FFfAW: Achilles Heels

photo-20180730154706912
Photo (c) Yinglan

Achilles Heels

“Flowers? I hate flowers.”

“But…but all girls like flowers.

“And that is your first mistake. I am not ‘all girls’. Besides I am allergic to flowers.

“I am sorry. Next time I will get chocolates.”

“Chocolates are very fattening. They give me a migraine too.

“Umm so what should I get?”

“Why should you get something for me? What do you want in return?

“Me? Nothing. I was just…”

“Just what?”

“Why are you so suspicious?”

“Because no one ever does anything just like that?”

“You are such a cynic.”

“Yeah so? Got a problem with that? I didn’t ask you to stay.”

“Fine I am leaving.”

“Good riddance…”

“I heard that. And just for that I am not leaving.”

“You were looking for an excuse weren’t you? Why do you put up with me?”

“I also wonder. You are one the most annoying persons I have met.”

“I did warn you that I am a very difficult person.”

“One whom I cannot live without.”

“What do you know?”

“Let’s go shopping.”

“Shopping? I don’t much care…”

“Shoe shopping.”

“Shoes?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t need shoes.”

“Okay.”

“Well maybe I could just look at them.”

***

Written for FFfAW challenge – a story in 175 words or less (I confess to overshooting the mark this week to 194 words 😦 ). Thanks to Priceless Joy for hosting this challenge and Yinglan for the beautiful photo. To read the other stories inspired by this prompt click here.

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – XI

The final part!

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

Chapter 7: To Hell and Back

Chapter 8: A tête-à-tête

Chapter 9: The Ugly Truth

Chapter 10: Unanswered Questions

 

Chapter 11: Will She Won’t She

Sonu flinched but rallied.

“Fine.” He nodded. “I’ll wait until you know. But,” he shook a finger at her, “But be prepared to be pestered for the rest of your life.” He warned. “Once I get a bee in my bonnet,” he shrugged. “Anyway would you like to see a movie?”

“Movie?” She was thrown. “What movie?”

“I was thinking the latest Ant-man movie.”

“I don’t like these stupid action sci-fi type of movies.”

“Have you seen any Ant-man movie?”

“I haven’t seen any.” Lovely admitted. “But I don’t…”

“So how can you say you don’t like them?” Sonu challenged.

“That’s neither here not there,” Lovely was exasperated, “I am not interested…”

“That’s your problem,” Sonu leaned back, “you are a stick in the mud.”

“What!” Lovely was affronted. “How dare…?”

“But of course! Even though you haven’t never eaten something before,” he indicated the untouched plate of tortillas between them, “or seen something you already know that you don’t like it,” he mocked. “No spirit of adventure at all.”

“You have absolutely no idea of what or who I am!” Lovely shot back. “And don’t you dare question my spirit of adventure. Have you tried paragliding?” she sneered. “I bet not.”

“And you have?”

“Of course. River rafting, rappelling, kayaking and even jumping off the cliff.” She ticked them off on her fingers with a semblance of animation. “Adventure sports give me such an adrenaline rush! I still have to do the flying fox and bungee jumping.”

“That’s what I am giving you a chance at,” he slipped in slyly, “bungee jumping, in fact a whole range of adventure sports.”

She frowned puzzled. “Apart from being a wedding planner you are running an adventure sports unit or what?”

“Actually I am terrified of adventure sports,” he confessed, “I had a narrow escape during a school trip while river rafting. I fell off and I didn’t know swimming.” He paused. “I still don’t know swimming. In fact I am terrified of the water.”

“Then?”

“Isn’t marriage like bungee jumping? Or for that matter like any of the adventure sports?”

She looked at him resignedly. “Are we back to that?”

“Yes. And I will keep coming back to it until you agree.”

“And then what? Move on to another unattainable toy?”

“Oh so that’s your problem!” He said with dawning understanding. “You think once we get married, I’ll forget about you and ignore you.”

She looked uncomfortable. “Partly. Yes.”

“So how about living in?”

“Oh my God.” Lovely clapped a hand to her head. “You don’t give up do you?”

“Nope. Not while I am alive and kicking.”

“Fine.” She crossed her arms. “And I won’t give in. Let the battle begin.”

Sonu rubbed his hands in glee. “Shall we begin with tortilla and Ant-man?”

She laughed. “You are incorrigible.”

He scratched his head. “What’s incorrigible?”

“It means…”

“Does it mean you love me?”

“You are impossible!”

“Nothing’s impossible.” He grinned. “Except for me.”

“And you are insufferable and arrogant.”

“Rubbish!” He denied. I am very humble and down to earth. Should we begin with tortilla and Ant-man?”

Lovely shook her head. “That would be too easy.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ll have to begin with learning how to swim and then graduate to bungee jumping.”

“Whew.” He moped his brow. “And if I do, will you marry me?”

She rolled her eyes and looked away.

“Fine!” He threw down his napkin. “I’ll do it. But on condition.” He put his hand on the table palm up. “When I jump off the cliff you’ll hold my hand.”

She slid her hands under the table.

He shrugged. “Fine. I’ll just change the rules then.” He scrolled through his phone.

“Rules? What rules?”

“Rules of the game.”

“Are we playing a game?”

“Of course.” He looked up from his mobile. “One of the world’s most age-less time-less games.” Her eyes dropped before his.

“Okay and done!” He put down his phone. “I just enrolled myself for swimming classes.”

“Good.” She made a move to get up.

“Do you dance?” He wasn’t finished.

“Dance?” she frowned. “Where did that come from?”

“Never mind.” He said impatiently. “Just answer me.”

“I learned some Kathak in school. I even gave a stage performance in school.”

“That’s great. So you like dancing?”

“I guess.” She said warily.

“While I learn swimming, you will learn dancing.”

“Why?”

“Why not?” Argued Sonu. “Dancing is a great stress buster. It frees you and relaxes you. And the best part? I will learn along with you.”

She stared. “You’ll learn Kathak?”

“Not Kathak! Western dance rumba jive salsa,” he coughed, “Waltz.”

