Wednesday, 19 November 2014

176. OS 8: One Rainy Night (Part 2)

Part 2

Arnav sat thinking at the dinner table, ignoring the food on his plate. His abstraction was nothing new to his family but the slight smile that bloomed on his face a few times was a shocker.

Mami peered into his plate. A paratha lay neglected on its silver surface.

Mami whispered to Nani, “Saasumma, why ijj hamre Arnav bitwaa smiling at that paratha, Hello Hi Bye Bye? Kauno jokewaa sunaya tha kaa woh?”

“Manorama,” Nani hissed in warning lest Arnav should hear her.

Finally, Anjali asked her brother, “Chotey, kya hua? Why are you smiling?” A frown adorned her temple.

Arnav woke up from his dreams of a wet night and a sweet pari. “Nothing, Di,” he said, composing his face to its customary sternness.

“Amanji brought your car home?” she asked, still perplexed.

“Yes,” he said shortly.

“Chotey, don’t stay up late working tonight,” Nani advised him. “Get some rest. Kal bhi office jana he na?”

He nodded and lowered his head to attack the paratha, hoping that the questions would cease.

Khushi made a good dinner, chatting cheerfully about the terrible rain, the man she had met that night, the rickshawwala and the songs.

“Hai Re Nandkisore!” Buaji hit her head with her hand. “You got into a rickshaw with a man you don’t know?”

Khushi frowned. “I know him now, Buaji,” she replied.

Buaji looked heavenward for divine help. “You Sanka Devi, you Parmeswari! How many times should I remind you that you are not a boy but a girl? What if the man had tried to misbehave with you? Who would have listened to you screaming for help on such a night?”

“Buaji, he is not like that. He is a pukka gentleman,” Khushi tried to reassure her Buaji.

“Acha? You are giving me his character certificate? How do you know what he is? Is he your Mama’s son for you to be so sure of his character?” Buaji challenged her. “Hai Re Nandkisore! What kind of mushkil have you landed on my head? How can I sleep in peace till she is out of this house?”

“Buaji!” Khushi protested.

“Payaliyya, remind me to call Mishraji tonight. I want to marry her off at the earliest, Nandkisore. Then her husband can run after her. I am too old for this running race,” Buaji wiped her forehead in exhaustion.

Payal giggled.

Khushi pouted.

“I have to get a healthy boy for her, Payaliyya. Otherwise he won’t be able to keep up with her, Nandkisore!” Buaji decided. “Maybe  a lion tamer or a circus ringmaster. Only he will be able to manage this naughty vixen.”

Payal and Khushi burst out laughing.

Arnav quickly pulled out his laptop from its bag and placed it on his table and switched it on. As soon as it booted up, he typed in Pyar Hua Ikrar Hua. Soon he was watching the video clip of Raj Kapoor and Nargis and the umbrella in the rain with the headphones providing him privacy.

“Chotey, your pill,” Anjali came in. “Do you have to work tonight?” she pouted.

Arnav quickly closed the laptop to avoid being caught watching a sentimental and romantic Bollywood song. It would kill his reputation as ASR and begin a never-ending interrogation by his Di. He stood up to walk towards his sister. He took the pill from her, grabbed the glass of water in her hand and made short work of his medicine.

“Go to sleep, Chotey,” she advised.

He nodded and nudged her out of his room. He shut and locked the bedroom door and returned to his laptop to watch the song again and again and again...

“Jiji, he was so nice,” Khushi breathed, hugging the blanket. “And so handsome. Jiji, you should have seen him.”

“Khushi, I will see him later,” Payal yawned. “Can we go to sleep now? We have to get up early.”

Khushi sighed, “Just like a rajkumar.”

“Khushi,” Payal groaned.

“Pyaar hua ikrar hua he, Pyaar se phir kyon darta he dil?” Khushi sang happily, none the worse for her nocturnal adventures.

Payal sat up. “Khushi, if you don’t shut your mouth and go to sleep NOW, I will go to sleep in the kitchen.”

