This is my first story.
Two months after Dad's sudden demise when the feeling started sinking in,depression started rearing its head.An accidental swipe on my smartphone brought me to this treasure trove of stories which helped me fightback...
This writeup is dedicated to all my dearies at LTG.
It is intended to be a birthday gift for Choti and Prachu who were the main reason for this story ending up here as well as for Gudia and Soha. A special mention for Sur Di @Samaina_1990 for incorporating that conversation scene between Sam and his dead Nanu in EU.I am indebted to you all.
Kaan pakad ke sorry for the delay.I know I am super late in uploading this story.But as the LTG members are aware Cyclone Foni and then the on-going Odd Semester prevented me from even logging onto IF.
Sweethearts, Shayari comes easy to me.I have tried my hand at writing for the first time.No rotten eggs please.Tomatoes are welcome though.Read on and do let me know your views.Criticism is very welcome.
A lazy December afternoon. Autumn leaves scattered across the path separating the manicured and adequately watered green lawns from the seemingly majestic building of red bricks. The Red of the old structure stood against the Green of the adjoining lawns. The silence all around eerily disturbing.
A faint sound cut through the silence. A faint,yet melancholic one..
The chords emanating from his guitar strings were the only solace to the lover-boy in Mr Maheshwari. His heart was bleeding. His mind had blanked out. At that moment he could not understand what to do...where to go...Thats when his first love...his guitar had called out to his mind. He had rushed to the music-room of his college to find a respite. Yet he could not...Nothing provided any solace,respite or relief from the excruciating pain that had engulfed his heart.
Tears in the eyes of the apple of his eye had evoked springs of pain within him. He could face anything, just anything except just that one thing. The soothing tunes from his life-line - his guitar had brought back some semblance of sense in him. He knew he had to be with her. NOW... He had to know the reason for those pearls of pain. Probably he then could find a solution to help her..No...HE HAD TO...Period...Tears had no right to torment Naina...His Naina.
With every string his fingers plucked, his self-resolution to put an end to her pain gathered momentum. Finally when the tune he was strumming came to an end, he felt strong enough to fight out the pain stalking her. As he put the guitar back in its stand in an attempt to move out of the music-room and turned towards the door, he found her standing there. And he freezed at the spot.
His Naina’s tear-stained face was enough to bring back the pain he had felt the moment he had caught a sight of her crying it out in their classroom. The notebook had seemed to be just a facade, but was probably bearing the brunt of her pain.Reason unknown to him ,instead of walking towards her he had rushed towards the music-room. Probably he had done the right thing. Probably now he was calm enough to calm her down and then probably resolve her worries and trouble,whatever it was. HE HAD TO BE HER MR. RIGHT...ONE WHO WOULD RIGHT ANY WRONG HAPPENING TO HER..
Surprisingly,she turned around, latched the door and started taking slow steps towards him.For a second his mind came back to its senses trying to decipher her move.Yet his mind blanked out again upon tryst with her almond brown orbs reddened due to tears. With eyes riveted onto his, it seemed as if with every step she was fighting a battle within.
He could not decode the look in her eyes. He tried again and failed yet again..What was it ?What was she hiding within? Was it some indescribable pain? Or some unspeakable anguish? or some unutterable suffering? or some inexpressible fear?
Even before his mind could register what happened, he could feel her arms around him
...holding onto him as if he was her life-line,
...holding onto him as a drowning person holds onto a log of wood,
...holding onto him as her only saviour while falling off a cliff.
His mind could feel her head on his chest .His heart could feel every tremor running through her now sobbing frame. His body could feel her tiny delicate frame which fused into him. After a few initial confounding moments he realised SHE WAS HUGGING HIM.
His mind was flummoxed...
Should he be happy that she herself had dropped a few of her inhibitions... allowed herself to cross a few boundaries and had herself increased the proximity..?.
Or should he be sad that she was in pain ,something was tormenting her inside and she was sobbing incessantly...?
Was this hug just an after-effect of her current state of mind?
Would she back-out any moment when she realises what she had done ?
