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Click on the below links to read my previous stories..

Bus#126W       My Family and I       Games we play       All Roads Lead Home       As Good As It Gets       Whodunit?      

The Reunion       A Dog's World      My Sister's Daughter

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Games We Play - Part 2

She thought of abandoning Samrat again, but changed her mind. It was too childish. She would tell him that she was getting married and her fiancé had called.
Samrat smiled at her as she walked towards him.
“I’ve to show you something.” He said excitedly, as she settled down.
“What?” His boyish enthusiasm made her smile. Her news could wait.
He opened the last page of her book and pointed at it. “There!”
“What am I looking at?” She peered at the last page, seeing nothing but advertisements of other books and there is was. His book, “An insight into the human mind” by Samrat Kattar.
“Wow!” She exclaimed. “This is so cool!”
“Isn’t it? I know! Its been great.” He looked pleased as a punch.
“You should have put your face on the cover instead of this ugly brain photo.” Nandita said laughing.
“I know, my sentiments exactly, but the publishers didn’t go for it. They thought the brain would sell more copies.”
Nandita’s checklist resurfaced.
Successful check!

Their conversation carried on, smooth as silk. And not once did Nandita feel the need to tell Samrat about her wedding. But with each passing minute, Nandita became aware of something, she had long discarded as a teenage phenomenon. Butterflies.
With every smile, every laugh, she found herself hoping the plane would never take off. They spoke about all sorts of things, their families, their careers everything but their personal life.
He could be married for all you know,  A little voice inside her head warned.
No way, why would he hide something like that?
The same reason you are hiding the fact the you are engaged to get married tomorrow.
That’s completely different. It never came up.

The hours they had together were diminishing into minutes. Nandita contemplated what to do next. Should she risk telling Samrat the truth? Or should she wait to see if he felt the same? She was pretty sure, whatever she was feeling, it was the same for Samrat too.

As the plane started landing, both of them became silent, aware of the impending goodbye. Was it to be a goodbye? A goodbye forever?
Nandita could scarcely breathe. Silently,  they stood together waiting for their baggage.
“Listen,” Samrat said finally.
“Yes?” Nandita recognized the presence of hope in her voice.
“I had a great time.” Samrat said, taking her hand.
“Me too.” She made no attempt to remove his hand. It felt right somehow. “I think we should keep in touch.”
“Yeah, I think you are right.” He said, pulling out her bag from the baggage claim area. “Lets go?” he smiled at her. The smile that she had come to love.
“Yes, Samrat, there’s something I should tell you..” She took a deep breath, it was time to tell him.
“Hold that thought, I’ve a confession too but,” He touched her face lightly, “I left my other bag inside. Meet you outside?”
She nodded softly.
“You won’t run away again, will you?” He asked, smiling.
“No.” She was surprised with herself. She really meant it. She didn’t intend to let him go.

Nandita walked out of the airport, feeling the glorious sun on her skin. Just as the grey skies had all but disappeared from the sky, they seemed to have disappeared from her life too.
“Nandita! Here!”  
Nandita turned around, shocked.
“What are you doing here?!” Nandita stopped dead in her tracks, staring at the man, who was her fiancé.
“I came to pick you up, is that so wrong?” Rajat looked amused to the conflicting emotions on her face. She was trying to smile at him but she kept glancing around nervously. “Is everything okay?” He asked.
“Yes. Yes, everything’s fine.” A smile appeared on her face. She knew what she had to do now. Soon, it would all be over. She could afford to smile now. She stepped into his embrace and hugged him tight. Whatever was going to happen between them, wouldn’t be pretty, but she knew he was a good man and she had become very fond of him. She was going to miss him.
As she withdrew for him, she saw a puzzled look on Rajat’s face. “Where’s your ring?” He asked, holding her hand.
“I took it off,” She thought quickly, “I didn’t want it to fall down and get lost.”
She knew it sounded fake, but he believed her.
“Lets put it on then.” He took the ring from her and started to slip it on her hand and just then, she saw him Samrat staring at her. His expression indecipherable.
“Lets go?” Rajat picked up her bags and started walking towards the car.
Nandita hesitated. Samrat just stood there, staring at her. Nandita looked down at her hand and knew she what she had to do.
She raised her hand to her face, the back of her hand facing Samrat and pointed at the ring on her finger. She waited with baited breath to see how Samrat would react.

