Continued.... this is the second last part.... sorry guys just one last one after this....
Raghav, at last got a grip on him self, and wore his shoes. There was this hollow feeling in his chest, Anjali is getting married. He looked at himself at the mirror, wearing his best attire. He didn’t seem to think much about dressing up these days. It was just wearing anything he had and going to office and coming back late after supper time. He had drowned himself in work for the last one year and it reflected back at him.
Flashes of lightening and sounds of thunder were filling the night. That’s when he could barely hear his cell phone ringing. It was Ajay, his college friend. They had planned to go together and he was dropping in. Ajay was in the same group Raghav and Anjali were in. “ Hello!” said Raghav.
“Hey, Rags, Im just coming over, lets go in my car, its pouring out here”
“Ya, Sure Ajay, just ring the bell and come in when you are here, Ill make us some hot cuppa tea”
“Chal, then Cya”
“See ya” Raghav hung up and went to the kitchen.
Raghav, set the water on the hot stove to boil and added his ingredients. As he saw the water simmering in the pot he looked at the color turning Red by the tea leaves he put in. the small bubbles gave way for sweet tea aroma. His mind again wondered to the one person he had’nt missed for the last 2 yrs, as he had in the last 2 hours. Anjali, was like a haunted memory today, she was coming back to his mind, and there was this hollow feeling in his stomach that woudnt, go. Something had stuck, stuck on the bottom of his heart and leeched at his tummy and lungs, to make them hollow. Raghav had never felt like this since the few days after that rainy day when he had told her how he truly felt about her and maybe also when he had decided not to call her and make her memory erase itself with time. He was successful he had thought, but today she was back like it had been yesterday. Everything that had blurred over the years were back, like the old wounds opening up again after many years.
Raghav, felt his knees going weak and leant against the kitchen table. He saw that the pot was boiling after he had just added milk without realizing it. He was confused about the sugar, had he put it or not. Just then the door bell rang.
Raghav put the stove to simmer, and walked to welcome Ajay in. Opening the door with a forced smile to Ajay, we ushered him in the living room.
“Hey Ajay, ill just be back with the tea, the whethers gone really cold yaar”
“Ya, that’s true, Im glad the wedding is at a hotel not a garden, or I would have spoilt my new shoes” Ajay smiled, looking at Raghav through the serving window of the kitchen.
Rag’s peered at him amused, “Typical Ajay, tu bilkul nahi badlaa, except that tummy tyres.”
Ajay patted his tummy, “You, also get married, my friend, you will find your tummy flourishing like mine”
Rag’s laughed, returning from the kitchen with the tray with two cups of tea“That reminds me when is Pooja, coming from Rajkot?”.
Ajay groaned “ Let me enjoy my bachelor days yaar, come over sometime before next weekend, or we will not get to watch football once she is back”
Raghav smiled, “Sure buddy this weekend for sure. Raghav’s special Chai for you my friend” placing the tray on the table of the living room.
Raghav picked up a cup and sat on the couch opposite to Ajay’s, folding a leg. He looked at the wall clock the time was five minutes past seven, they were planning to arrive at the wedding eightish. Raghav was glad Ajay was here, atleast Anju would stop troubling him with her smiles and memories, in his head.
Ajay was sipping the tea and looking around at the many pieces on the wall piece, his eyes fell on a photoframe.
“Hey Raghav, isn’t that the goa trip, during our final year” he stood up and walked up to it. Ajay, held the frame in his hand and looked closely, “ We all look so tiny in this photograph and you look so tanned man. And look at Anjali yaar, she looks so different with the bandana and all. This trip was really fun!! Miss those day’s” He kept the photo frame back at the rack on the wall. Ajay head had a frown as he sat back and sipped his tea. He felt akward for the moment he reacted at the photograph, Raghav had not replied and was looking at the carpet patterns lost in deep thought. There was this akward silence hanging in the room like an ugly ornament fallen out of a witch’s broomstick. Ajay played with two thoughts in his mind to break the newly formed ice, either he touch the topic of Anjali that he was thinking about while driving to pick Rags up or just change the topic casually and then touch upon it later or maybe never. Ajay remembered that during the Goa trip everyone thought that Anjali and Rags were inseperable and true couple. But then around 6 months later after they all graduated, at a reunion Rags had told all of them that Anjali and himself were always just friends. Rags later had confessed to Ajay, neeraj and the other guys over drinks that he had proposed to Anjali after farewell and hadn’t she had said that she didn’t love him and they had decided to part ways for their own good.
