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It was a lonely night for her. Leaving the books behind in her bedroom, Aayat sat in the backyard with a heavy heart. Deep down she knew that Rishi has changed. But she was unaware of this sudden drift. To her, everything was either black or white. This new trend of grey was still unknown to her. In her one tiny world, she blamed no one but herself for having thought about it way too much. Sometimes the problem lies in your head alone, she thought. Ever since Saanvi went back to Agra, Rishi had grown indifferent towards Aayat. It was as if he lost his relationship or infact whatever little friendship he shared with Aayat, the same day. His decision was haunting him. Well, what’s the point of a relationship where there’s only one person ! All of this was still a world-too-far-to-be-seen for Aayat. Her miniscule understanding of these crosses of love had to be updated but at a very high cost.

Singing an old melody by Lata Mangeshkar, she had spent almost half of the night just by sitting there.

“Jaane kya baat hai,

Jaane kya baat hai,

Neend nahi aati,

Badi lambi raat hai” …

The song played on her lips for a while before it faded.

She got up and poured herself a cup of coffee. Soon it was going to be “Sehri” ; it’s the time during which Muslims wake up early morning in Ramadan to have a meal so that they can fast for the whole day. Later after Sehri she would offer Namaaz and pray for Rishi. None of her prayers ended without taking his name.

 When love is so closely knit with faith, it becomes even more beautiful and meaningful.

Ramadan kept Aayat busy and thence whatever apprehensions she had were kept for a better time when she would meet him personally.

                         ************

Today, everybody was hung on their Terraces after “Iftaar” to see the crescent moon and start with the celebrations of Eid. The moon took his own sweet time to appear. Hiding behind the clouds to test their patience, the moon came out a little late that day. And as he removed the veil of the clouds to finally come out, Aayat covered her head with a dupatta, closed her eyes and began to pray.

“Every prayer that’s made while looking at the crescent moon on Chaand Raat have never gone unanswered” she remember her grandmother saying this. And from that moment, it became an unsaid routine for Aayat every year to go and pray. This time, her prayers revolved less around her family and more around Rishi. Perhaps because Rishi was no less than a family to her. Only if he felt the same too. Aayat looked at the moon with moist eyes and kept looking at it till the tears finally blur her vision.

“Aarzoo don’t run around !! Come let’s go back.” Aayat instructed her little sister and moved towards the stairs. Just before she was leaving the terrace her phone began to ring ! A pleasant smile fell on her dead lips and her eyes filled with sparkle as she saw his name flashing on the mobile screen. For a second, that small Nokia phone looked priceless. Without wasting a second she took the call.

“Hello ! Heyy How are you ?” Aayat did not wait for his response and initiated it.

“Hmm Eid Mubarak” He said in a very light and humble tone.

“Eid Mubarak Rishiiiii” the chirpiness in her voice could be heard out of the phone even when it was not on the speaker.

Rishi smiled at the other end. After a month, Aayat’s voice sounded like a melody to him.

“Soooooo ! All set for tomorrow ? What are you wearing ?” He asked and she smiled widely.

“I’m wearing a black and cream combo suit. It’s a three peice ! You’ll love it I know. But first of all tell me where were you ! Do you have any idea how worried I have been ? We didn’t talk over the phone for like a month ! Everything okay at home right ?” She inquired and he playfully ignored her questions.

“I didn’t want to disturb you ! And moreover I was just a little busy with my dissertation project in college. Also, I had my sessional exams. So just took a small break.” He replied briefly and tossed the topic even before it came up with full heat.

“Ohh ! Okay okay. Anyways, let me tell you, I’ll be there tomorrow. So try and stay back home atleast for the whole afternoon.” She informed him and he readily agreed.

The conversation lasted for not more than 5 minutes but it felt it’s one of the best she ever had with him. So relieving and so soothing. All her doubts and skepticism died down as if God answered her prayers almost instantly. Every bright side has a dark side to it. But It turns up only at the designated time. The bright side of her story was going to stay for a while before it gets vanished.

                           ************

Eid celebrations began early morning. Aayat’s mom, Farah woke up at 4am to make “Sheer”, the popular sweet dish which is made on Eid in every house. However Aayat slept at 4am after having spent the whole night smiling and thinking about Rishi. She decided what hairstyle she would make, what accessories she’s going to wear infact what cologne she was going to use. After all, she would be seeing Rishi tomorrow after so long. Infact, midnight she scribbled something in her blue handmade dairy.