Khushi pouted. “Jiji,” she whined.

“Yes, I am your Jiji. Isliye keh rahi hoon, chup chap so jao,” Payal said, throwing a rug over Khushi’s face to silence her.

“The whole duniya is zaalim. Hey Devi Maiyya, why did you give me a Jiji who doesn’t love me and a Buaji who wants to marry me off at the earliest?” Khushi mumbled under the rug.

Payal smiled.

A few moments later, Khushi rolled close to Payal and hugged her, settling down to sleep.

Payal smiled. “Whom will you hug after you get married, my bandariya?”

“My woh,” Khushi replied, half-asleep. The face of her new found friend swam in her consciousness. She smiled as she slipped into dreams starring her handsome real life hero.

Arnav got into bed and pulled the blanket over himself. Light from his garden gave his bedroom a dim golden haze. He looked at the moving shadows on the ceiling. Pyar hua, ikrar hua he ran through his head on a loop. He smiled as he shut his eyes.

What was she doing now? His eyes flew open to fall on the clock on the wall. Twelve at night. She must be asleep, he told himself. Wrapped up in a warm blanket in the safety of her house in Laxmi Nagar, she must be resting quietly...unless she snored. He smiled. Or sang in her sleep.

He turned, pulling a pillow to his chest and cuddling it. He shut his eyes and thinking about his eventful evening, slowly fell asleep.

Pyaar hua, ikrar hua he
Pyaar se phir kyon darta he dil?

He was in his formal clothes, the ones he had worn that evening. The air around him was dark and tense, the love song sounding in the background. He was waiting for her, his eyes eagerly seeking her. The road was deserted, leaving him with the drizzle and a big umbrella held over his head.

Kehta he dil, rasta mushkil
Maaloom nahi he kahan manzil...

She came to him, dressed in a red sari, walking slowly but confidently towards him, her eyes twinkling with joy and her lips curved in a smile.

He lifted the umbrella to make space for her. She joined him in its shade as rain fell lightly all around them.

Kaho ki apni preet ka geet na badlega kabhi
Tum bhi kaho iss raah ka meet na badlega kabhi
Pyaar jo toota, saath jo choota
Chaand na chamkega kabhi.

Her hands clasped the pole of the umbrella. She moved closer to him, brought her lips to his ear and said, “Arnav.”

He heard it clearly over the sound of the song, felt her hot, sweet breath against his ear, felt the press of her warm body against his arm.

He let go of the umbrella, his fingers too numb to hold on to it. 

She leaned back to look into his dazed eyes.

Raatein dason dishaaon se kahengi apni kahaaniyan
Geet hamare pyaar ke dohraayegi jawaaniyaan..

She threw the umbrella as far as it could go and spreading her arms, spun around, relishing the rain.

Arnav stood staring at her. The rain drenched her red sari, causing it to hug her lavish curves.

He swallowed hard.

Main na rahoongi, tum na rahoge
Phir bhi rahengi nishaaniyaan.

She held out her hand. He took a step closer to her, then another step, then another, till he stood flush against her.

Pyar hua, ikrar hua he
Pyar se phir kyon darta he dil.
Kehta he dil rasta mushkil
Maaloom nahi he kahan manzil.

His arms gathered her close, gently, hoping that he wasn’t shocking her with his forwardness. To his delight, she threw her head back and laughing, shook her head to throw back the strands of wet hair clinging to her cheeks.

He gulped.

“Do you want to hug me?” she asked, her voice soft, her eyes direct.

He nodded. He couldn’t speak. Excitement and eagerness had robbed him of his voice.

“What are you waiting for?” she asked softly, her voice only a breath. “Do you want an invitation?” Her smile robbed the question of any malice. “Don’t you know?” she asked.

“What?” he croaked.

“That I am yours to do whatever you want to do?” Her willingness to give herself to him was was pure, potent seduction. “Just as you are mine?” she asked.

