Getting Even

"I'm sorry, I'll never do it again. I don't know what I was thinking", quipped Saahil.

Niharika was quiet. Finally, "Do you love her?", she asked.

"No honey, I love you. It was just one time, a mistake. Please forgive me."

                              *A gun shot*

Saahil lay on the floor with blood oozing out of his temple. He wriggled for a while before going still.

"Now, we're even." Niharika said and walked away, cupping her swollen belly.

~ Soumya


Her eyes show me the light of the day
 The crescent of her lip sings for my soul
 Her long black tresses show me there is hope
 Her being by my side makes me feel whole

Simi re-read these lines, before she shut the book.

“This would make any woman feel beautiful and loved”, she told herself.

Sigh. He was awesome. Every word he wrote seemed to mesmerize her. She re-read each of his verse several times a day. His words were simple, but they oozed feelings. This was the first time she felt love. That peaceful, serene feeling inside. Every written word spoke to her and many a time she shed a tear feeling the emotion. The rhymes caressed her and tickled her body. She did not know what it was, but she was in love with it. She looked forward to his magic every week. She lived for it. His poetry made love to her and she lived on thinking that he was her lover. Week after week, month after month.

Today, she put her feeble hand in mine
  I held her tight never wanting to let go
  She looked up and asked if I’d leave someday
  I felt her smile on my chest as I said no

Simi did not know how he looked. She did not know what kind of a person he was. He was a magician to her, who weaved magic with words. He was her knight in shining armor, who rescued her from the dark. He was her reason to wake up everyday and every Monday was her reason for living. His verses appeared every Monday in the local magazine. It had been about three months now and Simi had lost herself in his words. She had called the local magazine to find out something about him, but they had no information. They said that he sent them his work, via email and they were not authorized to disclose his email address.

There she stood by the nearby pond
  Soaking the sunset with her skin
  She turned and came rushing to me
  Brushed my cheek before kissing my chin

Simi wanted to meet him, to talk to him. She wanted to read his mind and see how much of a genius he is. She wanted to kiss his fingers that wrote these words. She wanted him to hold her and recite her favorite verses. She wanted to ask him, whom does he talk about in her verses? She wanted to tell him that she was jealous of his muse. She wanted to beg him to write something for her. About her. If not anything else, she just wanted to look at him. And die.

All she had was a name. Ansh.

Ansh, who was the most vital part of her today.

Her laugh intoxicates my heart
  Her touch makes me feel alive
  She is my reason for being
  In her love, I seem to thrive

Simi felt a strong pang of jealousy. Who was she, whom he spoke about? Was she his wife? His lover? His mistress? She can’t be as beautiful as he describes her to be. Simi hated her, for reasons obvious. Yet, unknown. She wanted to be her. In words and in reality. She wanted to be a part of Ansh. She wanted to see him, to show him that she was beautiful. She wanted to prove to him that she can trigger poetry too. She wanted him all for herself. Just for herself.

The next Monday, Simi rushed to her doorstep to collect the magazine. Grabbing it, she ran into her room and shut the door. She flipped straight to the last second page, where his verses always appeared. Today, a story stared back at her. She looked at the bottom of the page. “Kamal” it said. A fear gripped her. She hurriedly browsed all the pages from front to back, no glimpse of any verse. No mention of Ansh. Her heart seemed to crack as tears welled up in her eyes. It had ended just like the way it had begun. Suddenly. She slowly walked up to her drawer and pulled out a bunch of papers, tied together by brown twine. She read every page again and wailed out loud, expecting her screams to reach Ansh. She did not want anything now. All she wanted was for him to know that she will miss him.

Miles away, Ansh sat on a boulder by the sea, scribbling into his notebook. There was a bright smile on his face as he paused between words to complete his sonnet. A national monthly magazine had approached him to write for them and he wanted his first work there to be a master piece. He did not have to try much, he knew. He had the most beautiful woman by his side, who evoked poetry and passion in him. All he had to do was to let it flow.

