Hello my dearest friends!With all your love and encouragement, I'm opening up the third thread of my story with this update!Bada wala thank you sabko!I'm not really happy with the way the part has come out, but do drop in your comments...and zyada dukhi mat hona yaar!
Thread 1: Thread 1
Thread 2: Thread 2
Part 26: Here’s to the Conversations
"Ek baat puchun?
Naina nodded. She glanced at himfor an instant and then reverted her eyes to the papers spread over the desk.
"Tumhe...mera matlab aapko paisonki itni zarurat kaise aa padi...sab theek hai? Sameer asked finally. He'd been achingto do so for a long time, but never knew if it was suitable for him to pry intoher private matters. But the way she'd wished him on her birthday, coupled withthe wonderful surprise party thrown by his family and friends the past Saturdayhad somehow emboldened him to take the step.
Naina looked up at him again andSameer instantly regretted his question.
"Mujhe laga tha hum personalmatters nahi discuss karte? She cocked her brows.
"Oh...oh yeah...sorry! Forget it!Sameer mumbled.
Naina couldn't help but smile. "It'sokay!
"Vaise aapse kisne kaha ki mujhepaison ki zarurat hai? she whispered.
"Wo meri PA ne tumhe tumhare...aapkehusband ke saath baat karte suna tha...jab aap...tum write-up dene aayi thi...! Sameerwas feeling increasing uncomfortable now.
Naina's brows furrowed as if shewas recollecting. And then her eyes found his again. "Aapne usi wajah se mujhecall kiya kya...yeh offer?
"Nain...Reena! Sameer took a deepbreath as he corrected himself. "Aap apne aap ko underestimate karna kab bandkarengi...aap mein talent hai...hamesha se tha...wo to us din...mujhe kaafi gussa aagaya...aise suddenly tum saamne...aur maine kaafi kharab se bola I know and I'mreally sorry for that! But agar tumhara...aapka write-up itna acha nahi hota tofor sure, main yeh offer nahi rakhta...as I've said before...main paise offerkarta...loan dena offer karta ya aapko kahin aur recommend karta...business ke bhi kuchusool hote hain.
"Hmmm..., Naina murmured.
"Vaise nahi batana chahti tohit's okay! Sameer added.
After a moment's pause, Naina replied."Meri isse pehle to kuch khas income rahi nahi hai...Arvind ki income pe hi sabkuch chalta hai mera...aur filhaal unki research ko zyada grant nahi hai yahanpe...so thodi tangi hai!
Sameer cocked his head. "Agaryahan grant nahi hai to fir tum log America se wapis kyun aaye?
"Hum log? Naina blinked, tryingto comprehend.
"Haan tum log...wapis kyun aaye?Sameer prompted again.
"Ohh! Naina assessed him for amoment before answering. "Recession sa samajh lo! Bio-Technology ka boom khatamsa ho gaya...IT ka trend aa gaya...Arvind ki job chali gayi kyunki unke projects kifunding renew nahi huyi...fir Visa bhi extend nahi hua job search ke liye...yahanAIIMS mein ek Research Assistant ki job mili to wo le li unhone...lekin filhaalus tankwah pe ghar chalana mushkil hai...!
"Ohh...hmm..., Sameer muttered,unsure of what to say next. Were the earnings of the scientists in his countryso trifling? That was a sorry state of affairs indeed!
"Chinta mat kijiye...sab theek hojayega! he tried to reassure her.
Naina smiled sadly, "shayad.
After a few minutes, she liftedher head, "ek baat bolun?
Sameer met her gaze, "boliye na!
"Aap' bolne ki zarurat nahi hai...tum' bol sakte ho. I don't mind. Personal life mein nahi jaana hai I canunderstand, but yeh cheez bhi to hai na ki chahe kitni koshish kar lein...humajnabi to nahi hain... She finished, unsure of his response.
Sameer pondered over her words.That was true. Trying to evade the fact that they knew and loved, nocorrection, he loved her, wouldn't do. They may try to act as strangers, butthe truth was they did not feel like that to each other. Not even after allthese years- a deception, a marriage and a kid separating them.