“You think you are very smart don’t you?”

“I don’t think.” He looked modest. “I am.”

“Well I am smarter than you.” She picked up her bag. “Thank you but no thank you.” She stood up.

“All those questions you asked?” He didn’t look up from his phone. “The ones we didn’t have an answer to?” She dropped her bag and sat down. “I think they apply to you as well.”

“What do you mean?” She frowned.

“I think you are also part of this system, this society. Even though you are being given a chance you are refusing to take it. You also blame yourself. You also think you are impure and you are unworthy of marrying.”

She paled. “Rubbish.” She said weakly.

“Is it?” He pressed home his advantage. “If it was a broken bone, an otherwise kind of a physical assault would you have been so traumatized?”

“You don’t understand.” She spoke through stiff lips.

“Perhaps. Make me understand. Isnt that why you want to be an IAS officer? To help women get justice? To liberate them to free them? How will you do that if you yourself aren’t free? If you stop yourself from moving on, going ahead with your life…”

“You don’t understand…”

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself. If you want to change the world, first change yourself.”

“Change myself how?” Her eyes shot daggers. “By marrying you? You think marriage is the solution to everything?”

“Not everything. Something. And change doesn’t happen overnight.” He looked at her. “I am not asking you to marrying me tomorrow or next month or even next year. I am just asking you to take that one little step,” he paused, “with me.” He broke off a piece of the tortilla and held it out. “Try it.” When she hesitated, he insisted. “Trust me.” he paused. “At least in this.”

She accepted the gauntlet and popped into her mouth. She chewed experimentally even as he flashed her a confident triumphant smile. “Nice isn’t it?”

She downed a glass of water and shook her head. “On the contrary, quite awful.”

She almost laughed at his crestfallen expression. But he quickly rallied. “So fine you don’t like it but I am sure you’ll like tacos. They are…”

“Oh please Sonu!” Lovely raised a hand. “Could we have some decent old-fashioned Indian food? I am starving.”

“Sure.” He beamed. “But for dessert you must have their cheesecake. Have you had it?” She shook her head. “It’s out of the world.” He drooled.

“Better than jalebis?”

“Jalebi is your favorite?”

She shook her head. “No. In fact I don’t like them at all.”

He stared. “Then?”

“I was just trying to understand how bad this cheesecake would be.” There was a glint in her eyes.

“Very smart.” He gave her a resigned look. “Just wait until you try the cheesecake. You can change my name if you don’t like it.”

She tapped her cheek. “Hmm let me see…”

He leaned back in his chair. “No rush. Take your time. You have an entire lifetime to think up names for me.”

“Why waste an entire lifetime?”

His chair scraped. “If you think it would be a waste then may as well forget it.”

“Giving up so easily?” Her voice was low.

He stilled.

She drew in a deep breath. “I meant it for you.” At his puzzled look, she continued. “Why waste your entire life on a…a…a lost cause?”

His lips twisted. “You think I am doing this for you?”

She nodded.

“I am flattered that you think so highly of me.”

She frowned. “What do you mean?”

“That you think I could be so self-sacrificing and caring about others.” He shook his head. “Sorry to break your illusions darling, but I care only and only about myself and my feelings.” He leaned forward. “I am not proposing to you because I am concerned about you, your feelings your future. Nope. It’s all about me. What I will do without you.”

She looked at him helplessly, drawn despite herself. She stiffened.

“Big words.” She jeered. “Easy to say, easier to forget.”

“You are a tough nut aren’t you?”

“And difficult to be with.” She added.

“And selfish and self-centered.”

Hurt flashed in her eyes before blanking out. “I don’t get where you get that from.”

“From this.” He gestured between them. “You are just concerned about your feelings the possible impact if some eventuality happens in the distant future. What about me?”

“What about you?”

“What about my feelings? What about the impact of your rejection on my present?”

She rolled her eyes. “Stop dramatizing.”

“And you lack empathy too.”

“I do not.” She was cut.

“Just because you cannot see my broken, wounded heart, just because I am not crying, you think I am fibbing, joking.” He paused. “What else can I do when my life is slipping out of my hands right in front of my eyes?”

“I am not convinced.” But she was shaken at the look in his eyes.

“If you insist.” He nodded briskly. “I will wait until you admit it.”

“Admit what?”

“That you love me.”

Her eyes flew to his. She stiffened and glared at him. “Don’t you think you are presuming too much?”

He shrugged. “I am no fool madam. And neither are you. If you didn’t love me, you would have walked away long ago and I would be nursing a broken jaw.”

Her lips twitched.

“So,” he smiled, “I will wait until you are ready to say it.”

“What if I never say it?”

“There is no end to what ifs.” He waved his hands impatient. “Shall we go?”

She looked at her watch. “Oh. Yes it is very late.” She stood up.

“If we hurry we can still catch Ant-man.”

“Ant-man?! I thought we were going home!”

“Soon. Very soon.” His eyes were warm.

She blushed and looked away. “But I am warning you that I am not going to join any dance classes.”

“Hey! A deal is a deal!”

“Deal?” she was incredulous. “What deal? I never agreed to any deal.”

“You will.” He was confident.

“You are pushy.”

“So are we back to character analysis?” He waved a hand. “Be my guest, but let me warn you it is a waste of time if you are looking for shortcomings and faults.”

“And brash and audacious.”

“Perhaps just the tiniest bit.” He admitted.

“Overbearing and overconfident.”

“Confident not overconfident.”

“Overconfident.”

“Confident.”

Their voices faded into the distance.

*** The Beginning***

Thank you for reading and especially for sharing your thoughts 🙂

 

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – VIII

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

Chapter 7: To Hell and Back

Chapter 8: A tête-à-tête

Today was the day!

Exam over, she was rejoining office after a week’s leave. As she dressed her heart thudded with anticipation and nervousness. She dithered over her dress and changed thrice before settling on one. Stop it she scolded herself, you weren’t this nervous before the exam!

