Love cannot be forced and it cannot be coaxed. Futile attempts of finding a mate are often made by putting best friends together hoping that since they get along like a house on fire, there is nothing that could go wrong. So when Ajay was coaxed into asking Maya out, she had given in. Ajay Reddy was that one guy who everyone knows in college. Not particularly spectacular in anything at all, he somehow still rose above the average. The fact that his father was loaded helped, but it wasnt the money. Ajay was a nice guy (I give credit to his mother ) and you knew it from the very first time you meet him. Ajay had met Maya during one of those innumerable events that college always throws up, given the authority to lead a team and had handed over the reigns to Maya completely. But his operational skills were indispensable. When a guy has a car and knows the streets of Bangalore like the back of his hand, he is indispensable.
That how they had met, they had become friends over the event and when college ended, Ajay was the only one left of the huge circle that Maya always had around her. They had grown closer over coffees, talked on the phone for hours together (Maya doing most of the talking) and somehow everyone else had decided that they would be perfect together.
Ladies, just so you know, when a guy is told by his friends that, ” Why arent you going out with this girl who knows you so well and accepts you for who you are ?” , every guy starts thinking of whether its a possibility. When the friends dont stop asking the question, the idea grows and is often accepted. Thats how Ajay thought he was in love with Maya. That is why he asked her out. Maya said yes coz she knew Ajay was a nice guy and would have no hidden surprises.
Dinner was at one of those places in Koramangala that you always pass by but never enter wondering if its too expensive. The host knew Ajay personally and escorted the both of them to a table that seemed to have been set specially for them. Money does have its advantages. Everything seemed to be going fine, except that both were extremely conscious. Ajay was wondering if Maya even realized what a big issue this would become for his parents, Maya was wondering if Ajay would want to kiss good night. They always hugged, but this was a date. It was then that Hari had broken through her thoughts, his face suddenly appeared breaking clouds in her thoughts as if asserting his claim on her. Maya almost choked on her pasta. The evening ended with both parties wondering if anything important or stupid had been said. The drive to her apartment was quiet, both lost in thoughts. When Ajay had rushed around to open her door, reality hit like a brick out of the sky.
This was it, the door was 5 steps away,4,3. As they turned to face each other, Ajay was the first to speak, ” This was a bad idea.”
Relief hit Maya like a freight train and she had to stop herself from shouting in joy. But the smile she had was one of understanding. They had tried it. They both knew it wouldnt work. Then Ajay asked the question, so simply that Maya was speechless for a few seconds, ” Who is he ?”
This was the connection people saw. The fact that each could read the other like an open book. This also was why they could never be lovers. For even true soul mates need secrets.
“Dinner was Great ! Thanks for a wonderful evening.” , said Maya and quickly went into her apartment. Ajay was left staring at the door. But true sport that he is when he smiled and turned around, looking through the key hole Maya knew they would be alright.
Chapter 5: Here
Chapter 1: Here
Reality has a way of playing games with our dreams. Its nothing new, its been happening for ages now and it keeps going. Tara knew this, yet the hope that someday she would be married to Hari had held so true that she never doubted it. Knowing someone whos been there from the beginning of your memories kind of has that effect on people. We all tend to ignore the idea that people meet to part. Some people come in unnoticed, add meaning, often change you in ways you cant and then fade away. Hari wasnt fading away. Tara never expected him to. “Until Death Do Us Apart” – all those times she had heard it in the movies, she had pictured Hari being the man holding her hands. Not that she would be having a christian wedding, but the sentiment of it remained.
