“Rchd home?” Aayat texted as soon as she got inside her bed after the shower.
“Jst entring. U hd ur dinner?” Rishi typed back.
“Dint felt lyk hvng it. U hv urs & thn txt me. Get fresh n up.”
That was an era of text messages. It came somewhere between writing letters and typing on WhatsApp and waiting for grey ticks to turn blue. It had got an unusual charm. Opening the envelope-looking-text-msgs and then waiting for another envelope to pop up on the screen. It becomes difficult to wait for it for more than a minute. Such a cute challenge it was to keep the no. of text messages under 100 because you can only send 100 free msgs in a day. After that, even if you have free msgs, it will deduct from your balance. Whenever Aayat fell into such a trap, she would simply change the date and time settings on her phone. She would text again and then see if her free msgs were being used or her balance was deducted. It was its own kind of adventure. That was a time when you would find people in recharge shops and asking for free SMS card plans. Aayat too, after every 4-5 days would go to the recharge shop and get herself an SMS card. She would happily scratch the code and type the digits cautiously to not enter any wrong digit.
“Y so ? Hv u been so distracted? Aayat Shaikh saying no to food. Ths iz smthng ryt ?”
Aayat read the text and laughed.
“Well, sm1 hv just got me off track. I wnt sm1z tym badly and nt food. I hope u knw wht I mean”.
Rishi smiled sharply.
“Oh really !? Iz it so?”
The war over the text messages was on. They knew none of them was going to sleep that night. It was as if they had so many things to talk about and the night was running too short.
It’s the thing with new love … It loses its rationality. The sense of being socially correct, or let alone, to talk sense most of the times, Love would lose it happily. It would surrender to the feelings which would only seem to be forever but never are.
Rishi and Aayat had lost their sense of rationality. They simply had kept their brains aside.
The whole night, they kept texting and texting even when their arms hurt. Their muscles had given up long back, it was their hearts which were not giving up on each other. The night was really too short. Just when Aayat was telling him about the last New Year’s party she had attended with Rishi, and how she was stealing glances on him, Rishi’s mom got up and came onto the terrace. That’s where Rishi would sleep to talk to Aayat. He had told his mom that he couldn’t sleep inside the room and so he will be sleeping up.
His mom noticed Rishi typing something on his phone and smiling. That insane smile on his face under the feeble moonlight at 4 in the morning made his mom sceptical.
“Rishi ?? Tu ab tak Kyun jaag Raha hai ? Subha ke 4 baj rahe hain . Tujhe Sona nahi hai kya ?” (What’s keeping you awake Rishi? It’s 4 in the morning. Will you sleep or not?) His mom said, frowned.
“Mom !! Ohh…Amm…Actually…Aaa Vikram sent me an important document. I was just checking that. I’ll sleep in a while. You go and sleep mom.” Rishi was shocked to see her mom there. He totally forgot that hai min used to wake up very early everyday.
“It’s my Normal time to wake up. I get up at 4 am everyday. And Vikram sent an important document at 4 in the morning ?” Rishi’s mom had grown suspicious and it was not going to end just with one irrational explanation which Rishi gave. Rishi have been put into the limelight. All eyes would be on him now. Especially his mom’s.
“You don’t know mom. Let me just check it and then I’ll sleep.”
His mom left with alot of questions in her head. She knew his son was lying. She did not buy any of the explanations but she left him alone thinking she anyways can’t make him speak the truth at the very instant. Rishi had been very distant with his family when it came to sharing his feelings. He actually never did that.
By the time his mom went downstairs, Aayat had sent a list of messages.
“U thr ?”
“Don’t tell me u slept ?”
“Hw can u jst sleep? Am I such a bore :'( ?”
“Rishi Gujral, you better type me back 🙁 “
“Oh God !! Aayat ! Mom just came nd saw me txting. Asked a few questions too. I’m goin. Will txt u in d morning. K.”
