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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

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 32 - The End

I wish I could say that I put everything aside and won that ruddy race but I didn’t. I was an insignificant fourth. I was disappointed of course.
“Why is everything going wrong!!!” I whined to Arpit and Sneha.
“See, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose. Just participate in anything and everything and your profile will be set. You’re bound to win something eventually!” Arpit said, not helping too much. On seeing my dejected face, he added “I’ll buy you ice cream for your fabulous victory!”
I knew he was trying to cheer me up, but I just wasn’t up to it.
“I think I’ll just head home.” I said. I put on my mp3 player on, finding the saddest song I had on it.
I walked out of the school gates and there he was. Dhruv. I glanced at him and wondered whether I should run towards him or away from him.
Finally, I didn’t have to decide, he came up to me.
“Where have you been?” he asked.
Where have you been! I wanted to ask but I acted cool, “Around.”
He nodded a little, “I don’t know what I was thinking! Be good.” He said and turned around, as though he was getting ready to leave.
I didn’t try to stop him. He had walked out once, he was free to do what he wanted.
I got on to the bus trying not to beat myself too much about it.

“You’re in my seat.” I didn’t react, I knew who it was.
“The whole bus is empty.” I said. What was he trying to do anyway?
“She gave it back.” He said slowly, still standing next to me as the bus started to move.
“What do you want me to do about it?” I said viciously.
“I want you to be a friend.” Now that, made me turn.
 I don’t know how I had missed it, he looked like he had just been hit by a bus.
“Well you look like shit!”  I commented without thinking.
To my surprise, he started laughing. “You say the oddest things ever!”
“Look, just sit down okay?” I grabbed his hand to support him. “So what happened, she turned you down?”
He took the letter out and held it at a distance, “She said it happened a long time back and that she’d moved on.” He sighed deeply, “She did say she can finally forgive me.”
“So what are you going to do now?” I asked, feeling awful looking at his haggard appearance. I was sure I was responsible was some of it, I had cursed him a million times over in the past 5 days.  
“Move on.” He smiled bravely at me.
I touched his hand a little, “You’ll be alright.”
He looked at me seriously, “And you?”
“What about me?” I think I had a faint idea where this conversation was heading, but I played dumb.
He touched my face lightly, just around my jawline, “I’m not stupid you know.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.” I said surprised by the tenderness in his voice.
He moved his hand away from my face, “Okay, but just so you know, I’m here whenever you want to talk.”
“I lost by the way.” I said suddenly. Anything to change the topic!
“The race?” he asked his eyebrows raised.
I nodded sadly.
He shrugged, “Shit happens.”
“Shit happens.” I repeated slowly my face splitting into a wide smile. Somehow, now my defeat didn’t seem so devastating anymore.
As I got off the bus, I turned around to wave at him.
“Walk you home?” he asked suddenly, shouting to make himself heard over the sound of the bus and the traffic.
I nodded, unable to control the smile which appeared on my face. He smiled back and got off.

Even though I lived in a world of black and white, Dhruv and I were in a grey area and for once, I didn't mind. It seemed like everything had changed, yet everything had remained just the same. Slowly we made our way back home, just like the very first time.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 31

On hearing the tone of my voice, he came right over. Arpit that is.
“Its okay,” he said. “Let it go.” Gently, he stroked my hair and let me cry. I knew he didn’t understand why I was crying, heck I’ll be damned if I knew! But it was just comforting to know that someone cared enough to be miserable when I was feeling down in the dumps.
“Did you like him?” He asked softly as I sat there sniffling.
I shook my head, “I don’t know, maybe. He seemed nice.”
Arpit smiled, “He is nice. That fact doesn’t change, does it?”
“I guess not, but I was really fond of him, not he’ll also get a girlfriend.” I said unintentionally. I stopped suddenly realizing what i had just said.
“And become like me?” He didn’t sound mad but I couldn’t turn and look at him.
  “I didn’t say that.” I said, sitting very still.
He put one arm around me and squeezed tightly, “I don’t know why you think I’ve changed. I’ve not.” After a pause he added, “And Dhruv will not.”
“Maybe you don’t see it.” I moved away from him slightly and rested my chin on my palm.
“Whatever it is. It’s in your head. If you like him,” he said getting up, “Just tell him and see how it goes.” He planted a little peck on my forehead. “You’re crazy you know that right?”
I smiled despite myself. “Birds of a feather flock together!!” I called out after him.  I saw him laugh a little as he rode away on his scooter.

The next day, absolutely nothing happened. Dhruv didn’t show up at all. And I didn’t, like the last time, get off the bus and wait for him. Besides, Sneha was with me. As we did our chores around the animal shelter, I kept an eye out for Dhruv, but either he did an excellent job of avoiding us or he just wasn’t there.
I knew Sneha knew, but I was glad she didn’t bring it up. I thought of calling him. I even dialed his number a couple of times and put the phone down. What right did I have over him to ask him why he didn’t meet me?
As it turned out, I didn’t see him for the next couple of days. Didn’t he miss me? I sure as hell missed him. I missed his witty retorts, his clever jokes, mostly, I think I just missed his presence. Even in the midst of a practice session, I would see him standing around but when I stopped to look, he wasn’t there. I was obsessing with his absence. But still I couldn’t get myself to call him. If he wanted to meet me, he would make an effort right?

“Forget about him okay, his purpose was to help you get into St. Peter’s. He gave you some excellent pointers, now he’s gone.” Arpit consoled me. “Focus on the race. You can worry about him tomorrow.” He touched my chin, “After you’ve won.”
Tomorrow, oh yeah, my quarter finals were tomorrow. I had a lot of contradictory advice coming my way from “Good riddance” to “Go find him.” Frankly speaking, I couldn’t care less about the race.. Just that when I was running, those few minutes, when the blood rushed through me I didn’t wonder why he had disappeared on me. I didn’t question why he hadn’t tried to reach me. In those few precious moments, I felt almost normal.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 30

The next day, I spent an extra hour in training. So did everybody else, the quarter finals were just around the corner and everyone was charged up.
I needed all of my courage to tell my coach that I won’t be available for evening practice sessions form now on since I had decided to volunteer after school. He didn’t seem too happy, but he couldn’t very well tell me not to go, could he now?
Today, I let Arpit and Sneha be. I was feeling oddly benevolent. Arpit thought I was just being strange.
“What were you people talking about yesterday? What’s gotten into you?” He asked persistently.
“None of your business!” I said, mildly irritated with his insistence.
“Oh come on, you don’t expect me to be curious? One moment you are all like ‘I don’t like Sneha, why did you get her?’ and the other you’re sitting with your arm around her. There’s something fishy here!” He said.
I smiled at him, “Maybe I’ve had a change of heart.” I said.
He scoffed a little, “Yeah, right!” with sarcasm heavy in his voice.
“Well, you’ll never know for sure will you?” I winked at him as I made my way inside the class. I knew I would tell him eventually, but right now, it was just so much fun seeing him burn with curiosity.
It was, just like old times.