And now fate had thrown a curveball. Hari had somehow, out of half a billion women in the world chosen the one girl Tara hated. Why ? Well, the answer would be life. Sometimes there are no reason as to why we dont like somebody. Maya was actually very likeable. But Tara just didnt. From the first moment they had met, Tara and Maya had always been wary of each other. Okay, okay, I wont beat around the bush. Tara didnt like Maya because she thought they were similar. Not just similar, if they werent born to different mothers they might have been twins. They were both exactly the same height, they both had the same bone structure (the shape that turned heads in traffic) and they both excelled at one thing. That one thing that Tara loved – Basketball. Only problem was Maya was debatable better at it. Call it coaching, more natural ability or plain old luck every time the two had come face to face (and it was a sizeable number) Maya had beaten her. Often by a matter of points but it had happened. And somehow sport had a spillover to real life. The few times they had met off the court, there was a chill that both felt. Both avoided such meetings if possible. Each kept track of the other, knowing where they worked, what there common hangouts were and avoided these places. So yeah just as I said, Tara knew Maya. And when Hari described her, the hair, the eyes, the face – Tara felt that fate had played her a real bad hand. God had a wicked sense of humor and she wasnt finding it funny.
“So.. Do you think I can find her ?”, Hari asked, those brown eyes of his pleading her to say yes, “Do you know her ?”
“Why do you want to see her so bad?”, Tara said, avoiding the question and pleading with her own black eyes, ” Are you sure you even remember her properly? You just saw her once. That too under the influence of alcohol through a cloud of smoke.”
“I… I cant explain it. I havent felt this way before, ever. Its like one look at her and I wanted to take her into my arms and protect her from everything. Not that she looked like a lost puppy. But you know she just.. she was.. she… Oh how do I explain it to you?”
“Try”. One perfect eyebrow went up into an arc that all her male friends found cute but Hari didnt even notice.
“Well, you know how I am always cribbing about how my websites are still missing something. How they could be better? That your idiot brother was making me mad. Well, she was like that. She seemed almost perfect, like the true idea of a woman, at least my true idea of a woman, except that there was nothing I wanted to change in her. I just wanted that moment to freeze, wished that time would freeze, that was the one memory I want to take to my grave.”
“Stop being so melodramatic. You arent dying yet. The moment is gone, you are alive and she probably doesnt even remember you.”, Tara wanted to run away but this man held her in a spell. Him pining for someone else but her was pure agony but she couldnt leave.
Maya remembered him. His face, his hair, that darned half smile.
Chapter 5 : Here
Tara Nambiar is your average urban girl except for the fact that she was a star. A rising star in the world of TV, Tara hosted a popular travel show for one of the hundred channels that are usual fare for the Indian diaspora. The camera loved her, the audience loved her. She was a darling of the masses, an angel in human form. Her career was taking off and bigger names in the industry watched her rise carefully. Protective but liberal parents had given her the freedom to make her choices. There only condition was that in becoming a well known face, she should also maintain the reputation of the family, like her brother had.
Her brother was the first kid on the block to establish his own business. He was famous in the locality as a bright one, the one child that grows in the hearts of all mothers of the neighborhood as their own. We have met him earlier, this boy wonder. Vijay Nambiar. Yes, the yin to the yan that is Hari, our lead. And it was Tara that Hari was helping across the street. Tara had always been a fixture in Hari’s life. Hari and Vijay were used to her being somewhere in the periphery of their existence. Both the men were fiercely protective of her and Tara enjoyed making them tear their hair out.
Tara had innumerable suitors, most of them ended up wishing they never asked her out in the first place. The two men in her life from when she was born set the bar so damn high that no one could match it. Tara worshiped Vijay and Hari, and couldnt (didnt want to) bring in another who couldnt compare to her knights. Also, Tara had had the biggest crush on Hari and still silently was infatuated by him. The few men she did take out were used as objects to draw his attention. Hari was oblivious to the fact that Tara had grown up. He still saw a tiny girl in ponytails dressed for school. For Tara, Hari was the man she saw her brother admire, her mother love and her father speak proudly of. For Tara, Hari was the only man for her.