Rishi typed back hurriedly. Even as a 23-years-old adult, he was scared of his mom. Irrespective of the age, almost everybody is scared of their moms. Because Mom knows everything whether you tell her or not. She have that supernatural power to know your deepest feelings that you hide from the world.
“Oh God !! Ohk ohk. U sleep. Will talk in the morning. Goodnight, take care, sweet dreams … I love you … Allah Hafiz.”
It was her habit of saying goodnight and then ending that message saying “Allah Hafiz”.
Rishi read her text and smiled. The smile was never ending.
Well, it was not a fairy tale. Everything had to end somewhere. Smiles, messages, Hugs, letters and infact that new bond created out of irrationality. Everything find its own special way to end. And so does people.
The next day, everybody was collected at Zuly’s place. One evening with all the ladies of the society which Zuly’s mother , Zarine Akram had organised. Zuly had called up Aayat in the morning and asked her to come over. She couldn’t resist the excitement of knowing what happened yesterday. She was so excited that she called her up in the morning to tell her that she had to spend the day at her place.. She told Aayat to be at her place by 12. Girls.
Aayat had been a punctual girl all through her life. She arrived at exactly 12 pm. She crossed Rishi’s gate before entering into Zuly’s house. The sight left a chirpy smile on her face.
“I’ve been waiting for you Aayat ! Why are you so late !!?” Zuly had thrown questions after questions as soon as Aayat entered her house.
“Am I late ? Zuly ?? I’m exactly on time !! What happened to you ??” Aayat said as she heard the door slam behind her back.
“Okay okay ! But you’ve gotta tell me ! What’s up with you two ?? You’ve been on a date !! How was it ? What did RJ said ?” Zuly was speaking in infrasonic sounds.
There was nobody at her place. The tea party had to start by 4. She called Aayat at 12. There was Zuly’s mother in the kitchen who was making chapatis for lunch.
“Assalamualaikum aunty”. Aayat greeted Zarine aunty and smiled.
“Waalaikumassalam beta. How are you ?”
“I’m good, aunty. How are you ?” Aayat replied politely.
“Very well. Beta, I must tell you, you were looking vert pretty yesterday.” Zarine aunty complimented Aayat .
Hearing it from almost everyone at the party yesterday didn’t make the compliment any less required. Even today, Aayat enjoyed being appreciated as much as she did when everybody praised her yesterday.
“Ah ! Thank you aunty …” Aayat was still polite but this time she blushed for a while before she answered.
Meanwhile, Zuly was busy arranging the two saccos in her balcony where she and Aayat would sit and talk. It used to be their favourite place. Whenever they are together, they need two cups of coffee and a plate of Maggie which they make in their own unusual ways. They would put almost all the spices a kitchen has and then taste it’s soup after adding each spice. Surprisingly, their Maggie is always tastier than the usual one.
They were on the second floor . Zuly’s room was on the same floor and she have arranged her little separate kitchen adjacent to her room. Not because she wanted coffee while studying but because she doesn’t want to go downstairs again and again when Aayat came home.
“So finally I’m asking this !! How was it ??” Zuly asked. Her back took the support of the fridge. The naughtiness was visible in her toothy smile which she just couldn’t hide.
Aayat poured a few drops of water in the mug having coffee beans. Aayat wanted to run away from there. She was so nervous and she knew that Zuly wasn’t going to stop there. She would throw more questions with Every answer. It was difficult for Aayat to speak what she had felt.
“What ?? I mean what are you talking about ??” Aayat said continuing to move the spoon into the shallow coffee mug.
“Ahaan !! Don’t act smart. You know what I’m saying. Don’t pretend to be so innocent Aayat Shaikh. You’ve been on a date yesterday. You know a DATE … where a girl and a boy go out , alone. They would talk their hearts out. You know a DATE that usually ends up in a kiss, a warm hug, a nice gift, some chocolates … Ofcourse You know what a DATE is Aayat … You’ve been on one yesterday …” Zuly kept on saying things which Aayat had just felt. Yet she wasn’t in a state to accomodate so many new things, new emotions new feelings in her life. She will take her own time to get accustomed to these things.
