Posted in Parenting, short story

The girl who lived..

Reshma stomped inside her house tired and grumpy. She dumped her seven kilo bag on the nearest chair and sat cross legged on the floor. Just then, Rashida, her mother entered the room.

“Hey my princess! You are home already! Did not hear you coming… So, how was the first day of your last year in school?” Rashida asked her set of rapid fire questions.

“Ammi. I don’t want to talk about it, please!”

“Oh my child… look at me.” Rashida sat next to Reshma and coaxed her to look at her.

“Ammi, I was so excited for the first day. But it was a flop show.” Reshma complained.

This story is among one of the winners of the Muse of the Month contest run by Women’s Web. Hence, I won’t be able to post it entirely out here.

To read the complete story you can click here.

Pic courtesy : Google images

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Posted in health issues, mom's life, relationships

Age is no bar…

Payal reached the eight floor of the high rise and stood outside the intricately carved wooden door. She admired the nameplate fixed on the wall on the right side of the door. ‘Behram P Irani’, it read. She touched the nameplate lovingly and was about to press the doorbell, when the door opened and out walked a bunch of grumpy teenagers.

“Better finish off that essay before you step inside the house tomorrow.” Came an authoritative voice from inside. One of them shouted, “Yes Shirin aunty!” And the others did not even glance back and rushed towards the lift.

Payal watched the scene before her in amusement. Just then, the septuagenarian lady came to shut the door. She was surprised to see Payal standing there. “Oh! Mari dikri… come come…”

Payal grinned from ear to ear and hugged her, “How are you, Mummy?”

“I’m absolutely alright. See.” She twirled herself like a little girl in front of Payal and said, “All fit and fine!”

Payal laughed at her mother in law’s antics and dragged her suitcase inside the house. After she got comfortable, she took in the ambience of the house. It was exactly the same as it was when she had last visited, about a year ago. Not a thing out of place.

Shirin got her a glass of water and broke her reverie. “I wasn’t expecting you until at least two hours later.” She remarked.

“Yeah, Mummy. The checkout was really quick and the traffic was surprisingly clear.”

“Good. How’s Cyrus? And how are things in Edinburgh?”

“He’s good mummy. We are all doing great. But we are very worried about you.”

“Ah, no need to worry about me. I’m enjoying my life. Go, you freshen up and then we’ll have lunch. I have made your favorite patra nee machi. Chalo, hurry up.”

Payal did as she was told and soon returned to the dining table feeling refreshed. The table was set. Her mother in law always surprised her. She was an extremely agile woman, even at this age. And always impeccably dressed. Crisp cotton sari over the Sudra and Kusti, and her silver hair in a tight bun.

They both relished their lunch and talked about the one common thing that connected them. Cyrus. Shirin’s only son and Payal’s husband.

Suddenly, Shirin stood up from the table and said, “How dare you talk to me like that?” Her features were morphed in anger and Payal literally felt shivers run down her spine. What happened all of a sudden? She thought. They were talking or rather bitching about Cyrus, laughing together and now this?

“Mum… Mummy, what happened?” Payal finally managed to say.

Shirin maintained the angry face for a few seconds before she burst out laughing.

“Oh Dada Hormuzd! I really need to practice more.” She exclaimed.

Payal was totally puzzled. “Mummy, what are you talking about?”

Shirin took one look at the time and gasped. “We’ll talk in the evening. Its 3.30 already. I need to reach my drama class. Will see you later, Payal. You take rest.”

“What drama class?” Payal stood to go after her, but the old lady had banged the front door shut and was already in the lift before Payal could ask anything more.

“Drama class, seriously?” She said to herself.

Shrugging, she went back to her room and decided to take a short nap. In spite of the jetlag, sleep eluded her. She decided to watch TV instead. But she couldn’t concentrate on that either. She thought about the last one year. How tumultuous it was. The sudden passing away of her father in law was a shock to all of them, but more so, for her mother in law. She stayed with them in Edinburgh for six months after that but she missed her own house. So they had decided to let her stay here and be happy.

The initial few months were difficult for all of them. Cyrus and Payal were concerned about her. She was living in the very place where she had spent the maximum time with her husband. No one knew how she would cope with it. And their daily video chats hinted nothing. They just spoke for the sake of it with neither revealing what they were actually going through. But since the last two months, Shirin had been exceptionally jovial, not that she wasn’t before, but it was such a drastic contrast from the earlier months that both Cyrus and she thought that something was wrong. So she decided to visit and kill two birds with one arrow. An upcoming company project and to ensure the mental wellbeing of her mother in law.

Payal got so lost in her thoughts and coupled with the background noise from the television, she did not realize when she fell asleep. She woke up to find a blanket draped on her, but she was so tired that she simply dozed off again.

The next morning, a strong smell of coffee woke her up.

“Good morning Payal.” Shirin greeted. “I’ve made coffee for you. Come eat something. You’ve skipped dinner too.”

“Morning mummy. Yes, I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

After they were done with breakfast, Payal said, “Mummy, you said something about a drama class yesterday? What was all that about?”

Shirin laughed heartily at that. “Oh yes dikri. I have joined these drama classes to polish my acting skills. It’s close by. I walk and go there. It keeps me fit too. I’m the oldest student in the class, but age is no bar for learning something new right? And you know I can really give those youngsters a run for their money. I’m very good. Even the instructor says. I’m good in my prose and voice modulation. I need to work on different expressions and the only thing that I’m not able to get right is the angry expression!” She said in a single breath.

“Wait a minute, mummy. Breathe.” Payal iterated. After a few moments, she continued, “Who said you cannot do it right? I had shivers down my spine when you pulled that one on me yesterday!”

“Oh… sorry about that…” Shirin said, looking sheepish.

“Why suddenly this drama thing, Mummy?”

“Oh, you know, I have always been very good in acting and all. Back in my days I used to do very well in dramatics in school and college. Then I got married. And I got busy with Behram and after two stillbirths, I finally had Cyrus when I was almost forty years old. I gave him everything with all of my being and my dream,” she shrugged, “well, it remained a dream.”

She continued, “After Behram passed away, I was so lost and disillusioned that I had absolutely no idea what to do. Then you both took me with you, but trust me I was miserable. I came back here and decided that enough is enough. I need to live my life. And I started first by shifting my room. Our bedroom was so full of his memories that I simply couldn’t think clear if I stayed in that room. Then when I was cleaning my stuff, I came across this book that had some handwritten scripts of plays that I was a part of back in college. That’s how my dream got rekindled.”

“Mummy, didn’t Pappa know about your acting skills?”

“He did. In fact he encouraged me to pursue it. But I wanted him and Cyrus to live their dreams. And I made sure that there were no hindrances in their paths whatsoever.”

“Oh mummy, I’m so proud of you. You know we thought that you’ve lost your mind!”

Shirin brushed that off by saying, “Oh those were all my acting skills.”

Payal gawped at her mother in law. She beamed seconds later and said, “I’m really happy for you mummy. Let’s see where your dreams take you.”

