It was later in the afternoon when a reminder of an event popped up on Aditya’s desktop screen.
‘Session with HR – 6.00 pm’ It said.
He shrugged his shoulders swearing on his manager for aligning him for yet another event which he knew would be sheer waste of time. Ignoring it, he indulged himself back into his never ending pile of work.
It had been nearly twenty months since he last met Siya and eighteen months since he left Kolkata and moved to Mumbai to work with one of the IT giants, TNS. He was called the crack head programmer – the title he managed to carry forward to his new corporate world from his college. But what made him more intense and passionate about his work was not his love for programming, but the anger he felt for himself ever since he encountered the real side of Siya. At some corner of his heart, he had forgiven Siya but he had failed to forgive himself.
How could I be so vulnerable to someone? How could I be such a fool to give away myself just like that? How?
These questions bothered him as soon as he would lie flat on his back in the nights. It would bother him so much that he would be wide awake through the night, sleepless, wrapped in insecurities and self hatred. And for few hours that his body would give up and he would sleep, the nightmares would make it difficult to attain any peace.
Days were easier to pass because he had his work to shield himself from his insecurities. He had become one sort of person who restricted his life to work. He didn’t go out with his friends, he didn’t talk his insides with anyone, and he closed himself too hard for someone to even enter his aura.
The only person with whom he had any humanly interactions was Kashish. She was yet in Kolkata, pursuing with her masters. They would exchange text messages by the end of the day, sharing each other’s life. It was after long span of months that Aditya confessed to Kashish about Siya’s incident. Kashish since then, had been compassionate towards him. After all, that’s all she could do being a distant friend. But it wasn’t probably compassion he needed to feel alive again, he needed something else. Something crazy!
‘Did you get the invite too?’ Rahul, a colleague asked walking up to Aditya’s desk.
‘I did.’ He nodded reluctantly. ‘I don’t wish to go for it.’
‘You have no choice.’ Rahul said, ‘It’s mandatory for the people invited.’
Aditya stretched his neck towards the back and took a deep sigh. Instantly, he locked his system and stood up. ‘Let’s go.’
Pushing the door open, Aditya stepped into the conference room and took a seat beside his colleagues, who were actually happy for the session as it gave them one reason to be away from their work.
Moments later, a girl in her early twenties entered the conference room and took the lead chair. She wore a grey Kurta and pale green tights. The way she did her hair in a messy bun, made her look raw and firm. She turned on her laptop and searched for her presentation while connecting her system to the projector. All the while she prepared for the session, the men in room already began grooving over her. She was undoubtedly beautiful, but it was the strength in her eyes that were most intriguing.
Aditya looked at her and for a brief second, their eyes met. There was something about that girl which he had instantly liked. After a long time, he had felt pleasant in someone’s presence, even though he didn’t know that someone’s name yet.
‘Good Evening guys,’ she said cheerfully. ‘I am Kaya Maheshwari and today I am here to enlighten you about our new changed policies.’
Saying so, she continued with the session.
The session as expected was boring but the other men made sure to turn it interesting by asking their doubts, which by the way were not really doubts. Aditya hadn’t spoken a word, but he did listen to her carefully. An hour later, the session ended and everyone left the conference room.
It was next evening when Aditya received a ping on their internal chat portal. It was Kaya. He was surprised as his first reaction; not knowing why would a girl like her ping him at the first place. Then, he decided to know for himself.
Kaya : Hi.
Aditya: Hello. Is there anything I can help you with?
Kaya: Yes. I was wondering if you would like to catch up for a coffee.
Aditya read the message thrice before confirming himself that Kaya had actually asked him out on coffee. But he was also a sensible guy to know that there was a reason behind her asking. He wanted to know, what.
Aditya: CCD at 8:00, today after office?
Kaya: Alright. See you then.
Aditya walked past his office building and crossed the lane to reach the CCD outlet. As he pushed the door open and looked around for a suitable seat, he found Kaya already sitting on the couch towards the left. He looked at his wrist watch. It was eight. He was on time. She was early.