She had watched silently the various bimbos and intellectuals that had passed through his life, first with hatred, then with jealously and now with pity. She knew they were just passing fancies. They had stopped worrying her. Plus they also opened up a side in Hari she didnt know. Tara was the confidante Hari needed whenever he had girl troubles. Tara had learned what this man liked, what he hated and what he plain didnt care about. Tara had Hari to credit for making her a woman that men fell head over heels for. Through the long coffees and conversations, Tara had transformed slowly into a woman that most men find irresistible. Most men that is excspt for Hari.
Today was no exception. Hari had invited her for coffee and had poured his heart out. Where Vijay was clueless, Tara had always had answers. Tara would know how to find this girl. Tara would know where to look for her.
Tara didnt want to. Tara had met Hari and had seen in him something she never expected. She saw that this time Hari was gone for good. Her Hari, the one true love of her life, was not hers anymore.
Tara’s problem was she didnt have to find her. Tara knew Maya.
Chapter 3: Here
Chapter 2: Here
Chapter 1 : Here
Chapter 2: Here
Everyone hates an encounter with the police. In India, this possibility manifests itself at every traffic signal in the form of a potbellied cop in an ill fitting uniform, mad at the world for keeping him standing in the sweltering heat. Maya though had to contend with something far worse. She was in a police station, that dirty, ugly building which is always busting with pimps and agents who sell every kind of service that is supposedly free. But none of them could coax Maya when she had walked in her head held high. Megha, her best friend, needed her here and here she was.
Megha was going through the rigors of a tumultuous marriage and after three years of unbearable coexistence had decided to end it once and for all. This report on harassment was the first step. Police constables in Bangalore are very accommodating to women like Megha, they knew she meant serious business when they first laid eyes on her. Maya, who had seen her go through all the crap, was sitting by her side (just as she had when Megha needed a shoulder to cry on), awaiting further instructions from the uniform in his pompous, broken English. Maya, you see, was a witness.
She had watched her friend try to fix what was a broken marriage from day one. The black eyes, the bruises, the pain had all been shared and Maya had stood up for her friend a couple of times. That ended when Megha got beaten up again for telling Maya about their “family problems”. The husband, perfect on paper, had turned out to be a monster of a man. The high profile job was excellent cover for a maniac, who expected total obedience from his wife. She was not to work anymore, Megha accepted. She could not talk to any of her male friends, Megha cried but agreed. She was not to wear jeans or T shirts, Megha had bought an entire wardrobe of salwars. Things started turning bad when He told her she didnt need to use the internet and cut the connection at home. She had protested, she loved the internet. It kept her in touch with friends, she skyped with her sister in the states and blogged incessantly. Without that Megha would not have survived. Thats when the beatings started. The first time, he had apologized the very next day, and Megha had felt he was just getting used to living with someone. The second time, the apology was shorter and half hearted. The third time, there was no apology. The fourth time, Maya had stepped in and this brought around a fifth and sixth attack. Megha had packed her bags and moved in with Maya. The very next day they were waiting to file the FIR. Today.
“Men are dogs.” Megha stated with a finality that made Maya almost accept it. But her mind flitted back to a face from yesterday night. Those eyes had stared right at her, in to her. She had felt a butterfly in her stomach. It flitted about again now.
Maya Rebello, decided this was not a train of thought that suited the occasion and let it be. That skill was what made Maya, Maya. Maya born to a couple from different backgrounds and religions, had been brought up like that. Her father often questioned her about random things that seemed absolutely normal.
“Why do you think the color green is connected to Islam ?”
“Why are there so many sects within Christianity?”
“If women are equal to men, why are there no female F1 racers ?”
The questions seemed random but had cultivated in Maya that curiosity to go beyond accepted norms. It had made her question the basic principles. It had given her the ability to detach emotion and personal bias from an argument. Which had worked pretty well for her. The best orator that her school, in fact the entire district had seen (as proved by the medals mom displayed at home), Maya had become an effective debater. Her joining mass media was not surprising for her parents or her teachers. The PR job for a small time NGO was a surprise. The company was unheard of, the role seemed to involve a lot of what could only be defined as sales pitches, it somehow didnt fit. But Maya had accepted the offer for one reason only. That reason was her boss. Ms. Monica Pande was the kind of woman Maya wanted to be. Strong, confident, successful and more importantly the kind of woman who was noticed when she spoke. The NGO worked to empower rural women, enabling them with skills and then supplying them with the raw materials to create products that had never ending demand.Maya had found a place where she felt she belonged, a job she loved and a boss she admired. Things were going good. Except this.