“I don’t know where my dreams will take me, Payal. But I feel good now. I have a goal to achieve. I look forward to each session and try to give my best. It keeps me occupied. I don’t get time to think about the past, about what I’ve lost. That’s the beauty of having an aim in life. It takes you forward, tests your limits and makes you excel at whatever you are doing in a bid to achieve that aim.”

They were both lost in their thoughts when Shirin cleared her throat. Payal looked at her and saw her waggling her brows. “You know, I might bag a role in some play really soon.” She said.

“That would be wonderful, wouldn’t it? It would be so exciting to see you on the theatre stage!” Payal exclaimed. And as an afterthought, she asked, “Mummy, what were those teenagers doing here when I came yesterday?”

“Oh those rascals! They will come now in some time. I give them English tuitions. Teach them proper words. Not the slang which you millennials use these days. They end up writing that way in their exams too! Imagine that!” Shirin chortled.

“Mummy, since we are talking about our dreams, I have something to tell you.” Payal said grimly.

“Yes, dear, please tell me. I won’t judge you, promise.”

“Mummy, you did not turn out to be my dream mother in law.” Payal said in the same grim tone. And then she burst out laughing.

In between bouts of laughter she said, “When I first saw you, I thought that you were a harridan. And add to that all the crap that was fed to me by my relatives and friends regarding mother in laws in general, I was very scared. I would get nightmares about my evil mother in law.”

Payal sobered and continued, “You’ve proved everyone wrong. You are the most loving and caring person that I’ve ever met.”

“Chalo, don’t make me cry now.” Shirin said. “Let’s get working before those rascals ring the bell.”

Payal chuckled and heaved a sigh. She dialed her husband to fill him in about his mother’s escapades!

Pic courtesy: Google images

Posted in short story

His First Love

This story is set in the time when smartphones were not that a rage and people actually took time to delve in their surroundings and talk to each other.

October 2012

Running along the platform and almost out of breath, Aditya still managed to catch the 5 pm Churchgate slow local. As soon as he entered the first class compartment, he breathed a sigh of relief.

‘That was a close shot!’ he said to himself.

He took a seat and placed his guitar next to him. He fist bumped his friend Arjun who was seated opposite him. Arjun usually boarded the train from Dadar station and both of them coordinated with each other.

Aditya then started looking for ‘her’ in the adjacent first class ladies compartment. He had been observing her since the last month or so, but couldn’t find the courage to talk to her. Once, she had smiled at him and he was over the moon that day!

“Aditya, bro, how did you fare in that physics test? I got screwed man!” Arjun asked.

But Aditya wasn’t listening.

“Aditya!” Arjun yelled. And everyone looked at them as to why there was a commotion.

“Ouch! Stop slapping my arm, Arjun.”

“Did you even hear what I asked you?” He snapped.

“Screw the physics man. Did you practice any other tune?”

Arjun’s mood instantly lifted. “Yeah. I’m trying something. Let’s see how it goes when we practice today.”

Both of them went every Monday, Wednesday and Fridays to learn guitar. Apart from juggling academics and preparing for the 12th boards, this was a hobby that they didn’t want to give up on. Aditya also loved singing. He could play the guitar and sing beautifully. He dreamt of forming his own band someday.

“Dude, we really need some extra classes for physics. It’s so complicated. Boards and entrance tests are looming over us like a tornado! Just five months more man! I think I’m going to stop these music classes from next month.” Arjun declared.

“Yeah, you stop. But I’m going to continue. This is what keeps me going. Or else I would have already gone mad thinking about the impending exams!”

Arjun looked at his friend staring at the girl and smirked. “I know what exactly keeps you going. And it has nothing to do with music.”

Aditya looked at him innocently and said, “What?”

“Don’t stare at her so much! It’s kind of creepy, you know. And you’ll scare her like that.” Arjun explained. “Talk to her man, she’s not going to eat you up!” And he laughed aloud.

“Shut up bro!” Aditya whined.

“It’s Urmi.” Arjun said.

“What Urmi?” Aditya asked.

“The name of that girl whom you stare at every time we travel together.” Arjun replied. “I heard her friend calling her that today.”

They continued their banter and Aditya kept stealing glances at Urmi. She always stood near the door facing him. He found her looking at him too. Their eyes met, she blushed and looked away. He smiled. He liked it when she left her hair open like she had done today. They were short and framed her round face well. She was really cute. Her dupatta was flying out with the movement of the train. He gestured her to tuck it in. She obliged and smiled.

“Come on, we have to get down now. Continue your staring on Wednesday.” Arjun pulled Aditya out of the compartment. Aditya managed to wave a bye to Urmi.

Back home, Aditya was playing a tune on the guitar. After a while he started to sing as well.

As long as you love me

We could be starving, we could be homeless, we could be broke

As long as you love me

I’ll be your platinum. I’ll be your silver, I’ll be your gold…

As long as you lovvvee me, love me!

“Whoa there, what’s up Adi?” his sister asked. “What’s with this Bieber song? I’ve seen you have been practicing this a lot, eh?” She wiggled her brows as she said that.

Aditya smiled and said, “Nothing di, really. I like it, that’s why.”

“Oh my God! You are blushing, Adi!” She pulled his cheeks and ruffled his hair.

“Pari di, please, don’t pull my cheeks. It hurts.” Aditya said and walked in front of the mirror.

Pari came to stand beside him and said, “See, you are still handsome. I haven’t caused any permanent damage to your face by pulling your cheeks.” She laughed and then pouted.

“So tell me, who is the lucky girl?” Pari pressed.

Aditya looked all around the room, except at his sister as he said, “There’s no one di.”

“Aww, Adi, I know it when you are lying, alright? So just spill.” She ordered.

“Di, I only know her name. Urmi. That’s it.”

“What? Haven’t you spoken to her before? Does she go to your college? Or tuitions?”

“No di. I see her in the train when I go for my music class. I board from Mahalakshmi and get off at Charni road. She’s always there with a friend of hers. And I don’t know where she boards from or where she gets off. She’s just there. And Arjun gets in from Dadar. He says that she must be boarding before that, may be Bandra. But not sure.”

“Oh my God!” Pari exclaimed. “Don’t you think you should talk to her at least? Does she even know your name?”

“I don’t think so, di. But I really like her. She’s so pretty. She has big expressive eyes which twinkle when she smiles. And when she smiles! Oh my! Di, she looks even more beautiful. What should I do?”

“My romantic fool of a brother, you should talk to her. That’s the only way.” Pari sighed.

Suddenly, Aditya’s eyes brightened and an idea struck.

“Di, how about I play this song for her on my guitar?”

“Wow, Adi, that’s an awesome idea. You should. And sing too.”

“Thanks di, I’ll try.”

Pari ruffled his hair again and began to leave the room. “Adi, by the way I’m also going to Bandra tomorrow. I’ll drop you to your college.”

“No, di, I’ll go by train. That’s fine.”

