Heartstrings attached

Click, click, tap, tap..

I was lazily tapping the letters in the keyboard, idling away my time as none of my friends had come to college yet. I attend evening shift in my college – B.Sc Visual Communication.

Since I had half an hour before classes would begin, I was using one of the computers of my college’s internet café. The booming silence further pushed my lively cells to sleep mode and I sat there in front of His Lordship – the computer, my eyes half drooping.

You can’t expect me to be awake at half past one with the full plate briyani and fish swimming inside my tummy. The AC was in its full swing and I could barely keep my eyes open when suddenly my phone rang.

It began with a loud clang and moved on to the drum beats. The noise was something unbearable inside the small, hushed-up net café and it seemed to tickle the laughter amongst others as I heard a few giggles.

I attended the call which was from my friend and spoke in a whisper – “Arrey wait yaar, Mein internet café me hu,” and ended the call.

My ringtone did seem quite funny. I agree. But I don’t guess it was too funny to keep one giggling for too long. But it did! And I’d thank my phone for it. If not for it, I wouldn’t have met her – she, who revolutionized my life.

I heard continuous giggle right opposite to my computer and I jerked my head a bit to see who it was.

I wanted to say, “It wasn’t that big a joke!” when I stopped in midsentence.

I saw a girl whose locks kissed her cheeks every now and then as she tried hard to suppress her laughter. She saw me looking at her and straightened up a bit, to pose a serious and straight face. It did the trick!

Conscious of my gaze, she brushed aside a stand of hair from her forehead and neatly tucked it behind her ear. Oh! Those ears! They were rosy pink in colour as if it’d bleed blood if just pulled once, slightly.

But, she wasn’t fair overall – skin colour as I’d call. She had two cute dimples that resisted from leaving its place of inhabitancy.

My eyes were entirely absorbing her, as if she’d disappear the next moment and all I had is now to drink her features and digest them in my mind.

But, I guess I took too much time as she raised her eyebrows and looked at me. I shrugged my shoulder and returned my gaze to the computer in front. But, all I could think was what was she doing right now behind my computer. Did she feel the same as I did?

Then, it was her mobile’s turn to ring loudly!

In embarrassment she swiped the call quickly and spoke the words – “Arrey wait yaar, Mein internet café me hu,” and ended the call.

“Put your mobiles in silent mode!” I heard the lab attendant cry.

But I sat in amazement!

She had uttered the same words as me but what was appealing most to my ears was that she spoke Hindi too!

Yeah, you can’t find a majority of Hindi speaking people in Tamil Nadu. If you do so, then you must’ve landed in the northern states of India.

My heart beat fast. I knew I had to talk to this girl. Thanks to my brain, it worked rather fast on that lazy noon.

I dropped my mobile wantonly under the computer table and pushed it into the interior with my right shoe, got up from my place and left the café. As I closed the door of the room, I saw her looking at me with a dissatisfied look of having left soon. I grinned to myself.

I was prepared with my act. All I had to do now was to wait for her to come out and I was sure it wouldn’t take long.

She came out after ten minutes and as soon as she stepped out, her eyes unfalteringly searched for me. She bit her lower lip and a disappointment ascended her face. I was viewing all these from a distance, out of the reach of her vision.

I knew this was the right time to act. I sprang into action and ran towards her.

“Excuse me Miss! I seemed to have lost my mobile. The last time I saw it, was inside the café. By any chance did you see it, before you left?” I asked her between my breaths.

She was much willing to help me and I noted a hint of excitement and contentment of having lost my phone.

“No! But did you search inside?” she asked pointing her long, slender finger in the direction where she had come from.

And that’s when I noticed she was wearing braces. I wondered why, cuz her teeth weren’t projecting much.

“Not yet,” I stuttered.

“Come, let’s search then,” she flashed an assuring smile and her dimples resumed their places again.

As I followed her, I analysed her figure statistics.

‘Not bad!’ I thought, though she was a bit lean and not that fair-complexioned.

We reached the computer I was operating and the attendant was surprised to see us back so soon, that too together.

She couldn’t find my mobile any time sooner and I acted panicking and she believed it to be true, because she put out an arm over my shoulder and gently gave a reassuring squeeze.