What should he do? Engulf her within him or just allow her to hold him so that she can cry her heart out?
Would she be angry if he chooses the first option?
He felt her hands tighten around his waist and the wool of his sweater being fisted at his back. His body could feel every shiver, every tremor, every vibration running through her delicate frame. Even the thick layer of wool could not prevent him from feeling the moisture near his heart. His heart shuddered trying to conjure up the reasons behind her tears. He could not hold back any longer...And his hands on their own accord slowly got raised from their position on his sides and started encircling her slowly, cautiously , guardedly yet determinedly...
A few moments passed after his hands formed a circle around her delicate quivering frame. His mind was juggling two emotions –delighted that she was in his arms,she had hugged him first, she had allowed him to hold her back. Yet miserable that she was crying unstoppably, her tears seemed unending, she was in pain...her fisting of his sweater indicating the depth of her pain.
Oblivious to the elapsed time his ears sensed some incoherent words tumbling out of her. But his brain could not comprehend them. He realised she was saying something, probably trying to speak ,probably telling him the reason of her pain and tears.
Suddenly he felt back to his senses. Naina...His Naina was in his arms...crying...in pain...probably trying to tell him the cause of her worry of her own accord. He just needed to pacify her to an extent so that her words were coherent and he could then know the reason of those pearls of pain.
“Naina ?”He tried to keep the tone of his voice very soothing. He never knew how to calm down a crying person. No one had ever done that to him. He never had anyone to wipe out his tears...no one to provide solace from the pain he underwent for being abandoned by his own mother. Yet he knew only he could pacify her, soothe her wounds, be the support which was what she probably needed. The sweater seemed to feel more tight as she fisted more of it. She clutched him tighter.
The words his ears registered were “ Can you please help me out”.
He was perplexed. Why was HIS NAINA asking for help? That too from him!!! She knew he could move mountains for her. Yet she was ASKING for help.
At that same moment his mind also realised it had to be something really big for her to be saying so. He decided right at that moment to be her Mr. RIGHT. And clutched her tighter.
As if she understood his gesture, slowly she raised her head and looked up at him. Though his heart revolted at the loss, his mind became more alert .Though he could not...could never stand that look on her face, he realised he had to...for her. His left hand moved to the back of her head of its own volition while his right hand held onto her trembling, shaking ,quivering frame trying to provide support so that she stood upright. He feared she might fall down if he left her. He tried to keep his voice as soothing, as reassuring , as tranquilising as possible. With eyes fixated onto her’s ,he questioned “What happened?”
That was it...Those words felt like a solace, a promise, a reassurance. Her control snapped.
The reassurance required thus obtained Naina now gathered all her courage to speak up. She had been contemplating for the past couple of days whether to speak up to him or not. She had felt she had no one to turn to for help when she was first face-to-face with this problem. But then just two days back ,when she was restless and feeling uneasy while having their usual gang-sessions at Red-Rose and also could not concentrate in class resulting in being asked to move out ,Sameer though had been surprised and concerned initially yet had somehow on his own decoded that she was going through that time of the month and had surprised her with a big bar of Amul chocolate as well as a ride back home reassuring her that she could confide anything in him.
Two days back :
“Naina ,what happened? Are you okay? Why are you not having anything. The noodles won’t taste as good when cold”.
“Sameer I am fine. Its just that I had some heavy breakfast”. He knew it was a lie but chose to remain quiet. Probably she would open up when they were alone. Every afternoon after their classes got over they spent lone time away from their gang in a dilapidated church just outside the boundary walls on the backside of their college building.
“Naina Agarwal, you do not seem to be in a mood for classes today. Get out. Now.”.The Professor barked at her some time later in the classroom. His eyes followed her tiny frame diligently carrying out the Professor’s orders. That’s when he noticed her gait and felt something amiss. This wasn’t his usual Naina. Her fingers clutched the sides of her sling-bag. She walked as if in lot of pain.Her passive face was unyielding yet her eyes which met his for a fleeting moment before she left the classroom revealed pain and suffering.