“Why train? It must be so crowded in the mornings. I’m offering you a lift, so come, don’t act pricey.” Pari huffed.

“Di, relax. I reach faster in train. And no, it’s not crowded. And besides, you know how much I love to travel in trains. It’s like apart from being the city’s lifeline, it’s my lifeline as well.”

“Oh yeah. How can I forget that! You are that little boy who loves to travel in trains. I still remember the excitement on your face when we used to travel as kids!” Pari laughed. “Okay. So you won’t be changing your mind about tomorrow then?”

“Yes. And one more thing, di. Please don’t tell mom and dad about Urmi. Please?”

“No worries, bro.” And she gave him the scout’s honor.

Aditya practiced the song and perfected it. He was determined to play it for the girl whom he liked so much.

For the next music class, Arjun ditched him at the last minute. He was on his own. He boarded his usual train and sat down facing Urmi and her friend. With his heart hammering in his chest, he removed the guitar from his case and started playing a random tune. He had 8 minutes before his station arrived. He looked at her. She smiled. He smiled too. She twisted a few tendrils of hair behind her ear. She smiled again. And gestured him to continue playing.

With renewed confidence, he sang the song. He got a standing ovation from his fellow passengers. He blushed and got off at his destination. Urmi waved at him. He waved back. And off he went; jumping, skipping and whistling to his class.

This continued for a few days. He practiced a new song and sang a part of it every week. They never spoke in words. Only gestures. He was in good spirits always. His physics score also improved. He realized that he was in love with the girl. And he had to tell her soon.

He had to miss a few of his music classes as he had exams. But he promised himself that he would tell Urmi about his feelings the next time he saw her.

After two weeks, he caught his usual train. He was excited and nervous too. How would she react? Would she be happy too? Does she even like him back? All these thoughts swam in his head. Finally, he decided that he was going to tell her how he felt, no matter what.

He sat on his usual seat and was greeted by his known co passengers. He looked ahead. There was no Urmi. He was disappointed. ‘May be she missed this train.’ He thought. It had happened before too.

He tried again a day later. But no Urmi. He tried a train prior to and later than his usual time. Still no sign of Urmi.

A month passed in vain. No Urmi. It seemed that she had vanished!

But he continued practicing and learning new songs. One evening, he saw her friend. She was like a ray of hope to him. He did not waste any time and asked her about Urmi. She was at a loss for words. She got down with him on the next station.

She cried. Told him that Urmi was no more. Fell down from the train when she was going to run some errand for her family. Travelling in peak hours. Lost her grip and slipped. Died instantly.

He was depraved. Aghast. Numb. Without another word he left.

He continued his guitar practice. He excelled at it now.

He often sang songs for his co passengers during his brief train journey.

May be its intuition,

For somethings you just don’t question,

Like in your eyes, I see my future in an instant

And there it goes, I think you’re my best friend

I know that it might sound more than a little crazy but I believe

I knew I loved you before I met you

I think I dreamed you into life!

I knew I loved you before I met you

I have been waiting all my life!

Savage Garden gave him company most of the times.

He cleared his boards and his entrance exam with flying colors. He performed small gigs in his college in his spare time.

Aditya was no ordinary teenager.

He was the boy who loved to travel in trains.

He was the boy who found his first love in a train.

And he was the boy who also lost his first love in a train.

Author’s note : This post was first published on Readomania.

Posted in relationships, short story

The Choice

Avni arranged her luggage beneath seat number three in coach S5 aboard the Bandra-Udaipur Express and waited for the arrival of her co-passengers. She wanted to exchange her seat, as hers was on the top berth and she felt very uncomfortable up there. The train started and her co-passengers boarded from the next station. A young woman who looked like she was in her early twenties was the occupant of seat number one.

“Excuse me?” Avni asked that woman. “If you don’t mind, can you exchange your seat with me? Just for the night. Please.”

“Sure, I don’t mind sleeping up there.” She said pointing to the seat above.

“Thanks. I’m Avni. I’m going to be really grateful to you for this.”

“Oh, it’s alright, Avni. I’m more comfortable upstairs anyway. By the way, I’m Meera. We have a long journey, let’s catch up in the morning.” She said.

“Sure,” replied Avni. “Good night.”

After a restless sleep, Avni woke up to a cacophony of kids playing and shouting. She yawned and saw the time. It was 7 am. She got up and found Meera awake too.

“Oh! Thank God, somebody is awake. I was just wondering how anyone can sleep with so much noise? I want to pee. Here, take my purse. I’ll be back in a jiffy.” Meera hurriedly climbed down.

Avni smiled, took the purse and had a good look at the kids. They looked so fresh. One girl with cute pigtails was fascinated by the scenery and she was happily pointing to the trees and fields outside. Another pair of kids were playing ‘Uno’ with their parents. A toddler was jumping in joy and in sync with the movements of the train. They looked like a big happy family.

Avni sighed and saw that Meera was back. She too went to relieve herself. When she came back, she was happy to find the middle seat back to its normal position. All her co-passengers were awake now. ‘Good!’ She thought. ‘At least I can sit properly.’

“God! These kids…” Meera said, annoyed, the moment she sat beside her.

“Looks like you don’t like kids.” Avni said.

“No, it’s not like I don’t like them… But look at their energy levels so early in the morning. I mean they just got up from sleep right?”

Avni laughed at that and said, “Well they are kids. We have to match their energy levels with ours, and most of us fail to do that. And no, they did not sleep here. They just boarded from the last station.”

Meera made an ‘o’ with her lips and huffed, “That explains the noise.”

Avni just nodded and removed a small diary that she always carried with her and wrote something in it.

Meera was curious and tried to take a peek. But before she could take a glimpse, Avni shut it and kept it back.

“So Avni, what do you do?”

“I work in a corporate as a financial analyst and in my free time, I also volunteer in a school for the differently abled.” She smiled proudly as she said that. “What about you, Meera?”

“Wow, that’s impressive! About me? Nothing. I’m a commerce graduate. I got married two months back. I had come to stay with my parents for a few days. I was missing them a lot, you know. And now I’m going back to my husband’s place in Udaipur.” She continued. “Are you travelling for work reasons?”

Just then the chaiwala came. “Will you have tea?” Avni asked looking at Meera.

“Oh yes, two cups.”

They got their tea and Meera offered some biscuits to Avni which she gladly accepted.

“Just curious to know, what did you write in your diary?” Meera asked.

Avni laughed at her antics, “You must be the gossip queen back home, no? You want to know every little thing as fast as you can.”

Meera pretended to be hurt and sulked against the window. A small diary was then kept in her lap. She turned with a huge smile to Avni.

Avni said, “There’s nothing special in here. It’s my bucket list. Things I’ve always wanted to do in my life since I was a child. I write them as and when I feel like doing something and then put a tick whenever it’s done.”

“Oh, nice. I’m so excited to go through it.” Meera said as she opened the first page.

‘Find someone to call mom and dad – check’ was scrawled in cursive writing. “What does this mean?” Meera asked wide eyed.