Yes, but he was sure to be there waiting for her after work. She wanted to make sure she was well armed with a thick shapeless drab dress and a severe bun topped with her forbidding spectacles.

But to her dismay he wasn’t there. Nor did he turn up the next day. She checked his last updated status. He was online! She hurriedly exited her app. She was relieved she told herself firmly. This was for the best. For him.

“Miss me?” Once again he popped up when she was least expecting.

“I thought you’d gone back to hell.” She stilled her leaping heart.

“I tried,” he fell into step beside her, “but they threw me out.” He grinned engagingly.

She couldn’t help smiling back at him.

“Oh! Hurry they are going to tow away my car!” Before she knew it she was in the car with him.

“Where’s the tow truck?” she craned her neck.

“Must be coming.” He slid the car into motion and winked at her.

“You think you’re very smart don’t you?” she seethed. “Fine. Let’s talk.” She crossed her arms and glared at him.

“Not now.” He focused on the road. “I don’t want to to have an accident.”

She pressed her lips together. “Where are we going?” she asked stiffly.

“To my office. We can have privacy and your sensibilities won’t be offended either.”

She looked away. She yielded the battle and asked. “Are you okay enough to drive?”

He shrugged.

“I mean your leg was broken, so it must hurt?”

“Not as much as it hurts when you rebuff me.”

Sudden tears clouded her vision. She looked out of the window and blinked rapidly. It wouldn’t do to breakdown so easily. She re-bolstered her defenses.

“What do you want?” she demanded aggressively as she faced him in his cabin.

“I thought I had made it clear.” He threw the car keys on the overloaded table. It slithered over the plastic folders and dropped down through a crack in the middle. Lovely sighed and picked it out. Unable to find a reasonably safe place she slid it into the pen stand making sure to keep the distinctive key chain hanging out. “I want to marry you.”

“That’s the trouble with you Sonu,” she faced him with a stern face. “You don’t have vision.”

“Vision?”

“Yes.” She nodded. “You just care about the present. Instant gratification, with a complete disregard for the future, which trust me, will come, sooner or later.”

“What are you talking about?” Sonu was clueless.

She pointed to his messy table. “You threw the car keys without a thought for how you have found it later. All you were concerned about was getting rid of them. But you will leave this room sometime? You will need the car keys? Better to keep it somewhere you can easily find it?”

“I always throw my keys there and I have never ever had any had trouble finding it.” Sonu declared.

Lovely threw up her hands. “That’s neither here nor there. It just proves what I think – that you have no vision and have not spared any thought for the future. Can you seriously see us together? For decades?”

“I can’t see it any other way.” His eyes were soft and warm as they rested on her.

Frustrated (partly because of the way her heart leaped), Lovely almost stamped her foot. “Uff. Please none of this romantic drivel please. Marriage is no child’s play and it’s for a lifetime. Think about it. More than fifty years of commitment to the same person. Can you do it?” He nodded. “I don’t think you can.” She shook her head.

“How can I convince you I am serious? I don’t know about the future but I do know I won’t be able to live for very long without you.” She opened her mouth to give him a dressing down but he forestalled her. “For the past two months as I lay on the bed battled pain and agony of physiotherapy and learning to walk again,” his eyes bored into hers, “all I could think about was you. That you were there waiting for me or worse slipping away from me, kept me going. I pushed myself harder and harder, ignoring the pain. I had to get back on my feet as soon as possible, before someone else snapped you up.”

Lovely’s eyes dropped. She clamped down on her rising answering emotions and rallied. “I am glad I could be your inspiration but this doesn’t prove anything. In fact it seems to me that I am a toy, which has been denied to you. And the novelty of it has you hooked. Soon this craze this obsession will wear off and there would be nothing left.”

“You don’t understand! If I had the slightest doubt that this was an infatuation, I would have never asked you to marry me. I would have wooed you made love to you, got you out of my system and gone on my merry way.” His lips twisted at the shock in her eyes. “Been there, done that,” he gave a self-deprecating cough. “But,” he hastened to reassure her, “With you I don’t feel like that. I just want to be with you.” He looked at her helplessly. “I can’t understand it myself. It’s a weird feeling, uncomfortable and disturbing. Yet exhilarating.” He ran a hand over his hair. “God! I am not making any sense am I?” he groaned.

Unfortunately only too well.

Lovely clenched her fists and forced her jumping nerves to calm down.

“Look,” Sonu got up from his chair and drew up one across her. He leaned towards her, “there’s nothing to worry. I’ve got it all sorted. I…I mean we, Titu and I talked to everyone and they have no issues with me being the groom instead of Titu. Even Ghasitaram has no problem, in fact he has already sounded out your grandparents.” He smiled triumphantly at her. “They have no issues.”

“What about me?” There was just the faintest tremor in her voice. It cracked and she automatically raised her pitched to cover it. “Have you got me sorted too?”

He looked blank which served to fuel her anger.

“You didn’t think about me, my feelings at all did you? Why would I say no to such a brilliant catch isn’t it?” she jeered. “Why can’t you get it through your thick head that I don’t want to marry.”

“But why not?” Sonu stared. “I am financially sound, reasonably good looking and from a decent family, no in-laws to worry about, what’s the problem?” He looked irritated and frustrated.

“The problem is that it is all about you, the others.” Lovely said. “There’s nothing in it for me. My feelings what I want doesn’t matter at all.”

“Okay. Okay.” Sonu raised his hands and backed off. “Okay fine. We’ll talk about you, what you want. I just thought of removing any concerns regarding familial opposition or hurting Titu’s feelings etc which may have bearing on your stance. If you have any other concerns, we can sort it out together. I promise. So let’s see,” he counted on his fingers, “Titu doesn’t have any problem, my family, your family don’t have any issues,” he grinned, “neither do I. So only you are left.” He tapped his chin. “You are worried, I won’t let you work? But of course I will! I already…”

“You know what galls me?” her tone was conversational as she interrupted him.

“What?” he asked warily.