Kiss? Chocolates?? Gifts?? What is she talking about.
Zuly’s words reverberated in her head.
Love puts you in a different zone where, if you’re a fresher , you’ll take time to understand things. Aayat was at the O level and Zuly was asking questions from the mainstream. Aayat never gave any exam unprepared. And this was surely the most difficult viva she had been put under. Suddenly, her maths exam paper became so much easier. She knew the rules before. She knew where to start her paper from. She knew which questions to attempt first. She even had the choice to not asnwer a few questions and choose the ones she was prepared for. But Zuly !! She was giving her a really hard time.
“Oh My God!! Zuly…Put a speed breaker to your thoughts. Nothing happened as such. Firstly, me and Rishi were not on a date. We just went for a nice walk and then he dropped me back home. And secondly, Yes ! We did talk about various things but that has got nothing to do with the questions you’re asking me. You become so filmy sometimes . Duh!!” Aayat tried to control her feelings and speak normally.
“Oh please Aayat! You don’t have to do this. We know what’s cooking between you two!” Zuly said, looking at Aayat with questioning eyes.
“We?? What we?”
“We means we…! Me and Vikram!” Zuly said casually picking up the nail filer from the shelf above Aayat.
“Oh God!! What did you tell Vikram?? Oh God Zuly!! There’s nothing. Why are you doing this? Letting the whole world know about a cat in the bag when in reality, there’s no cat!!” Aayat defended herself, though she knew she had lost the argument even before she started it.
Meanwhile, Aayat saw Rishi peering into Zuly’s balcony from a distance. The balcony on the second floor of Zuly’s house actually faced Rishi’s terrace.
Aayat walked out of the kitchen to see him clearly. He waved at her and smiled widely. She too waved him back. She was grinning insanely. Zuly saw the little romantic air steaming up between the two.
“Nazren ladane mein bada Dil lag Raha hai, par admit nahi karna ki kuch chal Raha hai yahan!!” (You both are Stealing glances with each other silently, but you don’t want to admit that there’s something cooking between you two.) Zuly said, loudly.
“Shhhhhh!! Are you mad?? Can’t you speak slowly? Zarine aunty would come up do you realise that! Then She’ll play with you “Sach ka Saamna”. Aayat said, and Rishi burst into laughter.
Aayat was still scared but Zuly went on laughing with Rishi…
“Come on RJ! Tell me what’s happening between you two. She isn’t telling me. She’s supposed to be my best friend and she is not telling me.” Zuly taunted Aayat, who was still checking the staircase to see if someone’s up.
Now there was a new person in their conversation, Rishi, who was dragged by Zuly into the fight. She was so curious to know everything.
“What ?? Ask your friend! Is she not telling you? Have you not told her Aayat?” Rishi said and pointed to Aayat who was continuously glancing at the stairs for see if someone’s coming up or not.
“Yaa ?? Oh sorry. Come again!” Aayat said as she didn’t hear what Rishi said.
“I want to…Tell me where do you want to go…” Rishi flirted with Aayat, leaving her with an insane smile yet again.
“Ohohohoho…Look at your smile, and then you say you’ve nothing!! Who’s gonna believe that!? Not me at least!” Zuly said and threw up her hands in disbelief.
“Zuly relax! If there’ll be something I’ll tell you! Now, will you please be quiet. I’m still scared.” Aayat said, placing her one hand to feel her heartbeat.
They went ahead with their conversations and Rishi left after a while.
In the evening, all the ladies of the society arrived. Rishi’s mom came along with the other aunties.
Aayat went to her and greeted personally. “Namaste Aunty!!”
Rishi’s mother was a very polite lady. Her red sari clung to her body elegantly. She made a bun of her hair without using any sticks or clips. Old ladies had this superpower to keep their hair all tied up neatly in just one bun without letting that fall even when they are busy with the household chores.