He stared at her for a long moment, reading her honesty in her eyes.

He pulled her in to his arms as he had been longing to do as far as he could remember, crushing her softness against his hardness, coiling his arms around her slim body like chains holding down a prisoner.

She sighed heavily as though she too had been waiting for this one moment. Her arms rose to circle his neck and her cheek rested against his.

He shuddered in desire and a strange kind of tenderness that was strong enough to bring him to his knees.

Her fingers encroached into his wet hair, the nails scraping his scalp, the digits clasping tufts of his silky hair.

“What is your name?” he asked hoarsely, feeling her fingers descend to his nape.

She chuckled, her body jerking against him, the muscles of her tummy moving against him. “Ab pooch rahe ho?” she asked.

“Your name?” he groaned.

“Call me anything you want,” she whispered against the skin of his cheek, her eyes hot on his. “After all I am the fairy of your dreams.”

“Are you a pari?” he asked desperately, his fingers moving over her bare waist, clutching the supple flesh of her shapely curve.

She shook in response. She lifted her face to his and bringing her lips close to his, whispered, “Pari hoon. Sapna hoon. Jo bhi hoon, aap ki hoon.” 

She touched his hard lips with her soft warm ones.

He trembled. His limbs felt nerveless.

She freed herself from his arms and stepped back. “I am going,” she pouted.

“No, no,” he tried to stop her.

“I came to meet you on this dark night in the rain and all you want to do is ask me questions. I am katti with you,” his pari pouted and turned her back on him.

“Stop,” he ordered in his ASR avatar.

“Hhmmpppfff,” she made her opinion of his order clear. She took a couple of steps away from him.

He lunged forward to take hold of her arm. He pulled her back towards him. She crashed against him, her back to his front.

“Don’t go,” he whispered in her ear.

“What will you give me if I stay?” she whispered, turning her enigmatic eyes on his.

“Anything you want,” he promised.

“Anything?” she asked.

“Anything under the sun,” he avowed.

“Then I want you. Only you. All of you,” she demanded quietly.

“You have me,” he confessed. “All of me.”

“For hamesha?” she asked.

“Hamesha,” he whispered.

She turned and threw her arms around him.

He clutched her to him as a drowning man latches on to a reed.

She rained kisses on his face, her arms clutching his shoulders to lift herself to his height. His hands clasped her waist to hold her tight against him.

“Promise you won’t leave me,” he whispered.

She smiled.

 His hands rose from her waist to her armpits and his lips captured her smiling lips eagerly. Her pallu slipped down her arm to fall in the water as she ran her hands over his neck, shoulders and back.

Long moments later he found himself repeating, begging, “Promise me you won’t leave me.”

She smiled again, her warm, rosy lips trembling in the aftermath of his passionate kiss, her chest heaving, her pulse throbbing.

“Don’t you know?’ she asked, her eyes tender, melting with love.

“Kya?” he asked, mesmerised.

“I can never leave you.” She pressed a kiss to his forehead, her warm palms cupping his cold face.

He stared at her.

“I am a part of you.” Her nose rubbed against his. “Just as you are a part of me.”

He stared at her in disbelief for a second and then caught her against him, every tendon and sinew straining to keep this treasure as close to him as possible.

His head turned left and right on the pillow, his limbs thrashing, pushing the duvet away. His arms came up to gather her to him but found only air. His eyes flew open and he sat up in bed, sweating profusely.

“Where are you?” he asked, looking around with wild eyes. She was nowhere to be seen. He couldn’t even catch a glimpse of her red sari or her lush hair or her creamy skin or her bright eyes...

He was in his room, in his bed, alone as always.

Gentle rain drizzled over his plants in his garden.

Had he been dreaming? he wondered, feeling his heart sink in despair. Had he imagined meeting the girl on the road? Dreamed up the auto ride to Laxmi Nagar? Or had he imagined her in his room at night? What was real? What wasn’t?