She saw Samrat visibly flinch at her gesture and then with a mocking salute, he turned around and slowly walked away.
“Are you coming or what?” Rajat turned around and beckoned to her.
She took one last glance at Samrat, who had all but blurred into the distance, “I’m coming,” she said.
If Rajat noticed that she was unusually quiet, he was smart enough not to say anything about it.

She was wondering if she would ever see Samrat again and more importantly, was he worth it?

They were pulling up to Rajat’s house. She could see her family and his family waiting outside, eager to see her, happiness dripping from their faces. It was her wedding. She should have been that happy. But she wasn’t. As the car stopped, Rajat leaned across and whispered kindly, “Whatever it is that’s upsetting you, we can talk about it later. Put on a smile for them now.”
He opened the door. The family stepped in closer. Suddenly, Nandita felt like she couldn’t breathe. She felt suffocated.
“No Rajat, we can’t talk about it later.” She pulled the door shut. “Please, can we just drive away for a while?” She turned towards him, her eyes pleading.
“Now?” He looked at his parents through the windshield. They looked confused and bewildered as to why the bride and the groom were not stepping out of the car.
“Yes, please Rajat.” Maybe he saw the desperation in her eyes, but he did exactly that. He shrugged and drove away.
Nandita breathed in large gulps of air, relaxing slowly.
“Thank you..” She said finally.
“What was all that about?” Rajat asked calmly. She wondered how he could be like that.
“I just couldn’t breathe..” She knew how lame it sounded, but it was true.
Rajat glanced at her, at the sweat on her forehead. He stopped the car, “Out with it, what’s wrong? Are you not feeling well?”
She covered her face with her hands. What she was going to do next, she would probably regret for the rest of her life. But she also knew, that if she didn’t do it, she would spend the rest of her life wondering if she had taken the right decision.
“You’re a very nice guy Rajat.” She began.
“Nandita, are you breaking up with me, one day before our wedding?” Rajat asked her in disbelief.
“I’m not breaking up with you, I’m just saying, I don’t want to get married.” She bit her lip. She knew what he was going to say. She knew she should have taken this decision a lot earlier.
“Come on Nandita, whatever it is, we can work it out. What did I do, that you want to call it off?” Rajat didn’t look at her, he was gripping the steering wheel hard.
“Why, Rajat, why do you want to be with me? You deserve someone who loves you, someone who can reciprocate what you feel, why do you want to settle for me? You know, I’m not the one for you.” She clutched his hand, forcing him to look at her.
He didn’t say anything for the longest time. Then he spoke, “Because, despite all that, I think I love you. And despite the fact, that you don’t feel the same for me, I believe, that we can lead a happy life together. I’m not settling for you Nandita, I really want you.” He looked straight at her. It was her turn to look away.
“I’m sorry Rajat, but I don’t want to settle.” She felt like a bitch saying it, after he had so plainly stated his feelings for her.
“So you are saying the wedding’s off?” Rajat asked her quietly.
“Yes, its for the best really. I wouldn’t be happy and I would blame you for everything and I don’t want that. I want to be happy and I want you to be happy and I know you will not find happiness with me.”

The wedding was off. Shocked relatives were being sent back. Gossip mills were working overtime with all strange rumors flying around. Her parents were completely miffed with her. Rajat was heartbroken, she didn’t have a house to live in or a job to go back to. But she was calm.
She felt like she had done the right thing. For everyone. Nobody was looking at it form her point of view. She was sick of trying to explain to her parents that even if she got into this marriage, she would soon seek a divorce. She was sure of it.
But right now, she was the bad person. Everybody thought she was being a fool. But they would see eventually that she had been right all along.
And Samrat? How would she explain all this to him? She had to try. It was up to him to accept her. She would respect his decision. She pulled out her laptop. First, she would have to get some information to contact him.
Feeling confident, she typed out his name “Samrat Kattar” on Google.
Her heart beat a little faster as she clicked on the first link.
Wrong Samrat, this guy was old with white hair and all.
She tried again, “Samrat Kattar An insight into the human mind

The same page.

And then it dawned on her, Samrat hadn’t been his real name at all.  Just as she had lied to him, he had lied to her. On a larger scale.
After a long time in ages, as she realized, how everything had gone so horribly wrong, she broke down and cried.

