Chapter 1 – The river lines

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When does the meaning stop to be what it seems? When does it grow beyond the realms of the common? Nobody knows, dear. Nobody knows but the reader; for the meaning of the lines is always what we infer from them. Yes, indeed; lines have no destined meaning. Thoughts have. In the same manner, that brook has no distinct color. Water has, isn’t it?

Water is always that lustrous, transparent, beautiful thing which makes the world go serene. Regardless, whoever carries that water imparts its color to it. And water impartially concedes.

Such is the infinite adaptability of thoughts. They are constant. But, they take upon whichever coefficient is applied to them. These coefficients are our lines. It is the value of this coefficient, my readers, which depends on the handler. Doesn’t brook take along the sand it dances with? It is sandy, it is clayey and whatnot. Hence, people! Hence, it is really interesting to read between the lines. Not important, no. But interesting nevertheless, for who doesn’t love the beautiful textures water takes – be it in an artificial lake or a natural pond, be it a river or a sea. It is enchanting; and satisfying.

Hence, I am going to tell you how my hero and heroine learnt of this little thing, but not so early. They took their own sweet time, made their own lovely mistakes and knit their personal interesting shelter – the shelter of memories to keep them warm at times and let them experience the weather at others. The same way there is the earth – which both contains the seas and induce tsunamis. Now, before I pave your way easier than I already have, and lay open before you all the pitfalls you can avoid and mountains you can evade in your tailored version, I would like to engage you a bit more towards the theatrics; because theatrics is what makes a scene interesting. Otherwise, we all have our personal blend of bland life.

I presume most of my readers don’t know what Alice advised Shannon Bodine regarding the heart of her son. Have you read Nora Roberts?, for either a good piece is recognized by all, or it finds its way into the darks of the unknown. Worry not, I am there to tell you. “It’s hard to judge what can and can’t be. In the heart. You’re holding his, Shannon Bodine. The only thing I’ll ask you is to take care, great care with it. If you find you can’t keep it, or don’t want it after all, hand it back to him gently.” That is what she told her. And no, all our presumptions from the established ordeal between a man’s mother and his lover would be false here, it we are thinking of any. For this duo had just met and the mother was extremely confident of her son’s choice. So now, we find ourselves wondering impartially as to what we feel about this.Certainly, we feel this is what ought to be done. But that is not the topic of this debate. The real problem is, how.

How to take care of the heart of someone else? How to make sure you don’t break it accidentally. How do you realize you can’t keep it? Or worse, don’t want it? In the end, how do you hand someone’s heart back? This is what gave our heroine heart to hold his, at times when she grew desperate to drop it and run. For how could she hand it back to him gently, ever? Was it even possible for even the most skilled surgeon to swap hearts between two living loves? Or non-loves? Or any species, for that matter?

What made him tick at difficult times? What was he afraid of at the difficult times? He didn’t even know how to detach her heart from him he had conjured so deeply and unknowingly. Departing was not even an option. He wasn’t the one to think and act. He had demanded her heart, claimed it; and installed it in his system with root rights. He wouldn’t boot without it. And an attempt to gain that root privilege by anyone would either generate non-retractable error or a brick of his system. But what is unique in this? Isn’t every love story the same? Patience, people. Don’t behave like an impertinent child. The narration would be enjoyable if we are more like the adults we ought to be. For this isn’t some fairy tale or some adventure comic. Those will be dealt with in some other lifetime.

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Chapter 6 – The theory of relativity.

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She was very young then. And now, she is older. Not mature. But older.

There is a particular problem involved in this scenario. When you grow old, expectations from people around you seem changed. Seem is an important word here, because they have always expected you to behave your age. What has changed now is that you cannot. You want to, but cannot. You have no idea how to. Is that a fault? Is delay a fault? Is wait a mistake?

What is a mistake, and what is right?

There are no fine boundaries. They are all relative. What are the standards this rightness is measured against then? A physical entity or a mental state? Both, I think.

When it is about you, the scale is the other person who is affected. When it is about your deed, it is the person’s responsive feeling. You are right until you hurt the other person. Physically or mentally.

This is the realization all of us feel at some point or the other; for someone or the other. Few of us once. A few others, multiple times.

