Continued from Chapter 8
Spruti opened her eyes slowly. She looked around her small but private hospital room. Instruments above and behind her were beeping every so many moments to signal that she was okay. For once, it was the same room that she had lost consciousness in. Turning her head, she looked at the couch against the wall off to one side of her bed. Sprawled on it were the two people in the world that she loved the most.
One had not taken off his tie, it hung loosened around his neck. His coat was a mess. One shoe was on and the other missing. He had his face turned up to the ceiling and was snoring. The other had her head full of browned up wavy hair on the man’s chest. She slept too.
She watched them silently for a moment. A tear of happiness rolled down her cheeks. It had been quite a while since the three of them were under the same roof, in one room. Naina had gone to London three years ago to pursue her graduate studies…
Spruti fumbled with the lock on her apartment door when a hand touched hers. She saw the bulging veins on his hands and knew who it was.
“Here. Let me.” He offered.
Silently, she handed him the keys. He opened the door. He didn’t need an invitation to follow her in. For a while, she sat silently.
“I need some tea. Would you like some too?” He asked, finally.
“Tea? Have you changed your habits?” She looked up.
“Of course not. But some moods and occasions necessitate tea over coffee.” He smiled back. “Like when it rains.”
“It is not raining now.” She pointed out.
With a finger, he simply drew two wavering lines on his own cheeks. “Yes they are.” He added, simply.
Spruti wandered into the kitchen behind him and hopped onto the counter. She watched him make tea.
“When did you learn to do this?” She asked him.
“After you left.” He said. His voice choked back tears.
While the tea boiled on the stove, Spruti stared into the eyes of the man she had once loved. Loved deeply. “You know…” She began.
He shook his head. “No Spruti. Don’t go there. We are history. But that does not mean that I cannot be there for you when you need to cry.”
“Satish, if you had done this sixteen years ago…” She mused.
He nodded. “I was dumb, back then.”
Tea was made. They drank it on her balcony.
“You need to move on.” He told her.
“From what? From who?” She asked.
“From me. From us.” He answered. “I know. I have been a horrible horrible man. I know I hurt you. I know you deserved much better.”
“Are you trying to woo me?”
“No.” He shook his head strongly. “Like I said, we were over a long time ago. Also, I am gay now.”
“Ah!” She sighed. “When I start to like someone, they move so far away.”
“Oh come on, now Spru…” He consoled her. “Now, tell me why you are upset and moody…. But before you begin, don’t start with Naina went off to London. I know that one.” He grinned.
“Where do I begin!” She sighed.
She told him everything. She told him about Abhishek. She told him about Vijesh. She told him about how Abhishek had broken her heart. She told him about how she had broken Vijesh’s heart. She also told him about Naina. How she had broken Naina’s heart. How she had caused her daughter to turn into a person she did not recognize.
“You know, Vijesh is a great guy. A gem.” Satish told her as he helped her put away the plates after dinner.
“Do you know him? Aagaye character certificate dene!” She chided him and laughed. She stopped herself mid-laughter. She had forgotten she could do that.. laugh. She was surprised to hear herself laugh.
“Go on. Laugh. Bring some joy into your life.” Satish encouraged her.
The next morning, Satish left. But before going, he put his arms around his wife from long ago and held her close. Giving her a kiss on her cheeks, he told her: “Don’t waste your life this way. Go, get him my sherni !”
“How have you been?”
“Okay, I guess. How come yaad kiya suddenly?”
“I miss you. I would like to see you.“
“What.. video call?”
“No. Meet with me.”
From the tone of her voice, Vijesh guessed that she wanted him back. But his heart warned him not to get too excited. The first few minutes were awkward. The last time he had seen her was outside a court house, after he had helped get her out of Naina’s allegation that Spruti had tried to kill him with her car. At that time, Vijesh had reconciled that what had happened had been an accident. But he could not bring himself to trust her again with his heart.
“So…” He said, after he had finished the entire glass of lemonade she had served him. “You called me all this way for a glass of lemonade?”
She shook her head. Took a deep breath. “Do I have to speak everything?”
He stood up.
She stood up, she had concern in her eyes. Was he leaving? Did she say something wrong again? Her eyes darted nervously.
Vijesh took a step toward the door. She moved quickly and intercepted him. Still saying nothing. Still anxious.
“Kya?” He asked.
She still said nothing.
“Should I not leave?”
Without warning, Vijesh put his arms around her and pulled in close to him. She tried to wriggle out of his arms. He held her tightly. She closed her eyes and wept. He kissed her. On her eyes. On her forehead.
Tilting her head up toward his face, “Vij…” She began.
He kissed her on her lips. She had told him once a long time ago that she did not like tongue in a kiss. He refrained from using his. He kissed her till she stopped sobbing. She buried her head in his chest.
Finally, he led her to the bathroom and helped her wash her face.
“Oh my God.” He sighed as she dabbed a towel to dry her face.
She looked at him.
“You look so beautiful when you cry. I should make you cry more often.”
She threw the towel at him.
Vijesh stayed the night. It was his first time properly alone with her. He cooked dinner while she talked. She smiled again. She laughed again. She was happy again.
“What made you call me?”
“Satish…” She said.
Somehow, Vijesh never asked her what Satish had told her. “Oh.” Was all that he responded.