She was in pain. And she did not want to speak about it, not even to him.
As if by divine intervention, his mind suddenly answered his own question.”Was she going through her monthly cycle?”
His mind again went into overdrive thinking about how to let her know that she could speak about anything to him, even a tabooed topic like monthly cycle. And he suddenly remembered the words of Mrs Saxena who was his class teacher in standard 9th.Once she had caught him trying to kiss his classmate Sheetal. She had neither reprimanded nor admonished him on the spot, but had later summoned him to her staff quarters for a evening snack and had explained many tabooed topics to him...topics people never spoke about, rather never speak about.
He somehow managed to sneak out of the backdoor of the classroom. He found the curvy frame with a brown dress draped around it that enhancing her features walking with a hung head and downcast eyes towards the main gate. She stopped the moment she felt his frame in front of her. She was too close when she finally raised her head and noticed him...their faces just inches apart.
Time stood still. Nothing seemed to exist. The universe seemed to have shrunk into just the two of them. A few moments of locked eyes ,thundering hearts and bated breaths ,he felt her silhouette taking two steps back.
She felt his hand move but the butterflies in her stomach were yet to subside to allow her brain to function.”What if he tries to hold you...here ...in college...in front of everyone...?Her conscious reprimanded her for not moving out of his arm’s range, but her limbs weren’t under her control. Finally when she was conscious enough to will her eyes to look away from his face and down at his hands, shewas shocked to see him handing out a big bar of Amul Chocolate. Her orbs involuntarily went up to meet his as if in question. His scrunched brows told her he was trying to find an answer.
His eyes seemed to be scrutinizing her face and after a few seconds had a relaxed look realising that his assumption was right.
A blink of his eyelids was enough to inform her that he had decoded her situation.
His immediate next statement “Naina , always remember...I am there” was beyond overwhelming...She had no words to describe her feelings at that moment. She seemed to be sucked into a cauldron of love for she could not explain the surge of emotions within her at his next statement.”I am dropping you home today and tomorrow. No arguments over that. Wait for me at the church on the backside.Will be there in just five minutes with my bike.”
“Sameer...”,Naina’s voice quivered .He knew she wasn’t able to gather enough courage to speak up. She needed just that bit of push. His heart rejoiced in her trust in him. Their proximity, her initiation of that proximity and her shedding of the barriers she had always maintained between them gave him the courage. He cuppedher cheek with his right hand.
His warmth gave her the strength.His touch seemed to ignite some confidence in her. He knew the exact moment determination to fight back reflected in her eyes.
“Sanjay...”,she gulped. His mind went into over-drive, anger gripped his being, his heartbeats quickened. It was a Herculean task to reign in the leash. His mind consoled him,” The problem has to be out of her before she tries to get back to her shell.”.His conscious seemed to be chanting this mantra so that his fury was in his control.
“Remember, I had applied for an internship at the start of this semester with the Department of Education of our State Government in order to participate in a research project to identify areas of improvement so as to make students industry –ready and got selected.”.He nodded. He was so proud of her. His Naina had been selected for one of the five positions.
Though her body was shivering ,a now determined ,resolute ,unwavering voice continued,”Remember Sanjay from our school”. How could he forget ? He was one of the reasons for the HORRIFYING BET. He nodded again.
”He is the IAS officer who is in charge of the department. I came to know only the day I joined. Initially I thought it would be a good work experience with an old friend in charge of the matters and I would get to learn a lot. But I had no idea of the upcoming storm ”.
What was she pointing at? What problem was she in? Its been ten days she has joined ?Has shebeen facing the trouble all alone all this while? Why was she torturing herself? Why did she not share it earlier with him? WHAT WAS THE STORM SHE JUST MENTIONED?
His heart cringed and his mind shuddered at the last question his mind conjured up. Their locked eyes were the only source of strength for him to keep his otherwise haywire thoughts in check.