Sunday, 16 November 2014

175. OS 8: One Rainy Night (Part 1)

The car spluttered to a stop.

“Damn!” ASR cursed and hit the steering wheel with furious hands.

It was raining heavily and the dark evening was lit only by street lights. The heavy rain and lack of visibility had discouraged people from travelling and the road was bare of traffic. His meeting had run late and he was now stuck on the road in the rain with a car that was immobile.

He tried starting the car but the vehicle refused to cooperate. He pitted his will against the car again and again but the car was ASR’s. It refused to budge an inch and remained stolidly silent.

ASR let out a sharp breath of exasperation. He would have to call Mohan to bring another car from Shantivan to get him. Or get hold of Aman and ask him to arrange a car & driver for hire.

He pulled his phone from his pocket and began to call Aman.

He stared at the phone in horror. “What the!” slipped from his mouth.

‘Kindly plug your device to a charger at the earliest. Battery dangerously low,’ the display read.

“I don’t believe this,” ASR muttered in disbelief.

He waded through the waterlogged road, feeling cold rainwater drench him to the bones within seconds of exiting the car.

“Chotey, take an umbrella,” Di had said that morning as he had left the house. “It may rain today. The weather forecast is bad.”

“Lightning and thunder hoga, Arnav bitwaa. Jhagda in the isssky, Hello Hi Bye Bye!” Mami had seconded her.

He had turned his head away from them to talk to Aman on the phone about a meeting scheduled for that day.

He sighed. He should have listened to them. He combed his hair back with his fingers, trying to clear his vision. It was dark, very dark. The evening was rivalling night and the cold wind did nothing to better his plight.

A soft body crashed into his.

His arms went around it automatically.

Female... The thought ran through his mind.

Her arms rose to fall around his strong, muscled shoulders.

Soft, cuddly, warm, fitting perfectly in his arms. He tightened his hold.

Her heart fluttered against his, beating fast like a bird trying to free itself from the confines of a cage.

 He clenched his jaw.

 He was ASR, the ASR who was no slave to any girl, the man who needed no one to complete his life, the pragmatist who scoffed at love and marriage, the realist who laughed at romance and dreams...He should let her go, lower his arms and free her...But his arms remained stubbornly around her as they stood by the road, cold rain pouring down them, water eddying around their feet.

She wished she could stay there forever, held safe in his arms. The rain did not matter. The cold did not matter. Even the darkness that could on other days send her screaming, did not hold the power to terrify her. She drew in a deep breath of contentment, a stolen moment of peace. The fragrance of sandalwood rushed in to her nostrils from his body and clothes.

A vehicle making its slow way through the water sounded its horn in the hope that all citizens who were crazy enough to leave the comfort of their homes on such a wet evening would scamper to the sidewalks for their lives and not walk in the middle of the road.

She stiffened at the sound. ‘What are you thinking of?’ she asked herself. ‘You are standing on the road in the arms of a stranger, in full public view!’

‘Let him go,’ she chanted in her mind. ‘Don’t cling to him. Thoda to sharm karo.’

She lifted her head slowly from the crook of his neck, lowering her arms, blinking to clear her eyes and peering through the sheet of rain to see who had broken her mad rush, whose arms had offered her refuge.

She stared at the most handsome face she had ever seen, a face with strong lines looking as though it were carved in stone.

As she watched, he clenched his jaw.

She stared at his jaw, his beautifully-formed lips, his jutting nose, his hard, cold eyes... Was he angry that she had rammed in to him? No, no, he didn’t look angry. She stared at his expressionless, inscrutable face. Who was he? How had he appeared at the opportune moment to stop her fall? Was he a guardian spirit? A dark angel from the heavens sent by Devi Maiyya to take care of her?

ASR looked down at the enchanting face lifted to his, the water not taking away anything from her beauty. Her soft skin gleamed, her long lashes were clumped together and her hazel eyes looked at him with wonder.

