If you’ve missed reading the prologue, you can read it here: Prologue
The carefree me
The milkman rang the bell. I had been in a deep slumber, but I had this habit of waking up even at the slightest provocation and so I opened my eyes. The warm rays of sun fell gently on my face. I woke up and rubbed my eyes. My hair was dishevelled. I tied it into a bun and wore my specs, simultaneously jumping from my baby pink bed and running towards the main door. Unlocking it, I took the milk packet which had been already dropped inside the polythene cover secured to the gate.
“Impatient fellow! If he wanted to drop this packet into the cover, why did he commit the horrendous crime of ringing the stupid bell?” I cursed at him and let out a big yawn, enraged that my ‘Sleeping Beauty’ time had been disturbed.
My eyes fell on the newspaper which was thrown on the sit-out. I picked it up and entered my house. Shutting the door, I skimmed through the newspaper for any interesting news. Usually, I would search for crime news as I had been abundantly spoiled by Nancy Drew and Enid Blyton. My heart skipped a beat as I read a small piece of news from the Metro Digest column.
“Renowned classical singer Manitha dies of cancer.”
I gasped. As a result, the milk packet slipped from my hands and plopped on the floor. Of course, the contents spilled and the spilt milk made a beeline till the kitchen. I heard another gasp of horror. It was from my mom. She came running out and yelled at me, “Naaye! What have you done? Are you out of your senses? Do you know how much a milk packet costs? Have you planned to get scolding from me in the morning itself?…..”
Blah! Blah! Blah!
“Ma! Please stop it! Manitha has passed away. She was only 32 years old! Can you believe?”
I began sniffing silently. My mom snatched the newspaper from me and read the news.
“I cannot be..believe this!” she exclaimed, looking equally stunned as I was.
We were fanatics of singer Manitha. She had a sweet voice like a nightingale. Her Carnatic songs were repeatedly played in my house. Her sudden death meant a lot to us. And we never knew that she was fighting a terminal illness. Yes, calling ourselves as fans of her, but not knowing any updates about her life.
My mom read the entire news and then shoved the newspaper onto the shelf casually. Turning to me, she said rather sternly, “Now, go and get ready to school.”
“Are you out of your senses, Ma? Won’t you spare me even on a Sunday?” I retorted.
“Sunday? Oh, I am sorry!” She scratched her head.
“You are always keen on sending me off to school. Hmph!”
“Aahaan! Now who will buy another milk packet? Who will clean this mess up?” she demanded.
I was perplexed, as I badly wanted to sleep again. Then, an idea struck me. My uncle had come to stay in our house for a week. He was my mom’s jobless brother who was searching for employment in Bangalore. I thought about suggesting him to my mom.
“What about my good-for-nothing Raju mama? I think he might be snoring away. Wake him up and send him to buy. And just spread a mat on this mess. That will do.”
I ran back to my room before my mom could retort. The last I saw before closing the door was her bewildered expression. Plunging onto my bed, I dozed off.
I was living a carefree life then. I considered myself as a down-to-earth person (seriously, I never gave a damn about what others thought about me). I was an 11th grader in Riverbed Higher Secondary School pursuing Commerce with Business Maths. I was pretty good at studies and I was also famous for my singing prowess. Chennai is my birth place and I still live here. I had an intense love for my city. As a result, I firmly told my father that I would not transfer along with him, when he had acquired a job in Delhi. And as a consequence of my decision, my mom held grudges as she was unable to live with her hubby dearest.
I had many friends, but only a few were exceptionally close to me. My best friend was Swapna aka Nimmi, a Rajasthani girl. She was a pampered child at home. Tawny skin, fish shaped eyes, shoulder-length hair and spotless complexion were her features. Stark contrast in appearance, but we hit it off right from the moment we met.
I can still remember the day when I saw her for the first time. I had been newly admitted to class 6. I entered my new classroom and searched for a place to sit, all the while receiving curious looks from my other classmates. They were probably wondering who that nerdy girl might be. Then, I felt a chalk piece being thrown on me. I turned around to see who the miscreant was. A petite girl was waving to me. She had her hair tied up into a bobbing pony tail. She was beckoning me, “Aao idhar!” I was alien to Hindi at that time. I did not even know what ‘Aao’ meant. Understanding my discomfort, the girl conveyed through sign language. I went over, sat beside her, and that was it. We started our beautiful journey to friendship. We turned into best friends as days progressed. Our friendship was a perfect example for an ideal one. We used to share lots of secrets and gossiped about everything under the sun.
