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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Reincarnation

This is another attempt at writing a short story. Call it a mere whim or the byproduct of a sleepless night. I don't know how it's going to end but if I don't feel drowsy by the time I finish this, I'll get back to my unfinished Economics chapter. Until then...

I had fallen in love with him even before I had met him. Dev was the best friend of Rimi, my roommate in the first year of junior college. She'd talk of him so often and so highly that I suspected her boyfriend, Neel, had a strong contender. I asked her once, "Didn't you ever fall for him or something?" She smiled and tried to evade the question. When I insisted, she replied, "He's not the kind you can own. You can only admire him from a distance and sigh and wish he were yours." I knew instantly my instinct had been right, and I believe it was exactly that moment when I told myself that I was in love with that man. The allure of the unattainable is great.

I saw him for the first time on the evening of Rahul's birthday. He had walked in late after a long day at office. Someone teased him saying, "Yeah, celebrities arrive last". But Dev merely flashed a disarming smile. Oh that smile! How could I forget it. It haunted me for nights and gave me sleepless dreams. I thought of him often and hoped I could see him again. The moment he had walked in, I knew it was him- I had seen his photographs in Rimi's album. I was singing an old romantic song when he had treaded into the parlor and I stopped dead. Everyone stared where my gaze was fixed and my voice was lost. Rahul, of course, was angry because Dev had gotten late. He considered Dev his best friend. That was a rule with Dev. Everyone esteemed him as his best friend. I wondered if he regarded any one of them as his. Probability was zero. I observed that even with his spontaneous good humor, he had a strange aloofness about him.

It took me a few more days in R&D to extract from Rahul that Dev's father was suffering from cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy. He was supporting his mother and younger sister financially by working in Delhi and staying away from his family. He had a job offer nearer his hometown, but the salary negotiations were not going according to his intent, and so he was wondering if it was a good idea to shift his family, specially since his sister was in her final year of secondary education. "Maybe they'll shift next year, and his sister can try to get admitted in some college in DU. She's a bright girl, not unlike her brother." I smiled and thought, " She'd better be. I don't want to lose the opportunity of telling him how I feel about him just because she can't manage to get admissions somewhere here, and he has to change bases for that." In those days, when deciding which flavor of coffee to order was the most serious decision I took during the whole day, everything seem to be colored in sync with my imagination. Everything seemed possible, yet impossible.

I tried a lot to catch his attention, but he politely avoided me. And I felt frustrated, unable to figure out why a young, attractive girl like me, who had a decent number of wooers, failed miserably to stir the man in him.

Then one day, I tried to make a desperate attempt. We were strolling after dinner, when Rahul and Dev had joined us in campus. Rimi, Neel and Rahul had fallen behind and I had paced up with Dev, pretending to listen to him. While all the while, all I was thinking of was how to make him kiss me without appearing too eager. But then I saw him looking at his watch and I felt Rahul et al would catch up with us soon. I had to act quick. I stopped suddenly and held his wrist, gesturing him to stop. He looked at me questioningly, though I suspected that he knew fairly well what I was up to. He was 29 years old, almost 10 years elder to me. He couldn't have been that naive! All my fantasies about love's first kiss was about to come true and I closed my eyes in anticipation. It was a starry night and the pebble laid path that led to the campus entrance was deserted. I could feel the wind gently blowing my hair on my face. I imagined him to put them behind my ears with his fingers. But nothing happened. I opened my eyes to see a ludicrous look on his face. And then suddenly, unexpectedly he said: "You are so young! You have to learn to control your emotions. Things can go terribly wrong if you are not careful! "

I had never felt so insulted in my not-so-long life. It was my turn to wear the expression of absurdity. My face felt hot and suddenly I wished I hadn't come out for the stroll. I wanted the others to join us as soon as possible so that I didn't have to be in the company of that horrible, frigid man. He looked like a cold corpse in the moonlight. I heard footsteps and exhaled deeply in relief. And then I made up some excuse about an assignment the following day and bade the others good bye.

Days passed, I kept a low social profile. I hardly talked to Rimi and when she asked me in clean mirth one day, "What is it? Or who is it?" , I completely ignored her question and started scribbling vigorously in my notebook a flowchart with misplaced connectors.

It was the final year of my college. Things had changed considerably. There was love lost between Neel and Rimi and they had broken up. She had left residing on-campus in the beginning of third year and I hardly interacted with her since. In fact, I hardly saw her in college. I wondered if she had dropped out but the idea seemed too far fetched even for someone with a fertile imagination like me. I had taken up part-time modeling for fun. But now that I had got placed in an IT consultancy firm, I was faced with the decision to pursue my part-time hobby as a full-time job or let it remain a secondary career.

I decided on the later. My parents who had a conservative value system did not approve of my hobby. Initially, they only thought that their kid was just getting her pictures clicked in a few stupid poses, but when a Marketing Communications professional saw me and offered me to pose for a lingerie ad, my mom almost threw a fit about it. My father simply nodded his head in disapproval and I understood what it meant. He never had to say a definitive no. His authority on me was greater than that.

One day, while heading for work, I came across Rahul. He said that he was getting married the following month and he was organizing his last bachelor birthday party at his house. I asked in as much disinterested and conversational tone as I could possibly feign "Dev must have been married by now?" Rahul gave his characteristic laugh which some people could easily mistake for an animal's snort, and opined: "Oh no no! He's still playing the role of an eligible bachelor. Btw, he's coming to the party."

