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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Grumpy Sweetheart....


Some time in 2003.........Outside Kurla Station.

Coolie Coolie........Thanda le lo.......the shouts merged into the background as the black and yellow taxi screeched to a halt outside Kurla station. Those were still the days when the blasts has not rocked Mumbai......the recession had not set in and yes the Taxis were still coloured black and yellow. Rahul effortlessly slung his heavy haversack over his shoulders, wiped the beads of sweat off his forehead, stepped out of the taxi and asked the Taxi driver "bhaiya kitna hua".....He could have addressed the driver as Bhai or Bhedu but preferred Bhaiya as he was travelling to Lucknow and there Bhaiya was everywhere.

Rahul looked at his watch and smiled, satisfied that he still had a clean hour to board his train. He liked to arrive well in time at stations and airports and bus stands so that he could observe and gather. He liked watching people, the way they dressed, the way they walked and talked, the kind of luggage they carried. He then tried to work his way into their back grounds and into their lives, into the hours preceeding their presence here. This was his way of entertaining himself and this was the way he had been trained.

He made his way into the station. His 5 feet 10 inch frame and 70 kgs did not make people sit up and stare nor did his distinct good looks let people ignore him. He was fit and at 28 felt proud that he had still maintained a flat stomach. He made his way to platform number 7 having already glanced at the notice board to make a mental note that his train was leaving from that platform.

The train had already made its way to the platform and Rahul crossed number of eager passengers loking at the reservation charts, hoping that some stroke of bad luck had not ommitted thier name from the reservation list. Porters were hauling cartons and gunny bags from carts into the brake vans. Rahul kept walking. His coach A 3 was towards the end of the train. He thought of picking up some biscuits and bottled water for the journey but then decided against it as he expected to be served atleast mineral water and snacks on the train as he had coughed up a huge sum for the AC 2 tier tickets.

Maybe he was influenced by all the other people travelling with him, or accepting the fact that bad luck could strike even him, Rahul confirmed that his name was on the reservation chart. As he moved his finger down the list of names he heard a voice behind him "Excuse me". Rahul looked back and saw this girl. Blue jeans and a black T shirt, wavy hair cascading down her shoulders, fair like marble, long delicate fingers, pink full lips, dark deep eyes. His reverie was broken as this girl said "Lets see if our names are there". It was then that Rahul noticed this young boy, about 15, tall, gawky, lost. He presumed this was her brother. Along with them was a much older man. White hair, simply dressed, strong arms. He was carring the luggage and Rahul presumed him to be their grand father or a distant Uncle.

Rahul immediately stepped aside and moved towards the door to enter the compartment and look for his berth. He liked getting his luggage in early so that he could keep it in the relatively safer location under the lower berth and towards the window. From the corner of his eyes he noticed the trio scanning the reservation chart. He hoped the girl was travelling alone.
Rahul had heard of numerous stories from friends. Stories of how when they were travelling alone on a journey and they met this sexy girl who also was apparently travelling alone and how they went up and spoke to her and how the rest of the otherwise boring train journey had become a life long memory. Secretly Rahul hoped that someday lady luck smiled on him too but deep inside he knew that even if he got lucky he would not be able to make the memories as he could never make himself speak to a unknown girl. Whether it was self respect, or the fear of rebuke or the fact that he never needed to do this as girls always walked upto him, the fact was that he could not do it.

The horn blared loudly and the train started moving, dot on time. Rahul went into the rest room and freshened himself up. He then walked upto the door and caught both handles on the opposite sides of the door with his hands. He felt the cool salty breeze on his face and felt nice. He was going to Lucknow to meet his Masi and his parents and was generally in a peppy mood. The train chugged into Karjat station and shouts of "vada paav, vada paav" brought Rahul back into the present. He was feeling a little hungry by now and procured a plate of vada paav and fried chillies. The stop was not very long and the train started moving even as he took a large bite of the paav and bit into the fried chilly.

"Mirchi nahi lagti kya aapko?" Rahul turned around to see his marble fair lady in jeans looking at him questioningly. She was even more attractive up close. He could see the thin blue veins on her fingers and fore arms. She was wearing a tight blue jeans and blue sneakers. The black sleeveless top contrasted with her fair skin. "Finished checking me out?" she continued. Not more than 20, maybe teen aged thought Rahul.

"Well, err mirchi...nahi. Wanna try some".

"No no I have more important thing to be concerned about that yeh vada paav. My kid brother is inside, we are travelling alone for the first time and we have only one confirmed birth" said the girl. Rahul finished his vada paav, downed the chilli and said "Hi, I am Rahul and i cant sleep on trains, You can take my berth. I will stand or sit here at the door" chivalrous as ever.

