06. I think I am in love | Ivory

August 16, 2020 Sujay Sarma

A year (or was it two?) passed. Things returned to the ‘normal’ state they had been since… It was a Navratri celebration, complete with Dandiya dances. Spruti and Naina were dancing. When Spruti felt a little thirsty. “Hey, just a minute. Let me go get some lemonade.” She cried breaking formation and running to a…

A year (or was it two?) passed. Things returned to the ‘normal’ state they had been since…

It was a Navratri celebration, complete with Dandiya dances. Spruti and Naina were dancing. When Spruti felt a little thirsty.

“Hey, just a minute. Let me go get some lemonade.” She cried breaking formation and running to a refreshments table nearby.

“Spruti! Come back soon!” shouted a friend after her.

When she turned around to face forwards, she was just in time to spot a guy inches away. But she could not stop her momentum and collided into the man. The both of them fell crashing to the ground.

Luckily, the ground was grassy.

“I’m so sorry,” She laughed. “I should see where I am going.”

“It’s alright.” He said. “I’m Vijesh.”

“I’m Spruti.” She introduced herself shyly.

“Are you here with your husband?” He asked, looking around.

“I’m single.” She answered with a tinge of pink darkening her cheeks.

“Oh.” Vijesh sighed. “Me too.”

He helped her up. “Who are you running away from?”

“I was thirsty.”

“Ah, the Thirst Demon. Let’s run together then?” He laughed.

Spruti couldn’t stop laughing. They walked together to the refreshments table. Vijesh started to pour them two glasses.

Naina joined Spruti. “Where have you been Mumma? Round of dancing finished.” She was disappointed a little.

“I…” She began.

Vijesh turned around.

“Oh hello!” He said, to Naina, whistling in surprise. The girl talking to Spruti was tall, beautiful and looked ready mingle.

Naina was actually just thirteen. She stood as tall as her mother. In fact, Spruti looked quite younger for her age and people who did not know them, often mistook them for sisters.

“Hi.” Naina said. “I’m Naina,…”

“Your friend is beautiful.” Vijesh flirted with Spruti.

Spruti laughed. “This is my daughter.”

Vijesh was embarrassed. “I’m sorry.”

Naina was upset. “Do you think I am as old as Mumma?”

Vijesh shook his head apologetically.

“Hello! She’s forty!” Naina cried still in teenage disappointment from being compared to a much older woman.

Vijesh laughed and put his arm around the girl. “I am sorry. Okay, instead of your mother, I’ll take you to dinner.”

Naina smiled and let the man lead her to the dinner buffet.

They talked and ate and laughed. A lot.

“Do you like him?” Naina asked her mother as they drove back home.

“He is nice.” She replied, blushing.

“Oooo…” Naina cooed.

“Important thing is, do you like him?” Spruti asked her daughter.

“Oh, I think I am in love.” She blushed.

Spruti looked at her daughter strangely. But she was a budding teenager. She decided she would let her go through her round of harmless crushes for a while. After all, Vijesh did not look the sort to switch girls and run away with her daughter now, would he? Would he?

Over the next few weeks, Spruti and Vijesh talked a lot. Mostly on the phone. But they met a few times in person. He came to her school and surprised her often. He brought her lunch and flowers.

Spruti started falling in love. Again.

When Spruti came home from school one saturday afternoon, she heard Naina’s happy laughter from within the house. Curious, she followed her daughter’s voice and reached the kitchen.

Vijesh was cooking and Naina was sitting on a stool listening to him. He was telling her some sort of a story. Spruti figured out it was a funny story from the way Naina was laughing away.

“What are you two upto?” Spruti asked, ruffling Naina’s hair.

Paapu is making macaroni.”

She called him ‘paapu’, a corruption of ‘papa’ and ‘babu’. ‘Papa’ because her mother loved him. ‘Babu’ because she loved him too.

“You want some?” He asked Spruti.

“Sure. Sure.” She replied. “Let me go freshen up.”

“You know,” Naina said. “He likes his macaronis exactly like I do.”

“Is that so!”

“Yes.” Naina laughed. “The C-ones, because when you pinch them…”

Vijesh and Naina said it together, “… cream oozes out.”

And they both laughed.

Spruti raised an eyebrow. Maybe these two are closer than me and Vijesh, she thought to herself.

One day, she lay in bed, wistfully thinking about Vijesh. And their life ahead. All the promises he had made her and all the things she had said and imagined with him.

Somewhere deep inside, something was amiss. She could not reason it out. There was no big reason. She loved him. Naina loved him immensely. Though she had introduced him to her mother with some hesitation, he had won her over quite easily. Her mother’s calls nowadays started with ‘How is Vijesh?‘ instead of ‘How are you?

Suddenly, her heart almost stopped beating. And then.. and then.. she could not breathe. She began to get a headache. It seemed to feel like something she knew from the distant past.

“Naina!” She screamed out loud. She could still scream.

The girl ran into her mother’s bedroom.

Mumma!” She cried seeing her mother in distress.

“BP…” Spruti gasped and passed out.

It was night. A faint and almost opaque mist of smoke was blowing around in the windless night. Through the mists, Vijesh walked toward her, dressed in a light blue shirt and slightly faded jeans. It was what he had been wearing when they had met many months ago at the Dandiya event.

The moon flickered through dark clouds overhead.

“I don’t know if I can ever love you.” Spruti told him.

“Why not?” Vijesh asked emotionlessly.

“I don’t know.” She admitted. “When I think about us, I feel quite afraid. I don’t know if I could ever trust someone enough.”

