Read the prologue and rest of the chapters here: https://kavyajanani.wordpress.com/debut-novel/
Mellowing moments coupled with a shock
I sat by my bedroom window and admired the drizzle. It was Oct 13th, 2008. It had been a year since I had seen Jairam. A lot had happened. And the major thing was – I fell in love! With that love, my bond with Nimmi increased, Vikram moved away from my life (though I missed him badly), I learnt to lie to mom whenever possible and I had met with an accident. But I had taken all that as a positive vibe towards my love.
I lazily lay on my bed and thought about Jairam, imagining what would happen after I confess my love. Then I would officially be in a relationship. A Tamil girl Bhavana in love with a Marwari boy Jairam. It sounded too filmy, but that was the truth. Never had I dreamt that I would fall in love with a North Indian. I imagined the communication problems that would occur between us. I would speak broken Hindi and he would speak broken Tamil. Finally, neither of us will understand what the other spoke. I laughed at my own thoughts. Just then, my mom brushed past me.
“Ma! Come, sit here. I need to talk to you. Shall I ask you a personal question? I think I have reached the legal age to ask you this. Was yours a love marriage?” I spoke those in a single breath, while my mom seated herself beside me. She was wearing a frilled nightie which looked good on her.
“Of course, it is. I think I should have told you earlier about this. We were in the same college. The difference was – I was a student and he was a professor. Later, he took up a course in Computer Science and became a programming analyst.”
“Oh my god! That means you fell in love with a much elder man?”
“No, nooo..As you know, he is just eight years elder to me.”
“Just eight years? But that’s too much for me.” Saying so, I wondered what might be Jairam’s age. I secretly wished that he should be only a few years elder to me.
“Was it an inter-caste marriage, Ma?”
“Kind of! He was a Telugu, hailing from the great Reddy caste. There were many problems cropping up when our families discovered about us. And I being a Tamil girl, I was rebellious and stood for my love to succeed.”
“Wow! I am proud of you, Ma. That’s a beautiful love story.”
“And, you know, I was married off at 21 to him. That has been our family tradition – to get girls married off as soon as they finish their graduation.”
“Ma! I don’t want that to happen to me. I have many dreams to conquer. Please Ma!” I pleaded her.
“Don’t worry, my dear. I will get you married only at the age of 24 or 25. By the way, are you planning for a love or an arranged marriage?”
I was horrified at her question. I depicted mixed reactions. “I..I don’t know, Ma.” I stammered. I thought she would slap me as she might have wanted to hear that I would agree for an arranged marriage.
“Whatever it might be, you have to choose the right person, dear. You are my daughter. I hope I needn’t teach you what is right and wrong. You know what to do. Your heart will provide the best guidance for you. We can only advise you. But your heart is your mentor. Follow its words always,” She caressed my head with her hands and moved away.
‘That means she would accept if I love someone. But is Jairam the right person for me?’
“I am just scared about our board exams. And with these recurring model exams, they seem to be more frightening,” I grumbled to Nimmi.
“Chodo yaar! You are a bright student. You need to put a little more efforts. That’s it. You will easily grace through your exams.”
“Your advice seems too clichéd, Nimmi.” I stared at her.
“Go to hell, you will get much better advice over there.”
I meekly tried to laugh at her bad joke, but soon worry climbed over my face.
“What’s bothering you, sweetie?” asked Nimmi in a soothing tone.
“Business Maths. My tuition is not proper.”
“I already said you to join in mine.”
“Okay, I will talk to my mom today.”
“Wait! I have got a visiting card of Star Academy. You can contact the phone number given in it.” She handed me a professionally looking visiting card. My mind began playing tricks with me. I was reluctant to join in an academy. I had a notion that popular tuition academies were stricter than the local ones. But I had to excel in Business Maths. Though I was good at solving problems, Business Maths was a bit tougher.
That evening, I reached home and discussed the idea with my mom. I gave her the visiting card and eagerly waited for her opinion.
“That’s a good idea. And I am glad that you spoke out your difficulty. But, the problem is, I am afraid that you might have a jolly good time with Swapna and forget about Business Maths.”
“Ma, If I really want to have a jolly good time with her, then I can very well enjoy with her in school. I need not go to tuition for that. Please Ma. It deals with my education. I need to score high marks in this subject.” I pouted like a baby.
Then, my mom smiled and replied, “Okay, let’s go to the academy. I think you can join from today itself.”
I was overjoyed and immediately called up Nimmi from the landline.
“Hey Nimmi, I am gonna join in your tuition from today. Mom has accepted!”
“Okay,” Her voice appeared dull.
“What is this baseless reaction? Aren’t you happy that I am gonna join?”
“Bhavanaaa, you know what, I told my parents that you are going to join in my tuition from today. Instead of being happy, they were horrified. Immediately they called up another academy and enquired about their fees structure. Then they told me that I was to go to that academy from today. I am sorry, yaar. But, you know, these parents are always….”
“Nimmi, wait! Why were they horrified? Do they think that I am not a good friend to you?”
