This post is a part of 24-day Marathon fiction called Yaariyan. To read from the beginning, click here.
They reach the insanely huge Moghul garden Nishant Baug. It seems like paradise on earth. There are variety of flowers in all sizes and colours adorning the landscape. The garden is structured into twelve terraces with a water source running downwards. Each terrace is unique and has a separate set of water chutes and fountains at its prime axis.
The Pir-Panjal mountain ranges in the backdrop and Dal Lake on the other side make the garden more appealing to eyes. Built by Asif Khan, father-in-law of Akbar, this garden houses every flower which can grow in Kashmir. Abhinav stands at the entrance reading the history of the baug with Madhu as rest proceed inside towards the various terraces.
They spot a photographer who offers to click photographs in traditional Kashmiri outfits on rent. Pawan and Kanishka love the idea and get busy selecting their outfits. Arpit looks towards Ruhi; there is no way she is going to get into those funny costumes and get a pic clicked! Ruhi and Divyah help Kanishka dress up with the jewellery and head cape. ‘You look vintage; almost a hundred years old,’ mentions Niket in his peppy tone. ‘I like vintage!’ replies Kanishka.
Niket clicks pics of Kanishka and Pawan in that attire in his cell to share it with other trekkers and walks towards where Arpit and Swami are sitting in the garden. Abhinav and Madhu join them too.
They sit in a circle breathing the scents of various flowers around. Butterflies and honey bees move around collecting nectar. Niket asks everyone to book their tickets to Rajkot for his engagement on Thursday. ‘There shouldn’t be any excuses please!’ Everyone agrees, Swami and Abhinav are set to fly back to Seattle and Berlin on Saturday. Arpit teaches some basic dance steps to Niket for his engagement proposal. Niket sucks at it, but he’ll eventually make it – like he always does. After all, he’s a fighter.
As Abhinav puts down his DSLR after clicking some pics, Arpit speaks up. ‘Abhi, cancel your ticket from Delhi to Jaipur; we are flying to Pune. I’ve done our bookings yesterday.’ ‘Things aren’t the way they were four years ago, Latika must have moved on. I don’t want to mess with her life.’ Abhinav replies.
‘You’ll never know unless you meet her. I met Latika in March this year, she is lost; I could no longer relate to her as the girl she’d been in college. She has changed waiting for you. You’ve got this chance to make things right. Don’t let it go. Else, you’ll always keep wondering – what if I approached her in 2015…’ Niket’s reply gives him some hope.
‘Abhi, it was my mistake that I didn’t notice how much you loved Latika. After meeting Ruhi, I’ve realised the difference between lust and love. I liked Latika, but never felt about her the way I do for Ruhi. I’ve messed up things for you once, let me make it up to you. Latika will understand once I explain to her,’ Arpit pleads.
‘Alright. I’ll call up dad and tell him I’ll be reaching home after a day. We are extending our stay in Srinagar.’ Arpit hugs Abhi tightly, ‘Let’s go and get her!’
After taking a break at the local market to buy some apples, the tempo meanders towards Srinagar airport through Monday morning traffic on the road. Abhinav is having butterflies in his stomach. Arpit is more worried than he is. This cannot go wrong, come what may.
After going through the check-in formalities and submitting their luggage for departure, they board the flight to Delhi. It is going to be long day!
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