Part 2 of the stories – Unrequited love
The two reached the dome-shaped auditorium. At its entrance was a beautiful fountain. Bhoomi noticed sparrows perched on its concrete rim, quenching their thirst. The area around it was laid with neatly-cut grass with colorful roses to border the grass patches.
They walked it. The interior of the building was breathtaking. There were 300 odd maroon chairs arranged in a step wise fashion gave the audience clear view of the stage.
Urmi looked at Bhoomi and said, “Have a seat and will catch you after all the hulla is over.” And left without waiting for Bhoomi’s reply. She joined the other members on the stage.
She pinned a orange and green badge over her dupatta and surveyed the arrangements, giving instructions to her colleagues. After 20 minutes upon arrival the Orientation commenced. Urmi took the Podium and addressed the crowd.
She said, “Hello Friends, I am Urmila, your President. Welcome to HCU. It is an honor to welcome all of you to the family of HCU. I’d like to introduce my team she said and introduced all the flag-bearers of team GSA (Graduate Student’s Association). She then spoke of some guidelines and general rules to follow on campus. Then she invited their Vice-Chancellor to say a few words. Mr. Krishna Murthy and his team spoke for another few minutes and concluded his speech with a note of caution regarding misconduct towards female students and hinted the repercussions to any such act will have dire consequences. He later left the Auditorium to take care of pressing engagements. The Dean’s of various departments that came in with the VC left along with him.
The General–Secretary of GSA, Preetam spoke and explained all the activities that take place on campus and of all the clubs instated to avail. The program came to a close with an entertainment program and a documentary on HCU.
Bhoomi looked at her watch and it said 5.40 PM. Time flew. Mom and dad must be worried. I need to get home soon.
Urmi walked towards Bhoomi and said, “So what do you think?” They had no clue four eyes were watching the girls intently.
“It was good. I am glad to be a friend of the President of HCU.”
“Oh, no don’t expect any favors,” said Urmi.
Bhoomi’s face flushed from embarrassment. Does she think I am going to take advantage of her position? I have to be careful with this woman and her verbal diarrhea prone cute mouth.
“Oh no, I don’t expect any favors,” she said in her defense.
“I was just kidding yaar,” said Urmi hugging her, trying to cover her tracks.
She then introduced about a score of students and for the love of God, Bhoomi could not remember all their names. She just smiled and nodded.
Later Urmi offered a ride to the bus stop at the gates and waited until Bhoomi boarded her bus home and waved back at Urmi.
For the next couple of weeks Urmi and Bhoomi ran into each other at the library, the canteen or at the dramatics club or the council meetings. Urmi was always surrounded by people, mostly guys. She seemed to have a control over men as they volunteered to cater to her needs. She handled them niftily. Bhoomi admired her presence of mind, logic and gumption when she took a stand on an issue. A bond grew between the girls and pretty soon they were inseperable.
Bhoomi invited Urmi home a couple of times and this solidified their bonding to the point where Bhoomi religiously packed breakfast for Urmi and they met at Ravee’s canteen as a ritual, share the food and masala-chai before they went their way to their classes. Bhoomi attained a status for being best friend of Urmi, making lot of men and women green with envy.
Six weeks had gone by. Everyone got busy with academics – assignments, term-papers and other stuff.
One Saturday evening, Bhoomi received a call from Urmi.
She said, “Bhoo… My gramps is sick. I need to go home and pay a visit. Dad says, he may not survive,” amidst sobs.
Bhoomi said, “Urmi calm down. I am sure he’ll be fine. When are you planning to leave?”
“The sooner the better. Can you go with me to the station tomorrow to book a ticket?”
“Yes. It will be a waste of time to come to the Uni. And then go to the station from there. I will meet you at the station and you come directly there. Okay for you?”
“Thanks Yaar… You are my comfort food,” she said and they both laughed and talked about other unimportant stuff for a few more minutes and hung up.
Bhoomi and Urvi met around nine, at the main entrance of the Nampally railway station and walked in towards the reservation counters and let out a sigh looking at the long queues.
“It’s going to take forever. Take a look at all the people ahead of us. We need to do something about the population explosion in this country. I think it’ll be better if we take turns to stand in the queue,” said Bhoomi.
“Ohhh, don’t start your whining… I’ll go first and you can have a seat and think about how we can reduce the population of the country,” said Urmi and stood in one of the lines awaiting her turn.
Bhoomi opened the book in her hands and started reading, trying to drown the entire hubbub around. Within a few minutes, she was immersed in her book.
She jolted when she felt a hand on her shoulder and looked up.
Urmi bent down and whispered, “Bhoo… Slowly, look to your right at 3.00 O’ clock.”
Bhoomi slowly looked in the direction and caught a handsome young man leaning against a pillar away from the counters, smoking. His right leg was bent with his foot against the pillar.
“Eye-candy,” said Urmi.
They both laughed.
Bhoomi said, “Hey, silly… we lost our spot in the line. We have to start at the end now… Urmi you are unbelievable.”
“You were too busy reading and weren’t looking at me so had to come to you.”
“To show me that?” she said pointing to the young man with her chin.
“Yeah… Isn’t he delicious? Let’s go and talk to him,” she said dreamy-eyed, head bent like she does when she desperately wants something.
“What? You are unbelievable. No way…”
“Oh come on be a sport. It is just pure plutonic talk… What is the problem with that?”
“The problem? Don’t I know you? And I don’t like the way you are looking at him.”
“It’s harmless fun,” She said as they both devoured the guy with their eyes. They noticed him check the wall clock and adjust time on his wrist watch.
Urmi held Bhoomi’s hand and dragged her towards the guy, stood before him and said, “A man that adjusts his watch according the clock at a railway station is late by a life time,” and smiled.
The guy reciprocated the smile and looked at his watch and said, “Yeah, true. Trains are never on time in India.”
The ice was smoothly broken and the two got talking.
“Hi, I am Urmila. And this is my friend Bhoo… Bhoomi.”
“Hi, I am Dashis.” He turned to Bhoomi and nodded a hello.
“Nice to meet you. And what do you do?” said Urmi.
“I am a student at Osmani University doing my M.Tech.”
“Nice. We are from Central University.”
“Wow… How lovely, two of my B. Tech friends are at your university. Man, we were a gang of nine. We were nick-named the trend-setters by our profs and students,” He said recalling a nostalgic memory.
“Oh, nice what are their names? Which departments?” Asked Urmi in an excited tone, batting her eyelids.
“One guy is Jaitra, doing his MCA and the other is Anuj doing his M.Tech.”
They were so engrossed in their conversation oblivious to acknowledge her presence that Bhoomi had to interfere and say, “Let’s go Urmi. We’ll be late and the counter will close for lunch.”
“Yeah, we need to go.”
“Can I treat you ladies to a cup of coffee?”
Before Bhoomi could object to the offer, Urmi said, “Sure.”
Bhoomi sighed deeply and followed the two as there was very little she could do when Urmi is in charge of things.
The women sat across from Dashis and he went to the self service counter to fetch coffee. Seizing the opportunity Bhoomi said, Are you crazy or what? Did you forget why we came here? And what is all this going-gaga over the guy for?”
“Relax… mommy… It is harmless fun… besides, buying a ticket in the afternoon compared to morning won’t change my travel plans. I am leaving tomorrow – ticket or not… So relax and learn to loosen-up a little…”
“You are incorrigible.”
“That’s why you love me don’t you?” and winked at her.
Bhoomi raised her hand and waved in a dismissing gesture as they were joined by Dashis.
He placed the tray on the table and handed the cups to the ladies. Bhoomi was the only one that concentrated on her having her coffee.
The other two were oblivious to Bhoomi’s presence and chatted like old friends. As she had nothing else to do, she took a closer look at the guy.
He was 6 2″ had curly hair, almond-shaped brown eyes, thick eyebrows, long nose curved in at the tip, tooth-brush moustache. Individual parts looked ugly but miraculously the overall impact was quite enticing. Interesting.
Ha ha ha… Dashis’s laugh startled Bhoomi and drew her back into their conversation.
Tell me more about them,” said Urmi.
“Jai was our gang-leader. He was our planner and the rest of us were his executioners. We had such fun in JNTU-Kakinada during our bachelors. All nine of us have joined master’s degrees and have dispersed. Some in XLRI Jamshedpur and others are in US.”
“Oh, tell me more about Jaitra,” said Urmi.
He said, “We were in our second year and there was a clash in the mess about quality of food and the differences at some point took shape of caste conflict and our man Jai was the one who negotiated a peace treaty between the groups. Actually, it is more appropriate to say, he blackmailed them into a peace agreement. It is his presence of mind that always got us out of trouble.”
The discussion went on for another 15 minutes and later we took leave of him and thanked him for the coffee and returned to the queue.
Urmi looking back at the man moving away from them said, “Bhoo, this Jai guys sounds so interesting. Would love to meet him.”
“What? You heard about him for less than 15 minutes and now you want to meet him?”
“Yes. I am intrigued. I want to meet the master-mind that controlled 9 guys and got them to do what he wanted. Aren’t you?”
“Not in the least.”
“You are boring.”
“So be it. Thanks but no thanks.”
They took turns to stand in the queue and around 4 they had their ticket to Vizag the following day and both of them returned from the station.
The following day Urmi left for Vizag for a week.
<> <> <>
Siya walked in and was greeted Parvati with a tight hug and said Namaste and bent down to tough his feet to take blessings. He said, “May you find a husband soon.”
Siya sighed under gritted teeth and tried to smile at him.
They all got talking of Joe’s wedding, her fiancé Rudra and Siya’s work and stay in Canada. Siya sipped her filter Coffee enjoying every sip. The taste reminded her of her mother. In a pretext to get away from the scene she said, “I need to shower.”
Siya had a shower and returned to the dining table and looked the spread on the table. There was tamarind rice, raw-mango-dal, brinjal chutney, spicy seasoned yogurt, paapad and sambar for lunch.
“Oh Aunty you remember all my favourite items? Thank you so much,” she said leaning her head on Parvati’s shoulder. Parvati rubbed her cheeks fondly and said, “You and Joe are like two daughters to me.”
Siya’s eyes teared-up with the affection showered.
“Joe intervened and said, Okay you two… If you are done with the senti-scene, can we have lunch?”
They all had lunch and Siya gorged on the food like a woman from a refugee camp. The other three looked at her licking her fingers, smacking her lips enjoying the food thoroughly and Joe said, “You still lick your fingers.”
“Heh-heh… Yes. That is the best part of food if you don’t know…”
“Yuk,” said Joe.
Parvati said, “I agree with Siya. That is why the adage finger licking good came to life!” and ran her hand over Siya’s head.
After lunch, the friends retired into Joe’s room and Siya crashed on the bed and dozed into sleep.
After a week of stay, at Joe’s place Siya and Joe beagan apartment hunting for Siya.
They looked at lot of places and nothing suited Siya’s budget or taste. Finally, they found one – a two bedroom. Parvathi did the honors making kheer to celebrate the house warming ceremony. Siya didn’t know anyone in the city to invited them. She invited Joe family to partake in the event and called her neighbors’ teenage kid to taste some Kheer made by Parvati.
Both Siya and Joe decorated the place with furniture and necessities to make it a cozy den. Getting a gas connection was however a herculean task. On a Sunday afternoon they arranged and re-arranged all the furniture and when they were both satisfied with the look Siya said, “I wish I was married. My husband would have worried about all the shit” dropping on the couch lazily.
“See, there is an upside to everything,” said Joe raising her eyebrows and nodding her head.”
“Look who is talking! You drove guys away all your life and that too at the speed of Olympic sprinters and you say having a husband is good! What has Rudra done to you and when can I meet him?”
“He hasn’t done anything special… he is flying in from Dubai next week…but seriously, do you know how difficult it is to live a single life, especially at our age? How long are you going to be single? And after that prick Peter cheated on you, you are better off marrying someone Indian.”
“Why? Do all Indians come with a tag or tattoo of honesty? They are no better in my opinion. They lie left right and centre. In case you have forgotten I was out for ONLY six years and India hasn’t changed that much is those years,” Siya said with a stone-face.
“Hey, I am not comparing Indians to other men here… Don’t get defensive. All I am saying, you’ll be all alone with me gone in two months. I worry for you.”
“I know darling. Relax. I just got here and I think we need to let things take their own course. Now, let’s make a shopping list for your wedding. Next two months we concentrate of Your-Project-Wedding. After all you get married only once.”
“I sure hope so,” said Joe.
They both laughed.
The women made elaborate lists discussing color schemes, invitation designs and all things wedding.
Then they made a check list of things to purchase in the order of priority.
Following two months comprised of shopping, shopping and more shopping.
Finally Joe’s wedding day had arrived. She was dressed in a saree that seemed like she had wrapped stars around her body with all the heavy embroidery on it and mirrors stitched into the pallu, glowing in light. Siya took the role of a bridesmaid catering to her needs and of being her mouth piece conveying Joe’s opinions to her in-laws when necessary.
Everyone asked who the stunning black-beauty was.
Parvati introduced her as her daughter’s friend and her second daughter. With lot of hulla the wedding ended and it was time for Joe to leave with Rudra to Dubai.
The two women hugged each other and promised to keep in touch. Siya’s eyes teared up and Joe said, “Hey, it is a three hour flight from Dubai to Hyderabad. It is like flying to Delhi. Don’t over-dramatize she said to both Siya and her mother.”
Siya drove the couple to the airport.
At the entrance as they were about to part Siya said, “Joe is very special. Take good care of her,” to Rudra.
“I will,” he said smiling looking at his newly wedded wife.
Joe and Rudra waved and walked towards check in.
Siya returned home with a heavy heart and kept thinking about Joe and the relation she shared with her and her family and dozed into sleep in the wee hours of the night.
It’s been three months since Siya returned from Canada and had settled in all ways into her cozy apartment. She was finding it hard to kill time and she looked for work. She didn’t want a full-time position. She wanted to travel and see the country.
She found a position as a Lecturer at a management college and it came with lots of holidays. Siya took the position.
She was immersed in her job and lost track of days, weeks and months until she received a call from Joe one Sunday afternoon.
Siya said, “I have a surprise for you. I am coming to Dubai for 3 days. There is an international conference on corporate time management.”
“AHHHHH,” Joe screamed over the phone.
Siya distanced the receiver from her ear and still could hear the excited scream.
“When are you coming?”
“Awesome. I am super excited. You will be our first guest. Rudra will be excited. He loves guests and likes to show off his culinary skills. God save you.”
“Oh my, is he that bad?”
“Nah he is okay. Definitely better than me.”
I am relieved to hear that,” said Siya and the two laughed heartily and spoke of Joe’s parents and Siya’s work and eventually the discussion came around to Siya’s love life and marriage.
And the call ended with Siya promising that she will socialize more and to meet ‘potential husbands’ the call was disconnected.
Ramesh Reddy were in the conference room. Rafiq knocked on the door and walked in followed by Kumar.
“You wanted to see us?”
Ramesh said, “Yes, We received an invitation for an international time management conference and I want one of you to attend. It is for three days.”
Kumar and Rafiq looked at each other.
“I am okay if Kumar wants to go,” said Rafiq.
“No, no… Conferences give me creeps. More over we have to close the Brahmini account and I’ve been handling it and I can’t leave now when the deal is almost through. You can go,” Kumar offered his spot willingly.
Okay, Rafiq prepare to leave in two weeks time and the conference is in Dubai,” said Ramesh Reddy and left the two in the conference room.
Kumar looked flabbergasted as he didn’t know it was in Dubai. If he had known he would have availed the opportunity. Too late. He let out a deep-disappointed sigh and looked at Rafiq and said, “Lucky buggar. If I knew it was in Dubai I would have gone.”
“It’s not too late. We can change plans if you really want to go.”
“What? After talking about Brahmini Pipes account with Orangutan? Do you think he’ll agree. Forget it. Enjoy your trip. I am jealous in a way but happy for you.”
“Sorry bro…” said Rafiq patting Kumar’s shoulder. Kumar let out a sly smile and both of them walked out of the room and walked to their respective cabins.
<> <> <>
DAY 2 WORD COUNT – 3037
Total word count – 6681