"I am Sheetal" replied the girl, looking him straight in the eye. Their eyes met. There was something in those eyes and smile. Inviting yet warning, pure yet adultrated, naughty yet stern...yes they were different.

They ended up talking most part of the night near the door with Rahul leaning on the wash basin and Sheetal resting her back on the opposite wall. For the most part she talked and Rahul looked. He was not much of a talker anyway. It was long since he had talked to a girl like for more than 10 minutes, forget the whole night.

"So what kind of a girl do you like" asked Sheetal
"Anykind, You'll do" She slapped him playfully.
"You know what i fantasise about?" teased Rahul
"Bolo bolo" she urged
"Well, a shapely.........bottle of chilled pepsi on a hot n humid day" This time the slap was not playful.

The night passed away effortlessly and dawn was breaking as the train was passing through a village. They decided to catch some sleep and said Good night.

Sheetal sunggled in next to her brother and Rahul to his berth. It took a long time for sleep to set in. He kept reviewing the talk with her in his mind. " Should i ask her for her number, or will that make me look like a despo?" He had learned that Sheetal had just come down to Mumbai for a holiday and was based in Lucknow, in college. So there was no chance of meeting her again unless he made an effort now. Unable to decide, he decided to sleep on it.

He was shaken up by a tug at his feet. He was up in a flash sitting on his berth fully awake. He had been woken up in numerous other rougher ways and this was loving in comparison. He saw his lady in jeans standing in the alleyway and beckoning him with a finger.

"Hmmm, no Good morning, no please! A dominating one" thought Rahul

He jumped down cleanly from the top berth and followed Sheetal out to the now familiar territory near the door.

" We will reach Lucknow in about an hour" started Sheetal "Want my number so that we can stay in touch?"

"Well, looks like someone else also slept on this question" mused Rahul
"Well yes... I mean sure give me your nuumber"
"9839091240, Call me anytime or message. I have no issues". Rahul made a mental note of the number and his gaze shifted to her eyes. "Naughty eyes" he thought to himself.

They chit chatted and Rahul's gaze drifted to Sheetals hands. "Wow, delicate and well manicured, slight nail polish, not too dark, not transparent". He nearly fell onto her as the train braked.
"Well thats it, I guess. We move on now. Call me if you feel like" With that Sheetal collected her bags and kid brother and got down on the station and immediately got lost in the crowd.

Mumbai 2003 - 2005

Rahul got back to Mumbai after his vacation to Lucknow followed by a short stay in Delhi. He had tried to forget Sheetal and her marble skin, but without success. He had on numerous occassions treaded on the thin line one side of which urged him to call her and the other side of which told him to control himself and move on.

"Huuuloh" said a very mature voice on the other side. Rahul had finally mustered up the courage and called her up. The voice on the other side sounded very mature and lady like. Most unlike the chirpy Sheetal he had encountered on the train.

"Must be her Mom....Shit. Anyway, forget it. I'd better not call again". It was only later that Rahul came to know that Sheetal's phone was never answered by anyone else. She never parted with her phone.

A day or two passed with Sheetal never leaving his mind. Finally when he could take it no more he texted her "I still fantasise about you". No reply as the day passed and the next.

He called her again. "Huuuloh" said the same voice.
"Err...Hello.....Hmmmm Aunty can I speak with Sheetal please" fumbled Rahul.

"This is Sheetal Dumbo, and why did you hang up the other day. Are you afraid of me?"

"How did you know this is me? It never occured to me you were smart".

"Well, its only you who can fantasise about a bottle of Pepsi and me at the same time" and they both burst out laughing.

The bond grew after that. They were hesitant at first.

"Can I call you pls now?" messaged Rahul. "There is no need to seek my permission. If you feel like calling, just call" answered Sheetal

Slowly and steadily they grew close. They messaged each other every day. Rahul called most times and Sheetal always took his call. Sometimes their banter was friendly, sometimes playful. Sometimes it bordered on being mildy erotic.

"What would you have done on the train that night if I had let you?" asked Sheetal

"What do you mean let me? You were actually falling on me. Which decent girl asks a guy mirchi lag rahi hai kya when you dont know him at all?"

"Shut up! I was just concerned, as you did not even have a bottle of water with you"

"Well.....I would have taken your hand in mine.......and pulled you close...."

"then" asked Sheetal

"Looked into your eyes and slowly brushed my lips against yours while my hands..."

