A beautiful breezy evening arrived. Nobody has anticipated that. There was music at the party, half of the uncles and aunties were on the dance floor and mostly everyone was under the effect of ‘bhaang’. Rishi and Aayat have been together all through the day. There was a sense of calm, strange togetherness, even when there was nothing which had been accepted inside out. Yet what they were feeling is hard to describe. Later, Zuly and Vikram joined Aayat and Rishi.
Vikram noticed the growing redness on Aayat’s face. He then placed a strong gaze at Rishi and realised that he too had the same expressions. Vikram was an experienced man. He knew how to read faces. His experience told him that love had definitely thrived in. They are gone now.
“Mom had been calling me. I think I should leave now.” Aayat said feebly gazing at Rishi.
“No … Stay.” Everybody just heard Rishi’s strong voice echoing in the darkness of the windy evening.
Aayat, like a filmy heroine, instead of speaking, kept looking at Rishi with a strong will to resist the growing smile on her face. She couldn’t.
“I have to go. It’ll be very late otherwise”. Somehow she managed to let her rational side speak.
“I’ll drop you. Don’t worry” Rishi didn’t want her to leave. He was adamant.
Aayat noticed his intense eyes. Those dark caves beneath his eyes weren’t letting her actually go. She knew she had lost herself, both in the argument and in Rishi’s world. She continued staring at him. Chills ran down her spine.
“You two carry on. I’ll catch up with you guys later.” Vikram said and got up.
“Yaa! Even I am leaving. RJ, you drop her back home. Okay” Zuly said and she too got up.
“Shall I drop you back ?” Vikram asked Zuly. She nodded and began walking away from them.
Rishi knew he had to take Aayat somewhere before he actually bid her Bye.
They got up from the grass and tapped their backs to let the grass fall off of their clothes. Aayat patted his back to remove the traces from it. Just a mere touch would ignite an intense feeling in Aayat. She had never been so close to a male identity.
“Shall we go?” Aayat said, adjusting her dupatta.
“After you ma’am!”
After walking a few metres, Aayat noticed that the route doesn’t go to her house. She was talking to him and lost track of the route.
“This isn’t the route to my home.” Aayat sounded confused.
“Who said we’re going to your place !!” She heard Rishi saying that.
“Where are we going then ?” Aayat stopped midway on the road.
“Aayat! Do you trust me??”
She was silent for a few moments.
“So just don’t ask me now! I promise you’ll be fine. You trust me no.”
Aayat answered with a smile.
Her phone beeped as she began moving again. She checked briefly. It was Zuly!
“Somebody’s on a date! Yeah…I m excited. Txt me once u reach home. I want the complete details. Xoxo :p”
Date ?? It’s not a date. Is it? Am I on a date? Like really? Oh my God!! No. I shouldn’t be here. Relax Aayat. Stop overreacting. Rishi said You’ll be fine. Trust him.
The nervousness caused by Zuly’s text was visible on her face clearly.
Minutes’ later, they reached the end of the road. She checked the time in her relic wristwatch, which her grandmother gave her. It was 7 pm. The sun had finally started settling down leaving only the orangish trails behind. There were no boundaries. Where the road ended was a turn actually, a bifurcation, where one side would lead you to one part of the city and the other side moved to the other end. It was basically a point where travellers have to decide their route for the further journey. They had to choose one in order to move ahead. On the other side, just before the cut, was a small tea stall, ‘Tapri’ as it was popularly called in Delhi. They were standing adjacent to the tea stall, where a Steel railing stopped them. Aayat grabbed it with both her hands and watched the remaining orange layers in the clouds, move into the darkness slowly.
“It’s so beautiful … I have never been here” Aayat said, mesmerized by the beauty that she was witnessing.
“Yes !! It is indeed beautiful. You know, Rishi said, “it’s my favourite place. I always come here alone. This is the first time I have come here with someone. Not even my friends know about it .”
Aayat suddenly felt so special.
“Really !? Thank you !! You know I have never really seen Delhi like this … Even it’s my first time too.”
Rishi moved closer to Aayat.
“I had spent months here, just standing and watching the sun going below the horizon. You know Aayat, Rishi continued, “for months, I have cried here remembering her. I still do. I have cried till my eyes hurt. But She never came back.”
“What??” She was stunned for a while. She couldn’t keep the shock inside.
“Are you talking about some girl ?” She continued.
