“Look, look, look, there goes Arjun for the final round!” exclaimed Riya jumping from her seat. “Even this time, he is sure to win,” she said clapping and cheering her favourite champion driver. Riya was a die-hard fan of Arjun. She had been following him for past few months.
Arjun was India’s first Formula 1 driver. He had hit headlines, with many crazy fans surrounding him. Being the most eligible bachelor, the number of women admirers was huge. Their adrenaline raised seeing him drive at tremendous speed. The speeding car or the wild beast, as Arjun called it, was well tamed by his sturdy mind.
Controlling the car at such high speed was a wonderful art which Arjun had mastered beautifully.
Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, Arjun never faced harsh realities of its life. Everything he demanded was provided on a platter. Arjun was always fascinated by F1 Championship. His parents were well educated and encouraged his inclination towards a rare sport. They could gauge if Arjun aced this sport, he would win laurels on and off the track.
After completing his basic education, Arjun went to Elf Winfield Racing School in France for training. Soon after training, he participated at various junior level races and graduated to Formula Asia Championship
As expected, he followed his dream and became the first Indian F1 driver. He ruled the minds, and hearts of Indians everywhere. Naturally, the parents were elated with their only son’s achievement for Arjun never disappointed them.
“Hey,Arjun! I’m your biggest fan, please look here once,” Riya shrieked in enthusiasm from the audience while Arjun was walking towards the ‘cool down room’ amidst tight security. Arjun bathed in the female attention of “I love you”, “I wanna marry you”. with a grinned face, he entered the room.
“Aha, it feels great to be inside!” remarked Arjun to his Manager-cum-coach, Mr. Acharya. Arjun thanked him and politely requested for some me-time. He wanted to have a cold shower and may be a little rest, before he returned to his quarters.
Knowing this, Acharya said, “I definitely know, you need some rest, but the owner of this stadium is here and wants to talk to you. Should I let her in?”
“Ohh formalities! Send her in but ensure only five minutes,” replied an exhausted Arjun.
The lady was accompanied by her friend. “Hie, Arjun, it is an awesome feeling, seeing you on the track. You rock it man!” handing over the bouquet of beautiful lilies, she complimented.
“Thank you,” said Arjun formally, accepting the bouquet and placing it at the corner of the table.
“Mr. Arjun, have you met your biggest fan yet?” suggested the lady vividly.
He was taken back and preferred not to reply. He just nodded in negative.
“Meet Riya, she is your biggest fan. To talk about her, we belonged to the same high school and she was a dream girl of many. A girl who never fell for any boy during her college days is head over heels with you,” introducing Riya, the lady said.
Hinting Acharya out of the room, she left the future love birds alone.
There was a pin-drop silence with no words uttered by either of them. Arjun was gob smacked by the blushing beauty in front of him.
She was beautiful in every sense; any man’s dream comes true. Her hair was midnight-black and flowed over her shoulders. A radiant glow emanated from her. Velvety eye lashes flickered while taking a look at him and finally when constellation-blue-eyes met with his, Arjun went dizzy. Seeing his dilemma, she finally broke into a miraculous laughter. The heart shaped puffy lips pouted to express her feeling sorry for him. Her child like enigma made a permanent place in his heart.
Arjun had read about ‘Love at first sight’ but experienced it for the first time. He could not think of anything else except Riya. He forgot all about the fatigue and informed his Manager, he was ready to leave. Throughout the drive, Riya, her face, her smile revolved in his mind and he was blushing.
Though he personally liked Riya, he could not accept a negative response from her side. He wanted to be doubly sure that she too was interested in this relationship, before he committed himself. Luck favoured him once again and Riya agreed to walk the distance with him arms in arms. The next day, both met at a coffee joint and the ball was set rolling.
The frequency of such dating increased, and so did the messages. Both love birds were happy in the company of each other. In the process, Arjun missed a few training sessions and naturally, his coach was annoyed.
“Arjun, I understand, you are enjoying your love life but remember, you won her heart because of your art,” said a controlled Acharya, when he met Arjun at his residence.
“Hmmmm,” replied Arjun.
“If you do not devote time for your practice, you may end up not qualifying for the further rounds.”
“You seemed to have put on weight also. The control, the focus is lost, dear Arjun”
“What the f**k is this? I’m talking to you politely and you are taking me for granted,” a fuming Acharya responded.
Arjun returned to his senses with this roar. He stopped fiddling with his mobile phone, and became more focused on the words of his coach.
“Sorry coach, I will give my 100%”
“Arjun, you need to take a break from Riya for next few weeks, as your next qualifying round is due. You have a bright future, but it seems you are in a mood to lose it completely,” Acharya yelled in frustration.
