Read the prologue and the rest of the chapters here: https://kavyajanani.wordpress.com/debut-novel/
“So, where do you live?” asked Nimmi to Jairam.
“Near the Shiva temple in Gandhi road. We stay in a small rented house,” he replied.
“With whom do you live?”
“We are six in our family here. Ramesh Bhai, Bhabhi and their two kids. Then, I and my cousin Pradhyuman. He stays nearby Mayflower school. Our parents are in Jaipur. That is our native place.”
“Wow! My native place is Jodhpur. So, if I ever come to Jaipur, I will drop in by your house.”
“Yeah, you are always welcome. Bring Bhavana also,” he replied, catching a glimpse of me. I was just smiling throughout the entire conversation. They were partially conversing in Hindi too which made me look like the odd one out.
“For how long have you been working here?” asked Nimmi.
“I completed my 10th grade in 2004 and joined my dad’s textile shop. From then, I have been working as a shopkeeper. We own a textile shop in Jaipur. My brother Ramesh brought me to Chennai in 2007.”
“So, will you go back to Jaipur?”
“I might go next month. It has been two years since I had visited my parents and younger sister Madhu. They were all here last month for a puja in Durga Devi temple.” He glanced at me. That was the day when he had applied kumkum on my forehead.
“Achcha! Have we reached Gandhi road? Where is your house?”
“No, we have to turn to the next right. So have you both completed your education?”
“We have completed our 12th board exams just now.”
“So, what next?”
“Obviously, we will be joining in a college.”
We were walking through many roads in Durga Devi Temple Street. For each and every word which Jairam spoke, I blushed. I was also amused at his broken Tamil and his eloquent Hindi. He expected me to speak. But Nimmi was doing all the talking on my behalf.
“There! That’s my house”. Jairam pointed to a small house opposite to the magnificent Shiva temple.
“Wow! You stay right opposite to the temple? That’s great. You will be blessed always,” said Nimmi. Turning to me, she asked, “What else shall I ask?”
“I need to know his birthday.”
“Jairam bhaiya, when is your birthday?”
“January 24th and I am 21 years old. When is yours? I mean, when is Bhavana’s birthday? I want her to answer me”. Nimmi moved a little aside so that he could have a better view of me.
“Mine is on May 7th. I am going to turn 17,” I quietly replied.
“Okay, sorry I forgot to ask your name. What’s your name?” he asked Nimmi.
“I am Swapna. Okay, that’s enough. I am not going to ask you anymore questions, bhaiya. We are all going to Bhavana’s new flat in Sethu road.”
My eyes popped out. “Nimmiiii…What are you saying? If anybody sees us, then I would be turned into minced meat. Please, let’s have our meeting in Durga Devi temple or Shiva temple.”
“No, you won’t have privacy to confess your love. Now just keep your mouth shut and listen to my words.” She hissed.
We walked towards Sai Kripa flats in Sethu road. I turned nervous and I was almost near to fainting on the road.
“Bhavana, nothing will go wrong. I assure you.” Nimmi held my hand, which eased me.
We reached our flat and I unlocked the door. We entered the hall and I showed them around. Then, for a few moments, we stood there just like that, speechless. It was Nimmi who broke the ice between us.
“So, do you love her?” she asked Jairam.
“Yes,” he replied meekly.
“Then why don’t you talk to her now?”
“I am ready to talk, but she is not talking.” An awkward silence prevailed in the room after that.
“Come on, Bhavana. Why are you keeping mum?”
“I don’t know what to speak.” I began.
“Arey bhagavan! Oft repeated sentence. Jairam bhaiya, at least you ask her any questions.”
“Mujhko sharm aa rahe hai.” He said he was feeling shy.
“Arey yaar, what’s happening here? Will you both keep on shying away from each other? Okay, I will leave you both alone. I will wait in the balcony. Bhavana, just call me when you have finished talking.”
Jairam nodded in agreement, but I was horrified.
“Hey, Nimmi pleaseeee…”
“Shut up!” she said and moved away to the balcony. I fidgeted with my fingers and kept my face down. I was feeling shy to look at him directly. I had never imagined that someday I would be alone with him.
“I love you,” he said, moving closer to me. I took a few steps back. I was fighting with my mind whether to confess to him.