After school, Sneha and I made a small trip to the organization where Dhruv worked. It was quite close to St. Peters and it was an animal shelter.
We found Dhruv in midst of several pups, some of them trying to clamber on to his knee as he placed a big bowl of food down.
Sneha and I started laughing, it was almost as though Dhruv was getting mauled by the little pups.
“Laugh now,” he said seriously, “From tomorrow, you both will be taking care of this section!”
“Really??” Both Sneha and I squealed in delight.
“Yes,” he said, hint of a smile appearing on his face, “I can’t run around the little mutts, now can I?”
I caught his eye as I picked up a pup. “Thank you!” I said.
He nodded gently and came closer. He put out a hand to pet the pup I held in my arms. “I thought about what you said.”
“What.. What did I say?” I asked, a little confused what he was talking about.
“You know, the letter.” He kept his head low, eyes focused on the pup as though he didn’t want to look at me.
“Oh.” I said the smartest thing I could think of.
“Well, I gave it to her.” Slowly, he looked up to see my reaction.
“You did?” I turned away from him. I hadn’t expected him to actually do it. I was just trying to say the right thing.
He didn’t attempt to make me face him.
“Yeah, I did.” He said.
I wanted to ask what happened. But doing so would only show that I was interested. And I wasn’t interested in his life, his love life to be particular. Why couldn’t he just volunteer information? Why did I have to ask everything? Shouldn’t he have just understood that I would have liked to know?
But ultimately, I didn’t ask and he didn’t tell. The closeness that I had felt with him yesterday disappeared in a flash. I watched my step around him the rest of the day, hardly saying more than three words in a sentence.
If he noticed the sudden change in my demeanor, he didn’t comment on it. Sneha on the other hand, was all over it.
“What’s wrong??” She asked every five minutes.
“Nothing.” I replied stoically.

Once the evening was over, Dhruv tried to make amends, “I’ll buy you dinner.” He said.
“No thanks.” I said curtly as I got off the bus.
“Naina..” he cajoled me.
I didn’t even turn around. I kept my head high and walked straight. I was confused. I didn’t know what I felt for Dhruv. But it was clear to me he felt nothing.
I covered my face with my hand. What was happening to me? Not like I wanted to be with him right? or did I? This was like the worst thing ever, I couldn’t make head or tail of it. So I did the only thing that a girl does when she’s hopelessly lost.

I called my best friend. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 29

I glared at Arpit as I introduced Sneha to my parents and to Dhruv.
“Ah Sneha. So nice to meet you finally, I’ve heard so much about you.” He said in a tone, which implied several things.
To Sneha’s credit, she seemed unperturbed. She looked over me calmly and then back at Dhruv, “I’m sure you have.”

Arpit and I stood at a distance watching the exchange.
“Idiot! Why’d you get her?” I asked.
“What? You asked me to!” he looked extremely surprised that I was asking.
“I hate this.” I commented.
“Why? They seem to be getting along.” Arpit raised one eyebrow questioningly.
“Never mind.”  I walked towards Dhruv and Sneha, interrupting their conversation.

“Sure, I’ll be there. Just tell me when.” Sneha was saying.
“What’s going on?” I asked, a tad annoyed that Dhruv and Sneha were planning to meet up.
“Dhruv was just telling me about the organizations he’s taking you to tomorrow. He asked me to come along.” Sneha said, looking fondly at Arpit who was now standing beside her.
 “He did?” Both Arpit and I said together. I think both of us were a little jealous. I hadn’t wanted them to get along so well. Dhruv was my friend right? What did he think he was doing, fraternizing with the enemy.
I sulked through out dinner and much to my surprise, no one cared too much. Nobody seemed to notice that I was playing with my food, not uttering a single word. My parents were delighted that I had friends like Sneha and Dhruv. I guess, they thought this meant  that their socially awkward daughter had turned into a butterfly.
“You should both come over again soon.” My mum told Dhruv and Sneha as they made their way out.
“How come your mum never says that to me?” Aprit asked forlornly.
I shrugged indifferently. It was all his fault anyway.
I walked Dhruv till the gate and stood there for a couple of minutes in silence watching my mum fuss over Sneha.
“She’s not bad you know.” Dhruv said, interrupting my thoughts.
“I know. She doesn’t have to be bad for me to not like her.” I said curtly. I was tired of people telling me Sneha was nice. I knew that already.
“I think you’re jealous.” Dhruv said.
“Sorry?” I turned towards him, confused. “What nonsense, I’m not jealous!”
He laughed at my defiance, “I don’t mean romantically.”
I scoffed, “Like hell you don’t!”
“I just think she’s taking your quota of affection and attention. And it’s normal not to like it.” He said, starting to walk away.
I turned around and was about to walk back when he poked me with his cane. “Think about what I said.” He said, imitating me from before. “Goodnight Naina.”
I tossed the idea around in my mind for a while. How absurd!  

Arpit and Sneha came next, hand in hand. Something Arpit had said had made Sneha laugh and she was holding on to him, laughing uncontrollably.
“What’s the joke?” I asked, half smiling in anticipation.
“Forget it, you won’t get it.” Arpit said, looking at Sneha.
I nodded a little, hurt that he would say that too me.
“Thank you for having me Naina. Dinner was lovely.” Sneha gushed.
“No problem.” I said formally.
“I’ll drop her home and head back. Night Naina.” Arpit put on his helmet and went to get his bike leaving me and Sneha alone.
“Dhruv’s a nice guy.” Sneha said, making small talk.
“I know.” I said shortly.
“So, tomorrow, big day huh? I’m so looking forward to it. How nice of Dhruv.” She smiled broadly, trying to get me to talk.
Tomorrow was when Dhruv was taking us to the organization where he worked.
“I know.”
What was taking Arpit so long!
“So why don’t you like me Naina?” Sneha had dropped her happy go lucky attitude and was looking at me gravely.
“What? What gave you that idea?” I said, walking towards the garage. I was in no mood to have this conversation with her.
“Oh I don’t know, maybe because you can’t say two sentences to me before running away!” she said, her voice raising as I hurried away from her.
I stopped and turned around. Her eyes were glistening with tears. “I have been nothing but nice to you. And all I get in return is this!” she continued. “What did I ever do to you? You’ve been so mean! I’ve tried to include you but you’ve never warmed to me.”
I gulped. I had never imagined Sneha would be so sensitive to what I thought about her.
“Look!” I said, starting to defend myself but I had nothing. No way I could justify it. Ultimately I told her the truth, “I don’t know.”
She laughed a little through her crying. “You don’t know?” She asked.
I shook my head, “I really don’t. Maybe I’m just jealous you know.” I walked towards her slowly, repeating what Dhruv had told me.
“You are what?” She had stopped crying now and was staring at me.
“Not romantically. Just that I miss some part of my friend.” As I said it, I figured some of it was true. Had to be. There was no other explanation.
A smile touched her face, “I guess. Arpit told me how close you guys were. But Naina, I really like him. He’s amazing.” She said, half sighing. The same way I had heard Arpit sigh when he was talking about Sneha.
I heard a loud engine noise and Arpit came out of the garage, looking like a clown with the oversized helmet and the yellow scooter.
“Yes he is.” I muttered in agreement and put my arm around her. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 28

