Read the prologue and rest of the chapters here: https://kavyajanani.wordpress.com/debut-novel/
Love in the air
‘Who could that be? Who could that BEEEEE?’ My mind was racing even faster than Michael Schumacher’s car. Tears were piling up in my eyes and rolling down.
‘Hope Jairam is not cheating on me. Wait, why should I care about that? I have never confessed my love to him. So, he can take any decision. Why should I cry for that? ‘
‘Nooooo…this should not happen. I love Jairam and I am gonna propose to him after my exams. Can’t he wait till that? Is it so essential for him to move on? I will never let that HAPPEN! I need to find out about that girl.’ I had mixed feelings and two voices were speaking within me.
I stopped where I was – near the main gate to my house, but my heart told not to enter. My mom’s words flashed through my mind. Follow your heart always. I wanted to get clear with my doubts. I did an about turn, reached the main road, and walked towards Madhu Textiles & Readymades. Actually I had made a dashing entry which made all the three shopkeepers look at me in shock. I murmured an apology for my behaviour.
“What happened, madam? You seem to be angry. I hope we have not given you wrong clothes. I don’t even remember when you had come last time.” Ramesh started blabbering. I noticed that his wife and his two kids were also in the shop.
“No, no, I am sorry once again. I was angry on someone else. I couldn’t control it.” Then my eyes fell on Jairam. He was visibly surprised by my visit.
“Ramesh anna, do you have any good winter tops to go along with jeans?”
“We have lots, madam. Jairam! Show her some.”
I went over and stood before him. I had a stony expression and he was questioning me with his eyes. Then, I saw the girl who had hugged him. At once I came to know that she was also a shopkeeper in that shop.
‘But why was she hugging him?’
I stared at her and she shifted from her position uncomfortably. I had a grim feeling that Jairam and she were in an affair, but soon I brushed away the negative thoughts and concentrated on the clothes which were shown to me.
Jairam was utterly confused by my behaviour. I had not smiled at him even once since my entry. He knew that something was up with me and he was trying to buy my attention.
“Enna?” He asked me what was wrong.
“Nothing,” I replied plainly.
Just then, the girl patted his shoulder, “Bhaiya, main jaaon. Taparo maay kei karaj baaki chhe.” She mentioned Jairam as ‘brother’.
At that moment, I felt like hitting myself. I felt ashamed that I had suspected Jairam. And I also felt bad that I had tarnished the image of a brother-sister relationship.
“Sorry,” I blurted out to Jairam.
“For what?” He turned his face towards me.
“Do you have the habit of hugging your sisters and brothers?” the question popped out of my invariably wagging tongue. I really felt awkward after asking that. Since I was a single child, I’d never experienced the love of a brother, neither had I accepted the senior boys in my school as brothers. So, I never knew that sisters could hug their brothers.
‘Oh, my! He would now judge me as a cheap person.’
At once he understood the turmoil that was bubbling inside me. He smiled gently and replied, “Yes, we do have the habit. And my sister has come to visit me after a long time.”
I felt sheepish before him and smiled at him in an unpleasant manner. I was also surprised to know that he understood Tamil very well and that he could answer my questions.
After a long pause, he asked me, “Do you love me?”
I was taken aback and I did not know what to reply. I just made bizarre expressions at him and moved away to the billing counter with my selected top. I turned back to look at him. Disappointment was written all over his face.
“Wow! You have chosen a good top,” bawled Ramesh. I had selected a fuchsia shimmery winter top.
“Thank you, how much does it cost?”
I paid for it and left the shop, secretly smiling at Jairam.
“Where are we shifting to?” I asked my mom. There was a lot of hustle-bustle in my home and I was pestering my mom with questions.
“We are shifting to a flat in Durga Devi Temple Street,” she replied hurriedly.
‘What? Did I hear that correctly?’
“Our house needs to get renovated. So we will be shifting temporarily.”
“Can you tell the exact location in Durga Devi Temple Street?”
“Oh, wow! What’s our apartments’ name?”
“Sai Kripa flats. Now don’t prod me with anymore questions. We are shifting there by this weekend. Your board exams are commencing on March 14th, right?”
“So, we will shift on March 8th.”
I looked at the calendar and noticed that it was March 2nd.
‘What the hell! I won’t be able to see Jairam anymore in the evenings. Though the flat is situated somewhere near his house, how will I be able to see him?’
I began to figure out a way to postpone our shifting, but I chanced upon nothing. Once said was said. I had to follow the words of my mom. I felt an urge to see Jairam at that moment. So I planned to go to Durga Devi temple and take a peep inside his shop on the way.
As I walked on the main road, I noticed that ‘Madhu Textiles & Readymades’ was closed. I was surprised.
‘Damn it! Now I can’t see Jairam. God, why are you playing with me like this?’