Ajay, thought better of it and manged to say “ Hey, I just remembered my wedding cocktail party, our second reunion. I was going through the videos the other day getting bored with Pooja gone and all. Rag’s you really set the mood that day with all the dancing”.
Rag’s felt himself smile at the carpet pattern, he knew what Ajay was talking about. It was the same day that Anjali had that dance and the last personal talk. At the cocktail party at Ajay’s wedding they had this poolside party with close friends. There was a mocktail bar with some cocktails for the guys. The music was at a slow pace and anjali and the gang were standing at the poolside ramp talking, and Rags heard his favorite song, Dance with me tonight playing, Anjali was observing Anjali with the corner of his eyes. There was this air of distance between them since it had been only 6 months since he had expressed his love and they had been in contact but never touched the topic as decided on that rainy day. Rag’s felt his heart race as he looked at her, and for a brief moment that made his heart jump he saw her look into his eyes, there was the fleeting moment from over the rim of her wine glass that made his heart ache. He decided he was gonna ask her to dance, maybe it was the dirty martini he was drinking or his feeling in his heart. He walked over to Anjali and asked “ Could I have the pleasure for a dance with the lady” Anjali looked shocked for a second and took a step back on her stillethos. Anjali was looking lovely in the black cocktail dress. Rags extended his heart and smiled with all his charm, pleading “Please, a last one”. Anjali was always akward for a dance but something told her that Raghav wouldn’t take a no and she too felt like dancing. She placed her manicured hand on his hand. And Raghav turned around and led her to the dance floor, amid cheers and cat-calls from friends. “Cmon Raghav” Ajay cooed. There was no one on the dance floor as the party was very boring then. Anjali was unsure, “Raghav I don’t know how to dance.”
“Don’t worry Anju, nor do I” just sway to the music.
He placed his hand on her waist and took her right had and placed it on his shoulder and they waltz around, Raghav was speaking out the steps, instructing right leg back now left sidewards now turn. As Anjali picked up the routine, they waltzed the dancefloor in circles. Raghav realized there was alderelin flowing and his heart thumping. Anju had never looked so beautiful, he could see only her beautiful, brown eyes and she too was keeping eye contact now that there was no need to look at their feet for steps. Carless whispers was playing now and people had circled the dancefloor cheering them. He could feel her fingers on his palm with which he was leader her in the directions and sometimes giving her a free hand to have a circle. As anjali took a circle she was looking at his eyes even when she was out of sight for the fleeting moment that she couldn’t turn her neck any more and then quickly she turned her head the other way and smiled looking him in the eye. Raghav was on cloud nine. This was heaven he thought. He didn’t want this to stop, he noticed Ajay and Pooja dancing next to them. And he gave Ajay a thumbs up, he looked back at Anajali and saw a frown on her face. Her expression was that of concern she looked down at her feet for the next five minutes and avoided looking at Raghav in the eye again as if she was concealing something in her eyes. Rag’s was concerned and asked her if she would like a drink, “Yes, please, these stilts are killing my feet” Raghav led her out of the dance floor which was now full of 5 -6 couples all enjoying the party.