Deserves? Deserved? A frown appeared on my face but Dhruv wasn’t looking at me. He was staring into space. He was reliving his own history.
I chose my next words carefully “So this girl, Priya, never knew that you felt this way?”
He gave a me a quizzled look, “Maya.” He corrected.
I smiled, “Not Sara?”
He nodded softly and looked straight at me, “Not Sara.”
“So, you changed her name and you used present tense.” I walked over to him, “You still like her?”
He shook his head, “No, it’s been way too long. We’re friends now. Like, like you and Arpit. And I don’t want to lose that too.”
I folded the letter and put it Dhruv’s shirt pocket. “I think you should give it to her.”
“Nah.. it would just complicate things. We’re good now. Talk regularly, hang out sometimes. Things are good. But I’ll hold on to this.” He touched his pocket slightly.
“Think about what I said.” I said ominously.
“And you?” He asked, “Why were you so curious?”
“Me? No reason, just a healthy curiosity about you.” I said quickly.
Quite out of the blue, he touched my hand softly, “Thank you.” He said.
I looked around, quite unnerved by him. I had never seen him this intense. I shook off his hand and stepped away. “What are you doing?” I asked cautiously.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to freak you out.” He put up his hands to indicate defenselessness. “Just wanted to thank you.”
“Whatever for?” I asked, surprised.
“You’re the first one, since Maya..” he started slowly, “who is interested in me, as a person.”
I didn’t say anything. I was too stunned to speak. I didn’t know what to make of it.
“Say something.” He said, his hand rubbing his neck trying to hide the embarrassment he was feeling.
“I don’t understand.” I was close to the door now. While we were talking about him, I was comfortable. Now that the topic of discussion was me, I was looking for an escape route.
“What I mean is, you’re good for my confidence. You know, the day you made me get up in the bus, remember?” I nodded, confused as to where this was going. “I was incredibly happy. I felt normal. I had been getting quite sick of all the pity I was getting.” He was smiling now, effortlessly.
“You know, you’re weird. Very weird.” I said what Arpit usually said to me.   
“See, this is what I mean. You don’t handle me with rubber gloves, afraid that I might feel bad or worried that you might hurt my feelings.” He said excitedly.
“Hey! I resent that!” I said vehemently.
He waved his hands in front of him as though trying to erase what he had just said, “You know what I mean right?” he asked eagerly.
I didn’t, but I didn’t feel like breaking his enthusiasm.  Besides, I wanted this conversation to get over as soon as possible.
I nodded a little. “I think so.” I said slowly.

We sat around for a while, talking about something when someone knocked on the door.
“Its open.” I shouted.
My mum snuck her head in slowly, relieved to see we were laughing a little.
“Why don’t you stay for dinner Dhruv?” She asked.
Dhruv thought for a moment, “Sure, I would love to. Thank you!”
My mum smiled and then turned to me, “Why don’t you call Arpit also?”
I nodded half heartedly. I didn’t want to call him, but explaining to my mum why I didn’t want to call him would be difficult.
I dialed Arpit’s number. I was very aware that mum and Dhruv were listening in. So I kept the conversation cryptic. After I hung up, I wasn’t really sure whether he had understood at all, because all he kept saying was “Huh??”

I figured out after an hour that he clearly hadn’t understood what I had been trying to convey because he didn’t come alone. Next to him, smilingly brightly was Sneha.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 27

The door opened suddenly and my mum walked in with two glasses of nimbu pani.
“I just thought you kids would like something to..” She paused when she saw me standing next to Dhruv solemnly, my hand on his shoulder.
Almost immediately, I withdrew my hand and stepped away.
She cleared her throat, placed the glasses on the table and walked away slowly. I guess she sensed that we were in the middle of a very sensitive discussion.

“Would you like some?” I asked Dhruv as I took a sip out of a glass.
“Sure.” I handed him the glass quietly. I didn’t want to talk about things which upset him. What was I trying to achieve anyway?
“So, Sara was there throughout the painful physio sessions.” He continued as though nothing was wrong.  “She was so convinced that I would heal and become completely normal. She pushed herself and me beyond any limits.”
He paused to take a deep breath. His hand tightened around the glass for a moment and then the all familiar smile appeared on his face.  “Sorry, I get a little caught up in the moment sometimes.”
“You certainly are very calm about the whole thing.” I said, putting on an air of casualness. If he could do it, so could I.
  I sat down on the floor, hugging my knees.
He took a big gulp, “I’ve had lots of practice.” He said.
“Not enough clearly,” I said referring to his reaction a moment ago.
“This is good. Can I have some more?” He said, changing the topic subtly.
“Here, take this.” I handed him my glass. I was way too lazy to go make another glass for him.
“So where were we?” he asked, taking the glass from me. Before I could answer, he continued, “Oh yeah, ”The physio. Well, it was crazy, and I snapped. I didn’t want to do it anymore. It was just too bloody hard. But she pushed and pushed and pushed till I couldn’t take it anymore. I told her to leave me alone.” He put his head down, as though he was ashamed and then looked back me and smiled. A smile, which wasn’t a smile at all.
“And she did?” I asked, my voice a whisper.
“Yeah. I don’t recall correctly but apparently I said a whole lot of things to her. Unforgivable things.” He sighed deeply. “I wrote that letter hoping she knew what I said was in the heat of the moment.”
“But you never gave it her?”
He pursed his lips and half turned away from me. “She deserves better.” He said simply.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 26

I stood at the bus stop long after the bus had left. I was trying to figure out why it mattered so much. If Dhruv wanted to keep it a secret, I should respect that and leave it at that. With a deep sigh, I relented. I wouldn’t hold it against him. After all, he wasn’t under any obligation to tell me. We had known each other for less than a month.
I really couldn’t expect him to, could I?