He pursed his lips, "okay...tumbhi!
Naina smiled, nodded her headpolitely and got back to work.
Waiting forNaina on their appointment days or seeing her ride off home had become aroutine for Sameer. He knew his obsession with her was bad for him, would wreckhim again, but his heart refused to listen to his mind.
That eveningtoo when he saw Naina fold her saree and settle onto the backseat, her hand onArvind's shoulders (much to his dismay), Sameer resorted to his favourite pasttime of the past few days- comparing his looks with A's.
His fingersgrazed his own chin, trying to see how pointed it was and then glanced at themirror he'd put up on the side of the wall. Arvind had a sharp chin. Sameercouldn't match there. He checked his nose next. Again, Arvind's was sharper.Uggh! As his eyes fell over his hair flitting across his eyes, he realizedthey'd overgrown again. And then he remembered- remembered the effect his hairhad on Naina. Though A had bountiful pleasing hair covering his head, it wasn'thalf as good as his, he thought happily. He recalled how Naina always used tosay how much she loved his long, silky hair. He even remembered their argumentback in the library, that one fateful day, when he'd named his and Naina'srelationship- which was what it actually seemed to him now, a tag of zarurat'or use'. He felt awful. He was such an imbecile, an incurable jerk! How couldhe say those words? Even by mistake? Even when he hadn't realized he'd lovedher! How would he have felt if she'd snapped those same words at him- downrightmiserable, tormented and not to mention, seriously angry. Anger- that hadalways been his weak point. He should have taken some therapy. He knew he'dmade up with her that evening, but he still regretted it. No one had the rightto insult Naina. Not even him. Especially not him.
He shifted hisgaze back to the scooter below. He wasn't lucky to catch a glimpse of Diyaoften as mostly she was in school when Naina visited, but today she was perchedat the scooter handles, blabbering something excitedly to her parents .
He sighed as Arvind steadied Diya,who was now jumping about on the scooter, while Naina laughed with her headthrown back at something he uttered. And then he saw the whole family wendtheir way down the road.
Jealousy streaked through hisveins. Rage sparked through him at seeing Naina move away from him, nearer to A,happier with A.Control Sameer!Hecommanded himself, taking in deep breaths to calm himself. He absently grazedhis fingers through his hair and then, as if on a whim, decided that he shouldstart growing it back till the same length as it was in college. Naina wouldlike it. Why would she? And even if she does, so what! She's not yours, cut itout Sameer! But Sameer ignored the protests of his subconscious and smiled anevil smirk. Despite everything, he was eager to see if his hair still had it inthem to fluster Naina. Of course- not that he was planning on sleeping with her.He wouldn't dream of it! Well, perhaps dreaming was harmless.
A month or so passed and Sameer'shair care regimen became stringent- overnight oiling with coconut and mustardoils; and the application of a curd and egg hair mask that he'd discovered in amagazine recently, every Sunday. One such Sunday afternoon, Deepika spotted himwith the said hair mask and was startled, not to mention slightly amused. Hadthe breakup somehow meddled with his hormones? That would explain his lack ofinterest in women or marriage! She began to contemplate the idea a bitseriously. She raised her brows and stood at the bathroom door as Sameer washedthe mask off in the sink and dabbed himself with the towel. As he turned about,he coloured on seeing Deepika standing with her arms crossed against her chestand wearing a smug smile. It was embarrassing to find his sister having caughthim doing girlish things. Oiling was enough, he instantly decided. No moremasks from now on!
Deepika chuckled, "bhaiya...aapladkiyon jaise...isi liye shaadi mein interest nahi hai kya?
Sameer was mortified beyondmeasure now. "Deepika! he raised his voice.
She was now laughing loudly andthen trying to subdue herself, she mumbled, "I support you...has sirf isliyerahi hun...ki aap bahot funny lag rahe ho...isliye nahi aap jo ho!
"Deepika...main normal hun okay!Aur chup raho...bas baalon ke liye dadi lagati thi bachpan mein! he liedadditionally.
