awe at him.
As he started the vehicle, I could not suppress my curiosity.
“Nice car. How long you have been owning it?”, I tried to build conversation.
“Thanks, but this is not my car. I come by bike to office. I was not sure how comfortable you would feel, in a two wheeler with me. So borrowed my friend’s car for a while”, he tried to keep an eye on the road as he turned occasionally to talk to me. He turned on GPS in his mobile to get the short route. We reached the branch office and completed the formalities.
The sky started to snarl.
“Come let us move out quick”, he hurried me.
“What happened?”, I asked.
“My friend’s car has a problem. It might not turn on when there is a heavy down pour.”
As we moved out, it started to rain. As expected by Rajiv, the car stopped and failed to start. He banged the steering in dismay.
“What do we do now?”, I asked him.
“Don’t worry. I will try to push the car and I hope it starts”, he smiled.
I let out a sigh of relief and suppressed the anxiety. He got down. The rain was now heavy. Slowly he started drenching. Few of his wet hair stuck to his forehead. He pressed his full lips together as he tried hard to push the car.
I felt I should extend a hand for help.
“What can I do to help you?”, I shouted to make myself audible , since the pitter patter of the rain drops on the car top was heavy.
He opened the door and asked, ”Do you know driving?”
“Yes”, I replied.
“Please take the driver seat and take control over the steering. Brake will not function. Just take control over the steering and try to hold the clutch and turn on the car, as I push”, he suggested.
I opened the car door to take the driver seat.
“No”, I could hear him shout.
I turned. “Don’t get down. Water does not like white clothes”, he winked. I managed to reach the driver seat from back and did as he instructed. After a few trials, the car started. He opened the door, in an urge to get in, forgetting that I was seated there. Few drops of water from his hand, dripped on my cheeks and clothes.
“Sorry”, he apologized.
The water droplets tingled me. Was it because they were cold or they fell on me from his hands? I wondered.
I instructed my mind not to wander. I forced myself to stop thinking , the way I was thinking that moment.
“I thought you prefer the back seat”, Rajiv’s voice broke his thoughts in my mind.
It was then I realized, I had taken the front seat itself. Both of us could not suppress a smile.
“You will have to excuse all this mess”, he showed the water dripping from him.
“That is okay”, I assured.
“Sorry for shouting at you, when you tried to open the door. A guy can afford to sit with wet shirt for the rest of the day. All that he will catch would be cough and cold. But you can’t afford to do so. Along with Cough and cold, you might catch few eyes, which would embarrass you”, he looked at the road as he spoke.
I looked at him, stunned, my mouth agape. My heart realized it was not just care, something more than that; something special. My mind cleared it was just a courtesy.
My mind and heart fought, just the like the wiper in front.
My heart strewed his thoughts in my mind, just like the sky showering the rain droplets, while my brain constantly unclouded the strewn memories, just like the wiper.
The next day, during my lunch, I was busily talking over phone, while Deepthi signaled me to make it quick.
I was still on call with the Call taxi customer service person.
“Pain on earth”, I sighed as I cut the call.
“What happened?”, asked Hema.
“Looks like I will have to call them tonight to confirm on the availability. I am tensed. Rajiv insisted that conveyance should be perfect. I am worried”, I frowned.
“28”, Deepthi counted.
Hema and Deepthi gave a high-five.
“What is wrong?”. I threw a disgusting look.
“This is the 28th Rajiv you are using since morning”, Deepthi flashed her crooked smile.
‘Am I?’, I thought for a moment. I did not deny or argue. I shrugged my shoulders.
“Someone is knocking the door to your heart”, Hema smiled.
“Hey, are you serious?”, Deepthi asked me.
“Come on girls, stop it.”, I tried to keep my face grim.
I reached home at 8 PM that day. My paternal aunt had come home. I call her Perima(My mom’s elder sister) I knew the reason behind her visit. I expected a heated argument to happen. I was not sure if it had already begun.
“How are you, Perima?” , I asked.
