Here are the links to the prologue and other chapters.
Chapter 1: The carefree me
Chapter 2: The first glance
Chapter 3: The ‘name’ adventure
Bits of paper
“Jairam?” asked Nimmi. ‘Adventures of Bhavana’, as nicknamed by her, turned into a hot topic of discussion for us during lunch breaks.
“Yes, he is Jairam. Sweet name, right?”
“Yeah, of course, but doesn’t it sound old fashioned?”
“Yeah, but that’s not a matter at all. I would have seen him even if he had a name like Kuppusamy or Chandrakanth Ranchod.”
Nimmi chuckled and continued, “He is a Marwari, right?”
“I think so. He does look like that.”
“Umm….Shall I ask you a question?”
“You have been asking questions.” I snapped at her.
“Those were general, Bhavana. This is a question which has been probing me a lot.”
“Oh! Then ask.”
“Have you fallen in love with Jairam?”
“I don’t know, Nimmi. I can’t figure it out.”
“What’s there to figure out? The way you behave and the way you talk nowadays clearly show that you are in love.”
“Is it so? But I can’t tell whether this is love or not.”
“You should analyze yourself, Bhavana.”
“Arey, how can I love him without knowing his feelings towards me? At least I should get a hint about it, right?”
“I hope he is in love with you, yaar. And there is no need to know whether the other person is in love with you. Just keep on loving him. Love is completely a magical feeling.”
“But he has not even taken a step to know my name or talk to me. Then how can you hope that he is in love with me?”
“Maybe he is afraid to speak with you.”
“As I had already said, God only knows what he is up to.”
“Be patient. Everything will come to light soon.”
I reached home that day in an enigmatic mood. It was 3.30 p.m. I expected Jairam to come. Five minutes passed. But there was no sign of him. Ten more minutes passed. He didn’t come. My anxiety increased. I started fidgeting. Half an hour passed. I was almost perspiring, but he didn’t make an appearance. I thought, ‘Maybe the kids are absent to school. So he might not come.’ I went inside dejectedly. I couldn’t concentrate on my homework that evening. All I could think about was Jairam’s sudden absence.
‘Why do I think about him? He is a stranger. I just can’t love him like that. I don’t believe in all that love-at-first-sight stuff. But then, why doesn’t my heart listen to me?’ And there went my unending thoughts!
It was the month of December. Winter slowly descended upon Chennai. The season of Christmas was celebrated in a grand manner. Almost all the houses and shops in Shanthinagar were decorated with stars and Christmas trees. The delectable aroma of hot cakes and other baked goodies beckoned people to relish them. I could always listen to the angelic chorus of carol in the nearby house where a Christian family resided. I loved Christmas, coupled with the cool climate of December. It was on that month my first interaction with Jairam happened.
It was a breezy evening and I wore a sweater to protect myself from the freezing cold. I came outside and waited for Jairam to show up. I planned to wave at him. An eerie chillness passed down my spine as I thought about waving to him. After a few moments, he came along, looking at my house. His eyes frantically searched for me. Once he found me, he spiralled into the most beautiful smile he could ever flash. I melted in his smile. Then, mustering up courage, I slowly, but carefully waved at him, not wanting to buy the attention of my neighbours.
He was surprised. I think he was in a dilemma whether to wave back at me or not. He seemed to be lost in his own thoughts. I expected him to wave back at me. But something else happened. Instead of Jairam, the two kids waved at me. I was astonished and an instant smile appeared on my lips. I blew a kiss to those kids. They felt happy and waved again. I looked up and saw Jairam. His eyes were filled with an expression which I couldn’t possibly categorize as love. Then he lifted his hand and slowly waved at me, telling “Bye”. That was the first word I heard from him.
The entire December month whiled away in glances, smiles and waves. Neither I nor Jairam took any initiative to speak with each other. I was utterly confused whether I had fallen in love with him. On the contrary, Jairam never did anything more than merely look at me and smile, along with some occasional waves. I didn’t have the courage to speak to him as I thought he might not understand Tamil properly. Even I didn’t know to speak Hindi fluently. So, life became difficult for Jairam and me in that speechless love story.
January 1, 2008. I felt happy and reverently prayed God that something interesting should happen on that year. Maybe an adventure of some sort (like the ones that appeared in Enid Blyton’s books). Or maybe a trip to the mysterious caves of the world. But then, they were impossible. And I knew that. However, there’s no limit to imagination and my imagination was always weird.
I took a resolution to study well and put more efforts than I already did. This was a resolution which I took every year, but failed miserably to stick up to it. I decided to study harder than before. Never in the past had my grades dropped. But I thought that they might go down with the intrusion of Jairam in my life. Since I was in a vulnerable age, I held a notion that love, crush, and infatuation are a great hindrance to studies. I had an opinion that true love blooms only after the age of 21.
However, contrary to my prayers, I became obsessed with Jairam. He filled my thoughts each and every second. I desperately wanted to speak with him and know more about him. I had never really felt like that for a guy. That was the first time. Maybe, I was falling for him, but I was not quite sure. Something held me back from realizing what was going on within me.
“So, nothing else happened?” asked Nimmi, relating to my current status with Jairam.
“What do you want to happen?” I cross-questioned her. We were seated in the second last bench, gobbling coconut milk rice and carrot noodles, while having our usual talks about Jairam.
“You got to know his name. Is that all? Just go ahead and ask him why he is looking at you and smiling.”
