A Chance Encounter
My life is full of surprises, nothing surprises me anymore. Right? Absolutely wrong! The piles of papers lying on almost everything in my room are proof of that. Songs! A few months back, I would've laughed at the prospect. But it has become my passion. Surprise……surprise. I could never forget the day when I was selected as the lead singer for my college band. I signed up for fun and here I am….already a - "Shit, where's my phone?? Where…where….," spotting it under my pillow, I dived. "Hello?"
"Aisha!!!!" a shrill voice pierces my beautiful and peaceful mood, "Where the hell are you? We are supposed to be at Karthik's in ten minutes." Mom. She annoys the hell out of me. "Why am I going to your goddamn boyfriend's office party?" A dangerous pause. I think I hit a nerve. Uh oh. I hear a huge sniff. Is she crying? My mom never cries. She acts as if she is in pain. Anything she wants comes into her hands before she finishes her first sob. That's how my great and spoilt grandmother raised my mom. Just like herself, I remember her with contempt. I always call her grandmother because I always make it a point to distance myself away from her. Good thing I got my father's genes.
My mom is still crying. I sigh imagining the inevitable. "Aish, you know I'm doing this only for you, baby. He's a journalist. I'm doing this for your future prospects, honey." My foot, she's dating him because he's really hot! Why, I find him hot. She probably died at his feet the second she met him two months ago. I sigh to myself again. My mom has got one thing going for her all her life. She was and is incredibly lucky. But I can't deny the glaring fact that she's unbearable. I just can't take her anymore. "Ok, mom, I know u love me," I managed in my most sugary voice and by the way, that's not hard at all. My voice is naturally sugary sweet, I grin to myself, "I'll get ready in five. And stop crying!"
Twenty minutes later… "Hey Aish…..looking gorgeous, young lady…", greeted super hot Karthik. I instantly melted into the most delicious buttery puddle at his feet. No wonder my mom got him. It's just fate, my mom said nonchalantly when she found me with his picture on my phone, you are not as lucky as I am honey! Who said mom's are all about sacrifice? Why don't I get to have him instead of her? I sigh audibly this time hoping Karthik catches it. Before I could do something more, my mum whisked him off giving me a superior look.
Ok…mom…I'm not trying to steal your boyfriend, I think bitterly. I walk onto the deck of his luxury condo, all the while searching for a known face. Failing to recognize anyone there, I lean forward on the gorgeous steel railing and examined the stars shining in the city. The stars shining in the city, I repeat to myself, it's a catchy slogan. I stand up suddenly, jolted out from my reverie, excitement coursing through me. I could make a song out of tonight. I turned back towards the room full of people and start observing them. I'm marooned all alone in this sea of bald uncles, trophy wives, botoxed cougars and geeky banker dudes! I giggle at the epiphany of my own talent. Everyone's talking about politics, rising oil prices, sky -rocketing gold rates etc etc! Poor people, they just don't get it, do they?! I walk inside hurriedly searching for my mom. I need to put this on paper, before I forget the exact words.
"Hey, young lady….," freaking handsome Karthik wraps his arms around my waist. I smile half-heartedly. My mom's going to get alarmed…..I privately sing to myself. I giggle loudly. "What are you doing? What if my mom see's you with me?" "She'd get jealous," he leaned forward and whispered it in my ear. I gently push him away and give him an odd look. He looked at me and shook his head slowly. "Ok, at least flirt with someone your own age," he spoke finally. I give him a last patronizing look.
"Ashrith!" he called out into the room. I quickly scan the room. I spot a guy who really looks like a kid, standing in the shadows, looking both amused and forlorn. "Is he supposed to be my age?" I pinch karthik's arm angrily. He glances along the direction I point. "Ow! He's close to your age!" he tells me rubbing his arm. "Yeah, behave yourself," he hisses at me, "Ashrith, come here!" The boy drags his feet toward us. Karthik introduced us. "Ashrith, this is Aisha…she's a journalism student and an extremely talented singer." I grimace embarrassed. "Aisha, this is my nephew Ashrith and he's a good writer." My eyebrows shoot up. "Really? How interesting!" I comment. "There's nothing so wow about it", he replies distractedly.