An alarmingly painful voice continued “At first, I could not decipher his actions or words. Interns are not allowed to directly interact with the IAS officer who is the Head of the Department. Yet Sanjay would regularly call me to his cabin and discuss opinions already debated in the meetings and ask for my personal opinion on them. He declared me as the second-in-command of the team , even though I am just an MBA student and there are other Subject-Matter-Experts available in the team who have more work-experience as well more knowledge about this research-work. I even got a desktop allotted to me and a cabin for myself, unlike other interns. God!!! Still I never doubted his intentions.Infact he even asked the Head of the Accounts section of the Department to give me some files related to the department. I was even summoned to an internal meeting of the department ,just two days after my joining where he announced tothe Heads of all sections in that department that I would be handling some important files related to accounts and finance section .“
Her voice felt as if she was punishing herself for her stupidity when she uttered ”Oh Why!!! Why did I not realise? Why could I not decipher” Why did I not understand? Why did I not comprehend?
He was now frustrated, exasperated , slightly annoyed as well at her delayed revelation.”WHAT IS SHE TRYING TO POINT TO?”Unable to refrain himself any further, the question on his mind tumbled out of his mouth, ”What happened ?Why were...rather why are you crying?”.He could feel her fists tighten more on his back. As if in reply, his arms tightened around her as well. She seemed to understand his gesture as always and her self-loathing voice continued, “He had taken the rakhi-tying incident as a serious insult. For the rest of our school-time he had been taunted badly for his deed. Infact my entire family landing up in my classroom with that so-called love –letter had added to the drama. At that time having no other option he had kept quiet, since my Dad was a teacher in the same school. Yet internally he had commanded himself to reach a point so as to answer back those taunts...to make the very same people who rebuked him to respect him even though only for the position he occupied. He got through the UPSC exams in the first try and is now posted as the in – charge of Department of Education of our State Government. “
Her voice seemed to go feeble. For a moment he felt she would collapse ,when she broke the eye-contact and looked down for a few moments. His mind was running wild in an attempt to conjure up the real reason of Naina’s current state. Fury surged through his blood at the memory of Sanjay. His heart quickened its pace. His right palm still cupped her cheek. He used his pointing finger to make her lookup to him again. As always her eyes seemed to wash out his fury and replace it with concern...concern for her. He realised he was yet to know the whole thing.
A slight forward shake of his head and a blink of his eyelids was enough...enough to give her strength, courage and conviction to continue. She continued in a pained and hurt tone,” When he saw me in front of him, he was reminded of his huge insult for the sake of just a letter.
“All for the sake of a having an attraction for her and her intelligence”. Yes that’s exactly what he had uttered .
That’s why he planned to humiliate me in a similar manner. Infact I could feel all the pent-up anger for the taunts and sarcastic comments in his words and his subsequent actions”
Anger engulfed his being. Fury again raised its familiar head. Mr Maheshwari’s impulsive self so wanted to say something , yet he excruciatingly pulled in all his resources to keep quiet so as to let her speak. His whole being now concentrated on her voice. He had to know the entire thing.”Four days back whenhe asked his personal driver to drop me to college for the afternoon classes, a particular word from his driver left me aghast”.
He recollected...Yes indeed she seemed a little more than lost in her world in class that day. She had not registered his presence...not even when he sat beside her on the same bench for the first time that day...not until he tapped on the desk with his pen to gain her attention. Though his heart did register her aloofness and his mind could read a disconcerted look in her eyes , yet the glow on her face on seeing him beside her had made the look in her eyes take aback-seat in his mind. The fact that she had not admonished him for sitting beside her on the same bench in their classroom for a JBR-lecture was too much delight for his heart. His whole being seemed to be wrapped in euphoria .And they had continued with their sweet-nothings there-after.
His mind was now numb. His heart was in pain to know the trauma she had been through. Yet somewhere guilt raised its awful head within him. Guilt that probably he had not been able to create enough confidence in her to confide her deepest fears and darkest moments in him...probably he had failed in being her confidante...