Deepika nodded. And a few secondslater, she burst out laughing again. Her laugh was so infectious that Sameercouldn't help but giggle along with her.
"Sir...wow! Aapka hairstyle ekdumShahrukh wala hai! Rita declared appreciatively. Sameer's eyes dartednervously to Naina in the corner. Naina, on the other hand, was fighting not tomake a face at Rita. "Badi aayi Shahrukh style wali...jab dekho chipakti rehtihai! Naina mumbled under clenched teeth.
"Actually yeh Salman style hai!he declared. That somehow mollified Naina's unease.
"Sir...Salman ko chodo ab...Shahrukhhai naya superstar...I just love Shahrukh! Rita's expression turned dreamy andNaina and Sameer, both looked at her in horror. As she turned to look back ather boss, she became flustered as she realized her words might have offereddifferent connotations.
"Mera matlabShahrukh...actor...shayad call aa rha hai...main jaati hun... With this, shescrambled away.
Naina's eyes caught Sameer's. Anamused glint came in his eyes and he bit his lip, trying to suppress a smile.And then, unconsciously, both of them started grinning. He realized he waslaughing more freely these days than he'd had in the past five years.
Sameer then drew up a chair nextto her, consciously trying to avoid the scent of her perfume and picked up thedraft of the eighth chapter.
"Tum...wo? Naina asked, before shecould stop herself.
"Wo...main...kya? he raised hiseyes from the chapter and focused on her.
"Matlab...tum dono...wo achi dikhtihai..., Naina trailed off.
Was she jealous? Could she be?He was amazed.
This was the time to try it out.And then, acting as if it was purely unintentional, Sameer slid his fingersslowly through his hair, waiting to see her reaction. His male ego should havebeen satisfied, for he didn't miss the small gasp that escaped from her lips,before she cleared her throat and trained her eyes on the paper in front ofher.
"Hum dono saath nahi hain...agartum yeh puchna chahti ho to.
Naina looked up at his earnestface again. She nodded her head, "okay... Another moment later, Naina felt herout-of-control tongue spit out an embarrassing statement again.
"Par kyun...matlab...kabhi nahi kya?Mera matlab wo achi ladki hai...kaafi khoobsurat bhi hai...tum dono kabhi to eksaath rahe hoge! What was she saying? Shut up Naina! Do you want him to knowhow much do you still love him, despite what he did to you? That wouldn't befair to the vow she'd made to Arvind. No, she mentally shook her head. And whythe hell did he have to grow his hair back and on top of that; comb his fingersthrough them. Was he trying to seduce her again? Ohh the jerk! She just prayedto God to give her an opportunity to give Sameer a piece of her mind- just sohe'll know what his deeds did to her life. But even then, maybe, she couldn'tthink the worse for him. Love came with stupid terms and conditions, shedecided. So why should she love him? She better hate him. Yes. At that moment,however, his firm voice broke her confused reverie, "kabhi nahi!
He was watching her intently. Sheswallowed as their eyes met and stayed there for a while, each challenging theother in some unspoken duel or searching...exchanging words of...of love...,whatever, they couldn't decide. One thing was for sure, despite her promise tohate him, Naina found her spirits lifted knowing that he hadn't ever slept withRita. Even when that did not change things for her, it gave her some solace inknowing the fact that he hadn't been bedding all beautiful creatures aroundhim.
The lunch was proceeding asusual. But Sameer couldn't have been less attentive, for his mind was focusedon the blouse donned by that woman in the black chiffon saree.
"Why did she have to wear such alow cut blouse? The sleeves are so meagre! Sameer could identify a verticalstrip of white peeking out from underneath one of the sleeves. Naina looked upand found Sameer staring in her direction. She raised her eyes to question him,when Sameer thought for a moment and then subtly gestured to her side. Confused,Naina looked around, but couldn't understand. Sameer clenched his teeth, andfinally, appearing to scratch his neck, he pointed his finger onto his shoulderand then raised his eyes in her direction. Naina looked down at her shoulderand immediately realized what he was indicating at. Flushed with embarrassment,she quickly adjusted her blouse and saree to cover herself decently. Before shecould catch a glimpse of him, Sameer had turned away.