“I am fine.” she cut her reply short. Drama was about to begin, I warned myself.
“Harini, I am not going to beat around the bush. Let me put it straight. It is high time you have to relieve your mom from worries involving you.” She commenced her talk.
She knew that when it comes to my mom, I was ready for anything.
“When are you going to allow us for looking out for Boys for you? Only if we begin now, your wedding will happen in another year’s time. You are grown up enough to understand how hard it will be for us to explain to the Groom’s family when they ask about your father.”
“You need not explain”, I back answered.
“Harini”, my mom raised her voice.
“Amma, Perima, please. This is not the first time I am telling this to you. I do not want to get married.” , I replied.
“Don’t worry, dear. Not all boys are like your dad, to leave his wife and child behind and walk away, withering all the responsibilities… ”, as my Perima spoke, I interrupted her.
“Perima, it is not that I am worried that all guys would be like my dad. But I do have certain conditions in my mind. If I get a guy who can accept those, I will definitely marry him. The first and foremost being, my mom will stay with me even after my wedding.”
“Listen, Harini. Do you think it is practical? You do not have to worry about your mom. We are there. We will take care of her.”
“Perima, when I was very young, you were all there for me, too. But, remember, my mom got a transfer to Mumbai along with promotion for two years and she denied it, just because she wanted to take care of me? Remember, she quit the job when they insisted that she can stay as long as she accepts the transfer? She could have easily left me to one of you and had gone there. But she did not. I feel I should have at least half the sense and love, my mom had. Now it is my turn to guard her and take care of her. I cannot leave her back.”
“Harini, you are not practical. You will never get a guy who accepts this.”
“I know, that is why I am not interested in any of the guys.”, I cut the sentence sharp.
“Lakshmi, are you listening?”, my Aunt asked my mom.
“Perima, my mom had spoken so many times about it. But I am very strong in it.”
“Rama, I am really not sure what do I have to tell on this. Amidst girls who are just awaiting to look for a new life and walk away leaving everything behind, my child is ready to sacrifice her life for me. I know this will not help her in the long run. She needs support during her older times. I am trying to explain the same to her. She is not listening.”, My mom replied.
“Lakshmi, I am warning you, this much of arrogance is never good for a girl child”, my Aunt spoke and left. I knew her face was red with rage.
I just stared at the night lamp as we finished our dinner and hit the bed. My mom was fast asleep. It was as though I did not speak to my Aunt. It was as though I reminded myself how impractical love and wedding were, in my life. It hit me harsh. Tears rolled down my cheeks.
Rajiv’s face flashed through my mind. I shut my eyes tight. I reminded myself to stop allowing the little ripples, Rajiv and his thoughts were creating in my mind.
I cried as If I was missing something. Yes indeed, I am missing, I thought.
I turned and looked at my mom. Her life was not easy. She underwent so much just for me. No matter what I miss, I will take care of her, I told myself.
There was nothing to cry, I consoled myself. I am not going to lose anything, if I am going to stay as a spinster for the rest of my life. I have a noble reason of taking care of my mom, who has sacrificed her entire life for me.
I moved closer, wrapped my arms around her and rested my head on her chest. I heard her heartbeat. She would have had so many other things, but she chose me to be her top priority, when I needed her the most. Her age needed care and attention, I will be there for her when she needs me the most, I assured myself.
I slowly closed my eyes. I fell asleep soon.
It was 7.30 AM, the next morning, when my Alarm rang. I, on a routine, tried to snooze it, when I sensed it was not the alarm, but a call. It was from my manager.
“Hello, Suresh, Good morning”, I answered trying to hide my somnolent voice.
“Good Morning, Harini. Sorry to disturb you in the morning. May I know if the pickup services are in place for Angela and Scott?”, the voice in the other end asked.
I was taken aback. I had completely forgotten about calling the taxi guys again for confirmation. I was not sure what to do. Rajiv insisted about the importance of conveyance. Yesterday’s happenings at home had made me completely pretermit it.