 

At a very later stage from where we are, Ananda was packing her bags. She was packing everything she could, from shoes to toys to furniture and more. She was getting ready to move away. She needed to get away. The friend she was living with, followed her to her room to get a hint of what was happening. This friend couldn’t understand what was going on and why. It was her daughter’s naming day. Third child. This child completed their little family. There were two more boys – with all this, they painted a very happy picture. There were times Ananda was almost jealous of this fitting. Only she knew there was no need of it. She had labored a lot to paint this little picture, it was no easy task. She had quit work right after planning the second child for until they grow up a bit. She could never picture Ananda doing this. Not that Ananda couldn’t, you cannot judge what a person can or cannot do. But the way she was moving away from them, from him, from everything for her freedom and her choice of life, it seemed improbable that she could be taking these tough decisions of another world. Wasn’t he obstinate as well? He could never leave his lovely suburb to go to the *bling* cities he so abhorred. Maybe that was why he was nowhere in the process of stopping her. Or maybe he tried? Who knows what went on between them , people. ‘Cause even I have no idea what they conversed about or thought of anything. That which I am telling you, is only my version of them. Everything is so tightly coupled with perspective in this world.

Finally this friend of hers asked her, ‘Are you coming to Niara Junior’s naming ceremony? You could always go after attending it.’

Ananda knew he was going to be there. He was Niara’a brother. Of course he was going to be there. She faltered for a moment. But then, she too had to be there for her friend. And they should be habituated to whatever it is between them. They cannot change their world for it. So, she replied.

‘Of course, I am going to be there. You didn’t have to ask.’

And half an hour later, they got dressed and the smaller Niara was sitting by the holy fire in her abode, her father’s lap, to get her official name.

 

Very later, when people had had their lunch and were lounging about in the hall, Shiv seeked a chance to talk to Ananda. But as everything seemed to be conspired against him, sooner than he could get a chance, all of his nieces and nephews rounded him, accosting him to sing a song. He had lost all interest in music now. But could he tell them that? Would they listen to him? Of course not.

So he took out his old guitar he had gifted to Niara’s son and started humming. People gathered, keen to be bound in the aura he created. He didn’t have his fan base for nothing. There were kids dancing, older relatives relaxing and the neighbors flocked around him with their daughters. Situations like these seemed to be tedious for her sister later, when these daughters were proposed for her brother. That very sister now stood,  musing what she would say to them this time. Her brother seemed to be at a perfect age for marriage, and some of the proposals were worth considering.

Nobody realized in their own personal musings when the sun went to set.

Niara asked Shiv to take her relatives to the airport. And he was already out when Ananda got free from her packing and the chaos created around. She was visibly upset that he left without talking to her. But she couldn’t acknowledge it. Or believe it. She was determined to let this all go. Wasn’t that customary for them to move on?

So she started for airport without any further delay, and without waiting for anybody. She bade her goodbyes and came to the porch when Niara approached her.

‘I pray with all my heart that you find what you are looking for. And I pray you know what you are looking for. Otherwise, it is going to be a long search. See you again soon, Ananda. Take care.’

And it was with utmost heavy heart and teary eyes that she was seen off. Even the little Niara, or Amrit should I say now, seemed to be sad with her going away.

On her way to the airport, she crossed the restaurant where they used to hang out all the time – Niara, Shiv, their friends and she, herself. This was the place which had seen the best moments of their lives – the carefree ones; where one could be pardoned for not being considerate. Or thoughtful. Next, she came across the chapel she had met Shiv’s mother. And that’s were she remembered with a heavy heart, a request.

‘Take very good care while you two are trying to synchronize your heartbeat. It is very soothing feeling till it is working. But the moment the timing alters, be it your heart which is speeding or his which is slumping, it is not only you, but the other half who gets disoriented with all that is going around.It may be the same setting as before, but you will have changed.’

She wondered if their hearts were beating as before now. She wondered if she will get what she is looking for. She wondered if she absolutely knew what she is looking for. And such was her state when she came across his orchard – the roundabout plantation of trees which created a circular haven of land in between. Their circle of happiness. Their abode where they used to sit for hours in a stretch, away from the traffic, away from the blare. She never knew she took a divergence to land here. But now that she had, she stepped down to feel the safety of the haven for once before jumping into the uncertainty which waited for her. And there he was. In the sanctuary. Finally they got the time to talk.

