Category Archives: Fiction

Short stories I write, interesting 2 minute reads.

Happy Beginning!

This post is a part of 24-day Marathon fiction called Yaariyan. To read from the beginning, click here.

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So, here’s where various members of the gang are in their life after a year:

Abhinav isn’t successful in convincing his seniors to start a new automotive consultancy arm in Jaipur. However, he realises he has the sufficient experience and knowledge to start a consultancy firm on his own and quits his job.

Abhinav serves his three month notice period and moves out of Berlin on Friday, December 4, 2015. Latika has decided to join Abhinav and widen the scope of consultancy services they offer. Working together is like a dream come true for them. They get married in the end of December 2015. Their consultancy start up faces some glitches initially but eventually picks up.

Niket decides to expand his family business of textiles into manufacture and exports of specialised fabrics. This expansion ensures he gets to travel a lot. He inspires Siddhi to start her own fashion label for women and supports her by sourcing the right fabrics and in-house production. They get married in February 2016.

Madhu quits his job and spends two months at home in order to research the field of life skills for children. He develops content and starts his own company to impart life and interpersonal skills to children to ensure their overall development. He gets Ruhi on board for her expertise in psychology. His start up gets seed funding in March 2016 from a venture capital firm in Norway. On the personal front, he discusses his sexuality with his parents. His dad has severed ties with him while his mom is still in denial. Madhu is hopeful they’ll eventually understand and accept him but has also learnt to accept it if they don’t. He hopes to find a partner on his trip to Norway to meet the venture capitalists who invested in his dream.

Arpit joins Mumbai’s leading digital marketing and branding company as an intern and is making progress in that field. Though not paid much, he is thoroughly happy with his work; he does a lot of research in order to stay upbeat in advertising once he is back home from work. His parents are not keen to accept Ruhi; her horoscope isn’t an ideal match to Arpit’s. Ruhi’s parents are not fine with an inter-caste marriage. In the meanwhile, Ruhi’s application to do Phd. in child psychology gets accepted in Canada. She flies to Canada in March 2016. Their wedding is delayed by a year due to this, but they are hopeful this is sufficient time for their parents to accept their relationship.

Swami gets back to work at Microsoft in Seattle with a rejuvenated vigour and new perspective. He learns how to become more human, his interactions with colleagues become more fruitful and he no longer has to overwork to prove his dedication. Swami gets awarded the Star employee for the month of October 2015 with a bonus cheque of 50,000$. The Kashmir trip eventually helped him earn money for his next trips too. He maintains a good work-life balance and spends time with his brother Shashank and his love Rosie as they both grow with time. Rosie has now got used to daily morning walks along with her master.

THE BEGINNING!!

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Note to Readers:

I would like to take this moment to thank you for being a part of this amazing journey. Writing this story helped me push my limits, plan a lot and write continuously. Writing continuously wasn’t an easy task for me – there were times when I felt short of words and there were times when I wasn’t able to convey the story the way I imagined it in my mind. The articles then required a lot of editing and redrafting.

What motivated me the most was the joy of creating – the joy of creating characters which kept getting more real as the story advanced. These characters became my life for a month where I couldn’t help but think what would each of them do in various scenarios I faced! They helped me in understanding different perspectives of people and situations. Also, I felt utmost gratitude for the love and care friends and family members bestow upon me! It is rare we ever thank God enough for having them around.

I hope you take something from each of the characters into your life and live it to the fullest! I also hope you are motivated enough to try trekking at least once in your lifetime – that was my first goal when I had conceptualised this story. Do let me know if you sign up for Kashmir Great Lakes Trek. If not, you at least take up travel and explore the hidden jewels of India!

I’d like to specially thank my parents for bearing with me for staying awake during late nights and my mom for providing her inputs on my first drafts! Also, I’d like to thank Charmi and Dhaval for continuously prodding me to write the next part. It’s your timely prodding which made me complete what I had begun.

I would love to get your feedback – positives as well as critique to improve my writing. You can mail me at vorarajn@gmail.com. I’ll be delighted to get in touch. Thank you!!

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This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

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Madhu opens up

This post is a part of 24-day Marathon fiction called Yaariyan. To read from the beginning, click here.

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It’s 2.30 PM. The gang is seated on chairs self-arranged in a circular order binging on ice-cream to beat the heat. After indulging in a heavy lunch filled with gujarati delicacies, they await Niket and Siddhi who are bidding goodbyes to their guests. The engagement ceremony has completed and was a great function.

The decorators begin to undo the shamiana – folding the huge drapes, one at a time. Niket finally comes to their place and introduces Siddhi to everyone. Siddhi has heard much about them and is delighted to meet them. Siddhi asks Ruhi and Latika to join her as she wants to introduce them to her friends! They leave the boys and proceed ahead for their girl talk.

Niket removes his blazer, he is extremely tired by the heat, but his peppy face still radiates energy. ‘Madhu, what was it that you were going to say on our way back from Delhi and delayed it to today?’ he asks. Madhu feels a shiver down his body, he feels like being exposed to paparazzi. He doesn’t feel like discussing it now – maybe some other time. It has waited for all these years, some more time won’t make a difference – he quickly covers up his vulnerability behind a false mask. ‘It was nothing,’ he retaliates trying to focus his eyes on the scoop of ice-cream in his bowl.