He led her to the bar and lowered the steel to let her sit. She climbed and sat. Raghav gave her stool a half turn towards the bar and sat at the stool next to her. He ordered two mocktails and waited for Anjali to break into a conversation, but she was busy looking far into the dancefloor. “ That was fun, what say?” Raghav managed to blurt at Anju. “Surely, you taught me well”
Raghav sipped his mocktail, thinking what to say next. He just managed to look at Anju, who again had a frown on her forehead, Anju looked quickly at Raghav “ Raghav, we need to understand that this is nothing, After our discussion in July, I couldn’t talk to you about this. But I wanted you to know that this was not possible, whatever we have is a special friendship, but we are killing it with naming it love. Coz I am damn sure that this is not. Im worried about how you are taking it Raghav, I feel I am only building on your feelings after all this dance and talk. The more we talk the more I feel I am playing with your feelings. Please try to understand that I don’t feel of you that way”
Raaghav, felt a tide of emotions flush his face, he felt his throat dry and his ear buzzing with some some hollow sound. He felt his heart ache again with a hollow feeling in his stomach. He could see his heaven crashing to earth, this was reality he needed to accept it. “ I know Anjali that this is not gonna happen, I know what you said in July and im not piling it in my heart. I know you need your space and you are sure of your feelings you are aren’t you?”
Anjali felt a nerve on the side of her forehead rise and twitch “Of course Rahav, im sure I cant love you, even If I try to make myself understand. You know about Param and all. I don’t have any love left in me, there is just nothing left inside this heart, its bled and gone. You should understand Raghav, I thought you would understand” She looked the other way a tear in her left eye dropped down. It was always so painful for her till today when she thought about love she always thought about Param, it had been 5 years since they last met, and they spoke casually a few times whenever she called him or met at a friends place during vacations in Meerut. Anjali was hurt by him, he never understood her love and never responded. She had this pain inside her that had grown and closed all ways to her heart. Raghav was trying to encroach her graveyard heart, it had only ugly skeletons waiting to jump out and scare him away, why didn’t he understand. She couldn’t lose a friend like him but she was wary she would hurt him more if she tried to build hope when she was sure she was still not over Param.
“I am sure, Raghav” Anjali managed, “But you are one of my closest friends, and I do miss you when you don’t call up and then I feel maybe its good for you, atleast you wont have to do with the pain later”
Raghav was aghast, he could feel his heart break into a thousand pieces. He felt his throat choke and eyes getting moist.
“Did you mangage to talk to Param?” Raghav said.
“No Rag’s, I told you I can feel it, he doesn’t love me, he runs away from me” said anjali with an edge in her voice.
“How will he know? Anju, guys are dumb, they don’t understand your actions mean something, say it to him, let him know, I know he will never let you go. He must be unaware of his own feelings”
“Now its been so long, and we don’t talk so much, once in a few months I call and he calls twice a year one on my bday and to wish happy new year, Raghav Im telling you he is not that kinda person, he is so focused on his studies, he is trying for MBA now. I don’t want to trouble him by my petty thoughts” said Anjali. Her eyes were wet now and she was gulping down her mocktail.
Raghav, felt a twitch of anger inside his head, “Anjali, why are you doing this to your life” Pleaded Rag’s. “ You will have to tell him, if you love him still, after all these years, you have to let him know or atleast express something, this is just not done yaar. You barely talk to him and you expect him to get an apparition from God to hell him that you love him”.
Anjali looked with wide eyes at Raghav, her mouth slightly open in astonishment, what had got into Rag’s, why was he shouting like this.
“Rag’s you don’t understand, I am a girl, I cant express first. I expect him to understand, if its destined to happen it will happen” Anjali said with an air of snubbing his anger.
“Anju, don’t get philosophical yaar. This is all bullshit, boys don’t understand sign languages and that too over the phone in this case” Raghav said, looking into her eyes trying to make her see his point of view.
“Raghav, this is enough, its my life. I don’t feel like discussing this now. Please.. I have stopped thinking about this I have left it to destiny. Time will tell me what to do. Right now I don’t feel like telling him anything. I don’t wanna lose the friendship between Param and Me. Please forget about all this. I don’t even have his number now for the last one year we haven’t spoken and he too has not tried to contact me. This proves that he doesn’t like me in the way I like him”
Raghav was astounded. He knew Anjali was stubborn, he thought of not perusing anymore but he resolved with all his will, with that sip of his strawberry mocktail that he was going to do something. He is not going to let Anju ruin her life, even though he loved her and she didn’t love him back. He wanted Anju to get her love. He didn’t want her to experience the pain, but nothing he said would convince her now. So he just skipped the topic and joined her in watching the other couples dance.