But alas. What was she to say? She had either lost her abilities, or the ideas.

And now that she had lost all, she prepared herself to think that if this is indeed a haven, what is it which she is certainly looking for? Does it really exist? Will it give her the peace this place gives?

And worst of it all, if she found peace and happiness and love here, what exactly was it which she was looking for? Was this going away worth losing all that she has here – the haven? Their haven? She was standing still at the same place for fifteen minutes or so, thinking what was right and what was wrong in this greyed area. She was indeed looking for perfection, she was seeking what was out there. But in the meanwhile, she was running away from what she had. Was it all worth it? Will she be able to create happiness there – because everything around us is what we perceive of them. Situations are perfect only when we want them to be. Otherwise, a person could have all the pleasures of the world and still be unhappy.

She had had an enchanted time in this small place. And she wanted to cave it all in and return to the original time to create another enchanted time. But it wasn’t something you could plan. It was magic, it was luck. And magics don’t keep happening at a click of two fingers. You have to preserve it once it clicks or destroy it in your ignorance.

He knew Ananda was there. He had seen her coming which drew him into a wonderland of his own. He wondered why she didn’t ask him to come along on her journey. Was he so obstinate that she knew he would refuse even before asking? Would she have asked her had he been more malleable? And thus both of them wondered over the same thing but no one spoke and gave other the space to say wrong, one room for mistakes and another for caving in.

And both of them were stuck in the age old fix. She was turning back to go to her car when she noticed the rock by which he was sitting. This was where he had proposed to her once. This was what figured in almost every gift he crafted for her. This rock. And she had no idea why all the packing up and leaving didn’t sway her but a sight of this rock formed a lump in her throat and her heart thudded. This rock caused a block. How figurative.

 

Once they talked, what prospered between them is something I am not cognisant of. But here I ask you to unleash your imaginative prowess and form – your and mine – own little world full of their heart-to-heart. And those little moments of self-actualisation did make them understand that we cannot seek happiness, indeed. We can only find and cherish it. Happiness is not some rock we could trek and find. It is in the inside. It is always there. You are happy till you acknowledge it. The moment you let your mind wander and find it or be obstinate and ignore it, is wilts down in its own glory.

Chapter 5 – The subtitles in life.

Kaffeine.

Belongs to the owner.

Yes. *red*

This was the name of the cafe they were seated in. It may have been a lounge or a spa but they could not be more cozy. Such was the aura. A high-pitched voice singing Teri Deewani could be heard in the backdrop, accompanied with a group of fingers playing keyboard. There were more fingers at work – his. These were drumming. On her arm. Sensually. Sometimes, the drumming was replaced with rubbing and higher it went along her sleeves draped in nothing; she was wearing one of the sensuous reds – sleeveless dress. Before they went any higher, they were swatted away. You could see her blushing red cheeks competing with the shade of the dress. Seven years. Seven long years, and yet today they could show you an instant meltdown with the slightest of effort.

But today, he was not the one to back-off. Being as much desensitized or overly sensitized as he was in the effect of three bottles of beer gulped down (he was not a heavy drinker, people!), you could embarrass him today in a moment and the next moment will find him singing away merrily. And the scene we got to witness today was a reverted one.

‘Yes’.

That was all she had said six years and eleven months ago. She had come, stood beside him and said that. That. Yes.

But what was he to make of it? On a bright sunny day, standing in a chemistry laboratory, she just comes and says yes. It could mean anything, but it didn’t. He knew this, she knew this. Even we know this, people, who are we kidding? We are fantasists. Romance fantasists. The overly ambitious genre. But this is real life we are talking about. Not our beloved romance novel. And he pretended to not know what she meant. She went red. I couldn’t tell which was it between embarrassment and anger and probability supported both. Her next step decided the reason when she stepped back and tried to flee.

‘Ananda!’ He called. And she turned back. But she didn’t say anything.

‘Yes for what?’

‘I don’t know why I said that. Never mind.’

‘Don’t be a coward, Ananda.’

‘I am not. You know why I said that, Shiv and you are pretending nevertheless.’

‘Three months, Ananda. You say yes after three months of rudely rejecting me and you expect me to readily listen and dance?’