Soon there came a juncture in my life where I felt bored being single. Love affairs started blooming everywhere. My classmates were progressing from their single status to being committed, but I could not find my life partner. Frankly to say, nobody had the potential to become one. I felt that that wasn’t the right age to get into a relationship. Sometimes, many used to mock at me,
“Bhavana is a loser. She doesn’t have the brains to find a lover.”
“No no..She has got brains but no good looks. She is just average. Brown in colour and wears specs which gives her an overall nerdy look. Just a plain Jane.”
I ignored such comments as I had other priorities like studies and music. I thought that if I was committed, then I should sacrifice some of my precious time for ‘him’. I knew that I was stone-hearted when it came to terms of romantic love and commitment. I dreamt about the one who would melt my heart. I wanted a guy who would truly love me and accept my complete and unadulterated self. And yeah, I was waiting for one such.
Once, my unromantic character got over me. I had a tiff with Nimmi regarding her love. I found out that her boyfriend was not good in character. Being the closest friend of hers, I could not keep my mouth shut. I informed her about her boyfriend’s notorious activities. But, hell hath no fury like a girl listening to bad things about her boyfriend. Hence, she argued with me.
“What? What are you saying, Bhavana? It’s not true. He – he doesn’t smoke or drink or gamble.”
“But I saw him smoking and drinking along with his friends. He was into gambling too.”
“Where did you see him?”
“In the garden of his house.”
“Why did you go there?”
“Arey..He stays next to my house, idiot! I can overlook his garden.”
“Look, Vinod doesn’t hide anything from me. He is like a baby to me. Don’t listen to rumours, Bhavana.”
“It’s not a rumour, Nimmi. I saw him with my own eyes!” I burst out in anger.
“You might have seen wrongly-”
“I know you won’t listen to me. You don’t understand the value of friendship, Nimmi. I cared for you and warned you, but you are trying to prove me wrong.”
“You don’t understand the value of love, Bhavana. If you had been in a relationship, then you might have known-”
“Stop commenting on my status! I know when to be in a relationship and when not to be. You need not explain me. You are hurting me, Nimmi. I don’t know how love could blind you this much. Ridiculous! I won’t talk with you. Bye.”
“Hey Bhavana, listen-”
I stormed out of the classroom. Well, my attitude had created a problem in Nimmi’s love life. It was also evident that when you speak badly about your close friend’s boyfriend, she would assume that you are jealous of her and shoot back at you. That was something which irritated me!
Shanthinagar was my residing place. I loved it immensely. It catered well to our basic needs. One could find all the necessary shops. It was also a peaceful residential area and many people were migrating to it. There were shops for electrical goods, stationary items, groceries and fancy articles. There were also restaurants, ice-cream parlours, bakeries and supermarkets. You could find anything you wanted. It was literally a heaven on Earth. However, there was a shortage of good textile shops. The ones which were already present never had good collections of clothes. People who could not afford proper clothes or people who were lazy visited those shops. We were forced to travel to distant places for our garments.
Once as I was passing by the main road, I saw a board that instantly attracted my eyes.
“Madhu Textiles & Readymades
‘Yet another textile shop which wouldn’t have any good clothes. I have seen a lot more promising boards than this one’, I thought and walked away.
But my instinct felt that the new shop was going to do great business in Shanthinagar. Why did I feel so? Well, I don’t know. I can never understand my intuition at times, or, it may have been my entrepreneurial mind which calculated the business profit of that shop by merely looking at its abysmally decorated board (the boards of other shops were worse than this one).
I woke up with a startle. A strange dream that was. Usually, I had dreams related to me or my friends or about some weird things that were in no way connected to me, but that morning, it was a peculiar one. The dream went like this,
‘I was waiting in an unknown bus terminus. Probably waiting for someone’s arrival. All of a sudden, the background changed and there was lush greenery everywhere. In the middle of the pasture, I was walking along with a boy, holding his hand.’
At that moment, I awoke. It was unusual. I just couldn’t remember the boy’s face. All I could recollect was his red t-shirt, but his face appeared blurred. I thought a lot and finally came to a conclusion that it was useless to think about it. Yes, dreams were crazy, but this dream held more meaning for me. A boy appearing in my dream was a rarity. Even though I had a couple of boys who were my friends, they had never appeared in my dreams. Then, I thought, ‘So, I am going to find my soul mate soon.’ Excited at the thought, I sprang out of the bed.