“Nothing like that, Bhavana. They think that I might gossip with you and while away my time in tuition. Only we know what we are going through in that hell of an academy. I tried to convince them, but they did not listen.”
I was deeply saddened. I thought I could be comfortable in that academy with Nimmi by my side. But everything turned upside down. I had to make new friends by myself.
“That’s okay, Nimmi. We can’t do anything about it. Fate has played with us.” I sighed. Then, we had a little girlie chat and hung up.
“Hi! I am Bhavana, studying in Riverbed Higher Secondary School,” I announced in front of a bunch of new faces. They looked at me as if they were experiencing a live alien making a speech.
‘I don’t know why these people look at me weirdly. Why can’t they just smile and welcome me? Weirdos.’
I silently made my way through the benches and occupied a place near to a fair girl. She was dressed in bright colours and that attracted me towards her. She was wearing a turquoise blue t-shirt with yellow jeans. She had left her hair loose, with a few fringes falling on her forehead. In short, she looked gorgeous like a model. She was nibbling the end of her pen cap, failing to even acknowledge me.
‘What a horrible slug!’ I thought.
“Hi! I am Bhavana,” I extended my hand for a shake, concealing my uneasiness.
“Hi, I am Shalini. Shalini Maithri.” She took my hand and shook it gently, but she appeared grumpy.
I decided to take the conversation in a lighter tone rather than the usual where-are-you-froms and what-are-you-doings.
“You seem to be dull, Shalini. Any fight with your boyfriend?” I asked her casually.
She was taken aback. She stared at me for a while and replied, “That’s none of your business, Ms.Bhavana. Don’t try to act too smart. You thought you could cheer me up by engaging in a different conversation. Don’t even try! You will either receive my wrath or a tight slap across your face. Now, just turn your bloody face away and concentrate on the class.”
“I..I am sorry…” I frantically replied. I was shocked at her outburst. For the rest of the class, I did not even dare to look at her.
Soon, the class got over and I marched towards the cycle stand. My mom had allowed me to bicycle to the tuition. I was happy that I was slowly experiencing freedom. To my horror, my cycle was parked next to Shalini’s. I hurried up and unlocked my cycle, bending my face down, so that she wouldn’t notice. Then, I felt a soft tap on my shoulder. It was her.
“Hey, I said I am sorry…” I began.
“No, nooo..It’s I who should apologize for my rude behaviour. I am sorry, Bhavana.” She smiled at me, finally. Her voice was hoarse.
“Ufff! Thank God! I thought I might get another round of bashing from you.”
She laughed and said, “Sorry, I was in a bad mood. And yes, I had a fight with my boyfriend.” I was surprised at her outward attitude.
She continued, “I might be arrogant at times. That’s because of all the torture which my boyfriend does to me. I don’t know why I am blabbering this to an acquaintance. But I need to vent out my frustration.”
“That’s okay. I can handle your bad mood. And feel free to talk to me. I think we will be together in this tuition for another five months. So, let’s be friends rather than acquaintances.”
“Yeah, sure buddy, hi-five me!” We hi-fived and burst into peals of laughter.
That was a good beginning for a lighthearted friendship.
January 1, 2009. The day seemed to be fresher than any other days. I woke up and offered my prayers to Sai Baba for a happy life ahead. I decided to see Jairam on that day. He was my lucky charm. There was nothing more joyful than receiving a look from him on a new year’s day. My life had turned rather stable and dull: school to home, home to tuition, tuition to back home and then to sleep. So, Jairam was the only source of radiance in my life. I loved being in love with him!
I informed my mom that I was going out to buy a pen. Fortunately, a stationary shop had been opened near Vaishnavi complex where Jairam’s shop was situated. I had made frequent visits earlier, but Jairam had been too busy in attending customers that he had failed to notice me.
I bought a fountain pen and went near Madhu Textiles & Readymades. I peeped inside to find Jairam. The shop was overflowing with customers and he was busy attending to them.
‘God! Please make his eyes fall on me. Jairam, I am outside. Please turn and see.’
God was always on my side, for Jairam turned and saw me, but he was immediately summoned by Ramesh. The latter handed him a mobile phone. Pouncing on the opportunity, Jairam dashed outside. He fixed his eyes on me and attended the call.
“Tu kaain kiyo?” he asked someone over the phone.
‘What’s this language? Already I am somewhat poor in Hindi. Should I learn Marwari too?’
He moved closer to me. I retraced a few steps back. He signalled me to stop. Then he ended the call and looked around to see if anybody was watching.
“Happy New Year!” he wished me.
“Thank you! Same to you,” I smiled at him.
“JAIRAM!” Someone hollered from his shop, urging me to wave a goodbye and leave the place.
‘Turn back idiot! He has not yet gone inside his shop.’ My heart told me.
It was my policy to follow my heart always. I turned back to see. And that’s when I saw the most shocking scene of my life. A girl was hugging Jairam in front of his shop. Tears welled up in my eyes and I made a hurried walk back to home. My head was spinning around. Jealousy seared through my veins.
Another cliffhanger. Next update in a couple of days. 🙂