Somehow his lips did let out the most important question of the moment.”What did the driver say and how do you know that Sanjay is upto something”. He felt disgusted to even take the name of Sanjay. He hadn’t liked it a bit when aeons ago in 11thstandard Naina had jocularly replied that she loved Sanjay when he had gone to give her his Nani’s saree at Shefali’s place as a gift from Nanaji for the farewell function.
Yet he knew he had to do it. For the sake of his sanity...for her sake...probably forprotecting her...His mind was suddenly jolted back to complete alertness.
Was she insome danger?
Was the level of the problem very grave already?
Has Sanjay threatened her with something sinister?
Then the most important issue of all hit his head. Fear gripped his mind...Has Sanjaydone something to her or rather....with her?
His blood boiled. Yet his now absolutely attentive and wary mind somehow controlled his inner turmoil from being displayed in any manner to Naina.
She withdrew her gaze from him, again put her head against his heart and sobbed thoroughly.Her tiny frame shaking vigorously in his hold. He somehow sensed there was still more to this. He knew this wasn’t over yet. He had to get it out of her...completely. How was he supposed to convey to her to let it all out.
His heart answered the question. He tightened his embrace, this act bringing her shaking frame even more closer to his. His palms seem to be paining from his clenched fists though. His mind didn’t seem to register it. This pain was nothing compared to the torment his heart was enduring at this moment.
His whole being now focussed on Naina... She pulled back a bit yet still in his engulf.His heart was relived that she did not move out of his embrace. She removed her arms from around his frame. His mind was perturbed. Was she withdrawing ?Did she not trust him fully even now? She touched her head with her right hand. This act of hers confused him. The words which came out of her lips shook him to the core.”Trust me Sameer. I had been clueless about his intentions. You know I would not think of anything on those lines. I belong only to you.”.Had Sanjay tried to...He could not bring himself to complete his sentence. His worst fears were on the verge of being confirmed when she uttered “I definitely would not allow any of his intentions to succeed.”.His blood suddenly dropped down by few temperatures. His mind was fogged. Fury raged through his heart.
Suddenly he was pulled back into the moment by her reddened orbs. Those eyes which had brought peace to his heart had shame, guilt and probably even fear in them. He was jolted back to reality. His now alarmed mind informed him that he needed to answer her insecurities first.
“Naina...Haven’t you yet realised you needn’t have uttered what you said just now. You know Itrust you with all my heart.”.He let go of his embrace , held both her hands with his , tried to make his touch feel reassuring and brought them between the two of them...Eyes full of love holding her gaze steadfastly...
The next moment her petite silhouette crashed against his frame. He sensed there was still more to the problem than already worded by Naina. He knew she was brought up in a orthodox setting and making her speak up wouldn’t be easy. He had been at the receiving end of the redundant and conservative attitude of her family for the past 6 years. He carefully questioned “Is there anything more you think you want to share with me? Why did you ask me to help you out, Naina? I can only help you if you tell me everything. Always remember, I AM THERE” stressing on the last three words as if an assurance.
Her conviction, courage, determination all seemed to return. Her body seemed to regain a little bit of energy when she slowly raised her head and caught his gaze. He heard her slightly fearful yet clear voice “He tried to molest me inhis cabin”. HIS CONTROL SNAPPED. The man in him was angered to the hilt. The twister brewing within had taken the shape of a Tornado ready to slay one and all on its path.His eyes probably mirrored the fury within as the look in her orbs changed from pain to fear.
Mr Maheshwari had learnt one thing by now in love. Impulsive anger and impatience do not solve problems. He did not want her to withdraw into her shell. He wanted her to trust him fully and completely. He wanted to be her confidante ,her support , her rock.
The next moment he felt as if a bucket of ice-cubes were poured on his head when he heard her continuing “I managed to escape since by chance my hand fell on the bell to summon the peon.”
Fury seemed to loosen its grip on his being. Probably his eyes mirrored the same cause her orbs changed back to that I-trust-you look. Her hurt tone continued," I had contemplated confronting him when the other day his driver told me I was his darling girl . And finally managed to gather all courage to face him day before yesterday. Thats when he tried to kiss me. I fought him with all my might and managed to get away.”