“Why should I ask him that?” I asked, slowly slurping a carrot noodle strand inside my mouth.
“Don’t you want to know what he feels about you?”
“If he does feel anything for me, he would surely convey it by himself. Not that I should go and ask him.”
“So you won’t speak with him, right?”
“Nah! I won’t. Unless and until he takes a step to speak with me.”
“Well, all the best!”
But she sounded sarcastic. It was at that time I realized that Aafreen was eavesdropping from the last bench. Since she wasn’t my best friend, I stopped spilling my secrets to her. ‘God! She might spread rumours about me!’ I feared. She was such a gossipmonger.
“Un peru enna?”
‘Jairam? Oh my god! Speaking to me?’ My mind whirled with umpteen thoughts before I could reply to his question. Surprisingly, he halted in front of the main gate and asked my name in Tamil! I wanted to jump out in excitement. I wanted to express my happiness at that moment.
“En peru ah?” I placed my hand on my chest and asked him whether he was asking my name.
I broke into a smile and replied, “Bhavana”.
“Hmmm…Purila,” he said that he couldn’t understand my answer.
“Bhavanaaa…” I raised my pitch, equally aware that someone from my house would come outside and catch me red handed.
He nodded as if he understood what I said and waved at me.
I waved back and waited for him to move away so that I could dance in joy.
But before I could do any more expressions, my mom came out and spoke, “Bhavana, what prevents you from entering the house? It has been five minutes since you have arrived. Removing your shoes takes this much time, right?” She had come running from the kitchen with flour smeared hands as soon as her daughter failed to make an appearance inside.
“No, Ma, I was just thinking about my homework.”
It was a miraculous escape! I could never get away from my mom’s roving eyes. Being the mother of an only child, she had nothing else to do than keep an eye on me.
Once inside, I started jumping in joy. I wanted to inform my sweet encounter to Nimmi. I wanted to tell her that finally Jairam broke the ice between us. I searched for the cordless telephone, but it was already in use.
‘Mch! I wonder to whom my granny would discuss about the sloppy soap operas. Why is she concerned if the character Malathi has moved out of her husband’s house?’
Annoyed, I searched for my mom’s mobile phone. It was lying unattended. I grabbed it and typed Nimmi’s landline number which was the only phone number I knew by heart.
“Your balance is too low to make a call.”
“Damn the bloody balance!” I threw the mobile away in disgust. Sadly I went back to do my evening chores.
I narrated the incident to Nimmi the very next day and she was happy beyond words.
It was January 29. The weather was cool and I was reveling in the breezy mood. I was standing near the main door as my mom was in the hall. I couldn’t go out and wait for Jairam. My mom was asking inane questions. I kept answering them, while impatiently looking towards the road. My heart kept fluttering like a butterfly. I think I had ESP, because I became burdened by the thought that something was about to happen. And then, Jairam came. As I saw him, he tried to show me something which was in his hand. I was not able to see properly and conveyed him through sign language, but he moved away without any further reply. I stood there, unable to comprehend his actions.
My mom had still not left the hall. She was taking too much time in having her lunch. Meanwhile, I waited for Jairam’s return. He came back soon. Once again he showed me something from his hand. It was a piece of paper. I came to know what was about to happen. Before I could say no, he threw the piece of paper and it fell on the pavement which was constructed in front of my house. I was horrified. I turned inside the hall to look whether my mom had noticed my crazy expressions. But she was busily eating. Heaving a sigh of relief, I turned back to the road. Jairam was gone and the piece of paper was still lying on the pavement. I eyed it with curiosity.
My mom completed her lunch and called me inside. Abandoning the piece of paper, I went. I sat along with my family members. They were all chit-chatting, but my mind was somewhere else. I appeared as if sitting on burning fire, quipping occasionally with ohs and okays, so that they wouldn’t find out that I was up to something. After a few minutes, my curiousness got over me and I sneaked out quietly. Opening the gate to the pavement, I picked up the piece of paper with trembling hands. With each passing second, perspiration overcame me. Gulping some saliva, I opened it. It was written,
“I love you Naveena.”
I felt happiness surging from the bottom of my heart. Jairam loved me and he had proposed sweetly through a piece of paper. But, wait, ‘Naveena? How could he possibly hear my name wrongly? Naveena is nowhere near to Bhavana.’ The initial excitement turned to disappointment in an instant. Immediately I went inside. I stood in front of the mirror and spelled “B-H-A-V-A-N-A”. It was perfect. Not even an iota of it was similar to Naveena. My grandma flashed nasty looks when I was doing that. But I was less concerned. All that mattered was Jairam mentioning me as Naveena. ‘I think he has poor eyesight. He couldn’t even make out my name by reading my lips’, I assured myself. ‘Or he might have seriously not heard me. He invented an imaginary name.’
I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to treasure the piece of paper permanently, but the wrong name in it made me angry. I tore the paper into bits and pieces. Then, I collected those pieces carefully and treasured them inside one of my notebooks. I smiled on seeing those pieces, but at the same time I felt angry on being mentioned as Naveena. It was like he had proposed to some other girl. However, my heart softened, when I thought about the efforts he took for the proposal.
“Jairam loves me!” I squealed in excitement. All of a sudden, I heard my room door creak open slowly.
‘My goodness! Who could that be? I am damned! Whoever it might be, they might have heard me clearly’. A cold fear gripped me. And then, I spun around to see who it was.
Well, you may think that the confession came too soon in this love story. But that’s how some stories are supposed to be. 😉