‘Hello.’ Aditya said, walking up to the couch.
‘Hey, hi.’ Kaya said, greeting him. ‘I was getting bored in the cubicle so I thought of hitting here early.’
‘Alright.’ He adjusted himself on the couch, ‘How you doing?’
‘I am doing good.’ She said, ‘And you?’
‘Good too.’ He shrugged his shoulders. Few moments of uncomfortable silence followed.
‘What would you like to have?’ She asked forwarding the menu towards him.
‘Ethiopian, no sugar.’ He said, without looking into the menu. ‘You?’
‘I’ll have the Nirvana.’
‘Be right back.’ He stood up and walked to the counter to place the order.
Settling on the opposite couch Aditya said, ‘So tell me, what makes you ask me for coffee?’
‘Straight to the point, ya?’ Kaya said appreciatively.
Aditya shrugged his shoulders. ‘You aren’t a dumb girl to fall for me in the first sight and ask me on a date. It has to be something.’
She leaned forward on the table and looked right into his eyes trying to decipher the storms inside him. ‘Probably, you’re right.’
‘I am entirely right.’ He stressed.
She smirked, ‘I am studying Psychology. I just found you interesting.’
Aditya didn’t get a pleasant feeling about it. It was the first time he doubted himself when someone called him interesting. She was a shrink. She found him interesting – that meant he was sick!
‘Why would a shrink find me interesting?’ He said, defending himself. ‘Unless she sees a potential patient or subject to base some of those relative theories of universe onto him! Just to clear, I am neither a patient nor a subject.’
‘You’re interesting, that’s the point.’ She smiled, ‘Your eyes are lost. Your mind is full of cynical thoughts and your senses are so much in control that it seems you have reined them with an invisible chain.’
‘Yeah, I know things about myself. You’re not telling me anything new.’
‘I am telling what I can know from looking at you.’ She said, ‘You can tell me the ‘why’ behind it all.’
‘And why would you even bother to know?’
‘Because people interest me. That’s my job.’ She sipped on her cold coffee, ‘It had been nearly a year since I moved to Mumbai from Rajasthan and I didn’t find one good person with whom I could connect mentally. There are all dumb jack asses around me. You seem to be my kinds, so I just thought of giving a chance at knowing you.’
‘So if you don’t find me as interesting as yourself, you would walk out of this outlet and later make excuses for not talking to me and not meeting me again?’
‘No, do you think I am a lame girl?’ She said in a matter of fact way, ‘I would tell you on your face that you are boring and not my kinds at all and I won’t like to keep any friendly contact with you, so fuck off.’
Aditya stared at her open eyed.’Wow!’
‘But the point is, had I not found you interesting, I wouldn’t be sitting her at the first place. If I am, you deserve it.’
‘Don’t you think you’re quite arrogant to begin with?’
‘Nope. I just know my choices well.’
‘I like it when someone knows their choices.’ Aditya said, feeling nostalgic. The girl sitting in front of him was talking like him! Him – from the past.
She shrugged her shoulders.
‘How come I never saw you around in the office before?’ He asked.
‘I am from TNS Wave-V.’
‘The Versova Wing.’ He completed.
‘Yes.’ She nodded, ‘I am here to serve my notice period which began from yesterday. Twenty nine days more and I am out of here.’
‘Cool.’ He said, ‘New job?’
‘Nope.’ She nodded a no, ‘Moving to Delhi to pursue masters in Psychology.’
‘Now that’s something wonderful.’ He said, ‘Living your dreams.’
‘It is.’ She tilted her head to side, ‘What’s your story? Your girlfriend left you and you became lost?’
‘My story ain’t anything around interesting for sure.’ He said, sipping on his coffee.
‘Let the shrink decide that?’