He recalled she was back to college earlier than usual two days back. Oh God!!!She went through so much. She was in physical pain and to top it this incident had to happen with her on the same day. He felt a little relived at having understood her physical pain. But why did she not let him into her problem then itself. Probably his impulsive anger held her back.He felt like smacking himself for not even trying to understand her problem...for not inducing enough confidence in her to confide in him...for not questioning a diligent performer like her as to why was she back from office early.
His heart loathed at him, yet his mind reprimanded him to listen to her continuing voice.”Sameer, yesterday though I did not want to go back to that office, yet I had to cause I knew I could not speak about this to anyone. All will think me only to be wrong. But you know what Sanjay did?”He gave her a questioning look.”Sanjay called me Illiterate in front of all the Heads in an internalmeeting. Then I learnt my cabin and desktop were taken back. I managed with the other two interns. I do not know how but some figures in the files of Accounts section, being handled by me on Sanjay’s insistence, seemed manipulated and Sanjay has charged me with disciplinary action. He has also threatened to cancel off my MBA degree and ruin my career with a negative character certificate. He taunted me saying, ” Topper Naina, I will throw you out of this internship stating that you are incompetent for and incapable of the job at hand.”
His entire being coerced him to react. But THE Mr MAHESHWARI in him took over LOVER-BOYSAMEER in him. The Mr Maheshwari in him adviced his being to first answer the shame, fear and guilt within her so that he could be her support in whatever path she decides to take. Her eyes had a fearful yet questioning look as he tried to decipher it. She put it in clear words “ Can you help me out of this sticky situation? Can we pull this off ?”
His heart swelled at her acceptance of him. Ecstasy washed through his body. His wholebeing was dancing to the beats of an orchestra.
All he could reply was “Thanks for trusting me, Naina. “
Her confused yet now questioning orbs made his mind reprimand him again for not following Mr Maheshwari’s advice. He had to address her insecurities and self-loathing first. The Mr Maheshwari in him continued in a understanding tone, “Listen, YOU OF ALL CAN NEVER BE WRONG.” stressing on every word in an attempt to make her understand that he would never doubt her loyalty or feelings for him.
Naina felt like she was breathing again. Relief washed over her whole being.Her heart fluttered. Her mind exulted in euphoria. Blood danced in her veins. But more than that her whole being rejoiced at that one statement from Sameer. Her mind pulled her back to his continuing voice.” WE CAN. WE WILL. INFACT WE WILLCERTAINLY PULL THIS OFF. “
He could feel the tension rolling off in waves from her frame being replaced by jubiliation, elation and happiness. His heart suddenly started dancing...He was able to pull this off...He was able to make Naina confide in him...He was able to bring back that relief on her face...He was able to make her smile again.
And then the LOVER BOY in him took over and to lighten the situation as well as his raging senses he added in a husky tone,”By the way, also thanks for trusting me and allowing me so near you so as to hold you in my arms.”.After all he was just 23.
The pink colour of her sweater seemed to appear on her cheeks as she felt herself closing the gap again and encircling her slender arms around his tight frame.And he engulfed her in his embrace.
CONTENT was the word she felt engulfed in his embrace...There was another feeling she had felt within when earlier he had assured her of his trust and she had crashed against him on impulse,but she had not been able to name it till this moment.She felt PRIZED and PROTECTED for the first time in her life.
Clad in ablue sweater and white formal trousers, Naina was in awe of the man in front of her today. She had witnessed him holding onto his impulse, his emotions, his anger, his inner turmoil several times today. She had cautiously tested the waters and then treaded on only after she was sure he will not react impulsively. Amazed...Astonished...Awestruck ...would just be understatements.She was just witness to transformation of a Boy into a Man.
The embrace tightened as one rejoiced at finally being felt trustworthy while the other exulted at his trust on her. There was no space in between them. As if a sign that they truly belonged to each other . The RED rage replaced by GREEN tranquillity.The GREEN fear, shame and guilt washed away by Red passion , love and trust.
If there was anything called HEAVEN,this was it...In his arms.
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