‘Alright,’ Niket goes ahead to the next thing on his mind, ‘how was your journey guys? Did you face any problem reaching…?’ Abhinav touches Niket’s hand and cuts him abruptly. He looks at Madhu, ‘You’ve been trying to say something. Don’t expect a right time. Make the time right. We’re all here for you.’ They sit in complete silence, all eyes on Madhu.

Madhu gulps down his ice-cream and wipes the beads of sweat off his forehead. The time has come, I can trust them with this; he reassures himself. ‘I’ve been wanting to share this with you all since college days. But was afraid that you won’t stay friends. Also, I myself wasn’t ready to deal with this at that time. Over years, I’ve cried over this matter enough to finally realise I cannot move ahead without accepting it.’ He extends his hand frantically in an attempt to reach the glass of water and sips down the glass hastily. Half of the water drops down his kurta instead of reaching his stomach. He finally is ready to say it,’I am gay. I like men. I won’t be having a normal life like you all; but cannot try and settle down for one. This is who I am and I cannot change it.’

Everyone is shocked listening to Madhu’s words. Swami and Arpit are taken by surprise. As the nanoseconds of complete silence pass, Abhinav gets up and hugs Madhu, tears falling down his eyes. ‘I love you for who you are. You are not gay – that’s your sexual preference. You cannot define your feelings in three words. You still are the same Madhu for me, my close friend and confidant. I’m glad you finally stood up for yourself today. It’s time you put this behind and begin a life without any further reservations.

Shocked beyond belief, he wipes his tears and asks Abhinav, ‘You knew?”Yes, right from college days. You always were a friend and always will be one.’ Niket adds, ‘Yes, this doesn’t define you Madhu. You are much more than just your sexual identity. I got to know when I was checking my mail on your laptop when I had come to meet you in Bangalore – you had left some tabs open. I felt ashamed at myself for being oblivious to this all these years – I questioned how can I even call myself a friend when I haven’t even supported you. Let the world judge you, but I love you with integrity and will always be there by your side to support you.’ Niket smiles and gives Madhu a big hug.

Arpit and Swami stare dumbfounded; they never knew Madhu was dealing with this, fighting alone all these years; without anyone on his side. Abhinav and Niket hadn’t shared this too; but they were correct at their place.

Swami tries to analyse the situation in front of him, ‘How do you know you like guys instead of girls?’ ‘The same way you know you like girls. It’s not difficult to know.’ ‘But what if it’s just a phase?’ ‘I had thought the same earlier. But as years progressed, it became more and more difficult to ignore the obvious. I finally decided to consult a psychiatrist in January this year – he explained homosexuality generally isn’t a phase – straight guys cannot stop liking girls after some years, similarly I cannot stop liking guys. To be sure, we did some personality tests. The day I collected the report, I decided to accept this fact and carry on with my life. I keep falling quite often, especially when I emotionally drain myself thinking about whether I’ll ever be able to find someone, whether my family will accept me. I feel guilty about being sad on seeing wedding ceremonies and proposals – they all have an in-built society acceptance; I’m never going to have that. Also homosexuality is presently illegal in India – a denial to basic fundamental right of freedom.’

Arpit recalls the jokes he always used to crack on gay men and everyone would laugh on it. He can now recollect how uncomfortable Madhu used to get on listening them. ‘I’m sorry Madhu. I have been homophobic my entire life, making fun of gay men – based on the stereotyped media coverage on them. Today I realise it’s not a choice – the same way I’m straight, you’re gay. You cannot choose it – it’s natural. All I have for you is utter respect to stand your ground and decide to fight this huge battle which will go on for years. One thing is sure, we won’t let you fight the battle alone anymore! We’ve been in the dark for years, not any more. I’ll personally try and find a hot looking guy for you – you let me know what should he be like!’

Tears of happiness roll down Madhu’s eyes as Arpit crushes him in a tight hug, patting his back to calm him down. The thought of the gang helping him find a partner is reassuring at various levels!

‘I accept you Madhu, the way you are. You’re awesome and still the same person for me,’ says Swami. The tears give way to the happiness of acceptance as they give Madhu a group hug.

Madhu feels relieved now that it’s over. He never expected it to go so smoothly. He has nothing but gratitude for his best friends – they have accepted him, that’s what matters the most!  He now has to tell this to his parents next.

The girls return together after completing their private chatter, smiling and whispering into each other’s ears. ‘They seem to have taken a liking to each other,’ mentions Niket. ‘That’s how I always wanted it to be,’ Arpit nods approvingly! Everyone huddles in together for an epic group pic – filled with happiness, acceptance and hope!

Swami and Madhu head to the airport to catch their flight back to Chennai and Bangalore respectively. Arpit, Ruhi, Abhinav and Latika stay behind for some time, all are headed to Jaipur by the evening train. As the flight soars in the sky, Madhu closes his eyes and has the sweetest sleep he’s ever had since years. The world now appears to be a less daunting place to live in.

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To view the next post, please click here.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Niket gets engaged

This post is a part of 24-day Marathon fiction called Yaariyan. To read from the beginning, click here.