“Because of your past? The previous relationships?”

“Maybe. Most probably. Yes.”

“So what now?” He asked. “Between us…”

“I think it is best we go our separate ways.” She suggested.

“Are you sure?”

“No. But I don’t see it working.”

Slowly, Vijesh began dissolving into the mist and disappear from view.

Just as he was about to fully disapear, Spruti tried to reach out and grab a hold of him. But he dissolved anyway and vanished.

Spruti woke up in a hospital room.

An ICU bed.

Her daughter was napping on a couch nearby.

“Naina?” She called. Her voice was a little raspy.

Mumma?” Naina answered, waking up. “How do you feel?”

“How did you manage to get me here?” She wondered, imagining her daughter dragging her many kilometers to the hospital.

“I called 102.”

“Only them?” She asked, her heart beating fast. She wondered to herself if she had also called Vijesh.

“I tried calling Paapu, but the call went to voicemail.”

Spruti hugged her daughter’s head to her bosom and cried.

She waited till she was discharged from hospital before calling her mother. She did not want her to worry. She was quite old by now and should be spared unnecessary worries, Spruti determined.

Mumma,” She began her call. “I got a BP-attack again.”

“When, beta?” Her mother cried, concerned.

“A couple of days ago.” She bit her lip. “I didn’t want to worry you unnecessarily. They kept me in for observation and let me go in the morning.”

“God be blessed, you are okay.” Her mother was relieved. “Was Vijesh-beta by your side?”

“I…” She hesistated.

“What’s wrong?”

“I did not call him,” Spruti admitted. “And mumma…”

“He is a nice boy, beta.”

“I am sure he is, mumma.” Spruti said. “It is not him.”

“What did you do now?”

“Nothing yet.” Spruti wept into the phone. “But…”

Her mother disconnected the phone. As the line went dead, Spruti could hear her mother mumble some choice and exquisite expletives under her breath. Hearing that her mother disapproved of what she was planning to do upset her even more. She dreaded having to tell Naina.

She ended up not telling Naina.

Her daughter was at school when it happened. Vijesh dropped by their apartment. He had just returned to the city after a prolonged tour on business. He had brought her flowers and Naina some really pretty dresses.

“I’m sorry, I cannot accept these.” She said quietly after Vijesh had finished the coffee she had made him.

“What happened dear? Something wrong?” He asked.

“I’m sorry,” She started to sob into his shoulder. “I cannot let this go on.”

“Did I say something wrong?” Vijesh asked. “Or do something wrong?”

“It is not you Vijesh.” She admitted, biting her lower lip. “It’s me. I am not ready for you, for anyone. Yet. It is my own inner demons.”

“I am not sure I understand.”

Spruti shook her head. Her eyes were filled with tears. “I cannot lead you on. I see no destination in front of us for our relationship.”

Vijesh considered her words in silence for a moment.

“How long do you think you will take?” He asked.

“It’s not a recipe for macaroni, Vijesh!” She cried. “I don’t know.”

Vijesh sighed. But he seemed to understand. He got up to leave. As he exited the door, he turned to Spruti and put his arms around her one last time. Looking deep into her quivering eyes, he whispered, “Let Naina down easy, okay. She will not understand.”

Spruti didn’t say a word. She closed the door behind Vijesh and leaned against it and wept her heart out.

Later that evening, in another part of town, Naina’s school had just ended for the day. She waited outside her school gates for her school bus. It was late today. Casually glancing around passing vehicles, she spotted her Paapu seated in a cab, headed out of the city.

He was in town?

“Paapu!” She called out.

Vijesh saw her and debated if he should stop. After all, the girl should hear that he and her mother had broken up from her mother. It was not his place to tell her. Not like this. Not in the middle of the road.

The cab passed on ahead. Had he not heard her? Seen her?

Naina whipped out her phone and dialled Paapu.

Vijesh saw her calls. And didn’t respond. He neither picked up nor rejected the calls. He just let the phone ring. It was already on silent anyway. The driver noticed tears in his customer’s eyes.

“Everything okay, sir?” The man asked.

Vijesh nodded. “Let’s get to the airport as soon as possible.”

The cabbie nodded and sped away.

Naina was miffed. She was angry.

Her bus arrived and she boarded it. Ignoring her chatterbox friend who sat next to her and talked on and on about this and that, she wondered why her Paapu wouldn’t answer her call. HER call!

Mumma!” She cried, murder in her voice, as she entered her house.

The lights were off and her mother was seated on the ground, her head on the couch. Her eyes were red and puffy. She had been crying.

Instantly, Naina understood what had transpired. Why Paapu had not answered her call. Why Paapu had seen her on the road and had not stopped. Why Paapu had not said goodbye to her before he had left town. She understood that her suspicions on the bus ride home were all correct.

Mumma!” She cried again, sinking to the floor in front of her mother.

“I am sorry, beta. I am sorry.” Spruti cried, raising her left arm to pull her child closer to herself.

But Naina shrank back.

“I know I am an evil, evil person.” Spruti said.

“That you are.” Naina said, coldly. Her voice choked. She rose and went to her room. “Never ever. Never ever bring another man into my life and show me what happiness can be.”

Neither of them ate dinner that night.

About the author:

Sujay Sarma is an IT industry veteran, about 43 years of age. He has spent 25 years in the IT industry and has done it all, and seen it all. Now, his passion is writing [blogs, stories, novels] and music. He has his own YouTube channel called "Sujay Sarma's Musical Adventures" where he posts his covers and originals, and a Podcast named "Interesting People Interesting Stories".