He heard the chimes of an anklet behind him and turned around. There she came and touched his right shoulder. He felt his body lose control. She always had this effect on him. Meenakshi. Her bright eyes tapered perfectly like a fish tail. Whoever had named her, had named her perfectly, he thought. She kissed his cheek and sat next to him and let the wind blow through her hair. Ansh had met her 3 months ago at the railway station. It was the sound of her laugh that attracted him to her. Day by day their conversations grew and soon Ansh asked her to come home to live with him.

Meenakshi had agreed and today she had given him all possible happiness he could ask for. She thought that Ansh was the one who had saved her, but for Ansh, she was his lifeline. His reason for living. He put his arms around her and rubbed her right hand, which ended at a slant elbow. He turned to her side, lifted her charred chin, looked into her sole eye and kissed the remnants of her cheek. His lips brushed her jaw and they both laughed. This always happened.

Ansh did not think twice before including her in his life. He was in love with her. The fact that she was an acid attack victim did not bother him, nor did the fact that she had to beg to survive, after she was abandoned by her parents. All that mattered to him was her. Her zest for life inspired him, in spite of all that she had been through. She had taught him to accept life. And then start living. He would remain indebted to her all his life.

He shut his book and held her close to him. The sun slowly set, as he helped her cover her face with her veil.

In the dim light, he looked at her and felt pure happiness inside.

Meenakshi, who made his words flow and who made him want to live.

The End.

~ Soumya

A Matter of Choice - Concluding Part

The wedding hall was beautifully decorated. The white walls were covered with dark red and golden curtains. The four pillars around the corner of the mantap were wrapped in red and white carnations, just like that of the arch outside. Everything smelt real fresh and the rain outside seemed to make no difference to the proceedings inside. It was exactly 10.40 and the pundit asked Vikram to tie the mangalsutra around Nidhi’s neck. She looked into his eyes as he did, and she knew that she had made the right choice. Vikram shed a lonely tear and kissed her forehead. The Murthys and the Kumars smiled and hugged each other.

Her parents were very happy and Nidhi felt proud of herself for having such wonderful parents who had supported her through everything. Weren’t all parents like this. The Kumars were awesome people who had accepted her like their own daughter. All they wanted was their son to be happy. Sigh, parents! What won’t they do for their childrens happiness? She then thought about the Vermas. Nikhil’s parents. They liked her and she used to cook food and take it for them at times. Mr. Verma loved the aloo tikki she made and used to demand it from her. Mrs. Verma thought of her like a daughter and shopped for her every time she went shopping. Then what had gone wrong, Nidhi thought.

Her mind drifted back to the conversation she had had with Nikhil the day she had broken the news to her parents. Nidhi had called Nikhil.

“Hello babe”, Nikhil answered.

“I have great news, can we meet?” Nidhi squealed with happiness.

“I guess you told your parents about us and they are fine with it, right?” Nikhil questioned.

His voice didn’t seem right, but Nidhi was too excited to notice. “Yes I did, and they are thrilled. Come on, meet me at 6 and I’ll tell you the rest”.

“Okay, see you at 6 then”, Nikhil said.

Nikhil sat on the swing in his balcony and lit a cigarette. Nidhi always admonished him about it, but never stopped him for smoking. So Nidhi had told her parents. He needs to behave more carefully the next time he met them he thought. Something inside him hurt, his gut felt like it was about to burst out. So it was time he decided. This was it. Every memory with Nidhi came to his mind with every puff of smoke. Their first meeting, the day Nidhi accepted his love, their first kiss, their first outing together, the first time they made love, the day when both got their jobs, the happiness in her eyes, her vibrant smile. He shut his eyes tight, as if to make the memories stop.

When that didn’t work out, he butted his cigarette and walked inside his room to change. He wore the grey and black sweater that Nidhi had bought him and began searching for his keys. Once he had found them, he locked his door carefully and walked down the stairs to his drawing room. Mr. Verma was busy reading the paper and Mrs. Verma sat at the dining table chopping potatoes and watching TV at the same time. She saw Nikhil come down all dressed.

“Where to?” she questioned.

“I’m going out ma, will be back in a while.”

“You’re coming for dinner right?”

“Yes ma, I’ll be back by ten. Bye ma. Bye dad.”

“Be back soon”, his parents echoed together.

