Read the prologue and rest of the chapters here: https://kavyajanani.wordpress.com/debut-novel/
“Vikram..Vikrammmm..” I started following him. Almost two weeks had passed since he stopped speaking to me. I was missing him to the core. He was the only friend who understood me completely, but his reactions to my love story were downright unacceptable.
“Vikram. Please stop!” I pulled at his backpack. He turned around, smirking and murmuring under his breath.
“What do you want, Bhavana? Just get lost! I have no interest to talk to you.”
“You are so rude, Vikram. I haven’t done anything wrong. Being in love doesn’t count as a mistake. You are overreacting.”
“I don’t care whether you are in love or not. I just don’t like it. I am not forcing you to stop loving him or something like that.”
“Vikram, please! You are hurting me too much.”
“I am already hurt, Bhavana. You termed me as ‘not a true friend’. Nothing more can hurt me than those words.”
“I did not mean it. It just came out in anger. I thought you might have forgiven me. Please, I am sorry. Forgive me.”
“It’s not something to be forgiven so easily. And I am sorry. I shouldn’t have interfered in your personal life.”
“Vikram…” I was on the verge of crying.
“I don’t want to meet you anymore, Bhavana. I won’t speak with you whatever happens.”
“Vikram, I just want you to know that I had my first real conversation with Jairam. He is such a sweet person. Please trust me. Nothing can go wrong in my relationship with him.”
“I have warned you not to speak about your stupid love story.”
“Shut up, Vikram! Once again you are terming my love as ‘stupid’.”
“Then, what is it? You are telling me that your love is a true and heavenly one?”
I started sobbing. I flashed him a bitter look and walked away, throwing silent profanities at him. I never knew that Vikram could be so bad to me. Though he was one of my best friends, at that moment I wished that he shouldn’t have come into my life.
“We need an Anarkali salwar-kameez for her size,” said my mom, pointing to me. We were in Madhu Textiles & Readymades and Jairam was attending us!
I was stealing glances at him and he had that lovely smile pasted on his face. And that was the moment I noticed a stone stud sparkling in one of his ears.
‘So he knows the value of jewellery too!’
I had read somewhere that if a boy wears any piece of jewellery on any part of his body, he would surely understand the value of it and also the pain that girls take to maintain those jewels. I secretly assumed that Jairam fell into one of those categories.
My mom was going through the salwars. I liked a few and selected a black Anarkali salwar which had a golden pattern embellished in it.
“There are more patterns like this one. Do you want to see them all?” asked Jairam.
“No. This is perfect,” I quipped in and secretly winked at him. He gave an acknowledging smile. My mom did not notice all those.
He folded the salwar in a neat manner and moved over to the billing counter.
“What’s the discount?” asked my mom.
The ‘married’ guy at the counter looked up and started, “We give a 10%…” I termed him as ‘married’ as I have seen him animatedly discussing with a Marwari lady in the shop. Well, the way they walked and talked were like how married couples behave.
“It’s actually 30%, madam,” Jairam intervened.
The ‘married’ guy glared at him. Jairam grinned back at him and calculated the total with a 30% discount. I knew he was bluffing. He had raised the discount just because it was me. I loved that particular action of him and wanted to hug him at that moment.
‘No Bhavana! You are not to show that you are in love with him.’ I reminded myself.
“Anything else you want, madam?” he asked.
“No. Thank you,” said my mom.
I left the shop with a heavy heart. I wanted to spend some more time with him. I planned to ask Nimmi to give an idea in knowing about Jairam. All of my plans to get close to him were failing miserably.
“Nimmiiiiii..Tell me some idea. Puhleez…” I dragged each and every word as I spoke.
“I am not as intelligent as you are. Why do you ask me?” She asked me back, flipping through the pages of Princess Diaries which she had borrowed from the library.
“You have been in love. So you know how to go about it.”
“That was not love. Just infatuation.”
“Whatever it is! You thought you were in love, right? So tell me some idea to get to know about Jairam.”