‘I tried not to be. Rude, I mean. I didn’t know how not to be. I am sorry.’

He smiled, and that was the last day he made her red with things like embarrassment. Or at least it is the last I know of.

Until now.

(..to be continued)

Chapter 4 – In the ever after.

By now, if you are following this story, you may be wondering where I am going with this. And when will the story start? How did our hero meet our heroine in this little fiction of theirs? How did he come to like her? When did she start noticing him? In short, what is their story? To this, I’ll say, my dears, that you are restricting your conceptions far too much and I happen to promote anything but that. Widen your perspective and listen to what I have to say now.

How did this come to be a norm that a love story is how two people meet, how they fall in love, how they realize it and the happily-ever-afters? It can be a meet story, a falling-into-love story, a realization story because the real love story starts only when they are finally in love and realization. It is the things they do of love, for love and by love. But how do we know that when every love-story focuses on everything but love and escapes the enormity of delving into the emotion with six golden over-exploited words – “.. and they lived happily ever after.”

Ever after.

It is this happiness I intend to present. In the process, it may happen that I need to tell you how they met in reminiscence. I may, in a rush, present the story of how he proposed to tell you how sincere or not his feelings have been.  Regardless, this is essentially a story of their happily-or-messily ever after. And now that I have made my heartfelt confession, I’d like to request you to lend my story your ears. For a storyteller is a storyteller only by virtue of the listeners. This title I chose today was not to support my blabber, however relieving it was. It’s sole purpose was to present to you the story of how our boy (and our girl’s mom) paved their way to the happily ever after.

Our boy is a liberal Hindu, people. And his mom a devote one at that. Our girl is a passionate Christian, her mother could use the same adjective. And if this story turns out to be another religion-no-bar, I’ll be damned with both, a funeral pyre and a vampire casket. Thankfully, the terms Hindu and Christian are just terms for me and her life for his mom. Before you run after Brutus with wooden chairs and benches and what not, please listen to me complete, my country-women (and men). Being a devote believer is no crime. The eternal truth is, we are how we are shaped in our nascent ages. At a time and place she spent her building phase, considering religion for their life was common and only-generalistically-probable scenario. But it was not the case with the boy. And then there was this elaborate scenario where his mom offended her mom, her mom took the offense and didn’t back down for nothing, she had to subside with mom given the twist of events and then rose the boy as a man. As her man. Taking stance, showing determination and playing pacifier to convince the ladies to let old-age be old-age and walk with the current times. This process took a year and a half people and we don’t have that much time or inclination to relive it. What we are aiming though, is to stalk their way to their happily ever after.

Who is a man, people? One who doesn’t cry, has sculpted built, is six feet tall or has husky voice and musky fragrance? Or the one who could use his IQ, patience and mouth when needed, the bare minimum? Perfection is highly overrated, dear readers. A baby-maker* is just another blanket which is warm and cozy and large enough to take two people but small enough keep them together. A happily ever after partner is just another partner who is warm and cozy and large enough determined to be there, happily, ever-after. The rests are the beautifying add-ons you could do without.

*Baby-maker was a blanket in the movie, ‘The Proposal’, dating back to generations and with a 100% success rate of Baby-making whenever used in required scenario.

Chapter 3 – Emotions are a moment. Thoughts prolong them.

They roamed about in the periphery of Palika Bazaar, New Delhi. Eating at this outlet, checking fiction novels at that. The boy looked on for weird accessories, wondering upon each of them for their usage. The girl walked aimlessly, upset as she was, upset as she almost always was, whenever they were out with other common friends.

It was almost always a routine for her to be cranky and moody in such a scenario. But never when alone. Never when alone. Alone was bliss. Alone was comfort. I am not trying to imply it here people, that she was a dominant, trying to tie him up to her and veil him at the same time. No. He was free to enjoy his own time. She cherished hers.

But, compromise is not everyone’s virtue. I don’t find compromise to be even a virtue, but please, feel free to ignore me. What do I know of virtues, and what don’t I know of sins? That, we will discuss someday, I promise. If not, remind me. *wink*

Today, is for our birds. Love or not, depends on our time frame of consideration.

And at this moment, our girl, or rather his girl, was feeling anything but love. And that had all to do solely with company and nothing with his faults. But who else could she focus her anger on? He was her sole punching bag. She couldn’t replace him with anybody else.