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Thursday, August 20, 2015

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She walks towards the stage set in the center of the huge shamiana in the mowed lawns of Rajkot’s biggest party plot; accompanied by her girl friends and cousins sisters. The girls squad’s killing looks seem to be a strategy to wound their rivals. As she walks ahead managing her heavy ensemble, her dark brown eyes search for a glimpse of Niket waiting for her with bated breath. Their eyeballs bump into each other and she pauses to smile; Niket stands dumbfounded by her beauty. Every step she takes further makes him realise how much he wants her in his life. He extends a hand to her and they climb the steps to the centre stage together amidst a thunderstorm of rythmic claps.

Madhu (from Bangalore), Swami (from Chennai), Arpit (from Mumbai), Ruhi (from Delhi), Abhinav and Latika  (from Jaipur) board their respective flights and arrive at Rajkot airport by 11 AM. A car has been arranged to transport them directly to the engagement venue.

Latika and Ruhi meet each other for the first time; in the little bit of conversation they manage to have, they start liking each other. The car buzzes with excitement as Abhinav and Latika declare they are officially committed with blessings from their parents!! Abhinav shares he’ll be heading back to Berlin for some time and post that, take a transfer to India, probably Jaipur. Arpit reads out his resignation letter and his plan to start something in advertising; Ruhi supports him with the decision! Swami shares how the trek lead to a tremendous change in himself, he learned to say what he wanted in front of his dad; the best part being his dad totally got him!

Rajkot is hot for August; but the clear skies are necessary today as Niket has arranged for the ceremony to take place in an open lawn. They get stunned by the opulence of the purple shamiana. They reach just in time for Siddhi to walk down the red carpet.

She walks towards the stage set in the center of the huge shamiana in the mowed lawns of Rajkot’s biggest party plot; accompanied by her girl friends and cousins sisters. The girls squad’s killing looks seem to be a strategy to wound their rivals. As she walks ahead managing her heavy ensemble, her dark brown eyes search for a glimpse of Niket waiting for her with bated breath. Their eyeballs bump into each other and she pauses to smile; Niket stands dumbfounded by her beauty. Every step she takes further makes him realise how much he wants her in his life. He extends a hand to her and they climb the steps to the centre stage together, amidst a thunderstorm of rhythmic claps.

Ruhi holds Arpit’s hands watching the fairy tale engagement. She wonders whether their parents will accept them. She’ll get to know soon, they’re going to catch an evening train to Jaipur to spend the weekend with Arpit’s parents.

Latika feels comforted and pride as Abhinav has put his huge arm on her shoulder. As Abhinav looks at the stage, Latika can’t help but observe his dimpled smile and his happy-go-lucky nature which thrives into the environment and makes complicated things simpler.

Niket indicates the DJ to play his song and the music begins. Niket points his fingers at Siddhi lipsing the initial lines in total bollywood style.

Tu Hai Aasmaan Main, Teri Yeh Zameen Hai
Tu Jo Hai, To Sab Kuch Hai, Na Koi Kami Hai

His cousins stand on their chairs in various parts of the lawn and begin to wave their hands facing the centre stage – It is a flash mob, the way Niket had seen on the trek!!

Tu Hi Dil Hai, Tu Hi Jaan Bhi Hai
Tu Khushi Hai, Aasra Bhi Hai
Teri Chaahat Zindagi Hai
Tu Mohabbat, Tu Aashiqui Hai, Tu Aashiqui Hai
Tu Hi Dil Hai …Tu Aashiqui Hai

Siddhi cannot believe what is happening; Niket has taken the pain to find her favourite song from her cousins and plotted along with them to give her the best surprise ever!! She looks around to see all cousins standing on their chairs waving at them.

Niket catches her finger and she takes a turn! Niket lifts her up and she looks around the happy faces surrounding them – to mark the beginning of a new phase of her life. The curtain above them opens and they get drained in a shower of rose petals.

As the song proceeds ahead, Niket forgets the choreography. He suddenly seems to have been born with two left feet. Determined, he invents his own moves, which make him laugh joyously; he cannot believe he is dancing impromptu. He stretches his arms for Siddhi with a silly grin on his face, his awkward moves and facial expressions make Siddhi laugh as he approaches her to dance along. Within no time, he has scooped her in his arms and they exchange rings.

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Siddhi is proud of her choice – this is him, peppy, loving, joyous, determined and messy. His imperfections make them perfect together!

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To view the next post, please click here.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Abhinav talks to his boss

This post is a part of 24-day Marathon fiction called Yaariyan. To read from the beginning, click here.

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As they drive together towards Beawar, Abhinav and Latika discuss possibilities of settling together in various cities – Mumbai, Pune, Berlin and Jaipur. They both have the requried job profile to be hired at any of the leading companies in their field of work in any of these cities. In the end it depends on what they want.

‘I’m not at all keen on settling abroad, far away from our parents. It doesn’t make sense for the long term – we’ll end up spending all our savings flying to and fro India and then feel guilty about not being there for parents when they need us the most.’ Latika analyses.

‘I don’t think I’ll get the kind of opportunities in Berlin in any city other than Mumbai. Let’s search for jobs in Mumbai and settle there. Arpit is anyways there to support us.’ Abhinav replies back.