“The only way is to visit his shop and talk directly to him.” She seemed disinterested in the topic.
“That’s not working out. Either I go along with mom or there is somebody accompanying him always.”
“Then try the paper method. Write down your questions in a piece of paper and throw that to him.”
I shot her a good-for-nothing look. “It was my mistake to ask you an idea. According to me, that was the dumbest idea.”
“Hey, that might sound crazy, but in your even crazier love story, this idea seems to be perfect.” She chuckled to herself and shut the book with force.
“What do you mean by ‘crazier love story’?” I hissed at her.
“Yes, your love story is crazy, right? You both just simply glance and smile at each other. What else have you done to go forward with your love? Neither he nor you have taken any step. At least, he has confessed his love. But look at you.”
“I told you I will confess my love only after post board holidays next year.” I was fed up with her taunting. I didn’t know why she was being skeptical. At that moment, I felt lonely. I had no one to support me in my love story. Vikram just left me as soon as he heard that I was in love with Jairam. Nimmi seemed to be supporting yet she had her own inhibitions. I had tears in my eyes, but Nimmi did not notice that. She was pulled away by Aafreen to the canteen.
‘Am I losing Nimmi too?’ I shuddered at the thought of losing yet another friend.
“Bhavana! Are you ready?” my mom yelled at the top of her voice.
“Varen ma….” I shouted back, hastily putting on my jumkas. I discarded my specs and wore contact lens instead. I gathered my handbag and dashed out.
“Wow! You look like a goddess, darling. This Anarkali suits you well.”
“Thank you, Ma,” I said and blushed. I was wearing that black Anarkali salwar purchased from my Jairam’s shop.
“Did you take the gift for Reema Di?”
“Yes, Ma. It’s inside my bag.”
Reema was a Gujarati, residing next to my house. I used to consider her as my sister and lovingly addressed her as ‘Di’. We were on our way to her marriage reception.
“Reema Diiiii..Happy married life!” I hopped on to the mandap and wished her.
“Awww..Thank you soooo much, Bhavana! This is my husband Siddharth.” She introduced me to him. I shook my hands with him and noticed that he was damn awesome. His dimples were hard to resist. But at the next instant, I was reminded of Jairam. According to me, looking at another guy while you are already in love with one is a great sin. Oh, I was such a dork during those days. So I refrained from having any more thoughts about Siddharth’s handsomeness. I gifted the married couple with their present.
Then I got down along with my mom. We occupied two chairs, sipping delicious grape juice. Soon, the music and dance began. I was asked to dance, but I was reluctant as I did not know the Dhandiya steps. The song was one of my favourites Dhandiya Aatamum Aada from Kaadhalar Dhinam movie. It was yet another beautiful composition by A.R.Rahman.
I started cheering the dancing crowd. It was difficult for my eyes to catch the steps. I turned towards the boys area to see whether they could get their moves right. And the next second, I froze on my chair. Amidst the crowd was my Jairam! He was dressed in a handsome pink Sherwani. He was not dancing. He was silently standing and watching me. He smiled at me as I saw him. I was awestruck, not knowing what to do. He told me that the Anarkali looked amazing on me. Of course, he conveyed through signs.
‘Reema Di knows Jairam’s family. I have to enquire her about him later.’
After a delicious North Indian dinner, I went over to the ice cream counter while my mom moved away to meet some of her old friends.
“Hey Raju..Move away! One minute please.” It was Jairam. He pushed away the boy standing in the counter. I was standing there with my cup. He smiled at me and scooped some ice cream. I received it with a smile, wondering how he knew each and every guy in the marriage. He was chatting away with almost all the boys and with a few girls too. Yes, I could not help noticing it, as a streak of jealousy passed through me.
“Wait! There is fruit salad.” He jumped over to the next counter.
“No. Thank you!” I cut him short with a mischievous smile. “I am leaving. Bye!” I almost whispered the last two words to him.
Soon, my mom and I left the marriage hall. It was the best day of my life. I replayed the sequences in my mind at night. During my earlier years, it was a book which would put me to sleep. But with Jairam’s entry, it was his thoughts which lulled me to sleep.