He needn't have said more. All the past memories flooded back to me. The evening, the wind, the stars- I remembered Dev exactly the way I had seen him the last time and unanticipatedly my head felt heavy as if I had a drink too much. Or as if I finally had a hangover from that night. I counted days till I could see him again. And the day finally arrived.

But once again, it wasn't as I had expected. When I saw Dev, I felt that he had aged ten times more than the world around him. But that wasn't an issue, his gaze had turned hazy and if I might say - lecherous. He kept staring at me throughout the evening and kept undressing me with his eyes. It didn't make me uncomfortable, because I had gotten used to such looks. But he disgusted me outrightly. The Dev I had loved and had fond memories of was nowhere. This pitiable, sex-starved creature was not even his shadow. I was not acting self-righteous, but I was turned off completely. And I couldn't help it. I didn't want to help it in anyway.

I walked out of the hall into the balcony with my glass of cocktail. It was a clear starry night again. After a while, Dev walked into the porch too. He seemed drunk or at least high on something. He talked with a slur and told me:You look different. You look ... sexy

I didn't know whether to take it as a compliment, but I said, "Thanks" perfunctorily.

"I heard that you have started modeling and stuff.. that's good. You have changed.. changed a lot."

"People change"
I said without any real affection.

"No, I mean, look at you. You look seemly.. simly.. simp..ly.. amazing ! I have been thinking about you a lot lately." At this, he drew closer to me and I could feel his hot, fervent breath on my face." I... I have been a fool.."

I glanced at him one last time and decided my mind. I turned several degrees to my right, away from him and said, "My glass is empty, excuse me." And I walked into the hall again. He probably got the clue and didn't bother me for the rest of the evening. Only when I was about to leave, he said, "Hey, I am sorry. I didn't mean to offend you." I said," It's ok " and walked out into the night.

27 comments:

DS said...

good one yaar! loved it...
continue with ur short stories, its good, really!

Sam said...

good job!!! liked the way you wrote it... fluid to say the least...
and well guess some things are never meant to be!!

Aparna Kar said...

@sam
Oye ! Stop quoting me ! Hee Hee. Kidding . Read this

Aparna Kar said...

@DS
Gee, thanks. Never seen you on my blog before or have I?

Btw, Sam did you notice DS is the inverse of your initials? Interesting isn't it?

Munmun said...

The plot is very good, I like the abrupt end, but somehow felt the fluidity could have been better - like your earlier short story.

Though you might think who am I to critique, but just a suggestion; your earlier story was kind of predictable but loved the grip of fluidity in that.

But all in all, this is nice :) Keep up the good work!

Anirban Kar said...

I liked the abrupt ending. It was really fascinating.
Rizu.

Sam said...

@aparna: yeah i did!! :)
btw, wer did i qoute you???? :o

Sam said...

btw, read thos two stories.. and now i knw.... sorry, ma'am wasn't qouting u at all!!
loved the way u wrote them to be honest... as if it was unfolding right in front of my eyes like soem screenplay!!

Bubbles of FireWhiskey said...

loved it... its amazing how you've managed to capture the changes that an individual goes through with time...

candid diary said...

Fabastic!!!
I have a gut feeling that I know all those characters behind the masks of Rimi, Neel, Rahul and the story teller 8-)|

Aparna Kar said...

@candid
Lol.. yeah, the lingerie ad and the authoritative father was such a give away :P But don't read too much into the characters. It's a story after all :D

Aparna Kar said...

@bubbles
Hee hee thanks. But I think I could do better. Just didn't want to get into the details :D

Aparna Kar said...

@Sam
I was kidding of course. It seems that we were just thinking on the same lines :) Btw, this reminds me these are not my maiden attempts at short stories after all !

Aparna Kar said...

@anirban
Thanks.

Aparna Kar said...

@Munmun
You are more than welcome to express your opinion, that is why it is a public blog in the first place :) Will see what I can do about it. Needs a bit of polishing anyways.

Matangi Mawley said...

hey..

whn i started reading it, i felt like- dev was sme howard roark.. bt then.. the end was totally unpredictable!

good 1!

saikat said...

awesome :)

hope u r doing fine :)

raawk oN..keep smiliN :)

Aparna Kar said...

@anirban
Btw, why do you think it's an 'abrupt' ending? Where you expecting an "..and they lived happily ever after?" :D

Aparna Kar said...

@saikat
I'm doing great re.. Will call you up sometime soon . TCOY

Aparna Kar said...

@Matangi Mawley
Howard Roark? Hmm. I haven't finished reading 'The Fountainhead', but whatever acquaintance I had with him made me feel that the protagonist was an idealist. Dev- the deuteragonist is quite different :) But some attractive men (not in the traditional sense of view) have the some things in common and follower of one of the infallible rules of courting -"Don't exhibit too much interest. Keep them guessing." :P

Matangi Mawley said...

true

aditya said...

Well written.

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Aareet Krsna said...

Few narrations hold me to an internet page longer than this.

Great stuff!

Aparna Kar said...

@Aareet Krsna
10 mins 56 secs? :)

Aparna Kar said...

@aditya
Thanks. But I'm disappointed :( I wanted something more intense. I could have tried, but my head is heavy from sleeplessness right now. Maybe soon..

Aareet Krsna said...

Haha I have no idea how you came up with that number - but if it's real..then yeah..10 minutes 56 seconds is a long time on an internet page :D