The Games We Play - Part 1

To make up for the abandoned story, here is another one, shorter than all my other ones, but a complete one.
I call it "The Games We Play."

How did I get pushed into this, she thought to herself. The ring on her finger didn’t really stand out, but to her it seemed to overshadow everything. She tucked her hands in her pockets, wondering whether everyone noticed how uncomfortable that thing around her finger was making her feel. 
Never in a million years had she imagined that she would be one of them.. One of those girls who was going to have an arranged marriage. Urrggh.. Even now, the word made her cringe, but as she had grown older, her belief in love had all but disappeared.
 As her mom put it, if not love, marry for companionship. And she had agreed. She hated to admit it, but she was tired of all the dating and disappointments. Marriage wasn’t important for her, but it had gotten to a point where she had started thinking, why not? She wasn’t too hopeful about finding the one and Rajat seemed like a nice guy. On paper, he looked really good, perfect for her. And they got along really well. Maybe with time, she’d even come to love him.
After dilly dallying for a year, she had been forced to admit, that even though she didn’t feel any sparks, he was a pleasant person and she hadn’t found anything in him that she could absolutely not tolerate. And they had gotten engaged. Still hopeful, she had tried to push the wedding as far as possible, but nothing had changed and one year later, she had agreed to get married reluctantly.