‘But what if things don’t work out? What if you don’t get a job profile you love? Will you go back to Berlin?’ A fear grips Latika’s face. ‘No, I have left you once and know the suffering it brings along. I’m not leaving you out of my sight henceforth. If nothing works out, we’ll settle in Jaipur and start something on our own.There are a lot of opportunities here also – we’ll just have to be more patient.’ Abhinav decides to talk to his boss as soon as Berlin office hours begin at 9.30 AM ( 2 PM IST).

They reach the outskirts of Beawar at 2 PM and are thirty minutes away from Latika’s home. Abhinav halts the car and calls his boss explaining the situation and asking him if there are any openings in the Mumbai office. ‘There are no openings at Mumbai presently. However, we are considering beginning a consultancy arm in Jaipur. Will you be interested in heading it?’ Abhinav realises the power of thoughts – the universe had conspired to sort complex matters and ensure he got what he wants! ‘Fantastico! That’s the best thing I can hope for! Thanks boss!’ ‘I’ll see you on Monday and check up things happening on the Jaipur front till then.’

Abhinav is now totally prepared to meet Latika’s parents; he knows where they’ll be settling and they would love to have Latika in Jaipur rather than any other distant city or country.

As he parks the car on the lane outside, Latika rushes in to give her parents a surprise! Both are pleasantly shocked to see her on a working day, that too in a saree. Abhinav enters the hall. ‘Mom and dad, meet Abhinav. You already know him – he is the one I was dating in the last semester of engineering in Mumbai. We have buried our differences and decided to get back together. With your blessings, we’d like to marry each other.’

Latika’s dad is a fifty six year old retired government employee having bifocal spectacles hanging from his neck with the help of a black thread. He picks them up and places them on his nose, right above a huge mole to have a clear look at Abhinav. Abhinav cannot help but stare at the strange mole. Mr. Kanwar adjusts the spectacles to have a clearer look at him.

‘So finally your wait got results Lata,’ he sweetly addresses Latika. ‘You dear gentleman, what guarantee do I have that you won’t run away again? Are you committed to spend your life with Lata?’ he asks unflinchingly to Abhinav. ‘Yes sir! Your daughter has trapped me and I do not see any way out until death do us apart. Rest assured we’ll stay happy together.’ Abhinav’s befitting reply appeases him, ‘Come, join me. Sit on the sofa.’

Abhinav takes a deep breath and sits down for an interview. Latika had never mentioned there would be a formal round of interview for his new job profile 😛 Nevertheless, he was confident he will crack it. He sits across Mr. Kanwar, batting various balls coming across the pitch, he begins to manage to saving his wicket and slowly starts drawing singles. As the questions advance to future plans with respect to where they will settle, how they will manage their home, etc he shoots sixes and makes a commendable score!

Latika and her mom bring tea and some snacks as the match ends. Abhinav has won the match fair and square!  They receive blessings from Latika’s parents. Lata’s mom is glad Abhinav finally turned up; she was worried Latika will never marry.

Latika’s parents agree to have a small ceremony in Jaipur on the next day and plan and have an engagement on a suitable day later based on a good mahurath.

With their blessings, Abhinav heads home for his god dhana ceremony scheduled the next day. He gives Latika a flying kiss as she stands on the terrace waving him goodbye. There are a lot of things to be done for her official ceremony the next day and Niket’s engagement the day later – the first thing being buying new outfits!

As she walks down the stairs to her parents, she realises she has to search for a job in Jaipur or start something on her own.

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To view the next post, please click here.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Meeting her to be daughter-in-law

This post is a part of 24-day Marathon fiction called Yaariyan. To read from the beginning, click here.

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Latika gets up early at 5.00 AM and checks on Abhinav. He is sleeping peacefully on the couch in the hall. She drops a message to her boss that she won’t be reporting to work for three days; something important has come up. As she packs her suitcase for their trip to Jaipur and from there to Niket’s engagement in Rajkot, she checks all the outfits she has chosen and wonders if they are proper to meet her in-laws. This is the first time she is meeting them and she doesn’t want to leave any stone unturned.

But at the same time, Abhi hasn’t given her any time for shopping. She has to make do with the only saree she has. She decides to wear it today and pack her heavy Indian ethnic dresses for later days. She isn’t well versed with wearing a saree and requires Abhi’s help with the pin ups.

They reach the airport at 7.00 AM and complete the check in formalities holding each other’s hands. This is the first time Abhinav has seen Latika wear a bindi on her forehead and lots of coloured bangles in her hands. She looks beautiful. They both sleep once their flight takes off; knowing they won’t get much time once they reach home.

The flight lands at Jaipur at 10.30 AM. They catch a local cab to Abhinav’s place. Abhinav is excited to take Latika home. He is sure his mother will approve of his choice. Add to it the fact that she is dressed up in a saree, his father will also like her.

They reach Shanti Villa – Abhinav’s bungalow. It is decorated with marigold flowers and a huge shed has been fixed in the playing area outside the bungalow. Abhinav and Latika exchange glances wondering what is going on. There are a lot of sandals and shoes outside the bungalow’s main entrance – as if there is some festival being celebrated and relatives have been invited from various places.