‘Oh my God. I have ruined it.’, I thought.
“Hello, Harini”, Suresh’s voice startled me.
“Yes, Suresh. I will check again”, I lied as if the service was ready. If only Suresh would cut the call, I will be able to check further.
“Ok, please take care. The cab must be there by sharp 8 A.M”, he reminded.
I panicked. I did not what to do. I immediately called the taxi guys. Since there was no confirmation the previous night, they did not have a cab on time. The next available cab was half an hour later, which was not an option to choose. I cut the call. The next person who came to my mind was Rajiv.
I dialed his number.
“Hello, Harini!”, he answered.
“Good morning Rajiv. I am sorry to disturb you. I have made a terrible mistake. I did not arrange the cab for clients. Can you please help me on what should I do now. Please excuse me Rajiv”, my voice broke.
“Harini, give me a minute. Have I gotten you right? You mean to say right at the airport, now, there is no one to receive our clients?”
“You cannot be telling it so lightly. Didn’t I iterate how important this was? “, there was a long pause.
Rajiv resumed his talk. “I am sorry Harini. I cannot be of much help. You will have to face Suresh now.” he blurted out and the line went dead. My body trembled.
My mom was behind asking me what went wrong. I explained her. She suggested calling my manager and informing, so that he knew Clients were waiting. I obliged.
“Hi Harini”, Suresh answered my call.
“Suresh, I am extremely sorry…”, as I spoke, Suresh interrupted me as if he did not listen.
“Harini, I am so sorry for calling you right in the morning. I thought you took care of the conveyance. Rajiv called me just now and informed that me that he was the one who was in charge and the car is ready for pick up. Thanks.”, the line went dead.
I was not able to understand what was going on. Was it all fine there? I was afraid to call Rajiv. It was my mistake, but he should have spoken better. I was disappointed. He should have helped me, I thought. I shook my head in dismay. I got ready and did not wait for my office bus. I reached office by 9.00 A.M
Suresh was already there and Rajiv was standing in Suresh’s desk. They were having a light conversation, which meant things were normal. I wondered how could it be.
As Rajiv saw me approaching, he flashed his breathtaking smile. Does he take extra efforts to make his smile more breath taking for me? Or everybody feels the same, I thought. Last night’s conversation ran in my mind. There should be no room for admiration or love. I decided to stay away from him. I decided to restrict my relationship as professional as I could.
As I quietly unlocked my system, he came closer and asked, “Why don’t you join me for a coffee?”
I looked at him stunned.
“Madam, I am not calling you to Café Coffee day for a latte or mocha. It is just the same Cafeteria and the same old machine coffee”, he winked.
The cafeteria was empty as it was early in the morning.
I stayed quiet during the coffee session. I was upset and angry. He should have been nicer, I thought. I was equally curious to ask how things were set right so quick. My curiosity won.
“How did it happen?”, I started.
“Which one?” he asked.
“How was the pickup service covered?”
“You called me. I knew it was all messed up. I called Suresh and told him that I was in charge of it and the cab is on the way. I asked my driver to take my personal car and drop them at the resort. Problem resolved”, he smiled.
“You told you were in charge?”
“Yes, If I was the one and if at all my driver hadn’t reached, things will turn out less unfortunate for me. But if Suresh comes to know that you were in charge and you missed it, I was not sure what would have been the outcome. So played safe”, he winked.
I was dumbstruck. He took the responsibility for my mistake. Life was playing a tricky game on me. Only when I decided to stay away, it created more opportunities for me to be with him, like the coffee now, I thought.
“Thank you so much. It was a great help. “, I smiled. So my senses were right? Would he risk his own reputation for me? Would he do anything for me? , I thought.
“No problem, my pleasure”, he smiled back.
“Then why did you play a prank, by sounding harsh and rude, when I called you?”
“I thought I had the right to play. Aren’t we good friends?”