Nikhil sat in his car and began to drive towards ‘Coffee Nook’, the place where they met everyday. This place has seen their romance from day one and was their unprecedented place of meeting. When ever either of them wanted to see the other, they came here. It was about 20 minutes from both their homes. He reached and parked his black car in the parking lot. He observed the red Spark next to his car. So Nidhi was already here. He smiled a sad smile.

There she sat, at their usual seat right next to the big Gulmohar tree. She looked pretty as a picture dressed in a white floral shirt and blue jeans. The flowers on the tree contrasted those of her shirt perfectly. She looked at him and smiled. He plainly walked towards her and embraced her tight.

“Hello”, she beamed, as they both sat down.

“So, what’s up? I can see the overflowing excitement”, he teased.

“You would be too, if you were me”, she put her tongue out.

“Okay baba, you win. Tell me everything”, Nikhil asked seriously.

“I didn’t know how to tell them exactly. While drinking coffee, I just blurted out “Appa, Nikhil and I want to get married”. That’s it”, she paused.

“Then, what did they tell”, he asked looking straight into her eyes.

“Dad and mom asked me if I was sure and all that blah blah”, she rolled her eyes and continued. “I said I was more than sure and they should have no worries because I know that I have made the right decision”

“Have you?” Nikhil thought. But instead said, “Go on”.

“Dad seemed happy and asked you to bring your parents home. You know for the formal talk”, Nidhi quoted in the air.

“And mom? What did she say?”

“Mom as usual got all senti and started crying saying I was going off from the house. These moms na I tell you, always the same story”, Nidhi sighed.

“Hmmmm…..”, he leaned back and sat.

“So will you tell your parents tonight? That’s the best, since tomorrow is a Sunday, atleast they can come and have the initial talk. Later we’ll see what has to be done, alright?” Nidhi questioned with raised eye brows.

“Babe, You know Venkat uncle right?” Nikhil asked.

“Your dad’s elder brother?” Nidhi questioned and continued “But, why this suddenly?”

“Well, his son had a love marriage. And his parents whole heartedly accepted it”, he paused.

Nidhi was confused, “So?”

“When that incident happened, it was last month I guess. Ya, so when that incident happened, my dad reacted very badly to it. He was like, if it was his son he would have disowned him.”

Nidhi got the hint and her face shrunk. “Oh, so?”

“My mom too seemed to agree with him. They think that as parents they and only they have the right to choose the partners for their children. They wouldn’t bother listening to us.”

Now, Nidhi knew. “What are you trying to say Nick?”

Nikhil shrugged. “Its tough for me babe, you need to understand.”

Nidhi was in a state of confusion enhanced by shock. But yet, she remained calm and said  “Talk to them first, then we’ll see what has to be done.”

Nikhil just stared at the floor.

Nidhi now turned hysterical. “Are you telling me that you won’t even talk to them about this? You are crazy Nick, for all you know, they might just be as happy as my parents.”

“I doubt”

Nidhi had stood up by now and was prancing around. “Listen, this is 10 years of my life we are talking about. I don’t want it to vanish just because of a doubt. You are talking to your parents, that’s it Mr. Nikhil Verma. Else I’ll have to.”

“They will disown me, Nidhi. I still have a whole life ahead of me and I can’t do that without them. Plus, the whole ancestral property is left to me on which I have based my future. I can’t let that go.”

Nidhi couldn’t believe what she was hearing. It was just hours ago when he was talking all lovey dovey to her. Now he seemed to be getting at something painful. Very painful. Was he trying to tell her that its over? She was dazed, every part of her ached and she finally sat back in her chair with a thud.

“I’m sorry Nidhi, I can’t talk to my parents. They will hate me forever and never look at my face again. I would have tried if I knew that they might agree on cajoling. But dad made it very clear all thanks to “that” incident. I can’t tell them. If they disagree I wouldn’t be able to face them again. And I know for sure they won’t agree. So, why give room for awkwardness?” Nikhil was fumbling.

Nidhi looked straight at him, her face red with anger. “Let me get this straight. So you are telling me that you will not even talk to your folks about us? Even after being with me for a decade you won’t?”

“I would if I could babe, please understand”, Nikhil seemed to beg.

“What if I tell them myself?” she questioned.