Abhinav walks into the house with Latika. Everyone rushes towards him, Latika is pushed behind in the flow of moments. Everyone congratulates him for his engagement scheduled tomorrow. It is then that he realises his father has selected a suitable girl for him after the conversation they had when he left for Kashmir. He never expected things to move so fast! They are having a pooja at home so that the engagement gets completed without any obstructions.

As he gets some time to breathe, his parents look towards Latika and wonder who is she. She is clad in Saree and has a pallu over her head. Worried, his mom takes them into another room as his father manages the inquisitiveness of relatives.

‘Did you marry on your way back from Kashmir?’ his mom asks in a disturbed voice. She didn’t expect Abhinav to behave in such a manner. ‘No mom, this is Latika. We were together in college in Mumbai. We both like each other and I asked her to accompany me home today so that you and dad can meet her.’ Latika advances to touch her mother-in-law’s feet, ‘Namaste aunty.’ His mom blesses her but is gripped in confusion.

Abhinav’s dad enters the room and has a word with his wife. He tells Abhinav that they have fixed his marriage and he cannot go back on his word. ‘I had asked you previously if you liked anyone. You never mentioned anything about Latika!’ Abhinav is quiet, he is brainstorming as to find a way out of the situation. Latika silently weighs the impact of the arrangement on their love story.

‘Mom, dad, I love her a lot and would like to marry her. She is the one I’ve always desired and that cannot change.’ ‘I understand but what do we tell Shuklaji? And what about all the relatives. Is Latika of our caste?’ his dad enquires. ‘Yes, she comes from Beawar, Rajasthan and is of the same caste. She is an MBA in finance and works in Pune.’

‘Wait, all that is irrelevant. Beta, do you love Abhinav as much as Abhinav loves you?’ his mother asks Latika as she pays close attention to her eyes. ‘Yes, I do and I’ll do all that is necessary to always keep him happy.’ Her committed eyes and self confidence brings a smile on Abhi’s mom’s face. She is happy with Abhinav’s choice and accepts her as her daughter-in-law. ‘We’ll have to figure out a way and break this news to Shuklaji immediately. His daughter will be devastated on listening to this,’ she reminds her husband.

Abhinav hugs his mom tightly, ‘Thank you mom, you’re the best!’ She goes into the kitchen and brings an aarti thaali to bless the couple for a happy and long married life ahead.

‘Latika, do your parents know about this?’ ‘Not yet, we are planning to go to Beawar to seek their permission too.’ Great, you both take Abhinav’s father’s car and drive to Beawar. We’ll sort things out here by the time you return back after 7-8 hours. We can have a small god-dhana ceremony tomorrow morning here itself to initiate you both officially into a relationship if your parents agree.

Latika is relieved to have such an understanding and loving mother-in-law. She seeks her blessings and later meets her brother-in-law and sister-in-law.

They begin their 3 hour journey to the home town of Beawar. Convincing her parents won’t be difficult as they’re aware of their past history, Latika wonders.

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To view the next post, please click here.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

I Quit

This post is a part of 24-day Marathon fiction called Yaariyan. To read from the beginning, click here.

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Latika invites both of them home and they sit together to catch up on the four years they lost. Arpit apologises to her for his misunderstanding. Latika replies, ‘I’m not angry on you, things ended abruptly and you were bound to have a different perspective. I never felt I would be the reason for both of you to be estranged. I apologise for that.’

Arpit clicks a picture of Abhi and Latika and puts it on the gang’s whatsapp group! It is a blockbuster hit!! He adds Abhinav back to the whatsapp group. Madhu and Swami have reached their respective homes and Niket is on his way to Rajkot from Ahmedabad. They can’t believe the gang is having three love stories going on at the same time! Madhu is happy for them all, he is also hopeful for himself. He knows his path is difficult, but he is ready to fight it out; he decides to seek the gang’s support when they meet in Rajkot.

Arpit and Abhinav tell how did the miracle happen to Latika – she was unaware of their Kashmir trip and is glad it happened. After all, the trip gifted Abhinav back to her, forever. It was like a dream come true. Amidst all the talks, Latika realises she is starving. ‘Aren’t you guys hungry? Let’s order something.’ Arpit gets excited and mentions they should order dominoes’ pizzas – Abhinav’s favourite. The party continues as they binge on pizzas and coke. Arpit sees a glow on Latika’s face, like she has got her world back. Abhinav cannot keep his eyes off her.

It’s 10 PM. Latika’s roomie comes back from her work. She is happy to meet Abhinav and Arpit; but doesn’t have any clue about Latika’s personal life before she came to Pune. Arpit decides to catch the overnight bus to Mumbai – he has some decisions to make back home before he attends Niket’s engagement ceremony in Rajkot. Latika cannot wait to meet Ruhi, who has got a phenomenal change in Arpit!

Abhinav and Latika decide to fly to Jaipur the next day to meet Abhi’s parents and later take a three hour drive to Beawar from Jaipur to meet Latika’s parents. Everything is happening in such a swift manner! They drop Arpit at the bus depot and head back home to catch up with each other. Abhinav prepares to sleep on the couch while Latika sleeps in the bedroom with her roomie.