“This thing about you will let me work. Why would you say such a thing? As if I were your bonded laborer or something. Male chauvinist,” she swore under her breath.

“Hey come on!” Sonu protested. “It was just a figure of speech. I didn’t mean anything other than I fully support and respect your decision to work. Like I was saying, I have my heart set on being IAS officer’s househusband. You go out and set the world right and I’ll keep your home sparkling clean, fresh and welcoming. I’ll look after the children, send them to school, make them do their homework…”

“What if I don’t want children?”

“Every woman wants children!”

“I think you know by now, I am not every woman, at least not your idea of every woman.”

“But you like children!”

“How do you know?” she crossed her arms.

“You told us, that you wouldn’t marry, but you would adopt a child, maybe more.” He shrugged. “But if you are getting married, may as well have children and have fun trying,” he winked.

Her lips quivered and firmed. “What if I don’t want to try? Or have fun?” Angry with herself for allowing the bitterness ooze out, she walked to the window.

***

Click here for Chapter 9: The Ugly Truth

 

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – VII

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

Chapter 7: To Hell and Back

Where the hell are you? She wished she could call him up and blast him as relief flooded her but there were too many customers around.

Where you told me to go. Hell.

She called him up. “Where are you?” she asked peremptorily.

“He’s in hospital.” Titu picked up the phone.

“Hospital!” she screeched. “Which hospital? Text me the details, if you are lying, I swear I’ll murder you both.” She disconnected the phone and packed up for the day.

At the hospital she surveyed a battered Sonu with horror. There were multiple scratches and bruises on his face, one eye was almost shut because of swelling and his right leg was in a cast. “What happened?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Snapped Titu. “He had an accident because he wasn’t looking where he was going. All because of you.”

“Titu.” Sonu’s voice was thin and scratchy.

“If anything happens to him,” Titu angrily brushed at his eyes, “I’ll make sure you rot in hell.” Her threatened.

“Titu!” His voice was stronger. “I’m fine. And it’s not her fault. Let her be.”

“Yeah right.” Titu flounced off.

“I am sorry.” Sonu said. “Don’t mind him. He’s just overwrought.”

Lovely stood there, her throat working unable to say a word.

“Please just ignore him and,” Sonu cleared his throat, “and any text that he may have sent. I asked him to charge my phone and check for any messages. He must have seen our chat and he just flew off the handle.”

“What happened?” Lovely was stiff.

“I had gone for a morning jog as usual when a bike crashed into me. I wasn’t carrying my phone, but luckily a neighborhood Aunty called Titu who brought me here.” He smiled. “Don’t worry I look worse than I feel.”

“How do you know what you look like?”

“From your expression.” He grinned. “Though I have to admit,” he added slyly, “it gives me a lot of hope.”

“Sonu please!” Lovely began. She drew a long breath. “We’ll talk later. Get well soon.”

“You’re leaving?”

She nodded. “I think it’s for the best.”

“Okay.” He lay with his eyes closed.

Worried (and slightly cut), she looked at him.

He was letting her go.

Without a protest. 

“Are you alright?”

“I will be.”

“Shall I call the Sister? Titu?”

“I’m fine.” He opened his eyes. “Is it okay if I call you sometimes?” He moved his fingers, “until I can begin texting again.”

She fiddled with strap of her purse and nodded.

“Thank you.” His face lit up. “Go and study.” His voice faded. “Make the most of now until I’m back on my feet.” It was a threat and a promise.

Lovely fled.

Titu wandered back in to the hospital room. “You okay?” Sonu looked pale and exhausted.

“You shouldn’t have texted her.” Sonu said without opening his eyes. “It wasn’t her fault.” For all his bravado and show, his heart was heavy. She didn’t care. What did you think that she too loves you? That she would collapse in a flood of tears upon seeing you, like the other girls had? The pain in his body was easier to bear than the anguish that tore through his heart.

“She told you to go to hell!” Titu snapped. “She has a black tongue and you better stay away from her.” He warned. “Don’t get taken in by her tears and sweet talk.”

“Tears? She’s too tough to cry. And what sweet talk? All she said was a dispassionate clinical what happened.”

“The way she was crying outside I thought she would flood the corridors.”

Sonu perked up. “Really?”

“Yeah.”

So she did care! A beatific smile lit up his face. “I’m glad you sent that text. You are a true friend.”

Titu grunted. “That was not my intention. I wanted to cut her out of your life before…”

“It’s too late bro. Too late.”

And all was not lost.

.

.

.

Unless she was the kinds who cared about injured rabid dogs.

 

The next two months passed with agonizing slowness. The road to recovery and getting back on his feet was an excruciating process but an unfinished agenda a lovely end to his budding love story was a high that kept him going, pushing him, keeping him in good spirits (most of the times).

For Lovely it was another story.

She withdrew from herself and threw herself into her books and systematically demolished the piles of pending claims left by her predecessor like a woman possessed. Strangely her family members didn’t pester her about formalizing her engagement with Titu. Perhaps he had asked for more time in view of his friend’s accident, whatever the reason she didn’t care. She only knew there was no place for marriage in her life or weakness in this regard. That way lay disaster.

Brick by brick, she bolstered and steadied her defenses and nerves. She refused to entertain any thoughts about Sonu and kept her conversations with Sonu to the bare minimum. Sonu tried to get her to text him but apart from a good morning or a good night, she maintained a tight-lipped silence while avidly listening in on any conversation that might give her clues to his well being or casually interrogating her Chachi.

She was just doing what any decent human being would do. Other than that, she wasn’t interested in him. Period. Besides who knew who all were reading their messages? She still went hot and cold with shame and horror at having allowed him to breach her barriers and respond to his texts. How could she?! Already Titu had read it. What if Mrs. Sharma or some other family member had read it! What would they have thought? What if Titu told them? What if Sonu and Titu laughed at her behind her back? She agonized over each word of her text. No she hadn’t said anything that could be misconstrued or held against her. But she wasn’t about to take any more risks. And it was for the best. She wasn’t marrying Titu so where did that leave her and Sonu? Nowhere.