Dhruv had spoken about some organizations where he was going to take me over the weekend. I decided to be a step ahead and started reading up on them as soon as I got home.
Animal shelter, an old age home, a children’s welfare society. I was busy googling when there was a knock on my door. My mum put her head in “Someone’s here to see you.” She pushed the door open after a quick inspection that my room was clean.
“Thank you.” He said to my mum as he came in.
He waited for my mom to leave and then turned towards me. I was still numb with shock.
“Surprised?” He asked as he made himself comfortable on a chair.
“Understatement of the year.” I commented. “Why are you here?” I asked suspiciously.
“You wanted to know about the letter.” He said simply.
“Oh.” I was a little confused, why did he want to tell me now? “You don’t have to. I really don’t care. I was just curious when I found it. Sorry if I was prying.” I apologized.
I hoped he wouldn’t fall for my fake apology and tell me anyway.
He nodded a little and pulled out the letter. “You won’t mind if I threw it away then? It’s been lying around for so long.”
I watched him carefully. “Go ahead, it’s your letter after all.”
He shrugged and before I could stop him, he tore up the letter and tossed it in the dustbin under my table.
“What did you do that for!?” I was aghast.
“Can we stop pretending you don’t want to know then?” He asked calmly.
I nodded a little, “You didn’t have to be so dramatic.” I walked over slowly to the dustbin. “So now what? Do you want me to tape it together?”
He scoffed, “You didn’t really think I would tear up a letter I had saved for six years, did you?” he pulled out another sheet of paper from his pocket.
If I didn’t know better, I would have said he was trying to not to laugh at the various stages of realization I was going there. 
Finally, I burst out laughing, “Very slick Dhruv!” I complimented. “I can’t believe I fell for that!”
Dhruv stood up uncomfortably balancing himself on his cane and took a little bow. “Thank you, walked straight into that one you did.”
I snatched the sheet from him and sat down, cross legged with my face in my hand. “So!”
He sat down in front of me, “So, that’s something I wrote to a girl.”
“But I never sent it.”
“Why not?”
“It’s a long story.”
I shrugged my shoulders, “I’ve got nothing better to do.”
“So this girl..” he started.
“Hey! I need names. Without a name, she’s not real.” I interrupted.
“Fine, her name is Sara.” He said quickly.
“Okay, continue. I know that’s a made up name by the way.” I commented.
A slight smile on Dhruv’s face told me I was right.
“So Sara and I used to stay back for basketball practice.” He said.
“I’m sorry, what???” basketball practice?????
You know, the sport? I was a very good player, so was she.He stopped talking for a moment. I guess my confusion was apparent. “You do know that this,” he pointed at his leg, “wasn’t a birth defect right?”
“Oh!” I exclaimed, it seemed like I was running out of things to say. I was already imagining all kinds of horrible things that might have happened to him.
“I fell during a game.” He said simply.
I gulped, “I didn’t know..” I hesitated, “I didn’t know that you could, you know..” I stopped.
“Yeah well, even I didn’t know. But the fall damaged some nerve and left my leg..” his voice trailed off as he touched his leg.
Awkward silence surrounded us. I wish I could say something to make him feel better, but I couldn’t think of anything appropriate to say.
I stood up and walked towards him and placed a hand on his shoulder.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 25

Arpit made me spend the lunch hour with Sneha. He thought it would be nice if we all could get along. We stood around the corridor eating and smiling politely.
“Well, you basically need to get your profile to look good, you know, with stuff like co curriculum activities and stuff.” I parroted the gyaan Dhruv had given me.
Sneha nodded, hanging on to my every word.
“I have read online forums and stuff,” she said, “but it’s so much better getting an individual perspective.”
I nodded, “My thoughts exactly.”
“So can I meet him?” she asked eagerly.
I turned away slightly from her and looked at Arpit, “I’m sure he’ll meet you. Just have to figure out when. He’s a busy guy.” I said half-heartedly.  
Arpit was positively beaming that the two girls in life were getting along famously.
“I won’t take much of his time, I promise.” She said as the bell rang. And shocker of shockers! She leaned in a little and gave me a slight hug. “Thanks!” she whispered before she walked away.
If I thought I was caught off guard, you should have seen the look on Arpit’s face! His jaw was practically mopping the floor!
“What was that?!?” he asked, once we were out of earshot. 
“How should I know? She’s your girlfriend.” I commented.
I shook my head. I had to admit, Sneha did have a certain something about her. She left me so shaken up, I can only imagine what effect she had on Arpit. I placed a sympathetic hand on Arpit’s shoulder. “I think I just got a slight heart attack. From passive hatred to a hug. In a blink of an eye! Some talent she has.”
He smiled a little, his eyes following Sneha as she walked away. “She’s genuine. Does what she feels is right. But you’ll never see that.”
“Oh don’t go all soppy on me now! Come on, class time.” I walked inside.  
Arpit walked in after me, stopping to chat with a couple of other people. Popularity wise, Arpit was skyrocketing upwards. He stumbled a little as he came towards his desk, dropping all his books on the floor. But deep down, he was the same. Maybe Sneha hadn’t changed who he was. Maybe she had just polished off some of the dust which had gathered.
He caught me staring at me, “What? Is there something on my face?” he asked wiping his mouth vigourously.
“Yes, confidence.” I smiled warmly at him and turned towards the teacher who had just walked in.
I took a peek at Arpit during class, he had this goofy smile on his face that he just couldn’t get rid of. I knew he was pleased with what I had said. His happiness made me smile too and that’s how we sat throughout the second half, grinning like idiots.
Of course, the teachers spotted it too. Some of them smiled back at us and some of them threw us out of class because they thought we were laughing at them.
All in all, a good day I’d say. Felt like old times.

I met Dhruv in the bus as usual.
“Hey,” he said as he got on, “How was practice?”
“Oh, the usual. Coach is losing his initial excitement.” I looked around in my bag for the letter. I could feel my heart starting to race and breath shortening. I just hoped it wasn’t too obvious.
“You okay?” Dhruv placed his hand on my shoulder.
“Yeah,” I turned around and smiled at him. He was concerned about me. Yay! “I found this in one of your books.” I handed him the envelope bristling with excitement.
“What is…?” Dhruv’s eyes showed confusion as he took the envelope from me.  He opened it slowly and pulled out the letter. His eyes widened. In surprise or shock I couldn’t tell.
A smile touched his face as he touched the letter almost reverently. He had recognized it without opening it. Without any explanation he put it inside, “Thanks, so what do you want to study today?”
I didn’t want to pry, but I was dying to know what the letter was about. I sighed, I wasn’t the kind of person who invaded someone’s privacy.
“Sneha wants to meet you. She’s wants to know about St. Peters too.” I said, looking outside, trying to hide the disappointment on my face.
Dhruv misunderstood my reaction and laughed, “Look at you all sad! If you don’t want me to meet her, I won’t.” he said.
I half smiled at him, “I guess one meeting won’t kill you.”
He started talking about the volunteering act he thought I should do. I couldn’t pay attention. I was distracted by the letter which now resided safely in his jacket pocket.
Eventually, my stop came. I got off, incredibly pissed off that Dhruv didn’t think it was important enough.
“Hey what’s wrong with you?” Dhruv asked as I brushed past him.