She was beautiful. No, not just beautiful. He was used, very used to beautiful. Beauty held no secrets for him in his profession. It was cheap, a dime a dozen especially when it was effected with artificial aids. This girl glowed with some inner fire, something pure, innocent, something almost untouchable...

‘What are you doing, ASR?’ he asked himself. ‘Let her go, dammit!’

He slowly withdrew his arms from her. He grit his teeth. There was no excuse for keeping this exquisite, delicate fairy in his hold. He looked in to her alluring eyes, saving all the images in his brain for further perusal at leisure.

A few drops of rainwater ran down the patrician plane of his nose to fall on her nose.

 She shivered.

 Water from his chin dripped to fall into the neckline of her suit.

 She shook at the sensation.

He took hold of her shoulders to steady her.

 She shivered again.

“Maa..aaf kee..eejiye,” she stammered more from his nearness than from the cold.

He swallowed. His fingers tightened on her shoulders. The thin red fabric that made her suit was no cover in the rain. It hugged her like a second skin, highlighting all the charms of her lush figure. Her dupatta was useless, a slash of thin red across her creamy neck.

“I thought I s...saw a r...rickshaw,” she said, her voice shaking. “I was trying to wave to c...catch the d...driver’s attention.”

Sweet, soft voice. Warm. He swallowed hard. His fingers tightened on her shoulders.

He should give her his coat, he thought. Any gentleman would do it. How could anyone let her run after rickshaws in Delhi on a rainy night, drenched to her bones? He lifted his hands from her shoulders and slowly removed his coat, the wet fabric reluctant to leave his body. He dragged it off himself and held it out to the girl.

“No, aa..ap rakhiye. You w..will feel cold,” she said, her teeth chattering with cold.

ASR drew in a deep breath. If he weren't so shaken, he would laugh out loud. Both of them were wet to their skins, so wet that they couldn’t get any wetter. And she was worried about him feeling cold?

He stepped forward with the offer of his coat.

Lightning blazed across the sky, followed closely by thunder.

The girl leaped into his arms, huddling close to him for protection. Her fingers clawed at his back and she pressed herself to his hard form as close as she could.

The coat fell from his numb fingers to languish in the water on the road.

“I..I am scared of lightning and thunder,” she whispered her confession against his neck.

“Sshhh,” he whispered. His arms lifted to gather her closer still. He ran his right hand down the length of her back, ostensibly to comfort her.

“I am scared of d..darkness too,” she breathed.

 She curled further into him, burying her nose in the V of his shirt’s neckline.

 He clenched his jaw, praying for self-control.

His left hand held her head against his shoulder, his fingers rubbing her scalp to calm her down.

His fingers trailed over the curve of her waist. She shook convulsively.

His hand lingered on her hip. She clutched his jacket-covered back with trembling fingers.

“Humein ghar jaana he,” she whispered like a child.

“I will take you home,” he promised rashly, his husky voice huskier still.

She relaxed against him, feeling as though he had freed her from all her troubles.

Over her head, Arnav saw a rickshaw making its slow way along the road.

“Rickshaw,” he told the girl.

She lifted her head to look at the welcome sight through the pouring rain.

Arnav grabbed his coat and flagged down the rickshaw.

He looked down helplessly at the girl. He had no idea where the girl lived.

“Bhaiyya, will you take us to Laxmi Nagar?” the damsel asked.

“I will pay you double the going rate,” ASR offered.

The man nodded. “I will take you as far as I can. If there are fallen trees on the road, you will have to make your own way home.”

“We will manage,” Arnav said. He stood back for the girl to clamber into the rickshaw and then followed her in.

“Both of you Mian-biwi sit together in the middle,” the driver advised. “Or you will get wet in the cold water from the road as I drive.”

Arnav looked at the girl with startled eyes. Mian-biwi? She stared at him with wide ones.

He slowly moved closer to the girl. She moved as close to him as possible. They sat together, their thighs aligned, their arms rubbing as the rickshaw lurched and made its laborious way to Laxmi Nagar.