But the errant strap beganshowing again after a few minutes. Sameer was standing just behind Naina whenhe noticed it. Irked beyond reason, he immediately tuck the lone strap insidethe blouse. But the moment his hand touched her bare skin, she gasped and herealized what he'd done. They looked at each other in a mix of astonishment andhorror. For a moment, Sameer was lost in the feel of her velvety skin beneathhis fingers again and his body as if reminiscing the past, went into overdrive.It took him a good deal of control to get back to his senses. He was appalled athis audacity. What would she think of him? But Naina's thoughts herself hadstrayed pretty much in the same direction as his, though she hoped her bodyhadn't betrayed her. She'd felt herself stiffen at his touch and then preparedto melt- melt against him, wanting more of him. Her limbs had turned feeble,barely able to support her weight, while her insides pulsated with thatfamiliar warmth he used to ignite within her.
Sameer quickly retreated hishands back into his pockets, and Naina regained a handle on herself. Both castglances around, hoping no one had noticed what had just transpired. No one had.Naina turned around, as Sameer muttered a barely audible sorry and skitteredaway. Naina now covered her back completely with her saree, determined not todo with any more makeshift blouses and to take care of any wardrobemalfunctions from now on.
After the lunch was over and hecourteously bid the new suppliers farewell and muttered a mortified goodbye toher, Sameer came back to his own cabin. He quickly loosened his tie and satdown. "What had he done today at lunch? He eyed his fingers in amazement,thinking about the response a mere touch of her skin had incited in him.
He gulped. You need to stay incontrol buddy. He knew Naina was as taken aback as him, and was grateful hewasn't rewarded with a resounding slap in front of all his employees andclients. The last thing he wanted was to stoop low in the eyes of those whoworked for him- for that would've rendered the only place he could find solacein life- his office, useless.
He opened his drawer to withdrawhis wallet and saw the packet of cigarettes lying there. With difficulty, heresisted the temptation to smoke. As he pushed it back, he saw the book lyingbeneath the packet. It was Paradise', the book that Naina had gifted him longback on his birthday and the one he'd taken out on this one. He flipped throughthe pages again and before he knew, he'd sat down to read.
He didn't realize how timepassed, as he turned page upon page- finally where the character of MatthewFarrell came into the picture. And then to the meeting of the hero and theheroine- the sparks he'd felt with Naina, came alive with the fireworks of thenovel. Sameer went on to read and came to the point where the heroine ispregnant and entreats the hero to marry her and their subsequent developingfeelings for each other.
And then his heart became tooheavy reading of someone's blossoming love and their resulting separation. Hequietly inserted the bookmark and folded the book. As he held it, he wonderedwhat if Naina had been carrying his child? Would she have wanted to marry himfor the sake of her family and society? Would he not have done more thanperhaps Matt could ever do to ensure that both the mother and child werewell-loved and happy? If only, that had been the case. If only!
He sighed and smacked himself forhis random musings. He looked out of the window- he could see the streetlightscoming on as the dusk had lent way to night. He composed himself, replaced thebook in the drawer and made for home.
That night as he slept, he had aweird dream- Naina rushes to tell him that she is preganant and he issurprised, for he mostly had taken care when they were together. She imploresto him that he was the father of the child that she was carrying (which wasagain obvious to him) and he agrees to take her hand in marriage. Together theygo to Rakesh and seek his blessings. But Rakesh is furious at him for havingbrought such shame upon his family and for marring the image and character ofthe only daughter he had. He starts to slap him furiously, vehementlycastigating him, till he falls to the floor and writhes in pain. And Naina isweeping besides him, begging Rakesh to stop. And then the scene dissolves towhere Sameer sees Naina moving away from him, turning to weep in the arms ofanother man. He squints to look closely through his pain and realizes it isArvind. And very soon, he sees Diya in Naina's arms and Arvind smilinglyaffectionately at them both. Arvind has snatched away his paradise!No!!!
