Running an hour late, Kavita hired a cab that would take her to office. She contently occupied the corner of the backseat, letting her gaze out of the glass window peering at life running as usual on the chock-a-blocked roads of Mumbai city. She had worked very hard to write that morning for herself. This was her maiden leap into the world of Journalism. After completing a degree course in Mass Communication, and several small stints at internship, she had seasoned herself for a big opportunity such as this. Tomorrow her feature story shall be in the folds of news lovers. A gentle blush, and a soft smile tainted her lips.
Beep Beep. Her mobile flashed and turned silent. It was a missed call from Karan. She dialled him back. “What’s up Karan? No balance?” Her cheerful greetings were punctured by a morose voice on the other end.
“Kavita you have to stop that story from going to print.”
Kavita could not believe what her fiancée was asking her to do. “Why?? What’s wrong? Have we erred somewhere? Or is there something important that has been missed?” she spoke in one breath.
“I mean it seriously.” he sounded very grim.
“This is serious to me too! Let me hear things I don’t know.”
Without a word, he hung up. Many times, Kavita dialled up, but he had switched off. She immediately messaged him- you were always supportive and proud of me…… went around with me and helped me in bringing out the coverage. Now, suddenly, what’s the problem? The message was read later, but not answered.
The story was a success. Her appreciation by the galaxy of established stars was celebrated by the team sans Karan. All the while, she checked into her phone to see if he had replied. Later, just as she sat down in her chair, her phone vibrated. With her heart thudding into her ear, she unlocked it and stared at the screen. Finally! It was his message. But when she opened it and read it, she nearly stopped breathing. She didn’t know if he was joking! What was this? He was calling off their wedding! A taste of bile rushed to her mouth. Tall, fair, with a soft milky complexion, wavy hair framing her features beautifully, Kavita wondered how her parents would react to find the turn these events had taken place. One negative thought spawned into a thousand. Like maggots devouring every nerve and finish her off. She was not in her own. She felt famished, finished, nothing.
“Everything is fine dear?” a sudden voice from behind startled her. Turning her back, Manju, her roommate was standing, their pet dog Marker beside her. Marker was wagging his tail, as if trying to wave off those tense thoughts. Its doting eyes seemed loquacious. “Oooo my Markie” Kavita crouched beside him, rubbing his hairy ears. In turn Markie gave its sturdy neck to her shoulders…… In this city, Kavita had made trusted friends in office, and Manju being almost like a sister. They understood each other’s lives, respected privacy and never failed to take care of each other as well. A mystical connect barged in for help, whenever she felt vulnerable. In turn she silently mouthed out heartfelt gratitude for making her feel special.
“Why don’t you visit him and clear off the suspense from your chest” Manju suggested.
“Yes; this is so disrespectful of him! He didn’t even think of our parents. Calling off marriage on a single SMS! He thinks it’s all I am worth?”
Next morning, she visited his flat, before going to office. Her legs were numb, when she reached out and pressed his doorbell. The room was full of garlic and chilli seasoning odours from the kitchen. Karan opened the windows for her. ’Sorry’. His formalities made Kavita more uncomfortable. She came to the point. “Karan, I can’t imagine my life without you. What is the real problem? I beg please open out.”
“Kavita journalism is a dangerous job, and you should draw a line when it comes to sensitive issues.”
“You are saying this now? You were okay, with it when we were hunting down the kidnapping racket.”
“I did not realise, that your project would rise to printing standards.”
The blatant insult infuriated Kavita…but there was something about his body language……it was as if he was hiding something. Battling to keep a peaceful repose she searched for a balancing point. “But even your parents are proud of me.”
“Do not draw them into this. They are my family and will believe what I tell them. They are not like you.” Kavita sensed an impenetrable wall around him. He came and sat opposite her at a little stool. “Kavita if we got married who will look after the house? I need attention, and my parents need care.”
“Well, of course we both will do it together.” her voice sounded intrigued.
“You can’t do it running after the goons all day. Also, your reporting and final drafts consume most of the night. If you must work, what will happen to this house?”
“Karan, we can plan. You will also be helping….”
“Please. Please. How can I commit? My job responsibilities are my priority; any man’s is.” he looked determined.
Kavita felt she had been punched hard. “it would take a generation for men like you to change your mindset.” She wanted to throw off the ring but even more swiftly Karan, drew off his towel and vanished into the bathroom.