A loud announcement announcing the final call for her flight made her realize she had been so involved in her thoughts, she had almost missed her flight.
Great, she thought,  I was going to miss my own wedding.
She picked up her bags and hurried towards the gate.  The seat next to her was empty, she was grateful for that. She hated it when people with cranky kids sat next to her. There was a cranky kid right at back, crying his lungs out. She rolled her eyes and muttered a silent prayer of thanks that she wasn’t the unfortunate soul sitting next to the family.
As the plane began to taxi on the runway, she bid goodbye to the city which had come to be her home for the past twenty eight years. Once upon a time, she would have been aghast had anyone suggested her to move out. All her life, she had been there, her friends, her job, her life was this city. Not anymore. Her friends had either moved out or gotten way too busy, she met them once in a couple of months now. Her job was stagnating and her love affair with the city had had an ugly end. She was ready for a change and had agreed to move to her fiancé’s city.
Her family and his family had taken  it as a sign of her relenting a little and been ecstatic with her decision. But Rajat, who had known her real reasons for agreeing to move, had advised her to let them be. “A little white lie is not going to kill you, and its making them happy. Let it be.” He had said.
Maybe he was the one for her. Maybe, in her search, she had overlooked the most obvious person. He was everything she wasn’t. Patient, thoughtful, calm, composed. Sometimes, she wondered why he had settled for her. She had asked him a million times about it and he had smiled indulgently and said, “I just feel  we will be great together.” Feel, he had said “feel”.
She didn’t tell him, she didn’t feel anything.
“Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!” She told herself. Now was not the time to be having second thoughts. She was on a plane to get married for God’s sake! She had taken a decision and now it was the time to grit her teeth and sticky stick by it.
She pulled out a book from her bag and started reading. She focused on the words, reading them aloud in her head, trying to keep her mind from drifting. She stopped after a while, the sentences were not making sense. She shut the book and closed her eyes.
After a while, she became aware of someone standing around her. She looked up and saw a man standing, smiling awkwardly at her.
“Hi,” He said, “I was wondering if I could sit here.” He was pointing at the seat next to her.
“Ummm.. Sure..” She straightened up and picked up her things from the seat.
“Thanks,” He said, settling down, “ I was sitting right at the back and the baby..”
“Was driving you crazy?” She smiled, finishing his sentence.
“Yes!” He looked relieved that she understood. “I’m Samrat.” He introduced himself.
“Nandita..” She said hesitantly praying that she wouldn’t be badgered into carrying out an awkward conversation with a stranger. She turned her attention to her book.
“Do you think we will take off today?” Samrat leaned across and pushed the window shades up.
Take off today?????? Whatever did he mean??
“What do you mean? We’re already mid-air right?” She glanced out of the window uncertainly. He was right, they were still on the tarmac and it was puring pouring cats and dogs.
Samrat laughed at the shock that had registered on her face. “Either that book is very interesting, or you are utterly and completely lost.” He joked.
“But the plane was taking off!! They had all those fasten seatbelts and the taxing and the…” She paused.
“Yeah, well, we never took off. The pilot announced they’re waiting for the weather to clear a little before they do.” He smiled at her confusion.
“I can’t be late!!” She said out aloud.
“Important meeting tomorrow?” He asked.
“Something like that..” She didn’t know why she didn’t tell him, it just didn’t seem important. “Oh great!” She exclaimed.
He laughed, “Relax, you’ll make it in time. I for one, absolutely do not want to reach on time.”
“Why not?”
“I have a not so important meeting, which will most probably be extremely boring and very long, but I have to attend it anyway.”
She nodded. And turned towards her book, indicating the end of their conversation.
“Besides,” He continued, “Its not often that you find interesting company on a plane.”
Oh my god! He is flirting with me! One day before my wedding!
But, he doesn’t know you’re getting married. And he is kind of cute.
Hmmm, kind of. But I’m getting married tomorrow!
So what, not like you’re doing anything. Plus, its just a conversation. Could be the last time, you feel free to do this.
Isn’t it wrong?
Its just a conversation!
 Within a fraction of a second a quick battle of words occurred in her mind. And she decided, what the heck, I’ll play along.
“But we’ve hardly had a conversation.” She said innocently.
Before he could answer, the speakers came to life and the stewardess’s voice reached them “Ladies and gentlemen, we are very sorry to inform you that due to bad weather, our flight has been delayed by three hours. We will be disembarking all the passengers for the time being and start the boarding again after three hours. We apologize for any inconvenience caused.”
Samrat smiled, with one brow raised wickedly, “Looks like we’ll have plenty of time to correct that now.”
As she unbuckled her seat belt, Nandita wondered what she had gotten herself into. What was supposed to have lasted only a couple of hours, now looked like it was going to last at least for seven hours. I have to come clean, Nandita thought to herself. Maybe once we get off the plane.
“Do you want me to carry that for you?” Samrat pointed at the bag Nandita was carrying.
“No, That’s fine.” Mentally, Nandita sought her checklist.
Chivalrous check!
Cute Check!
Funny Check!
Stop it! Stop it! Stop it!
Its just seven hours. How does seven hours matter, when compared to the rest of your life!
Seven hours is too much. I should probably get lost in the crowd once we leave the plane.
Fine, you do that, and then keep wondering for the rest of your life, if you missed a chance.
Are you alright? You look looked kind of dazed there for a minute.Samrat’s voice interrupted her thoughts.
She looked up at him for a moment, and as his face creased into a smile, she felt the blood rush to her face. In that moment, she made a quick decision and quietly slipped the ring off her finger.
“Helllooo?” Samrat waved his hands in front of her, “Lets go?” He asked.
“Yeah.” She smiled back. For the first time in two years, she felt free. She hadn’t realized that the ring had weighed so heavily on her mind. She was relieved, but as she looked down at her naked finger, she felt her conscience pricking.
As they reached the terminal again, Nandita excused herself and rushed towards the direction of the restrooms, promising to meet him at the nearby coffee shop. When she was safely out of his sight, she stopped and took a deep breath. In this huge terminal, he would never be able to find her until it was time to get on the plane and by that time, it wouldn’t matter.
She went to the furthermost coffee shop, selected a place right in the corner from where she couldn’t be seen easily and called Rajat.
“Hey, its me. My flight’s been delayed by three hours. I don’t know if its going to take off after three hours too.”
“This is exactly why I asked you to be here, one week before the wedding! Why don’t you ever listen to me.” Rajat was clearly not a happy man.
“I told you, I had some last things to be done at work.” It was lie, she had stayed at home the entire week, preparing herself for the drastic change her life was going through.
“More important that your own wedding?” The sarcasm was evident in his voice, before she could react, he continued, “I’m sorry about that, I’ve just been stressed out. Lots of things to be done. Keep me informed okay?”
Nandita hated him for this. If she was in his place, and he had had the audacity to tell her that he could be late for the wedding, she would have blown her top, but here he was, understanding as always. She wondered what was wrong with her, that instead of appreciating who he was, she hated him for it.
“Yeah, I will. Bye.”
“Bye, love you.” Rajat had said the goodbyes, but he didn’t hang up. He was waiting for some kind of reciprocation.
Nandita struggled to get the words, that didn’t come naturally to her, right.
“Yeah, bye.” With that, she quickly hung up.