“No, Rajiv. We are not. I just think and treat you as my Project lead only; nothing more, nothing less.”, the smile in my face slowly faded. I wanted to be much more than a good friend to him; I swallowed that fact hard, as if to bury it deep in my heart.
“Not really. You are forcing yourself to think so. But you do not treat me professionally”, he smirked.
“No way.”, I cut him sharp.
“Yes”, he smiled and placed his fist on the table, bringing his face closer to mine. “You know why?”, he continued, ”you were unhappy with me when I did not help you at the time of distress. You expected me to be so, hence when it did not happen you were unhappy and disappointed.”
He was right. Yes indeed I was disappointed. If it had just been a formal relationship, or If Suresh had been the same way to me, I would have moved on, with the thought that it was the nature of bosses. But as he said, why was I disappointed? I called him, with a belief that he would help in a reflex. What made me believe so? What in him made me so? What in me made me so? , I just stared at the soiled coffee mug.
“Hello!”, he waved , bringing me to the real world.
“It is time. We shall leave”, I moved my chair back to get up. The more I was with him; the more he made me long for him. I thought I should stop.
He stopped me by holding my wrist, stiff. His sudden touch came in as a surprise. I looked at him and his hand that was holding me. His nails were beautiful pink. He immediately withdrew his hand.
“Sorry, I had to stop you”, he apologized.
I nodded as if I accepted his apology. “Harini”, he called. His voice and tone were so different. He slowly stood up.
The husk in his voice made me go crazy. He looked directly into my eyes. His eye lashes were thick and long. I had never got such a close look of any guy. His sharp eyes were stuck on mine. I could not stand his gaze. As I tried to lower my head, he spoke.
“I want to be much more than a good friend, to you, Harini. I want to be everything in your life. I want to be your future; I want you to find your life in me. ”, his lips told me, while his eyes conveyed love. “I hope you understand, what I mean” , he said.
“I want to be much more than a good friend, to you, Harini. I want to be everything in your life. I want to be your future; I want you to find your life in me. ”, his lips told me, while his eyes conveyed love. “I hope you understand, what I mean” , he said. Before he could continue, I shook his grip off my hand and strode towards my desk, trying to conceal my wet eyes.
Rajiv messaged me that he was sorry. I did not respond. I did not join my friends for lunch.
I left office early, calling sick.
My mother was surprised that I was home, early. Her surprise and smile faded away as she saw my face. Before my words could express, she made out something was terribly wrong.
I lay on her lap. She slowly patted me. I held back my tears. I did not want my mom to know what was going around. I thought it will trouble and confuse her.
“What happened dear?”, she asked.
“I have a problem in office, Amma.”
“Is there anything , I could help?”, she asked, innocently.
“No Amma.”, I shook my head helplessly.
“Why don’t you call someone who could understand and help you?”
Her idea surprised me. She placed her palm on my cheeks, her hands were warm as usual. I held her hand and squeezed her slender fingers.
I took my mobile and dialed Hema’s number.
“Hema, Rajiv expressed his love for me, today.” I said and waited for her to react. She did not react.
“What is your opinion on him, dear”, she asked, softly.
“I like him.” I replied.
“Do you trust in him?”
“What made you do so?”
“This morning, when he tried to propose, rather than telling me what he likes in me or what he wants from me, he expressed what he would be to me. He wanted me to see my future through his eyes. He didn’t tell that he wanted to see his life in my eyes. That impressed me. It made me decide that he will be there for Me.”, tears rolled down my eyes as I spoke to her.
“Why are you crying, dear?”
“Hema, I did not reply to what he spoke. I was not able to take it. I fear I would fall for his love.”
“What wrong do you see in that?”
“Hema. First thing, Rajiv has to accept for my conditions. Two, if at all he does, It Is going to be a love marriage. My relatives must be convinced”.
“We will take care of the second , as it happens, but before you worry about the first one, why don’t you talk to him frankly. It is better to get it cleared, rather than assuming things.”
“What if he says a ‘No’?”