“Either ways I have to face the brunt, please don’t do that if you love me. Please Nidhi, please”

Nidhi keep staring into empty space. “So, its all over right? You and me? After 10 years. I just told my parents about us, what will I tell them now…..” She burst into tears.

Nikhil was visibly embarrassed. He held her hand, “You are smart, I’m sure you will figure out a way”.

Nidhi looked up at him with tears rolling down her eyes. Nikhil didn’t make an effort to wipe them away. “Smart? Seriously? This is all you have to say?”

“I’m sorry, Nidhi. I really am”, he mumbled.

Nidhi had had enough. She got up and came up to him and gave him a loud slap. Everyone around turned to look.

Nidhi remained unperturbed. “It took you 10 years to tell me this? Why do you people get into relationships knowing that your family would not accept it? Yeah, love happens alright. But if you can fall in love, you better have the guts to stand up for it. Sheesh, Nikhil you turned out to be such a coward”

“I’m not a coward Nidhi. I’m only doing what is right. My parents are old, they need me”

Nidhi laughed out loud. “They need you or you need their property for your future business investment? Oh God, how did I not see this before”. She felt foolish.

“Listen babe, its okay”, he came forward to hold her.

Another slap. Nidhi couldn’t control the fury inside her. Another. She looked around. Everyone at the café was looking at them. She just collected her bag and stormed out.

Nikhil stood there red faced, not even wanting to stop her. He sat down and sipped his coffee staring into nothingness.

Nidhi got into her car and broke down. She wailed out loudly with in the closed confinement. Thoughts were muddled in her head and she wasn’t clear of anything. A while passed and then it hit her, Nikhil was not willing to talk to his parents about her. Because he was scared. Scared? He had ended a 10 year old relationship with her because he was scared of his parents disowning him? She wiped her tears, looked into the front mirror and sighed. He did not deserve her. She did not want to be associated with a coward. She was worth more than that. But how would she tell her parents?

Nidhi drove back home slowly and carefully. She parked right next to her father’s Elantra and checked herself in the mirror before entering home. Her kajal was all over her face, she wiped it clean with a tissue and dabbed some compact on her cheeks before she rang the bell. Mrs. Murthy opened the door conversing on her cell phone and hurried back in seeming too busy to notice Nidhi’s face. “Thank God” Nidhi thought. Her father seemed busy in the study so she went straight into her room. Surprisingly she wasn’t feeling shattered. She was hurt yes, but she decided not to let it affect her.

A quick shower and a change later Nidhi sat back on her bed preparing herself to tell her parents. Nidhi’s mom then called out for dinner. She came down and sat at her usual place, at the right of her father. She patiently waited until they had finished their dinner of chapati’s and lady’s finger curry, followed by curd rice. All of them sat down in the living room after dinner for a quick chat before retiring. It was then that Nidhi told them about what happened. Her father listened patiently and her mother as usual started weeping. Nidhi however remained strong and apart from an occasional change in tone, she seemed to be handling it really well.

Finally Mr.Murthy spoke up. “So what is it, that you want to do?”

Nidhi said up straight, “I want to move on, Appa”

“Good, We are here for you always”, saying this Mr. Murthy kissed her forehead and left to his room. Mrs. Murthy followed suit. Nidhi went back to her room and lay awake for a while before her eyes pulled her to sleep. “Its over, no reminders needed” was her last thought before falling asleep.

Things remained normal from the next day onwards. The topic of Nikhil was never mentioned again, nor did he try to show up. Nidhi seemed alright too albeit a bit drained. But within days she was back to being her self. She was a proud lady. She was worth every happiness in the world and she was not the one to stall her life based on someone elses’ stupid decision. She held her head up and faced this situation like a soldier trained for battle.

Nidhi met Vikram six months later. Vikram was the son of her mother’s best friend’s brother. They hit it off really well from the word go. Sports and movies, their common passions bought them more together. Nidhi had already confided in him about her past, and he seemed totally fine with it. They went from being strangers to best friends within a week. She seemed to care a lot for her and was around her whenever she needed a friend. Mili was there too, but she was caught up with her final semester exams and could hardly take out time to meet Nidhi. Mili and Vikram got along well too and soon they had formed a small group of their own.