She opened her book once again, still not reading. After what seemed like an eternity, she dared to look at her watch.
At least an hour must have gone by.  She thought to herself as she glanced at her watch.
Barely ten minutes had passed.
This was going to be one loooooooooooooong day. She resigned herself to boredom and settled for observing the people rushing around.
She looked around and noticed the mother who was trying to get her son to stop snatching other people’s newspapers. The guy who had a laptop open in front of him but who was checking out the girl in front of him. And the girl who, completely aware of the guy, was laughing just a little but bit too hard for it to be real. Samrat who was walking towards her, the old man who was.......
She turned back towards Samrat, praying he hadn’t seen her. But of course, he had.
“There you are! I thought you meant the other coffee shop.” He smiled broadly and settled down in front of her. “You’re right, this one is much better. Quieter here.”
“Yeah..” Nandita said awkwardly, “That’s why I selected this one.”
“Look, I should tell you something.” Nandita started, the guilt almost killing her.
“Wait,” He interrupted her. “the only reason I’m here, is because, I’m bored and you certainly look bored and we have three hours to kill. Why not just keep each other company?” He had a really easy going smile.
“Would it help if I said please?” He was teasing her now.
“It might.” She smiled back at him. He was right, what was she fretting about? They were just travel companions. And if he asked, she would tell him, that she was getting married. Obviously, if he asked her, “Are you going to get married tomorrow?”, She would say yes. She wouldn’t lie about it.
She laughed, the awkwardness suddenly forgotten.
“Phew! So we cool?” He said, putting on a teenage style.
“What are you? Sixteen?” She laughed.
“I wish, I’m afraid those days are long gone.”
“How long gone?” She asked trying to guess his age. She pinned him to be around thirty-thirty four.
He grinned, “Very long gone.. So what do you do?” He asked, clearly indicating a change of topic.
“Ummm, well, I was working in an MNC, but I just quit my job. I don’t know what’s next. What about you?”
“Don’t laugh, I’m a professor.”
“Oh. That’s unusual.” What she was thinking was, how did someone so cute, so smart end up being a professor. She remembered her professors. Apart for a handful, the others had taken on the teaching profession for the lack of a better job.
“Is it? Yeah, not many people take it up. But it’s a good line to be in. I love my job. I travel a lot, meet a lot of bright minds and I get paid to talk. What could be better?”
“Travel?” Professors and travelling did not go hand in hand in her head.
“Oh yes, you’ll be surprised, I travel once every three months, giving guest lectures.”
“Oh.. Are you some hot shot person I should be aware of? I mean, regular professors don’t go around giving guest lectures. Do they?”
He laughed, “Well, I did write a book, which, at the risk of sounding conceited, was very well received.”
“Oh, congratulations!” She was at an utter loss of words.
“Thank you..”
“So what do you teach professor?” She asked cheekily.
“Psychology.” He looked at her intently.
“So, are you analyzing my behavior?” She asked slyly. God! She was flirting with him, at least she thought she was, she had never been any good at it.
 He smiled softly, “Of course I am, ever since I met you.”
“And?” She asked before she could stop herself.
“And what?” He was messing with her now, she could tell by that smile on his face.
“What’s the conclusion?” She asked impatiently.
He looked at her thoughtfully, making her utterly conscious. “I think..” he started when her cell phone rang. It was Rajat.
“Just one moment.” She got up, and walked away. She answered the call, but her mind was still on what Samrat was going to say. What was he going to say?
“Are you there?” Rajat’s voice brought her back to reality.
“Ya.” Nandita said, suddenly feeling terribly guilty. Her casual conversation with Samrat was no longer so casual.
“Are you alright? You sound a little off.” There he was, concerned as always.
“I’m fine Rajat.” She said quietly.
“Well, the reason I called was, well.. I thought you must be getting bored. I mean, if you want me to keep you company?”
“No, no, I’m fine. I have company here. I have a book. I’m fine. Don’t worry about me. I’ll call you when I’m back on the flight okay? Bye.” Nandita said hurriedly. She didn’t know why she didn’t just tell him casually, that she was with somebody she had met on the plane.
“Well, if you are so sure, bye. Take care.” She sensed the disappointment in his voice and wondered for the millionth time why he put up with her.