“As you say coach, I will inform Riya. I will give my 100% once again,” assured Arjun
Two weeks of intense practice made Arjun ready for the event. During every practice session, his mind would wander to all places he had been with Riya. Though, physically he was with the coach, mentally he was with Riya.
On the race day, as soon as he hit the tracks, he was skeptical. He understood he was under-prepared. At one point of time, his mind was ready to withdraw from the race. However, his future rankings were based on that day’s performance, plus he wanted to impress his newly found love.
Calming down his mind, Arjun concentrated on all the instructions given by his coach and cleared the negativity; he decided to take the plunge.
“Arjun, take the initial few lapses slowly, then, gear up the pace in the second half,” were the final words of his coach.
Understanding the strategy, Arjun raised a thumb u. He blew a kiss to his newly found delight of life, who was also standing at a distance.
Riya was excited for the race. Every time she saw Arjun in the Racing Suit she was fascinated. Riya caught the kiss blown towards her smilingly and ran to the stands to see her love performing live.
Riya had been a witness to many races before but today was something special, she could hear her heartbeats a bit louder. This was the first race since both committed to each other.
As the initial laps happened, Arjun was uncomfortable. He struggled in all aspects. However, his past experiences helped and he managed the show to the best of his abilities. As the final 10 laps were remaining, he knew, he had to step up the accelerator. He still felt the need for a few more laps before he accelerated.
As laps zoomed by and final 2 laps remained, Arjun stepped up on the accelerator and the speedometer was slewing to the right rapidly. For fraction of a second, he sensed losing control over his vehicle.
The car had hit the side-railings performing a somersault in the air. All that could be seen from the stadium was the flames engulfing the vehicle.
Panic spread like wildfire and announcements were made to calm the stadium.
Fire Brigade, Ambulance, Police vehicles….. there was a cacophony of sirens surrounding the stadium. In the maze, none knew where Arjun was?
At the stands, Riya became numb. She could feel her feet trembling. She felt her world came down crumbling. She felt being deaf standing among the chaotic stadium. She became motionless, lost her balance, sat on her chair disoriented. Her wide eyes gazed wished to have one glimpse of her man.
Regaining sense, she frantically searched for the coach and went running down towards him. She knew, the only person who could have access near Arjun was Acharya.
The fire rescue started their operations but there was huge tension as they could not see any movement beneath. Everyone feared the worst. Precisely two minutes in to the rescue operations, Arjun came out of nowhere, jumped over the railings and collapsed on the ground.
“It is a miracle!” the loudspeaker blared. On seeing Arjun, Riya was relieved. She stopped struggling and crumbled on the ground holding the hands of the coach, letting the dam break open. Tears were now rolling down her cheeks.
As Arjun was wheeled into the ambulance, Riya rushed along. Doctors suggested her to meet once things were under a bit of control. According to them, Arjun was in deep trauma and needed complete rest before he could meet anyone.
Riya tried to convince them, but the plea fell on deaf ears. No one entertained her at the hospital. The Coach was with Riya throughout, and suggested her to be calm and thank Almighty for His divine intervention during the accident.
“Ri….Ri….Riyyaaa,” Arjun was blabbering as he was gaining consciousness. Doctors explained that Riya was waiting outside and eager to see him as well. They suggested him to relax for the time being. Knowing that Riya was around, Arjun felt relaxed. He lost his consciousness again as heavy drugs were administered.
After a day, the Psychologist suggested that Riya meet him, as he regained consciousness.
As Arjun opened his eyes, he found Riya, smiling and crying simultaneously. All he managed was a smile with a tear at the corner of his eye. Both hugged each other and expressed their solidarity to each other.
After completion of the course, Arjun got discharge. The doctors advised Riya and Coach Acharya, not to discuss the incident as it would trigger trauma, and Arjun could behave irrationally.
Back home, Arjun tried to be normal but it was not so easy. He limped while he walked, the fracture limiting his movements. He took time to recollect things and events. There was episodic amnesia, with Arjun trying hard to remember the accident. The struggle was obvious.
Every time Arjun was alone, he would ponder over his past. Empty mind, devil’s workshop, proved true, Arjun’s thoughts would dig up childhood memories. He realized the flip side of being on bed of roses was thorns of isolation.
He nurtured a huge ego, hence no one at the school wanted to befriend him and, neither he approached anyone. Today, the balloon of ego burst through teary eyes. He missed that someone idiot whom he could talk his heart out, get some foolish advices, laugh aloud, and even get some unwanted suggestions. Being successful always too had a darker side, learnt Arjun.
Entering into the sports field and losing a race for the first time was a big mental jolt for the champion driver, a few years ago. That time, Coach Acharya intervened and calmed his nerves. Thereafter, he attended a few counseling sessions too to overcome that stress. The ears, the shoulders a friend lends to share secrets costs a bomb at a hospital, he learnt.