My tuition had become hell. Vikram wasn’t speaking to me and Business Maths was burning me to death. I was in a grumpy mood that day. There was a surprise test at the end of the class and we were asked to revise for five minutes.
It was Vikram calling out to me. I was surprised and instantly I turned back to see him. He was seated in the last bench, wearing a fluorescent green t-shirt. I noticed that he was exuberant. The eagerness to speak with me was evident in his eyes.
“Come here. I don’t know even a single sum for the test.”
‘So, that’s why he is calling me.’
I smirked at him. However, I needed to speak to him. So, I went over to his place.
“Hi Vikram. Am I imagining things? How come you are speaking to me?” I plopped down beside him. His perfume emanated a woody fragrance. Being the son of a wealthy businessman, he was accustomed to using expensive products.
“I am sorry for the other day, Bhavana. And don’t mistake me. I didn’t call you here for copying. I wanted to apologize to you.”
“That’s okay, Vikram. Forgive me too.”
“Yeah, I have forgiven you.”
‘What? He is faking a smile. What’s wrong with him?’
“So, how is Jairam?”
“Yeah, he is fine. We met at Reema Di’s marriage too. I need to enquire about him to her.”
“Wow! That’s good. Go ahead!”
There was something amiss in his speech. I couldn’t figure out. His eyes weren’t meeting mine.
“I love him so much. When the clock strikes 3.30, I get all excited. I wait for him in the sit-out daily.”
“Well, I think you don’t need to wait for…..”
Tringggggggg! The tuition bell went away.
“Students, we will have the test tomorrow. You may leave now,” announced our Business Maths teacher.
We packed our bags and moved out. I bid a goodbye to Vikram. As I was walking on the road, I replayed my conversation with him in my mind. I stopped on my track.
‘What did he mean? ‘I don’t need to wait for…’ what did he mean? I have to call him up and ask.’
It was at that time I realized the importance of mobile phone. Neither did I own one nor did I know Vikram’s phone number.
‘Oh, god! I have to wait till Monday.’ I shrugged.
‘What’s this? I have been waiting for three days in a row. Jairam hadn’t shown up. He is not in his shop either. What happened to him?’
I was worried about Jairam. Seeing each other face-to-face was the only means by which our love story was progressing. There were no mobile phones, text messages, calls, internet and e-mails in our story. But the absence of those was killing me. I did not know how Jairam felt about being in love. We did not even befriend each other properly.
‘I have to do something. Let me dress up and go to Durga Devi Temple Street. It is where Jairam’s house is located. I have seen him go by that way along with the kids.’
I dressed up to go to that street.
“Ma, I need to get a chart sheet for my project. I am going to the stationary shop.”
“Okay, dear. Be careful! Don’t go to the other side of the main road. You don’t know how to cross the road properly. Buy your things from MVR shop in our street.”
My mom’s advises fell on my deaf ears. I walked on the main road. The weather was cold even on a June evening. Though I dreaded crossing the main road, I somehow managed to cross and reach Durga Devi Temple Street.
I loitered around the street, looking at all the houses to find Jairam’s dwelling abode. I did not know how to identify his house amongst the hundred houses over there. I had checked his shop and it was closed.
‘He should be in his house. Sai Baba, please make him come out. I have only ten minutes. Otherwise, Ma would come in search of me.’
I increased my pace. My eyes wandered around, searching for Jairam’s house, but I had no idea where he lived. Feeling defeated, I returned to the main road and started crossing, without caring about the vehicles.
‘What has happened to him? Why is he not in his shop? What makes him to disappear suddenly?’
Honk! Honk! Screeeeeeeeeechhhhh! I didn’t even know from where a black SUV popped on the road.
I turned to my right and my eyeballs widened. The next instant, I was thrown off the road. My head dashed to the ground with a thud. And then, my vision turned black.
Hey folks! Hope you like the story. Please tell me your feedback. Constructive criticism most welcome. 🙂