Dear Diary

You know what ! Zuly was right. I always overthink and create a mess for myself. She said Rishi was busy but it was me who thought that something was wrong. Today, Rishi called up to wish me Eid Mubarak and let me tell you ! There was not even a bit of awkwardness in his tone. I have been so tensed unnecessarily ! Also, I am going to meet Rishi tomorrow. I just can’t keep the excitement inside me. I even chose my dress according to his taste. I’m sure he’s going to like it. Life can be so damn confusing ! A day before I was so upset for not being able to talk to him and I thought this phase is eternal and see ! Just after that one phone call I feel so good. Every phase that lasts a little long seems eternal but I think nothing is eternal. Every good thing comes to an end and every bad thing  too is meant to be ended at the said time. There’s no concept of “forever same”. Well, my bad time has come to an end. I’m super excited for tomorrow ! I hope Rishi likes my look.

Goodnight

Love

She closed the diary very innocently and tied up the thread to close it. That diary was actually her confession journal. She would happily confess her feelings to that diary and keep it locked in her cupboard. Immersed in the thoughts of him, she fell asleep.

                       ************

Standing outside Zuly’s Gate, she checked her hair for the fifth time and adjusted her dupatta to finally settle it on the same place in the same way. She rang the doorbell and Zarine Aunty opened the door.

“Assalamualaikum aunty ! Eid Mubarak” Her voice rang in the solitude of their house.

“Eid Mubarak beta ! How are you” Zarine aunty replied and hugged Aayat.

“I’m good aunty. How are you ? And where’s Zuly ?” She couldn’t wait anymore. She and Zuly decided that they would go to Rishi’s place together.

“Beta Zuly have gone to Rishi’s house.” Zarine aunty revealed.

“Oh !! Okay aunty. I’ll see here there. Allah Hafiz” Aayat said and turned around.

Zuly could have waited for me ! She thought.

Minutes later, Aayat stood in front of Rishi’s house. The door was already left ajar. She came inside and saw no one. She removed her sandals and moved inside Rishi’s room. Everybody was there. Gayatri aunty, Zuly, Rishi and one other guy Aayat had no clue about.

“Eid Mubarak !!!!” Everybody wished in unison as Aayat came inside.

She replied cheerfully with a wide smile. The happiness could be seen on her face. Although there were so many people in the room but her eyes got stuck to this one face. Wearing a capri and white t-shirt with his reckless hair falling all over the place and especially his forehead, Rishi stood near the small mandir in the corner of the room. He saw Aayat and smiled while biting his lower lip. That was his treadmark expression for look-i-am-blushing-but-i-wont-tell-you. Aayat was well aware of that face and hence her smile grew even bigger. 

Minutes later they all sat together. Gayatri aunty went to the kitchen to get some food. She was that one lady who found Happiness in feeding people. Whoever comes to her house would not go without eating. There was this A-m-a-z-i-n-g taste in her hands which you can’t get anywhere else.

While Gayatri Aunty was in the kitchen, Rishi introduced Aayat to that unknown face.

“He’s Narendra Bhaiya. My childhood friend. We went to school together.” Rishi said and Narendra smiled.

When the one you love introduces you to his friends and make you a part of his life, no other feeling in the world could match that.

“And she’s Aayat, my friend.” Rishi said and looked at Aayat. And there was something in that word “friend”.  Both Rishi and Aayat knew what he meant. It was enough to bring a smile on Aayat’s face.

The conversation went on for sometime after which Narendra Bhaiya went to the loo.

“I’ll just be back from the kitchen” Zuly said and moved out of the room.

Aayat looked at Rishi who was already raising his eyebrows to her. They smiled and kept looking at each other like that for a while. Rishi moved towards her and pulled her towards him. Aayat hugged him tightly and burried her head in his chest.

“Which perfume ?” She asked still embraced in his arms.

“KS” He replied and kissed her head.

Aayat moved her chin up and looked at Rishi’s face. There was something in her eyes. Something, which he saw and something which he missed.

The embrace lasted for sometime before they separated. Rishi pulled out a pen from his pocket. It was a cream and red combination Parker’s Valentine’s Special edition. Months after Valentine’s day, God knows how he managed to get that pen.

“This is for you” He said and gave her the pen. “Eid Mubarak Aayat !” He added and planted a kiss on her cheek.

If life were to be lived in moments, that was it for Aayat. Her cheek felt the sensations of his lips long after the kiss ended.