Today, Riya was his only rescue and he silently thanked Almighty for the same. He understood it was a boon in disguise. Riya, on the other hand, proved her mettle during these tough days.
Seizing one right moment, Arjun formally proposed Riya and both tied the knots. This was a huge turning point in their lives.
Coach Acharya was in all praise for Riya’s decision to accept the man of her dreams in the existing condition. Acharya, who was opposing Arjun’s relationship with Riya earlier, now became her fan simply because of her loyalty towards Arjun.
During one of his casual visits, Acharya asked, “Shall we resume our training?”
Arjun went blank. His face drew long and the curve of smile vanished instantly. He felt pressure building within himself and just chose to move away.
Acharya understood and said, “It is absolutely okay champion, you can take a few more days. Let me know when you are comfortable.”
Riya intervened, “Arjun, now that things are falling in place, you can start practice.”
“No, I’m not yet ready,” his answer was shocking.
Riya and Acharya did not discuss further as doctors had warned them of the denial phase.
Arjun and Riya were enjoying their escalated stage of family life after a wonderful love life. After few weeks, even after Arjun recovered fully, he avoided driving.
One day to surprise his ladylove, he agreed for an evening drive. No doubt, Riya was escalated with this development.
“You know Riya, all this feels so foreign to me,” explained Arjun. “The accelerator, the brake, the gear, all these were so part of my system, now they feel alien to me.”
“Relax Arjun, everything will be alright. It’s a matter of belief being reset into your system. Once you get your confidence back, everything will fall in place automatically,” Riya assured.
As the car hit the roads, Arjun felt good to drive the car. He was cautious not to accelerate beyond 100kph. As soon as the speedometer went near the 100, he would withdraw. Sitting close, Riya was observing this.
“Do not control, let it cross 100. I know you are the best,” she motivated him.
These words of motivation were enough for the young blood to accelerate.
Arjun accelerated and it moved from 100..110…120….
Screeetch….. a sudden brake and the car stopped. Arjun started sobbing. His emotions seemed deeply hurt.
Riya helped him move out of driver’s seat and made him comfortable at the navigator’s seat. She took over the driving.
“You have been driving at double the speed on the tracks, even today you were comfortable, what happened suddenly?” she asked very politely.
“That lap flashed back. That day, I was feeling better with each passing lap. As the meter crossed 250kph, I somehow lost control and I could feel myself rolling over. There was a total black out. The next moment I could find myself in smoke. The carbon dioxide choked me. My senses alerted me to jump out, and then I do not know what happened,” explained Arjun reliving those dark moments.
“Okay, relax. Congratulations, you hit 120 today, so slowly you can resume practice,” said Riya positively. “Shall I inform the coach?” she enquired further.
“Wait let us not rush into the things. Let me be more comfortable at this speed and then I will surely give him a call,” replied Arjun nervously
A few days of driving gave the needed confidence to Arjun. Riya was always there with her motivating words all along.
There was a huge transformation in the life of Riya. From being a happy-go-lucky college girl enjoying life to a matured woman, Riya drew strength from her parents. Having born to a successful business tycoon, Riya observed her father closely. She had learnt staying chin up when problems hit, was the best way to face them. All her learning came handy when she became a part of Arjun’s life. She could take major decisions and help him become strong to bounce back.
“Hello Coach, I’m ready,” a confident Arjun said over the call. His coach was happy to see his best student back on track. Next day both decided to meet at the practice track at 5:30am.
As he wore his racing kit and got comfortable inside his racing car, he waved thumbs up to coach and Riya, he then said a silent prayer and keyed the ignition to roar.
“I was waiting for this moment,” pumping his fist in the air shouted Acharya at that moment.
After two months of rigorous physical and mental training, many rounds of counseling and strategizing, Arjun was back to where he belonged, the tracks.
Riya felt happy to see everyone happy around. She played many roles during this topsy-turvy period. She became his spine, his brain and his heart which made him bounce back.
She was a silent observer throughout and prayed intensely that the second stint of her champion would more successful than the previous one.
This homecoming gave Arjun a chance to overcome his shortcomings to accept real life is a bouquet of thorns and flowers.
The coach Acharya himself learnt apart from training and skill, love played an instrumental role in life of Arjun through Riya. He also got a chance to prove that coaching played a vital role in champion’s transformation.
The entire eco system of this second chance to Arjun and Acharya was scripted, directed by none other than the Iron lady – Riya.
“Look, look, look, there goes Arjun for the final round!” exclaimed Riya, “This time he may not win this race, but he is a winner even today.”
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