It took Nidhi a while to forget her past and look forward to new things. Vikram kept her distracted and she soon was making a new beginning in her life. The Murthys were only too pleased to see their daughter coping up so well. They thought Vikram would be a suitable guy for Nidhi, but did not broach the topic. They wanted to give their daughter time to forget and accept. Nidhi had always been a strong and straight forward girl. Nikhil had made his choice of holding on to his fear and letting her go. Nidhi had chosen to let him go, but held on to herself and her beliefs. Life is a result of the choices you make, she believed. It also helped that Vikram shared the same beliefs. This or that. Nothing in between. This attitude of theirs caused a friction between them at times, but always they managed to reach common grounds. Their thoughts did not coincide, but they never over lapped either. He was the way he was and she was the way she was. Both accepted this and this paved the road for Vikram and his feelings for Nidhi.

When Vikram expressed interest in marrying her, she denied. She did not want Vikram to be a rebound for Nikhil. Vikram accepted her decision gracefully and they continued being good friends.

One day suddenly Vikram asked her, “Do you still think of Nikhil?”

Nidhi was taken aback. Yet, “No”, she said.

“You think that he will come back?”

Nidhi got all defensive now. “No, and even if he does, it does not matter to me.”

Vikram held her hand, “Then why let go of this? Don’t you trust me?”

“I do, but…..” Nidhi’s voice broke off.

“You don’t love me. Yet. I know”

“Hmmm..”, she murmured.

“My love is enough for both of us Nidhi. Still, take your time”, he smiled.

Vikram seemed patient and was always around her, not once making a move. He got along really well with her parents and Mrs. Murthy was overjoyed to be spending more time with her friend as well, whom Vikram brought along occasionally. Everything seemed nice when he was around. She never thought of Nikhil anymore, Vikram was always with her to keep her mind occupied. He seemed too right to be a rebound she thought. She looked at him teaching her father how to use “whatsapp” on his phone. Her father grinned from ear to ear and smiled at her. She felt happy inside, after ages she was feeling this way.

As days passed, Nidhi grew more and more close to Vikram. He seemed to take her to a place free of worries and before she knew it, she was falling in love with him. It seemed crazy, she had only known him for about 2 months now, but yes she was beginning to fall for him. So the next time her mother asked about the alliance bought by Vikram’s aunt, Nidhi said a happy yes. Vikram called soon after.

“Are you sure Nidhi? I don’t want either of us to get hurt later”, he seemed worried.

“I’m sure Vikram. I never thought I’d fall in love again, but you changed that”, she gushed.

“Wait, so you’re saying….”

Nidhi interrupted, “Yes, yes, that’s what I’m saying.”

Vikram was thrilled. His eyes were filled with tears and he just wanted to come hold her now.

“Give me an hour. I’m coming to your office to pick you up”

“I’ll wait”, Nidhi blushed.

That was about 5 months ago and here they were today. Before the ceremonies began, Nidhi had made a mental note to herself that today was the beginning of her new life. The thoughts of Nikhil was to be left back in that room and never to be opened again. That was the past and today her future begins. A future that was a result of her courage. A future that begins with a new love story. A future that will have together written all over it. A future that does not have room for the past. A future that she made. A future that she will live with the man she now loves.

She looked at Vikram and held his hand. They were husband and wife now. His eyes reflected the love he had for her and she knew that this was what she was waiting all her life for. Everybody makes a million choices. To stick to it or not is again a choice. She held his hand proudly and walked out with him to the car waiting to take them to their reception venue just a few yards away. She waved along to the guests as she walked. She suddenly saw two unexpected faces in the crowd waving at her. She waved back thinking “I did not expect them to come”. She gave a last smile and walked out.

Mr and Mrs Verma thought Nidhi looked very beautiful today. They had been pleased that Nidhi had taken out time from her busy preparations to invite them for her wedding. Since Nikhil was away in the United States etching out his business plans, they had decided to come themselves. Mr. Verma sipped on to his jal jeera and checked his phone.

Mrs Verma thought, “Such a nice girl. I wonder how come Nikhil never fell in love with her. I would have loved to have her as my daughter in law

The End.

~ Soumya