“Well, not all men and dogs are actually very faithful.”, she replied.
“Hmmmph !!! Maya, what the hell are you talking about ?’
“Nothing. There he wants us to sign something.”, Maya said , pointing. They duly signed in the form and equipped with a copy of the FIR exited the building. Sunshine never seemed so welcoming.
“Home now ?”. Maya asked. She needed a bath after the station.
“You go ahead. Dad lands day after tomorrow. I need to be in control before he gets here. Lots of things to do.”, Megha replied and was already waving goodbye as she started moving towards her car. The freedom from the shackles of marriage had given her a skip in her step. She seemed to be in a hurry, wanting to make up for lost time.
Maya headed home. The auto was at a signal when she saw him again. He was crossing the street, deep in conversation with a girl. He held her hand as they crossed. Sigh, maybe she had mistaken the look. Everything is not as it seems.
Drinking too much has its after effects. The eyes betray what chewing gum and a long bath try to hide. Hari however didnt have the long bath or the chewing gum. He was walking around in auto pilot mode. His lips were speaking, his hands and feet were doing their jobs in perfect synchronicity. In all appearance, he appeared normal. The only thing missing in the whole picture was his incisive mind and the undertone of sarcasm that was his signature. Vijay was the first one to notice it.
“Who is Vijay ?”, you ask. No ? “Who is Hari ?”. Ah ! Forgive my manners. Lets roll the camera back to the beginning. Harikrishnan Nair, aka, Hari is your typical run of the mill Mallu who roams the vast concrete jungles named Bangalore. Oops, Bengalooru. He is 5′ 11″ (an inch short of the 6 feet that he believed was his birthright), fair (thanks to a bloodline that should be purple for all the royals that adorn the walls in his ancestral home in Kerala) and one of those few gifted designers in India (his websites are among some of the most shared on Facebook under varying adjectives like cool, awesome, etc..His brilliance made him pretty famous among the more talented of the designers around the city. He was also known as a stickler for quality and time. He wouldnt be rushed into anything and he would always deliver on time. Designing was a passion for him, which was fine except that when the client is a nincompoop who has no sense of color or aesthetics, he went ballistic. That is where Vijay comes in. Vijay was the guy who kept the company from going bust. The guy who kept he genius of Hari’s designs under constant control. He had learned enough through DIY books to make the minor changes which made their brilliant creations, more acceptable, more corporate, more boring (according to Hari).
Friends from a tender age, it is rarely that two minds gel so well. They were the perfect partners, Vijay the face for all the terrors Hari could dream up and boy could he dream them up. Both mothers were blamed equally and took all of it with a smile. A smile that knew they were destined for greatness. The growing up years saw them develop distinct personalities. Each a compliment to the other. Where Hari was impetous, Vijay was restrained. Where Hari was a perfectionist, Vijay liked to compromise. Teachers always wondered how long it would last, this friendship that was stuff of legend, not something real life could sustain.
While Hari excelled in Math , Vijay tagged along through the humanities stream in the same college. Brothers from different mothers, they were just too used to each other, that the absence of the other was a thought that never occurred. The move to Bangalore was also together, Hari got that first job as a newbie designer, while Vijay had joined an NGO. The social streak in him made him seem gullible but he had a knack for closing deals that was seldom predictable.
Now 5 Years later, they had quit their 9 to 5 jobs and joined together with seed money from the mothers and had set up shop. Vijays network got them loads of requests, Hari’s wizardry on the computer made them the duo that everyone wanted. They could deliver the perfect blend that you wanted. Add to the medley, random designers and coders that Hari found from everywhere, they finally were growing. Both in numbers and in revenue. This was going to be a good year. Last nights bash had been the celebration of 150 websites signed, sealed and delivered. Monumental yes, memorable yes. But Hari was distracted.