Tuesday, August 18 2015

The overnight bus drops Arpit at Dadar station in Mumbai at 5.30 AM in the morning. Arpit catches a cab to Borivali and reaches by 6.30 AM. He rushes to get dressed for work. Today is an important day for him – he no longer needs the navigation to show him the way to BKC – he knows the route.

As he touches office sharp at 9.00 AM, he heads to the cafeteria to make himself a large cup of Espresso. He opens his laptop and lets his outlook pull a week’s backlog of mails. As he sips through his coffee, he clicks on compose mail and begins typing a letter to his boss.

Dear Sir,

There often comes a time in one’s life when one knows something isn’t working fine. After trying to search for the unworkability in various fields in my life, I realised it’s internal. I’ve learned to settle for things rather than struggle for what I really want. And the end result is catastrophic, which reflects in my attitude, behaviour, work as well as work-life balance.

After completing Kashmir Great Lakes Trek, I realised I need not be an also ran in someone else’s race when I can be the winner in a race where I compete against myself. I’ve finally grown the balls to take this risk, go ahead and explore various opportunities in the field I like the most – advertising.

I understand I’ll have to start from scratch; I do not have a base in that field, my finance background won’t be put to much use. However, how can past constrain my future decisions? I have decided to be open to challenges and opportunities in the field I love.

Call me daring or stupid, I haven’t yet figured out who will give me a job in that sector, but I’m positive I’ll figure it out. Please treat this as my formal resignation letter and consider today as the beginning of my notice period. I hereby thank you for the opportunities presented to me in the organisation.

Yours sincerely,

Arpit

He re-reads the mail as he takes another sip of the espresso and marks the mail to his boss and Human Resource manager. He completes his coffee and clicks on send mail and begins his work like any other normal day. It is 9.30 AM and other colleagues start reporting on their cubicles.

Arpit looks at them and realises how he never belonged to this culture or domain. He is happy with his decision. It high time he starts being vulnerable – whatever be the outcome.

He calls up his home and talks to his parents after a long time – as he listens to his dad’s coarse voice, he realises this is the first time he is actually listening to what he wants to say rather than what he is saying. He shares the news about finding Ruhi and quitting his job. They find it way too hard to digest both pieces of information together. However, his dad is positive and says everything will be fine with time!

His mom is not comfortable with Ruhi being from other caste as well as Arpit quitting his high profile job to start afresh in an altogether new sector. She is baffled and feels the trek has messed up with his logic. Arpit laughs out and mentions that the trek has opened him to various opportunities in life! Also, he shares with her how Ruhi helped him get over four years of loneliness and anxiety and patch up with Abhinav. Ruhi somehow starts sounding as a magic weaver. His mom asks him to bring her home soon. She is happy Arpit has finally found someone who makes him smile; that was her biggest concern.

Arpit’s boss reaches office and calls him downstairs outside the office premises for a walk. He is shocked by the mail Arpit has written in the morning. He never expected him to put his papers so early. ‘I have great plans for you, stay back and we’ll make you an amazing personality to reckon with in the organisation.’ He pulls out his cigarette and takes a puff. ‘Thank you Sir! But I have some plans for myself that I want to execute. They may not be that great, but at least they’re plans to reach where I want to.’

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This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Are you kidding me?

This post is a part of 24-day Marathon fiction called Yaariyan. To read from the beginning, click here.

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‘I’m glad to meet you too. You’ve not changed at all!’ she pauses to collect all the energy she can muster and says, ‘I have moved on in my life and I’m in a relationship; I’m afraid we don’t have anything to talk about’ she says. Abhinav looks in her cold eyes, not able to get any hint about the truth in her words. Arpit shrieks in agony, ‘Are you kidding me?’

The flight lands at Pune. It’s 7.30 PM. Arpit and Abhinav collect their luggage and head towards the exit. Arpit books an Ola cab and they get in quickly to reach Kalyani Nagar – where Latika stays.

Abhinav collects a bouquet of flowers from a florist en route. As he writes her name on the card, all he can hear are his loud heartbeats. He can see her dreamy eyes, her face jovial with laughter and her hair still untied and messy. His thoughts bring a smile on his face.

They reach her building residence at 8.15 PM. Kalyani Nagar is 8 kilometres away from the airport and is well connected to major IT parks in the city. It is the best place to rent an apartment, given the proximity to commercial spaces. They sit down in the lobby, waiting for Latika to reach home.

Latika leaves from her office in Koregaon Park at 8.00 PM and drives her Etios Cross back home to Kalyani Nagar. She reaches the building at 8.30 PM. Abhinav watches her drive inside the premises – she parks her car, turns off her headlights and unbelts her seatbelt and gets out.She opens the second door to pick up her laptop bag and purse and locks the car.

She is wearing a pencil skirt and formal shirt, with impeccable heels and a dark lipstick. Her hair is bound perfectly in a french bun; that’s the only plus point given how she has messed herself up otherwise. She has hidden herself beneath the layers of superficial perfection. She walks past the lobby towards the lift checking messages on her cell phone when a voice stops her. A chill passes through her entire body. Her frantic attempts to calm down don’t work. All she can hear is the Coldplay song ‘Shadow of the Day’ playing in the background – like the day of farewell – when he broke up with her. Four years have passed, but she is still stuck there; unable to move ahead.