I got off the bus and looked up at him, “Just tell me the story behind damned letter!” 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 24

Arpit nodded benevolently at both of us. I rolled my eyes and glanced at Sneha. She had the same irritated look on her face which was mirrored on mine.
I caught her eyes and shrugged my shoulders.
She murmured under her breath, “Seriously, can you believe this?”
I shook my head. The bell rang and Sneha glared at Arpit and walked off.

“What happened!” Arpit called out after her, utterly surprised how two people who were clamoring for his approval had suddenly turned against him.
I threw my head back and laughed loudly. “Come on, she’ll be okay.” I said, pushing Arpit into the classroom.
“What just happened? Everything was just peachy one moment ago and then both of you are glaring at me. What did I do?” Arpit said, talking more to himself than to me.
I laid a sympathetic hand on his shoulder, “Won’t you tell me?” he asked woefully.
“Nope!” I replied almost immediately.
“At least show me that letter!” He said putting out his hand.
I stared at him, my face creasing into a smile. “I knew you won’t forget!” in a jiffy, I whipped out the envelope and handed it to him, “Careful!” I reminded him as he took it from my hand.
He read through it, a wry expression on his face. “This is why you called me in the middle of the night?”
I nodded excitedly. “Uh huh. What do you think?”
“It’s pretty lame.” He said folding it and put it back.
Furious, I snatched it back from him. “Just because you’re not that thoughtful!”
“Hey Naina!” He grabbed my wrist as I was putting it away, “I hope you remember it’s not meant for you.”
“What has that got to with anything?” I said carefully tucking the envelope inside a book.
“You’re being unreasonably sentimental about it.” He commented and turned away.

I looked at the letter and then back at him. Okay, I was sentimental about it. The poetry wasn’t great, but something had touched me. Maybe it was the honesty and bravery with which a wavering hand written it that had struck a chord in me. Or maybe it was just the mystery surrounding it that had made it so special.
All I knew for sure was it had been important to Dhruv. Maybe it was still important. Maybe the other person in the letter was still important.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 23

There was more, but I couldn’t get myself to read. It seemed far too intimate and personal for me to pry. I folded it back and put it in an envelope. I wondered who it was for and who had written it or even how old it was.
I tapped my fingers on the envelope, ask or ignore? I knew I had to ask. It was driving me crazy. I called Arpit and told him about the letter.
“Naina, do you know what time it is?” I could hear him stifling a yawn.
“Its 1, so what do you think?” I didn’t care if it was way past our bed times, this wasn’t the first time we had spoken so late.
“Some girl gave it to him, since he kept it, they got back, end of story. Good night.” I heard a click on the other side. Arpit had hung up. I put the receiver down slowly and crawled into bed, pulling the covers up to my chin. The letter was resting in its envelope on my side table. I touched it reverently and turned it around a couple of times as though that would get me some answers.
I don’t know when I fell asleep, but when I got up, I was still clutching the envelope tightly in my hand.

I told Pooja about the letter and about what Arpit had asked me to do.
“Noooooooooooooo!” Pooja exclaimed in a low voice. “Just tell him Dhruv refused. As if he’ll ever know the truth.”
“That’s what I thought I’ll do. But I’ll feel awful lying to him. It’s difficult. I’m hoping Dhruv actually says no.” I said, winking at her.
“Yeah, and it’ll mean that he wants to spend more time with you.. Just you.” She remarked.
I had to admit, Pooja sometimes stole the words straight from my mind.

Arpit and Sneha were waiting outside class for me.
“I’ll talk to him.” I reassured Arpit as I walked past them.
“Hey Naina!” Sneha greeted me. I stopped, took steps back and then looked at Sneha who guiltily looked at Arpit. A sort of crooked smile appeared on my face.
It looked as though Sneha was getting doses regarding me, just as I was getting regarding her. Maybe they were arguing? Was I one of the topics? I couldn’t tell.
“Hey Sneha!” I forced chirpiness into my voice and greeted her and realized that I had automatically turned towards Arpit, probably with the same look, on my face.  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 22

Arpit took one look at my discomfort and started to laugh his head off.
“Its not funny!” I said huffily.
“Okay..” He tried to say with sincerity but couldn’t suppress a snicker.
 His contagious laughter got to me too and soon we were laughing uncontrollably sitting on his yellow scooter. I can only imagine what a sight we would have made.
“Okay, I’m going in. My mum must be wondering where I am!” I got off the scooter and picked up the books. “Bye!” I said cheerfully.
“Hey, will you do me a favor?” Arpit asked as he put on his helmet again and turned his scooter around.
“Sure, anything.” I said, mildly curious.
“I know Dhruv is trying to make your profile look good for St. Peters. Do you think he would mind helping Sneha too?” he asked.

I didn’t know what to say. I torn between wanting Dhruv’s time all for myself and hatred for Sneha and Arpit’s unwavering faith in me wanting to help out.
“I’ll ask him.” I, of course had no intentions of doing that, but I didn’t want to be the bad one here. Arpit didn’t know Dhruv much. For all Arpit knew, Dhruv didn’t want to waste his time on Sneha.
Yeah, I think I could convince Arpit with that.
“I’ll ask him as soon as I meet him.” I reassured Arpit. I didn’t feel good about my plan, but it was all about self preservation. Sneha had already proclaimed her right over Arpit, there was no way in hell I was letting her anywhere near Dhruv.
“Thanks Naina, you’re the best.” Arpit smiled broadly as he waved me goodbye.

I stood there waving, till he all but disappeared from view, wondering when exactly I had sunk so low. I bit my lip as I thought of my dastardly plan. Childish, immature, silly, I could attribute a zillion negative adjectives to it. I pushed all thoughts around it out of my head, I would face that moral bridge once I got to it.
I heaved the books inside.
My mom was ecstatic that I had finally become serious about my future. Though somehow I knew she suspected my real motives behind it. Mothers always know. She didn’t say anything about it though. I guess as long as I was studying it didn’t matter why.

Up in my room, I flipped through the books, hoping to find a glimpse into Dhruv’s personality. I liked the fact that he kept his books clean, without any scribbling and underlining. I hated that books had dog ears, but I could look past that. A couple of times, I came across I came across some small pieces of papers. I had been thrilled, till I found they were just a list of formulae.
I was just about wrap up for the night when I came across a little folded note. It was slightly tattered at the folds, as though it had been opened several times.
I opened it slowly and read it out.

I can’t believe that what we once shared is forever lost.
Because what we had was special, it was something which mattered the most.
I know you don’t want me anymore, still hopelessly into love I fall,
With your every breath, your every smile, your every call.