He leaned back on the couch casually, and said. ‘I had a struggled childhood since I lost my father. Never got time or chance to live life the way I want to, but even then I always looked forward to glory. Got the blow of my life when a bitch, who was not my girlfriend but best friend whom I preached and worshiped like nothing in the world ditched me and told me on face that she was using me – on the same day when I lost the love of my life to societal norms. We couldn’t get married because she was seven years elder to me, so we mutually decided to break up. I moved to Mumbai month later and I had been this lost ever since – May be that sums it all?’
‘And you say you don’t have an interesting story.’ She whispered.
‘Your turn.’ He moved forward.
‘Mine had less drama.’ She said, ‘I had no such struggles, by the grace of God. I have a great family who supports me in everything that I do. The goal of my life is to be happy and live to fullest every moment. I had been into complicated relationship where I too lost myself for a short span of time and cried over the guy and what not. It wasn’t too late when I realized I was wasting the precious moments of my life for something so stupid. Since then, I know what to choose for myself and what to not. I would be with only those people who do any good to my life. Rest, I don’t give a fuck about.’
‘You remind me of someone.’ Aditya raised his empty cup of coffee.
‘And that someone is – you.’ She smiled, ‘I remind you of yourself. Don’t I?’
He gaped at her, surprised. ‘How did you…?’
‘You mentioned,’ She cut him short. ‘I am a shrink, ya?’
He smiled, ‘You’re interesting.’
‘I know.’ She said, ‘I am hungry. Aren’t you?’
‘Want to grab a dinner?’
‘My stomach would love to.’
‘I’ll get my bike then.’
Until that day, Aditya only knew the meaning of Serendipity. But soon, he began living the Serendipity. He met Kaya when he had least expected for someone to walk into his dark life and brighten it with light of liveliness. May be that’s how it goes. You get the best of your life’s experiences when you are not looking for them!
May be life happens, by chance. Just like it did for Aditya.
Kaya and Aditya grew so fond of each other in that short span of time, that they didn’t want a moment to go waste without the other’s presence. None of them was a phone person. They chose actual over virtual – and that made them rise off the bed early and dash the bed late in the nights. They spent their mornings together, before hitting the office. Even at office, they would sneak out at every available chance and catch up for coffee in the cafeteria or at the recreation room playing table tennis. Their day began after office when they had some actual time left for each other. They didn’t have much time in hand before she could move out of the city, so everything for them had to be in the now.
She was a crazy crack head who could live every jiffy of her life to its fullest. With every second that he spent with her, it reminded him of what he really was. He had been lost in the course of his life and she brought him back to himself, she brought him back to life. Just by her presence, and by being what she was.
With her, he lived his each breath for those numbered days that followed.
It was a week before she were to leave, and they were sitting at Marine Drive post dinner, looking into the crashing waves of the sea and discussing life. And love.
‘It’s wonderful to be with you.’ He said, looking into the sea. ‘You acknowledge my every breath.’
She turned to look at him and after moment of silence she said, ‘It’s beautiful to be with you too, Aditya.’
‘Yeah,’ He said looking at her. ‘A week more of this wonderful togetherness.’
‘I understand what you mean by it.’
‘And what is it that you understand?’
She took a deep breath, ‘I have told you already. I am not a distance or phone person. Virtual does not exist for me. So long distance relationship is out of question. Actually, even being in a relationship is out of question for me right now. I have things to achieve before I get into a shit like that again.’
He smiled, ‘I know it. You don’t have to explain it to me. It’s just that, I’ll miss us.’
‘We’ll be friends.’ She said.
‘I doubt it.’ He threw a pebble into the sea. ‘But then I am going to cherish all these memories of ours. They’re worth keeping for life.’
‘Are they?’ She asked softly.
‘Yes.’ He nodded, going silent for moments.
‘I love you,’ She said. ‘But I cannot be in a relationship with you.’
‘I love you too.’ He said looking at her. ‘Just so you know, for me, anything that is said before a “but” does not really count. So your loving me and not being with me doesn’t make sense to me. It has to be either of both.’
‘Though both of my statements are true, I choose to stand by the latter.’