‘Opportunity comes only once. Confess, idiot!’
I looked into his eyes and without any hesitation, I said, “I love you, too.”
“Yes. I love you.” That was the happiest moment of my life. I could not believe myself that I had fallen in love and even confessed to the other person.
“Wait, I have something to show you.” He took out a piece of paper from his shirt pocket.
He unfolded it and showed me. I was astonished for a moment. I could not believe my own eyes, for there was the most beautiful drawing of me on that paper. It was an astounding pencil work. My facial features were perfectly rendered by him.
“I..I..” I stammered and tears filled my eyes.
“Please don’t cry. I love you. And that love has made me to draw this. You know, I always have this in my shirt pocket so that you stay close to my heart each and every second. I just can’t express in words how much I love you. Wherever I go, I will have this drawing with me and keep on loving you, forever.” He said all those in broken Tamil.
I was rendered speechless. I felt an urge to hug him at that moment, but my girlish conscience told me not to.
“I don’t know what to say. I just know that I love you. But I don’t know whether I would have gone to this extent to express my love,” I said.
“Now, give that drawing to me. It’s meant only for me. Sorry, you are meant only for me.” I smiled at him and handed over the drawing.
“What made you to love me, Bhavana?”
My name sounded so sweet in his voice.
“I can write a book for that,” I laughed. He too laughed and moved closer to me. I was becoming restless with that growing intimacy. I pinned myself to the wall.
“Shall I give you a kiss?” he asked me, nonchalantly. I gasped.
“What? Please, noooo..” I became scared. As I was unromantic by nature, I never knew about a kiss. I was not accustomed to all such things. I had not even imagined Jairam kissing me.
“Just a small kiss. Please, I need to show my love to you.” He moved even closer. I panicked and held his hands so that he doesn’t hug me. Our fingers entwined and our eyes locked. A splurge of electrifying love passed through me. Even I felt prompted to kiss him. I held his hands tightly and said, “Jairam please….”
He moved closer and placed a slight peck on my cheek. It felt heavenly and I could feel his true love for me. Then, he moved away from me and showed his cheek. “Will you give me one?” My reluctance left me at that moment. I was happy to oblige and kissed him on his cheek. Then, he pulled me closer and wrapped his hand over my shoulder.
“Don’t be afraid of me. I love you truly and I will do anything for you,” he said.
“I love you, too.” I had never dreamt that I would tell those three magical words repeatedly to a guy.
Then, I realized that we were getting late and Nimmi had spent too much time in the balcony.
“Nimmi!” I called out to her.
“Yeah, I am coming.”
“Okay, have you both talked?” she asked looking at us.
“Yeah, we talked a lot.” Jairam replied, winking at me. “Okay, I will leave now. You both come later.” He left the place, after promising to meet me sometime later.
Once he was out, I started jumping in joy.
“What happened, Bhavana? Did you tell him?” Nimmi asked eagerly.
“Yeah, we both told ‘I love you’ so many times. And of course, we kissed each other. Just a small peck on the cheek.”
“What?” Her jaw dropped.
“Yes, it was amazing, you know.”
“Bhavana, I am soooo happy for you, dear. Finally, you are in a relationship. That too with a Marwari guy.”
“Oh my god! Don’t remind me about that. Then I would enter into a deep thinking session about how our families would react to our love and all such.”
“Sorry, sorry. Okay, come let’s leave.”
“Yeah, he told me he will be buying a mobile phone. He will give the number to you while passing by your house.” I was on a call with Nimmi. Just then I remembered that Jairam had spoken something about mobile number to her.
“Thank god! I thought that I was going to die without being able to speak to him.”
“See, there is only one way by which you can get the mobile number. Wait outside the sit-out. He might probably give the number to you in a piece of paper.”
“I think you have become more comfy with the ‘piece of paper’ technique. Well, you can use it for your love story, Nimmi.”
“Never. I don’t want a fairytale love story like yours. I need a modern cheesy one.”
“Oh I see! Okay, your wish will be granted soon.”
“Thank you, Ms.Bhavana. Now, do as you are told. Wait for Jairam in the sit-out.”