Avni crossed her arms on her chest and said, “I was abandoned in a dustbin as a baby. Then taken to an orphanage. I grew up there until I was eight years of age. And this was my first wish. I was adopted a year later by this couple whom I now call as mom and dad.” She smiled through her tears. “That was the day when I decided that I will write whatever I wish to do in this diary and then make sure that I end up doing it.”

“I’m sorry about what happened. But you are really lucky to find them as your parents. And you know what, you are like my elder sister. Even she has a bucket list.” Meera said. And just like that the somber mood was lifted.

She started to read the other entries.

‘Get pregnant – check’

She raised her eyebrows and said in hushed tones, “Oh! That’s why you were so eager to exchange seats.” Meera smiled. “Which month?”

“Fourth,” replied Avni.

“Great. Congratulations!” Meera continued to peruse the diary.

‘Trek to the valley of flowers – check’

‘Road trip to Leh-Ladakh – check’

‘Travel solo in train – check’

“Awesome! You like trekking? And travel solo in train, achieved today, right?” Both of them laughed.

Meera continued, “And you still have to trek to ‘Har ki Dhun’ and you want to climb ‘Mount Everest and learn scuba diving…. Wow….”

Meera sat staring at Avni. Avni giggled and said, “I know I won’t be able to do all of this until my baby is born and maybe at least a year thereafter. But still, I will try my best!”

Meera still continued her staring game. “Now what? Will you stop doing that?” Avni cried. Meera laughed at Avni’s exasperated state and said, “You are really weird.”

“I know. My husband used to say that. And I always used to tell him that ‘I’m not weird, just a limited edition.’ And we both would laugh a lot at that. But I like the thrill of adventures, you know. And my husband is totally the opposite. He will not even sit in the rides of the amusement park!”

Avni got lost in her thoughts at that and when Meera prodded her after a while, she suddenly said, “I’m going to my parents’ home in Udaipur.”

Meera was a bit confused at her sudden change in mood, but nevertheless, she said excitedly, “Great… I’m going to my husband’s and you are going to your parents. How many days are you planning to stay? We can meet again!”

“Yes, sure we can meet as many times as we want. I’m staying with my parents forever.”

Meera was shocked at her response. Why was Avni going to her parents’ home forever if she’s pregnant? She wondered whether she could ask her.

Avni took a good look at her and said, “I know you are dying to ask me the details, so shoot.”

For a second Meera couldn’t believe that a stranger like Avni was ready to share the details of her personal life. But, she somehow did not feel like Avni was a stranger anymore. She felt a strong connection to her. So she asked, “My dear adventurer and mind-reader, what the hell happened?”

“A few days back, I had been to my doctor for my checkup. My in laws somehow managed to find out that I’m carrying a girl. And my ultrasound also showed a slight abnormality. So they gave me two choices: Abort the baby or leave the house. So, here I am.” Avni gestured to herself and the train.

“Abort because you are carrying a girl, NO!” Meera cried. “That is ridiculous! But, what about the abnormality?”

“My reports showed a slight increase in the nuchal translucency. That is one of the indicators of the baby having Down’s syndrome. But, my blood reports are normal. So that could just be temporary. When the doctor was explaining all of this, my in laws assumed the worst. And they are just not ready to listen!” Avni said.

Meera sighed, “Yes, then you are right in doing this. But, what about your husband? Doesn’t he support you?”

“He’s given in to his parents’ pressure. Five years of our marriage mean nothing to him. We were trying so hard for a baby; and now when I’m pregnant, he wants to kill the baby for something that we are not even sure of. And I’m fully capable of taking care of her even if she turns out to be Downs Syndrome. I’m not going to abandon her like my biological parents did to me. I have made my choice and I’m going to stick to it.”

Avni wiped her tears and Meera hugged her, “yes, I’m sure whatever will happen will be for the best. And you deserve the best, weirdo!”

After that, they had lunch. They had tuned off the remaining passengers, being oblivious to who got down or who boarded. They laughed together and spoke about their dreams and ambitions. And in no time they reached Udaipur.

“Finally, our destination is here.” Meera said happily. “Make sure to keep in touch. We are in the same area.”

“Sure, Meera. Take care and see you soon.” Avni replied.

Meera helped her with her luggage and with a final goodbye they parted ways. Avni sighed. Her destination was definitely here, but she had a long journey ahead of her. A journey which she had decided to choose. But she had no regrets. She was determined to overcome the obstacles and emerge victorious at the end of the day.

Posted in Married life, relationships, short story

Trapped!

Shraddha was sipping hot tea in the balcony of her plush two bedroom apartment overlooking the landscaped gardens of the complex where they resided. She was so lost in her thoughts that she did not realize when Sagar, her husband, left for work. This had become a routine thing since the last month or so. They hardly talked, and when they did attempt to communicate, Shraddha would lose her temper and the end result would be a nasty fight. It felt like both of them were treading over quicksand. A single wrong step and both of them would be caught in it with no one to save them.

Shraddha was constantly wondering that what went wrong in the seven year marriage of theirs. She wanted to try, and she did feel that she was the only one trying to save their marriage with no effort from Sagar’s side. The only force that kept her going was their five year old daughter, Aadhya. She din’t want to give up on her marriage just because of a few bad days.

She just could not understand that why the once madly in love couple had become so estranged that they couldn’t even be together in the same room without arguing. Both of them spent extra efforts to not talk to each other in spite of living under the same roof. In the mornings, Shraddha would make breakfast, send Aadhya to school, finish off her kitchen work, pack her lunch and leave for work. At work, she would deal with the problems of her clients and staff. During lunch time, she would pick up her daughter and drop her home with the maid and return to work. Her office, Aadhya’s school and their home was just a few minutes away from each other which was very convenient for all of them. Then, after a stressful day at work, she would be back home. In the late evenings, she would spend some time with Aadhya, cook dinner and later both mother and daughter would be off to bed. Although she had a maid at home, she preferred to cook her own food.

Sagar had a very different routine. He would be the first one to get up in the mornings and head for the gym. He would come home when Shraddha would be in the kitchen busy making breakfast, and he would spend some time with Aadhya, help her in dressing up. By the time he would freshen up, Shraddha would have left to drop Aadhya to school and he would have his breakfast. And when Shraddha would return, he would be getting ready to go off to work. He hardly had dinner at home since the last few days. Both of them were avoiding each other to the best of their abilities. On weekends too, Sagar would go to his office or go out with his friends or sometimes take Aadhya out for a movie. He would ask Shraddha too, whether she would like to accompany them, but she always refused.

Both of them were at a dead end.

But, Shraddha did not like this state of hers. She was feeling trapped with all the emotions bottled up inside her. She wanted to share everything with Sagar, but the fear of rejection from him was scaring her. She was overwhelmed with what was happening. She couldn’t take it any longer.

That day, when she was going to drop Aadhya to school, she saw a grandfather granddaughter duo walking in the park. Looking at them, she remembered her grandfather. How much she missed him!