"Thats enough" shot Sheetal "Despo"

Somehow the lives of Rahul and Sheetal moved in tandem. In Jul 2005 Rahul got selected to undergo his PG in Kharagpur and at the same time Sheetal finished her graduation in Lucknow and decided to do her MBA from Delhi.

"Hey, I have got admission in Amity in Noida. Had to pay a huge donation. Luckily Dad is a businessman" quipped Sheetal. "I know you will also be moving to Kharagpur soon. Since we both will be changing cells lets exchange our numbers over email. Take care till then and be good, naughty boy"

Kharagpur 2005 - 2007

"Yippee....I have a lappie" she had not meant it to rhyme, but thats the way it ended up.

Rahul wondered what a lappie was. She had finally called. Rahul had moved to Kharagpur and was trying to get used to the scorching sun and the unrelenting heat. It had been about 10 days since he had reached there and there was still no news from Sheetal. He had left his new cell number on her email and was expecting a call from her anytime.

"Laptop, idiot." she continued. They started talking on a daily basis from then on. Rahul was finding studying difficult after a long gap and life in Amity was different for Sheetal after the comforts of home. "They have given me a ground floor room. Its actually in the basement. Its damp and cold. I need to go home and get some blankets and some utensils"

Rahul had lived many years of his life in hostels and so was her guiding star. "Get a emersion rod and make maggi at night. Keep pickles, bread and biscuits in your room at all times" He advised her.

With the sudden freedom Sheetal was also freaking out. "You know there is this cute guy in my class. Hes chooo cute" she told him one day.

On another day "You know I met this merchant Navy guy and I made him do things to me in the back seat of the car"

"Dont do that Sheetal. It will so embarassing if you get caught by someone. Also atleast meet a guy twice before getting physical with him". Rahul scolded her.

First year was soon coming to an end for both of them. They had found another means of staying connected. Google Talk. Both their campuses were connected to the internet and Sheetal was online most times from her lappie.

December 2006

"You know I met this guy at a party and I mailed him a flirtatious mail. Sheetal told Rahul. "I have forwarded the mail to you he he"

Rahul went through the mail and launched at her again. "Sheetal thats so cheap. You are literally telling him that you are available and want to go to bed with him. How cheap can you get" Sheetal just smiled. She was always this way naughty, sunky and a mind of her own.

Another week later she told him "I spent last night with Chintu".

"Shit, thats quick even by your low standards" said Rahul. They had started addressing this guy as Chintu now. Sheetal slowly grew close to him. Chintu stayed alone in an apartment in Malviya Nagar and she slowly started spending most nights with him. They were virtually living in together. Sheetal used to catch an auto to college each morning and back at night to be with her new found love.

Looking back I think that was the time when the rift began.

Rahul till then over the years had come to depend very heavily on Sheetals friendship. He had got used to speaking to her everyday and messaging her whenever he was free. But with Chintu, for the first time since they had met Sheetal found herself busy and occupied.

Sometimes she would not take Rahul's call. At other times she told him that she was busy and he should not call him after 5 in the evening as she was with Chintu.

When she did take his call, the coversation was Chintu centric. "We went shopping for the house today. Bought some curtains and mats and vegetables" or "I met Chintu's friends at this party yesterday. You know Chintu is so hard working, all his friends admire him".

On one such occasion Rahul found Sheetal to be a little put off, a little cut up. "What happened baby" he asked her?

"Kuch nahi, I should not sleep with Chintu everyday na" she asked him.

"How come you getting what I am saying. What knocked your head?"

"I missed my period" she broke down finally. I am 4 days over due. "Shit, what am I going to do?"

"Have you told Chintu?" was the first thing Rahul asked.

"No"

"Why?"

"He wont understand and wont take it seriously. Help me Rahul" she continued.

"What can I do. I warned you before. Should have atleast used a condom. Anyway lets wait for a few days more" Rahul told her.

A few days passed. Rahul called her everyday and asked how things were. She had shifted back to her hostel room as she wanted to be alone she said.

After a couple of days. "Any luck?" Rahul asked her.

"No re. Rahul what will happen if I am pregnant?"

" Well if you are then we will get an abortion done. I have friends there. I will put you through. It will be taken care of"

"Will you come here to be with me?" she asked

"You want me there?"

"Yes, I need you if the situation arises. Promise me you will come."

"Why, you have your Chintu there with you na"

"I dont trust him half as much as I trust you sweetie" she said

"In that case, Promise"

A few days later Sheetal had her period and a few days after that she was back with Chintu.