I brushed my teeth as soon as possible and bathed in a jiffy. I didn’t know why I was so excited. ‘Yeah, because of the dream, of course!’ I reassured myself. I got ready to school sooner than usual. I rushed inside the classroom, eventually bumping into Nimmi. It had been four days since I had talked with her. I did not forgive her for her harsh behaviour, but she said, “I am extremely sorry, Bhavana. I didn’t mean to hurt you. See, I have broken up with Vinod. What you told turned out to be true. I am sorry for not trusting you. Please forgive me. I am your best friend, right?” Her speech was as simple as that. She had broken up only after finding out by herself, not because she trusted my words, but it was clear that she genuinely felt sorry. I forgave her immediately and blurted out about my strange dream to her.
She teased me, “So, let’s check out all the red t-shirt boys on the street, today evening.”
However, I thought, ‘I must really check out all the red t-shirt boys to see whether I remember that boy’s face.’ It was childish of me to have such thoughts, but it was my adolescence that created such emotional disturbances in me. Being 15 was very difficult.
Just then, someone clapped in front of my eyes and interrupted my thoughts.
“Bhavana, what are you thinking?”
“Oh my god! Sachin, will you please leave me alone for heaven’s sake?”
“I will never leave you alone, my dear.” A sneer appeared on his lips.
“Stop calling me as ‘dear’!” I felt anger seething inside me.
“No way! I will call you. I am just mad about you.”
“What do you want?”
“My answer is simple. I need you as my wife in my life.” He winked at me, making my irritation reach its peak.
“Will you stop behaving like stupid? I don’t even consider you as my friend, let alone love. I just hate you, Sachin,” I hollered.
“Wow! I am happy that at least you hate me.”
“Shut up and get lost!”
“I can’t. I have proposed to you three times already. I need a positive answer.”
I flared up, “Get out of my sight, donkey! If you love me, it’s not that I should love you back. Love is not a give and take policy. It should come from deep inside the heart. Yours is just shallow. You don’t love me truly. You just want to get into a relationship and enjoy the feeling of being in it. Just get out of my sight or else….” I turned aggressive and picked up the duster from the table to attack him.
“Stop! Stop! Stop! Paithiyakaari! You will understand when you fall in love. Don’t be so crooked. Then you have to die single. I won’t disturb you again. Happy? Bye.”
Sachin spoke all those in a single breath. Clapping his hands together in the form of a namasthe, he moved away from me. His words struck my emotions hard. Then, Nimmi came over and placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder, “Why do you get so much angry, Bhavana? It’s not good for your health.”
“I don’t like Sachin, yaar. He is horrible in character. He is forcing me to fall in love which I don’t like. He has almost turned into a stalker. Stalking me for the past 2 years, right from 9th grade. I don’t mean that he is a bad guy, but there is a difference between stalking and loving. Did you hear what he said? I am not crooked, Nimmi. I don’t want to die single. He has hurt my feelings.” Tears brimmed in my eyes.
“Leave it. I will teach him a lesson. You concentrate on your life, Bhavana. Listen to your heart. It knows what is right and wrong. Just follow it. It will lead you to your life partner. Someone is waiting for you. You are yet to meet that special person.”
“When am I going to meet my Prince Charming?” I asked teary-eyed.
“Wait for the right time, yaar. Love will surely knock at your door. You are a kind-hearted girl. You will get the most precious guy in the world who will love you forever.”
Her words resonated inside my heart. “Thank you, Nimmi. You are always there for me when I feel troubled.”
“Hey, hey, stop being sentimental. You know, I have got some shocking news. Our Teacher’s Day celebrations are day after tomorrow. Ragini ma’am has asked us to perform a folk dance. What should we do? We have less time. We need to practice as well as get the costumes ready.”
“Oh my god! Why didn’t you tell this earlier?”
“You were not in good terms with me.” She raised an angry eyebrow.
“Okay, I am sorry for that. Come, let’s ask on-duty and start to practice. By the way, I have to buy the costume. You know, there are no good textile shops in my locality. I need to travel,” I sighed.
“Hey, I was just passing by your area yesterday. I saw a newly opened shop – Madhu Textiles & Readymades. I just went over and skimmed through their collections. They were pretty awesome. I bought a teal blue peplum top. Why don’t you buy our costume there?”
“Let me see. I need to consult my mom.”
My thoughts went back to that shop which had created a good impression on my close friend.
‘Yes, I had a feeling that this shop might do good business. I think Shanthinagar has finally got its ultimate garment showroom.’ I felt proud of my own thoughts.
Well, I have introduced my close-to-heart character Bhavana and her ever loyal best friend Nimmi. What do you think about them? And, what do you think about the chapter? Feedback and suggestions welcome! 🙂