Of all the family members, she was very close to her maternal grandfather. She would always go to him whenever she had any problem and he would solve it at the drop of a hat! “Where are you now, grandpa? My life is a mess, I need your help more than anything else now” she thought and started crying. She only had memories of him now, for he had passed away when she was eighteen.

Back home, as she got involved in the mundane tasks, she remembered her teenage years when she would be reprimanded for almost anything that she did by her parents. She never understood why she was being yelled at, or lectured for, because it was her normal teen behavior. Her grandfather would always listen to her and at that time he had told her something. Those words had always helped her overcome the hurdles that she faced.

“Life is an exam where the syllabus is unknown and the question papers are not set.” Her grandfather had told her. Those words had always given her hope and the power to conquer all her fears.

And then the sudden realization of her current state dawned on her. That’s when she decided that she wouldn’t give up on their marriage so easily. This was like an exam for her. She would fight for it until she passed. She wouldn’t be trapped in this state forever.

“First things first,” she thought. She sent an email to the HR department in her office saying she would be taking the week off. She felt a sense of relief as soon as she sent the mail. Next, she went to the salon and got a haircut for herself. “It’s high time that I do something good for myself” she thought. Then she took Aadhya to the park in the evening and later they had dinner in a restaurant nearby.

That night as Sagar came home early but exhausted, he was dreading to face Shraddha. He was confused by her mood swings. Initially he thought that maybe she was having premenstrual symptoms, but then they don’t last so long! She would not answer when he asked something and when he would press the matter, they would end up fighting. He just couldn’t understand what wrong he did.

Meanwhile, Shraddha came home with their little one and was surprised to see Sagar early. “Oh no! She thought. “I haven’t made dinner for him and forgot to get a parcel for him as well.” Mentally chastising herself for this silly mistake, she sat beside him on the couch as their daughter went to her room to play.

She held his hand and he looked at her and said, “You look nice.”

“Thanks for noticing.” She smiled through her tears.

“I’ve always noticed you, I thought you’ve forgotten about me these past few months.”

“I don’t know what changed, but let’s promise ourselves to make more effort from now on.” Shraddha urged.

“Yes, we should. I’m really sorry if I have hurt you intentionally or not.”

“Likewise.” Shraddha continued. “Let us go out of town for a few days. I think we need this family vacation. What say?”

“How can I say no to this wonderful proposition?”

They hugged, made their peace and were released from the imaginary trap of emotions that they had entangled themselves in.

We often face such situations in our lives where we feel that our partner doesn’t care anymore. Or he/she has fallen out of love. But, in reality, there’s nothing like that. Instead of trapping ourselves in our imaginary misunderstandings and playing the blame game, it’s better to let ourselves free and communicate. Talking with our partners is the key here. It may not solve all the problems, but we need to start somewhere, right?

Author’s note: This article first appeared as a Featured Post on Women’s Web.

Posted in short story, Uncategorized

Murder in the Woods

“So Mrs. Mehra, can you tell us what happened exactly?” The balding man before her asked.

Eva was seated in a small room with a wooden table and two chairs; one on which she was sitting and the other one opposite her on which this irritating officer was seated.

“Officer Roy! This is like the tenth time I’m being asked the same question! Why? I’m not going to tell you now. You can ask the previous officers who had questioned me in the last 7 days…” Eva yelled.

“Relax Mrs. Mehra. This is the first and last time from my side that you would be asked. I have been assigned the investigating Officer in this case, you see. So it’s imperative for me to get a first-hand count from the only apparent eye witness. So please co-operate, one last time. It’s a sincere request.”

The only thing being it did not sound sincere at all, coming from this man. A receding hairline, potbellied stomach, and loose baggy clothes; he did not look like an investigating officer at all. Eva gave a dramatic sigh and said, “Alright officer. But remember this is the last time. You record all of this if you want. I feel like I’m a criminal, the way you people keep calling me anytime and asking me the same thing over and over again. It’s very difficult for me to relive all that repeatedly.”

“I’m sorry about that, but please. One last time. Promise.”

She sighed again before saying, “Okay, what do you want me to say.”

Officer Roy looked at this tall and frail looking woman in front of him and smiled. “How about you start from that morning? And I want to know all the details. Every single one.”

Eva scraped her chair backwards and went into a deep thought. She started speaking.

“Aditya was an early riser even on weekends. It was a Saturday morning and we were having breakfast. He suddenly asked me, ‘Eva, let’s go out of town for tonight. It’ll be fun. Also we couldn’t go anywhere on New Year’s. So let me make it up to you.’”

“I was very excited at the thought and I screamed in joy. “Oh wow! I so love you very much!” I told him and immediately got down to packing stuff for our impromptu stay. He had already booked a room at a resort in Karjat. In fact, he told me that he had it booked a few days before and wanted to surprise me. At around 9 am we started our journey.”

“What were you both wearing?” Officer Roy interrupted.

Eva looked perplexed at this sudden query, but she recovered herself and said, “I was wearing a teal colored jumpsuit and Aditya was wearing a cream colored t-shirt with brown cargos.” She looked at Officer Roy and said in an amused tone, “Do you even know what a jumpsuit is?”

Officer Roy was a bit annoyed with her attitude, but nevertheless he chose to not answer that. “Continue, Mrs. Mehra.”

“We were following the Google maps very carefully as it was a new area for both of us. I don’t know what went wrong, but about 2 hours later, we entered an area with dense trees on both sides and absolutely nothing else in sight. I got a bit worried and asked Aditya whether we were going in the right direction. He kept nodding in the affirmative. But after a few minutes, we kind of reached a dead end. I mean there was a road, but a car couldn’t go any further on that kind of a road. Aditya had to stop. And now we had no network as well. Going back in the reverse direction was the only thing that we could do. Just as Aditya started reversing the car, I heard a scream.

‘Aditya, did you hear that?’ I told him.

‘No, what?’

‘I heard a woman scream.’

Just then the scream came again. I was a hundred percent sure that it was some woman screaming and not anything else.

‘Now did you hear?’ I asked him.

‘You have gone crazy Eva. There’s no scream. Just the wind playing with your head. Let’s get out of here.’

But I wasn’t convinced. ‘Aditya, wait. I’m going to go and see what is that scream all about. You wait here. What if that lady needs help?’

‘Are you out of your mind, Eva? You cannot go in the woods by just hearing some imaginary scream! Look at where we are. It’s kind of creepy. And who knows that could be some ploy to rob us or something. Just leave it and let’s go.’

But I heard the shout again. I told him, ‘I’m going in there. You wait here. If I don’t come back in ten minutes, please dial 100 and get out of here.’

‘You’ve gone nuts. We really don’t need to get into this. We are here to enjoy our weekend, and let’s just do that.’ He pleaded with me. How I wished I had listened to him.”

Eva started shaking with sobs. Officer Roy handed her some tissues, “here Mrs. Mehra.” She took them and he continued, “I’m sorry that you have to relive all this. But believe me, we too want to solve this case, so that such a thing doesn’t happen to anyone else again.”