Something is not right, I look curiously at him. He seems miserable and upset. "Umm…." I begin but he hurries away as someone else called him. I stare after him. I'm all alone again, I realized after a few minutes. I managed to drift towards the now crowded deck trying to find a little space along the railing. Just as I decide to go inside, I notice Ashrith going out of the door and he signals me to join him. I stand there weighing my options. I could stay here for some more time and then leave. I could go talk with him and then leave. Neither option is appealing. I chose the latter anyway.
I step out of the house after a few minutes and find the boy standing in the porch waiting. As soon as I reach him, he starts walking and I fall into step. We go out onto the deserted streets. Fresh air and moonlight, a heady combination, I think warmly. "Are you always this happy?" he asked moodily. "Yes, I'm a happy girl," I reply simply, smiling softly. After that, he asks me the usual acquaintance questions. I reply to all of them without batting an eyelid. We talk about my band and our favorite musicians. Soon, we became friends. But something's not right with this boy. I can't put a finger on it, but I'm dead right.
All of a sudden, his face twists in pain. "Hey, are you alright?" I ask him worriedly. "Yes", he seems to be confused for a minute and asked, "Do you want to go on a drive?" I do an once-over on him. He looks harmless enough and he's a kid. I shrug to myself. "Sure", I reply.
Five minutes later….we are speeding away on his ancient wagon R. It seems like he's heading for the highway. He begins suddenly, "It was a night very much like this, two years ago. Only the party was more interesting, it was our type. And it was in Mumbai. It was a night that could have been a great memory. Instead, it became a night which will haunt my dreams forever. I made a friend at that party and her name was Aparajitha." I wrinkled my nose. Boy, he's a narrator! But to my surprise, I find him tolerable. Oh well, I can handle pretty much anything after my mom, I tell myself.
And did he say 'was'? I observe his tone keenly now, getting curious. "What an exotic name! Who was she?" I managed. "She was a person a lot like you. She had a fire in her eyes, a passion for success, she had great dreams. She wanted to be an astrophysicist."
"Oh, please…" I rolled my eyes though very pleased. "It's true...really…and it was because of her interest in astrophysics and astronomy that we became friends. It was in Mumbai, the city of dreams, where I spent the dream-haunting night. I was at a party at my mum's office."
I need to bear with all this to listen to him? He seems to be really anxious to pour his heart out. Let's just hear it, I tell myself. What's to lose? And moreover, this is really interesting. Maybe I could write an article and submit it to Mrs. Soumya! I get excited at the thought. What could make this compulsive-talker into an introvert, I wonder.
"Cut the drama, dude. Give me facts. Plain facts," I moan. "You want to hear my story? You have to hear it my way," he taunted me. My expression was dead-pan. "Fine! But how cheesy can you be!" I played along after thinking that this is the best way to deal with such boys.
"Ok, so I spotted her sitting in a corner, reading something on her kindle. I approached her because she was sitting alone and especially because she had a kindle." I put on an appropriate intrigued expression. He acts as if he didn't notice it. But I noticed a kind of wildness in his eyes. he enjoys his pain, I observe.
"Anyway, I walked over to her and said 'Hi, I'm Ashrith. And you?' she seemed to be shocked and reluctantly turned her attention to me.
I asked her what she was reading at a party like this. She said that her sister is busy and she's bored. I asked her if I could have a look at her kindle as I'm a gizmo freak. 'Oh really! I'm a gadget freak too. I love my PSP. Especially playing GTA', she squealed. This really intrigued me. And I said 'don't think I'm a sexist or male chauvinistic pig, but you are the first girl I've ever seen who loves gaming on a playstation'."