Delhi 2007

Rahul finished his PG and moved to Delhi. He expected to meet Sheetal regularly now. Althought they had not met much but they had talked nearly every day for the last 4 years and messaged and chatted on a regular basis. Sheetal had become a part of Rahul's life.

Sheetal meanwhile had finished her MBA and had had joined Fermosa. It was her first job and she was loving it.

"Congrats" said Rahul " Now you treat me and also give me Five Lakh when I need to take possession of my house. You are a rich lady lady now. MBA and all.

"Le lena yaar, jo chaiye jab chaiye"

"Acha, you are saying it now. When the time comes you will not even recgnise me". It is said that saraswati sits on the tongue once in 24 hours. It was just that once for Rahul. He had no idea how true this statement of his was going to be.

Sheetal stuck with that job for a few months. It involved a lot of interviews and hiring and travelling. The salary was also not upto her expectations. She was on the look out for a change and jumped on it when she got the oppurtunity. A friend of hers told her about this opening at naukri.com and she took it up.

She got busy in her life with naukri and Chintu and the daily calls to Rahul reduced to once in two days and then three.

"Hey, Ive seen this profile on orkut. This guys a bengali and parents are in Kolkata. We have chatted and he seems nice" She told Rahul on one of the now occassional phone calls. Chintu went out of her life and Mr Kolkata came in. He seemed to be making all the right moves and touching all the right chords of her heart.

Jan 2008

The calls reduced to once a week and then fewer.

One one such call. "Rahul, I think I have screwed my life enough. I have had enough of these flings and relationships and I want to unwind and get a grip on my life now"

"Does that mean this is your last call to me?" asked Rahul

"Well for some time atleast" said Sheetal

"Sheetal, why do I feel like I am the only one getting this treatment from you? Have you quit talking to all your other Chintus" asked Rahul sarcastically. He had been expecting this for a long time and still did not know how to react when it was actually happening. He had grown to depend on Sheetal. Had got used to her calls and messages. He had got used to having her in his life.

Time moved on. Rahul knew what she was dong was right but his heart did not accept it. He messaged her occassionally.

"Why me Sheetal? Why only me. We were so close and like the best friends. Why you doing this to me?"

He gave her missed calls but she completely ignroed him.

Sometime in May 08 she gave him a missed call back when he gave her one of his routine missed calls. It had been months since she had messaged him. He missed her voice. This was her signal that she wanted him to call.

"Hello" he said gruffly.

"Kya Hua? she asked.

"Kuch nahi, how come today you decided to let me speak with you?" His sarcasm knew no end.

"Rahul, you have to understand. I want to undo whatever wrong I have done in life. I need some space and time to think about my life and move on in life. I have had enough of these time pass relations which have no future."

"Why only me?" said Rahul

"Give me time. Let me sort things out. If I feel like I will revert to you. Try and understand"

"Ok" said Rahul and kept the phone.

Now.....May 2009

About a year has passed since then. Sheetal never reverted. Rahul keeps visiting her profile sees that her profile says she is married. Mr Kolkata is her husband. He cant see any of her snaps or read her scraps (to know how she is faring in life) as he is not there on her friends list anymore. Chintu still figures in her friends list.

Rahul still waits for her to revert.


5 comments:

Vandana Natu - Writer & Filmmaker said...

Wonderful! So well written....straight from the heart. Such a difficult task to gather memories and chronicles scattered in time and binding them together into a story so true to it's being. It has a soul. Cheers to it. Please keep writing.... would love to read more!

Nishtha said...

This was a complete surprise and I wonder why you never wrote anything before when you have such a vision. I liked both, your writing and the story. Hope you continue with the same :)

Kunal said...

Cool imagination and nice flow of thoughts, understandable English and proper grammar :) 10/10 for this. I am sure there must be many such Rahul and Sheetal.
Overall a beautiful story on which a future director (SG) can make a successful movie.

Sourabh said...

Only one word BHOKAAALFelt like a true story[;)].
For such a lovely story I just want to dedicate few lines of Dr. Kumar Bishwas.
"Samander peer ka andar hai lekin roo nahin sakta,

Yeh aansoon pyar ka moti hai isko kho nahin sakta;

Meri chhahat ko dulhan tu bana lena magar sun le,

Jo mera ho nahin paya wo tera ho nahin sakta;"

Suravi said...

I liked the story especially the first part...so beautifully described the simple pleasures in life....the vada paav...yummm..and always feels good when a dream comes true...Love your stories....fun and interesting to read and sometimes emotional.