Eva calmed herself before saying, ‘I did not listen to Aditya and went in the woods in the direction of the scream. I reached there and saw a woman lying face down in a pool of blood. I screamed and screamed. I dint even bother to see if she was alive or no. I just screamed and ran back in the direction of the car. When I reached back I saw that Aditya was not there. I started yelling his name like crazy. Just then, I heard another scream. It was a man’s scream this time. And I had a gut feeling that Aditya was in danger. I was in a dilemma about what to do. So I dialed 100 and ran in the direction of the scream. I was in shock to see that Aditya, too, was lying in a pool of blood. His clothes were torn and his eyes were blank and open. He looked horrific. I just turned back on my toes, ran back to the car and with trembling hands I drove in reverse until I could manage a U turn. I came back on the main road and stopped there. I dialed 100 again and gave my location. I also called for an ambulance. I was numb with fear. And totally blank. The moment the ambulance came, I explained to them about everything that happened and passed out.”

“Next, when I opened my eyes, I was in the hospital and I have been reliving that day since then.”

Eva wiped her tears and stood up. “Can I go now, Officer?”

“Just a second, Mrs. Mehra.” He quickly called for a glass of water and gestured for her to sit down. “I just need to clarify a few things.”

As Eva had a few sips of water, he asked, “Are you sure you did not happen to notice any heavy object lying out there?”

“I don’t know, I can’t say. I was too numb to actually notice the surroundings carefully. But as far as I remember, there was nothing of that sort in the immediate vicinity.”

“Alright, Mrs. Mehra. I’ll take your word for this one.” He paused for a while before asking, “What about the woman who was murdered? Reena Shastri. Do you know her? Have you heard anything about her?”

“No officer. I have never heard that name before, nor have I seen her before.”

“I find this case really strange and intriguing. Not a single clue. No murder weapon found. Nothing from their call histories. And nothing significant from your house as well.”

He began pacing in the small room, and after sometime, he smiled at her and said, “That’ll be all, Mrs. Mehra. You can go now. We’ll get in touch with you when we find something.”

“Thank you Officer,” she said and left.

Exactly a month later, there was a knock at Eva’s plush fourth floor flat in suburban Mumbai. She opened the door to find a frazzled looking Officer Roy.

She almost laughed at his state but managed to disguise it in a cough. “Did you find out who murdered my husband?” She asked even before he entered the house.

Officer Roy did not answer her question, but rather stepped inside the foyer, took his time to peruse his surroundings and went and sat on the plush sofa in the living room.

“Leaving for somewhere?” he asked after noticing two large suitcases near the dining table.

“Yes, I’m going to live with my parents in Pune. I can’t live here anymore. This place haunts me.” She said sadly.

“Hmm…” came the reply. He just sat there staring into space.

Eva got a bit nervous at this behavior of his and said, “What is it officer? Please enlighten me.”

Officer Roy appeared unfazed. He scratched his almost bald head before asking, “How did you do it, Mrs. Mehra?”

Eva was flabbergasted at the question thrown at her. “What are you insinuating?”

“You very well know what I’m asking you, woman.” He now stood and walked the few steps to stand face to face with her. He was short and reached until her shoulders.

She smirked down at him and said, “Then I guess you will never know the answer to that, officer.”

“You are really smart, Mrs. Mehra. But even the smartest of people make mistakes that ends their good fortune.”

All color drained off her face. She took a step back to process this. She continued with her charade, “I really don’t understand what you are talking about.”

“Well then, let me enlighten you.” He continued. “You remember, you were asked to go through the events of that morning almost eight to ten times before I finally questioned you?”

She nodded in the affirmative.

“So I happened to go through all the recordings a few days back. And I found my clues in them.”

Eva pretended to be unfazed, although her heart was pounding in her chest. She couldn’t imagine making any mistake. Her plan simply couldn’t fail.

He continued, “As I said, making you repeat everything again and again was my idea, because you were my prime suspect right from day 1. So in one of the recordings that you gave to my colleague, you said you saw a heavy wooden rod lying a few feet away. And in another one you said, there was an axe like object lying a few feet away. Whereas in all others you said that you did not see anything else, or rather you were so much in shock that you failed to notice if there was anything else.”

“So?” questioned Eva, “That doesn’t mean anything. I must have said something because I was still under trauma, rather I still am.”

“Agreed, Mrs. Mehra. But you also lied about knowing Reena Shastri. You said you did not know her. Whereas she’s your husband’s childhood friend and you both are friends on Facebook.”

“But I have over a thousand friends on Facebook, that doesn’t mean I know her personally. I don’t even remember adding her!” She said in exasperation.

Officer Roy smiled. His plan was working. He just had to rile her up somehow, so that she would speak up. This was the correct time to throw his trump card. “So, don’t tell me that you did not know that Aditya and Reena were college sweethearts?”

Eva was stumped. She did not know what to say. How could this man know all of this? She couldn’t get intimidated by him. She had to stay calm.

“I know they weren’t in touch on their usual cell numbers. They had separate ones. And we found out about these numbers from your call records. Thank goodness, I took the pains to go through them again. There’s a missed call on your phone from one of these numbers, which I assume you must have done when Aditya wasn’t around. Now that, Mrs. Mehra was a huge mistake. Didn’t you know that all these records can be tracked? So we tracked the phone and we found it in a truck near Karjat along with another phone which I think was Reena’s.”

Eva was speechless. She recovered herself after a few seconds. “You are really very sharp, Officer Roy. I dint think that you would gather so much information so quickly. But still this doesn’t prove anything and I’m as free a woman as I was before the moment you walked in that door. And I’m also a widow mourning her husband’s untimely death. So, I suggest you leave and only come back with some concrete evidence.”

Officer Roy was stumped by this woman’s confidence. She did not show even an ounce of remorse for the great crime that she had committed. And sadly, he had no proof for that.

“So will you tell me how did you do it, Mrs. Mehra? Just for my knowledge.” He thought of giving it one last try.

“In your dreams, officer.” She smiled and went near the door, left it open and gestured for him to leave.

He sighed as he walked past her, gave her one last look before saying, “Enjoy your freedom till it lasts, Mrs. Mehra.”

With that Eva banged the door shut and sank down on her knees, tears pooling in her eyes. She wasn’t a bad woman. No. But she was made to do what she did otherwise she would have been dead by now. But no one would understand her sentiments. This secret would be buried in the recesses of her heart until she is lit on the funeral pyre.

She freshened up and finished packing a few other things that remained. She swore to never return to this damned place and start a new life in another city.

She sat in the hired cab and breathed a sigh of relief. She closed her eyes to take a quick nap and everything that happened in the last two months flashed before her eyes.