She takes a deep breath and braces herself to face him; she turns around to see Abhinav after four years – He is still the same, maybe his eyes have become more intense; but there is no sign of visible struggle on his face, unlike hers.

‘Latika, hi’ He pauses, the sound of lobby fan suddenly feels like an irritation to what he has to say. She notices Arpit along and is glad they both have finally patched up. ‘It’s great to see you after so long!’ This is the only thing Abhinav can come up with along with an innocent true smile on his face.

She steels herself from his charm and tells what she had decided she’d say if he ever comes back to her.’I’m glad to meet you too. You’ve not changed at all!’ she pauses to collect all the energy she can muster to go on, ‘I have moved on in my life and I’m in a relationship; I’m afraid we don’t have anything to talk about.’ Abhinav looks in her cold eyes, not able to get any hint about the truth in her words. Arpit shrieks in agony, ‘Are you kidding me?’

Before she can say anything further, the elevator doors open up and she gets inside it, closing them from within. Abhinav tries to stop the elevator but in vain. As the doors close, she catches a final glimpse of Abhinav, trying to keep the door open.

She breaks down into tears, clutching her stomach the moment the doors close and kicks in the air, angry on herself for the tears flowing down her cheeks. She is strong, what is she crying for? She can never forgive Abhinav for what he did to her, although she understands what his state of mind was.

Abhinav starts walking back out of the lobby, when Arpit pulls him up. He catches his hand and they run up the staircase to second floor. Latika has already opened her house door and got in; she closes it with a bang as she sees them approaching.

Arpit can listen to her shrill cries in the midst of her efforts to calm down. ‘Latika. I know you’re on the other side of this door. I want to apologise for what I did to you two guys, it’s because of my fault you both couldn’t be together. All I ask today is you stop punishing each other and open the door. I request you to calm down and open the door. Please talk to me. Punish me, not yourself and Abhinav.’ Arpit keeps saying as he bangs the door for mercy.

Abhinav stops Arpit from banging the door further. He leans on it with the help of his hands and tries to listen to Latika. Latika is observing him through the peephole – she tries to touch his hands with hers on the other side of the door in desperation.

She feels like tearing herself apart – there’s a part of her which wants to break open the door and kiss him and there’s another which has been trained over years to despise him forever. She is stuck as the two parts keep fighting internally.

‘Latika, I love you. I’ve loved you throughout these years – there wasn’t a single day when I didn’t think about you in Berlin. You left an abyss in my life which nothing could fill – not even a new country. I miss you and want you back in my life, forever.’ Latika’s sobs stop. She is listening to what he has to say – it is slowly making an impact on the huge walls she has built around her.

Abhinav kneels down in front of the door and quotes a proposal from Latika’s favourite TV Series – F.R.I.E.N.D.S. ‘I thought that it mattered what I said or where I said it. Then I realised the only thing that matters is you,’ he pauses to wipe tears from his eyes, ‘You make me happier than I ever thought I could be;’ a frenzy grips his body as he continues speaking, ‘and if you’ll let me, I will spend the rest of my life trying to make you feel the same way. Latika, marry me.’

Unable to repress her emotions further, Latika decides to end her self-indicted pain and opens the door to a kneeling and teary eyed Abhinav; she kneels down and kisses him. She finds herself blossom back to life with him by her side.

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To view the next post, please click here.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

The Wait

This post is a part of 24-day Marathon fiction called Yaariyan. To read from the beginning, click here.

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2.40 PM

The flight from Srinagar lands at the capital of India. The flight is a direct flight to Chennai. Swami stays back in the flight as others get down after waving him goodbye. ‘I’ll see you all in Rajkot!’ he mentions as the gang proceeds to leave the Airbus.

They enter the arrivals section of the airport. Indian classical music soothes the atmosphere. Arpit hugs Ruhi tightly, ‘I love you a lot! Abhi and I are going to Pune to meet Latika and get things right. I’ll call you once I reach Mumbai. I’ve figured out what I want to do.’ ‘Whatever it is, I’ll support you. Call me on how things go! Abhinav, all the best! Bring Latika back!!’ Abhinav smiles back at Ruhi. With these words and a promise to meet again, Ruhi turns around and starts walking towards the conveyor belt to collect her luggage along with Divyah, Kanishka and Pawan.

Arpit, Abhinav, Niket and Swami proceed to the waiting area of the departure section. Niket calls up Latika to take her address under the pretext of sending her an invite to his engagement. She mentions she won’t be coming but Niket keeps pleading; she finally parts with her address. Latika wonders who all would be coming for the engagement – would Abhinav make it? That would definitely be a no as Niket also has lost touch with him; he won’t be flying from Berlin to attend an engagement. She gets back to work as these thoughts continue to run in the background.

Arpit is pretty tensed, he paces up and down the hall, asking Abhinav to think what he is going to tell Latika. Abhinav is comparatively relaxed, he knows what he is going to tell her; but he is uncertain about whether she would want to listen to all this after four years. She did her MBA in finance from ISB, Mohali. She’s had sufficient time and opportunities to meet new people and move on.