I wish you’d forgive me, what I did was wrong.
If you could see me now, you’d know how much for your love, I long.
I tried, but I know I can’t write poetry like you do,
But you’ll never find someone to love you as much as you know I do.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 21

Slowly I walked home. I was a little apprehensive about Dhruv’s entry into my life. Of course, it made me feel warm and great and he was good fun to be with, but I couldn’t help wondering if I had warmed up to him because of the attention he had been giving me. To regain something I had lost with Arpit.
Now that Arpit and I had been fighting regularly, was I showering all my affection on Dhruv?
I stopped outside my house. Arpit’s yellow scooter was parked outside. I smiled softly as I walked towards it. I remembered the story of the scooter. He had been begging for a bike but his parents just wouldn’t relent. In the end, Arpit agreed to get a scooter but of his choice. Unlike any normal person who would have visited showrooms, Arpit had scoured junkyards to find this one. Painstakingly, Arpit had restored it and painted it, completely retro style. 
Of course, not many appreciated his tastes then. He was ridiculed for riding a scooter, that too a yellow one but Arpit didn’t care. He knew he had given something special another lease of life.
And I had been with him every step of the day, from the day he visited the first junkyard to the last brush of paint.

“She’s looking good isn’t she?” Arpit’s voice called out from behind me.
Without turning around, I ran a hand over the headlight, “She always does.” I smiled at him. This is how we were, fight one minute, make up the next.  But things would change if we didn’t go to college together. We would hardly see each other, phone calls would be non-existent and then eventually, we would get so busy that we would call each other only on birthdays.
“Why are you late?” He asked. Clearly, he had been sitting at my place for a really long time.
“I had extra practice.” I repeated my lie.
“No you didn’t. I called Pooja.” He came closer, “What’s with the books? Did Dhruv give you these? Were you with him?”
“What are you? My mom? What’s with the questions?” I pushed him away slightly.
He stepped away. “I’m not applying to St. Peter’s.” He said, rubbing his forehead, as though saying it was incredibly tough on him.
I turned towards him, leaning slightly on the scooter. “Did you think about what I said?”
He nodded a little and ran his hand through his hair. He looked a little nervous. “Is that why you are here?” I asked.
 “I thought you looked quite upset in school. Just wanted to check up on you.” He picked up the books I had dumped on the scooter. “I’ll help you take them in.” He said.
“I can manage.” I said moving between the books and him.
He gave me a long hard look. I stared right back at him. Finally, he sighed deeply and put on his helmet, “Get off my bike.”
I stepped away clutching my books with both hands my face starting to contort awkwardly, my lower lip starting to droop.
“Now don’t do that!” Arpit exclaimed.
“Do what?” I said, my voice a little hoarse with emotion.
“That face, this time, its your fault. Not mine. I didn’t do anything wrong.” He started the scooter and revved a little as though he was going to push off.
I didn’t say anything.
“Damn you Naina! What do you want? You don’t want to talk to me, you don’t want me to go! What? What is it that you want?” He took out the key from the ignition and parked the scooter.
“I want us to be normal again.” I said slowly, dumping the books on the ground and sitting next to him on the scooter.
“So you’re not mad about St. Peters?” Arpit asked.
I shook my head slowly, “Your life, your choice.”
“You don’t want to know why I changed my mind.” He said it more like a statement, than a question.
“I do, but I think I already know.” I averted my eyes. I could sense another impending argument.
“It’s not because of Sneha okay? And I want you to stop holding her responsible for all our arguments.” He said snapping his fingers at me.
I gasped. “Don’t you snap your fingers at me!”
“Ok I’m sorry!” Arpit deflated pretty quickly, “but listen, I want you to be okay with this.”
 He took my hand in his and squeezed gently. I nodded, “I knew you were interested in research, just didn’t know you wanted to pursue that. I just didn’t see. I wanted you to be with me in college.” I wiped an imaginary tear away. “But you’re right, St. Peter’s is not the place for you.” I hit him lightly on the arm. “Why didn’t you tell me all this while?”
He shrugged, “Didn’t seem important. Anyway I would have told you eventually.”
“And Sneha?” I asked hesitantly. She was a sore subject for me.
His face creased into a smile, “Actually, she’s trying for St. Peter’s. Wouldn’t it be great if you are classmates??”
My jaw dropped, quite literally. Classmates? Sneha and I?
No! Dear God! No!!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 20

I made my way tentatively to the bus stop and sat down. As the bus pulled away slowly, I wondered whether I should have done what I did. I stayed rooted to spot even though I knew I was being stupid. There was no guarantee that he was going to show up and even if he did, what would I say if he asked me why I was here.
Half an hour passed and there was no sign of Dhruv. For no reason whatsoever, I could feel tears gather at the back of my eyes. I felt like an idiot. I couldn’t even start to understand why I had gotten off in the first place. I picked up my bag and wondered why I should do next. The next bus would arrive only after half an hour.
I couldn’t make up my mind, whether to cut my losses, grab an auto and leave or to sit there and wait for some god forsaken reason. I know the choice seems obvious now, but it didn’t seem like that to me.
I waited.
Ten more minutes passed, then twenty.  The bus rolled along on time and I got in it, averting my eyes from everyone.
“Hey, you had to stay back extra hours too?” I turned around in surprise and there he was, with a big pile of books in his hands, his hair in a mess and a big smile on his face.
“Let me help you with that.” I said, taking the books from his hand, unable to control the reciprocating smile on my face.
“Thanks, I’ve dropped them a zillion times already. It isn’t really easy for me to pick them up you know.” He said, indicating towards his cane.
I collapsed on the seat under the weight of the books he handed to me.
“Uff! What are these for?” I asked, surfing the titles.
“Oh nothing, just some study material.” He sat down besides me, placing the cane next to the window seat where I was sitting.
I rolled my eyes, what a geek.
“So why are you late?” he asked once he had settled down.
“Oh,” I stuttered, “Nothing, just extra practice.” I lied easily. There was no way in hell that I would tell him I had waited for him.
“Really??” he peered at me. “I think you’re lying.”
I almost gasped. “No I’m not!” I said defensively. How had he known? Maybe I just didn’t look tired enough?
“What were you doing at my stop? Were you waiting for me?” he asked softly.
“No!” I denied vehemently and looked out of the window.
“I think it was very sweet.” He said kindly. I didn’t know what to make of the tone. I half turned towards him.
“But I didn’t.” I said softly, refusing to meet his eyes.
He laughed a little, “Well, if you did, it was very sweet.” He stopped for a moment, “A little silly, but sweet.”
“I didn’t.” I knew what I was saying and the expression on my face were totally contradictory. I didn’t care. I was feeling positively giddy with joy that he could take one look at my face and tell when I was lying.
“So how was your day?” he asked, changing the subject.

We chatted about how our day was and everything else under the sky until my stop came.
“Will you be able to take all of this on your own?” I asked as I handed him back his books.
“Actually, half of them are for you and your friend. You know, sample questions and the works. I had them lying around.”  
“Oh, thanks.” I took the books from him, “You’ve been so helpful.”
He smiled, took my hand in his, “You’ve been a big help too. I know you don’t realize it. But thank you.”