The sharing of secret calls and messages by Aditya, her rising suspicions, his late nights, the missed new year’s eve, her constant arguments with him, her finding another cell phone, going through all those messages exchanged by Reena and Aditya, the sickening feeling that she would get every time he would touch her, the lie of their three year marriage, her finding out Aditya and Reena’s intention about killing her, the trip that was supposed to be the end for her, her following them to the location where her murder was planned, her plans to turn the table around, the car stopping at the destined place, the scream, her insisting to follow the sound, her finding Reena there with a wooden rod in her hand, her stabbing Reena in the neck with a syringe loaded with potassium chloride, Reena’s instant death, her hitting Reena on the head with the rod, screaming again and again to get Aditya’s attention, hiding behind a tree, Aditya’s shocked expression in seeing Reena dead, her stabbing him in the neck from behind with another syringe loaded with potassium chloride, his instant death, then hitting him on the head with the same rod, tearing his clothes, burying the rod, the needles and syringes at the site where they were going to bury her, taking their alternate phones from their pockets, breaking them, running back to the car, dialing 100, back to the main road, calling the ambulance, throwing the broken phones in a truck that had stopped by to ask her well-being, the arrival of the ambulance, her fake passing out.

She woke up with a start and beads of sweat rolled down her face in spite of sitting in an air conditioned cab. She was gasping for breath.

“Are you alright, ma’am?” The driver asked.

She had a few sips of water from the bottle that she was carrying, “Yes, I’m fine now.” She said.

Her worst nightmare was over. She could have been a dead woman if not for her instincts. Her instincts to go through Aditya’s phone. To follow him to the woods and hear them planning her murder and burial. Her instincts saved her. She was not a bad woman. It was only her fight for survival.

Why did he marry her if he loved Reena so much? Just because she was rich? How much she hated them both. But they were in hell now. It didn’t matter anymore.

Was she a bad woman, was she not? Was she right, or was she not? She had loved him and all she got was betrayal. Those were the last things on her mind, when she again dozed off.

She woke up again to the shrill sound of her phone ringing. It was her mom. She smiled in relief. She told her that she would be reaching home soon. She took in the passing view and looked forward to starting over again. She was determined to put her past behind her and move on.

She wanted to enjoy her freedom. For now.

Posted in short story

Physics and Their Chemistry

He perched himself on one of the chairs opposite the Bistro Café and placed his laptop on the table across him. Being the bestseller author that he was, words were supposed to flow naturally to him. But, he just stared at the blank page on his laptop.

He stared and stared. What should he write about? Who was telling the story? And whose story was it anyway? The words fluttered and flew in the wind.

Sighing in frustration, he tousled his blonde hair, shut his laptop and walked till the shore a few feet away. Where was his inspiration? He thought. Currently on a break for a few days, he knew that he had to give his editor something to work on the moment he stepped back home.

He was standing at the popular Baga beach in Goa. A place where people of different countries and cultures blended together. An ideal place for a vacation and some stimulation as well. But, his mind was empty of all ideas. As the sun faded across the horizon, he jogged back to his cottage and decided to call it a day.

The next morning, he woke up groggily to the sound of his phone ringing.

“Hello, is it Nathaniel James?” A soft voice questioned.

He cleared his throat and said, “Yeah. That’s me.”

“Umm… I’m sorry to bother you so early, but I have found your wallet on the beach and want to return it.” The voice said.

“Oh, is it?” He wasn’t even aware that he had lost his wallet. He rummaged through the pockets of the shorts that he was wearing yesterday and was indeed surprised to find it gone. “So, where are you right now? I’ll come and get it.”

“Okay. I’m standing on the beach opposite Bistro Café. There are two flags here, one is a checkered black-white and the other is red-yellow. I’m standing in between the two wearing a purple t-shirt and black shorts. Please come fast.” She said and cut the phone.

Nathaniel splashed some water on his face before making his way to the beach. He reached in a few minutes and saw a young girl waiting exactly where she had described. He also noticed her long black hair flying in the wind and she was really pretty.

“Hi, I’m Nathaniel James. Thank you so much for calling me. I hadn’t even realized that I had lost my wallet.”

The girl blinked her eyes multiple times before she said, “Wow.”

Nathaniel quirked his brow before the girl blushed and said further, “Umm… I’m sorry. Actually, I had found your wallet last evening, but I was too scared to call you. When I finally gathered the courage, I called, not bothering to see the time. By the way, I’m Tanya Desai.” She offered her hand for a shake after handing him his wallet.

Nathaniel smiled, kept his wallet in his pocket and shook her hand, which he found to be cold and sweaty. She was really nervous. “Nice to meet you Tanya. May I ask, why were you scared to call me?”

Tanya gave a sheepish smile before saying, “I thought I wouldn’t understand your English. You all speak in a different accent and really fast. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself. But, the guilt of possessing someone else’s property won out. And before I could change my mind, I called you.”

Nathaniel broke out in laughter, but when he saw that Tanya looked upset, he stopped. “Sorry, but I wasn’t laughing at you. I’ll tell you why my English is like this. That’s because my mom’s French and dad’s Indian. We lived in Paris first. But, I have moved to London now.”

Tanya looked at him in awe. He continued, “Enough about me. What about you?”

“Umm… I have just finished with my 12th board exams. So we are all here for a vacation.”

They started walking along the shore and Nathaniel said, “That’s great. Wish you all the best for the results.”

“How do you know about our 12th board exams, Nathaniel?”

He smiled at the way she said his name, “You can call me Nate. And yes, I know that because I used to keep travelling to India with my dad visiting relatives during holidays. So, what do you want to do further?”

“I am planning to do a BSc. in Physics while simultaneously preparing for the entrance exams to enter the topmost colleges for astrophysics. That’s what I want to be, an astrophysicist.” She said enthusiastically.

“Wow. I’m in awe of you!” Nate pointed towards the café as he said, “Let’s have some tea. My treat. For returning my wallet.”

“Sorry, but I need to go back before my parents send a search party for me.”

Nate shrugged, “Alright then. It was great meeting you Tanya. And thanks again for making that call. I would have been in great trouble if that wallet would have fallen in the wrong hands, you know. It has all my credit cards and other personal details. So, I really owe you for this.” He smiled and added further, “Do keep in touch. You use Facebook?”

“I have an account, but not a regular user.”

“I’m going to send you a friend request and make sure you accept it.” He winked at her before saying, “My phone is either switched off or not with me, or else texting would have been easier. So, hope to meet you again sometime, Tanya.” With that they parted ways.

Back in London, Nate had started working on a story and he was checking a few websites when he had a friend request on Facebook. He usually had numerous friend requests but he hardly accepted any. This one was from Tanya Desai. He smiled as he clicked on ‘confirm’ and soon he had a message from her in the messenger.

‘See, I sent you a request first. Hope you remember me?’

‘Ah yes, how can I forget you? My wallet savior.’

‘You never told me what you do.’

‘I’m a writer.’

‘Wow. Okay. I’ll ping you back later. May be tomorrow. Need to finish a chapter in quantum mechanics. My break time is over. And it’s 10 pm here. What’s the time there?’

‘It’s 4.30 pm here.’

‘Okay, bye and take care.’

‘Bye, good night. You too take care.’

Nate smiled at the conversation he just had. He found her cute. Really cute.

