Finally, the big day arrived. She had been preparing for this Holi party from the last so many days. Despite all the preparations that she had done with all her heart, she was nervous. And nervousness was quite obvious. She had been restless all this while for even the extremely tiny things which she had never been bothered about. She had been so reckless with her hair all her life but today she was so particular about every strand of her hair to be straight. From the last 30 minutes, she had been in front of the mirror. She had plugged the hair straightener in and was continuously stroking her curls to get them straight. It was a tedious job for a girl like her who had never ever spent more than 5 minutes in front of the mirror. She decided to straighten them because the last nite she had a conversation with Rishi which concluded that Rishi loved the straight hair on women.
Everything that Rishi ever uttered was crucial for her attire. She wanted to look just the way he wanted to see a woman. She wanted to be the only woman that Rishi would ever want to see. And to get close to him, she was trying her best. She knew she was already into his life. Text messages were doing their job really well. Between those subtly romantic conversations that start from nowhere and ends in nowhere, there was a different universe between them in ‘nowhere’ which they were enjoying with the deepest of their feelings. Surely, it was difficult to move ahead directly from where they were but definitely, they were on the way of doing so.
Midway her beauty treatments with eyeliner and mascara, she received a call from Rishi.
“Hello! Hey Hii !!” A low infrasonic sound greeted her from the other end. Rishi had a good base voice but he chooses to keep his volume really low.
“Hiiiiii” … A girl’s Long Hiii means that she wasn’t anticipating a call at the particular moment but she’s glad to receive one.
“Ammm…Youuu…coming right?”, he asked with a lot of hesitation which made it quite evident that even he was waiting for her.
“Yaa actually I was just getting ready. I’ll take 30 minutes to be there.” She replied gently. Her tone was as soft as her emotions for him. Too soft to get hurt even by a gentle stroke.
Love, in its initial few phases, is actually so fragile. Only the test of time can make it stronger. This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. With them, it was growing in the same way and was soon to be tested.
“Ohh! Okay…So you’ll be coming directly to the venue? Right!?”, he asked again, this time with a little less hesitation in his voice.
“Yaa…probably. But why are you asking this?!” She doesn’t let a single chance to go in vain to tease Rishi.
He smiled at the other end. If phone calls were to tell the expressions, the phone would have been red by now. Because certainly, Rishi Gujral was smiling madly. And his tone mildly proved that.
“No! Actually, I thought you would come to Zuly’s place before”. He tried too hard to sound casual. If Aayat was the girl which she was a year back, she would consider the sentence normal. Having seen Rishi blush, she knew he had to be too strong to not let his feelings come out of the mobile phone.
“What do you want? Shall I come to the venue or your place?” She said that bluntly. Without any hesitation or even a streak of being uncomfortable.
“Your call…” She hated this about Rishi. He would always let the final decision be on Aayat. Her neurons were being busy thinking as to how she can reach his place. She needs to find a good excuse to be there. In any way, Zuly was going to be quoted this time too.
“I’ll be there in 30 minutes…”, She said and smiled.
“Where? The venue?”, He bit his lower lip in amusement.
“Bye Rishi…”. Finally, she laughed loudly.
There was no dilemma as to where she needs to be in the next half an hour.
The route to Rishi Gujral passes through Zuly Akram. She knew she’ll have to call her once again and let her know that she was coming.
“Zuly! I’ll be there in 30 minutes. Wait for me. We’ll go together.” She blurted out everything in one go without letting Zuly say anything.
“Ha ha ha ha…Someone’s really excited!!”
“Shut up! I’m getting late…I need to get ready.”
She said and disconnected the call.
Within the next 15 minutes, she hurried up like anything. Later, she put on her earrings that she got a few days back with Zuly, wore a nice cologne, tapped a few times on her face to let the compact completely settle down and merge with her natural skin colour, put up her favourite matte brown gloss and let loose her hair and unleashed them to see how they touched her back. She thought of putting a small dolphin clip to tie them up but then she chose not to.
Everything should remain unbounded today and so did her hair.
Finally, she grabbed her bag from the cupboard and ran out straight.
She was wearing a bottle green coloured kurti with blue leggings and a dupatta with the combination of both the colours. The theme for the party was Indian.
Minutes later, she rang the doorbell.
Zuly opened the door. It was such a shock for her to see her best friend look the way she was looking that day. Zuly knew that her friend doesn’t know how to put on even a simple nail paint but today, the way she had dressed up was commendable. She could never imagine Aayat look the way she was looking. Her jaw was almost midway and she kept looking at her like that for a few seconds before Aayat entered her house.
“Will you let me in?” Aayat came inside.
“…Oh my God !!” Zuly was totally confused to say anything.
