Read the prologue and the rest of the chapters here: https://kavyajanani.wordpress.com/debut-novel/
Love and its aftermath
“JIMMY!” I shrieked. “You freaked me out!”
Jimmy was my pet Labrador. He had followed me till my room and was waiting for the right opportunity to creak open the door slowly, as I was basking in the glory of Jairam’s proposal.
“Did you hear anything, Jimmy?” I asked him, patting his head gently.
He whined a little and licked my hands lovingly. I picked him up and led him to his beautifully decorated kennel. Pouring out a bowl of Pedigree, I fed him. He wagged his tail at me as if to say “thank you”. I felt elated on seeing him in one of his jubilant moods, but rather I was elated with Jairam’s proposal.
“Okay, bye Jimmy. I need to go to tuition.” I waved at him and refreshed myself rather speedily. I was desperate to meet Vikram and tell him the entire proposal episode.
“What is this?” asked Vikram, looking at the bits of paper inside my notebook.
“Jairam proposed to me,” I smiled wryly.
He smirked at me.
‘Now, what’s wrong with this guy?’ I thought.
“Why did you tear it?” He popped the question in an instant.
“It was written Naveena, instead of Bhavana. Perhaps he heard my name wrongly.”
“So, that’s what made you tear it into pieces, uh?”
“Yes. I love the fact that he had opened up about his feelings, but the mention of wrong name on it disappointed me.”
“Oh! I thought you tore it because he is just a stranger and he has proposed to you, but you seem to be happy with his proposal.” He rolled his eyes at me.
I was taken aback at Vikram’s reactions. I didn’t know why his behaviour turned peculiar. I knew that he was over-protective of me. But that didn’t mean he could rule my life and intervene in my decisions.
“Well, you have taken the right decision to tear it. Your mom or someone else might have noticed it,” he continued.
“Hmmm. But I am very excited. I just don’t know what to reply. Should I ask him to wait for my answer?”
“Why are you asking that to me? It’s your life and it’s your decision. But I think you are in love with him.” He replied sarcastically.
“No…No…I am still confused about that. Okay, you leave. I will take care of this.”
I switched to my introspective mode. I made a plan to go near Jairam and tell my name so that he could hear it properly. I didn’t want him to mess up with my name for another time.
The next day, I reached my school rather late as I had overslept. But I was lucky, the assembly had just then got over and students were returning to their classrooms. I was let off with a warning. I entered my classroom. Glancing at Nimmi, I beamed with happiness, went over and sat next to her. Our Economics teacher was taking class. I looked around and saw most of the heads lolling up and down. They were in a deep slumber.
‘Boring lectures!’ I thought and nudged Nimmi.
“What?” she asked in a hushed tone.
“I have some great news.” I whispered back as I did not want to buy the attention of my Economics teacher.
“I knew when I saw your beaming face. Tell me what happened?”
“Here, open this notebook and look.” I passed my notebook and she opened it with care.
“Bits of paper? What are these?”
“Jairam proposed to me through those.”
“Whoaaaa! That’s a great surprise, Bhavana….”
She shouted out the last two lines which made the entire class turn around and look at us, including our Economics teacher! Even the sleepy heads woke up with a startle listening to the commotion.
“Bhavana and Swapna..Out you both! How dare you speak and shout in my class? Out!” Ms.Malini, whom I had nicknamed as ‘The Devil’, pointed her finger towards the door.
Nimmi was about to open her mouth, but I restrained her. Silently, we moved out of the class.
“Idiotic Bhavana! We could have apologized and sat down.”
“But we wouldn’t have been able to continue our talks.”
“That’s right! Okay, go ahead. Why did you tear it?”
“I am sick of giving this explanation. Instead of my name, it was written I love you Naveena. Just imagine how angry I would have felt.”
“Oh my god! Ha ha ha ha…”
“What’s there to laugh?” I asked in disgust.
“I just imagined your face in that situation. Well, it was a small mistake, right? Forgive my jija-ji. Try telling your name once again.”
“Yup, I am waiting for a chance. And stop addressing him as jija-ji. It seriously irritates me, Nimmi.”
“Okay, I am sorry. I won’t mention him like that anymore.”
“Hmmm, what do you think about this incident?”
“I am happy for you. Finally, you came to know that Jairam loves you. This is what you wanted, right? Now express your feelings.”
“Well, it’s a bad omen. Just when we were discussing about Jairam’s proposal, our ma’am has sent us out of the class. So, it clearly indicates that something is not right.”
“Thu!” Nimmi spat at me. “Your atrocious beliefs are sickening me.” She scorned me. I grinned at her in response. The bell rung and finally we were allowed inside. We didn’t discuss anything in the class for the rest of the day.