Back in the taxi, she tried to relax herself. She wanted to talk about it calmly and sanely without getting upset. Between holding tears, images of happier times between them continued to flood her eyes, and inadvertently she staggered to office as if in a state. Everyone noticed their obvious distance from each other. Her confidence over having a loving, supportive, fiancée began to dissipate. There was a hushed undercurrent of unasked questions, the embarrassed heart still shook her normal breath She retreated into her shell trying hard to focus, with each day that went by.
Then she agreed to take a break.
One evening, her mind now rested and fresh, her thoughts returned to unwind the maze, to just find a logical reasoning. “I am unsure of his intentions.” Manju’s voice nudged her out from her thoughts.
“He has left me no choice. As much as I understand Karan, this is not the real reason?” she reasoned.
Manju argued “why? He is the rich son of a rich businessman.”
“Listen Listen. This is not a competition going on. True I am from a middle family; but it’s no big deal, unless we love each other.”
“But for a happy life should he not reciprocate?”
“He already accepted me, there is something else?”
“Why he asked to shelve the news coverage? Maybe he had turned insecure, and jealous of your achievements?”
“Here, now here. This makes sense. I too smell something amiss, something swept under the carpet, hidden from me. He seems jealous, but I have known him well. It isn’t jealousy. He avoided eye contact. He did not sound honest. It’s something else.”
“Someone else in his life. More docile.”
Kavita looked with a start. She could not imagine her love taken away, “…noooo”
“Then what’s it?”
“How to know unless he opens out?”
“His Facebook might tell. Shall I hack his account?”
A crazy voice in her head murkily suggested, ‘yes’. Kavita was tempted but reasoned. If I go the wrong way, then what shall be the difference between those goons and me? The room partner snubbed her and took off. “Fine you sit and just ideate”.
That night, settled in bed, she sat hugging her legs, resting her chin on the top of her knees. She heard a meek voice. Marker was sitting with its paws over the laptop drooling over it as if saying ‘here, check his damned Facebook. I have absorbed all the pains for you today. And I need a juicy bone, after you are done with’. Kavita was surprised at how sometimes these animals show more ethical sense than humans! and then in her serendipity she did hack his account.
She Logged on.
And right out form some mysterious world, a fantasy land begins to unfold.
An image of a girl appears. Girl resembles a fairy-tale Cinderella. Golden hair, the perfect jaw line. Kavita looks closer and deeper. An awesome work of photoshop!!!
This girl sends Karan a friend request.
Request accepted. Chatting resumes.
Hello. I am Karan. Who are you?
Hello, I am Sadhna.
Well, you are very beautiful.
Not as beautiful as someone you know very closely.
Kavita! Either replace her file details or delete all her coverage.
What the hell! Why?
Well, if you do this job for me, you will be rewarded handsomely.
But you know I am also working on this Project with her?
We’ll you might soon be hunting for your missing sister.
What? You can’t do that!!
Yes. I can. I have a master. Your sister can lose a lot if his name appears in the report. I am not lying.
Either replace her file details or delete all her coverage today. You must do it.
My mother has grown old. Please, I beg you; she might not be able to take all this trauma.
Please give me your contact no. I will meet and explain.
Break this relationship with her.
Yes, I will.
Where do you live?
The conversation went off. She never again replied. Maybe he unfriended her…
Kavita’s frame took on a whole new dimension. Her misery was replaced by curiosity. She went about rummaging her diary to fish out Karan’s sister’s number, alongside informing her authorities about the fresh findings.
Who could imagine the relief on her face finding his sister, and his mother hale and hearty at their home?
“they will be wondering after your sanity. Calling them at this unearthly hour.” Manju quipped in.
She immediately swats the idea off. It hardly mattered. They were a family.
“Now I understand why that chick ran away like a headless chicken. Why? Probably, because he was mortified by this!”
“What a turning point! Better this happened before you two got hitched. Would you hound this Sadhna now? finding that she was just a prank caller? and clear the air with Karan.”
Kavita thundered. “No way! Don’t stoke that fire again. This much for trust in me! This much for his nerves? Every profession has its occupational hazard. This is how you react?”
Her mind was dancing with new euphoria. Silently she beseeched the heavens thanking them for illuminating her life with truth. She felt a white light hovering just above her, blessing her. Happiness that was abducted was released. Throwing out to wind the embezzlement, it was time to feast. Time to dole out halwa on hot puris…The oil in the pan became hot. Just then the fire alarm in her apartment goes on and simultaneously the doorbell starts shrieking. Kavita opens the door. Her friends stood there flanking around Karan, a frail smile on his lips.
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