As soon as I ended the call, I checked myself in the mirror. It had become a habit of mine to admire myself in the mirror. Being in love made me more beautiful. I had always felt that I was an ugly and nerdy one. But then Jairam came into my life and changed my whole perspective towards myself. I thanked God wholeheartedly for sending him as an angel.
“How hot it is!” I was cursing the sun. It was only 8.30 in the morning and the sun was scorching. In addition to that, I was sweeping the outside pavement and turned all sweaty due to that. I had accepted to sweep because I wanted to see Jairam. He would be arriving at any moment. Otherwise I wouldn’t have done any house chores during holidays. My day would begin with a cup of hot piping Bournvita. Then, I would brush my teeth, take bath, have breakfast and find a cosy corner to read a good Enid Blyton book. Then in the afternoon, I would have lunch and move on to my siesta. I would wake up in the evening, have snacks, continue reading the book, use the system for browsing a few web pages in Internet, have my dinner, and listen to songs and then sleep.
After a few seconds, Jairam came along with Ramesh’s kids and signalled to me that he will be giving me a piece of paper on his return. I nodded in agreement and waited for him.
Soon, he returned and stood at the other side of the compound wall.
“How are you?” he asked me.
“I am fine. Okay, give me the number fast. My neighbours might be watching me.”
“Yeah okay, take this.” He handed me a piece of paper. A number was written on it 91******06.
“Thank you, Jairam. Okay bye, I need to go inside. Or else my mom will come in search of me.”
“Hey Bhavana, wait…”
But I paid no heed to his calls. I entered the sit-out and turned back to look at him. He was standing there and he took another piece of paper from his pocket. He showed me that and beckoned me to come out.
“No, I can’t. Please go!” It was almost like an order. Then, he moved away sadly. Even I felt sad that I could not receive the other piece of paper. Wish I could have got that one, too. Maybe I would have been saved from what I am today.
There was so much excitement in the air. My grandma was planning to go to Madhu Textiles & Readymades along with my aunt who had come from my native place.
“If you don’t mind, can I also join you? It’s damn boring in these holidays!”
“Yeah okay, no problem. You can join us.” My grandma said and I felt immensely happy.
As we reached the shop, my aunt stopped at the entrance and started admiring the attire which was adorned for a lady mannequin. I looked inside for Jairam. He was attending to a customer. Then, we entered the shop. We headed straight to Jairam. He seemed to be happy that we had chosen him for attending to us.
“We need a good summer wear for a 3 year old boy,” said my aunt, looking at him.
“Wait a minute madam. I will show you.” He moved to the further end of the shop and brought out boxes of children’s clothes. As the clothes were unfurled and piled up, Jairam slowly held my hand under them. I frantically tried to pull out my hand, but my attempts turned futile as he had a firm grip on my hand. I pleaded him with my eyes to release it, but he tightened his hold. I was also afraid that my grandma and aunt would notice our romantic play. On the contrary, they were busily selecting clothes and commenting on each attire.
“Please show us some good quality nighties too,” my grandma asked Jairam. He let go of my hand and came out of the desk. He went to the other side of his shop and brought out some good nighties from the shelf. Meanwhile I was admiring his dedication to his customers.
My grandma and aunt chose a few nighties and went to the billing counter to pay for them. I went along with them and turned back to see him. He was folding the left out nighties and placing them back on the shelf. He caught my eyes and signalled me to call to his mobile number. I murmured an ‘okay’ to him and abruptly turned to Ramesh who was at the billing counter. I had a bad notion that he had noticed Jairam signalling to me. He had a grim expression while packing the clothes. Then, he stared at me. His stare was as if he would kill me at that very moment. That was enough to make my knees wobble in fear. We moved out immediately.
I turned back to see whether Jairam had come to the shop’s entrance. Yes, there he was. He smiled at me and I smiled back. I saw someone coming behind him and turned away instantly. At that fraction of second, I thought I saw something unpleasant.
‘Did someone hit Jairam from his behind? Oh my god! I captured something like that from the corner of my eye.’
By then, I had reached my home. I could not make out what had happened.
‘Did someone hit him? I think somehow I have to call to that mobile number immediately.’
So, what do you think might have happened to Jairam? Keep guessing till the next chapter. 🙂