Read the prologue and rest of the chapters here: https://kavyajanani.wordpress.com/debut-novel/
A letter, a twist, and bad luck
I was discharged from the hospital after three days. I was slowly recovering at home. My 12th grade classes had begun by then. I was missing out on my notes right from the beginning, but Nimmi was good enough to drop in daily at my house and teach me what they had taught in class. The doctors had told my parents that I could consume normal food. So I began gorging on my favourite dishes. But the only thing that disturbed me was Vikram’s wrongdoing. I just couldn’t digest what he had told me. I wanted to avenge him. My hatred for him was increasing day by day. Though I did not know the reason for his wrong deed, I could not turn off my vengeance which was boiling inside me. He was my best friend, but betrayal is something that could destroy any sacred relationship. I could not go out to the sit-out and wait for Jairam. I could not know whether he had returned. Miserable would be an understatement to describe my then condition.
‘I want to get back at Vikram.’ I thought wickedly.
It had been a long time since I had used the sit-out. I was waiting for my Jairam. I was not sure whether he would come or not. My heart was telling that he would not come while my mind was telling that he would surely come. Conflict, as usual. I secretly wished for a miracle to happen. And of course, miracles do happen for those who earnestly crave for something. There he was.
‘He has changed a lot. Oh, my god! He has grown lean. What has happened to him?’
He turned and looked at me with a horrified expression. I still had the bandage over my head. I knew I had to explain to him. I opened the gate to the outer pavement and went near the compound wall. He too moved closer to the wall. Facing him after a long time brought mixed emotions in me. He had shaved off his stubble. A faint line of moustache was visible.
“I..I met with an accident.”
“How?” he asked.
“A car dashed me as I was crossing the road.”
Immediately his eyes welled up with tears.
‘What? Is he crying? Does he love me so much?’
“I am sorry,” he said, wiping a drop of tear that fell from his eye.
“I did not come….”
“Bhavana, with whom are you talking?” It was my mom. She was moving towards the main door.
‘I am caught! Okay, I will manage.’ Jairam sneaked away quietly, as I signalled with my eyes.
My mom came out and looked around. “There is nobody here. With whom were you talking?”
“He is my friend in tuition, Ma. Look over there! He has gone. I told him to wait so that he could meet you. But he said he needs to go and moved away. He was just asking about my condition.”
“Oh! Okay. You need to have your medicines. That’s why I came searching for you.”
“Okay, I will have. By the way, I will go to tuition today, Ma.”
“Why? I think you need to take some more rest. You can’t go to tuition with this bandage over your head.”
“That’s okay, Ma. I feel better internally.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes Ma, I am sure. I can manage pretty well.”
“Hello Bhavana, how are you?” It was my Business Maths lecturer in tuition.
“I am fine, sir. How are you?”
“We are all fine. We were missing you a lot in the tuition. By the way, I have started the 12th grade portions. You can cope with your notes. Ask Prithvi to help you.”
“What happened to Vik…..”
“Bhavana! Come over here. I will tell you.” Prithvi called me.
“Yes, what happened to Vikram?” I went over to his place which was usually in the last row.
“He won’t be attending tuitions hereafter.”
My eyes bulged out. “Why?”
“He has left a letter for you. Here it is.”
I was surprised. Nobody had written a letter to me till then. That was something new for me. I opened it carefully and read,
“Bhavana, I am sorry. I know that a mere sorry can’t appease you. I am a sinner. According to me, that was the greatest sin I had ever committed. To keep away Jairam from you. Actually, I need to tell the real reason to you. The guilt inside me is slowly burning me away. The reason why I told Jairam to keep away from you is that I felt jealous. And the reason for my jealousy is I am in love with you. I know you will never forgive me for this, Bhavana. Though I wanted to maintain our beautiful friendship, I couldn’t help falling in love with you. You were such a good girl and I did not want to miss you in my life. I felt jealous when you said that you were in love with Jairam, who was a stranger. I was angry that you chose a stranger over someone who is close to you. I did not want to force love inside you. But I felt that you could have considered falling in love with me. I know I am being selfish. I know that now I seem to be like a psycho. Initially, I thought that your love for Jairam was childish. But when I saw you in the hospital, something in your eyes told me that you truly love Jairam. I felt like murdering myself to have done such a thing for my selfishness. I went to meet Jairam once again. I apologized to him and said that he could continue his love story. However, I did not tell him that you too love him. I know that you want to tell that by yourself. And I also want to tell you that Jairam is a good guy. Don’t miss him in your life. I saw the same true love in his eyes too. You should have a beautiful life with him. I don’t want to complicate your life anymore. I know that I have lost a good friend in the name of love. But I won’t attend tuitions hereafter. I will turn out be a great hindrance in your life. I don’t want to. So I have decided not to be in your sight. Be happy in your life, Bhavana. And I am sorry for everything. Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!….infinite times sorry.”