He had random messages from her almost every day. Some days she spoke about the rains lashing the city and how much she hated them, while sometimes she told him about the new theories and formulae that she was learning in her physics class. She had topped her college in the boards and had secured admission in the college of her choice. Sometimes she would explain to him in details about the various theories on electromagnetism and particle physics. Initially, he would get bored with her constant yapping, but wouldn’t have the heart to tell her to stop. Later, he got used to it and in fact would look forward to her messages in his inbox. She had a fixed time; she would chat with him before she went to bed.

He would also tell her about his latest stories and what he was reading. The occasional party that he had been to. He was surprised that Tanya had never seen the interior of a club in the eighteen years of her life.

Six months passed. Nate was done with his first draft. He took way longer to complete it than usual. But at least he had something to give to his editor. And there was one more thing bothering him. He did not have any messages from Tanya since the last two days and he was beginning to miss her. He had left her a good night message, but she hadn’t acknowledged it.

He decided to Skype her. They had shared their details a few days ago and this was a perfect time to make use of that. After calling her for the fifth time, she answered.

He was greeted with a teary face, swollen eyes, messy hair and snot covered nose.

“Oh God. What’s wrong Tanya?” He exclaimed.

“My life is wrong.” She started wailing again. “I’m going mad with this Statistical mechanics. I’m going to fail in this exam.” She said in between sobs.

Nate was feeling bad for her but at the same time he was controlling a chortle that was threatening to escape him. “I think you should take a break from it.”

“Break!” She yelled. “Are you out of mind? I have exams next week!” She said in exasperation.

Now, he burst out laughing.

“You are laughing at my state?” Tanya started crying louder this time.

Nate slapped his forehead and said, “Relax. What I meant is, go out for some time. Do something other than Physics. Trust me, it really helps. Sometimes, when I get stuck with my story that is what I do. Take a break. Enjoy. And approach the matter with fresh eyes. And then, you will see the magic.” Nate coolly explained.

Hearing all this, Tanya stopped crying and said, “Okay. So that’s what I’m going to do. Take a break. I’m going to bed early today. Screw the Physics. Good night.”

“Good night.” Nate laughed as he said that.

The next time when they had a chat, Tanya was done with her exams and she couldn’t stop thanking Nate for the tips that he had given her. Nate was beginning to like this girl a lot. She was naïve yet so smart, and she was beginning to grow on him. And he had absolutely no idea about what she was feeling. She only spoke about her love for physics so far. They had a good five years age difference, and he was a bit scared to broach the subject with her.

Another year passed. There were many changes in Nate’s life, like he moved to a better place, he was done with another manuscript and he was touted as the next big thing in the literary world. But one thing remained constant. His daily chats with Tanya.

They chatted for almost half an hour every day, sometimes even more, at the end of her day. Nate would postpone all his other stuff during that time. She would tell him about the basics of astronomy and her obsession with the TV show ‘the big bang theory.’ She loved that show so much that she had made its title song the ringtone and the caller tune of her phone. He had laughed like a maniac when she said that.

They spoke about their families as well. Nate told her about his younger sister who was trying her luck with her acting skills and Tanya told him about her older brother who was working in the States.

“What about your parents?” She had asked him during one of their Skype chats.

“Buried six feet under.” He said nonchalantly.

“Oh! I’m so sorry.” She said.

“It was three years ago. They knew we were capable enough to manage ourselves. So both of them decided to go together.”

“You sound upset, Nate.”

“I’m not upset, but I miss them really bad. You are lucky, you have both of them in your life.” He smiled.

“Yes, I know. But I end up fighting with them a lot. Specially my mom. She doesn’t approve of my career choice. Worries that I’ll go into space and never come back.”

Nate was laughing at that and she continued, “I’m tired of explaining to her that I just want to be a scientist with absolutely no intentions of venturing beyond the earth!”

And just like that both of them burst out laughing.

He doubted that she knew how famous he was. In fact, he had even asked her whether she had read anything other than physics, to which she had said, “Physics is my one and only passion for now.” He wondered whether she could feel the chemistry between them. Even though they were continents apart, there was definitely a spark which he felt when he heard her melodic voice. He wasn’t interested in the physics which she spoke about, he only wanted to hear her voice. Sometimes, he would Skype her instead of their usual Facebook chats just to see her and hear her voice.

Once, she had surprised him with a new haircut and highlights in her hair. She had them streaked blonde and brown at the suggestion of the stylist. She looked gorgeous, but wasn’t confident about carrying it off. Nate had convinced her otherwise.

Time flew. Tanya was graduating next week. Nate had three bestsellers back to back and he was at the peak of his career. Suddenly, he had an idea. He needed a much deserved break from all the chaos in his life owing to his popularity.

He flew to Mumbai to meet Tanya. He wanted to surprise her and managed to sneak out all the details about her graduation ceremony. And today, he found himself in the auditorium of the Mumbai University for the ceremony. He wondered how she would react on seeing him there.

After the ceremony was over, he immediately rushed outside to catch hold of her. He saw her in the open lawn hugging a middle aged couple, who he assumed were her parents. She looked even more beautiful. He went near them and cleared his throat.

Tanya’s eyes widened in surprise when she saw him and he beamed looking at her. She hugged him and began shouting with delight.

“I think my ear drums have burst.” Nate laughed.

“This is un-freaking-believable!” Tanya exclaimed. “This is going to be the most memorable day in my life.”

“Yes, it is going to be.” Nate said. With that he pulled her close and kissed her. Not caring about where they were, or who was watching them, he kissed her thoroughly and she responded back. They broke apart when they heard some whistles and claps.

Furiously blushing, Tanya looked at him and Nate felt himself drowning in her brown eyes.

“Excuse me? Umm…. Mr. Nathaniel? Excuse me?”

Nate saw someone snapping their fingers in front of him. He blinked his eyes a couple of times before coming to his senses and looked around.

He was still standing at Baga beach in front of the flags that Tanya had mentioned and she, herself was standing before him. What had just happened?

He nodded his head and shook himself out of the dream.

“I’m sorry Tanya. I think I just zoned out.”

“No problem. I thought I bored you with my physics talk.” She started laughing.

“No, not at all.” Nate said. “In fact, I just wove an entire chemistry from your love for physics.”

Tanya gave him a questioning look to which he said, “I’m an author. I’m on a break here for some inspiration and you just gave me one.” He smiled.

“Good to know. It was great meeting you. I’m going to leave now, before my parents send a search party for me.”

“Thanks a lot Tanya. And do keep in touch. You must be having a Facebook account, right?”

“Yes, sure. I’ll send you a friend request later. Good bye and good luck with your story!” He saw her retreating back in the direction from where she came from.

He shook his head and sighed. He headed back to his room with a bounce in his step. He had a story to write. A story which he had just dreamt about. He did not know how the story would end, but it didn’t matter right now. He would figure it out on the way. The best part was that he knew what would be the title of his new book: ‘Physics and their Chemistry.’