That evening, Jairam was waiting for me. He was sitting on the lawn of a closed shop in my street. I was surprised. Usually, I would be the one who’d wait for him, but that day was an exception. As soon as he saw me, he got up to speak. Before he could utter a word, I cut him short.
“My name is Bhavana.” I told him and kept on walking forward without stopping. I didn’t want my neighbours to see me talking with a boy. They would spread rumours about me. Such assholes they were.
“Kya?” he asked me.
I thought, ‘Damn! Does he have a problem with hearing too?’
“My name is Bhavana.” Before I could speak anymore, I reached my home. It was clear that he could not understand even then. I waved at him and entered my house. He moved away with confusion writ upon his face.
Weeks later, the second proposal happened. I was gardening at that moment without keeping track of the time. I just glanced at my watch and exclaimed, “Oh my god! It’s 3.40. I might have missed him. Anyway let me go and check.” I ran to the outer pavement. Surprisingly, he was waiting for me in front of the main gate. My first expression was that of horror. ‘How could he casually stand like that?’ I checked inside my house and none were there in the hall. I heaved a sigh of relief and turned towards him. And once again, he threw a piece of paper and moved away.
‘Another paper?’ I thought as I picked it up.
I opened it and read. It was written, “I love you. I love you.”
‘Twice? Wow! Thank god, he did not mention any wrong name.’
Then, I noticed my neighbour watching me from his outer staircase. I was embarrassed and smiled at him to make up for my discomfiture. He smiled back. It was an all-knowing smile and I shivered a bit at the thought of him complaining to my mom about my love escapades. But he was easygoing and I silently prayed that he should refrain from grumbling to my mom.
I scurried inside my house, entered my room and shut the door behind me. As I kept looking at the piece of paper, I felt immensely happy. I folded it carefully and slid it inside one of my notebooks. But the fear of getting discovered made me tear that paper into bits once again. I did not treasure it. I just threw it away in the garbage yard at the back of my house.
After throwing it, I felt guilty about myself. I held some feelings for Jairam yet I had thrown his beautiful proposal into the dustbin. Yeah, I considered it beautiful because that was the only way by which he could communicate. I knew from the ‘name asking’ day that he wasn’t comfortable in communicating with me. Neither could he speak Tamil properly nor does he know English well. And furthermore, I was poor in Hindi.
I badly wanted to analyze my heart whether I was in love with him or not. I wanted to research whether he would turn out to be a good life partner. I deeply thought about the pros and cons of inter-caste marriage. Our backgrounds were different. My parents would strongly reject him as he was just a mere shopkeeper. Never even in their dreams they would have thought about getting their daughter married to a shopkeeper. Slumping down on my bed, I tossed and turned. I needed an answer. The answer was coming from my heart, but I was not ready to accept it.
The entire day, I thought only about him. However, I was unable to categorize that feeling as love. I knew I shouldn’t mechanically analyze a person as that would mean I didn’t love him truly. I was happy with what he was. My heart would surely accept him completely.
‘But, what about my parents? What would they do? They would surely curse God if they come to know that their son-in-law is a shopkeeper,’ I thought.
Finally, after all the analysis, I found the answer which perfectly suited to all my queries. I was in love with him! I could never fathom the reason for my great fall in love. I never even knew when I had begun having feelings for him. Well, love had the power to overcome any obstacles. Love doesn’t know caste, creed, status or language. Love is just pure and it makes your life even more beautiful. So, at last, I discovered my true feelings for Jairam. I loved him deeply and I wanted to lead a happy life with him. I didn’t mind him being a shopkeeper or a North Indian. It didn’t matter that he was not like a hot supermodel. All I wanted was his love and acceptance. I couldn’t believe myself that I had fallen in love with a stranger. But everybody is a stranger before we establish any kind of relationship with them. And to establish a relationship with them, we need to nurture feelings for them. Loving a stranger is much better than marrying a stranger and leading a life with him!
“How could you decide so easily?” questioned Vikram. He was disappointed to know that I was in love with Jairam. I couldn’t figure out what came over him. He was the one who had asked Jairam’s name. He was the one who had eagerly helped me. But I didn’t know why he was behaving differently. His brows were furrowed and sweat beads had adorned his forehead.
“Vikram, it’s not about deciding. It’s love. And love is natural. How can I decide love? I have fallen in love with him. It’s not a decision. And there is a difference between falling for a person and deciding whether a person is a good partner. It was you who helped me out in knowing his name. Then, why can’t you digest the fact that I am in love with him?” I spoke determinedly.