Tears flew down from my eyes. I was having mixed reactions. There was anger, sadness and shock inside me.
“What happened, Bhavana? Why are you crying?” asked Prithvi.
“What was written in that letter?”
“I said nothing. Leave it,” Saying so, I tore the letter into bits and pieces. Well, the reason was the same. I did not want my mom to discover about it.
“Awwww! So Vikram’s chapter has ended. I am glad that he went for good,” said Nimmi, over the phone.
“I don’t know whether I am happy or sad. I never knew that Vikram had fallen in love with me. There were no symptoms from him that showed he was in love with me. He could have proposed me sooner. I might have considered him. He was a good guy though. But you know, you can never decide love. It can happen to anyone at any time. Like it happened for me with Jairam.”
“Hmmm. So are you relieved now? You wanted to get back at Vikram. He came out clearly.”
“Yeah, I am relieved. But I think I will miss a good friend like him. He was protective of me. I don’t know what got into him. Anyway, due to his heinous actions, I have realized that my love for Jairam is even deeper. The only problem is, the other guys from my tuition will take advantage of me.” I sulked.
“Well, you can change your tuition centre. Why do you still attend the same old tuition? There are so many good academies coming up. You can join in mine. It’s Star Academy, located in Venkatesan Nagar.”
“I don’t think so mom will send me to the same tuition where you attend. She has a bad notion that we would while away our time in unnecessary gossip.”
“Oh! That’s so sad! I can’t change your mom’s opinion. I thought Business Maths would be much easier with you around.”
“I will try asking her. If I get back to my tuition, thoughts about Vikram will haunt me. I think a guy and a girl can never stay as friends.”
“Don’t tell like that. There are many who stay as close friends forever. It depends on the guy however. Vikram couldn’t stay loyal to friendship. But you will surely find a guy who will turn out to be your best friend forever.”
I smiled at her words. “I already have a best friend. That’s enough.”
“Who is that? You have never told me anybody other than Vikram.”
“It’s you only dumbo! You are both my boy and girl friend.” I laughed.
“Ha ha ha..Achcha! Tell me, when will you attend school?”
“Hey, I am coming tomorrow. I just can’t stay at home.”
“Golly! So there will be a furore in class tomorrow.”
“Why do you say that?”
“There are many awaiting your arrival here.”
“Is it so? Am I that much popular?”
“Yeah, of course, sweetie! They are missing your songs.”
“Okay sure! I will come tomorrow and entertain them with my singing. Now, bye. Ma is glaring at me. She is probably thinking that the telephone bills are getting higher because of us.” I giggled.
“Bye. Meet you tomorrow.”
I was walking along with Aafreen towards Madhu Textiles & Readymades. She had asked me to accompany her as she wanted to introduce someone to me. My heart pounded with fear.
‘Is she going to introduce me to Jairam thinking that I don’t know about him? Has she spoken to him just for my sake?’
“Whom are you going to introduce?” I asked her desperately.
“My lover,” she said nonchalantly.
“What?” I was horrified. ‘Is Jairam double timing me?’ I hit myself for getting suspicious on him. He was innocent. I was sure that Aafreen was playing.
We entered the shop, but Jairam was missing. There was that ‘married guy’ and another boy whom I did not know. Immediately I named him as ‘unknown guy’ in my mind. He had an ochre skin tone, broad shoulders, the unmistakable Salman Khan-like eyes and faintly protruding teeth. Aafreen directly went to him and asked, “I would like to see some cotton churidhars.”
The boy flashed her a mysterious smile and unfolded the churidhars before us.
“He is my lover. His name is Pradhyuman.” Aafreen whispered to me.
‘What the hell!’
“What are you talking about?” I couldn’t believe my very own ears.
“Yes! He stays next to my house. He is Ramesh anna’s cousin.”
“Who is Ramesh anna?”
“Look over there. He is the owner of this shop.” She was pointing to the ‘married’ guy. He was tall, flat-faced, clean-shaven and wore rectangular specs that made him look like a pundit.
“Then, what about that mint-green shirt guy?” I turned impulsive to know. I never knew that things could take such a dramatic twist.
“Don’t call him like that. He has a name. Jairam. And I don’t know about him. I have not asked Pradhyuman. And he also didn’t tell me about his family background yet.”
“You could ask him, right?”
“Why should I? Are you interested in Jairam?”
“No..No..I am not. I just asked. Well, where does Ramesh stay?”