He nodded.“I don’t know Aayat. It’s been 3 years since she’s gone. She never said anything, she never explained the reason for why she was leaving me. You know, there was a time when I used to cry all night. In the morning I would find my pillow to be so wet. I had to hide it because I didn’t want my mom to be worried. My family knows nothing about her. She was a part of me. When she left, I had nothing to live for. I don’t know how I have survived up till now. I just don’t know. I don’t know why I am telling all this to you. I’m sorry”.
Rishi was speaking out his heart for the first time. Aayat had never seen him talk so much. When today, he was talking, Aayat did not judge him at all. She left a part of her heart empty so that whatever Rishi want to dump out of his heart, she can keep it inside hers, safe. Aayat had always noticed Rishi’s sad eyes, yet she was unaware of the reasons. Today, she was feeling happy to finally learn the reason.
“Aayat, I had never been able to throw her out of my heart. She continued to live in me even when she wasn’t there.”
There was a moment of silence. Only his wavy breath was audible. One side of his face was visible to Aayat as Rishi was staring into oblivion.
“Rishi !” Aayat called his name. “Look at me.”
Like an obedient child, he looked at Aayat. She noticed his eyelashes. It appeared as if somebody has sprinkled morning dew over them. Even in the moistness, they looked beautiful to Aayat.
Aayat placed her palm on his cheek. Her fingers began moving from his cheeks to his nose and finally to wipe away the last drop of tear from the corners of his eyes. She kept caressing his face. It was a moment none of them was anticipating.
Rishi Gujral just cried in front of Aayat Shaikh.
“If she left you without even telling you the reason, she was not worth it Rishi. She never loved you. Stop punishing yourself for the things she never did for you. Let it go. It’s high time you get her out if your mind.” Aayat knew she has got the least persuasive skills. Yet, she tried her best.
“Rishi … I don’t know who she was. I also don’t know why she left you but you know what! I can only tell you this that whoever is going to be with you, that girl would be very lucky. The kind of struggle that I have seen in your life, I know you’re born for bigger things. I can feel it Rishi…You are born to win the skies. Your struggle, Your strength inspires me. It makes me understand the true worth of life. Whenever I see you I feel you’re way above everyone because being the youngest, you have supported your family. Have I been in your shoes, I would have been shattered by now. Just because a girl left you, doesn’t mean you were to be blamed for things. She probably left because she either fell out of love with you or never fell for you .”
Aayat’s words echoed in his ears and a strong rush of tears began flowing from his eyes. Rishi could barely control himself. He pressed his lips tightly to not let the sighs spill out of his mouth.
“Rishiiiiii …” Aayat took his name and immediately hugged him.
For the first time, they did what they were feeling from the last so many days. She held Rishi like a small baby. She was a few inches shorter than Rishi. Rishi had to bend a little in order to completely bury himself in her arms.
In an unknown evening, on the roadside, where the sun was falling quickly as the dusk was mingling with the night, they were sharing a moment which none of them is going to forget. A number of vehicles passed by them at full speed yet the embrace were unbreakable.
They separated after a few minutes.
Aayat wiped his tears with her fingers and kissed his moist eyes. She didn’t think twice before doing it. It just felt right.
Rishi was taken aback. He placed his eyes on her face. A roadside lamp had been illuminating their faces as the darkness was increasing, slowly.
Both of them went silent for a while. Nobody had nothing to speak.
“Would you not ask me who was that girl .. ?” It was Rishi’s voice to break the silence.
“Jis baat se aapko takleef ho, mein uska Naam bhi nahi lena chahti … Aap ne mujhe itna Bata diya hai, mere liye Wahi bohot hai … Mein hu aapke saath … Hamesha.” (Things that hurt you, I don’t want to even talk about it. You’ve told me so much, that’s enough for me. I am always with you.”)
“You trust me so much ?” Rishi asked her with a feeble smile on his face.
“Yes, Rishi…I do”
Aayat poured some water on his hands and Rishi washed his face.
Rishi pulled her dupatta and stood straight in front of her. Drops of water were moving down from his face to his neck and finally to settle on his chest. His bare chest was visible a little from the upper two buttons which he always leaves open. He lifted up her dupatta and wiped his face with it.
Aayat was laughing at his gestures.
“Chai piyogi!!?” (Want to have some tea?) Rishi asked her.
“Yeah! Sure” she replied briefly.
“You’ll have the best tea of your life today,” Rishi said and asked the tea vendor to get them two cups of tea.
“The actually serve it in ‘Kulhads’. You’ll love it.” Rishi said and smiled widely.