As Arpit settles down on the chair, Madhu tries to say something, but he is cut by the announcement. Boarding for flight to Bangalore begins. ‘It’s nothing that can’t wait. I’ll see you guys at Rajkot! Bon voyage!!,’ Madhu lifts his handbag and proceeds towards gate 3A.  He breathes deeply; he was so close this time. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be. He’ll try again in Rajkot. Niket and Arpit look at each other – they wonder what did he have to say which had to wait for Rajkot.

After an hour, boarding begins for flight bound to Ahmedabad. Arpit hugs Niket and thanks him for helping clearing the misunderstandings. ‘Had it not been for you meeting Latika, I wouldn’t have been able to resolve my differences with Abhinav.’ ‘That’s why I always ask you to listen to me!!’ An array of swear words follow. They all laugh on it remembering their canteen days. Niket proceeds ahead. He has to board a bus from Ahmedabad to Rajkot later.

‘I want to thank you for doing this.’ Abhinav speaks as he sifts through the newspaper. ‘For what? I was the one who led you two to separate.’ ‘Yes, but the decision of separation was mine; I wasn’t fine with putting love over friendship. I still ain’t. You opened up a new possibility for me – I had never thought I’d be able to get back to Latika without hurting you.’

Arpit weighed those words, ‘I feel so ungrateful for having doubted our friendship when you have placed it even above your own feelings. Had I been in your place, I wouldn’t have stopped being with Latika if we both loved each other.’ ‘But I am with Latika, though not in physicality, you’ll understand this as time passes and your bond with Ruhi strengthens.’

“Good afternoon passengers. This is the pre-boarding announcement for flight 75D to Pune. We are now inviting those passengers with small children, and any passengers requiring special assistance, to begin boarding at this time. Please have your boarding pass and identification ready. Regular boarding will begin in approximately ten minutes time. Thank you.”

They proceed towards Gate 2, excited and vulnerable.

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This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Better late than never

This post is a part of 24-day Marathon fiction called Yaariyan. To read from the beginning, click here.

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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.

 

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Waterfall at Entrance of Nishat Baug

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.

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Chinar and Cyprus trees planted on the borders of the twelve terraced garden

 

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!’

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And then came a time when not blooming was no longer an option

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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This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

Ek baar khaaoge to baar baar aaoge

This post is a part of 24-day Marathon fiction called Yaariyan. To read from the beginning, click here.

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Arpit and Ruhi get back to their rooms and continue their talk in spite of the wall between them with the help of cell phones; both unable to resist the urge to talk a little while more before they sleep. Their date night at Boulevard road seem short lived. Ruhi thinks about the first interaction she had with Arpit while cleaning plates in the darkness of Day 1 of the camp; he was lost and appeared rude from his actions. As time progressed ahead, she was able to actually see how amazing he was.

Arpit has finally found a purpose worth living for beyond himself – there is no longer an abyss of loneliness. He observes Abhinav deep asleep in his bed while putting the phone down- he has resolved to make things work between him and Latika and the actions for the same begin tomorrow morning. He prays to God to set things right and goes to sleep.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The morning begins with breakfast in the dining hall at 7.30 AM – they’re served with the local delicacies of Bakarkhani Roti with sweet Kahwa. Everyone heads back to their destination today – they are in the same flight till Delhi scheduled the afternoon and post that separate flights. Pawan has booked a small tempo for local sight seeing for 10 people staying in Hotel Retreat and later drop them to the airport. (The gang, Ruhi, Divyah, Kanishka, Sandesh and Pawan).

Swami heads to an internet cafe nearby and skypes with his darling Rosie. She is amazed to see him after long and lovingly licks the ipad screen. Shashank is happy his brother has completed the trek and enjoyed it to the core.

After putting their backpacks and luggage on the carrier, they take their seats in the tempo to roam around Srinagar for half a day until they head to the airport – their first point being Shankaracharya Temple – a temple of Lord Shiva built at the top of Sulaiman hill.

Ascending the huge steps of the temple shouldn’t be a problem after they’ve completed the trek. Yet, it seems a bit difficult as their tired bodies have got accustomed to luxuries. Kanishka and Niket run up the stairs in order to have a panoramic view of Srinagar city and Dal Lake.

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View of Dal Lake from Takht-e-Sulaiman, Shankaracharya Temple

After paying their obeisance to Lord Shiva, the team settles down into the tempo and it proceeds towards the second largest Mughal Garden in Kashmir – Nishat Bagh, which means the garden of joy. The terraced Mughal garden is thirty minutes away and built at the eastern side of Dal Lake.

As they pass through the seemingly infinite borders of Dal Lake, they see an array of fountains installed near the borders to magnify the already beautiful picturesque landscapes.

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Niket catches a glimpse of an ice cream vendor as the tempo gushes in speed on the pot-hole free road. He calls for an impromptu halt – they cannot proceed ahead without tasting the local delicacy. They get down to have a bite of Kashmiri Falooda. Niket observes the vendor prepare it – a prefect mix of rose syrup, falooda seeds and yellow noodles topped by a small scoop of vanilla ice-cream. He loves the printing on the plastic cup – it says ‘Ek baar khaaoge, baar baar aaoge.’ (if you consume it once, you’ll end up coming back for more!) The falooda stands true to its marketing – it is fantastico.

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They proceed towards the garden of joy, the last stop before they move towards the airport.

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To view the next post, please click here.

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.