“Hey, don’t start your love philosophies. Don’t you have commonsense? You are a well educated girl. He is just a textile shopkeeper. How could you think of him as your life partner? I thought you were just being playful about all these things. If I had known that you were serious, then I wouldn’t have helped you.”
“Stop it, Vikram! I never knew that you could define love so cheaply. Love doesn’t come by looking at each other’s status. You can’t stop yourself from falling in love. Since when did you start looking at all these status differences, Vikram? How could you speak like this?”
“You are angering me, Bhavana. Just think about your parents. What would they do if you tell them that you are in love with a shopkeeper?”
“My love is true. I can surely fight for my love to succeed.”
“What if Jairam’s intentions are wrong? What if he doesn’t love you truly? What if he leaves you for no reason? What would you do at that time, Bhavana? He is a complete stranger to you. You don’t even know what kind of a person he is. You don’t know what’s happening from his perspective. How can you judge his love to be true?” A part of me felt that Vikram was right. But my heart pumped with more love for Jairam. I decided to speak back.
“I saw true love in his eyes, Vikram. If he would have been playful, then he wouldn’t have proposed me once again. I have not shown any response to his advances right from October except smiling and waving. Yet he has proposed his love. I think that God has written this to happen. I am destined to love Jairam. Do you understand?”
“This is too much, Bhavana. You are not aware of the consequences of loving a stranger. It’s not at all as easy as you think. You are going to face a lot of problems.”
“Now, what’s the problem with you, Vikram? What if I love Jairam? Why is it bothering you? It’s none of your business. Do you have any problem with it?”
“Yes, I have. I have a problem with your attitude, Bhavana. And I hate you for that. I thought I was your close friend and I had the rights to advise you. But I am wrong, Bhavana. I am wrong! I won’t question you anymore. You do whatever you want. And mind it; never share about your stupid love story to me.”
“How dare you term my love as ‘stupid’? You are not my true friend, Vikram. If you had been, you wouldn’t have spoken like this.”
The situation went out of hand. Vikram just packed up his bag and moved away in anger. I stood there, blinking to myself, not knowing what to do. I did not even stop him from moving away.
‘What’s happening to me? Am I losing a friend just for the sake of love? Am I losing someone whom I knew for two years just for someone whom I don’t even know?’
Yet again, it was a bad omen. The day when Jairam proposed me, I was sent out of the class. And the day when I realized that I was in love with him, I lost a good friend.
“Stop crying, Bhavana! Please yaar…” consoled Nimmi. I was crying uncontrollably.
“At least, tell me what makes you cry?”
I told her all that had happened the previous day. She was surprised at Vikram’s behaviour. At the same time, she felt happy that I had finally realized my love for Jairam.
“Don’t worry, Bhavana. Vikram will understand your love. He is just being over-protective. He likes you very much and he fears that you might be led in a wrong way. Even I had my own initial fears when you started speaking about Jairam. But when you began divulging even the smallest details in your love story, I thought that somewhere you both might be made for each other. I know you won’t take a wrong decision, Bhavana. I trust you completely. You go ahead with your life. Don’t worry about Vikram. He will come to his senses soon. And don’t ever think about these bad omens. Stop having all such superstitious beliefs! Such thoughts are a great hindrance to love.”
Nimmi’s words were comforting. She was the one who suited well for the proverb, “A friend in need is a friend indeed”. I hugged her and thanked her for being my side when I had my insecurities.
“So, when are you going to accept his proposal?”
“I don’t know, Nimmi. But I won’t confess now. Let me complete my schooling. I think I would propose to him during our post board holidays next year.”
“Then, what would you do till then?”
“I might speak with him as a friend. I would just visit his shop and get to know him better.”
“Hmmm…that’s great. And finally! I am happy that my baby Bhavana is in love.” She squealed in delight.
I blushed for the first time in my life.
I was eagerly waiting for Jairam. It was my first evening after I had realized my love for him. I felt happier than before. It was like I could do anything for him. I barely knew him except his name and his profession. But deep inside my heart, I knew that we would seek out to each other.
Within a few seconds, he came. I noticed that he had worn a purple t-shirt which suited him perfectly. He smiled at me and I smiled back. I think he could sense something unusual with my smile. I didn’t want him to know about my feelings. Not before I got to know him better. After he passed my house, I slowly whispered to myself, “I love you”. Being in love felt magical. Almost heavenly. I smiled to myself and turned back, only to find my mom standing at the entrance of the main door.
“Ma!” I exclaimed with widened eyes.
How’s the story going on, folks? Yet another cliffhanger here. Will Bhavana get caught? Is her love story going to be doomed even before it can properly begin? Keep guessing!