Wait a minute, I signaled him to hold it. I glare at him incredulously. "How old are you!" I stage-whispered looking every bit irritated as I feel. "What a chauvinistic pig you are!" I laugh loudly and playfully punch him on his shoulder. He keeps silent for a while trying to get me to talk first. I glimpse his reflection on the wind shield after a good 10 minutes. He certainly has a wildness about his eyes. He wants his story told, I decide quickly. "What happened next?" I murmur afraid to break his stream of thought.
He went on, "I noticed that she was reading a book which I had, about astronomy….. 'Astronomy..huh??', I asked her. She said she's in her 11th grade, which meant that she's a year younger to me. I noticed a spark in her even though she was talking like a typical 11th grader. I asked her if she'd ever stargazed. She said no and then I offered her to do some stargazing from my telescope. It was the worst decision of my life; I'll realize and feel later."
"Oh...Stop being such a freaking awful drama queen!" I scream unable to contain my curiosity anymore. I do feel curious though I don't like his dramatic way. "She died", he says bluntly. Freaking hell! What am I supposed to say to that? I rack my brains in a rush trying to find the exact answer an interviewer has to give to the interviewee. I know I have it in here somewhere, I think nervously. Giving up after a few seconds, I decide to trust on my feminine side. I close my eyes and take a deep-breath. I cautiously peek at him from under my hair. Thank god he didn't notice my reaction.
"Ash, I'm so sorry…" my voice cracked, "I don't know what to say. How did it happen?" He smiled at me his teeth gleaming unnaturally in the darkness, "In a way, I'm responsible for it. She was just an 11th grader full of dreams and hopes. She really seemed excited when I offered her the stargazing. I told my mum we're going home, to which she gave me a suspicious look. She told her sister and we took an auto to Chandivali, where I lived"
"You are making it spooky you know," I grab his hand suddenly. "Oh shut up!" he yells at me, "You are distracting me." That's the goal, asshole; I grit my teeth trying not to slap him across his face. This kid needs a psychologist, I shook my head.
"Anyway, listen!" he says getting excited, "She was really excited. My mum and her sister came home too. All of us went to the terrace of my 14 storeyed building. She wanted the best view, so I took her onto the water tank of our building. While going up, I tripped. She caught my hand and stopped my fall. Then I showed her how to use the finderscope and aligned the telescope to point at orion , focusing on Sirius. She loved that and she wanted to see the moon craters."
His hands on the wheel have gone white. I look at his face. His face twists horribly and for a second I believe he smirked. "She was walking to the other end and she tripped. She tripped and fell 15 floors to her death. My entire system clammed up. I couldn't do anything. She just fell…"
I watched the trees along the road out the car window for a long time refusing to believe what I saw on his face. "Say something. I always wonder what went on in her head in her final moments. I feel responsible for it. She was just a kid…" he behaves almost deranged. He let go of the wheel and grabs his hair. "Watch out!" I grab the wheel afraid of running against a tree. This kid seriously needs a psychologist. Why did I come with him in the first place, I nearly smack my head in front of him. I catch myself before doing it. He notices I'm trying to help him and mellows. He brushes my hands of the wheel and took control again. Just then, a random thought hit me. So that explains his misery. I need to get him out of here.
"Look here, Ashrith. You. Are. Not. Responsible. For her. Fate. Did u get that? Huh?" I use my most persuasive tone, stressing each word and pat his back trying to soothe him. "Is that why you've become reserved?" I ask kindly. "How do you know that? You've just met me," his voice sounded stunned. "Dude, I'm a wannabe journalist. It's my job to observe and analyze things……" I shrugged and gave him an its-obvious look. "Let's go home," I murmured firmly.
Just then, we drive by The Coffee Day and he asks me if I want a cup of coffee. I look at his hopeful eyes. Look how a night that began ordinarily gave him the biggest surprise….more like biggest shock…of his life. A similar night brought him to me. Life is such an endless procession of surprises. I sigh. The expected rarely occurs and never in the expected manner. Try him, my heart seems to say, give him a chance. What would one encounter tell you everything about the other person? Don't be judgmental! "I'd love to….." I replied. I went in with him marveling at the chance encounter that happened between us and I'm expecting more surprises………….