That night, there was thunder and lighting in the skies outside. It rained all night. The news channels reported stories of flooding and much hardship all over the city. But two people… two people, did not even hear the thunder. They didn’t hear the rain. They didn’t even hear the neighbour from the apartment below bang on their door to keep it down.
“Do we tell her?” Spruti asked Vijesh the next morning as he brought her coffee in bed. “Should we tell her?”
“Gawd! Do you discuss your sex life with your daughter?” He faked.
“Not this, you silly.” Spruti laughed, gathering up the sheets around her naked body. “About us. That we are together.”
“Next week.” Vijesh said, sliding into bed and kissing her. “Next week.”
Spruti saw very little of Vijesh the following week. When he was with her, he giggled a lot and seemed to be tense about something.
“What’s up with you? Gone crazy?” She asked him.
“Ever since I met you.” He joked.
One day, as she drove back home from work, suddenly the road by the ice cream parlour went deserted. All the people that were milling around there seconds ago, suddenly turned and ran away to the side. Her heart skipped a beat. A traffic policeman on a motorcycle overtook her car and motioned for her to stop. She stopped.
“Roll down your window” He motioned with his hand and sped away.
She rolled down her window.
Music started playing from somewhere. On loudspeakers. At first she did not recognize the song. Then the keys started to play. It was the song “Tu mere saamne” from the classic Hindi movie “Baazigar“.
A throng of youngers reappeared on the road and formed a pattern. Then in unison, they started dancing.
Tu mere samne!
Mein tere samne!
It came to her that this was the song that had been playing when she had first run into Vijesh at the Dandiya party years ago. Oh my God! She sat down on the road divider.
The people on the road were still doing their flashmob dance sequence. Spruti was in tears of joy. She realized what was happening.
Tujhko dekhoon ke pyar karoon?
Yeh kaise hogaya?
Vijesh appeared from the crowd. He was dancing too. Badly, but he was moving with the beat. She got up and walked slowly to him.
Tu meri hogayi…
Kaise mein aitbaar karoon?
He put his arms around her, twirled her around and sang:
Teri zulfonse khelunga mein…
Tujhko baahon mein leloonga mein!
Dil to dete hain aashiq sabhi,
Jaan bhi tujhpe de doonga mein!
She realized it was the female turn in the song. She picked it up:
Mere hothon ke gulaab maangle!
Meri aankhon se sharaab maangle!
Tera jaadu chalgaya, O Jaadugar…
Right there in front of everyone, he kissed her. She kissed him back. The crowd chanted:
Is kahaani ke sau saal hain…
Is jawaani ke sau saal hain…
Yeh tere pyar ke chaar pal,
Zindagani ke sau saal hain!
Vijesh broke away from the song and knelt down on the road in front of her. He pulled out a jewel box from his jeans pocket and opened it. Spruti was already nodding ‘yes’.
“Spruti, would you do the honor of marrying this poor idiot?” Vijesh asked. “I offer you nothing more than smiles and happiness.”
Spruti nodded. He placed the ring on her finger. She pulled him up, holding his head and they kissed again. The mob around them had stopped dancing and were now clapping and cheering.
Holding hands, Spruti and Vijesh took a bow. He led her into the parlor for ice cream. As they entered, the shop clerk handed Vijesh his mobile. It looked like he had been filming the whole thing.
“So, what did you think?” Vijesh asked, panting, into the phone.
“Oh! I am so happy for you guys!” Came Naina’s voice from the phone.
“Naina!” Spruti cried happily, grabbing the phone.
“You knew too?” She laughed.
“Who do you think did all the planning?” Her daughter winked.
“Look!” Spruti showed off her ring to her daughter.
Naina beamed and smiled.
Three months later, when Naina was home for the holidays, Spruti and Vijesh got married in a small, simple court ceremony. Some family and a few friends dropped by to congratulate the new couple.
“I wonder why Satish didn’t attend.” Spruti mused as the three of them drove to their apartment.
“Oh, Mumma, don’t you know?”
“Daddy passed away a year ago.”
“WHAT!” She cried.
“Yeah.” Vijesh consoled her. “I didn’t want to scare you the other day.”
“So that was a….” Spruti gasped. “His…”
“Whatever he was, thankfully, he brought you to your senses.” Vijesh laughed. “In the end, that’s what matters.”
BACK TO THE PRESENT…
Vijesh had been on an international tour since last month. He had promised to visit Naina on his way back. Apparently the two had rushed here, hearing about her condition. Oh, Surenderji !
Spruti cleared her throat.
“Mumma!” Naina was the first to wake up and peer at her. She saw her Spruti was looking at them, with a smile on her lips and drying tears of joy on her cheeks. “Paapu…”
“Hmmm?” Vijesh stirred awake. He pushed Naina off to a side and swung to Spruti’s bedside. “How are you darling?”
“Now that you are here, I can close my eyes in peace.” She answered.
Naina looked on at the scene with disgust. “Give it a rest you two!” She laughed. “Always with the melodramatics.”
“Aaja beta.” Her mom called her.
Naina didn’t waste a second getting to her mother’s bedside.
Spruti hugged them both tightly and wept.
“Have you seen the baby?” Spruti asked into Naina’s hair.
Naina nodded. “She has Paapu‘s eyes.” She whispered.