“Tell me your number. I’ll give a ring. Maybe that’ll indicate us where it’s hidden,” she offered.

‘Nice job! She nailed it!’ I was too happy but acted sombre.

As I repeated my number to her, I watched her hands work their way swiftly, punching the keys, showing, she was adept at it.

My phone’s ringtone played in a distance and I cursed myself for not having changed it before I set my trap, as she was giggling again.

The attendant glared at us.

Controlling her laughter, she bent down searching on all fours and fished out my mobile and handed it back to me.

“Ah! Must’ve slipped there when I got up to leave. It was on my lap before,” I explained.

“Oh!” was all she said.

She moved with such agility towards the door and I raced outside behind her.

“Thanks!” I said once we were out.

She looked at me with amusement. Maybe she found out I had planted my phone wantonly.

“Diya, Diya Mehta,” she said, holding out her hand.

I was taken aback. ‘Man! This is progressing fast!’ I thought.

“Rohan Kuman,” I said shaking those warm hands and it tingled my veins.

She was surely gifted… gifted to mesmerize me…

“So, that’s my number. Somehow you got it,” she said, flashing that ‘melting-my-heart’ smile. I didn’t seem to bother about her braces. They seemed to add an additional dazzle.

“Ha ha,” I laughed.

“Delhiwala?” I asked after a few minutes of awkward silence.

“Dad’s from Mumbai and Mom’s a Tamilian. And you?”

“From Mumbai. But I stay here with my parents because of Dad’s job.”

“Hmm.”

“You study here?” I asked.

“Yeah! B.com and you?”

After the formal introductions were over, I had to bid her goodbye with a heavy heart as my classes were about to begin.

That night, I debated if I should send her a message in whatsapp. The question turned ruthless in my mind that I didn’t sleep until one in the midnight.

I checked my whatsapp and saw her online too. I was elated. I didn’t wish to miss my chance. So I composed a formal message saying –

‘Hey! Dis is Rohan.. Thnks 4 findn ma mob. It means ma lyf.’

I waited with bated breath and the check mark turned blue. My heart skipped a beat. Immediately she went offline and my heart sank.

‘Ruined it!’ I cursed myself.

But within a few moments, I got a baby picture saying ‘Welcome’ and she typed in ‘S ur mob ur wife?? :P’

I wanted to jump up and down like a small kid. She brought out the child in me that day and even as I close my eyes now, I remember how every moment gave me pure joy back then.

‘Ha ha.. Not slept yet???’ I asked.

‘Does ur whatsapp say “Diya typing” r “Diya sleeping”?? :P’

‘Di typing.. :)’

Immediately I bit my tongue. I addressed her name in a short and sweet form.

‘U r takn a big leap Mr. By calln ma nickname n d first chat itself..’ she replied.

‘Oops, sry.. :(‘

‘Neva mind..gn..’

‘gn.. SD..’

“Phew!” I muttered in the darkness, “That was a close call.”

<br />The next few weeks, I researched and was successful in finding out from Di’s whatsapp and FB status that she was single. But I couldn’t rule out the option she mightn’t have revealed her relationship with a guy (if she has one) to the world.

Our night chats grew frequent. Some nights she ended up pinging me first, enquiring about how my day went. She indeed found a short form of calling me – <em>‘RK</em>’ like 'PK<em>'</em>

A few months later, our bond grew stronger, we bunked classes and hung out together that made both our friends jealous. A few times I couldn’t bunk my classes as I was being taught important techniques in movie making. Becoming a director was my passion. So, I wouldn’t sacrifice it for anyone – even for Diya. She supported me and encouraged me though.

My DSLR’s memory card was filled with photos of Diya and me and our hangouts. It marked the beginning of our budding relationship.

A year later, on my birthday, Diya gifted me Ravinder Singh’s  – ‘Can love happen twice?’

I wasn’t a book lover, yet it was a special gift from my Diya. How could I be a brute by not reading it? Ridiculous!

I finished the book in a week’s time and that night I messaged her asking, ‘Truth r dare?? :P’

‘U begin,’ came the reply.