Raghav looked up from the carpet he was staring, he tea was over and Ajay was staring at him worried. Ajay was wondering if he had raised the wrong topic. Ajay spoke again hoping to get Raghav out of his trance “ Hey Rag’s, how far is the hotel, I don’t have the map, do you have the wedding card”
Raghav felt a jolt, but subconsciously he had picked up what Ajay said and replied “ Arre I don’t have it, remember I told you, I just got the email and the phone call from her saying that I have to be there. She had mailed the card to my parents place.”
Raghav got up and took the tea cups and the tray back to the kitchen. This feeling had to go… he was supposed to go for the wedding Anjali had pleaded and made him promise to come and he was regretting promising her with the filmy “Teri kasam, ill come” when she had insisted. Mayb she knew Raghav too well, knowing he was gonna have his uncanny mood swings. He was scared to face her today, he didn’t know how his face would conceal the unknown feelings when he finally saw her, dressed like the perfect bride. Well There was only one way to find out, “Ajay, lets leave or we will be late, as we don’t know the place we may need some spare time to find the location we can call Payal, im sure she must have reached there by now” said Raghav.
Payal was the few people who were close to Anjali apart from Raghav.
They rushed to the Car and Ajay stradled the drivers seat belt. It was pouring like hell, and the visibility was low. Ajay turned on the car radio and a nice song started to play and as they started of the dreaded location.
“So where is Payal these days. It seems you guys are in touch” asked Ajay.
Raghav thought back “Havent been in contact much, since the last one year but she had called last week confirming that she would be coming to the wedding and hoping to catch up with the whole group”
Raghav looked out of the window as the song playing increased in tempo and drowned the conversation into a musical hiatus. There was something about rain on the road that made it look mightier with all the mist forming over the water logged road.
Raghav’s thoughts went to the last time after Ajay’s cocktail party when raghav had called Payal for Priya’s number, Priya was Anju’s best friend from Meerut who was the only other person who knew Param and her story, as per Anjus confession. She may hold the clue to make them talk again, he had thought, after that party. He was not going to let Anju’s stubbornness destroy the chance they both may have. He must not be know her number now that she is in Chennai, and her number had changed. Payal had told him she had intently not given the number to Param, and was waiting for him to find out and call, if he really loved her. This was stupid he thought the ways these girls think. He had contacted Priya and had come to know that Param was in Meerut studying for his MBA entrance. He asked Priya to him Params Cell number. Priya had messaged him the number in two days thanks to common society and common friends. Now came the tought part Raghav didn’t know what to do and how to do it. He just knew that Param should call up Anju by some or the other reason. He knew from talks with Anju that how she and Param would joke about sunsigns.. Param was a Leo and she called him Sheru when they were talking during the pre college days. Raghav had thought for days and then he had got an idea. He had found a website on the net which allowed prank messages with anonymous names. He sent a few messages as zodiac forecast’s telling him what his day would. Each one he had carefully thought about. Some were like old school flame or friend is thinking about you, it would be good to give them a call. A common friend will help you find an old crush.
He was hoping this would trigger something somewhere. He was feeling dead guilty about playing cupid and manipulating things for good. Then he pacified himself that no one would find out and even if they did he was only trying to make him realize. He was amazed how selfless he felt about it, he actually prayed for Param to contact Anju. He wanted Anju to get her love even though it meant he would never get his. But he believed in the hindi film version of love and sacrifice for this short period though he had scoffed at its futility and idealism all his life upto now. He pondered Love really changes things.
Love makes a person do good deeds that makes him believe he is a good person.
He started feeling good again as the car zipped in the rain logged roads, he was smiling again thinking about how foolish he had been at that time, doing all this, it may seem wrong to some, silly to some, and maybe even dubious to others but after thinking about all this, he was feeling good about love after so many days. He wanted this feeling to stick he was on his way to meet his one and only love of his life, being a bride for someone other than him, and love alone had the power to make the worse situation seem like a walk in the park.
Story will be continued …and I promise it’s the last part.