Anyway, I proceeded to visit Durga Devi temple. Once there, I came to know that there was a grand puja for the deity Durga Ma. I paid my obeisance to Lord Ganesha at the entrance and moved further inside the temple. And that was when I spotted Ramesh along with his family near the banyan tree. That was a huge family and I scanned thoroughly to detect Jairam. There he was, wearing the same old red t-shirt. I quickly hid myself behind one of the shrines in the temple. I did not want Jairam to notice me and turn all uneasy in front of his family. I peeped from my lair and observed his large family. All the women folk were dressed brightly in lehengas and covered their head with an odhani. For a moment, I imagined myself in the attire and laughed secretly. The men were dressed in simple shirt and pan but there was an artistic patchwork on their shirts which classified them as Marwaris.
Soon, the pujari discovered me in my hideout and chased me away. I felt embarrassed and moved to the main shrine. I prayed Durga Ma and offered archana. As soon as I came out, I saw Jairam and Ramesh offering prasad to all the devotees. Ramesh was offering laddus while Jairam was supplying kumkum. I wondered where the rest of the family members disappeared. I joined the queue and waited for Jairam to notice me. Soon, his eyes fell on me and he spiralled into a wide grin. Ramesh and he were standing at a hand’s distance. So I received the laddu first and then moved on to get the kumkum. That was when the most beautiful moment of my life arrived. The laddu had covered my entire hand and there was no place left for the kumkum. Immediately Jairam took a pinch of kumkum and slowly brought it to my forehead. He then applied it lovingly. I locked my eyes with his’ for a nanosecond. The rest of the queue pushed me from behind. I moved forward and dispersed away.
My cheeks turned pink and I blushed as I replayed that incident in my mind. I secretly thanked the laddu for covering up my hand. I walked back home, feeling like the happiest girl in the world.
Our board exams commenced and I started to fight with my books. Nothing else was in my mind other than the economical statistics, business strategies, cost analysis formulae and all such things. And of course, Business Maths looked threatening. Along with my new tuition friend Shalini, I started practising more and more problems. Jairam was the last thought that occupied my mind. He served as refreshment to my soul whenever I needed a break from studies. Moreover, I was not comfortable in my new home. It never seemed like a home to me. Squeezing inside the single BHK flat were my mom, grandma, grandpa and me. I felt confined within the four walls. Adding to my woes was the lack of communication. I could not convey to Jairam that I had shifted to a new house.
‘He might be cross with me. It has been a week since I have seen him.’ Though from his perspective it was a one-sided love story, I behaved as if I was his girlfriend, already.
I reached my exam centre before his shop opened in the morning. So there was no way I could see him. After my exam, I would take a shortcut to home and never stepped on the main road. This turned out to be a major hindrance in my love story.
We had a four day holiday before our Business Maths exam. I visited Nimmi at her home.
“Yaar! I think you can teach me some difficult problems,” I pleaded her.
“Yeah, sure, sweetie. Why not?”
And so, we started our practice session as well as our chatting time. We spoke about our classmates and I told her about my new friend Shalini Maithri. Then, our discussion came to Jairam.
“So, how is it going?” Nimmi asked.
I narrated the temple incident and she was pleasantly surprised.
“I think I need to see Jairam. My birthday is approaching, as you know. I may purchase my dress from his shop,” she said.
“Hey, that’s a great idea! I will give you descriptions about him so that you can easily identify him.”
“You said he looks like Salman Khan. That’s enough for me to identify him.”
“He has pimples all over his face and slightly stained teeth. And my god! What a beautiful pair of eyes…”
“Stop, stop. That’s enough. Let’s concentrate on Business Maths. I will let you know after my visit.”
Business Maths paper was quite easy and I was sure that I would score high marks. My thoughts frequently drifted away to Jairam. I had seen him once inside his shop and he seemed as if he would die out of anticipation. I was planning to confess my love after the exams. I had to chalk out a meeting session with him. Nimmi agreed to help me with my confession.
“I have purchased my dress. I went there and easily recognized Jairam. I even spoke with him, yaar.” We were walking back home after our final exam.
“Is it? I can’t believe. What did he say?”
“I was with my father. So I couldn’t speak anything about you. I was just conversing with him in Hindi about general things. That’s it.”
“Oh! Is that all?” I was disappointed.
“Yes, but I have another plan.”
“On my birthday, that is, on April 10th, I will come to your house to distribute sweets…”
“Hey, one minute. We have shifted back to our old house, but some of the things are locked up in the flat. I will take you there. On that pretext, let us visit Jairam’s shop.” I was completely thrilled with my own idea.
“Bravo! Let’s do that. But wait, are you going to confess to him in his shop?”
“No, let’s ask him to meet us at Durga Devi temple.”
“Yeah okay, that sounds good.”
All set, I was excited, thinking about the D-Day. Finally, I was going to confess my love to Jairam.
“Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to dear Nimmi..Happy birthday to you!” It was 12 a.m on April 10th. I was singing to Swapna over the phone.
“Thank you soooo much, Bhavana. I thought you might have slept.”
