This post is a part of 24-day Marathon fiction called Yaariyan. To read from the beginning, click here.
Niket and Abhi join other trekkers for lunch. The path ahead seems a long but comfortable walk across the narrow trails on the edge of the mountains. Rajiv and Prachi have been mobbed since the morning, they haven’t been able to get much personal time; but they’re loving everyone’s affection towards them.
Nisha shares the story of how she proposed Arjun six years ago on their way back from office. He was shocked by her first move. As they get into discussion of love vs arranged marriages, Stuti gives her two cents on arranged marriages. She feels one can fall in love with each other post marriage too – it reflects in the small little things one does for each other. As they discuss marriages, they listen to Chris’ perspective on why does he believe in live-in relationships over marriages.
Niket asks Madhu to help Ruhi for the distance ahead. He needs to talk to Arpit in private. He asks Swami to walk ahead and take Abhinav along. Both agree without any questions. As they begin the journey to their last campsite, Niket is hell bent on making an impact on the relationship between Arpit and Abhinav. He has a game plan in mind.
They begin walking together towards Gangabal lake where they’ll be camping. Niket is walking right in the middle of the trekking group with Arpit, trying to keep him busy as he discusses preparations to be done for his engagement.
After thirty minutes or so, the frontrunners including Abhinav and Swami have proceeded much ahead and there is sufficient gap between the middle and the last groups too. Ensuring Madhu and Ruhi are quite behind them, Niket nervously clears his throat. It is time to tell Arpit some truth he isn’t aware of.
‘I had gone to Pune in March this year for some business related work. I got in touch with Latika; she is working in Urban Ladder as a data scientist after completing her MBA in finance from ISB, Gurgaon’ Arpit breathes heavily, wondering where this conversation is headed. ‘Meeting Latika after four years was quite a different experience; it’s like she had lost touch with the person I once knew as Latika. She had covered up her identity with various layers the society had bestowed upon her. She wasn’t free anymore.’
‘I asked her about how Abhinav is doing. She couldn’t help but show that she was shocked by the question. Abhinav was not in touch with her at all after our graduation day in 2011 – he had broken up with her.’
Arpit is not able to believe this. He wonders what exactly happened on that day.
Saturday, April 16, 2011 – Graduation Day
Abhi and Latika are trying to talk to each other as they stand in the corner of the hall amidst the loud DJ session. Frequent failed attempts to talk prompt them to head to the college canteen, much to the disappointment of Arpit – he won’t be knowing what they both are up to. The music still can be heard in the background – it has changed from dance songs to soft songs – maybe food counter has been opened.
Abhinav gathers all the strength in his body to say this to the love of his life – Latika. He has thought through this and this is the best thing for all of them. With a heavy heart, he holds Latika’s hand and tells her something she doesn’t want to hear, ‘We need to break-up. I’m getting torn by the guilt of choosing love over friendship. I cannot stand Arpit’s stare and his pain when he sees us together. I cannot be myself around you if I keep feeling guilty. Hence, its best that we break up. I know this cannot and will not help change things between me and Arpit; but I’m doing this for myself. I want to stop falling in my own eyes.’
Tears roll down her cheeks as she unconsciously puts her strand of hair behind her ear. She understands what Abhi is going through and accepts his decision. She cries hesitantly as Abhi hugs to comfort her; as she calms down, he leaves the canteen walking straight ahead, without looking behind. He is going to hate himself for doing this, but nothing is bigger than their friendship. Coldplay’s Shadow of the Day plays in the background.
I close both locks below the window
I close both blinds and turn away
Sometimes solutions aren’t so simple
Sometimes goodbye’s the only way
And the sun will set for you
The sun will set for you
And the shadow of the day
Will embrace the world in grey
And the sun will set for you
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