I was glad I read that book. Seriously! I’d like to thank the author for providing a cute, I’m-not-stalking way of getting to know people.

In the end I got to know Diya a lot better and I asked her out for lunch the next day, to which she accepted, much to my glee.

<br />“Anything else?” I asked her, as the waiter stood before us taking the order.

“A zero coke can,” she said, and waved the waiter off.

We were sitting in <em>‘Papa Johns’</em> that was situated in ECR and I had my yet-to-be-girlfriend beside me, her dimples now forcing her cheeks to shallow even more as she laughed.

At the moment, I got the urge to place my finger tip inside her dimples to measure its depth and I did, without beckoning a thought.

She looked puzzled at my sudden approach of touching her but in the end, she closed her eyes. She didn’t object but I had to retrieve my hand as the waiter approached us with hot, steaming chicken golden corn pizzas and a coke can.

We didn’t speak for a moment or two.

She took a bite of the sizzling pizza and broke into applause.

I sighted a small blob of cheese at the corner of her mouth and wiped them away with my finger and licked them.

“RK! What are you doing?” she asked, but her tone didn’t conceal the ecstasy she too was indulged in.

“Tasting cheese,” I said, dipping my hand into my portion of pizza and retrieved it, covered with cheese, “Want some?” I asked with a wicked smile.

Unexpectedly, she touched my finger gingerly and sucked it between her lips and licked the cheese by her tongue.

I looked around to see if anyone was noticing us. But, we were in a nice, cosy and private corner, away from any prying eyes, if possible.

“So, what is Di doing now?” I teased her.

“Tasting cheese,” she said, giving me a wink.

I shifted my place and cuddled in close proximity next to her and she began grumbling, “Mr. RK it’d be nice if u treat your invitee well and allow her to finish her pizza.”

I shuffled away from her grouching.

We discussed a few boring topics and finished our pizzas without any more romance.

“Anything else, Sir?” the waiter asked as Di opened her Coke can and it fizzed out.

“Just the bill, please,” I sent him away.

Diya was slowly sipping from the can when I loudly exclaimed, “I wish I was that can. Then, I’d be able to taste your lips better.”

She sputtered and messily searched for a tissue to wipe her mouth, when I neared her and placed my lips on hers. She surrendered willingly and I held her, tasting the coke-coated lips. But I had to withdraw myself as I had hurt my lips on her braces.

“Ouch!” I yelled in pain.

She giggled and passed me the glass of water.

“What did you think kissing Di was like? Soft and smooth? Never! Always rough and tough!” she said laughing.

By now the waiter had arrived and looked at me inquisitively as to why was I nursing my lip.

I paid the bill and we exited the shop.

Diya had grown silent by now. She was simmering in shyness and I was glad I had kissed her despite those bruises on my lips.

We weaved our way through ECR and I felt her hands slowly slip around my tummy and she rested her head on my shoulders in an affectionate manner and cocooned herself in a comfortable position.

I was on cloud nine! I raised my throttle and vroomed forward.

“RK, slow down a bit! Not so fast! I wanna live with you forever,” she whispered in my ear.

My bike slowed down in contrast to my heart beat.

That was the best day ever in my life, as later I proposed to Diya and she accepted...

“RK! You can’t do this to me!” Diya yelled at the top of her voice. It’s been a year since Diya and I revealed our love and care for each other. But now, all hell broke loose with the death of my father in a bomb blast.

My dad was my ultimate support in any matter and his death had shattered me to pieces. I was in a fit of rage against the terrorists, police, the government and the entire law force.

We were on the verge of finishing college and I had taken a decision to join the army later. This might seem like a movie to you. But only when you feel the pain of having lost your loved innocent one to a pitiless bomb, you’d know my real suffering. They killed my father and I was ready to kill my passion.

And the reason why Di was shouting at me was not because of my decision to join the army but because I didn’t want to get married.

“Di, please listen! What if one day I die during my service to my nation? Won’t you and my child be abandoned like me and my mom right now?”

She remained mute, sobbing.

“Won’t my death news bring an utter shock to you? Wouldn’t it render you helpless?” I resumed my arguments.