Then the dreaded and yet most anticipated day came.

I am back on my feet.

Can we meet?

I need to talk to you.

Please?

I don’t bite.

Fine. Be that way. I will meet you outside your bank this evening.

No. I am busy

You need feeding.

You also have dark circles.

Are you stalking me?

I thought of surprising you yesterday.

But you caught the cab before I could make a move. 

Not completely recovered yet.

How about celebrating my return to life? 

Or would you have preferred me to die?

Stooping to emotional blackmail?

 

Just checking if you have any emotions

None whatsoever

Liar

 

Why do you say that?

 

That day after you left me at the hospital?

What?

The entire corridor was flooded.

Rubbish.

Come on! I wont take much time.

Besides you owe me.

You told me to go to hell

I went and came back

Don’t I deserve a pat on the back?

 

 

 

 

Exams are around the corner.

You can’t hide behind exams forever.

Go study

Make sure you clear the exams

All the best

Thanks

I have my heart set on an IAS wife

She switched off her data. She scrolled through the messages over and over again.

If only

Bitter bile rose up and choked her. She switched off her phone.

***

Click here for Chapter 8: A tête-à-tête

 

 

 

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – III

If you’ve just joined the fun, perhaps you may like to read the previous two chapters first, otherwise feel free to scroll away 🙂

Click here for Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Click here for Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Sonu relaxed. He reached out and took a pakora. “So why did you agree to come today?”

“I had no choice.” Lovely shrugged. “When the offer came from your grandfather, everyone was ecstatic,” she paused, “even envious. It was as if I had won the Nobel Prize or something. And of course there was no question of refusing. That’s just the groom’s prerogative.”

Sonu was perplexed. Now that Titu was ‘safe’ from the clutches of yet another unsuitable not to mention unscrupulous manipulative witch, he focused on the girl and the mixed signals he was getting.

“You don’t want to marry Titu?” Sonu asked.

She shook her head.

“But you want us to play along for a while?” He wanted to be sure.

“Yes.”

“For how long?” Sonu’s bored into hers before they dropped.

“Until 15th October.”

The boys looked at each other puzzled. “Okay, look,” Sonu said, “this isn’t fair. You know everything about us while we know next to nothing about you. If you want us to play along, you better come clean and spill the beans. Otherwise…”

“Otherwise what?” Lovely challenged.

“Otherwise I will insist that you two get married next week.”

“Hey!” An alarmed Titu sat up straight. “Why make me the scapegoat?”

“Shush!” Sonu hushed him, “this isn’t about you. It is about her.” He turned to her. “Are you going to tell us or,” he looked suggestively towards the restaurant where the parents were laughing loudly and talking excitedly.

Lovely took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. “Fair enough.” She nodded. “Here’s the thing. I want to join the civil services. My exams are in October and I don’t want repeated exhibitions for the purposes of finding a suitable groom and neither am I prepared to hear a million taunts for rejecting the best groom ever and far far beyond my station in society.”

“Oh.” They looked blankly at her. “You actually want to study?” Sonu’s voice dropped to a disbelieving whisper.

“Yes!” Her eyes sparkled bringing an attractive glow to her otherwise unremarkable face. “I love academics. I want to work, study, and be independent and answerable to only myself. At least in personal matters.”

“What if you don’t clear the exams?” Sonu drummed his fingers on the table. “They are very tough aren’t they?”

“Yes they are tough, especially so because I am working as a Probationary Officer at a bank. I hardly get any time to study. But I will get into civil services.” She wore a determined look. “If not this year then next year, or the next. No matter how many years it takes.” There was a fanatical gleam in her eye.

“Hey!” An alarmed Titu sat up. “Does that mean…?”

Lovely gave him a pitying look. “Relax. You only need to play along for the next two months or so. I’ll manage after that.”

“Why don’t you talk this out with your parents?” Sonu was curious.

“Don’t you know?”

“What?”

“My parents died in a road accident when I was 14 years old. I was put in the hostel. When I completed schooling I came to Delhi and have been living with my grandparents.” She said in an emotionless monotone. “Now that grandfather has had a stroke and Dadi isn’t keeping well either, they want to marry me off and fulfill that last obligation.”

“That does make sense.” Titu came to life. “You should get married. How will you cope alone when your Dada Dadi…?”

“Why?” objected Sonu, “She has her Uncle and Aunt doesn’t she? She can stay with them.”

“Why do I have to stay with somebody?” Lovely cut in.

They stared at her. “But…”

“Do you stay with anybody?” She asked Sonu.

“No. But…”

“Yeah.” Nodded Lovely. “But you are a MAN right? You can do ANYTHING!” She was seething. “While I have to stay under somebody’s protection.”

“It is for your own safety.” Titu said.

“Yeah right.” Lovely fumed.

“Is that why you are dressed so…so,” he searched for a word which wouldn’t sound offensive, “conservatively? To scare the groom away?”

“Dress?” She looked down upon herself. “What’s wrong with my dress?” She smacked herself on the head. “Oh sorry I forgot! You are broadminded people,” she jeered, “You don’t mind if a barely covered bride-to-be shakes a leg uninhibitedly in front of a crowd which includes her grandfather-in-laws and uncle-in-laws ogling her unabashedly do you?”

“To which era do you belong?” It was Sonu’s turn to sneer. “Eighteenth century? He clicked his fingers. “Snap out of it. This is the twenty-first century and nobody cares about such things. It’s prudish people like you with old-fashioned sensibilities that drag women down.” He shook his head and snorted. “And you want to be an IAS officer. To do what? Put women back into the purdah?”

“Twenty-first century is it?” Lovely refused to back down. “Don’t you want a good sanskari traditional bahu who will serve the family, bind the family, take care of everybody?”

“Of course!” Sonu defended, “Just like you would want a decent guy who would look after you and your family. That won’t change and should not change.”

“Oh please!” Lovely threw up her hands in disgust. “Which Utopian era do you belong? All that is required from the groom is that he be ready to ‘lend’ his name to her. In return, she has to sacrifice everything, if need be, her own life for his family.”