“How am I looking?? Tell me no” Aayat asked with such hope in her eyes to hear only good comments.
“Why have you put on so much of makeup? Are you getting married or what? What have you done to your hair? And oh my God! Why are you dressed up so badly ?” Zuly was pulling her leg and she was succeeded in doing so.
Aayat’s face went pale immediately. The corners of her eyes started getting moist.
“No no!! Are you mad!? Don’t start crying!! I was kidding yaar!” Zuly said immediately.
“I’ll kill you Zuly…”
“You’re looking beautiful Darling! Rishi wouldn’t be able to take his eye off you! I swear and I am not joking this time.”
“who said it’s for Rishi? Are you mad!? You don’t think twice before you speak. Why do you always bring Rishi in!?” Aayat said pretending to not understand anything.
“Ahaan! Really ??” Zuly kept looking at her face with questioning eyes.
“Okay come on now leave it. We’re getting late. Let’s go .” Aayat said and they moved out.
“Byeee maa…Come soon” Zuly bid bye to her mom and left.
“Bye beta…Enjoy yourself. I’ll join you soon.” Zuly’s mother replied from the kitchen. Only her voice came out.
While going down from the stairs, Aayat asked Zuly to check for Rishi if he was there.
“He said he’ll go with us,” Aayat said and smiled.
“Ohkaaayyyy!! Now I got it. Why are you here!?” Zuly laughed.
“No No…Shut up! You don’t know anything .”
“Let’s go then. He would be waiting for you, not for me.” Zuly said and noticed a thin perk on Aayat’s face.
Aayat rang the doorbell. And there he was.
Rishi looked at Aayat and for a moment he was still. They both looked at each other without any specific expressions on their faces. They were just quiet.
Rishi didn’t say anything after that.
“Shall we go?” It was Zuly to break the silence between them.
“Yaa! Yess…” Rishi said and picked up his hanky from the table and moved out.
Zuly was smart to not walk with both of them and be “Kabaab mein Haddi”.
She walked ahead of them. The venue was a walking distance away from there.
Rishi and Aayat walked together while Zuly plugged in her earplugs and moved ahead.
“I can’t walk with such boring people like you. You people don’t talk? How can you not? Well, I’ll reach the venue before you guys. I am going. I’ll see you there”.
“No, wait.” Before Aayat could say anything, Zuly moved way ahead with her earplugs to even listen to her.
“It’s okay. Let her Go.” He said in his calm and composed voice.
Aayat replied with a shy smile.
“Amm … You’re looking very different”
Finally. He’s coming somewhere. Aayat thought.
Since the time Aayat met Rishi, she was waiting to hear some compliments from him but with Zuly on their side, it was not possible.
“Different… As in ?”
“As in … Different !! Just … Different …”
Aayat looked at him disappointed with the answer.
“Hmm …” She smiled fake.
Rishi knew Aayat really wanted to hear more from him yet He was taking his own time to tease her.
The walk was quiet and surreal. She was hoping to hear something, at least something from him. But Rishi was equally prepared for teasing her with his silence. He knew she had done all of this hair and everything for him. Teasing Aayat was such a fun! He was laughing internally.
“So when is your result going to be out ?” Rishi asked to break the silence.
“It’s probably in the last of May. 28th of may 29th is the anticipated date.”
After that, the whole walking expedition was quite like the atmosphere.
The day was cloudy and there was no sun to be seen. A nice gentle wind was blowing slowly and it was touching there faces. Aayat had to keep moving away from the strands from her face every now and then. Rishi was looking at her silently and observing her little struggle with the wind. He could see the unhappiness in her eyes but he still chose to keep shut. He wanted to appreciate her efforts at the right time with the right words in the right moment.
Good things take time to come.
They finally reached the venue. Gentle aroma of fresh Thandai welcomed them. Decorations were beautifully done. It was a park near the society where the welfare team decided to put up a little shade with colourful silver-mirror work dupattas. It looked like a small canopy. The pyramid shaped decorations were giving a beautiful aesthetics to the place and in between them, there were spaces from where the cool breeze was seeping in. In that long space, in one of the corners was the pot-bellied thandaiwaala. The entire bunch of young boys was covering him. Aayat could recall a few faces amongst them.
There was no girl near him initially but it was obvious that by the time everyone would be busy, even the girls won’t miss out on Bhaang. Aayat was reluctant in going over there. She spotted Zuly sitting under the Shade of the last tree. She was with her childhood neighbour friend, Aastha. Aayat excused herself from Rishi and moved ahead to Zuly. Rishi just saw her moving away. He smiled.
“What took you so long Aayat. Where have you been !? It was just a 5 minutes walking distance and you’re 20 minutes late”. Zuly said and laughed.