This was how he was found guilty without trial.

This was why he was doing good deal to distract her from feeling dispersed. This is why he was trying to deviate her attention.

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In a few of his successful moments, she even gave him bits to feed upon and feel less famished.

Their friends joked, ‘Get her to eat something. Ise bhookh lagti hai to ye heroine ban jaati hai.’  But they didn’t know her, did they? Did she like to share his time with anybody. Probably not. He knew this. Understandably, he gave her moments to adjust to it, each time. And when she was ready to adjust and comply, they could spend their day like a happy team thereafter.

This simple was it all, done in a span of moments. Isn’t this how emotions work? You love something in an instant. You feel hurt in an instant. You are contended in an instant. You get hungry in an instant. And back. Nevertheless, you remember it till late. Aren’t there only a few moments to cherish from hours and hours of living?

And the thoughts over the felt and the unfelt stretches it long.

Chapter 2 – Holding his, inseparably.

It was one of those devious fights. The destructive, disrupting one. What did it do? It deranged her. Simple.

Please don’t ask me what he felt. I wouldn’t be able to explain it. Before you are mistaken let me tell you; he was not emotionally drawn out. No. If anything, he was emotionally driven. He was very much aware, rather awakened of his emotionality. This is what makes me enamoured with him. I have not seen a person, let alone a boy, who feels as much as him. Boy, I say. Yes, boy he was, and I think will be, even ten years from now.

I am a simple woman, people. A woman who just feels, writes and proceeds. I don’t believe that feelings creep through my skin like blood in our veins or food in the plants. I feel a breeze, take the awe of it, sit there and feel it just as long as it is there. I am not able to carry the same breeze with me to wherever I go, so that I enraptured people I met – the way it did me. Thus, it escapes my realm of understanding for how to explain what he felt. Let us just say, he felt. And when he felt something, he made sure he did.

So, to sum it up, the fight left her devastated, and him, caught up into the feelings of what had happened. Yet, he knew his reason was not illogical. He had loved her to the fullest, cherished her to the fullest, made way for her to the fullest. And now that he fought, he had a well found reason to do the same too.

I don’t mean to picture the girl in a bad light here. Don’t think bad of her, she is my heroine! As much as I would like to be at her place. Empathize with her even, for we women are simple. We feel an instance, express it and go dancing to the next moment. We are used to handling men who either feel little, or nothing at all. And expression? Meh. Who are we kidding? Men never express. This is what all our men have brought us into thinking, so we are not used to doing much on our part (thinking, I mean) for them. But just think about handling a man whose intensity is that of ten other women. Or more. That is where we, non-heroines, will fail. And that is where my super-woman climbs in. She caters and tackles her emotionally dense man with great aplomb, at least until now. Man? Last we knew, he was a boy. I know! See the facets? That is our hero.

How is our heroine supposed to catch up all that is thrown her way with that much speed, intensity and focus? How much could she handle? This was her limit. Today, she gave up trying to understand the well-found reason her other half had in mind. It was emotionally fatiguing, keeping up with him. He didn’t have any other concerns in the world, other than her. So, he cared for her very single moment. Every single moment. But she couldn’t take so much of caring, forget giving it back. She wanted her own space, like every other girl. Whereas he, like none other, thought they were one. Heart and soul. Literally. So thinking about her was as if he was taking care of himself, he argued.

And thus when she wanted to gain some space, he felt her distancing. Well found reason. Naturally, his argument to fight was justified. But, my dear readers, isn’t a normal person, a simple woman entitled to a simple, light area of living? Where was she wrong?

These were the times when she had other bothers in life. To top it, maybe he was bothered for her at the same time. Then, all these burdens of bothers will squish her little brain, and she would want space. But distance himself when his darling needed him the most? That was not our hero. These were the times when our heroine thought she couldn’t keep his heart any more. Then, she wanted to give it back to him, gently.  How was she supposed to do this? He was a gallant man. He never took back what he gave. And he had given her his heart.

She knew. Giving was difficult. But taking was heftier, for when you take something, you have to learn the intricacies of it to treasure it well. That involved double the work than having something of your own. It was all the more difficult now, that she has had it for a while and had started living on it. How was she to part from it? She was holding it, inseparably.

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