‘Alright.’ He took a deep breath, ‘I respect your choice.’
He threw another pebble into the water.
‘Aditya,’ She said uncomfortably. ‘I don’t want to be the reason behind your sulking more. You are troubled already.’
‘Honestly, I am fine.’ He said, ‘I needed a reminder of who I was. And you did that. I thank you for it. Now that I have myself back, I even have the sanity to accept that no one in this world has any obligation towards me and everyone is free to make their own choices. Just like you are making yours.’
‘But you would be hurt.’
‘Of course, I will be. That’s a natural human tendency to be hurt when they lose something they always wanted.’ He said, meaning it. ‘Don’t worry about me, I would find a better girl than you.’
‘I of course will. I cannot live in dearth.’
‘I so much like you, I knew I was right when I chose to know you. You are a bloody kickass jerk. I love it.’
He shrugged his shoulders. ‘Sadly, you can’t have him.’
She suppressed a smile, ‘We have three more days. You can start your better-than-me girl hunting post that, may be?’
‘I am in no hurry.’
‘Better,’ She drew closer to him and locked his lips into hers in a sudden kiss, leaving him off guard.
‘Okay, this was unexpected.’ He said catching his breath and looking around to confirm if anyone was watching.
‘Have you ever sneaked into a girl’s PG?’ She asked.
‘Let’s try that tonight.’ She stood up and motioned him to walk to his bike. He happily complied.
Three days later, Kaya left. Things changed, drastically. Aditya hadn’t probably expected for it to change with such a sudden motion, but it happened anyways. Kaya would be out of reach for days and reason would be – “I was busy partying and getting wasted.” It did sadden Aditya but he knew this was about to come. He gathered himself and asked Kaya upfront if she wanted to end their relationship right then. She said she wanted to, but she also wanted to be friends. But for Aditya its either everything or nothing. There’s no space for the existence of ‘something’. What he chose then was to go for – nothing!
There was no further contact between Aditya and Kaya. They were engulfed in their individual lives. Though Aditya was better than what he was since past two years, he was upset and in dilemma.
Why does everyone in my life, whom I have ever loved, have to leave? Will there be anyone ever, who would stay no matter what?
These were the questions unanswered for him, even today.
‘Will there be anyone ever, who would stay?’ He asked himself again.
Just then his cellphone that lied on the bedside table rang for a call, bringing him out of his thoughts.
‘Ya, you here?’ He asked, answering the call.
‘Yes, walking to the park. Come over.’ Kashish answered from the other end.
‘Will be there in five.’ He rushed down the elevator.
He reached to the park down his building and found Kashish strolling around the bushes, smelling the newly bloomed Lily.
‘Thanks for coming.’ He said reaching her.
She turned towards him and inspected his eyes to know the condition of his insides.
‘Seems like you have had an unpleasant trip down the memory lane,’ She said coming closer.
‘I did.’ He buried his hands inside the pockets of his track pants.
She placed her palm on his right cheek and rubbed her thumb on his dimple. He smiled in reflex, deepening it.
‘You’ll be fine. I am there.’ She said, softly.
‘I know.’ He nodded.
She planted a soft kiss on his cheek and brought back the enthusiasm in her voice. ‘Let’s race. The one who wins pays the coffee bills of the other for one whole month.’
‘You are so broke!’ He said, gearing himself up for the run. ‘You are going to pay.’
‘Or may be you are,’ Kashish rolled up her sleeves and there they raced past the bushes and through the sandy way.
“At times we may come to realize that the people who were once dear to our lives, no more exists. People leave, depending on the choices they make. Nobody is going to stay with you till the end, but you yourself. Its only about how long does one walk with you in your journey. They’ll walk with you only until their path is same as yours – once the path diverges, they leave. There’s no point grieving over their departure because they are here for the same reason you are – to explore life.
You need to keep walking, even if nobody accompanies you or follows you. Because you never know, you may find a new path or a new accomplice who may have the same destination as yours – completing the journey and your life. Isn’t it?”