“What rot!” Sonu protested hotly.

“Is it?” Lovely leaned back into her chair. “Over a hundred years ago, Guru Rabindranatha Tagore wrote a story Punishment.”

“Yeah so?”

“You’d be surprised at how little if anything has changed since then.”

“Okay so what’s this story about?” Titu was interested despite himself.

“The story is set in deep rural Bengal and is about two poor brothers who are farmers – Dukhiram and Chidham.” Lovely dove into the story without any further ado. “They are married to Radha and Chandra respectively. Lovely drained her cup. “Chandra is about 17 or 18 years of age, is pretty and willful. Chidham too is handsome and has a roving eye. He often stays out nights without bringing any earnings, which irks his wife. She retaliates by going out often to the riverside and praising another man. Chidham doesn’t like it and abuses her verbally and physically. The next day she disappears to her uncle’s home, few villages away. Chidham could bring her back only after a lot of effort and pleadings.”

Sonu laughed. “Yes! Nothing has changed. She still does that and the poor husband has to dance to her tunes.”

Lovely rebuked him with her eyes and continued. “He has a love-hate relationship with his wife and obsesses about her. Because of her, he is so disturbed and restless that he fantasizes about her death, which could perhaps give him some peace.”

Sonu exchanged a knowing glance with Titu and raised his hand for a high-five. “Poor husband. I do feel for him. You are right! Again nothing has changed.” They laughed.

Lovely ignored them. “Radha and Chandra too don’t get along very well and neighbors are quite inured to their loud arguments and fights.”

The boys chortled and went for another high-five.

Lovely rolled her eyes. “That was the background of the story. The actual incident is about the day, the two brothers return home after a particularly unproductive day hungry and tired. The house is deathly silent. It is evident that things have been pretty bad between the two ladies today. Ignoring them, Dukhiram asks his wife to serve him food. Radha snaps at him and taunts him if she was supposed to go out and earn money for his food as well. Blind with rage, Dukhiram raises his sickle and kills her.”

“Oh!” Sonu sat up. “A sting in the tale!”

“Radha falls down beside Chandra spattering her with blood. Chandra opens her mouth to scream but Chidham claps a hand over her mouth. He doesn’t want anyone to know what has happened. It was dark. Perhaps no one would get to know. Perhaps they could dispose of the body.” Her voice rose and fell with Chidham’s thoughts. “And perhaps that’s what would have happened if a neighbor hadn’t decided to drop in at that moment to collect his dues.”

“What happened then?” Titu too was sucked in.

“The neighbor is naturally shocked to see the bloody scene and demands an explanation. Chidham falls at his feet and confesses, “Chandra killed her. Please save her.”

“What does Chandra say to that?”

“Nothing. She is too shocked to say anything. The neighbor, inured and witness to their daily fights, also a lawyer by profession, accepts it and says, “Tell the police that Dukhiram asked for food and she refused that’s why he got angry and killed her. We can get your brother off the hook. Don’t worry.”

Sonu looked at Titu and whistled.

Lovely raised an eyebrow. “Ironical isn’t it?” she gave a bitter laugh. “The truth shall set you free.”

“That’s it? That’s the story?” Sonu asked. “I don’t see the relevance,” he complained.

“No.” Lovely shook her head. “There’s more. Do you know what Chidham response was to this suggestion?”

“What?” they asked.

“Chidham said,” Lovely paused for dramatic effect, “I can get another wife but how can I get another brother?”

There was silence.

“Lovely!” It was her aunt calling.

“Coming Chachi.” She got up. “Can you see the parallels?”

Sonu exchanged glances with Titu and slowly shook his head.

It’s not about who is right and who is wrong,” Lovely said pointedly looking at Titu who flushed as he recalled his words to Sweety after she had garlanded him. “Isn’t that what you said in the twenty-first century? Clearly nothing has changed in the past one hundred years. What if Sweety was right and Sonu wrong?” She gave a bitter laugh. “But that is not important is it? What matters is that Sonu is your friend and you will support him in whatever he may have done – right or wrong. In all things, she is still comes a distant nobody on his list of priorities.” She walked away.

***

Click here for Chapter 4: An Unfinished Story

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – II

Click here for Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Sonu flicked another glance at the girl. “But you have to admit there are advantages of having a like this girl as your wife. She would be only too grateful to be marrying anyone, leave aside someone so handsome as you, not to mention well off as well.” He clapped his friend on the back. “And she won’t say much either if you have interests elsewhere.” He winked.

“But what about my reputation? What will everybody say when they see my wife is a behenji?”

“Relax Titu! Why worry when Sonu is here? Let’s play along until it’s time to pull the rug and get rid of the girl.” He grinned. “Sweety was one hell of a teacher – she gave me some pretty neat ideas.”

“What are you two boys doing standing over there in one corner and gossiping like girls?” Dadi called. “Come and meet Lovely.”

At the meeting venue after the initial rounds of niceties, a round of tea and snacks, Mrs. Sharma set the ball rolling. “Let the children get to know each other.” As everyone nodded, she added, “Sonu you also go along.” She smiled. “You don’t mind do you Lovely beta?” she asked the girl who dumbly shook her head.

“So your name is Lovely?” Sonu cursed himself for the inane remark. But he was rather short on inspiration and pressured to break the escalating silence and disdainful disapproval emanating from the girl. What business had she to look down upon them?!

“My name is Jigyasa but I asked too many questions and wasn’t beautiful enough so my granny changed my name to Lovely.” She met Sonu’s look of surprise calmly enough. “Are your names actually Sonu and Titu?”

Sonu coughed, “My name is Sudarshan and his name is Trilokpati.”

Lovely’s eyes gleamed through her thick spectacles, “The Master of the Three Worlds,” it was her turn to cough (or was it to smother a giggle?), “but not mine.”

They stared blankly at her.