“I was going home,” the driver said. “But then I saw you, standing on the road like Raj Kapoor and Nargis. If only you had an umbrella!” he sighed.

Arnav and the girl stared at each other, astonished.

Pyaar hua, ikrar hua he
Pyaar se phir kyon darta he dil,” he sang.

Arnav looked at the girl, his eyes still shocked. As he watched, her eyes began to twinkle. 

Kehta he dil, rasta mushkil
Maloom nahi he kahan manzil,” she sang.

Arnav lowered his head to hide his amusement. She was a match for their driver!

All the way to the girl’s house, Arnav sat listening to Bollywood duets sung by the rickshawwala and the girl over the sound of the falling rain. They competed with each other in singing loudly and enthusiastically, making up words when they couldn’t remember the original ones.

He stared at the girl, mirth in his eyes. She turned her head to see the laughter in his eyes and winked at him.

He almost choked.

Arnav looked out at the dark sky and the rain. He was ASR? Yes, he was ASR. But what was he doing here? It was like a scene out of his nightmares. Wet, cold, sitting in a rickshaw with an equally wet girl who could wink deliciously at him, listening to Bollywood numbers being massacred while his laptop was abandoned in his luxury sedan...

He smiled.

“Take the right turn here, bhaiyya,” the girl instructed.

The flimsy vehicle swerved right. Arnav looked out, shaken from his ruminations.

“The third house on the right,” she said cheerfully.

The rickshawwala brought the vehicle to a shuddering stop before the house.

“Won’t you come in?” she asked Arnav. “Buaji and Jiji will be very happy to meet you. Aap bhi,” she invited the driver too. “We can have adrak chai and hot pakore.”

The driver’s eyes dimmed in disappointment. “You are not Mian-Biwi?” he asked.

“I..I have to get home,” Arnav said, wishing desperately for a moment that he could go into her house with her and stay with her. For always.

 He left the vehicle. She got out after him.

“Shukriya,” she began.

“”Go in and take something hot,” he said. “Fast,” he added.

“But I want to thank you,” she began.

“Go in,” he pushed lightly at one wet shoulder.

The girl walked away, turning back to look at the men with disturbed eyes.

Arnav got into the rickshaw when she reached the safety of her open door. She stood waving at them, the light behind her limning her figure.

The rickshawwala waved enthusiastically. Arnav just nodded.
“Shantivan,” he said.

The vehicle moved forward, taking him away from the girl he had spent the evening with.

Arnav sneezed.

His Nani held out a glass with yellow liquid in it. “Take this milk with haldi, Chotey. It will take care of your cold.”

He took it and sipped. The soothing fluid made its way down his throat.

“Did you call Amanji?” Anjali asked.

“Yes. He will arrange for the car to be moved,” Arnav said.

“How are you, Arnav bitwaa?” Mami asked.

“Mami, is there a movie in which Raj Kapoor and,” he paused. What was the heroine’s name? Nagma? Nagin? Nargis? Yes, Nargis. “...and Nargis dance in the rain with an umbrella?”

Nani sat down quickly.

“Chotey, kya hua?” Anjali asked, fearing for her akhdoo Chotey’s sanity. Had the rain done some damage to his brain?

Mami stared at him in surprise for a moment. Then she said, “Shree 420.”

“What the!” Arrnav exclaimed.

“Not bhat the, Arnav bitwaa. That ijj the name of the phillum in which you have the song, Pyaar hua, ikrar hua,” Mami laughed. “The hero of the songwaa was Raj Kapoor, heroine was Nargis and the choti heroine was the umbrella.”

“I see,” Arnav looked down at the glass in his hand.

“No, I don’t see,” Anjali said, confused. “Chotey, what made you think of this?”

“Something the rickshawwala said,” Arnav brushed aside the question, looking away to hide his flushed face.

Mami sang, "Lub hua, ikrar hua he
Lub se phir kyon darta he dil?"