“Namaste bete… How are you?” She replied with the same politeness. She would put her one hand on Aayat’s head everytime she meets her. Aayat loved Gayatri aunty. There’s some innate attachment that she feels with her. Not only because she was Rishi’s mom but also because she had been very closely attached to Aayat in the last 1 year. All of this happened because Aayat used to be with Zuly all the time and Rishi’s mother always took Zuly as her daughter. So when Aayat came into the picture, she was showered with the same love, if not more. She had visited Rishi’s house a couple of times when Gayatri Auty would make “Kadi Chawal” . Aayat never liked Kadi Chawal but after she had it once made by Rishi’s mom, she loved them from the bottom of her heart. She would even ask her to make Kadi Chawal for her. So whenever Gayatri Aunty would cook it, Aayat had a party at Rishi’s place. Older women. They just loved feeding people.
Soon the ladies got busy in discussing their kids and laughing at things which only they can understand. From babies diapers to Sargun aunty’s daughter’s marriage, they talked about the entire society’s kids and their upcoming generations. Women love talking about marriages. When this marriage topic came up, Rishi’s name could not be avoided as Gayatri Aunty was equally excited about her son’s marriage.
She said it aloud “Apne bete ki bahu to mein khud hi dhoondungi … Aur wo Raajput hi honi chahiye.”. (I’ll find the girl for my son on my own. And she should be a Rajput!)
Hearing this comment from Gayatri Aunty, Aayat’s heart sank a little. She just started a relationship with someone she had put her heart and soul in. She couldn’t bear the sentence and that, everybody else was agreeing to what Gayatri Aunty was saying. She was absolutely right. A mother can have dreams about her son’s marriage. But Aayat’s life had just started and she could not handle this at that very time. Though they had a religious difference yet she wanted to be his wife. For her, love means marriage. She would not think of having anything other than marriage. Though she and Rishi never talk about this subject thinking that it was too early to be occupied with future planning. They simply went ahead with what’s there in their hearts. Her rational side went into hibernation when she thought about Rishi. Her love was irrational. For her, it was a pledge, a promise, a responsibility that she would happily lift on her shoulders. She would not regret doing what she was doing. For her, everything was justified. And even if it wasn’t, it was perfectly beautiful for her.
It was not her fault to see things the way she did because she was inexperienced. She fell in love too early. Most of us would not even consider this as “Love” as it seems like infatuation. And it’s completely alright to think that way. It’s so biological to fall in love in her age. But for her, it was not an infatuation. She knew this very well. She knew how many strings of her heart had been created and moulded ever since Rishi came into her life. She felt more so because she loved Rishi for the kind of a person he was and not for his face or physical appearance. Rishi looked normal. Just like any normal usual looking guy would appear. But the charm which he had was that Aayat would relate his struggle to her Dad’s. She started feeling for him because she felt that his hard work and persistence is similar to that of her father’s. Just like her father, he too started working early. Aayat not just love her father but she admired him. For her getting to meet someone who resembles her Dad very closely was the most beautiful thing. She was the kind of girl who could simply devote all her dreams to the person she loved. And That’s what she did. She surrendered herself completely, unknowingly.
She would say this to herself some zillion times in her head…
“It’s him, or nobody”.
She did not know what life has in store for her. She did not know what’s coming her way.
“Jalan, Hasad, pareshaniyan, Bair, Ghutan,Sharm, Be-hayai … Kya kuch nahi laati Mohobbat Apne saath … Har waqt khush Rehna, nadhaal Rehna kisi ke khayal mein, kisi ki ek soch se dhak Jaana, ye Sab to kitabi baatein hain … Darasal likhne wale is Mohobbat ki Haqeeqat nahi likh paate. Ise kisi nayi Dulhan ki tarha Saja kar hamare saamne Rakhte hain aur hamara saaf Dil in saari baaton par aankh moond kar yaqeen kar leta hai … Par asal mein Mohobbat aisi bilkul bhi nahi hoti …”