“Keep it in your bag before someone comes” He said and broke her daydream.

She slid the pen in her bag and closed the zip.

Somedays are just meant to be beautiful. This was one of them for Aayat. Afte about an hour they parted ways and Aayat went back home. However Zuly stayed back.

“You okay na RJ ?” Zuly asked Rishi when Gayatri aunty returned to the kitchen and Narendra too left.

“Yaa I am okay!” Rishi answered with a smile.

“How’s Saanvi ?” She inquired.

Upon listening to that one name he was trying too hard to forget, Rishi looked at Zuly with his deep sorrowful eyes.

“I … I don’t know. I haven’t been in touch with her.” He answered poker faced. There was a deep sadness on his face which was very evident.

“So you’ve decided you’re not going to go back ?”

“I decided this long back. I chose Aayat and that’s final. Have you not seen her ? I could see how much she cares for me, how much she loves me ! It’s written on her face. Have you ever gazed at her eyes when she looks at me ?”

“I know RJ !! But it’s important for me know are you happy with Aayat ? Aren’t you compromising on your happiness ! We both know you love Saanvi ! How will you forget her ! And especially when you know she wants to come back ! RJ, if you don’t want to be with Aayat please don’t drag this rubbish any more. Let her go and allow Saanvi to come back. It’s the best that you could do for Saanvi, for yourself and infact for Aayat as well. That’s the only way you all can be happy ! Atleast then you won’t have to pretend being in love with Aayat.” Zuly said stating the points clear.

“It’s not like that Zuly ! I don’t pretend to be in love with Aayat. Aayat is a great girl and perhaps what she can do for me, nobody else can’t. Not even Saanvi. It’s just that I am confused. I don’t know what to do. I can’t hurt her feelings. She’s very sensitive Zuly, you know her. It’s the most crucial time of her career. If I’ll say something today I know she’s going to lose it. Her focus will be gone. You know, I was around the same age when Saanvi left me and shifted to Agra. I could have been in IIT today. My aim was to persue engineering from the top institute of India . But When my personal life got disbalanced, it badly affected my career too. I don’t want the same thing to happen to her. I need time. She needs time. I think I should let it be the way it is for some time. Later, I might be able to decide upon it better.”

Zuly nodded.

Stories are all alike. It’s the same old classic story of Hero and Heroine being in love. Then one of them falling out of it or the other falling in even more deeply. It’s the course of time that decides the uniqueness of a story. Sometimes, this course of time is not the only deciding factor. The sub-characters, the side and supporting characters play their roles ironic to the expectations. The best of friends becomes the “Narada Muni” of your story even before you realise it. And the best part about them is they stay with you throughout. There’s no way you can separate them from your story. They live and rejoice in your sadness, they enjoy your pain, they drench their hearts in your dillema ! They will put things to your head which are not important and you might not have thought about them otherwise. Someone had said it correctly. It’s “Kalyug”. Trust no one.

Zuly left after a while.

Gayatri Aunty came back to the room while Rishi was looking for his wallet to go out with Vikram.

“Rishi ?” She called out and He turned around while still checking for his wallet.

“What is all this ?” She questioned further..

“What happened mummy ?”

“What’s happening between you and Aayat ?”

And as she said that, the colour from his face disappeared. If there’s one thing you can’t hide from parents, it’s love. They just know it, God knows how !

“I have you seen you both hugging each other. I did not say anything to Aayat because I know she would have been embarrassed.”

“Mummy ! But there’s nothing like that. She’s … She’s  just a friend.” Rishi tried to defend himself but inside he knew he had lost the argument.

“Rishiiii stop lying ! Don’t try to defend yourself because you know you can’t. I have seen the world. I know this society better than you. You and Aayat … You just can’t be together. Don’t forget she’s a Muslim !” Gayatri aunty said and passed him the wallet he was searching for.

“Zindgi ke kisi bhi rishte mein hamesha aasaniyan nahi hua Karti to phir unka rishta asaan kaise hota … Wo to phir bhi Mohobbat hai … Sabse bada aur Sabse zyada uljha hua rishta … Jismein do logon ke ehsaas hi sulajh nahi paate, aur phir yahan to do mazhab ke alag parcham buland the … Kis ehsaas Ko Kahan dabate, Kis kis cheez ka hisaab karte, kis baat Ko Kahan dafn karte … Mohobbat Ko ab aam hona tha .. Khulna tha har ek par, magar Sabse zada  ….. khud par …”


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