“How can I sleep, idiot? I am just excited as you are.”
“Is the excitement because of my birthday or because of your confession today?”
“Nonsense! I can say it’s because of both.” I blushed to myself.
“I can picture you blushing on the other side. Anyway, thank you once again. Now go and sleep before you get sound scolding from your mom.”
“Okay bye. We will meet in the evening at my house.”
“Bye.” We hung up. Soon, I drifted off to sleep.
In the evening, Nimmi arrived and we had a gala time at home. I presented her with a cute yellow teddy bear as she loved teddy bears a lot. We had Rose Milk which was our favourite and chatted about our future plans regarding our studies. Then we came out to the sit-out to plan our next endeavour. My hands and legs started shivering.
“Why are you shivering? You have to confess your feelings today. No other go. You can’t continue like this. Just take the first step into your relationship and God will take care of the rest,” said Nimmi. Her words eased me a bit.
“Okay, what shall we do?” I asked her.
“Let’s go to his shop. I will speak with him for some time. Then we will ask him to come to Durga Devi temple. You can confess there.”
“Yeah, I think this will work. But will he come to the temple?”
“Why not? We’ll tell him it’s important.”
“Hmmm, okay. Wait, I will get the keys to my flat, so that mom won’t have any suspicion as to where we are heading.” I dashed inside and grabbed the keys from the key shelf.
“Ma, I am taking Swapna to our flat. She has asked me to take her around.”
“Yeah, okay, dear. Both of you stay safe.”
Soon, we were walking towards Madhu Textiles & Readymades. Jairam was at the entrance and he welcomed us with a warm smile. Once again, I started shivering and my palms turned sweaty.
“Bhavanaaa..Control your emotions. You are not going to attend a professional interview.” Nimmi hissed under her breath.
I tried hard to control myself, but I was blushing and uneasily smiling in front of Jairam. Nimmi gave me a stinging pinch which made me to steady myself.
Jairam smiled at Nimmi as they had already met.
“Aap phir aayi. Kya chahiye madam?” he asked her what she needed.
“Just show us some salwar-kameez materials, but we have come here to speak about something else.”
All the time I hung my head down. I was feeling shy to look at Jairam. To my surprise, he came out of the desk and stood near me. I could almost feel his breath. I was afraid that either Ramesh or Pradhyuman might notice, though they were attending to other customers.
Jairam moved closer to me and almost whispered, “Tell me your name once. I want to listen to it from you.”
I did not turn my head. I looked down and replied, “Bhavana”.
“I want to see your eyes. Just turn to me and tell.”
I quickly turned and said, “Bhavana”. Immediately I hung my head down once again. Then, he moved to the other side of the desk and started unfolding some materials in front of Nimmi. All the while he had his gaze upon me.
I nudged Nimmi, “Ask him to come soon.”
He overheard us and spoke, “Madam, I can’t understand much English. Either Hindi or Rajasthani or Marwari.”
“What about Tamil?” I spurted out in surprise.
“Konjam konjam theriyum..Ana puriyum..” he replied in Tamil. He sounded too childish.
“Will she not open her mouth?” Jairam asked Nimmi, pointing to me. He might have been offended by my strange behaviour. I did not even look up for a split second.
“Have you come to meet a bridegroom? Why are you looking down?” asked Nimmi, turning towards me.
“Aiyo, I feel shy.”
“Usko sharm aa rahi hai,” she said to him. He grinned at me.
“Jairam bhaiya, we need to speak to you. Can you meet us in Durga Devi temple?” asked Nimmi.
“Yeah sure, I will come. You go in the front.”
“Okay bhaiya, please come soon. Do you have a mobile phone?”
“No, I don’t use it”. I was surprised and looked at him enigmatically.
‘Then, what was that mobile phone which he used to impress me with Hindi songs?’
Jairam read my mind and replied in an instant, “That’s Ramesh bhai’s mobile phone”. I smiled and nodded.
Then Nimmi and I moved out of the shop, asking Jairam to join us soon. As we were walking in the street, Nimmi came up with a weird idea.
“Hey, Bhavana, let’s drop the plan. Instead of going to the temple, let’s keep walking. We will talk with him about many things. We will ask about his family background and we will also ask him to show his house. Then, we will go to your flat. You can confess your love there.”
“What?” I was horrified.
“Why? The idea is good, right?”
“But..but..Jairam in my flat..Nimmi, are you sure?”
“Yeah, I am damn sure.”
“Bhavana,” Someone called me from behind.
“Golly! He has come,” said Nimmi. We turned and saw Jairam. He started walking beside Nimmi. She poked me and asked me to come in the middle, but I flatly refused.
Jairam peeped at me and asked, “Will you not speak to me?”
“What to speak? I don’t know much Hindi and you are speaking broken Tamil.”
He laughed at me. His laughter sent ripples throughout me.
‘Oh my god! I think I will blurt out ‘I love you’. Control Bhavana! Control!’