For the second time in a row, Dhruv had left me utterly confused with his last words.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 19

“Is that all you have to say?” I was shocked to say the least. We didn’t miss any opportunity to gather information about St. Peters and here was Arpit telling me it was nice?
“Yeah, I am thinking of trying for some other colleges.” He said, shuffling his feet.
I’m not kidding, when he said that, my jaw dropped. Literally. Instinctively, I glared at Sneha.
“Let me guess, you’re trying for the same colleges Sneha is trying for?” I said, my voice filled with contempt.
A look of surprise passed over his face, “What if I am?”
“When did you become such an idiot!?” I couldn’t believe it. 3 days! That’s all it took. 3 days, to change all his dreams. Urrgggh! I could have killed her at that moment.
He bit his lip, “You’re not going to believe me if I say it’s got nothing to do with Sneha right?”
“Then I’m not going to try. Look, I don’t have to justify to you but I happen to be interested in other things. Things that St. Peter’s doesn’t offer.” There was silence around us as I tried to digest what he was saying. After years of working towards it, suddenly Arpit was claiming he was never interested.
“I want to get into research.” He said slowly.
“Research??” I asked dumbly.
“Uh huh.”
“And what does Sneha want to do? Research as well?” I asked spitefully.
An awkward smile appeared on his face, “She said you would say that.”
“What? You gossip about me now?” I asked incredulously.
Arpit put up his hands, exasperated. “Gosh! Naina, I don’t know how to deal with you anymore. You get mad at every little thing! You know I don’t.”
“I just don’t know you anymore.” I said softly and walked away.
Was it Sneha? Me? Or Arpit? I couldn’t tell whom to blame. All I know was that before this Sneha episode we were happy. We had our differences, but never so serious that I thought about them afterwards.

I avoided Arpit like plague after that. I wasn’t ready to forgive him just yet. But I looked at him openly, willing him to see the hurt he had caused me. At least my look was making him miserable. Somehow, even though it sounds sadistic, it made me feel better. Misery certainly loves company.

I got on to the bus as usual, anticipating St. Peter’s arrival. I peeped out of the window as we approached the stop.
No Dhruv. I was puzzled, Dhruv should have been here. Not like we had planned to meet up, but he usually was at the stop by now. I kept an eye on the people getting in, cursing Dhruv under my breath for missing the bus. As the bus started moving away, I took one last glance at St. Peter’s gate, no sign of Dhruv. I had to now turn back completely to look at the gate.
In that split second I made an odd decision. I got off at St.Peter’s.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 18

The next morning, I was sore all over. The vigorous training schedule was taking a toll on me and my under-utilized muscles were aching in protest. I had half a mind to skip the session in the morning when I remembered Dhruv stressing the importance of co-curricular activities.
I willed myself to get ready exhaustion seeping from all my pores. I even dozed off on the bus and managed to miss my stop. The good thing was, all the other trainees were in pretty much the same condition. Our initial enthusiasm had worn out and we were aware of the effects each training session had on us. It wasn’t making us any stronger, it was just zapping all energy out of us leaving us too weak to face the rest of the day.
“Hey,” A dispirited Pooja flopped down next to me after the training. “This is inhuman, I’m thinking of quitting. I didn’t sign up for this.” She said in disgust.
I nodded in agreement. “Seriously man, my calves are killing me. I can barely walk.” I complained.
She smiled halfheartedly, “We both know we’ll be here tomorrow.”
I sighed while tying my shoe laces, “Unfortunately.”
“So how was yesterday? Did you go?” She asked, making small talk.
“Yeah, but I didn’t spend much time with Sneha and gang. I met another..” I paused, “friend.” I smiled softly. I liked the way the word had rolled off my tongue.
“Hmmm, just as well. They’re not like us. Look at them now.” She said gazing over my shoulder.
I turned around, she was right. They were like a class apart. While most of us wore our uniforms awkwardly with skirts too long, ties too tight, socks too high; they managed to somehow transform our uniform into something cool.
And there in the middle of the group was Arpit. He waved at me, calling me over. I shook my head and nodded at Pooja. I would be infinite times more comfortable with her.
Just a minute. He indicated.
 “I’ll be right back.” I told Pooja and walked over casually towards them. As though I belonged.

“What?” I had shoved my hands deep in my pockets and kept my head low. I didn’t want to mingle with this crowd. Somehow they made me feel inadequate.
“Yesterday! What happened?” He said, grabbing my arm and pulling me aside.
A smile touched my face. “We spoke.”
“About!??” Impatience was dripping from his face.
“St. Peter’s. ” I said calmly. I knew that would get his heart palpitating.
“Oh.” Here it goes, I thought to myself. “Nice.” He said.
I took a step back. Nice? 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 17

For a change, we sat together. Conversing naturally, as though we had known each other forever. Anyone listening to our playful banter would have had a smile on their face. I knew I had one perpetually fixed on my face.
“So, serious stuff.” Dhruv started suddenly, “You’ll need to be good in maths. The test is 55% maths. Are you any good?”
“Good?” I scoffed, “I’m brilliant.” I said brightly. I was blessed with some kind of internal computational device. I didn’t understand the conventional ways of solving problems, but something guided me to solve them anyway; that too in a much quicker way. Arpit had tried to get me to explain it to him, but I couldn’t. It just didn’t make sense put in words.
“That’s good to hear. Second thing, co-curricular activities? Involved in any?” Dhruv asked, “Apart from your track events.” He smiled. I guess he remembered our conversation earlier on.
“Ummm.. Does trying for the debate team and dance team count?” I said. To my surprise, he burst out laughing. “Hey! I’m serious!” I was mildly offended. It wasn’t like my school was very encouraging towards co-curriculum activities. The teachers had a select few pets who ended up participating and might I add, winning everything.
“Oh.” Dhruv stopped laughing abruptly, “In that case no. So you’ll need to work on that.”
I sighed. “But how!”
Dhruv looked at my dejected face, “I might be able to help you out there.”
“How?” I was mystified.
“I do some work in some school here and sometimes in an animal shelter. Could get you in there. That will make you look really good.” Then as an afterthought, he added, “On paper.”