“Why are you both so surprised?” She asked aggressively in contrast to her demure cat-got-my-tongue look earlier. “Oh I get it,” she nodded, “I am so plain and ugly that I would be grateful and ready to marry any man. Even if he looks panic stricken at the thought of being tied to me for the rest of his life and his best friend is already plotting ways to get rid of me.”

Sonu opened his mouth but no words came out of it. Titu didn’t even try to speak.

“Why don’t we sit?” She waved to the comfortable lawn chairs under a colorful umbrella. “Should we order something?” She asked as the waiter hovered obsequiously in the background.

They shook their heads.

She raised a hand, “Three cups of tea and one plate pakoras.” She turned to the boys. “Paneer or mixed?” The cat had got their tongues. She sighed and said, “Two plates, one of each.”

She looked at them with a gleam in her eye.

“What’s so funny?” Huffed Sonu.

“If only you could see your faces,” Her lips twitched.

“So you were pulling our legs?” Sonu was on shaky ground. He couldn’t even decide whether that was better or not.

Lovely sobered and shook her head. “No. I am serious.” She paused. “I have no intentions of marrying you or anyone else. But,” she looked at them sternly, not unlike their 4th grade Hindi teacher, Mrs Dandona, “we won’t tell the others just yet.”

“Why not?” Sonu asked suspiciously.

“I have my reasons.” She said shortly.

“And why should we go along with you?” Sneered Sonu.

“Because if you don’t,” her lips thinned and her eyes narrowed (Mrs Dandy for sure!) “I will marry Titu.”

“Not if I can help it,” snapped Sonu immediately on the defensive.

Lovely looked at him pityingly. “You are a glutton for punishment aren’t you?”

He frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Didn’t you learn anything from your run in with Sweety?”

They gaped at each other. “You know?!”

“Every sweet little detail, down to the tiny mole near Sweety’s belly button.” Her lips curled.

“Who are you?” An all too familiar sinking feeling enveloped Sonu. It was déjà vu. He stood up with his fists clenched. “Who sent you? Sweety?” He hissed.

“Relax!” Lovely rolled her eyes. She sat back as the waiter returned with their order. “Mmm hot sweet tea and crispy pakoras, what more can one want right? Go on dig in.” she urged before busying herself with the steaming goodies.

“Tell us,” Sonu bit out, “Otherwise…” he put a hand on Titu’s shoulder and stood up.

“So how’s it going?” Sonu and Titu turned around in surprise. Ghastiram stood there with a benign expression on his face. “Ah pakoras!” He reached out and helped himself to one. “Why are you boys standing?” He asked. “Urgent call of nature?” He laughed at his own joke. “Sit down, sit down.” he urged Titu.

“Please sit Dadaji,” Lovely got to her feet. “Please have a cup of tea.”

“No thanks beta.” He put his hand on her head in blessing. “You know Titu, Lovely is a very sweet girl.” He cast her an affectionate glance. “I’ve heard nothing but praises from everyone.” He patted her head “So warm and giving. And very mature and understanding.” He patted Titu. “Since she is my chuddi-buddy’s granddaughter, I didn’t want to keep her in the dark about anything. That’s why I told her all about Sweety and Pihu and,” he shook his finger at him, “you better tell her all about any other girl whom you may have had in your life. Best to start on a clean slate.” He took another pakora. “Carry on.” He said genially and moved away.

“He told you about Sweety?!” Sonu whistled.

“I don’t believe this!” Titu wore a dazed look, “Dadaji told you about the mole near Sweety’s belly button?”

Lovely shook her head. “No. He gave me all the wedding ceremony videos, including the jaymala.” She paused. “He wanted me to take an informed decision.” There was a faint note of incredulity in her voice. And a sneer.

“Oh so that is why you don’t want to marry Titu? Not that he’s desperate to marry you.” He exchanged a glance with Titu. “As if anybody could be.” He completed under his breath.

But she heard.

She stiffened and her lips twisted. “That suits me fine.” She looked at them with defiance. “I have no desire or intention to get married.”

Sonu relaxed. He reached out and took a pakora. “So why did you agree to come today?”

***

Click here for Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – I

A couple of weeks ago, I watched this year’s sleeper hit Sonu ke Titu ki Sweety, a well-made and enjoyable film. Yet, the misogynist core (and the cringe-worthy picturization of the otherwise peppy songs) was rather jarring and hence this sort of sequel to the movie. But I hope it also works as a standalone story, which as usual became longer than I intended it to be. Hope you will be (as usual) be kind enough to accompany me on this journey as well – a five six part story (so far!)

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

The entire gang had gathered in the sprawling drawing room at Ghasitaram’s behest. Unlike his earlier devil-may-care attitude, the Sweety fiasco had made him realize the importance of the kind of person who was going to be his grandson’s wife. That Sweety hadn’t even been married to Titu and she had already cleared the kitchen of his staple non-vegetarian diet and got her talons on the family coffers had given him the jitters.

“This time there will be no mess ups,” he declared, “for I will choose the girl.” He shook his finger at his grandson Titu and practically brother Sonu, “You boys better watch your step. I don’t want any hanky-panky.”

“Yes,” agreed the beleaguered Titu, “Sonu, this time you better not mess up,” warned Titu, “I’ve had enough of these roller coaster relationships, I really do want to settle down.”

“What?” Sonu was incredulous. “I don’t believe this! Are you blaming me for your woes? How is it my fault that you always manage to attract the wrong sort of girl?”

“But you are the one who created all the drama,” Titu’s mother handed him a cup of tea. If only you hadn’t put a spoke in the wheels, today Titu would have been married and I would have had grandkids on my knees.”

“But for me,” jeered Sonu, “you all would be out on the streets and Titu would be playing nanny to someone else’s child. Come on Mummy, who has a kid within three months of their wedding?”

“You know what I mean,” Mrs. Sharma was unfazed. “Don’t leave everything until the last minute. Speak up well in advance. We are modern family with a progressive outlook, but still it is embarrassing to have our son’s wedding called off during the jayamala ceremony.” She looked at the two boys. “You have no idea of the kind of snide remarks and comments I have had to deal with since then.”