She could see the colour fade from Aayat’s face. Aayat was not happy at all. Zuly was expecting a happy girl would come and then she would probably share with her what the walk had been like but there was no such expressions. She looked disappointed. Her forehead was covered with layers and layers of creases.
“What happened ?” She asked again.
“Nothing ! Everything’s fine.” She replied back in a dry tone.
“Where’s Rishi ?”
“I don’t know”. Aayat replied back roughly.
“Ohh ! I see ! Did you have an argument or something with him ?”
“Why would I ? … And you know what ? You shouldn’t have left me alone with him. I came to your place so that we can come here together and you left me with Rishi !”
Aayat said, frustrated.
“Relax ! Tell me what happened !? How would I find a solution otherwise ?”
“There’s no solution. I just don’t want to talk about it. Leave it. I’ll go and meet everyone”. Aayat said and left.
Zuly was standing there finding no reason for the change of her mood. She looked at Rishi from a distance. Rishi was wearing a white cotton kurta and blue denim jeans. He was with Vikram. Zuly moved towards them.
“Hi, Vikram !” Zuly greeted him.
“Hii ! How’re you !”
“I’m good. But someone’s not. What have you said to her ? She’s so upset ? Did something happened between both of you?” Zuly said , more to Rishi .
“Me ? No … I did not said anything to Aayat . What happened ?” Rishi said pretending to be so unknown.
“Ofcourse RJ ! You have definitely done something. Otherwise, how would you know that I am talking about Aayat. I didn’t even take her name.” Zuly said and smiled naughtily.
Meanwhile, Aayat was looking at Rishi again and again and showing as if she doesn’t care. Rishi was noticing everything but he was waiting for the right moment to say something to her.
Zuly called Aayat and asked her to come there. Aayat came half heartedly (though she really wanted to).
Like Zuly, she too greeted Vikram.
“Hi, Aayat! What’s up!”
Aayat simply smiled back.
Vikram looked at Aayat and then at Rishi. He was experienced enough to understand what was happening between them. Except for Aayat, all three of them were smiling looking at each other. Aayat was pretending to look away from Rishi. Failed attempts. After a couple of minutes, Zuly and Vikram excused themselves and left.
Rishi and Aayat were alone now.
Rishi looked at Aayat once again. This time, more closely to the disappointment in her eyes. Aayat saw Rishi with still hopeful eyes. As if she wanted him to say something and neutralize the past hour.
Rishi smiled looking at her. Aayat couldn’t understand the reason of that smile, yet she smiled back slightly.
“Naraaz ho? (Are you angry?)” Rishi said hoping to talk to her.
Aayat was quiet for a few seconds.
“No…Why would I be?” Her words and expressions were ways apart.
“Heyy!! Listen to me…” Rishi said turning his face a but towards her as she was looking away from him.
“Aayat?? You’re listening?”
“Hmm…” She said with a dropping face.
“Happy Holi Aayat”, he said and picked up Red Gulaal from the table placed beside them. He stroked his thumb on her cheekbone and his fingers slid down her face making the whole of her right cheek red. He moved an inch closer to her and bent forward towards her. She looked at him, surprised. His fingers were still near her chin and he was looking straight into her eyes. The warmth of her heart was visible on her cheeks. They were burning. Everybody was busy with the celebrations so nobody really noticed them.
“Aayat!” Rishi said softly. “You look beautiful.”
His thumb finally came off her cheek but the sensations of it were still there. Aayat have never been in such close proximity with any guy. It was the very first time she was feeling something like that. She did not know whether she was more nervous or shyer.
She started back at him and kept smiling. The last moment has become a memory’ for life. She had nothing to say. Everything was only felt.
The breeze was blowing even more and Aayat was having a hard time keeping her hair tied behind her ears.
Rishi moved his fingers and tucked the strand behind her ear. For a moment, her eyes were closed.
Away from them a few metres, Zuly and Vikram have been watching them.
“They look amazing together,” Zuly said to Vikram while looking at Aayat and Rishi.
“Yaa! They do”. He smiled.
“Mohobbat wehem deti hai, shikayatein bhi deti hai, Sawaal bhi deti hai…Do logon ke beech hokar bhi sar-e-aam Hoti hai…Itni Lazzat shayad hi kisi aur ehsaas mein ho… Awwal Awaal ki Mohobbat to aisi hi Hoti hai…Waqt lagta hai , us halke laal rang Ko pakka hone mein. Kai Aazma’aishon se guzarna padta hai, rishte Ko ghisna padta hai, Insaan Ko kharch hona padta hai… Aur uske Baad bhi ye yaqeen dilana na-mumkin hai ki agle pal ye saath rahegi ya nahi… Agle Lamhe mein ye teri hogi bhi ya nahi…”
will be continued…