“I think he stays somewhere in Durga Devi Temple Street. I am not sure. You know the two kids whom Jairam takes to school? They are Ramesh anna’s.”
“Oh! So, who is Jairam to all these people?”
“How do I know? Why are you asking these many questions?”
“Nothing, nothing.” It all seemed like a jigsaw puzzle to me.
“What are you girls whispering to yourself? Don’t you like the churidhars?” Ramesh’s stern voice emerged from the billing counter.
“We like them. We were just discussing about the design.” Aafreen bluffed to him.
Just then, Jairam entered the shop.
‘Oh my God! He should not blurt out anything. God, please help me out of this tricky situation. I don’t want Aafreen to know anything.’
He kept his head down and did not notice me until he came near Pradhyuman.
“Arey Pradhyu. Kai ki…..” He stopped short as he gazed at me. He stood there dumbstruck.
I pretended to be normal. I turned to Aafreen and asked, “Have you selected your churidhar? Can we pay for it?”
But she had noticed the strange look in Jairam’s eyes. Turning to Pradhyuman, she asked, “Is Jairam interested…”
“Shut up, Aafreen!” I dragged her to the billing counter.
“What’s going on here?” asked Ramesh, standing up from the counter.
“Nothing, bhaiya. We were just joking,” said Aafreen.
“Oh I see!”
“This is the churidhar which I have selected.”
“This is a nice one. The blue and red patch work was specially designed by our town people. Do try it and show us.”
“But your shop doesn’t have a trial room.”
“Yeah, we can’t afford one in this small place. I promise you there will be one when we expand this shop.”
“Okay, I will wear this churidhar tomorrow and visit your shop.”
I knew very well that she was making excuses to see Pradhyuman.
“Yeah sure, do visit our shop often. We have many collections of salwar-kameez. And also we have many niqabs if you want to purchase a new one. You too visit us madam!” Ramesh said, looking at me.
“Yeah, I will,” I replied. I was also surprised at Ramesh’s fluency in Tamil.
We paid for the churidhar and left the shop. I didn’t look back at Jairam. I was too afraid to be caught red-handed either by Aafreen or Ramesh or Pradhyuman.
“Ma! Where are my socks?” I yelled at the top of my voice.
“I don’t know. Find it for yourself.”
‘How ridiculous! She knows I am getting late to school. I need to tell Nimmi what happened in Madhu Textiles & Readymades yesterday.’
I could not find my socks. I threw my shoes away. I possibly couldn’t wear the leather shoes without socks. I put on my favourite pair of slippers and dashed out. To my disgust, the bus was not on time. Once inside the bus, I remembered that I had forgot my bus pass inside my English textbook. There was no English class on that day. So I had kept it at home. Disastrous! I had to pay for my ticket. To my horror, I had no change with me. There was only a 100 rupee note in my purse. The conductor strictly said he wouldn’t accept it. I fumbled my bag for coins. I managed to fish out some coins and gave it to the conductor.
I reached my school, but I was late. I was made to stand outside the gate as the morning assembly was going on. I was let in, after being asked to write an apology letter to the disciplinary staff. She let me go with a warning. I entered my class. It was Economics period and the devil made me stand outside the class for appearing late! I was sweating profusely. I looked for Nimmi. She was not there in her place. I peeped forward and searched the entire class. And then it struck me. Nimmi was absent to school! I stood there cursing my luck. Just then, I saw the head master on rounds.
‘I am damned!’
A twelfth grader standing outside the class was considered as a great sin in my school. And for the first time on that day, God showed some mercy on me. The bell rung at that very moment. I was overjoyed. The Economics teacher let me inside. I went and sat beside Aafreen.
“You look horrible. What happened?” she asked.
“Bad luck is chasing me from the morning.”
“Hmmm. Well, for me it’s good luck.”
“What? I can’t understand.”
“Look here.” She showed me a plastic cover. Inside that was her cotton churidhar which she had purchased the day before.
“Why did you bring it to school?”
“In the evening, I am gonna change my dress in school and then leave for his shop. You should come along with me.”
“No. I am not coming with you.” I did not want to be in yet another awkward situation in that shop.
“I need to go to Nimmi’s house. I don’t know why she is absent. I have to ask her.”
“Who is Nimmi?”
“Oops! I need to go to Swapna’s house.” Only I addressed Swapna as ‘Nimmi’, while the others knew her only as Swapna.
“Then okay. Your wish.” Aafreen shrugged.
Just then, I noticed her hand. She had tattooed Pradhyuman’s name. At that moment, I badly wanted to know the details of her love story. And of course, I wanted to know more about Jairam, but I couldn’t.
‘Wish I could have shared my love story with her, too!’
Next update in a couple of days. 🙂