“Not to mention all those accusations Sweety leveled at Titu. Of dowry, of initiating physical relationship on the promise of marriage and then breaking the promise, ” Mr. Sharma picked up the thread, “Only I know how I kept Titu out of jail and the court cases are still going on.”

“You don’t worry about that Uncle,” Sonu lolled about on the sofa, “The list of guys who were similarly lead on our Sweety the Great is growing longer and longer. She will be the one behind bars and very soon,” he promised.

“Yes, yes Sonu,” Titu folded his hands and bowed to him, “We are eternally in your debt but could your instincts kick in a bit earlier than for the absolutely the last minute?” He pleaded. “I still have nightmares, that I am married to Sweety. He shuddered. “This time I will see the girl only after you give the go ahead.” He clapped his friend on the back and turned to his mother. “Okay Mummy?”

“How can he do that?!” Mrs Sharma objected. “What if he likes the girl?”

“Mummy!” the boys chorused in protest.

“I saw a tele-film,” Mrs Sharma waved them into silence with a flick of the knife she was wielding, “Somebody sent his friend, who liked the girl and then he lied that the girl wasn’t good, with the intention of bumping off his friend…”

“Oh please Mummy, what awful serials you watch!” protested Titu while Sonu was up in arms, “You seriously think I’m going to steal Titu’s bride? Fine! I won’t say a word! Better still I wont come to see the girl.” Sonu got all worked up and emotional. “I won’t come for the wedding. I’ll go off to America…”

“Bye.” Ghasitaram rolled his eyes at Lalu who jerked his thumb towards the door. Ghasitaram nodded and raised his hand, “We are going tomorrow to see the girl. Whoever wants to come, can come and give their opinion otherwise hold silence forever and ever.” His eyes pierced Sonu before exiting with Lalu.

“I don’t believe this!” Sonu was frustrated, “I save you all from that controlling maniac and instead of being grateful and appreciative, everyone is blaming me? What &^&%&% nonsense!” he kicked a chair and yelped as he got hurt. He limped he away.

“We’ll wait for you tomorrow.” Dadi called. He turned to grin beatifically at her. “Only you understand my value Dadi,” he swore reaching for her feet.

“Okay okay fine fine.” She sniffed. “Be ready on time.” She waved him away.

Suited booted, primped and polished, they left the next evening for a prospective bride viewing. “I know the family very well,” Ghasitaram, informed them on the way, “Lallan and I were in school together and would have been in the same college also but for the Partition.” He looked at Titu and Sonu, “We were like you too, inseparable.” He sighed. “We met again after decades at the hospital where he is admitted.”

“Haww,” Mrs. Sharma commiserated. “What happened? Hope nothing serious?”

Ghasitaram shook his head. “Things look bleak. He’s had stroke and he’s paralyzed from one side. His wife is also a patient of diabetes and high blood pressure. They are worried about their granddaughter and her marriage and want to make sure everything is settled before any eventuality.”

“So you offered my grandson as a sacrifice?” Dadiji snorted.

“It’s not like that,” Ghasitaram denied, “I’d stake my life on my friend Lallan and I’ve met the girl. She is biddable, decent, polite and well mannered.”

“A killjoy for sure,” mumbled Sonu to Titu under his breath, “and boring.”

“Yeah I want to party have fun and enjoy with my wife not sit and read the newspaper while she shells peas,” Titu grumbled.

“Life is not only about partying and enjoying,” Mrs. Sharma said, “it’s about settling down, taking responsibility and you like matar paneer don’t you?”

“Uff Mummy please!” both Sonu and Titu groaned. She laughed and shook her head. “You know what the problem with you boys is?”

They shook their heads. “You don’t know what you want in life. No matter how modern you may pretend to be, ultimately everyone wants a wife who will sit and shell peas for you.”

“Right.” Ghasitaram agreed. “Partying is for girl-friends.”

“Exactly why I didn’t get married,” Lalu kaka added.

“Don’t lie,” Ghasitaram leaned towards him, “you didn’t get married because she wouldn’t have you.”

“Shush!” Lalu kaka cast a pleading glance at his long time friend and brother-in-law.

Ghasitaram smirked.

“Oops!” muttered Sonu to Titu and hung back letting the others move on ahead. “Quite a contrast from your kind of girl isn’t she?” He surveyed the prospective bride as she went through the traditional motions and decorous greetings from the safe distance.

Titu seemed tongue-tied as he stared at the girl.

“Lovely is not so lovely eh? In fact, quite the frump.” He nudged Titu. “And you are already besotted? Snap out of it man!” He rolled his eyes. “At least get to know her first.”

Titu shook his head. “That’s your department. I just want to settle down with whoever you give your thumbs up to.”

“That’s crazy!” Sonu protested.

“Is it?” Titu asked.

Sonu looked away guiltily.

“Mummy is right. I don’t know what I want.” Titu sighed. “In any case, this time I don’t think either of us has any choice or say.”

“What do you mean?!” Sonu was taken aback.

“Mummy warned me that this meeting was just a formality. Grandpa has his heart set on this marriage and this meeting is just a formality.”

Sonu whistled. “Since when did he start taking so much interest in your marriage?”

“Grandpa apparently got the jitters when Sweety cut off the kebab and chicken from home. Ever since then he’s been having nightmares of my future wife cutting off his daaru and kicking Lalu kaka out of our home.”

“Serve the old geezer right,” Sonu snickered. “If I hadn’t spoken up in time,” Sonu said in self-congratulatory tones, “this is exactly what would have happened. Mark my words.”

Titu nodded glumly. “This time he declared he wasn’t going to let any girl but the one of his choice to enter his house.” He took another look at the overdressed, caked slightly plumpish girl wearing a thick oily plait. “You think I could ever be besotted with that…that…” words failed him. He looked reproachfully at his friend. “You don’t know me at all if you think this is my ‘besotted’ expression. I was just trying to imagine myself tied to this woman for the rest of my life.” He shuddered.

****

Click here for Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise