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Ye Honey Bunch

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Ye Honey Bunch

By Tushar Mangl

© Tushar Mangl, 2016

All Rights Reserved

The following story is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person living or dead is downright scary.

Respect creativity. Do not copy or indulge in piracy. If you need to copy a few quotes, ask nicely.

Books by Tushar Mangl

Fiction

The Avenging Act

The Thakur Boy

The Crumpled Innocence

Poetry

The Reluctant Scribbler

Non – Fiction

Footsteps on the Sands of Time

The Ultimate Guide to Content Writing

Short Stories Collection

In Awe of Life

Available at Amazon | Lulu |Notion Press| Shakespir & leading bookstores near you

Reviews for The Avenging Act

“Awesome book. If every girl shows such courage, then India can surely become a rape free country.

A very good work by the Author.”

– Charush Gupta

___

“A very short and hard hitting book.

The theme of the book is rape / molestation
A heinous crime which effects the body and soul of the assailant.”

Deepak Sharma

___

The Avenging act by Tushar Mangl is a saga of lust, hate and revenge- a story of a simple next door girl who has shown what mettle she is made of-what a next-door girl is capable of. It is a story of a girl from the land where Rani Laxmibai once rebelled against the imperialist aggressor….

Biswanath Bannerjee & Jayasree

https://jayasreesown.wordpress.com

_____

Dedicated to

All the Pushkars around the World and

The Neelimas who lighted them with love

I met Pushkar through a social networking site. I often get friend requests from random people, and if the profile looks legit I go ahead and accept such requests. The thing to do, the social media experts suggest, to build a reader base and broaden your reach.

After all, all our friends were strangers once. Pushkar, it turns out is an aspiring writer himself. He writes in Hindi and is good with his words. I deduced all this from his profile. I also followed the blog link and read his blogs. Yes, I do have a lot of free time at my hand. His way with words is sad and very poetic. It’s people like these who turn out to be ghazal writers, is my guess.

As it often happens in cases such as these, we seldom talk. There is a courteous hi and hello and that is it. One day, he makes an unusual request. I was revising a draft of a college essay for a friend which is an excruciating work. I got up from my desk, brewed a hot cup of coffee and distracted myself by checking my social media messages. A message from Pushkar popped up. He asked for help.

Ultimately, he requested me to write a story for him. No hi no hello, just a request, if I could write a story for him.

He said he had read my stories and felt I should write this story for him. I was surprised and shocked both. At times, even writers can be of loss of words. I have no qualms about being some hotshot writer; I am just a humble storyteller who likes to narrate stories.

“And I don’t have any money to pay you. I am sorry.” Well, that settles it. Had he offered money, the greedy fella in me would have opened its eyes. Now, there was no incentive, I did not know this guy, I am not being paid so it makes this easy.

“And I don’t have any money to pay you. I am sorry.” Well, that settled that. Had he offered money, the greedy fella in me would have opened his eyes. Now, there was no incentive. I did not know this guy, I wasn’t being paid so it made my refusal easy.

I explained to him,

“You are a good writer; I have read your blogs. Why don’t go ahead and write this story yourself?”

“I simply can’t write it. She asked me to tell it for her, but it pains me to write about her.” It might sound little melodramatic but soon I was hooked on the story.

In the following pages, you will read his love story. He told me, her love meant everything to him. Without her, he is just a shell. Ye Honey Bunch is not just about him but mostly about the girl whom he loved with a passion beyond imagination. And it is for this passion, I present you her story with prayers that love like this never fades away.

The major challenge in this story was to present her side of the story. But without meeting her, how could I write what she felt? That was another question. Should I interview her? Finally, knowing how much Pushkar was close to her, I relied on his versions and pieced together what could be her story.

Sounds crazy, right? Well, we haven’t even begun yet.

PS: In case you are wondering why this book is called Honey Bunch, I will let Pushkar answer that, but in his own time.

This is a beautiful story of a beautiful person, and you are going to wrap this up in one sitting anyway. Yes, please inform the boss that you would be late for office tomorrow. And pull out the phone numbers of takeaways to get food delivered.

“We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.”

- Robert Louis Stevenson

As a blogger and writer, you are used to getting random messages from random people. Some of them are compliments that make you feel like you are at the top of the World. Many of them are vile feedback you can do nothing about. His was just another random message, liking my work and wondering if I could check out his blog as well.

I went through his blog, to find a dark web space, poetry and verses spilled all over it. Hindi is not my medium of choice but his way of words was too good. I left some compliments on his blog praising his work. He then replied with a thank you and soon we started following each other’s works.

As it happens at times, I received his Facebook friend request, which I accepted. By now I was well acquainted with his work but not with the man himself. I checked out his profile, his name Pushkar lacking any last name was placed next to his picture, a close shot of a well-bearded face almost covered with black aviators.

We all have so many acquaintances on social media sites, most of whom we never interact with but are comfortable to have known once. One day, he pinged me for help. I saw that message five days later. When I did, I replied a hello and questioned the usual ‘what’s happening’ thingi.

It was as if he was just glued to his computer for five days for a reply. Instantly, I got an answer, an abrupt, meet me please, I need your help thing.

This was intriguing. Why did he need my help? Most bloggers if they write word help, it would mean some feedback on what they wrote and want another pair of eyes to hover over it. But then why should I meet him for that? Surely, it would be something we can discuss online. But he gave a mysterious refusal, insisting I meet him and this was something very important.

Writers have a way of words and can be mysterious as hell. Plus, we writers are curious people. I was curious but kept on probing him for some hints. What could this be? I got something about a big project or something but then he threw the ultimate bait.

“Do you drink?” He asked me.

“Yes. At times.” I wrote back, maybe too quickly.

“You like Old Monk? We can talk over Old Monk at my room?’

Offer a curious writer Old Monk and you know what will happen next.

I was at his place fifteen minutes early, eager to discuss whatever he wanted to discuss, of course over glasses of Old Monk. Just to be sure of the latter part, I texted at the number he had shared on Facebook,

“You want me to bring anything Soda or another bottle of Rum or something to eat?”

“No, everything has been arranged.” He replied coolly.

I wanted to probe further about everything, whether it included Chilly Chicken or not but then decided against it. Instead, I pondered over, what could be the bee in Pushkar’s bonnet. In today’s day and age, you can discuss global level problems over phone and the internet. Why do you need to make someone drink Old Monk to discuss things? Perhaps he was the old-fashioned guy who liked the ways of yester years.

“So, tell me what is bothering you?” I asked him when we were two pegs down. His room was sparsely furnished and there was a tiny corner of a balcony outside, where I suggested we sit.

“I want you to write a book for me.” Did he say that or I am drunk, I asked myself?

“What?” I asked, for clarity sakes.

“You always write about how you write for stories and not for money. You write because you feel for the stories.”

“Oh! that is all because of how we writers are paid. If you say you write for money and someone asks you how much, you would be as embarrassed as you would be if caught without your pants on in public.”

“If you could do this for me, please. I don’t know who else to ask.”

“You yourself are an excellent writer. Write yourself, you need some help, I will help you.” I remarked, snatching away the bag of salted peanuts from his hands.

“I can’t”

Now, I knew he would spill out whatever the heart of the matter was.

“Pushkar, tell me, what’s going on.”

“She wanted me to write her story. I mean our story. I am not sure.”

“Nothing like a confused writer. So, someone wants you to write a story. I would trust you enough to write my own story, what is the fuss all about?”

We looked at each other for a long time. He took a large swig from his glass and said,

“We loved each other and now she is gone. Before leaving me, she asked me for a story. I want to give her that. I know it sounds weird, but I can’t do it myself. I need you to write it for me.”

Oh, so that is what the matter was. Boy likes girl. The girl asks for the moon and he is off chasing the moon.

“So, she left you because you won’t write her a story?” I remarked in a mocking tone.

“No. She left me for other reasons.” He answered in a matter of fact way

“And this is to be her story or your romance thing story?” Despite everything, I was getting interested.

“She did not clarify. It could be that she wanted our story”

“Ya, right, she doesn’t want you in her life but wants you as the hero of her story.” I can be sarcastic at times, but I was not happy doing this.

“I love her too much to refuse her wish.”

“Hence the decline of human evolution.”

This was too much heavy talk, we got up, helped ourselves with the chicken, gosh the guy could cook. Pushkar has specially prepared fried chicken, with onions and carrots and it was yum. Why would any girl want to leave a guy who loved her, loved Old Monk and loved cooking Chicken?

Pushkar

“Write my story”, she asked me. We were sitting outside a large mall in a posh Delhi locality. The stone bench was a comfortable spot to sit and watch the running fountains. She had baked a fruit cake for me. Although I am more partial towards chocolate than a tinned fruit cake, the thought she had baked one for me, overwhelmed me.

“What?” I gasped, shocked. Nothing shocks me so easily, but the dead resolve in her tone did take me aback. I nearly choked on the cake.

“I want you to write my story, I want my story written”. (Or was it, our story, I clearly don’t remember).

“You have lost it, here has a bite. This cake is plain awesome.” I downplayed it, knowing well it was just her passing fancy. There was a time when she was crazy about tarot reading. I had given her my set, in high hopes, that at least she will do a reading for me. But the fad fizzled out within 24 hours of receiving the set. Her wishes were like a child telling you he wants to become an airline pilot when he grows up.

“You eat the cake. I am not interested.” She waved the cake away as if I was the one who baked it. She knew it was good and I could see she was pleased that I liked it.

She seldom asked me for anything. Partly because she did not want anything special from me, partly because she knew that I am perpetually broke. I always did try to get her whatever she wanted. I still regret and sad for things I could never do for her. She once asked for a violin. She is a skilled guitarist and can play it well, that is when she played it. I never heard her play but knew she was a Rockstar in her own right. Now, all of a sudden, she was crazed about a violin. I checked, it was quite costly and I was sure she will get over it in no time. At least I hoped. Did it make sense to purchase a new musical instrument? I knew the fate of the guitar which was gathering dust in her store room. Some time ago, she had decided to move on with the guitar, and I recall thinking at the time if I would meet the same fate one day.

I just played it gruff, telling her, she was just plain mad for thinking about a violin. That she was just wasting money and nothing good will come out of it. I hated myself for being curt to her, to deny her the little joy which she wanted. But gosh, violins are so expensive. I simply could not afford one. Maybe that should have been an indication for me, that this won’t last long. Love as an emotion means nothing when your love wants a bloody violin and you can’t pay for it. Ultimately someone else bought her one and I still regret not making her happy on that occasion.

Other things which I should have provided her but did not, were food stuff like Soya Chips. Can you imagine what a jerk I was, roaming around the mall with her, just a hundred bucks in the pocket? That was meant for emergencies and food. But when her eyes fall on Soya Chips, your eyes fall on her eyes and then eyes fall on the price label and eyes have enough. 50 bucks. You buy Soya Chips and forget about dinner. Or have Soya Chips for dinner? But you hate Soya Chips? But she loves Soya Chips? OMG! Why does a guy need love? I was so engrossed in the mental calculations, that I had missed her steps moving away from Soya Chips. I followed her to a bookstore, window shopping books, relieved that the decision had been made for me, that she did not ask me for the Chips, but profoundly sad that I could not buy her a packet of chips.

I was blessed that she was never so insistent or stubborn of what she asked for. Like when she asked for a trip to the mountains and I said no, she understood so easily.

A month later, she reiterated her demand. “A story, I want a story.” She messaged me.

I tried placating her, “OK fine, the first book I write, I will dedicate it to you”. I read the message twice and sent it.

No, she was insistent, “I want you to write a story about me.” She replied.

Nothing I did would placate her so I promised her I would write her one, not knowing how would I do it. More than that, how would I write it without tearing my heart away.

“Look, dude, heartbreaks happen all the time. I am sure she got over you already and it’s time for you to move on as well.” I reasoned with all my preacher like stance.

“And you are intelligent enough to know about the crap things people say like you will get someone suitable and worthy and blah blah.” I further explained.

“I know, I am okay with her decision, it’s the pain, well, I will tell you later. If you listen to the story, I am sure you will understand.”

“I write about love, does not mean I have to understand it.” I shrugged.

“So, you don’t think it is a good idea to write the story.” He commented rather than asking.

“No. I have not heard your story yet, but it will be same as those zillion love stories for whom entire forests are chopped up. Pardon me if I sound rude, but it is not cynicism, but sadness which I don’t like.” I clarified.

I knew he meant well, but how could you write a story of a girl, who dumped this fellow. I might not have known him well, but he seemed a nice agreeable kind of guy with a large heart and likable personality. I was already taking sides which meant that I should steer clear of his writing project.

He also had this habit of looking away from you, while talking to you. He seldom made eye contact. There was something off about this guy.

“Tell me what to do.” He asked me.

“Does this thing mean a lot to you?”

“Yes.”

“Write it yourself. And let it be your story as well. I can already see that she had the larger say in your relationship. That’s how the ship sinks.”

“It’s not like that.”

“Then tell me, would she have found someone to do a project for you.”

“No. But”

“Forget it,” I cut him off, now taking charge of the situation.

The chicken was finished, so was the bottle.

“We will do this. You and me. How do we present it; we will see to it later?”

“Really, but could it be her story. I don’t want my name anywhere.”

I smirked at the idiocy of the guy, and mine as I had doomed myself committing myself to this writing project. For a girl’s whim, who would not even read this stupid story, I am sure. My intuition warned me, but I didn’t listen.

“Of course, it is her story. It is the story of the greatest love she will ever receive.” I stared at him as I rambled off, not sure of whether I made sense or not.

*****

I thought that he had forgotten all about this stupid writing project. I didn’t hear from Pushkar for the next few days. I wondered briefly about him and my thoughts went back to his evasive eyes, the twitch in his fingers, there was something different about him. I would have said, that there were strains of Autism, but I am no expert on such matters. What I am sure about is that there was something not right. I also reflected on his story which seemed at the time to stereotyped, too commonplace.

His phone call came when I was stuck on a boring assignment. A friend had asked me to help her friend, who had joined the startup bandwagon. In his quest to start something new and revolutionary, the chap had opened an innerwear e-commerce store. (How do you explain to these people that there is nothing new or start up in selling undies?) I was requested to help with the content. In 7 out 10 such cases I say no, mostly because of my laziness issues. But in this case, I don’t know why I said yes. That happens with me all the time. I say yes when I should have said no. I think it happens to all of us.

I had to get the content strategy ready the previous week but I had not even started it yet. The trouble also was this website. No, don’t get me wrong, it’s nothing to do with the undergarments thing. It was the layout of the website. You open the home page. It is neatly divided into two. His & Hers. On one side is a model highlighting female inner wear, and the other a guy in his undies. It looked a little bizarre, wish I could attach a screen shot for you here. The color was all magenta and font too awkward to be called quirky. There was an offer to buy 6 and get 3 free. God, what I had done to land me in this soup?

To escape, I was catching up on my reading and wishing that my friend would call me and relieve me of my duties. Pushkar’s call was thus a relief in its own way.

“Have you thought about the story?” He got straight to the point.

“Yeah. Let’s meet again; I will go through the process with you.” I said, thinking about another excuse to catch up on some Rum. It would also give me an excuse to run away from the start up thing.

“Okay. My place again? Saturday.” He was as anxious as a teenager on prom night.

“How about tomorrow? I will bring the bottle; can you cook up some chicken?” It sounded like a fucking date.

“Okay. Text me when you are about to reach.” He abruptly ended the call.

My friend Eti would tease me around with gay insinuations, had she heard our conversation. It’s not about being gay I would argue later with her, it’s about male bonding. There is nothing like two men, lonely and silent, cheering to Old Monk and chilling out. By my second visit, I was warming up towards Pushkar. Although he was an idiot to go around writing stories for a girl, he did know how to cook and how to make a peg. He was also a chilled-out guy to hang out with.

“My friend Eti would say we are gays,” I told him.

“Is she your girlfriend?” he asked me.

“If you mean, we are lovers, no, we are not.”

“How often that concept fails.” He remarked, staring at the door.

“I know. Sometimes I wish me and Eti would do it. But then… you know how it is.”

“You don’t want to ruin your friendship and the crap.”

“Right. Sex would only complicate things.”

“At least she would be sure, that you are not gay,” He laughed, passing me the fried potatoes he had made.

“Yeah, right. So, did you and Neelima do it?” I asked, rushing towards the juicy details of the story already.

“You mean drank together like this?” He replied playfully.

Of course, he wanted to skirt the question. I was stupid enough to bring it up.

“Yeah. That’s what I meant. You, She, Old Monk, and some chickens altogether.

“She loved Antiquity. Monk is not for girls. We would often buy Antiquity or Blenders which is my favorite.”

“Careful guy, if any of those feminists hear you, they will burn your room with Old Monk.”

“Right. So, does Eti drink?”

“Like a fish. I can’t hang out in a bar with her due to fears of enormous liquor charges.”

“Ha ha. Neelima never drank much. She enjoyed it mostly because everyone around her liked to drink. Some of her friends were near alcoholics.”

“But, mark my words Pushkie Boy, it is more fun to have a male drinking buddy than a female one. What say?”

“Pushkie” His eyes grew extremely sad. I knew I had hit a raw nerve.

“She always called me Pushkie.” He sighed. I sighed as well. These moments are so difficult.

We don’t say anything as minutes’ pass by.

“Tell me about Eti.” He prods.

I can see his reluctance to discuss his love. He is a private and shy and this must be killing him. To discuss and lay bare his love in front of a stranger. Yet, he is willing to do it, for a girl who used to love him. At least he believes she did. Who are we to say anything otherwise.

“Eti and I are friends of convenience,” I am surprised by my honesty. I don’t want to give him an artificial answer.

“When she gets lonely, she calls me up, when I feel lonely I call her up.”

“And how often is that,” he asks

I weigh my answer well, before responding,

“Quite often. We empty liquor bottles, order takeaways, even went on a vacation once.”

“Where did you two head off to?” He seemed to be genuinely curious.

“Pushkar. From the place where you got your name. She was going out with her friend. But three days before the trip, the girl found a boyfriend and went along to the hills with him for weed and sex. When Eti called me up to tag along, I wanted to refuse, I had no interest in Pushkar, but then I had nothing better to do, so went along.”

“From your voice, it seems to be a special trip.” He was looking at his glass this time, still not looking towards me, as if something prevented him doing that.

“It was. We had the same room but no sex. I told her I was interested. She said she wasn’t. We both took it well. I think that made us grew more close. To be comfortable with rejection. I joked her that she had pushed me into depression. She apologized and bought us a bottle of Vodka. To depression, she cheered and we spent the night, sitting across each other, glasses in our hand. It was a beautiful night.”

“Sex is highly overrated.”

“And liquor highly underrated.”

We refilled our glasses and cheered to that.

Pushkar

Let’s not start from where it all began, once upon a time. Let’s start with the end. But then there would be no incentive to read the beginning. The middle part gets tiresome at times. You get a gushing start, you are hooked up to the story, and you want to see how it ends. But the plot drags on. Whatever, let’s get this over with.

Bars, Pubs, Taverns, drinking places, are one standardized institution across the globe. A story is being ended or started in such a place all the time. Like it happens in so many bars across the globe, this love story also ended in one. She was at Tito’s Bar in Goa where she realized she no longer loved me. I mean drinking is such underrated activity. More things happen over drinks than happen in an average Indian TV soap opera. So, she is there in Goa, hanging out with her girlfriends, partying, and all and bam she takes the decision. I want to end it all with him.

There, that’s your ending. At least part of it, where the bond of love is so carefully seared cut by one person. It takes two to tango but one is sufficient to end it.

Does love make one cynical? She asked me. “Because you are like such a negative person at times”

No, I told her. “Love has so much hope; such longing that it can never make you cynical.”

“So, you mean, there is a shortfall of love between us that leaves you bitter?”

I never answered her question.

Neelima

The truth is that two parallel lines can just pretend to meet at the horizons, which are still far far away from each other.

Our First Big Fight

He was coming down from Ambala to Delhi and he texts me just two days before. I loved him, I do, but you can’t just drop everything to rush into arms of your boyfriend. I had plans with Priya. We were to sit together and go over through an assignment. And this guy he lashes out at me for I would not cancel my plans to go out, spend the day with him.

I was totally pissed off by his way of reacting to this. He would not talk to me for the next three months. Can you believe this guy? He literally shouts at me and then just goes cold and would not talk to me. Only when he feels like, he will come back to me.

It is times such as these that I feel I am dragged into a relationship I don’t deserve. None of my friends like Pushkar. I have to live in this constant state of pleasing him and expecting disapproval from my friends. It is always easy for men to blame girls for every failure in the relationship.

Pushkar

I asked her once, “Why don’t you write your own story yourself?” We were chatting over an online messenger.

“You are an amazing writer. You know what a big fan I am of your writings.”

“Well, about that, Pushkie. I need to tell you something.” She typed back.

“What?”

“I lied to you.” She said.

“What do you mean you lied to me, you never lie to me,” I told her.

“Look, don’t get hyper or angry, okay? All those poems and write ups which you on my short-lived blog were not mine.” Something in the way she typed, made me believe that she was not joking about this.

“They were yours. What are you talking about?”

“No, they were copied.”

“Not possible. I would have known. You would have told me.” I was perplexed by the way the conversation was going.

“Sorry, Pushkie. Don’t get mad okay.”

“No, why would I get mad. Gosh, that was years ago, you could have told me anytime.”

“I knew you would get angry.” She already sounded hurt.

“But I am not angry. Did you really lie to me? All those posts, poetry and prose were copied?”

“Yeah.” She wrote back in an instant.

“I don’t even know how to react.”

“Don’t ’get angry okay? I am sorry”

“But why did you do it then? Does not make any sense. Why copy paste something on a blog and pretend you wrote it?”

“You don’t get it. Do you? I wanted to impress you. You are always on this intellectual moral high ground. You are such a good writer. I wanted you to see me in good light.”

“Gosh.”That was all I could manage to reply.

“I got to go now. Bye.” And she signed off the chat, with me looking over the screen to make sense of what I just read.

The thing about lies is that you can never be sure about them. Was she lying to me then or was she lying about it now? We see what we want to see. I don’t think she lied to me then. But then why would she lie to me today?

“Are you recording our conversations on your phone?” He asked me.

“You don’t expect me to write everything you are speaking. Do you?”

“No, I was just asking. So, you are finally convinced, you will be writing the story.”

We were lounging in his room as usual, but today there was no liquor. Pushkar was not interested, and I had too many drinks the previous night. Eti had called and well, you know what happened next.

It was a warm Sunday and we decided to hang out at Pushkar’s place. Eti wanted to meet him too. I don’t think she would be able to, judging by her state last night. I made some tea for both of us, eager to show off the one thing I could pull out in the culinary department.

“How do you plan it all out?”

I did not have a clue as to how will I bring out the story. I still thought it was stupid. But as I gorged on the pasta he said was last night’s left over, I did not want to break the guy’s, heart.

“We will go with the flow. I am sure your girl won’t be very judgmental.” I sniggered.

“Shut up.” He admonished me.

“Tell me the how you met story.”

Just a look at the poor fella and I know how hard this is for him. Well, he asked for it, didn’t he?

“Okay so how long you have known each other?”

“More than 7 years.” He replied.

“Shit, that’s way too long man. No wonder you are so screwed.” I chuckled aloud.

“What was the first thing you noticed about her?”

“Her eyes. I remember, when I looked at her for the first time, I could not see her face completely. It was just half of it. Her eyes, her large black eyes, filled with innocence and love just looked at you like a doe would look over the landscape. Dazzled and curious. Such is the beauty of her eyes.”

Pushkar

I don’t know what happened that night. A colleague had called in for a tasting of a new whiskey he had tried. I went along to this place I have never been but knew to be a popular drinking place. The whiskey was very good. But like I said, I don’t know what happened to me. Might be the cold winds, which hit straight to my head and soothed my brain.

I drunk texted her. Yes, I did that. This was way after we had stopped talking for good. We had bid goodbyes already. One of the things she always said, was to see how drunk I can get. She said, I was too controlled and rigid at times and would love to see a drunk side of me. I would just laugh off at her suggestion, telling her that even though drunk, I will be still clear headed enough to do anything foolish.

But this time, I really did something foolish. I wrote to her

“I was in the market near your house today. And was thinking about you. I just sometimes wish I had more money. Maybe then you wouldn’t have gone far away. Anyways sorry to disturb you.”

She replied me back –

I am amazed how sure you are about being able to win my respect with money. I see no correlation there and that’s the probably the most absurd logic I have ever come across. I always had respect and adoration for you whether you believe it or not. Yes, you have certainly encouraged me at various points in life, never have I denied that however there have been also been times when your demeaning jokes and statements have made me feel as if my existence is purposeless. Whatever the case may be, you may call it truth, I can stick to geometry, but the truth really is that two parallel lines can just pretend to meet at the horizons, which are still far far away from each other.

I typed back

“Really sorry to disturb you. We should not continue talking. Goodnight.”

She was quick in response -

“Don’t be sorry that you texted me at the first place. In fact, I feel pity for myself that despite spending the major parts of my growing up years with you, all I hear is that none of those memories are sweet anymore. I feel that I have wasted all this time with a person who will always have hatred in his heart for me no matter what I do. You are right there is really no point in continuing this conversation. Wounds are just becoming fresh and fresh with nothing to heal them. “

So, this is what she thought of me? That I have hatred towards her? Here I am begging strangers to work with me for something she wanted and all I get is that I have hate in my heart. This is exactly what makes me wonder if all that time was worth it. The life I spent with her, was the best time of my life. But did I get a raw deal out of it? And what was that about sweet memories? Did she really mean anything by that? Surely not. She thinks she has wounds, she should have seen my scars. That she is the one who won it all and then claiming to be a wounded victim is a sad story I feel. She was not the one who got scarred, ignored, or thrown away as an embarrassment.

Listen to colors they will guide you

Listen to colors,

They will guide you…

When all you see are old sheets of paper,

Autumn leaves and bubbly bees,

Buttercups or the sun rising up,

Lemons or some yummy curry;

All you can see is yellow

Need to have a warm heart – smile at the situation

And all your problems shall leave you. Immediately.

Listen to colors,

They will guide you…

When all you see is money,

Loads of trees or piles of peas,

Grass or grapes, threads, and drapes

Tea gardens in monsoon rains;

Then all you see is green

People are getting jealous all around, for sure – no worries, though!

You are safe, for green stands for safety and protection

The protection of the earth – the greatest of all.

Listen to colors,

They will guide you…

If the sky is giving the necessary hints,

Signals of oceans or navy soldiers,

Be it the cold moon, or the dancers’ tune,

Or even copper sulfate in the science lab-

All you then see is blue

Then probably you are the stablest person

Your emotions, though, might not be in the same condition…

But since blue represents depth, deep down you know

That someday things will automatically turn out to be good

Listen to colors,

They will guide you…

When all you hear are Christmas carols,

Hand full of rice – some naughty mice,

Milk all around or silk deep down,

Or maybe the falling snow,

All you then see is white

Just be cool, calm and composed!

And problems shall leave you in a state of complete pure

Listen to colors,

They will guide you…

When you see danger signs,

Cut your thumb- spill blood,

Infinite roses – sleepy glasses of wine,

Chilies or the famous Red Riding Hood,

All you then hear is red

A little worrying a little difficult to handle,

But love shall reach out soon, to take your heart away from you

Show the passion-and sweep you off your feet

Listen to colors,

They will guide you…

When the food in your fridge starts rotting,

Your friends are found plotting,

The witches are out with their allied magic,

And life is nothing but tragic!

All you then hear is black

There might be an absence of light for some time,

but never forget, a dark evening is always followed by a dusky dawn

The broken pieces of the mirror will come together, just wait for a little bit of time

So, what’s your color telling you?

Pushkar

Is it sounding too much of a mish-mash to you? Am I going too fast for you?

Let me tell you something about her first visit to Goa. She loves Goa. She has been to that place many times now. She has a special fondness towards South Goa.

I still remember the first time she went to Goa. Now we were at this stage where you want to hold hands but she is being demure about it. And then she goes to Goa for the first time supposedly for a college educational trip with her girlfriends.

I was looking at the pictures she had taken during the trip thinking of the compliments I had to note. I was not allowed to like or comment on her pictures on Facebook as Neelima felt embarrassed if I did that. What would her friends think about it? To them, I would be a stranger, an unknown man commenting on her posts. It was okay anyway as we caught up on messengers and phone and there was often little left to say on social media anyway.

Most of the photos were beautiful, it had rained while she was there and the aftermath had given her a beautiful opportunity to click pictures. Suddenly my attention went to one particular photo which was towards the end of the stack.

So, she comes back with a picture of hers, swimming in a small private pool with three other guys (maybe two). The swimming pool was around 9 feet by 15 feet and was a part of the small lodge that was reserved for the trip. It was more of a guest house, she was supposed to stay in. The swimming pool as seen in the picture would have been towards the back of the property surrounded by tall palm trees on one side and the building on the other. The pool was totally occupied by Neelima’s party of three girls and three guys. I knew there were four girls which meant one of them was taking the picture. They were all just playing around in the water. Natural pose. Neelima was flanked by a tall and lean man to her right, who was clearly 3-4 years her senior. On her left was a short pudgy man with a lot of hair on his chest. He was also approximately the same age as the tall guy. The rest of the girls were at the far end of the pool sticking close to each other but away from Neelima and the guys. The photographer would have clicked the shot standing close to the boundary wall.

I will never be able to forget the rage that consumed me at that time. I was told it was a girl’s only trip (Not that I had asked, she was so excited about the trip, I just soaked in the information). My girlfriend doesn’t like holding hands and is playing around almost half naked in a swimming costume (of course) with guys wearing swimming costumes (obviously). I am not being a male pig here. I trust her more than anything for I have tremendous faith in her. Still.

But that picture made me realize the power of love. I was filled with rage. Such deep rage that I did not speak to her for a few days. I did not know how to react to the situation. I had no doubts about her and her love for me. Yet I don’t know, I never figured that one out, except that love, can be so explosive. She probably didn’t seem it important enough to tell me. Or I am sure she would have told me eventually that she went all the way to Goa with some males who as it later turned out were not even her friends. They were friends of her friends who had tagged along. Mostly I think she did not think much about it. She would have known that I won’t get jealous or anything. But the rage that I felt that day, I can never ever forget. A part of me feels that it could be jealousy, another part says it could be love, or just the fact that I was not there, with her while others were.

I have that possessive streak in me but with her, I was so sure and secure I never felt being too possessive. She would be there for me. No matter what happened, she would still love me. She would stand by me side till eternity.

Neelima

One of the most memorable times I had with Pushkie, was when we visited the Hauz Khaz Fort. The weather was hot, very hot as I remember something Pushkie liked. We are opposites on that front. He loves summers and dislikes winters. Come to think of it, anything which closes him down caves him in, he finds it threatening. I on the other hand love winters. Isn’t it the best time of the year? I certainly look forward to it.

Coming back to Hauz Khaz Fort. The fort is centuries old and is a beautiful yet crumbling structure. On one side, it is covered with greenery that comes from the adjacent rose garden and the Deer Park. On the other side, you have the village, a hip and trending commune of restaurants and shops selling expensive food and articles. We were just strolling down the lane when this guy has the audacity to stare at this very hot girl. I agree the girl was smoking hot, wearing a turquoise color top which bared her flat stomach. Her green color capris barely reached her knees. My first instinct was to kill that bitch. The second was to throw Pushkie towards the heavy traffic. But I choose to keep quiet. I know I tease him a lot about being an introvert, but I can keep words in me too. I like to think myself as a deep thinker, as Pushkie once described me. I like that phrase. Deep thinker.

And the worst thing about the incident is he does not even remember this. Clearly, he doesn’t. Some year later we were having this big fight as usual about his dripping sarcasm which enters into our conversation most of the times. Some women find sarcasm endearing. I find it gross. I hate sarcasm. Especially coming from Pushkie. I think the fight was about this only. (If you ask Pushkie, he would say we seldom fought. According to him, we discussed my complaints and he simply apologized. Ikes!)

Suddenly in the middle of the conversation, I let it on. I was in a mean mood.

“You don’t even care about me. Remember that time, you were stripping that girl with your eyes.”

“What girl? What stripping?”

“As if you don’t remember. You are a very mean person.”

“Why don’t you remind me? When did, this happen? And what really happened.”

“Leave it.”

“No. Why should we leave it? Tell me.” He was now getting louder.

“You don’t remember Hauz Khaz, do you?”

“Of course, I do. It was wonderful. We will go there again. For sure.” His voice had his trademark smirk.

“So, that you stare at random passing girls.” I blurted out.

“What is bugging you Neelu. Tell me.” He said it in his heavy voice, sounding like a commander asking his army to prepare for battle.

“You were staring at this girl when we were at Hauz Khaz. As if you were going to eat her alive.”

“I remember intending to eat you Neelu, I don’t remember any other girl. Why would I think of any other girl when I am with you?” Now his tone was all seductive and leery.

“You tell me.”

“Anyway, why bring this up now. I mean, that was years ago, I am okay to apologize if I hurt you in any way. But tell me, was that girl sexy?” I said sheepishly. Had I really been ogling some other girl?

“Fuck off.”

“Why are you pissed today for something happened years ago,”

“Because of idiot, I was jealous and you didn’t even notice. Gosh Pushkie, for someone as intelligent as you, this only shows your stupidity.”

Pushkar

It was a summer afternoon, I was thinking about the idea for a new blog when she called me. She seldom called me at this hour. I picked up the call, and just by hearing her breathe, I knew she had been crying.

“What happened,” I asked, anxiety pitching my voice high.

“Nothing.”

“Tell me Neelu.”

“I just got off the bus and was coming home, when a bunch of guys started following me in a car.”

“Shit. Are you okay? What happened next?”

“I ran. I just ran.”

“Don’t worry. It’s okay now. You are home now. You are safe.”

“What can we do now Neelima. Tell me what do we do? Write a complaint?”

“No, let’s leave it.”

It’s then I make a decision I feel sorry about to this day. I called my friend Gautami. I should not have called her, but in my defense, it was an impulse decision, taken at the height of emotion.

Gautami is tall, extremely fair, and beautiful girl, I have known for long. At this stage, we were very good friends who loved arguments with each other on various topics. It was nothing that I had with Neelima. This was just platonic.

“Wake up, are you still sleeping,” I remarked as soon as she picked up the phone.

“I just slept and you are spoiling my beauty sleep.” She said about to keep the phone down.

“Shut up and listen, this is important.” I knew she was pissed off. You don’t disturb Gautami while she is asleep and if you do, you pay heavily for it.

“You know, I told you about my friend Neelima”

“Yes. What happened.”

“She is quite upset. I can’t be there. Someone has to. You go and check if she is fine.”

“First let me sleep okay.” She shrugged off

“Gautami this is important okay. Listen to me first.”

So, I narrated her the whole incident as it happened.

“Do you understand now, why it is more important than your sleep?”

“Yes, yes, don’t rub it in. Give me her contact no. I will call her and then go over and check on her. Okay?”

“Okay fine. I am texting you. Bye”

I hung up the phone, relieved at the moment that the matter would be taken care of. Gautami would know what to do. Knowing Neelima, I knew she won’t confide this to anyone else. She was way upset. I did not know at that moment, just to comfort Neelima, I had put our relationship at a great risk.

Soon Gautami became the third wheel in our relationship. Neelima designated her as her guardian and big sister. She was everywhere, in our talks, on the phone, on web chats, everywhere. Neelima was like awestruck by her. Gautami now referred to her as ‘little princess’ and grew extremely protective of her.

What she did not know and never came to know that Gautami had a huge crush on me. It happens, right?

But having a harmless crush on someone may not be deemed critical or such a big thing. What was important was a creepy possessiveness that got into Gautami. She was soon best pals with everyone I counted as a best pal. All my friends were spending more time with her than me. She took over the entire decision making from where we should go, when should we talk, how should I react to whichever situation any of my friends was.

I had a feeling that Neelima would understand all this. She will come to see, that harmless crush was turning into a mad obsession. Maybe Gautami did not intend to hurt, but it was hurting my space, my privacy. Her interference was too much and I felt stifled. I tried explaining this to Neelima, but she was completely enamored by Gautami and there get-togethers became routine and this sent alarm bells ringing in my mind.

However, cool you are, how much ever you love your friends, you do not want two women who love you deeply, to become best pals. Especially if you knew how obsessive they were. You are bound to lose one. I could clearly see that. I had to do something, but without risking my friendship I could not sit them for a talk.

Ultimately, I did what I felt was the only and biggest wrong I did to Neelima. I asked her to stop talking to Gautami for my sake. I told her that I had no right to ask her to leave her friends or anything. But still, for my sake, she had to leave this one.

Neelima did not take it well. I think she still harbors strong feelings for what I asked her to do. She was not prepared to leave Gautami. But at that moment, she agreed. However, today they are as close as ever, the social media plastered over with their selfies at prominent hot spots of Delhi.

It was one of the deadliest blows to our relationship. Neelima should have seen through Gautami’s obsession. She did not. She should have understood my reasons for making such an unusual request. Indeed, I would do nothing to infringe on her personal space. But as soon as she gets rid of me, she went to Gautami to resume from where they had stopped.

Mostly it was a failure to keep a distance and balance in my friendships. I also never told Neelima, the real reason why I asked her to stay away from Gautami.

It was not only because her obsession was suffocating me. It was also how my friends were being made distant to me. A sharp divide was being created as one by one, all my friends started drifting away, some pointing to me that I had not done right by Gautami.

I never knew what she did say to them, but I feel that whatever she did be a reaction to her emotions. She would not have meant deliberate harm to me. But it harmed many of my friendships. Including with Neelima.

She would not have believed me, so I did not tell her. I was just curt and straight to her that she had to choose one, either me or her. That she actually gave it a thought about it before answering, should have told me about the damage which had been done, but I was too covered in guilt for saying something like this to her.

It was on this account I never even told her, what happened when I had last met Gautami and the words which were exchanged. I knew she would never understand. The Sad part is, she never even tried.

What shocked and amazed me, was to see her pictures with Gautami catching up on social media sometime after we had a brief fight. Just a temporary separation, gave her the quick notion of getting back in her books. Now that we are separated for good, Neelima has a friend in Gautami.

A part of me is happy that two women I loved as friends are together. Even if I don’t talk to anyone of them, at least they are there for each other. That they both once harbored love for me, would be a thing of past for them but they still would remember me somehow. Both are similar too in many ways.

Now sometimes, I sit back and think could I have done things differently back then? Could I have sent someone else that fateful day? Or no one for that matter? My concern ultimately became my bane.

Could I have communicated my feelings better to Gautami or Neelu? Maybe I could have. Maybe this was meant to be.

Neelima

“You don’t give me any gifts now.” He asked me.

We were at Gamlin’s a chain of ice cream parlors which is spread across Delhi. I was surprised not for the first time when he guessed right what I wanted to order. Ever since I was a little kid, strawberry ice cream at Gamlin’s has been a constant favorite. Pushkie always remembers such things. I did not even remember telling him this.

Just as we walked in, he ordered a strawberry delight for me and a chocolate ice cream for himself. He likes dark bitter chocolates for reasons only known to him. Pushkie scooted me to a table by the corner which was facing the windows. Pushkie has this quirky habit of looking for window seats and corners and tables near exits. It is as if the table is more important than the food. Only after settling me in and being sure of the table, did he go back to get the ice creams from the server?

“Let me pay,” I called after him, halfheartedly. I knew he won’t allow me to pay. My Pushkie was a gentleman to the core.

“Sure, as soon as you start earning. We are going to have a party when you get your first paycheck.” This would always be his standard answer. Who knows we would be together when I started earning, but Pushkie always was sure about it.

“So, you don’t give me any gifts,” he repeated when he came back. He offered me a bite off his choco mud something and gosh it was too bitter. My ice cream with chunks of strawberry, on the other hand, was delicious.

“You don’t deserve any. You are a bad boy.” I told him off playfully.

“No seriously,” He looked at me with those soft eyes the color of his ice cream. I love his eyes, the way they probe me, look me over. They look so deep, so dark, and so brooding. It is not often that he looks me directly, most of the times his eyes are wandering elsewhere. It makes me feel at times whether he is even listening to me.

“Well, I did get you presents when I visited the United States,” I told him.

“I never got any presents. I want my presents from the United States.” He was looking outside.

“That was some time ago. I obviously don’t have them stored somewhere.” I tried to close the conversation.

“Why didn’t you give me, my presents which were meant for me?” I did not like where this was going.

“Because you fought with me and were not talking to me,” I told him.

“Oh! So, I was not talking to you.” He said in a chirpy tone.

“Yes, Pushkie, you were not talking to me,” I offered him a bite of my ice cream which he refused. His loss, not mine.

“And what about you Neelu? Were you talking to me? If I was a moron for not talking to you, did you call me, shout at me or correct me? Did you ask me to pick up my gifts from America?” He looked at me for a brief second and then skirted his eyes away.

“Leave it.” I was mad at Pushkar. This is what he always did. Tried to make me look like a fool all the time. As if it was my fault always.

Pushkar

The Goa trip, the one in which she sent me a song. It was beautiful. I had begged her for years to sing a song for me on her guitar, but she always refused. But here it was, on my Whatsapp a song, with no guitar but an angelic voice I knew was hers. I still have it with me but I seldom play it, for it moves me to tears. I don’t know why, but it does.

The day following her song message was different. I called her many times but she did not pick up my call. Late afternoon, when she called me back, I asked her,

“You okay?”

“No. I hate you.”

“Okay. What happened?”

“You. You happened. You have always hurt my self-esteem. My confidence has always been low because of you. I could do much more had it not been for you. My self- esteem, my pride always has been undermined by you and your silly jokes.”

“But you know I never mean it. And there is no one who has backed your decisions as I have. Always, when you felt your friends and family were against your decisions, I stood by you.”

“I don’t know all that. Bye.” She hung up the call. She might have had killed me by then.

I went to my room and took out a card. It read Happy Teacher’s Day. I open it and read the words which are well sketched in my mind.

“Dear Pushkar

You are the best teacher in the world.

Yours

Neelima”

“What on the Earth is this all about?” I had asked her at the time.

“You are my mentor Pushkie. You have always shown the right way. You always guide me towards the right direction. You are the best teacher ever. You have always stood by me and know you always will.”

As she gave me a hug, I simply laughed, not knowing how to say thanks, how to respond such untainted love. I never saw myself as a teacher or a mentor. But yes, I was quite overprotective towards her. Which made me always cautious to her well-being.

“No matter what happens, I will be always there for you, always,” I promised her.

Now as I re-read the yellow color card with beautiful roses on it and recalled what she had just said. What was the truth? Had I failed her?

I remember the times when she decided to take Arts in school. She felt that her family and friends would prefer her to study medicine or engineering. But her heart was set towards Arts. She had very high scores, which could get her any stream of her choice.

When she told me, her dilemma, I asked her why did she want to take Arts? She said she had an interest in psychology. But her parents won’t like this at all. It is a strange thing, but yes, parental approval matters a lot.

I told her, “Go for it.”

“But my parents will say, take commerce if not med or non-med.”

“Talk to them. I know they will understand.”

“I think I should take non-medical perhaps. I know they won’t agree.”

“Unless you talk to them, how ca you be so sure.”

“But wouldn’t it be easy to just take on – medical and make them happy?”

“No. You will not do it because you don’t want to do it. You want to study psychology. Go for it.”

And she went for it. She always used to say it was I who encouraged her, but then, that was something in her heart already.

I look at the card again and think of the times when we supported each other to take such decisions of life.

Yet, she would go on and say that I had undermined her confidence, her self – esteem. And to think that I was her strength. Someone she could count on. Someone she could rely on.

I stare at the card for a long time, soaking in her words, taking in the beauty of her handwriting.

Then I get up, to do something that was obvious. I don’t want to tear the card to pieces. I take a pair of scissors and chop it up. I keep cutting it until it is all confetti each piece left now is as small as a piece of a chopped bean. I try to hold the mess in my hands but the little pieces of paper are everywhere. I can’t hold them all at the same time. Every time I pour some on my palms, they would slip away.

Perhaps that was the truth I was looking for. But love and a bond of friendship still clouded my eyes. I still had belief in my heart.

We were eating Chinese chicken and noodles when he brought out an envelope, obviously mauled by rats. It was brown in color and seemed to contain a lot of papers. I waited eagerly for the goodies that were surely meant for me. More envelopes come out. Rats have done some damage to the papers but they are readable. I want to hold them all and go through them, but I wait for him to make a move.

He pulled out a red color greeting card. I thought that the rituals of exchanging cards had been extinct long ago, but here I had one right in front of my eyes. I was going to read a love card which was not even ancient. How many of us actually get to see such a sight?

There were pretty flowers made on the cover of the card which read ‘To a special someone’.

“Did you get this on a valentine day or something?”

“No.”

“You sure you want me to read this.” I was hoping he would say yes, that he won’t change my mind.

“Well, you don’t believe me that she loved me.”

“You don’t need to prove me anything Pushkie Boy. What I think or understand does not matter.”

“But if you don’t believe in her love for me, how will you write Honey Bunch?”

“You are crazy Pushkie. Absolutely crazy.”

I flipped open the card, wondering how expensive it looked. It was addressed to Dearest Pushkie and a smiley accompanied it.

“This was the last time she every addressed me as Pushkie,” he commented.

I noticed that this was a card which was designed to act as a love letter holder. You open it and there were folds which when opened spread out to be a large A3 size plus sheet. The writer then can keep writing all he or she wants on it. Even though it felt exciting, I felt hesitant to open it.

“Was this the last card she ever sent you?”

“Yes. But this is not a farewell card.”

“What really happened then, if this was not meant to be a goodbye; she intended to stay on, right?”

“People don’t change as often as their environments change them.”

“Oh! So, the environment changed. Eh?”

“Aren’t you going to read it?”

“I am debating whether to read or not.”

“You want to ask Eti about it. Don’t you?”

“She is not my wife or a lover.” I snorted back, cursing myself not to have thought about this sooner. Eti could rescue me from the guilt of poring over someone’s love letters. 

Dearest Pushkie 

I think the card got a little too cheesy in the end, so let me mellow it down with some harsh words now :P

But on a serious note, when I first chose this card, one of the reasons which particularly attracted me was the huge space provided to express my feelings and like a pro, I thought that I am going to write so much, and make this card the world’s best card. But now that I think of it, it’s really very very difficult for me to write something about you, about me or about us despite know you since a very long time.

You are someone with whom I share a very special bond, there is no denying. But at times I do agree that I am not able to provide you space or limelight as what probably I am able to give my other friends. And there are various reasons for that. So at times, even if I want to tell others about you, or give you the importance you deserve, I am reluctant because I don’t know if people will be able to understand that we feel for each other from our perspectives rather than just looking at this story as yet another desperate measure to find love.

Given my outspokenness, it will literally take me a second to make a public announcement but the question is that whether it’s worth it.

There is literally no doubt that we have had our ups and downs, in fact, few major ones, where we were doubtful that we would even get back together. But look how funny life can be, and back we are at the same place from where it all started.

But the good times were also followed by really dark and gloomy days. But now that I think of everything in retrospection, I think we both have grown like anything, not only physically but emotionally and psychologically. We ourselves have been struggling with our identities, our career and life goals, relationships and family issues that at times, all this frustration and irritation is taken out of the other person. But it’s really commendable that even after being through so much, we still maintained the commitment and loyalty to one another and will hopefully continue to do so in the future as well 

You also at times feel that I am really rude and that your brute like leftovers have entered my soul and I have become arrogant, busy and what not. In my defense, I just want to say that DUDE WHO ON EARTH WOULD GIVE YOU SUCH ROMANTIC CARDS.

So, Chill and stop complaining ;)

Love,

Neelz

Neelima

After I joined the college for Masters, Goa was the first trip I took with my new friends. It had all the thrills of an adventure. None of us had informed our families and not even our professors knew we were out to Goa. Just four of us packed our bags for an all-girls trip to Goa. I have been to Goa many times, but this trip had a special memory attached to it.

We were partying at Tito’s when a bunch of men, started misbehaving with us. One of them pinched my friend’s ass. We were terrified. After all, we were in a strange place, tourists and knew little about the area. We moved on to another corner and then waited to see if they were following us and were relieved that they weren’t.

I called Pushkar many times that night, but his phone was switched off. I knew he would eventually call me back, but I was miserable. I decided then and there that I had to end it off with Pushkar. He couldn’t be with me forever. He couldn’t protect me tonight. It was not the first time that I had wondered that I had to move beyond him.

It was a hard call to take, but I had to take it. None of my friends liked Pushkar and they would never approve me being with him. As a goodbye, I sent him a song I recorded over WhatsApp. I knew he would love to hear me sing, but I had never sung a song for him.

So, I recorded, the song ‘Teri Galliyan’ from a popular Hindi movie and sent him. I don’t know why I did that? What if he found it horrible? Why was I even doing this?

He tried to call me next day but I didn’t pick up the call. I was emotionally overwhelmed by last night’s event and the decision was a little hard on me. I really liked Pushkie.

There was some special sale going on at a local mall and I had some discounts for the food court. I decided to take Pushkar along to use those coupons and check out the crowd.

“One question, Eti asked me to ask you.”

“Shoot.” We were admiring a tall brown girl, wearing knickers which could be mistaken for a G-String. It seemed she had just come here straight from the swimming pool.

“Have you thought of a name for this writing project?” Actually, Eti never asked me to ask Pushkar. We were just talking and the question came up. So, I passed it on to Pushkar.

“Honey Bunch.” He replied as we moved on strolling into a showroom, selling products so expensive that even with discounts they were overpriced.

“Sounds like a kid’s story book,” I remarked.

He removed his horn-rimmed spectacles and looked directly at me. The first time he ever did that perhaps.

“She promised me. Honey Bunch would be mine. It is mine.”

“Oh okay, as usual, I don’t follow.” And I didn’t, seriously.

“Honey Bunch is her diary’s name.” He appeared to be walking quite fast now. We went to a small bar in the food court offering happy hours. We sat down and I ordered Heinekens for both of us.

“Mate, first have this beer, then continue,” I said seeing him shivering with emotions, how much was held up in the wiry frame of his, I wondered.

He chugged the beer in one go and continued,

“She often said, she could express herself honestly to two people only. One was me and the other was Honey Bunch. It meant the world to her.”

“I asked her once if I could look at Honey Bunch. I knew she wouldn’t refuse me, do you know what she said?”

I nodded in negative and he continued.

“Honey Bunch is yours, Pushkie, it is a part of me, you can always keep with you. I promise I will give it to you one day.”

“Think about it well,” I told her. “I will never let you forget the promise. “I know, and don’t worry about it, I will never forget this. Honey Bunch would be yours. Just in case, I leave you, you know I will be close by.”

“You won’t go anywhere. Whatever happens to us, we may grow old and drift apart, we might fight with swords and tanks, our friendship, our bond won’t ever die. I will always keep our bond alive. I promise you Neelu.”

“Awww… you are so sweet Pushkie. But anyway, you can’t look at Honey Bunch until I give it to you.”

“That is so wrong on so many levels.” I had told her.

“But you will get it as a gift, one day, so don’t get angry or anything.”

Now Pushkar looks at me, again, his eyes red moist and enraged,

“She promised me, you see, she promised me.”

My eyes melted as I looked away to find the cap of the beer bottle, knowing well, where it was. I just needed someplace to escape to.

“Honey Bunch is mine. It’s mine.” He spoke more to himself than me.

I looked away, deep in thought, knowing no words can form a response to his outburst.

“I am going to ask a question”. This was the next time I visited him.

“Shoot.”

“One thing that Neelima hated about you.”

“My rudeness.” He did not even pause or think about it.

“You are not a rude fellow Pushkie Boy,” I said but in an unsure way. I did not know this guy.

“I act like a psychopath at times.” He nodded vigorously as he said that.

“We all do,” I replied.

“I might have been loud to her a few times.” Guilt was written all over his face.

“She hates me and my voice.”

“I don’t believe this. She hates your voice, not you.”

It was true. Pushkar always exhibited a more than normal nervous energy. He was very edgy and had a shrill voice that came very hard to your ears. You really had to get used to the assertiveness in his voice.

Once he told me,

“Why are you not finishing this pasta?”

It came out as if he was scolding me. I was scared shitless. Then I saw his hands shaking, his eyes wavering.

“I am sorry,” I said

“It’s okay dude. Chill. Love this pasta.” I tried to assure him but he was still not looking at me.

Now, I turned back to him.

“What else did she hate about you. Except for your voice.” I was still in disbelief, that she would not have seen his obvious quirks.

“She never said anything but yes, my being constantly broke.”

“You can’t blame any woman for that.”

“Right.”

I discussed this issue with Eti that night. She had asked me to visit her apartment (more like ordered me to) as her flat mate’s lover was using the flat as his drug den. She was going to do an intervention and needed me for the moral support.

But by the time, I reached her flat with all the items she wanted me to bring (2 bottles of Vodka – check, 5 packets of Chips – check, Salted Peanuts – Check, Tandoori Momos – check, Barbequed Chicken – Check)

The intervention was over. The flatmate and the druggie lover had a huge tiff and she had thrown him out before Eti could say anything. Her moment was gone, poof. I was tired and wanted to escape, but Eti made me stay for the night. We were sitting in her room, the door ajar and she was telling me about her day when her flatmate came from her room to probably visit the kitchen. Dressed in tiny underwear shorts and a vest like a tee, she looked nakedly beautiful. And those legs.

Now I was caught between stealing glances and keeping a tab on Eti. If she saw me doing what I was doing, I would have been killed on the spot. But those legs.

“Stop undressing my flatmate with your eyes, bastard.” Eti snapped at me, as if on a cue.

Oops, I was caught.

“She is already undressed Eti, look at her. Does she go out with only druggie people?”

“Nops. You are a pig. Men can be such pigs. But for your information, you won’t be able to afford her drug habits.”

“Oh Okay.” By now I could see her shamelessly, knowing I had received my punishment from Eti.

“Did I tell you, about Pushkie Boy’s meeting today?” I said, my eyes fixed on the bare legs.

“Your boyfriend? This is what the world has come to? I refuse to sleep with you and you go around dating men?”

“Shut up and listen. Gosh, you need to be spanked.” So, I told her about Pushkar’s nervous habits, how it makes him sound irritated and gruff many a times and his general quirks.

She nodded her head in way, I knew she was thinking. She rummaged the shopping bag for something and took out a packet of chocolate cream biscuits.

“This is for me,” I was already defensive.

“What are you? 5 years old?” She opened the packet and munched the biscuits.

“You are such a bitch. Tell me about Pushkie Boy.” I snatched a piece of biscuit from her.

“Your Pushkie Boy sounds screwed. He should have screwed that girl’s brains out and moved on.”

“He loves her,” I said, licking the cream side of the biscuit, and washing it away with vodka.

“He is a moron.” She said, giving me a dirty look.

“We agree on that. Cheers.” I clinked her glass.

“And a greater moron is you, who is encouraging his stupid love fetish.”

“To write a story for someone you love is romantic.” I reasoned with her.

“I wish someone would write one for me.” Her voice was suddenly low.

This coming from Eti, surprised me. Maybe it was the vodka talking.

“You would pour cheap whiskey on that guy and burn him.”

“Coming back on your Pushkie Boy, well he is deranged for sure. Let me hear some of the recordings. You have them, here right?”

“Yups.” I took out my phone and played the recordings for her. We listened to the records for about five minutes, when she asked me to stop.

“You are right. He has a psycho thing. Autism, Aspie could be GAD or something. His voice is screaming for help. In a crowded place, like in a party, he would be hunting for a corner first and then say the host hello.”

Eti is good at observations. We both like to do that. Hop on a metro and discuss what that couple was thinking or bet if a couple just had sex. Weird things, I know. Eti also has the advantage of having worked as a counselor for an NGO for rape victims. She was so good at her that they promoted her as in charge of fundraising. Mostly because the director had a huge crush on her he wanted her close to his office. That idiot also thought that her looks would get generous support from the money bags. Maybe he was right on that front. Eti had that disarming charm and a worldly grace.

“If you could meet him and talk to him perhaps,” I said, pleadingly.

“I am not interested in your charity work.” She dunked her glass and readied it for another shot of vodka.

“It’s not for charity. It’s for love. Remember darling, when you were twelve and felt love?”

“He was a moron. He is in the Army now, I think or the Navy.” She poured some more Vodka in my glass.

“Is that it? He left you and you feel allergic to love.”

“Shut up or I will kill you.” She gave me a stare but her eyes were getting soft with all the drinking.

“Help me with Pushkie Boy.”

“Not interested. You all hopeless romantics are what is ailing our society today. You guys raise the expectations of an entire set of nerdy, geeky guys whereas the girl wants a well-chiseled body with deep pockets to knock over. Pure love is just needed as a show piece on the shelf, not for bed and romance.”

“My My, someone is bitter today.” I said, reflecting on what she had said. Eti was too close to reality.

“Yeah. You have that effect on me.”

“You really think I should not do this?” I asked.

“You should not. It’s wrong at so many levels.”

Eti poured a generous amount of vodka in my glass and more generous in her. I added ice to our glasses, each of us knowing the exact measure the other needed.

“What could have I done, Eti? He promised her.” I tried reasoning with her.

“Glad she did not ask for the moon.”

“Do you even realize, have you and your Pushkie Boy paused to reflect that the girl would be in the arms of another man right now, who is promising her the moon and a story and what not.”

I looked around, unhappy about her berating me, but happy about the late hour and absence of anyone else around. She was not wrong. She was being brutally honest to make me snap out of this Pushkie thing.

“So, you won’t help me. Are you jealous by any chance?” It’s the male ego thing. I had to act offended and angry.

“Jealous my foot. Why should I be jealous?”

“Well, no one will write a story for you. Not even a couplet.”

“Duh! As if I want one. Even if I needed on, I would wrap my arms around you and melt you to write one for me. One moron is enough for me.”

“My reputation is falling day by day.”

“It happens when you go spend the evening with random males to discuss random romancing about girls who don’t give a fuck about you.”

“She loved him too Eti.” But she had already zoned out the conversation, establishing the bigger point.

“Do you need anything about my suicide attempts?”

I was with Pushkie Boy at his flat where I had ordered him to cook fish fry (I am not a freeloader okay? I got my own fish) while I lounged comfortably. There was a pen in my hand and I was doodling on a notebook but with an intensity that would portray I was writing a prequel to Homer.

“Don’t tell me, you are such a hopeless romantic that you decided to end it all and bull shit.” I remarked off handedly.

“Oh Okay.”

“You mean, you are such a moron you tried to kill yourself over a girl.”

“No, life was not good. I was not doing well financially; my health is also not quite good.”

“And the girl you liked thought of you as a rude moron and a stuffed teddy bear to play around.”

“Well, she did love me more than I loved her.”

“So, you say. Did you tell her of your great attempts to reach hell?”

“I might have. I seldom hid anything from her.”

“You said she had worked as a suicide helpline volunteer. That she took calls from people thinking about suicide.”

“For a brief time. A month or two.”

“So, she should have seen it coming, if she really loved you Pushkie Boy.”

“But she did love me.” He was sounding too confident.

“Says the idiot who tried to kill himself over a girl.”

“It was not because of her.”

“Then was her love for you so week that it was easy for you to take a decision to end your life.”

I knew I had to say it.

“You knew Pushkie Boy. Didn’t you.” He had raised his high-pitched voice and it seemed he was shouting his lungs off. I matched the pitch this time.

“You knew she won’t be there for you forever. You knew she will throw your love, your friendship away like a child outgrows an old toy.”

Then we were suddenly silent. The only noise we could hear was that of oil crackling over the fish. He went over the kitchen and plated up the fish. I poured more rum into our glasses and added soda with it. We ate in silence. He did not answer and I didn’t want anything to ruin my moment with the fish and rum.

“You said she is a trained psycho-something,” I spoke first, after gulping a long sip of the rum.

“Psychotherapist. She has a doctorate. It’s not easy but she worked hard for it.” He was so proud of this fact as if he was the one who did a Ph.D. Jeez, guys who act so cheesy can get on your nerves at times.

“I never liked those people. But tell me, then why didn’t she counsel you? A potential suicide case would be a dream catch for psychology people.”

“No idea on that. She has bigger things to achieve.” He was defensive.

“Bullshit. Eti was right. I am just wasting my time here. A girl is studying psychology. You say she loved you. Yet she could not see past your mind to see a suicidal man who tried to kill himself once. It was one time only right.” I narrowed my eyes to give my best stare, but only if would look at me.

“Twice.” It came out in a meek sound. Gone was the high vocal pitch, jarring my ears.

“Oh! Pushkie Boy what have you done.” I had to say something, but what?

“I failed twice. I don’t like to talk about it.”

That it did not shock me was a surprise in itself.

“Let me tell you some awesome suicide stories then. But promise me you won’t try them.” Empathy just rose inside me.

And then I told him hilarious stories of suicide failures, even though my sense of humor had drained away by then.

Delhi hosts several exhibitions around the year. Businessmen and professionals find easy connectivity and proximity to decent hotels good enough reason to congregate here.

“Do you want to see her picture?” Pushkar asked me. We were strolling around at Pragati Maidan which was hosting the 18th Lifestyle or something exhibition. It was boring but we had nothing better to do, so came out to check it out. Someone known to me knew someone who was hosting a stall so had requested me for moral support. As if my presence will have a film star like effect on the stall. (The stall sucked. The guy had collected some cheap handloom looking stuff which would make your heart cringe).

“No, I am struggling to remain an unbiased observer to this whole saga.” I told him.

“Okay.” We bought some ice cream and sat down on the grass, me already thinking about lunch in Noida and Pushkar, about Neelima I suppose.

“Okay, my curiosity beckons, show me what you got.” I said after some time when I was done with my Ice Cream and I had checked for any spots of its presence on my shirt.

She was pretty, with a wide smile plastered across her face. She was all very tall, I told Pushkie Boy that.

“Yes. Almost as tall as me.”

“Good.”

“Let me show you another photo.”

“I will stalk her on FB and see all the pics.”

“Just look at this one.”

Okay, the girl was there in the photo, her arms around Pushkar. There were three other girls in the picture. One tall girl with a great chest caught my attention. I disciplined my inner self and looked at the image again. Oh, no it was not Pushkar, but an inflated version of Pushkar. Younger too. Maybe an old photo? I commented on that.

He said no, and gave a puppy like smile. I suggested that he was definitely a relation of Pushkar if not his younger self.

“It’s her new boyfriend.”

“But dude it’s you. Okay you are a little slim this guy is not as tall but you, but still, the nose looks similar, the hair styled like yours.”

“I know.”

“Oh shit! So, she did not only dump you and your love and your friendship but your replacement is your duplicate.”

“You don’t have to get so excited about this.”

“Excited! OMG, Pushkie Boy this is just the juice your story needed. Dump a guy and get his replica as replacement. I am sure he is loaded too.”

“Yeah. Ample of cash.”

“So, a better and latest model of you.”

“Lovely. I am sure Eti would love this too.” Nothing excites me like a good story.

“But wait a minute. Pushkie Boy, how are you so sure that this chap and your Neelima are together. I mean are you stalking her or something?”

“Cummon dude. Look at how her hand reaches his. Then her eyes. Can’t you see the twinkle, the way she is stealing glances.”

I looked at the photo once again. I commented,

“You are a moron dude. Let’s go and have some lunch.”

I tried to get Eti interested in the story by making her relate to Neelima. We were seated in her living room and had ordered Chinese from Chin Mi, a cheap Chinese restaurant, which churns out street food style Chinese with some fancy packaging. Eti had taken out the Hookah I had presented her and busied me with the lighting of coal and setting it up.

“Considering how possessive you are about this thing, why do I get to set it up?” I asked her, piercing the foil on the top with a toothpick. I would now place a burning coal over this.

“Because that’s the way it is. Stop cribbing and set the Hookah properly.” She retorted back.

“Ji memsahib.” I offered her a salute in mock servitude.

“You also spent time in a suicide helpline center. Perhaps you came across Neelima?” I broached the topic as I sneaked a Dimsum off her plate.

“Not interested. No, I never met her.” Her spoon hit the knuckles of my hands.

“Do you know, she is supposedly hanging out with a guy who is a very close replica of Pushkie Boy.” I threw in a bait as I took the pipe of the hookah from her hands. I tried to inhale and blow out some smoke to see it was set okay. It was not. Eti took over and made minor adjustments. Now it was good.

“Not interested. But you can show me the photos. You can’t even tell the difference between lavender and purple. How would you know?” I knew she was getting intrigued now.

“Aren’t lavender and purple the same thing?” I sounded shocked as I blew out the smoke. Somehow, I could never form ring patterns when I blew the smoke from the Hookah.

“You are an idiot. What would you do, when I marry a dashing prince and take in a lesbian mistresses?” She smiled, carefully tucking in the Hakka Noodles in her mouth. After chewing the food, she took the pipe of the Hookah from me. When she inhaled and blew the smoke, they formed clear ring like patterns. Eti was like that, she could perfect anything she set her heart on.

“Don’t you say that Eti. My heart will fail. Here look at the pics.” I showed her the pics, conscious that I might have been staring at her mouth as she tucked the pipe in her mouth.

“What a pervert you are,” she said, rolling her eyes.

“Look at it, darling.” I nudged her.

“Wow, they both look so alike. Especially the smile. Both have a similar smile. But the other guy is more puffed up and meaty. I like him better.” I was pleased that she had seen the pics. I was more pleased to get a validation from Eti,

“He is taken. This is as per advanced psychological observations by Pushkie Boy.”

“He is a moron. The girl friend zoned him or something and ruined his life. He just can’t look at that.”

“In his defense, I would say, he is a moron so one can’t help it.”

“Shut up,” she said, as she slurped some more noodles off her plate, smudging the copper lipstick on her lips.

It was a dull Friday evening and I was heading back from work when Eti called. I never understand, why can’t people just text. I am more of a text person. Eti likes to call even to say things like, I have reached or I am waiting.

“Let’s have dinner together,” she spoke as soon as I had swiped the incoming call.

“Uh- huh”, I knew something was not right. Eti would never call on a weekday for a dinner.

“I was thinking, let’s eat out.”

“Uh-huh” She will take her time, so I let it be.

“I read about this amazing place near Saket, serves the best Chicken Curry in Delhi. It is an authentic dhaba we must try.” She said pleadingly.

“I am more well-read than you Eti, and I have never heard about this Chicken place, you are referring to.”

“Moron. Are you taking me or not?”

“Are you asking me out for a date Eti,” I whispered into the phone.

“I will disconnect this call if you annoy me.”

“You are the only one I want to annoy, Eti.”

“Pig. Are you coming or not? I would reach in an hour.”

I was too tired to go and was not at pleased with Eti’s choice for dinner. My own plans for dinner included a coleslaw sandwich which I would not even notice eating as I would be glued to my E-Reader, reading something.

“Of course, darling. Would I ever say no to you?” I said.

“You might, one day. If you found someone hotter than me.” She sounded as if she was smiling on the other side.

“And that’s never going to happen.”

“I know. Now move your ass to Saket metro station. You got one hour.”

I reached Saket within 40 minutes to find Eti had already reached ahead of me. She was standing by a flight of steps at the exit of the station. She also had a sullen look about her. She was wearing a black floral dress which had pretty roses printed on them. It reached her ankles but the neck was deep and showed the beauty of her neck and shoulders. The dress was sleeveless but the straps of her laptop bag hung on one of her shoulder looked liked tiny sleeves.

“I am on time.” I spoke. “And you look nice.” I added as an afterthought. As if that wasn’t the first thing I noticed.

“Whatever, let’s go.” She shifted her bag from one shoulder to another, uncomfortably. Now I knew what had changed her mood from the last time we spoke. Her enthusiasm seemed to have dipped drastically.

“You bought some booze darling,” I tried on an accent but failed.

“Shut up.”

“So Eti darling went to buy booze and some men bothered her. She is upset, when she should not be. She should not care about this.”

“I know.” She let go of a deep sigh. I removed the bag from her shoulder, she tried to protest halfheartedly but I was quick and slung the bag on my shoulder.

“Tell me about this God forsaken place we are heading out to.”

“You will hate me if you don’t like it. You already hate me.” She was clearly upset. I was not about to ask what happened at the liquor shop. If you are as beautiful as Eti and go to a liquor shop in Delhi at night, alone, you know better than to expect a queenly welcome.

“Of course, I do.” I was not her boyfriend or lover or brother. I had no need to be protective about her. Right?

Of course I could have asked her that she should have waited for me. I could have bought liquor from the store and she could have waited outside. But I had used that line, very foolishly I admit, before. I was berated to no end. “Poor Eti can’t go out to shop without her macho boyfriend.” That was the only sentence I remember which did not have a swear word in it. I am surprised Eti still talks to me, given her words that time. So now I just shut up and let things be. Eti was right. I don’t have to flaunt my ego around and show I am better or superior because of my manhood.

We walked on to what appeared like a village center. I filled Eti in on my day and listened to her. After about fifteen minutes of walking we came to an open square. An ancient tree stood in the middle of the square. Next to it was a shack like structure with a hand painted, rusting hoarding which read, “Afghan Chicken Centre” The whole area was dirty and surrounded by ugly looking buildings built like stacking matchstick boxes over each other.

“You hate this place, don’t you?” Probably my cringing nose gave me away.

“No Eti this is swell. Maybe when we get married, we bring our kids here.”

“Shut up and stop staring at the gutter as if you are going swimming into the running drain water.”

“It is kind of ugly, darling. We could have, you know booked a table at a restaurant or ordered in something. Even a fast food place would have done.” I know I can be a pain at times but Eti is quite tolerant of me.

“My cute snobbish pig.” She said, as she pinched my cheeks.

“Whatever”. The sitting area was divided into two halls. A short guy wearing a tattered t-shirt showed us to the family room. We passed a general hall where only men folk were present. The room was for men so that they could go and get drunk or whatever without any female company around . All eyes turned to Eti as she passed by. In the family room there were only couples there, two were double dating and the other two were romancing around the chicken. No, they were not giving any importance to the chicken. What a waste. All eyes again turned to Eti as she followed the tattered t-shirt wearing guy. I was awed as usual.

We got a table by the corner and as I tried to look at the menu, Eti put a hand over my elbow, probably aware of taut expression. I just nodded and she took out a cigarette from a pocket. She looked at the cigarette held firmly in between her fingers and then at me. I hurriedly started scanning the menu again. She gave me a stare and kept the cigarette back in its carton.

“What?” I asked

“Nothing.”

We took out the bottle from her bag, which was a blended whisky and ordered ice and soda. It seemed unlikely that anyone in the kitchen had any experience with Afghani cuisine. Still, we ordered the chicken which was house specialty and settled with our drinks.

“Sleepover?” She asked, drawing out the cigarette and lighting it up.

“No. What if you rape my innocent self?”

“Pig.”

“How is life?”

“Boring.” We eased into comfortable silence, munching the peanut salad which was just the way I liked it. Less tomatoes, more lemon and just the right amount of onion.

“I might be going out for the weekend.” She let out.

“Uh-huh” I replied

“You know bunch of guys, plenty of booze and weed.”

“And crazy communal sex,” I added.

“That too.” She said, reflectively. As if random group sex was a sad thing.

“You can come along too. If you want to, though I know you won’t” She said sneeringly.

“Well with all those sex acts going around, I feel shy,” I said it more for the effect as it was a pleasure to watch Eti burst into laughter.

“What are you doing over the weekend?” she asked, lifting the glass to her lips.

“Probably hang out with Pushkar,” I told her.

“How is he doing?” She took a drag of the ciggy but she was careful to blow the cigarette smoke the other way.

“No idea.” I checked her drink was gone, mine was almost depleted. I hurriedly finished mine in a single sip and asked Eti to fill in the glasses again.

“His mental configuration is not right.” Eti was in a thoughtful mood. She compared both our glasses to check if equal whiskey had been poured into both glasses and then passed on my glass towards me.

“I agree. Something is definitely not right. Although his mind appears to be very sharp. He is very knowledgeable about things and very well read.”

“Tell me, does he seem over anxious?”

I licked my fingers before dabbing them with a paper napkin and thought it over.

“Yes. His hands are never still. He is forever doing something. When I drop by his place, he is always, cooking, washing, eating, something. Never still. Even while drinking keeps on passing the glass from one hand to other. But how is that important Eti?”

“Could he be autistic?” She asked.

The chicken was truly great, but I was not telling Eti that.

“No Eti, not autistic.”

She dipped into the serving plate for another piece of chicken.

“OCD? GAD?”

“Oh, now we are Psychiatry majors?” I scoffed.

“”””

Pushkar

We fought like any two people close to each other would. We had our share of arguments and all. But we bounced back stronger than before.

One day, I went down to meet her and she presented me this beautiful basket with goodies in it. She had received each item as a gift and painstakingly saved some for me. Be it a candle or a chocolate everything was beautifully preserved. There was a packet of loose tea leaves, a bar of expensive chocolate and even a decorative candle.

So, what did I do? Was I thankful and grateful as I should have been?

No, I wasn’t. I was irritated. Mad. It peeved me to no extent that she had deprived herself of these things to save it for me. These items were meant for her. Someone had gotten them for her as gifts. There were items which she had bought from her own meagre pocket money. I said her so. I know, you are thinking that I was dumb and a fool to do so. She was damm angry and would have murdered me if she didn’t love me so much.

I later apologized and still cherish that gift hamper and its contents. But she always hated me for what she interpreted as being mean and rude. I never forget the times I hurt her. She thinks I did. So, she likes to remind me of them too often. How can one explain to her that if she is hurt, my heart bleeds too?

2/5/08

hEyYyZZz PUShKii….as I pROmiSEdD iN mAH last testimonial…dAT m gOnNAa rYt d wORlDZz Biggest TEsTimonial 2 yoU..yEH kAaM mAiNN aKElEy tO kAr nAi sAkTi tHi..sO tHoDA bHuT hElP LiYAa..sOo hErE i m..WiD SoMe oF tHe COmPiLeSs oF dA tEsTimonials rYtENn 2 yU..bY sUM oF yUR gR8eST fRnDZz….wELl..tRiED sUmTHnG nEWw..hOpEe sO yU lYKk iT..nD GiViN it 2 you..oN diS sPeCiAL dAtE..“5Th FeB 20o8”….pUrA eK sAaL hO gAyAa..SiNCe jABb v kAMe iN cOnTAcTt….nD hAaNn 2 oL dA rEaDeRZz..i tRiED mAh lEvEl bEsT 2 PiCk uP nYYc tHnGZZz..4Rm nYc.nD aGarR kiSsi kO bUrAa lAGa..sO i whOlEHrTdDlY apologize….nEwAYzZz..kUMiN bAk 2 Pushkar..aKa aPuN kA PUsHKi…

Pushkar

Stories like this do not end that easily. We did meet again. I shifted to Delhi for good, in hopes that we could do with reduced distances and I could take up a job to meet expenses. Sure, once we resolve distance and money issues, we would work something out?

I called her, not knowing what her reaction might be. I felt a tinge of relief to feel the happiness in her voice as she talked about her college and routine life. No, she did not ask the name of the company where I was working or how much was I to be paid. She was not curious et all about my sudden decision to move.

I asked her out for dinner, as one of my long-cherished guilt, was not treating her to a 5-star restaurant. I know, she never asked for it, but every woman deserves to be treated well. She skirted around and said, she would instead like fast food.

We have had so many ups and downs by now that I was optimistic that we could pick off from where we left. That what happened in Goa could be sorted out. We had known and loved each other for years, practically grew up together.

I felt the cold vibes right at looking at her. She looked so distant and off. I asked her if everything was okay. She said yes. We had a quick drink and she had to leave. From a Chinese restaurant, we quickly ate some noodles and chilly chicken, which she loved.

I tried to talk things to her. But won’t talk to me properly. I know her as well as I know myself. I know she is hiding something. Something which is eating her.

I talk to her about communicating. How we could salvage if not love at least our friendship, our bond which has now gone for years.

“Do you want me to leave you?” I asked her.

“It’s your wish.” She told me.

“No, Neelu, it is your wish. I can’t lose our bond. It’s sacred to me.”

All I got was silence. I knew there was something gnawing her from inside.

She won’t tell me. And it made me crazy in head. What could be so significant, so vital, that she could not tell me. Had things really come to this point? Did she not believe me in anymore? Her Pushkie was now dead to her.

We were sitting at Mc Donald’s, sitting by a window staring at the open market outside. The sun gleamed bright and shine trying to break the cold winter spell.

“You won’t talk to me.”

She did not speak anything. I knew something I had said sometime might have offended her.

“Look, if you tell me, I will apologize and correct it okay?”

Still silence. I took a swig from the Minute Maid she had in front of her.

By this time, I was broken. I had literally run to this place to talk to her and she won’t talk to me.

“I need you in my life. You know how much I need you. This is a tough phase of my life. I have a new job, I am new to this city and away from home. It is not easy for me and nothing is working out okay in life.”

“I know this sounds selfish, wrong as well, but your support, your friendship would mean a lot to me. Stand by me in this rough weather. I beg you.”

My words just bounced on a wall of stoned silence.

As I moved out to go back home and catch a bus to office, I realized she had never even asked about my work. She did not inquire, where I worked, what was it about, whether I liked or hated it, whether my colleagues were okay nothing. I could be a perfect stranger to her. She did not know where I lived, where I worked and clearly had not intention to know anything about me either. But she still loved me. That I was sure of.

Neelima

I am a rapid six trained rafter. I have a top-class education. I have traveled extensively. I spend more money in a month then Pushkar can ever earn. I have dreams. I have ambitions of my own. Each time I spend with Pushkar reminds me of a class difference which should not exist but it lingers around like a ghost around us. Which girl does not dream of a rich guy who is not thrifty and can fulfill all your whims?

Each time I am around Pushkar, I am reminded of this huge gap that exists in between us. It is not that I have reservations about Pushkar being inferior to me. But I do fear of being superior to him. I often ask myself if we would ever be equal. Whether our paths will ever intersect at a common point.

Our paths might be so different. What if any one of us has to comprise for another? Would either of us be happy? I remember a dream Pushkar shared with me often. He loves beaches and often wishes that he retires one day by the beach. My dreams are more ambitious, more drives. What if we one day we begin to reconcile our dreams?

Pushkie likes to talk about the bond. Not that James Bond thing. Pushkie says we are bonded at hearts and that is all that matters. I know he is not jealous of my success, my life. Somewhere down the line, he could have had all this too. He certainly wishes so but he is never jealous of my life. If only, he is proud of my success and wants me to succeed for his sake. It’s like, even though he couldn’t get there, I should. But If I do, our equilibrium would all be disturbed. I do not want that for us. I know somewhere in heart, Pushkie does not want it either. But he does not realize it, how can I ever make him realize that?

I might not say it. I am not very expressive with my words. I am an optimist. I like silence. I love Pushkie in my own way and will always do. In silence, like a deep river moves with the least sound and noise. For you don’t need words to state something which is beyond everything you always wanted to be.

In this struggle…

In this struggle of existing, being, surviving

I have lost my roots,

My desire, my wishes,

Myself, all are forgotten.

I turned around to trace back my path

But, alas, the winds of the time have blown away my footprints.

Sighing, I moved ahead…

Trying to recall who I was, but, to no avail.

My friends are not there

To remind me

Who I am.

I lost them somewhere along the way

And, now, I negotiate,

Alone,

Through the thick and thin,

Without purpose, without aim,

I struggle my way through…

In this struggle of existing, being, surviving

I have lost my roots,

My desire, my wishes,

Myself, all are forgotten.

I turned around to trace back my path

But, alas, the winds of the time have blown away my footprints.

Sighing, I moved ahead…

Trying to recall who I was, but, to no avail.

My friends are not there

To remind me

Who I am.

I lost them somewhere along the way

And, now, I negotiate,

Alone,

Through the thick and thin,

Without purpose, without aim,

I struggle my way through…

Anonymous

“Wanna smoke?” We were at Eti’s flat and she had put on some Cold Play’s songs on her phone. She had two cute little speakers attached to her phone. We were chilling in her living room. I was curious to know where the flat mate was but could not muster enough courage to ask Eti for fear for my life.

Eti inhaled a deep drag from her ciggy and blew the smoke at my face. Cold Play was singing Sky Full of Stars around us.

“You know I don’t.” Eti has this hobby to try different brands and types of cigarettes. She has even tried beedis too. Somehow a beedi in her mouth looked sexy. I don’t know why. I had presented her a hookah on her last birthday and she was delighted to the core.

“Wanna have sex?” She asked, raising one of her eyebrows.

“With your flat mate, maybe. With you no.” Another whiff of smoke hit me. By the smell, I think this was what they call the menthol ciggy.

“You are pissed off. Why are you pissed off?” She squinted her eyes at me, as she asked me the question.

“I am not pissed off,” I replied in a defensive stance.

“You are inhaling the smoke anyway, take a drag. Stop fussing about your health.” She held out the ciggy to me, knowing I won’t take it. The butt of the ciggy had the pinkiness from her lipstick, which made it quite seductive.

“It is cheaper this way Eti.” I said pursing my lips. As if she would force one into my mouth.

“So, like a coy bride, you won’t say anything until I punch your crotch to let words flow out?” She closed one eye and stared me with another. Again.

Did I tell you that Eti can be quite direct at times? And scary?

“Should I talk to her?” I finally asked her.

“Who? My flat mate? No, you shouldn’t. She is having sex some place.”

“Oh. Where?” I couldn’t help but ask. Although I knew were going off topic.

“Pig.” Which serves me right.

“Getting on the topic, I mean Neelima. After all, a good story teller should be unbiased and look at all perspectives.”

“Aw! My righteous story teller. Still stuck with the story, eh? When will you boys grow up?” She cooed to me.

I pondered over her question as I helped myself to a large measure of vodka. It was some fruit flavored thing, Eti had helped herself to from her flat mate’s room.

“You are not going to start at it again, would you?”

“Listen to sweetie pie, that woman is out there having some gala fun while you and your Pushkie Boy sit here brooding for her story, which is meaningless for her.”

“You are jealous.” I shot back, the truth as it always does, pinching deep.

“I am a female. We are born with a jealousy streak. That’s not the point. If only I could break this bottle on your head, maybe you would understand.”

“You won’t do that. Until it’s empty anyway. Don’t be so insecure. You know I love you more than Pushkie loves Neelima.”

“Pig.” She gave me a big smile which told me she was not angry.

I held her hand and massaged her fingers. “Help me here. Should I try to contact her?”

Stubbing her ciggy, she replied, “I don’t know. She would be too busy to care. If that guy really meant anything to her she would not have asked him to do it.”

“Explain. You are now sounding like a female magazine editor.” I took her other hand too. She pretended that she was not enjoying this.

“It is simple. Your chap would be hurting really bad now, reliving his expired relationship. Everytime you speak to him; he is reminded of what he lost. Do you copy that?”

“Uh – huh,” I wanted to remind her that Pushkar was not my chap and was no longer Neelima’s chap or anyone’s as far as I knew but I did not want to interrupt her.

“If you really love someone, would you wish such a pain on that person?”

“If that person is you, Eti I might.”

“Pig,” she remarked throwing the potato chip which she was about to eat at me.

“So, to cut a long story short, you say, I shouldn’t approach her.”

“I know you want to believe that she loved her. At least for a brief time. I can concede that it might have been an innocent crush which Pushkar thought to be the real deal. The truth is she does not care. Do you even know how many guys would drop at her feet if she wanted a fresh beau? “

“I get all that Eti, I think she loved him. Pushkie is quite mature for his age. He would know the difference.” I told her, raiding her stash of chocolate wafers.

“You are turning into an alcoholic with two wives. Half time drinking with Pushkar and the other half you spend drinking with me.”

“I am a storyteller, Eti, we are allowed this. Drinking goes well with our storytelling vibe.”

“Pig. My cute drunk pig. No. Don’t go to Neelima. What if you never return to me? Promise me, you won’t contact her.”

“You are drunk.”

“No, I am not. You are not to make a fool of yourself, contacting that woman about her private affairs. She refused to have any picture taken with Pushkar. Do you know what that means? Either she is embarrassed or she deems his love to be quite insignificant. Even if she reads your story, I promise you, she won’t feel any nostalgia about it. Not a drop of the tear will fall from her eyes.”

I hugged her tight, “You are a darling Eti.”

“For that, I will allow you to sleep on my couch tonight.”

“Not on the bed?”

“But no touching okay?”

“That is cruelty Eti.”

A Child Lives Inside Me

Some deem me to be sweet,

Some feel that I am kind,

Others may feel that I am nobody,

Let me confess, I don’t know myself…

Of all I know and what I feel

Is that a child lives inside me?

A child who likes to play all day,

A child who wants to make your day.

A child who likes to run after butterflies,

A child who likes to buzz just like a bee.

Of all I know and what I feel

Is that a child lives inside me? 

A child who likes to sing to you,

A child who likes to look at you.

A child wants to be a part of your happiness,

A child who wants to rip away your sadness.

Of all I know and what I feel

Is that a child lives inside me? 

A child who likes to dream all day long,

A child who likes to pray to God.

A child who wants to shine like a star,

As bright as the sunshine could ever be.

Of all I know and what I feel

Is that a child lives inside me? 

A child who wants nothing from you in return,

Except for a warm bridge of love and shelter.

A child who expects nothing from you,

Except for your words of guidance and support. 

Of all I know and what I feel

Is that a child lives inside me? 

A child who wants to have a nice bath every day,

A child who just wants a cozy bed to lay.

A child who likes to look at the sky above,

A child who likes to make castles in the mud.

Of all I know and what I feel

Is that a child lives inside me? 

A child who wants to learn all the alphabets again,

A for apple, B for ball, C for cat and D for the doll.

A child who likes to stare at the sparrows,

A child who likes to play with the doves.

Of all I know and what I feel

Is that a child lives inside me? 

A child who likes to swing just like a daffodil,

A child who likes to collect white daisies and yellow buttercups.

A child who likes lying on the green grass,

A child who likes the smell of wetland.

Of all I know and what I feel

Is that a child lives inside me? 

A child who likes to think, think, and just think.

A child who likes to observe how the eyes blink.

A child who knows probably, nothing at all,

Except that life is much more beautiful than what we think.

Of all I know and what I feel

Is that a child REALLY lives inside me…?

- Anonymous

Robina

Sorry to barge into the story like this, but having known Neelima since fifth grade, I deserve a right to say something here. She has been one my closest friends since childhood. I am a thoughtful Pieces who loves day dreaming, something we both share. Also, we share common interests in music. But one thing on which we both agree to disagree is her closeness to Pushkar. I think he is a bad influence on her. He sounds and looks so old.

I was shocked the first time; Neelz told me that he had fallen for this guy. I mean he looked okay but really, I didn’t like him much. I admit some of it could be jealously, but Ankit, her earlier crush was way better. And rich too. He at that time was a cute little boy who I dare say turned out to be quite handsome. I just saw him the other day at the mall. He has lost the fat but has chiseled into a slim trim well-muscled body.

In the years, we have been friends; Neelima and I have had sad and sweet moments. We have fought a lot, have had amazing fun. We were partners in crime, eating food during class, going on bunks, organizing impromptu parties, and get together. I have vivid memories of our pranks and the embarrassing things we did in school. (Of course, they didn’t sound embarrassing then). But truly, sometimes I feel I would not have could survive school without Neelima. Despite our differences at times and silly fights, she has always provided me a shoulder to cry and words to gossip.

Coming back to Pushkar, well, the first impression was the worst. I am talking to this fellow over the phone and his voice comes off as his barking off something. Coarse. I would classify the guy coarse. Not suitable for Neelz at all. I always thought that they had this exotic long distance crush type of thing, which will fade with time. But she stood for that guy for so long, I am astonished. Equally surprising is the fact that when Neelz’ Grand Mom passed away and she cocooned into a safe zone, not speaking to anyone. I was the one who messaged that horrible person to do something, to talk to her. I don’t know why it felt at that time that he would take care of her.

I was reading a book when Eti called me. When she got down to what I was doing, I just replied,

“Nothing Eti, just reading a book.”

“Come over to my place.”

“No, I am in bed.” How was your day?”

“Why would you come? Go fuck yourself.”

I don’t know why, but she was clearly cranky. I could always read my book at her place. I let out a deep sigh and went over to her place.

“So, the moron comes home.”

If she was cranky a little while ago, it did not show. She hugged me, more like choked me in a bear like hug. Eti was a hugger. I was not. I was uncomfortable. But she was pleased to see me and that was what mattered.

“Whatcha you doing Eti girl?” I said in a mock, 60’s Hollywood movie accent. I also gave a full watt smile as I distanced her in a subtle manner.

“Oh, I was just reading this book.” She said as she led me to her bedroom and showed me the book. It was Interpretations of Dreams by Sigmund Freud. Not my kind of read.

“Give me a comfortable thriller any day.” I said as we settled on either side of her bed. Both of us got engrossed in our books.

After some time, she asked, “Would you get up and make us some coffee?”

“Eti, I am in the middle of the story’s climax, I can’t move.” I said, looking at her and pointing to my book.

“Don’t you love me?” She purred, still looking at her book. Perhaps interpreting dreams of some sorts.

“Nops.” My eyes were fixed to my book as well. Stalemate. Both of us liked the idea of coffee. But reading took priority.

“OK fine. Pig” She looked at me and took out her tongue in tease. Then she dog eared the page she was reading and closed the book. I don’t like dog ears on books. I picked up the book, straightened the page and put in my book’s bookmark into it.

“Love you Ets” I called out, my attention back to the story I was reading.

The Coffee Eti made was very strong. I take my coffee strong. But this was quite bitter. I foolishly commented this to Eti. She laid the book back from where she had just picked it. Then she went to her almirah, took out a bottle of Royal Challenge maybe to show me or something. Instead, she opened the bottle and poured a large dose in my coffee.

“Is it better, sir.” She chippered like an 18th century housemaid.

“You okay?” I looked up from my book for a brief second and then went back to my book.

“You should lay off Freud for some time I guess.” I remarked.

“Drink,” She ordered and went back to her book.

“I would drink poison for you, Eti, you know that,” I said as I took a sip. It was definitely poison.

It took me fifteen minutes more to finish my book and half of the coffee. I turned my face towards Eti, my head propped up on my elbow. At that moment, she turned a page with her fingers and I just looked at her fingers move up to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear. She looked so calm, so serene.

“Eti,” I spoke very softly.

“Uh-huh.” Clearly Freud was more important to her than me. Sad.

“Can boy and girls be just friends?”

“What is this, fifth grade lunch break?”

“Oh Cummon. Humor me.”

“Stop being so juvenile and finish your coffee.”

I took the glass and slurped the liquid with as much noise I could manage.

“Stop it. All you want to know is why you can’t have sex with me.”

“An excellent idea, if I may say.” I even made a wolfish grin face to go with it.

“Well, I like it that way.” She gave out a big sigh, meaning she was about to say something important.

“I think sex will just ruin it. I don’t care about the clichés and all. I also think emotions more than sex ruin a perfect relationship.”

“You mean it would set wrong expectations?”

“Yes. I like to believe that people of opposite sex can indeed be very close friends. But most of the times, they bring in their sexuality, or emotions to ruin things.”

“To tell you the truth, sometimes I do think about. Us having sex. I think if and when that happens, I would want it to be in a very special setting. Or maybe not. I don’t know. With you I don’t feel the pressure. I don’t have to rush. I don’t have prove or show off. I can be myself with you without any shadow of insecurity.”

“Glad we are comfortable with our inner selves. That helps us being comfortable with each other.” I replied.

“True that boyfriend.” She gave me a mock salute and went back reading her book.

I finished my coffee, rinsed the glasses and quietly let myself out of her apartment, although a bit reluctantly.

Yaad hain wo din?

Jab hum the kitney pass

Sadaa dost rehney ki

Thi humaari aas.

Saath ghumein, saath kheley,

Aur kitni maari gappey

Pata nahi kitni this sach

Aur kitni thi bas lappey…

Wo sunherey pal aur

Who sunheri baatein,

Dekho bhool na jaana tum

Yeh sunheri yaadein.

Hassi, mazaak, baatein

Baney jeeven key usool,

Maaf kar dena mujhey,

Hui ho agar koi bhool.

Prarn liya tha jab humnein,

Aankhon sey paani gaya jhalak,

Saath rahengey hum sada hi,

Chaahey rahein ho jaaye alag.

Samay ney humko murdkar na dekha,

Aur aagey chalta gaya,

Ek chauraahey par khadey hain hum,

Jahaan sey saara jahaan lagey naya.

Akeley ho tum, Akeley hain hum,

Saamney ek naya jahaan,

Par yaad rakhungi mei tumhein,

Chahey mai jaun jahaan.

Anonymous

23rd October, 2007

Helloz and welcome to gup shup…a new initiative by me to know more about the netizens and

to hear their views and thoughts

Today we have with us miss Neelima

ma’am please tell us something about yourself

Neelima: huh?

Neelima: Pushkar…!!

Neelima: hmmm

Neelima: d 1 word describing meh wud b krazyy..!!

Pushkar: ohh great so how old are you and ur current occupation

Neelima: student standard 9th

Pushkar: so, what is a kiddo doing in this World Wide Web

Neelima: yaar

Neelima: yeh tough hai

Pushkar: sites u visit

Neelima: orkut

Neelima: hardly go 2 hi5 now

Neelima: but it’s not just ol dis

Neelima: even using it 4 blogging…

Pushkar: blogging…what all u write about

Neelima: straight 4rm d hrt

Neelima: wateva kumez

Neelima: itz on d blogz

Pushkar: Neelima there is a lot of debate these days on minors using internet

Pushkar: what is your take on it

Neelima: See evry1 has his or her opinion

Neelima : abt everything

Neelima: dey r jus misusing it 2 get publicity or something

Neelima: but 1 may use it 4 stuffz lyk blogging..researching..gathering info regarding various stuffz

Neelima: so it depends

Pushkar: and what about the pornography and social networking sites like Orkut where minors are barred

Neelima : 4rm person 2 person

Pushkar: u think that the moral policing is right

Pushkar: should minors be kept away

Neelima: it again depends 4rm person 2 person

Neelima: itz v ourselves

Neelima: hu indulge into things lyk that

Neelima: so..

Pushkar: so, u mean it’s for us to decide

Pushkar: what is wrong and what is right

Neelima: y not but then

Neelima: one has 2 b careful

Pushkar: and what about your parents, do they monitor your internet activities

Neelima: not really. But many a tymz dey ve warned meh abt things taking place nowadayzz

Pushkar: I think we have devoted enough time for the virtual world

Pushkar: Just a last question

Neelima: yeah

Pushkar: internet is often called as a lawless jungle. Your take on it

Neelima: yes, it kan b called dat

Neelima: there r no such lawzz…

Neelima: plus

Neelima: d more you go in

Neelima: indulge yourself

Neelima: d tough iz 2 find your way

Neelima: on d oder hand

Neelima: if a person is safe enuf..has a kontrol on himself

Neelima: is still on d edges og dis jungle

Neelima: it’s not dat difficult

Neelima: 2 comeback 2 reality

Neelima: datz it

Neelima: aur nai aata mujko

Neelima: bad interview

Pushkar: so how has been your experience on the net was it good or bad or

Neelima: I actually went on d wrong path 4 sum tym..but den realized mah mistake nd here am i..luckily..bak 2 d edges of d jungle

Pushkar: Coming back to the real world

Pushkar: what are the basic problems concerning youth especially young girls in India today

Neelima: d basic probz

Neelima: hmmm

Neelima: pressure…!!

Neelima: may it b peer pressure or parental pressure

Neelima: regarding something or d oder

Neelima: and dere r many more things

Neelima: 2 distract d youth.

Pushkar: mobile is a friend or an enemy

Neelima: depends on how you using it

Pushkar: sex education is very hot topic of discussion these days

Neelima: sayin it in good sense or bad?

Neelima: hmmm

Neelima: it can b both

Neelima: on 1 hand

Neelima: it seems bad

Neelima: nah

Neelima: ruk

Neelima: by whom yu tokin

Neelima: in skulz and stuff

Neelima: or at home nd stuff

Pushkar: any sex education prg in ur school?

Neelima: nai..not really

Neelima: regarding sex but many oder topikz

Neelima: lyk dat attraction and stuffz

Neelima: touched d topic

Neelima: but it really didn’t help

Neelima: I guess

Pushkar: is there a need for sex education in schools?

Neelima: nai. I ve seen d juniors being so stubborn.. ultimately it will lead 2 ntn

Neelima: but ppl

Neelima: gossiping about

Neelima : hey..you kno dis & dat

Pushkar: ok that’s interesting

Neelima: dey makin fun. ntn else

Pushkar: then what is the best source of sex education

Neelima: ultimately d person givin it iz embarrassed

Neelima: parents’ r d only 1

Neelima: hu kan not only guide

Neelima: but help dete children

Neelima: outta dis vicious circle

Pushkar: any preaching u got from ur parents

Neelima: nai…!!

Pushkar: ohkk

Pushkar: u reside in which city?

Neelima: New Delhi

Pushkar: very unsafe for gals

Neelima: Kant comment…!!

Neelima: abhi tak to kuch hua nai..

Neelima: lets cc..

Neelima: yea..but yu never know

Pushkar: which ur fav cinema hall

Neelima: Chanakya

Neelima: or

Neelima: 3 czz

Neelima: 3 czz or pvr

Pushkar: what else u do in your free time

Neelima: jot down memories or may b spend tym thnkin

Neelima: something or d oder

Pushkar: ahh intellectual

Pushkar: so, any boy friends

Neelima: hmm

Neelima: hai to…

Pushkar: want to share something about him?

Neelima: no…!!

Pushkar: many teenagers believe sex before marriage is cool

Pushkar: u believe in it?

Neelima: haha

Neelima : ok

Neelima : dis 1 is tough…!!

Neelima : m getting bored

Neelima: khatam karo

Pushkar: ohkk its ok I u don’t wish to answer

Pushkar: one final question

Pushkar: any comments or any other message u wish to send out to readers

Neelima: a must read…!!

Neelima: once in lyftym opportunity don’t miss it..!! nd haan

Neelima: if tid bitz of my interview r being published den don’t read it

Pushkar: ohk that was Neelima speaking to us about wide range of topics Thank you very much Neelima

Neelima: man tu to phaad daalta hai

Way of Life

Pushkar

Things went quite bad when Neelima joined this cult organization Way of Life which was hip with a certain section of society. It was headed by an influential Godman who had quite fan following in the English-speaking countries. It was into meditation and inner thinking things. Most of such sects’ sound too phony to be true.

I felt she was way too intelligent to fall for such things. But she was an eager recruit and attended meetings with her friend Mansi, who had been associated with Way of Life since childhood. Being associated is not bad, but when you become a passionate volunteer where does that take you? I recall she did not even tell me she had joined this group. One day she said she was going out to sell some courses and could I help her with tips? I was surprised and thought she had taken up some job someplace. Then she explained to me that she was to sell these courses for Way of Life. It was part of her volunteer duties. I asked her what did they charge per course. She told me the charge was INR 15,000. 15 Grand, I said, for some course conducted by an NGO promoting peace and meditation? She said I won’t understand. Indeed, I never did.

She distanced herself from me to be able to devote more time to her chosen cause. It pleased her as most of the volunteers were from higher strata of society and hanging out with them was fun. I obviously only saw the world as an outsider, but somewhere deep down I knew this was not meant for her. She always had a heart filled with empathy. Over the years, I have known her; she has worked for suicide helplines, street dogs, and other charitable ideas. She has championed each cause with all her heart and owned them to the core.

I tried reaching out to her the only way I could. By telling her bluntly that I don’t think it was a good idea. Once I decided to try to relate to what was she doing with this sect. I remember trying her number but unable to reach her. When I did reach her after a couple of days I was told that she had been out for Rohan Bhaiya’s birthday party at a very expensive bakery at Khan Market and had ordered Blue Berry Cheese Cake. I asked myself, what the hell was a blueberry cheesecake?

How can I compete against a cult where birthdays are celebrated in such posh places? No wonder she was constantly ignoring me for the cause. I was scared and lonely. Neelu says I was cranky and rude. She obviously did not see through my fear of losing her. To a cult. One day she informed me of her plans to go to Chennai for vacations. To live the Ashram life. I swear if you would have touched the place where my heart is, you would have felt it exploding. She is giving it all up to reside in an Ashram and take up the broom to do sewa. It sounded insane at all levels.

Silver Beads

They want to uproar with a message was what I thought
When I glared at the mystic and dark outline of her eyes-
I should have realized that it was going to be really tough,
But once we’re in the maze, all we want to do is get out.

She seemed to be lost in some random melody,
Probably whispering the lyrics of her favorite song,
Clutching something really tightly in her right hand,
And moving like a breeze in an unknown direction.

As she moved further, she slowly uncurled the fingers of her hand,
I stared at it for long and noticed some tiny silver beads.
One after the other, she started dropping them cautiously on the mud,
It reminded me of that fairy tale where dropped pebbles lead to a happy ending.

But I kept on wondering, those
Beads were as small as the tip of a needle
Too small to even notice – but maybe enough
For the one who may come after them one day, I concluded.

After dropping all possible hints,
She finally sat down on the damp pavement
Deep in a reverie, she suddenly smiled
For once – what a killer smile it was.

As my heart started connecting with hers,
It seemed to give me a sweet yet sour feeling;
On one end, she inspired me somewhere deep down,
And on the other, she confused me further by not being open.

As I tried approaching her, slowly and calmly
She got up and hastened towards a safer place
“I won’t harm you”, I cried loudly
But one.two.three, she just simply vanished.

As I tried to move further,
I banged my head against something hard,
I should have realized that I was just
Standing in front of my room’s mirror.

Anonymous

Belief

The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when he discovers that someone else believes in him and is willing to trust him.[
__]Ralph Waldo Emerson

Pushkar

Faith and belief are so entwined with each other. I had so much faith and belief in Neelima. In our bond, our hearts almost perpetually connected. But was it reciprocated? Did she feel the same as I did? Now that I look back I confess I have doubts. Did she not believe me when I said, “You mean a lot to me?”

Did she not believe in me, when I said I will never be purposefully rude to her?

Did she not believe me when I said I will be concerned for her always?

Did she not believe in me, when she decided to stay silent when I needed her to speak the most?

No, she didn’t. She had not belief in me. She knew I would be a loser in life who could never reach her station.

But when I look back I also see the faith she had in me, when she asked me to write her story.

She knew, somewhere deep down, I could be trusted with her story. Didn’t she?

Neelima

Faith and belief are subjective in nature. It’s all in the mind. Pushkar might think I never believed in him but the truth is, that I have loved no one as I loved him. And no one has disappointed me as he did. I paid a heavy price for my love. Belief does not just about trust a secret with someone. I put my faith in love and friendship with Pushkar. He came out to be worthy of none. Even today I would say my belief in him is as strong as was when we met. Probably I expected too much from him.

Neelima

I can’t understand why sex is such a big deal in any relationship. If I had to make a list of men who have shown willingness to get into my pants, several books could be easily filled. No wonder Pushkie wanted to get his share of physical love from me. To say I find it gross would be an understatement. Here I am, running from one sex starved animal to another finally to the man I love. He makes me feel safe and warm with his gruff voice and protective attitude and what does he want? Of course, Sex.

Pushkie likes to be chivalrous when he wants to. Which is like most of the times. So, he leaves it on me, making it a big deal that it all has to be my choice. I mean, you can smell the pheromones off his horny self from far away. If he could eat me and chew me alive, I think he would do that in a record time. He also likes sniffing my hair. That is gross at so many levels. Although I have to admit that it pleases me too in a non-descript way.

But still, it is not a subject which is easy to deal with. How do you decide the frequency of the act.How do I make a choice in a way to please both of us? Whatever happens, one of us would be disappointed. Men don’t understand, do they?

Pushkar

While Neelima does get bothered by the ‘sex talk’, I like to emphasize on intimacy. In the context that is. Okay, I know if I say I never wanted to get into her pants, you won’t believe me. And hey, it’s not me. Its a basic biology and hormones thing. A young man sees lays his eyes on the perfect pair of eyes and a hot body, and oh what a body. Add to that, the fluttering of heart, the turmoil in the brain. You get the scene.

But I try to downplay it as much as I can. Sex is great. But do you know what is best? The intimacy. The knowledge that she is right next to you. Her hair smelling as heavenly as they always do. Her hands tousling your hair for a moment that you wish would last forever. Her long and bony fingers, interlinking your fingers as we stroll around in a market. Her chest giving you a strange warmth as she hugs you tight. (The hair smells awesome again.)

There is nothing like that intimacy with the one you love and who makes your heart lurch. The way she bakes a cake for you and feeds you like you are an invalid. You just wish your hands away so that she keeps on feeding you forever. The way she keeps always saves the last bite for you. The way she keeps her head on your shoulders as you listen to the songs which you love (or in this case, she loves.) The intimacy which happens when you try to match steps as both of you walk along a deserted foot path, her toes gleaming with a silver nail polish that pleases you to no end. And she secretly smiles for she knows and your heart is the only one to feel that smile. For it is meant only for it.

Sex can never give you this feeling. Sex can never make you want to pull each other’s cheeks for the heck of it. But wanting her, makes me love her more. The feelings, the arousal might not be as great as love but that makes love all the more special.

Dreams & Reality

I thought I could live in that
beautiful world forever
but just when I felt so…
I realized it was just a dream
when I thought I could treasure it
as a memory…
it hurt me like a wound
for the reality said something else
when I thought I could forget it
I realized it had become a part of me
something beautiful things are just
meant to be like that…

Anonymous

Neelima

People tell you that two young people of opposite sex cannot be best friends. You can read truckloads of literature and watch cart full of drama which portrays romance taking over friendship and ruining or bettering it. I think it might be true. I don’t know. Pushkar always had this idea that we were friends first and would remain friends forever. Even if we fell in love and broke up, according to him it didn’t matter as our hearts were bonded forever. (His cheesy words not mine). It was not a casual approach of his, but an inherent fear of losing me. I understood his insecurities to an extent but was it altogether fair on me? Shouldn’t someone ask me, what I wanted or not?

It is true I fell in love with him. It is also true that he is someone special to me. But friends? How can you take up all that shit and make sense of it? His reasoning to his lax behavior or lose words always is that we are always quite casual without words when talking to our friends. Which makes me wonder are we friends or one-time lovers?

All I can think about his, how could I just keep Pushkar close to me without assigning any labels? How can I make him believe that there was a time when I was madly in love with him? That the labels of friendship and love just attempt to stereotype our relationship into clichés.

I have moved on but he hasn’t. I don’t need him any longer in my life but that doesn’t mean I won’t need him ever. All this causes a huge turmoil in my mind. I know Pushkie deserves better than this. I know I deserve better than to hope that he will be at my side forever.

Coming back to being friends and friends with benefits. This is what scares me. The thought of disappointing Pushkie is too painful to me. I can’t bear to look at him without seeing through his hatred of me. That I failed in love he will be able to take it but that I no longer love him as a friend, perhaps never did will destroy him.

Boundaries to any relationship are intangible; you cannot take a pen and paper and draw them. You need to create your comfort zones and boundaries. But then you want to cross the boundaries and expand your horizons. To merge emotions and to erase those boundaries.

The fear confuses me, befuddles me, my love for him scares the shit out of me. To me loving him was important as a lover not necessarily as a lifelong friend. I don’t even know if I am cut out for it. I don’t know if I can give him back the care and support he has always given me.

This time around I decided to cook for Pushkar and myself. I asked him politely if I could use his kitchen and before he could answer, I barged in to cook some food. It was a Sunday morning and when I rang the bell, Pushkar had a towel hung around his shoulder. Good, the guy seemed to be headed to bath. I could cook in peace without him hovering over me.

I took out a packet of mushrooms from my bag, cleaned and diced them into thin slice. Then I sautéed them slightly with generous amount of butter and milk in a frying pan. I added some spices, cashews and salt and then let it warm a bit. I am not an expert cook, so I decided to put up some sandwiches for us. I looked for another pan but could not find any. I put the mushrooms in a plate, then clean wiped the pan and toasted bread slices over it. Then I spread some cheese over the slices and poured over the mushrooms and covered with more cheese and another bread slice. It was not a very neat preparation, but it would do.

While the mushrooms were getting cooked, I had thought about pouring some drinks. But then I made the mistake of looking over my watch. It said it was noon. It would not be a good idea to start drinking at noon, when you knew you would be drinking till night. Maybe we should wait for an hour or so. I looked for milk in the refrigerator and prepared milky tea, with extra tea leaves to make it strong.

Pushkar was by this getting ready in his room and hollered me to bring food in his room. I got everything on a tray and brought to his room where he was sitting comfortably in a sea of papers. I could understand it was painful for Pushkar. To pour down the feelings and reading aloud from the various papers he has stored all these years. I had really thought he remembered everything by heart, the stories, and the anecdotes he was narrating to me. But no, this guy has penned down a lot of the stuff he felt for Neelima. I try to take some papers from him to read but no he won’t show them to me. Then I felt guilty for intruding into his private space.

We talked for a while and were hungry soon. Pushkar dished out a plate of Fried Chicken and I donned the bartender hat. Except that I was never good at this. I added a finger of Old Monk to a finger each of Blender’s Pride and Rockford. I topped it up loads of ice. Pushkar saw this and gave me a devilish laugh.

“You want to have a look?” He asked me.

“No dude. Love letters may sound juicy but I don’t want to get into them.”

“Here. Read this one. You remember we used to have a social networking site called Orkut?”

“Yeah, I remember. Facebook came on scene and Google acquired and bulldozed it.”

“She wrote this for me on Orkut.” He pushed a paper towards me

“And you saved this all this time. Moron.” I wanted to take the paper from his hand, but my hands were occupied with amazing fried chicken and the cocktail of two whiskies and rum I had blended together.

I guess the idea of blending whiskies and rum was a good one. Apart from the fried chicken, Pushkar had whipped up a coleslaw salad. Even though I am not a salad fan, I loved it. As I asked him to read out aloud whatever Neelima had written for him or about him, I knew he would need something strong to go through it. Guess, the cocktail wasn’t a bad idea after all.

4th June, 2007

Chalo jie..Finally I am rytin a testimonial 4 yu…so…letz c…Pushkar..!!…I am totally speechless.dat meanz…testimonial khatam…chalo bbye..lolz…jus kidin…but rytin a testimonial 4 dis mahaan aatma…is a tough job…yeah..guyz..he is a mahaan aatama…iseliye mere blogz shuru kar vaye the…gandaaa…lolz…but m enjoying it…newazz…Pushkar is dam cute guy..olwaz ready 4 help…luv you 4 dis…dere is no need 4 me 2 tell him dat I am in problem…he noz it very well…datz d best striking feature abt him..nd he noz very well wat 2 do…achaa bachaa hai…kaafi massuum lagta hai..but hai nhin..haha…just kidding…newaa…luv you 4 what u r…and don’t change no matter wateva happenz…abhi to itna hi..But baad me…will write a big testimonial for you…newaz..bye..cya..TC.. God, bless you.

“That’s it? It is over,” I spoke with a mouth full of chicken. It has hot and it was spicy.

“Yes.”

“The lady specifically said, don’t change. Did you turn naughty Pushkie Boy? Did you change?”

“Well she complained a lot about my way of speech, my sarcastic nature.”

“So, you changed for her. Tried to become a better man,” I sneered at him.

“Well, what would you have done,” he shot back.

“I would have gotten rid of her. She has complaints; she can keep it to herself. Don’t want a nagging finger at my face.”

“Well, she was my friend. We were lovers later, friends first. That’s what we always agreed on.”

“As it turns out to be, you were just a stuff toy which she clearly did not like to take to bed. Maybe keep in the almirah and play for some time.”

“I was a putty in her hands. I daresay this whiskey experiment works. We should name this cocktail.” He was clearly getting drunk. It was a cue for me to move. Eti wanted me to escort her to a late-night play. I told her no. I was not a for hire body guard for females partying late night in a place like Delhi (Usually, the scene is like a zombie movie, replace zombies with sex starved punks and you get the idea). She said it was a play and one of her friends was acting in it. I refused and she called me names, but we knew I would be going with her anyway.

“Why don’t you name it Honey Bunch?” I suggested.

“But there is no Honey in the recipe.”

“That is exactly the point, Pushkie Boy.”

Why?

Why does a child have to fall before he can walk?
Why does the sun have to rise when you can barely close your eyes?
and why is it so tough to close your eyes when the night falls?

Why do people come into your life when all you want is to be alone and enjoy the solitary bliss…

And why do they have to leave when you start loving them?

Why do tears come out of your eyes when you are the happiest?
And alternatively why is it so hard to cry when you are grieving?

Why do you always learn from your mistakes, when you have been warned about them so many a times?
Why does a journey have to end when you start enjoying it?
Why does opportunity always have to knock on your door when you are tired of trying?

And why can I just sit down here and write this when in the end i’ll have to tell my own self that you can’t truly cherish the happy moments unless you’ve seen the lows?

Pushkar

I can live with the thought that she no longer loves me. I know it’s difficult but doable. What kills me every day is the complete callousness that arises when two people part ways in such a fashion. Like an appendix which you no longer need, you ask the surgeon to carve and dump it out.

But what pierces my heart the most is the fact that she felt the need to hide things from me. We spent almost a decade together. Most of our growing up years, were spent on each other’s side. All failures and successes shared, we know so much about each other. Yet, the finally death of our friendship/ relationship comes on the day, she decides she can’t share things with me anymore. Not those trivial things, but major big things. For once the introvert me did all the talking and the extrovert part of us chose silence as the ultimate weapon to kill it all. The trust, the belief all gone in a jiffy. The moments we drew together, the dreams we spun, the memories shared, all set ablaze and ashes buried.

I was so dazed, so disoriented, that I did not know what I was thinking. I told her, if she did not tell me what was bothering her, it would end all that was ever between us. To my utter shock, she was okay with it. To keep one thing secret from me, she was ready to let go of everything. Our memories, our moments spent together. Everything. I was an idiot to stake it all, over confident of my love, my heart, her love, her heart. And once you stake it all, how do you go back? We met for three days continuously, with me begging her, shouting at her, intimidating her, trying everything I could to get her to speak. To severe everything was a threat I played, not knowing how badly I had overplayed my hand. As every gambler, would tell you, you never win all your stakes.

I lost, lost very badly. She won’t tell me, and I couldn’t live with it. I could live with her seeing another man; I could live with not seeing her for months, even live with not talking to her for ages. It would hurt yes, but I could survive by knowing my Neelu would still be close by. That she is okay. But she chose to leave her Pushkie, her best friend, her lover of past, her once upon a mentor, for some random thing that happened which even I could not fathom.

I hated myself for not knowing. Didn’t I always know from her voice, what kind of mood was she in? Even while texting, I would know how was she feeling. And here is something so damn important and I can’t even finger it. Is it a boy? I ask her. Did she get pregnant? Was she sick? I kept hammering questions at her, looking for that emotion, movement of her eyes, curling of her fingers.

Finally, she said,

“It is because of a joke you cracked years ago, it was a bad joke”.

“A joke for which I am sure you would have made me apologize. Do you even remember the joke? And how long ago was it anyway?”

“It was a joke I am telling you. There is nothing else.”

“You say it was a joke. You don’t remember anything about it. I don’t do either. So how does it become so big to end everything we have?”

She looked away and said nothing.

“Fine then, we end it, just like that. For a joke.” I tried to laugh, bitterness cracking up my throat.

“Let’s just meet for the last time tomorrow. I have to come down with a friend to the market. She has some work; we can just hang out for half an hour. Not more than that.”

“So, I am now getting allotted precious minutes now. 30 minutes. Great.” I wanted to give up but then, how could I?

“Please, Pushkie don’t do this.” Her eyes were sad and unhappy. She hated the way I reacted in a mean tone.

“This is your decision Neelima, not mine. Just talk to me. You know you can talk to me. If there is any problem we will sort it out. I will fix it. I promise you.” I cajoled her.

“Okay then, see you tomorrow,” she said, still not answering my question.

Neelima

Remember the time when you were young and rebellious? Remember how you had an imaginary friend. Someone who would always be there. Someone you can just have to yourself and share with none. Your best friend in the world.

At times, I now feel whether that was what Pushkie meant to me. One day, he was there, other he would go, poof. I would see him only on occasions and since he lived in another city, we mostly just talked over phone or chat. His presence was always around me. His strong and assertive voice was always giving me a secure feeling. He knew me so well, that at times, it really felt that I was talking to my own self. He brought out the best and the worst in me.

But what happens when your imaginary and real world collides? When one day he is there mingling with your real friends, the same friends from whom you wanted to hide him. What happens when people find out about your imaginary friend? How do you explain it to the society whose approval you are constantly fighting for?

I know Pushkie won’t understand this. He won’t understand why every time I see a public comment from him on any of my social media posts, my heart squirms. What will my other friends think of this? He does not understand that we cannot have any pictures taken together. He is not supposed to be there on the reel. He is an apparition my mind conjured up. He is there and will always be in my thoughts. I would always crave for his company. But you can’t provide intimacy to someone who exists in your mind. You can’t acknowledge your imaginary best friend. Ever.

When my friends who knew about him, grunted about their disapproval of Pushkie, I was both glad and relieved by the fact. For, he was mine and that no one else was interested in him, gave me a distinct comfort. On the other hand, there was always a foreboding that if meant chose one, I would always choose my real friends. Obviously, you would have done the same. Right? Then why does it feel all wrong?

I loved Pushkie with all my heart and mind. A part of me still does. But the thing with imaginary friends is that there comes a time when you simply outgrow them. He still thinks that we are bonded by our hearts. But he does not understand that what I wanted was an illusion whereas he was out there chasing reality.

We may love our fantasies and never want to let them go, but we have to. Don’t we?

Pushkar

The next day we met again. I was supposed to meet her, after her friend had left from the Metro station. I had no idea where should we go? Do we head to a food court at the mall, a coffee shop or the market where we had lunch once? Where do people meet discuss end of the World? Her constant reminder of the short time she had did not help either. Here we were two very sad people on a cold November evening no idea where they were headed to.

I tried again. I tried hard, to make her speak. To get her to talk. But all in vain. She looked at me with her big black eyes with sadness that makes me hate myself even today when I recall that day. I had made her sad. How can I forgive myself? Only if she would tell me. I would fix it. But if I won’t stop seeing her, I would go completely mad. That wall of miscommunication will be always there between us. We will fight more and argue more. And I won’t be at peace until I knew whatever it was, that was bothering her. Her silence aggravated things.

She told me she understood that. I suggested a newly opened tea shop which served excellent tea in posh ambiance. I knew she would love this tea. We went to the tea shop and I ordered tea for myself and a masala chai for her, the way she likes it. I asked the guy to pour the tea in old school, road side tea stall glasses. I know Neelima will prefer glass to disposable cups. When I took the tray with the tea to our table, Neelima was on phone asking her friend to wait for her.

“You like this place, don’t you?” I asked sweeping my eyes over the well-decorated walls and fancy lighting.

“Yes.” She warmed her hands around the hot glass.

“I always wanted to bring you here. But not under these circumstances.” I murmured, trying not to let a deep sigh run out. I had also ordered tea cake for us and passed the plate to her. It reminded me too much of the times we would share cakes made by her. This would be the last we would ever share. Some time in future, another guy would be fawning over her culinary skills. The very thought, made my heart heavy.

She nodded and we sat there in silence neither of us, knowing what to say. Her phone kept buzzing, reminding that her friend had finished her chore and wanted Neelima to join her.

“I don’t want to go”, she spoke to a distant building.

“Then stay,” was all that I could say. What else could I have said, when I was informed beforehand that I would have just 30 minutes? It’s like meeting with some hot shot CEO or a politician.

“Come and drop me to the metro.” She looked at me and I moved eyes to the floor.

“No, my home is the other way. You go, your friend is waiting.” Our paths had already diverged, and this was way too painful for me. You don’t ask a man to walk to his own funeral. But she did.

“Come na.” I shook my head and asked her to finish the cake. In another era, she would have saved the last bite for me and fed it to me herself. In another era, I would have happily walked her back home.

She coerced me, literally dragging a beaten, barely alive man to the metro station. She said, she wanted me to accompany her to the station where she would meet her friend and head back home. They both would be taking the metro to her place. I could then go back to my place. My throat was so full; I could hardly muster a word. But I protested not knowing how to.

We took an auto and when we reached, I could already see her friend. Neelima hugged me and asked for a kiss. She was crying and I wanted to kill everyone at the metro station for her tears. But I was fighting back my own tears.

“I can’t,” I told her. Each moment was killing me, gnawing my insides like a demon.

“Please,” she spoke with her head bent.

“Your friend is watching, the one you said is a gossip monger.” I moved my head to point at the girl standing less than 20 ft. away.

And so, I left her, crying, the last time I would ever see her. Her kohl dripping from eyes. I try to laugh at the white pullover she was wearing as if wearing white in mourning. It doesn’t suit her at all but she is wearing it for I would always pick the color white over black. And she is always partial to black. At least we would agree on which sides to choose over a game of chess.

Her hair all tied up in a braid, I tried to soak in her image to remember for eternity as I knew I won’t ever see those eyes, that hair, that smile, ever again. My heart yearned to be optimistic but deep below I knew our paths will never cross again. Never. Neelima had made sure of that.

And if by any chance our paths crossed, we would be just another set of strangers in a crowd of millions, not recognizing each other, not acknowledging the flutter in our hearts. We will ignore the cold in our belly, the heat in our throat and just move on.

Over time, the Neelima writing project was lost in cold storage. I had left it to Pushkar to work out modalities of publishing it or whatever he wanted to do with it. I knew compiling all this had worn him down. I could see his movements becoming slow and he even lost interest in cooking. I find it funny to think, a guy handing a book with a ribbon over it to a girl, who no longer recognizes him. (Of course, when I told him that once, he was very unhappy about it. I had to buy him an Old Monk to seek forgiveness for my sense of humor. Come to think of it, I buy Rum and whiskey for a lot of people.)

But Pushkar lost the appetite for alcohol as well. As our meetings progressed, I could see the transformation as if he was turning into some kind of yogi.

One day, Eti broke her leg, while practicing for a marathon. I fail to understand, why anyone would go running on Delhi roads. With the air filled with pollution and dust, one could spend time in a Hitler-style gas chamber instead. But Eti being Eti had to do it and practice it as well. Now with a broken leg, she crooned for help and my own writing commitments just took away all my time. I spent half my time doing chores for Eti (which mostly was to buy her alcohol and get her cigarettes). I did message him at times but Pushkar never responded. I thought he was just going through a phase and will eventually snap out of it.

Then one day I was scrolling my Facebook page, desperately trying to escape work (happens with me all the time, especially when I am near deadlines.) when I saw a message in my news feed.

“R.I.P. Pushkar”, it read. I just wished it was a prank. I opened his FB profile and found 2 messages saying R.I.P. Pushkar

This is what our new lifestyle is. We are in such a hurry these days that our condolences are also abbreviated. Rest in Peace would take some time to write. Why not just punch R.I.P and get it over with? I tried his number but no one answered the call.

I wrote to Chetana, one of the authors of the R.I.P. note, to inquire more about his death. I thought she might be able to shed more light on the subject.

“He died last week; I don’t have any further details. I just saw a message from Neeraj and responded.” She messaged me after two days I sent her the message. That was plausible. Often, we just follow threads on social media, not knowing complete facts. In this aspect, he was lucky not to be alive. I mean, imagine you die and only two people leave a condolence message. You would die again from embarrassment I am sure.

I wondered if Neelima had left any message on his Facebook wall. No, there wasn’t any, as I had obviously assumed. But she was still in his friends list. I opened her profile and saw a picture of hers with the lookalike at a beach. They both were looking dashing in their swimsuits, arms around each other and raging waves in the background. I went back to Pushkar’s profile and .checked his profile for any other clue but again, no luck. It was strange that I had spent months visiting his apartment but had no idea about his family or other friends. I had no chance to meet or talk to any of them. Did he have any other friends?

“Have you come to any conclusion yet,” Eti asked me one day as she was reading my notes on the Neelima thing.

I was setting up some pillows for Eti to rest her plastered leg on. Somewhere near her bedside table, Ellie Goulding was crooning Love Me Like You Do. It seemed to be Eti’s current favorite. She had once asked me to learn the dance, like the one shown in this song’s official video. I shrugged it off, the same way I ignore many things Eti asks me to do.

“Do you have any thoughts on conclusions?” I asked back, letting out a deep sigh. The whole Pushkar and Neelima affair had mentally exhausted me. A broken, unfulfilled story can do that to you.

“Talk to me,” she ordered.

“I think she never loved him. The more I consider it, it becomes clear that Pushkar was living in an imaginary world. He tried to convince me she did love him, but I think she never did.” It felt raw inside to admit this.

“He was her exotic pet. She took no time to get tired of him. Pushkar knew it too.” Eti said as she gazed away at the open window. I sat beside her and she laid her head on my shoulders. Both of us now stared at my open notebook with untidy markings of Puskar and Neelima’s story. None of us was happy about this and Eti remarked, even Neelima would have been unhappy about this.

“We still don’t know whether he meant anything to her ever,” Eti spoke first.

“We will never know,” I replied.

“And we will know what was wrong with Pushkar other than love.”

“True that Eti. At least he got Honey Bunch?” I tilted my head towards her.

“I don’t know about that, but I think I found mine,” Eti whispered, ruffling my hair as she spoke, her other arm wrapped around my neck and her eyes locking mine in a matter of fact way.

Epilogue

I often wondered if Neelima knew anything about Pushkar having a psychological disorder. I discussed with a friend of mine who is a Doctor. In a typical doctor style, he informed me that without talking to the patient, how could he say anything. I explained the mannerisms, the things which bothered me about Pushkar. He said, it was likely to be Asperger’s Syndrome but someone trained in psychology and psychiatry might be able to help. The things just kept on nagging me. I was not sure and now I won’t ever know.

A few months after his death, I still could not find much about how he died. I don’t know why, but it was a relief, to not know. In a sense, his death would have been a relief to his tormented soul too. I hoped, wherever he was, wherever people go after death, he was okay. I know he would have coped with the loss of love but not the loss of friendship. In his darkest days, he had crimped on that relationship perhaps looking for a save. I just hope he is not worried, wherever he is, that Neelima would be sad to his demise.

One day, I typed her name in Google. I had told Eti I won’t contact her, but just out of idle curiosity I keyed in her name. Amongst the many links that popped up, one was a YouTube link. As I played a video, I heard her speaking about Asperger’s.

“I knew an Asperger’s patient once. I always believed that he was too shy, always teased him about being an introvert. I was not a trained clinical psychologist back then. I did not know about Asperger’s Syndrome. I always believed that my friend was a shy guy. Why didn’t he go out as often as I did? Why did he prefer reading at home, then partying out with friends? He preferred to sit home and write than go to a bowling alley. It’s the noise he would say. But do I know for sure today? To be honest with you, I don’t. I wish I had the courage to talk to him about this.”

Someone, from the audience I assume, spoke up, the video camera was still focused on Neelima’s face. It looked sad.

“How do you know? I mean, from your own experience, what have you learned? I am sorry if its personal.”

“No, it is okay to ask. I honestly don’t know what I learned from my experience. Could I have saved him from himself? I ask this question myself many times but I am yet to find any answers.”

“Actually, can I ask another personal question?” This came from a short Asian Girl with freckles. Her bangs almost covered half her face.

“Sure” Neelima smiled. I had thought that she would discourage such questions.

“Were you guys a couple?” She asked in a very teenage kind of way.

Some people chuckled in the audience. Neelima giggled too. Then she lowered her eyes as if wishing for some words to appear before her.

“He wanted the whole of me. There was not enough of me to offer him. That is what I always tell myself.”

She slowly lifted her eyes to face the audience.

“Maybe, all he wanted was loyalty. And that was the only thing I couldn’t give him.”

There was a long pause of silence before she continued with her planned lecture.

I paused the video and checked the video length. There were another 15 minutes in it to finish. I pondered over the video and closed the video, wondering about how we always pretend to understand love. Yet are always fooled by the games, emotions play. For love is an emotion best left unexplained.

Acknowledgements

First, this story would not have seen the light of the day had the wonderful people at NaNoWriMo not provided their tremendous support. A special word of thanks to the India Municipal Liaisons and the Indian commune of NaNoWriMo. They are not only gifted writers but also have a great sense of camaraderie.

NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is a great effort to bring together a diverse set of writers on a platform with similar goals. It throws a challenge to authors to pen down 50,000 words in a month and keeps them motivated through a sense of camaraderie and activities organized by local forums. It is held every month in November.

A special note of thanks to those people who provided the poetry/prose for this story but chose to remain anonymous. You might not want me to mention your names here, but gratitude needs to be noted.

A big thank you to my friends and family, who have steadfastly encouraged me and believed in the story that I can narrate stories to the World.

Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to you, the reader, without whom a story teller would be nothing.

About the Author

Tushar Mangl is a motivational speaker, trainer, and storyteller based in Delhi. An avid reader, he spends most of his free time reading, writing, and traveling. He is the author of The Avenging Act, The Thakur Boy Footsteps on the Sands of Time, and The Reluctant Scribbler.

He is also one of the contributors at Team Potliwale Baba, who wrote a story that is part of BlogAdda.com’s book Six Degrees. He has also collected his experiences as content writer and strategist into a book titled The Ultimate Guide to Content Writing

Write to him at twitter.com/tusharmangl

Or reach out at facebook.com/tusharmangl

Follow his blog – www.tusharmangl.com

Instagram – Instagram.com/tusharmangl


Ye Honey Bunch

Neelima and Pushkar love each other yet it is for the sake of this love that they choose to part ways. Does it really make sense to understand love? Though they depart, there is an unfinished deal between them. She wants him to etch her story in words and he wants Honey Bunch. Can words ever be enough to replace the emotion of love? Will there deal go through the tides of times? Will their bond blossom again or perish in the storm of inner conflicts? In the background lies Pushkar's mental health which can be perhaps only be treated by Neelima who is a doctorate in Psychology but misses on diagnosing him.

  • ISBN: 9781370327324
  • Author: Tushar Mangl
  • Published: 2017-02-05 09:50:20
  • Words: 29976
Ye Honey Bunch Ye Honey Bunch