“Whats wrong ?” Vijay confronted Hari, “What scheme are you dreaming up now ?”
“Nothings wrong. All is well. We just hit 150, the team has come together,” said Hari as he closed the door to the apartment,” and… and I think I am in love.”
“Ah ! There it is. Again.” Vijay said. Lets go back into the black and white flash back mode here. Hari as you have seen by now was a man driven by passions. Matters of the heart were a constant ailment for him. He had had numerous encounters with the female kind, each time declaring that this one is different. Vijay had stood by his side through them all. Watched him float on clouds in the beginning, then slowly get see him fall into a spiral of complaints (mostly regarding his freedom, to go wherever he wanted, to drink, to smoke and to not be dragged around town on trips that seemed to be absolutely pointless) ending finally in a couple of weeks of drunken nights, crying and laughing, shouting and silent, till the storm abated.
He never let his work fall during any of these many encounters and Vijay felt relief. This was another of those poor women who had been attracted to the magnetic energy of a man who was absolutely confident of himself. The guy who seemed lost without a care, the kind that every girl wanted to take into her arms and shelter. It will pass, Vijay thought and let it go.
Vijay had fallen in love once, still was in fact, with a girl who somehow decided to love him back. Tina was HR team lead for one of the companies Vijay had pitched for in his NGO days. He had stuttered through the entire meeting and was completely surprised to receive her call 3 days later.
“When are you going to ask me out ?”, she had asked,” Its not good to keep a girl waiting.”
That statement gave him courage. A courage that he had never felt before. ” When should I pick you up tonight ?” he countered.
“Tonight ? Isnt that a little too ambitious of you ?”
“I think we have both waited long enough for this moment. Lets make it Lunch. Right Now.”
“Nooooo.” She said, wondering how he seemed to know what she wanted and cut the phone. He walked into the office 45 minutes later with a bouquet of roses and a smile that was irresistible. Both off them didnt return to work that day.
I digress. Sorry. Back to Hari. He was going mad , he decided. This girl was different, he knew somehow. He was trying to figure out how to find her in this city of teeming millions. Creating plans and scratching them out almost immediately. There had to be a way. “Wonder if she even noticed me ?”, he thought.
She had. But Maya had a bigger problem right now.
Chapter 1 here
PS: Bring out the Red ink, Usha and Sashu. Dont have any others I can call regulars who will be ready as soon as you two.
Their eyes met and the surroundings melted into mist.For the length of a few seconds it felt incredible, incredibly so.Then, as always, life pulled them back into its big bountiful, fold. The music blaring from the speakers, the smoke from a hundred cigarettes, the loud clinking of glasses and mugs, all of it made their presence felt. Noone seemed to have noticed how that fleeting moment had touched two lives, possibly forever.He looked for her after, discreetly searching the crowd for one more glimpse. She tried to stay longer, coaxing her friends for one more drink. It didnt work.
Even when he stumbled out of that neon lit universe of a disco, his mind was filled with that single image of the night. That haunting face, that smile below eyes crying for help, that little fringe she was trying to tuck when they had frozen in time. They say such is destiny, it gives you glimpses of something you have dreamed about without knowing what it was all your life. She, Hari decided, was his.
She had been silent all the way home. She laughed at the cues from others, mimicking the rest of the gang. No one noticed that she was replying in mono syllables. As she combed her hair before bed, she saw his face in the mirror: not the usual hunk women faint over, but there was an intensity to his eyes, a confidence in his face as of one who knew where he was heading in life. She slept fitfully, twisting and turning, held in that gaze that didnt break even after all these hours. He, Maya decided, was trouble.
PS: The beginning of my work of fiction which has died and resurrected over and over again. Am hoping this time making it public will make me being it to more than a few chapters. To what end ?? I have no clue