I was besides myself. Where did they make people like him! I stared at him in awe. He was everything I had ever wanted to be. He was obviously smart, funny, intelligent, socially aware, loved animals and  he wasn’t bad to look at. In my eyes, at that moment, he had it all.
“You’re just incredible!” I couldn’t help exclaiming.
He got a strange look on his face. “No, you are. You don’t know what a blessing you’ve been.”
 Then as I got up to get off the bus, he grinned a little, probably at the doting admiration that must have been apparent on my face and “But, thank you, I was beginning to forget that.”
At that moment I didn’t find his goodbye odd. I was all smiles as I walked back home from the bus stop replaying the whole scenario in my head over and over again. It was only during the fourth or fifth rerun did I begin to feel uncomfortable with his parting sentence. 
The sentence mixed with the look told me something didn’t quite add up.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 16

He led the way, walking slightly ahead of me. Turning back ever so often to see if I was following or more importantly listening. He was giving me some gyaan about St. Peter’s.
I pretended to listen intently. Nodding intelligently and laughing appropriately. I wondered how he could be so normal.
“You’re not listening Naina..” Dhruv had stopped, he was leaning against his cane observing me critically.
“Of course I am, I heard every single thing you said.” I defended myself vehemently.
“No.. ” he limped over to me, “You are more interested in the people around us. You’ve been looking at them forever. Why is that?”
I grimaced. I had been distracted by other people. Everybody was reacting to him, everybody in a different way. I was curious. How’d he handle all that staring? I didn’t know whether it was okay for me to ask such things. After all, I didn’t know him too well.
“Come on, out with it! What is it?” He cajoled.
“Its..” I hesitated, thinking of a polite way of putting it across, “nothing.” I decided to let it go. Shouldn’t start off with the heavy stuff, I reminded myself.
“Nothing?” He made a face at me. Then a little more gently, “What is it?”
I grimaced, “People. Do they always stare at you?”
“Oh, thaaat!” he laughed as though it was the most normal thing ever. “You see,” he continued, “There are three different groups. One, who openly sympathize. They give me way, offer to help or sometimes just stare at me with pity. Then there is the second group, people who for some reason don’t like people like me, they usually try their level best to avoid any interaction. And the third category, is what I like to call the confused category. They think they shouldn’t be giving me special treatment, so they pretend like they’re not, but secretly, in their own way, they do extra things for me. Claro?” He said throwing in a little bit of Spanish.
“Wow,” I exclaimed, “And you’re not bothered by it at all?” I was amazed.
“I have had some time to get used to it..” He said flagging down a passing bus. It stopped immediately. As I brushed past him to get inside, he murmured “The driver falls under the first category.”
I had to laugh. Here I was feeling sorry for him, maybe I fell in the 3rd category of people, the confused kind.
As he got in and chatted up to the driver, thanking him for stopping at an undesignated stop, I realized that my infatuation with him wasn’t mostly curiosity as I had earlier assumed. I couldn’t understand why he fascinated me so much by just being normal. Somewhere in my mind, I had taken it for granted that the calm exterior was just a fa├žade and once I dug deeper, he would have insecurities that I knew someone like him should have.
So wrong. I was so wrong.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 15

I stared at him blankly. I hadn’t expected him to be so direct. 
He must have seen the dazed expression on my face because he smiled a little and said, “Oh don’t look so surprised. Your mom told me you might want to talk to me.”
My mum knew??? Wait a minute, knew what? There was nothing to know. Was there?
I kept my cool, I think..“Oh, she did huh?” I managed to stammer.
“Yes, don’t look so surprised Naina. You’re not the first one.”  At that moment, I had no idea what he was talking about.
“Huh??” summed up what I had to say.
“St Peters? Your mom told me you and Arpit wanted to get in and that you might ask me for some pointers.” He looked around. “Where is he by the way?”
“Who?” St. Peters, sure. Yeah, that’s what I had in mind. I think.
Dhruv gave me a quizzled look, “Ummm, Aprit? I thought he also was interested. I have some time to spare. I can help point out some areas you guys can work on.”
“Ya, about that.. He’s not coming.” No sooner had the words left my mouth did Arpit make an appearance.
“Naina! What the ..” He stopped abruptly when he saw Dhruv. “Oh!”
“Arpit! There you are! We were looking for you! He agreed..” I faced Arpit, desperately signaling him to play along.
“Oh he did? That’s great?” Arpit played along. I’ll admit he wasn’t very convincing but Dhruv didn’t seem concerned.
“But I told him you can’t come along.”
“I can’t?” Arpit started, confused. On seeing my face, he changed tracks quickly, “Of course I can’t because of.. because of..” he stuttered.
“Sneha. You have to take her out right?” I completed his sentence quickly.
“Oh yeah.. Sneha.” Arpit looked at my quiet desperation and then at Dhruv. He smiled softly and leaned forward. “I don’t know what’s going on, but be careful okay? Some of his friends looked creepy.”
I nodded. “Thanks.” I whispered. “Let’s go?” I turned towards Dhruv.
“Sure, this way.” He adjusted his sling bag and pointed with his cane.
I gulped a little, maybe it was apprehension, maybe excitement. I couldn’t tell.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bus#126W - Chapter 14

“Who is this Naina?” Arpit had appeared by my side, a diabolical grin on his face. “let me guess, you’re the guy she met on the bus.”
Dhruv smiled, “She told you about me.”
The way he said it, felt like it meant something.
“I just told him how I made you give up your seat.” I said quickly. A little too quickly perhaps.
“I’m Arpit.” Arpit put out his hand.
“I know, Dhruv.” Dhruv said taking the outstretched hand.
“So..” Arpit said. Awkward silence descended upon us.
“Why don’t you guys carry on. I’ll see you later Naina?” Dhruv said while backing away.
I nodded dumbly.
“What did he mean by later?” Arpit whispered as soon as we were out of hearing range.
“Noooooooooooo idea.” I said, exaggerating the “no”.

I was introduced to all of Sneha’s friends. At any other point of time, I would have been overwhelmed hanging out with these people but today, I was just so aware of the fact that Dhruv was there and that maybe, just maybe he might be observing me.
I tried to sneak a glance or two but Arpit’s disapproving gaze stopped me. “He’ll get the wrong idea if you keep trying to catch his eye.” He said.
Wrong idea? i wasn’t sure what “idea” I was trying to give to Dhruv. All I knew was, even as I was sitting next to my best friend with a whole group of his new friends the only place I was deriving comfort was from Dhruv’s presence.
I kept an eye on his table, lest he disappeared without saying goodbye.
“So, Naina.. How come we’ve never met before.” One of Sneha’s friends was talking to me.
Maybe because you’ve got your head in the sky!
“It’s a big school. Lots of students.” I commented intelligently. “Uh, excuse me.. I’ve to go..” I stood up as I saw Dhruv and his friends go out.
Maybe he wasn’t even going home. Isn’t that what college students did? Hang out till late?
I hid behind the door watching them say their goodbyes and then walked over to Dhruv.
“You’re leaving too?” I said casually.
“Yeah, I have a couple of things to do unlike the others.” He hadn’t seemed a bit surprised to see me standing next to me alone, without all my friends. Mine, Sneha’s whatever.
“Oh, like what?” I was disappointed. He wasn’t going home. I couldn’t think of any way to persuade him to take me along without creeping him out.
“Right now,” he said softly, “It looks like I’ll be dropping you home.”