“Harini, why don’t we take things one at a time? Firstly, you have to apologize to him for leaving him in confusion for a whole day. Second, make sure you express yourself well. Let us see what happens next. Everything is going to be fine.” Hema assured.
It was around 9 P.M , I called Rajiv.
“Hello”, he answered, the charm in his voice, completely worn out.
“Rajiv”, I called. I could sense the change in my tone. Have I fallen for him already? , I thought.
“Harini, I am so sorry for what…”, he tried to speak while I interrupted him.
“Rajiv, shall we meet tomorrow, I need to talk to you.”
“Ok, Sure. 7 PM. Is that fine for you?”
“Yes, I am ok with it.”
“Ok, Harini, See you then.”
“Rajiv, Just a second”, I hurried before he cut the call.
“Please do not bring the car.”
“Sure, I will not bring the car that stops in the rain.”
“No. I do not want a car at all. Hope you understand.” I smiled.
22 Hours 13 minutes later.
“I am so sorry for my weird behaviour yesterday morning.” Both of us said in unison. He smiled.
“Apology accepted.”, he winked.
“Rajiv”, I called him, so that he was looking directly into my eyes. “You were not weird at all. But so were I and I am feeling you should know why. Before I could tell you what I really feel about you, I want you to know me. Me as in my back ground, my short falls and few so called impractical rigid conditions I have.”
He folded his hand across his chest and listened. I thought he would be intrigued, but he was not.
“Rajiv, it is only me and Mom in my family. “, I began. “I am sorry about the loss”, Rajiv interrupted.
“No”, I panicked. “My father is alive, but he abandoned me and my mom when I was three years old. They are not divorced by law. He does not live with us or as the mean part of the world says, we are not living with him. We don’t have any contact with him. My parent’s marriage life was fine in the beginning, but somewhere after my birth my Dad started behaving odd. Things did not go fine henceforth. My father left us when I was three. I generally hate to talk about this and my dad. But, I wanted you to know everything, before we really think about our future.”
“My mother showered a mom’s Love and a dad’s guidance. She worked until I started earning. We live in a decent house, because my maternal grandfather gave my mom’s share in the property way too early, since we had to find a way for live hood. My mom did not prefer to choose a relative’s place for stay. She wanted me to have a childhood as good as the one, which involved both the parents. It was never easy for her. People pinched on the same sore every time. She faced it bold and wise. Now, I feel it is the time to give the best period of life to her. “
“Now coming on to my conditions, Rajiv, first and foremost, once we decide to get into the relationship, there has to be no looking back. I do not want us to break it and part ways at any cost. I do not want my kids to get abandoned. I want you to be their father until it is time for us to leave this world.”, he smiled as I spoke.
“May I know what is so funny? “, I asked.
“I thought you called me to tell a Yes or No for what I spoke yesterday. But I did not know we are here to plan our family; so a boy or a girl, at first? “, he grinned.
“Rajiv, I am serious”, I kept my face grim.
“Ok. Ok. Please proceed”
“Second condition, but the most important one; I want my mom to stay with me, even after my marriage. Wherever we go, I want you to allow her to come along. I cannot leave her back. I feel this is the time where she needs support and peace of mind. I wish to continue giving her those, even after my wedding.”
“Rajiv, this is me. The complete me. I have said it all. Now the ball is in your court. If you are ok with all what I spoke, we can really think about proceeding further. If you have problem with any of the above, you can tell me. But, I don’t have a choice other than dropping everything once for all.”
He was quiet for the next few minutes. He played with his fingers, as if he thought deep.
“I need sometime. I will let you know tomorrow.”, he gestured to move.
I was not able to read anything from his face. The wait was long. I was not sure how would it end.
The next day, Rajiv informed me in office to check in reception regarding the booking in his name.
I did so, as I reached the restaurant at 7 P.M and sat where the restaurant staff directed me to.
I called Rajiv twice and he did not pick up. It was almost 8.30 PM, I received a text from him. It shattered all my happiness.
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