“I’m already loving it.” Her smile was pointing to a lot of other things than just a cup of tea.
They shared their first cup of tea together. She had never thought of being in a place like that. Those moments were very special for her. She had witnessed a lot of things which she had never witnessed before. There was a subtle serenity which you can only feel with certain people.
“This is so amazing !! How do they make it.” Aayat said with the first sip of it.
“I told you !”
The sat on a little platform which was there. Just sitting on the roadside under the lampshade could be so beautiful. They had forgotten completely that they had to go back home.
“Shall we go now ?” Aayat said looking at her watch. “It’s 8 already. We’ll take time to go back too.”
“Why do you want to run away ?? Always in a rush to go back !! Huh !” Rishi said, annoyed.
“I’m not in a rush Rishi !! It’s just that mom would be waiting for me. She told me to be back by 9. If I’ll be a minute late by 9, she will kill me.
“Tumhari mummy hain ya Angrezon ke zamane ki jailor? ” Rishi said and they both laughed.
“Oh My God !! Rishiiiiii !!”
Aayat said and continued laughing.
“So !! When are you coming out with me next time ?” Rishi asked straight.
“Do I have to? Really?” She said in a mocking voice.
“Ahaaaannn”, She said.
As she started walking away from him, Rishi grabbed her wrist. She looked back in amazement.
The place bears the witness for what he said.
“I know you understand everything. Even those things which I never said but I feel I had to tell you this…” Rishi said.
“Aayat Shaikh! I Love You…”
Aayat froze for a while. She couldn’t believe her ears. She was taken aback.
She knew they were moving close to it but she didn’t know she’ll hear it so soon.
“I love you too Rishi Gujral …”
As she said that, she found herself buried in his arms. They hugged each other as if they were so hungry. Hungry, to be loved. Their restlessness fell off completely. They were serene. They were complete. It was magic that has cast a spell on them. They knew their lives are going to be changed completely. They knew their names were different. Too different to be written together.
“I don’t know what’s gonna happen next. I have never thought about the future. But I promise I’ll be with you as long as I can. I don’t know about anything. I don’t know whether it’s right or wrong. I don’t know what your religion is. Right now, I want you in my life. You make me happy Aayat. You have inspired me so much. I don’t want to be away from you.” Rishi said while embracing Aayat.
Aayat tasted her own tears. She knew love was knocking at her door for a long time now, but she never anticipated it to come her way like it did.
At the back of her mind, she was aware of the difference in their names. She understood the difference between saffron and green and unfortunately, she knew these two colours can never be mingled in this world. Yet what she was feeling was so strong that she kept the uncertainties aside for a while and lived in the moment.
The tea stall vendor was looking at them and smiling. He had been friends with Rishi in the last three years. It was the first time he was watching Rishi in a completely different light.
“Chotu!! Kishore Sahab ki ghazlein Laga de aaj… Mujhe lagta hai barish hone wali hai…” (Chotu ! Plugin Kishore Kumar’s cassette today. I think it’s going to rain)
He said and smiled for a little longer.
Rishi heard the song “pyaar deewana hota hai” playing nearby. He saw the tea stall vendor, Radheshyam, smiling from a distance.
Rishi blushed for the first time that evening.
Aayat looked at Rishi and then at Radheshyam. She smiled widely .
Rishi sang the song along with the tape recorder.
“Shama kahe parwane se, pare chala Jaa
Meri tarha jal Jaayega yahan nahi aa…
Wo nahi sunta usko jal Jaana hota hai
Har Khushi se har gham se beghana hota hai…
Pyaar deewana hota hai mastaana hota hai,
Har Khushi se har gham se beghana hota hai…”
Rishi held Aayat’s hands and kissed it.
Rishi was blushing for the first time, Aayat’s cheeks had gone red and most importantly, Radheshyam was smiling too.
It was a perfect evening. He played a few more songs before they finally left.
It had started raining …
“…Jab kabhi Mohobbat kisi se Ki jaaye, Apne Sab sawalon Ko kahin dafn kar aaya jaaye … Yaqeen hi bohot hona chahiye ek naye rishte ki shuruaat ke liye
… Yaqeen … Itna bada lafz hojata hai ki kabhi kabhi Mohobbat Jaisi paak cheez bhi uska bojh Sambhal nahi paati … Wo dheh jaati hai , kisi be-buniyaad imaarat ki tarha. Bharosa sambhale rakhna har ek Mohobbat ki qismat mein nahi hota …”
will be continued…