Though she saw little light in it, she didn’t consent to my decision of not marrying her. It wasn’t an easy decision for me too. My heart burst to thousand pieces when I finally told her. It was literally shred to millions of tiny strips that couldn’t be mended.

“Just think it over once again, please Rohan!” she begged me, “I’m ready to live away from you but not without you.”

“I’m sorry Di. I don’t wish to ruin your life. Take care.”

With that parting note, I left her stranded in her own pool of tears.

“““““““““““““““

Twelve years later…

I was on my way home after six months of training in Delhi and now I’m highly regarded and addressed as ‘Lieutenant Rohan Kumar’.

As I got down at the Chennai airport at midnight, I was welcomed by my mom with happy tears and we made our way through the other poignant relatives waiting for their beloved ones to arrive.

We found a taxi and were on our way, when the engine spluttered and dropped dead, rendering the taxi immobile.

“Ab hum kya karenge?” my mom was getting afraid now. (what shall we do now?)

The driver informed us that the taxi would move no more.

I got down from the taxi and waited for any car to drive us to the nearest bus stop.

A grey Audi car came zooming and halted right next to us.

“Kya hua?” I heard a lady in the back seat ask the driver. (What happened?)

“Madam, they’re asking for a lift. Shall we drop them? It’s too late in the night to find any other vehicle,” the driver replied.

The lady lowered down her window and I was shocked to see the same dimples but creased with light wrinkles now.

“Diya!” I managed to put forth the word.

She saw me in my army clothes and then saw my mum shivering due to the chilly air and hurriedly said, “Get in RK. Your mom’s shivering.”

‘RK?’ that gave me joy. She still remembered me!

“You know her already?” my mom asked, once we were comfortably seated inside, me next to the driver.

I saw her face growing uncomfortable in the mirror and said, “Haan Ma, she studied in the same college as mine.”

“So, where should I drop you, bhai saab?” the driver asked.

“In the next bus stop that you see.”

“No, no,” Diya interrupted, “Let’s drop them at their home,” she ordered him and then said to me, “Just tell him the directions, RK.”

“RK?” my mom asked puzzled.

“Ma!” I called her in a warning note. She turned quiet but only for a few minutes.

“Are you married? How many children do you have? Where do you live?” she kept shooting questions at Diya.

“Aunty, I’m not married yet,” she said in her soft voice.

It broke my heart to hear that!

“What? Why?” I heard myself asking that to her.

Her face turned expressionless when she said, “He left me.”

“Who?” my mom asked.

“Aunty that’s a long story. Please excuse me. I had a long, tiring day.”

“So, what do you do for a living?” I asked this time.

“I’m a renowned Chartered Accountant,” she said.

No more questions and we reached my place soon with no traffic in the late hours.

After my mom had thanked her and gone inside, I had a small chat with Diya.

“Di, are you mad? Why didn’t you get married?”

“I didn’t want to love someone else.”

“How did you remain so stubborn?”

“Like how you did.”

I was silent.

“RK, there is no one in my thoughts even now other than you. You’re fighting in the borders. But I’m fighting everyday with myself and our love,” was all she said, before her eyes welled up but she was quick enough to hide them by coughing and she wiped a tear from the corner of her eyes.

My heart melted.

My Diya had waited for me, even though she knew I mightn’t return to her after all. But she had waited with hope. The only thing that has kept her going, that has earned her the CA, that has helped her obtain a posh car, all in the hope that I’d return one day.

“This,” she said pointing to her Audi car, “is the result of me trying to divert my mind from the past. My job keeps me going during the day, but our memories keep me going during the night to meet a fresh day with hope.”

I could bear it no longer.

I dropped down my luggage and went near her, hugged her tight, cupped her face and kissed her on her lips. The memory of our first kiss floated in my mind and that’s when I noticed it.

“Whoa! Where are your braces?”

She was crying bitterly in my hands now.

“I threw them off as soon as you threw me out of your life,” she said between her sobs.

I lifted her face and kissed her harder, not bothering to look if anyone around us were noticing.

Only our hearts and our lips told the true tale of love and patience in those chilly streets of wintery Chennai, before the witnesses of the flickering streetlamps…

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