Sameer woke up with a start andtook a few moments to realize he'd been in a nightmare. Relieved, he wiped thesweat off his forehead and poured himself a glass of cool water from the jugbesides. Once he'd sated his thirst, he pondered at length over the incredulityof his dream and the impact the reading of that novel, coupled with his envy ofA had led to a fancy as strange as this.
He swiftly got up and siftedthrough the contents of his drawer and took out a cigarette he'd kept therehidden. He could not restrain himself anymore. He needed it to clear his mindtonight. Things had become really strenuous ever since Naina had come back intohis life, that too accompanied by a husband and a child. He lit it up andlocked himself in the bathroom. As he took a drag, he eyed himself in themirror- his face reflecting guilt at smoking again. He needs to forget aboutNaina and their past now. It is only Reena who should remain. He has to beprofessional to be able to help her out. After a few minutes of contemplationon the subject, he popped the cigarette stub into the toilet and flushed it, determinedto do the same with the hope in his love-stricken heart.
Sameer stood at the back of hisoffice, trying to steal a few moments of solitude and a few puffs of nicotine. He'dalready finished a complete packet in less than a week citing some excuse oranother to himself. He knew he was going back on his promise of exertingcontrol and disappointing his friends and family, but after reading the excerptfrom Naina's novel where the heroine kisses the hero had tortured him. He'dwound up the work earlier that day, and told her he might need to relook andconsult his other editors on certain descriptions. The truth was, he wasexasperated at having to read romance, that too penned down by the woman, whowas strictly beyond his own romantic reach.
"Suspense ya murder nahi likhsakti kya? Ise bhi pyaar mohabbat hi likhna hai! He was about to take anotherpuff, when he saw Naina appear in front of him, her hands laden with her purseand her grocery bags. Sameer panicked and immediately dropped the cigarette andsnuffed it out, before he realized he was no longer answerable to her.
Yet the way she eyed him indisappointment reminded him of her all the times in the past when she used torebuke him.
Eager to change the topic, heremarked, "tum yahan kaise?
Naina still looked uncertainly atthe cigarette thrown on the ground and responded, "bus stop yahin hai! Andthen she averted her eyes, displeased, but trying to appear unconcerned.
The next ten minutes passed insilence as Naina waited for her bus, and Sameer waited besides her. Somehow, hedidn't want to leave her side.
"H...husband nahi aaye?
Naina shook her head. "Scooterkharab ho gaya aaj subah.
"Hmm...Main chod dun?
"No...thanks! she politelydeclined.
"Hmmm! he shrugged.
"Suno...cigarette kam peeyakaro...sehat ke liye kharab hoti hai! she quipped, unable to control herself.
"As if meri kisi ko padi ho..., heshrugged his shoulders.
"Shayad kisi ko padi ho! sheresponded after a minute.
Sameer stared at her and Nainahastily added, "aur agar kisi ko na bhi padi ho, insaan ko khud ki fikar khud bhikarni chahiye!
Sameer was taken aback by herwords. She was right in a way he knew. Perhaps he'd always laid too much emphasison people going out of their way to express concern for him that he did all inhis power to provide them ample reasons to do so. And when they did not, hebecame more dejected and hence more decadent.
As he looked at her again, a hugegreen DTC bus screeched to a halt at the stop. Hordes of people climbed out,but the bus was still incredibly full. The conductor shouted at the topic ofhis voice, "South Ex, AIIMS, North Moti Bagh, South Moti Bagh wale..., and herepeated a chant of the bus stops. Naina fought her way in as the bus startedto move, while Sameer thumped on the side to signal the driver to halt for afew seconds more. He saw her inside, jostling for space and remembered howuncomfortable she used to feel amidst crowds- be it in the buses or the localsof Mumbai. And now, despite being ill at ease, she seemed to have adapted toit. Even though Delhi had a good transport system, Sameer still felt that she wouldhave been better off in his car.
Her eyes remained locked to hisas the bus started moving and remained so, till he was left far behind.Edited by Samaina_1990 - 2019-08-31T08:07:50Z
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